It just makes me want to cry and then to shout

I just read an article on msnb.com by Jesse Washington that made me want to cry.  In it Mr. Washington describes how he had to explain to his twelve-year-old son that he may soon find that people are afraid of him just because he is a black male.  He then had to go on to give his son, not yet even a teenager, advice on how to stay safe in a world where people will be suspicious of him solely because of the color of his skin.

My first reaction was how could we possibly still have to do this?  Why aren’t we better than this by now.  That reaction still stands.

I realized though that there is another reaction standing right next to it.  Sadly, that reaction is familiar anger.  I’ve heard nearly the same warnings.  Oh, as a middle-aged white woman, there is hardly anyone afraid of me.  Even as a teenager, though I’m sure I thought I was pretty damned badass, no one was really that frightened of me.  I was, however, aware of the corresponding “woman’s code”.  All girls know the drill by the time they are thirteen.  By virtual solely of our sex we are at risk.  We know all the things to do and not to do.  We know to buddy up.  We know to check back seats of cars, avoid stairwells, not to walk alone at night, to carry our keys between our fingers, to kick at knees, to scream like hell.  We are told to avoid behavior and clothing that does nothing to keep attacks from happening but lessens the blame coming at us when it does.  Ironically, a hoodie would be considered appropriate clothing for a young woman.

I’m very glad that people of all walks of life are standing firm against what happened to Trayvon Martin.  I hope and pray to God that it opens eyes all over this country.  I challenge everyone who reads this blog to chastise in any way you can any person or institution that ever has the gall to blame any person for being attacked.  Make it very clear that a person’s race, sex, gender identification, clothing, or religion are not excuses for suspicion and violence.  Let there be no doubt that vigilante justice is an oxymoron.  Let’s honor the memory of Trayvon Martin, and the way too many men and women, girls and boys that have gone before him, by making our world a place where anyone can go to the store and come home safe and sound.

Well, shut my mouth.

I woke up this morning after going to bed earlier this morning. Needless to say, I was a bit tired.

My normal Sunday begins in an almost ritualistic manner.  I shlup to the kitchen in my jammies and big soft slippers, get out my french roast pot, my extra-large coffee mug, fill one with coffee and the other with expensive pretend sugar and creamer. Then, as the water bowls, I try to wake up. I’m not always successful.

This morning, when the kettle clicked off, I lifted it from the heater and poured the contents into the pot. Or at least I thought I did. When I looked down, I realized I had poured it into the mug and had ruined the extensive sweet mix.

I did the only thing I could do. I shouted “ShitFart!”

Then I laughed.

I have no idea where the hell that word came from. Now mind you, I can swear with the best of them and because I’m a preschool teacher I have a lot of imaginative, yet harmless, swears including Holy Cats, Cheesy Peesy, and my favorite, Well, Bummer! At home, however, I can make a sailor blush.

Never once have I shouted, “ShitFart!” before today. Normally, “f” word is THE “f” word and as we all know shit floats alone.

Perhaps I’m just easily amused, but I made myself laugh this morning and I now have a new expletive for some character to use.

I’m not shy. I’m just really, really, REALLY quiet.

I am shy.  I’m a shy, shy person.

If you know me from my work, this will come as a surprise to you, I’m sure. Working with young children means that I must work with grown-ups as well. I have to be bright, bubbly, informative and almost aggressively friendly. Those parents entrusting me with their most precious commodity need to trust that no matter what either they or their child needs, I’ll be there and I’ll be able to provide.

At work, I find this easy. I’m glib and fun. I’m just the kind of person you want caring for your family. Really. Put me in a room full of people over the age of four, however, and suddenly I’m the kind of person you notice because they are trying so hard not to be noticed.

It’s almost as if I’m a different person. I stumble over words. I hide my smile. I become suddenly and completely engrossed in any available reading material. You’d be surprised how many Far Side Calendars there are in the world, or how interesting the back of a CD case can be.

I have always been shy, and really it’s no longer a big problem in my life. I like people and all, but I also have learned that I keep myself pretty good company. Besides, the bratcat would never let me get too lonely.

I am a little bit worried, however, that my wall-flowery attitude will eventually get in my way when I am finally ready to publish. A huge part of publishing anything is self-promotion. Just the idea of pressing the flesh and selling my self as a part of my product scares the bejebbus out of me, and I need all the bejebbusses I can get.

Sometimes, when I contemplate my future, I find myself wondering if I’m up to the task. Once that thought hits, it’s all I can do to keep from closing my file, turning off my computer and hiding under the covers of my bed.

What about you all?  What scares you?  Have you figured out a way to get beyond it and get what needs to be done?  I’d love to hear your ideas.

By the way…

It has come to my attention that my good friend, sister of the soul, some time writing companion and all around great gal, Leanne D. Baldwin disagreed with my recent essay, “America’s Love Affair with All Things Zombie”.  What’s more, she’s disagreed in a very pubic manner.

You can find Leanne’s silly, interesting article here.

