Five Favorites

Following in the footsteps of the lovely (seriously lovely, have you seen that picture of her with her new baby?) Hallie Lord, here are five things I’m loving right now:

1. HOT DOGS

hautedogsHaute Dogs, to be specific. I have been long haunted by the memories of a hot dog shack I frequented while living in Austria, and this is the only place I’ve ever encountered that comes even close.  As much as it kills me to say, having loved the Austrian Wuesterhutte*  for so long, I think these are better. My husband came home for lunch today with a Korean Kimchi Dog and a Cheesey Dog (and by “cheesey, I mean CHEESEY) and I was in heaven.  Heaven.

2. This scriptwriting software through Open Office

openofficescript

Writing screenplays is a hobby of mine (I know how pathetic that sounds.) The problem for a while was, keeping the format right in Word was nearly impossible but I didn’t have the bajillion dollars it takes to buy scriptwriting software.  After exhaustive research (translation: whining to my husband, who then did magic stuff on the internet) I gave this free program a try and I love it.

3. Apropos of #2

I just finished a script, and I think it turned out pretty well.  I entered it in the Nicholls Fellowship competition, and I have a teeny fraction of hope that this one might make the first cut.  Here’s why I am so hopeful:  my husband, who is my harshest critic in the best sense of the word, was impressed after reading the first draft. I have already achieved my main goal with this thing.

4. Speaking of my husband

I came home from an afternoon spent catching up with an old friend to find these on the kitchen table:

yellowtulips

These are an approximation of the actual flowers, because it takes too long to upload pictures on our laptop.

Wonderful man! They are bright, and spring-y, and make my kitchen feel pretty.

5. I am not a wine connoisseur.

I just like what I like.  However, it’s fascinating how different red wines can be, depending on where they come from.  Right now, I can’t get enough of GSMs from France, light and mineral-y and just delicious.  Completely different from Argentina Malbecs (which I also love, don’t get me wrong!)  Anyway, those mineral-y reds just make me happy. That’s all.

BONUS #6.

If you, like me, are interested in reading screenplays, here’s a treasure trove of great movie scripts!

*I think this name is probably completely wrong.  My memory is not reliable.

Sudden Monday!

Image

The Sage of the Living Room Fire – 358 words

They wondered what The Baby was thinking as she sat in front of the fire, hour after hour. It was something of an insult to still be known as The Baby, she was well into her second year of life, but she could not tell them so. It would wait. She held her peace and stared into the fire.

She had very few words. It was fine. She had a sneaking suspicion that language left out the heart of things, anyway. Her family wondered why she laughed to see birds flying over the house – they did not know how the birds were her father, just home from work, lifting her up high, so high, to receive her kiss on his scratchy cheek. And the hawk in the sky who made her laugh was not the hawk who sat on the porch roof to watch for mice between the wood chips. She did not laugh at him, he was the barking dog who lived next to the park and the boy who packed the bags at the store and looked on her with beakish eyes.

Her mother gathered her in her warm lap to point at books, her speech long and low. The Baby just laughed and turned the pages, fast, to watch the colors whirl. She knew the way of the leaves, falling in a rainbow on the grass. She had watched them dry and crackle, slowly turning into a dust that spread over the brown lawn. When the snow came, she knew the leaves were still there, under the crust of ice. Now after a long time the trees began to tease her with little specks of green and she could see the ghost of the old leaves peeking through. Just so. The words in her house swirled around her on the wind. She let them fall. Her time to sprout would come.

The Baby sat in front of the fire and it told her things she would remember all her life, but they stayed in that place between the tree and the earth. She watched it and smiled. Everyone wondered what The Baby was thinking.

Don’t forget to check out Labora Editions to read the other stories!

Sudden Monday the First

Ryan over at Labora Editions has handily solved my blogging angst with his new link up, Sudden Mondays.

This is the deal:  write a short story, no more than 500 words, link up and share!  I am a little nervous that this may not be in the spirit Ryan is hoping to foster, so here is advance warning – profanity ahead!  Now with no further fanfare, here is my offering:

NATIVITY

I am haunted by the memories of other people.

