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Archive for the ‘full disclosure?’ Category

I don’t know if I’ve ever been a particularly spontaneous person. I’ve had moments here and there, but mostly not so much. Not an impulse buyer. Not a pick up and fly to Tahiti in the middle of a quiet Tuesday traveler. Not.

And I started out writing this because I was going to talk about my extremely mild run at spontaneity today — suddenly throwing out a dinner invitation and meeting up with a dear friend instead of heading home — but then I got distracted by “spur of the moment.”

What an odd thing to say: on the spur of the moment. And I went to The Google to find out the origin, and got this:

Spur of the moment is in the OED along with other definitions of the word “spur”. The first recorded usage was in 1801. Spur also means at haste so perhaps spur of the moment – something done impromptu or with out deliberation grew out of spur in that sense, as in a quick decision.

Something in the moment (the brief period of time when a decision is made or an action is begun) acts as a spur-an incentive, an impetus-much as the literal spurs impel a horse to go. What motivates a “spur of the moment” decision arises quickly, as opposed to long forethought.

And that’s all well and good, but Google gave me something much better. “Spur of the Moment” is, it turns out, the name of one of my favorite episodes of The Twilight Zone, an episode I’d only seen once but thought was really clever. In my head, it’s always been the “Face of Fear” episode, but that would have been way too heavy-handed as a title. Good thing Rod and Richard didn’t ask 18-month-old me!

“Spur of the Moment” was Season 5, episode 21, originally aired on February 21, 1964. As soon as I saw it in the search results, I set my slice-writing aside, went to Hulu and watched the episode. It holds up well enough, I guess. It’s not “The Invaders,” or “Eye of the Beholder” or anything, but it works. As was true when I saw it the first time, what really stands out for me is the repetition-with-a-twist of the opening scene. I like that shift in perspective, like using the same image to say something very different.

Ending my unplanned evening with an unplanned re-acquaintance with some classic TV. My variety of spontaneity is pretty seriously boring! But it pleases me.

Are you a “spur of the moment” kind of person? What things have you done spontaneously? Is your history with spontaneity as undramatic as mine? Do tell!



It’s the 10th annual Slice of Life Story Challenge!

Head over to Two Writing Teachers to see all of today’s slices!

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… all of the things, apparently.

I pulled a prompt out of my writing prompt envelope tonight, and it said: “What I never tell anyone is …” I started my freewrite and the first thing on the page was, “I never tell anyone how scared I am pretty much all the time. Of so many things.” That wasn’t what I was expecting to write, but that’s what came out.

I wrote for about 20 minutes … and uncovered a whole host of fears I wouldn’t have imagined myself to be carrying. Mostly I’m afraid of screwing things up … whatever those “things” might be — my job, my friendships, my health. I’m afraid of being too quiet, too loud, too clever, too dull, too serious, too frivolous. I’m afraid of the spotlight, but afraid of being ignored.

WTF?

This isn’t something I’m aware of 24/7, but then I’ll suddenly notice it, notice how tense my shoulders are, how tense my jaw is … and I’ll have to force myself to unclench.

What is that? Why am I so constantly afraid? And of such just-live-your-life things. And have I always been? I know we have a family joke about how fraught with tension I was, even as a small child, but is that real? Have I always been afraid?

People who’ve known me a while might point to things I’ve done that seem “brave,” whatever that means. I’ve traveled alone. I’ve done a lot of public speaking. I’ve read my work in front of audiences of people who aren’t just my family and friends. I stood up to a surgeon and his staff who wanted to sterilize me.

Okay, all of that is true. And more. But that doesn’t mean I wasn’t also afraid. I’m terrified every time I have to read. I’m often afraid when I’m traveling. I was entirely afraid during that hospital experience. I was so afraid during one of my surgeries this past summer that I cried through almost the whole pre- and post-op period. I may be able to do “brave” stuff, but that doesn’t erase the fear.

