Category Archives: Feed the Muse

Team Sidious?

Several months ago, I wrote a post titled Feed the Muse: Get in the Game where I discussed the important lessons I learned from reading Ray Bradbury’s book Zen in the Art of Writing.   To feed the muse, he prescribes  a diet of reading (poems, short stories, essays, novels, anything really) and watching plays, movies, and TV shows.

He also stresses the importance of stepping away from your keyboard and living your life. Bradbury says, “by living well, by observing as you live, by reading well and observing as you read, you have fed Your Most Original Self.”

So go ahead. Write about everyday moments like conversations with your kids. Write about memories from your childhood. Write about the things you’ve observed: the eccentric old woman at the coffee shop, the beggar on the street, the loudmouth at your son’s baseball game, and on and on. It will help you find your voice, or at least preserve a memory.

I feed the muse by posting under the following categories:

  • Book Reviews
  • Conversations with My Kids
  • Feed the Muse (obviously)
  • Inspiration
  • Memories
  • Musical Monday
  • Poetry
  • Quote of the Week

I wanted to do something fun for Friday so here is one for Conversations with My Kids:

The following conversation occurred at the dinner table while my husband, son and I were discussing his baseball tournament for the coming weekend.

Son: What team do we play first?

Hubby [looking at the tournament schedule on his phone]: Team Citius.

Me [looks across table]: Sidious? That’s a strange name. What are they? Star Wars fans?

They stare at me blankly.

Me: What? You know…Darth Sidious.

Son: I think it’s Latin for something, but I think you mean Darth Vader.

Me: Oh. Well anyway, I did mean to say Darth Sidious.

They stare at me wordlessly again.

Me: C’mon. Don’t tell me I know more about Star Wars than you two. He was Chancellor Palpatine before he revealed his dark side.

Son: Oh! The freaky-looking old dude?

Me: Yeah.

Hubby [shaking his head]: Momma should be on The Big Bang Theory.

—————————————————————————–
Well, if I’d seen how it was spelled I wouldn’t have mistaken the team for Star Wars fanatics and imagined them in Storm Trooper uniforms.

What? It’s not a crazy idea. I just Googled “Star Wars baseball” and found this:

home.fuse.net
home.fuse.net

 

Heh. Heh. Oh, and it turns out my son was right. Citius is Latin for “faster.” Citius, Altius, Fortius (Faster, Higher, Stronger) is the Olympic motto.

Also, I apparently need to watch The Big Bang Theory, since those are my peeps. 🙂

 

 

From the Archives – Writers: What Was Your First Story?

 

To celebrate the one year anniversary of my blog (March 13th), I’m publishing select posts throughout the year under the title “From the Archives” for those who may have missed them the first time around. Next up…

 

Once upon a time

The first story I remember creating came after my first nightmare, or rather, the first nightmare I remember. I’m not even sure how old I was, maybe 4 or 5? I must’ve fallen asleep while one of my parents read Goldilocks and the Three Bears to me because my nightmare was a twisted version of that fairytale.

Illustration by David Merrell
Illustration by David Merrell

Mama Bear and Papa Bear had captured my parents. They were restrained outside the bears’ home with thorn bushes. I looked on from a secret hiding place in the woods as they lit a fire underneath a giant black cauldron. Flames licked at the sides and steam rose from the center of the cauldron as my parents struggled to break free. That is where my nightmare ended.

I woke up in a panic. To a young child their parent is everything and both of mine were about to be boiled like lobsters. I calmed down once I realized I’d been dreaming but something tugged at me. I suppose this was the moment my internal storyteller was born.

What offense had my parents committed to deserve such treatment? Had Mama Bear and Papa Bear suspected my parents of eating the porridge, breaking the furniture, and destroying the neatly made beds? Or worse, was it something I had done? Where was Baby Bear? Had I done something to upset him? Were my parents paying the price for failing to discipline a naughty child? How could I save them?

I couldn’t recall the events in my dream that led to my parents being selected as dinner. All I knew was that my parents were in danger. I had to rescue them. I had to finish the story and it had to be brief; after all, my parents were about to become the main course for two ravenous bears.

Somehow I knew Baby Bear was the key. I searched and found him wandering in the woods alone. He was lost and scared. I gave him a cherished toy for comfort. It was a little crocheted doll that my grandmother had made for me. He seemed to understand the value it held and hugged me. We arrived at his home just as my parents were being lowered toward the boiling water.

Mama Bear and Papa Bear were overjoyed to see Baby Bear. After learning I had rescued him they decided I wasn’t a naughty child after all and released my parents. Porridge was warmed over the fire instead of my parents and we all sat down for a scrumptious meal. Mama Bear and Papa Bear swapped stories with my parents and after a while Baby Bear rubbed his eyes and yawned. Seeing that he was tired, I walked him upstairs and tucked him in bed. He fell asleep with my cherished doll held tightly to his chest. I was the heroine of the story and everyone lived happily ever after.