She could feel the mounting pressure before it took away her breath. She didn’t know where he was, and now she was afraid it would be too late.

From the floor below she heard keys clang as the front door swung open.

“Ed?” she called.

Footsteps trudged heavily up the steps. On the landing appeared Daniel, drunk.

She snarled, “Where the piss have you been?”

Daniel gave a teenager shrug and she would have given him hell had not a contraction seized her right then, bending her sideways as her waterbed mattress sloshed beneath her.

“Are you okay?” Daniel asked.

“No,” she gasped when the worst was over. “I’m having the baby.”

“I can’t find Ed,” she said, and then burst into tears.

Daniel looked down, pained. A bedroom door creaked beside him in the hall and his younger sister peered out.

“This is the plan,” he said to Melissa, “You help Anita get ready. I’ll find Ed.”

Melissa nodded and stepped into the hall.

From her waterbed Anita yelled, “You can’t leave! I need the fucking car.”

“I’ll be back in half an hour,” he said quietly to Melissa.

“Jenny’s already asleep,” Melissa whispered back, “Should I wake her up?”

He thought a moment.  “No, when I get back you can take Anita to the hospital and I’ll stay here with her.”

He ran down the steps. From above Anita was still yelling, “Don’t you dare drive my car drunk! Get back here you little son of a bitch!”

He slammed out the front door.

Ed was exactly where Dan knew he’d be. Dan knocked on the unmarked door and was met by a balding, watery-eyed man who looked him over but did not check his ID before letting him in.

Ed was at the bar, of course. Beside him, a scantily clad woman hung on his arm. She was noticeably pregnant.

“Ed,” Daniel called out.

Ed turned, his bronze badge catching the light from the bar and twinkling as he moved. His mouth hardened.

“Anita is having the baby,”

Ed stood then, shedding the clinging woman with a shrug of his shoulders and brushing past Daniel as he walked out.

In the parking lot Dan watched Ed fumble with his car door. Dan waited, intending to follow him back home. Ed was much more drunk than he was.

“Ed,” he called out, finally, through his car window. Ed looked up. “You are an asshole.”

Ed put his keys into his pocket and stumbled to Dan’s window. He looked in for a moment, swaying, and then punched Dan in the face. Then he went around to the passenger side door and got in.

 

This is my memory: I woke to see my Uncle Dan kneeling beside me, smiling. “You have a baby sister!” he said. I was so happy.

Seven Quick Takes while I let my child rot in her crib, because it’s naptime darnit!

It’s Friday already?  Shoot!  Let’s see how fast I can do 7 Quick Takes.

1. My husband and I went to our first grown-up Halloween party since college.  Can you guess who we were?  It didn’t show up well in the pic, but I worked very, very hard at giving myself a realistic black eye.  I watched youtube videos and everything.

Image

2. My toddler is trying to give up naps.  This is the first time in a decade that I have only one kid at home with me, and I was really looking forward to getting all sorts of creative and organizational things done during naptime.  And now she wants to take it all away.  Seriously, does God do these things to us on purpose?  “Hey, were you really looking forward to getting your first consistent break in a decade?  SUCKER!”

3. I know God doesn’t really operate that way.  Still….aaaaurgh!

4. I love Jen’s Conversion Diary blog for so many reasons, but this one really hit me last weekend:  It is such a relief to realize that getting overwhelmed by life and coping by ignoring it is, like, a thing and not just an indicator that I am a bad person.  Case in point:  my daughter’s friend spent the night here last weekend, and when her father came to pick her up he knocked on the wrong door.

We have two doors leading into our house:  one is in the front, facing the road and looking pretty front-door-ish.  This door is broken.  The second door is on the side, past the lean-to that should house our garbage, only pulling the cans in and out is a pain, so we just leave them laying around.  Also, we forget recycling-day all the time, so our recycling can is usually overflowing into multiple cardboard boxes set around it.  The boxes are generally soggy and half-deteriorated.  This door works.

