Get It While You Can

Listen up, kiddos, and I’ll tell you a sad, sad story.

The hubby and I have a very short list of performers we will pay top dollar to see. Prince was one of them, so when he announced he would be playing two shows at the Fox here in Atlanta, I battle planned, logged on, and scored two tickets as an amazing early birthday present for myself. I then went to the Fox to pick up those tickets in person on the day of the show. And by the time I got back to my office with the tickets in hand, Prince had cancelled due to illness.

The rescheduled show the following week conflicted with a work trip, so those two tickets went to another lucky couple. No big deal, I told myself. He’ll play another concert here soon.

But he didn’t.

He never played again after that night. Because he died. On my birthday. I can’t make something like that up. (David Bowie died on my husband’s birthday, so 2016 was rather calamitous.)

So I made a vow to myself. If there was a performer or band I wanted to see, I would buy the tickets without hesitation. After all, few of the artists I like are getting any younger. (Truth be told, neither am I.) So along with my husband, Wayne, and a couple of gal pals, I embarked on a year of musical delights.

***

Concert One — Duran Duran
Chastain Park Amphitheater (4/8/17)

For our first concert, we selected a band we’d both liked for a long time, and not just for the 80s stuff either. “Ordinary World,” which I’ve shared here and some of their stuff from the 90s is stellar. And have you listened to Paper Gods yet? Holy Jim Croce, that’s a good album! It was a perfect night weather-wise, and we had an absolute ball. Oh, and we decided that we would need to bring earplugs to future shows, which made us feel old at first. However, I’m glad we decided against vanity because, after nine or ten shows, the ol’ eardrums would have been pretty well used up.

Concert Two — Red Hot Chili Peppers
Phillips Arena (4/14/17)

These were actually the first tickets we bought for the “Year of Concerts” as we came to call it, and the hubby was probably more excited about this one than I was. He was the bigger RHCP fan in high school and college, but I was still really jazzed about seeing them. Plus, Babymetal was the opening act! My friend Ed is a huge fan of theirs, and he introduced me to their stuff years ago. It was amazing to hear those ladies live and in person.

They’re not 20-somethings anymore, but dang if the Red Hot Chili Peppers don’t put on a high-octane performance. I chose a slower track from them to share with you, “Under the Bridge,” but they brought it all night long. We got a great show for our money, which had yet to run out. That part comes later….

Concert Three — Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers
Phillips Arena (4/27/17)

I knew the minute the show was over that this one was going to be my favorite. Every man and woman on that stage was on fire that night. (I was especially blown away by the Webb Sisters who sang backup.) Everything sounded great, and the audience was locked in. Some shows I took in this year were much less enjoyable than they could have been because people weren’t there for the music. They were there to socialize and take pictures for social media. But not this show. Everyone there was listening, singing, cheering, and having fun. It was a great great night, and having Joe Walsh as the opening act? Top notch!

And then Tom Petty became the reason I was glad I started this whole concert-going madness. When he died on October 2, 2017, Wayne and I both knew that we’d been lucky to see him and the entire band together. We now have some wonderful memories from the 40th anniversary tour, something later generations will miss out on. Of all the folks who have died this year, Tom Petty has hit me hardest, both because I love his music and because I know from first-hand experience what a great talent we lost.

Concert Four — Billy Joel
SunTrust Park (4/28/17)

Yes, you read that right. The night after Wayne and I saw Tom Petty, I went to the first-ever concert at SunTrust Park, the new Braves Stadium, with a couple of girlfriends. The sound was way outta whack to say the least, but Billy managed to shine through it and put on a super fun show. (I wish I could say the same for his opening act who was so awful that I’ve forgotten his name out of sheer spite.)

