Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Ten Things I Still want to be When I Grow Up

1.     I still want to grow up to be tall, willowy, and graceful. Oh, I know that this is a long shot since none of the women on either side of the family are built like that, but a girl can dream can’t she. We are all short and round – at best we might be described as Rubenesque; at worst we could be called Weight Watchers rejects. *sigh*
2.     I still want to grow up to be a famous author. When I was younger I wanted to be Laura Ingalls Wilder. It took a few years to realize that the world has already had one of those. What the world needs now is a Laurie Kay Olson. Look out world my Great (Redneck) American Novel is on the way.
3.     I still want to grow up to be a ballerina. Is that even an option? Refer to #1 and insert memories of the hippos dancing in the movie Fantasia. Yup. Even those ladies put me to shame.
4.     I still want to grow up to be a mommy. Okay, there are reasons that that ship sailed long ago. I have settled for mothering a constant stream of cats. Maybe I need to change that to I want to grow up to be a crazy cat lady. OKAY! I want to grow up to be an even crazier cat lady.
5.     I still want to grow up to be a great comic actress. It would also be great to play the ingĂ©nue, but that would be a REAL stretch. On the other hand, it would be great comedy. For now I will settle for the fact that my friend Jane is a wonderful comic actress. I will bask in her glow.
6.     I still want to be a supermodel. For how that is likely to turn out, once again refer to #1. Please make up your own joke. I’ve got so many of them that I can’t choose. Like – what if I fell down while modeling clothes? I’d break the runway. I’d set off seismic sensors. I’d knock out all the rest of the other models. . . you get the idea. Have at it.
7.     I still want to grow up to be a great chef and I refuse to let the fact that I don’t really like to cook get in the way. I’m also not the best cook as is. I can make a kick-ass pot of chili, but a friend and I have reached an agreement to always go out because we are both lousy cooks overall. We both cook well enough to feed ourselves quite happily, but the outside world has much higher standards.
8.     I still want to grow up to be a cowgirl. I shall ignore the fact that I am afraid of horses (because one tripped and fell on me once). I shall also ignore the fact that I am afraid of heights and the last time I tried to ride a horse they gave me a horse so big his name was “Tank.” Maybe I should rethink this one.
9.     I still want to grow up to be a painter. It would help if I had any real talent at this like my friends Briggs and Annie, but this one I want to do just because I enjoy doing it. The paintings I have done so far aren’t masterpieces, but they have pleased me. I suppose that is all that really matters. I just don’t want to have to explain how I ended up with splotches of paint on my socks and nowhere else.
10.  Most of all I still just want to be myself when I grow up. I used to try to imagine myself when I was all grown up. It was a vague, beige image. I always left out one very important factor – that I would still be me. So now I view myself as the crazy old lady I was always destined to be. And that, more than anything, is what I want to be when I grow up.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Shirley You Jest!

As I have mentioned in another post, my mother passed away last year. Her name was Shirley. In the last couple of years before she passed I managed to uncover some of the history behind her name.

The basic meaning of her name is "from Shirley, England." Boooooorrrrrrrrring! Oh, but there is so much more to this story than that. To get a bit more concrete than that, it is supposed to mean "bright glade" or "place of hope." Shirley was originally a man's name and a surname.

Mum always struggled to be hopeful in the face of some pretty tall odds - two failed marriages, lifelong health issues, rape, a baby out of wedlock, and dealing with me and my issues. She tried to live up to the name given to her.

Mum loved literature, dabbled with being a writer, a dream that she passed along to me. I think it was in the genes. I don't remember her doing much writing when I was little, but I grew up in a household lined with hundreds of books. Mum, Dad, and I were all avid readers.

She was pleased when I discovered the history behind how she came to be named Shirley. Back in 1849 Charlotte Bronte (author of Jane Eyre) published a book entitled "Shirley." Going against convention, Bronte had given her strong female character a man's name. While the book is all but forgotten by most people these days, it was a best seller back then and forever changed the gender association of the name.
Lovers of the book began to name their girls Shirley instead of their boys.

The association between my mother and the literary Shirley does not stop there. The Shirley in the book is concerned for the poor and the working class during an economic depression following the end of the Napoleonic wars. She becomes involved, after a fashion, in the dealings of labor and the rights of workers. My Shirley, after her divorce from my father and return to the workforce, became first a union steward and later the president of her union's local.

Mum was impressed with the likeness and I gave her a copy of the book for Christmas a couple of years ago. I don't think she ever had the chance to read it. It now sits in my stack of books to be read. I will one day get to it and remember Mum with every word.

In a twist of fate she named her daughter (me) with a name that also used to be a man's name. If you don't believe me, go back and read Little Women. Back in the day Laurie was short for Laurence.

