Thursday, December 30, 2010

Showered with Ideas

I get most of my story ideas in the shower.
No, really.

I don't know why that it is so, but it is.  I think that it's probably because time in the shower is my only true "alone time."  Even when no one else is home, I can't always concentrate for all the distractions -- laundry to be done, things to be picked up, dishes to be washed, dinners to be prepared.  I think my mind is just always too full of things to do.  But in the shower, somehow it all seems to fall away long enough that I am able to really think about story ideas, or the review I'm trying to write.  I suppose it's the lack of any real noise, with no phone ringing, no television blaring Nickelodeon, no one asking me if I saw this or did that...just the peaceful sound of the water gurgling down the drain

So, all of that to say that I had an unexpected idea for a scene in my long-suffering story while I was in the shower today, and for once I actually made the time to write it down.  It seems that so often I come up with something and don't take that next step of actually jotting down the idea before it leaves my head.  Which it inevitably does...and then later, I wrack my brain trying to remember the amazing, life-changing, story-saving, sure-to-one-day-wow-a-New York-publisher idea. But it's gone. *sigh*

I don't often make New Year Resolutions; it's just much too easy to break them and feel like a failure, and really, who needs that?  But I do plan to make at least one this year:  to take that moment or two every time I think of something to do with my writing and actually write it down before it's forgotten in the overcrowded recesses of my brain, lost among hockey schedules, band concert dates, and endless things-to-do lists.  If I truly want to be a writer, and perhaps one day an Actual Published Author, I know that I need to start acting on these seeds of ideas, plant them somewhere and see if anything grows. I won't be able to do that if I let them disappear into the abyss...or down the shower drain. 

Where do you get your ideas?  In the shower?  While driving? 
How do you keep it all organized?
Are you making any writing resolutions this year?

Friday, December 24, 2010

Baking with "The Boss"

I am -- like everyone else, I'm sure --currently in the midst of holiday baking and all of the other pre-Christmas craziness.  Up until this year, I've been spoiled by being able to work on all of this (as well as shopping, wrapping, etc.) during the day.  Now that I am working, albeit part-time, I have to admit that it's gotten a bit more hectic and I am a lot less organized.  Not to mention way behind on my preparations.

But I know it doesn't matter all that much. To paraphrase my favorite Grinch, it won't stop Christmas from coming.  I'm surely going to end up with a few less cookies on the cookie platters, but that's okay.  Everyone's "special requests" will still be there, because I can't not make my father-in-law's favorite coffee cake, or a friend's favorite shortbread cookie, or my stepsister's caramel apple pie.  (But maybe we'll skip the coconut macaroons and the snickerdoodles this year, if only to allow me a wee bit of time for sleep!  ;) )

No, a few less cookies won't matter, and probably won't even be noticed.  This year, I'll concentrate on those few baked goods that are the only ones that do matter; the ones that you make because you truly want to, because they will bring an appreciative smile to the face of someone you love, will let them know you are thinking of them, and will make Christmas day just that little bit sweeter.

Happy baking!  :)

Do you have something that you always make for the holidays, no matter what? 
Any great recipes with special meaning for you?
Feel free to share in the comments! :)

** Since I need to bring it up a notch today, I am borrowing some Christmas Spirit from Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band.  Enjoy!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Hard Bleachers and Beautiful Noise

Just a quick post the morning after my daughter's holiday band concert.

The thought went through my mind as I sat there that no one past the age of thirty has any hope of ever again being comfortable on hard, wooden bleachers...and yet, strangely enough, once I settled in, I barely noticed the numb bottom anymore, because there is just something wonderful about school band concerts. 

Yes, often they are off-key, or lose their places, and on that rare occasion they do manage to butcher a piece of music into an unrecognizable cacophony of discordant notes.  But they try so hard, and no matter the level of perfection in their performances I love to watch and listen to them, every time.  I love the look of nervous pride on all their faces, their thrill at standing to greet the audience applause, the noticeable expelling of breath when they've finished their most difficult pieces. 

Mostly I think I just love witnessing these beautiful creations of ours learning to create their own beautiful noise. 

And that, I think, is worth every minute on those bleachers.

Friday, December 10, 2010

In Pursuit of the Spirit of the Season...

In my ongoing effort to recapture my Christmas spirit (I'm getting there!), I thought I'd share one thing that nearly always helps guide me back to the true meaning of the season:  Josh Groban, singing "O Holy Night" at the Rockefeller Center a few years ago.  Never fails to give me chills.  :)  Enjoy!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Striving to be a Grinch

I admit it. 

I have no Christmas spirit this year. 

I'm not quite sure why.  Normally, I am very determined in my pursuit of the spirit of the season.  I decorate, bake, make gingerbread houses and shop and wrap with the best of them.  But I just can't seem to motivate this year.

Maybe it's because as much as I'd love to go out and buy the usual boatload of gifts for everyone in my life, I simply can't do it this year, and it saddens me to have my spirit of giving stifled by circumstance.  Combined with other personal challenges at the moment, it's exhausting to think of how much there is yet to do and how little I seem able to summon either the energy or the finances to do it.

However, I keep reminding myself of what I've always told my children: Christmas isn't about getting gifts or spending money, but is a spiritual reminder of the importance of giving of oneself to others, of remembering what's truly important. 

Which, of course, leads me to the Grinch.

Yes, the Grinch, that curmudgeon of coddled Christmas spirit, so jealous of the joy in others that he tried to steal it away in his effort to pull everyone down into his pit of grinchdom.  I've always found it curious that the Grinch is most commonly remembered for his lack of Christmas spirit (or "grinchiness") when in fact it's the eventual discovery of it within himself that seems the most important part of the story.  My favorite moment in  Dr. Seuss's How the Grinch Stole Christmas is when he has his epiphany, and "...the Grinch's small heart grew three sizes that day. And then the true meaning of Christmas came through, and the Grinch found the strength of ten Grinches plus two."  It's that moment, when he opens his heart to love and sharing, when he holds out a hand to little Cindy Lou Who ("who was no more than 2") that has always held such poignance for me (and countless others, I imagine).

And as silly as it may seem to draw on an old children's story for my own Christmas spirit, the Grinch truly is an inspiration for me.  Part of it, I know, is that he was my father's favorite character, too.  My dad, one of the sweetest and most giving men I've ever known, always loved the Grinch best, and joked at being "grinchy" himself.  One Christmas, I made him a Santa hat with the word "Grinch" spelled out in glitter on the cuff.  He grinned beneath that hat proudly every year, and those Christmases are among my most cherished memories of him.

So this year, in spite of the current slump in which I find myself, I'm determined to find my Christmas spirit however I can.  I'll decorate the tree, snap precious pictures of the annual Gingerbread House Decorating Day with my daughter and niece, and wrap whatever presents I can give.  I'll remember my dad smiling around his pipe with that silly hat on his head, and I'll remember to count my blessings of past, present and future.  I'll remind myself, too, that Christmas is more than what I can put under the tree, and will bring smiles and laughter even "without packages, boxes or bags." 

In fact, I'm going to try to be the best Grinch I can be...

Do you have a favorite Christmas character?  Any special Christmas memories wrapped around Rudolph or Frosty or the Grinch?  How do you find your own spirit of the season? 
Feel free to share in comments! :)