Thursday, October 3, 2013

Truth: What's in a bad read?

As a writer, I feel compelled to do a lot of reading.  Specifically, I have tried to keep up with the recent trends in writing.  No, I haven't read any sparkly vampire novels.  I don't plan to, either.  But within the last few months, I have read some Sophie Kinsella, some popular non-fiction, and a few up-and-coming Christian authors.  I've also read Clyde Edgerton and Eudora Welty lately, just to balance out trend with true talent and greatness.

I had become aware of a semi-local author, though, who had done extremely well (and shall remain nameless).  I had never read any of her work.  I figured that I should, just in case I ever have the chance to meet her, so I can say, "Oh, I really enjoyed your novel, (whatever title here), and it had a profound impact on the way I see blah blah."  The reason I had never read her work was because it's all just mainstream paperback read-on-the-beach type stuff.  It's not the kind of thing college kids study in English classes.  But I thought there had to be some redeeming quality, since she has made it to the "top," so to speak, in sales.  Like a good student, I embarked upon a quest to find out what that redeeming quality was.

I downloaded one of her books to my Kindle Fire.  

I began to read.

It was horrible.  I mean, it was really, really bad.  The dialogue was extremely contrived.  The characters were completely annoying.  The circumstances were laughably unrealistic and unlikely.  I can't even fathom who her readers are.  This woman must be a fantastic marketer, or at least better at marketing than she is at writing.  I made it to the second or third page, then I just chalked up the dollars I'd spent as a lesson learned.  After that, I felt like I needed a shower, and a whole lot of Fannie Flagg and Flannery O'Connor to bring me back.

So what's the lesson?  That writing junk will make you millions?

Yuck.  I'll make my millions another way, thank you.  Pass the Rick Bragg, please, so I can get back to some good reading.

Have you ever been abysmally disappointed in a book purchase?  If it's my book, please don't tell me about it.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Flash Fiction: Welcome Home

Continuing with the back-to-school theme, please enjoy the following piece of flash fiction:


The slow drip in the kitchen sink went ting for the thousandth time.  She sat by the window, waiting for her boy.  Snapshots of summer flashed in her memory:  riding in the car with the windows down, throwing a ball in the back yard, running on the beach, and falling asleep together to the crickets’ song.  She closed her eyes for a moment and just missed him.

At the sound of the school bus, her white, long-haired tail thumped the floor rhythmically.  Then came the boy’s footsteps on the gravel outside.  She stood up and danced, her claws clacking on the floorboards.  

Master Bedroom

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

The Pros and Cons of "Back to School"

The smell of fresh school supplies.  The new clothes lined up in the closet, waiting to be worn for the first time.  The quiet solitude in the house with no one driving you crazy 24/7.  Yes, a new school year is a blessed time.

But it comes with its cons, too.  My son and I woke up many summer mornings asking, “What are we going to do today?”  We would then proceed to make an adventure of the day, whether it was a field trip, a project, movie day, or whatever.  I’m going to miss that for the next few months.  What a sweet, fun time it was.

There are other cons, too, though.  No more staying in pajamas until 2pm.  Okay, I only did that twice all summer, and it grossed me out both times.  But seriously, that early morning rush is a price to pay.  You have to get up and make sure the lunchboxes are packed and the homework folders are squared away.  Making breakfast brings its own challenges, too, when your child easily tires of eating the same things over and over.  The mad dash is on, folks.

And as I nearly ran out the door the other morning without brushing my hair, I was reminded of a friend who, last year, accidentally left home without shoes.  She drove her son to school barefoot, walked him in barefoot, and returned home barefoot.  So, in the spirit of the back to school rush, I am reposting the following link about a friend who wore two different shoes to work one day. 

Mismatched shoes

What absent-minded thing have you done when in a rush?

Friday, July 12, 2013

I did it.

Rowan Oak Was the Home of Southern Writer William Faulkner

Rowan Oak Was the...
Stephen  Alvarez
Buy This at

I finally did it.  I wrote a novel.  There is still plenty to be done.  I have to revise – probably more than I realize.  In fact, I’m fairly certain “revise” is an understatement.  And I still have to find an agent – haven’t even started looking yet.  I’ve published my other two books in the new-fangled DIY fashion, but I’d rather like to try the traditional route this time.  I started another novel about four or five years ago, and I never got beyond about thirty-five thousand words.  Just couldn’t figure out what to do with it, I guess.  Then, in between moving twice and changing computers, I *lost* what I had written.  Ugh.  So I started over with a new story, new characters, new everything on November 1, 2012, and I finished on July 11, 2013.  Not too bad.

