Friday, December 12, 2008

My secret boyfriend...

Hey, ladies, you know we all have one. You know, that special man that we see every day (or week, or year), up on the movie or television screen. That one guy that is just so perfect that even your husband wouldn't mind if you ran away with him. (Okay, the husband might mind because who would make dinner and change the cat box if you ran away, but he's a practical guy, so he doesn't worry about the miniscule chance you will ever meet your secret boyfriend, let alone get close enough to run away with him. Men are no fun—except my secret boyfriend, he would understand.) Oh, if only he could meet me, my secret boyfriend would tell me I am perfect just the way I am and give me my own luxury home filled with kittens and a maid to clean all the litter boxes.

And how do I know a certain someone is my secret boyfriend? Well, not only is he cute, he's intelligent and funny. And sometimes, it's like he's actually reading my mind:

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Merry Chicken to All!

Yes, 'tis the season to get seriously annoyed by the endless ads and promotions extolling that the holidays are coming! Better spend your money now! From the decorations that appeared in stores the day after Halloween, to the radio stations that switch to all holiday music all the time (in November!), we can't escape having Christmas stuffed down our throats.

I protest. And I've finally decided to do something about it.

This brainstorm came to me last week, after sitting through a dinner in a restaurant and being tortured by a weird combination of Top 40 hits and Christmas standards. I'm not going to use the word Christmas until it's appropriate.* Instead, I'm going to substitute something that I actually like having stuffed down my throat: Chicken. So when radio stations want to play holiday music in early November, I will sing along:

"I'm dreaming of a white chicken ..."
"Have a holly, jolly chicken!"
"I'll be home for chicken..."
"It's beginning to look a lot like chicken!"
"Have yourself a merry little chicken..."
"There'll be a bluuuuue chicken without youuuu..."
"Feliz pollo y prospero año de felicidad!"

Unfortunately, "The Chicken Song" made famous by Nat King Cole is about "Chestnuts roasting on an open fire," not chickens ... but I could make an exception. Anyway, I encourage you all to indulge in a little silliness with me this chicken season. After all, is it any sillier to say, "Merry Chicken!" than it is to sing about Christmas in November?

Finally, Clio would like to add her own, "Bah, humbug!" for the Chicken Season:

*That would be about two weeks before actual Christmas. And yes, I know that's today, but shouldn't my rants suffer from the same procrastination as everything else I do?

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Beautiful dreamers ... until you wake up

Okay, I'm not too proud to admit that I like naps. Actually, I adore them. With Boy headed for school at 6:30 am, in combination with my crazy evenings, I often don't get the ten, er, eight hours of sleep I need to feel fully functional. So occasionally, like this morning, I see Boy out the door and then head straight back to bed for a couple hours' make-up time. I wake up feeling refreshed and ready to waste work the rest of the day.

This morning was a little different. I had a really weird dream, so weird that it actually woke me up. It involved driving with Boy and getting lost (and I did get lost alone in my car this weekend, different story), finding a way back to a place I knew and finding it blocked, turning around, and then being forced to leave the car for some reason (the dream skipped that part) and go by bicycle, then foot, to escape a city via rail tracks. (The dream also skipped why we couldn't just take the train; they were in the station.) Anyway, Boy and I ended up in someone's workshop, being chased by zombies we didn't know were behind us. Pretty creepy, and yet, as I was dreaming, a little corner of my subconscious was saying, "Escaping a city chased by zombies? This would make an awesome story!"*

Now, there's no reason that dreams can't inspire good stories. One of my favorite writers of historical fantasy, Katherine Kurtz, has written over a dozen books after fleshing out a story (and an entire world) that she had in a dream. Of course, she likely had notecards right next to her bed to take down the dream in minute detail. My little corner of the subconscious is not that proactive. It whispers, "Oh, this would be an awesome story," yet it doesn't bother trying to wake me up to take notes. (It, too, probably needs its ten, er, eight hours of sleep.) So I have woken up, vaguely remembering the following:

  • A girl's home is about to overrun by invaders? aliens? ecological disaster? She escapes to the town's underground library, where she will rebuild civilization with books. And everyone will be grateful and treat her like a goddess! (Why the library is hidden underground, I don't know. Why a smartypants should expect to be treated like a goddess is equally mysterious. And yet, while I was dreaming this, I thought it was the greatest idea ever!)
  • There's something like a jungle gym in the sky. And people run around it to fight each other! They might fall off! But the winner will rule the kingdom! (Again, why in the sky? I don't know. And yet, my silly subconscious was telling me, "This is the greatest story ever!!!")
So I was reminded again this morning that while my subconscious might come up with an image or a situation that seems really unique and interesting, when you take away the immediacy of dreaming, by itself it's not very compelling. I've never been tempted to try any of these ideas because there's no story to them. More important, there's no character in them. Now, someday I might dream up a character who seems to fit in one of these situations, and that might spark something. But for now, I just take that little subconscious voice with a grain of salt. And vow I'll try to get to bed earlier tomorrow.

*Or it might, if Max Brooks hadn't beaten me to writing the definitive zombie book.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Photo of the Week--12/1/08

While we were living in the northerly latitudes of London, where the winter season meant total darkness before 5 pm, it was essential that we escape to the Mediterranean during the February school break. In 2001 my parents brought my paternal grandmother across the pond, and four generations of us visited Spain for a week. We rented a minivan (minivan on tiny European roads = very interesting) and drove through Andalucía, hitting the beautiful cities of Seville, Jerez (home of the sherry industry), Granada, and Córdoba.

A common feature in these cities is the Alcázar, or "fortress," a stronghold needed during the many years when Muslim and European empires were battling for control of the region. Here is the family in front of part of the Alcázar of Córdoba: my grandmother, my mom, Boy, and my dad. This was the second trip to Europe for Grandma (she also came with us to Italy), who was almost 82 at the time. She had never owned a passport before we moved to London, but was so excited to visit us and try a little traveling. Grandma passed away just about a year ago; while she inspired me in very many ways, one of the most important was this: you're never too old to expand your horizons.