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Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Something I Learned Along the Way

"I can do anything/ I am strong/ I am invincible/ I am woman." - "I Am Woman" by Helen Reddy

First off, I really hate that song. It's so annoying, but it fits this post so I'm going with it. I was thinking the other day about how much I have changed since I was a teenager, and one thing that stood out to me the most was how I react in certain situations.

I have always considered myself to be a feminist. I think that women can do anything men can do, I believe in equal rights and equal pay (it makes me furious that women in America still only make $0.77 on the dollar compared to men), and most certainly do not feel like I belong to the "weaker sex". And I will proudly and loudly voice my opinions whenever I feel it's necessary. That will never change. But when I was a little bit younger, I would actually get a little angry, offended even, if a guy tried to open a door for me, offered to carry my things, or do something for me that I was perfectly capable of doing myself. I think I knew that they were just trying to be polite or helpful, but I took it to mean that they thought I couldn't get the job done on my own. I was a little too proud and stubborn for my own good.

That changed a few years ago when I started going places with the kids on a regular basis. When I had two toddlers in tow, plus a diaper bag and enough other junk to last us a week on a desert island, I found myself smiling and offering my heartfelt thanks if someone opened the door for me, picked up something I had dropped, or offered to help me out to the car with my purchases. It took me being in a more vulnerable state to learn that it's okay to accept help when someone offers it. It doesn't mean I am any less strong of a woman, of a person, or that I am dependent on others to get through my day. It just means that maybe sometimes it's okay to not be the one who has to do it all. Even for little things like I have mentioned here. Sometimes it's better to accept someone's act of good will and then pay it forward. That's what I try to do now, to graciously accept and give back, and I think it's a good example for the kids to see as well. And whenever I see one of them thank someone for helping them, no matter how minor the help was, and then turn around and hold a door open for someone else, help their friends carry their things to the car at school, or offer to help their teachers clean up just because they know it's the nice thing to do, I feel a sense of pride build up inside of me. It looks like they are learning this lesson much faster than I did.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

I Can't Move On and I Can't Stay the Same

"But that ain't the way.../I can't move on and I can't stay the same/ And all my friends say.../ Hey, turn the record over/ Hey, I'll see you on the flip side/ There you go, turn the key and engine over." - "45" by The Gaslight Anthem

These lyrics are part of The Gaslight Anthem's new single "45", off of their album "Handwritten", which will be released on July 24. As soon as I heard this song, the words spoke to me, just like every song in Brian Fallon's catalogue does in one way or another. I'm telling you, this guy is a poetic rock and roll genius. So, what exactly hit me with this song? It was the phrase "I can't move and I can't stay the same". Allow me to explain.

I have been trying to get a literary agent off and on for a long time now. "Off and on" being the key words there. I can't be lazy about this anymore. I can't continue doing the same thing, where I query a couple of agents, get depressed if the news isn't good, and then not query anyone else for months and months. I will never get anywhere with that approach. But I can't move on either. I know a lot of people would give up after not getting a bite the first couple (dozen) times they throw out the line, but I believe in my "Willow Ryan" series and in my abilities as a writer too much to stop without achieving success. I am supposed to be doing this. Writing is a gift that God gave me, and I am determined not to waste it. So now that "I can't move on and I can't stay the same", what will I do?

I have revised and streamlined by query, and am compiling my next list of agents to contact. I will send out emails and snail mail queries, and I will wait. While I'm anxiously waiting for a positive reply (I had to consciously try not to roll my eyes as I typed that), I will do what a writer is supposed to do - I will write. Who We Thought We Were is going nowhere fast and I have to get back into the swing of things with that novel. I will also work on some articles I have rough drafts of and some poems I have been working on, so I will have plenty of productive projects to keep me busy and focused. And if I don't get anywhere with these next queries, I will turn right around and send out letters to the next several agents on my list. I am going to make this happen.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Tuesday's Top Ten - Things I'm Looking Forward To This Summer

"In the summertime when the weather is high/ You can stretch right up and touch the sky." - "In the Summertime" by Mungo Jerry

Summer is my least favorite season. In fact, I dread it because of the horribly oppressive heat and humidity that plagues the South, not to mention the gigantic, steroid infused, Incredible Hulk sized insects that invade this part of the country for about six months out of the year. But in an effort to use positive thinking, here are the ten things I am most looking forward to this summer.