In the early evening, I knew how close I was to finishing.  I received my latest copy of Garden & Gun magazine and was reading a book review written by none other than the master of the pen himself, Clyde Edgerton.  I began reflecting on my own style and how far short it falls of my opinion of Edgerton’s work.  He offered a quote from the book he was reviewing.  It was so poetic, so esoteric, so like something I would have been assigned to read in college.  The author was pictured wearing a wool suit and looking very Faulkner-esque and intimidating.  I hung my head even farther down.  Could I ever attain this type of literary greatness?  Shaking my head, I opened the lid of my laptop an hour later and wrote from my heart.  The last chapter, the last words.

I hardly realized what I had done, though, until this morning.  I had a warm, fuzzy sense of accomplishment when I typed the words, saved, and shut down the computer last night.  But it didn’t hit me that I had actually come to the end of “banging out the first draft” for the first time in my life.  Fast forward to this morning. I was getting a new watch battery at the jewelry store and found a bracelet I was tempted to buy.  I thought, Oh, that’s ridiculous.  Impulsive.  I can’t buy that.  Maybe if I were celebrating some accomplishment.  First, it occurred to me that the new trolley tour project in which I have been involved finally launched its inaugural tours last week.  I could have celebrated that, but decided that wasn't exactly worthy of jewelry.  Then, as I walked away from the counter, I remembered that I had finished writing the first draft last night.  Well, that’s something.

Later in the morning, I whizzed into the Beaner’s drive-through for a cinnamon chai tea.  I shook my head at myself once again, wondering how I could justify blowing nearly $5 on a tall cup of tea, no matter how delicious.  But as I drove away, the weight of my accomplishment fell on me like a boulder.  This is a first in my lifetime.  I laid down perfectionism, pushed through, and I finished!  I did it.  I became misty-eyed.  I thanked God, and I asked for His help with the rest of the project.  And I sipped that $5 cinnamon chai tea, without guilt, all the way home.  I deserved it.

Thursday, June 27, 2013


"Party Line," Saturday Evening Post Cover, March 17, 1928

"Party Line,"...
Lawrence  Toney
Buy This at

I love people-watching.  Even more, though, I love people-listening.  No, not eavesdropping.  Eavesdropping is when you are listening to someone secretly, when you shouldn’t be listening, like in the poster above.  But people-listening is the stuff of which great short stories are made.  Made, I tell you!

Now, I believe wholeheartedly that when people are having an audible conversation in a doctor’s waiting room, it’s because I’m invited to listen.  If they didn’t want anyone to hear, they would go outside.  And if I went to the door to listen to them secretly, that would be eavesdropping.

So, bearing all of that in mind, I share with you the following gem that I overheard in the waiting room of a doctor’s office this morning.  These ladies were sitting less than 10 feet from me.  They obviously wanted me to enjoy their lively conversation, and I did.  The very first sentence, which is pure poetry, drew me in.

Teenaged girl:  Some nasty boy put his fat foot in my flip flop and stretched it out.
Mama:  Tell that nasty boy he owes you $50.
Teenaged girl:  He don’t have $50.
Mama:  Send him to me.
Teenaged girl:  For real?
Mama:  Yep.  I’ll take that $50 outta his skin.  Who is he?
Teenaged girl:  Robert *****.  You know Betty *****?
Mama:  Yes.  She’s no longer living, though, is she?
Teenaged girl (laughing):  Yes, she is.  She’s Robert’s mother.

You’re welcome.  Have a nice day.

I love the south.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Hope in the Rubble

Oklahoma, Shirley Jones, Gordon MacRae, 1955

Oklahoma, Shirley...

18 in. x 24 in.
Buy This at

There are few movies that give me as much joy and entertainment as this one.  I can't help but keep thinking of this movie as the pictures, videos, and stories come rolling in from yesterday's tornado in Moore, Oklahoma.  The destruction is unfathomable.  Those folks had no warning, no time to evacuate, as we do with hurricanes around these parts.

