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Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Hungry for Ink, Letters and Words

I have an irrational love for empty notebooks with lovely fabric or leather covers.

There's just something about them--filled with blank pages--waiting. They call to me. They're hungry for a ink, for letters and words. I understand that longing. Being full of good intentions, I rescue them from emptiness and lovingly write on the first few pages with my favorite pen.

I have dozens of them, in my desk, on my bookshelf, under my bed. They were empty once. Now they're not. Not empty, not full, just used; and tossed aside when another, beautiful and new one entered my life. I'm not proud of it--the orphaned journals left in my impetuous wake.

They were each assigned a purpose in the past. I let them hold my secrets, track my reading, catch my random thoughts. Some I carried to church, and recorded sermon notes on their pages. Others I used to brainstorm projects or jot down phone numbers, websites, and addresses I didn't want to forget. Some began as the keepers of my poetry -- written before I got too busy to see the world in rhyme.

Most of them are gorgeous. It's not the spiral college-ruled notebooks that capture my affection, but the textured, gold edged affairs. I can stand in the journal section at Barnes and Noble, mooning about for hours---fingering the pages, stroking the covers, wondering if I can justify the expense.

But I've seen the error of my ways--the effect of my selfish, short-lived love. I've learned to re-appropriate these orphaned cast-offs. Once in a while, I dig one out and carry it in my bag, to jot notes in when I'm out observing life - I scribble on the tattered pages, dog ear the corners, and doodle in the margins. Later at home, I transfer those notes to my computer, and write. Soon the notebook pages will be filled, and the journal won't feel so neglected.

Then I can go to Barnes and Noble and buy the Italian leather journal with cream colored pages I've had my eye on, or the red Scrivo leather journal with the pen closure, or maybe the embossed Italian leather journal with the distressed finish...

This post is part of my 8 Random Things About Me response to tags from Lavender Chick and Shannon. Be sure and check back for Random Thing Topic #5 coming soon.

P.S. TAG, Mamaglop You're It! - Share 1 (or 8) random thing(s) about yourself, and turn it (each one) into a blog topic.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

I Am Addicted to Color-Coding

It must be the administrator in me---the organizing junkie---the order freak.
I do love color coding.

Take me to Staples, or Office Depot, or Wal-Mart in the paper aisle, and I could spend many dollars on multi-packs of highlighters in every hue, boxes of colored paper clips and thumb tacks. I have sticky-notes in dark blue, lime green, fuschia, goldenrod and violet. I can walk by a display of those colored sticky flags that show people where to sign their contracts, and suddenly I have trouble breathing; and don't even get me started on colored Sharpie permanent markers. Oh, my lands!

When my kids were younger, everything from their book-covers, to their pencils and notebooks matched. The girls each had blue or green, while the boy had red---everything.

Even today, on my “great-white-board” where I track my writing projects, each section has its own colored 'dry-erase' marker, and matching sticky notes. In my monthly bills filing cabinet, the hanging files are color-coded according to which bill is which. The dry erase calendars in my office (one for each child, and one for my husband) are color coded red, green, brown and blue with matching markers, thumb tacks and magnets. The coat hangers in my laundry room are color-coded. One shade for each member of the family.

Yes, I know, I have issues.

A while back I discovered a new kind of 'color-coded' addiction. It's called color-coded poetry.

Here's a sample:
I love the fire of red a tint of emotion
the sun orange and yellow
shining its warmth on me
leafy shades of green
making me feel alive
trees outside my window and blue afternoon skies filling me with peace
late evening sunset orange a blaze fires within my spirit
inky darkness of nighttime purple wraps me in blankets of hope
tomorrow’s sunrise pink as a newborn babe
this new day brings possibility
I can sing a melody of pure joy to celebrate
hope springs to shout life
a rainbow
the colors that paint my world

You read color-coded poetry four times. First, you read it all the way through, with no regard for colors:

I love the fire of red a tint of emotion
the sun orange and yellow shining its warmth on me
leafy shades of green making me feel alive
trees outside my window and blue afternoon skies filling me with peace
late evening sunset orange a blaze fires within my spirit
inky darkness of nighttime purple wraps me in blankets of hope
tomorrow’s sunrise pink as a newborn babe
this new day brings possibility I can sing a melody of pure joy to celebrate
hope springs to shout life a rainbow the colors that paint my world

Next you read the first section, or everything on the left that has the same color:

I love the fire of
the sun orange
leafy shades of
trees outside my window
late evening sunset
inky darkness of nighttime
tomorrow’s sunrise
this new day brings possibility
hope springs to shout life

Thirdly, you read the section that runs right down the center. It's usually a second color, but in this case I used the whole rainbow. I couldn't help myself:

and yellow
and blue
I can sing
a rainbow

You'll notice, (and please forgive me) this section of the poem isn't my original work. It's a song that harkens back to my preschool days. Remember it? It fits nicely in the middle of this color-coded mess splendor.

Finally, you read the section on the right, set apart by the third color:

a tint of emotion
shining its warmth on me
making me feel alive
afternoon skies filling me with peace
a blaze fires within my spirit
wraps me in blankets of hope
as a newborn babe
a melody of pure joy to celebrate
the colors that paint my world

Writing color-coded poetry is even more fun than reading it! No really, it's true. The challenge is to meld together three poems and come up with a final product that is really four separate poems.

Come on, give it a try!

And in case you're headed for Staples, or whatever you call your local office supply store, pick up a multi-colored pack of sticky notes for me...I'm getting kinda low and I’m finding it hard to breathe!


This post is part of my 8 Random Things About Me response to tags from Lavender Chick and Shannon. Be sure and check back for Random Thing Topic #4 coming soon.

P.S. TAG, MidnightMom You're It! - Share 1 (or 8) random thing(s) about yourself, and turn it (each one) into a blog topic.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Leaves and Pages are Turning!

Yes, my friends, the time has come. Autumn is here, and in celebration I plan to Fall Into Reading! A huge thank you goes out to Katrina over at Callapidder Days, for giving me the push I needed to tame my TBR pile once again. I Sprang into Spring with the Spring Reading Thing Challenge, and had so much fun, I can't tell you.

So, once again, in the interest of reducing the many piles of unread books that live in my home, I have spent a great deal of time and thought choosing which books I'll share these glorious autumn days with. They are a different bunch from my spring set. Fewer fiction, more reality. But, that's a good thing. They all come highly recommended, and I can't wait to dive in, and then share the best ones with you, here!

First on my shelf is Inkspell, by Cornelia Funke. The opening paragraph on page 1 reads as follows:

"Twilight was gathering, and Orpheus still wasn't here. Farid's heart beat faster, ans it always did when day left him alone with the darkness. Curse that Cheeseface! Where could he be? The birds were falling silent in the trees, as if the approach of night had stifled their voices, and the nearby mountains were turning black. You might have thought the setting sun had singed them. Soon the whole world would be black as pitch, even the grass beneath Farid's bare feet, and the ghosts would begin to whisper. Farid knew only one place where he felt safe from them: right behind Dustfinger, so close that he could feel his warmth. Dustfinger wasn't afraid of the night. He liked it."

I read Inkspell's prequel, Inkheart during the SRTC. It took up residence on the bookshelf in my heart, and will probably remain there until my future grandchildren are grown and reading it to their young ones. I am sure Inkspell will be just as amazing, and so, it tops my list!

Second on my shelf is Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life, by Anne Lamott. The first paragraph of chapter two says:

"The first useful concept is the idea of short assignments. Often, when you sit down to write, what you have in mind is an autobiographical novel about your childhood, or a play about the immigrant experience, or a history of---oh, say---say women. But this is like trying to scale a glacier. It's hard to get your footing, and your fingertips get all red and frozen and torn up. Then your mental illnesses arrive at the desk like your sickest, most secretive relatives. And they pull up chairs in a semicircle around the computer, and they try to be quiet but you know they are there with their weird coppery breath, leering at you behind your back."