1. The Gaslight Anthem's new album "Handwritten".It will be released on July 24, and that can't come soon enough for me! It is definitely what I am most looking forward to this summer. It's going to be phenomenal! The new single, "45" is available on iTunes today, and I will be talking more about that in tomorrow's post.

2. Spending quality time with the girls I nanny for. All school year long we run and run and run, so it will be really nice to be able to hang out at the house, do some fun homeschool work, play, and relax. I am bound and determined to let them act like kids this summer and not have to worry about staying on a strict schedule and dashing from place to place all the time.

3. Four weeks off of work! They will not be all at the same time, but it looks like I will have a week off in June, two in July, and one in August while the family I work for goes on vacation. That will really help break up the 50+ hour work weeks this summer.

4. Christmas in July! If you have read my profile (or any posts from December), you know that I am obsessed with Christmas. It's my favorite holiday, so why celebrate it only once a year? My family has been having a Christmas in July celebration every July for about eight years now, and it's something I really look forward to.

5. Writing! With my various weeks off this summer, I am planning on working on Who We Thought We Were, as well as some poetry and articles on child development. I need to be much more proactive about my dreams of a writing career, and this summer will be the perfect time to get down to business.

6. The 2012 Summer Olympics. I always get excited when the Olympics start. I first got into watching the Olympics in '96 with the "Magnificent Seven" women's gymnastics team. I don't know if anything will ever beat Kerry Strug's vault that she did on an injured leg, but you never know. The events I will definitely watch are gymnastics, swimming, and diving, and probably some track and field as well.

7. Listening to summer music. I have about 50 songs in a summer playlist on iTunes, and I don't listen to a lot of those songs any other time of the year. The Beach Boys and Jimmy Buffett get played a lot. When it's 100 degrees outside, nothing sounds better than songs about hanging out at the beach or getting wasted away again in Margaritaville.

8. The Beach Boys' new album "That's Why God Made the Radio". Due to be out on June 5, this will be the perfect start to the summer season. From all of the reviews I have read, this album is supposed to be like a throwback to the classic Beach Boys music of the 60s. That sounds great to me!

9. Summer reality TV series. Being the TV junkie that I am, I'm really looking forward to So You Think You Can Dance, Big Brother, and Hell's Kitchen. I am a sucker for these reality TV shows/competitions, and they are on almost every night of the week all summer long.

10. Thunderstorms. I love thunderstorms, just as long as they are not in the middle of the night while my dog keeps me awake as he shakes uncontrollably from his irrational fear of lightning and thunder. I think storm clouds are beautiful, I love the sound of rain and thunder, and best of all, they can cool the air down by 20 degrees sometimes, and that is always welcomed during the long, hot days of summer in Virginia.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Tuesday's Top Ten - Favorite Television Characters

"There was someone on a platform talking to the folks/ About the T.V. ..." - "T.V. Talkin' Song" by Bob Dylan

I have done a couple of television-related lists in the past and they seem to be pretty popular based on page views, so I thought today I would focus my efforts on naming my all-time favorite T.V. characters. It was hard to narrow these down because I am such a T.V. junkie, but I think my top ten goes a little something like this:

1. Lorelai Gilmore (played by Lauren Graham) - This one was a no-brainer. "Gilmore Girls" is my favorite show and there has never been a character as fantastic as Lorelai. She's quick-witted, a pop culture whiz, quirky, snarcastic (snarky + sarcastic), and a great mom. I love how she's such a fast talker and is so goofy, but she is also a successful businesswoman and managed to raise her daughter entirely on her own, even after giving birth to her at only 16. I wish more people were like Lorelai in real life. And coincidentally, Lauren Graham also plays another great character in one of my current favorite shows, "Parenthood".

2. David Addison (played by Bruce Willis) - Before becoming an A-list movie star, Bruce Willis played David Addison in the 80s series "Moonlighting". In the third episode of the first season, David, in his smooth-talking, charming way, sings "Doo Wah Diddy Diddy" and I loved him from that moment on. He's the type of character that gets into trouble but can always talk his way out of it, will punch a guy in the face to defend someone important to him, and can win anyone over with a smile. Who wouldn't love David Addison?

3. Mike Seaver (played by Kirk Cameron) - "Growing Pains" has been one of my favorite sitcoms since I was in preschool, so it's no wonder it has had such a lasting impact on me. In fact, I think Michael Aaron Seaver was the first TV character I ever loved. He's kind of like the younger version of David Addison - the charming, mischievous guy who gets into trouble but never really means to, but no one cares because you can't help but like him. I think it's the smile.

