Friday, May 29, 2009

Word Play

I had an assignment to write an article about survival skills--teaching kids basics so they can one day live on their own.

Eventually I went with a nautical/sailing/ship theme and reached out to a few writing friends for ideas. Susan led me to Wikipedia's Glossary of Nautical Terms, and I spent at least 30 minutes sorting through the jargon. Who knew so many of our figures of speech had nautical origins?

For instance, my new favorite is "There's not enough room in here to swing a cat." (Very useful for spouting off when you enter my son's room that is overflowing with musical equipment, books and dirty clothes.) Apparently unruly sailors were often flogged with a "cat-o'-nine-tails," a short nine-tailed whip. Everyone on board was brought on deck to witness the beatings and often there was not much room to "swing the cat" without hitting a bystander. Also, getting the "cat out of the bag" came from taking the whip from its baize bag, where it was kept when not in use. And here I thought someone had routinely taken an actual cat by its tail and circled it overhead, people ducking to get out of the way.

Other terms such as chock-a-block, cut and run, pitch in, nipper (a small boy), and footloose had nautical origins. Or so says Wikipedia.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

French Homework...

...was never like this when I was in high school, c'est la vie.

The assignment: write a commercial in French.

The product: this video by my son and his two classmates.

The gist: girl can't get guy until she is transformed via Jean Jean Sexy Wear.

Jean Jean (aka Jacob) also wrote the music for the jingle and played all the instruments. Très bien!

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Wake me when it's over

Wiping sleep from his eyes in the kitchen...

Ben: Did I dream this or did you tell me that Aunt Jemima died?

Me: Uh, pretty sure you dreamed it. Aunt Jemima isn't even a real person.

Ben: Oh. Okay. Just seemed real.

(Did I mention the kid fell off the kitchen cabinet when he was little?

...those head injuries can be sneaky--13 years later.)

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Perfect timing

Once there was a boy who loved music. He started guitar lessons when he was 11 and taught himself drums, keyboard and other instruments including a half-hearted attempt at the harmonica.

One day his friend Brianna asked him to accompany her at the Black History Month celebration/competition at an area high school. His guitar playing got noticed by a gentleman in attendance, and the boy gave this man his name and phone number. Later the boy got a call and was asked to play at an upcoming Gospel Brunch at The House of Blues in Dallas. Oh, and by the way, BB King will be there later that day.

So, the boy is excited, his parents are proud and just purchased four tickets for The Gospel Brunch on May 31.

They don't even care if BB King is there or not.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

I can imagine...

This scenario:

Officer: We have a report of a missing person?

17-year-old son: Yeah. Our mom. Have you seen my keys? And when you find her, tell her we have like nothing to eat in this house.

Officer: Son, I have no idea where your keys are. Have you checked your jeans pocket?

14-year-old son: Hey, I need a ride to soccer practice.

Officer: Maybe if you help me locate your mom, she can take you?

14-year-old: Maybe, or I could just ride with you.

Officer (taking out a pad of paper): How about you tell me where you last saw her.

14-year-old: I dunno. Probably when she dropped me off at school.

Officer: Isn't it close enough for you to walk?

14-year-old: I guess. She doesn't mind driving me though.

Officer (noticing young girl tugging on his gun holster): Hey, don't touch that.

5-year-old daughter: Is that real? Can you shoot people like they do on Bones?

Officer: Yes, it's real and I only shoot people when I have to. Can you help me find your mom?

5-year-old: Sure.

Officer (with pen poised above his tablet): What does she look like?

5-year-old: She's 66 inches tall and weighs 118 pounds. She has hazel eyes and brown hair.

Officer: Her eyes are hazel?

5-year-old: Yes, I look in them every day. I know what color they are.

Officer: Any idea where she might be?

5-year-old: She's always home, but you might find her eating lasagna and wearing purple. Please find her. She's very lovable.

