Taken last night (7-13-14)
It’s been a while, I know. A few weeks ago, I got feedback on a contest entry. To say it was disappointing is an understatement. It wasn’t quite devastating, but it was very discouraging. Thinking maybe the judges were smoking something, I sent it to a few of my writer friends. They disliked it, too, for more or less the same reasons as the judges. It was the first time I’ve written something that was universally hated.
It’s the measure of a true friend when they tell you what you don’t want to hear. Unlike the judges, who gave freely of their opinions and walked away, my friends helped me figure out a new direction for the story. It will be better, tighter, than it currently is. When I write it. I haven’t started it yet.
Granted, some of that is because this is a busy time of year for us, and I rarely get any good writing done from mid-June to mid-July. We have other commitments during that time that make it difficult to focus on writing, and when I do write, I almost always end up cutting or heavily revising it later. But usually by this time, I’m eager to get back to it. I’m thinking about the story, jotting down notes, trying to steal a moment or two to get to my keyboard. Not this year. The notecards for the rewrite are sitting on my desk and it feels like the task is too big. It’s too much. Why even bother? Why not just move on to greener pastures?
Because this isn’t the only one. I have four books in similar shape on my hard drive–skeletons of what they can and should become. Because this is a call, like it or not, and right now, I don’t. But in the long run, I’ll do myself more harm than good by not writing. So I’ll enjoy a week with my family, and when they’ve left, I’ll pick up the pieces and start. Again. Because I have to.
Vicky graduated from college last Friday night in St. Louis. Since we had family meeting us there, we decided to drive down Thursday night so we could have some time with them. The catch was, Eric wanted me to pick him up at work so we could leave from there, allowing us to get an earlier start and beat some of the traffic. It made sense, but I had a bad feeling about it.
Everything was great on the drive to pick him up, on the trip downstate, throughout the whole weekend. Even the drive back was fine. Then came this morning. Eric’s car was still at the office. I had to get up to take him to work.
He drove there, allowing me time to caffeinate, but I should have topped my cup up once more before we left. Traffic was really light outside his office and I thought I was home free. About fifteen minutes into my drive, I realized I’d missed a turn, and I had no idea where I was.
No big deal. I got out my cell phone and told it to navigate home. It told me to turn right in half a mile. Cool! I was in the right lane. Easy peasy. After I turned right, it told me in half a mile to take the exit onto I-290 East. Not so good. In my opinion, I-anything is a bad thing at 8 a.m. on a weekday. Still, I did what it said and merged onto the parking lot. It wanted me to go seven miles and change highways. Do you know how long seven miles takes in Chicago rush hour traffic? Half an hour. If you’re lucky. Rule of thumb is five minutes/mile. I figured I was looking at an hour to get home, but I wasn’t sure because I didn’t know what exit I would be on after I merged to the highway that would take me home. Asking my iPhone to find an alternate route did no good at all. Apple maps only goes one way.
Then I saw it: Western Ave 1 mile. *cue singing angels*
Suddenly, in the middle of no man’s land traffic, I knew more or less where I was. It still took another fifteen minutes to get home, but I got home stress-free (and hungry). The moral of the story is, at least in Chicago, pay attention to the names of the streets near you. If you’re lost and see one that looks familiar, chances are decent you’ll be able to find your way. The caveat is that even though a street might stretch from one end of the city to the other, there may be interruptions. Sometimes there’s a park in the middle of the street and you have to circumnavigate, and Chicago has its fair share of one-way streets, but if you get going the right way, it’s pretty easy to get around. Just make sure you are going the right way.
My allergies kicked into high gear all at once this year. This is how I’ve been feeling:
Since I can barely think coherently, I’m going to leave you with a picture of the Martha Washington Geraniums on my terrace. It’s a much nicer picture than me blowing, well, you probably can guess. Flowers are much nicer.
I found a writers’ group that people actually attend! They had a writing lab the evening I went. We chose from a couple different prompts and wrote for half an hour. Then each of us read our piece, and the others gave feedback. It seems to be a nice blend of positive comments with gentle suggestions for improvement, and I think it’s going to be a good group to be in. Here’s the edited version of what I wrote.
She sat at a table outside the cafe, picking tiny pieces off her pastry as if to make it last. Or maybe because she didn’t have much of an appetite. Steam rose from the white cup sitting untouched on the matching saucer. Wearing a gray dress, her long blond hair loose on her shoulders, she almost looked like a ghost. She barely glanced up from the table top, never smiled, not even when the handsome young man pulled out the chair across from her. He was tall, athletic, not more than twenty.