4. Lucy Ricardo (played by Lucille Ball) - There will never be another Lucy. Her trademark slapstick humor and vibrant personality is the reason everyone loves Lucy. I loved how she always wanted Ricky to put her in his nightclub act and sometimes went to extreme lengths to make her dream a reality. She and Ethel had the best friendship, and no one could pull off a joke or a prank like Lucy. She was one of a kind.

5. Jim Halpert (played by John Krasinski) - The way Jim handles his rivalry with Dwight on "The Office" has landed him on my list. Jim is one of the funniest characters on TV at the moment, and has pulled some of the best pranks of all time. (Does anyone see a pattern here with some of these characters? Hmm...) I don't think I have ever laughed harder at a TV show than when Jim impersonated Dwight or when he created a "security threat" work ID badge for Dwight "Fart" Schrute. And his storyline with Pam was so sweet and innocent, that I can't help but love him.

6. Sheldon Cooper (played by Jim Parsons) - Okay, I am now deviating from my typical favorite character completely and picking the biggest of all uber-geeks from "The Big Bang Theory". Sheldon is hilarious! His character has no sense of humor, aside from his "classic practical jokes" with a bazinga zinger at the end, seems to be incapable of most human emotions, and is consumed with science, video games, comic books, and trains, but I still love him! He could be the poster child for the phrase "there's a fine line between genius and insanity", but there is something about him that is quite endearing. I think part of the appeal of the show and Sheldon's character, for me anyway, is that they are completely different from anything else out there on TV. No one is quite as weird as Sheldon, quite as oblivious, or quite as brilliant, and that makes him very fun to watch.

7. Lindsay Weir (played by Linda Cardellini) - There has never been another character on TV that I relate to as much as Lindsay from "Freaks and Geeks". This show was on when I was a senior in high school, and in so many ways, I was Lindsay. I was the good girl that hung out with the "bad kids", I always got good grades (although I was never a Mathlete!), and we liked the same music. Plus she was quick-witted and quick to speak her mind, both qualities I have always been proud to possess myself. I think it's kind of unusual for a girl like Lindsay who is thought of as wholesome and intelligent and has never been in trouble a day in her life to be accepted by a totally different crowd, "the freaks" in this case, but I experienced a similar connection and acceptance, so I immediately identified with her. It's a shame the show wasn't on longer. I would have loved to have seen how her journey following The Grateful Dead around for the summer went.

8. John Boy Walton (played by Richard Thomas) - I love "The Waltons" and John Boy was my favorite character right from the start. I can relate to his dream of becoming a writer and each time he sent off a submission or got a rejection letter, I was like, "Yep, I know just how you feel!" And when it shows him sitting down to write at night, trying to escape all of the craziness that goes on in the rest of his life and find a moment of peace, I like to think that I know a little bit how Earl Hamner, Jr. (the real life John Boy that wrote the book which inspired the show) felt as his pen sailed across the paper, telling stories that maybe, just maybe, would mean something to someone someday.

9. Cameron Tucker (played by Eric Stonestreet) - Easily one of the funniest characters to ever appear on television, and my favorite character on "Modern Family". Cam is so over the top and flamboyant, and the faces he makes are beyond hilarious. Even his mannerisms are laugh out loud funny! He has said in interviews that he modeled his character after his mother, so I'm just assuming that she's one of the funniest, goofiest, nicest, and most likable people on the planet. And I love seeing Cam interact with Lily, his TV daughter. He's like a big papa bear who plays dress up and probably throws a killer tea party.

10. Mr. Lynn Belvedere (played by Christopher Hewett) - I have mentioned before how I think of Mr. Belvedere as my TV kindered spirit, so it's just right that he rounds out my top ten. Lindsay from "Freaks and Geeks" may be the most like me as a teenager, but somehow, I relate to Mr. Belvedere as an adult! Not the British middle-aged curmudgeon of a man (insert eye roll here), but the house manager/nanny who keeps everything under control and everyone in line, even that lovable little trouble-maker Wesley. And Mr. Belvedere writes every night as well! I think if Mr. Belvedere and I sat down for tea (yes, I know he's fictional; I haven't completely lost it yet!), we would have a lot to talk about.