Archive for March 2010

Weather & Life

March 28, 2010

Waves Battering Shore

These past several days our weather has been schizophrenic.  First it’s almost spring-like, two days later we’re talking January wind chills.  Not pleasant when those warmer, sunny days and soft breezes finally dried the mucky ground still hanging on to some of winter’s deep frost and the very last of the dirty snow hidden in shadowed crevices or shaded by tall trees and underbrush disappeared.

Why I even put away the winter boots!

I got to thinking about this March weather and realized it reflects our lives in many ways.  We got through times when we can only describe our lives as “sucky.”  Then we have a spell which hits when we least expect it where our lives even out.  Things look upbeat and we think, oh foolish us, we’ve got life under control again.

Time for a sucker punch from life.

Yep, life sneaks up once again and hammers us with way to many crises, problems, frustrations, or dilemmas.  Worse for us is if life keeps hammering us like storm fronts that keep plowing into areas during certain times of the year.  One rarely gets “rescued” from one event and another situation happens.  If you’re very lucky, more than one doesn’t happen at the same time.

That’s not usually my luck.

Nor has it been our weather patterns lately.  But I’m hopeful, not only for myself, but also the weather.  Our ever-failing but innately optimistic weather forecasters are promising real spring-like weather next week.  All we have to do is get through this latest blast of wind, cold and sometimes icy rain.

One of my dearest friends had to bury her mother this week.  The funeral was huge for a woman near ninety.  Wouldn’t you know the day dawned dreary and so windy people scurried from the warmth of their cars to the church.

But inside that handsome edifice?  Warmth and family love abounded for the woman who must have always dealt with a crisis.  She’d been married over 60 years.  She raised 12 children, grandmothered 29 and great-grandmothered 32.

I was fortunate to work with her early in my career at the Women’s Bureau.  This place was a support facility for women thrust into too many disasters at one time.  She taught women skills and techniques to be more effective in dealing with the personal storms in their lives.  I marveled at how she calmly carried out her work and tried to emulate some of her techniques.

Life is Meant to Be Shared

You might wonder how my thoughts on weather would bring me to the death remarkable woman?  Think about it…no matter what happened in her life (and she had crises aplenty) she withstood life’s weather.  And taught others how to cope.  Maybe even felt she became a better person for weathering her personal storms.

What do you think?  Do you know someone you admire because that person deals with the weather of life?  If you write, does that help inspire you?

Characters Around Us

March 21, 2010

Balloons to Share

Life is all about meeting characters.  So is writing.  Very often the two mesh.  One of the most interesting aspects of meeting readers and talking with them about my book has been when they ask me questions about how I came up with certain characters.  Or they “just knew” a certain character was based on himself/herself.

I see these questions as an indication that person got really involved in the book, even willing to invest him/herself  by such identification with a character.

The other night my husband and I watched the animated film UP. I fell in love with Carl, voiced by Ed Asner.  However, looking at the character depiction, I saw Asner.  I loved how the curmudgeon in him softened always when he was around the love of his life, Ellie.  Later dealing with her loss, the character Russell, an inept, young Wilderness Explorer worms his way into Carl’s heart in so many touching ways. While the plot is fantasy, the emotions and how they build aren’t.  Kids would love the fantasy, the colors, the silliness.  Parents or the young at heart (like my hubby and me) love it on a deeper level.

Then, of course, Kevin, the huge bird is so delightful and also manages to rip away some of Carl’s grumpiness and return him to dealing with life as his deceased wife would have wanted.  The fact that “Kevin” so named by Russell happens to be female and the mother of little Kevins adds another perfect element of humor.

Most of us know Ed Asner for his long history of characters.  Whether that depicts is true personal character, I don’t know as I don’t know him.  But I know his on-screen persona well and Carl reflects that persona.  The writers “built” on that public image.

Haven’t many of us dealt with issues of grieving and wanting to isolate ourselves in the world of the past populated by those we’ve loved and lost?  And haven’t we been lucky enough to discover the perfect Russells or Kevins to pull us back to the present and look forward to the future?  Again an example of real life aiding characters depiction in fiction/film.

That was my take on the message of the film and it’s also how characters in life and in writing can mesh.

Just an example: this week my hubby and I also attended two events centered around St. Patrick’s Day celebrations.  At one, a very large and public event, I sat and observed the people and how they celebrated, what they wore, who they were with etc.  All are fodder for some future work—or a paragraph in today’s blog.  The event had everything from great Irish music, to people dressed totally in green, to interesting headwear—I could go on but you get the idea.

The second event was a much smaller affair and most of the people there I’m either related to or have known in some manner for years.  But once again, as I people watched, I saw elements of characters for future books.  Not characters as a whole, but perhaps just an action, or a saying, that identifies that person so totally I know exactly who might be talking or acting even if I couldn’t see the person or hear the voice.  I’m quite sure I’ll put in some future scene the Irish sock line that was captured in digital format.  Or the absolutely scrumptious desserts I couldn’t pass up because I knew who made them.  And she never disappoints.

I'm thinking spring. Are you?

I love the characters in my life.  Those who reside permanently as well as those who flit in and out of my life like butterflies in a summer garden.  They enrich my life and my writing in some manner.

What about you?  Any character thoughts to share?

Of Sea Lions, Shamrocks, St. Patrick, Snakes and Spring

March 14, 2010

Of Sea Lions, Shamrocks, St. Patrick, Snakes and Spring

This coming week those of us who are Irish commemorate St. Patrick’s Day.  So do many others who “become Irish” for the day or days they consume in celebratory activities.