I can’t say I blame the Dad for picking the wrong one.

To unfasten the broken door, I have to unlock it, unchain it, and then pull with all my might until it opens enough that I can wriggle my hand inside and unhook the bungee cords we use to keep the screen door from banging in the wind.  It takes a solid minute, but when you are staring through the glass at someone who is gaping in shock and disbelief at you, it feels much longer.

So anyway this Dad comes, and I should mention that he lives in a mansion that is seriously gorgeous, immaculate, and still somehow very cozy and inviting.  Once I’d unsecured the bungee cords and led him through, stealthily trying to knock off a hornet’s nest in the top corner, he kindly apologizing for coming to the wrong door.  “Yeah, we need to get that fixed,” I said, trying to seem a little less irresponsible, “It was broken when we moved in.”  I should have thought it through before saying this because of course his next question would be:

“How long have you lived here?”

“Uh, six years.”

5. Back to Jen:  I wish I had her ability to come across as charming and eclectic in situations like this.  Unfortunately I’m pretty sure I just seem weird and shiftless.

6.  Here are my children this Halloween:

Image
A lioness, an elf maiden, a woodland fairy, a pirate, an orange monster (do you know how hard that is to pull off when you don’t know how to sew???) and an adorable clown.

7.  None of these quick takes has anything to do with the purported aim of this blog, but my toddler is not napping.  I don’t see how I can be expected to put thought into stuff under the circumstances..

Podcast PSA- The Moth

I love podcasts!  I have a list of ones I am devoted to, and they are crucial to keeping me motivated when it comes to cleaning and doing laundry.

One of my favorites is The Moth Storyslam podcastThe Moth is an organization that promotes the good old fashioned art of storytelling, and they host evenings across the country where regular people off of the street can gather to swap tales.  Often the podcast features celebrities and other famous/professional storyteller types, but some of my favorites are the non professionals who come on to the stage, their voices often shaking just a tiny bit from nerves as they pour forth hilarity and pathos.  I grew up in a family of bullshitters of the highest order, people who know how to tell a story that will make you sit up and listen, and so I recognize the kind of intense verbal weaving that is the mark of every good storyteller.  It feels like home.

I thought about including a clip of one of the most famous Moth stories, Mike Birbiglia’s hilarious adventures in sleepwalking, but I’ve decided instead to go with a common man:  the winner of the first Pittsburgh Storyslam, a man randomly selected from the audience who ended up winning the night.

This man just so happens to be my uncle, and one of the great heroes of my life.

I apologize for the side-ways orientation here!  Don’t know how to fix it.  The audio is the main thing, anyway.

Unedited ramblings on a Saturday Morning

I am conflicted about this blogging thing.  I’m not sure how committed I am to sticking with it.

The problem is, I really think of myself as a creative writer.  Coming up with works of fiction is what makes me happy, keeps me grounded, and helps me work out what it all means.

But it takes so much work.

I’m more of a re-writer, actually, than a writer.  The first draft is a long, tedious slog for me as I essentially just work out an outline for what I want to do.  It’s inefficient, but it’s the only way I can do it.  Re-writing, though, fills me with confidence and energy.  I am an excellent editor of my own work;  if a passage or a line that I am particularly fond of doesn’t serve the story – poof!  Gone.  It’s my superpower.  It’s the one area in my life where I feel really competent.  I love chiseling away at an idea, finding the perfect way to best present it, delving into characters and discovering how they really work.  I love it!

But it takes so much time.

Time, for the uninitiated, is not something you can find in spades when you have a family.  Well, at least, not if you are an inefficient sort, as I am.

Blogging is a great compromise, a creative outlet that makes less demands time-wise.  Every time I work on a post though, I have a creeping uneasiness that my time would be better spent on other types of writing.  I have a fantastic idea for a screenplay (believe me, I know how stupid that sounds!) that I haven’t begun work on because I’ve been using my snippets of spare time to prepare stuff for this blog.

