Mitchell-Lama Mama’s Blog

an ordinary life in an extraordinary city

Dirty Words June 24, 2009

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Hi Everyone. 🙂  

We’ve all been sick here in Mama’s world, even Mama. :0  We’re all finally feeling well again, and hopefully it will stay that way. 


Once upon a time, Mama had no qualms about using profanity in her writing.  Didn’t even think about it.  If it worked for the character/setting/situation, those words–from George Carlin’s list and others–flowed along with the rest of ’em.  


Joining online forums (not writing related) changed that.  Mama had to think about those words that might be offensive–not to mention blocked. 😉


Once upon a time, Mama had a strong “sense of self,” to use probably-outdated psychobabble.  The past several years of multiple medical crises and ongoing financial struggles have taken care of that.  Always one to question, the questions have become murkier, right along with that previous self. 


I’ve been thinking about these two issues; how they seem to have merged in my writing self, so the words I’m coming up with are mucky, with a thick layer of dust clinging.  In my mind I see the words looking like words used to when typed on an old typewriter with a new ribbon; letters just noticeably blurred and bleeding at the edges.  Introspective writing can only be good if it takes the writer and the reader somewhere farther along.  


Sometimes I think this is ok, ultimately this will all add something to my writing.  Right now, though, I would love to recapture the flow and feel of words coming through my keyboard clean and sharp–profane or not. 


The tank is doing well, my little reef is growing. 🙂  The coral beauty was sufficiently traumatized by our attempt to capture her so that she hasn’t been nipping at the corals. 🙂  


Only a few more days before it is finally, blissfully, officially SUMMER VACATION!!!!!


Shadows May 19, 2009

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Forget chasing windmills, I have to stop looking at shadows.  I do my most productive thinking through my fingers; keyboard or pencil, so please bear with me.  😀


I don’t just love my children, I adore them.  Each of them.  There are similarities in all three, but those similarities come out in different ways, and they are distinct individuals.  🙂


When I look at the girl, I smile always.  Usually because she’s smiling at me.  Baby’s first learned response, right? 😉  I know there is good that has come out of this neuro crud.  Her appreciation for kindness, her caring nature that includes concern for discomfort of any and all living creatures, her ability to laugh no matter how many tubes and wires might be attached to her at the moment, her strong work ethic.  These past days, though, I’m also seeing the shadows of those evils; woulda, shoulda, and coulda. 😦  I’m not focused on them, but I’m aware of their presence in a way I haven’t been since I last wrestled with thoughts on acceptance.  


We all want better for our children, better than we had, better than they have now.  I am not talking solely about material things– though I certainly wish for an easier reach for the checkbook on the 1st of the month for them.  If I could hand anything to my children it would be an understanding of how to balance.  Mama took herself way too seriously when she was younger, and then spent too long not taking herself seriously enough.  I know that sense of balance is something every person has to find and weigh for themselves.  As Mama, I try to help them to see what needs to be weighed, and how to portion it all out.  Right now, these shadows are getting in the way when I think about “what next?” for the girl, even though I know (thankfully) she doesn’t see them, and doesn’t ever need to.  


I will get past these maudlin thoughts.  They’re counterproductive, I can’t possibly help the girl move forward if I’m looking back.  But today, as I wait to see if the nurse from school calls again, I’m sad. 😦


Tricky Sense of Time May 7, 2009

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I’m wondering why the days fly by so quickly, and yet each week stretches on forever.  Am I the only one with this perception?  


I’m not sure I could get any less sleep than I do and function long term, but still I run out of time each day.  Twenty four hours should be enough, no?  But it never is.  Each day ends with Mama feeling guilty because I didn’t _________.  If I clean I didn’t write.  If I write I didn’t do laundry.  If I do laundry I didn’t shop.  If I shop I didn’t play with the girl.  If I play with the girl I didn’t blog.  And on and on, no end in sight.  I think the world would end if I made time to *gasp* read.  


Somehow I’m sure I should be grateful I have so much to do, right?  Somehow.  But then every morning I wake up thinking it must be Friday, and it still isn’t.  


I did accomplish something yesterday–I think.   😛  I tried to kill the aiptasia (pest anemone) again, and I haven’t seen it resurface since.  It must be morally wrong to be so happy to kill something, but I admit it.  Alone in the living room, by the light of the tank, Mama did a happy dance.   😀


Down to Roots, Poetry May 4, 2009

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Thinking through the keyboard, again. 


