Category Archives: Writing is fun

Ode to Seuss

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Why I Write

I write because I love it.

I write to keep me sane.

I write when I feel happy

or sad or just mundane.

I write because Hubby says,

“if you neglect to do

writing every single day

your attitude is poo!”

I write ’cause I adore it.

I write because it’s free.

Writing’s a true essential;

costs less than therapy.

I write because I want to.

I write because it’s play.

Sometimes I just write to learn

what my thoughts have to say.

Ask me if I’ll ever stop—

the answer is, I won’t.

And I write because my head

will explode if I don’t.

***

I write because I love it.

Why do you write?


Photo credit: Casey Alexander

*revision from earlier post

Write to the Death

Finding time to write is not a problem for me.

Oh, wait.

I meant to post that on April 1…but didn’t have time.

***

Another blogger and I have been kicking around the idea of forcing ourselves to novel with a deadline.

I suggested we call next month Manic May (in which we write like mad) and proofread each other’s work in Judgmental June (because I couldn’t think of a better word starting with “J”).

Upon hearing my idea, Hubby said, “and then, Judgemental July because neither of you will finish writing in May, so you’ll have to push back proofreading.

Then will come Angsty August because you don’t like each other’s novels but don’t want to say so.

During Sad September, you’ll find your friendship ending over red pen.

You’ll try to salvage the project, if not your camaraderie, during Objective October.

Finally, in Nasty November: a fight to the death over grammar, stabbing each other with the Oxford comma.”

Geez. Maybe HE should write the novel.

 

Arrival

Fiction
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Photo Credit: Joshua Farewell

I wake, cheek pressed against a cool, smooth surface beneath me. Breathe in, steady and deep. Out. In.

A slight breeze whispers through my hair, just this side of cool. The air brushes my back.

Light filters bright through the haze above and reflects from facets around me. I move my head just a little bit and the sparkling environment spins. I still, before the nausea causes complete surrender.

I don’t know how I got here. Or, for that matter, the definition of “here.”

I hold myself motionless, allowing my mind to focus.

No memory swims to consciousness.

I stare down, tipping my face away from the dazzling light. Attempting to calm the headache. Grasping for any clue about my arrival. Nothing.

I pull my fingers across the glassy floor, smooth and slow. No nicks or scratches. No bumps, no sand, no crumbs. Perfection. I roll over, my back against the hard ground, to see the shining, sharp edge of a cliff inches from my face. A terrified breath jerks in as I imagine slipping over.

Fear pours down my spine like ice water and I slide in the opposite direction. I want to be far away from that vertical drop.

Managing to distance myself from the edge by a few feet, I rest. This will do for now; movement is a struggle. Once I’ve regained strength, assuming I started with some, I’ll remove myself completely from the danger.

Not that the cliff poses a threat as long as I don’t throw myself over—and that’s not happening. I might not remember anything else, but a healthy fear of heights overpowers my memory gaps.

I listen, eyes closed. What is that noise?

There. To the left. Voices approach. Grow louder. I see them, a knot of slender forms. Everyone moves together. A smaller cluster materializes from the right. Each is wearing the same dark tunic. I squint. My eyes refuse to focus.

“Here! Another one! She’s over here, quick!”

Many hands pull and lift and carry. I realize suddenly that I do not have a matching tunic, but am too exhausted to care. Everything spins.

I embrace the dark.

 

 

Limerick

There once was a girl from Nantucket

Who spent half her life in a bucket

When people jeered “why?”

She winked her brown eye

And said,

I just realized that almost any other rhyming word I use here will be impolite.

 

Where I’ve Been

This is my imagined reality: you, sitting at your screen, waiting with impatience for my next post and thinking, “Whyyyyyyyyyyy did Casey stop writing? What could possibly be keeping her from us?” 