I am already part-way into this book, and I am loving it. The practical tips Ms. Lamott shares are fundamental, and at the same time, very empowering. I look forward to finishing this book, and then referring to it again and again as I write my story.

The next book on my shelf is The Traveler's Gift: Seven Decisions that Determine Personal Success, by Andy Andrews. Just before chapter one, the author opens with a very powerful quote:

"In great deeds, something abides. On great fields, something stays. Forms change and pass, bodies disappear but spirits linger to consecrate ground for the vision place of the soul. And reverent men and wome from afar and generations that know us not and that we know not of, shall come here to ponder and to dream and the power of the vision shall pass into their souls. --Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain, 1828-1914"

Published by Nelson Books, and recommended by John Maxwell and Barbara Johnson, this book may just have a profound affect on the way I fulfill my dream.

The first paragraph on page 48 of Writing Down the Bones reads:

"Writers live twice. They go along with their regular life, are as fast as anyone in the grocery store, crossing the street, getting dressed for work in the morning. But there's another part of them that they have been training. The one that lives everything a second time. That sits down and sees their life again and goes over it. Looks at the texture and the details."

The first paragraph in chapter one of Wild Mind: Living the Writer's Life begins:

"For fifteen years now, at the beginning of every writing workshop, I have repeated the rules for writing practice. So, I will repeat them again here. And I want to say why I repeat them: Because they are the bottom line, the beginning of all writing, the foundation of learning to trust your own mind. Trusting your own mind is essential for writing. Words come out of the mind."

Both books come highly recommended, and I've been stealing peeks at the first one for several days, now. It looks to be another practical and useful reference book for my desk. I'm sure the second one will be just as valuable.

The sixth book on my shelf is The City of Ember, by Jeanne DuPrau. The first paragraph of chapter one says:

"In the city of Ember, the sky was always dark. The only light came from the great flood lamps mounted on the buildings and at the tops of poles in the middle of the larger squares. When the lights were on,they cast a yellowish glow over the streets; people walking by threw long shadows that shortened and then stretched out again. When the lights were off, as they were between nine at night and six in the morning, the city was so dark that people might as well have been wearing blindfolds."

The City of Ember is a young adult book that will hopefully be a great escape into fiction. I can't wait to open the cover and lose myself in the pages.

Seventh on my shelf is Water for Elephants, by Sara Gruen. The front flap of the dust jacket begins with:

"I don't talk much about those days. Never did. I don't know why---I worked on circuses for nearly seven years, and if that isn't fodder for conversation, I don't know what is. Actually, I do know why: I never trusted myself. I was afraid I'd let it slip. I knew how important it was to keep her secret, and keep it I did---for the rest of her life, and then beyond. In seventy years, I've never told a blessed soul."

Set in the Depression, this novel hints at an enchanting tale about life and love in the 1930s. This one's gonna be good!

Eighth on my shelf is The Children of Hurin, by J.R.R. Tolkien. I am a Tolkien fan---one of many. Opening the book at random, I find I am intrigued by the following paragraph on page 48.

"On the morning of T'urin's birthday, H'urin gave his son a gift, an Elf-wrought knife, and the hilt and the sheath were silver and black; and he said: 'Heir of the House of Hador, here is a gift for the day. But have a care! It is a bitter blade, and steel serves only those that can weild it. It will cut your hand as willingly as aught else." And setting T'urin on a table, he kissed his son, and said: 'You overtop me already, son of Morwen' soon you will be as high on your own feet. In that day many may fear your blade.' "

I was thrilled to find that Tolkien's son edited this one, and can't wait to visit Middle Earth, once again.

