Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Rollercoaster Ride

I haven’t blogged in quite some time now due to the multitude of distractions that have taken place during the first half of the year. The first half 2010 has been filled with memorable times. Here’s a small sample of the welcome and not so welcome ones:

In January, I volunteered to do a big job for my writing organization, Panhandle Professional writers. I agreed to Chair the Frontiers in writing contest. I am already on the board of directors as the Publicity Chair, which meant that I would be heavily involved with advertising both the conference and the contest anyway. But I agreed to help because I needed the challenge. I was thrilled for the opportunity and I have enjoyed every minute of the process. It was a huge learning process for me as well as a huge task to undertake.

January began with my search for contest judges. Getting judges for the 15 categories—one each for the preliminary round. These judges were to determine which 6 entries were to continue to the next level. The 15 finals judges were then sent the entries and a new judging sheet to determine the top four ranking entries in their respective categories. Then, I had to select one more judge who took the first place winner in all 15 categories and determined which one received the honor of Best of Show.

At first glance, this might sound fairly easy. But it’s not. Professionals willing to read and judge in their prospective genres are not easy to find. Editors and agents for those 15 categories are also not easy to find. These are all very busy people whose time is precious and little. To find 31 individuals willing and generous enough to spare their time is difficult for a writing organization that is also a non-profit group with very little money or other resources to entice these people to work for free for you. I spent a lot of time writing emails, researching potential candidates and speaking with some by phone.

I was thrilled and impressed with the caliber of professionals who lent their time and expertise to our group and gave kind, thoughtful and valuable advice to the more than 150 contestants who entered their work.

Most of the contestants were new to writing and new to contests. The value of receiving this critique and acknowledgment of their efforts by professionals is incalculable for new writers. I know I was once one of them. Since I have not been published for money—ever—their advice is still as valuable to me today.

The awards ceremony for the contest was June 26, 2010, at the Frontiers in Writing conference. I was very excited to be presenting the awards although I do not like to speak in front of crowds. The experience was more than I expected and I enjoyed every minute of it. I was exhausted too.

June turned out to be the busiest month for me. It started with a trip to south Texas to see my beautiful niece get married. It was a lovely wedding and the couple had a picture-perfect ceremony in a garden setting. The event mostly took place in an air-conditioned garden room, but there was a lot of going in and out of the cool building such as the dancing that occurred outside.

You can quote me when I say, the next time I go to Houston it will only be in the dead of winter. I was drenched the entire evening and it did not rain!

The following day, I went with other family members to San Antonio to meet my new daughter-in-law, her family and my son and to spend some time with my two daughters who live in Waco and Austin. Since my son is in the Navy it was the only chance the family had for all of us to get together. I thoroughly enjoyed it.

The following week, I attended a week-long, intensive writer’s workshop at West Texas A & M University in Canyon, Texas. I recommend the West Texas Writers’ Academy to anyone who writes. The caliber of instructors is excellent. It was very rewarding, I learned a lot, met some wonderful fellow writers and started a new YA horror novel that I’m very excited about.

The following weekend was the PPW, Frontiers in Writing Conference already discussed above. I recommend our Conferences to all, as well.

But that’s not all that happened.

I was home from the conference long enough to take off my shoes and eat an evening meal with my family before the biggest event of the month decided to happen.

My youngest daughter, due to give birth to her second child on July 29, decided, (or rather the baby did) that it was time to come into the world. So off to the hospital we went at about 8:00 that evening. He was born at 1:27 a.m. the next morning, June 27, 2010. Gavin Malak Dia weighed 5 pounds 4.8 ounces. Now normally that would be a good enough weight to get him going okay in life. But for a 5 week premature infant, it wasn’t enough to get him released to the regular nursery.

So for the past 9 days, my daughter and her three year old daughter, my husband, and I have spent sleepless nights and nervous days going back and forth to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit to see the baby and watch his progress. Today, after a few minor setbacks, he will be coming home. He has gained most of his birth weight back and is progressing at a very normal rate now.

June was a rollercoaster ride for me; filled with frustration, joy, tears and rewards. It will long be the most memorable month in the most memorable half-year of my life. I can’t wait to see what the rest of the year brings me.

Friday, March 19, 2010

I Knew A Little Girl

I knew a little girl one time who loved fairy tales. In the days before DVD or VCR or even cable, her whole year hinged on the one night every year that Cinderella came on TV, watching Leslie Ann Warren shy away from her wicked step-mother and step-sisters, but proudly step up and dance with the prince with such stars in her eyes, wearing such a beautiful gown and, of course, glass slippers. This little girl I knew would wait breathlessly for one other night every year to watch the Wizard of Oz. She dreamed of the beautiful colors in Oz, and Glinda's gown, and, of course, those Ruby Slippers. Heartbeats absolutely suspended to watch these 2 movies - the music, the colors, the costumes, and the stories - and the little girl I knew was starry-eyed for one more year.

I knew a little girl who loved to play with baby dolls. Oh, she had several, but her favorites were the dolls that did nothing but lay on the bed and wait to be picked up and loved. Their bodies were soft, except for plastc arms and legs and head, but they were babies. And she loved every one of them and carried them with her as much as she could.

