Friday, December 15, 2006

Pics of the Kiddos

Here are a few pictures we had taken the other day. In anticipation of this great formal picture-taking event, Eleri cut a great big hank of her hair off, necessitating cutting off the rest of her waist-long hair. Emmory fell and took the skin off the tip of her nose.

Ethan decided to ham it up for the camera, Calvin-style. All of the family photos show him just goofing off!

So, anyhoo, Happy Christmas--and enjoy gazing at our lovely and interesting children.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

From the Dark Underbelly of my Psyche

Kelly (aka "Chaostitan") has tagged me to reveal five things about myself that few people know. And then I'm supposed to tag five other people. I'm flattered that Kelly thought of me, really. But five--five?! I asked my mom if she knew any things about me. She said, "You're left-handed. People probably don't know that. And you have a heart as big as the world." Aww, that's so sweet! But perhaps not much of a secret. Well, okay--here goes:

1. I dance like a dork. I love to dance--move to the music. I have great rhythm. But I don't express it gracefully. Slow dancing is fine, as long as I can follow my partner; I'm a quick study. As far as fast dancing goes, I'm forbidden by my husband to do it in public. For those familiar with "Seinfeld," he says I dance like Elaine Benis. I'm sure that some of it would be cured with a few lessons. *Sigh* Maybe someday!

2. I sing almost all the time. All silly stuff. Kid's songs. Or I sing about what I'm doing, while I'm doing it. Comes from trying desperately to keep the kids entertained while I'm cooking or cleaning or folding laundry. "Cuttin' up the chicken, yum-yum-yum! Stompin' my feet, singing dum-dum-dum!" That sort of thing. Or I dance with the kids (see above) and sing one of their songs, like "Choco-lot in my Pocko-lot." (It's got a nice riff at the end.) If you like kid songs, go here for Laurie Berkner's stuff.

3. I'm very shy, but I tend to overcompensate for it. Which is why it's a secret. See that outgoing gal in the corner of the room? That would be me. Ms. Shy. Shhhh!

4. I love silliness. And playing jokes on people. It's gotten me into a bit of trouble from time to time. Most people think I'm too serious to ever do such things, which means I also get away with it more often than I should. I can't give details, unfortunately, here. But ask me sometime; maybe I'll tell. Or ask my father-in-law about the box of rocks he got for Christmas. Or mention to him "Sock of the Month" club. He's one of my favorite, um, victims. Poor fella!

5. I love to sling out a good swear word, sometimes. Under my breath and away from my kids. If I drop something or if I stub my toe, oh how wonderful it feels to express myself with a swear word or two. They sound so gutteral, like a verbal punch at whatever it was that made me angry or hurt.

6. Oh, yeah, and I . . . whoops. Only five. Sorry!

Now, whom shall I pick? Who is appearing in my magic mirror?

Now, off with you! Go dive into the dumpsters of other people's minds! I dare you!

Sunday, November 12, 2006

The Mediocre Art Gallery

I told my online friend Shweta that I'd post a work I'd done in oil pastel. So, here it is. Feel free to comment, or just sit at your computer in awe of my fabulous talent. Oh. Yeah.

Friday, July 14, 2006

In Honor of the Wiseman Family

The following was originally published in The Charleston Gazette in January. The Gazette is West Virginia's largest newspaper. I'm posting it here in honor of my dad's family; we're having a reunion on Sunday, July 16.

And here's a picture of Grandma and Grandpa Wiseman that was taken at my parents' wedding. Yes, my grandmother was pregnant in this photo--with my Aunt Loretta, who is four years older than I am.

Find and Follow your Life’s Art

My grandfather, if he were alive today, would laugh himself silly if he ever heard me describe him as an artist.

He was, like so many others in our state, a farmer and a factory worker by trade. But he harbored the soul of an artist inside, held secret by what life expected of him.

Perhaps his artist’s soul was why he was attracted to my grandmother. She was (and still is) a musician, a writer, a great cook. She continues, at the age of 81, to do all these things, including having her own writings published in magazines.

My grandfather realized his dream of having a farm in 1948 when he bought almost 50 acres in Wirt County. And it was there that my grandfather’s art flourished.

The landscape was my grandfather’s canvas; the crops, his paint. My grandfather painted brown with the broad brushstrokes of his tractor, plowing the earth in readiness for his crops. He stippled in green with the careful selection of his seeds—he chose each plant type for flavor, variety, and quality. He sculpted his orchards with patience, pruning and caring for his apple, cherry, and pear trees. He added tiny bursts of color with hedges of blackberries and raspberries, arbors of grapes, groundcovers of strawberries. He rounded out his living picture with farm animals—the rusty red and bright white of chickens, the dark-dappled hogs, the warm browns and blacks and whites of beef and dairy cattle. Add to this the changing of the seasons--which bring their own colors--and the day and the night, with vibrant sunscapes and the tranquil dark of night quilted with the stars.

