Writing, Day 19: Word Vomit

It’s less elegantly put than Writing 101 did, but yeah. Like this:

Today is a free writing day. Write at least four-hundred words, and once you start typing, don’t stop. No self-editing, no trash-talking, and no second guessing: just go. Bonus points if you tackle an idea you’ve been playing with but think is too silly to post about.

So here goes.

I love summer. Usually. I’ve loved summer a lot more, oddly, since becoming a parent. Trying to figure out what to do in these long, hot days (at least they are here in the Great Southwest), planning trips, begging to go on trips, picnics, hiking, doctor’s appointments for furry and not-so-furry children…Honestly? I enjoy it. This summer, however, has been a little different.

I’m taking classes this year for one of my goals: to be gainfully employed doing something that doesn’t entail driving very long distances twice a day every day. My dream job in this particular field would only be a drive of less than 30 minutes. So for the past 3 weeks since A has been out of school, I’ve been learning more than any human not going to med school should know about the body. So this summer is different.

My mornings start out about the same way they had been during A’s school year. Except that I have a little more studying time in the mornings than I had. Which is good, because both of these classes are normally 15 weeks. Condensed into 10. Whee. A is a late riser most mornings; I have to get both her and Mr. Goth up, not a lot different than the rest of the year. When I’m not studying, writing papers or, um, here – which explains my absence – we’ve been going out and doing things.

Like hiking. A came up with that idea on her own. She asked where we could go hiking this summer. There are a lot of places near our house; several really nice trails, two state parks and a major hiking destination trail.

That one is one of the easier ones, as well as one with the most weekday parking. So we’ve been going there twice a week. On Monday we only made it about a mile, to the first meet-up with the river, and had to turn around. When we got home, A fell on the couch and didn’t really get up much for the next couple of days. But we did it, and she was only disappointed she didn’t go farther.

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Mrs. Pauley: Writing 101, Day 18

There’s nothing going on today. Just sitting on the steps, being bored. Watching the house across the street where old Mrs. Pauley lives. Old, crazy as hell, and mean Mrs. Pauley.

She used to have a husband, I hear she had kids too. Got none of that now. Her boys are gone, I hear. Mr. Pauley too, almost 6 months now. Well, her boys aren’t dead dead. But they might as well be. Yep, there she is.

Let me go get some popcorn.

She used to let us sit on the stairs by her brownstone all the time after school. Now she just chases us away. And here comes the landlord down those stairs, with her flying behind after him. “I told you I’d have the money after my baby boy comes home! Just one more month! Now get out!”

Whoa. The cops are driving up. Looks like the landlord was ready for her. If I bend my head down while I’m writing this, they won’t see me. Cops seeing you never turns out good.

The hell? Was that a gunshot?

3 armed cops against one old lady. Good job, man. She’s hella scary. Or she was.

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Writing 101: Happy Birthday Dinner

Sorry I’ve been out for a while. There were 2 exams and other things that got in the way. Anyhow, today’s assignment is this:

Tell us about your favorite childhood meal — the one that was always a treat, that meant “celebration,” or that comforted you and has deep roots in your memory.

When I was a kid, my sister and I celebrated our birthdays together. When you’re born 4 years and 2 days apart, that happens. We did get a separate birthday dinner on our actual birthdays, even though the cake and “family party” happened on the in-between day.

My dinner was always lasagna.

There was always the choice between getting it from the local pizzeria/Italian restaurant and making it at home. Making it at home was normally an all-afternoon project. Boiling the noodles, making the meat sauce, grating cheese and putting it all together (the spinach and tofu ricotta didn’t happen until much later). That was a big part of the attraction for me; just family time spent making dinner. Eating it was pretty good too, but making it was the most fun. I don’t even remember what my mom’s lasagna tasted like, or even what it looked like coming out of the oven; just how it felt to be doing something together. That was the best.

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Writing 101: Be Brief

“I like you. But just as a friend.”

My heart broke for both of them. I set it on the bench at the park – there was no name, nobody to send it to.

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Losing a Baby, Gaining a Teenager

Last night was A’s 6th grade continuation. Some schools make a big deal out of it, some don’t. Ours went all out, pretty much like everything else they’ve done.

For the past three days, it’s been busy. A make-up Field Day, a trip to the middle/Jr. High school where most of them will go, a trip to an indoor amusement park. Really, really busy. A was pretty excited. Then we went to continuation.

