FIRST ENTRY: A Life Changing Event

 

TWO ROADS: Life’s philosophy shared with Robert Frost (Audio optional)

 

DECADE SEVEN: Exploration and mostly ill functioning body parts

My professional career spanned the last third of the twentieth century and completed its tenure in a year identified with three zeros, a number not occurring since the last millennium. No great coincidence, nor do I claim any special place in God’s plan for humankind. However, playing with the numbers, I decided to avoid gainful employment any future year with even one zero. I will be free to pursue various interests previously squeezed from my agenda by the demands of my career—until the year 2111. Hold my teaching position. I will be back.

First major life style change, a move to Las Vegas.

Laurie, my wife, asked, “Why Las Vegas?”

I shrugged. “No particular reason other than, like Mt. Everest, because it’s there.”

“Okay. I’ll pack my bags.”

Like a snake, I slithered out of my winter skin to a sun bleached desert brown from Minnesota’s alternating green and white.

Remnants of my past life that migrated with me were my birch business, supplying the western states with decorative Minnesota forest products, and our four children and three grandchildren who vicariously claim Las Vegas as a second home. No city other than Las Vegas would have elicited as many family and sibling visits.

My business, Books and Birch,  changed little other than I had more opportunities to deliver rather than ship loads of birch products to wholesale florists from Salt Lake City to San Francisco to San Diego and finishing with companies in Las Vegas.

Second life style change, an active participation in my adopted community, something I previously shunned. My excuse, community wasn’t available to me back in Minnesota. My wife at the time, Barb, and I raised our family in one community, I taught school in another, and business interests kept me tied to my family of origin one hundred miles from either of the other two.

My first foray into one of many active clubs in Del Webb Senior Community led to Sun City Writers Group. Twice a month we write on a given topic and read to the members. I have collected over one hundred of my creative writing exercises of 600 words or less to selectively publish on my blog.

Within the first decade of retirement, I achieved my post-career literary pursuit, to write the Great American Novel. I over achieved this goal with three great (small g) American novels and one set in outer space. Also, a short play and two memoirs with a third, my own, in progress, of which this is a part.

Church choir became my next challenge. A Minnesota couple invited us to join St Andrews Lutheran congregation and made us feel comfortable. They have since moved back to family, a common pattern with Minnesota transplants which we may eventually succumb to.

Next, a tryout with the Sun City Music Makers, a choral harmony group.

“What range do you sing?” A logical question from the director.

“The last time I participated in a choral group I still sang soprano.”

Without cracking a smile, he said, “Let’s hear you sing the scale.” To the pianist, “Give him a C.”

I sang up and down, each time to a higher and lower note.

“You’ve got a two octave range. Good. Can you read music?”

“A bit.” My memory slipped back to Sister Margot who taught half hour sessions for each of eight grades and directed our high school choir.

“If I told you to find D flat on measure ten, could you find it?”

“You mean those little black things have names.”

A muffled chuckle. “Maybe you should re audition after a few sessions with the Silvertones.”

Eight years I participated in the suggested sing-along group, three of them as their president, before joining the Music Makers.  I continue singing with both choral groups and the church choir, expecting to continue throughout the next decade.

My concert exposure reintroduced me to acting on stage, dormant since high school. Drafted into a Sun City Community Theater musical, I have since taken roles in half a dozen plays.

My literary involvements exceeded singing and acting performances: two book discussion groups, two writers’ groups, and two local critique groups and one on the internet.  I continue to write and edit previous works to publish on my website/blog.

Regrets, I’ve had a few, too few to mention, nor do I claim, I did it my way. My philosophy of life, I may not always get what I want, but I usually learn to want what I get.

A breakdown of my anticipated eighty five years alive on this planet:

25 years preparing for a career

35 years in that career

25 years beyond my career (10 more anticipated)

Any remaining years I intend to just idle away, probably lying on my back with life support tubes invading my body.

Recycle/Repurpose

GRANDPA’S GRANDCHILDREN

Savors, similar to Target and Wal-Mart minus low ceilings and soft lighting or similar to Lowes and Home Depot minus floor-to-ceiling shelving, offered new definition to discount shopping.  No “Welcome to Savors,” greeting from a kindly grandmother type at the door, but an anonymous voice reminiscent of K-Mart’s “Blue Light Special,” announcing, “All orange sticker items half price today.”

I released my grandchildren, Evan (age 13), Taylor (age 11), and Carter (age, 8), with a unique artistic challenge to purchase one or two household items under five dollars each—ten dollars if it has an orange sticker—with intention of repurposing it from its intended use.

Carter, Taylor and Evan
Carter, Taylor and Evan

Success with the middle child; the challenge, too serious for the youngest and too silly for the oldest. Her choices, pink jeans much too small for her and a basket of plastic flowers. With Grandpa’s help in stuffing the pants and an old pair of his shoes, Taylor rearranged the flower basket with found items growing in our back yard. Presto:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Taylor’s repurposed project

 

A dose of reality

Victoza, the wonder drug for people who fear diabetes but are willing to tolerate diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, and many other consequences just short of an erection lasting four hours or more. People who actually have diabetes must take a stronger medicine with which Victoza should not be taken. An added benefit might be (a teaser) weight loss because Victoza flushes out excess sugar from stomach, liver, and bladder, each graphically drawn with arrows of sugar dripping toward an organ of the human body thankfully not named and more thankfully not illustrated.

Another example of our over fed-society where soda products are valued by how little nourishment they contain, the holy grail, no food value what so ever. Now a product that takes the sugar out of our bodies sparing manufacturers the expense of removing it from our food.

