Archive for December, 2006

Unfit for Human Habitation…

…. the new name of my home formerly known as the house of perpetual remodeling. Decorating eight rooms of my house for Christmas is a labor of joy. Taking it all down and packing it up usually is too. When the kids were small, Pap would load the kids in the car and spend three days at his mother’s while I returned order to the house. As teenagers, my crowd learned to make themselves scarce or be recruited into pack mules. This year, they’ve all gone insane and I’m one piece of tinsel from insuring that I will end my life as a childless widow.

The two grandgirls that live here still have Christmas toys scattered hither and yon that they swear will not fit in their room. Evil Isobelle has finally lost interest in the tree ornaments and favors instead the small pieces of all three doll houses. There are Bratz feet, pony brushes and Tinker Belle herself popping up in every room. As if this isn’t enough mess, Princess decided to sand and restain her bedroom floor and tear out and retexture her ceiling on a whim. The materials for all this work are stacked in the library; the plaster dust is mingling with the regular dust from her room down the stairs to the dining room where she’s set up the circular saw. Her furniture and junk has been relocated to MY bedroom, the hall and stair landing. Pap has cooked enough casseroles and soups to feed a third world country and left the cleaning up for me. The chaos has reached such proportion that my dog won’t even stay inside. He’s curled up on a bench on the porch.

Attacking this problem with a bucket and mop would make more sense than writing about it, but I can’t even do that. On Friday afternoon, Grandgirls Mom and her sister, Michelle, showed up with Juliette and Brendolyn to plead for my babysitting services. My daughter Michelle and her husband are teachers. Those that teach know it isn’t the highest paying job in America, especially when you’re young and trying to raise a family. To make a little extra cash, my son-in-law started a t-shirt business. He makes and sells team shirts out of their home and at tournaments. An ambitious fellow, when he saw how much money he could make at one tournament, he decided to schedule himself into two tournaments every weekend which means Michelle must take care of one of them. Worked fine until she got pregnant, now she can’t carry the press or buckets of shirts…hence, the recruitment of Grandgirl’s Mom. So into the insanity strolls the very busy and sneaky three-year-old and the baby. Brendolyn, who between Christmas and today has decided she has quite a lot to say and isn’t happy unless you’re in her face yakking it up. Like a dog, Brendolyn doesn’t care what you’re saying as long as you say it in a pleasant tone of voice.

I’m not a neat freak, but this kind of disorder gives me eyeball ticks. Somebody send the Health Department, if they’ll condemn it now, I’ll be able to get some sleep before New Year’s Eve.

425 days to freedom…. One year, two months until I’ve completed the term of my day job, finished and mailed the annual report of my last year to the state auditor and strolled home to write full time. Thank you for asking.


December 31, 2006 at 3:11 am 27 comments

When One Door Slams…and other News

Yesterday I opened my e-mail and found the saddest news.  Our Town Living, the local newspaper I freelance for, has gone out of business.  They just couldn’t generate enough advertising dollars to keep afloat.  I’ll miss this paper for more than just the extra money I earned writing for it.  OTL was a paper filled with encouraging news and the stories of people making a contribution to our community.  It was the first publication that paid me to write.  A door has closed for me, but another has opened…

Just after Thanksgiving, I met with a Doctor who was looking for an editor for his children’s book.  He definately needed an editor, but the theme of his story is something I have never seen addressed in children’s literature.  He worries about copyrights, and I don’t have his permission to even say this much, but since then we have added an artist and a musician and in about three months, I think our team might just have a little something to brag about. 

The case of the haunted nutcracker is finally solved!  As you know, he sits on an old cabinet in the dining room with a crowd of other nutcrackers and some decorative greenery.  He’s supposed to face the table, but turns and looks at the Christmas tree or falls off the cabinet completely several times a day.  Okay… once we started packing up the greenery and some of his buddies, I noticed that his stand is not completely flat.  Its warped only the tiniest bit, just enough that when you combine the moving air from the ceiling fan that is always running in there, with the movement of his cabinet when people and pets walk by, he starts to rock.  Just a little, a jitter really, rather than a rock.  While he’s jittering he’s bumping into the other Nutcrackers and greenery which ricochets him into a turn.  Scientists would have figured this out long ago and saved me grief.  Jeesh, that’s what I get for hanging out with a bunch of writers instead. 