And I certainly don’t want to get rid of fear all together. There are plenty of real things for me to be afraid of.

Job security was a big one in the mass of fears that spilled out in my freewrite. That surprised me, but it’s real. It’s something I would have dismissed before the debacle at my last job. Seeing how quickly and easily I could be cast out was a real eye opener. Seeing how casually someone I’d worked with and thought I could trust could knowingly sacrifice me for her own gain was shocking. So this fear of about safety on the job is new. And rough. I hate worrying about whether I’m giving ammunition to the wrong person, not making myself useful enough to the right one. And yes, that’s in my head … but in my current job, it’s also real. I see that happening around me all the time. Feh.

So, fear. It’s hard to admit that I have so much of it, that I carry that stress with me regularly. And that it comes in many forms and from many directions. Yesterday, walking away from a friend’s house, the first handful of blocks of that walk had me tight with worry because people hadn’t cleaned their sidewalks, and I was so afraid of slipping and falling and messing up one or both of these bionic (but still breakable) knees of mine. I carry that fear — of slipping and falling — all the time. When I’m going up or down a flight of stairs or an incline, when I stand up on the subway or bus, walking down the street. Yes, I’ve had this particular fear for many years, since my knees were first damaged and a bad slip or fall would put me in bed for a few days, unable to do more than hobble slowly and painfully around my house. There was a brief, shining moment after my first knee surgery when I forgot about it, forgot to worry about falling. That was glorious. It was a revelation — Oh, this is what it feels like not to be disabled! But it didn’t last long. Less than a year later, I was in pain and moving toward my second surgery, back to worrying about uneven pavement, every flight of stairs, the slippery tiles on the subway platform.

Carrying fear all day every day has to be chipping away at me, shortening my life. Certainly making me curtail my movements, my plans. Fear is what makes me bite my tongue in conversations — and then feel frustrated when someone else says the thing I’ve been thinking all along. Fear is what has kept me from expressing my feelings again and again — God forbid I should tell someone how I feel and get slapped down with rejection. Of course, I’ve had plenty of rejection even when I haven’t put myself out on any limbs, so have I really protected myself by not being honest about my heart?

In The House on Mango Street, Esperanza’s mother talks to her about shame, about how it holds you back. And that’s real, of course. Shame has played a big part in my life, too. But I think fear has played a bigger role, a more dominant role. How sad is that?

So, what do I do with this realization? What’s the next move, the next step? How do I shut the fear down? Is that even the right goal? Should I be investigating it to see where it comes from? Is that the secret to releasing it? Do I acknowledge it and then crush it harder and harder until it’s compressed into diamonds or coal? And then what? Does it somehow become valuable to me?

I’ve been working on developing a better relationship with my anger, feeling it, living with it, embracing it, using it. Clearly there’s some equally serious work to be done with fear. Okay. Here we go.

griotgrind_logo

In 2017, I’ve committed to writing an essay a week. It’s only Week 3, and I’m beat!

It’s not too late to join if you’re feeling ambitious! Check out Vanessa Mártir’s blog to find out how!


original-slicer-girlgriot

Click on the badge to check out today’s Slice of Life posts at Two Writing Teachers!

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Okay, so yesterday I finally wrote about my trip to the plumbers’ training center. But I didn’t tell all. First, there was one more student display that I could have included:

20160317_101442

Yes, had to get myself in the picture, too.

But the main piece I left out is a little more hands on. On the tour, a machine in an alcove caught my eye.

20160317_101054

It was a virtual reality welding machine. Right? You’re excited to hear about it, too. After the meeting, just after I’d put on my coat and was ready for the long trek to lower Manhattan, I joked to one of the instructors that I wish I’d had a chance to try it out.

Yes. That wish was granted instantly. I was escorted back downstairs and set up on the machine. It was as much fun to play with as I’d imagined it wIMG_6773ould be. Even better, it seems I’m an ace! Both instructors exclaimed over my steady hand, my complete coverage. That’s me, a natural welder!

