#AtoZChallenge — #IWSG

A few months ago, I stumbled on an online group called the Insecure Writer’s Support Group. It’s a site devoted to helping writers, and since I am a wannabe novelist, I decided to get involved with the Insecure Writer’s Support Group. They have all sorts of helpful information to assist writers, and once a month, they send out a writing-related question for people to write about on their blogs. It’s a lot of fun doing the “writing assignment” and seeing what other writers say in theirs. I find it easiest just to search the hashtag on Twitter and read blogs there. If you’re a writer, especially an insecure writer 🙂 — you should look into joining the group on that site!

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#AtoZChallenge — Horse Whisperer

One of my favorite movies is The Horse Whisperer. I stumbled upon it one day and watched it and was instantly taken in. I absolutely adore tortured love stories — the more tortured, the better! And this movie has plenty of tortured love: Grace and her parents, Annie and Tom, Annie and Robert, Annie and Tom. I am not always a huge fan of Kristin Scott Thomas’s but she is so good in this role, playing it with a hard edge, vulnerability, and trepidation all wrapped up in one complex character. Robert Redford’s aloofness is natural and an absolute turn on! And Scarlett Johansson plays one of the best roles in her career, in my opinion, in this movie.

I love watching the relationship between Annie and Grace grow. As a mom, I remember those difficult teenage years with my own daughter, and I didn’t have to also manage the trauma that Annie had to manage with Grace. I find the relationship between Annie and Robert to be an interesting study, trying to determine right along with them what the best path for their marriage should be. And then there’s Annie and Tom. The chemistry between the two of them is gentle yet overpowering. As a viewer, you know they really don’t belong together at all but you find yourself wanting them to be together anyway.

One of my all-time favorite movie scenes ever is from this film. It is the climax in the attraction between Annie and Tom as they dance together, surrounded by so many other people, including Robert and Grace, but becoming so completely lost in each other, they forget there is a world around them. We viewers are waiting for the big scene where they finally consummate their relationship, but this is as much as we get — their dance. I have told people it is one of the sexiest, most erotic love scenes that has absolutely no sex and no nudity. Watch it here:

I have always meant to read the book to see if it is just as tortured as the movie. Someday, I will. If you’re like me and just adore getting lost in impossible love stories, then maybe you might like to watch The Horse Whisperer.

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#AtoZChallenge — God

I believe in God. It is a choice I make. My reasons for believing in God are simple.

I believe in God because it gives me comfort and strength to feel as if I am talking to someone in times of need, whether it is something big (like when my dad was in the hospital after having a sudden cardiac arrest) or something small (like when I can finally clasp the necklace I am trying to put on).

I believe in God because it gives me peace to think that some people will get a reward in heaven when they die. I think about my mom and some of the things she has endured in her life and how selfless and giving she is and I simply cannot fathom that she would leave this world someday and not be rewarded richly for her kindness and generosity.

I believe in God because it makes my heart feel calm to think that people I love whom I’ve lost are merely waiting for me when it is my time to join them. I don’t want to think that I will never see my grandmother again or that people I know who have lost children will never see them again.

Maybe I am naive or foolish to believe in God. Maybe my reasons for believing in God are petty. But I don’t care. If I am content to believe, why should it matter to anyone else? I don’t question why other people believe in God; if they do, they have their own reasons. I also don’t question why people don’t believe in God because I am sure they also have their own reasons.

Believing in God doesn’t make me morally superior. It doesn’t even make me moral. But it does make me happy, and it does make me feel at peace. And those are two pretty amazing gifts.

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#AToZChallenge — Faith in Angels

In this post, I am going to tell you about a song that plays a significant role in my life. It’s “Faith in Angels” by Peter Mayer.

Peter Mayer is a singer and guitar player in his own right, but he has likely gained any fame he has by being a guitarist for Jimmy Buffett. My attention was first drawn to him as a musician beyond his work with Buffett by my friend Sarah. And this song is one that is dear to her as well. She is the one who placed this song in my life and it has been a blessing. My friend Cathy calls it my “strong song” and I never realized that it indeed is my “strong song” until Cathy said that.

