Monday, November 28, 2011

What's Your Favorite Holiday Tune?

Have you ever listened to the song “The Most Wonderful Time of the Year” and wondered, Who wrote that, and what were they smoking?
I may sound cynical, but it’s hard to be of good cheer sometimes when you are elbowing your way through a Black Friday sale and someone starts pepper spraying the other shoppers in order to get a hold of an Xbox.
That’s to say nothing of the strain that holidays seem to create within families. Someone’s upset because you didn’t include Aunt Bertha in your Christmas Eve dinner. Last year, she talked everyone’s ear off (a little too loudly) after drinking all your egg nog and told you your turkey was too dry and your dining room d├ęcor “needs some work, but has potential.” Your children found all their gifts in the back of your closet. Somebody lays on a guilt trip by reminding you that they always have to eat Christmas dinner at the Waffle House because you can only visit them on Christmas Eve, never on Christmas Day. The whole month of December is a frenzy of parties, cooking, shopping, wrapping, making lists, checking them twice, decorating, going to programs and events . . . it can be really hard to find the joy in it when you’re so busy.

All the while, we pump ourselves full of holiday food and drink. What we need to get through this season is energy. We should all be going on vegetarian diets. Want something to pull you through with the stamina you need? Try broccoli and bananas! Some steamed veggies and legumes will put you right. But no, we sap our own energy with sweets galore, and more. Pass the rum balls; I think I'm losing my buzz.
Now the person who wrote “The Carol of the Bells” really captured the actual tone of the holiday season. That would be terror, of course. It stresses me out just listening to it. My best friend calls it “panic set to music.” It starts like an alarm clock honking in your ear in the dark, cool quiet of morning on a Monday morning. Then it crescendoes early, as if you have remembered that you have an important presentation in front of all your bosses in your 8am meeting, rendering you too nervous to eat breakfast, too shaky to drink coffee. The drums come in with their ominous BOM-BADA BADA BOM-BADA BADA so you know something wicked this way comes. By the time the violins kick in, I’m ready to start crying and screaming. “Nooooooo! Not Christmas!!!!! Aaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhhh!!!!!!!”

It maintains a minor key throughout. It’s like theme music from a horror movie. It bears a striking resemblance to the music from the Halloween movies.  My three year old son put it best about “Carol of the Bells.” “Mommy,” he said, “that song sounds mad and scary.” Yes. Yes, it does. At its loudest, it makes me feel desperate. My heart pounds. My fists clench. I feel like I am running away from a T. Rex on a rocky plain. He’s getting closer and closer and I keep falling and bruising my knees on the rocks. Now, you can fill in the blank here; perhaps your T. Rex is your inlaws, your parents, your sister, whomever.
The repetetive pattern of the song, to me, suits the whirlwind and pace of the holiday season. The same four notes are repeated over and over. If I were an imprisoned terrorist, I would be easy to break. All they would have to do is shine a bright light on me and play “Carol of the Bells” loudly. “I’ll talk! I’ll talk!” I would scream. The song itself sounds like insanity.

Now, if y’all don’t mind, I am going to enjoy a Holiday Spice coffee and some Candy Cane Hershey Kisses while I wrap some gifts. And chase them with a Pepcid AC and a fifth of vodka.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

The Birthday Blog

My birthday is coming up.  I will be enjoying the last year of my thirties, starting next week.

Some folks can't stand their birthdays.  Don't want them acknowledged.  Hide under the bed until the day is over, and hope that no one sends them a card, much less black balloons.  I say this is silly!  Celebrate yourself.  No matter what your circumstances, you have survivied another year on this planet.  And that's something to pat yourself on the back for.  Laugh.  Have coffee with a friend.  Eat a piece of cake (or some other treat, if you are on a gluten-free diet).  Take a walk or see a movie.  Get a massage or that new leaf blower you've been eyeing at Home Depot.

But whatever you do, don't let the day pass without being kind to yourself.  Wait, don't click on the x and leave me now . . . listen.  All the things I mentioned are really nice, but I saved the best for last.  Do something for someone else.  Yes, someone else.  If you are able, spend the day volunteering at a local soup kitchen or the Salvation Army.  Offer to do yardwork for an elderly person, or cook something for a homeless shelter.  When you take your heart and mind off of yourself for a moment and put someone else first, it can feel really, really good.  Serve someone else from your heart.  And that's the BEST gift you can give to yourself.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Staying Competitive

I resolved a while back to start submitting stories to writing contests on a regular basis.  I thought maybe it would keep me writing new stuff.  I also hoped I might actually win one. . . long shot, I know, considering how many entries they get and that lots of the folks submitting are MFA students who are daily receiving counsel from their professors.  That's one advantage I don't have.

But here's the upside:  there are writing contests everywhere out there . . . a dime a dozen.  I get an email about once a month naming just SOME of the contests out there, and the list is normally about 20-30 contests long.  The trick, of course, is to find one that is looking for the right genre (sorry, I don't write science fiction).  I usually have a few from which to choose in that regard.  Then I must choose the ones that I can afford to enter . . . entry fees on these things are frequently $20 and under, luckily.  Not usually a problem there.