In high school, we took those awful aptitude tests. My results offered up some very clear recommendations: I was meant to be either a high-ranking military official or the world’s best mechanic. My scores were apparently off the charts for these two careers. You
could almost say that the whole of my actual career has been an effort to deny those results, move as far away from them as possible.

And then here comes this toy welding machine. Now, sure, one turn on the VR machine doesn’t make me job ready. Of course. But it does make me think. We were talking to the facility manager about his efforts to recruit women —  saw only two in the classes we visited — and he lamented his lack of success, lamented the struggle to overcome the stereotype of who’s-a-plumber (as he said, “You know it: the neanderthal with the butt crack and a beer.”).

That VR machine is definitely part of the answer. And a better marketing campaign is the other. If he went to job fairs with that machine and let girls play with it, more than a few of them would stick around to hear more. I was entertaining some second-career thoughts my own self! And making it clear that the trade is about more than fixing toilets would help his cause, too. Welding, solar heating system installation, system design … seriously, my second-career thoughts were strong.

And, of course, I remembered those decades-old aptitude test results. I am in no way sorry to have found my way to teaching, to have spent many years in many different kinds of classrooms. It’s hard to imagine a job I would love more than teaching — current job, as much as I enjoy it, included. But my turn as a VR welder got me thinking. I do a LOT of things with my hands, I love making things, I love learning how to use tools and equipment. I never connected any of that to those test results, but now I wonder. When we got back upstairs from my turn on the welding machine, I basked for a moment in the glory of being a VR welding prodigy. Someone asked if I was a knitter. I am. And that’s apparently a thing: the kinds of motor skills you need for good welding are the same as those needed for knitting, for hand-crafts. I wish those aptitude tests had given more detail, some clue as to what actual skills led to the the test conclusions. Maybe I would have found my way to a more hands-on kind of job.


It’s the Slice of Life Story Challenge! Head over to Two Writing Teachers to see what the rest of the slicers are up to … and to post the link to your own slice!

SOL image 2014

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My wonderful, and wonderfully talented friend Alejna invited me to join in this “writing process blog tour” meme that’s getting passed around just now. She posted her entry last Monday on her blog, Collecting Tokens, and this week it’s my turn.

The meme offers up four questions and then gets passed on to a few additional bloggers who will post the following Monday. The four questions:

1) What are you working on?
2) How does your work differ from others’ work in the same genre?
3) Why do you write what you do?
4) How does your writing process work?

I’ve invited three friends to take up the meme for next week. First there is Lisa, who is both a writer and a painter and may surprise us with process writing about both.  I love Lisa’s artwork, her kind spirit, her openness, and her generosity as a writer (and as a person!). Then there is Sonia, a writer I’ve known almost half my life, who will add her spice to the mix.  I love how Sonia has incorporated her journalism skills into her fiction, her attention to details, and the feminist lens she brings to the page.  And finally, there is Glendaliz, who is currently at a writing retreat in Wyoming and may add some wild west flavor to complement her innate flair.  Glendaliz writes fiction the way I dream of writing fiction: beautiful, fluid, powerful stories that grab me and hold tight, and her blog writing has a similar pull.  I’m not sure if she’ll be joining the meme, but I really hope she’ll be able to.

Warning: this post is unconscionably long.
(Not apologizing, just notifying.)

And so. Let’s get started.

__________

What are you working on?

The simple answer to this question is “too many things and not enough all at once.”  But that’s too easy.

For starters, I have been writing poems all month … because it’s April and because I like writing challenges. Each year, starting in 2009, I’ve chosen one form and written that each day for the whole month: tanka, rhyme royal, nove otto, zeno, arun. The arun appeared last year, and seems to be a new form that I’ve created. I had surgey mid-month last April, which kept me from finishing my month of aruns, so I took the form on again for this year. (You can see today’s very sparkly arun below, but I think the best ones this month were written when I had the surprise of making some family tree discoveries.  This is the first. This is another. And this is one of the hardest.)

