Sunday, March 30, 2008
My muse right by my side.
We talked about our writing
And the mountain vistas wide.
But when I reached the keyboard
My muse had gone to hide.
I sang along to a song;
My muse was singing too.
The words were coming fast;
I was ready to debut.
But when I found some paper
My muse was lost from view.
We went to see a movie
And cried thru 'til the end.
It got us thinking hard
Of a story to be penned.
I met with my computer;
My muse did not attend.
And so from this I learned:
On my muse I can't depend.
He's shy as a shadow,
Too fickle for a friend,
But when I'm done the writing,
He's right there to commend.
Friday, March 28, 2008
"There are people whom it is difficult to describe completely in their typical and characteristic aspect. These are the people who are usually called “ordinary,” “the majority,” and who do actually make up the vast majority of mankind. Authors for the most part attempt in their tales and novels to select and represent vividly and artistically types rarely met with in actual life in their entirety, though they are nevertheless almost more real than real life itself. …
"… What is an author to do with ordinary people, absolutely “ordinary,” and how can he put them before his readers so as to make them at all interesting? It is impossible to leave them out of fiction altogether, for commonplace people are at every moment the chief and essential links in the chain of human affairs; if we leave them out, we lose all semblance of truth. To fill a novel completely with types or, more simply, to make it interesting with strange and incredible characters, would be to make it unreal and even uninteresting. To our thinking a writer ought to seek out interesting and instructive features even among commonplace people. When, for instance, the very nature of some commonplace persons lies just in their perpetual and invariable commonplaceness, or better still, when in spite of the most strenuous efforts to escape from the daily round of commonplaceness and routine, they end by being left invariably forever chained to the same routine, such people acquire a typical character of their own—the character of a commonplaceness desirous above all things of being independent and original without the faintest possibility of becoming so."
Wednesday, March 26, 2008
“Hey, Sunshine, you’re awake! You need a diaper change, don’t you? Shhhh, Mommy’s working on it… yep, that’s wet! There you go… all clean again! Now what? Time to eat? Okay, okay, I’m getting there – patience! … Are you done now? You’re sure? Shhh, let’s have a burp now. Gotta get those big bad burps out. There we go! Is that better? Husha, now what? You want to bounce on the ball? Okay…”
bounce, bounce, bounce… zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.
“Hey, now, look who’s awake. Is it time to eat again? Shhh, there you go… somebody’s hungry! Hey, don’t eat so fast that you choke on it! It’s okay, try again – there you go. … Oh, that was a good burp. … Look at you kicking! Are you having fun staring at Daddy’s wardrobe? Here, do you want to listen to Mommy’s music box? … Okay, time to come up! Shhh, Mommy’s here…”
[repeat above several times]
I’m not very good at one-sided conversations. I’ve been reading a book on baby sign language. It says if I start teaching Sunshine that, she might start signing back when she’s six months old.
Wednesday, March 19, 2008
Lately I've been reading Rocks in My Dryer, which hosts Works For Me Wednesdays. This is where bloggers can share tips and suggestions that have worked for them. This week, I thought I'd jump in with what has worked for me for soothing a fussy baby...
At the recommendation of our pre-natal class instructors, my husband and I bought a yoga ball as an aid in labour. He got it blown up, despite a bad pump, and we practised a few of our pain-coping strategies with it. I thought about taking it to the office (a few of my coworkers had balls under their desk to help with back pain and posture), but never got around to it. We did take it to the hospital with us, and at one point it helped alleviate the pain of the contractions as I sat on it rocking back and forth. Then we brought it home again, and it bounced from corner to corner in our apartment. I figured it was a good thing we hadn’t spent that much on it, as we’d barely used it.
It has since gotten more use. One day when Sunshine was about a week old, she wouldn’t stop fussing. I fed her. I burped her. I changed her. Still she fussed. I rocked her and sang to her and swung her in my arms. Still she cried. I dropped down on the ball and bounced twice, just for a break from pacing with her. She stopped crying and looked about with her big blue-grey eyes. I bounced some more. Blessed silence filled the apartment, other than the squeaking of the bouncing ball. Finally, something to soothe her fussiness!
Since then, the ball has become my guaranteed anti-fuss strategy. When nothing else works to calm her down, bouncing on the ball for ten minutes or so will. I usually hold her upright against my chest while we bounce, and she looks around, making me wonder what she can see and what she thinks. Often her eyes will start to droop and I can slow down the bouncing until she’s on the verge of sleep. So if you have a yoga ball and a fussy baby… perhaps they’ll also go well together.
