Thursday, March 31, 2011

Coloring Outside the Lines, or as a friend would say - cOloRing ouTsiDe thE liNeS....

So, if you hadn't heard (or seen me post elsewhere), my Great Aunt Billie (Wilma Joyce Avant Ritter, 1920-2011) passed away early Tuesday morning. Billie's husband, Ralph, passed away years ago and they had no children. So, my mom had been looking after her and her care ever since her Alzheimer's became more self-evident and Billie's friends let us know it was getting beyond them. Billie needed more help. So, Mom moved Aunt Billie to and then visited her in the nursing home, making sure she had someplace to go on holidays and felt loved and with family for the past few years. And now Mom is the one also wrapping up Aunt Billie's affairs. Billie had many friends who will miss her now that she is gone, but with Ralph gone and those friends spread all over the world, I wasn't sure where to send a sympathy card - that tradition of solace we practice when people pass on. We do it because we don't know what else to do and "it's the thing to do". But, since Mom was closest to Great Aunt Billie these last few years I decided Mom would be the one to get the "traditional" thing - the sympathy card.

Thing is, I hate sympathy cards. My sister had the great idea of sending chocolate from both of us - something simple and gratifying that would make Mom feel good after a long day. But I thought, maybe I "ought" to still send a card, because it was "the thing". But, did I mention how much I hate sympathy cards? They're always so, soo, SOOOO sappy and serious and PASTEL. Ugh. I hate them. When you're grieving, of course, they're probably exactly what you need to help you feel like you're not alone in your grief. But, the "thing" is - the thing is this - our family's tradition when it comes to death is that the body is a shell. We're mostly of the "burn and toss" variety when it comes to the final goodbyes. Funeral plots, burial plans, large services with people dressed in black - just not a part of our experience. It was drummed into my head from an early age that once the spirit and soul have passed on and left the body behind, they've gone on to a better place. The best way we can celebrate them is to remember them, tell stories about them, joke about them. And laugh. Maybe share a bit where we'd like our own ashes to be tossed when it comes to our time (compost pile, redwoods, the ocean, the mountains, the garden...).

You could say, we're not a family that colors within the lines when it comes to death.

But I can never find any sympathy cards that talk about laughing about the old good memories of the loved one who has passed on. I want a card with a bad joke about death that will give the receiver an excuse to snort an inappropriate chuckle in the middle of their tears and the last rites of finding places to donate old belongings and dumping old medications. Anyone who has lost a loved one knows how much grieving and crying has already gone on. There needs to be a sunbreak in the rain clouds, occasionally.

This is one picture where I am definitely coloring outside the lines.

I don't like all the grim, dim pastel cards. I want bold, birthday type cards that celebrate the LIFE of the person who has passed on. I can't be the only one, can I? Who hates all those grim, dim pastel cards with their morbid and morose feel? But today, at Rite Aid, when I was looking at the cards spread out over the aisle I thought I must be the only one. The closest I could get to not being a sour, sad card was to pick up a vague "support" card. And even that was a bit too pastel, especially for Aunt Billie. But, it had butterflies, which I knew Mom would like. And glitter, which appeased me. So, it was the card that came home to be used as a sympathy card because it was "the thing" to do. Even then, I couldn't leave it as is, but had to make sure the message was more uplifting than the original intent.

But, as frustrating an exercise as the searching for the right card was, it was a good reminder that it's okay not to color in the lines. Aunt Billie was a good reminder that it's okay not to always color inside the lines. I'm not very good at it anyway, so it's not something I need to put my energy into - trying to fit within the lines. And in the end, I believe, those of us who are willing to own up to coloring outside the lines, not only have more ownership over our lives, but we also create better art work. ;-)

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

The Man in the Hat

The Man in the Hat, a short story based on a news item I saw in the LA Times about ten years ago, has officially been accepted by Sam's Dot Publishing for their November 2011 Cover of Darkness Anthology.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Oracle of Themazuri on front page of Mindflights!

Though it's been up all month, it's now on the front page of So come on by and check it out. Let them know whether you like it, or not.

The above image is the front page artwork for this issue and is called The Woodland Faerie by Chasity iJames.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Seeking Reviewers!

In a month or two, my scifi novella will be coming out and I wondered if there was anyone out there who would like me to send them a copy for review on their blog. I'm not asking for a good review - because that's not fair and it doesn't help me get better. What I would like is for people who will read the novella and then give the world (or their world anyway) their assessment of my story.

To give you a better idea, it will be a hard copy (not online) and is of the space-ship-exploring-the-galaxy variety. While I didn't write it for kids or Young Adults, I think it probably skews that way.