He spoke a few words to the waitress and leaned his elbows on the table. He said something to the girl.
She just nodded.
He leaned back, his speech more animated, gesturing with his hands so he almost hit the waitress when she brought a cup to him. The girl flinched at the near miss, but the boy seemed not to notice.
He leaned in, closing the distance across the table, his hands flying, punctuating his words. She drew back as if slapped, her jaw falling slack, before bursting into tears. He didn’t seem to care. If anything, he seemed more agitated than he had been before.
Finally, she wiped her face with both hands and picked up the black leather bag from the chair beside her. She pulled out a small photo album with a teddy bear on the cover and slid it to him across the table. Then she stripped the ring off her left hand and laid it beside the album.
Hoisting the bag to her shoulder, she stood and shuffled way, eyes pointed toward the ground.
He stood, too, every part of his body tense, his movements jerky as he scooped up the book and the ring.
She didn’t even turn around when he pointed at her and shouted, “I don’t care what you say! It’s not my fault the baby’s gone!”
Intellectually, I knew it would happen. Statistically it had to, but there were times in the last few months I didn’t believe I would truly have a good day again. Not one without a kid around. I was even a little resigned to only feeling truly alive because someone else made it happen, and not because of anything internal.
Last week, I was invited to a job fair. The company found my resume on Monster.com and thought I might be a good fit for what amounted to a pre-interview. There weren’t any specifics given for the positions they needed filled. I was pretty sure I wasn’t interested in what they had to offer, but I’ve been out of the game for a long time. I haven’t held a job for two years, and it’s been close to a decade since I did anything administrative. I figured, if nothing else, I could see what other people wear for interviews. Before I could talk myself out of it, I signed up for the earliest possible slot.
It rained the day of my appointment. Not hard rain. Spotty drizzle, really, but persistent if it happened to pass over you. I found a place to park in the next block, but I had plenty of time. If there’s one thing I’ve learned here, it’s to double your estimated travel time in non-peak hours, and triple it at peak times. There was one moment as I was walking to the interview when I felt fierce and powerful. There wasn’t any sort of threat, unless you count traffic when I crossed the street. There was something about wearing a dress, hearing my heels click on the pavement, knowing that I had a place I needed to be and people who were expecting me. In that moment, I realized that I can have a life here. I don’t know what it will look like, if it will include a job or if I’ll just spend time telling stories at the VA hospital. What I do know is that the spark is still there, and I’m the only one who can fan it.
As it turns out, I was right about the job. Under different circumstances, maybe at a different time, I would have jumped at it. But there are parts of the job I’ve done before that I’m not willing, at this point, to do again. It’s more intense than I want, and I suspect that the parts I would love would not outweigh that parts I wouldn’t love. The beauty is that I’m pretty sure the right job is out there, and when when it’s time, the door will open. I don’t need a job to support my family, so I don’t have to settle for a 75% fit.
The city still intimidates me, but not like it did before. There are still things I have to get used to, but we have resources now that we didn’t have when we first moved here. We have some friends, a wonderful church and a couple favorite spots. Things are looking up.
I got back last night after having spent the week in the country. I’ve always wanted to say that! I went to my Mom’s in Michigan and had a good visit. Cutting the distance in half from our old house made it a lot easier.
I wrote a couple weeks ago that it felt surreal to come back here after having been in the St. Louis area for the weekend, and I was surprised to find it to be true yesterday, too. Coming back here felt like I was crossing a threshold, like I had to change gears when I walked into the apartment. It was strange and a little unnerving, but it is nice this morning to be back in my own space with a long list of things to do.
We didn’t do anything out of the ordinary during the visit. It was mostly to get caught up with family. I had hoped to log some hours sitting on Mom’s deck, but it was too cold. It will have to keep until the next time. Since there aren’t any exciting announcements or amusing anecdotes, I’ll leave you with the view I woke up to yesterday morning.
I was out to brunch last week with my neighbor, and after getting caught up on the latest news, she asked, “So what do you love about the city so far?”
My first thought was, “Nothing!” But when I took a second to think it over, I came up with a list of things that, strangely, I do love. Take heart, country mice! You can adapt!
Here’s my list so far:
- Being about to walk to the grocery store and restaurants.
- Our church, and the wonderful staff. I don’t think I could have gotten through the last few months without them.
- The pizza/Mediterranean place up the road. I’m particularly fond of the limeade.
