Writing About Writing

Some of you may be shocked to find out that my blog posts don’t flow from me in beautiful, flawless streams of consciousness at all times. Are you shocked? Well, you shouldn’t be. This is just how writing works. Any of you readers out there that are also writers are most likely nodding your head right now.

Writer’s block is frustrating and maddening and requires a lot of patience. It’s not an obstacle that can just be picked up and moved. It rolls in and wanders out under its own volition. It can surprise you by springing up unannounced like an annoying dinner guest. It is not something a writer can control or avoid. At best, we can only hope to minimize it and, when it does inevitably creep up, manage it as best we can.

I’m writing about writer’s block right now because, guess what, I have it RIGHT NOW. I sat down to start composing a post about something completely different and wouldn’t you know it…there’s nothing there.

This isn’t the first time it’s happened and it’s far, far, far from being the last time. I’ve thought about trying to explain what this is like before, but never got around to it. I don’t know why I didn’t give this glimpse into writer’s block more urgency. It’s a fairly important part of the whole writing process and I didn’t want anyone to think that I have some sort of superpower that makes me immune to it. Nope. Far from it. I’m just like every other writer out there. Today is just as good of a day as any to let you in on the secret I and every other writer in the world knows; sometimes we all get stuck. Big time.

So, what do we do to get unblocked? That’s a good question that doesn’t have a definitive answer. Some close the computer and walk away. Some force themselves to write anyways. Some go exercise. Some cook. It varies from writer to writer. Heck, it varies within myself depending on the day.

When I do get writer’s block one important thing I do is remind myself how crazy my life is, how often I see someone do something idiotic, how nuts my family is, how cute and crazy my animals are, and how online dating is actually a thing that exists. Or maybe, maybe I’ll just open a newspaper. Once I remember all this, I don’t panic. I have AMPLE material to draw from. There’s bound to be something totally absurd that I will be confronted with in the near future. In this day and age, with the stuff that’s on the internet, the people running our country, and residents of the town I live in, writer’s block really doesn’t stand a chance.

Close Encounters

Have you ever been out in public and you see someone acting or looking really weird, yet also notice that they have on a wedding ring? That guy who walks down the street in a kilt talking to a cockatoo perched on his shoulder? Wedding ring. Okay, that may be a bad example – a kilt AND a cockatoo?  That’s my kinda guy.

But what about the man in khaki shorts who wears black knee socks with his sandals and still rocks a phone clip on his belt? Wedding ring. Or the woman tap dancing on the street corner every morning wearing a chicken costume? Wedding ring.

The old adage holds true — there’s someone for everyone. Odd as it may seem, no matter how unhinged a person might be, there’s another person out there in the world who says, “Yes. I will sign up for that. That is my person right there. They’re perfect.”

Which is good news for the woman in Australia who claims not only to regularly visit alien friends she’s made over the years, but who also has apparently become half-alien herself. Yes, you read all that correctly.

Meet Judy Carroll. She claims to pal around with aliens known in pop culture as the “Greys”—and who happen to look exactly like the aliens depicted in Hollywood movies and TV shows for the past three decades—so often that when they abduct her for hangout sessions she now describes their visits as ‘normal.’

In fact, she likes being with them so much that she ‘upgraded’ her DNA to include some of their genetic material. Although to be fair, she made that decision before she was born, so you know. Kids these days. They’re just crazy, aren’t they?

Thankfully, I guess, her husband supports her in her claims. I’ll be honest. When the article mentioned that she’s married, that’s when my brain really went off the deep end. And my brain doesn’t take that leap easily because I take pills for that shit.

I admit that it baffled me that someone who has such a…hmm, what’s a safe word to use here…different view of reality than I do — yeah, that’s good — has a life partner adamantly standing by her side. But then again, I know nothing about this man. Perhaps he’s been a firm believer of alien visitation since he was a teenager. Who knows? There are massive alien conventions held all over the world with thousands in attendance so it’s not like Judy is the only woman in the world who thinks Greys treat our planet like a Meetup group.

I was also a little tripped up about the half-alien blood mingling thing. In the article, she states that she underwent the transfusion because she “believes she had made the choice to be half-alien before she was born.” Prometheus theories notwithstanding, how does one even go about that?

Of course, her choice doesn’t come without a cost – Mrs. Carroll stated she has suffered health issues (a tight jaw??) due to her half-alien lineage. I know, I know, I wondered too. Apparently, Greys don’t have movable jaws. There. That’s something you know now.

