Friday, January 31, 2003

What a great idea ... the Friday Five. Now at least I have one day where I don't have to figure out a topic to write about. Thanks, Josephine for giving me a new outlet for my stories!

1. As a child, who was your favorite superhero/heroine? Why?
I loved Wonder Woman. Not so much the cartoon character, but the Linda Carter version. I just thought she so beautiful and tan, and I loved her gold wristbands that deflected bullets. Not that I ever was shot at, but what a cool thing to have. My babysitter made me a Wonder Woman costume for Halloween when I was about 10. The funny thing is it wasn't blue and red, but more of a tan color with gold lame thread. But it was strapless and had a gold lasso and wristbands, so I thought it was the coolest thing. My mom's best friend when I was in elementary school went to college with Linda Carter. I always wished she would come to visit so I could meet her. I realize now that most college friends don't always remain friends when you get into your 30s. And I'm sure that's especially true if they become famous.

2. What was one thing you always wanted as a child but never got?
A home that I wouldn't have to move from. I was a military brat, so we moved many times when I was a child. I had three different schools in first grade, four elementary schools altogether. And the houses we moved to were never near the old neighborhoods so I would have to find new friends each time we moved. Very hard for an extremely shy girl. On the first day of my third first grade school, I just sat down at my desk after my mom dropped me off, put my head down on my arms and just cried. It was all very stressful for me. Anyway, I always wanted the house where I could go back when I was older and say, "These are the growth chart marks on my closet door to show how I grew. This tree in my backyard was as tall as me when it was first planted. Here's the spot in the hallway where I had my first kiss." I just don't have those memories.

3. What's the furthest from home you've been?
Since I was a military brat, I don't really know where home would be, so if I had to just all the US my home, I would say that Greece was the furthest geographically. If I had to call my husband my home, then it would be the year we spent apart, me living in Florida, him living in California. If my daughter is considered my home, then it would be the weekend in Vegas that we spent away from her when we went to our friends' wedding. And if I call my parents and sister my home, then it would be right now, with me in California, my parents in Tennessee and my sister and her family in upstate NY.

4. What's one thing you've always wanted to learn but haven't yet?
To play the cello. When I was younger, I played the violin (5th grade) and the French Horn (6th grade). I also took guitar lessons and taught myself to play piano. I am not proficient in any of these instruments, but the cello has such a great sound that I've always wanted to learn. Maybe my daughter will be interested in it when she gets old enough to play.

5. What are your plans for the weekend?
Not much. Cleaning the house. Playing with my daughter. Working out. Watching Trading Spaces. Ordering pizza. Just your standard fare.

Thursday, January 30, 2003

I went to my book club last night. I so look forward to going each month. I've really started to bond with these women, who initially I didn't know. And even though most of us don't talk in between book clubs, we have such a great time together on that one night. The book club has helped me take a love of something that is typically very solitary and turn it into a social event.

Books have been a part of my life since I was very young. I remember my mom taking me to the library every summer when I was in elementary school to participate in the summer reading program. You were supposed to read like 10-15 books in a 6-week time period (the details may not be exact because that was almost 25 years ago). But in any event, I would be done with the required books in the first week. I just loved to read.

After my first summer reading program, I started going to the library each week and would check out as many books as I could. I would start with the A's and take the first 10 (or how ever many I was allowed to check out) titles. Then the next week, I'd take the next 10. I don't really remember all of the stories I read, but I know that Louisa May Alcott's Little Women was one of my favorites. I loved Jo, and wanted to be like here, even though I was far from a tomboy and just liked sitting in my room reading. Would that have made me more like Meg or Amy? I also loved anything with Beatrix Potter. But my all-time favorite was Charlotte's Web. I even bought the E.B. White series with Charlotte's Web, Stuart Little and Trumpet of the Swan for my daughter. I only hope she loves them as much as I did when she's old enough to read them. I also liked the Nancy Drew mysteries, not so much for the plot, but to find out what she was wearing in each scene. Why did so much detail go into something as insignificant as her clothes, and why was I so fascinated about it? (Mary Higgins Clark writes like that now, but I seem to have lost interest).

When I was in junior high, I remember walking to the library each summer to check out books. For some reason, these memories include that fact that I always walked there barefoot. I can't imagine crossing the street in the hot summers of Arizona without blistering my feet, but I guess back then, my soles must have been pretty tough. I just didn't like wearing shoes. I'd throw on my flip flops once I got to the library, but they'd come off again once I stepped outside. (Maybe that's why my daughter doesn't like wearing shoes now ... she takes after me). I would check out 7 books, one for each day of the week, and then the next week, I'd take those back and get more.

And I have vivid memories of reading at my grandmother's house when we'd visit her each summer. We usually stayed about a week, and during that time, I'd read her Reader's Digest Condensed version stories. I was terrified by Jaws, fascinated by the wolves in White Fang and cried during the Incident at Hawk's Hill.