Last Thursday was Poem in your Pocket day in the NYC public schools (named after a poem of the same name by Beatrice Schenk de Regniers). The girl was thrilled, loved the whole concept, and I think relieved to find out Mama isn’t the only person in the world who reads poetry. 😉  We talked about poetry on the way to school this morning, what is a poem, no they don’t have to rhyme, etc.  For whatever reason it gave me some hope, some “oh yeah, something beautiful and worthwhile can come from anything, anywhere.”


Poems and poets are undervalued in our world.  The words usually heard in connection are along the lines of ;  frivolous, sappy, overwrought, angst–almost always these words are accompanied by eye rolling and a drawn out story of being forced to memorize something long and musty.  I used to write a lot of poetry, and I’ll be the first to admit that many of the poems were overwrought and angsty, though not long.  But.  There is no art as perfect. Like watching Masters play a game of chess, fluid.


Mama’s father liked poetry, so of course Mama thought she hated it.  Everything he showed me was looooong,rhyming, and usually a sonnet.  Not for me then or now.  But then I found a book of Carl Sandburg’s works smashed in the middle of the bookshelf over the telephone.  I think this was the first poem I ever memorized, and I’m not sure I realized what I memorized wasn’t the entire poem, but just the first stanza.


excerpt from Four Preludes to a Playthings of the Wind


The woman named Tomorrow

sits with a hairpin in her teeth

and takes her time

and does her hair the way she wants it

and fastens the last braid and coil

and puts the hairpin where it belongs

and turns and drawls: Well, what of it?

My grandmother, Yesterday, is gone.

What of it? Let the dead be dead.


Why did this poem speak to 10 yo Mama?  No clue, though I’m guessing the reason could be found in thirty years of analysis.  😉 What I know is it opened a whole new world, a world I’ve been able to visit throughout my life.  Some of the poems I used to love don’t do it for me anymore.  There’s a time and a place for Anne Sexton’s In Celebration of My Uterus, and that time is long past.  The beauty is in still being able to pick up the collected works of Sexton and find a phrase that sings, an image so clear it hurts, words that can be tasted.


Graphite Smudges on My Hand April 14, 2009

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I know, I know, MIA again.  


Today I’m wondering what makes the difference.  You know what I mean.  Five woman can go through very similar experiences, and walk away with twenty different lessons.  Or none at all.  What am I learning?  I’m not sure yet.


But seriously, what enables one person to turn the drudgery of laundry into prose that’s fluid, and the next into someone who can’t handle more than a grocery list?  And for the record, I’m not sure where I fall on that spectrum.  


I’m writing again.  You guessed it–longhand.  There’s something about pencil in hand and spiral notebook on lap that lets me reconnect in a way the keyboard doesn’t.  This usually doesn’t last too long;  I’m continually revising and editing as I write, so once I hit a rhythm it becomes easier to think directly onto the laptop.  I suspect it will take me longer than usual to find that rhythm this time.  Usually I “see” my stories and scenes so clearly, but right now I feel the way I do when I’m taking pictures of the tank.  I get the digital zoom to come up and everything looks blurry, I move back and forth until things look a little less blurry, and then keep hitting the shutter until I get a shot that’s clear.  Every so often I find the magical combination of perfect distance and zoom, and can get several sharp photos in a row.  (Though right now, there’s something wrong with the camera and I can’t get it to take any shots at all.)


Obviously, Lent is over, and I blew the 500-in-40.  It’s ok, it got me started, and for now I’m not even giving myself a target for each writing day, as long as I write.


I think the personal interview went well for the middle guy, they’ll send a letter in the beginning of May to let us know if he’s accepted, rejected, or waitlisted.  


I met with the girl’s teacher, and while there were no surprises, it was disheartening.  I was able to get an appt for her outside of the school system for a full evaluation at the end of the month, so maybe some good will come of that.  Neuro crud has been creeping back in, as is the snotty nose. Her birthday is at the end of this week; it feels shocking to me that she’s going to be eight.  Mama went shopping a little while ago, and yes!! I was able to find what I hope will be fun craft kits for her (latest obsession, she wants to be a fashion designer).  


 All my fishies and critters are still alive. 🙂  The tang’s ich seems to be going away (none of the other fish caught it), and the zoas are making a comeback.  Nothing new, I don’t think there will be for a while.  Money is too tight.  


Does anyone want to tell me why it’s mid-April and still cold out?