The lyrics and the tone of the song are incredibly gentle, it’s easy to see why it’s a song used to soothe the aches and pains of the heart. The chorus of a song is a soft call to action:

Have a little faith in angels. You never know where they might be. Have a little faith in angels and you might begin to see.

It’s funny how this song has just popped up for me at times in my life when I need to hear the message the most — everything from trying to grapple with my grandfather’s suicide to getting me through marathon training and the marathon itself. When I hear the song, it always causes me to pause a do a quick re-examination of my life and my relationships. I look for the angels. And I find them everywhere. They are always there when I need them, helping this silver bird leave the ground, rising high on their borrowed wings.

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#IWSG — One Wish

This post is late — should have published Wednesday! It is part of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group. And here is the question for this month:

 If you could use a wish to help you write just ONE scene/chapter of your book, which one would it be? (examples: fight scene / first kiss scene / death scene / chase scene / first chapter / middle chapter / end chapter, etc.)

I would use my wish to help me write the chapter that includes the climax to my novel. I have been working on a novel for a few years now and the progress is sloooooooow. I know what I want the conflict to be. I know what I want the ending to be. But I just can’t figure out the climax, the culminating event that brings all the rising action to a head so that I can have the ending I want. I know that I need a significant event, most likely a negative event, but I absolutely do NOT want a cliche (like a death) or an unrealistic surprise twist or some deus ex machina. I want it to feel authentic and real and I haven’t figured out yet how to do that.

I don’t know if this makes me unusual. Do most authors know exactly how the plot of their novel will go? Or is it perfectly normal to be missing such a big piece of the plot? Regardless, that is what I would use my wish for!

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#AToZChallenge — Eulogy

My post for today is a bittersweet one. When my grandmother died, I delivered her eulogy. I wish so much that my grandmother was still here today, but writing her eulogy was the easiest thing to do because there were so many things I loved about her. Re-reading her eulogy makes me miss her so much, my heart actually aches but it also makes me smile because I get to remember so many wonderful things about her. So my post today is the eulogy I wrote for her and read at her funeral.

Just like all of you, I have some special memories of my grandmother.  In fact, every letter of the alphabet reminds me of Grandma in some way.

A is for apple slices; hers were best ice cold out of the fridge.

B is for Bingo!

C is for cookies, especially thumbprint cookies, which were her best, not the shots, not the chocolate chip; thumbprint!

D is for dogs – I am sure Barney Brains needed plenty of brushing once Grandma finally got back to him!

E is for exercises – the exercises she did behind the wheel of the car driving to Minnesota one year.  My mom was sure Grandma was driving off the road because she was falling asleep at the wheel.

F is for, what else, frosting!  Mine is never quite as good as Grandma’s, either…..

G is for God in whom she had unwavering faith.

H is for hands – hers were always so soft.

I is for ice, which she always wanted in her coffee.

J is for Jackson, as in Alan Jackson.

K is for knit; Grandma knitted and crocheted so many blankets, including miniature blankets to fit on Becky’s doll beds.

L is for Lake; not her last name, but Cass Lake, where she enjoyed fishing.

M is for mug rugs and mock chicken legs!

N is for Nabisco, the company that makes Oreos.

O is for ornaments, especially bears in the box.

P is for potato salad!

Q is for the queens and kings and aces in our card playing nights.

R is for Rebekah, Michael, and Alyssa; they are truly blessed to have had my grandma for their great grandma.

S is for September, the month of her birth.

T is for teeth; she used to take hers out to entertain me when I was little.

U is for underwear; I still haven’t recovered psychologically from unwittingly wearing a pair of her underwear after getting her laundry mixed up with mine in Minnesota.

V is for voice; I loved the sound of her voice, especially her laugh.

W is for wishing wells; she made plenty of them!

X is for bowling; you know, strike?

Y is for young; no matter how old she was, she was always young at heart.

And Z is for zenith, the highest point, which is where she is now, in heaven, and knowing she is home with God and smiling down on us should bring all of us peace and comfort.