But they all want fresh material that hasn't already been published.  Ha!  The nerve!  I have lots of short stories and part of a novel saved on thumb drives and such, but very little of it is, in my estimation, worth sharing yet.  So that leaves me working to produce fresh material.  Not a bad thing, considering that was one of my goals in the first place.

Ok.  So I sent a new short story to a contest yesterday.  Thus it begins.  No one had read it, other than me.  I know, I know, that's a big mistake.  I didn't even have anyone proof it.  I'm not overly optimistic about winning or anything, but at least I have entered my first contest.  Now that my feet are wet, it is no longer some mysterious process where I imagine I will need to light a candle and turn around three times while wearing a green hat and blue goggles.

I'll keep you all posted on my contest-entering progress!  Here's hoping it will keep me churning out a good crop of fiction.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

The Booster Seat . . . It's a Whole New World

I don't drive stick shift.  Don't want to.  Never will, probably.  When I was a college freshman, my roommate, Kim, said, "Oh, no.  This won't do.  We've got to teach you to drive stick."  I was used to my old diesel-powered Mercedes which moved about like the cars in the Flintstones cartoons, but Kim had a red Honda Prelude (Zowie!).  It was fast, fun and powerful.  The first (and last) time she tried to teach me to drive her car, I laid rubber in the faculty parking lot at Agnes Scott College on a Sunday afternoon.  No one has ever tried to teach me again.

When my husband and I got married, my husband said I would have to learn to drive stick so I could drive his truck.  I said no thanks.  I didn't and still don't want to drive his pickup truck.  My car is newer and nicer.  Guess what?  He thinks it's newer and nicer, too.  I knew, just KNEW that if I could drive his truck, I would get stuck driving that thing around town when I didn't want to someday.  Like to a Junior League meeting or something.  Don't get me wrong . . . I'm very thankful for my husband's vehicle, and it has been an enormous blessing to us in so many ways.  But I don't want to drive it.  #endofthatdiscussion

So since my son was born almost four years ago, we have operated 95% of our lives with one car.  On certain special occasions, like getting my car worked on, we have squeezed the car seat into the back seat (and I use the term "back seat" loosely) in the old pickup truck.  But other than that, we have operated largely as a one-car family on my husband's days off from work (which are plenteous, since he is a firefighter and has a weird schedule).

Certain people, and particularly one family member, have scoffed at the fact that the three of us basically load up and go everywhere together.  We love it, thanks.  I enjoy spending all the time I can with husband and child.  So when I have to go to the bank and all three of us load into the car to get it done, I think nothing of it.  But OTHERS think we are aliens from outer space because of this practice.

But lo and behold . . . my son is now old enough to fit into those little booster seats that cost like $15 and fit very nicely into the back seat of the truck.  So after four years of parenthood, we finally sprang for a *gasp* second car seat in the form of a booster.

Now, when my husband and son go on an errand and I have to stay at the house to work, I am no longer trapped here with a truck I cannot drive.  Husband pops child into the booster seat in the truck and takes off.  I am still here with my wonderful automatic SUV.  I can suddenly up and decide to go deliver books (which I did, two days ago).  This may just be the best development in time management that has happened to our family.  The convenience this has introduced will be a blessing, no doubt, and probably in ways I have not even imagined yet.

But I will still love loading all three of us into the car to go grab a tube of toothpaste at the Walgreen's.

Friday, November 4, 2011

The Ballad of the Shirley T is here!!

It's finally here, y'all!  My book, The Ballad of the Shirley T and Other Stories, is available for purchase on iUniverse's online bookstore:  http://bookstore.iuniverse.com/Products/SKU-000489917/The-Ballad-of-the-Shirley-T-and-Other-Stories.aspx

It is also available on amazon.com:  http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Dstripbooks&field-keywords=Perrin+Cothran+Conrad&x=12&y=18

And Barnes & Noble:  http://www.barnesandnoble.com/s/Perrin-Cothran-Conrad?keyword=Perrin+Cothran+Conrad&store=book

It's a collection of short stories, some of which I wrote under the tutelage of the late Dr. Bo Ball at Agnes Scott, who was an award-winning author himself.  Others were written more recently.  A few have a definitive Charleston/Lowcountry flavor.

It makes a great Christmas present!  And if you're local, I will be pleased as punch to sign it for you.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

A Trail of Tears is now a trail of toys

For some reason, I still have a good many of my textbooks from law school.  I have gotten shed of many, but there remain a few that I "might want to refer to" at some point: Contracts, Admiralty, Corporations, Commercial Law, Elder Law, Wills, and about 586 others.  Seriously, though, they occupy a bookshelf in the corner of the playroom.  Do I look at them?  Not really.  I don't even dust them.

So today we are playing in the playroom, and Sam decides to take a few books down to make a sidewalk across the room.  And a few more, and a few more, and pretty soon, half the bookshelf is empty.  Now the books comprise a whole interstate system which a toy 18-wheeler is traversing.  *Sigh* At least those books are good for something now.  That toy truck's journey is a whole lot more interesting and fun than the journey I made with those books.  All $10,000 worth of them.  Yep, mine was a trail of tears across what is now the Torts and Con Law Freeway of the playroom floor.