Archive for July, 2006

mad,Mad, MAD!

Have you seen the news today? Desperately seeking my happy place! This picture also by my talented friend Waldo. Unfortunately, it’s not helping!

The news… homeland security people use their government issued credit cards to swindle the American public after hurricane Katrina. It’s just making me sick. Big screen TVs, paying double for rescue boats and then half of them unable to be found, a beer making kit, a warehouse full of dog booties. The list just goes on and on, and the real question is WHY?

This makes me crazy on a number of different levels.

I’m a small town treasurer. We have 22 employees (not counting the lifeguards in the summer). According to state law, in order to purchase a lightbulb it requires a form documenting what is to be purchased, who from and for how much. This must be signed by me and the administrator. The form is then assigned a purchase order number and the light bulb can be purchased. Once the invoice arrives, the information is put on a list that must be approved by a six man council before the item can be paid for. Tedious, yes. But there has never been so much as a missapropriated penny in this village.

In 2004 my small town flooded. We lost everything on the first floor of the municipal building. The safe and it’s contents, file cabinets full of documents, computers, police radios…. it was terrible, and even that wasn’t half as bad as what the residents were suffering with the same amount of water in their houses. Eventually FEMA came down to help us sort things out. We lost nearly $400,000 worth of equipment. In order for FEMA to replace anything, we had to have three quotes for replacement, a report from a professional saying it had to be replaced rather than repaird, a request form, a picture and full description of the item. From the initial request for the next eighteen months I had to file a report saying we had the item. Tedious? Oh yes. Also unneccessary.

But handing out 25,000 credit cards willy-nilly is just ridiculous. I’ve always said if you throw temptation into the face of even the most honest people, they will eventually give in. We need new government leaders, we need to revamp these crazy agencies. Anything with a title so long its better known by its initials must be overhauled and streamlined. Clear Congress, Clear the Senate, clear anyone in government from the President on down and let’s start over.

July 20, 2006 at 12:42 pm Leave a comment

I Need A Navigator

Ruger and I are two grumpy travelers. I must remember for the future that when Dark Daddy says “left” he means “right”. Thank goodness nobody was bleeding or unconscious… they’d have died before I ever arrived.

It was my intent to skip out of the day job an hour early, which I did. I was then going to drive thirty five minutes from home for a visit with two of my dearest, oldest friends. Two hours later, after I’d toured the same stretch of road four times, and had a pay phone steal the last two dollars I had in my wallet, I gave up and headed home for my writers meeting. I hadn’t been in the house five minutes before Pap explained this error in my navigation (left rather than right). Just to aggravate matters more, he added “from that pay phone you could probably see his house.” Has no one explained what a precarious position this man is already in without adding that??? Jeesh.

The first stories for my new job are due by Friday. I have interviewed, researched and written the three I plan to send in. In fact, two were finished by last Saturday, edited, polished and ready to go. But I just couldn’t send them. I’ve spent the last several days imagining that the minute I hit “send”, the stories would come flying back from my editor saying she’d made a mistake hiring me, every word was crap. I spent two days reading an old edition of the paper and agonizing over whether my writing was better or worse than what they already had. With time ticking away, I changed the title of my favorite story four times. Finally, today, Clay Guy says the equivalent of “just send them for Pete’s sake!” So at lunch, I sent one. At two I checked my e-mail and there were three letters from my editor. My fears had to be confirmed, my writing was so bad she had to tell me three times! One would be “your writing’s crap”, the next would be “who do you think you are pretending to be a writer” the last would be firing me before I’d ever seen my by-line on a newspaper.

I opened the first one and there was just one line: “I have only one word to say…AWESOME”. The other two were asking if I’d sent pictures, and then apologizing because she failed to see the line where I told her I’d sent pictures. I also had a letter from the graphics guy saying my pictures were good! That was just a lie though, I’m a terrible photographer, I need my sister-niece to come be my partner. She not only takes great pictures, she can also write. We could start our own newspaper. I can’t even describe how happy this made me.

The good news is it’s highly unlikely that I’ll ever be an arrogant writer.