Real reality: you, sitting at your screen, thinking, “Who’s this Casey person again? When in tarnation did I follow this blog? I definitely need to adjust those auto-follow settings…”

It’s cool. I’m fine with it. Except when the person asking how to unfollow the blog is Hubby. Out loud. From the armchair five feet away. Then…it feels just a little personal. But it’s been a long month; I’m a little over-sensitive. (Just kidding. Pretty sure he’s at least fifty-three of my followers.)

I am feeling a bit overwhelmed. NOTHING is finished. I tried using the blog as my carrot. “I can write when I finish…”

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Photo Credit: Clay Junell

And yes, if I’m reaching for the carrot, I know what that makes me.

Exhausted and desperate for motivation. That’s what it makes me.

Why—what were you thinking? HEY!

Anyway, life has been nuts. WordCamp US 2015 was fabulous. I still have pending (read: I need to sit down and write them) posts about what I learned. If you’re able to attend next year, I highly recommend the experience.

I’m still working through the pictures from WordCamp because as soon as I came home, Hubby and I began demolishing our kitchen (also a planned post…more later).

I keep telling myself that I can write a post once I get through a certain number of pictures. I can edit pictures when enough work is complete in the kitchen. And the day-to-day tasks don’t go away. Laundry, school, shopping, packing for family gatherings.

The above paragraph sounds like a list of complaints. Not the case, I assure you. I’m ridiculously happy when busy.

However, I realized today that I’m getting a bit twitchy. My carrot is just a little too far out of reach. I need  to write almost as much as I need to sleep. (In fact, I’d much rather write.)

The kids have been good today—exceptional, even—and I still found myself wanting to withdraw from everyone to a dark, quiet space this evening, to write. Craving a keyboard.

Instead, I forced myself to participate in “building night.” Hubby and the boy assembled a K’nex roller coaster on the table while the girl and I sprawled on the floor nearby and snapped together an elfin Lego kit.

Three minutes in, I felt better. Spending time with the kids one-on-one (and together) has been on my subconscious “list of things that are making me antsy because they aren’t getting done.”

It’s so easy to put off the things we want to do because of everything demanding our time, and in many cases what we have to do must come first. Sometimes, though, doing something you want to do can give you the boost necessary to get through harder work.

Time with the kids, now blogging with you.

I feel the “we will never finish any of this and our house will always be a wreck and the laundry pile will never deplete and the list will only grow and…” panic dissipating already.

I am so ready for tomorrow.

 

 

 

 

 

Free Cheesesteak!

How about a free cheesesteak?

In Philadelphia, PA. From me.

Just sign up for WordCamp US, then let me know you did in the comments; I’ll choose someone at random and buy you a cheesesteak. In fact, I’ll let one of the kids pick a name out of a hat or something, just to be fair.

If you don’t eat meat, we can go for coffee. If you don’t drink coffee, well ARE YOU EVEN HUMAN? Oh, sorry, I mean…we’ll figure out something. Pigeon tipping, maybe.

Haddon Musings  has already signed up! Don’t miss out.

WordCamp US will be phenomenal, and here’s why.