But in the rubble, hope rises.  The link below takes you to a video of a tornado survivor being interviewed on CBS.  It's is the first miracle I have seen to come out of this horrendous tragedy, and I’m sure there are thousands more.  It’s a miracle that this woman lived . . . and her dog, too!

Want to help?  This is a wonderful organization that is already there, helping and healing.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Write (or say) it the right way.

Button by MosquitoCreekGifts
Look at Grammar Buttons online at

I'm not perfect.  I'm far from it, in fact.  However, I do have this passion for correct grammar, punctuation, and spelling.  Again, I'm not even perfect in these areas.

I strive.  I try.  I'm fairly diligent in this area.  Sometimes, I fail.  But communication is so very, very important.  And sometimes, the snob in me comes out a bit.  I read an e-mail or a comment on Facebook, and I want to reply, "Do you speak English?"  I don't, of course.  I'm not that mean (usually).  But the deterioration of our language is destroying part of our culture.  When communication is compromised, errors are made.  Misunderstandings abound.  The decay of society becomes imminent.  In the confusing case of the difference between "bring" and "take," the solution appears to be the elimination of the word "take."  No matter whether someone is actually bringing or taking, they use "bring."  I hear some of the high school aged children talking to each other in public, and I'm concerned.

Just the other day, I was reading a comment thread on Facebook about a missing girl.  It turns out that she had run away from home.  One of her friends knew this, and wrote a comment indicating where she was and with whom she was staying.  

Another teen asked, "Isn't harvesting a runaway a felony?"  Um, no.  Now, harboring a runaway may, perhaps, be a felony.  I'm unaware of any laws related to harvesting one, though.  I've said flighty things like that before.  It can happen to anyone.  That's just a funny example of incorrect word usage.  It could have even been the fault of our new friend, Autocorrect.  Mm.  What a tricky fellow that one is.

What's not as funny to me is the blatant carelessness exhibited by Hollywood.  Children's television shows that are supposed to be educational often have a character who uses "realistic" but incorrect grammar.  While it may be the way a child already speaks, it's not something to be perpetuated or emulated when a cartoon character on a science show says, "Me and my mom went to the zoo."  aaarrgghhh!

A song sometimes played between shows on the Disney Channel talks about naptime.  In a dreamy voice, the lady sings, "It's time to lay down."  Is she a chicken?  Lay down the what?  The nap mat?  The knife?  It's not clear.  As a tiny toddler, my son knew the correct usage of "lie" and "lay."  The world has tried to confuse him.  Another Disney error:  a popular show about trains refers to a pack of diesel trains as "chuggers," and uses the catch phrase "Chugga chugga choo choo," which is a sound associated with steam engines.  I can't take credit for noticing that, though - my preschooler caught it.  Nice, Disney.  You're being corrected by a preschooler.  Get it together. I won't even address Mater from the Cars movies.

Thank goodness, my child has become increasingly bored with television.  But the rest of the world is insistent on "sloppifying" our beautiful language.  To borrow a few words from the poet Dylan Thomas, I will rage against the dying of the light.  I won't let the laziness of the world take me down without a fight.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Back Home on the Water

I grew up around salt water.  Fishing, crabbing, throwing a cast net, and feeling the salty spray in the bow of a boat were all part of my upbringing.  My family has been without a boat that we could all enjoy for nearly twenty years.  During these decades, life has interfered with its mandates and diversions, some joyful and some onerous.  While visions, smells, and sensations of brackish rivers were distant, they could be encouraged in my memory during quiet times of solitude and longing.  But now there is a new boat in the family, and I will no longer be reliant on that quiet longing.

This weekend, I returned to a home deep within myself.  This home is a hidden place that is only revealed when I am in the element of salt water, afloat and aware of God’s creation around me.  I was reminded of a teenage girl who was comfortable with adventure, who was cautious but unafraid.  Yeah.  I’m that girl.  I’m that girl who came face-to-face with a small shark attacking the bait on the end of my crab line.  I shook him off of the white piece of string and roared at him to find his chicken somewhere else.  I’m that girl who knew how to find schools of bait fish and fan a cast net out over them like nobody’s business.  I knew how to clean a crab, what the dead man’s fingers were, and what was good to eat.  I had a fierce step dancing contest with a feisty live crab on the kitchen floor once, too.  He did not want to go in that pot!  But he did, and we ate him.  I also navigated deep waters offshore with lines trolling behind, dodging sharks that competed for our dinner.  That girl was me.  I had lost touch with that girl over the years, like a childhood friend who moved away and never wrote.