Friday, March 14, 2008
Yusef shifted on his mat, raising himself up on one elbow as he placed his other hand over his squinting eyes to peer at the pool. For his sake, I hoped he would see the stirrings he hoped for; but I knew he would soon settle back down on his mat with his eyes fixed on the pool. I’ve known him for nearly seven years now, and waited with him often during that time, but I’ve never seen the waters move.
I closed my eyes against the bright sun, wishing Yusef would agree to wait over in the shade. But that’s too far from the pool, he says. So here we stay. He’s counting on me to get him to the water’s edge if the waters are stirred. His faith amazes me; thirty-eight years he’s sat here, watching, waiting, and still he believes he’ll be healed someday.
He wasn’t always like this, a gaunt, sunburnt man laying on a dirty mat in a public square. He used to be the best stonemason in Jerusalem, renowned for his work. He apprenticed under my grandfather, just as my father and I did. When my father was toddling around the shop, Yusef was a young man already becoming known for his skill with stone. He built some of the fanciest mansions in Jerusalem, with stones so carefully cut and fitted the seam is hardly visible. Then, just as my father was learning to handle the chisel, Yusef’s accident happened. He was working on a great new palace at Caesarea Philippi and fell from the top of a wall. His apprentices carried him back to Jerusalem, writhing in pain and unable to walk.
His legs are useless now, mere sticks that drag behind him. His hands are still big and strong and could hold a chisel, but he can’t sit or stand in the shop. Since he could not work, his money soon ran out. Now he lies by the pool of Bethesda, a helpless beggar waiting for a miracle.
He’s seen the waters stir, three times in the thirty-eight years he’s waited here. I wasn’t here any of those times, so he dragged himself with his hands across the rough stones. Each time, another person reached the pool before he did, and the waters held no healing for him. He says he saw those others healed, and he still believes he’ll be healed too, but I’ll believe it when I see it.
And so I sit with him, on Sabbaths and the days when I have no work. If today the waters were stirred, I would be breaking the Sabbath rules by carrying him to the pool. But if that happened, I should delight in making the sacrifice that would cover my sins. Too many years have I sat here watching Yusef beg and wait.
The pigeons winged back over the courtyard, swooping low, but they didn’t land, for a group of men crossed the courtyard. I turned from pigeon-watching to people-watching. The man who seemed to be leading them was dressed like a rabbi, but his friends did not look like students. One, while he wasn’t dressed like a tax collector, still had the snobbish attitude of one. A couple others looked, from their rough clothing and wind-burned faces, like fishermen. An altogether motley group, I decided, wondering what they were doing together.
Yusef grunted as he pushed himself up to his elbow again, and I glanced at the water. It was still. Looking back at him, I found that he wasn’t looking at the pool, but at the rabbi and his followers. They were coming our way, and Yusef gave me a desperate look.
“A blessing,” he whispered.
I rose and walked towards the rabbi, and when he looked at me, I had a feeling that anything could happen today. “A blessing for my friend, rabbi,” I asked him.
The look he gave Yusef was full of compassion, and he asked me how long he has suffered for. Then he squatted down in front of Yusef’s mat, letting his body block the sun. Yusef blinked up at him, and he gently asked, “Do you want to get well?”
What a question to ask, I thought, for wouldn’t anyone want to get well? But there was a look on Yusef’s face that I have never seen before, and his tone was respectful, hopeful, as he answered, “Sir, I have no one to help me into the pool when the water is stirred. When I am trying to get in, someone else gets in ahead of me.”
The rabbi stood up and said, “Get up! Pick up your mat and walk!”
I was about to tell him that Yusef couldn’t do that, when Yusef did just that. The legs that had lain useless on the mat for thirty-eight years folded and pushed his body upwards. The feet that had only dragged along the ground now pressed firmly and took a few steps. His back, which was twisted and weak, became straight and strong. I stared up at him. I’d never had to look up at Yusef before, and I wasn’t sure I believed my eyes. But the look on his face – the look that said that what he’s waited for had come!
I could only sit and stare as he bent over, rolled up his dirty mat, and took a few steps. Then he skipped a few steps, and then he ran across the courtyard carrying his mat. I looked around for the rabbi. He was nowhere in sight. But I saw what had happened.
