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Category Archives: writing

Detta and the Famous Hollywood Client

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Surrounded by all the important implements an elite Hollywood hairstylist needs, Bernadette (known to her customers as Detta) welcomes her newest client.  “Good morning, dahling!” she gushes.  Famous Hollywood actresses like it when you gush to them.  The customer circles the chair before taking her seat.  She says nothing in reply to Detta, but that is all right.  This stylist has learned that sometimes her clients don’t like to talk, so Detta has learned to fill the silence.

“Oh, what lovely locks you have, Mrs. Washington,” she sighs.  “And such thick hair.  Yes, I can see that it would feel heavy and hot this time of year.  I’ll give you a darling short style for the summer.”

Detta sets to work, brushing, trimming, shaping.  Thick curls fall to the floor, and Mrs. Washington looks happier each moment, though she still never speaks a word.

“Quite a summer for movies, isn’t it?” Detta asks politely.  Hollywood actresses like it when you talk about their trade.  “Although there are far too many sequels for my taste.  Oh, that’s not to say they won’t be wonderful.  I just like to see new ideas in the theaters.

“Now that action movie – Reckless, I think it’s called – looks quite exciting, but I think they should have chosen you for the lead, my dear, instead of What’s-Her-Name.  You are so much more athletic and stunning.”  Detta spies a hint of a smile on Mrs. Washington’s face.  Hollywood stars like to be flattered.

Detta’s skill is tested on this client, however, and make no mistake.  So much hair, some of it tightly curled and some of it wiry – well, it is just good that this hairdresser has years of specialized training and knows how to make the moppiest hair look perfectly coiffed.

A few more snips, and another brushing, and the hair is done.  “Shall we move on to the manicure?” Detta asks sweetly.

She wields the tools with precision, trimming Mrs. Washington’s nails to the perfect length and buffing them to a shine.  Mrs. Washington does not like polish, so Detta’s task is short.

“Well, dahling, are you satisfied with your new look?” the stylist asks as she steps back from her client.  Mrs. Washington stands and smiles.  Then she shakes her entire body and bounds away from the salon.

“Thanks for trimming the dog, Bernadette,” Mama calls from the kitchen.  “I know Martha Washington will feel better without all that fur for the summer.  Did you trim her nails, too?”

“Yes, Mama!” Bernadette answers, sweeping up the dog hair and nail clippings.  As she scoops it all into the trash can, she feels the satisfaction of knowing that she, Detta Smart, stylist to the stars, has another happy client.

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Lady Bernadette and the Devoted Suitor

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The Lady Bernadette sits on the verandah, fanning herself and sipping lemonade.  It is a warm day, and her suitor has come to call. Lady Bernadette has yet to decide about Mr. W.  His black hair and bright eyes are charming to be certain.  And flirtatious!  My, my.  With what boldness he seeks affection!

Mr. W. has been enjoying the morning in Lady Bernadette’s company (her mother is chaperoning from just inside the house, so there is no impropriety.)  Movement in the grasses catches his eye.

He has brought his hunting gear with him, as he has planned to go for a hunt today after calling upon Lady Bernadette.  Her beauty kept him transfixed longer than he anticipated, so his start is delayed.  The lady sees his eyes flit to the quarry in the field.

“Please,” Lady Bernadette intones.  “Go on with your hunt.  I will not be offended in the least.”  He gives her a questioning look, as if to be sure she means what she says.  “Oh, sir.  I am not one of those English noblewomen who plays games with her suitors.  If you wish to hunt, by all means, track your prey!  Fret not about my feelings, for I assure you I do not wish to keep you when you desire to go.  You have, after all, left me in no doubt of your attachment to me, if I may be so bold as to mention it.”

Mr. W. bows to her; then he bounds off the verandah and begins stalking the animal.  Lady Bernadette, having not the keen eye of a hunter, can not see what he is tracking; she can see only the intensity with which he tracks it.

Soon, Mr. W. is so deep in the tall grasses of the meadow that Lady Bernadette can no longer see him at all, though she observes his movements by the way the vegetation bends and sways as he pushes it aside.