Thanks for checking out my ramblings,



Room for Error February 13, 2009

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Yesterday I was chatting with a newer friend, who asked me about the hows/whys of my extreme interest in getting each of my children into the right schools for them.  


The first, easy answer is that we live in Manhattan.  There isn’t an automatic solid “catchment” school for the kids to go into.  Manhattanites are, generally speaking, a little nutty about getting each child into the “best” schools.  There aren’t enough good schools in the middle ground; there’s wonderful (though not perfect), and there’s oh-my-God-how-can-I-send-my-child-in-there. 😛  


Another answer would be the stereotypical part of the American dream.  Wanting your kids to do better than you.  I’m afraid, and part of the first generation in a long time where it isn’t a given that I’m living a more comfortable life than my parents.  It not only isn’t a given, it isn’t true at all.  My parents owned a home; I don’t, and don’t see it ever happening at this point.   Life is what it is, a lot went into where I am, including some poor decision making on my part.  I can accept where I am, but don’t want the kids to stay “here.”  


I don’t want their lives to be spent in pursuit of the almighty dollar, I want them to be productive, fulfilled, and happy adults.  If you don’t have the potential to earn enough money, though, your life is ruled by that dollar.  I honestly believe that education is the path to “better.”  A great education teaches kids how to make decisions and weigh options, see how each choice affects another.  A great, well rounded education exposes to kids to many subjects and fields, and lets them know there’s a whole lot more out there than “doctor, lawyer, Indian Chief.”  And those pieces of paper matter.  Are there people who find success and financial freedom without them?  Sure.  They’re also people who win the lottery.  I wouldn’t bank on either of those happening.  


I admit it, I’m greedy when it comes to my children.  I want it all for them.  Do I expect they’ll get it “all?”  Probably not.  But maybe those high goals will leave them with enough.  🙂  


Other news: the girl is doing great!  Yippee!!!!!!!  🙂

Tank news:  The new frogspawn fell over onto the ricordea during the night a couple of nights ago. Frogspawn is a much more aggressive coral, and spent the night stinging the ricordea.  My beautiful big green ric, which had been about three inches big and splitting into two, is now less than half an inch long. 😦  At least it hasn’t died, and it looks a little less flat and shriveled than it did 2 days ago.  


Happy Friday Night Madness everyone!


Writers Read February 6, 2009

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I already posted about Writers Write, so now let’s talk about writers and reading.  


I love to read, always have, and books were always one of those things in my budget that I considered a priority.  However, in keeping with my continued efforts to trim the budget, my book buying days have been drastically reduced.*  I have preferences, but will read anything, so lately I’ve been doing a lot of borrowing.  My Friday Night Madness buddy doesn’t read novels, so over the past couple of years I’ve read what he buys–biographies and memoirs.  


Until I began borrowing books from him, I think I could have counted the number of biographies I read voluntarily on one hand.  Much to my surprise, I’ve realized I’m enjoying them–once I got past the first 52 Judy Garland bios 😛 Not only do I enjoy biographies, I think they’re going to be very helpful to me when I get back to my WIP, and any future works that might spring from my leaky brain. 


As I mentioned previously, I like to read and write books that are character driven.  I think my foray into biographies will help that along.  We all like to read characters that are fully fleshed, strive to create characters that will feel realistic to readers–even if that character is a vampire. 🙂  I also need endings to feel satisfying.  Not necessarily the proverbial happily-ever-after, but satisfying.  Good biographies tend to give that, even when the subject is dressed in their Sunday best for publication and avoidance of law suits.  😉


Over the years I’ve purchased and collected many books on writing, quite a few of which I recycled when we moved into this apartment.  Among the first to go were the ones that suggested making a “checklist” for your characters.  Yes, ok, make a note of age, hair color, eye color, etc. to avoid inconsistencies as you work on the manuscript.  But a checklist?  I couldn’t reduce Papa, my children, or any of my friends to a checklist, and a good character should be deeper.  I’m sure there are successful, published writers out there that it works for.  Not for me.  Assuming you have a good basic grasp of the language you’re writing in and don’t have 50 adverbs on the first page;  having characters that are flat and cliched will make me give up on a book faster than anything else.  I don’t see how you can avoid this if you’re creating characters from a checklist.  All of the best books on writing that I’ve read point out that writers read.  And if you’re writing with a goal of publishing, read what’s being published now.  🙂


So as a reader and a writer, characters and endings are my priorities.  What are yours, and why?


*I also confess to a more than passing acquaintance with the clearance tables. 😛