Regardless of all the huge holes I see in this woman’s story, I have to admit that, whether she’s crazy or not, she definitely looks happy. And why not? She’s making good money off the books she’s selling about the crazy shenanigans she and the Greys get into. She’s got a family that supports her, a husband that loves her. So, I say good for you, Judy! Way to have a positive outlook, despite what others may say (myself included). We should all be so many Judys.

Who let the dogs out?

I’m sure you all have counted yourselves quite blessed here of late that I haven’t been in so much of a rant-y mood. This lackadaisical attitude was due to a recent attempt of mine to avoid the specific issues that bother me so as not to require the overabundance of Bailey’s Irish Cream it so often takes to get over the stress brought about by these unpleasant topics.

But now I need to return to this outlet for some of my more soap-box inspired ramblings, so the rant-free streak ends today as I grace you all with the following!  Lucky you!  Plus, I like Bailey’s.

Many years ago there was a sitcom called Frasier, starring Kelsey Grammer and David Hyde Pierce. It’s still quite popular today in reruns (I watch it myself on the Hallmark Channel late at night), which is why I’m sure that many of you will have seen an episode in which Frasier is supposed to sing a difficult opera aria for a PBS telethon.

He changes his mind at the last-minute, because as he claims “it may be an unwise man who doesn’t learn from his own mistakes, but it’s an absolute idiot that doesn’t learn from other peoples’!”

With that as a preamble, let me tell this little story. (Ha! You thought I’d changed my mind, didn’t you!?)

There is a person I know (however well you can know someone you only “follow” on Facebook).  They live on a large-ish property on a main road that seems to get a lot of traffic. They have horses and to keep the horses safe, they keep them behind fences. Smart move, right? Yeah, I agree. However, the main part of the property isn’t fenced as it’s apparently inconvenient for moving the horses around and general day-to-day life.

Now, these folks keep getting dogs – both to keep and presumably foster.

In fact, not a month goes by that this person doesn’t post an announcement on Facebook about the sad fate of the dogs they keep getting.

They lost two last April.

A Corgi was run over by a semi – but, according to the post, it was the dog’s fault for chasing the truck. Semi vs Corgi…you can imagine how that ended up.

A Pomeranian mix was run over by a school bus – but that was the dog’s fault for not getting out of the way.  I guess the little bugger just couldn’t out-maneuver a bus. I mean, really…what was he thinking?

The month of May saw another victim of the road and a tragic blurb was duly posted on Facebook.

That time it was a Border-Collie mix that was run over by a car. I’m sure that was also the dog’s fault – although they didn’t post any details except to simply say that yet another one of their dogs bit the dust.

Another poor soul was lost in June. This time they didn’t even bother to mention the breed of the dog. All the post said was they thought it had been hit by a car (imagine that!) because its body had been found in a ditch on the side of the road.

The end of July saw yet another tragedy when a Cocker-mix lost a fight with a pick-up truck. I guess this family just attracts dogs that like to battle fast-moving vehicles. The Don Quixotes of the canine world I suppose.

I read with sadness that they “lost” another dog in August. It was a Pekingese. They didn’t even realize it was missing at first. When they finally noticed, they went to look for it and found it dead on the side of road, likely another victim of the ongoing traffic that flows right outside their unprotected property line.

September was blessed in that all survived or at least, there was nothing posted one way or the other. However, October saw a similar canine eulogy but details on breed and specific demise were less forthcoming.

So, they keep “losing” all these dogs. Although, it’s not really “losing” them is it? They know damn well where they’re going. It’s not like they’re “lost” in the true sense of the word.

Anyone who has ever seen The Importance of Being Earnest is familiar with Lady Bracknell’s sarcastic witticism, “To lose one parent may be regarded as a misfortune, to lose both looks like carelessness.”

I’d have to say that to lose one dog to a vehicle can be regarded as a misfortune…to lose any more than that seems to me to be more deliberately negligent than careless.

I mean, we’ve all heard the classic definition of insanity, right – to keep doing the same thing over and over again and expect a different result? I mean, what is wrong with these people?  Did they not think after the first dog that perhaps a fenced-in-area might be nice?  What about after the third or fourth?

Well, according to one of their most recent comments, they’ve “thought for a while” about an electric, underground fence but they’re expensive, and other conventional types of fencing, such as chain link, are simply too inconvenient for their lifestyle.