I think it comes down to this:  what does God want from the need to write He has given me?  Creative writing is what I am best at, and it’s what I most enjoy…..but it just sits around my computer once it’s done.  I don’t “do” anything with it, partly because I don’t have the time and partly because I am sensitive to criticism.

If I write a short story in the empty woods, does it make a sound?

Am I meant to make a sound?  I mention not having a barbaric yelp in my first post, but that wasn’t entirely true.  I think I do have one, I just don’t know if it’s meant to be heard.  Maybe I’m meant to slave over something I love without accomplishing anything, like the father with his piano in The Tree of Life.  Devotion without mastery is something powerful, I think, in the eyes of our children.  And the value of things that are never fully realized in this world is a theme that tends to run through just about everything I write.  It’s clearly something carved deeply in my heart.

So.  I don’t know.  There are some things I’m interested in exploring (like why I like the Song of Ice and Fire books so much, even though the racy parts are so shocking I never recommend them to Christian friends) and that I think are worth some time and effort.  Maybe I’ll keep this up, at least sporadically.  Maybe it doesn’t matter, maybe this is the empty woods, too.  It may be that there is where I’m meant to stay.

Seven Quick Takes in which I out myself as a craft beer enthusiast

1. I am writing this on Thursday night, during the V.P. debates

My thoughts on politics:

Mmmm, this beer is delicious!

And that’s all I have to say about that.

2. Apropos of the beer

We actually did something today that my children believe we do every day while they are in school:  we went someplace fun!  We live a little over an hour from Troegs Brewery, and my husband heard that they were releasing a very small batch of super-special IPAs* so we decided to hop (heh heh) into the car and make an afternoon of it.

I am so glad we did!  Not only was the beer well worth the trip, the warehouse was a ton of fun.  They have all the brewing equipment set up to be observed and just walking around the perimeter was fascinating. The restaurant inside had some impressive items too;   it was hard to choose what to order.  (As it turned out, the star of our lunch was a crispy and fluffy homemade pretzel, sprinkled with pumpkin seeds and dipped into some frothy/creamy/buttery sauce that made my day!  We bought it for the toddler, but the poor thing did not get much of it.)

3. I liked it so much I asked my husband to take my picture there.

He was shocked, so I had to whisper very very quietly, “I want to put it on my new blog.”  I was terrified that someone might overhear me and my pretentiousness.  But I took the picture.

4. I keep finding myself actually watching the debate.

Blah.

5. Does #2 worry you?  Do you think we are alcoholics?

It’s okay, really!  We talk about beer, plan beer-related activities and proselytize about beer much more than we actually drink it.  Don’t get me wrong, I really love a nice stout or a big, hoppy IPA.  But we are kind of geeks, and we get geeky about the things we love.  We can’t help it.  But by “beer” please at least understand that I mean stuff that has actual taste and does not come in cans that change color by temperature, like my toddler’s Magic Bathtime Puppy.

6. The one heartbreak of the afternoon…

…was the moment, as we passed by Hershey Amusement Park, when my toddler saw the roller coaster and got really, really excited.  “I’m ready!” she shrieked.   I felt terrible.  Luckily, the gooey chocolate cookie she got with lunch seemed to make up for it.  She’s two, in case that doesn’t otherwise make sense.

7.  I feel like I should write something Catholic-y now, since I haven’t really done that yet.

So:  I signed up for the Read the Catechism in a Year thing, and I’m pretty pumped about it.  They email you a small portion of the Catechism every day and within a year you will have read the whole thing.  I think it’s a great idea, and it’s probably the only chance I’ll get, ever, to actually make it through the whole Catechism cover-to-cover.  So, way to go, people who set it up!  It’s a great idea and I think it’s a wonderful (read: easy) way to grow in our faith this year.

Now go read the rest of the Quick Takes at Jen’s!  I guarantee you more Catholicism and less beer.

*Fresh Hops Ale Scratch 78, for those in the know.  Made with elusive but wonderful Citra hops.