Officer: I'll do my best.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Old friends

I started a new book the other day, and yesterday I finished it. Well, I quit after the second chapter. It just didn't pull me in and time is a precious commodity to me. Instead I'm now reading one I read years ago, and I'm enjoying it all over again. It's The Girls' Guide to Hunting and Fishing by Melissa Bank. It has nothing to do with wearing hip-waders or shooting a rifle. But it's funny and still feels fresh years later.

I also got a much-needed pick-me-up yesterday when I noticed on FaceBook that another author I love, Celia Rivenbark, just renewed her wedding vows. In Vegas. By an Elvis impersonator. I wasn't a bit surprised since her latest book was titled: Belle Weather--mostly sunny with a scattered chance of hissy fits. On her Web site you can read her latest newspaper column or watch a funny video of her explaining the title of another book she wrote: Stop Dressing Your Six-Year-Old Like a Skank. Her definition of a skank? It's like a slut with both shoes.

So, like old friends, favorite books and favorite authors can make you feel better, cheer you up when you've had a bad day, or sometimes they'll just sit quietly and let you be.

Friday, May 8, 2009

In honor of my mother, a tribute for Mother's Day

My mom taught me many things while growing up. At her knee I learned to sew. It’s not a skill people pay me for like they do her, but it has served me well. I’ve been able to make curtains and drapes, recover furniture and make Halloween costumes. I still haven’t mastered her hand-sewing talent of smocking, but I’m sure if I wanted to, she would teach me.

She taught me how to bake and even let me eat raw cookie dough and lick cake batter straight from the beaters. When I wanted to learn to decorate cakes, she stood by my side and encouraged me as I mastered new techniques.

I don’t remember her ever telling me that something was too hard or too messy or too much trouble for me to learn. Whatever I wanted—within reason—she made available to me. And it wasn’t the material things that come easier for me with my kids. She wasn’t able to buy me everything I wanted, but she provided everything I needed. And that was plenty.

Several pearls of wisdom she also imparted:
Don’t open someone else’s mail.
Just because someone asks you a question, doesn’t mean you have to answer it.
It’s not good to be boy-crazy.
Even though you can’t see the back of your hair, other people can.
It’s much better to give than to receive.
Knock before opening a closed door.
A good deed feels even better if you keep it to yourself.
Something broken can almost always be fixed.
If you can find a way to make it or do it yourself and spend less money, then do.
Never put in writing what you don’t want everyone to read.
You’re always prettier when you smile.
Never correct an adult in front of other people.
Less is better—in terms of makeup, accessories, etc.
It’s better to miss curfew than to drive recklessly to get home.
You’ll never know how much you are loved until you have kids of your own.

And now that I am a mother of three, I know what she means. The other day my daughter, who is nearly six, asked me what Grandma’s name is. I told her it is Marianne.

“Marianne?” she asked. “That’s such a pretty name! I think I’ll name my daughter that.”
I hope one day she does.

Happy Mother’s Day, Mom!

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Bad timing

Since I have documented proof that the dog likes to lie on the stairs, you'd think I'd remember to step over him--just out of habit. But Thursday night after putting my daughter to bed, I stepped on him. It was dark, he was sleeping and I forgot. He let out a yelp and flipped to get out from under me, slicing the bottom of my foot with his dew claw in the process.

The next morning, I endured three stitches and a tetanus shot plus the doctor gave me a supply of antibiotics and some handy dandy Vicodin. The cut is not a big deal, but it makes it difficult to walk and drive. Plus I planned to attend a writers' conference the next two days.

So, Joan had to drive me to the conference, and I spent the weekend hobbling around from room to room, propping my foot up whenever possible. Other than breaking out in hives from a reaction to the antibiotic, things went pretty smoothly. I pitched our book and got permission from the agent to submit a sample, so we'll see what happens. Plus I met some really nice people (including Susan, a writer in the area) and gathered some helpful information.

And the dog no longer runs from me when he sees me coming. Did I mention he's not very smart?