The best thing about the night was the fact that Billy improvised quite a bit, brought in a lot of other folks’ music, and told a lot of great jokes and stories. He’s probably best in a smaller venue just for that fact alone. He also let us vote when it came down between two equally popular songs, so some of the tracks I never expected to hear like “Vienna” and “Zanzibar” were performed. Two of my favorites —“Leningrad” and “Allentown”— didn’t make the cut, but with a catalogue as big as Billy Joel’s, it’s a wonder we got past the greatest hits. (And for the record, this was the concert where a bunch of chumps two rows ahead of us talked and snapped pictures the entire time. What a waste.)

Concert Five — Tears for Fears 
Daily’s Place (6/10/17)

These tickets are the quintessential definition of an impulse buy. We were on our way down to Jacksonville for vacation and heard a commercial for this concert on a local radio station. Before we had reached my parents’ house, I’d already bought the tickets on the Ticketmaster app. And, with ready-made babysitters eager to take the kids, the next night, Wayne and I were once again awash in 80s/90s bliss. We also got to see the new Daily’s Place concert venue, which is part of the EverBank Field complex (where the Jaguars play). It’s not a bad little joint to take in a show, and they have a solid set of concerts coming up in the future!

Concert Six — U2 
Raymond James Stadium (6/14/17)

Of all the shows we saw, this one was the most logistically complicated. In fact, we planned our entire vacation around it! (I even became a one-year member of the U2 fan club to get early access to tickets because I knew they were going to sell out.) They did a lot of their early stuff from War and Rattle and Hum as well as a few tracks from Achtung Baby, but the big draw was the fact this tour was put on to celebrate the 30th anniversary of The Joshua Tree. And they played the entire album…in order. My favorite song from that wonderful record (which was one of the first I ever bought) is “Red Hill Mining Town,” and I never actually thought I’d get the chance to hear it live. Totally worth all the hassle and travel to see them in Tampa.

After this one, Wayne thought I’d be about done, but oh no….there was more music to be had. So the credit card came out for three more shows!

Concert Seven — Chicago and The Doobie Brothers 
Verizon Wireless Amphitheater (6/23/17)

This was our second time seeing The Doobie Brothers (in the same venue no less). We got the chance to see them and Don Felder in 2016, and they were great both times. It’s amazing that they still have the range and can create those amazing Doobie harmonies that I grew up loving. This time around, I got to hear “Eyes of Silver” and “Dark Eyed Cajun Woman,” which was pretty satisfying.

This was the first concert we got rained on, which put a damper on things for Wayne, but I just jammed on through it. After all, part of the reason we started all this concert nonsense was to remember that just because we’re working full time jobs and raising two kids, we’re not too old to have fun (even if we were soaked.)

And then, holy crap, came Chicago. Robert Lamm, Lee Loughnane, James Pankow, and Walter Parazaider (four of the seven founding members) are still in the band. And let me tell you kids, they haven’t lost a step. Those chops held up for more than two solid hours of playing time, and they sounded absolutely fantastic. The licks were hot, the rhythms tight. It was a super impressive show no matter which way you cut it. Wayne is on the record as saying this one was his favorite.

Concert Eight — Blondie and Garbage 
Chastain Park Amphitheater (8/6/17)

This is the only concert we bought more for the opening act than for the headliner. I have long been a fan of Garbage. In fact, back in the day when every other girl wanted to be Gwen Stefani or Courtney Love, I wanted nothing more than to be the sexy Scottish songstress, Shirley Manson. This was the second show where weather got in the way, and Garbage had to stop in the middle of their set, but “I’m Only Happy When It Rains” did eventually get played, and Wayne finally after so many concerts finally decided to dance for the first time thanks to “Push It.”

A funky little duo called Deap Vally kicked off the night’s fun, and I was really impressed with them. It’s nice to see that a new generation of female rockers is alive and well.

Blondie was also stellar and sang all the songs you’d expect. But the most amazing thing about it didn’t hit me until we were leaving….Debbie Harry is 72 years old. Seriously! And she still rocked the house and performed “Rapture” in its entirety. The great ones really do go the distance.

