Sunday, May 29, 2016

the night of my 21st birthday

This prompt is meant for younger writers, I suppose, who grew up after the legal drinking age was raised from 18 to 21. When I was in high school, I easily passed for eighteen, and had no trouble getting into most bars and taverns. So my 21st birthday was just another birthday, as far as I was concerned.

It was a Tuesday, as I recall. Some of us had plans to go see And Justice For All over the weekend. But the topic of my birthday hadn't even come up. I moved through my scheduled classes like every other student enrolled at Pfeiffer. Nothing memorable happened during the day.

At the time, I was secretly serving as editor of a benign but humorous underground newspaper (Cockfeathers) that questioned college administration, and made fun of the regular college newspaper (The Pfeiffer News) which was hopelessly dull and never courted controversy of any kind. We aimed to entertain, mostly, but we didn't object to the occasional poke at a hornets' nest. We tackled tenure, student scandals, teaching styles, rumors about various people, administrative appointments, and college spending. One exposé tackled the redecoration costs of the administration building juxtaposed with a cut in funding to various student activities. Shocking!

I had rented a post office box in the next town so our readers could send letters to the editor, which they frequently did. In fact some of our best stories began with a letter to the editor! I drove over that afternoon to check the box after my last class was done. In the box were three letters. Two were standard letters complimenting us on our work. The third was an article being submitted for publication. I stood there reading it. It was hilarious and I knew we would publish it.

When I got back to my car, I spotted an envelope under my windshield wiper. It had my name written on it. My heart started racing when I saw that. I looked all around. I was alone. Inside the envelope was a note card. (I still have it.) It said, "Please meet us at 6 pm at the VFW." Who was us? Was this a trap? I looked at my watch. It was 5:45. There was no time to go find another newspaper staff member. I had to decide.

I slowly drove to the VFW. When I got there, I found an empty parking lot in front. I sat in my car, thinking. Should I go try the door? I was frightened. Suddenly my harmless newspaper felt dangerous. I worried I might get expelled. I had just about made the decision to drive away when the front door opened and a figure emerged. It was one of my favorite professors. He waved. I waved back. He signaled for me to come in. Behind him in the doorway was a female member of the athletic staff. She too signaled for me to come in.

Confused but curious, I got out of the car and went in. I was greeted by a large group (twenty?) of employees of the college. I was handed a glass of champagne. They all held their glasses up. The highest ranking professor said, "To the wonderful Cat on the occasion of her 21st birthday. We appreciate your editorial work, your courage, your sense of humor, and your service as our voice." Then we all drank. I was speechless. People went out the back door a few at a time, some hugging me before they went.

Finally, it was just me and one instructor. I was still holding my champagne glass. "You okay?" he asked as he took my glass. "I guess. I'm so confused." We stood looking at each other. He offered no explanation. "I've got to lock up now," he hinted. I went out the front door. I heard the lock click behind me. I got in my car and drove back to the campus.

We never set out to be anyone's voice. We were just having fun. But I guess what we did mattered!

(All credit for the origin of Cockfeathers goes to Don Sherrow, may he rest in peace.)

Saturday, May 28, 2016

words or phrases I constantly use

What the hell?

You have GOT to be kidding me!

It'll be fine, just fine. (Credit to Martha Jane Thompson.)


Can you stop and get some ice cream?

Ohhhh, Catherine, what are you doing? (Credit to Richard Semakula.)

Stop me if I told you this one ...

what I wore yesterday

I wore confidence. I first tried on weary resignation, but it didn’t look good on me.

I wore joy. I celebrated being alive and happy.

I wore gratitude. I heard from my lover, halfway across the country on a family trip. I heard from my son, who will be here soon. I’m loved. I wore love!

I wore patience. Customers come from all walks of life and sometimes bring their troubles with them. Did my kind attention to their souls make a difference? I wore hope.

I wore worry, thinking about our presidential election.

I wore laughter as co-workers shared stories and I shared mine.

I wore the coolness of the pool water at the end of a workday.

I wore wonder as I floated on my back and watched fluffy clouds drift across the Arizona sky.

I wore exuberance as I threw the ball for Jackson. I wore exasperation when he stopped to smell the flowers and ran back without the ball. I wore humility when I realized my dog was demonstrating, “Don’t forget to stop and smell the flowers.” I wore affection as I scratched his ears and told him what a good boy he was.

I wore comfort as I tucked into some tacos. I wore salsa that dribbled on my shirt. I wore a shrug because that Resolve stain stick really works!

