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Wednesday, February 23, 2011

If Only

For the first time since God knows when, I completed a brief, for-pay writing project yesterday. I wish it didn’t matter, but during those couple of hours dedicated to the task, I made as much money as over a day-and-a half at the cheese shop. Brain pays more than brawn, my husband says. I know. Shoot me—I love working with food.

You would think after six months (as of today—happy anniversary to me) of employment in a gourmet food/cheese shop, I’d have gained some serious poundage, but no. Standing on my feet for eight hours at a stretch, leaning into food cases to pull out heavy ceramic dishes, lifting bulky prosciuttos onto the meat slicer—well, these things build flexibility and muscle folks—two things I lacked prior to August 2010.

The occasional aches and pains I still feel are worth it too, because the exquisite product that comes from the kitchen and the cheese case makes for happy customers. I can’t tell you how many times over the course of a day, I offer a sample and watch, grinning, as a patron’s eyes roll back in delight. There is something guttural and rewarding about pleasing a person in this elemental way. Nonetheless, if you told me two-plus years ago that I’d be standing behind a counter offering tastes of carrot hummus or mushroom pasta; I’d have wrinkled my brow.  Really?

Though come to think of it, perhaps not.

Like most folks, back when I slogged cement feet through my corporate 9-5, I’d get weary of the pressure and routine of life and daydream about what I’d do “if only.” Never mind that I’ve never worked in one, my romanticized image included rising before dawn to load breads and muffins into a bakery oven. “If only” included departing that job mid-morning to take classes and write.

Substitute the bakery for a cheese/food shop, and I’m kind-of, sort-of, there. The class part comes next month when I start a six-week a fiction writing workshop our town library scored on a grant.

I'll admit however, that nowhere in my daydream did I comprehend the added benefit of the stamina achieved via lifting and washing cast-iron pots and pans. Good food and a work out. Who could ask for anything more?

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Camera Words

After living on the coast for half my life, it still astonishes me that in less than 10 minutes, we can reach the edge of the land and watch the ocean bundle itself, then unravel like a carpet of foam as it churns to shore. The other day though, the sea rested. A full-moon low tide vacuumed the water from the beach where it undulated under the haze of a mild afternoon.

About a mile out, our lighthouse sits on a ledgeonly that day, it didn’t. As the still ocean mirrored the sky, it formed an optical allusion and Minot Light stood suspended, the granite tower hovering above the horizon like a statue levitating over the sea. Sometimes when we are lucky, we catch an image like that on a hot morning in July but this time, it was an unseasonably warm afternoon in February. As we gazed over the sea wall, our lighthouse hung above the horizon as if strung from invisible wires.

It’s a given that this image would appear when yet again, I forgot the camera. Today, I’ll  consider that a good thing. The memory has provided me with an exercise, has challenged me to to extract essential words in an attempt to illustrate the moment via a different mediumso  you see it the way I did two days ago, when the vision imprinted itself like a photograph on my eye.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

5 South Main

Today's post is over at South Shore Living.  I'd love to hear your thoughts.

Have a nice Wednesday everyone!

Monday, February 14, 2011

An Experiment

Last Wednesday, I posted an excerpt for your perusal, and several of you offered concrete suggestions as to what I could do to make it better.  Skip now, if you will, to round two.   I set the piece up for “Tiger Mother” criticism and Domey Malasarn over at The Literary Lab, gave it a go.  If you are interested in reading some tough feedback on the piece, as well as “Tiger Mother” criticism on a couple of other posts, click here.
It's the first time I've thrown something out there knowing the feedback would be hard, hard, hard.  I didn't come out unscathed, but I did come out excited.  When someone offers you insight as to what can be fixed and you know, as soon as you read it, that the criticism is correct, it's like your baby has just toddled across the room for the first time.  She's a new walker, and she'll fall.  A lot.  But after a lot of practice, she'll end up running. 
Thank you Domey.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Early Delivery

I’m one of the few remaining dinosaurs on earth who reads an actual newspaper. I’ve probably written about this before; the habit of spreading out the pages while eating breakfast I started as a teen is so ingrained in me, I’ll grieve when forced to let it go. The same way people resist the transition from bricks and mortar books to E-readers, the idea of eating my oatmeal while clicking on the laptop seems remote somehow, distant and cold. That said I know the time will come, probably soon.

For now though, most days my husband, who gets up a bit earlier, takes the trip to the bottom of the driveway to pick up the paper. Today it didn’t arrive until after he left, so I stepped into my boots and slipped out the door to realize the other thing that I will miss when the paper stops arriving at dawn.

