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A working professional and part-time writer, full-time Mom and modern day Alice in Wonderland...

Monday, November 28, 2016

The Art of Lovingly Lying to Children

This morning I outright lied to my daughter. It wasn't a little white lie either, it was a big, fat lie. The kind of lie with legs that demands, by virtue of its incredulity, lots of followup lying. The kind of lie that can run away on you if you are not calculated and careful.

My lie was about Elves. Christmas Spy Elves to be exact. These Spy Elves, as many dishonest mothers claim to know, are an elite force of magical Elves who Santa sends out into homes all over the world. They collect important information on children's behavior in advance of the Christmas holiday. They are strictly recon in nature and their rigid code of conduct decrees that they should never, ever be seen. These Elves are looking for consistently good behavior and will often visit the same home repeatedly to confirm that their collected intelligence is accurate for each subject. They also have super speed and are stealthy quiet.

My daughter regards me carefully. She desperately wants to believe in magical Elves but she also loathes getting out of bed. I see her weighing the facts in her head, considering the probability of these Ninja-like spy elves. She burrows slightly deeper into the blankets and regards me with her sea green eyes over the comforter. This is the part where I understand the lie needs some clever embellishing. She is too bright, too perceptive to be completely taken in so easily.

"I saw one just the other day. Just really quick...running along our stone wall. I thought it was a squirrel at first but it was too fast, like a red blur." I blurt out, a bit too gleefully.

Jaden sits up now, eyes wide. I decide to go just a bit deeper...

I tell her a story about my "friend" who stayed up late one night making pies. Too tired to clean up, she went to bed leaving the counter top covered in flour. In the morning she found tiny footprints in the flour. Tiny footprints and...glitter. I think it's the glitter that seals the deal for her. Glitter apparently, is irrefutable proof of the existence of magical beings for Jaden, everything from fairies to unicorns to reindeer and magical spy elves.

Jaden leaps out of bed and begins to hit me with a barrage of excited questions. Do I know if elves can fly? What do elves eat? Are there girl elves and boy elves? I field the questions calmly and with unwavering conviction. She listens intently, all the while happily complying with my dressing her and doing her hair - things that normally spark epic battles most mornings. I've got her, hook, line and sinker as they say.

Am I proud of my deceit? Not exactly but Santa and magic elves have such a finite existence in the lives of children. Giving them life for such a brief time doesn't seem so wrong, especially...and let me be very honest here, if those things inspire her to be on her best behavior. I know that one day in the not too distant future some bratty schoolmate will convince her that these things don't exist. She will believe their words over my beautifully constructed lies and the jig will be up. I'll have to contend with my daughters realization that I've lied to her all these years, knowingly manipulated and influenced her good behavior. She'll likely demand to know what else isn't real now that the veil has been brutally pulled from her eyes. I dread this most of all - that day she loses the magical promise and possibility of childhood innocence in her life.

For now, I'm at peace with my lies.....mostly. Santa and his spy elves guarantee me at least a solid month of smooth mornings, cooperation and good behavior. More importantly, it keeps magic alive and well in my little girl and that is never a bad thing. As an adult, I look back on my own childhood and I remember believing myself and it was the believing that was the very best part of everything.

So, we will make cookies for Santa and sprinkle reindeer food over the yard with abandon. We will watch quietly for darting elves and trails of glitter and listen for sleigh bells in our beds at night. I will practice the craft of lying with love and keep the magic alive for as long as her heart allows.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Setting Scene and Keeping Positive

Even before I see that coy reminder about my blog in my inbox, I feel the restlessness that always accompanies too many consecutive days of non-writing. I feel that telltale tension in my chest and gut that signals to those creative pockets of my brain. I feel the stagnancy in every pore and it drives an almost biological need to write something, anything. In these recent weeks of so much unrest and worry, I have avoided the only thing that really keeps me centered. As a result, I find myself internalizing things or spouting off over dinner to family members who would honestly, really rather "read" how I feel than listen to my disjointed ravings. I tell myself, in the very least, at least I try to blog...even if I can't make a daily commitment, its good to have a place to go to prompts that challenge me and provide me some mental exercise.

"Blog City ~ Every Blogger's Paradise"
Day 987 November 22, 2016
Prompt: Can you find a positive meaning in a negative situation or even in a word, such as revenge, mayhem, pain, etc.? Come up with your own examples, if you wish.

In these last few weeks it seems the world is mired in negative situations. I spent a great deal of time trying to find the positive meanings in things it seems, to no real avail. I have to resist the urge to disconnect from the news. It is hard not to get swept up in the mayhem in the wake of Trump's victory. It is hard to reconcile the division in this country, in my community, even in my own family. I try to take comfort in the fact that change can be positive, even as I wonder about half the country being marginalized. I try to find the faith in our new President-elect even as he and his surrogates speak of policies that I find abhorrent. I find I am failing quite often these days.