I wore interest and surprise as I watched Father Brown solve yet another mystery.

I wore contentment when my lover called to report on his day and tell me good night.

I wore relaxation as I snuggled into my bed to read before I closed my eyes for the night. I wore amusement and appreciation as I caught up with the wisdom of Mma Precious Ramotswe.

I wore peace as I counted my blessings and gave thanks for another day.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

things I’d say to an ex

I like this topic. It reminds me of a poem I wrote at some point in the last year or so. Here it is:
Love Timeline

Could I have my youth back, please?
There are boys and men I’d like to chase.
I didn’t then because I was told that I shouldn’t.
Could I have a redo?

There are boys I wish I’d said no to,
     and one I told to go away,
     to whom I’d now say “stay.”

May I take a weapon back in time?
There’s a fella who could use a lesson or two,
     and I, more than anyone,
     can find exactly the right examples.

And I’ll take just a moment,
     to kiss that one boy on the cheek,
     before he’s taken by the flames.

And let me tell THAT young man
     that he IS worthy of his father’s legacy,
     before the water fills his lungs.

And let me whisper in that special soldier’s ear
     that he is loved and cherished,
     before he ends it with his gun.

Time, a fickle beast, refuses to yield.
I'm stuck with the choices I made.

four weird traits about me

Just four? I have so many. Ugh. These prompts are starting to get on my nerves. But I’m determined to finish all thirty. I usually fizzle out on things like this. Not this time! So, four weird traits.
1. I really enjoy doing absolutely nothing, by myself. I’m perfectly happy sitting in a chair, with nobody else around, just thinking. I joke that I’m an introvert who fakes extroversion really well. When I’m around people I’m animated and engaged. But I’m happiest when it’s just me. And my dogs! I frequently get advised that I should have more activities. People who say this to me are often scheduled beyond belief. A lunch date can only be planned for “two weeks from Wednesday.” That’s fine for them, but not for me.
2. I keep lists of character names, book or chapter titles, scene descriptions and snippets of dialogue. Maybe all writers do this. These things just pop into my head. I was working on the second floor of the library last week. There were workmen changing out a small art gallery area, so random furniture had been pushed here and there. I spotted a customer sitting in a chair facing out a huge floor-to-ceiling, wall-to-wall window. He wasn’t reading. There were no other chairs or tables or customers near him. He was just watching the world. And if you read #1 on this list, you’ll know I was thinking how much I would like to be doing exactly what he was doing. I wrote “The Brilliance of the Man in the Orange Chair” which I will use at some point.
3. I’m socially awkward, but only in very specific ways. I’ll say something benign that is interpreted in a negative way. I won’t realize right away that I expressed the thought in a poor way. By the time I do realize what has happened, I’m frozen with mortification and can’t figure out what to do or say to fix it without sounding defensive. Because nobody perceives me as socially awkward, I come across as aloof, when all the while my brain is trying out and rejecting explanations, clarifications, apologies, and other strategies to fix my unintentional faux pas. I’m a lost cause.
4. I have hoarder tendencies which I combat with very minimalist surroundings. If I see even a hint of things piling up, I institute my Every Time Rules. Every time I get up, I must put something away. Every time I leave the house I must take something with me. Every time an item in my house reminds me of something unpleasant, I throw it away. One happy aspect of getting older is that with the object out of view, I’ll never think of it again.
I’m not reading ahead on these prompts. I’m hopeful, for my sake and for yours, that the remaining topics are less about me and more about … anything else!

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

some things I miss

  • Catching fireflies in a jar, then letting them go again.
  • Acrylic nails, but not the expense or the seeing-stars-pain of hitting one on a surface.
  • The Mom I had from 1975-2002. I never saw that woman again.
  • Crane onion skin writing paper & envelopes in canary yellow.
  • My guitars.
  • My cousins Bobby, Catherine and Beth.
  • Good Humor Chocolate Eclair Ice Cream on a stick.
  • Full-sized toilet paper rolls.
  • Thin Mints - original size, three sleeves in a box.
  • Hill Street Blues.
  • Playing backgammon with college buddies.
  • Sam, when he was a newborn, 3 years old and 6 years old.
  • My dogs - Belle, Peanut, Jennifer, Sunshine, and C.R.
  • My cats - Ninja, Angel, Nicole, and Joe.
  • The excitement and joy of Christmas mornings as a child.
  • Cap'n Crunch cereal.
  • My Slip 'n' Slide.
  • Pittman Park UMC.
  • Montreat, NC.
  • Knowing my brothers.

