Dust Bunnies and the Voice of Responsibility

It’s been over two long, tortuous months since I’ve written anything substantial or worthwhile, unless you want to count (a) telephone messages, and (b) the few abbreviated paragraphs I’ve written in my personal journal. I don’t count those, though, since phone messages don’t meet minimum word requirements (“call Dick on cell”), and, while I can get downright verbose when complaining about the universe and everything in it, what I write in my journal isn’t motivated by creative impulse; I’m not at all picky about how many run-on sentences there are, or how many times I use the word, “stupid.”

I love to write. I want to write. I can’t think of anything else but writing, unless I’m thinking of ways of getting out of it…and, technically, that’s still thinking about writing. I wake up on weekends, excited at the prospect of a private rendezvous with my laptop, but I’m invariably diverted by the forbidding, ominous Voice of Responsibility, snidely asking me, “are you sure there isn’t something else you ought to be doing?” It hits me with the same cold bucket of guilt I get doused with every time I see a dust bunny provocatively lying in the middle of my hallway. My first inclination is to ignore it instead of sweeping it up, hoping it finds companionship with friends under the sofa, but guilt always sends me looking for the broom.

And if the Voice of Responsibility fails to completely derail my good intentions, its best-buddy and second lieutenant, the Voice of Let’s-Do-Anything-But, adds its two-cents worth. Last Saturday, for instance, I woke up excited about having a day to myself to write, to get lost in my imagination, with no one to wait on, or do for, or think of. Hubby was gone for the day and the dogs weren’t going to be a problem because they’re pretty much self-sufficient as long as there’s food in their bowls. But, the Voices had other ideas:

“You’ve only got about thirty pages left to read in your book,” they whined. “Why don’t you sit down with a cup of coffee and finish it? It’s so good, and even though this is the thirty-fourth time you’ve read it, the best part’s just a few pages away!”

I immediately agreed. I filled my coffee cup one more time, sat down, and finished my book.

The next thing I hear is, “You know, you should wash the sheets on the bed. Remember that article you read last week on Yahoo! about dust mites and dead skin, and how you should wash your sheets in hot water at least once a week?”

Oh, yeah…so I stripped the sheets off the bed, and decided to grab the rest of the laundry while I was at it.

The next thing I hear is, “You hungry? It’s about 11:30…there’s leftover pizza in the frig.”

Pizza!?

Well, things went downhill from there. After the pizza, I folded clothes, vacuumed rugs, let the dogs out, let the dogs in, unloaded the dishwasher, and then practiced playing “Variations on the Theme from the Celebrated Canon in D” on my piano, which is something I generally don’t do unless I’m trying to avoid writing. That actually turned out to be my one saving grace, because the piano is in the same room as my computer. I eventually got up, took the two steps needed to reach my desk, and sat down. I adjusted my chair. I flexed my fingers. Then, after browsing Facebook, checking all my e-mail accounts, and surfing the net (which was how I learned all there was to know about dust mites), I opened up my word processor…and the only thing I could do was stare out the window (wow, can’t believe how big that tree’s grown!)…at the wall…at the shelf on said wall, piled up with all sorts of books about how to write…and, finally at the blank, desolate, unmoving (and unsympathetic) computer monitor. I waited for something—anything—to miraculously materialize, but, alas, no luck.

It suddenly occurs to me how ironic is it that someone like me—who has no trouble personifying globs of dust and dog hair—can’t seem to write about anything other than writing, or the lack thereof.

Apparently, if I ever want to write a novel, and I do, it’s going to have to be about writing…

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2nd Campaigner Challenge

This second challenge was, in my humble opinion (the same humble opinion that no one listens to anyway), a tad harder than the first. We were given five different prompts and tasked with doing one or all of the following:

  • Write a pitch/logline for a book based on the prompts (less than 100 words)
  • Write a short story/flash fiction piece of less than 200 words based on the prompts
  • Write a poem with a twist using the prompts as inspiration (in less than 200 words)
  • Write a story/poem in five sentences, each sentence based on one of the prompts
  • Write a poem/flash fiction piece (in less than 200 words) about the water pear *without* using the words “pear”, “spoon”, or “droplet”.
  • I chose to write a piece of short fiction (under 200 words) on the following prompt:

    Two people are sitting together under the remains of a concrete bridge. Their backs are against a rusted bridge support. One person’s leg is cut. The other person has wet hair.

