Friday, July 20, 2012

Making a Dream Come True

Larry's photo
I have always had one as yet unfulfilled dream: to publish at least one book before I die. Over the past several decades, I have written five books: two memoirs and three childrens' books. I've taken many courses on writing, finishing my work, publishing it, and have done nothing with all this valuable information. I've attended workshops and conferences, and all I've gotten from them is lots of great feedback and the confidence to call myself a writer. I signed up for another weekend conference in October of this year. What makes this one different from all the rest? What will prompt me to actually complete a work and submit it to a publisher? What changed?

I began blogging a couple of years ago after watching the movie, "Julie and Julia". I followed the fantasy that if I blogged and was successful, I'd get a publishing contract out of it. Well, that contract didn't materialize. But what I did discover is that blogging satisfies my need for immediate gratification. I am publishing. It's not the type of publishing I envisioned, but it is satisfying nonetheless. My cousin told me I have "readers". Me? I get lots of compliments on my voice and my writing style. I'm told I am talented. So, I guess two years of receiving these accolades was enough to build my confidence and allay my publishing fears. I was afraid of both failure and success.

I realized at the childrens' book conference in California many years ago that I confirmed my fear of success. If I publish a successful book, I can't travel all over the country to promote it. I just got rmarried. I can't leave my husband. All these thoughts filled my consciousness and fed my fears. Consequently, I didn't do anything with the feedback I received from agents and publishers at the conference. I just kept plodding along believing that maybe I'd have to let go of this dream. I found a myriad of excuses to do nothing with it.

Most recently, I published a tribute to a good friend who died. One girlfriend told me she saw a book of essays in my future. For some reason, that statement turned a key in my head. I saw that book too! That revelation seen with new eyes and felt with a more open heart caused me to spend the entire next day pulling my memoir writings together. Later that same day, I got an email from Hay House Publishing about the October workshop. The promoters offered the chance to compete for a ten thousand dollar advance and a publishing contract. I decided I could do this.

Finishing a book and submitting it seriously to a publisher will be my next great challenge. Not only do I know I can do this now, I will be spending a long weekend in New York City alone for the very first time. I have never been to this huge city alone before. The experience will be really fun and extremely exciting.

Yesterday, Larry purchased the newest version of Microsoft Word for me to work in. And, I find myself filled with new motivation and enthusiasm. I am no longer afraid! I am excited. I created my first Table of Contents. Woohoo!

I really can make this dream come true. Stay tuned.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Wild Woman

My mentor for being a "Wild Woman" is dying from stroke-related brain damage. She is in her mid-eighties now, and lived a very full life. Thelma was my mother's best friend, and also became a good friend of mine. Although I am feeling sad that she is leaving us, I am happy that she will go to meet my mother, Ellie, in Heaven very soon. Thelma never quite got over losing my mother twelve years ago. She mourned more for Ellie than she did for any of her husbands.

I unsuccessfully searched all morning for older pictures of Thelma, especially of walking on Martha's Vineyard. There are just too many boxes and bins of loose pictures in my house. Thel loved The Vineyard. My mother had five weeks of timeshare on Vineyard Haven, and the two of them used every one, every year. Thelma also had a week just prior to one of my mother's weeks, so they combined it for long vacations that made them so happy. Once my mother stopped driving distances, Thelma drove. They loved nothing better than to visit friends made at Harbor Landing, see sights not yet seen, especially different beaches, watch the ferry come and go, and just sit quietly reading together. I credit Thelma for bringing the "Wild Woman" out of my mother. Ma was always the good girl: quiet and reserved. But, Thelma told me stories of my mother I never would have heard, and I was so grateful to hear them. They were best friends and loved each other very much.

I became good friends with Thelma over time too. We also had many happy and very frank talks as girlfriends. I will treasure those talks always. We would walk on The Vineyard together and she would share her stories.  She also helped me to understand my mother better. Like my mother, Thelma had many children. She had different husbands, and her last one was a motorcycle rider, decades younger than her. I love thinking about Thel riding on the back of a motorcycle in her middle years, smoking cigarettes and drinking booze with the best of them. She loved life and lived it as fully as any woman could. I admired her a great deal.

She was honest and fully in touch with her feelings. She felt guilt for some of her behaviors in the past, but worked every day on forgiving herself and moving forward. I loved talking with Thelma.  We talked about being single for many years, and about how much she loved men and missed sex. We laughed about our respective exploits, and shared many intimate memories that I will hold close to my heart forever.

My mother died before she saw me married and living as a happily married woman. Thelma then became my second mother. She loved Larry, and kissed him full on the mouth every time she saw him. He loved her for that, and says that is how he wants to remember her.

She was incredibly supportive of me as a grown woman. When I bought my first house alone, she consulted with me about the plants I had and taught me how to split a large hosta. Later, she presented me with a lovely photograph she took of the front of my little house with the Rhododendrons in full bloom. Then, she painted a wonderful picture of the house and gave that to me also. She was a very talented artist, who not only made a small living scavenging others' belongings on trash day to sell at flea markets, but sold her painted shells and slates as well. I still treasure those gifts.
Old Cottage in Tiverton

She came to the cottage in Tiverton with me for a private "girls" weekend. This cottage was the last of the original summer cottages on our street, and before we built our current house. If Ma couldn't share my newly acquired blessings, then Thelma was a good "second". We had a lovely weekend talking and enjoying being by the ocean. I so loved my alone time with my good friend.

