Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Pop a bottle of bubbly for me!

Hello internet pals,

So, I could write a snarky post about The Bachelor again, or I could make you chuckle with some wedding stories (which I intend to do in the very near future!), but before anything else, tonight I humbly ask you to raise a metaphorical glass to the fact that I have completed a project that has been over two years in the making.  I have written my first novel.

(WARNING: approaching nostalgic backstory)

The idea for this fantasy novel came to me while I was very stressed out in the midst of my last semester of college (the first time around), in spring 2008.  In my mind, I would go to my "happy place" when things got to be too much, and that happy place was the big backyard garden that my grandparents had at their house when I was growing up.  I ruminated on the idea for over six months, and came up with a basic plot outline, so I started writing in the fall of 2008.

It was more than just a story, though; it was also a way to connect across the miles with my kindred-spirit grandma, who was rapidly becoming net-savvy.  I started typing pages and sending them to her, encouraging her to edit, suggest, and critique.  That was probably the least successful part of our writing venture together, because - being Grandma - she assured me that every line was brilliant and perfect just the way it was.

I wrote whenever I had time, which became less and less frequent as work, school, and home renovations encroached on my spare minutes.  When Grandma's cancer came stomping back this fall, I dug in my heels and tried to write faster, so that she could read the happy ending while still on this earth.  However, the more I tried, the slower the words seemed to come, and her brain fog worsened in the final few weeks.  I had to settle for scribbling a summary of the last several chapters on a page from my journal, to be buried with her. 

It felt like I had failed her in some way, even though I knew that was ridiculous -- she would have been proud if I had written nothing but silly haikus for the rest of my life.  Still, I hoped for some kind of sign or encouragement, as I tried to write the final chapters of the story of this magical garden that she had inspired.  I stared at a vase of fresh flowers from her funeral on December 10, and thought impulsively to myself, "I will finish before these flowers wilt."

The next month was pure insanity -- road trips back and forth between Pittsburgh and Columbus (my hometown), during which I carefully transported the flowers in a vase, visits with family, frantically finishing Christmas preparations,and not nearly enough sleep.  I kept faithfully trimming stems and changing water, trying to stave off the inevitable wilting for as long as possible.  I discarded dead flowers and coddled those still left, but as weeks passed, I began to seriously doubt that I could ever meet the seemingly arbitrary deadline that I had set for myself.

A little over a week ago, I gave up.  The remaining stems were starting to get fuzzy, and all that was left were browning green chrysanthemums and dry purple sea lavender.  I trimmed the stems short, drained the vase, and left them sitting on the kitchen window-sill. 

Well, last night I finished the draft of my novel, The Keeper of Hawthorn Garden.  Early in the evening, as I took a break to nurse my nasty writer's cramp, I looked towards the kitchen window.  I took a second look at the vase of flowers, the vase that had been dry for at least a week.  The green chrysanthemums were brown and dried around the edges... but the centers were still as soft and green as they had been a month ago.  I stared at them, prodded them, smelled them: they looked, felt, and smelled alive.

Buoyed by the flowers' resilience, I kept writing, and retired to bed knowing that the final chapter had finally been committed to paper.  Tonight, I am looking at the chrysanthemums again.  The centers have dried and started to turn brown.  By tomorrow or the next day they will be completely wilted.  But somehow, for five weeks in the middle of winter, the last flowers made it until I finished my novel. 

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

You know what makes me feel better about life? "The Bachelor"

So some crap went down today, and you know what they say: "When crap goes down, sometimes life gets clogged."  (I now have the strangest urge to embroider that on a pillow.)

Anyway, my emotional plunger today consisted of a simple evening in, with the Husband and the Dog.  We made a healthy supper, set the DVR, and poured a glass of red wine.  Apparently, the Husband is destined to be a saint, because he can look at THIS,

and say, "I love you.  You're wonderful.  What can I do to help?"

Me: (croaking) "I want to eat chocolate and watch something dumb on TV."
Husband: "Like a cartoon?  Like Family Guy?"
Me: "No... something really dumb, like stupid dumb."
Husband: "... Futurama?"
Me: (glare)
Husband: "Say, I know what would make you feel better!  Do you want to watch The Bachelor?"*

(*the Husband may not have used those exact words, and it may have required minimal prompting, but the intent was there.)

For some reason beyond my understanding, there is something about watching that gooey, gonorrheic Malibu trainwreck that makes me feel warm and bubbly inside, like a fluteful of champagne in an "aspiring model's" esophagus.  Sometimes I don't even watch the show - I just read the snarky write-ups at Entertainment Weekly (worth checking out, even if you are unfamiliar with the show).  Watching one testament to natural selection after another profess their undying and unquestionable love for SOMEONE THEY DON'T KNOW FROM ADAM?  It fills me with just enough humor and headsmacks to avoid reaching for the sharp objects after a tough day.

In the event that I sound uncharacteristically mean-spirited, let me also say that there are "contestants" that I root for every time I watch, young ladies who truly seem to have brains in their heads and Disney magic in their hearts: dentists, teachers, single moms, artists... women who have devoted themselves to another goal or dream in life and are now truly hoping to meet someone special, or at least have an adventure while trying.  I cheer for these women.  Unfortunately, these ladies often fall by the self-actualized wayside (see EDIT below), as the suit with the roses so often opts for the giddier, poutier, sillier variety.

Regardless of this sad eventuality, there are several things about The Bachelor, this season in particular, that make it worth watching... or at least, worth DVR-ing for those days when you just want to kick back and marinate in the comforting self-esteem booster that there are people out there more shallow, more desperate, and more ridiculous than you.