- The fact that our apartment comes with a roof deck, two parking spots, and a washer and dryer.
- The neighbors we’ve met are really nice.
- My garage door opener. I know that sounds silly, but I went months without because the rental agency only gave us one.
- Our gym–the Tuesday morning yoga class in particular.
- Our neighborhood. It’s so eclectic, like a little village. Off the top of my head, I don’t know of any empty shops on the main street. They’re all filled with boutiques, restaurants, doctors/dentists/lawyers/rental agencies, even a couple places that have music lessons for kids under 4. In fact, this neighborhood is more family friendly than I gave it credit for because there are kids’ clothing boutiques and tons of activities for the kidlets.
- Starbucks in easy walking distance. Two of them, actually.
- Target is across the street from the gym.
- Not being scared to drive. I’m getting used to the traffic, but it helps a lot that I’m learning my way around.
- The layout of my apartment. If I could take it and put it on top of a partially finished basement, I could live in it happily for a long time.
So there’s an even dozen things off the top of my head. What do you love about where you live?
For some reason, it seems like the movies we want to see come in clusters. We can go months without anything we want to see coming out, and then we get a stretch when something that looks good comes out every week or so. We’re in a movie stretch, and since we have to pay a flat fee for parking now, we decided to do a double feature.
Up first was Noah. It was all right–about what I expected, based on the reviews. I didn’t see anything overtly antagonistic to the Judeo-Christian beliefs, but there were some things that struck me as passive aggressive. Noah becomes convinced that creation was ruined by men, and that all men are the same. Therefore, they will complete the mission and save the innocent animals, and then they will die. No babies allowed or the reset won’t work. The trouble, from my perspective, is that if God only wanted part of His creation saved, why not have the Watchers do all the work on the ark and leave Noah out of it altogether? He becomes so obsessed with the concept that, at one point, I wished he would just step off the ark and end it all. And deciding to kill his granddaughters because they might mature into mothers? That would only work if his daughter-in-law/foster daughter (yeah, don’t get me started on that) died in childbirth because even if he killed the babies, what’s to stop her from getting pregnant again? The only way to fix that is to kill all the women, but that doesn’t seem to occur to him. Then again, Genesis never said Noah was a rocket scientist, just that he was obedient.
There was also a distinct thread of mysticism. Why would they use a snake skin as a holy relic when the snake started the whole sin business in the first place? Seems like they’d want to burn the snake skin, not use it in a blessing ceremony. I won’t even get into the fact that it glowed.
Then there’s the matter of the Tubal-Cain, the stow-away. Only Shem knows about him. In fact, Shem finds him the very first day, but no one else finds him until Ila is in labor. How is that even possible? They were in the ark for eight months, according to Genesis, and this is played out through Ila’s pregnancy. What did he eat? How did no one notice they were going through their provisions faster than they should have? Or was he eating the innocent animals raw and all at once to avoid the smell of death?
I will admit that there were some details I thought were ridiculous that turned out to be plausible once I read the account in Genesis (6-9, if you’re interested). The Watchers are explained right away in Genesis 6:4 when it says the Nephilim were on the earth in those days. Actually, they took human wives and had children instead of being encased in rock and turning into monsters, but Hollywood needs a little latitude, right?
After a brief dinner break, we watched Captain America: The Winter Soldier, which turned out to be pretty amazing. The story was well-done, but what impressed me more was that the eye candy stayed decently wrapped the whole time. No gratuitous butt shots, no naked chests preening for the camera, nothing more indecent than yoga pants. That made it a lot more palatable, at least for me.
Turning Bucky into the Winter Soldier was great. Way to tear out Steve’s guts, writers! Bringing back Hydra was a smart, move, too. That’s going to provide fodder not only for several more movies but also for the TV series. I love how they’re tying the series into the movies. They’ll stand alone, but together they give a bigger picture. And can I just say Falcon’s winged jet pack was awesome? Not that I would ever want to fly one, but it was cool to watch! I wonder what would happen if they put Falcon and Iron Man together against a common foe?
The final fight scene became a bit tedious. I don’t know why they always have to run the clock out to the last second to save the world. And why does the whole world always have to be at risk? I guess they have to have a big risk to justify the firepower, but the stakes don’t always have to be sky high. What happened to fighting for the girl? Not that the girl in this movie needed fighting for. She did just fine on her own.
Overall, I’d give Noah three of five stars, and Captain America gets 4.5. You can guess which DVD we’ll likely buy when they come out.