Such a fun picture of my daughter being silly with her grandma (my mom, right) and her great grandma (my grandma, left).
Another picture of my daughter and my grandma. My grandma’s smile lit up her whole face. Looking at this picture, I can hear her laugh.
My grandmother with me when I graduated from college. Lots of people make fun of pantsuits on women, but my grandma made them look damn good.
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#AToZChallenge — Don’t Stop the Carnival

I consider myself a Parrothead, but I’m not sure I’m your typical Parrothead. My least favorite Jimmy Buffett songs include “Margaritaville,” “Fins,” “Cheeseburger in Paradise,” “Volcano”, and “Come Monday” just to name a few. In actuality, my favorite Jimmy Buffett album is Don’t Stop the Carnival.

Don’t Stop the Carnival is a musical Jimmy Buffett wrote based on the novel by the same name written by Herman Wouk. It tells the story of New York public relations expert Norman Paperman’s adventures when he decides to leave his New York lifestyle behind to buy a resort in the fictional tropical island of Amerigo. I remember listening to the album for the first time and enjoying the songs but not really understanding them because, like typical show tunes, the songs help tell the story and I didn’t know the story. So I read the book. It was good. Not outstanding. But what I appreciated about the book is the context it game me for the songs. Now suddenly I had a new appreciation of them because I knew the story each song was telling.

Hands down, my favorite song on the album is “A Thousand Steps to Nowhere.” I can’t tell you why I love it so much, but I do. Maybe it’s because it’s set up as an interesting triplet — the song juxtaposes one moment in time from three different perspectives — Norman Paperman’s, his wife Henny’s, and the old, jaded aging starlet who lives at the resort, Iris’s. It’s an enchanting song, and some of my favorite memories are of my husband and I singing it together as a duet in the car.

Other songs that are standouts include “Hippolyte’s Habitat,” which is just one of the coolest sounding songs I’ve heard. “Who Are We Trying to Fool” is interesting as it shows the developing relationship between Norman and Iris. I also really like “Up on the Hill” — not necessarily because of the lyrics but the music. The sound of the song is sweet, which kind of belies what the song actually is saying.

This is not by any stretch a typical Jimmy Buffett album — it’s a soundtrack to a musical and Jimmy Buffett doesn’t sing on a number of the songs. Most Parrotheads either don’t like this album or they haven’t even heard of it. But to me, that’s part of the appeal — to me, it seems a new, harmless and apparently endless carnival 🙂

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#AToZChallenge — Cats

***My post for the letter C is late because my browser kept crashing last night so I gave up :-)***

I love my dogs, but if I’m being honest, I’m a cat person. Not sure why I’ve always been drawn to cats, but I loved them for as long as I can remember. I have been fortunate enough to be a “mom” to 6 cats in my life. I got my first cat when I was a little girl. He was a beautiful gray kitten with white paws that I named James. I didn’t have him long, though, because he died in a freak accident at home while I was at school. I won’t share what happened because it’s a pretty upsetting story, even more so if you’re an animal/cat person.

My next cat came a few years later. Her name was Pussywillow. I wanted to name her Pussypaws, but my parents in their infinite wisdom managed to talk me out of that name! My mom suggested Pussywillow instead, knowing that I loved pussywillows. I had Pussywillow for 16 years. She loved chicken and would literally come snatch it right out of your mouth when you were eating it. She loved to watch birds. But she would get so nervous doing that, she would lose fur on her back. She actually often had a bald spot from her nerves from watching birds! I had her for 16 years. She got very sick near the end of her life and I had to have her put down. It was one of the hardest things I have ever done. I cried like I lost a member of my family; I know now that I did. My pets are like family to me.

Another cat I had was Monster Monster. He was huge and he lived up to his name! I found him on the side of a highway exit ramp as a kitten. I can only assume some horrible human dumped a box of kittens there since there was a box not far from where I found Monster. He could leap from the floor to the top of the fridge, and he loved to lie on top of the fridge and swat your head as you walked by. He would go outside and play like a dog, and the only way to get him back in the house was to bring the electric can opener outside so he could hear it. He would come running, thinking he was getting fed. But Monster Monster’s fatal flaw was confusion about where to pee. Since he kept using the dining room, he ended up having to go live on a farm where I am sure he enjoyed all sorts of shenanigans with the other barn cats and animals.

