Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Six Words About Me

Happy Cat In Search Of Spirits

My wonderful friend, Pinhole tagged me for this meme.

The objective is to come up with a six word memoir (see my silly little offering above), inspired by Hemingway, who once bet ten dollars that he could sum up his life in six words. He came up with: For Sale: baby shoes, never worn.

Here are the meme rules:

1. Write your own six word memoir.

2. Post it on your blog and include a visual illustration if you’d like.

3. Link to the person who tagged you in your post .

4. Tag five more blogs with links.

5. And don’t forget to leave a comment on the tagged blogs with an invitation to play!

Okay, guys, here are my picks for bloggers to participate: Jaye Wells , Erica Orloff , Stephen Parrish , Ello, and Precie

As a side note, right around Valentine’s day, Stephen awarded me with the E for Excellence badge you’ll see in my sidebar... Thank you Stephen, it’s much appreciated even if it took me a half a month to get it up on yon blog. Instead of passing it to specific bloggers, all of you located on my blogroll should consider yourselves awarded this honor if you haven’t received it elsewhere already...

Those I tagged, drop me a line to let me know your memoir’s up... I can’t wait to see how creative some of you will get with this one.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Adding to the Bank of Weirdness

Erica Orloff recently put up a post about the odd experiences writers can use as research for their characters and stories. She posted five random facts about herself that might come in handy in a story – the idea being that each of the writers that participate will give a bit of an overview on their own personal experience and knowledge, opening themselves up so that other writers can tap them for information and insight on things they might be working on or might like to work on.

As we know, no knowledge is completely useless to a writer. The comments at Erica’s ran long with wonderful and many varied vantage points. I was amazed at how many writers felt they didn’t have much to say, but really we all have our own bank of knowledge, large and small, that becomes unique to all of those who haven’t lived in the same places or had the same adventures... even if they seem to be non important adventures... hell, I might want to write about a character who’s a seamstress, but if I don’t sew, how will I make that lifelike?

So, I’m posting my own five things here. Feel free to ask me about any and all of them or tap me for research material on a subject – I’m always game to talk... I’d love to see some more of these pop up across our little bloggy circle...

1. My first love was neither reading nor writing... Okay, I always liked reading more than average, but my first real love was art. Some of you may know that already, but I actually planned to pursue art professionally from the time I could hold a crayon up until my senior year of High School. That’s when I fell in love with writing. I still draw and occasionally paint. I’ve had formal training in most mediums, except oil painting and sculpture – I do love oil painting it’s on my list of classes I’d love to take when I get some time, but I’ve never studied it formally... I do have a pretty extensive knowledge working with other mediums, though, and of course the experience of art courses... ask me sometime about art stores, seriously, they are my favorite places on earth – there is something about the smell of charcoal and brand new kneaded erasers... I swear, it’s heaven... I still love to play with new supplies and love the smaller stores where all the clerks are art students and just as excited to play with the merchandise as you are...

The sketch at the top of this post (which hopefully came out well – still haven’t mastered Photoshop, which is another thing on my list)... anyway, the sketch is a pencil drawing I did of my daughter from a photo... personally, I like working from life better than photos, there’s more depth to the work that way... anyway, this one was from a photo of her when she was five.

2. I am a font of information on all things Catholic. Now, I’ll be the first to tell you that I’m neither a priest nor a theologian, so you should really check with the experts for absolute clarity. I did go through Catholic grade school and an all girls Catholic High School. I also sent my kids to a Catholic grade school for six years and served on their school board for three... so I have a pretty good knowledge of how the Catholic schools run from the inside out... I’m also pretty well versed in our Sacraments and traditions and I have a pretty good grasp of the Church’s teachings as well... So if you’ve got Catholic questions, I’d be glad to field them the best I can...

3. This next one will completely contradict the last one... we’ll just say I’m an enigma wrapped in a riddle, covered in blasphemy... or something... Anyhoo – I read Tarot Cards. There! I said it! Actually, some of you that knew me from the old blogging community already knew that. But yeah, I started learning tarot when I was a teenager and we used to hang out at this new age store where the owner read cards for us. She taught me how to read and let me sit in on readings to learn, when the customers didn’t mind. I sometimes use the cards to help me flesh out characters – someday I should do a post on that, because it’s really a great exercise.

I also have a pretty good knowledge of candle magic and color magic and some Witta, Wicca, and Stregheria knowledge – I don’t practice these, I’ve just learned a bit here and there (still Catholic, just an open minded one). Oddly enough, I find that most of these philosophies actually match up really well – but that’s a lengthy discussion...

4. I’m a baseball nut and obviously a Cubs fan... so if you ever want to know what it feels like to get your heart broken repeatedly and keep coming back for more... yeah, I’m your resource... seriously, though, I understand the game pretty well, most especially where my team is concerned but I pay fairly good attention to the sport in general during regular season play. I also hit at least a few games a year, so if you need to know what Wrigley’s like for a scene, well, that I could probably recite like poetry.

5. I have a Thyroid condition which requires that I take synthetic thyroid medication daily... so far I don’t need surgery, but it’s a permanent condition and I’ll have it for life – my mother also has it, though she had to have her Thyroid removed when she was about my age. Thyroid is a pretty common malady and one that’s often misdiagnosed or goes untreated... so if you need a good descriptive of how it feels or what the symptoms are, just ask... I’m hypo, which means mine is slowed down and therefore I get tired without the medication (there are other symptoms too) some people are hyper, which means the opposite, as you can imagine. This also means they have to biopsy my thyroid on occasion to make certain there’s nothing else wrong... which means sticking a really large needle in my neck... not fun, but would probably make for a really nasty scene in your book.

