Friday, January 31, 2014

Crazy

Super Bowl hype has finally got me. Taking my pile of books and hiding under the covers until it's all over. See ya on the other side.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

The Great Chore Debate

http://www.flandersfamily.info/web/age-appropriate-chores-for-children/
Someone posted the chart above over on Facebook. I found the comments interesting and illuminating. First let me get the 'Carry firewood' (under 2-3) out of the way. Is the intention for the child to lug an armload of wood into the house? No, of course not. But any kid can help by carrying a smaller piece of wood. People! Use your heads!

Now. I don't propose to debate the list. Mostly, folks get all snarky if their kids can't/won't do the things on the list because they feel they've failed. Phft! If you as the female parent--and let's just confess, it's ALWAYS the female parent--decide it's more convenient or practical or any other excuse you want to claim for you as the parent to do all the work, then go for it. That has nothing to do with your child's capabilities.

In another era, in a different part of the world, children do all the things on the lists and more. From the time they can walk they have responsibilities--responsibilities appropriate for their age and culture. If we, in our culture, choose to believe our children are less capable, then that's our shame.

My mother was the ideal mother. She did everything. Hah. If the Stepford Wives had been around in her era, she would have fit right in. Then she died in a car accident. I was ten.

I have a vivid memory of my father handing me a can opener, a can of tuna and a loaf of bread and instructing me to fix my younger brothers some sandwiches. Gentle readers...I had no clue how to open that can or what to do with the tuna if I ever solved that conundrum.

As I struggled with my appointed task, I determined my children would never be in such a situation. Over the next few months I was faced with numerous situations I could have been prepared for, but wasn't, because my mother had resolved to be a GOOD mother and therefore did everything herself.

The skills on the chore list above are not just time fillers to occupy our children. They are skills designed to prepare our children for adulthood. We can't wait until they're sixteen, then suddenly demand they learn how to be an adult. Work skills are acquired all through life.

And there's something else I think a lot of parents fail to consider. When your child has acquired the skills appropriate for his age, he had confidence--confidence in his capabilities and he knows he's contributing to his family's welfare. Oh, he may never admit such a thing, but underneath...yeah, he knows.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Echoes

I've lived here and there, in the country and in the city. At the moment I live on the edge of suburbia. As I travel about, some places speak to me with distant echoes. They are few and isolated.

For most of my life there's been a deep restlessness, an urge to seek out some other place than the one I occupy, a sense of disconnect with my surroundings. Then, more than thirty years ago, I drove down a lonely narrow road in upstate New York. A rough, tumbled stone wall up in the woods bordering the road was nearly hidden in the dappled shadows. And in my chest, a terrible yearning seized my heart. Here was home.

I longed to stop the car and follow my heart into the trees on the other side of that tumbled line of stones...to what? I didn't know. No matter how many times I drove down that road, I was always struck by an inexpressible longing and sorrow. I finally stopped down a ways one day and walked back. Standing on the side of the road, I debated the wisdom of haring off into the lonely woods by myself.

Then, with my walking staff in hand and my sturdy hiking boots protecting my feet from hidden hazards, I climbed the steep hill up to the stone wall. With every step, the sense of anticipation built until I crested the hill and saw the tumbled boulders on the other side of the wall.

From below, they were invisible.

My breath caught as I stared at the small circle of lichen covered standing stones. A tree shot up from the center, it's roots twisted around a large flat stone positioned like an altar. It took me a while to find a safe place to climb over the wall--and longer to push my way past brambles and weeds to the heart of the circle.

In wonder, I traced the fading marks so carefully chiseled on the stone. I don't know what this place was in the past. I only know I needed to stand there in the cold shadows and breathe in the stillness. There was a great longing to connect to the ones who had created this abandoned place. But I had a family and responsibilities and couldn't stay.

I had my camera in my pack, but something kept me from recording the circle. It wasn't a place to share with others. After a while, I made my way back down to the car, content for the first time in a very, very long time.

I never returned to the circle. It was enough for me to drive down the road, knowing home was just over the hill.

anny

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

The Dark Side

Traditionally, humans seek out light. There's an element of evil and danger associated with the dark. From the beginning the tribe gathered around the fire in an effort to keep away the things lurking in the shadows.

