Monthly Archives: December 2011

back to the counting thing…

…seven days. Bayley and Dan arrive.  Meghan & Greg, Emma and Amelia arrive. The house will get small. Six Adults. Five dogs. Crowded. Lived in. In many ways we are so neat and tidy. Okay! I’m neat and tidy. Not that Tom’s not, but….I really want to work on my MG mystery. And. I am. But. Well, I am. But I think I’m over-thinking. Which is a strange way to put it, but something we all say. I can’t get there from here, so I’m over thinking the solution. I can’t figure out this problem so I must be over thinking it. Strange how we use words. And what we want them to say. Can it be true that something can be thought too much? I don’t think so. So rather than over thinking, maybe it is pushing the story, probably to a place the story does not want to go.

I believe in story. I think now that is why I so so good at history.  The story of all of us, yet just some of us. The good in us and the bad in us. And, has been said, ‘memory is tyrannical’ so the story can  grow, diminish, change intention, direction, become more and less than what the truth was, or is. And then there is the favorite question of the college cafeteria table, what is truth?

It’s like this whole brouhaha over the greeting for this time of year. If we are not intending for every single person to have the exact same belief system, then a happy positive greeting, regardless of the words, given with a happy smile, and sincerely imparted is about the best greeting you can get. Any time of year! Sometimes, tho, I wonder, what we would be doing if we were not celebrating Christmas! Would we be celebrating Saturnalia, the winter solstice, like the Romans? If we were Celts we would have celebrated Samhaim on November 1. But if you look up how and what peoples celebrate this time of year there is a very common thread. The possibility of rebirth. Of light from the darkness.

And, quite frankly, that may be the best idea for me yet. Rebirth. I was pushing my story instead of letting it find the light. Okay, trundling off to write more. Oh. And. Merry Christmas!


a rant, of sorts….

so. it is this registry thing. my rant, that is…When I was a sweet young thing going through the whole process of wedding event, you registered your china, silver and crystal. I do remember a conversation with my sister, Belinda, about how cool it would be to register at Builder’s Emporium, a LA 60’s version of Home Depot/Lowes Home Improvement. I loved that store. I could wander in there for hours and figure out projects.

Actually we got little of practical use for the wedding. The shower, yes, that was practical, but thankfully stuff I didn’t know I and some of which I still have. Now, thirty-five years later, I love that. And, for the wedding, we received gifts of Dorothy Thorpe crystal platters and bowls, Lennox vases, crystal candlesticks, even matching Raggedy Ann and Raggedy Andy figurines about three feet tall! Tom hated them and I think that’s why we no longer have them, I think he helped in their demise….

Even today I can look around at the various gifts and think, that’s from John Castle, or that’s from John and Anne Myers or that’s from Mike McCall, or from my grandparents, my aunt and uncle. It’s kinda cool that my memories of dear friends and relatives are wrapped up in what others thought at the time we might enjoy. What might decorate our home. What we might use year-in and year-out for celebrations, holidays, everyday events made more special. Can you say that about a Cuisinart mixer or a toaster oven, Calphalon pots and pans? No. Unlikely that they will last as long as the memories of the people who found your registry and bought an item. Purchased, wrapped, sent, delivered. Done.

So. that brings me to the definition of a gift and why registries are becoming a bête noire for me. A gift: a thing given voluntarily without payment in return. To honor an occasion.  [2003 Revised & Updated Illustrated Oxford Dictionary] Similar words are grant, bestow, largess, confer, donate…you get the picture. Nowhere does it state demanded, requested, appealed, called for. To me, the current trend, and maybe I’m just off on another planet, is that when an event happens such wedding, birth, baby showers, bridal showers, for all I know divorce, first day of school, graduation, housewarming, birthday; all of which you can probably create a registry for now, is just another way of  saying, ‘I need these things NOW, so get me this stuff.’

Forgotten is the thinking about a gift that the recipient might remember and treasure for years, the shopping for the item that reflects your relationship with the recipient, the honoring the occasion, whatever that occasion may be, with the effort of finding the perfect gift, hopefully bringing joy and love to the gifting process. Bah! Humbug! Registries make it just too damn easy!


and new milestone behind us…

…tonight the rehearsal dinner and tomorrow Bayley and Dan will be, collectively and forever after, The Hochradel’s. WooHoo!