The lady adjusts her sunhat and takes another sip of lemonade.  She knows she is fortunate to have such a devoted suitor as Mr. W.  She does not even mind his preoccupation with hunting.  “Every gentleman should have a hobby to keep him occupied,” she says to herself.  “Noblemen who are bored are simply unbearable.”  She enjoys his company, adores his affection, is enamored by his good looks.  “Still,” she wonders.  “Do I love him?”

A quick, sharp movement in the grass catches her eye.  She watches as a brief tussle ensues.  Lady Bernadette watches as Mr. W. emerges from the meadow with his catch and trots directly toward her.

Obviously terribly pleased with himself, Mr. W. deposits his game at the lady’s feet just as her mother exits the house onto the verandah.

“Ah, Mr. Wiggles brings you the spoils once again,” Mama observes.

The young gentleman has eyes only for Lady Bernadette, but the lady looks at her mother over his head as he sits at her feet.  “Yes.  He seems to believe he must earn my affection with such gifts.”

The older woman smiles.  “Shall I dispose of it?”

“If you don’t mind,” Lady Bernadette replies.  “I would be ever so grateful.”

Bernadette scoops up the cat to give him the appreciation he seeks, keeping his head turned so he doesn’t see Mama pick up the dead mouse by its tail and hurl it back into the meadow.

Mr. Wiggles purrs with satisfaction.

What Summer is About

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On Sunday, I saw one of my students at the grocery store. We said hello to each other and I asked if she was having a good summer. She said she was, but lamented that it was going too fast and that it seemed to be nearly over already. I assured her that we had five weeks left – I had counted – and she has plenty of time to relax.

Of course, I have to remind myself of that as well. I don’t feel as stressed out as I did last summer, when I was trying to develop an entire new teacher induction program from scratch, but I’ve still been plenty busy, and certainly not ready to go back to the classroom yet.

Husband and I vacationed in Prince Edward Island at the end of May and beginning of June. It was a lot of driving – two days of driving there and two days back, plus quite a bit of time in the car as we explored the island. Husband drove every last mile of it, which made us both happy. He loves to drive; I prefer to gaze out the windows until the hum of the motor and the movement of the car lullaby me to sleep. (And then I wake up with a sore back and a stiff neck.) We listened to seven audiobooks on the trip. While we were there, we went sailing (sort of – the wind died so we were really just out on an engine-powered boat that has the ability to sail). We kayaked out into the ocean (with a guide) till we found a sand bar where we dug for clams, and then kayaked back and assisted our guide in making (and eating!) clam chowder. We visited Green Gables (walking through the Haunted Wood and Lover’s Lane), toured an alpaca farm, walked along several beaches, and ate a lot of seafood. Lobster, clams, haddock, crab, mussels, and oysters.

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PEI is beautiful. Every single part of it is picturesque, and most of it is rural. I think Husband would like to live there. He’d have to live there without me, though, because one lady told us that last year, there was still snow on the ground at the beginning of June. No, thank you. Indiana might get miserably hot and humid, but at least our winter doesn’t last eight months. Of course, that’s one thing Husband would like about it.

Coming home made me happy. Everything is green here in the summer, and when the thunderstorms aren’t rolling through, the sun shines mightily.

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In June, Husband did some sand sculpting, and I picked raspberries and visited with friends I haven’t seen in ages. He worked on installing I-beams in the big carport we’d had put up in the spring, as part of setting up his wood shop to work on the timber frame house he is building.

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I went to a workshop on Project-Based Learning and started the second course in my Master’s program in Curriculum and Educational Technology. As July began, he drew designs for ice sculptures and house plans while he watched movies, and I listened to teacher podcasts while I washed the dishes or made dinner. We put up 13 bales of hay from our field, and then it rained three and a half inches in about two hours, and the hay – which we’d put in the barn but not in the hay loft – got wet because the barn floods. (Lesson learned.) He’s been playing soccer. I’ve been running and biking… and going to yoga, which seems a very middle-aged-woman-thing to do, but hey, I’m a middle-aged woman and I’m trying to embrace that. Besides, yoga helps keeps me flexible since I never remember to stretch after I run.