The poetry has been hard for me. I have a bad history with being “good enough,” with being “allowed” to write poetry. This April is the first time I’ve given myself a break and just written what I wanted to write. And, not at all surprising, this April has been the easiest poetry month for me. Even 2009, when the tanka seemed to fall out of me, wasn’t as pain-free as this year. It’s a good lesson for me, seeing just how hard I make it for myself.

I’ve also been writing for my comic … or trying to.  I have a soon-coming deadline to submit work for VONA, so that’s spurring me on right now. It’s also true that I think Adventures could go somewhere if I could get it finished, so working on it now feels urgent and important.

It also feels very loaded. There are people who are supportive of me and of my writing, friends and co-workers who will be surprised to recognize themselves in the stories. Creating the comic without having actively challenged their comments or behaviors feels underhanded and passive-aggressive. At the same time, biting my tongue in the moment has often felt safer, and sometimes I need to worry more about my own well being over other people’s feelings.

I’m also writing stories. I had an idea for a fiction-only blog, and I want to finally get that up and running.  I lamented last week that I haven’t been able to find/steal enough mental time to focus on a longer-form story, that all the fiction I’m writing lately is flash.  I’m still feeling the frustration of that, but even without working on a long story, I am certainly still working on stories, and I need to acknowledge and honor that and not be so hard on myself.  Do I believe I’ll never write a long story again?  No.  So I should calm down a bit and just do what I have the ability to do right now.

The one area of writing that I neglect most and most often is this blog.  I can go months without a word.  Happily, every March there is the annual Slice of Life Story Challenge, started in 2008 by the lovely ladies over at Two Writing Teachers.  That challenge started just as I entered the world of blogging, and really helped me work on my online voice.  In the years since, it has brought me back to my blog, no matter how many months this space has lain fallow.  This year, I was away for 3 months when the March challenge rolled around.  Way too long, but the lure of the daily slices got me back here.  And then, of course, March is followed by National Poetry Month, and my personal poem-a-day challenge, so I’m always guaranteed at least two solid months of blogging.  I want to be a little truer to my online self, however, and post more consistently, at least once a week during the rest of the year.  We’ll see how I do with that.

Most of the creative non-fiction I’ve written lately has been for this blog, but I’ve also written a couple of longer pieces that have been published in anthologies about women’s literacy.  I like essays, and taught essay writing for years.  I was driven almost crazy by the formula 5-paragraph essay that students would enter my class with, having been taught that the formula was the way to go for everything.  It’s really pretty awful to so stunt a student’s writing by teaching them that kind of crap.

So, as I said: too many things and not enough all at once.

How does your work differ from others’ work in the same genre?

So, I write in a few genres — non fiction, fiction, poetry, and now comics — and I honestly have no idea how my work is different from others writing in the same genres.  Oh dear.  I’ve spent a fair amount of time thinking about this one in the almost-a-week that I’ve been jotting down notes for this post … and still nothing.

Why do you write what you do?

I write for a few reasons.  First, I’ve always liked writing, liked playing with language.  I really like English.  It’s a beautiful language if its given half a chance.  And yes, a lot of our words are borrowed from other places, but they’re here now, and they work.  You can say things such as, “Here I sit, ready to deliquesce at the sound of your voice” (something I wrote in a love note to an ex years ago).    What’s not to love about that?

I also write because it’s the best way I know to figure out what I think and feel about things.  Sonia used to have a signature on her emails: “Writing is thinking, not thinking written down.”  That has always made so much sense to me.  The thought process in my head is often unmanageable — too many swirling, crazy clouds of everything careering around in there, running into and over one another.  Writing gives me the power to harness the crazy and see what’s really going on.  Sometimes I get it horribly wrong — sending off letters before I’ve had a chance to think them through completely (revise), sitting on an idea so long trying to get it right that someone else has already gotten there by the time I think I’m ready to speak.  Still, writing is the channel through with my brain can make sense.