    We were also given the opportunity to invite critiques from our fellow campaigners, which I am formally doing now. This is the first piece of short fiction I’ve written–at least for public consumption–which is just a not-so-subtle way of saying, be kind to me…I’m just a poor, lowly (and menopausal, therefore over-emotional and ultra-sensitive) blogger.

    Oh, and honesty is very much appreciated, since I can use all the help I can get.

    In the meantime, I’ll be cowering under the coffee table.

    ***********************************

    Jack dropped to the ground next to Dougie, his breath coming in quick, short bursts. His shirt clung to his back like a soggy blanket as he slithered out of his knapsack. His fair hair, normally neat and tidy, was wet and standing on end; he looked like a startled hedgehog.

    “Well, I don’t think we were followed,” he said, sucking in air. He had doubled back in the dark after settling Dougie under the remains of the concrete bridge that used to link the island with the rest of civilization.

    “How’s your leg?”

    Dougie let out a low grunt as he shifted position against the rusted metal bridge support.

    “Hurts like hell! One of Fowler’s goons got me. Where’d they come from anyway? I thought the area was supposed to be deserted!”

    “It was. Somebody clearly knew we were coming.” He leaned over to inspect the ragged gash running up the length of Dougie’s calf. Good. Not too deep, then. Jack got to his feet.

    “Can you walk?”

    “Guess I’ll have to,” Dougie said. “Unless you can find me a taxi off this god-forsaken a-toll.”

    Jack grinned, reaching down for Dougie’s arm. “I’ll see what I can do.”

    First Campaigner Challenge

    This first challenge was, well, challenging. The assignment was to write a short story (or flash fiction) of 200 words or less, beginning with the words, “Shadows crept across the wall.” To make it more interesting, we were to try to (a) make it 200 words exactly; (b) use the word “orange” in there somewhere; and (c) end with the words, “everything faded.”

    I’m pretty sure my feeble attempt below doesn’t qualify as “fiction.” It does, however, qualify as “short,” coming in at exactly 200 words, which should make up for the lack of a title, which I don’t have because my brain is fuzzed.

    *******************************

    “Shadows crept across the wall…”

    I hear naught (naught?) but my fingers drumming on the mouse pad. My muse must have drifted off.

    “Shadows crept across the wall…tippy-toeing like little cartoon burglars…”

    Cartoon burglars? Really?

    “…stealing what little light remained within the…” Within the what? Within the courtyard? Gymnasium? Bathroom?

    I know! A prison cell! A bunch of prisoners in orange jumpsuits… but not all of them in a prison cell, packed in like a bunch of college students in a phone booth. No….a prison exercise yard. It has walls, it’s outside, so there could, believably (maybe?) be shadows creeping across some walls. Without doing any extensive research, though, I can’t think why those shadows would be creeping across those particular walls…surely there are other, more important things for shadows to be creeping on.

    Like, in a forest, dusk approaching, the air cooling, getting heavy with dew, settling silently on the forest floor as shadows creep in slowly, malevolently muffling the sound of footsteps…

    Again, really?? Where’s the conflict? The subtext? The plot?

    The point?

    “…malevolently muffling the sound of footsteps behind me. I turn and come face-to-face with a prisoner in an orange jumpsuit.”

    And, then…YES!

    “…everything faded.”

    4th Writers’ Platform-Building Campaign

    Here we go again!

    Rachel Harrie is hosting another Writers Platform-Building Campaign (for which, in my humble opinion she deserves unlimited kudos), and I am looking forward to participating again. These campaigns provide participants with a safe environment to test the boundaries of their creative comfort zones…and if you’re anything like me, you have to be coerced, conjoled, or flat evicted! They also help increase blog traffic by introducing everyone to other like-minded writers…not to mention other unlike-minded writers, which is even better!

    I’m looking forward to the first challenge – which I equate with a roller coaster ride (not an original metaphor, but apt). I get in with shaky knees and a queasy stomach, the whole time mentally cursing whoever talked me into doing it.

    But, I know I’ll be proud of myself for just getting on…

    Wall Boinging does Not a “Plan” Make

    I’ve been 60 years old for almost two weeks now, and I’m discovering that turning 60 is the equivalent to pulling up stakes and moving to another continent. I find myself in an unfamiliar culture with different goals and objectives…and different priorities. This move from one decade to another has, quite unexpectedly, brought confusion, disorientation…and a questioning as to how the heck I got here in the first place. Like Dorothy, I’ve come to after hitting my head on a birthday, and I find myself in the middle of Oz, but without Toto to administer a much-needed reality check by peeing on the yellow brick road.