My grandmother also reveled in this life. She “put up” more than 1,000 quarts of food every year, and she was famous (at least, in my young eyes) for her grape jelly. She can still recall her recipe for blackberry wine. She was a reporter for the Wirt County Journal. She would create her own crocheted lace tablecloths, bedspreads, and doilies that are now well-loved family heirlooms.

They passed on their talents to their children—all eight of them in their own ways, artists. The youngest child, Loretta Stewart, is an award-winning artist known for her stippled works of landscapes and people, and she was commissioned by the Pentagon to create artwork for them. My grandmother’s walls are still lined with paintings done by my other aunts and my father; some could easily hang in an art gallery and look at home there. My two uncles found their own way of expression through home remodeling and being all-around clever with their minds and hands.

But as remarkable as I think my family is, they really aren’t any different from other West Virginians. Artistry is about finding your craft, finding what makes your heart sing, and following that song in the minutiae of your everyday life. We are a proud people, and we’ve sown beauty into our everyday lives long before Martha Stewart told us how we should do it.

There is beauty and an art in making an old car purr like a kitten. Or in caring for others in your work and making a difference. Or in greeting people every day in your job and simply making them smile.

But I’m so proud of my grandparents--for having not only the courage to listen to their hearts, but in teaching their own children to do the same thing, in whatever they do.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Down on the Farm part 2: More Pictures

I couldn't get all the pictures to load on the previous entry, so here are two more.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Down on the Farm

Last week, our family went t'calling on Beth and her husband, Don. My husband Larry works with Beth, and she and Don have a idyllic little farm in TheMiddleofNowhere, West Virginia.

I kid you not. Not EdgeofNowhere where there would be something, at least, on the edge where you can approach it from behind--but in the middle--no shortcuts. Two weeks from everywhere, it seemed like.

But it was worth the trip. On the way there, we saw herds of deer, a wild turkey, and some baby turkeys (which are called poults, by the way) by the roadside.

Beth and Don have horses and rabbits and dogs, and there were cats that Eleri was able to pick up and cart around like floppy, furry rag dolls that purred. The kids giggled and ran--and ran, and ran. And ran. Emmory tried to pick flowers, which is pretty good for an almost-seven-month-old. Ethan and Eleri fed carrots to the horses and even got to ride one of them.

Larry got into the spirit and rode a four-wheeler for the first time. Although he was going so slow that I started to call him "Hoveround," after those electric scooters some elderly people use to get around. (Seriously, I was glad he wasn't hot-dogging.)

Beth and Don's farm made us fantasize for a few hours that we had a farm like that. Until we realized that we would actually have to live on farmer's hours! To their credit, Beth and Don make it look easy. We had a fabulously wonderful and memorable time.

Enjoy the pictures, folks!

Next time, I promise to have something a little more, er, writerly. Maybe.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

The Superhero Blues

We have a superhero residing at our house.

Ethan is in superhero mode almost all the time. Even the most mundane of items has an “action” aspect to it. His “action fork and spoon,” with “food-shoveling action,” helps him to acquire his energy to fight crime. (We are thankful that he considers grape tomatoes his secret energy weapon—much the same way Popeye feels about his spinach.)

The other day, he held his Rescue Heroes underwear proudly above his head and now-naked body and shouted, “Hey! I can use my underwear like a parachute!” as he jumped off the bed. Thankfully, only his pride was hurt when he didn’t loft to the floor. I’m hoping he keeps his test flights close to the ground and will never consider scaling to the roof to test his cape’s ability to give him hang-time.

Another morning around 3 AM, he strode into our bedroom wearing only his Batman mask, underwear, and a glove. “Mom, Dad—I can’t get my other glove on. Will you help me?” We held in our giggles long enough to tell him that even superheroes need to sleep. (Not to mention his parents.)

Yesterday, though, our little super guy was discouraged. “Mom, I’m sad. I don’t really have any superhero powers.” He acted as if he were confessing to a dark secret in his life.

“Oh yes, you do,” I replied.

“No, I don’t.”

“Yes, you do,” I insisted. “You do have at least one super power. You have the power to make me smile!”

Ethan still doesn’t think that is much of a super power, but I surely do.


Thursday, June 08, 2006

Aren't They Adorable?

For the benefit of family (who are always interested) and the benefit of friends (who sometimes are), here are a few pictures of the kiddos.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

A Beautiful Gift Plucked from the Ashes

There are some wonderful Geek members on AbsoluteWrite. Everyone has stopped waiting for the database to the message boards to be returned, and the mods and techies are slowly rebuilding the site from scratch.

Some of the more tech-inclined have been haunting the internet, sifting through the ruins in Google cache to find bits here and there. They've been putting it all into a big pile, and it will still take time to sort it all out. There is a great hope that some of it will be recovered and useful, but it's like someone committed an act of arson to the forum.