I have created hundreds of stories in my mind over the years. I don’t know why this one has stayed with me while others have faded. Maybe it’s because it was my first story. Maybe the simplicity of it makes it easy to remember. Maybe it was the thought of losing my parents. Who knows? I’ve discarded so many stories over the years because they were “too this” or “too that.” Maybe it’s because this one, at the time, felt…just right.

Do you remember your first story? I’d love to hear it.

The Gods of the Copybook Headings by Rudyard Kipling

AS I PASS through my incarnations in every age and race,
I make my proper prostrations to the Gods of the Market Place.
Peering through reverent fingers I watch them flourish and fall,
And the Gods of the Copybook Headings, I notice, outlast them all.

We were living in trees when they met us. They showed us each in turn
That Water would certainly wet us, as Fire would certainly burn:
But we found them lacking in Uplift, Vision and Breadth of Mind,
So we left them to teach the Gorillas while we followed the March of Mankind.

We moved as the Spirit listed. They never altered their pace,
Being neither cloud nor wind-borne like the Gods of the Market Place,
But they always caught up with our progress, and presently word would come
That a tribe had been wiped off its icefield, or the lights had gone out in Rome.

With the Hopes that our World is built on they were utterly out of touch,
They denied that the Moon was Stilton; they denied she was even Dutch;
They denied that Wishes were Horses; they denied that a Pig had Wings;
So we worshipped the Gods of the Market Who promised these beautiful things.

When the Cambrian measures were forming, They promised perpetual peace.
They swore, if we gave them our weapons, that the wars of the tribes would cease.
But when we disarmed They sold us and delivered us bound to our foe,
And the Gods of the Copybook Headings said: “Stick to the Devil you know.”

On the first Feminian Sandstones we were promised the Fuller Life
(Which started by loving our neighbour and ended by loving his wife)
Till our women had no more children and the men lost reason and faith,
And the Gods of the Copybook Headings said: “The Wages of Sin is Death.”

In the Carboniferous Epoch we were promised abundance for all,
By robbing selected Peter to pay for collective Paul;
But, though we had plenty of money, there was nothing our money could buy,
And the Gods of the Copybook Headings said: “If you don’t work you die.” Then the Gods of the Market tumbled, and their smooth-tongued wizards withdrew
And the hearts of the meanest were humbled and began to believe it was true
That All is not Gold that Glitters, and Two and Two make Four
And the Gods of the Copybook Headings limped up to explain it once more.

As it will be in the future, it was at the birth of Man
There are only four things certain since Social Progress began.
That the Dog returns to his Vomit and the Sow returns to her Mire,
And the burnt Fool’s bandaged finger goes wabbling back to the Fire;

And that after this is accomplished, and the brave new world begins
When all men are paid for existing and no man must pay for his sins,
As surely as Water will wet us, as surely as Fire will burn,
The Gods of the Copybook Headings with terror and slaughter return!

Conversations with My Kids: Mispronounced Words

The following is a conversation between my 13-year-old son (KJ), 8-year-old daughter (CJ), and me :

KJ: Momma, I just discovered I’ve been spelling and pronouncing “environment” wrong for years.

I had to laugh because it was said as if he’d spent decades on the planet.

MJ: How have you been spelling it?

KJ: E-N-V-I-O-R-N-M-E-N-T

MJ: So you’ve been pronouncing it like, IN-VI-ERN-MENT?

KJ: Yeah.

MJ: Makes you sound like a hick.

KJ [chuckles]: I know, but a lot of people pronounce it that way.

MJ: Do I?

KJ: No, but I didn’t really notice I did until I saw the word on one of my homework assignments.

CJ: I’ve been pronouncing a word wrong.

MJ: You have?

CJ: Yeah, I’ve been saying FEB-YOU-AIR-EE. I didn’t know there was an “R” in there. It’s FEB-ROO-AIR-EE! Everybody says FEB-YOU-AIR-EE.

This got me thinking about words that are commonly mispronounced. I thought of  few, but searched on Google for a list. Here are a few I’ve heard or were surprising to me. I have to admit, I was guilty of a few mispronunciations. Click here for the full list.

Incorrect –> Correct 

  • affidavid –> affidavit   Damn. Right of the bat, I’m guilty. I know how it’s spelled, but I think I do this. I can get lazy with the “t” and not say it clearly. Curse you, southern dialect!

