I don’t write to be famous, I don’t write to be known, I write because I am and I want to be read. How sad to fill a room with paintings no one sees or play music no one hears. Writing is talking without sound, singing without score and dancing without movement and yet, it is all of them. It is a solitary art conjured from thought and expressed by the need to communicate.

HEAD-SLAPS, SPEED-BUMPS and LIGHT-BULBS, one woman's WTF, oops and ah-ha moments of life, is the name of my memoir/essay collection with why I wrote what I wrote and what happened after. They were published once and as every writer knows, once is not enough.


Tuesday, May 27, 2014

A few dumb thoughts, silly and profound, dressed as cliches



There is nothing more musical than a babies laughter, nothing more magical then their smile.

If spring is rebirth what's sprung - dandelions?

Age creeps up on you like a slow tear running down your cheek.

Nothing like a good cry to cleanse a worried mind and empty the angst bucket for a refill.

I wonder why there is never enough money and never enough time, and too many mosquitoes, especially when you want to just sit outside for a few minutes and roll your pennies.

When I think of all the members of my family who are gone, it makes me sad, and I wonder where they are and if I will ever see them again. I try not to think of when I will meet up with them because planning for a surprise party ruins all the joy.




Friday, May 23, 2014

The climb



The Tetons, the most beautiful place on earth.


When my father retired he was perfectly content to sit back and relax on his couch each morning while mentally planning what he was going to cook for dinner that night. That was it, coffee, couch and contemplation. He had worked hard for years; he deserved to defend his downtime. My mother was not like that. If she was not doing something, she believed that her gift of time on this earth was wasted. From laundry to list-writing her to-dos weighted heavily on the side of accomplishment.

I’m like my mother, if I’m not moving or doing or at least thinking of my next move or thinking of my next project, I’m not happy.

That’s right, I’m not happy.

My life is very full with family, a beautiful home and is near perfect. That we’re all blessed with health is a daily ‘grateful’ and an ‘amen’ to the fate maker. It’s the writing life which scatters the puzzle pieces.

I’ve heard actors say you’re only as good as your next movie. Well I believe I’m only as good as my next project. I’ve been published dozens and dozens of times and yet, I consider myself an amateur. My editor says I have a fan base, surely she wasn't speaking of me. I do have loyal readers, folks who seek out my column and, face to face, compliment my writing. But I know I can do better. I want to do better, I want to make more money at what I do, build a bigger name, a bigger platform, create a larger audience - but - when is enough, enough? When does the mountain climbing stop, when is the simple act of putting one foot in front of the other, enough? Will I ever get to say, that was perfect, I cannot do better, sit back on my couch and defend my downtime?

And what about that mountain?

That I may lose my way after leaving base-camp, and wander from the path, or tumble from face of the cliff and never make the summit breaks my heart in a way. Even though I know that life is all about the journey and writing is all about the climb, I’m beginning to wonder if I will ever get to see the broader view. I’m not seeking Everest, although it feels sometimes like I am, I’m not even looking to climb McKinley or Mt Washington or the treed mound in my own back yard. I’m looking for...actually I’m not sure what I’m looking for, and what I want, and maybe that’s the problem. I climb the mountain every day and I don’t even know how high I've gotten and where the damn thing monolithically is.

The dream is to make it to the top and plant a graffitied billboard with my name on it that everybody can see if they chose to look. I just hope to be young enough and healthy enough, to use the spray can, enjoy the accomplishment and toast the effort.

I have my Nepal Evos in just the right size, my karabiners and an endless supply of drive. Today the slope is manageable, the rocks firm...I climb. I am not ready for the couch just yet. Are you?

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Barriers



My youngest daughter received a Graduate Degree last Sunday. She already has her masters in something else and a graduate certificate in another field, but this one, this is the one which is tattooed on her soul, teacher.

I can’t fathom why anyone, once out of school, would want to take teaching on as a career. It's a tough job. To me, teachers, like nurses, have halos.

For students who like school and love learning, for others who want to just get by and get it over with,  for the kids who hate being in school and  reek of indifference, for all of them, education matters eventually. That my daughter will make a difference in so many lives is a wonderful life-long legacy.

I can remember a few teachers who really made a difference in my life, one actually changed my path simply by saying, in front of the class, “Carolynn, you are a writer.” After a shocked and pink-cheeked thank you, I was speechless, rare for me.

Back then when the idea of being published was an unrealized dream I wrote serious stuff, some controversial and some, so from the heart, I left little mitrial pieces as exclamation points. The rhythm of my heart's chambers became a back-beat theme song to my pages.

The essays and newspaper columns I write now are fun; they chronicle my life and the everyday absurdity of my family. But Saturday was not absurd, it was momentous. A teacher was made.

Think of the teacher, or teachers, who cleared a new path for you. Have you thanked them?

The same teacher, who plowed under the hedgerows which had blocked my writing dreams, taught my older daughter years later. In class, she asked if the teacher remembered me, the teacher said amazingly nice things about my writing. My daughter was immensely proud of me and I beamed when she told me what he had said.

I finally got to thank the teacher who made a difference for me. His name is Greg Stone, and I believe he still teaches at UCONN, which means he still wears a halo. What teachers made a difference in your writing life?

