Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Flag Flying




Three examples pictured: Good old stars and stripes, Soviet flag, and (comes in many guises), the ever-popular FREAK FLAG.

I just finished reading a long novel. I’m not going to mention the author, or the name the book, because I don’t want to get involved in critiquing.

Here’s the thing; the writing was so good,
really good. But, and this is a big but, the author saw fit to politicize and lecture, as the book progressed the politicizing intensified to such a degree I found myself growing weary, very weary. I longed to connect to the protagonist emotionally, but never did. In fact, I’ll go so far as to say the communist party was the main character.

Injecting political affairs into a work of fiction is a tricky business. I was taught never to openly lecture the reader. If an author ventures into this territory, they ought to tread lightly. Most of us don’t choose fiction to be harangued into holding a particular opinion or view. If we’re looking for information and opinion we buy nonfiction.

There exist oodles of great novels involving heavy subject matter, to be sure. Charles Dickens had a way of showcasing the inequities between the classes in not-so-Merry-old-England. Ernest Hemingway wrote about the brutality of war in For Whom the Bell Tolls. James Jones set us in Pearl Harbor during WWII in From Here to Eternity. Margaret Mitchell tackled the Civil War with her epic Gone With the Wind. What each of these authors managed to do with great skill was to pen interesting stories with full-blown characters, constructing authentic characters, believable narrative, and a lively plot to keep readers engaged.

Too much lecturing bogs the reader down. The heavy-handed author’s agenda, (especially if the reader does not share their particular world view), may alienate, as opposed to absorb. I don’t know about you, but I am not interested in having my novel tossed aside because I stepped on the reader’s head too hard.

Currently I am grappling with these issues as I work on my own historical piece. No easy feat, this delicate balancing act! I’m pleased that I chose to read the above-mentioned novel. The author did so much right, but in the end, I put the book down feeling cheated. And I am extremely motivated, not to go down that same road. Oh sure, there are many positive reviews of her book posted on Amazon. Some people love being lectured to, especially if they agree with the subject matter. I for one, do not. So I do what most authors do, I write what I enjoy reading.

Do you grapple with these issues? Do you think I’m making too big a deal about this subject? Can you name a novel that put you off in such a manner? Or, better yet, can you name a novel that waved a particular flag in such a manner as to inspire and influence you in a meaningful way?

I will choose the runaway bestseller, The Help, to illustrate my point. Kathryn Stockett writes about race relations during the civil rights era, but I never once felt as if I were being preached at. The Help is one of the best books I’ve ever read. If you haven’t read it, please do. You won’t be sorry.




All Rights Reserved. © 2009 by Elizabeth Bradley.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Trees and Tulips and Vines and Noodles






Pictured above: The Haunted Christmas Tree, The Vines, Tulips My Brother Bought Me, Christmas Dinner, Singapore Street Noodles.

Hey, guess what? I missed you guys terribly!

We had a great Christmas. We all made a deal to only buy the kiddies presents. So, the holiday was about what it’s supposed to be about. Perfect.

In answer to several inquiries, yes, the picture above is of the little tree I decorated this year. Usually I decorate a GIANT white one. I prefer white trees because I pile on so many ornaments, and they tend to stand out so much better against the white. It takes days and days for me to decorate the big tree, so I decided not to go there this year.

But, turned out this little green tree was haunted, (okay, some might prefer the word defective.) The lights kept acting up, turning on, turning off. At one point, (I think it was the day after Christmas), my daughter cried, “Look, the green lights on the tree are turning bright white!” Heads turned, and we all witnessed the intensity of the lights increase to such a degree I encouraged my son to unplug the thing before it broke out in flames, (I suppose a fake tree could catch fire if it got hot enough???) And so, it remains unplugged.

I made the easiest Christmas dinner ever. I slow-cooked a roast beef, added roasted garlic mashed potatoes with a Stilton-laced gravy, and green beans almandine, plus a salad. Talk about delicious. We had a lovely meal.

I enjoy the time between Christmas and New Year. The pressure is off, a person is able to kick back and savor the remainder of the holiday. The best part, we still have leftover Chocolate Torte and homemade New York Cheesecake. I baked up a gluten-free cheesecake with a hazelnut crust, and nobody but nobody had any idea it was gluten-free, it was that good, if I do say so myself. I have eaten two pieces.

The kids have been to the mall and to Target. Not this old girl. I won’t go near a store post-holiday. While they were out shopping yesterday The Husband took me on a Sunday drive through Temecula’s vineyards, (not twenty minutes from our house). We stopped at a lovely winery for a late lunch and got the bad news that they’d closed their restaurant down. Bummer, I guess they take in more money with the wine tasting. I snapped a picture of the withering vines and we hopped in the car and left. We were hungry, damn it, and in search of food. The sun goes down so early this time of year, the sky began to turn pinkish as we followed the roads that snake through wine country. The views of the hills covered in rows of multi-colored vines, (some still heavy with withering deep-purple grapes), were positively breathtaking.

We ended up eating in town, at PF Chang’s again, (I swear I’m not on their payroll), and The Husband decided on a Bloody Maria and I ordered my first Pear Ginger Mojito. We ate Singapore Street Noodles and Lemon Chicken. The two of us were so content by the end of the meal we could have sat there nursing our drinks for quite a while, but felt guilty because so many were gathered and waiting for tables.

I find this remainder of the holiday lends itself to introspection, looking back and looking forward. Can you believe we have almost reached 2010? I have great hopes for the upcoming year. What about you?