426 days to freedom.

December 29, 2006 at 4:51 pm 18 comments

Big Box Killed the Pot and Book

My small town was once a bustling community producing some of the world’s finest art and functional pottery.  The train ran through twice a day, shipping this ware by the car load all across the country.  Our residents were all working and spending their money right here at local stores.  Their tax dollars went straight to parks, roads and the school in our neighborhood. 

The first blow to the pottery industry came from foreign imports.  They were so good at copying our patterns they could have knock-offs out within days of the original hitting the shelf.  The second blow came with highway improvements that made getting into the city so much easier.  The killing blow was the creation of the “big box”, who took advantage of  both those things: easy access and cheap foreign imports.  Our potteries couldn’t compete with the price and American’s started settling for second best…or worse. 

The book industry is facing a similar fate.  Today I read of yet another independent book store that’s closed its doors forever, unable to compete with the big discount bookstores like B&N or Borders on top of thebooks.jpg internet options.  It seems people want that best selling page turner for $6.95 or they’ll just skip reading altogether. 

There is nothing I love more than small bookstores run by knowledgeable people who genuinely love books.  If you’re a small publishing company or a new writer (who isn’t royalty, an actor or an axe murderer), those are the kinds of bookstores that give you a chance.  They help you build readership.  They don’t have the shelf space or the traffic to mass order their books so how do they compete with Amazon, who immediately discounts every book 40%?  They don’t, they suffer the fate of my pottery factories.  Unless they step up and try something new.

The internet is here to stay, along with Amazon, and all the other virtual “big boxes” that will crop up in the future.  I care first about keeping people reading, if the only way to do that is making books cheap, its up to companies like mine to figure out how to keep the quality of the writing high and the presentation inexpensive. 

As for me, I like my books with dust covers and sturdy covers.  I read ’em in the tub and carry them with me everywhere – they have to have some constructional substance to them.  I keep them on shelves where they’re  handy for yanking down to pull out a quote.  I like the smell of new books.  I’ll pay for this kind of quality. 

December 27, 2006 at 6:18 pm 26 comments

Turn Out the Lights…The Parties Over


This mess is what it looked like AFTER they tidied up.  Whew, what a nice Christmas, the grandgirls got everything they wanted (most in duplicate, one set at each grannie’s house…we don’t spoil ’em or anything).  I didn’t burn anything this year.  Pap was on his best, most jolly, behavior. We forgot the camera through most of the excitement, so I have many pictures of misc. heads with paper flying everywhere.  Luckily, this one can’t move around much:



Brendolyn has decided she loves Christmas.  Lots of people around to hold her and two new friends!

  Juliette (age 3) was on hyper drive by the time we got to opening presents.  Her first package happened to be clothes.  She tore off the paper and screamed “HOORAY, I GOT A BOX!”

Jazz and Bri, at 7 & almost 9, were way too cool to actually yell about great presents…until they opened the boxes with Bella Dance and Bella Cheer in them.  They went totally ballistic.  That was a gift from their mother, I’m so proud of her. 


December 26, 2006 at 10:49 pm 12 comments

Christmas 2006

Santa has come, delivered the loot, ate the cookies, watered the reindeer and gone.santa-2006-1.jpg  It’s nearly two in the morning, and while I know there will be three spunky little ladies hurtling down the stairs in just a few hours, I just can’t sleep. 

Part of my insomnia is just my love of Christmas.  By this time tomorrow it will be over.  I’ll start to notice that there’s dust on the Nutcrackers.  The candles will be burned down to stubs.  The tree, once adorned with colorful packages, will be nothing more than a cat ravaged pine hunkering over a single broken bulb. 

A sliver of my insomnia is caused by the fear that I have or will miss something.  I won’t hear the gasps of surprise and shining eyes when the grandgirls first see what Santa brought.  I might have forgotten to make something on tomorrow’s menu that must be chilled overnight. 

I can’t sleep because it was a fun Christmas Eve.  From goofing in the kitchen while we ruined not one, but two batches of fudge to an intense conversation regarding whether the note from Santa could be done on the computer (“Santa would have a laptop…duh!”  Princess concluded), it was fun to make Christmas with two of my girls, one of which, just last year, was my lost child.  