Then there was Scooter. My brother found him in a car wash where he worked one summer and brought him home. He was a handsome orange cat and we lived blissfully with him until my daughter Becky was born. The he wasn’t so happy that he wasn’t the baby anymore and starting peeing in my apartment. He went to go live with my parents in Ohio then.

When Becky was a toddler, we adopted 2 barn kittens from a friend. They were beautiful calicos and we named them Misty and Shasta. Misty was my cat. She loved me and that was about it! Shasta had ear mites so badly when she was a kitten that it damaged her hearing so she was deaf for all intents and purposes. But that cat loved Becky. She would let Becky do anything with her. Becky carried that cat like a rag doll around the house and pushed her around in a doll stroller — one time even right down the stairs! That cat didn’t care, she loved Becky that much. Becky used to blame Shasta for the naughty things she did, like when she wrote on the walls with black crayon! Both those cats lived a very long life, but the both eventually had to be put down. Misty developed a tumor in her sinuses so she couldn’t breathe properly. Shasta had kidney failure and wouldn’t eat or even really walk around.

I don’t have any cats now, just my 2 dogs. But my daughter recently adopted a kitten named Fergus, so he is my grandkitty! He is amazingly playful, and he loves Becky the way Shasta did. My mom also has a 16 pound black cat named Dude who is the most adorable troublemaker ever! I will make friends with cats where ever I go. As much as I love my dogs, my heart will always be with cats!

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#AToZChallenge — Blue Heaven

My post for today is about my very favorite restaurant in the whole entire world — Blue Heaven in Key West. When I visit Key West, I always insist on having breakfast at Key West, and I always get the same thing: I start with a mimosa. The I eat an obscene breakfast: I get an eggs Benedict with Key West pink shrimp and lime Hollandaise sauce and a thick slice of their homemade banana bread. I get it maybe once a year, so I don’t care that it’s probably 8000 calories. The food there is so good, but it is really the atmosphere that draws me in. It’s like someone opened a restaurant in their backyard. There are patio tables and chairs all around under trees and canopies for shade. There are a few chickens and cats roaming around, really adding to the Key West vibe. And they often have entertainment on the stage, even in the morning. There is almost always a wait, but it is so worth it to be able to eat a nice meal in such a relaxing atmosphere. If you ever get down to Key West, be sure to hit up Blue Heaven for a lovely meal — I recommend breakfast!

The entrance to Blue Heaven — plenty of bike parking space available!
My favorite meal at Blue Heaven — breakfast! A Benedict with Key West pink shrimp and lime Hollandaise sauce!
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#AToZChallenge — All Too Well

For my first post of the year in the Blogging A to Z Challenge, I have decided to write about a song I love (in fact, many of my posts for this year will be about songs). The song for this post is “All Too Well” by Taylor Swift. I’m not necessarily a Swiftie (her voice leaves a lot to be desired, but I will concede that she has improved as time has gone on), but where my fandom with her lies is in her song lyrics. And “All Too well” has some of the most emotionally powerful lyrics I’ve heard.

I appreciate the imagery she creates in phrases like, “The autumn leaves falling like pieces into place” and “We dance around the kitchen in the refrigerator light”. I admire the structure in the line, “You tell me about your past thinking your future was me.” And perhaps the line I love the most is what I see as a microcosm of the way we treat each other in society nowadays, “So casually cruel in the name of being honest.” I mean, seriously, why do we think honesty is always the best policy? Sometimes we need to be tactful and keep our mouths shut. I have really come to resent the phrase, “Hey, I’m just being honest. Keeping it real.” It’s casual cruelty n the name of being honest.

Finally, I appreciate the entire story arc Swift tells in the lyrics. I’m a sucker for tortured, impossible love stories, and the one in this song seems to fir the bill. This was a good relationship with potential and it didn’t work out and the pain the narrator feels is obvious and deep. It’s sad from beginning to end. Even the happy moments are retold with a tinge of sadness, and it’s that sadness I respond to. My husband always told me that the best poetry I ever wrote was when I wrote out of pain, so maybe that’s why I love the pain in this song.

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