All Rights Reserved. © 2009 by Elizabeth Bradley.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

It's a Bling Bling Christmas






Pictured above: Our holiday mantle featuring freakishly thin snow people (the boy snow person is a bit metrosexual) ~ a cairn terrier (Toto dog) ~ornaments on one of our trees (yay) ~ the mighty Skeena (I lived near this river long ago) ~ and last, but cerainly not least, chocolate, it is Christmas after all.
One of these days I'll figure out how to add pics into the body of the post, until then bear with me, please.


Think Julie Andrews. Listed are a few of my favorite things, in no particular order:

~Shiny Christmas tree ornaments, (love, love, love em, I swear I must be part raccoon)
~Susan Boyle's rendition of Wild Horses
~Unusual throw pillows
~Bryce Canyon at sunset (well, anytime of day, but sunset's truly magical)
~The movie Babe, Pig in the City
~Children's belly laughs
~PF Chang's gluten-free lemon chicken
~Paris, France
~Camping
~My Mac (faithful accomplice)
~Cairn terriers
~Deja-vu
~Champagne
~Mountain lakes surrounded by evergreens
~Elegant hotel rooms
~California wild poppies
~The Skeena River in British Columbia, Canada
~Chocolate (you suspected as much, didn't you?)

I'm taking a brief hiatus for the holidays. Look for me around the 27th, give or take, depending on how things go. I want to wish every single one of you a Very Merry Christmas, and if Christmas isn't your holiday, then Happy Holidays! I will miss you all, Bloggy Buddies!

All Rights Reserved. © 2009 by Elizabeth Bradley.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Giveaway!!!


Cool Giveaway if you have a girl in your life/and who the heck doesn't? Click and find out the fun details.

PLEASE NOTE: For all of you that asked who on earth is that in the picture, it's Judy Champagne, doing Judy Garland. Click here to visit her site.

All Rights Reserved. © 2009 by Elizabeth Bradley.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Human Emotion


My daughter and I were having an argument last evening, (no screaming and yelling, mind you), but we raised our voices at each other while she was holding her baby. At seven and a half months my granddaughter’s expanding her horizons daily. Upon witnessing our disagreement she broke out in tears. Inconsolable tears! Sobs!

We calmed the baby down and had her back to her smiley-self in no time. I can’t remember what the spat started over, and either can my daughter, some inconsequential thing. We felt like a pair of heels, making our precious sweetie cry, I can tell you that.

I was trying to fall asleep last night and began to consider human emotion, specifically the more extreme versions, and how anger can turn into rage, melancholy into out and out depression, and mere infatuation into full-blown obsession.

As a writer, I concern myself with writing true emotion, without resorting to melodrama. We are constantly instructed to show, not tell. It’s preferable to depict the character’s mindset rather than lamely describe their feelings.

For example, one should never write:
Jane was angry with her boss for scolding her in front of a client.

A preferable way to show how Jane was feeling would be:
After her stern boss scolded Jane in front of a client, she punished him by adding sugar to his coffee with cream, although he had demanded Splenda.

While we are absorbed in our fits of emotion we don’t stop to analyze how we are feeling right there and then. In fact, most of us digest our tragedies in bits and bites. It will take months, even years to process what happened to us, to grapple with the effects. The same goes for three-dimensional characters. They grapple. Some act out in destructive manners. Some may suffer, but endure by coming to terms with their pain. Addicts are people with overwhelming, unresolved grief. In an effort not to feel that unresolved grief they drink to excess, or take drugs, doing their best to stuff the feelings back down inside. In an attempt to end suffering, they add even more heartache into the mix.

Extreme emotions don’t always manifest in obvious action. It’s tempting to write:
Jane fell down on her hands and knees after the doctor delivered the news that her baby died on the operating table.

Chances are; a woman having just heard such horrifying news might react with disbelief as opposed to sorrow; a self-protection of sorts kicks in. I have witnessed such behavior first hand. A better version might be:
The doctor took Jane’s hand in his, and said softly, “I’m so sorry, Curtis didn’t make it. His heart gave out.” Jane shook her head, pulled the doctor’s hand close to her chest and squeezed tight. “No,” she said. “That’s not true. It can’t be!”

The truth of the matter is, there’s no right or wrong way for anyone to act or react at any given time. We are all individuals and differing emotions bring out differing reactions. The trick is to illustrate the depth of our characters in such a manner as to keep the reader convinced. That’s our job. Not an easy one by any means. I write and then I re-write, bearing all this in mind. Did I do the best job conveying how the character felt? I constantly ask myself this question.

Nothing irritates me more than when I’m reading along and feel as if I’ve read those same words a thousand times before. Predictable is not good. Memorable characters do memorable things.

What is the most extreme emotion you’ve ever felt personally?
What is the most extreme emotion you’ve ever attempted to write about?




All Rights Reserved. © 2009 by Elizabeth Bradley.

Monday, December 14, 2009

The Set Up


I do my best to give gifts that I hope will make a lasting impression. Looking back on my childhood, I remember the Christmas gift I just-had-to-have-or-I-would-surely-burst. Much like the kid in the movie A Christmas Story felt about that coveted Red Ryder gun, I hungered with a fiery passion to own a certain toy. I cannot recall ever wanting anything so badly before. I had been to the matinee to see the movie Mary Poppins. And the much-in-demand present for girls that year was a mini plastic version of Julie Andrews with a fetching brunette up-do, holding an umbrella. Here’s the peculiar aspect of the story—I didn’t even like dolls—dolls were my little sister’s obsession.

Eavesdropping, I overheard my dad tell my mom that he had driven all over town, he had visited several stores and they were fresh out of Mary Poppins dolls. He suggested they buy me a new winter coat instead. A new coat? A lousy coat! I skulked to my room where I let out a frustrated cry.