"Blogging Circle of Friends "
DAY 1468 November 22, 2016
Do your storytelling instincts take you to environmental activism, a futuristic sci-fi universe, or an adventure in the wilderness? Or perhaps, to an apartment scene in which this news seems, for the time being, to have no bearing on the characters?

My storytelling instincts usually begin with a character or a feeling rather than any specific setting unless I'm writing for a prompt that calls for one. I do enjoy setting the scene in my fictional pieces, I think that's important to try to immerse your readers in the environment. I tend to be detailed in that manner particularly when the setting is unfamiliar. For example, I wrote a story about my experiences working behind the scenes at the local aquarium. I used sounds and smells as well as visual descriptions to provide the reader with as much of a vision of the setting as possible. I enjoy reading stories where I am transported to a place. James Lee Burke is one writer who I feel does this extremely well. Take this excerpt for example from his novel, Jesus Out to Sea:

“Then the sun broke above the crest of the hills and the entire countryside looked soaked in blood, the arroyos deep in shadow, the cones of dead volcanoes stark and biscuit-colored against the sky. I could smell pinion trees, wet sage, woodsmoke, cattle in the pastures, and creek water that had melted from snow. I could smell the way the country probably was when it was only a dream in the mind of God.”
― James Lee Burke,

That is pretty amazing-sauce if you ask me...love the way his words let me "see" the place, experiencing it across multiple senses at the same time. His stories are very character driven but his descriptive powers in setting the scene, place and tone of the his novels are simply unrivaled.

Friday, November 18, 2016

The Kiss..a working draft

Isabella Ranking sat alone on a cold stone bench contemplating the ruin of her life.  Even she had to admit that it was a little over dramatic, sitting alone in the almost rain by the ragged edge of the coast.  Still, as she watched the somber gray waves and the darkening skies, it wasn’t hard to imagine that her life was over. 

Behind her back, the impressive facade of Greystone Mansion rose up into the sky.  Five Stories of old New England elegance perched high on the prettiest stretch of coastline, Greystone had made the transformation from a once-upon family residence to the administration building of an accredited state university.  She had loved that building once. Today, Isabella could barely bring herself to look at it.  She felt it’s presence bearing down on her shoulders and knew she would no longer find any beauty it its dark windows and sharp angles of unforgiving stone.  

Isabella felt the wave of nausea hit her and turned her face into the wind to fight the sour fit in her stomach. She breathed deeply of the salt air. Her newly minted sense of super smell picked up the cloying scent of decay from the seaweed clumps rotting between the rocks exposed at the low tide mark.  She coughed and spit. The taste of rot was suddenly metallic in her mouth. Not for the first time, she found her hands folded protectively over her middle covering a phantom bump that was not yet visible. How had she managed to end up here? With all her ambition and drive?  She had been the first of her family tribe to go to college, the shining example to her younger siblings.  Isabella imagined the look of anguish on her father’s face when she told him she was dropping out, when she told him about the baby. She felt as if she was going to vomit and the urge drove her to her feet and into motion. 

She began walking the brick path that wound along the coast and through campus. She forced herself to keep moving while she wiped at the silent tears coursing down her cheeks. Fortunately the campus was almost deserted on this eve of the trimester break and she could pass unseen among the few students who raced about making preparations to leave. She was stalling, not ready to go home and face what was coming. She had briefly considered putting it off, she could go another few months without her pregnancy becoming too obvious. Isabella had quickly abandoned that plan. Her mother would take one look at her and know everything. It had always been that way.  Her mother had an uncanny ability to ferret out everything little thing her children had ever tried to keep hidden, especially her oldest daughter. 

Isabella had reached the door of her little red Subaru.  Heavy hearted, she pulled it open and sank down behind the wheel. She looked out over the sound before her.  White caps roiled in the choppy seas now mirroring, it seemed, the tempest raging inside her. She took one last, long look and turned the key feeling the car shudder to life underneath her.

Friday, November 4, 2016

The Elementary Electorate, God Particles and the Evil Men Do

My daughter is excited about this election. She is six and the possibility for her to see the first female become President is of monumental importance to her. I wish her enthusiasm was contagious. I wish I could look at this election with all the naivete and promise that she can. Instead, I am dreading my own trip to the polls where the responsibility forces me to choose between two people who, in my opinion, have no business being on the ballot.

She is looking forward to accompanying me to the polling location on Tuesday, an event that to her seems shrouded in epic adult importance. She proudly tells me she is casting her vote in her classroom election for Hillary Clinton and unabashedly explains her decision is because "Hillary would be the first girl president" and Trump is a "big bully".