July 19, 2006 at 11:08 pm 5 comments

Warning – Parenthood is not for the Weak or Wimpy

The most frustrating thing about parenthood is the fact that once the little darlings enter the world, you can NEVER get them off your mind. It’s like one dormant quadrant of your brain comes to life in brilliant, neon, pulsing color. We worry about them in the same way we must probe a throbbing tooth with our tongue, or pick at a scab on our knee. Parenting books should come with a warning label.

My five kids range from 19-26. for the most part, they are independent, responsible young people. Logic dictates that if you have five children and four follow a path highly acceptable to society, conduct their individual lives in a way that brings respect and honor to themselves and their family, are known to all and sundry as happy, generous, kind people, you should say you’ve done your parenting job well. That isn’t how it works.

When only four of the five are doing well, there’s another quadrant of your brain that springs to life, this one spewing steam and lava, spotlights crossing paths above it, a really mean guy yelling into a megaphone: “You’ve messed this one up! Come one, come all and see the disaster this couple has created!” I think I told you yesterday that the prodigal had returned home. Grandgirls mom is back and despite having spent the entire day with her, I can not figure out how she turned out the way she did. I can’t figure out how her mind works, I can’t decipher the truth from the lies that spew from her mouth. How do you know when T is lieing? Her mouth is moving…

My intelligent, internal woman berates me constantly for blaming myself, but when did she ever have a kid? As I recall, she was the one clamoring about “population control” back when I was wishing on every shooting star for a baby. Years of soul searching and rehashing always reveal the mistakes we made with all the kids, but “all” is the key word. There wasn’t any thing we did as parents to push her into premarital sex, drugs and a tolerance for the most extreme kind of self-inflicted poverty and misguided devotion. Easy to say, but my protests are no match for that guy with the megaphone.

July 18, 2006 at 5:18 pm 4 comments

Back to the Real World

I’m doing my best to find my happy place today, without much luck… it’s Monday, that means the day job.

This beautiful picture was taken by my friend Waldo Schmidlapt… who once started all my days with beautiful pictures of clouds but has suffered a computer crash and hasn’t the time to reload all the addresses… sigh*** it was a great way to start the day.

Yesterday, as I was feverishly scribbling notes about a local community theatre preparing to open their season with Fiddler on the Roof, I remembered that I was supposed to be at Dark Daddy’s on Saturday. Hmmm… I haven’t had any hate mail from him, so maybe I lucked out and he also forgot about our date. I forget many things now days, and have for some time. That’s why it’s so surprising to me that I can remember the smallest details of the interviews I’ve been doing for the paper even without my notes. Proof, that when you love what you do, it comes easier. Kristin over at blueridgewriter summed this up beautifully on her blog yesterday.

Prodigal is home again, with daughter and one on the way. Its hard for me to know what to say. She chose a lifestyle so alien to me, made decisions that are clearly poor over and over again. Now she’s dependent on the kindness of her sister Bean. Hopefully this time it will work and she’ll remember her upbringing.

July 17, 2006 at 2:25 pm 4 comments

Friday Fantasy – On Saturday

An example of the Vase In Place project going on along the clay corridor, better known as Muskingum, Perry and Athens counties – pottery land USA. This one was painted by Susan Stubbins. What a cool project, these vases are 7 foot tall and weigh 167 pounds. There is an entire cast of characters that make them, paint them, haul them around and display them.

So busy writing about my interview, I ran out of steam before I got to the Friday Fantasy. That can’t be! Here is this weeks:

In a perfect world, all men would live on an island (without ferry service). Marriage would be a thing of the past. When we girls needed something like the lawn mowed, the sink fixed, a dinner date or sex… we’d take the cruise liner out to the island and fetch us back whichever man fit our needs at the time. The fellas would be supplied with all the weaponry they’d need to fullfill their hunter-gatherer needs and we’ll even hook up some cable so they can watch all the sports and wrestling their little hearts desire. There would be some exceptions, of course. Gay man can stay with us if they want to, men who are afraid of creepy crawlies or think exactly like we do. Its a perfect plan don’t you think?

July 15, 2006 at 12:58 pm 8 comments

A Peek Into The Mind of An Artist

Today, on the first day of my new job, I interviewed a living testament to the resiliancy of women. Sorry men, I haven’t seen a one of you that’s recovered from adversity with the grace and sheer joy I saw in this fine woman.