On Christmas morning Dad instructed my big brother to hand me a big soft box. Just the kind of box an unexciting winter coat would be wrapped in. I tried my best to muster up a little enthusiasm as I tore off the wrapping paper but it wasn’t easy, I didn’t give a hoot if the sleeves on my ratty coat were too short, if it was missing a button or two. I was surprised to find that the box didn’t contain a coat after all. I was staring down at a fluffy white robe sporting a chiffon sash. It was a pretty. I had to admit that much.

“Well,” Mom said, “try it on.” I pulled it out of the box, as I slipped it on over my pajamas, my brother handed my sister a similar box. With lightening speed, she tore open her present, and wouldn’t you know it? Although we were two years apart, my parents insisted on dressing us alike. I hated wearing the same exact clothing as my little sister. When would they get it through their thick skulls? We were not the stinking Bobbsey Twins!

My tiny little sister was positively thrilled. As she twirled around the living room on her tippy-toes, modeling her new robe, I sat back and pouted.

“What’s wrong,” Dad asked.

“Nothing,” I sank further into the cushions of the couch.

He handed me another present. It was heavy. “This might put a smile on your sourpuss.”

It was a board game, based on the presidents of our country. I feigned interest. Dad explained that he had picked it out himself. He would help set up the game and teach me how to play, thus imparting his delight with all things presidential to his progeny.

My brother shook his head and said, “Count me out. I’m not playing. Sounds boring.”

Dad gifted Mom an iron, a stand-up mixer, and a set of pots and pans. I attributed his choices to their ensuing break-up and separation. My mother was no happier with her presents than I was, I could tell. She rustled up a couple of oohs and awes, but how on Earth could she be blown away by household appliances? I knew I wouldn't be thrilled, if my future husband gave me stuff to facilitate doing
chores. Yuk.

Dad suddenly stood up, walked across the room, and reached behind the record cabinet to pull out one last present. He handed that last present to me, and behold, the box was just the right size and shape. I shook it for good measure. I felt certain I was holding my very own Mary Poppins doll!

They had set me up. My parents had fabricated a story, knowing full well I was lurking about that day. They staged the phony conversation about the shortage of Mary Poppins dolls, adding the finishing touch, planting the seed that I was going to get a winter coat instead. How clever. How deliciously diabolical. I was pleasantly surprised to discover that they were capable of being so shrewd.

I lugged around my gift for a couple of days, discovered it was just another dumb doll, and eventually abandoned the previously coveted Mary Poppins to my sister’s collection of Barbie’s and diapered babies.

However, the game about the presidents, I adored. I urged everyone to play, every chance I got. The Nelson triplets from down the street, my unenthusiastic big brother, even my fidgety little sister got roped into sitting with me while I displayed my knowledge about Abraham Lincoln, George Washington, and Thomas Jefferson. But, even more impressive was my ability to remember what had excited Dad, much more obscure facts and aspects about lesser-known presidents, and their foibles, deeds, and accomplishments while serving in office.

And, that robe, oh how I loved that fluffy white robe with the luxurious chiffon sash. They were the most glamorous garments my sister and I had ever owned to date. We would bring out mom’s crystal for months to come, pretending to drink champagne instead of pink lemonade, donned in our finery, doing our best Audrey Hepburn.
Dahling!

Feel free to share your memories of Christmas gifts, (given or received), from the past, won’t you?


All Rights Reserved. © 2009 by Elizabeth Bradley.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Holly, Jolly, By Golly





Last post I included a picture to show how terrific I looked while decorating my tree. Here's another, showing how terrific I look when I bake and decorate oodles of cookies for the kiddies, and multi-tasker extraordinaire that I am, while ordering my organic free-range Christmas turkey. It must be THAT time of year. I'm buried, MIA right now, busy with visitors and Christmas this and that. I'll try to pop on over and visit you guys as soon as I can get a little one on one computer time. Love and miss y'all!

All Rights Reserved. © 2009 by Elizabeth Bradley.

Friday, December 11, 2009

NO MO EGGNOG!




Well, finally started decorating, didn't get all that much done, but I am getting somewhere. We played Christmas music and that goes a long way in setting the mood. I drank a couple of eggnogs, (how many calories are in those things? I don't even want to know.) I wouldn't normally drink anything vaguely resembling eggnog any other time of the year, but I downed two, and now I have a nagging headache and my belly hurts. Too rich. That's the end of the eggnog for me.

I need to make time to watch Elf, and Love Actually, and The Family Stone, and It's a Wonderful Life, and Christmas Story.

I need to mail my Christmas cards tomorrow, finish up with this decorating business, and buy some more presents. I need to be grateful that I am able to do all of the above.

(Please note: Second photo from the top, that's exactly what I look like while decorating my tree--doesn't everybody?)

All Rights Reserved. © 2009 by Elizabeth Bradley.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Santa, Baby





So, today, The Two Darling (sometimes) Daughters, The Oldest Darling Daughter's Always Fabulous Hubby, and The Incredibly Cute Granddaughter demanded I join them on an outing to The Mall. I'm not fussy about malls, but The Incredibly Cute Granddaughter was going to get her picture taken on Santa's lap. Couldn't miss that! The shot above is a little blurry, but the one we paid for is perfect, but not digital so I couldn't post it here. I'm happy to report, Santa sported a real beard, and The Incredibly Cute Granddaughter didn't break into tears when her daddy set her on the fat guy's lap. In fact, that baby was beaming, very impressive. I had fun watching the various children react to Santa. One little boy, (dressed in a nifty sweater vest), really launched into a description of what he wanted, and did not want to stop instructing Santa on the nuances and importance of each gift requested. I'd say the little guy was around four, and nobody in line minded. It was sweet, how important the moment was to him.

The Oldest Darling Daughter snapped a photo of The Youngest Darling Daughter making a silly fish-face from the back of the car. I like the way her eyes are framed in the rearview mirror, very Hitchcockesque.