Concert Nine — Eagles
Phillips Arena (10/21/17)

Glen Frey was the other great one we lost this year, so I jumped at the chance to see the Eagles with Vince Gill and Deacon Frey playing in his stead. I saw the Eagles back on the Hell Freezes Over tour in Cleveland in the 90s, and it was just as wonderful the second time around. Gill was superb as lead on some of the older, country-leaning tunes, and Deacon held up rather well for a young fella. Joe Walsh (who we were seeing for the second time in one year) stole the show on more than one occasion. He. too, is a rock god that refuses to act his age. What made this one great was the fact I got to see it with Wayne, my friend Amy, my aunt and uncle, and my parents (who introduced me to the Eagles when I was knee high to a grasshopper).

Oh, and if you want to know what love is, my friend Julie let me use her AMEX to buy the tickets early. The first show sold out, and AMEX cardholders got early access to the second. I wasn’t about to miss out, so I called in a favor. But letting someone charge $800 to your card? That’s trust on a biblical scale.

Bonus Show — James Armstrong
Blind Willie’s (11/17/17)

I also love shows in dives, bars, and dingy clubs, so I jumped at the chance to see James Armstrong live this month. I’ve just recently discovered this cat, and I think he’s rather dishy. He just put out a new album in October that’s doing really well, and he puts on a great live show. Blind Willie’s is a great place for live music in Atlanta, and I’ll definitely be back in there soon.

***

So there you have it. One year. Ten shows. Twelve different bands and performers I’ve always wanted to see. We’re a little poorer (okay, a lot poorer) for it, but I honestly say that I’ve never had more fun than I have in the last twelve months. Going to these concerts, experiencing all these unforgettable performances, helped me remember that I don’t have to settle for a humdrum life. It’s so easy to do!

I don’t want my nights to evaporate in a haze of Netflix binges and bottles of chardonnay. Like Billy Joel says, “But you know that when the truth is told, that you can get what you want or you can just get old.” I’ve chosen to get what I want, which to live, to make memories, and to use up every minute of my life (and dime in my pocket if that’s what it takes) in a way that makes them precious. To that end, we’ll continue the concerts in 2018 and beyond….just on a slightly smaller scale. What’s next? The Foo Fighters on April 28th at the Georgia State Stadium. Another concert for another birthday, and I can’t think of a better way to celebrate turning 40.

ROCK ON!

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Cézanne on the Highway

In his essay, “The Decay of Lying,” Oscar Wilde asserted, “Life imitates art far more than art imitates life.”

He believed artists taught people to find beauty in life and nature through their creations rather than the other way around. One example he sites is the fog in London. Though it had been there for centuries, people only noticed its beauty because “poets and painters have taught the loveliness of such effects.” Hence, “They did not exist till art had invented them.”

Until recently, I would have taken issue with this. In my mind, nature is beautiful for its own sake. After all, it’s created by a God who delights in lovely things. And even if we never truly “saw” and understood it, that beauty would continue to exist in the world because He wishes it to.

That being said, I have always believed art can help us appreciate the excellence of the natural world in new ways or to a greater degree than we did previously. For instance, take the watercolor by Cézanne below. It is currently on display at the High Museum as part of a collection called Cézanne and the Modern, which will be in Atlanta until January 11, 2015.

L.1988.62.45
Paul Cézanne (French, 1839–1906) Trees Forming an Arch, ca. 1900 – possibly later Watercolor an graphite on buff wove paper 60.2 x 45.8 cm. (23 11/16 x 18 1/16 in.)

I highly recommend getting the High’s audio tour. There are typically two tracks–one for adults and another for children–and I often listen to both as they contain different information. For only $6, you get a lot of extra information about the artists as well as a few lessons on art history.

