Why You Won’t Be Seeing Us Real Soon

 It’s been a little while since I posted.  I have a few pieces in the pipeline so I  hope to post more during the summer. But there’s been a lot going on around here, the best of which was finishing the first draft of my first novella, “Ties That Bind”. I ‘ll talk about that experience on my other blog,  BusyWritingLife.

The other stuff is mainly around family, some good, some bad which are the subjects I’ll be sharing this summer. And speaking of which;

 

Yeah, Disney, about that…..

Wikimedia

We’ve been thinking about doing a family vacation this summer. There are young’ens in our clan so, naturally, when I threw out the vacation idea, Disneyland was mentioned by their parents as a possibility. I grew up in the counter-culture days and tend to think of myself as a social reform type so at the Disney suggestion the only response that came to my mind was, as one of the other family members says, “hashtag, I can’t”. But I was pointedly reminded by one daughter that as I was bringing her up, I pushed Disney like a Oxycontin dealer.

I admit it’s true. I enjoyed a lot of Disney movies, both as a child and as an adult. When I became a mother, the memories of feelings I had as a child for Snow White and Cinderella overcame my supposed highly developed social sense. My emotional need was to share those memories with my kids. I wanted them to give them what I thought I’d gotten out of the films. It was a knee-jerk response to parenthood. And, truth be told, I continued to get with the Disney program. As a matter of fact, The Little Mermaid was a special bonding experience for me and that same daughter. Her favorite song was Part of That World and mine was Under the Sea. Some things never change…

…And some things do. So, I changed my mind. Sue me. (Oh that’s right, daughter can because she’s an attorney now. Take that Arial!)  It was right around the Aladdin years that I noticed a change in my attitude toward Disney films. I was starting to become bothered by the things like historical contexts and language. Why is a princess using an expression like, “at your service?” And why a princess? Why always a princess?! By the time Pocahontas was released I was suspicious of all the basic Disney themes. (Actually during one point in that movie, in a theater, my sister and I both stood and shouted, ‘Oh c’mon!”)  I started questioning what it was I actually did get from those old “classics” in terms of gender roles, class distinctions and cultural perspective. I realized that as an evolved, modern, African-American woman, I needed a new cartoon vision that matched my mood. (Haha.) That’s when I started boring my kids with “responsible” TV shows like Captain Planet. We stopped going to Disney movies and instead I brought home videos like Ferngully, The Last Rainforest”. The only Disney distributed movie I let into the house was The Brave Little Toaster. It scared the shit out of them and began the “reading era” of their childhood. As a result, when they criticize me about that time, as they still do, it’s in very literate terms.

Did I do the right thing by casting a jaundice eye on Disney and sharing my misgivings with my kids or was I the throw back hippie hypocrite they feel I was? I’m not sure but I’m still going to take a pass on dunking the grandkids in the Disney kool-aid as our summertime fun. Maybe I’ll suggest a hiking trip in the mountains instead. Now, please excuse me. We have a birthday party this afternoon and I have to go wrap an Elsa’s Frozen Palace play set.

And Now There Are Two

SO… with the help of the 3 people who weighed (two via personal emails) on the questions I asked in my last post, I’ve figured out what I want to do, blogging wise. I want to reflect on spiritual and social questions and I want to tell stories. As the result of my conclusion, “Stop Along the Way” will continue as the place for my reflections, considerations and meditations. In addition, I’ve started a new blog, the name of which was inspired by my last post here. My second blog is called Busy. Writing. Life and it’s where I’ll tell my stories in the form of humor, fiction and poetry. I posted my first piece today. In honor of Halloween it’s a scary story called Mouth Brought Me Here. I hope you’ll click over and check it out.

Busy. Writing. Life.

I can’t believe it’s autumn again already. I was very busy over the summer and it passed by very quickly. I traveled quite a bit, I rooted around the area of the DMV for yet more insight into its history and I spent a lot of time outside. I’m in love with Rock Creek Park, Great Falls Park and Glen Carlyn Nature Preserve, having had the pleasure of hiking all three during the warm months.