My son got so excited when we saw porpoises in the water on Saturday.  This is only the beginning, I thought.  There are so many more amazing things to see.  This is my home, and now it is his.  When I pointed to the marsh to describe something in the pluff mud, he asked, “Mommy, what’s pluff mud?”  How could any child of mine not know what pluff mud is?  I used to jump out of the boat and squish into this stuff so I could catch fiddler crabs with my bare hands.  At least he’s learning now.

I re-enter an experience long forgotten but so much a part of who I am.  Heart wide open, face turned to the sky, and arms outstretched to praise God from whom all blessings flow, I thank Him for the beauty of His salt marshes and the profound solemnity teeming with life that is the ocean.  And I thank my dad, for bringing me up to love and respect this part of creation.  Now, I only pray that I can instill the same or greater appreciation in my son.

He told me that going on the boat was the “best thing that ever happened” to him, so we are off to a good start.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Don't Be Silent

Ever get fired up about something?  You know what I'm talking about.  A news story or a subject just grips you.  It seizes your thoughts or emotions, or both even.  You are passionate about it, and you want to grab the arm of every person you meet and say, "Let me tell you about this."

That's exactly how this story has affected me.  I pray all the time for Pastor Saeed Abedini.  

I don't usually "get all political" in this venue, but I feel this topic is above politics.  The facts are the facts.  And the facts are that our government has, up to now, failed one of its citizens miserably. They can still turn it around, though.

Pastor Saeed Abedini is an American citizen.  He was wrongfully arrested and convicted in his native Ir@n because of his Christian faith.  He is currently serving an 8 year term in one of Ir@n's most infamous, most brutal prisons.  Our government has not asked for his release.  They have done nothing to fight for him.  What message does this send?

He is tortured and beaten, while hundreds of thousands have signed a petition on his behalf.  His basic human rights are violated every day.

I cannot tell this story any better than it has already been told.  All I ask is that you go to this website: to read his story and sign the petition, then pass it on.

Don't be silent.  Tell everyone you know about this.  We will be heard.  Keep on speaking.  Keep on knocking.  And like the neighbor knocking in the night in Luke 11:5-10, we will receive what we ask.  I believe this.  I believe this man will be restored to his beautiful wife and his two young children who need their daddy.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Allendale is the New Radiator Springs

Quaint Buildings on Main Street of Small Town

Quaint Buildings...
Walker  Evans
Buy This at

(Preface:  This post was inspired by a special section in this past Sunday's Post & Courier newspaper.  Click HERE to see it.)

My grandmother grew up in a wonderful, thriving South Carolina town called Allendale.  I used to love the stories she would tell me from her childhood.  She drove herself to school in her mother’s car at age 12, because she could.  She enjoyed walking along the main street in town, having a cold Co-Cola at the drug store, and visiting friends.  She also got into all kinds of mischief, but that's for a different post.  Everyone knew each other, and it was a safe, happy place to live.

Then Interstate 95 was built.  Cutting through the middle of the state, it swept up all the travelers and traffic from surrounding counties (including Allendale) and redirected them in a straight, fast line that went up and down the east coast.  The streets of Allendale went quiet.  Slowly, but surely, most of the population got up and left for greener pastures.  Now, boarded storefronts, unemployment, and poverty are the trademarks of this once-lively town.  It’s heartbreaking.

If you have a child the right age, you have probably seen the Disney movie Cars.  If so, you know what Radiator Springs is.  It’s the town where most of the movie takes place, and it is situated on the old, abandoned Route 66.  It suffers the same fate as Allendale.  A new highway was built, and no one ever comes anymore.
By the end of the movie, famous race car Lightning McQueen decides to call Radiator Springs home.  Bringing his team there infuses the town with new life.  By the start of the sequel, Cars 2, we see that Radiator Springs is a thriving, bustling town again.

So, what will it take to turn things around for Allendale?  Who will be Allendale’s Lightning McQueen?  I submit that some brave souls ought to go in there and establish some type of manufacturing facility that will create jobs/income for the community.  