My book has languished. I’ve been waiting for feedback from a few of my students who promised to read my manuscript and let me know what they thought. And just like adults, when kids don’t have deadlines, sometimes they take a long time to get things done. It’s not such a bad thing, though. Most of my creative energies have gone into developing PBL unit plans, drafting emails to our new teachers and organizing their orientation, responding to online discussions for my class, and coming up with ways to redesign my classroom, both physically and culturally. Sometimes I play the ukulele. Sometimes I knit… and on days like today, I rip out twenty rows of knitting because I made a huge mistake waaaaay back there.

Summer, I’ve decided, isn’t about being lazy. It’s about giving my mind a rest by doing other things, by stretching it in new ways.

An Exciting Novel Update

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Word Count: 23,338.

The first draft of my novel, A Rainbow Above You, is finished!

Now I must embark upon the arduous journey of revision, revision, revision.  But for now, I’m going to bask in the joy that the first draft is DONE!

Screen time, writing time

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I spend much of my work time looking at a computer screen — writing lessons, updating grades, and reading student work submitted online.

Then, for the course I’m taking, I read online articles or type reflective summaries for the books I must read.  I contribute to online discussion boards.

I think this is one reason why it’s so hard to write in my free time.  It’s not that the ideas aren’t there.  I keep a running list of topics for blog posts.  And Bernadette, the main character in my novel, is always in the back of my mind somewhere.  But when I have time to think about writing, some days I just don’t want to haul out the laptop one more time.  I’d rather read a book — one with real pages!  Or play my ukulele.

And yet, I write much more fluidly on a computer than I do by hand.  I can type faster than I can write longhand, and it’s both easier to read and easier to edit, especially when it comes to the novel because so much is already written.  So I’m often torn.

Plus, there are no deadlines.  I have time frames for getting my lessons planned and the kids’ grades updated.  I have due dates for my coursework.  But there is no deadline for blog posts or for my novel.  And that’s kind of nice because I don’t have to feel stressed about it.  But it kind of stinks because sometimes I think I’d be more motivated if I had a deadline.

My neighbor is considering starting up a monthly community newsletter.  She mentioned that maybe she could have me write a short piece of fiction for each issue.  That made me panic just a little, but then I thought it might be good for me.  We’ll see if it happens.

In the meantime, if it’s a long time between blog posts, or if you’re wondering how the novel is coming, just know that the words are in my brain.  Sometimes my fingers itch to get them out.  But my eyes need a break from the screen.

Paralysis

The day yawns ahead of me

each tick of the clock tightening the jaws a smidge more.

So much to do.

I sit, paralyzed, not knowing where to start.

The knot in my stomach twists.

Connecting

I was never the popular girl.  There was a time in middle school when I ran around with five friends:  Amy, Lori, Leeanna, Kristi, and Missy.  But Amy was my best friend. (Except for the times when Leeanna was my best friend.)  Five was always the maximum, and even then, I felt more comfortable with one or two.  Never would you find me happily interacting with dozens of people.

Throughout high school and college, my friend groups swelled and receded, as I assume is part of life.  And never have I thrived on being the center of attention, on being surrounded by people.  Give me my little circle of friends.  Give me one or two individuals with whom I connect.  That’s all I want.

Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram (and yes, WordPress) — these technologies make it easier to “connect” with a much larger group of people.  Maybe even people I’ve never met and never will meet in real life.  (Hi, strangers!)  Is this connecting?

I’m spending my weekend at a writing conference, and quite a few of the writers (novelists, poets, writers of memoir) have talked about the importance of connecting with others online.  And I get that.  In our modern culture, with so many people attached to their phones and tablets, this is what is expected.  You can’t expect to sell a book (especially a memoir) if no one knows who you are.  You can’t have an audience if you don’t write in a format that an audience wants.  If you don’t write to connect, then why are you writing?

But I like being invisible sometimes.  I don’t wanna put myself out there for the whole world to see.  After all, it’s not real connection, these social media “friendships.”

And yet.

Maybe it is a method that introverts like me (who, if given the opportunity, would stay in my house for weeks on end, meeting with no one) can expand horizons and connect with others while avoiding the overstimulation of people in my face.  Maybe it is a way I can reach out and have a larger impact on my world than I would if I simply remained the hermit I like to be.  Maybe social media serve as a bridge for me to cross the divide between isolation and community.

Even that is uncomfortable for me, and besides that, I don’t really know how I feel about it.

Please comment if you have a thought about this topic.  Maybe you’ll help me figure it out.