Great Falls
Great Falls
Glen Carlyn
Glen Carlyn

 

 

 

 

 

 

I joined a second faith community to strengthen my practice and for service work. I’m also always trying to find work that PAYS. Oh, and I grew tomatoes!

Bumper Crop!
Bumper Crop!
I admit I had a lot going on last summer...
I admit I had a lot going on last summer…

 

But not as much as my neighbor did
But not as much as my neighbor did

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I was especially busy writing. I spent more time writing during the summer than I ever have. I’m not sure what I’m going to do about this blog as a result. Most of my writing energy was spent on other forms rather than blogging. So now, I find myself knee-deep in work on my first novel as well as poetry and short stories. I have a couple of pieces out for submission to literary magazines and contests. Nothing has been published yet but I’m happy with the work, which feels great. I also increased my involvement with three writers groups (both physical and online). All of this has left me with little time for the amount and type of writing I was used to doing for Stop Along the Way.

So what do you think I should do? Here are my choices as I see them right now;

  • Close Stop Along the Way after a wonderful four year ride.
  • Change it to a creative writing space and post my workshopped pieces here.
  • Narrow the scope of this blog to pieces that focus on spirituality, create a new blog for humor pieces and keep everything else for the groups.
  • Leave it as is, post when I can and hope for the best.

I’d love some advice from my fellow bloggers about the situation. I’ve been thinking about it for a while and I don’t know which direction to go in. I try to write everyday but there’s also “life”. So, how do I blog, write the other stuff and still have time for things like family, health and paying the bills? Please weigh in!  

NaNoWriMo….Nope.

There is only one week left of NaNoWriMo. Are you one of the brave writers taking on the challenge? I don’t do well under pressure so although I’ve known about the annual writing  contest held each November for a while, I haven’t thought to participate… until this year.

I started my first novel last June. I ‘d actually been kicking around the idea for a few years. Membership in my writer’s group helped immeasurably in giving me the confidence to tackle it. I was energized and organized but proceeding slowly so in October I brilliantly decided that I would take advantage of National Novel Writing Month to move the novel along. One of my biggest problems when writing is fine editing too early in the process. I’ll go back and rewrite the first paragraph three times before I complete a page. The result of this habit has been many unfinished pieces. I told myself that I wouldn’t hold strictly to the rules, that I just wanted to get as close to 50,000 words as possible without stress outside of my own standards of discipline. I figured if I concentrated on the word count I’d get down all the fabulous story ideas that have been sitting in my head (and outlined in my notes) without the impulse to perfect every word already on the page.

Do you want to know what happened? I hit a wall at 20,000 words, that’s what. All of a sudden I didn’t know what I was doing or what the story was about, no matter what my notes said. My characters stepped off the pages and said to me, “C’mon now, this is long but it isn’t good. We don’t believe what we’re saying because you’re not being real about what all of this means. Slow down, dig deep and tell the truth.” That really made me mad! I spent a whole week pouting (not writing) because my goal had been thwarted.  But I also spent the time thinking. And I started examining two very important truths about myself. First, that my novel isn’t really fiction. Like many other authors, by telling this tale I’m trying to exorcise a pain born from my own life experience. Second, that I have a unique voice that doesn’t sound like Proust or Morrison but its distinctive tone makes me a good writer anyway. Then I had to review basics like character development and plot lines. It was an unhurried process that was both a relief and a revelation.

And what is the outcome of all of this? A MUCH better draft of the novel, that’s what. Yeah, I had to throw out thousands of words and allot extra time to sit and really listen to that voice in my head but it was worth it. It turns out that trying to get as much of the story down as possible prompted me up to the next level of writing. Now the words that flow aren’t forced or stilted. The lives of my characters will be as layered as they need to be and the themes that are so important to me will be natural and honest. I’m sure there are writers who will end this month with cohesive works made up of the requisite number of well-crafted words. I won’t be one of them. I should reach 50,000 words by next June and that’s fine by me.

Prodigal

My very dear friend’s mother passed away. Her funeral is today. Rest in Peace, Elsie. 