Gasp

  • Old Timer’s –> Alzheimer’s  Well, I guess Old Timer’s do get Alzheimer’s.
  • aks –> ask

aks

  • bidness –> business  This one is like nails on a chalkboard.
  • blessing in the skies –> blessing in disguise   I was surprised people mispronounce this one. Maybe they are just waiting for a holy vision to appear?
  • cannidate –> candidate  Maybe it’s a cross between a cannibal and a candidate? It might not be too far-fetched.
  • card shark –> cardsharp  I learned something. I’ve never seen it pronounced or written as “cardsharp.” Guilty, again.
  • carpool tunnel syndrome –> carpal tunnel syndrome   It was probably derived from parents sitting too long in the carpool lane.
  • chester drawers –> chest of drawers  Who has Chester’s drawers?
  • doggy dog world –> dog eat dog world

doggy dog world

  • expecially –> especially  Said by those who are extra special. 
  • Febyuary –> February  Hey, my daughter’s only eight. Cut her some slack. 
  • irregardless –> regardless

Irregardless

  • jewlery –> jewelry This one gets me too.
  • Laura Norder –> law and order  SMH
  • libary–> library  I’m going to go out on a limb and say this person doesn’t visit one.
  • mawv –> mauve [mowv] Learned something else, but it just doesn’t sound right. Guilty, yet again.
  • mute –> moot  Nails on a chalkboard.
  • neanderthal < –> neandertal  Either is acceptable, but Germans pronounce it with a “t” sound. Add German accent if you prefer the “t” version.

Neanderthal

  • nucular –> nuclear  Always makes me think of him.

Bush

  • persnickety –> pernickety (pronounced with a silent “s”)  I’m guilty of pronouncing the “s,” but in my defense, Merriam Webster’s Dictionary shows the incorrect pronunciation.
  • prolly –> probably I’ve seen this one typed like this way too many times. Texting is going to destroy our language.
  • for all intensive purposes –> for all intents and purposes
  • pacifically –> specifically
  • supposably –> supposedly  And I just thought they were just congested.
  • take for granite –> take for granted

granite

  • zuology –> zoology   Never thought about this until now. Is it Zulander or Zoolander?

zoolanderWhat are some words that you often hear mispronounced? Are you guilty of mispronouncing any words?

Conversations with My Kids: The Word Funeral

The following is a conversation I had with my daughter upon picking her up from school:

MJ: How was your day, baby doll?

CJ: There was a funeral at school.

MJ: W-what?

CJ [smiling slyly]: A word funeral. [giggles]

MJ: A word funeral? Tell me about it.

CJ: Well, it was the fourth graders, and they were having a funeral for words that were used too much. They had to use better words in their place.

I didn’t recall my son doing this in 4th grade. I was intrigued.

MJ: What words did they bury?

CJ: Words like “big” and “fun” and “awesome.”

MJ: Really? And what words would you use instead?

CJ: Um, enormous and fabulous and…sublime.

She smiled because we both knew sublime was one she learned from the word of the day. She remembered! I’m so proud of her. I guess I should resurrect the word of the day posts.

As I was searching for an image to attach to this post, I came across this YouTube video for a Dead Words Funeral. Other schools are eulogizing overused words too. The video is adorable. Watch it if you have time.

Best Man With Cerebral Palsy Toasts Twin In Unforgettable Speech

What a beautiful story of the bond between brothers. Now, where’s my tissue?

Kindness Blog

Korey Soderman has all the dirt on his twin brother, Kyle.

Korey, who has cerebral palsy, let some of those secrets fly during his best man speech at Kyle’s wedding two weeks ago. Because Korey can’t speak, Kyle read the speech out loud — once he choked back happy tears, of course.

The Sodermans, from West Palm Beach, Fla., have never let Korey’s condition get in their way. His mom, Wendy, started her own private school, IDEAL & Dream School, when she had difficulty finding a preschool for Korey, according to an A&E documentary about the family.

Korey, meanwhile, founded his own nonprofit, Korey’s Krew, which works with teens and young adults with physical disabilities.

“I’m differently abled,” he told the Palm Beach Post in 2010, after winning an award for his community service. “I can do what others do, I just do it differently.”

Source: Huffington Post & Youtube

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Conversations with My Kids: The Key to the Magic Kingdom

I was reading the post It Might Look Like Random Crap over at Ionia Martin’s blog Readful Things the other day. She was discussing the random things she cares about, and the first image she posted was a key. It reminded me of a conversation I had with my daughter a few weeks before her sixth birthday.

Me: What would you like for your birthday?

She contemplated the question for a moment, and this is what she said:

CJ: The key to the magic kingdom.

She doesn’t ask for much, does she? I was expecting something simple like a Barbie or a bike, or perhaps some clothes for the little fashionista, but certainly not this. Where does one find the key to the magic kingdom? No ordinary key will do. We’re talking the mother of all keys!

I told my sister about my daughter’s unusual request and she said, “Oh lord! Well, don’t worry. I’m going to find it.”