Mind you, Leanne is my very best friend in the world, my sister of the soul, my sometime writing companion and an all around swell kind of gal.  She is normally the smartest person that I know. Further more, she, like every American, has a right to her opinion, no matter how, shall we say, misguided.

I’m sure she simply misunderstood my position or she would have never made such a silly mistake. Once she realizes this she will no doubt apologize, just as publicly, and we will have a virtual hug and all will be forgiven by me.

I’ll wait politely.

America’s Love Affair with All Things Zombie

America seems to be obsessed with zombies. If you Google the word, zombie, you will get 141 million hits. Googling zombie games will get you 16,800,000 hits. On the Barnes and Nobles site, BN.com, searching the word zombie will bring up 1905 matches. And all of that is just the very tip of the grave stone.

Everywhere you look there are zombies. They are on the television, at the movies, in video games and in books… lots and lots of books.

I had managed to miss this trend entirely until my well-meaning friend and total zombie geek, Kevin, introduced me to the movie Shawn of the Dead. If you have never seen this movie, you really should. It manages to be scary and hilarious all at the same time. It’s basically the story of an average guy living an average life until the world around him starts going all zombie, and some how that works out pretty well for him.

I was surprised by how much I liked that movie. I had expected to be either grossed out, bored or both bored and grossed out. I had not expected to be entertained, but, since I was, I decided to go out and explore life with the undead.

My next foray into the world of the living dead was the book, World War Z by Max Brooks, the son of actor/director/all around funny guy Mel Brooks. This is a history, ala Stud Terkelesque interviews, of the zombie wars that have, at the future time of this book, decimated the world, but not destroyed humanity. It starts from a patient zero and follows the wars through to their aftermaths in a frightening plausible way.

After reading this book, I was officially hooked. I had to find more.

I have now read at least ten anthologies of zombie short stories, watched several movies about zombies, am contemplating buying a zombie game, and am writing a novel in which one of the major characters is, in fact, a zombie. It all leaves me with one undying question. Why?

Why are we so obsessed with zombies. My guess is that the idea is just so primal. A zombie is an unthinking, uncaring and almost completely unstoppable force that we cannot hope, in the end, to control or defeat. It is, I think, much like our own basic urges.  We all feel rage, love, hunger, lust and we all worry that we will not be able to control those most basic of human motivations; that, in the end they will defeat us.

Through portrayals of zombies we can live out our fears in a non-threatening way. We can control them, even stop them, or we can let them run amok and discover what happens, all in the confines of our favorite easy chair. The world is safe from us and we from it. We can live to die another day.

Or… maybe, these stories are just plain fun.

I Need a Distraction!

All I need is a little noise and a lot of caffeine.

Over the past few months I’ve been trying to find the perfect place to write. Most of the experts say you should have a spot. It doesn’t have to be a great spot or anything, but it should be THE spot. That spot, they advise, is the place for writing, not for eating or relaxing or chatting or playing video games or reading or the million and one things we can find to do when we are supposed to be writing. When you are in that spot you write and that’s that.

It makes sense, right?  If you have a place that is just for writing, when you are in that place you will write.

Thing is, this doesn’t work for me.

Maybe it’s because until recently I had no place to write. I lived in a small, very small, two-bedroom house with a roommate, a cat, a dog and two televisions. Don’t get me wrong. I loved them all, even the televisions, maybe especially the televisions, but they didn’t make for productive writing. So I did what many a space-deprived writer has done. I went to Starbucks.

High on caffeine and distracted by the people I watched pretty damned shamelessly, I wrote. I wrote a lot. And all the time I kept saying to myself, if only I had my own workspace, imagine how much I’d get done. By the way, if you are going to say things to yourself, do it INSIDE your head. I had to change Starbucks twice before I learned that rule.

Then I inherited a three-bedroom condo. Finally, I had the work space I’d always dreamed of. I had a den. My den had a beautiful, old fashion desk with room to spread out. It had shelves on which to put my books. It had a comfy chair in which to sit and read manuscripts that I was revising. It even had drawers full of pens, pencils and paper.

At last there was nothing to stop me. I would spend every minute that I was not at my day job, writing. I would produce novels, short stories, plays and the occasional greeting card.  I would finally work to my true potential.

Thing is, it just didn’t work for me.

I found myself writing less than I ever had and not liking much of what I was writing. I’ve figured it out though. I need distraction. I grew up with noise. I work with noise. I’ve lived in noise almost all my life. When there is no noise, the quiet is overwhelming and I will do anything to make it stop; hang pictures, play games, sing old Beatles tunes. When, however, I am surrounded by noise, I can just ignore it like I’ve always done, and get on with things.

I no longer try to write in my den, which is now just that nice room upstairs with the great desk. I now write on a tv tray in my living room, usually with a cat draped across my arms and often with the television on. I’m getting so much done.

How about you?  What does it take for you to sit down and write?  Do you prefer to be in a quiet space or to have distractions to actively ignore.  Where do write and when?