    In short, my comfortable complacency has taken a hike, am-scrayed, gone bye-bye. And with it, all sense of direction.

    I’m ashamed to say that I’ve never been a goal setter, which is turning out to be somewhat problematic. For the first time in my life, I’m really feeling the absence of a “plan.” And, I haven’t the first clue on how to make one up. Even if I knew how to make up a “plan,” I’m not certain one “plan” would be enough in light of how many things I’d like to accomplish. Therefore, I find myself living haphazardly, to say the least, boinging off one wall or another, trying to decide how and where to invest my precious (but aging) resources. I’m at a crossroads, yes, but instead of having three directions from which to choose—left, right, or straight on—I’ve got a hundred, minimum. And there’s a road sign with an arrow pointing at every single one, saying “turn here.” None of those road signs sports a destination, either, like “write book – 15 miles.” They just say, “turn here.” And, I can’t stay where I am because I’ll get run over by somebody a lot smarter than me who does have a “plan.”

    The irony is that one of the more positive aspects of getting older is finally having time to oneself (which I’ve written about here before, so this particular neurosis is not totally unexplored). But, I think it has finally sunk in, become more fact than fiction, that while I may have more opportunities for quality time, the quantity of time itself is diminishing. I feel a lot of pressure to use it wisely—and as a result, panic begins to bloom like adolescent acne.

    And with the panic come the voices.

    “You’re taking all this wayyy too seriously.”

    And, “What’s the point…you won’t succeed anyway.”

    Followed by, “Whadaya doing? You haven’t got time for all this thinking.”

    But, the voice that does me in is the one that says, “You’re gonna neglect your hubby, and then your marriage’ll go straight to the south pole and you’ll grow old and die alone, and have nothing left to show for your life.”

    Sheesh. And I thought my five-year-old grandson talked a lot!

    If I’m totally honest with myself (and it does happen from time to time), I’d have to admit I should have seen this coming. I do know how to count, after all. I just didn’t think it would be so, well, real. Or so immediate. After all, it seems like it was just yesterday that I was 59.

    And at 59, you think you have all the time in the world…

    With Age Comes Honey West

    Today is my birthday, and to celebrate, I’m going to do something I’ve never done before. I promised myself a few years back when I was younger–and not as panicked as I am now–that I would step out of my comfort zone at least once a year and try something classified under the heading of “daring-do stuff.” Sort of like a bucket list, only without the bucket, since I didn’t make a list limiting myself to specifics, like jumping out of airplanes (not in a million years) or climbing Mt. Everest (“because it’s there” is not a good enough excuse to climb something taller than a stepladder). It was just a simple promise to myself to broaden my experiences. Now, one would think that turning 60 would be dangerous enough to get me off the hook for 2012. It is, after all, something I’ve never done before (and won’t do again, a fact that I’m a bit ambivalent about, actually). And, it definitely gets me out of my comfort zone, as my 50’s were very comfortable indeed (I had, obviously, ten years to get used to them). But it doesn’t count because it’s not voluntary…I have no choice but to become 60, because that’s what comes after 59.

    Therefore, for my one deliberate act of daring-do for 2012, tonight at 6:30, I am going to travel across town and boldly walk into a Gun Shop (I bet you thought I was going to say “strip club” but I’ve already done that). Before you snicker and tell yourself you could walk into a Gun Shop with one hand tied behind your back, please be advised that (and this is the daring-do part) not only am I going to walk into a Gun Shop, I’m going to actually pick up a gun and actually shoot it.

    It all started when my husband walked in from work one day and said, “how’d you like to get your concealed handgun license?”

    “Huh?” I eloquently replied.

    “Your concealed handgun license,” he repeated, wide-eyed and expectant.

    I thought about it for a minute, and let the import of the question sink in.

    “Huh?”

    I have to admit, I’m not sure I want to do this. It surprises me that I’m more hesitant about this than I was about climbing on a motorcycle twelve years ago, which could be because (a) twelve years ago I wasn’t as smart as I am now, or (b) my definition of “living life with gusto” has undergone a subtle, albeit definite, change, probably because of (a) above. Either excuse would give me license to back out, but I’m not going to do that. I’m going to keep my word to myself, boldly trudge forward, pick up a pistol, and, hopefully, avoid shooting my foot off.