How does your writing process work?

And this is the hard one.  It requires me to either create and claim a process or be totally honest and say that I don’t really have one.  In truth, the processes are different depending on what I’m writing.

Poetry: Usually written quickly, on the fly, rarely taking even a full day.  This month, they’ve almost all been written between 10pm and midnight so I could get them posted before the end of the day.  A few were given a little more time.  A few, at the beginning of the month, were written while I was at a conference and should have been paying attention to presenters at a workshop.  With poems that had rhyme schemes, I tried to give myself more time because rhyming takes more time, but still no more than a few hours.  (Please do not think I’m bragging!  I fully acknowledge that any of my poems could have benefited from more time and attention.)

Comics: My process for the comics is still a little backward, but there is definitely a process. The mini-comic class I took last year was with Dane Lachiusa. It was a great class for me, but I wasn’t a great student. Dane would tell us things about process that of course made sense because he a) knew what he was talking about and b) was actually a comics artist and c) had lots of experience.  I would listen to him and immediately dismiss whatever he said because a) I am a lousy student, b) I can be exceedingly arrogant, and c) I figured I already knew how to tell a story, that I didn’t really need to rethink my storytelling “just” to convert my stories to comics.  Right. In each case, I would run off in my own direction, only to realize (of course!) that Dane had been absolutely right and that I needed to start over his way if I was going to make any kind of progress.

So, process is still messy for me with comics.  I have ideas for each story first (I’ve generated a dauntingly-long list of stories for Adventures, one I have a hard time imagining how I’ll tackle, one that makes it that much more clear to me why I need to get to VONA this summer and get some more learning under my belt!).  The next step is supposed to be mapping out the images for the story, and I’ve started to be that person who will actually go to the mapping out first and not start writing text.  I’m not a full convert, but I’m on the way.  I’ll do a very messy, barely-even-stick-figured sketch to give myself an idea of what I want to draw and how I’ll draw it.  next I make a much more careful sketch of the panels in which I start writing the story (or start revising the story I have stubbornly already gone ahead and written before I started the sketches).  And finally, I draw each panel carefully and use a ruler to keep my text lines neat.  The final drawings are done over-sized, at 150% of their normal size — the big size makes it easier to include details and to keep text neat and clear.  If I could do things like make shade and add color, the larger size would make that easier, too.  Maybe one day.  And all of that is a description of the process of making a comic, but it’s also part of the creation of the story for me because I’m still organizing and tweaking and finding a better way to show or tell something in each step.  Once I have all the panels drawn, I scan them individually, and then assemble them in a word document and start printing my little booklets.  There are probably shorter ways to get the job done, but this is the way Dane taught me, and I like it.

Fiction: There is little in the way of process connected to my story-writing.  In 2012 I took a wonderful online class with the amazing Minal Hajratwala. Minal is a great, great teacher — generous in her instruction and critique and full of wonderful exercises that get you thinking and writing.  In my case, her exercises also led me to a few serious revelations about my seeming disdain for process when it comes to my fiction.  I have begun, in small ways, to incorporate some of her lessons into my work, but I am still a long way off from having a real process.  As most of the fiction I’ve been writing lately has been super-short, I’ve gotten a bit lazy about using Minal’s lessons, writing my stories as quickly as I write my April poems.  So, process?  Not so much, but it’s something I’m working on.

Non-Fiction: I think my process for non-fiction is cleaner than my fiction process … or, at least it exists.  If I’m not writing memoir, I am usually inspired by something that has either pissed me off or terrified me or roused some other emotion to such a level that I am compelled to write. What that means is I’m known to write more than my share of angry, angry screeds.  I’m actually okay with that.  At first, I thought I should censor myself a little — especially after I lost a handful of readers early on when I posted my first angry piece about race.  Losing readers surprised me, but I pretty quickly realized a) I can’t let that govern what or how I write, and b) I’m probably never going to have a big audience, so I may as well please myself.  So I write my angry screeds when I need to, and I stand by them.  When I was teaching, I wrote a lot about my teaching and about my students.  I also write a lot of memoir — mostly travel stories, but a few others as well.  With non-fiction, I’m much more able to throw all my ideas on the page quickly.  When I need to do research, I can do it fairly easily and get back to the work … and then I’m done and can settle into the revision — my favorite part.