We went to the YardHouse for lunch and none of us ordered a beer or martini or any alcohol of any kind, (too early in the day). The Youngest Darling Daughter carried her Starbuck's latte inside and the staff didn't seem to mind.

Then we drove over to Super Target, where I finally broke down and purchased some Christmas presents. Yay! I hope I'm on a roll now. I found my address book so I can start sending out cards, and I may as well send Santa Baby a letter while I'm at it, let him know that I'm still waiting for that duplex, and those checks. Ho, ho, ho!

Side note: It's too bad you can't see but the baby's shoes were silver and sparkly, just like her hair band. So darned Cute!

All Rights Reserved. © 2009 by Elizabeth Bradley.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Micro Fiction


I'm reposting micro fiction (just a slice of life piece) from way back when hardly anybody read my blog, because it will give you all something to read while I am busy banging away on my current project. I'm going strong, getting absolutely no sleep, but moving right along.


Day to Day

Dorothy sat by the window smoking and listening to the faucet drip, drip, drip, into the smelly sink. She didn’t fiddle with the handle to bring the dripping to an end because she was too busy exploring her newfound freedom, the freedom to ignore such things, the freedom to be lazy. Her over-achieving-anal-retentive husband Conner had unexpectedly keeled over and died a few months earlier, leaving her to her own devices. Leaving her free to toss dirty clothes on the floor of the bedroom, leaving her free to scarf greasy takeout straight out of Styrofoam containers. Leaving her alone. What Dorothy couldn’t get used to, what she hated most about widowhood, besides the obvious heartache of losing her other half, was being the one that had to make all the day-to-day decisions. Their son Peter handled the funeral arrangements, he had his father's knack for such tasks. Immediately after hosting a catered affair for friends and neighbors at his childhood home, he’d flown back to Baltimore, to his waiting family.

Dorothy had never paid the bills or balanced the checkbook, nor had she filed insurance papers or tax records. These tasks had never been her problem. Now they were.

It occurred to her, she wouldn’t be so idle, so lost, had she seen fit to form friendships with other women over the years, had she taken classes of some sort, had she taken up a fulfilling hobby. But she had done none of those things. Keeping house, raising their son, seeing to her husband’s needs, hiding out back in the tool shed to smoke, those were the activities that constituted the sum total of her life. Conner abhorred cigarettes, and filthy slovenly habits in general. It was inevitable that she go straight down the backward road to ruination without her good husband around to keep her on a straight and narrow.

Really, she needed to find something, anything. Someone to help her hold it together. How long could she stew in her juices? Fifty some years roll by, and there you are, alone, old, and at a loss about how to proceed. Taking a shower would be a good start, changing out of sweats and into something clean would make her feel better.

Showered and dressed, Dorothy reached for the phone book, looked up a maid agency, boldly punched in the number, and spoke with a pleasant woman about sending someone out to whip the house into shape. Then she hopped in the Jeep and drove over to Starbuck’s. Caffeine would help bring things into focus, jolt her into action. Dorothy sat in the back by the cream station, in a stained velveteen armchair, going over her options. She could: learn how to knit, write bad poetry, go back to school and finally get a degree in art history, study the Kabala, volunteer to read to elderly at the local nursing home, join some kind of women’s club. Or maybe she would try one of those dating services and find a man to replace the one she lost. What she needed was a computer. Conner claimed he didn’t have any desire to stare at a PC screen at home as well as work, so they had never owned one.

Dorothy purchased a laptop that very afternoon—an Apple McIntosh. Jeff, the affable young salesman, said the Mac had the easiest operating system. A new operating system was just what the doctor ordered. She’d be able to pay her bills online, the software would balance the books; the computer would make everything so much easier. Or so Jeff claimed it would. By the end of the week she had set up her own Facebook page, and had signed up for a dating service that promised to provide her with quality prospects.

Her first date was with an older man named Blake Simmons. They met at The Macaroni Grill, and he insisted that she order something called a Bellini, even though she would have preferred a glass of white wine. When she ordered fettuccini he insisted that the chicken scaloppini was better, but Dorothy did not change her mind. When the waitress returned Dorothy politely handed over the Bellini and said she’d prefer a glass of wine. Fancy drinks had never appealed to her. It turned out, Blake Simmons didn’t appeal to her either. Thank God she had driven her own car and was able to ditch him.

Dating became a vocation for several busy months. She lost a few pounds, bought new stylish clothes, and changed her hairstyle for the first time in years. Prospects shuffled through her life in a constant parade. LA was full of men looking for love: dentists, pool contractors, florists, musicians, actors, teachers, and one unemployed ex-contractor that had taken to bartending, a rumpled fella named Floyd. Dorothy took an immediate shining to him.

No matter, Floyd did not own a home of his own, and he lived with his ailing mother so he could care for her. No matter, he didn’t have much money, (due to bad business deals and a nasty drawn-out divorce.) No matter, he smoked like a chimney and turned out to be a the sort of slob that would kick off his shoes off and leave them under the kitchen table, the type of guy that drank milk right out of the jug and squeezed the toothpaste tube from the middle, a person that saw no reason not to leave the toilet seat up or to replace an empty toilet paper holder. No matter. Dorothy didn’t mind at all.




All Rights Reserved. © 2009 by Elizabeth Bradley.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Jolly Me of Yesteryear


Hello! Where are you, Christmas Spirit? Why haven’t you touched me yet? Where’s the festive me, the one that usually resembles the girl pictured above this time of year, the jolly me of yesteryear?