Simultaneously and more importantly, one must educate people on how to open and operate their own small businesses.  This will create more jobs, more commerce, more community pride, more life.  People will stay.  People will work their way out of poverty.  Allendale can come back.  There are hard-working people there; this fact is established.  Lots of them rise at four in the morning and take a chartered bus to Hilton Head, where the jobs are.  They endure 14 hour days to bring home a check.  They want to work.

Dr. Benjamin Carson knows that education will liberate a person, and I agree.  Statistics show that poverty and crime tend to go hand-in-hand with functional illiteracy.  Going a step beyond illiteracy, though, education can also mean you are teaching people a skill or trade.  It all must be ignited and maintained, however, by giving hope and encouragement.  If each person begins to believe and strive, saying, “I can do this.  Let it begin with me,” then it will happen.

I wish Allendale were unique, but it isn’t.  There are towns very similar across my state, and across the nation.  Each one of them needs a Lightning McQueen.  Would you go and be a dying town’s Lightning McQueen?  What do you think it would take to revive a town like Allendale?

Thursday, February 7, 2013

And in review . . .

"Here it is—my novel. I'll be interested to hear your compliments." - New Yorker Cartoon

"Here it is—my...
David  Sipress
Buy This at

I write articles on a little website called Squidoo.  Okay, it's not little.  It's fairly huge.  I really enjoy it, and I can write on a variety of topics.  I'm not locked in to one or two things.  I write as much as I like, or as little.  I'm my own boss, which I enjoy.  Along the way, I have written a few "book reviews."

I use this term loosely (hence the quotation marks), because I don't necessarily use all of the conventional,  professional guidelines for writing book reviews.  No one is hanging over my desk, demanding that I produce such-and-so article by 5pm.  Sometimes I skip some of the technical publishing info, because I know most of my Squidoo readers will read right across it without stopping, or not care about it.  Oh, I give them the title and the author, of course.  Genre makes it in there, usually.  If I pique their interest in the book, they are welcome to click in through one of the ads and buy it.  When there is a link to the actual book, it seems a waste of time to give people the Library of Congress control number.

I think back to some of my former English teachers, professors in college, and other intelligent literary types I have known.  I picture them shaking their heads at my sloppy work.  "Well, she didn't say a word about the book's organizational structure," I can hear one of them saying.  "She didn't even attempt to properly cite this.  Year, publisher, edition?" another one asks.  "This book's title isn't in italics!!" (Well, that last one is because I am still learning about html and struggling with being an "internet writer," not because I don't know any better.)

However, the internet is a strange, new animal.  When you have a link to the actual book on Amazon, I think that eliminates the need for the literary chemistry equation.  Don't you?

Squidoo pushes for good, quality content.  I try to oblige, as do other squids- er, writers.  I think we succeed, for the most part.  But it's very informal and folksy and conversational over there.  I like it, personally.  I've learned a good bit about a variety of topics including cooking, gardening, sewing, home decor, and more.

So without further ado, here are a few links to some of my recent "book reviews:"
Judge me, if you will.

Lunch at the Piccadilly by Clyde Edgerton

The Blessed Woman by Debbie Morris

The Fireman's Wife by Susan Farren

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Truth: Memories of my breakfast with John Updike

Tortoise sees  the hare reading "Rabbit at Rest". - New Yorker Cartoon

Tortoise sees ...
Mort  Gerberg
Buy This at

It was about this time of year, twenty-two years ago, when I had breakfast with John Updike.  I was a freshman at Agnes Scott College, and he was visiting the campus.

There were a couple of public opportunities over a two day period to hear him read from his works and speak, and I enjoyed at least one of them.  But a Junior who was a fellow English Lit major encouraged me to show up for the early morning breakfast in the dining hall.  She said it might be a small group.  Any student could have joined, but few had expressed interest in getting up so early.

So I rolled out of bed, threw on a matching skirt and blouse (but no makeup) and headed over to the dining hall.  It was a bad hair day, but I felt sure John Updike wouldn't care.  I got my tray, looked around and sat down at a table in the middle.  I was a tad early.  Then he came, along with the Junior who had invited me, and maybe two or three other students.  Small, intimate group.  He sat down next to me, on my left.  I'm sitting next to John Updike and having breakfast, I thought.  He's talking to me.  I was a little starstruck.  In fact, I still have a hard time believing it.