Her story begins like many, one of eleven children in a tar paper shack, deep in the mountains of West Virginia. Abandoned by her mother, victimized by her father from age 9 to 13, friendless, and lonely, she created an imaginary friend. What happened next is what sets this artist apart from others who’ve experienced similar difficulties.

As I panted after her up the three flights of stairs to her top floor studio, it was easy to see the girl she once was roaming her native hills. The halls are lined with her paintings, brilliant fanciful works in every shade of blue and her favorite purple. I was moved by her ability to capture not just the look of what she was painting, but the mood of a moment in time. She paints her memories of a lonely girl dependent on the kindness of one neighbor and the protection of an imaginary friend. She paints the plight of women everywhere. A mother, her baby clutched to her chest, racing through woods, the fear and sadness in her eyes burning from the canvas. A woman bowed under the weight of the world’s standard of beauty. Her studio is stacked with paintings. More canvases of the imaginary stories she entertained herself with as a child, some florals, and prominently placed next to the door, a three dimensional rendering of the tiny shack set amongst the mountains. Beautiful in it’s simplistic style.

“That’s what people see from the outside…” she says when she catches me studying it. “no one ever knows what’s really happening inside.” She tells me she was the first of her family to graduate from High School, the only one to go on to College. She talks about how her older sister escaped their hideous family life and despite never learning to read, managed to land a job and come back for her. Our artist payed it forward and went back and rescued the sister beneath her. I ask her, when? When did you start painting? That too is an amazing story.

She tried to draw just once as a child in school. Her class listened to a radio show after which they were told to draw a picture of the story they’d just heard. She drew a phoenix, rising from the ashes. Her picture was selected to hang in the place of honor over the radio. She tells me then, this is the only time she can remember being deliberately mean to anyone. The class bully pulled it down when the class was away at lunch, tore it up and stepped on it. When she saw what he’d done she got mad. “He knew I was poor and he knew I was ugly, but he didn’t know that I was also fast.” She chased him out of the classroom and pushed him down the stairs. And that was the last time she tried to draw anything until her mid thirties.

A farming accident left her broken and bedridden in the living room of her home. Helpless with two small children, she was rapidly descending into depression when a friend intervened and forced her to try painting. They hung the blank canvas over the top of the bed and she tried, soon spending every day painting, and every evening getting the paint and turpentine washed off her body. By the time she’d recovered enough to move to a wheelchair, she was frustrated with her self taught efforts. “It’s like a musician who can play by ear but doesn’t know the notes to write on the paper” she said. She enrolled in art classes at Kent State.

She’s had her own gallery, served as a curator for a museum, raised two children and leads the art community in her town. She is as bright eyed as a pixie and continues to turn the nightmare that was her beginning into the light that is her present by sharing the stories she created as a child through a series of three fantasy books.

July 14, 2006 at 10:07 pm 8 comments

What’s More Valuable Than Money?

To a struggling writer, there isn’t anything more valuable than tear sheets. Visible proof that you write well enough for someone to print it. We’ll do nearly anything to get them… write for free, write about people and things we hate. We’ll meet ridiculous deadlines, go to the ends of the earth to get that story our paper is asking for. For me, six months worth of tear sheets from just about any paper equals hallways full of portals opening. I have lists of jobs I’ve applied for, received a positive comment back immediately followed by “send your tear sheets”. It was frustrating and felt like a vicious circle I was never going to escape. But today I can hear the bolts being thrown back, the creak of old hinges as the heavy wooden doors slowly start swinging open, today I start writing for Our Town News. A little paper, but a start and a paying job. Woohoo! What’s more important than money? Tear Sheets!

Before I start prostituting my talent for a by-line, a centering moment of rational summation is necessary. There are, of course, other things more important than money: the love of family and friends, a good dog, honesty, an amusing cat, a great hair day (which isn’t today, but I think I saw one around New Years)… I have an embarrassment of riches. Okay enough rationality.

Woo HOO, I’ve got a paying writing job!!!

July 12, 2006 at 3:13 pm 8 comments

Unsatisfying Wins

France and Italy were tied in over time at the World Cup final. With just minutes to go, Zinedine Zidane, from France, head-butted Marco Materazzi, from Italy, in the chest and was ejected. France went on to lose on penalty kicks. This drama was, of course, broadcast all over the world.
If I were an Italian, I’d be demanding a “do-over”. Unsportsmanlike conduct or not, there’s no glory in winning by a technicality. Despite Zinedine’s bad behavior, he was still named most valuable player – another dent in the World Cup – cup.