WordCamp US Logo

HTTPS://DRIBBBLE.COM/SHOTS/2364774-WORDCAMP-US-LOGO

10 Reasons You Won’t Want to Miss WordCamp US

  1. Super-cool sessions. You don’t have to be a developer or coder to benefit from WordCamp US. Sarah Blackstock  wrote an excellent piece about the best options for bloggers and writers here. If you’re still waffling about whether to take your small business to WordPress, check this out. If you are a coder, designer or developer, you can find more information here on the main page.
  2. Amazing people. Have you noticed? Everyone with WordPress connections is just, well, SUPER! I’m not kidding. I haven’t met ONE person I don’t like. Granted, I’m sort of an extrovert and I like people in general. But in a group this large, there’s usually at least one individual with whom I would not enjoy sharing a cheesesteak. Not in this crowd. Come network, learn and make great friends.
  3. Happiness Bar. According to people in the know (Ingrid and Liam), the volunteers sharing their technical expertise are “fabulous” and “stacked deep with loads and loads of WP knowledge.” Having recent experience with Happiness Engineers, I agree. Questions about being the master of your domain? Plugin won’t plug in? App making you unhAPPy? (See what I did there? Genius, I know.) The Happiness Bar is your new happy place.
  4. Philly Cheesesteak. Steak. Cheese. Philly. Need I say more? Well, okay. Here are even more reasons for foodies to flock to WordCamp. Chinese, Italian, coffeehouse, seafood, Mediterranean, vegan, vegetarian, omnivore, like—seriously—anything your hungry heart desires. Oh, and let’s not forget the pretzels!
  5. After Party. I mean, seriously. Who hates a party? Well, okay, a couple of my friends are not fond of parties. Or people, for that matter…but for the rest of us crazy kids, check out Alx Block’s take on our upcoming fun.
  6. Swag. No, not sweeping fabric drapes or stolen goods. We are neither interior decorators nor pirates. Most of us aren’t, anyway. WordPress swag rocks. Who can resist Wapuu?
  7. CHOCOLATE. Several places wait to amaze you, but Max Brenner’s Chocolate Bar is UN-BEE-LIEVE-ABLE. I’m pretty sure those chocolatiers use magic. And maybe Oompa-Loompas.
  8. Be famous. I’ll be one of the volunteers behind a camera. Say “cheese” (or “coffee,” or “whiskey,” or whatever makes you smile)…you never know when one of my photos will go viral! Hey, it could happen.
  9. You could win a cheesesteak.
  10. And BONUS, you can find out what happens when I ask Hubby what he’d like for Christmas this year and he answers, “A redhead.”

People are arriving from across the ocean and down the block. Don’t miss your opportunity to join the networking, learning and celebration.

If you absolutely can’t make it, here’s an option to join the fun from the comfort of your own space. You can even get an official t-shirt.

See you next week!

WCUS-Site-Badge-Volunteer

If I Stay

I haven’t seen the movie yet, but the trailer describes what’s inside my head.

Temporal. Fleeting.

A short time. Like a mist. Snap of the fingers. Don’t blink.

We are separated by so thin a fabric from the other side. We ignore reality, go about our business. Our lives.

Sometimes I am overwhelmed by the knowledge of how quickly life can end. I gaze around the room, arrested in the realization that one of us could be absent at any moment. The immediacy of impending change.

An unexpected gust extinguishes the flame. The Daylily blooms in the morning, opening bright colors to the sun and by evening shrivels to nothing.  In an instant, our bodies become a shell, a container empty in sudden finality.

I forget, at times, that this is not ‘my’ life. It is easy to settle into comfort, expecting certain players and characters to appear, disappear, reappear.

But we are reciprocal performers, all bearing roles in The Grand Masterpiece. Every performance, every pageant demands the inexorable curtain call.

Nothing but a moment separates us from leaving it all behind.

I wrote the above while sitting in a church service. A heavy feeling descended; the almost-knowledge of impending change. That someone would soon lay down the script.

I make no pretense of having a direct line to the future, but the weight of that sense was undeniable. Looking around the room, I wondered who it might be.

The retired Army general, always at attention? The empty-nest mother? The ancient farmer decked out in his silver and turquoise-studded leather string tie? The young woman with a heart condition? The middle-aged man with cancer? Me?

What bars our heart from stopping, keeps lungs from failing, prevents our brain from declining to send messages?

No one died that day. Or that week.

I felt better. But still, the visual of the Daylily haunted the edges of my thoughts.

The following Saturday, I attended a ladies’ create-something-cool event at our church. I learned how to pronounce decoupage.

My friend Ana, curves added by her pregnancy, approached with questions about heart surgery. Her baby girl had a heart defect similar to my son’s. They would perform surgery soon after birth to close the hole. She even had the same wonderful surgeon. Still, she twisted her coarse, dark ponytail with nervous energy.

She relaxed as we talked, as I praised the surgeon, as we smiled over my son’s quick recovery. She walked away.

