About Me

Hi, I'm Debbie. Sometimes, people like ask me what I do. Good question. I'm not always sure how to answer it myself! I'm hoping this blog helps me answer that question, or is at least fun to read along the way.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Debbie...on Writing

Okay, so yesterday was my monthly writers' group.  I was under the gun.  I'd spent much of the past week or so, it seems, doing things like painting kitchen walls and trying to figure out how to print labels.  (I actually called the 800 Avery number for this.  I spoke with a very helpful Indian man.  I like to think of him as "Telephone Jesus," because I felt so calm after his help.)

And while writing a fresh entry on, say, Telephone Jesus would be more original, I'm simply gonna' cut and paste most of my late, dashed off submission for my writers' group.  Minus the first paragraph, which I found annoying.  Probably a lot more needs to be edited, but c'est la vie...

           My earliest memories of being a writer come from my school days, from when writing meant crafting a story below a picture you drew on that special paper with lines and dashes on it for big handwriting. 

            In the fourth grade, I wrote an Indian report.  (We’d call this a Native American report today.)  What stands out with this report is that it was the first piece of writing I did where I procrastinated.  A lot.  Apparently.  Or at least, based on all the drama I remember from the event, from a meeting in the hallway with my mom and teacher about it, from the crying I did over the “I” volume of the World Book Encyclopedia, my procrastination was a BIG DEAL.  This was supposed to be okay, as long as I “learned from my mistake.”

            I’m quite sure it’s not the last time I’ve procrastinated, though.

            In the sixth grade, I had a teacher named Mrs. Whelan who had a big bouffant, false eyelashes, and a charm bracelet that jingled every time she wiggled her finger in the air to point out a three syllable word.  She was big on building our vocabulary by having us employ ten three syllable words for every page of writing we did, and underlining them.  (Later in the year, she upped this to fifteen.)  I wrote a lot of things about unicorns with amethyst eyes; I imagine I used adverbs prolifically. 

            I don’t do this anymore when I write.  Not intentionally, anyhow.  If it happens, it happens.  If it don’t, it don’t.

            Although the three syllable rule seems a bit ridiculous now, I do have to extend some credit to Mrs. Whelan.  She pushed all of us to submit our stories to Cricket magazine contests, and so in the sixth grade, I won third place with a story about, well, a unicorn with amethyst eyes.  I was the first kid in the class to win something other than an honorable mention, and it was pretty exciting to be called down to the principal’s office for this news.  I still have the book that came along with the certificate; it’s still the only literary award I’ve received; and I’m still bitter that they didn’t publish third place, but they would have if it had been poetry.

            What angst.

            Somewhere in middle school, they started switching things up from fictional story writing to essays.  My writing slumped.  I wasn’t as good at this, and it wasn’t as fun.  You had to follow a five paragraph format and have an argument and supporting evidence and stuff.  This got more sophisticated in high school, when this formula, along with the important “thesis statement” reigned supreme as a way to put a cherry on the top of Romeo and Juliet or the like.  I typically found these papers painful to write—although not nearly as painful as geometric proofs—and sometimes, to vent frustration at the end, I would parody my own piece and read it to my brothers.  (Only if it was something I’d written on my dad’s old IBM computer.)

            Looking back, that has sort of a nerd-cleverness to it.

            By my senior year, I was in Advanced Placement Lit & Comp.  My teacher was Ms. Cook.  She wore preppy clothes and pretended to be German and had two signs posted in her classroom:  “So What?” and “Less is More.”  The first question was to prompt us to delve deeper into the significance of what we were writing, to encourage critical thinking.  The second was a way to get us to be more specific with details and examples.  This doesn’t sound like exciting stuff, but she was a good teacher, and I’m sure my analytical essay writing improved.  I know I got the highest score I could on the AP placement exam.

            Then college came.

            While I took the required freshman lit/comp class, the class that really made an impact was some random University Course entitled “Freedom, Identity, and Alienation,” or something like that.  The prof was some tenured psych guy who told us we had no reading requirements, homework, or writing assignments whatsoever.  Then he told us that he wanted us to become Readers and Writers. 


            He met with us individually in office hours, where he asked me about writing, and if I ever wrote “just for myself.”

            Again: Huh?

            I must have submitted a few random pieces of writing to him, because I remember him referencing them.  On the day of the last class, I wondered if, for this assignment-less class, I’d done enough, and wrote something.  I don’t recall what it was.  All I know is that on the way to class, I saw a trash can, and thought: if it really doesn’t matter for the grade, I can toss this.  So I did.  I shoved my paper in the trash.

            Somehow, that action was transformative.  I didn’t have to write for someone.  I didn’t have to write for a grade.  Writing was something internal, and personal.  Within.

            After the class was over, I started a journal.  For myself.  And I never looked back.
Do you like to write?  Need to write?  What may have shaped you?  Mike Myer's character would like you to "discuss among yourselves."


Monday, May 13, 2013

Watching Paint Dry

I've been painting recently.

Samples, to be exact.  For our kitchen wall.  On our kitchen wall.  On three different parts.  You know, to check them out in different lighting.

Three different colors.  Havana Cream, Banana Cream, and Hawthorne Yellow. 

They're all basically shades of yellow.  I can't tell the difference between Havana and Banana; I just know the latter has a better name.  Actually, it might be more cream than yellow.

Hawthorne Yellow looks like the yellow of our adjoining family room.  Pretty much.  Almost.  I can't quite say for sure, 'cause I'm still just working with samples.  I don't know if that's good or bad.  Or neither.

I think I like the Hawthorne best.  Maybe.  Sometimes I still like that Banana Havana.  Except when it looks a bit washed out.  But only on one wall, mostly.  Hard to say.

I keep telling myself: it's paint.  There's not really a right or wrong answer here.  Just pick one.

I like yellow in kitchens.  I think they look cheery.  Plus, I can pretend I'm at Panera Bread or something.  Minus someone serving me drinks and sandwiches.  I'd say I can pretend I'm at Starbucks, but they seem to be going green subway tile these days.

My favorite color is blue, by the way.  Sky blue.  I like the color the sky. 

Favorite colors are very important to children. 

My son is very confused as to why I am not painting the kitchen blue.  Or turquoise.  (I did paint the laundry room a light blue.  Okay, technically, my husband painted it.)  I spend a lot of time in the laundry room.

I understand my son's confusion.  Why would I not pick my favorite color for our kitchen?  Or, for that matter, everything?  Shoes, cars, clothes...the exterior of houses...maybe only eat foods that are my favorite color?  (All I can think of is blueberries and candy, so I bet I'd be malnourished.)

He wants the kitchen to be about 10 million different colors, all bright and fun.

Maybe this would be called Acid Trip Everything.

I'll pick some yellow.  Havana or Banana or Hawthorne. 

Maybe adults are just really boring.

Update: I've bought a gallon of Benjamin Moore's Hawthorne Yellow.  I've edged out the kitchen (quite nicely, if I might add!)  I'm still driving myself crazy: Is it looking a rich, funky cafĂ© golden yellow...or is it too mustard-y?  I like it now--now I'm not sure.  Is it the light?  Am I looking at it too hard?  Will I have a better idea when I'm done?  I thought "color consultant" was some made-up, b.s. type of job.  Now I'm not so sure.  I may be both boring and insane. 

I know...you're dying for a photo:)