I can’t sleep because once again, I have a lost child.  The loss of my son on this holiday weighs more heavily on my heart than the loss of my girl ever did.  We missed her with the frantic intensity you feel when a child has wandered away from you in the grocery store.   Hysterical, and scared, but comforted by the thought that you’ll find her and she is just as scared and desperate to find you.  My son has rejected us.  Has found the family so inconsequential that he’d rather spend the day alone, than drive the hour it takes to get home.  I don’t understand, I’m worried about him. 

Tomorrow, I’ll laugh and talk and play and eat with the children and grandchildren who want to be with me.  But tonight my mind is on my lonely lost son who went away to college four years ago, and just can’t seem to find his way back home. 

December 25, 2006 at 12:27 pm 15 comments

Holiday Wishes to All My Friends


The grandgirls are off to their assorted deadbeat Dads for the night.  The presents are wrapped, the meetings are over, and the kitchen resembles a well stocked bakery.  My grown kids have departed for the movies, sadly, without my son who is determined to steal his own joy…though he now claims it’s “work” that keeps him in the City.  Pap is shopping and the house is mine.  No better opportunity to say Thank You, to everyone who’s shared their life with me this year through this crazy medium of blogging. 

Thank you for reminding me that the world is just a tiny place filled with human beings much like me, all doing their best to carve out a life.  Thank you for your support when my days were bad, and for making me laugh with your comments and posts.  Thank you for sharing your opinions on many topics and proving that people can agree to disagree and still remain friends. 

I wish you health and happiness in the coming New Year.  And I look forward to walking vicariously with you as we all grow and change for twelve more months.  Merry Christmas everybody!  Play us out Santa….


 (If I wasn’t technologically challenged, this guy would be serenading you with Joy to the World from his bagpipes.  Some of you may be very glad I have a technological infirmity…)

December 24, 2006 at 4:09 am 20 comments

Randomly Seasonal Stuff

My friend, Clay Guy, is remodeling a house on Main Street that used to be occupied by two single girls.  Last weekend another friend of ours who happens to have a full white beard, was doing some work on the roof, diligently watched by the small boy next door.  As he was coming down the ladder at the end of the day he heard the little boy talking to his mother:

     “Momma, what did those girls next door do?” he asked.

    “Do?  What makes you think they “did” something?”

     “Well, Santa’s been on the roof all day sealing up their chimney!”


The Zanesville Community Theaters Angel Tree Project beat last years record!  More toys for kids who wouldn’t have any without their help.  The show was really nice, even (especially) without me.  It is the theater’s tradition to include a nativity scene in every Angel Tree production.  Since this year’s show was totally a musical, Mary, Joseph and the baby came out during a series of nativity related songs.  It was choreographed so beautifully.  A simple tableau of young parents in traditional nativity garb, totally focused  on their newborn baby, oblivious to the choirs of contemporary people in jeans and sweaters singing and moving around them.  Towards the end of this scene, it was the teenagers who were singing.  Mary made eye contact with  the girls closest to her for the first time and then gently handed one of them the baby, who handed it to another, each of them rocking and cuddling this newborn king.  What a simple, powerful way to illustrate the timeless message of a savior’s birth.  Bravo ZCT!


Speaking of Nativity Scenes.  nativityscene.jpgI’ve always owned one and when my kids were small we used to assign each of them a character.  Their wise man, shepherd, angel, whatever…would start in the middle of the table on December 1st, for every day they were good, their character moved closer to the creche on the window, when they were bad, they moved backwards away from the manger scene.  The goal was to be in place to see the baby Jesus on Christmas Eve.  The girls loved this tradition and would kill themselves being good to move their character.  My son…well there’s another story.  We had to discontinue the tradition when he was six and he’d misbehaved so much that his character had back stepped its way to the neighbors by Christmas Eve. 

December 21, 2006 at 9:23 pm 23 comments

Joy to the World

christmas-cat.jpgJazz and Bri are officially installed in my house until their mother gets on her feet (or somebody wrests them from my fiercely protective grasp…whichever comes last).  They are joyful. 

My dog, who apparently had been asking Santa to provide him with a kid… is JOYFUL, he got two.  As I write this, he’s wiggled himself inbetween them on the couch and is happily watching Elf, as tangled and dirty as I’ve ever seen him. 