The ninth and final book on my shelf for this challenge is The Center of Everything, by Laura Moriarty. The front flap of the dust jacket reads:

"Evelyn Bucknow is living with her single mother, Tina, in a small apartment outside Kerrville, Kansas. Though Tina is warm and loving, she is still young and immature herelf, prone to making hotheaded decisions that help create a precarious financial situation for her increasingly anxious daughter. When Tina's failed romance with her married boss leaves her jobless and desperate, Evelyn turns to her grandmother in an effort to distance herself from what she perceives as her mother's irresponsibility, immorality, and plain bad luck. But even the firmest convictions can crumble over time. As Evelyn winces her way through the trials of adolescence, she comes to realize that fortune, like people, can't always be categorized as good or bad. A curious student and a careful observer of her teachers, she learns the hardest lessons when confronted by the unexpected; a birth, a death, and the sting of unrequited love help Evelyn discover that luck is a tricky business, and a humbled compassion for others may be the greatest blessing of all."

This one sounds like a real coming-of-age story. I think it will round out my fall afternoons, quite nicely.

So, if you're a book-lover, and you're looking for a great way to while away Autumn's short stay, head on over to Katrina's place, and join the Fall Into Reading Challenge 2007!

See you there!

P.S. You can read BOOK REVIEWS written by participants in this challenge!

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

My New Feathered Friends Thank You!

Ladies and Gentlemen (just in case there are gentlemen lurking out there),

I'm happy to present:

?????????? and ??????????

Well, hang on a second.

Before I tell you their names, let's talk about all the amazing ideas you folks sent me! I was blown away! I mean, I knew you were a creative bunch, but I had no idea.

We had a tough time choosing, let me tell you. Here are a few honorable mentions:

Azcason came up with Pantouffe and Rouxe, from my one of my very favorite books: Chocolat.

Castor and Pullox were a great idea, which led us to also consider Clytemnestra and Agamemnon or Illiad and Oddessy. Thanks
Kathleen for your suggestion!

Kari, we loved Merry and Pippin, and Artoo and Threepio!

Carrie, Thing 1 and Thing 2 was a hoot!

Michelle, I was particularly taken with Darcey and Bingley, while Inigo and Fezzik were a big hit, too!

With so many great ideas, we ended up discussing our choices for several days.

Until, we all came to an agreement.

The perfect names for these two parrots are:

Hook and Smee!

Congratulations, Michelle! You are the winner of this seasonal bird-cutie!

So, be sure to send me your mailing address, and I'll get her on her merry way to your house!

That was so much fun, I think I'll have to come up with another contest in a few weeks.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Oh Autumn, I'm Ready For You!

So, I spent yesterday afternoon outside. In absolutely glorious, almost-long-sleeved-shirt weather, hanging wreaths and leaf garland, and setting up an ever-so-pleasing candle arrangement on my front-porch-converted-birdbath-conversation-table.

Then, since I had the decorations out anyway, I spread orange and red and brown and gold goodness throughout the library and the den. After a trip to Dollar Tree, I went a little crazy added some finishing touches. And I'm happy to announce that I'm ready for Autumn, and all his glorious finery!

I now present---the photos:

Here's my front door. Don't look at the paint job on the glass door frame. We have issues. The door frame is embarrassed, but a new paint of coat hasn't found a place on my to-do list, yet.

To the right of my front door is a seating area with a little table and two chairs. Above that is this window. The sensor you see in the bottom of the window is for one of those atomic clocks that tells you the time and temperature and everything but what to serve for lunch. Sadly, the clock doesn't work, and the sensor spent all summer in the window, for no reason at all. I think I'll go right now, and toss the poor thing in the trash.

Here is the table I mentioned before. I covered the river stones in the birdbath with a handful of leaves, and then replaced the glass tabletop. These candles look really cool when it's dark outside. Kind of hard to photograph, though.

On the left of my front door is a huge picture window, flanked by two smaller windows. My man-child #1, woman child #2 and I had fun rigging this wreath. It's hung from fishing line in three different places across the top of the window, and then sewn to the screens on the flanking windows near the bottom. No fall storm is gonna blow this baby down, you can bet on it!