    To put this in its proper context for those of you who haven’t read my very short–but succinct–“About Me” page on this blog, I live in Texas. The land of cowboys, tumble weeds, Judge Roy Bean, and, yes, concealed handgun laws. To be honest, I haven’t given the issue of the right to carry a concealed weapon much thought. I’m a very trusting person (spelled n-a-i-v-e) who believes that everybody who carries a gun on their person, in secret, out of sight, unbeknownst to anybody else, has been thoroughly and properly vetted as a Pillar of Good Citizenship. Probably more to the point, though, since the issue is a pretty polarizing one down here, I’d just as soon stay on everybody’s good side, especially the good side of those who carry concealed handguns. In this case, ignorance is bliss.

    Anyway, once my brain rebooted itself and I began to mull it over, it occurred to me that before I took to carrying one around in my purse (or strapped to my thigh, like Honey West), I’d have to know how to shoot one. I mean, isn’t that sort of a prerequisite?

    Which brings me to the apex of my discomfort with the whole idea…if I learn how to shoot a gun, handle it safely, accept responsibility for it, I take the risk of becoming obligated to educate myself about the whole right-to-carry issue. I just might actually have to jump off the fence, form an opinion–an actual well-thought-out opinion–with facts to back it up. That gives me the willies just thinking about it.

    On the upside, that gives me two daring-do’s for 2012, making 2013 a bye.

    I Resolve…

    It’s a new year. Again. Why we can’t just hold on to the old one until it wears out is beyond me. If we took really good care of it, kept it clean, oiled, and out of the rain, it would last twice as long. But, we are, afterall, members of a throw-away society, so we get a new one every twelve months, whether we need it or not.

    On the upside, though, the turn of a new year is a great time to start over, reassess priorities, change course if we don’t like the heading we’re on. A new year is just chock-full of unrealized opportunity. Optimism abounds. As a result, many of us take the time to sit down, get quiet, and thoughtfully jot on a piece of paper what is commonly referred to as our “New Year’s Resolutions,” solemn pledges to either (a) not fill up the cuss-bucket with our spare pocket change, or (b) buy every self-help/self-improvement CD out there, along with (for an additional, but very nominal, fee), the optional food dryer-outer and over-sized medicine ball.

    I use the term “us” in a global sense…”us” doesn’t usually include “me.” In fact, it never includes “me,” because I never make resolutions, which are not to be confused with promises I make to myself that I can’t keep…I do that all the time. No, I never make resolutions, because writing them down on paper implies a contractual obligation, the covenants of which cannot be broken without consequences. And I always bust out of the covenants by the end of January.

    But this year, I’ve decided to take a personal risk…make what is, for me, a courageous move. This year, I’m going to utilize my baby-steps-to-a-new-you approach. I’m going to make some resolutions I just might be able to keep through the end of February, at which time I will check my progress and then decide to give up.

    Therefore, I hereby publicly document my New Year’s Resolutions for 2012, which were arrived at after loads of consideration and the examination of hundreds of pertinent possibilities (by which I have determined I am in worse shape than I thought); to wit:

    I RESOLVE to be a more considerate and courteous driver. It occurs to me, however, that I’ll have to quit driving altogether to keep this one. And that means I’ll have to quit my job and sell my house. No…on second thought, it would be much more considerate and courteous (not to mention much more convenient) if everyone else out there just got out of my way.

    I RESOLVE to take my writing more seriously. I will apply more industrial-strength chair glue to my delicate heiny, which is a lot easier said than done due to significant childhood trauma. When I was little, I had to sit all by myself, at the dinner table, bereft, forgotten, and totally ignored, until I took at least one bite of my macaroni and cheese. Do you realize what the lack of attention can do to a fragile, four-year-old, female psyche? As a result, it’s difficult for me to sit alone and isolated long enough to write anything of substance, which is why I never do.

    I RESOLVE to turn up the self-analysis. Being happy and well-adjusted just isn’t acceptable…it would deprive me of what little joy I get out of life. Besides that, I’m running out of insecurities to write about.

    I RESOLVE to buy a good pair of polarized sunglasses and not leave them in the airport bathroom.

    And, last, but certainly not least,

    I RESOLVE to live in the moment. It’s the only place I have any control at all, and it doesn’t last long enough for me to seriously screw anything up…at least, nothing they can’t comfortably classify as a misdemeanor.

    The Goldilocks Principle

    I’ve heard many times that age is all in the mind. As I near the beginning of my sixth decade on this planet, I wonder what idiot made that up. Age is in a lot more than my mind. It’s in my joints, and my muscles, and my attitudes. I find myself saying things like, “when I was young,” and “when I was your age.” I call people younger than me “honey,” and I shop for flats because I can’t wear high heels anymore without my feet staging a coup. When oh when did I get old…ish? And, now that I’m there, how do I feel about it? Do I even care?