John Updike was a very pleasant and affable gentleman, though.  His presence was not daunting or haughty, despite his enormous career and accolades.  He had a magnetic smile and wild, white, unruly eyebrows.  I mostly listened as he chatted with the other three or four students and entertained their questions.  But I did ask him one question.

In my 18-year-old exuberance and foolishness, I had begun writing a few stories which were more snapshots or scenes than stories, as I had no idea where they would go.  I had been told by more than one advisor that I needed to know how it was going to end before I started.  Phooey, I had said.  Let the story take a life of its own, I thought, and bend with the wind, or else it's all a mathematical equation.  This was the 18-year-old's know-it-all theory.

So I asked the two-time Pulitzer Prize winner himself.  "Do you always know how the novel is going to end before you begin?"

"Oh, yes," he answered me.  Then he told me that there were bound to be surprises and twists along the way.  He said he was open to things that would pop up and change here and there.  But he confirmed that he always had the end in sight before he even wrote the first word.

Then, and only then, did I believe that that is how it must be done.  This concept is so simple, so basic.  And yet, with my hard head, it took a world-renowned master to tell me before I believed it.  I could have asked him anything, and there are so many more complex things I would ask him, if I had that same opportunity today.  My question was so elementary, that it embarrasses me now.

An artist doesn't put the brush to his canvas without knowing what he will paint.  He doesn't just start dotting and swiping, hoping that it becomes something.  Nor can a writer craft a story without projecting what it will be at the end.

So I do bend with the wind, and sometimes my characters surprise me.  But I make sure my roots are firmly planted before I bend.  Posthumous gratitude to John Updike for sharing breakfast and wisdom with a whippersnapper like me.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

The Day AFTER National Pie Day

Woman taking cherry pie from oven

Woman taking...

Buy This at

I became aware that it was National Pie Day yesterday, and had intended to write a post about pie.  Why pie?  Pie rocks, that’s why.  Who doesn’t like pie?  I can’t think of a single person.

So my heartfelt ode to pie was all ready to go inside my head until life happened.  When you’re a mom and you work from home, work tends to get edged out by things like remembering to take the garbage out as you hear the truck coming down the street, an overflowing toilet, picking someone up early from school because they aren’t feeling well, etc.  So I’m a day late and a pie short.  Key lime, by the way, in case you were wondering.  That’s my favorite.

But today is apparently National Compliment Day!  So a message to my readers:  I appreciate your intelligence, good taste, excellent sense of humor, and great wisdom.  You obviously possess these qualities because you are here, reading my blog!  You’re a good-looking bunch, too, I might add.  Please enjoy the attached fun pictures.  Related to pie, of course.

Key West, Florida - Key Lime Pie

Key West, Florida...
Lantern  Press
Buy This at

Lemon Meringue

Lemon Meringue
Catherine  Jones
Buy This at

Pie a la Mode

Pie a la Mode
Louise  Max
Buy This at

"Milkman Meets Pieman", October 11, 1958

"Milkman Meets...
Stevan  Dohanos
Buy This at

Portrait of Mature Woman Holding Pie

Portrait of...
George  Marks
Buy This at

Pie Eating Contest

Pie Eating...
H.  Armstrong...
Buy This at

Sigh . . . I really do love pie.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Could it be Marge?

I saw this picture and immediately thought of the character Marge from my story, "Eat at Joe's."  What do you think?  I picture Marge as being older, heavier, and less attractive than the lady in this picture.  And Marge already has all prerequisites to be a country song.  But the gentleman getting out of the truck looks like he's hankering for a piece of pie. One Relationship Away From Being Country Song Funny Poster
One Relationship...

Buy This at

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Just Enough Redneck

I get excited about things.  I try to be all reserved and conservative and formal, per tradition from my family of origin.  But being Scottish, we also tend to get passionate about things.  We can also have fiery tempers, if ignited.  Many in my family have red hair.  You do the math.