Okay, granted, I still have time, (it’s only the fifth), but we had better kick into
Merry Merry gear pretty soon. Not one decoration has been hung, no pretty tree, no sparkling lights, and no welcoming wreaths in sight. I haven’t bought one present, hung one stocking, or sent out one holiday greeting card.

I guess it’s difficult to let you into my aching heart,
Christmas Spirit. Losing both parents in December, (Dad just last year), must have tainted the season for me. I need to get into the swing of things, sit down and watch White Christmas, go in the kitchen, bake and decorate a few batches of cookies and butter tarts, set up the tree in the living room, enjoy an eggnog (laced with rum and nutmeg) and hang some of my cherished shiny ornaments. Soon, I will, soon.


All Rights Reserved. © 2009 by Elizabeth Bradley.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Childless, or Not


In my last post I wrote about leaving your mark. Those of us with children usually feel that our offspring are our biggest contribution to the betterment of the planet and mankind in general. But, what about those that don’t reproduce? Is their role in the overall scheme of things any less worthy?

The Husband and I know, and are close to, several women and men that intentionally set out not to have children, for differing reasons. Here’s an excerpt from a study I nabbed off the Internet:


Objectives. Rapid growth in the size of the childless elderly population has prompted concerns about the negative effects of childlessness on psychological well-being. This study adds to this line of inquiry by examining the effects of childlessness on two important dimensions of elderly persons' psychological well-being: loneliness and depression.

Methods. Using the 1993 Asset and Health Dynamics Among the Oldest Old data set, the authors estimated logistic and ordinary least squares regression models of psychological well-being for a nationally representative sample of people aged 70 and older (N = 6,517).
Results. Childlessness per se did not significantly increase the prevalence of loneliness and depression at advanced ages, net of other factors. There also was no statistical evidence for the hypothesis that childlessness increases loneliness and depression for divorced, widowed, and never married elderly persons. Sex, however, altered how childlessness and marital status influenced psychological well-being. Divorced, widowed, and never married men who were childless had significantly higher rates of loneliness compared with women in comparable circumstances; divorced and widowed men who were childless also had significantly higher rates of depression than divorced and widowed women.

Those that have children tend to pity those that do not, and those without children resent being pitied. I ask you this: is it an accomplishment to reproduce?

Twelve notable women (childless) that left their mark in a significant manner on society as a whole in one way or another:
--Amelia Earheart
--Emily Dickinson
--Mother Teresa
--Oprah Winfrey
--Frida Kahlo
--Katherine Hepburn
--Edith Warton
--Susan B. Anthony
--Queen Elizabeth
--Zora Neale Hurston
--Marilyn Monroe
--The Duchess of Windsor

I offer these childless gentlemen equal representation:
--3 U.S. Presidents; James Madison, James Buchanan, James Polk
--Dick Cavett
--Leonardo Da Vinci
--J. Edgar Hoover
--Truman Capote
--Andy Warhol
--Hans Christian Anderson
--Lord Byron
--Montgomery Cliff
--Cole Porter
--David Hockney
--Sir Francis Bacon

Most of us set about living our lives, unaware of our personal impact on people and the environment around us. Like George Bailey in “It’s a Wonderful Life”, we can’t possibly know the ripples our very being is sending out to the universe. Every human being is essential.

The desire to judge others by our measure of what constitutes a live worth living is strong. Perhaps, when one assumes elevation over another, it serves to feed the ego. I say, different strokes for different folks. If you don’t want to have kids, then don’t have kids. If you want only one, that’s cool. If you want to have five—have five! I’ve been ridiculed (especially in certain circles in Los Angles) for having so many kids. Hey, my Irish Catholic grandmother had 15! When I had my fifth, she called me up a few days later, and said, “Elizabeth, you’re a third of the way through.” “Ha!” I replied. “I’ve gone and shut the factory down.”

When my dad lived in the memory care facility, many of his friends had children that they couldn’t remember, (right up till the end Dad knew he had children, he might mistake us for someone else, but he knew he had three kids), and those that didn’t have children existed in virtually the same state as those that did. Like they say, we come in this world alone and we leave alone.

Do our relationships with our fellow man define us? I’ve known reclusive people that prefer to be solitary, more in tune with nature than people. Introspective sorts. I don’t believe their lives are any less meaningful because they don’t seek the company of others.

I’ll leave you with a couple of quotes:

I don’t want to get to the end of my life and find that I just lived the length of it. I want to have lived the width of it as well – Diane Ackerman

In solitude we give passionate attention to our lives, to our memories, to the details around us –Virginia Woolf

All Rights Reserved. © 2009 by Elizabeth Bradley.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Leaving Our Mark


We met my son, his wife, and my little grandson last weekend, and while we were out walking I snapped this picture. Some brave, (talk about precarious), ambitious soul, decided to take the rocks on the jetty and manipulate them into a manmade sculpture, of sorts. I see these stacks of rocks everywhere. There are many examples along highway 38, which leads to Forest Falls and the back way up the mountain to Big Bear Lake. Huge stacks of rocks.

People have, and always will be, compelled to add their two cents into the mix. We can’t just go out in nature and leave well enough alone. Now, I admit the stacking of rocks, or the gathering of twigs and fashioning them into representations of witches and such isn’t necessarily destructive, not like littering or removing materials from pristine environments. It would seem; us human beings are keen to leave our mark.

I’m no different. Putting aside, (but never discounting), the hugest, most meaningful mark I’ve left on this planet, creating five human beings, (mind you, with the help of The Husband—his seed responsible for 3 precious children, and an unnamed sperm donor—his seed responsible for 2 precious children.) As we drive through different towns here in Southern California I’ll say to The Husband, or my kids, or whoever else might be stuck in the car with me, “Look, there’s the pool table store I designed.”

