Writing 101: A Character-Building Experience

I’m behind because frankly, this post stumped me. I almost considered skipping it. Inspiration struck this morning, so here is my post for the “character-building” experience.

I had heard about this person for years from my parents, how he was good at his job, how he had fought cancer, how he loved his cowboy boots. I finally met him earlier this year when I needed a new general doctor.

Dr. D— bursts with expressiveness. His enthusiasm for his work is evident in his grin and how he gesticulates while describing your blood test results. I never realized that blood sugar levels could be so exciting! Dr. D— communicates information as if he were telling a wildly exciting story about an exotic safari trip instead of thyroid levels. His sense of humor is sly as well, as is clear from his office’s wifi name (think skull and crossbones). I never realized how my life would change because of this wonderful man, and I’m so grateful to have found a doctor who is a notch above the others.

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Writing 101: Be Brief

She bent to pick up the paper that had been blown into the pachysandra. Oh, a letter:

and I’ve wanted to tell you for years that you have a son, but I couldn’t bring myself to call you since you married Helena.

The wind blew around her as she gripped the paper. “Is that what I had?” she thought to herself. “A son?” Her jaw and stomach clenched as she remembered the day she miscarried.

Writing 101: Commit to a Writing Practice (or, 3 songs)

I had to laugh when I saw today’s writing assignment. Write about 3 songs? Good grief – I don’t know if I can keep it to 3 songs!

The first “song” I have to mention is Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony. Listening to it makes me want to cry, because it’s so beautiful. Banco Sabadell sponsored a flashmob to perform a short version on the occasion of their 130th anniversary, and it makes me cry. How much talent Beethoven must have had to write this when he was deaf. And he couldn’t even hear the applause, but one hopes that he could see the impact of this symphony on his audience. It’s just a beautiful piece of work.

Now I have to think of another song! LOL I guess I would have to choose The Carpenters’ “Top of the World.” It came out when I was a young girl living in the South (southern U.S.). Living in North Carolina was one of the happiest times of my life. I got my first cat there (Abigail), I was accepted for who I was, I was a part of the huge neighborhood we lived in. It seems like everyone knew everyone else. We lived on a cul-de-sac, and we would play “pit stop,” where the kids would draw out lanes with chalk, and we would all get on our bicycles and follow the roads that were drawn on. It wasn’t all roses when we lived down there, but I loved it just the same. We visited the beach frequently and we got to see my favorite uncle a lot. I got to run around barefoot (which I still try to do!) – in fact, my brothers used to joke that if I hadn’t been born barefoot, I would have invented it! It was warm, and we had unlimited access to the neighborhood pool. I think I’ve mentioned how much I love to swim!

The third song? I’m still thinking about that one. You’ll laugh but I’m scrolling through my MP3 player for ideas. I suppose it’s probably “Hallelujah” from Handel’s Messiah. Besides being a beautiful tune, the lyrics remind me that no matter what happens in life, God is above all. I don’t want to get into any theological stuff on this blog – I left “the church” because I didn’t appreciate the negativity and judgments of other people. But there is a lot in this world that is painful, and “Hallelujah” reminds me that some day we will be beyond that.

Writing 101: A Room with a View (or Just a View)

Where would I go? I already know – to Maui.

First, you have to understand some things. I love to swim. I grew up in the southern United States, where being on a swim team in the suburbs is a right of passage. I was the only 4-year-old who knew how to do the butterfly, so I won lots of races when I was young. Also, although I am Caucasian, I have a dark, olive complexion. I won’t go into what was said to me down south (I lived there in the early 1970s), but in Maui, I was usually not considered a “haole.”

My brother lived in Maui for 15 years. Whenever I visited, it was an assault on the senses. The breeze always picks up midday – Maui is known as the “Valley Isle,” and the wind goes right through the valley. The scents of the flowers and flowery trees (whose names I still don’t know) are so intoxicating that it’s better than any drug. The tuberose flowers are especially fragrant. We would buy some and put them in front of a window, so the breeze would spread its delicious aroma. The flowers were absolutely incredible, and they were everywhere. I can’t even describe them, except to say that puny vincas and fuschias here in the Northeast U.S. are huge vines over there.