Bad things happen at night...in the dark...in the shadows.

We never stop to consider just as many bad things happen during the day, in the sunlight. Evil is evil whenever it comes calling. Personally, I think we're taken unawares more often during the day than at night because we don't expect it, feeling safe simply because it's light.

I like the dark. One of the things I miss about having a dog to walk (one of the very few things!) is the nights I would roam in the shadows, listening to the insects singing, picking out the few constellations I can readily identify. I miss  welcoming Orion in the winter. I miss the fireflies in the summer. Oh, I could go outside without the excuse of walking the dog, but it wouldn't be the same.

It's not a cultural norm. People outside after dark are perceived in a different way. That's that heightened awareness thing. If we see someone standing around in the night, mooning at the stars, we suspect they're up to no good. We're wary--and for the most part that's probably safer--especially in urban environments.

I've done my share of camping, looking at the star-filled sky when there's no ambient light to block out the Milky Way. You have to be pretty far from civilization to do that. Even in the country, folks have security lights on poles in their driveways...to keep away the evil in the darkness.

I remember trotting at my father's side as we walked down an abandoned track in the hills behind the house where we lived in a tiny Arizona town, listening to the creak of cactus and tumbleweeds in the wind, catching the rustle of nocturnal animals scurrying across the sand, pausing to stand in awe at the glorious light show in the heavens.

Good memories, in the dark.

anny

Monday, January 13, 2014

Old Address Books

Usually, near the beginning of each year, I fill in a new address book with the current contacts and addresses I anticipate needing in the new year. I'm not very efficient when it comes to keeping track of doctor's names and other such throughout the year so once, just once at the beginning, I make a stab at collecting all the current information.

While I'm at it, I update friends and family addresses and any others I consider important. I also spend considerable time combing through old address books to make sure I haven't missed anyone.

You may wonder how I could miss someone. My MO tends to be write the new info down on a scrap of paper or sticky note. This is usually stuck to my computer monitor until guilt prompts me to find an address book. It most likely won't be the current one as who can find that when you want it? However, a couple older ones are probably stashed somewhere nearby. Find one. Enter the info, secure and smug in the fact that I actually DID transfer the information to some permanent repository.

Then in January, guilt strikes once again. In my orgy of organizing, tossing out, establishing a calendar for the appointments for the new year, I dig out all the business cards I've squirreled away with the mental promise of someday doing something with them. And...I decide I'll do better this year.

This year as I gathered the usual bits and pieces and pored over the spotted pages for the old books, it finally dawned on me why I despise prowling through the old collections of addresses and ephemera. Most of those people memorialized in the tattered books are gone. On many pages, not even one person is still alive.

Other folks are relics of long-gone life in far off places. The hunk and I have moved often. In spite of the best of intentions, people from those lives slip through our fingers. The glue that held us together dries out over time. Everyone moves on at their own pace.

As I study the list of names, it shames me that some I can't even match with a face...or even a reason their name is written in my book. Who were they? Why was it important for me to save their address or telephone number?

Mysteries...

This year after I fill in my new address book, I'll pack the old ones away with care. I had intended to throw them all away, but I believe I'll file them with my genealogical papers. Who knows? There may be some fragment of information that will come in handy down the road. It's time for me to finally let them rest in peace.

anny

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Anny's Rules for Life

1) When in doubt, order pizza. Any questions?

2) At every opportunity, take a nap. You can never tell where life will take you. It's always best to be prepared.

3) Drink lots of water. The body depends on a steady supply.

4) Always take a book to the bathroom...because you drank all that water.

5) Practice the quiet game everyday. Pray, meditate, simply breath and empty your mind of anxious thoughts.

6) Read at least one hour every day. If you read every time you go into the bathroom, you'll easily meet your goal.

7) Read labels. Because there's no telling what our food and other products contain.

8) Do slow stretches in bed before you get up. That way you won't spend your first hour on your feet walking like Frankenstein.

9) Slather cream on your feet everyday and wear socks. Pamper those puppies. They carry you around all day.

10) Do finger exercises before settling at the keyboard. You warm up other muscles before you exercise...

11) Smile frequently. The more you smile, the better your mood is, even if it's a crummy day.