Passing through Beverly Hills, I cry out, while pointing to the hills dotted with grand houses, “I once bid on a project up there that was designed to house four complete kitchens! And ten bathrooms! Can you imagine needing four kitchens in one dwelling? One of them was to be in a pool pavilion. I didn’t get the job though, lost out to a conglomerate.”

One day, we exited the freeway, searching for a place to go to the bathroom, and ended up in a seedy part of town, “Oh my,” I said, “I’ve been here before. I sold a kitchen to a truck driver and his wife in that neighborhood right over there. The place was a disaster area. My briefcase got hopelessly stuck to the table; it was so sticky. And live wires hung from the ceiling. They had four little boys. The cutest boys you ever saw, stair steps from about age two to eight or nine.” I sighed, thinking of the woman who had claimed that she was going to be a better housekeeper, once the new kitchen was finished. But, we had to return two weeks after the job was completed, to install a range hood that had been on back order, and the new kitchen was well on it’s way to resembling the former, only the cabinet doors were still clinging to their hinges and bare wires weren’t hanging from the ceiling, yet.

My big dream is not only to have books I’ve penned sitting on the bookshelves at the bookstore, but to walk into a public library and find those same books available for some special someone to check out, for free. As a child I got a head rush whenever I brought home a stack of books from the library without being required to spend a red penny. The process always seemed miraculous to me. What a gift!

How do you intend to leave your mark? Or have you already left so many marks you've quit counting?



All Rights Reserved. © 2009 by Elizabeth Bradley.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

How To Daydream 101


Do writers and artists daydream more than others? We do, we reside in one long daydream. Our inspiration begins with images, impressions, no more than fantasy, really. We craft these fantasies into stories, or art, our way of organizing the chaos of reality into something informative and entertaining, of expressing what some might find inexpressible.

I wonder if we ever know ourselves, truly know
our own selves? How do we gain that distance, the perspective necessary to detach and observe objectively? Is this why artist's are compelled to paint self portraits? Maybe it's an attempt to look inward that drives the writer. Could it be, are various characters representative of facets of our own psyche on display, on the page? Count me out—you might say. I don’t behave the way my characters do! I would never act like that, not in a million years! But, maybe you could—under the right circumstances. Maybe.

Even the most beautiful among us look into the mirror and see flaws.

Charitable types often come to resent their own propensity for selfless acts that offer no visible benefit.

The most sure-footed stumble.

Many rich men never believe they have accumulated enough wealth.

An aloof woman talks down to people but deep inside feels vulnerable and unloved.

A spur of the moment decision can change the course of one’s life forever, for good or bad.

Where is she going with this? You might ask. I guess I’m thinking out loud. Rambling. Feeling my way along. Deciding what to do with these wild imaginings of mine. Crafting unruliness into order, word by word.

I have taken on a
huge project. I am not at liberty to divulge just what IT is at this time. But, I will say this; I sure do have my work cut out for me. Whenever I attempt to bite off more than I can chew I remind myself that every daunting task I’ve ever taken on caused me to feel so insecure I felt like a fraud, inept and incapable of pulling it off. And yet I came through. So I let my Cheerleader Self take over. You go girl! Cheerleader Self says! Rah, rah, rah! Cheerleader Self cries. I have learned that she’s somebody I should listen to.

Let me take this opportunity to encourage all of you to bite off more than you can chew. It’s exhilarating.

If you’re willing, give an example of how you’ve stretched yourself and come out ahead. I love it when you share!






All Rights Reserved. © 2009 by Elizabeth Bradley.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

The Party's Over


Yes, Thanksgiving is over. Our house guests left this morning. And I am bone tired. My fridge smells like stinky seafood, (the juice from my brother's crab legs leaked out and I'm afraid I will have to take everything out and wipe down all surfaces to eliminate the stench, but not today.) Today I am going to rest. I'm beat. I'll try to pop in and visit all your blogs tonight, or perhaps tomorrow. Thank you for all the kind thoughts and wishes, I hope you all had a terrific holiday, (we sure did), and for my friends in other countries that don't celebrate Thanksgiving, well...you won't have to listen to us yank's yammering on and on for another year! lol.


The painting is titled, The Party's Over, by Anne Teigen


All Rights Reserved. © 2009 by Elizabeth Bradley.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving Everyone!





I am kicking into high gear, got to start the Thanksgiving preparations. This year we will have all five of our children, three of their spouses, and four grandchildren in attendance. Plus my brother and his daughter, and my daughter-in-law's mother and sister. If I'm counting right, that's eighteen. Whew.

This will be the first Thanksgiving without my dad. He passed away last December. I will be thinking of him as I set about putting things together. Dad was quite a cook, and he loved Thanksgiving. He always stood at the head of the table and made a toast and said a little prayer, peppered with Irish sayings.

I'll have lots of help in the kitchen. And after dinner we'll play games and make room for dessert.

I wish you all a wonderful holiday, full of good food and company. Much love, Elizabeth.

All Rights Reserved. © 2009 by Elizabeth Bradley.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

DREAM





I love Thursdays. I know, what a odd day of the week to fall in love with. But I've always likened how Thursday feels (for me anyway) to the experience when you've crested the top of the roller coaster and are feeling the exhilaration of heading back down. Whoosh--doesn't that feel wonderful? Friday night is so close, and the weekend will soon be here. Anyway, Happy Thursday.

I have a few things on my mind. Number one, my wedding anniversary is coming up and I always forget about it because we got married right before Thanksgiving and I'm always so busy with the holiday preparations, I forget. It's reverse in our family, The Husband never forgets. This year I am going to remember. I'm so lucky to have him and I don't want the poor guy to get the impression that I don't love him with a capital L. Still haven't decided what to do for him yet. Any cool ideas out there bloggy friends?