I shook my head at the Victoza commercial blaring in the background, while adding sugar-free sweetener (an obvious oxymoron) to my caffeine-reduced coffee. Next step in my morning ritual, my meds, seven pills—one so large I soak in olive oil before swallowing. Off to the refrigerator to retrieve my cartridge-loaded single-person-use BD Pen dispenser, attach the Penta Easy Flow needle, and set its plunger gauge at six cc’s. Stomach exposed, needle poised I wince as my eyes settle on the cartridge label. Victoza.

A bit of toilet humor:

How are bowel movements and government contracts alike?
No matter how large or small the job, the paper work is the same.

How is a bowel movement like as school house?
If you shut the door too soon, some kids will be locked in until the next morning.

Do you know why turds are tapered?
So your buttcheeks don’t slam shut.

STILL LIFE by Louise Penny

(Note: Musings have no logical sequence other than my inspiration of the moment. Scroll down to access prior cogitations/rants.)

After reading chapter one of STILL LIFE by Louise Penny, I felt compelled to publish my immediate reaction in my blog. Jane, a country school teacher and long time resident of Three Pines, a village not far from Montreal, Canada, lay lifeless on the forest floor; three days pre death having presented her rendition in oil of the locals parading from the previous year’s afternoon at the county fair. Two of the five Judges to the village’s annual art fair accused the work of being simple, childish and naïve; two others reacted to the piece’s joy and sorrow respectively. A third broke the tie exclaiming Jane’s piece evoked such a range of emotions it deserved recognition. For me, Louise Penny’s story, like Jane’s painting, passed a literary judgment, and I was eager to begin chapter two. A casual reference to Jane’s village resembling that of C.S Lewis’ fantasy chronicles of Narnia justified, again for me, Penny’s fairy tale narrative style of her story teller.

Roger’s Rules of Good Writing

Open your narrative with a trigger statement to rouse the reader’s curiosity. create a doorway for your main character to walk through, unless she already acted, or in rare cases, had been acted upon in the first sentence.

Avoid talking over your character rather than through her. Allow her to tell her story. The writer establishes the world inhabited by the character; puts words from her mouth, thoughts in her head, and reactions to her surroundings and other characters.

When a situation requires an information-dump, hit it head-on, but keep it minimal and spaced between character interactions. Your POV character will have many opportunities to build her history through future action, dialogue, or internal monologue.

Avoid technique clichés such as staring into a mirror, mumbling to a pet or door knob, or reciting information to another character who would have already known the details.

Don’t create an audience-surrogate character to absorb information. If your character has a buddy or an intern-in-training, give her or him a legitimate purpose in the story beyond active listening.

Dialogue: Tricky but necessary to flesh out characters. Make it sound like something people might say under the circumstances, yet void of their natural rambling. The speech pattern for each character is as important to his or her development as what is said.

Author intrusion: Don’t break the flow of the narrative by speaking directly to the reader, unless the writer’s story telling voice has been established throughout the piece.

Internal monologue: No need to italicize if the character’s POV has been firmly established. As with Shakespeare’s soliloquies, use internal monologue to express the character’s true feeling and intentions.

Show-don’t-tell. Create the action rather than relate the action.

Avoid passive verbs. Is, are, was, were, be, am, and been are devoid of action and dull. Save them for statements of fact such as this one.

Avoid the ly Adverbs. The same applies to exclamation marks. Your characters’ words or actions should create the intensity.

Avoid echoes. Repetition of words and syntax patterns within a sentence, a paragraph, or the entire piece. Exception: parallel triplet constructions for poetic effect. (Majesty of threes)

Point of view: Dialogue and interior monologue must be restricted to your character’s six senses (five plus intuition.) She can only assume beyond what she can’t perceive or feel.

Purple prose: Limit adjectives and figures of speech for special effect, not as decorations that detract from the story. Be prepared to kill your little poetic darlings or dialogue cuteness.

Parsimony: Cut unnecessary words. They annoy and insult the reader who probably skips over them anyway. Every word, sentence, paragraph, and chapter must support and advance your plot, characters, setting, mood, theme, and voice—character’s and author’s.

Exempt from these rules: Quality writers with excellent command of language whose voice supersedes that of her individual characters without diminishing them.

He/She

He/She

Leslie Stahl of 60 Minutes interviewed a young girl who decided, post puberty, to transition her body into that of a young boy. Her/his situation created a number of ironies, not to mention the emotional trauma of such a life altering decision. To complicate matters, she continued as the lead swimmer in the girls’ swim team while taking hormone treatment just under regulation for body altering/body enhancing chemicals.

Her voice lowering an octave and minor body changes went unnoticed—or was ignored—until she put her breasts under the knife—a double mastectomy. No longer could he or the team deny the fact that had been winked at but left alone. With permission of the boys’ swimming coach and a vote from teammates, he (male pronoun for this point forward) was allowed to join the their team. From lead simmer, he fell back to the swimmer with the poorest lap time. His goal, not to be the last, whereas it had been, successfully, to win every race and improve lap time.

Only the ironies remained for Leslie to explore.

“How were you received by your teammates?”
He’d been accepted.

“What kinds of questions were you asked?”

Mostly about emotions, his as well as family and friends.

“Any common question?”
Yes, Leslie, we see where this is going. “Do I still have a vagina?”
Join the crowd, Leslie. “Well, do you?”

“Of course, I still have a vagina.”

What are you going to do about that? More specifically; what are you planning to do with that? Discretion, Leslie. We thank you for that unasked question.

“I still may want to have a baby some day.”

It is hard to astound Leslie Stahl, but he/she accomplished it.

The biggest irony, to my notion, occurred in the shower room after a swim meet. With gender based legislation in certain states, he could shower with the boys, but if he had to urinate—assuming he didn’t take care of that matter in the shower, a practice no state has thus far written legislation against—he’d have to cover his breastless nipples and cross the gym floor to use the bathroom on the girls’ side.