My brother liked to live “Upcountry,” on the slopes of Mount Haleakala. The views were incredible – we saw rainbows in the West Maui Mountains almost every day, and the ocean was visible out of all the windows. The island is made up of one huge mountain over 10,000 feet high, called Mount Haleaka (to the east), and the West Maui Mountains (not as high, and to the west). As volcanos, they erupted so much lava that it created a valley of land – hence the nickname, “The Valley Isle.” However, there are all types of weather on Maui – there’s desert, there’s rain forest, and sometimes there’s even snow once in a while at the top of the mountain. The trees and flowers are so lush from rain on the “rainy side” that it’s almost like being in a jungle. There’s a lot of farmland and ranches, too, run by paniolos (Hawai’ian cowboys), with cows and horses.

The pace is also different. I live in New York state, where it seems most everyone is in a rush. Not so in Maui. It’s almost socially unacceptable to be in a hurried state there.

Beaches? They were everywhere. As an added bonus, many of them have trees nearby, so you can lounge in the shade if you’d like. Usually you could get to any beach within 20 to 45 minutes from where my brother lived. Some beaches had calm waters, so did not; some had white sand, some had black sand, and some had red. Some of them had reefs so you could put your mask and snorkel on for some fishy sight-seeing.

The best part about going to Maui is that I had my brother’s undivided attention. I bought all the food (I have celiac disease, so I need gluten free food, and also, food is also very expensive on the island, so this was one of my gifts for staying with him), and I cooked dinner for him, and we went out to eat frequently. We listened to NPR or music, and talked and laughed. We drove around the West Maui Mountains and stopped at DT Fleming beach park to jump off the rocky outcroppings (not something I recommend unless you know a local). We just had a blast, and I loved it.

Writing 101: Unlock the Mind

I wasn’t sure what to write about today. I looked at some of the prompts, I wandered through some of the blog posts…. I’m going through a tough time. The company I work for was bought out, and we’ll all be out of jobs by November. If we want to receive our severance package, we have to be here at “the end” – and it seems as if only the universe knows exactly when “the end” will be (it’s postulated to be October 31). It would be great to have a couple of weeks off from work, but I’m the primary breadwinner for our small family (no children, but my husband and I do have 2 cats and a dog). My colleague and friend keeps encouraging me to write, because she knows that I do it on the side, and when I saw that Blogging/Writing 101 was back, I determined to do so, for fun and also for possible job prospects. I guess I’ll just see where this goes. I’ve been commuting to work now for 24 years – 1 hour to work, 1 hour back. I’m hoping to find something closer to home (and therefore have more spare time!).  It’s exhausting doing so much driving, even if I listen to podcasts or books. It is a little nerve-wracking going to work and not being sure what you’ll be doing each day. Sometimes I have stuff to do, and sometimes I don’t. Many times I can find stuff for me to do. I’d rather be kept busy than not. I worry about money, about paying the bills. I worry that my husband won’t find a job. Is this normal? Because I really don’t like worrying! I’ve been trying to get back into running, but that’s been tough, and now that the days are getting shorter and colder, I expect it won’t get any easier. I’d rather dream about my stories or take pictures in the virtual world Second Life (one of my hobbies).

Second Life (SL) is great. You can be anything you want to be. When I first discovered it, I realized immediately that I could be any animal I wanted (shape-changing figures prominently in some of my stories), or an elf, or just about anything that could be created (some avatars are piles of rustling leaves!). I’ve met some good people on SL. At least on Second Life, it can always be sunny; you can be at the beach when there’s two feet of snow outside. I actually get story ideas from SL. Like any other virtual forum, there are groups for everything – faith, writing, and Trekkies, to name a few. And hey! You can change your hair style and color whenever you want! If you find free vendors, you can have as many shoes and clothes as you want! As a woman, that can be a very heady experience!

My 20 minutes are up. Thank you for listening!