I resist the urge to tell her than indeed both of the candidates have done their fair share of bullying and that voting for Hillary just because she's a woman isn't the best reason. I resist the urge to expand on Trump's temperament, on how he is so much more than a mere bully and the danger he could pose to our already severely divided nation. I resist the urge to talk about the fear I feel in the wake of a tumultuous election and my reservations that either one of these people could unite and heal us. After all, my daughter is only six and her academic coverage of American politics does not dwell on the realities of corruption, greed, back door dealings, sexism, racism and scandals.

For now, the process of selecting our next president has captivated her interest and it is my responsibility to teach her the importance of being a good citizen - even if I am a most discouraged and disgusted one. I find it easiest to talk to her in general terms about the voting process, about our hard earned right to vote and why it so very important to have our voices heard. Instead of discussing these candidates, we talk about civic duty and patriotism. We talk about who suffragettes were and how they made it possible for someone like Hillary to run today. Instead of party affiliations, we talk about the mechanics of voting and the importance of making a personal, informed choice. What else I can do as a parent in these times? Thankfully she is only six and her questions are much easier than they could be, her interests much easier to deflect. The truth is I want her to be invested in her country. I want her to be proudly American but also see the importance of growing into a compassionate global citizen, regardless of who acts as our Commander in Chief.

And now, because I need my own deflection, the prompts...

"Blogging Circle of Friends "
DAY 1450 November 4, 2016
" What happened all those years ago? I remember standing on the bridge of all things and in my hands the salvation of the universe. Just as I attempted to save us I heard a ------ It's your blog, tell us what happens next.

The room had gone still and strangely silent. It was odd. It was as if the sudden absence of all sound had created a fragile seal around us. We held our breath, fearing it seemed, the slightest disruption would shatter everything.

I remember standing on the bridge of all things and in my hands the salvation of the universe. Just as I attempted to save us I heard a sharp intake of breath and a soft, insistent "this can not be." I turned toward her now, my brilliant colleague. I saw that her eyes trembled with a primitive fear so great I could feel it take in root in every cell of my being. I knew our discovery threatened everything, nothing more so then that tenuous thread that connected our very existence to the universe itself.

We had searched for this, this so-called "god particle", for most of our adult lives. We had become so immersed in the challenge, in the pursuit that neither one of us had ever once considered what it would mean if we actually discovered its existence. Now, confronted with that very truth, we were both consumed by the weight of where our science had lead us. I watched her, slip slowly to the ground, one hand slipping beneath her collar. Her hand surfaced, clutching the tiny gold crucifix, a talisman I always thought was more sentimental for her than symbolic. Now, watching her shatter, I realized how delicately her faith had existed alongside her scientific reasoning. There had been a place inside her that had allowed for the science and the belief to coincide, a place that had remained safely shrouded in mystery. Now that place had been exposed in one defining moment, in our cold and sterile lab. She had been at all times both the scientist and the believer and now would cease to be one or the other. Her eyes were on mine, a wordless question rising tragically in them, "what do I do now?"  
"Blog City ~ Every Blogger's Paradise"
Day 970 November 4, 2016
What have human beings become? Did war make us evil or did it just activate an evil lurking inside us? Are we guilty of making permanent decisions based on temporary feelings?

I believe in all mankind there is war. It is built into the network of human DNA. I do not believe it make us evil, more that it is a by-product of our biological drive to survive. War does however provide the excuse some evil men need to give license to the darkness embedded in their souls. The opportunity to wage war allows them to paint the world with chaos and pain. It is hard not to think about Syria and how Bashar Hafez al-Assad has made that country a personal canvas for his masterpiece of destruction. It isn't hard to see how war can awaken and give life to a resident evil or how temporary feelings can permanently wound country and its people.

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Musical Musings and Smiles for Miles

"Blog City ~ Every Blogger's Paradise"
Day 968 November 2, 2016
Prompt: Make a list of 10 things that make you smile.

There is a lot in this life I have been blessed with. It isn't hard to come up with a list of ten things that make me smile but they do seem divided into two categories...which are the "big and the broad" and those that are much more simple in nature.

There are the big things...
1. My daughter, from the moment of her birth and every day since then.
2. Watching my husband's transformation from a good man to an amazing, loving father.
3. Times together as an extended family when we are laughing together, exchanging stories and telling tales.
4. Writing, about anything, just being able to connect with my creative center.
5. Having those good, career days, when I get recognized for my contributions and input.

Then there are a whole host of simple pleasures that bring me joy...
6. A roaring fire and a glass of wine
7. A favorite tune coming on in the car or in the office at just the right time.
8. A long conversation over a tapas meal with my college roommate.
9. Making a big Sunday morning breakfast while listening to NPR.
10. The morning after a heavy snow, when the world is quiet and brand new just for a moment.

"Blogging Circle of Friends "
Day 1448: November 2, 2016
Prompt: You know what music is? God’s little reminder that there’s something else besides us in this universe; harmonic connection between all living beings, everywhere, even the stars.– Robin Williams. Does music inspire you? Does music cause a connection between living beings?

