Defining Normal

I’ve thought a lot about the word “normal” lately. As I survey the chaos that is my life these days, I wonder if such a label has eluded me all my life or only since I became unbound from the constraints of children to raise and a husband to please. Wondering has convinced me I have always slipped the bounds of normal.


Take my senior trip for instance. The “normal” girls in my high school headed to the beach in Florida to lay in the sun, look at the boys and think about doing more than looking. My friends and I turned up our noses at such conformity, packed ourselves into a VW bus with my friends’ mom at the wheel and headed off on a road trip. We walked the Natchez Trace, peeked into the windows of Elvis’ birthplace (on a back street in Tupelo) and wandered Shiloh battlefield. Bet you can’t tell what subject interested us most. That’s right, boys.

Our trip came to a dead halt when we stopped at some friends of my friends in western Kentucky. There were boys there, of the kind to make a young girl stop and stay a while. We did more than look. We walked under the moonlight and a few kisses were exchanged. Still my idea of romance after all these years. And far better than normal.

Making the Voices in Your Head Work for You

There are days I feel I should probably be locked up in a padded room for doing this whole writer thing. Most of the time I can cover it, but sometimes the voices in my head can be a bit demanding. Then there is the occasional diva among them that makes me wonder if I should keep her as my heroine’s best friend or kill her off in a particularly gruesome manner.

The fact that I sometimes find myself standing in the grocery line contemplating murder and mayhem makes me feel a bit disconnected from the “real” world.  And that to me is the bottom line of being a writer – choosing to step out of reality and into a primordial realm just waiting for you to be its creator. It takes a certain amount of concentration (and a good talent for BS) to remember to smile and nod at appropriate times when your mind is off figuring out how the third planet in the Adeanan system is going to survive the assault by the High Council and just how much sex is enough to keep the tension high between your hero and heroine. It also takes forgiving friends and a really understanding boss to continue keeping one foot in each realm. And you thought being a writer would be so easy.

Sebastian Squirrel, Ninja Assasin

I found the most awesome thing while googling weird stuff on the internet (it beat playing another game of mahjong, okay).

It’s a squirrel with a laser and all it takes to shoot is a click. Nothing comes at me, nothing else is trying to take me out. I have to explain how perfect this is for me. My grandson is always getting me to play video games with him. We’re talking the ones with, as he puts it, the great graphics: Halo, Assasin’s Creed (because he knows I like history he figures this one is right up my alley), etc.

Here’s the real kicker: he always makes it where I’m invincible. If he didn’t, my input into the game would last approximately thirty seconds. So I spend the length of the game bumping into walls and randomly pushing buttons in a futile attempt to shoot weapons I don’t even know the name of. This kid is important to me, truly. I love spending time with him.

If I had this squirrel though, my comfort level would be a lot higher. For one it’s a costume I can understand. And it’s a laser that goes pew pew pew. I’d be good.

Things Change


I happened upon this picture in my cyberspace wanderings today and my first thought was “where the hell was this when I was a kid?”.

Let me explain. My mother had a rather unique love for animals. I sometimes felt she preferred them to her children. And she treated them better. Ducks figure large in my childhood nightmares, thanks to one of her favorites. It was a large white Pekin duck, raised lovingly from a duckling.

The love was all one-sided. When I describe the word fear in my head, it is the feeling of being trapped on my back steps by this tyrant. If my sister or I moved off the steps we were pecked back into line. I don’t remember if we gave this “pet” a name, but I remember that duck’s face with perfect clarity. What a world of difference a leash like this would have made to my outdoor time!

Kicking Fear’s Ass

The lady who was teaching a craft to my class today asked the kids what they feared. All the good sociology tells us to help the kids “face their fears” and “talk about their emotions”. So we smiled benevolently at them and waited for them to answer. The first four kids shared the things that scared them: roller coasters, monsters, ghosts and the dark. When we got to the fifth one, a very dainty little girl who only wears dresses, she didn’t hesitate a second before answering “nothing”. It stopped the whole discussion. I wondered if I should coax a more realistic answer out of her. Then I saw her face.

Getting to know her these last few months has helped me see that there is a spine of titanium steel beneath those lacy dresses.  She meant exactly what she’d said. Her look dared us to challenge her. Of course, the two boys after her said the same thing, that they weren’t afraid of anything either.

I’ve thought about the simple way she stated it all day. I was reminded about all the times I’ve heard that we give power to the things we acknowledge. Most of the time this is phrased in a good way: we build up our confidence when we acknowledge our success, etc. Perhaps it works in the reverse as well, and we give fear more than its due when we acknowledge its presence. Maybe denying its existence could take a bit of its sting away from it. Just a thought.

Visions, Dreams and Thorns

It used to drive me nuts to shop with my daughter.  She went to the store with a vision in mind of exactly what she wanted, then we spent an entire day searching for it, usually without success.  I would get so frustrated as I showed her item after item that would work fine. But she clung to the picture in her head and nothing else would satisfy.

Now I know where she got that trait from, something I’ve never acknowledged before.  My own vision of exactly how this path was going to turn out was so strong that it never occurred to me that there would be any deviation.  Oh, I would allow for a bit of variation here and there, but nothing prepared me for the total annihilation of my dream.

Long ago I took a nutrition class and found out an interesting fact about how our bones grow.  They literally disassemble and reconstruct themselves longer and stronger.  What a concept.  Those twin pillars of severity and mercy, of destruction and creation are actually a part of the process.  Who knew?

My boss asked me yesterday if I was getting ready for Easter. My answer was no, for a number of reasons. One of them is the fact that I’m no longer the one responsible for the egg hunt. That got me thinking. I’ve noticed that today kids get a way better deal than I did. The eggs are filled with chocolate and other candies. Some are even filled with money.

Easter egg hunting was a much tougher business back in my day. Many times we went to my aunt and uncle’s dairy farm to hunt with my cousins. The eggs were hidden in the wooded area by the house then all us kids were sent out to hunt them. Sounds kind of idyllic, doesn’t it?

Well, don’t get too caught up in nostalgia cause this was my family, not some TV one. The eggs were not the cute plastic kind that come in bright neon colors. Nor were they filled with chocolate or money. They were eggs of the hard-boiled variety. My aunt never failed to dye the eggs the same colors as the spots they’d be hidden in. This tactic made keeping an accurate count of how many eggs had been sequestered in the woods a very important component of the day.

Being sent out to hunt knowing there were two or three eggs that had never been uncovered from the previous year is not a good feeling. These little time bombs were out there, lying in wait for the unlucky kid who stumbled on them. Or who were lured by a snickering older sibling to their location.

If we managed to escape the egg bombs, we still faced the daunting task of consuming an enormous amount of boiled eggs over the next few days. I often smile to myself when I hear kids complain about how hard things are these days. Little do they know we threw ourselves on the bombs so they could have it easy.

Pass the chocolate bunny ears, please.