Being the wonderful aunt she is, she set out to locate it. Her quest took her to far away, and perilous places, places no mere mortal would dare go. Seriously. Have you ever been to Walmart? It’s downright terrifying. All manner of hideous creatures can be found loitering in the aisles. And if you happen to brave the place on Black Friday, you are putting yourself in grave danger. At least that’s what I’ve heard. I don’t shop at Walmart and I don’t set foot in any store on Black Friday.

But my sister was courageous, and after many valiant attempts to locate the key, she eventually she found it. No, it couldn’t be found at a place as common as Walmart. It was masquerading as a home decor item in an obscure little boutique, but my sister knew of its worth upon sight. This was the key to the magic kingdom, no doubt. Or at least that’s what she, and most importantly my daughter, believed.

Here is what the magical key looks like:

magic kingdom keyOkay, so maybe it’s not actually the key to the magic kingdom, but one thing I know for certain: my little girl has the key to my heart.

Conversations with My Kids: Disappearing Forests and the Lorax

deforestationA few months ago, I was driving to the store with my kids. We passed a stretch of highway as we had hundreds of times before, but this time my son gasped as he surveyed the property. What was once beautiful rolling hill country dotted with native trees and plants, and untouched by human hands, was now barren wasteland. The vegetation had been wrenched and scraped from the earth by a team of bulldozers and backhoes.  It resembled a war zone, a picture of complete desolation.

My son’s shoulders slumped and he said, “Another forest…gone.” Then my son, a Discovery channel junkie, started to quote statistics about the disappearing rainforests. “Did you know we lose over 100,000 acres of rainforest every day?”

We had talked about preserving the world’s rainforests and protecting the environment, but I hadn’t expected him to quote the statistics. I knew that the rainforests were being destroyed at an alarming rate but I didn’t realize just how much. The statistic was shocking. “100,000? Really?”

“Yeah,” he turned in his seat to look at the destruction and said, “all so we can have something like a Walmart.”

My daughter’s face turned solemn and she said, “It’s just like the Lorax, Momma.”

LoraxI had no idea I was raising such environmentally conscious kids. The consequences of deforestation on the earth’s ecosystem is devastating. At the rate the rainforests are being consumed, they could be completely destroyed in less than fifty years. The main causes of deforestation are as follows:

  • commercial logging (furniture, paper products, building materials, etc.)
  • clearing land for grazing animals and farming
  • fuel wood to power industrial plants (such as steel and pulp mills)

Now consider these two statistics:

  • More than 20 percent of the world’s oxygen is produced by the Amazonian rainforest, and
  • One-fifth of the world’s fresh water can be found in the Amazon basin.

Air and water: basic necessities for human life. What kind of world are we leaving for our children?

How you can help stop deforestation:

  • Go paperless
  • Recycle
  • Buy recycled products
  • Eat vegetarian
  • Create consumer demand for renewable rainforest products (tropical oils, fruits, nuts, medicinal plants, chocolate, etc.)
  • Plant a tree

To learn more about the consequences of deforestation and how you can help protect the rainforests click here. Please take the time to read this.

“Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.” ~Dr. Seuss, The Lorax

Conversations with My Kids: The Connection between God and E.T.

E_t_the_extra_terrestrialWhen my son was about four I caught him staring out the window one day, seemingly lost in thought.

Me: Whatcha doing buddy?

KJ: Just thinking.

Me: About what?

KJ: [glances at me] What does God look like?

Me: I don’t know. We can’t see him, but he’s always with us.

KJ: [considered my words and then looked out the window again] I think God looks like E.T.

Initially I fought the urge to laugh, but then I reflected on the movie we had recently watched.

E.T. the Extraterrestrial is a science fiction movie that was released in 1982. According to Wikipedia it was the highest grossing film of all time until the release of Jurassic Park in 1993. The main character is a little boy named Elliott. He and his family are trying to cope with the breakup of the parent’s marriage and an absentee father. It was a particularly difficult time in Elliott’s young life and he really needed a friend.

One night Elliott discovers an alien in his backyard. He fears the alien at first, but he’s still curious enough to get to know him. Elliott sneaks him into his home and they become friends. They develop a unique connection where they can communicate telepathically. They share thoughts, experiences and emotions. Elliott grows to understand E.T. through this metaphysical connection. He knows E.T. is kind and good, and that he misses his home.

E.T. soon occupies a special place in Elliott’s heart. He is protective of E.T. because he knows that many people won’t understand him. He knows they would want to keep him and study him as proof of the existence of life beyond our world. He knows that our world will kill him eventually, so he fights to get E.T. home. He is sad to lose his friend, but before E.T. leaves on his spaceship he reassures Elliot that he will be with him always. Here is a clip of that scene:

Apparently, my son got more out of the movie than I had expected.

Me: [hugging my sweet little boy] You just might be right, buddy. I think God is a lot like E.T.

Okay, I’ve watched that scene about a zillion times and it still gets me teary-eyed, especially when I think of this special moment with my sweet boy. {sniff}