And at last: REVISION!!  I wish I could decorate that with hearts and flowers.  It is truly my favorite part.  I love all the parts of writing, but this has always been the place where I’m happiest, where I get to stroke and stretch and test out words and sounds and see what makes the most sense in my piece.  The two main components of my revision process are 1) making recordings of the piece, 2) cutting as much as possible.  I like to record the story or essay and listen to it the next day (or a few hours later if I’m in a hurry).  Like most people, I don’t love the sound of my recorded voice, but I’ve learned to get around that.  I think of my work as written to be heard, so I have to listen to it to hear the places that don’t work, that don’t make sense.  When I don’t record, I still read out loud to listen for the missteps.  And — finally getting to the point of this post’s title — I like cutting.  You can’t tell it from the crazy-long length of this post, but you can tell it from some of the stories I’ve posted.  I like to cut and cut and cut until I get them down to something like the bare bones.  I don’t always leave them so bare, but I like to get them to that place. Think Kawabata’s Palm-of-the-Hand Stories. That’s what I aspire to.

Talk about miles to go before I sleep!

_________

Wow.  Did that ever go on way longer than I’d imagined it would.  And yet there’s still more!  Today’s Poetic Asides prompt is to write a “settled” poem.  This is another prompt that isn’t really speaking to me.  And maybe that’s because I rarely feel settled … or sometimes feel so settled I’m stuck.

I
like to
wear glitter —
gold dust sprinkled
over cheeks and eyes.
Gold
settling
in my hair,
wafting in my
wake. Gold and still more
gold.
My friends
laugh, dismiss.
But I know best,
give myself over.

natpoetrymonth1

Please consider donating to my indiegogo campaign to support my participation in the VONA Voices graphic novel workshop this summer.  “Support” can be as simple and cost-free as sending the Indiegogo link out to your friends and telling them why they might want to help me get to VONA.  Any and all help is appreciated.  To date, I’ve received almost half my goal amount! I am encouraged and humbled by everyone’s generosity.  Thank you all!

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An Arun is a 15-line poem with the syllable count 1/2/3/4/5 — 3x.  It may be a new thing in the world, made up by me last year.  “Arun” means “five” in Yoruba.

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I think it’s on to me. My knee, that is. Seems to know what I’ve got planned, that it’s not long for this world. Ten days til surgery and for the last week that poor joint has been hammering with pain. It knows, and it’s not happy.

I feel sorry for it, but my course is set. I do feel sorry. It’s strange to think of swapping out a piece of your body for a piece of equipment. Not that I’m worried about becoming Borg or bionic, but will I miss it? As unlikely as that should seem, I do wonder.

Everything I’ve read says recovery can take at least a year, and given how out of shape I am, I’m surely a poster child for long recovery. Still. A year is a LONG time. True, it takes time to build a solid relationship – and took me 20 years to be ready to break things off with my current knee – but a year.  Whoa, is all I’m saying.

Tonight’s Arun is really not calling my name. When it started forming in my head, I thought we were going somewhere, but no. No matter. We can’t always have those “uncharted atlas” moments.

Why?
And why?
Why again.
It’s all you ask.
It’s all I can’t say.
Why?
Knowing
this answer
could gentle us,
pull us from this edge,
hold
our hands,
lift us clear.
But no. Nothing
will be that easy.

An Arun is a fifteen-line poem in three sets of five lines.  Each set of five lines follows the same syllable structure: starting with one syllable and increasing by one (1/2/3/4/5 — 3x).