Prodigal

“Then Jesus said, ‘There was a man who had two sons”
My mother gave birth to five children, of those two girls lived and stayed with her into our adulthood. My mother passed on two years ago.

“The younger of them said to his father, ‘Father give me the share of the property that will belong to me.”
I was always aware that my younger sister asked for and received money from my mother even after she was grown and had a job. I resented her for it and complained about it to my mother.

“Not long after, the younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant land and there squandered his wealth in wild living.”
My sister got married, moved away and lead an extravagant, upper middle class lifestyle she couldn’t afford so she still needed money from the family. My mother and I discussed, more than once, the character flaws that led my sister to be in constant financial trouble.

“After he had spent everything there was a severe famine…. and he began to be in need…He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything.”
My sister’s husband died and then she had a stroke. That chain of events led to her final and total financial ruin. She couldn’t keep her corporate executive job. Her home went into foreclosure and she had to apply for food stamps. She was embarrassed in more than one way. To make matters worse, she didn’t have any friends in her adopted city to help her.

“And he arose and came to his father. But while he was yet at a distance, his father saw him and had compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him.”
By that time my mother had suffered a heart attack so she was in a weakened state herself. Still, my sister came back to our home state and told my mother that she had bad luck but she had also made bad choices.

“And the son said to him, `Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ “But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him; and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet; and bring the fatted calf and kill it, and let us eat and make merry; For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.’ And they began to make merry.”
My sister moved into my mother’s apartment. My sister wasn’t working because of her disability. She did my mother’s grocery shopping and they cooked together. They enjoyed meals together most evenings.

I asked my mother how she could be with my sister so easily after all that was said and done. She said she was glad my sister had survived the stroke; glad she had known enough to come back home. She said she was glad she could “lay eyes” my sister every day.

When my mother died my younger sister got a lot of her furniture, including her beloved Grandfather clock and many of her books. I didn’t care about any of it except for the books. My mother had a lot of theology books. It was a subject she and I shared a love of. Many times I drove her to her bible study class and listened to her discuss the lesson on the car ride back to her home. I was angry and wondered why she didn’t leave the books to me.

 I remembered something my mother said to me a few days before she died. First she said, “I really love you, you know. Then she said, “Take care of your sister because everything took a lot out of her and she needs you.” To this day I am left wondering, was my mother leaving me a lesson about forgiveness? Or was it a lesson about acceptance? Or did she just want my sister to have the books?

(I wrote this piece as an experimental exercise for my writers group. It’s a work of fiction. The news of Elsie’s death is what prompted me to post it.)

One Chair On The Beach

Yesterday was my wedding anniversary. They’ve been very difficult to get through since my husband passed away. Unfortunately, the passage of time doesn’t make them any easier. While I was reminiscing, I re-read this piece I wrote. It was published in my writers group online magazine (http://atableintheback.blogspot.com) earlier this year but I want to share it here too. 

 

IMG_0184

How I love the ocean.

When I was young my mother would make a lunch, pack us up in the car and drive from Boston to Gloucester, Massachusetts on Sunday afternoons. Mom had a bad case of wanderlust so for her gazing out at the ocean meant plotting possible places to land. I must have inherited my love of the sea from her.  She’d park along the shore road so we could get out and walk. The shoreline in Gloucester is glorious and the air is salty and brisk, no matter the season. I loved running along, challenging the grey water and annoying the fisherman from the enormous rocks at the edge of the water.

When Bill and I were dating and had money to burn, we vacationed in Nassau in the Bahamas. We went to nighttime barbeques hosted by hotels on the beach where we danced in the sand under colored lights strung from poles.  In the daytime we rode horses in the blue waves and white foam of the tide. We lay in the sun holding each other. For us, the beach was romance.

After we married and had children, Newport R.I. became our family getaway spot. It was only an hour and a half from our home so it was easy for us to go there on day trips to swim and enjoy the seaside. When the kids were in elementary school we spent their spring vacation weeks there. We’d get a time-share right on the water where I’d stare at the yachts on the horizon late at night, relaxing and losing myself in the their rocking on the waves.