Matthew Simms, Professor of Art History at California State University, Long Beach, contributed much to this audio tour. Regarding this piece, he said:

“Drawing offers tonal information. It tells you what areas are dark, where forms begin and where the end. Color gives chromatic information. What is the local color of something? Is there a shadow? Is it in light? Is something greenish or more yellow? Cézanne uses his two tools—the pencil and the paintbrush—to contribute different kinds of information. The end result is a watercolor in which drawing and color combine to create a vibrant sensation of a view into a forest.”

I can appreciate the loveliness of a forest path dappled with light. I’ve walked many of them and experienced the peace and tranquility they have to offer. I’ve noticed the quiet interplay between light and shadow, heat and cold. But I’d never noticed the different colors light can create in such a space.

A few days after learning this information, I took a walk around Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park and noticed that the light that passed through green leaves took on an entirely appearance than it did when it passed through yellow and orange leaves. Both were beautiful but in different ways, and Cézanne (and Simms) showed me how to appreciate the contrast.

L.1988.62.47
Paul Cézanne (1839–1906) Still Life with Carafe, Bottle, and Fruit, 1906 Watercolour and soft graphite on pale buff wove paper 48 x 62.5 cm
I also learned Cézanne loved to emphasize something called the “kinship of forms” or “forms that rhyme with one another” in his work. For example, notice the apples, grapes, and carafe in this piece.  They all share a harmonious roundness. Their shapes “rhyme” with one another, which is an interesting word choice that I quite like. The apples and grapes aren’t as perfectly spherical as the belly of the carafe, but there’s an undeniable “sameness” to them. Like the words “place” and “grace,” these shapes rhyme. They look as similar to my eye as the words sound to my ear.

Learning this didn’t just help me see the world around me in a new or better way. It changed how I understood the things I perceived. It made me think Wilde might have been on the right track.

Last weekend, it was blustery here in Georgia. It was the kind of wind that gave the cold air a set of teeth and helped it bite through denim and fleece. I was loathe to go out in it, but I’m glad I ended up braving the elements. While I was sitting in traffic, I noticed a jumble of leaves–orange, red, yellow, and brown–swirling on the street. The wind whipped them into graceful swoops and spirals of color. The sight was lovely to be sure, but nothing I hadn’t noticed before.

But the same wind was also buoying the birds in the sky. Like the leaves hovering inches from the ground, the small birds were all angles, and they danced around one another in an intricate pasodoble of tail feather and wing. For a few seconds, flora and fauna moved with an inexplicable synchronicity. They “rhymed” with one another.

Alone, each one would have been lovely and ripe with meaning. But together, they revealed the harmony of earth and sky and became something altogether different. I’m not sure if life was imitating art or the other way around, but for the briefest of moments, I was presented with something sublime.

*****
What about you? Have you ever had your perception altered by something artistic? Do you think music has the same kind of power as visual arts? What about dance? I’d love to hear how the two work together to shape your viewpoint.

Story In a Box

Finally, after three plus years, all our stuff is under the same roof again. After fetching the last few boxes from my in-laws’ attic, we spent the better part of last Saturday unpacking and strolling down memory lane—looking at old photos, combing through band memorabilia to see who had the most superior medals, and (in my case) wearing every single piece of graduation bling I ever earned.

Graduating like a boss since 1996!
Graduating like a boss since 1996!

We found fun things like a scrapbook full of photos from our last vacation in 2004 (Yes, it’s been that long!), a Nintendo system we bought on whim off of Ebay because we had a hankering to play Zelda and Battle of Olympus, our old letterman jackets, some useless gewgaws from my days as a high school teacher, and even an ill-advised Halloween costume that I kept for some reason. However, it wasn’t until tonight when I was breaking down the boxes to take them out with the trash that I noticed this.

box1

Don’t worry. This isn’t Schrödinger’s box or anything. Nothing nefarious happened in it. In fact, it’s never held anything more harmful than a few silk flowers and is now as hollowed out as Miley Cyrus’ sense of self-worth. (Too soon?!?) But it’s not what was in the box that matters. It’s the flimsy cardboard itself.