Our last trip together was to bring her to our lakehouse in South Carolina. She told me my mother would have been so happy for me. She loved it at the lake and we enjoyed a lovely, intimate long weekend there together. She shared my wonder and appreciation of nature.  I remember walking on the dock in the early morning and her eyes grew large with wonder at the dew collected on the lovely spiderwebs that lined the dock railings. We talked about how beautiful they were and she was so happy to share it with me. It was just like having my own mother there. I will always be grateful to Thelma for giving me that gift.

Like most active women who end up with "their wings clipped", Thelma was angry with her body for failing her slowly over time. She hated losing her independence and the ability to do everything she used to do. But, like the "glass-half-full" woman she is, she made lemonade from the lemons that were lobbed her way. She just kept plugging along and finding other little joys to treasure all the same. Her dog, Oliver, is a huge love of her life. Like my mother, she loves her dog like she loves her children. Thelma loves everybody.

My heart is aching at losing my friend any day now. But, I am happy to think that she will once again be a "Wild Woman" in Heaven. Thank you, Thel. See you later. I love you.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Afternoon Date

Yesterday, as part of our Independence Day week-long celebration, Larry and I went on a date. He "bagged" mowing the lawn and we drove to College Hill in Providence for the 2:00 p.m. showing of Moonrise Kingdom. This new film that was just released on June 22nd in Rhode Island has a cast of big stars: Bruce Willis, Francis McDormand, Bill Murray, Ed Norton and Tilda Swinton. Harvey Keitel also had a small role. It was primarily filmed in Rhode Island on Prudence Island and in Tiverton. As we were coming home one day, Larry and I came upon a big "hull-a-ba-loo" on Fogland Beach near our house. The neighbor's field across from the beach road was filled with cars, many people were on the beach and there were people directing traffic. We had no idea what was going on, but discovered later it was filming for this movie. We have waited for its premier mostly out of curiosity. We weren't disappointed.

This film is not your normal blockbuster movie. It's more of an "artsy/campy" film. It will probably go to DVD quickly as a result. It's a period piece from 1964-1965. The acting was excellent and the movie introduced two wonderful young actors: Jared Gilman and Kara Hayward as the twelve-year-old lovers who run away to be together. Both children were precocious but characterized as "emotionally disturbed". They discovered that they are kindred spirits, and desperately want to escape their sad lives. In fact, every character in this movie was portrayed as unhappy and dissatisfied with their lives. But, the characters were entertaining and definitely not boring. It must have been fun to play these roles with a straight face, because we interpreted them as "tongue in cheek".

The director did an excellent job portraying early 60's mentality, and as Larry noticed, authenticity of props. There was lots of use of technology: a portable record player, a tape recorder, ham radio; and he noticed the knobs and units looked true to the period. The soundtrack was very, very interesting as well, and I actually downloaded one song by the young girl's favorite artist: Francoise Hardy (Le Temps de L'Amour). We enjoyed this movie, and recommend it as a change of pace.

After the movie, we drove to my father's old neighborhood in the Smith Hill neighborhood of Providence. Using our GPS we found Candace Street and drove the entire length, which wasn't that long, to try and remember his family home. The last time I visited the house, I was either twelve or fourteen, I think. I don't remember much about it, and the neighborhood did not help rekindle much recollection.

All I remember was an over/under duplex (I think) with a long, narrow alley next to the right side of the house with a chainlink fence to separate it from the next house. I thought I remembered a tiny back yard, but that may have been our Aunt Helen's house before she moved to Greenwich or Greenfield. We only visited our father's family once a year, so I don't remember much about them. I do remember the kitchen was dark and our Uncle Dan ate raw oysters in front of us. He'd shuck the shells and slurp down those slimy suckers with a loud nasty sound. It was disgusting to me then. I think I realized which house was his on our tour, but I cannot be sure. My sister, Jeanne, said she remembered it instantly. I did not. I saw the last house on the right with an alley like I remember, but the house, yard and asphault lot next to it were not recognizable to me. Oh well. At least I was there.

Lastly, we drove a little over two miles to a restaurant recommended by Eric, my personal trainer, Los Andes. Eric told me the neighborhood wasn't that great, but the decor inside the restaurant was very nice. He was right. One of the benefits of dating in the afternoon, especially going to "the city", is that one can actually find on-street parking without much trouble. We only had to take one large turn around the College Hill area because of all the one-way streets going the wrong way to get a very convenient spot sans parking meter close to the theater. We pulled right up in front of the restaurant, again without a meter, and could see the car from our table. We were the only patrons, as the restaurant opened at 4:00 p.m., and the time was 4:10.

As the only patrons, the manager/owner introduced himself and we told him it was our first visit. I mentioned that a friend had recommended the place to us, and that made him very happy. We were well taken care of by our very friendly young waitress, and the food did not disappoint.