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

This is the new attic

More about my attic? 
Really Carolynn, focus on something else, you're obsessed.
I originally wrote this piece as a column, sent it to my editor and then, after thinking about it for a few milliseconds I emailed her to pull it because it's so similar to a piece I wrote, which ran about six months ago. Golly gee Aunt Bee, I knew it sounded familiar. Anyway I'm posting it here for two reasons, because I like it and because I like it. I promise I won't write about my attic again. 



Spring cleaning is a lot like getting a flu shot; it only hurts a little, I feel better when it’s over and it’s something I only have to do once a year. This year I decided to start at the top.

A few weeks ago my youngest daughter and I ventured into the archeological dig we call the attic, she wanted to coordinate a yard sale, I wanted to finally clean and organize hoarder’s paradise; it’s like a gigantic black garbage-bag-cloud above our heads.  The sheer volume of stuff and disorganization has weighed heavily on my mind since it became a four-family storage locker for all things deemed currently not needed but a prospect for future use, or we’re just too lazy to haul it to the dump.

The untouched pile in the farthest corner, covered in a decade’s layer of dust, was placed there when we moved in. Next to that is a neat stack of my mother-in-laws leftovers of life, may she rest in organized peace. Forward of those carefully stacked and labeled boxes, the chaos of the attic descends into a maelstrom of piles categorized by college year, and the eventual first and second apartment unnecessaries of my children.

Open the door at the top of the stairs and you’re initially prevented entrance by a queen-size mattress and box-spring, one of three sets standing on end like random fence sections barring passage from one path to another. That set was the last of the big stuff to go up there during one of those, push hard and slam the door moments.

For a year or so, when someone said they wanted to put something in the attic, I’d joke that you can’t even fit another piece of paper up there but they always found room.

Because it gets candle-melting hot and snow-globe freezing cold during the extreme seasons, the windows of opportunity to cull through are few, only half a year.

‘Yard Sale’, so much effort for so little monetary return, was not something I wanted to do. Donating and dumping is more my speed. But I figured if the kids wanted to make a few bucks, (key word ‘few’), who am I to talk them down from the edge of monumental effort for pennies.

We dove in.

My husband took about half a dozen pick-up loads to the transfer station, aka dump, and the attic is almost completely clean and totally organized. Problem now is that the girls’ former bedrooms, and my office, are filled with boxes and bags ticketed for a yard sale we can’t seem to set a date for. On a white board hanging on a bedroom door I wrote, “This is the new attic”.

When I started going through everything I was amazed by the emotions which rose to the surface from what I had saved. While working side by side with my daughter, the gratification of the cleaning did not even come close to the pleasure of reminiscing. I am selling things I have never used, (some purchased at yard sales years ago), and I am letting go of things which once seemed so important and are now as unessential as eight-tracts and as passé as pet rocks.

From a non-descript box of miscellaneous stuff, I was sorting and pitching and came upon an unframed black and white wallet sized photo. It is the only existing picture of my parent’s wedding in 1944, capturing their first kiss as husband and wife. When I think of how long that one photo has remained hidden, how impossible its discovery was, and how close I came to throwing it away, I realized the value of the yard sale we will eventually have is priceless. Enough said.


Saturday, May 10, 2014

Cont. on page life

I've done it.
Now all I have to do is wait 4 to 6 weeks to find out if I've done it 'write'.

Friday, May 2, 2014

I found me






This small suitcase is similar to the little black makeup case which held my mother's manuscript for over twenty-five years. It was discovered in my attic on the eighth anniversary of her death, April 16th (check out my post on that date), I explain why I am writing about my mother's lost and forgotten novel.
 

I’m the beginning of chapter 8.

I’m the tall, full-figured Abigail who didn’t date much in high school. I’m intelligent and excited about starting down a new path. Oh, I’m from New Jersey.
There I am standing on a high porch behind the inn overlooking the Connecticut River. I see movement in the tall grass of the field behind the inn which leads to the water.

I had almost given up on mom’s book until I read chapter 8. What Abigale found in the field and how she and Marty got it back to the inn captivated my attention. That we’re back in Uncle Toby’s room has also sparked my interest.

In my words:
It is morning and Abigail searches the field for the movement she saw. She is drenched from wading through the dew soaked high grass, and ready to turn back, when she hears something, when she sees something. (Sort of like me discovering Chapter 8).

In her words:
She gaped at it, her hand over her mouth holding back the scream she felt rising in her throat.
It was a man. The lower part of his body was covered in blood. His wet clothing was torn and filthy. He made an effort to raise his arm, as if pleading for help. The arm fell helplessly as the man groaned trying to say something. She dropped to her knees. At least he is alive, she thought.

In my words:
Abigale and Marty, with great effort help the man into the inn and up to Uncle Toby’s room. Marty has not been in the room since Tobias died. It had been straightened and the bed striped by one of the inn-workers.
I am shouting in my head, look under the bed Marty, look under the bed.

The pages of the book are copies. Page 103 has handwritten edits I can barely read because the writing is so faint. Seeing her handwriting reminded me that she is here with me, looking over my shoulder, and I know this because the scent of the pages, stored so long in the make-up case is the scent of her, a mixture of face powder and Chantilly.