Four days later, I received the message from another friend. Ana had a stroke. She was unresponsive. The baby might die.

I thought of the movie and wondered if she could hear everything around her.

Texts, phone calls and prayers—sad, desperate, hopeful—punctuated the night.

Moved to a better hospital, she did not wake. More prayers, more calls.

Eclampsia.

While souls hovered, her two beautiful boys said goodbye to their mother and the sister they would never know. Her husband released his wife and daughter. His loves.

Within hours, they were gone.

Sons bereft of mother, husband lacking loving partner, friends without her shining presence. All left destitute.

Just before the funeral, I found the note and remembered the feeling. It returned with concussive force.

I’ve only now been able to write this.

We have no promise of tomorrow. For that matter, no assurance of today. No guarantee that I will draw another breath.

But I have hope.  Do you?

1 Peter 1:3-5

Give praise to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. In his great mercy he has given us a new birth and a living hope. This hope is living because Jesus Christ rose from the dead. He has given us new birth so that we might share in what belongs to him. This is a gift that can never be destroyed. It can never spoil or even fade away. It is kept in heaven for you. Through faith you are kept safe by God’s power. Your salvation is going to be completed. It is ready to be shown to you in the last days.

 

 

 

You Make Me Sick

It’s better this way. I wasn’t getting anything done.

The kids are in Karate and I sit in the waiting room, trolling my friends’ Facebook pages because I’m nosy and neglecting to “like” or comment because…let’s face it, I’m lazy today. A little girl in the room, about 4, is talking in a decidedly “outside” voice. Her teen sister is determined to assist her in utilizing “inside” voice. Both of them have talked with me on other days, so I join the conversation.

“My son couldn’t figure out how to whisper either, but here’s how he got it. Put your hand on your throat like this.” I demonstrate. The tiny blonde copies. “Now say something. Anything.” She says a few nonsense words. “Did you feel the vibration?” Her eyes widen as she nods.

“When you whisper, you just use breath. There’s no vibration. Try that.” She has a sudden attack of shyness and turns away, but the next time she speaks, it’s in a whisper. I give her a thumbs up and a wink. “Nice,” I say. She gives me a thumb-n-wink back. Cutest thing I’ve seen all day.

Their mother sweeps into the room, coughing. “I’m freezing. All day, I’ve been shivering. I must be sick.” She sits down, twelve inches from me, snatching up her daughter’s blankie and wrapping it around her shoulders. This is not cute.

Catching the flu is not convenient right now. Or ever, for that matter. I wait until they are engrossed in conversation, then move my things to a nook around the corner. Swift and silent. Like Batman. Batgirl. Batwoman? They don’t notice.

I’ve never been on this side of the L-shaped room before. Once, I visited a former monastery. The room in which I stayed sported a plain wooden desk, small bed and blank cinder-block walls. This corner feels a bit like the monastery, sans bed. The office chair is a nice upgrade.

So here I sit, tucked under a little wooden desk with nothing but my laptop and a white block wall in front of me. I recently began reading Annie Dillard‘s The Writing Life, in which she describes (among other things) the places she likes to write. She once pulled the cover down on the lone window of her writing hideout, then drew a picture of what she knew to be outside and taped it to the blind.

I like Annie for several reasons.

1. She has never shared the flu with me.

2. Her descriptions make me smile.

3. She has unfailing, semi-snarky wit.

4. Her writing makes me want to write. (In fact, I really want to go sit next to her and wait for her to say something. Anything. But…it’s not going to happen. She’s not interested in meeting new people—being famous probably gets old after a while—so I’ll have to settle for listening to her book.)

After hearing the sketches of her writing spaces, I dream of building a little nook in our tiny side attic. Logic and rationale convince me this is not feasible, but it’s a fun dream. I once saw a picture of C. S. Lewis’ attic and thought, “no wonder he wrote such fabulous fantasy.”

Also, it appears that he really had a wardrobe. I have no wardrobe, but in place of a nightstand, I have an antique sewing table. The top opens like a trap door. The unfortunate truth is that I will never fit myself through the Singer-sized hole. Unless…was it the drink or the cake that Alice used to shrink?

