Saturday, February 26, 2011

85 Days Later

I guess I would remiss in writing a blog about writing to not pronounce the completion of the first (and very rough draft) of the novel I started writing as I accepted the challenge presented by National Novel Writing Month. Like my decision to commit to going to a personal trainer twice week beginning in October. I've written a couple of terrible novels in my life, beginning at 13, but this is the first time I went about it in a very different way: by picking subject matter at the very last minute, not giving myself time to second guess it. One of the tenets of NaNoWriMo is to write...simply for fun. So I took it to heart and dived passionately into a new world, full of characters I'd never met before. And they welcomed me. I also decided not to write it chronologically, rather jumping around to scenes that sounded interesting to write. Jumping around kept me on my toes and helped formulate a story that was dynamic and hopefully interesting to read. It needs a good, long edit before it's ready to be reviewed by those who have already volunteered, but I'm excited to get it to that point.

Stay tuned for more updates, my four loyal followers!


After saving the money, and waiting a year, I finally bought an iPad on Tuesday. And I returned it two days later. Although my Apple Store return experience was as easy--though less joyful--as purchasing something, I thought owning an iPad would be a transformative experience, but I just "didn't get it." Steve Jobs told me I needed an one! And no one wanted to believe him more than I did. I believed it when I converted to Mac. I believed it when I got my iPhone. But the iPad...I'm befuddled. There wasn't anything I could do on my phone or laptop that I could do any easier/better/faster/more magically on the iPad.

Maybe today's purchasing market is more mobile than I am. And for that reason I can understand having one. But my iPhone fits in my pocket, and in spite of the rumors it does make/receive calls. My MacBook Pro is brilliant for receiving all my writing projects--like this blog.

I'm glad I tried it. But unless the iPad vacuums or tells my fortune accurately (aside for losing ~$1k on hype) then I'm out.

Of course there is always iPad 2.0. I mean, you never know.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

The Dime Store of Broken Dreams

My parents owned a "variety store" when I was third grade--maybe after and possible before, but I know for certain I remember going there in third grade. After school my sister and I would walk from elementary school ten minutes to the block-long business district known to everyone then as "uptown" to spend time there until Mom closed up shop at five and took us home. Sometimes my friend Marie would offer me a ride on her banana-seated bike, in which case my nine-year-old laziness would force me to blow off my sister's accompaniment.

Our store was called Remington Variety. It sold all kinds of stuff from office supplies to toys (a personal favorite) to housewares, and paint. It was there where I got my big singing break--or took my opportunity, really. One Saturday afternoon while my father literally "minded the store" to give Mom a break to do fun things like clean the house, do laundry and grocery shopping. I wouldn't be surprised if she tried to squeeze in a couple of shots of Jack or a nervous breakdown. It was a slow day (you could almost smell the bankruptcy), so I thought if I swung into action I could bring customers into the store and keep them there, enraptured by my vocal stylings and purchasing the wares we peddled at reasonable prices.

There was a little-known intercom system (except to me--even then all things electronic caught my interest) from the back office to the front of the store or showroom, as I called it. I didn't feel the need for rehearsal. I had put of on plenty of shows with my sisters for my grandma, though as a back-up singer (the youngest), not as the lead. This is what they called in showbiz as a "make or break moment." I hopped on the little stool by the intercom master control center (on/off switch), grabbed the CB-radio-shaped microphone and pressed the button before bursting into my rendition of "Delta Dawn" by Miss Helen Reddy. Over and over. Like a flawless track on a perpetual loop. It's moments like this I recall with great curiosity, fondness, and even pride. Somewhere along the line I stopped indulging the little voice inside and its whispers of encouragement and daring.

I was in the middle of my third repeat when I heard the unmistakable tap of my dad's hard-souled shoes, heading my way--FAST. He rushed into the office and said, "You know that thing is on?" I just stared at him blankly, hoping I wouldn't have to answer that question and that he'd leave so I could continue my in-store entertainment. But this show didn't go on. Apparently my talents were too esoteric for the likes of that hick town. A dream crushed. A true calling burned to the ground. Another boring afternoon sniffing the wares in the paint room (where one of my illegal stashes of Wacky Wafers and Marathon bars were kept.) I hadn't known so much humiliation since the day I nearly choked on root beer-flavored Wonka Bottle Cap during the Spring Fling Sale.

We lived on the opposite edge of town in the old Bible Baptist Church my folks had purchased and converted into a house. Our part of town was newer and didn't even have sidewalks. It was fun to be "uptown" (which at some point in the passing of time has changed to "downtown"); to be in the thick of the what little hustle and bustle a town the size of Mayberry could generate. Running across the street to the post office or going next door to the cafe for "a breaded tenderloin and a milkshake, please" or running to the drug store to get Mom and me little bottles of Coke, each costing "two dimes and a nickel."

It went out business after a couple of years. Not long ago at a family gathering I asked, "Do you think it was because of all the candy I stole?"

"Yes,” my mom replied. "I'm certain it is."


(Thar she blows! The green storefront back in the day wasn't green and was nestled between Brookings Shoe Store on the right and The Remington Cafe on the left.)