Music is one of my great loves in this life. My tastes are very diverse with my musical library crossing genres and traveling across decades. It is not uncommon find a little bit of everything in my playlists, from Tchaikovsky the Rolling Stones, Creedance to Pink, Ed Sheeren to Eva Cassidy. I collect tunes that affect me in a multitude of ways. I use those tunes to rage or to heal, to motivate or to grieve. A stressful day at work will certainly send me toward the likes of Jack White for fortitude or to Walk off the Earth to keep me in balance. A long car ride will have me marking the miles with some vintage classic rock delivered by Janis, Santana or Bowie, gritty jams by Elle King or Gin Wigmore, and little bounce with Trombone Shorty or Sister Sparrow and the Dirty Birds.  My daughter is regularly exposed to such variety every morning on our drive to school. She can readily identify most of my extensive music catalog from Allen Stone to ZZ Ward and everyone in between. I hope I am giving her a foundation in love for all types of music and that she finds as much joy in it as I do.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Horror Writing and Clinical Confrontations

It has been difficult to find the time to write, even the daily blog prompts have passed me by the alarming regularity. I hope the slower months of the Northeast winter season will afford me more pockets of free time where I can focus on it more.

"Blog City ~ Every Blogger's Paradise"
DAY 967 November 1, 2016.
Prompt: What elements can a writer use to make his work in the horror genre scary?

Over the past year I have found a new fascination with the horror genre after some of my work was selected for publication in the Once Upon a Scream anthology. I found the experience of writing horror very liberating in a way I hadn't anticipated. I've always been a reader of the genre and a fan of King, Straub and Koontz. The experience with this anthology exposed me to reading more diverse selections, cross-genre delights that inspired me to consider writing more myself. The greatest appeal for me about writing horror is the freedom of it, the limitless potential of fear. The fact that from phobias to the paranormal, the field of what scares us is wide open and highly relative. Let's face it, there is so much that scares us, fragile, impressionable bags of flesh that we are. The writers I feel master this genre the best are always the ones to take the most liberties with fear. They can take something innocuous and make it terrifying by applying just the right angle. Great horror writers can leave us with pulsing hearts and racing adrenaline long after we close their books. That's impressive.

Who hasn't read Stephen King's "It" and not been forever uneasy with clowns ever since confronting Pennywise among those pages? Stoker's Dracula is as an indelible character in literature as there has ever been. Bentley's "Jaws", had us all thinking twice before "going back in the water" didn't it? What was it that these writers used to scare us so effectively? They exploited the primal fears embedded in our DNA. They mutated the mundane into something that could not be easily contained, controlled or defeated. They made us feel unsafe. For me, the biggest scares always come as a surprise, after we've told myself the worst is over, then we find out Hell has another floor...

I don't know how effective I am as a horror writer but I enjoy making the attempt.

"Blogging Circle of Friends "
DAY 1447 November 1, 2016
Use these random words to discuss something on your mind: drip, clinical, regret, contemporary, greed, power, and balloons. It's your blog, make it a rant, a poem, or a story. Have fun.

Jackie's heels made hollow click-clacks on the linoleum as she walked down the urine-colored hospital hallway. The flowers sagged in her arms, now heavy and smelling sickly sweet from the extra hours in her warm car. She should have tossed them but hadn't wanted to come empty handed. Truthfully, she hadn't wanted to be seen coming empty handed, the man at the end of the hall couldn't have cared less what she brought.

She stopped at the nurses desk, and stood there watching the clinical hustle and bustle and waiting for someone to address her. A hefty nurse with too pink lipstick finally turned and asked if she needed anything. Jackie told her who she was there to visit.

The nurse pointed a thick finger at the big dry erase board on the far wall and said, "Room 151, but he's not back yet. You can wait for him in his room."

Jackie nodded and made her way to her uncle's vacant room.

There was precious little in the small contemporary space aside from a weak, partially deflated bouquet of balloons clinging to the far corner and a dried out violet in a blue clay pot. Jackie added her own flowers to the sad tableau and took at seat across from the foot of the bed. The sheets were tossled and the saline drip bag hung emaciated from its stand, its hose snaking over the mess of sheets like a marauding serpent.

She felt herself shudder. This was the hospital room of a tyrant, a man who had lived a life consumed by greed and power and was now facing death alone because of it. It made her sad. It made her also feel vindicated somehow. Hadn't she warned him about this? Hadn't she hurled the prediction over her shoulder at his scowling face as she had felt his home?

Jackie heard the thumping gurney wheels approaching and she instinctively stood, drawing her arms up around her. Her eyes on the door, she forced herself to breath as she prepared to face a man she hadn't seen in over fifteen years.