I’ve quoted him before, but Stephen King has some great quotes about reading, like this one:

Being swept away by a combination of great story and great writing…is part of every writer’s necessary formation. You cannot hope to sweep someone else away by the force of your writing until it has been done to you. So we read to experience the mediocre and the outright rotten; such experience helps us to recognize those things when they begin to creep into our own work, and to steer clear of them. We also read in order to measure ourselves against the good and the great, to get a sense of all that can be done. And we read in order to experience different styles.

In recent weeks, I’ve been writing less but reading more. Sometimes we just need to take the time to be “swept away,” as he says.

Last night, I read one of my favorite childhood stories to our kids. Rikki Tikki Tavi, by Rudyard Kipling. Click that link (Carnegie Mellon University provides the original text) and read it to yourself or children of any age in your life. I’d forgotten how funny it is, how R. K. describes everything in detail through the jaunty mongoose.

As I read to my kiddos, listening to my son belly-laugh at the dotty bird, dopey muskrat and evil cobra (and yes, I do voices; not well, but I do them) and watching my daughter’s eyes widen at the bathroom fight scene, I realized something.

I love to read. I’m a little obsessed, actually. Hubby and I have worked hard to foster their love of books. But in recent months, as they’ve finally become more independent, I’ve forgotten to read them stories. We all love stories. I listen to books on Audible.com because having someone read a book to me (and read it well) is one of my life’s great joys. And in the busyness of life, I’ve been overlooking that gift to them.

So far, no signs of catching the flu from that crazy woman. If it does rear its ugly head, I will do my best to keep it away from the kids. I do, however, want to pass on a different kind of “germ.” To give them a fever for books. Infecting children with the love of story is so important.

What was your favorite childhood story? The one that brings a smile to your face, stirs old emotions, takes you back. Share with us, so we can all read them to our children. Let’s transfuse this virus!

And now, go read to someone special.

The Suit: Write it! (Yes, You.)

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I saw this suit jacket in front of an empty building for lease.

Can’t help wondering how it ended up on the ramp. Where is the owner? How did this happen? Why leave the jacket but not the pants?

It appears to be arranged with some care. Did the jacket have a family? Why was it abandoned? Does the owner plan to retrieve it?

Now, take my challenge. Write the story of this coat.

Rules:

  1. You may not read anyone else’s story until you write your own.
  2. Link to your story in the comments below.
  3. Make it as short or as long as you like.
  4. Enjoy writing!

I look forward to seeing your imagination at work.

Casey XO

A Day in the Life…

Writing 101 assignment, Day 14: Recreate a single day

Saturday, October 3.

11 am. Hubby and I decide it’s time.

We’ve been planning an overhaul of the downstairs bathroom for almost a year. The new cabinet and toilet have been sitting in my kitchen (in boxes) for about a month, waiting until we completed more urgent projects (like repairing areas where leaks occurred). The floor is a bit soft; we’ll have to replace some of the plyboard.

He removes the toilet that refuses to work properly. We find that the previous owner (PO) never installed a wax ring. Now the soft floor makes more sense.

For those of you not prone to replacing your own ceramic thrones, the wax ring fits under the toilet and prevents water from escaping. Without it, water had been slowly leaking for years.

First person to spot the new place for the toilet gets three points. (Don’t worry, it’s not permanent. We’re going to pot a mum inside it and put it in our neighbors’ yard. They’re going to be thrilled.)

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We remove the mirror and pull the sink top from the cabinet. It looks pretty good in these pictures, but it’s actually falling apart and still smells like smoke inside. (The PO left a lot of tar and nicotine behind.) It was white; I painted it chocolate when we moved in, hoping to forestall the bathroom remodel until we had settled.

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We pull the cabinet out. That thing is darn heavy. Note the “Danger, Construction Zone” sign. Guess whose handiwork and you get another three points. Ignore the spelling; he was in a rush.