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“I’m a token, is what I am. I’m the only person of color she knows, and I’m tired of validating her belief that she isn’t racist.” She readjusted her seat, took a sip of her latte them looked up, surprised by the silence that followed her comment. “What?”

Delia shrugged. “Do you actually think of yourself that way? As a person of color?”

Morgan frowned. “What’s that supposed to mean?”

Delia shrugged again. “I’ve never heard you say that before.”

“Is it a problem? I mean, you know about my great grandmother.”

Delia nodded. Yes, who in the known world hadn’t heard the story? After skimming through One Drop, Morgan had decided to get her own DNA tested.

“It’ll probably come to nothing,” she’d said at the time. “We’re pretty sure we know all the lines going back practically to the dawn of time or something. But maybe, you know? Maybe there’s a secret no one’s told.”

She had sent off her sample and talked about it non-stop: “I could find out I’m a Romanov, she said at one point. “Some direct link to the lost Czarina. That would rock.”

Then she’d gotten the results and found, as she said, “not Anastasia but Aunt Jemima.” The results had shown that she was 4.6% African. Even closer than Broyard to the “one drop” idea that inspired the book title.

It ran her aground briefly, that 4.6%, so hard for her to imagine where it had come from, or how. But not for long, only until she remembered the stories about her great grandmother, Minnie.  Minnie’s branch of the family tree as full as everyone else’s, but there was a moment of question, a scandal averted. She’d been a singer for a dance band before marrying into Morgan’s illustrious line, and the story was that she’d given up her career when she married, but not her band-leader lover, that the affair had continued until her first pregnancy … and the child of that pregnancy — Morgan’s grandfather — was the band leader’s baby.

And, if the melodrama of the affair, of passing her lover’s baby off as her husband’s wasn’t enough, there was also the mystery of the band leader himself: light-skinned as any white man, but rumored to be … something else.

“It is not my job to teach her why this is wrong,” Delia though, sipping her coffee in silence. “I am too tired to have to take on this mess.”  She was Morgan’s only black friend and was beyond disgusted by the whole situation. Never mind that the math was surely off, if Morgan was going to start thinking of herself as a woman of color, if she was going to casually say that — out loud — to people, it would have to spell the end of their shaky friendship.  She was tired.  But if she didn’t try to steer Morgan to a better course, who else was going to do it?  She took a deep breath.

_____

At last! I know I’m not the only one that never thought we’d get here. So glad to prove us all wrong!  Seriously, though, I had to get through with these stories because NaNoWriMo starts on Thursday and I couldn’t bear the thought of having them hanging over my head while I try to crazy-write my way through the month of November! It’s been an interesting experiment, trying to write so many stories so quickly.  Ok, clearly I didn’t come anywhere near 30 days, but I did manage 22 stories in September.  My favorites from the set?  Hmm …

Day 3

In dreams — 8

Harvest — 9

April, Come She Will — 11

Ballad of the Half-Masochist — 18

Now a Son — 24

Variation on a Theme — 27

Heart and Soul — 29

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I hope everyone who’s had to deal, even in a small way, with Hurricane Sandy is fine tonight.  New York City took quite a beating.  I’ll post some of my post-storm pictures tomorrow.   For now, you can visit Ruth and Stacey’s and see what the other slicers are up to.

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Thirteen years ago, I had finally reached a place where I no longer thought it was vain or needy, or greedy (or any other thing I didn’t want to be) to make a big deal out of celebrating my birthday.  I adopted a friend’s tradition of “birthday week” — planning large and little celebrations for myself to draw out the specialness of having a birthday.  I threw myself a party … and I didn’t feel guilty about it, I just had fun.  The next year I bought a super-fancy cake to share with some friends.