    What a stupid question! Of course I care! I care that I can’t touch my toes anymore, at least not without getting stuck down there and having to watch TV between my knees. I care that when I get up out of a chair it takes a few seconds for my joints to unlock so I can move a leg forward. I care that my eyelids droop, my nose is getting bigger, and I’ve got spider veins crawling up my legs. Yeah, I care, but there’s not a whole lot I can do about it without looking like I’m doing something about it. I choose to forgo the tummy tucks, facelifts, and botox injections because (a) I don’t like elective pain and (b) time will eventually catch up with me anyway, so what’s the point? The two classes in Economics I had in college taught me just enough to make me realize that I don’t have sufficient resources to waste trying to look like time makes no difference.

    I’ve watched other women struggle with it. There are those who seem to be living in a decade long gone, and others who decide to accept the inevitable earlier than they have to; they know it’s coming and choose to meet it half-way if only to get it over with. I don’t want to be like either one of those. For once in my life, I’d like to be average, in the middle; not too warm and not too cold. Just right. So, incurable optimist that I am (and since I’m backed into a corner with no other way out), I’ve decided to decide that aging has its advantages.

    For example (and this strikes me as incredibly ironic) the less time one has left, the more time one finds to spend. I used to be too preoccupied with raising a family, holding onto a job, and keeping mold from growing in the toilet bowl to think much about doing anything else. Now, I have options I didn’t have before, like writing a book (yeah, right), or exercising more often (yeah, right again), or maybe even giving myself voluntarily to causes I have no vested interest in. When I was younger, if I gave anything to anyone, it was purely out of the need to prevent one more ball from dropping, because if it did, I’d have a bigger mess to clean up. The point is, now there are choices I can make that carry consequences much less severe than whether or not my kids land in jail.

    I can agonize all I want to about how I’m physically falling apart, but aging is really a natural, God-given process that seems to be more character-driven than anything else. I may not lose all the insecurities I’ve taken great care to develop all my life, but they just don’t seem to be as life-threatening as they used to be. I find that as I’m aging, I’m becoming more at peace with myself, with others, and with life in general. I’m easier to get along with…not out of fear of losing a friend or my mother finding out that I hit a kid in school and grounding me for six months, but because I’m more content with who I am (and who I’m not). I’m more self-confident, and less concerned about being right. At least more often than I used to be.

    Yeah, aging definitely has its advantages, and I’ll keep telling myself that until the day I die, at which time, incurable optimist that I am, I shall decide to decide that dying isn’t such a bad deal, either.

    Just in case you missed me…

    It’s been a while since I’ve written anything in this space, and maybe there are a few of you (optimistically speaking) who have wondered, perhaps unconsciously within the dark recesses of your minds, just where the heck I’ve been.

    Then again, maybe not, but I’ll tell you anyway.

    I have no clue.

    Which is, under any circumstances whatsoever, strictly par for my course. It’s very seldom that I have a clue about anything at all, let alone where time went. But went it did. So, in the new tradition of the annual “what we did, how we did it, and who we did it with” letter that many of us find enclosed in our Christmas cards these days, here’s a brief synopsis (in no particular order) of what I did, how I did it, and who I did it with (unless I didn’t get a release letter, in which case names will be changed to protect my delicate heiny).

    For starters, there was Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving is the official gateway to the Holiday Season, and is always an accurate indicator on how the rest of the season will go for me, like Punxsutawney Phil’s winter forecast. If I plan to eat by noon but don’t actually sit down until 2:00, chances are better than 99.9% that I’ll be in the mall on Christmas Eve, a good thirty days behind schedule. I don’t have any problem with the cooking part, it’s the execution…I always forget to do something. One year it was rolls. This year it was cornbread dressing. I know…pathetic, right? Especially since it comes straight out of a box.

    Then, my husband and I recently attended both of our office Christmas parties, events which will mark from this point forward December 2011 as one of those rare historical anomalies scientists will be studying for years to come, like sunspots or the Dead Sea Scrolls. Amazingly, both were a lot of fun, but I must say that mine forever changed the way I viewed the world and my place in it. I discovered that Scotch is a poor substitute for tequila, and is not enhanced whatsoever by a wedge of lime. It does, however, serve very well as a chaser for Cabernet Sauvignon.