Apparently, Los Andes is known for its ceviche. I recently made ceviche, so I had to try it. Basically, the ceviche we were served in a martini glass was lightly fried and deliciously seasoned. The muscles, shrimp, talapia and calarmari were very tender, and the seasoned mayoinnaise dressing on the side was really good. We enjoyed this appetizer very much.

Larry and I both ordered entrees from the specials menu: he had a delicous prime rib with some kind of pesto on top made with cilantro I think. Larry says it was not like any prime rib he's ever had. It was really tender and very delicious. It came with roasted vegetables and he asked for mashed potatoes, which were red bliss and also very good. I ordered the lamp chops which were also really tender and delicious. They were coated with a wonderful yogurt sauce and thinly sliced cucumbers. I have never tasted such a sauce and will definitely order this again. In the end, I had to eat the chops with my hands because I just had to get all the meat that I couldn't cut away with a knife! My roasted potatoes were lightly salted and delicious as well.

Of course, as I have to do whenever I try a new restaurant, we had two desserts: flan and "tres leches" cake with two espressos. The flan was nicely dense and good, but the cake was fabulous! We will definitely come here again and highly recommend you visit as well. Shortly after 5:00 p.m., a man was setting up a microphone and seat. We didn't stay for the live music, but will plan to include this on our next visit. Oh, and they had an extensive wine list, mostly Chilean and Argentinian wines, plus a full bar.

All in all, it was a great date that ended with our Toyota Solara's convertible top-down: riding home with the wind in my hair and air blowing up my sundress. Ah.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

It's Independence Day!

Last night, Larry and I took our folding chairs, our clip-on bug repellent fans and bottled water to Bristol, Rhode Island. Bristol claims to have the oldest 4th of July celebration in the country. Well, I don't know about that claim, but they do know how to throw a multi-day party! On July 3rd, we arrived at the Mt. Hope High School (athletic) Field to watch the 2012 Drum and Bugle Corps. Competition. Eight groups competed from around the country, and it was magical.

When I attended St. Catherine's Elementary School in Norwood, Massachusetts, I played French Horn in its drum and bugle corps. Although I bent my horn from banging it on my bedroom dresser when I couldn't master the scales, marching in military style with that group was one of the best experiences of my life. I loved marching in parades and in competitions. In my young days, the competition was all about perfection: our uniforms: the creases, the tassels on our very clean boots (which I found stored in the eaves of our family home with the toes eaten out by squirrels); right up to the erect feathers we wore on our tall hats. Girls wore skirts and boys wore pants. We trained in the Town Armory to perfect our drills: turning on a dime and moving on command from our leader (Master?). Anyway, I loved it and I hold a special place in my heart for those competitions. For years, I have wanted to attend one, and this year I finally conveniently got to: in Bristol.

The competitions now are nothing like those days. They are more like Cirque du Soleil performances. There is the perfect-looking band with feathered tall hats, but I didn't see any boots (just comfortable matching shoes), and they got to wear sparkles. Along with the band were dancing, acrobatic others in even more colorful costumes. They were the flag throwing, baton and faux rifle-twirling accoutrement and their acrobatic dancing reminded us of not only Cirque but a cheerleading competition. It was really fun, entertaining and in some cases, truly amazing. These are huge production numbers with props including wooden horses and shadow (one-dimensional) figures! And the music was mostly jazz, contemporary numbers we didn't recognize with only a few songs we did. It was very, very impressive and dramatic.

Teams hailed from Nashua, New Hampshire (Spartans); two teams from New Jersey (Raiders and Jersey Surf), Florida (Teal Sound), Texas (Crossmen), Iowa (Colts), Pennsylvania (The Cadets), and last but not least from Fort Mill, South Carolina (Carolina Crown). Larry had to look up their home town when we got home, because the program incorrectly hailed them from Fort Sill. There is no Fort Sill in South Carolina. Anyway, Carolina Crown took the crown in this competition to win first place! We were very excited! I also liked their costumes the best (white with champagne sparkly panels on their chests), plus their performances were the most like Cirque, with costume changes and huge metal-looking cubes added to their flags, guns and batons. They also performed the largest dance routine and it was really, really good.

Just like Santa at the end of a town parade (or Macy's Parade), this competition finished with The Cadets using a Christmas theme. Their handlers walked and rode around with Santa hats on and their equipment transport was decorated with holiday lights. Their dancers' costumes cleverly and artistically resembled wrapped presents while their musicians wore cream uniforms with burgundy sashes and trim on their hats.
I was mesmerized by all the gleaming trumpets, French horns and tubas, including many kinds of snare and base drums playing a medley of Christmas tunes. Their marching was perfectly erect, but they were not in military formations. They were side-stepping, twirling and moving like a synchronized dance team.

Boy, have drum and bugle corps competitions improved! If you've never seen one, you must go. It is all-American, entire-family entertainment. Cheer on your favorite team. And on July 3rd, we were treated to the Bristol Harbor fireworks display in the background. People in the neighborhood also lit off their own rockets as the teams performed. When the last team played, the harbor display was in progress and I wish I had my camera to capture the magic of colorful bursts in the sky directly over those feathery tall hats. Magic.