Her name also became a part of one of the most famous running jokes in any movie. In the movie Airplane people say to Leslie Nielsen's character "surely you jest!" He would look at them with a deadpan face and reply, "No. And please don't call me Shirley." Leslie is another name that is slowly making the transition from male to female.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

16 Reasons I Love Being a Writer

  1. I can go to work in my pjs and no one cares if I have a bad hair day. If I forget my deodorant then only the cat complains. 
  2.  I love the commute as I wander from the bedroom to the living room by way of the kitchen. The only traffic jam I encounter is if the cat is in the way licking her butt. I don’t have to shovel snow to get to the car, then clean off the car, and arrive at work looking like Frosty the snowman.
  3. I get to make stuff up as I go along. If it’s not right I get to make up more stuff. Sure, I have to get the facts right, but it is up to me how I present them.
  4. I get to surf the web for fun and profit and no one cares if a play Bejeweled for a half an hour to break the writer’s block. As long as I meet my deadlines my time is my own.
  5. After years of having my family and friends thinking that I am a geek and a nerd and trying to reform me, they are now proud of the fact and brag about it.
  6. All those years of teachers complaining about me being a dreamer has finally paid off. Day dreaming is now an important part of my skill set.
  7. People expect me to be a bit unstable without having me demonstrate it first. Writers are supposed to be flaky and a bit odd. I now get to own the fact and be proud of it.
  8. No one can complain that I never write. In point of fact, there are probably times when they wish I wouldn’t. Okay, that is probably mostly for my personal blog when I’m airing some “dirty laundry.” It can be a bit hard on them that good writing often starts with telling the unvarnished truth.
  9. People have a hard time believing that I don’t drink or smoke. I fly in the face of their cherished stereotypes of the hard-drinking, chain-smoking wretch hunched over a typewriter. I do, on the other hand, occasionally do a few lines . . . of M&Ms.
  10. I get to be a bit of a know-it-all, which most people hate, but I can cite my sources.
  11. I have had the ego boost of fan mail, which is really cool. I have also had responses of complaining people – which really sucks. It is the natural order of checks and balances that is intended to keep us humble. I have not mastered the pseudo-art of hearing only the admiration so I am able to keep my ego in check – so far.
  12. I have made my junior high school English teacher proud. I have proved my high school Creative Writing teacher wrong. I have also foiled a couple of psychics on this as well. Even psychics get deceived by appearances. It is so tempting to predict failure as the future for the fat kid.
  13. I have become what I wanted to be when I grew up, except for the money part. Unlike what most people think, writers do not make a lot of money unless they become a J.K. Rowling or a John Grisham. It is amazing how many places want you to write from them “just for the experience.” Let me tell you now that we would like to experience some money. Getting paid in experience only goes so far.
  14. I am always learning new things because of the daily research I need to do. Unlike my school
    career I now love learning – even math.
  15. I get to make people laugh, cry, think, reflect, care, love, and hate, all from the comfort of my own home. Of all these, I enjoy making people laugh the most. I like to think that when I have made them laugh I have made their lives a little better, even if it is just for the few moments while they are laughing.
  16. I get to do what I love every day of my life. Even if it isn’t being the successful and famous novelist (yet), it is still my heart’s desire. This is not a job from which I ever plan to retire. I want to die quill in hand and parchment under my head.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Remembering Mom

It was one year ago today that my mother passed away. It should come as no surprise that I spent the day depressed and alone except for the cat. It should also come as no surprise that I still miss her deeply.

Mom was a bit flaky at times but I think that was part of her being a creative soul that had to spend most of her life struggling to deal with the mundane of everyday survival. She wanted to paint, write, design, and play music. She also wanted to save the world. This didn't always make her the best mother, but she tried her best at that.

I probably didn't make the job of parenting any easier in some ways. I was never one to follow orders without question. I have a stubborn streak in me that she always blamed on my father. In her later years I realized that this stubbornness came from her as well. This is important to note because way too many people asked me how I "let" her do certain things. I frequently had to point out that she was a grown woman with a mind of her own and could make choices.

One of the things I miss most is that she was the biggest fan of my writing and had supported me emotionally through my years of struggling to become published. She has acted as coach and editor on occasion. This was in stark contrast to my dad trying to shut down any dreams I ever had. Perhaps the support from her was even due, in part, to this negativity from my father.

She was a bit narcissistic. According to a therapist I once saw, both of my parents were narcissists. This made my life about them in their eyes. This explains my father's constant criticism and Mom's desire to have me at her beck and call to do things for her. My father and stepmother were always bad mouthing my mother with the certainty that she would turn me into her handmaiden -- which infuriated m

e to no end because I could see this and stood up for myself very well. The flip side is that they wanted me to follow their instruction without question. It was like the real issue was that they wanted me to be their doormat not hers. I prefer not being a doormat at all.

Despite all of this Mom and I developed a deep friendship that went beyond just being mother and daughter. We argued frequently, but also went to the movies, out to dinner, to museums, and even amusement parks together. We talked often. We shared a strong spiritual belief that, though we were Christian, would probably be better described as pantheist. We adopted lonely souls into our family when they needed it.

For months after she went "home" I would come across something that made me want to pick up the phone to call and talk with her. Some funny story, something cute an animal did, or something outrageous on the political scene.

I am someone that few people want to look past the exterior to truly see. She saw me on the inside and was proud of all that I had overcome and accomplished in this life. My stepmother, on the other hand, focuses more on my physical appearance rather than whether or not I am a decent human being. There is no doubt that I need to lose weight, but there is so much more to me than that. It was vital to me to have support for all of me.

Mom was not your average mother. Since I was not your average child, this was a very good thing. No wonder we didn't have the average mother/daughter relationship. No wonder I miss her so much!