    I booked a trip to Scotland and Ireland. After I finished reading the latest book in the “Outlander” series (which I’ve mentioned in this space before), I discovered via the author’s website that the next book won’t be out until 2013. I was struck with such an acute sense of loss that I decided the only thing I could do to alleviate the extreme (and if there was another word more extreme than “extreme,” I’d use it) discomfort of withdrawal was to spend a zillion dollars and go to Scotland. It’s therapeutic…and I intend to file on my insurance.

    And, last but not least, (and what I consider to be my crowning achievement), I learned how to spell “ubiquitous.”

    Using it in a sentence, though, will have to wait until 2012.

    Merry Christmas, everybody!

    It Starts with Rubber Pumpkins

    It’s Fall. Finally. Life slows down. Chores like mowing lawns, trimming shrubs, and washing cars are temporarily suspended–not that I ever do any of those things, mind you, but I always (sometimes) feel guilty about it, which, now that I think about it, is, in itself, hard work. So, just when I think I’ve made it home free, that I just might get out of this year alive, it hits me that the Holidays are right around the corner. They come furiously, one after the other, starting shortly after Columbus Day (which, when you think about it, really isn’t the true “Columbus Day,” because we don’t actually celebrate the actual day Christopher Columbus discovered America, probably because he didn’t actually do it on purpose) and ending with New Year’s Day, when one is able to collapse into one’s Barcalounger and slip into a well-deserved catatonic coma watching football. In short, the whole holiday season is just one cruel joke on me. Slack off for nine months, and work my tail off (relatively speaking) for three.

    There’s so much to do, and I’m not used to that. Halloween candy to buy for little trick-or-treaters. Thanksgiving dinner to plan for and cook, which means there’s a devastated kitchen to clean afterwards. And then…there’s Christmas, the mother of them all. Every year, I hack my way through the crowds at the mall to buy gifts for people who probably won’t appreciate them anyway, which is entirely my fault, because I always wait until Christmas Eve to start my shopping. Speaking of which, one would think that waiting until the last minute would allow one ample time to decide on that perfect gift for that special someone whose name one has drawn in the company’s Secret Santa lottery. But, alas, I’m always derailed by last-minute sales. Any ideas I had about that perfect gift fly right out the proverbial window when I spy socks and underwear marked seventy-five percent off.

    With everything else demanding my attention, I’ve never bothered with decorating for the holidays; there’s no way I can come up with anything worth ooh-ing and ahh-ing over, which is, let’s face it, the goal of every serious artiste. At any rate, by the time I got them up, it would be time to take them down. But I’ve always admired those people who could come up with beautiful, Macy’s-like displays. They seem like such fun people. Happy people. People who enjoy life to the fullest and put their elbows into living it. All I’ve ever done for Halloween is buy candy and turn on the porch light, and it’s all I can do at Christmas to put up a tree, pre-packaged and pre-lit as it is.

    So, wanting to be one of those happy, live-life-with-gusto people, this year I’ve decided to do something different, something I’ve never attempted to do before. Rather than futilely fight to defend hearth and home from the onslaught of holiday madness, I’m going to invite it in for coffee. I’m going to cross enemy lines, turn to the dark side. Or as my husband says, I’m going to succumb to the “materialistic commercialization” of what would normally gently fade away if you’d just leave it alone. (Bless his heart…it’s always a long three months for him.) Last weekend, I went out and bought some fall decorations. Yes, Fall Decorations. For the house. Where I live. I know. I wouldn’t have believed it myself if I hadn’t been there. As a result, I will have poking out of my shrubs a scarecrow-on-a-stick, and I will have sitting on my porch a realistic, hard-to-tell-from-the-real-thing, rubber-ish Jack-o-Lantern, lit from within by a tiny little light bulb that runs off three double-A batteries. How cool is that?! No carving out the icky, slimy guts of a real pumpkin, no newspaper getting soggy with pumpkin blood, and no cutting myself with the knife creating eyes, noses and toothy grins, which is important, because apparently I cannot get around any blade at all without nearly amputating a finger.

    I’m encouraged when I think that what is pretty pathetic this year may be the foundation of something perfectly semi-adequate for next. I’m finally putting into practice that which I have always suspected: the holidays are exactly what you put into them. Contribute enthusiasm and childlike eagerness, get back joy. Put in effort and thoughtfulness, get back joy. Add a little free spirit and undaunted passion, get back joy. It’s a win-win. Scarecrows-on-sticks and rubber pumpkins are not going to win any “best holiday yard” contests, but one cannot deny what they represent. The people in this house are fun people. Happy people. People who enjoy life to the fullest.

    Well, maybe not yet, but there’s always next year.

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