Our school held it in a mega-church, and it wasn’t hard to see why. It was the largest no-cost space that they could find. The place was full. At the beginning of the evening, all the 6th graders walked into the main room in a processional.

At the end of the evening, they were 7th graders. Going on and further away from home, and another step closer to becoming a teenager.

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3 Songs: Writing 101

Today’s assignment: write about 3 of your favorite songs.

Kind of a paraphrase of this.

I love music, and there are a lot of songs, both with and without words, that are important to me. Here are the 3 off the top of my head today:

“The Scientist” by Coldplay. My daughter loves this song, and it was the first time she’d sung in front of a group of people. There was an “Open Mic Day” in her General Music class. She’s normally afraid to put herself out there, but she worked on the song at home and sang in class. By herself. At home that evening, she was so excited that she did something she thought she was too scared to attempt. So every time I’ve heard it since, I think of that.

“Two-part Invention No. 4 in d” by J.S. Bach. It was the first piano piece I ever memorized, and the first one I worked on when I was well enough to play after neck surgery. It’s sometimes nice to have something you can do almost on auto-pilot. Almost…

“Good Riddance (Time of Your Life)” by Green Day. A’s last day of 6th grade is today. There’s a big production where the kids walk through the halls, lined with all the other kids, teachers, parents, etc. Her school used to play this song every year, and A’s hoping they’ll play it today. You can hear it a number of different ways – and I’m sure Green Day meant it one way in particular – but it’s become a happy, familiar good-bye song for A and the rest of her class.

There’s a lot more, but the prompt only asked for three.

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Where I’d Like to Be

I’ve decided to give WordPress’ Writing 101 a try this month. Mostly to get back into the habit of writing at least 5 times a week, if I can. Today’s assignment goes like this:

Today, choose a place to which you’d like to be transported if you could — and tell us the backstory. How does this specific location affect you? Is it somewhere you’ve been, luring you with the power of nostalgia, or a place you’re aching to explore for the first time?

The hard part, really, is narrowing that down. There are so many places that I miss, it’s hard to say just one. But the one place that comes to mind right now is…the beach.

For 13 years of my life (2-15), I lived on the Jersey Shore; 2 miles and across the river from the paddocks of a major horse-racing park, and about 3 miles away from the beach. The one place on the beach that I miss the most is my piano teacher’s house.

It was a big, two-story Victorian beach house, across the street from one of the entrances to the beach closest to the amusement pier. A huge lawn and driveway in the front. A covered porch at the top of the stairs, where people waited when they were dropped off early. It was a beautiful old house, the kind that used to stretch from end to end of our section of the Shore and are almost gone.

Inside…it was something else. A huge grand piano in the living room, probably a lot of other rooms there too (I only went into a couple of them in the years I studied with her), and a small studio with a baby grand and recording equipment at the back. I don’t remember there being anything special about the way the house was decorated or furnished. The one thing I remember is the way I felt.

Like a lot of other kids, childhood was not good to me. Home wasn’t the greatest, but better than school. But every week, I could go somewhere and feel…well, I don’t know that safe is exactly the right word, but it’s the only one that I can think of. It was bliss for me, even for an hour a week.

The people who lived there are long gone. I’m not certain if the house is still there; it’s been a long time since I’ve been back, and most of that part of the Shore is heavily developed (and that’s been decimated by Hurricane Sandy, as I’ve heard). But sometimes I think about it, and remember how that hour a week felt.

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I Don’t Even Know How to Start This

Before I begin – all comments will be moderated on this post. Proceed accordingly.

I’ve been thinking a lot about what happened in Santa Barbara, CA this past weekend. I’ve been thinking about it a lot. For those of you who don’t know/have been camping out in the woods for the past week or so, last weekend a man stabbed three people in his apartment, got into his car with loaded weapons, and began shooting at people. He ran over at least one person with his car. 6 people, as well as the shooter, are dead and several others are wounded. He was a member of the “men’s rights movement”, a member of different bodybuilding communities, and was interested in the “pick-up artist” movement as well. He posted hate-filled misogynistic videos on his YouTube channel (not linking – you can Google that garbage yourself without my help). Ironically, the bodybuilding community could have been really helpful to a person like him, but I digress.