I knew a little girl who loved to sing and dance and roller skate and hula hoop. Very active was the little girl I knew. Sitting for more than 5 minutes was pure torture. One of her favorite games was to spin around and around until she was dizzy, then try to walk through the house without bumping into anything. Sometimes instead of spinning she would start in her mother's bedroom with a hand held mirror and hold it chest level, turn her head down and try to walk through the house by watching the ceiling in her mirror. She also loved to dig in the sand in the back yard of her house. Her parents periodically bought a load of sand, intending to spruce up the yard, but the little girl I knew was in the sand before any yard work could be done, digging tunnels and holes that became swimming pools.

I knew a little girl who knew how special a princess was as the daughter of a king, and she knew that there were more princesses than anyone knew. There was a princess that lived in the box of cotton swabs in her mother's dresser drawer. If she plucked the cotton off the stick and pulled it and curled it with her finger, then put it back on the tip of the wooden stick, she could talk with the princess. She even saw princesses in the trees. In the world of trees, the grand ladies all had to stand on their heads and the leaves were the beautiful ball gowns.

I knew a little girl who loved to draw and create. Reams of paper in school were used to make dresses for grand ladies that needed something special to wear to the ball. The little girl I knew had boxes of paper dolls and she lovingly drew and colored and cut out each gown for each doll. She gave names to every single one of the paper dolls, and was constantly scouting her mother's magazines for another grand lady to add to the collection.

So what happened to the little girl I knew? She met Prince Charming. But she stopped moving so much, preferring to sit in one spot. Oh, she still loves the fairy tales and stories of princes and princesses, kings and queens. She still loves the Land of Oz and the Ruby Slippers. But this little girl has reached middle age. She is now the grandmother of 2 other little girls and a little boy. But I think the original little girl is still there.

Nandy Ekle

Monday, March 15, 2010

Collection More Than Dust

Wow! I'm so happy. Today I recieved word that I have once again won the Irish Lottery! How could anyone get so lucky?

But seriously, I am sick of junk email. But until my computer gets smart enough to know the difference between what truly is junk and what I really want, I'll have to live with it. So live goes on.

Yesterday, I spent the entire day taking photos of "vintage" stuff I have inherited over the years from family, so that I can get rid of it. There are two main reasons to do this. 1. Lack of space for the stuff I want to keep. 2. Lack of funds. So, I'm not holding my breath for that lottery money to come rolling in.

After taking the pictures, I had to download them off the camera, mess around with them so that they would fit the requirements for eBay and then start loading each item into a program called Turbo Lister. This is supposed to be the fastest way to get stuff on eBay. Wow, I'm so glad I'm doing it that way and not the slow way. As of last night I seven items in the program and eight items left. Of course, the time spent also included, going back and forth to the laundry room to get that done. Stopping to make sure the grandchild and hubby were fed and lots of time researching what some of my items really were and whether or not there was any real money to be had from any of them.

As it turns out, I have one small Haviland Limoge jewelery tray and a piece of pre-1940s carnival glass that might actually bring something if I'm smart about how I list them. I also found that I have a real McCoy cookie jar. It's not one of the ones that is actually worth big money. But I is worth a little to collectors. Other than that, most of my little knick knacks are made in Japan--not occupied Japan which would mean some real money--just Japan pre-WWII and post-ocupation.

A few years ago, I made some good money on eBay, selling some 1950s John Deere toy tractors and other items like that. But I don't think I'll be making a career of selling this way. It's too much work for the money.

The fun part of all of this has been researching what is valuable. Did you know that there are magazines dedicated to almost everything that people collect? It's amazing. From ashtrays to post cards and more. There are corresponding websites for all of this. I actually found a website dedicated to collecting ashtrays used in advertising! Amazing!

I am not immune to this human phenomenon. I have a collection of pigs that ranges from figurines to children's books to socks and slippers. I have a collection of China with painted roses it ranges from antique pieces to miniatures. I also collect witch Barbies. I have Halloween Barbies and, of course, the Wicked Witch of the West Barbie.

But my largest collection has no real focus. I collect books--paperbacks to hardbacks--modern fiction to rare books on just about any subject. They surround me in my office and are stacked in piles by my chair in the living room and in a small bookcase by my bed. They come in electronic form on my mp3 and cd form for my car and computer. So I'm not immune to this strange and addictive pass time. I just have to find other people's weaknesses so that I can make room for my own.

As I travel this new and strange webverse of collecting, just to make room for my expanding collections, I'll update this blog.

In the meantime, tell Nandy and me what you collect.