So now I’m wondering how many were “lost” prior to me following their Facebook page? These are just the ones that I saw described during my short duration as a “follower” (I ended the twisted voyeurism in early November…but maybe I need to check back in to catch up).  Perhaps this is an ongoing thing with no sign of stopping. Or maybe they just had a run of some seriously horrific luck. Only time will tell.

And what about the shelter people?  Or whoever it is that’s giving them these dogs. Do they not wonder what’s going on that dogs keep disappearing at such an alarming rate and more are being requested?  If you ask what happened to the previous dog (or two or three or four) and you learn that it was hit by a car or a truck or a bus, wouldn’t “you need to have a fence installed” be a no-brainer prerequisite to adopting or fostering another dog?

It’s horrible to lose a pet, it truly is, and my heart goes out to anyone who has the tragic misfortune to lose a four-legged member of their family.  But when you take in a dog or cat or any animal, you hold that life in your hands and you need to take responsibility for it. And if you know that the highway next to your house is a serious danger zone, you put up a protective barrier or take other precautions to keep your pets (or fosters) safe.  You don’t just tick off your losses on Facebook and leave it at that.

Parenting in the New Age vs My Age

Recently, I was reading a parenting article by a fellow mom.  I refer to her generation of parents as “New Age Mothers.” She’s a bit newer to the whole parenting thing than I am; she has toddlers and young children whereas mine have somehow survived and become productive members of society despite this mother’s misgivings about my parenting style.

This writer mom (who shall forever in my mind be called New Age Mom) describes what she terms “Helicopter Parenting.”  If this is a new phrase to you, I’ll paraphrase it to “Overparenting.”  In her series of articles, she makes the case for what she considers hands-off parenting in a variety of baffling ways.  In one entry, she mocks the mom who stays with her child at the playground and makes sure her spawn doesn’t plummet to her earthly demise from the top of a set of monkey bars. Or *gasp* the mother who chooses to actually play with her children while at the playground.

New Age Mom also judges the perplexed mother who is watching the Abandoned Children of the Playground nervously, trying to make sure they are all safe as they dangle from the roof of the nearby outhouse.  Her commentary on these mothers is both depressing and confusing. Why? Because this is the same New Age Mom who will claim it takes a village to raise a child, among other things…not to mention her harsh judgement against a fellow Mom for another…all while criticizing those who dare to judge her parenting technique. The irony of all this seems to be lost on her.

You see, New Age Mom doesn’t go to the park to play. She has no interest in helping her kids with the “they’re not quite ready for that” tasks or involving herself in games. New Age Mom considers this hovering and relentlessly judges those parents who choose to do it. Personally, I think she’s missing out on a prime opportunity to simply enjoy her kids…you know, those cute little creatures that only stay little for so long.

I was a mother who put the “play” in playground.  I took my kids to the park and not only encouraged them to play with other kids, but also —*big gasp*— played with them myself.  I taught them new tricks and games.  I taught them the valuable lessons learned from climbing the monkey bars that seemed too high, waiting in line for the best slide in the park, and sharing with other kids.  We got to blow off steam in a place with no hard and fast rules.  Most importantly, though, I shared quality time with them. This was a time when we could just enjoy each other, have fun with each other laughing and being crazy, and a time when I could set aside the pressures I faced through the years as both a stay at home mom and a working mom and just be a big kid myself.

It was also a learning time for me; I learned that my kids were caring and fun little people, and more importantly, that the aluminum slides get very, VERY hot in the summer.  I also learned that getting stuck halfway down the slide is embarrassing, but being a plate of scalding metal as it was, you figured out a way to get down pretty darned quick.  These moments were not a chore to me, they are treasured memories for my family. And yes, it was a learning experience for my kids too. They learned that unless we needed to call an ambulance or rush to the hospital, it was possible to shake off skinned knees or elbows and get on with the day.

New Age Mom also wrote that she dislikes Chuck E Cheese’s because she can’t just relax.  She worries that her child will run off, get into trouble, burn the place to the ground and cause World War III.  This is a confusing juxtaposition for me; didn’t she just say she appreciates moms who let their kids run free at the playground?  Chuck E Cheese’s is one of the few places where it is nearly impossible to truly lose your child.  I admire the place’s security checks and open design that allow kids to just have fun and moms to take a breather for a few short hours. It’s a place where kids can just have fun with very few, if any, “no’s.” For a parent who dislikes “hovering” so much, you’d think New Age Mom would be on board for that.