Even on occasion some aquatic creatures become Irish and celebrate.  Check out this short clip:

Shamrocks Galore

In the sea of all things Irish we may see this week, one we often spot is the shamrock.  This humble plant often symbolizes the “home sod,” likely because it is so abundant in the green fields and byways of Ireland.  The shamrock connects to St. Patrick and thus you see it a lot on March 17th because mythology tells us that St. Patrick used this readily available plant to explain the Trinity to the Irish he was converting.  Of course, no one knows this for sure as the first written reference to this fact is found 1200 years after St. Patrick walked the soil of Ireland on his mission.

But the Irish are noted for storytelling, and I suspect oral history had carried this example to the people of Ireland in those 1200 years.

I mentioned St. Patrick who’s the cause of this yearly celebration.  He wasn’t Irish by birth.  Instead he arrived at age 16 as a slave.  Irish raiders had captured him in one of their forays into England.  When Patrick finally returned to Britain, he entered the priesthood and as a missionary priest, he returned years later to the northern part of Ireland.  His mission? To convert the pagan Irish to Christianity. All this occurred in the second half of the fifth century.

He did his job well.  Christianity has been the dominant faith in Ireland since.  As for St. Patrick?  He became another symbol in Ireland and many consider him the patron saint of the land.

Perhaps his “driving all the snakes out of Ireland and into the sea” aided him in achieving this designation.  If I had a vote, I’d have voted for him.  A place without snakes sounds quite idyllic to me. J  Of course, this story is also based on mythology spread by those Irish story-tellers.  It likely represents Patrick’s converting the pagans from their beliefs (snakes).  But who knows?  I think the Florida Everglades could use him at present to drive those pythons into the sea.

So we celebrate St, Patrick’s Day, traditionally a day of solemn prayer, now one of parades, good food, parties, and lots of wearing of the green.  But our earth is celebrating, too.  For three days later, SPRING officially arrives with the vernal equinox.  I know in this part of Wisconsin most of us are seriously hoping that happens soon.

We’ve had a few peeks of Spring.  Most of the snow is gone.  Even the huge 8 foot pile of plowed snowbank just south of my home.  We now are enduring mud, but if our temps stay warmer during the day as they did every day last week, the mud will dry away.  Perhaps those dregs of winter hidden under snow banks for months are the “snakes” we endure .  This week we hope to drive them away—till next year.

What do you think?  Any “snakes” in your life spring might chase away?  Or special plans for celebrating spring or St. Patrick’s Day?

I hope you get a chance to celebrate both.

Birthday Boy

March 7, 2010

Third birthday cake


This past week my oldest son celebrated his birthday.  This birthday was a major one—for him and for me.  Why me?  Well, somehow he’s reached the age I think I am.  How could that be?!  🙂

Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to be with him as I was on the day he was born nor the many birthdays that followed.  He has made his home and found his success as an adult man in Alaska.  But while I may not be with him literally today to make him what became his favorite cake for a birthday, I’m with him in spirit.  Throughout that day I thought much about his birthdays we’d celebrated in the past. 

I still remember the day he was born (don’t all mothers remember that day?).  It was a late afternoon Friday.  Near sunrise on a warmer than usual early March day, his father and I entered the hospital.  As we walked in I remember seeing a rabbit.  I fervently hoped it wasn’t foreshadowing lots of future babies for me.  Why?  I’d been in early labor since late afternoon the previous day. 

Finally, later that Friday afternoon, my son decided to enter this world.  Of course, he was beautiful and worth the effort.  He had big blue eyes that still remain gorgeous and lots of dark wavy hair that any female would envy.  He still has that, too. 

Steve--almost one year old

As far as his grandparents were concerned, Steve timed his arrival perfectly.  What better way to spend an early Friday evening but hopping up to the hospital to see their first grandchild?  Then after visiting hours, a neighbor or ours who worked as a third shift nurse stopped in to tell me she’d already visited with Steve in the nursery.  Then she told me she was pregnant.  That child she carried became Steve’s best buddy as they were growing up. 

Other birthdays came along but another one neither of us will ever forget was his third birthday.  After the party, his first official one with party hats and kids and people other than close family, I ended up making a frantic call to our family doctor.  Steve was admitted to the hospital.  A day later we received the news that his kidneys were failing.  The why and how to treat it meant a stay in the hospital of several weeks.  His prognosis did not appear promising.  You can see in the photo how bloated his face and eyes appear. 

Presents for the birthday boy

I won’t go into all the particulars of that stay other to say that Steve hasn’t been real appreciative of birthday celebrations since.  Nor does he particularly like hospitals.  He had a long road to regain his health and a few times in those years the specialists weren’t very positive about his chances to survive into adulthood. 

But he has.  By the time he entered grade school he wasn’t spending so much time in hospitals.  Better yet he soon became strong enough to play pee-wee sports and became quite a good little football and basketball player.  In his teens he wrestled and also did well.  Whenever we’d go in for checkups they doctors always shook their heads with amazement. Sometimes miracles do happen.  This significant birthday reconfirms that fact for me.  

Some party goers

Anyway, having endured so much together I always must celebrate my son’s determination and feistiness and courage, even as the littlest boy to survive.  I’m so proud of him and will always celebrate the day he entered the world.  Because he’s still in this world. 

What about you?  Any special reason you might celebrate the birthday of someone you love?  Do any of those memories fire up in your writing for those of you who are writers?