You might have noticed I haven’t mentioned his name. He could be any man, really. Certainly any man who feels like they’re entitled to sex with any woman they choose, who don’t even realize the privilege they possess in our society, who are so angry at women’s perceived slights that they would kill complete strangers. His name is in the article I linked to; you can find it there.

I’m a parent, of a 12-year-old. She’s going to middle/junior high school next August. I am in terror. Incidents like this, frankly, don’t help. Not even things as huge as mass murder by drive-by. Little things, like being encouraged to try certain sports and not others. Like dress codes in her elementary school specifically directed toward girls (I have not seen a specific dress code for her new school, but have heard it’s not quite as strict). Like my daughter noticing that boys are treated very, very differently. Just knowing that my daughter could be in danger from her partner – not that we have to worry about that today, but it’s coming – makes me angry.

My impulse is to lock her away, to keep her safe. Reasonably speaking, I can’t do that. Other than that, I don’t know that there’s any way I can keep her safe. But I can speak to those of you reading this who are parents of boys:

Teach your boys to be decent human beings. Not perfect – just decent, responsible, caring humans. That’s what I want for my baby; either as a partner, a co-worker or a neighbor. So her parents don’t have to be afraid when she leaves the house. If more parents of boys would do that – and not just by telling them, but showing them how a decent human treats somebody who isn’t the same as them – none of us who are parents of girls would be quite so afraid and angry. Thanks.

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February’s almost gone

February is usually pretty busy here. The weather can vary widely; from almost 70F temperatures to a blizzard, we’ve seen it all here and then some. It certainly has been that way this month. A and a couple of her friends have a birthday this month. They’re all turning (or are about to turn) 12 this year.

There have been so many changes. I’m hesitant to write about what’s happening with A, as she’s old enough to get her own blog and tell her own story. Which she’d do very well – she and her first mother are terrific writers. Even A’s class assignments are fun to read (in a good way). Suffice it to say things are not easy here. They’re getting less easy by the day.

We had a great visit this weekend, though. Spent some time visiting and some time at a video arcade. A still has a great time doing things like that with us. I have no illusions that will last for long. But I want to enjoy all that now.

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Grow Write Guild #19: There’s Always This Year

It’s been quite some time since I’ve done a Grow Write Guild piece. So here’s another…

This week’s prompt is about this year’s garden:

Grow Write Guild Prompt #19: Write about your plans for the coming growing season.

I’ve got some vague ideas, beginning with planter boxes. Simply put, I want some. At least 2. Our backyard is built on some of the most Cthulhu-awful ground in this particular area: bentonite clay. It’s rolling, it’s lumpy, it’s prone to “settling”/collapses. Yes, I know. How lucky am I that I get to grow things in this? So planting boxes is the way to go, I think.

In fact, one of the things that didn’t work so well last year were our tomatoes. Simply put, they didn’t have enough room in the containers we had available. So I’m going to say this today: If I don’t have planting boxes finished or almost finished by May (our normal set-out-the-tomatoes date), I won’t be growing any. Not even cherries or grapes. However. It’s projected to be another dry year, and I can’t seem to get water out to the plants fast enough to combat blossom end rot. I lost more than half of the San Marzanos I planted last summer due to that; it’s caused by inadequate/infrequent watering. In our case, anything less than drowning the containers 3x a day was, um, inadequate.

I was the happiest with the jalapeno crop. There were a bunch. Nothing fancy, just standard jalapenos grown from seed. But we had a lot – enough to freeze some for our Super Bowl snacks in 2 weeks. So, more jalapenos. I’d like to try some Sandias (assuming, again, a planter box) and possibly some pimientos. I think we’ve got enough space to isolate them from each other (sweet vs. hot, I mean) so that mouth-burning sweet peppers won’t be an issue. I think.

Things I didn’t get to last year that I’d like to try:

  • Some more herbs for the back wall, possibly a sage bush or some hardy rosemary.
  • Part 2 of my ongoing quest to get rid of those damn boxwood bushes. I’ve replaced 2 with lavender plants so far. Only 6 more to go…
  • I will have my night garden this year, even if I have to put all the plants into tubs. Even the new Alba I have in mind.
  • Greens. Probably not collards, but certainly mustard and kale. Maybe some carrots and beets too. Root plants definitely assume that a planting box is involved.

That’s pretty much my plans for this year’s garden. As always with gardens, we’ll see what happens.

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