1. You can watch any episode of the season, and it will pretty much encapsulate the essence of the show, distilling it from a handle of cheap vodka into a 90-proof shot (which, from the looks of things tonight, was probably the drink of choice among some of the "ladies").  Which brings me to my next high point...

2.  There is alcohol EVERYWHERE in this show.  Your liver may actually suffer sympathetic cirrhosis just by watching.  Every date and cocktail party starts with champagne or wine, followed by mixed drinks and more wine, followed by mysterious glasses of Heaven-knows-What. 
Watching some of the talking-head interviews with the women during these parties is like getting cornered by that girl you don't know that well at a party, when she's suddenly, drunkenly decided that you're her new BFF, so you obviously want to belt "Don't Stop Believin'" and start a congo line with her. 
Tonight's episode even featured the Bachelor and his suitors (suitresses?) filming some PSAs for the Red Cross -- the AMERICAN RED CROSS -- during their "group date," and there was a conspicuously well-stocked full bar on set.  I felt like I was getting a contact buzz just from watching.  Or maybe that was just some neurons committing suicide.

3. The fashion.  I know this is catty, but seriously.  Some of the outfits on this show make me think there's a well-stocked bar in the wardrobe department as well.  This show has more sequins and less fabric than "Dancing with the Stars."  And is there any earthly reason for a dozen girls to sit around in their string bikinis, INSIDE, AT BREAKFAST?

4. The occasional heartwarming moments, such as tonight, when the Bachelor and his one-on-one date bonded over their absent fathers, or when another contestant (the single mom) tearfully talked to her daughter on the phone.  These moments remind me that these ARE real people.  In a laughably non-realistic context, of course, but they are real people who are "putting themselves out there," for whatever reason.

5. All the awkward, fake-drama, she-said-she-said moments in between the heartwarmers.  Sometimes, you almost wonder if the girls are really that ninth-grade, or if they are in cahoots to charade the biggest. most dramatic. cat fight. EVER.  The Husband and I are hoping for the latter, because the former is just too depressing.

It was kind of a shocker when I realized that the past two seasons of The Bachelor have featured ladies who are younger than I am.  At first, I looked at myself in the bathroom mirror and wondered for a brief panicky moment if I was starting to wrinkle and sag, and just hadn't realized it yet.  I was being ridiculous, natch, but it was a good reminder all the same: I wouldn't trade my happiness and normalcy for the kind of "journey" this show is selling, and I certainly wouldn't trade them for some collagen-silicone-bleached-plucked-nip-tucked facade of myself.

Watching the women on this show might make me feel a tiny bit old, but it also just makes me glad that I'm sitting between my Husband and my Canine on a Monday night, living a real life instead of a Reality life.

***emotionally plunged***

EDIT: So Keltie Colleen, one of the self-actualized women on "The Bachelor," who was sent home as a result of having a personality and enough spunk to not be a paperdoll, is actually a blogger!  She's also a Rockette, actress, model, and published author, thus rounding out my feelings of inadequacy nicely.  Check out her blog at

Friday, January 7, 2011

New Year

So, every year at about this time, I make resolutions, usually based upon my failings of the previous year, to improve myself in the coming months.  These resolutions can range from the pathetically simple -- such as no longer wearing socks to bed -- to the bizarre and complex, like learning to write with my other hand while blindfolded; you never know when that one might come in handy!

In any case, I made a couple of resolutions this year, and one of them was to be a better blog mommy.  I resolved to blog more often on January 1 and figured out what I was going to blog about.  Well, here it is, January 7, so I figured that I ought to go ahead and post it already.  This level of dedication is really pretty typical for my New Year's resolutions.  If I ever get abducted by pirates, and they blindfold me and tie my left hand behind my back, I'm really going to be in a pickle.

Anyway, I should probably give a bit of an explanation as to why the month of December did not see a single whiff of blog post from me.  Unfortunately, it is a sad explanation.  My grandmother, Janet Eilene Ingledue Fisher, one of the dearest and most genuinely kind people in the world, passed away on December 7, after a long fight with cancer.  It had worsened this fall, and we knew that this was coming, but things got really serious really quickly, a few weeks before Thanksgiving.

Grandma and I shared so much more than just being two generations of a family.  I share her middle name, her faith, her wedding date, her appreciation of the arts, her love of animals, and her ability (I hope) to always find the good in people, and in the world around us.  She taught me to play Chinese checkers and never let me win (or at least, never told me she did).  She sewed clothes and purses for me, and I made her laugh.  My pen name, "Inky," was her nickname growing up.  She read just about every line I ever wrote, and never offered anything but praise and encouragement.  She "talked me to class" on my cell phone through most of college, and we kept that up on the bus ride home almost every day since I moved to Pittsburgh.  She is one of the best friends I'll ever have. 

Her passing is still quite difficult to write/talk about, so I won't say much more about it, except that Grandma has been my inspiration, support, and guide for my entire life, and she is "jitterbugging in Heaven" with my grandpa, as they wait patiently for all of their loved ones to join them.

In addition to being a superb mother, wife, grandmother, sister, aunt, et cetera, Janet Fisher was a gifted artist and poet.  Though never one to self-promote, she took delight in sharing her poetry with her children and grandchildren last Christmas, through a little book of poems that she gave to each of us.  I would like to share my favorite poem of hers, in the hope that it encourages you in the new year as it has me.

Just Light Up Your Corner
Janet E. Fisher

When I was much, much younger
I asked God what I could do
To make a difference in this world
As I was passing through

He said, just light up your corner
Love the people there
Show concern and kindness
Tell them that you care

So I have tried to do that
And I hope with all my heart
I will have touched the world with goodness
When it's time that I depart

Grandma - your corner couldn't be any brighter.