The ocean has always been one of my best friends. Right now I’m sitting on a different beach looking out at another lovely ocean view. I thought coming here to Cancun would be good for me. I thought seeing the sun and the ocean in a different place would rejuvenate me. I bought this e-reader so I could read on the beach. It’s supposed to symbolize that I recognize my vacations have to have a new take on an old theme. I feel foolish using it though. It doesn’t make me less of an old woman sitting alone, passing the time.

I know I should be grateful that I have memories but I miss those good times on the water and I miss everyone so much. Mom and Bill are gone. The kids aren’t kids anymore and they’re off making their own memories.  It’s a gloriously sunny day and I’m sitting here watching plucky seagulls hop across the sand but Bill isn’t here to make jokes about them. I see children up the shoreline playing in the surf and I wish they were mine. The beauty here seems cruel because I don’t have anyone to share it with.

It’s such a beautiful day and I’m here wrapped up in my sarong and my own arms. But this is my “new normal” as my therapist calls it. It’s my new reality and I’ll have to get used to it.  So I’ll be taking a walk along the beach, leaving a single set of footprints behind me.

Really, This Time

Oops!! A couple of weeks ago I cavalierly posted a piece called “Welcome Back” which I have since deleted. It was a case of blogging without thinking. I really shouldn’t have assumed I knew how the WordPress pages feature works before I wrote about the grandiose plans I had for them. It turns out I’d have to PAY to have them formatted the way I’d like. That’s not going to happen. (I’m cheap.) I might decide to pop for the fancy pages in the future but more than you ten people will have to be reading me before I do that. (I did buy a domain so it’s just stopalongtheway.net now… That only cost $18.) I added the Category widget to my home page to accommodate the growing number of my topics without the expense. You can read about the changes to Stop Along The Way on the new “What’s Here” page.

Seriously though, I meant it in my deleted post when I said I appreciate those who read and/or follow me. I hope I will continue to provide content that helps you on your journey.

Why Don’t You Like Me?

I wrote that last post on cicadas because of two pieces of blogging advice I got on how to increase traffic. The first was to write about timely subjects so the blog will come up when people search the subject on the web. I figured since the cicadas are hot news right now, a lot of people would go to Google to get information on them. I thought a little winking piece on the media hype would be a good quick read. The other advice was from friends who told me my humorous posts are better than my others which can be somewhat didactic. I had a funny story about a bug so I added it to the mix. The result of following these suggestions was exactly two “likes” for the post. Two. That’s less than I got when I started my blog and just my family read it. I would have done better if I’d let the cicadas read it! I know it was a puff piece but I read many WordPress blogs and they’re not all high literature. Sheesh.

I honestly don’t know what to do anymore. This blog is 2 1/2 years old and I have only fifty followers and half of them follow as many blogs as possible because that’s another tip on increasing traffic. I only follow blogs that I know I would read even if I wasn’t blogging myself. I’m not saying I’m better than anyone. It’s just that it hurts my feelings knowing that some of my followers don’t really read me and I don’t want to be responsible for making someone else feel that way.

So I don’t know what else to do to get folks to read this blog. I’ve read every article on traffic that I’ve come across. I’ve advertised on social media sites. I’ve changed themes many times and spent hours finding or taking photos. I don’t blog everyday because I have a life and really, who has that much to say? I’m just about ready to give up.  The About This Blog page states what my focus is supposed to be and I’ve stayed fairly close to that definition. I think I write well but apparently, I sound preachy when I’m pouring my heart and soul out and the stories from my life that I think are funny, in fact, are not. I have a pretty strong ego and stiff upper lip but after 2 1/2 years of really trying my hardest to make this an interesting “stop along the way”, I have to look at the possibility that my point of view is being rejected.

So be it. I’m not one to beg. I may post again and I may not. If I do it might be a re-blog of another piece that nobody read or it might simply be a reference or link to some pop culture piece by someone else. I know I don’t usually come off as this negative but I’m just being honest about my frustration.