And then eleven years ago my birthday was eclipsed and I’ve been struggling ever since to find a way to remember that September 11th is also a good day because it’s my birthday, to find a way to celebrate myself without seeming disrespectful, to find a way to just have something be a little normal.  The double significance of the day can sometimes catch me unawares.  Even now.  When I started writing yesterday’s “it’s the day before my birthday” post, I thought I was so clever: I was going to call it: “On the Almost Incendiary Eve,” stealing a line from Dylan Thomas’ “Deaths and Entrances.”  But then I heard myself.  Because not only are there too many incendiary images/memories about today, there is also the fact of the poem being written about dying in a building bombed during the Blitz … not the way to go.

Still struggling to find the balance between observances, still looking for some normalcy.  I’ve succeeded in some years, failed miserably in others.  I think at this point I’m a little reconciled to the reality that this is just what my birthday is going to be from here forward.

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So.  I’m 50.  It’s old news already (pun sort of intended — I got my AARP membership invitation in the mail last week!).  Let’s get down to business.

You’ve probably noticed people making lists all over the place.  All those people with their buckets and such.  I make lists, too.  All the time.  I don’t usually pick a specific number of items for the list, I just jump in.  Then I happened on the birthday listers, the people who make an age-numbered list of things they want to do.  And doing all the must-do stuff before you turn 50 seems to be a big goal.  There are about 800,000 blogs and lists online that catalog the many things people want to do before they are instantly too old to think straight, stand and walk, and talk without drooling turn 50.   Here’s a random sampling:

Life Gets in the Way, or SimeyC’s Hub Page,  or Julie Hibbard, or Lori Mole’s 50 Paintings Before I’m 50 (which is actually pretty fabulously ambitious and just plain fabulous), Madeline Perry, or 50 Before I’m 50,  or Carolyn’s 50 … Before 50 … you get the idea.

I’m not sure I do, however.  Why do we feel the need to get everything done before we’re 50?  There may be many things that need to be done earlier in life, but why is 50 the dramatic deadline number?  It is my great hope and sincere expectation that I will still be running around making a fool of myself for another 20 or 30 years.  Do I really need to cross so many things off my list so “early” in the game?

Perhaps more helpful are the lists that tell you things you should be sure to do after you turn 50.  The Telegraph’s 50 must do things for 50-year-olds pleased me for the most part — I love that “come out of the closet” is on the list, but could someone tell me what “a personal MOT” is (#45)? — and the ones that tell you what not to do/eat/hang onto/buy/try after 50 (courtesy of my soon-to-be-new-friends at AARP).

In any case, I decided to make a list of things I want to do this year, and exactly half of it is ready for prime time.  The rest is more personal than I need to be writing about in public.  So here’s a half-serving of my 50-List:

  1. Write every day (no, EVERY DAY)
  2. Take three writing vacations (the first one’s already in the works!)
  3. Apply to four residencies
  4. Become fluent in Spanish (finally!)
  5. Make time to read more
  6. Be as much of a locavore as possible (goodbye to mangoes? … no)
  7. Go dancing (I want to say “more” but need to just say “GO”)
  8. Ride a roller coaster (It’s 10 years since I last rode the Cyclone)
  9. Have knee replacement surgery
  10. Learn canning and jam-making
  11. Do African genealogy test
  12. Take voice lessons
  13. Get new helmet and new tires and learn to ride bike my bike without abject terror
  14. Go on photo walks with my “real” camera
  15. Start making jewelry again
  16. Take glass bead-making class
  17. Save for metal clay tools and kiln
  18. Save for spinning wheel and floor loom
  19. Go to Calabash festival
  20. Pay down my mountain of (in)fertility debt
  21. Interview my mother, StoryCorps-style
  22. Plan trip to Africa
  23. Walk minimum of 15 miles/week
  24. Take a life drawing class
  25. Go back to New Orleans

It’s far from earth-shaking, and some of it’s much more “work” than “walk on the wild side,” but it all moves me forward, and some of it will just be flat-out fun.

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Because it’s Tuesday, you can head over to Stacey and Ruth’s to see what the other slice of life writers are up to.

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