New Age Mom laments the quality of food at Chuck’s, but you know what? Sometimes you just have to eat the bad pizza to truly let your kid be a kid.  However, and I’m just guessing here, but I bet this same blogger mom probably runs to McDonald’s for a quick snack sometimes, and honestly, there is nothing wrong with that in moderation.  I’ve been known to do it *ahem* a time or two.  But if you’re going strictly by quality and taste, I’m not sure which is worse better: McDonald’s or Chuck E Cheese.

The New Age Mom is also worried that Chuck’s has germs.  Seriously.  I wonder how she copes with the copious number of germs in the doctor’s office, breeding all over those toys her kids are currently playing with?  Does she know how many times her kids share straws with sick kids at the daycare center or grab toys from other kids’ snot filled little fingers? Or even the bacteria filled dirt they’re eating at the park where they’re running free? The fact is, you can’t keep them in a bubble.  Germs exist.  It is a proven fact that the more kids are exposed to germs, the more resistance they build against them.  We were never meant to live in a sterile environment.  I’m glad, really, because what fun is bubble life, anyway?

The New Age Mother in question also dislikes taking her kids to non-parent homes for get-togethers. Yeah, I know. She has a list. Anyway, apparently, she feels that her kids would destroy the house, starve to death as picky eaters, poison the water well for the community, stain every cloth surface in reach, and execute the homeowner’s fish.  Her own home is a safe-ground because it is appropriately child proofed and suitably stained and messy, I suppose. Actually, I don’t have to suppose or guess…she went into great detail about just how stained and messy her house was because well, she has kids.  I won’t even get into that today.

I can’t imagine parents not taking their children somewhere because it is simply too much trouble to keep track of them. In fact, some parents even teach their children to behave in social situations.  Honest fact! I swear.

Back in the day, we packed appropriately for the visit, with a bag full of our kids’ favorite toys to occupy them.  We packed snacks just in case they didn’t like the food served, and encouraged them to try the food anyway.  I don’t think I’ve ever met a kid who was NOT a “picky eater.”

It’s not like our childless friends had no idea what to expect from a visit with children involved.  I mean, they knew what kids were – they’d read about them in books at least. They were well aware of how kids acted, pretty much at any rate, and wanted us to visit anyway. Friends. God love ‘em. They didn’t break out the rare 18th century bone china from a remote village in Taiwan or fill every bathtub with water and “play here” signs before we came over, but neither did they expect our kids to daintily lay their napkins across their laps and eat the offerings served up by Chef Gervais, who was standing in the kitchen nervously awaiting my toddler’s approval.

I considered every social event a learning experience.  If we were at a restaurant, grocery store or friend’s house, my kids learned how to act.  We taught our kids from an early age that you behave a certain way in certain places and they “got it.” I’m not sure where we lost that. I took my kids to childless friends’ houses, to nice restaurants, and anywhere else and they behaved. They were taught that, they didn’t learn it by osmosis. They weren’t screaming, running around breaking things, and being soulless demons (at least not outwardly soulless demons). They knew better and they behaved. Even as toddlers.  If there was the start of a tantrum, I cut it off early and walked out from wherever I was to take care of it and then returned — if it couldn’t be calmed down, then we left and bedtime likely came early that evening in retaliation.

Kids are not stupid. They learn quickly. As parents, it’s our job to teach them. Keeping them from social situations or out of other people’s houses because we’re too lazy to teach them to behave better? To the New Age Mom, I have one question. When did we stop being parents? When did parenting become a hands-off occupation (and no, I don’t mean spare the rod and spoil the child – I mean simply, doing our job)?

Parenting is not easy. It’s not always fun. It’s a tough thing to do, probably the toughest thing you will ever do – IF you’re doing it right. Could it be that some of the New Age Mothering techniques are less of a style and more convenience factors?

I’ve raised two kids. Not as many as some and perhaps one more than others. But suffice it to say, I’m not a newbie and I’ve been through it all…with my sanity mostly intact, I’m glad to say. Parenting is one of the most rewarding things anyone can do, but it’s not supposed to be easy. If it is, you’re doing it wrong.

Happy Anniversary to Me!

So it’s my one year anniversary writing this blog.

To my vast, loyal minions fans, readers I say thank you so much for taking the time to read my work, I hope you’ve enjoyed the meandering adventure so far and will stick around for more of my short attention span theater.

To the newcomers and visitors: straight-jackets are on the left, meds are to the right, and keep your hands off my crayons.