I Can Get There From Here

Things got out of hand in February
Things got out of hand in February

It’s been a while since I’ve posted. I didn’t mean for it to be so long. I’d been doing so well too. I’d been reading and writing everyday. I’d gotten up to going three days a week to my library “office”. I was going to my writers group meetings regularly and loving it. I’d even started taking on the WP daily prompts, not to publish but just as an exercise. The last one I wrote was the 2/22  “Seconds….describe your most satisfying meal”. I wrote the description with a sharpened literary sensibility and developed a grandiose plan for pairing it with a recipe for the soup I described.

But then the weight of February fell on me and stopped me in my tracks for a while. The photo is real. Things got out of hand in February. I had to get the tax papers together. I use the word “together” loosely. (On April 16th of every year I erase all memory of how much work goes into tax preparation so I’m always surprised and inadequately organized the following year.)

And the vacuum broke. Like most appliances made these days, my vacuum’s too cheap to take to be  repaired. (Take it where?) I can’t afford another cheap one so I took mine apart and put it back together. It was time consuming and I don’t know which one of the many parts was the problem but it works now.

And of course I had to make the choice between writing and the mounting number of projects related to  the imminent appearance of our newest family member.  I have to keep the phone on even in the library so I don’t miss The Call. That decision was a no-brainer since the little person and I have been waiting for this baby for months. (There’s been talk of forming a girl group.)

And I can’t find my pants.

This kind of complexity and confusion in everyday details used to frustrate me. In the past I’d give up on trying to write everyday if I missed a few days and blame myself for lack of organization. We all know that life throws curve balls.  The challenge for me has always been accepting when the curve balls don’t roll down my straight path of plans. I still make plans but I don’t set them in stone anymore. These days I’m confident  I can successfully make my way on my journey because I don’t feel as though I have to take any particular route. I just need to pick the right one for the right time. I finally get that it’s great to be efficient but it’s also great to be attentive, appreciative and active in the right now.  It’s March now and I’m going to post that recipe today even though it feels like it’s a month late. I’m going to add the beautiful description with it too… And I’m ready to go when I get The Call, but I’ll have to wear a skirt.

Please go to the Heaven’s Menu page for my Pasta Fagioli Soup recipe.

Weekly Writing Challenge, Take Two: Wait, What Are We Doing?

WordPress WWC

Great.

The first time I decide to take up one of these weekly writing challenges (http://dailypost.wordpress.com/2013/01/28/writing-challenge-1000-words) and this is the picture the young hipsters at WordPress choose for us to write about? Really? What about this tickled their fancy cuz from where I’m sitting there’s not a whole lot here.

Let’s see…obviously there’s the young couple. Youthful expressions of affection are starting to bug me. Look at this girl. Her body screams sex and loveliness all by itself without any effort from her at all. All she has to do is stand there and think naive thoughts. Listen honey, no matter how deep or complicated or innocent you think the relationship is, all he’s thinking about is your sexy loveliness. Wow, that was incredibly cynical. Have I lost all sense of romance? I think I have. I wonder if that’s good or bad…Wait, I should be thinking about this photo and not about myself. Let me try focusing on something else.

Look at these old geezers. That reminds me. I’ve got to fill out that AARP application. It’s insulting but I want travel discounts too. I wonder if I could get a discount for new glasses frames…

Shit! I’ve got to try to focus. Ok, what’s going on in the background of this photo? Landscape. This is obviously not the United States. That blue and yellow tile work looks Dutch, maybe? Looks like they picked a pic of Europe, of course. Huh, there’s graffiti on that wall as well. It’s on the building across the street too. Maybe those aren’t tourists getting off that tram. Maybe it’s their neighborhood. That’s a very shiny tram. Hey, the street is only big enough for the tram. Definitely not the U.S. Portugal maybe? I wonder if the hill bottoms out at the sea. There is nothing like a beautiful blue sea on a warm day…

Shit, my mind is wandering again. I can’t do this. It’s too hard. I can’t focus. Maybe I need meds. Maybe I’ll just go back to doing my own little less challenging, less stressful posts.