Saturday, February 12, 2011

We Walk the Same Line

I rarely buy complete albums in this day of iTunes and digital music. But, I've been waiting YEARS for an album to be available via iTunes (and incredibly lazy for not just buying the CD that sat on my Amazon wish list since 2002). I got the cassette of "Amplified Heart" when I worked at the now-defunct music chain Coconuts in the mid/late 90's and fell in love with it from the second i pressed the little indented arrow on the play button. It quickly became the soundtrack of my life. I listened to it constantly. When I was happy, when I was sad, when I was bored, or when I was busy. I still have the cassette. I could never get rid of it. I hadn't checked iTunes intermittently and when I did so in late 2010 it was there! And based on the comments posted by fellow impatient fans, it had only recently landed on iTunes. I bought it immediately, listened to the album while I synced it to my iPhone.

Though I love all the songs--which is quite rare for me--one song in particular always resonated deeply with me. "We Walk the Same Line" is a song about love or friendship when one can't go on, the other one picks up the slack because their fates are one. I remember listening to the cassette on my Sony Walkman-knock off while on plane to Miami to see a close friend who had recently endured a lot of hardships. The song acted like a roadmap for me once I saw him. "If you lose your faith, babe, you have mine. And if you're lost I'm right behind cuz we walk the same line." Beautiful lyrics--and so meaningful to me. Of course--single at the time--I applied the psychology of the song to all my close friendships. It made happy, knowing if I were lost, I'd be found by Mark or Kathy or Tina or Retta. And likewise, I'd find them were they ever lost.

But as I recently listened to this beloved song when I purchased it digitally, it hit me like a ton of bricks how appropriate it is for my life now as my husband deals with a serious illness and do my best to care for him--physically and emotionally. "When it's dark, baby, there's a light I'll shine. If you're lost I'm right behind, cause we walk the same line." The lyrics now have morphed into the soundtrack of my life now...15 years later. And whenever I listen to it, it relaxes me and makes me happy, like it's telling the story of kenan and me, and a metaphorically detailed events and feelings we've both experienced over the last year and half. It sort of slipped on me like a favorite old glove you'd misplaced and finally found. And when you put it on it instantly reminded you of all the adventures you'd had while wearing it--good and bad. It wasn't just a glove. It was part of you, your history.

My favorite line has coincidently always been "And we can't run and we can't cheat, cause babe when we meet what we're afraid of, we find out what we're made of." I knew kenan had the "stuff" to handle his diagnosis because he'd dealt with it before as a child and more than that, it's just the kind of person he is. And though I really didn't think I was going to crumble, I had my doubts that I'd be able "shine that light" as brightly as I wanted or it needed. But in living an unreal life as we are, finding out what you're made of is par for the course and something to be celebrated. I'm happy to say overall I'm good with what I've made of. Sometimes I wonder if I have enough faith to give, but I guess that's only normal. It's not about quantity. Giving is giving. And usually, even when I think I've given it all, more magically appears for me to parse out.

So in honor the impending Valentine's Day, I'm going to play the song here and post the lyrics below. It's a beautiful song. My words can't speak volumes enough about these words. Or how I feel about my beloved, crazy handsome, and just crazy husband. I love you very much. Keep these lyrics in mind. I hope they give a little of the same comfort and reassurance they offer me.

It can't be left unsaid that many of you reading this walk the same line with us, shining plenty of light and giving faith. We know what you're made of, and we love you and appreciate it so!

Lyrics to "We Walk the Same Line" by Everything but the Girl

If you lose your faith, babe, you can have mine,
and if you're lost I'm right behind,
cause we walk the same line.

Now I don't have to tell you
how slow the night can go,
I know you're watched for the light.

And I bet you could tell me
how slowly four follows three,
and you're most forlorn just before dawn.

So if you lose your faith babe,
you can have mine,
and if you're lost, I'm right behind,
cause we walk the same line.

When it's dark baby,
there's a light I'll shine,
and if you're lost, I'm right behind,
cause we walk the same line.

And I don't need reminding
how loud the phone can ring
when you're waiting for news.

And that big old moon
lights every corner of the room.
Your back aches from lying
and your head aches from crying.

So if you lose your faith babe,
you can have mine,
and if you're lost, I'm right behind,
cause we walk the same line.

When it's dark baby,
there's a light I'll shine,
and if you're lost, I'm right behind,
cause we walk the same line.

And if these troubles
should vanish like rain at midday,
well I've no doubt there'll be more.

And we can't run and we can't cheat,
cause babe when we meet
what we're afraid of,
we find out what we're made of.

So if you lose your faith babe,
you can have mine,
and if you're lost, I'm right behind,
cause we walk the same line.

When it's dark baby,
there's a light I'll shine,
and if you're lost, I'm right behind,
cause we walk the same line.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011


Growing up in the Midwest, there comes a time during a blizzard when you realize you've prepped all you can, you stop caring how/when you'll be able to get out of your abode, and you just enjoy life slowing down a bit. The City of Chicago is all but shut down. Most people I know had a "snow day" today, work is canceled. Every school is closed. It's unprecedented in the almost-twenty years I've lived in the Windy City.

Our official snowfall is around 20 inches, but it's supposed to quit sometimes this afternoon. I have taken so many pictures. It's mesmerizing. And it's reminiscent of childhood when during heavy evening snowfalls, your stomach would get a little tingly at the thought of a school cancellation the following day. If you were lucky, they'd announce the cancellation the night before (not my school, of course).

Yesterday around 3 PM...


This morning around 9 AM...

I have to face the fact I won't be able to dig the car out until June or later. In addition, I don't think I'll be able to get to it until sometime in late April...