  • Monday, May 23, 2016

    a family member I dislike

    There is no family member I dislike. There are family members with whom I disagree on major issues such as politics, religion, and social privilege. And there are a few family members who (I think) dislike me, or simply don’t understand me. And more with whom I have very little in common. But I can think of no one I dislike.
    So, where do I go from here? The whole premise of this prompt is to motivate me to give rich detail about why I don't like a specific family member, or to describe a series of precipitating events that led to a Hatfield/McCoy situation. So what does one do in the absence of familial hostility?
    Ah, this, from Gloria Steinem: “Happy or unhappy, families are all mysterious. We have only to imagine how differently we would be described – and will be, after our deaths – by each of the family members who believe they know us.”
    I believe that only a handful (or two) of people really know me. And most of them are not family. I created a family of friends who know me and love me. So perhaps the same is true for everyone else in my family. I think I know them, but I don’t.
    And the family members I think don’t like me? If I'm right, I think it’s because they don’t know me at all. They’ve inherited a dislike from other family members who think they know me, but don’t.
    But being liked isn’t critically important to me. Being honest and authentic, and having the courage to speak my truth is important to me. Sometimes there's a heavy price for that.
    I do wish I could spend more time with family, especially those I don’t know well. Maybe in retirement! And who knows? Maybe time will yield deeper relationships than I currently think are possible. Wouldn't that be sweet?

    Sunday, May 22, 2016

    my morning routine

    My first thought every morning is coffee. But I have to take the dogs out first. And they need their breakfast. Priscilla had too many months on the streets scrounging for food to ever be relaxed about meals. She is frantic for breakfast, shivering with anxiety and excitement, barking if I don't move fast enough.

    Then I put water on to boil. I need one cup of coffee in the morning - Columbian drip. Yes. And breakfast of some sort.

    Next move is a toss-up. If I'm working that day, I think about what I'll wear. I might start a load of laundry. Will I need lunch or a snack? How much time do I have? Do I need to wash my hair? Once I'm ready for work, I read or play on the computer until it's time to go. Sometimes I write.

    If I'm not working, I'll pull the zandikyn and contact the mother ship. I'm required to report on any significant contacts with humans and provide coordinates for last known locations of my partners. This can take some time if they're probing for details or collecting biological samples.

    Next, I drive over to Alice Cooper's house. We play Skip-Bo (my favorite) and Caroms (his favorite.) We might go for a swim. I record our conversations for the book I'm writing. He will talk extemporaneously with very little prompting from me. Sometimes we take little road trips - to the Brass Armadillo or to hit some golf balls. Then it's time for lunch!

    That's it!

    Saturday, May 21, 2016

    does my zodiac sign fit me?

    Libra. And my name is Catherine. I like a man who's bold; a man who's not afraid to be original. And if that's you, come with me. Take my hand. Come with me, baby, to Love Land. Let me show you how sweet it could be ...

    OOPS. Sorry, I was floating on for a minute there.

    No. I don't think my zodiac sign fits me. I think zodiac signs are manufactured nonsense. I've seen this proven multiple times. If you take descriptions of each sign and remove obvious clues, such as "bull-headed" for Taurus, "balanced" for Libra, and "two sides of you" for Gemini, any description can fit just about anyone.

    But it's fun to play with. Not that I do. I can't remember the last time I even looked at it. Let me go do that now ...

    Now THIS is spooky. My horoscope for today. "Words from you carry a bigger punch than you sometimes acknowledge. Many more people listen to you than you realize. Be careful with what you say and write. One of your readers will send you $5,000."

    Just kidding. I wrote that. Let me go read it, for real.

    "Connect with the stabilizing force of the day, Libra. It's important for you to keep at least one foot on the ground, as powerful and intense emotions are likely to try to take over the scene. This is a good time to do things with passion."

    Okay. Will do. I always do!

    Or was this the horoscope for Pisces? Hee hee!

    Friday, May 20, 2016

    music shuffle

    The instructions are, "Put your music player on shuffle and write the first 3 songs that play and what your initial thought is."

    1. 'S Wonderful - Joao Gilberto. His version is very sensual. My first thought is that I wish my lover was here. He's still at work. But the night is still young. Maybe I'll still get lucky.

    2. Twisted - Joni Mitchell. Hilarious. This is my theme song, so of course it popped up. I was just talking to a friend about this song a few weeks ago.

    3. Trouble No More - Allman Brothers. Well, this band takes me back to the happy parts of my adolescence. It was always the music.