I was raised with the cliche “cheaters never win”, as a kid I didn’t understand the true meaning of this phrase. My friends frequently beat me at Monopoly by cheating, there were students who scored better on tests than me by cheating and my own kids considered cheating at board games part of the game. Athletes achieving amazing feats through the use of steroids were big news in my lifetime. Looked to me like cheaters not only won, but won big. It wasn’t until I was older that I saw those kinds of wins are transitory things, perhaps a momentary rush, but nothing for the long term, esteem building future.

I feel the same way about most of life. A promotion gained from anything other than the quality of ones work, is an empty win. Self-publishing a book – empty win. I feel like anything gained by means other than hard work or creativity are empty gains, soul stealing little incidents that whittle away at the very heart of the perpetrator. These people who spend a lifetime cheating and stealing their way to victory… what do they see when they stand and look back at the end of their life? I hope I will see the steady succession of failures that ultimately led to my success.

July 11, 2006 at 7:27 am 4 comments

Maudlin Monday

Ophelia led the protest against getting “frontlined” today, not that it did her any good, I’m the human and I know fleas are not acceptable. She can’t scare me with those alien eyes.

I just detest Mondays. As if the day job isn’t horrible enough, on Mondays I get to work all day and then go back for a meeting at night. “Death by boredom”, I’m sure it’s possible. Some good news in my e-mail, Library Lo is back, my girl down under is feeling better and I got the most amazing letter about a baby rhinoceros seperated from its mother during Katrina that has been adopted by an ancient tortoise. The pictures were too cute!

July 10, 2006 at 10:57 pm 2 comments

Twisted Reality

Frustrated with all the pictures of Isobelle that I’ve been posting, Ophelia, the Dowager Queen of Winter Street, demanded some cover time. Fat, lazy…ugh, royal… thing wouldn’t even sit up to have her picture taken. She knows she rocks.

Weigh-in day went okay for me – 3 more pounds down this week. Poor Princess lost nothing… gee, too bad! I’m really not gloating – that’s a lie, yes I am. Unfortunately, she’s a type A personality with an extremely competitive edge, next week she’ll kill herself to beat me.

Guilty pleasures – for some people those are alcohol, chocolate, Harlequin romance books. My guilty pleasure is reality shows. I say this with a bag over my head, because, jeesh, even I know they’re ridiculous, but I can’t help myself! I started thinking about what I’d do for money when I was a kid because of a song, the title of which I can’t remember. The conversation came up again when that movie with Demi Moore came out – the one in which Robert Redford offers her a million dollars to sleep with him once and just talking about it breaks up her marriage. Pap was horrified when I said I’d definitely sleep with Robert Redford (in his prime, that’s how old that movie is) for a million dollars. Quite frankly, I’d do it for free. Morals or no morals – Robert Redford! I’ve thought he was amazingly cute since Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid came out. But I digress….

In examining all the outrageous things I’d do for a million dollars, I definitely have to include sleeping with Robert Redford. I wouldn’t eat anything weird, I wouldn’t hurt, mame or kill any person or animal for any amount of money, I wouldn’t denounce God or my family, or get naked in public. About anything else is fair game. Thus, my fascination with reality shows. It started with Survivor, then Big Brother came along, quickly followed by American Idol, America’s Next Top Model, The Biggest Loser, Hell’s Kitchen, Treasure Hunt … even old Ted Nugent has got in on the action. I’ve watched people competing to be Donald Trump’s apprentice, trying to win jobs as designers, decorators and the next Martha Stuart. It’s absolutely embarrassing how much interest I have in watching people compete with each other for money.

The intelligent woman inside me groaned vociferously when I tuned in to any of these shows. To quiet her down, I had no choice but to rationalize my way to an acceptable answer for the old girl. It goes something like this:

I’m a writer living in a very small town. Where else, in just one short hour, can I gather the necessary information I need for constructing a variety of interesting and diverse characters for my books? These shows are a study of human interaction, man’s inhumanity to man, the frailty or strength of the human character. Okay, it’s lame, but it’s my story and…. you know the rest. Gotta go, Project Runway is on….

July 9, 2006 at 5:09 pm 2 comments

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