This box was filled with, as the label says, “China Hutch Stuff.” We haven’t owned that hutch since 2003, when we lived in our last home in Valdosta. I lost my job teaching in Echols County due to budget cuts, and rather than stay, we chose to move to Florida where the sun is always shining and there are only two seasons: summer and January. I packed that box when I was 25 years old and (as we say in the South) was feeling fine as a frog hair split three ways. Back then, two men I love (my grandfather and my great uncle James) were still alive. We had yet to make the mistakes that would send our lives on an entirely different trajectory. Even my illness was still months away.

When I wrapped the champagne flutes and cake topper from our wedding and tucked them away amid the keepsake napkins, ribbons, and party favors from that magical, long ago day, I was a completely different person than I am now. It may be my hasty handwriting on that box, but I barely resemble the cocksure dame who scribbled it.

I’ve moved that box six or seven times (without once opening it), but when I saw it again today, the ten years between that moment and this zoomed past me at once like something out of a cartoon. It felt foreign to me, like a relic from a life I barely remembered. And the time it represented was like a piece of threadbare cloth, faint and worn thin from too many handlings.

I considered saving this box, keeping it so I could remember the way things used to be. But when I thought about who I was then and how far I’ve come spiritually, emotionally, and mentally, I realized I wouldn’t trade anything to go back. That life, I see now, was just as empty as the box is today. What I thought was worth pursuing was really a “vanity of vanities.”

The real joy is never what we leave behind. It’s the glorious possibility that surrounds us today and what lies ahead of us tomorrow. And that is something that can never, ever be contained in a box.

Ablution

Here’s the piece I’m planning on turning in this week for my creative non-fiction writing class. Please give me feedback and help me make it better!!

And huzzah! This is my 100th post! 🙂

***

When the dog started burying ice cubes, we knew there was a problem. He’d made daily deposits at the Back Yard Bank & Trust since we’d adopted him, but it had been mostly unremarkable stuff. Rib bones, hamburger patties, rawhides, and even the occasional Rice Krispie Treat—all of them strategically placed underground in a cache system only he understood. As far as we knew, dirt and time helped ripen the food and made it more pleasing to our pooch’s palate, so we likened it to decanting a good bottle of merlot in reverse.

Shadow, the canine in question, was a black spaniel mix with wavy ears and feathery feet that bore a striking resemblance to Falcor, the Luck Dragon from The Neverending Story. In fact, that was the moniker I wanted to give him until I was overruled three to one in favor of “Shadow,” one of the most common dog names in the world. (Even then, I knew my creative genius was doomed to be largely unappreciated.) He loved sleeping in sunshine that pooled on the floor, chasing squirrels, and having his chin and belly thoroughly scratched. He didn’t like to bark and would only do it when we teased it out of him with treats, which we didn’t do often. It wasn’t because we were trying to avoid being mean-spirited, oh no. His pitiful excuse for a bark was as embarrassing as a wimpy car horn.

He had likely been abused by the owner he’d fled, so he never liked having his feet or snout held. Still, he was a happy critter in spite of it. In fact, we found that his “wiggle bone” was located not in his tail, but the middle of his back, so his entire hind end wagged from side to side when he was excited. In short, he was a furry, twenty-pound ball of quirks we loved despite a penchant for digging out and his unearthly ability to be between someone’s feet in the most inopportune times.

But the ice. The ice was just damned odd.

Like any puppy, our mutt loved to chew, so we provided him with an array of chomping options ranging from a bear he mercilessly removed every ounce of stuffing from to chew hooves that took him weeks to whittle down. All these things were sacrificed to keep him away from furniture, remotes, and my brother’s size thirteen Air Jordans. The only unsanctioned “om nom” he ever went for was a hundred-dollar atlas my grandparents purchased for a road trip, and he promptly converted it from a slim, glossy paperback into a sea of shredded paper that covered our living room from corner to corner.