Here's a closeup of the wreath. You can see the fishing line. You can imagine how handy that will be when we add spider webs and other creepy stuff next month!

In the window at the corner of the house, Mouse the wonder cat guards against spiders! Mouse is my bug hunter, and he takes his job seriously. (He's afraid of anything bigger than a golf ball, so he would theoretically leave the mice to the other two cats.)

Now he's just posing for the camera. Attention hog!

Hanging out on the mailbox by the door is this cute little crow, all decked out in her best autmn dress. Take a good look at this little lady, she's gonna be going on a trip, soon.

I'll be awarding her to the bloggy-buddy who comes up with the best names for my new Quaker parrot babies. Isn't she the cutest thing?!

Now the front door is open, so y'all come on in to the library.

Here's the table by the door, all decked out. The diploma in the frame to the left belongs to my oldest daughter. We display it proudly, so her siblings can gaze upon it in awe and be inspired while they attend to their homeschool tasks.

I have a table in the library that serves as a desk or a place to play games. When it's not covered in books and papers. I like for it to look pretty. So, I set out this lovely iron chandelier over the top of another leaf-pile-under-glass ensemble. (I like those.) I eventually hope to hang this chandelier somewhere in my house. But I can't decide where she wants to live, yet.

Here's a closeup. You may think I wanted you to see the detail on this fine Dollar Tree ceramic pumpkin---and it is a beauty. But what I really wanted to point out is the cobweb clinging to the scroll under the chandelier candle. I've been cultivating these cobwebs all over the house in preparation for Halloween. I'm nothing if not mindful of being prepared for upcoming holiday creepiness!

Above the window in the library I added some leafy garland, and I think it looks just spiffy next to my "Believe" sign. Check out that orange wall. I'm awfully proud of that beauty! I painted it with just this season in mind. Below this area is the window where my teenagers sit at their computers. I'll save you the horror of having to see a picture of that mess. After all, it's only September.

I have fireplaces in both the library and the den. It's quite cozy in the winter! Here you see the mantle in the library, and the portrait in the center was a gift from a family friend. Funny thing is, I'm not a blonde, or a redhead (depending on how you interpret the artwork.) I'm a brunette. But we love the painting anyway. Note the elliptical trainer visible in the bottom of this picture. Chances are, if you looked closely, you'd find some cobwebs being cultivated there as well.

Here are a few close-up shots of the mantle.

This book is even better on the inside!

This clock hasn't kept time in years. But I think it's pretty.

On the bookshelves flanking the fireplace I have this squishy pumpkin,

and this ceramic pumpkin cookie-jar.

In the hallway, on the way to the kitchen, there's this cabinet. I keep my collection of skeleton keys in this area. There are more, including a skeleton key clock, but I had to crop out the thermostat and the doorbell chimes, so you'll have to visit if you wanna see more.

On your way through the kitchen, grab a handful of candy-corn.
They're my favorite this time of year.

The den is where we relax and watch television, and where we eat our meals. It's like a living/dining room combo! Here's the fireplace with a window mirror in the fireplace opening. I put it there for the summer, along with some candles. This winter, we will have a roaring fire big enough to heat most of the house. The mirror really needs to be cleaned. Look at those streaks; I'll have to dock the maid's pay!

On the top of my Mimi's hutch I have my favorite red-birds and some more garland.

Here's the centerpiece on the dining room table. These candles smell like peach pie a' la mode!

A closeup.
This one is to show the detial on the fine Dollar Tree ceramic pumpkin.
No cobwebs here. Sorry.

On the other side of the dining room table I have a beautiful antique buffet. The brown walls lend themselves nicely to the seasonal decor, don't you think?

The pitcher and basin were a Christmas gift. The teaspoon belonged to my grandmother and the bell was my Mimi's.

The teapot came with the pitcher and basin and these tongs were my grandmother's too.

The candelabra in the back was my mother's. The brass candlestick and the square bottle were flea market finds, and the cloisonne' salt-cellar and pepper shaker set were my Mimi's.