Yesterday, out of the blue, I got the urge to paint. I used to be half-assed good at painting. Both my mother and father were artists, so I come by it honestly. I had the good sense to know that I was a better writer than I was a painter. I played piano for a while but stopped taking lessons so I might concentrate on writing classes. In my twenties I decided that if I was going to be raising kids and working in the design field, I had better choose between writerly ambitions, my true love and stronger talent, and painting, because God only knew, time for such pursuits was damn near impossible to come by . So I stopped painting. Gardening is another love of mine, but when I quit designing to write full time, and we sold our house with the garden it took me twenty years to cultivate, (52 rose bushes, I had a chocolate rose!) I stopped gardening as well. A girl can only spread herself so thin. Yesterday, when I got the urge to run out to the art store and stock up on paints and canvases, I stopped dead in my tracks and said, "Self. No way! Finish the story you're working on!" And I did.

What have you given up for your dream? Or, did you give up your dream?

Please note: I lost the name of the artist that painted "Cocktail Hour" posted above, isn't it exquisite? If I couldn't paint like that I wasn't having any of it!

All Rights Reserved. © 2009 by Elizabeth Bradley.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Call To Action


UPDATE: I woke up this morning with my right eye glued shut by icky goo. My throat's raw, my nose is a leaky red mess, and my head throbs, despite Tylenol cold tablets. I don't care if I'm sick, I'm back at work. No more lounging about for this girl!

So, how much thought do you give to verbs? I know, (is she really going there?) Yes, I am. Because, I caught myself using gurunds too often. For more info, check out, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gerund. Now that you've refreshed your knowledge about what the heck a gerund is, you should do your best to avoid over-using them. Less ing, more action!

Verbs move the story along. Hattie didn't just FEEL ANGRY. Hattie ENGAGES IN BEHAVIOR TO SHOWCASE JUST HOW ANGRY SHE IS.

Always use strong verbs. Many editors recommend counting verbs, they suggest we go through our work and circle them. Check to see if you've used exactly the precise verb needed.

Matt walks briskly to make the bus because he always leaves the house late. SHOULD BE CHANGED TO: Matt often leaves the house late and is forced to sprint to catch the bus on time. (Sprint says in one stronger word what walks briskly says in two.) MO BETTER!

Think visually. It's fine to get inside a character's head, but you've heard this over and over, SHOW DON'T TELL. Us writer's (mere mortals that we are) fall into bad habits. Verbs propel the reader through the story. We need to increase our verb use, and we need to use the strongest verb to convey what's happening. Sounds easy, it's not. Careful editing is time consuming!

Oh crap. Just one more thing to worry about, right? If you do nothing else today, go through a few paragraphs you've written, and be brave and ditch those gerunds and adverbs. You won't be sorry.


All Rights Reserved. © 2009 by Elizabeth Bradley.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Under The Weather





Here to report, I am officially sick. I caught the flu. I tried my best not to, (washing hands and/or using hand sanitizer as if I were Howard Hughes's twin sister.) I caught the plain-old-ordinary-run-of-the-mill-garden-variety sort. But, I don't care what they say, the flu in any disguise is beyond miserable. Runny nose, sneezing, coughing, sore throat, scratchy ear canals, and on top of the bargain, my right eye is all red and swollen. I'm up and hobbling around today, but yesterday I only got out of bed to use the bathroom. The Husband has been extremely attentive. What a doll, he made chicken soup from scratch, kept me in Kleenex, brought me fizzy water and Tylenol cold capsules. Let's hope this doesn't last too long. It hurts to look at the computer screen. God forbid! I'll try to visit some of your blogs today, but if you don't see me, you'll know I succumbed to the siren call of my sleigh bed! I snapped a picture so you could see how irresistible that darn bed truly is. Why bother to make it when you're going to climb back in? See the pile of used tissues (ew, gross) and my Kindle? (Another illustration of my reluctance to put this house in order, I haven't hung a thing on the empty wall over the bed yet.) Got to curl up with a good book when you're sick, I'm reading, Pilgrims by Elizabeth Gilbert, a short story collection I highly recommend by the author of, Eat, Pray, Love.

All Rights Reserved. © 2009 by Elizabeth Bradley.

Friday, November 13, 2009

I Leap


~~ Living is a form of not being sure, not knowing what next or how. The moment you know how, you begin to die a little. The artist never entirely knows. We guess. We may be wrong, but we take leap after leap in the dark. ~~ Agnes De Mille

I won’t say every single time I sit down to write I’m forced to bat away pesky insecurities (wouldn’t that sound puny?) but I will say this, on off days I am forced to confront out and out fear. Fear that I’ll make an idiot out of myself, fear that nobody will ever choose my book over another, fear that I will have forgotten how to string sentences together to make paragraphs that tell a story worthy of spent time and effort.

If we are not willing to risk doing something badly we will never produce anything worthwhile as artists. We procrastinate and find shelter when we attempt to avoid running the risk of failure, don’t we? In times gone by there was no such thing as the Internet to distract us, but there was always something, always something to temp us away from the typewriter or canvas. Not to mention all those tiresome responsibilities and chores. How might I ever overcome that self-doubting-Thomas-of-a-nagging-voice?

I always start with an idea. But, hasn’t this idea been used in one form or another, over and over again? My mother used to tell me, "Elizabeth, there's nothing new under the sun." She loathed the term
old-fashioned, liked to point out how each new generation feels they have the market on sex/etc. cornered. When in fact, it’s all been done before. If you don’t agree, check out The Bible and the account of Sodom and Gomorrah. Debauchery is so passĂ©, or is it?