12) Smile at strangers and wait for it...wait...yep, there it is! They smile back.

13) Randomly find something nice to say to people you meet in public. Even if they're cranky, they'll wonder what you're up to.

14) Take at least one moment to look out the window and be thankful for your world. Snow? Heat? Rain? Phft! All are temporary issues. On the whole, we have a beautiful home.

15) Find one thing every day that makes you happy. It might be the color of your nail polish. Maybe it's a flower blooming in the snow. Maybe a pet makes you smile, or you accomplish something you've worked hard for. If it's been a bad day, find TWO things that make you happy.

16) Choose someone in your life to deliberately encourage.

17) Sing in the shower. We don't spend enough time making a joyful noise.

18) Talk to yourself out loud. Especially, if you're angry. You'll find you sound remarkably silly. And it's nearly impossible to wind yourself up when it's not private.

19) Paint your toenails hot pink. Yes, even if you're a guy. No matter how old you are. Then savor having that bit of secret fun when the rest of you is all plain Jane or plain Joe.

20) Love something with all your heart. Hoarded love is worth nothing. Freely squander it for the best results.

anny

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Hot Stuff

Hot Feet...
 Hot hills...
Hot Beach...


Hot books...

Monday, January 6, 2014

Cabin Fever

It's funny how excited we get when the first snow of the season makes its appearance. And then winter arrives in earnest and we're not so thrilled. By the time the flakes are piled up to our knees we're ready for winter to be over.

Trapped inside while we deal with power outages, broken pipes, arctic winds and temps, it's easy to succumb to cabin fever. For those who are physically fit enough to go out, there are chores--shoveling, snow blowing--or even building a snow man. Some of that cabin fever finds a release.

But for those unable to go out in the cold, isolation and loneliness can exaggerate the feeling they're alone in the wilderness. It can slide along the slippery slope to paranoia and claustrophobia. And even the most physically fit can only spend so much time out in the cold. Soon we all start snapping and snarling at each other.

What can we do?

Stay active. Clean a closet. Bake. Exercise. Write a haiku about butterflies.

Talk to friends and family. There's this invention called a telephone. It's falling out of favor as more and more people text, but the sound of a VOICE is not the same as reading a line of print. Make that phone call and re-discover the joy of reaching out.

Take the time to do something you don't normally have time to do. Pedicure. Try on your old clothes so you can get rid of them. Draw. Paint. Practice that guitar that's gathering dust.

Stay away from the windows. I'm not sure why, but most folks seem drawn to just sit and stare out the window. Don't do that. Find something to keep busy.

Engage the kids in something that will capture their imagination. Build a blanket fort. Build two blanket forts and have a battle. See who can do the most jumping jacks or situps. Have a story telling contest. Let them draw pictures of their favorite summer activity. Turn off the TV and put on some music and have a dance contest. Play a board game or Go Fish.

Plan for spring. Before we know it, it will be time to garden. Pore over garden catalogues--even old ones. Estimate how many seeds you'll need. Draw diagrams. Ask the kids for ideas.

Embrace the time you've been given. It's an unexpected gift that will soon be gone.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Back to the Future

For those of us who write futuristic romances, there's more involved than boy-meets-girl (or any other combination). We also have the task of conveying our ideas of what the future will be like. Some of that is determined by how much time we set between now and then. And the longer that stretch of time is, the more the author has to provide.

For instance, twenty years into the future we might see some political changes, a few medical advances, or even climate changes. But what about a thousand years into the future? To get an idea about what might change, we only have to look back a thousand years. What was life like around 1066? Compared to life now, it was relatively primitive. Or was it?

Many of the futuristic novels center around technological changes, but few of them look at such things as family units, political or educational systems, or changes in the environment. All of those are far more likely to impact the average individual. What about language? Or how knowledge and information is preserved or transmitted. What will we eat or drink in the future? Will our GMOs and chemically enhanced foods kill us before we return to organics?

A romance is a romance is a romance, but setting provides some of the conflict and too often a futuristic could just as easily be set in the present because the wallpaper future in the story has no depth. No, the author doesn't need to show every little detail in their book, but they need to immerse themselves and their characters enough in their world that the reader is taken along for the ride.

So. What do you think the future will be like?

anny