Maybe that's why I want to be a writer. Because I've read so many good books. Of course, I have read some bad ones: sappy romance novels that I refuse to read now, cliche plots and boring characters. But the good ones ... oh, they make me want to write better.

Anyway, my book club has been a really fun experience. We've had some bad choices, like the Autobigraphy of Eleanor Roosevelt, and the sappy A Walk to Remember. But we've read some really great ones: Red Tent, Nazi Officer's Wife, White Oleander. Our next choice is Many Lives, Many Masters by Brian Weiss. It's about clinical psychology and past lives. Sounds really interesting, so we'll see which category that falls into.

Wednesday, January 29, 2003

I wish I could write like I talk.

I don't mean that I would write the word "like" in every sentence, or interject sounds of laughter during my conversations. I just wish I could put down on paper the inflections and excitement that comes through when I'm telling a story to my friends.

I've had other people tell me I'm funny ... that I tell a great story. So why can't I do that when I write?

I know I have the capability to effectively convey thoughts on paper. I've been doing it for years in the corporate world. I can sell a product, write a press release or develop a business plan, usually without little effort.

But to write a truly interesting and creative story? That's where I get lost. I've been reading these interesting blogs where people talk at length about either a small detail of the day, or they ramble into various stories that somehow all connect at the end. You can just hear them telling the story as if you were sitting there with them.

But not me. I start typing and if I digress, I usually have to cut and paste to make sure there are proper transitions in the story. What is wrong with me? Am I too anal about being grammatically correct?

One friend told me that I should just tape-record myself telling stories and then just dictate them on paper. But would that mean that I'm really writing? Even then, how would I accurately write my exaggerated hand movements and the way I raise my eyebrows in excitement during key moments of a story. If I was a scriptwriter, I could write that in parentheses for stage direction. I also have problems with detail. I feel like I write in outline form, giving just the facts, without including the details, color and nuances that make for a great story.

I guess I just need to practice more. I recently entered a short story writing contest. It was perfect for me, because I could just write about the main plot without having to go into much detail. That's probably my forte. But even then, would I have told a better story in person than what was on paper?

What's interesting about writing, though, is how you interject your own voice into the writing. Like I have this friend who's not the most exciting person in real life. He's pretty mellow, and his stories are pretty basic. But his e-mails are hilarious. I laugh out loud everytime he writes about his day. Then a friend told me that maybe I'm reading his e-mails as if I was telling it. So all the voice inflection and gestures that he lacks when telling a story, I'm including because that's how I would tell it.

But that doesn't explain why I like certain writing styles better than my own. I guess we all just want what we don't have.

Monday, January 27, 2003

Isn't it funny how there are some things in life that we do without even thinking about it? These things become so routine that they almost go unnoticed.

Of course, there are the obvious things like brushing our teeth. We really don't have to think about rotating the nylon bristles in a circular manner from the gumline to the sharp points of our teeth. We don't have to think about spitting out the excess foam and rinsing the toothbrush free of the germs that have collected in our mouths overnight. These things we do almost as background activity to our daily lives. We do them in a multi-tasking way. I typically brush my teeth while searching for socks and choosing which shoes to wear with my outfit. And that's ok, because not concentrating on brushing my teeth isn't dangerous to others; the only repucussions being possible gum disease or tartar from not doing a good enough job.

But other things in our lives become routine, even then they shouldn't be. Like driving to work. If you're like me, you get into the habit of driving the same streets, through the same neighborhoods, passing the same schools and the blinking "children crossing" signs. There have been times that I get to work and don't even remember the drive. Pretty scary.

I've also caught myself being lulled into the familiarity of drive when I've passed through lights, being the only car on the road and thought, "Did I just run a red light?" You look in the rear view and see the light is green and breath a sigh of relief. But it always scares me enough to start paying attention. Until the next time I drive to work or back home and it happens again.

It made me think that if I took different roads to work, it would help with not only the monotony, but to stretch my brain enough to get the creative juices flowing. And if I could do that in such a simple routine as going to work, what about the other things in my life. I know I could do things like brush my teeth with my right hand (I'm left-handed) would make me concentrate on what I was doing. When I was in elementary school, I had a friend who broke her right arm (she was right-handed) and she had to do everything with her left hand. I thought that was interesting and practiced doing stuff with my right hand. I can honestly say that I do a pretty good job writing and eating with my right hand because of it.

But I could also change things with more important things in my life that I take for granted. Like my husband. I should shake things up a little and surprise him with things he doesn't expect, like watering the plants (something my brown thumb always forgets) or making breakfast on Sunday morning (something I've come to assume as his job). Just telling him how much he means to me. How proud of him I am for his recent MBA accomplishment. How funny and smart and enthusiastic he is. I'll make sure to tell him tonight.

There are other things in life I take for granted: my health, my family, my friends. I guess I should start taking care of all of them. Because the repercussions of not doing it are much worse than gingivitis.