Okay, guys, I’m not going to tag anyone to do this, but if you have time and wanted to volunteer, I’d love to see your five things. If you post them, make sure to drop me a link or go over to Erica’s to drop her one, so other writers can benefit from your own font of useless knowledge.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Cicero - There's Something in the Water

Travis Erwin posted the idea that each of us oddly assorted bloggers should take Mondays to post about our hometowns... I don’t think he knew exactly what he was asking for, but here goes....

I grew up in Cicero, Illinois and I’m oddly proud of that fact.... the best way to describe my hometown is rough around the edges. We are an odd combination of hardworking salt of the earth and hardnosed cretins. I learned the fundamentals of baseball on the corner, using the curbs as bases and a perfectly placed sewer as second... the corner house wound up with a lot of broken windows and the ragtag assortment of neighborhood kids wound up with permanent scars from sliding on concrete – being afraid to slide would have earned you more scars. Louisville sluggers are still better than aluminum, in case you’re ever wondering...

My town is best known for racism and Al Capone.... there’s an interesting combination to live down, so the attitude becomes an ever present chip on your shoulder because you know, from the jump, most people have a judgment before you open your mouth... opening your mouth is another problem – for those of you not from Chicago, the accent is fairly atrocious in certain areas... Cicero has about the worst of the bunch... if you’ve ever heard a Cicero accent, you will recognize it anywhere – people from other places sometimes confuse it with Brooklyn, but I think ours is actually worse... and no, everyone in Chicago does not have this weird bit of language skewing, just a few neighborhoods. If you’re wondering, my Cicero-eeze is pretty bad... so bad in fact that I’ve passed it down to my children... My daughter was giving my son a little spelling quiz one day, my son was about six at the time... the conversation went like this:

Daughter: Spell tree.
Son: T-H-R-E-E
Daughter: No, I said TREE
Son: That’s what I said, T-H-R-E-E
Daughter: No, not tree, like one two tree, Tree, like where a bird builds a nest!

For all of its foibles, and there were many, Cicero was a great place to grow up. The title to this post will tell you a lot of what you need to know, every single person from Cicero is a character, with a story and an odd sense of humor... each one is unique. If you've ever read Stephanie Plum novels, I swear to you Trenton and Cicero are twin towns.

When I run into people now who were from Cicero or Berwyn, it always comes down to which Parish they were from... which streets they hung out on, and we almost always know people in common... ate at the same places, loved the ices at Freddie’s. We were all the same, then, kids with dirt under our nails and a sarcastic sense of humor. Every kid I grew up with had heart – they all did, every one of them. For every classmate and kid down the street I remember, there’s at least one instance where they put their friends first, where they put their own wants or needs to the side and did something noble, even if it was just something small... like standing up to a bigger kid – usually one with a bat or knife, or in later years, worse. Every one of them was the same as me, just as important, just as valid, with just as much to give to the people who loved them and the ones they loved.

I often think about my neighborhood when I watch the movie Angels with Dirty Faces For those of you who have never seen it, it’s an old Cagney movie with the Bowery Boys in it. Cagney plays a gangster who just came out of jail and his best friend is now a priest who tries to keep the Bowery Boys on the straight and narrow... Cagney’s character did his first stint in juvenile for something he did with the priest... and there’s a scene toward the end where the priest says something along the lines of, ‘there but for the grace of God goes I...’ and ‘spare a prayer for the kid who couldn’t run as fast as I could...’

Sad to say, there are a lot of great kids that I grew up with who didn’t make it into adulthood, and more that didn’t see thirty. Back then, I thought it was a great neighborhood, and there really are a lot of great people who came out of there – but it wasn’t the safest or best place to grow up... there were shootings and stabbings, a lot of people got into drugs and generally fell down a slippery slope... I know more than my share of people who died too young or wound up in jail, sometimes they just didn’t have a shot and sometimes it takes more than heart to make it through the obstacles life throws at you... sometimes it’s just dumb luck, or maybe it’s providence.

The most recent of Cicero’s citizens to make the news was Catalina Garcia She was a 20 year old student who died in the shootings at NIU this past Valentine’s day... She was a graduate of Morton East High School whose parents still live in Cicero – I don’t know Catalina, you won’t find much about her in the news because the media is too busy discussing the shooter – but I do know this is a girl who beat the odds getting to NIU, this is a girl whose parents worked damn hard to make sure she had a head on her shoulders in a neighborhood that often didn’t... this is a girl who deserves to be remembered because she earned it in honest work and determination...

These shootings leave me cold – now the media is focusing on gun control... it’s not the issue, it’s a political rally cry and a way to divert people’s attention from the fact that there are some things in this world we just can’t control... if you want my opinion, I think the media should be more responsible in their coverage of these events... I’m sure the shooter has a story, but he doesn’t need twenty headlines... Why don’t you memorialize the people who deserved better instead of building up role models for nut jobs of the future? As far as gun control, Illinois is already ridiculous with its gun laws – it won’t stop anyone, there are other ways to kill people. And even if you do put more laws on the books, those only stop law abiding citizens... criminals really don’t care how illegal it is.

Friday, February 08, 2008

The Spreader of Love!!!!

The lovely, Colleen Katana gave me The Spreader of Love Blog Award Thank you, Colleen... now I’m all pink and happy!!!

I think I’ll pass this one along to Ello and Christine Eldin Both are fabulous bloggers for to recharge your creative juices – congratulations, ladies, and thanks for posting things what make me smile... or think... or need to write... or make me procrastinate – I realize the last one sounds bad, but at least I can procrastinate while thinking of writing!!!

I have no writing updates to share today... revision... revision... revision..... and I don’t do word count on those because it’s hard to judge. Some of it’s moving around phrases and editing down, some it is writing completely new scenes... but it’s going, so my bloggy absence in not for naught...

Take care, everybody. See you all soon.