Today in the chat room, I was lamenting about the loss of the first thread I started. I was pregnant with Emmory when I began it, and it was a request for help in picking a name. I got the most wonderful help, and I got the most hilarious responses from the AbsoluteWrite members. Someone had suggested to me that I print out the thread and save it for my daughter's baby book. I figured I'd get around to it sometime.

But no one ever knows when a fire will hit.

I figured it was lost for good. After all, it was just a piece of momentary amusement for everyone but me. But Tori, known as Tjwriter on the boards, is a mom, too. And she searched like a bloodhound for the pieces left on the internet. She knew what it would mean to me to have it back.

She found it all. She even remembered the name of the thread when I didn't.

I've printed off the thread, and thanks to Tori, it is now in Emmory's baby book.

I feel like she went sifting through the ashes of AbsoluteWrite to find my heirloom China plate with the roses on it.

Thank you, Tori. Bless you. Chatting with you has been a great gift--I'm glad to be getting to know you.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Slip 'n' Sliding Away . . .

I bought the kids a Slip 'n' Slide today.

It's been in the nineties here this week, and our backyard looks level, but only until you try to set up a kiddie pool. And I guess I like to live vicariously on the edge, watching my kids flirt with mild danger from time to time (as long as they never accept a date with it). Here is what I've learned:

  • My kids think the Slip 'n' Slide is a giant drinking fountain.
  • The Slip 'n' Slide gets the kids wet all over; hence, it has kid-cleaning potential.
  • Soap makes the Slip 'n' Slide more slippery.
  • I will probably not get away with playing "Hair Salon" with the Slip 'n' Slide again. But the kids got really clean.
  • After a few days, I won't need that stupid piece of wet plastic for the kids to have fun. The resulting mudslick will become their personal Slop 'n' Slide.

Monday, May 29, 2006

AbsoluteWrite and Addictions

I'm a writer, okay?

I'm addicted to writing. Even when I'm not doing it. Because when I'm not doing it, I think about doing it all the time. I dream about it. I fantasize about when I can do it again. Sometimes I swear off doing it--I think I don't need to; I fool myself that I don't really want to, and when I lower my guard, I'm doing it again--writing, I mean.

Sound familiar?

I'm also addicted to AbsoluteWrite.

I never figured myself for the message board type. I have always been the lone wolf. I hate most social gatherings. I shun parties; my neighbors probably think my husband buried me in the backyard when he put up the kids' swingset. My list of really good friends is pretty small. That is, until I stumbled upon AbsoluteWrite.

Jenna Glatzer and her AbsoluteWrite message board seduced me slowly with helpful information without talking down to me like the newbie I was. Thanks to AbsoluteWrite, I sold my first piece to a content website and realized I probably could have sold it somewhere else for much more than the thirty-eight dollars I received for it. I learned a lot about the craft of writing from writers who "show, don't tell."

But what really pulled me in to AbsoluteWrite was Jenna Glatzer, herself. Jenna is the author of multiple books and is the founder of AbsoluteWrite. When hurricane Katrina hit, Jenna wanted to do something--and she did. The result is the book Stories of Strength, a wonderful, uplifting anthology about what it takes to beat the odds. She was able to garner the support of hundreds of authors (including Orson Scott Card, Wil Wheaton, and Robin Lee Hatcher,) and editors, artists, poets, and even the publisher, Lulu--with all the proceeds going to disaster relief charities.

My desire to do something to help the Katrina victims overcame my fear of participating on AbsoluteWrite. I submitted my essay Beachside Revelations, and to my surprise and delight, it was accepted for the book. My confidence grew, and I began to post and to get involved on the boards. I began to get more ideas for writing from joining in on the Office Party threads. I now have the courage to submit my work; and though I know I need to steel myself for the rejections, I'm pleased to say that my work does sell (although I admittedly don't submit often enough).

I have come to know and like immensely the members of AbsoluteWrite. It's like a huge family to me--we have the quirky ones, the sweet ones, the naughty ones, and the sensitive ones, and the ones that are picked on only because they are loved so well. There is only one rule that is repeated so often it almost feels forbidden to say because it has become so cliche there: respect your fellow writer. Every day there seems like a family reunion.

Only when the AbsoluteWrite message board went down (and you can read about it here) did I realize what a precious thing AbsoluteWrite is. How AbsoluteWrite message board has become more than the sum of its parts.

And it is beautiful.

There are going to be some people who will read this blog (like my family) and they will wonder what I'm talking about with regard to AbsoluteWrite. They will wonder why I keep mentioning the name AbsoluteWrite often, too. And they will realize they are seeing a side of me I've often smothered and choked and forced into the closet or under the bed.

But I am a writer, and I'm powerless to stop writing. And I want my AbsoluteWrite family back. Because they love me, too, in spite of my quirks and sensitivity and my sweetness and naughtiness. And, when they pick on me, I smile and feel nothing but love.

But Barbara Bauer begs banishment! Believe me!