Monday, March 8, 2010

The Wizard Returns

The earliest memory I have of the Wizard of Oz, I was about four years old, but I know the first time I saw it was earlier than that because my dad talks about me calling it "The Boz." Watching this movie was like sitting in pure magic for the short time it played on TV once a year.
My love for this movie has stayed with me my whole life and I have, from time to time, collected Wizard of Oz items, the most recent being Barbies. For my last birthday I received Dorothy and my daughter, son-in-law and granddaughter gave me Glinda, the Good Witch of the North.
My granddaughter, another name for heaven, has been my buddy for the two short years of her life. When we are together she loves for me to read to her, every book our hands can touch, and Nana's heart is thrilled beyond measure to be able to hold her her and read the words that go with the pictures that keep her so enraptured.
During their last visit, my granddaughter found the two dolls, still in their boxes, and lovingly, carefully carried them all over the house talking to them and pushing the buttons to hear them sing. Her mother informed me that she had never seen the movie but was fascinated with Glinda because she wore a beautiful dress.
In a state of shock at the magic she had withheld from her daughter, I grabbed up my baby and sat her on the couch next to me and turned on the DVD player. The familiar black and white story started up, loaded with music and promise of magic. We sat together watching Dorothy's dog jump out of the basket and run home. The tornado carried her house away to the colorful place known as Oz and the amazing adventures that followed.
Then it was over and I felt the same ache as when I was four years old. I looked down at my girl and she looked up at me with eyes the size of saucers.
"Nana, watch it again!" And I fell in love all over again.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Introducing My New Partner Nandy Ekle

Nandy Ekle has just published her first post on this blog.  I intend to change some of the other aspects of this blog to accommodate a partner.  She is also a writer and a grandmother, like me.  This is not her actual name.  I won't reveal her real name until she is ready to do so herself.  She writes short stories and is published online in a several ezines.  Nandy writes suspense and horror mostly, but I am sure she is capable of writing much, much more than this.
Nandy is also ten years younger than me, but I find her to be far wiser.  On top of that she's much prettier than me.  What was I thinking?
Nandy and I will be getting together to figure out new directions for this blog and take it into, I hope, uncharted territories.  At least, they will be uncharted for the two of us.  Niether one of us have much experience in the webispere.  And we intend to enjoy ourselves in this new adventure.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

The Cheeriest Part of the Day

I walk in the door after a day of sitting at my desk. It's the end of the month so there was a steady stream of people coming in to make their house payments, and we bantered back and forth in a friendly way while I counted their money and wrote them receipts. When I get home in the evening I go to the gym for a hasty round with the weight machines, then come home and throw something together for dinner.

Now for the absolute best part of the day. I have looked forward to this all day, since getting out of bed at 6:00 in the morning to soak in hot water while I read my current book. I think about this particular hour all day from the time I quickly brush my teeth, put on make up and grab my jewelry. I kiss my husband and run out the door in a race with the traffic and morning clock. Walking in the back door and pouring a cup of coffee I take my seat and go through my routine watching the clock. I know this hour will come and I'm ticking off the minutes with great anticipation. Five more minutes, two more minutes - the clock chimes and I'm out the back door on my way home. Almost there, my favorite hour of the day!

I stack the dishes in the sink and walk back to my bedroom where I close the door, carefully controlling my emotions, the excitement of the bliss I am about to have, the release I have worked for all day and feel that I whole-heartedly deserve. I walk to the bathroom and there I see them with their arms out full of welcome and love: my pajamas hanging on the back of the door. I am almost in tears of happiness to see the comfort of pajamas, and the clothes I am wearing dissolve. I slip into the cloud-like fabric and take a deep breath.

Dear pajamas, sweet pajamas, comfortable pajamas. I love you, loose-fitting, who-cares pajamas. Thank you for being there for me every evening! Honestly, nothing in the world any cheerier than pajamas!

--Nandy Ekle

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Spam vs. Spamming

I would rather eat a can of spam, (Blechhh!) than deal with internet and email spamming! It drives me crazy! I have Windows Live for my email. That way, I can look at all three of the email addresses that I work with.

It's really practical to have that many. One is for my private use, for buying things on the internet. One is for friends and fellow writers and family to contact me. And the last one is for the writing contest I'm currently chairing.

I really can't believe it but the one that gets the most spam is the one I use for friends, family and fellow writers. The other two don't get as much.  I'm sure some techno geek could explain why that is.

The way that Windows Live works, is to put the spam in one pile marked "unread emails" and then the another pile for "unread emails from contacts". The second list is just a duplicate of what comes through to my reading list. The first list is EVERYTHING, contacts and junk. I have to go through that and either delete the ones from my contact list, or "block and delete" which puts it in a special list that is supposed to keep it out of my emails all together. I get so much that it takes at least half an hour every day to deal with it.

Of course, I could tighten my email security. But then, emails from people I haven't heard from in a long time and emails from friends who have new addresses might get dumped before they get through. It's a nightmare any way you look at it.

Others I've complained to about this just say, "It's the price of technology and progress." And I would have to say that they're right. So, my gripes about this are useless. But, if spamming, phishing, and junk mail are with us for life in the electronic world; besides the bad spelling involved in some of these practices, and despite the fact that no one writes letters to send through snail mail anymore, why is my physical mailbox so full of stuff I didn't order, stuff that's not bills and stuff that's totally as ineffective and the spam at getting me to buy their junk?

Progress my rear.  It's just one more way of annoying people.