Biblical fiction based on the story in John 5.
Wednesday, March 12, 2008
Then I went online to check the websites, and suddenly, they didn’t seem like such good fits. A few of the magazines had ceased to exist or had changed what they published. Others just looked different online than they had in my Guide. As usual, disappointment set in, with the feeling that none of these editors would like my writing. I tried thinking of other ideas, things that I could write and sell to the editors, but nothing jumped up. They had too many writers already, too many people who knew more than I did and had more experience and were better writers, and so why should I bother…
Marketing is my least favourite part of this writing business. I’ve been to enough conferences, read enough articles, and talked to enough other writers to have heard all the advice. Persevere. Read the sample copies. Study the markets. Writers often get a gazillion rejections before they get an acceptance. Keep writing. Keep sending out submissions. Don’t get discouraged.
Sometimes I wonder why I chose this career. I tell myself that I should just be happy with writing my blog and emailing my friends, with keeping a journal and writing for myself. But then I talk to other writers who have regular columns, good relationships with magazine editors, stories published in periodicals that I used to read and would love to see my name in… and I want to do that too. So somehow I have to learn to take all that advice that I’ve heard over the past ten years of learning this writing business, and sit down to apply it.
Monday, March 10, 2008
She doesn’t always fuss like that. Most of the time, she’s a contented baby – if she’s being held. Back when I was pregnant, I had happy visions of the baby sleeping cosily in her cradle while I did the housework and wrote stories. Sunshine changed that picture, as she doesn’t like being put down. I find myself wandering through the house, wondering what I can do with one hand while I hold the baby in the other. The irony of it is that growing up, I was the girl who was always looking for a baby to hold; now I have one that needs to be held all the time.
Wednesday, March 5, 2008
Just before that, my husband had found a children’s book by Lynne Truss that demonstrated the importance of correctly placed commas. Many people think that this little punctuation mark is hardly important, but the book’s illustrations clearly show what a difference one comma can make. For example, consider what a comma does when placed in the subtitle of the book: Why, commas really DO make a difference! or Why commas really DO make a difference! The first is an exclamation of surprise and the second tells us that this book is going to explain something.
On the CD, Lynne talked about examples like those, plus gives some historical details about how punctuation evolved. Dramatists have had a huge impact upon punctuation, wanting to be very precise in using it to show where the speakers should pause or give emphasis to their speaking. The ancient Greeks were the first to use little marks to show these pauses and breaks, and came up with the names comma, colon, etc. She also interviews writers and editors about their use of punctuation. There’s even an organization dedicated to protecting the use of the apostrophe, whose members point out incorrect use of the apostrophe.
I laughed aloud when Lynne explained how she started working as a copyeditor, and then later became a writer. As a writer, with “perfect paragraphs, perfect spelling, and perfect punctuation,” her opinion of editors suddenly changed. Ah yes, the good old editor/writer relationship! At any rate, she makes punctuation both interesting and amusing, while clearly explaining how it should be used and why that’s important.
Monday, March 3, 2008
The documentary talks about how:
- Women are given epidurals during labour, but this can slow labour, so pitocin is administered to speed up labour, but also makes the contractions harder and longer, which means more epidural is required, which again slows down labour, so more pitocin is administered, which makes labour more painful, so more epidural... until the baby, enduring this hard, squeezing labour, goes into fetal distress and a C-section is required.
- The United States has the worst C-section rate in the world (about 1 in 3 births) and also the worst rate of newborn deaths.
- The most C-sections happen at 4:00 pm and 10:00 pm, when doctors want to go home for supper or for the night. Doctors prefer C-sections, because they take 20 minutes, rather than waiting around for an average of 12 hours for a labouring woman. What's better for the woman? Well, a C-section is major abdominal surgery. Who wants that unless it's absolutely necessary?
My husband asked me last week why I posted my birth story online, and this movie chrystalized my reasons for doing that. Birthing and labour aren't talked about much in our society, or when they are, they are talked about negatively. TV shows portray women in labour as screaming, hysterical, in pain, and in need of doctor interventions to save their lives. When one of my co-workers got pregnant last year, she said everyone came up to her to tell her their horror stories about labour - not what you want to hear when you're a few months pregnant and headed there. I wanted to show that birth can be a natural, normal, beautiful thing - because it is. This movie shows that while asking tough questions about how women in labour are being treated.