In ten degree weather, sound carries across the frozen street. This morning though, the soft swish of traffic traveling the two lane highway a half-a-mile away whispered and that was all. No cars raced down our commuter road, the birds were quiet, trees stood still. Billows of steam hung like clouds from rooftop furnace vents. Behind the houses across the street, the shadows of leafless trees fingered a sky washed in butter-cream as a low sun reached for the horizon. Frigid air cut at my wool sweater, sharp and tight and glass-like as my boots scuffed on the frosty driveway.  Upon reaching the paper, I stood for a minute watching as my vapor formed and disappeared. For a moment, I was far away— on the side of a snow covered mountain, or standing in the middle of a rural field, miles from the populated neighborhood we call home.

For just a few seconds in my little world, that was all there was.  The newspaper, the silence, and me.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

An Excerpt

I've been having some fun working on something new, so you aren't getting a typical blog post today.  Not sure where this is going, but here is an excerpt.  Objective, critical thoughts, anyone?

I looked up Tarrant County in an atlas once. It was during Mrs. Snyder’s social studies class and we were in the library. I was supposed to be writing down the names of the counties in New Hampshire, where we live, but, you could say I took a detour. Maybe you could call it a short-stop, because I stopped at “K” for Kentucky, before I got to “N” for New Hampshire, and there it was, right in the middle of that key-shaped state. Tarrant County. So, at least that part was true. There is a Tarrant County.

That’s as far as I got though, because that sneaky Mrs. Snyder came up behind me. “Melanie Foss, I do not believe that we live in Kentucky. I believe your assignment is to research the State of New Hampshire. So kindly, get to the task at hand.” That’s the way Mrs. Snyder spoke. All clichés and such. She was always saying, “Put your nose to the grindstone” and “Give it your best shot.” If you listen to Miss Russell, clichés are phrases that are used so often they become ordinary. I guess being ordinary didn’t matter much to Mrs. Snyder.

Later on that week though, I went back to the library during free period and took my sweet time looking at Tarrant County on the map. When I was little, eight maybe, I used to drive Mama crazy asking her questions about the beauty pageant. Mama and I are a team of two.  She’s only been saying that for about a million years. But even if we are, it seems to me that the team had to get started somewhere. I mean, I know she grew up in Kentucky.  The thing is, other than telling me about the Honeydew Festival, she never talks about it.

I'd love your comments.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Water Over (and Under) the Dam

Between working Saturday, chopping ice off the driveway, making killer chili and watching Green Bay Go. All. The. Way. I hadn’t a clue what I’d write for Middle Passages this morning. Over the last several days, ice dams on our roof have caused minor leaking above the family room window. When those gutter-clogging nightmares began backing up, they reminded me of writer’s block. The water trapped behind the impenetrable ridge embodied the flow of words locked inside a frozen brain. Water on a roof has to find an outlet. The liquid that dripped into buckets on the back of our couch trickled in like the ideas that pop up when you don’t expect them—in the middle of the night—or when you are singing in the shower. Only, I wasn't getting any of those.

Over the weekend, we did some Googling. We discovered that if you chop off the legs of old pantyhose, fill them with ice-melt, knot them and lay them vertically down the edge of your roof, drooping over the gutter, it creates ridges in the ice and gives the water a conduit in which to travel. For the time being it worked.

Laying in bed early today, listening to water dripping off the house in above-freezing temperatures, I pondered the best method to apply ice-melt to my brain. What could I use to carve a clear channel, ensuring that words would flow as easily as the snow, thawing off the top of our house? Here’s where synchronicity rolled in. My first email today came from WM Freelance Writers’ Connection and contained a post called: Blizzard Brainstorm: Using Prompts to Keep your Writing Flowing. The article contains two links to websites that provide prompts to writers.

I’m pretty sure things warming up already.

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Friday, February 4, 2011

Middle Passages, Year Two

For those of you who don't know, Middle Passages began as a vehicle to help me recover from the shock of an unexpected corporate downsizing.  A year ago, I wrote this. Two years ago I wrote this.

Do you suppose they award points for longevity?

Seven hundred and twenty nine days later, here I am.  This “new” life has become, well, life. I’m still rifling through the pages, trying to guess what the next chapter will bring. It’s a more subdued anniversary then the last one. Success hasn't always been evident. Nonetheless, I still can’t wait to sit in front of the computer and let words drip out of my fingers.  I could have snowed the world with resumes two years ago.  No doubt I would have landed something, but at what cost?  The me you read here in these posts is the me I'm supposed to be; the one I should have been all along. Nothing can convince me otherwise.

Not only can I do this. I must do this.

It’s the only thing I know for sure.

Here's to Middle Passages on its second anniversary. I thank each and every one of you for reading.

Happy Friday to all.  Hope those affected are recovering from the storm that impacted so many. 

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Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Slow Beans for a Fast Life

Hey all.  Happy Wednesday!

You can find today's post over at South Shore Living.   

If you are one of the 100 million people impacted by the mega storm tearing across the country, how much snow, sleet, freezing rain or rain did you get...so far?