It was Miss Meghan who first looked upon each and every life event, sometimes with verve, sometimes with panache, and sometimes with a bit more pain than we all were expecting, and we all rejoiced in her progress….the first one in school, on a bike, ears pierced, boys calling, school dances, college applications, travel, graduate applications, marriage. MM moved along the road of life, scaled those milestones and left markers behind, some of value, some discarded because they were hers and not belonging to anyone else.

Then came Sweet Bayley who planted ‘done’ flag at the top and move onto the next one; making sure we would never, ever, to return to that place, time, or activity again. [Well, not never, 🙂 we may yet have grandchildren.] I can tell you when we no longer carried the humongous diaper bag on family trips, when day care became a distant memory, the last time we had a babysitter, when we moved past cupcakes at school, chaperoning field trips, the last time I had to drive with a daughter, I mean HAD TO, the last summer job, the last college graduation.

Tomorrow Bayley and Dan wed. A huge life marker. And, tomorrow, Saturday, December 10, officially and without a doubt, our entire family dynamic changes. We are no more the four Fannins. Not a whole unto ourselves any longer, more an amalgam, a grouping. We are now something different. With more diverse interests.

Congratulations to the newly weds, The Hockradels, and The Vogts. Thank you. For bringing a new zest, excitement, direction and joy to this family. WooHoo, indeed!




Today we head up to Baltimore. We’re packed. Truth be told, I’ve had this list in my head for weeks. Back to my old self in planning and executing. My old multi-tasking, double-down self. So. It’s a good day. I’ve been writing. I like this story. I liked the original. But. We’ve moved on. This is a better story. Because of practice. Just like the girls practiced trick or treating. Or Tom and I practiced, albeit shortly, retirement. Practice is worth it.

On of the thing I realized is that even though I am a good, no, make that great reader. I didn’t pay attention to the writing. I gobbled it up. I tore into it. I pushed through it until I found the story, ‘specially the bits that were memorable and fun, and tossed all the writer’s hard work away. Pulling the images into my brain in a free-for-all way. And most of those stuck.

Today we head up to Baltimore. I put the writing aside. I put the reading aside. I concentrate on the baby daughter. It’s Bayley’s time. It’s her day. There will be plenty of time to continue to practice.


there is no such thing as writing the perfect sentence, perfectly, the first time. At least I find it difficult to think that someone could. ‘Course, there’s that whole thing about monkeys and typewriters and Shakespeare, but then that would be a perfect sentence that has already been written, wouldn’t it?

We have tried as a critique group to be more than just a collection of writers who look at other writing and comment. We’ve become a support group, a therapy group, and most importantly, friends. Best friends! Two years ago we took an entire year to go through Ursula Le Guin’s book, Steering The Craft. It was an amazing activity. One exercise every month, giving us a window on writing the narrative, giving life to the story. Debbie started a story in an exercise and now it’s a book.

A while back, Sandra suggested the Great Course book, Building Great Sentences: Exploring the Writer’s Craft.  We all agreed. Taught, well, lectured by Brooks Landon PhD, Director of the General Education Literature Program, University of Iowa, the course is a 24 lecture series about sentences. Syntactical strategies. Propositional context. A thing in motion.

We each have the DVD of the lectures and the Course Guidebook.

The first lecture was about a Sequence of Words. I like words. I love to roll them around in my mouth. Put various emphasis on various syllables. Listen to them in sentences. And, as much as I like words I am always fascinated by the way we use words to describe. Ever watch a show on cheer-leading? You may just think of the splits, or the pyramid. But no. There’s the Arabian, the cradle, the front-drop, the layout, the sponge toss. You get the idea, a whole language unto itself.

Dr. Landon speaks about sentences the same way. Sentences, he writes, are shaped by context and purpose, and there are an infinite number of them. Good. I’d hate to think I’m using a re-tread sentences. But, I suppose, it’s possible. Cumulative sentences. Loose syntax. Periodic syntax. Elegant versus Effective. Rhetorical versus grammatical. Base clauses and modifying/subordinate clauses. And where do you put them? Should the base clause be first, middle or last? And, what is sentence a supposed to be doing, right there in the middle of that paragraph! Yes! That one!

Today we are working on Propositions and Meaning. As I finished my exercise over the last week I need to add, I am as fascinated by  the sentences and language used to describe sentences and the language as I am by the information I am getting. What I’m waiting for is where does style come into this? It is just another name for the elusive voice?