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We find decent white vinyl underneath the gross stained vinyl.

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It’s important to score the sheet rock heavily before demolition; this allows a clean break and causes less mess.

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The boy is thrilled to hear that he MAY kick holes in the wall. Just this once.

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See that grey pipe? That has to go. It (and its fittings) have caused seven leaks in the last year. We’ve re-piped most of the house but waited to replace these until now.

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We pull up the top layer of vinyl to find the PO’s lack of wax ring use has caused a really nasty mess. The toilet leaked under the top layer of vinyl. UGH.

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This is the moment we bring the kids in for a look. And an object lesson.

Hubby says, “The guy who used to live here decided not to bother with a $5 part. Because of that, the floor is damaged. We have to spend a LOT more than $5 to replace the floor. The directions for installing a toilet say to use a wax ring, but he decided not to follow the directions. His decision to ignore the rules is costing us a lot of time and money.

When we don’t follow the rules, it affects someone. Sometimes it affects us. Other times it impacts somebody else. And SOMEtimes, we don’t feel the effects right away. This guy actually owns his own contracting business, so he knows how to install a toilet properly—he just didn’t do it.

We know a lot of people, and many of them ask my advice about who can fix their house. After this, I’ll be letting them know that they should not use the guy who built our house. So, even though he made the decision to ignore the directions years ago, that choice will start to affect him now.”

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The kids peer at the damaged floor.

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“You know how we always talk about following directions and we make you correct anything you don’t do properly? This is why. We want you to know how to follow the rules and directions in small things as a child, so you’ll be able to do it with the big stuff when you grow up. Does that make sense?”

(The floor in the below picture was so saturated, it crumbled when Hubby pressed it. I wonder…if the floor had collapsed while someone was sitting, would that cause a toilet-phobia? Is that even a thing? I’ll have to look that up in the DSM-V…)

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Our girl nods. “So when I grow up and build a house, I will remember to put the wax ring on before the toilet.”

This is not exactly what we were looking for, but yes, that’s an important step when constructing a home, so we’ll call it a win for now. Next time they have to re-write spelling words in a legible manner or pick up the trash after forgetting to close the lid (to keep out the dogs), there will be another “wax ring” discussion.

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Hubby cuts out the rotten sub-floor (above), then reinforces with 2x4s (below). Note the vinyl (above) is gone (below). That was me. The installers used staples all around the edge. In order to remove the vinyl, I had to pull the staples out with needle-nose pliers. All fifty-million of them. (Slight hyperbole. Slight.)

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He cuts a new piece of plywood. I think it looks like that game everyone is playing…Cornhole.

Great. This is what I’ll think of the next time someone suggests a toss tournament. Because…ha ha ha cornhole. When you eat corn it doesn’t always…never mind. Stop looking at me like that.

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While the floor is open, Hubby drops down into the crawl space to replace the pipes. I push the pipe through the holes and he connects it.

As we work, one of the kids uses the bathroom upstairs and flushes the toilet…re-pressurizing the pipes. Thankfully, it’s clean water, but still—Hubby gets soaked.

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We install the new piece of sheet rock.

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I start layering the plaster.

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I use fiberglass mesh tape to cover the gap on the wall and paper tape in the corners. In the corner on the right, you can see a trick I figured out when we had to make repairs in the boy’s room: remove the old paper tape first. This leaves a cavity the exact size needed, requiring less plaster work.

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The key to seamless plaster work is several layers, wider each time.

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Hubby installs the final floor covering before we put in the new vinyl.

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Done for the night. I’ll sand tomorrow, then add one final, wider layer.

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Our son re-purposes the commode box into a submarine, complete with hinged top, gun turret and front window. Of course.

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So, there’s our day. In under 24 hours, we pulled out and replaced the damaged wall, flooring and pipes.

Today was good. Today was fun. Tomorrow is another one. —Dr. Seuss

How was your day?

***

All photos: Casey Alexander

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