If you're interested then leave a comment here or send me a PM/email.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

"See! Saw! Margery Daw!"

xposted at:

“Johnny has found a new maaaaaster….he can pay but a penny a day, because he can’t work any faaaaaster!”

That song used to make me laugh as my dad, and sometimes my mom, would sing it with me when we were on the See Saw. I didn’t realize how much they were pushing up to make me feel like I was getting them in the air. And I loved when they sat down placing me in the air. The ups and downs made my belly flip and I laughed with delight, and just a little bit of fear, when I felt the bump as their end hit the ground. Sometimes they’d tease me and stay seated. I’d swing my legs and look down at the ground. What if I fell? Half the fun was wondering. The other half was knowing I was safe. And then Mom or Dad would level it out, bring it back to balance. The fun would come to an end; it was time to get off the See Saw.

I’ve been remembering that because I’ve been thinking about balance recently. Balance is such a mundane word. It’s so utilitarian. It’s used for weighing something, or perching something, and for describing a state of being whether in regards to a single organism, or the entire cosmos.

According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the use of the word in English dates back to the 9th Century CE, though Euripides described the concept of balance as far back as the 5th Century BCE ( “The best and safest thing is to keep a balance in your life, acknowledge the great powers around us and in us. If you can do that, and live that way, you are really a wise man.” Euripides).

And what is balance? The day after the 8.9 earthquake in Japan, a large chunk of the world away, where reactors were beginning heat up and start their terrifying journey creating some sort of outlet for themselves, it was a beautiful day in L.A. The sun shone. The sky was blue. The breeze had that slight tang of beach – seawater, salt, sand. It was a perfect day. Was that balance?

If you grab one of those fantastic tools called a thesaurus, or my favorite, Rodale’s Synonym Finder, and look up the word balance, you will find six inches worth of words in 8 point font.Words of varying pedigree and age, but arguably as much history. Words like equilibrium, acumen, aplomb, poise, equipoise, steady, uniformity, evenness, reckoning, estimation, counterpoise, reason, sanity, weigh, ponder, deliberate, align, range… the list goes on. You could write an entire scene using mostly words that mean balance:

She sat poised on the chair with great aplomb, breathing evenly, awaiting the deliberation. The jury had some reason, in her estimation. She wondered, though, as they weighed her innocence against her guilt. Would they question her sanity? In a moment she faced her reckoning. With the uniformity of the justice system they declared her…

See – it could go on for a while.

Aplomb isn’t used much anymore (which is too bad) and dates from the 19th Century. I like to think that cats work to keep the concept of aplomb alive. They certainly seem to have plenty of it.

Poise, counterpoise and equipoise all come from variations in the 13th-14th Centuries. When did we cease teaching poise to people? I guess we assumed people would just pick it up. But, while you could say nature seeks balance, you wouldn’t say it seeks poise. Poise needs to be taught. But first the beings learning poise need to understand the concept of balance, and know what it is to be balanced, even – not constantly on an up or down.

But, we don’t allow for that anymore, do we. Everything is up or down. There is no “even keel”. We’re so enamored of the See Saw ride – we want to keep that belly flip. Not that there’s anything wrong with the belly flip, but eventually, we gotta come down, or at least even out. Eventually, osmosis works to create an equilibrium between spaces. Eventually, boundaries are reached, rebounding back and forth until some kind of accord – kinetic or otherwise – is reached.

My dad fixes pinball machines. He fixes other bar games and video games, but his father was in the pinball business and so it fell to my dad to get into it as well. When you play pinball, it’s all about keeping the ball off balance long enough to hit things and make points without QUITE throwing the machine off balance. So to get more points, you gotta get that steel ball to bounce the right spots at the right angles. When the ball finally does find it’s own equilibrium – well – that’s when you’ve lost the ball down the hole.

It’s easier for me to find balance when I’m in my own world – of course. Easier when I’m gardening and ignoring the world around me. Easier when I’m reading a book and listening to my iPod, shutting out everything else. Easier when I’ve shut and locked the door and decided I’m not leaving for the weekend.

Out in the great world out there, I might, like the steel ball, hit the wrong band, get stuck in the wrong hole, or set off the wrong lights, get bruised and bounced around while I seek all those “points” I’m supposed to be seeking.

I might lose balance.

Or, maybe I could learn from my four-footed friends and gather aplomb and poise around me like a fur cloak to keep the world from battering me about too much.

And now we’re at that point in this blog when you’re wondering what is the point? And there is none, unless you’re talking about the point that is used to balance…

Happy St. Patrick’s Day. And if you’re looking for something to read, check out The Oracle of Themazuri at