Also like your average dog, Shadow loved people food with the same untamed passion tween girls have for boy bands. Any time someone opened the refrigerator—be they visiting suckers or relatives wise to his begging routine—he magically appeared on the other side of the door, waiting for a slice of bologna or a nibble of cheese.

We discovered his affinity for ice quite serendipitously when I dropped a piece on the floor. He gobbled it down before I had time to debate whether to pick it up or kick it under the counter, and as he chewed, it jutted comically from the corner of his mouth like a stubby cigar and made him drool from the cold. Even the sound he made was amusing—a combination of slurping and a racket similar to that made rummaging through a pile of plastic costume jewelry. Naturally, I had Shadow repeat the performance, which got funnier each time, for each member of my family. He took a dozen pieces from our hands, munching until he’d had his fill, then gummed the thirteenth and headed for the back door.

He’d done the same thing with food. If we gave him a hot dog broken into pieces, he’d wolf it down like Joey Chesnutt. But if that same wiener was handed to him whole, he’d stare at it, totally confused. It wasn’t that he didn’t want it; it was more like he didn’t know what do to with such an embarrassment of riches. We guessed the owners who’d been liberal when distributing pain were tightfisted when it came to food or that it had been hard to come by when he was a stray. That’s why anything he viewed as spare vittles was stashed for hard times. The poor thing hadn’t had enough good ones to make the urge unnecessary.

We stood on the screened-in back porch and watched as he trotted out to the base of a lanky pine tree in our yard, dug a shallow hole, and dropped the ice inside. He didn’t ever quite grasp where his toy went when I  hid it behind my back (much less the basic laws of thermodynamics), so like any and everything else he’d hoarded, the shaggy little urchin covered it up assuming it would still be there when he came back.

A few days later, he returned to his hidey-hole only to find it empty, his efforts to retrieve his new favorite snack rewarded with nothing but a dirt-stained nose. Late one summer afternoon when the sun hung heavy in the sky, Shadow dug one hole after another, each pile of earth excavated more frantically than the last, in search of what I imagined he called “crunchycold” in whatever language dogs speak to one another.

To this day, that confused search remains one of my most poignant memories. Many times, I’ve been like that little dog—furtively concealing my treasures in a vain attempt to protect myself from loss and want. And I’ve squandered so much more than money and time, things much more precious for their intangibility. I buried love that I thought might go unrequited in my soul’s earth only to find it had vanished, never lavished on anyone. Those opportunities I was too timid to seize dissolved back into the ether and were given to someone with the balls to snatch them up and wring them dry.

Too often, I’ve mislabeled cowardice as caution and told myself that joy isn’t guaranteed or plentiful enough in life to risk. But the truth is that everything we try to hoard is siphoned away like sand stolen by a relentless sea. It is impossible to genuinely live and leave something in the reservoir, and for those who try, there is no entering into the joy of our Master.

But I had much left to learn about this fact that day. I could only stand there with tears in my eyes and an ice cube melting in my numb fingers waiting to replace what had been lost.

Playing Phone Tag With My Muse

Norman Vincent Peale once said that, “The cyclone derives its powers from a calm center. So does a person.” Mayhap that has been the root cause of my difficulty behind the keyboard as of late. For more weeks than I care to count, I’ve been, as my grandmother might say “riled up” about one thing or another. Struggles at work, time management problems, issues of over-commitment to various projects and groups–the list goes on and on. In fact, it often feels impossible to have a “calm center” anymore when life has its thumb on the scales and keeps them so unbalanced.

My novel, Paint by Numbers, was begun just prior to NaNoWriMo, and as a first time participant in that grand experiment in madness, I emerged victorious. Yes, I wrote over 50,000 words in thirty days, and I had a ball during every single minute of it.