On the top of my television armiore are some lovely autumnal candles, and a few more familial treasures:

These two coffee mugs belonged to my grandpa. They actually have guards inside them to protect his moustace from the hot liquid. I love these cups so much, I'm writing a piece about them. So, look for it in the distant future!

The white votive holders you see in the foreground - all I can say is "Thank you, Dollar Tree!" And the white angel is a Christmas gift to myself. It represents my oldest daughter, Sarah, who is preparing to leave home next spring. I'll have to increase this angel collection by one this Christmas, as my son prepares to leave next fall. The days are passing quickly.

So, there you have it. The extent of my Autumn decor. I'll supplement with more cob-webs and scary stuff next month for Halloween. But this stuff will stay up until the weekend after Thanksgiving, when the Great-Christmas-Decorating-Extravaganza will begin! I can't wait.

As for Mouse the wonder cat. He's not impressed in the slightest.

Happy Fall, Y'all!

Friday, September 14, 2007

A Bird by Any Other Name

Well, since I'm taking a break from the seriousness of honing my writing craft, I decided I couldn't stay away! I need your help, my bloggy friends.


We adopted two 'special needs' baby quaker parrots from a bird-loving friend, and I'm having trouble coming up with creative names. They are brothers, hatched two days apart, and are both 'splay-legged'. Splay-leg is a common bird problem, caused by vitamin deficiency, or injury in the early days in mama's nest, among other things.

If caught early enough, splay-leg can often be corrected, but by the time it was discovered in my boys, it was too late. So, they needed a good home with lots of TLC. We consider ourselves lucky to welcome these babies into our home. They are very gentle and loving. They do very well climbing around inside their bird condo, and they love to fly around the room every afternoon.

The older brother is a sweetie, deluxe. His right leg is quite out of joint and he carries it up in the air. He's very gentle, offering kisses, and nibbling on our fingers. The lady we got these birds from took to calling him 'High-Five'. It's cute, but it's just not IT.

Plus the name 'High-Five' doesn't offer a great 'counterpart' name for his younger brother. This one's legs are more functional, but still spread too far apart. He's a bit like a bow-legged cowboy! He is the pushier of the two birds, but he's also very helpful and protective with the other bird. (See how awkward it's becoming -- this bird and that bird. We're desperate for names, people!)

We're a literary family. We love books, and movies, and even television. We're hoping for names that are reminescent of teams like Wilbur and Orville, Butch and Sundance -- while incorporating a reference to the funny foot-in-the-air-thing the oldest bird has. To help you in your deliberations, let me tell you about the names of our other pets.

Long ago we had a tortise-shell cat named Willow. when she died at 14 years old, we adopted a new tortise-shell and named her Sequoia. Later Sequoia had a kitten named Juniper -- she didn't survive more than a week. We're fond of the whole tree theme with these cats.

We have a 17 year old cat named Bagheerah. He's striped, huge, and has green eyes. He looks like he belongs in the jungle, hence the Jungle Book inspired name.

Our third cat's name is Mouse. Because when we got him, you could hold him in the palm of your hand. He's turned out to be a cat with a complex. He's afraid of strangers and very easily startled. We planned to shorten his name to Mau (Egytpian for cat) when he grew bigger, but Mouse fit his personality so well, it just stuck.

As for the dogs, they are all three Heelers. One is a red Heeler with a red and black coat. Her name is Phoenix Fire. The second is a Blue Heeler, with lots of silver in her coat. We named her Mercedes, and call her Sadie, for short. The third is a Red Merle Heeler named Ginger Cayenne.

As you can see, clever names are very important to us. So, my internet friends, please take the stopper out of your bottles of creativity oil, and let it pour! Save these sweet birds from being forever labeled "Starsky and Hutch" (my beloved hubby's idea.)

In return for the best names, I will send a special yet-to-be-determined prize!

You'll like it!

I Promise!

Thank you from the bottom of my bird-loving heart!

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