Another quote of substance ~~ Two things make a story. The net and the air that falls through the net. ~~ Pablo Neruda

I aim to allow ideas and inspiration to fall through the figurative net, as they may. I’ll catch and gather those sparks and do my best to turn chaos into order. I aspire to direct them into place on the page in a fashion worthy of the reader’s time and attention. It’s all I can do at the moment.

I snapped this picture of my office this afternoon. We’ve lived here for six months and I haven’t bothered to put this room together, which is so unlike me. I sit amongst a willy-nilly mess, and it does not hinder me in the least. How very odd.




All Rights Reserved. © 2009 by Elizabeth Bradley.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

18 Pounds of Beautiful Baby Flesh


I've been MIA from my blog the last couple of days. My daughter and her husband are moving so I'm baby sitting my six month old granddaughter. As I look after her, I'm wondering, how did I give birth naturally, (no drugs--no stitches), and raise five kids? The enormity of the thing hits me over the head and I marvel at my younger self. I truly do. I had boundless energy. All those children to care for, and I used to garden like a maniac, redecorate the house every third year or so--top to bottom, I managed to run several businesses, and still had time to romance The Husband. Raising children is a job for the younger set. I couldn't, or wouldn't want to do it now. My arm muscles are KILLING me, after one lousy day of carting eighteen pounds of beautiful baby flesh around, (she has a cold and isn't happy to be put down right now.) Wish me well, I only have about 10 hrs to go!

I snapped the above picture of her when I got her interested in a set of plastic measuring spoons yesterday.

All Rights Reserved. © 2009 by Elizabeth Bradley.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Who's Calling?


I sure would like to know who’s calling and hanging up on me! Last night, the first crank call came in just as I reached that pleasing limbo state between consciousness and sleep—I was so rattled! Then, this morning the shrill ring of the kitchen phone, right at the crucial moment when I went to flip my egg over-easy, causing me to break the yoke. I answered the phone, meantime the broken yolk cooked all hard in the hot pan, and I like them runny. On the third call, the culprit rang my BlackBerry. I was driving down Sunset Boulevard, and answered despite the new law, which forbids a person from talking in a car without a headset. I kept saying hello over and over, like an idiot, not realizing it was the same jerk. Nobody answered. Just air. From one of those restricted numbers—the worst. Good thing some diligent cop eager to write a ticket didn’t spot me holding that BlackBerry to my ear.

Could it be that guy I met at the party the other night? No way, we obviously hit it off. He said I was exactly what he was looking for, and then asked for my number. Why on earth would he go through all the trouble of calling, just to hang up?

It might be that ghastly Chelsea Topper. The woman I’ve repeatedly snubbed, the tub of lard that recently joined my power-walking group. Her cheery inquisitiveness is beyond annoying. I hate it when she asks if I’d like to tag along to charity functions that I could never be the least bit interested in, when she pesters me to tell her where I buy my clothes and rudely asks how much I paid. Tacky questions that I give the wrong answers to. I don’t want to show up and find that frumpy woman wearing the same outfit as me! Anyway, it’s not Chelsea’s style to keep her mouth shut. It can’t be her!

Maybe it’s Gloria Smythe from work. I’m sure she’s more than a little fed up with me because I continue to outshine her on a daily basis. Since she’s my boss with access to my file and telephone numbers—that would explain a lot. It hasn’t escaped my attention how totally jealous Gloria is about all the attention others in the office give me because they prefer my company to hers. I’m always invited out for lunch and for drinks after hours, while she sits alone at her computer doing God only knows what. It just might be her.

My big sister is perfectly capable of this kind of behavior. I shouldn’t rule her out either. Clare wouldn’t be above picking up the phone, dialing my number, and hanging up just for the heck of it. It’s her mission in life to poke holes through my supremacy in the sibling pecking order. I’ve always been a thorn in her side, since the day I was born. It’s not my fault that I’m Daddy’s little girl. That I turned out to be four inches taller and at least twenty-five pounds thinner than she is. It’s not anybody’s fault but her own, (my son’s an entertainment lawyer with a lovely high-rise condo in Century City), while her children are a pair of losers with a capital L. Her daughter’s practically a crack whore out in Yucca Valley, and her son mows lawns and trims trees for a living out in The Valley somewhere. No wonder she’s bitter.

I don’t know what I’m going to do if this keeps up, I really don’t. It’s a terrible thing when I answer that ring and meet dead silence on the other end of the line, a terrible, terrible thing. I’m barely able to tolerate this quiet house. Since my husband had a mid-life crisis, (I call it a nervous breakdown), and gave up his career as a TV commercial director to dump me for Jesus and move down to El Salvador to become some kind of goody-two-shoes missionary, I’ve been forced to live alone up here in the hills above the city. I leave the radio on at night. It’s just too damn scary without some kind of noise in the background besides crickets chirping and the furnace going on and off and water pipes banging and clanging. I think I’ll sell this drafty old house, (even though it's a perfect example of early Los Angeles glamor and was once owned by film actress Etta Dawson.) I'll buy a high-rise condo in my son’s building, where I can feel safe.

Whoever’s making these calls is diabolical, not a good person at all. They’re trying to throw me off, trying to scare me. It’ll take a lot more that a few hang up calls to freak me out, I can tell you that. A woman living alone is such a target, and I am getting older, but am still extremely attractive. This isn’t funny at all, the idea that someone is having a good old time at my expense. I suppose I could change my numbers. But that would be an inconvenience—so why should I? I don’t intend to give this prankster the satisfaction. I just won’t.

The next time the phone rings I’m going to scream BUG OFF ASSHOLE into the receiver at the top of my lungs. That ought to fix who’s calling!

(A work of fiction, based on a client from my past--not autobiographical by any means!)


All Rights Reserved. © 2009 by Elizabeth Bradley.