That novel now sits at just under 56,000 words. Yes, since the NaNo binge, I’ve written next to nothing in it, about two chapters. Part of that problem had to do with the chapter dealing with faith, one I hadn’t anticipated having to write in a book about self-discovery and reclaiming one’s life. It feels awkward, stilted, and altogether slapdash, and I don’t want that to be the case. I got stuck there for quite some time, much like Artax in the Swamp of Sadness, and only recently did I return to the book. The larger issue, however, has to do with my time schedule and my motivation level as well as the requirements of my Diana Ross-like muse.

I work four days a week, which sounds pretty choice. However, those are ten hour days. Add the thirty-minute-each-way commute, and that means eleven hours of my day are spent doing things that are, for lack of a better term, cerebrally exhausting. I teach English at a technical college, so my days are a constant battle to motivate and aid students in everything ranging from technical questions to ones of subject matter, and after getting home at 6:20 or later most of those days, the last thing I’m ready to do is sit down and create a new chapter. In fact, I rarely have the wherewithal to read a book written by someone else. How pitiful.

In addition to being a teacher and a writer, I am also a musician (albeit not a very talented one). This means that I enjoy playing as well as writing, though I must work more diligently to be successful at it. Currently, I’m involved in my church’s orchestra, and that means Wednesday nights and Sunday mornings are off the table as far writing time is concerned. (However, I wouldn’t change that for anything. I love serving with my talent and spending time with the other players!) I’ve also recently joined a local wind ensemble to get more time behind the mouthpiece and to make friends in the area who share my passion, so Monday evenings vanished as well. Playing for pit orchestras and other events have also cut into my time and sapped some of my creativity, but I don’t want to give them up because I enjoy them too much and because it is something my husband and I can do together. We met in college in the music program, and it is something that always serves as a common denominator in our relationship.

That leaves Tuesday and Thursday evenings as well as the three day weekend. Writing on Fridays was working out for a while and served to help me fill up pages with words, but I’ve been using Fridays these last few weeks to recover from long weeks filled with work and multiple performances. (For example, with the Cinderella pit I mentioned in my last post, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday evenings were devoted to pit as well as a 3:00 PM matinee on Sunday. This past Saturday was a double header. There’s no time to write when you’re flipping pages or trying to grab a meal between shows.) Add onto this the need to buy food, keep a relatively clean house, and spend a little time with family, friends, and pets, and my time for writing grows slimmer and slimmer. I tried to cut working out totally out of my schedule, but I can’t really do that much longer. Caring for my body will again become another thing that I need to get in at least three times a week.

So now, we come to the heart of my writing dilemma.

I have been writing as of late. Oh yes, yes I have. I’ve written several poems and a handful of short stories for various projects and groups I’m involved with, and two of the stories have been pretty darned good. However, I want to finish Paint By Numbers so badly it makes my teeth ache, and every time I have time and energy enough to devote to it, I sit down and nothing flows from the tap. At least not the way it did during NaNo. The difference was that I was focused utterly and completely on that book. My writing group suspended work for the handful of us brave (and/or stupid) enough to take on the challenge, and I could put aside all my other activities without guilt.

I didn’t care that I wasn’t working out and that my body was losing out a little, I wasn’t concerned with community bands or pit orchestras, parts of the house went to seed, and I was down to eating dry cereal and applesauce by the end. That was an acceptable lifestyle for me for a period of thirty days, but I couldn’t stay there forever, refusing to grow up like Peter Pan and his Lost Boys in Neverland. Some level of compromise must be attained to live a life worth writing about and having the time to actually write about it. I have yet to find that balance, and I don’t even know where to begin. I just know that I the book can’t stay in writer’s limbo indefinitely. Unlike the millions of zygotes “chilling out” in fertility clinics, I think this baby of mine has a limited shelf life. I don’t want to lose something that has real potential to the malaise of time.

 Ray Bradbury once said, “You fail only if you stop writing,” and I can happily say that I haven’t stopped in a very long time. I lost the fire years ago, and for far too long, that part of me lay dormant and almost dead. But she’s alive and awake and demanding attention now, my muse. I just have to figure out a way to appease her on a limited schedule, which is hard to do with a diva.