Pap survived a basketball game yesterday, found a deal when shopping for my Christmas present and was assigned a task by his father.  He’s so freaking joyful he’s getting on my nerves.

The cats have managed to rearrange the packages and remove enough ornaments to make a comfortable den under the tree… joyfully shedding all over the velvet tree skirt with the cross-stitched 12 days of Christmas it took me two years to make. 

Princess has plates of cookies to nibble her way through, finals are over and I’ve freed her from laundry duty until after her birthday.  She’s downright joyful. 

I have only two more parties to cook for and attend, one writer’s meeting to chair, one meeting with a potential author, a towering stack of reports that need to be completed before Christmas at the day job …and I am joyful too, just more quietly than in previous years.  

The elements that make up a perfect holiday season for me are like a big puzzle:  family, friends, decorations, surprises, gifts, food, worship, faith, charity… I always have high expectations for finishing the Christmas Puzzle, and most years are missing a piece or two.  That’s okay with me, one thing I learned raising a huge family was that any game missing only one or two pieces is still playable, it just takes some creativity.  Any puzzle with a piece lost under the sofa cushion, or accidently put in the wrong box, is still workable, its just a little harder fitting all the rest of the pieces around the hole. 

December 20, 2006 at 7:18 pm 14 comments

Happy Birthday…to ME!


Who knew this sweet little baby would become,

well, me.  Busiest day of the year for my day job, so it looks like celebrating it will have to be on Tuesday. 

December 18, 2006 at 8:59 am 29 comments

Reunions and Other Dramas

When Pap and I were first married, the clan was in one of those stagnant periods.  Pap is the oldest son of the oldest son, the original William had passed away.  There were about six little kids, a smattering of teenagers and a crop of young adults.  We fit in two rooms comfortably.  Yesterday, there were 43 numbers in the gift exchange (one for each person aged 13 or up) and when we made all the kids go downstairs it looked like a prison camp.  Every young woman that wasn’t holding a baby, was expecting a baby.  There is ONE little boy in the 12 and under group .  The 13-30’s are a huge group.  There are FOUR boys, but only two who’ll carry on the name.  When I say we’re matriarchial, I’m not kidding.  This overabundance of woman presents its own  unique set of problems for the men in our family.  We fully expect them to be manly, Scot descendants…while staying in touch with their feminine side.  So we can understand them, and know how to get our way.  Its been working for several generations, wouldn’t you know its campbell-kids.jpgMY SON that decides to throw a monkey wrench into our carefully crafted family dynamic.  That’s him smiling in the middle of my gaggle of daughters.  This was taken in 1994, they were 7,9,11, 13 and 14.  That used to be how happy he always was.  Bill was the kind of kid you could count on to brighten your day.  Then he grew up, and went away to college… and developed HIS OWN OPINION.  You can’t imagine the shame of having one of the only family namesakes running around thinking for himself.  Especially when those thoughts are contrary to mine, or worse, his sisters.  So this holiday will be remembered as “the year Bill boycotted Christmas”. 

The drama began with Tiffany, as most drama’s in our family do.  Bill resents the fact that she’s messed up her life multiple times and the family keeps helping her when she vows to change.  He announced he wasn’t buying this latest attempt, if she expected him to talk to her, she had to prove she was a productive citizen first. 

 His sisters answered this announcement by calling him a jerk. 

He alleges he’s entitled to his opinion and since everyone thinks he’s such a jerk he won’t be coming home for Christmas. 

This is what I don’t get – men feel free to weigh in here  (Pap has been well trained in the family dynamic and is firmly noncommital)-  I will agree that the boy is entitled to his own opinion, but why doesn’t he understand that the girls do too?    Worse, his decision to boycott Christmas is making him miserable, and if he thought his absence was going to devastate his sisters…he doens’t know them very well. 

I asked him what he needed his sisters to do for him to feel better.  He said he wanted them to apologize….in more words than that, but that was the gist of it.  If they don’t, he doesn’t want to spend the day with a bunch of people that think he’s a jerk. 

If nothing else, I’ve learned the meaning of a “mexican stand off”. 

December 17, 2006 at 8:40 pm 17 comments

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