Take my dad.  He knows what to do, when to do it, what to wear, how to act.  He’s a gentleman, just as he was reared to be.  He is comfortable in any social setting.  He can comfortably talk to people deep in the country who have no teeth and barely have running water.  You could also take him to Buckingham Palace to greet the royal family.  But if you know him, he lets you know how he feels, and he’s very open about things ticking him off.  If he needs to be polite, he will simply *leave.*  However, if you are family, close friend, etc, he will just tell you he’s mad.  You will likely be able to figure it out before he tells you, too.  He’s very healthy about expressing his anger.  It’s almost always at some degree of boiling.

Not me.  I’m one of those silent simmerers.  It builds inside me while I smile, or just simply keep to myself.  Then, without warning, I will explode.  Those in my path are petrified off-guard, like the stony victims of the Pompeii volcano.  “What?”  “I didn’t know she was mad.”  “I didn’t see that coming.”  “Better give her a wide berth from now on.”  I’m not proud of it.  It’s just how I am.

The good side is the passion and enthusiasm that I have for good things.  I believe in Jesus.  I believe in the Made in the USA movement.  I believe in protecting people who cannot protect themselves, in feeding the needy, in supporting certain other Christian causes, and in the right to bear arms.  I love my state and my hometown.  Ask me.  I can excitedly tell you why any of these causes is important or dear to my heart, and I can make a case for why you should feel the same way.  With enough coffee, I’ll even pace, jump around and gesticulate while I’m talking.

But when I get angry . . . oh, my.  I have just enough redneck girl in me to make me scary.  It doesn’t come out often.  It’s mostly kept in check by daily prayer and Bible reading, by my education, by my status as a former debutante, and by my more noble pursuits such as Junior League involvement.  But the redneck girl makes an appearance when she sees grave injustice, wilfull stupidity, rising evil, and the like, and said injustice or stupidity or evil doesn’t listen to reason.  Enter the redneck girl.  Oh, she also detests inconsideration.  But rudeness doesn’t offend her unless directed at her son or her mama.

She’s disguised behind correct grammar, good hair (no dark roots), and a Talbot’s wardrobe.  She’s trained to win verbal and written arguments (by a law school known for its trial advocacy program), and she’s always loaded for bear.  I really don’t like to let her out of the tool shed, for fear she will run over me with a tractor or hit me with a tire iron.

Few have seen her.  Even fewer have been on the receiving end of her wrath.  But now you know.  Better safe than sorry . . . don’t summon her.  I’ve never seen her lose a fight.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Truth: Christmas Village Casualties

I know they’re tacky.  But come on, admit it.  You love them, too.  Christmas Villages are so much fun.

For the first time since my son was a tiny baby, I set up the Christmas Village this year.  I began collecting the pieces just after law school, and my husband brought a fire station to the table when we got married.  We haven’t brought the village out for several years now, for fear that my son would play with it and demolish it.  This year, we decided he was old enough to restrain himself.

For the most part, we were right.  But every now and then, the five-year-old hurricane would sweep through the village when we weren’t looking.  He knew better than to pick up the heavy porcelain houses.  The freestanding, battery-operated fishing trawler wasn’t so lucky, though.  It lost a flag on the first day.  Not long after, the anchor was broken in two.  A lamppost lost its festive red bow, and a member of the string quartet in the town square mysteriously vanished, leaving only his feet behind.  The violinist now plays imaginary strings in the air, with an imaginary bow.

When I would notice my son playing with the village, or standing wide-eyed in front of it, I would often look the other way.  If you’re five, what fun is it to have a Christmas Village in your house if you can’t touch it?  While I drew the line sometimes (“No, you can’t sit on the table!”), I mostly just told him to be careful and let him move the people around.

One afternoon, I noticed my son was crouching underneath the table and looking really hard for something.  “What are you looking for?” I asked.

“Nothing,” he said quickly as he stood up straight.  Yeah, right.

The next day, I noticed the clapping lady who watches her husband and daughter ice skating was no longer clapping . . . but was now missing her hands.  That would be something fairly easy to glue back on, assuming we had the hands.

"Oh no!” I exclaimed.  “The clapping lady lost her hands!”  I started looking around the table, in the gazebo, behind trees, under the brick sidewalk.  “I wonder where the hands went?”

My son pointed under the table.  “Well, they’re definitely not under there,” he said with certainty.

“Mm, thanks for your help,” I responded.

I put the village away yesterday.  The hands were never found.  Oh, well.  That’s okay.  Will I put the village up again next year and let him play with it again?  Of course.