Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Searching for Soul and Why Writers Hate

I don't know if it's because it's the start of a new year, but I've had a lot of soul-searching manuscripts cross my desk this week.

One of them literally described what a soul is in scientific terms.

Before Christmas it was a lot of religious stuff, but now it all seems to be about who we are.  And sometimes God is included in the conversation.

They've all been interesting reads, coming from different places and different points of view.  Each one has had at least one sentence that I have felt states what I'm thinking better than how I've been thinking it.

I love it when that happens.


In the last few years I have come to the conclusion that writers are either wildly generous spirits...or evil with a keyboard.

There are writers who are encouraging and will do anything to help other writers in their journey - probably because they recognize that a writer's journey is never done and, like any other art, it's never perfect.  I've been fortunate enough to come across several of these angels who probably have no idea that the emails we exchanged throughout the years changed the course of my career.

Then there's the other half.

There's a quote in the movie Midnight in Paris when the main character asks Ernest Hemingway to read his work and Hemingway immediately says, "I hate it."

The other man replies, "But you haven't even read it."

That's when Hemingway says a very true statement about writers:  "If it’s bad because I hate bad writing. If it’s good I’ll be envious and I’ll hate it all the more. You don’t want the opinion of another writer."

I went to a writers' group several years ago, hoping to get some inspiration.  I love a good writing prompt and hearing the many directions it can go with other writers. I gave this group several chances until I decided...

...they were just mean.

Mean-spirited.  They loved nothing more than to tear work apart (and not in a fun way), completely ignoring what the writer was trying to say and focusing on one word they thought could be better.  This discussion could take an hour, with each person putting in their useless two cents.
I was reminded of this group the other day when, I'm embarrassed to say, I had been looking at manuscripts all day and then decided to work on my own.  I was so tired at that point I could not remember if my character should be "pouring" over the book she was reading or "poring."

I should have just given up.

But I got online to Google it, of course, and ended up on a discussion page where someone else had asked the same question.

The answers to the question ranged from "why in the world would you use such a boring word?" to "you shouldn't be writing if that's all you can come up with."  One person wrote a paragraph on how the word "studying" would be a much better choice and it took me at least five minutes to scroll down and find the actual answer to the question.

The poor (pore? pour?) girl who asked the question is probably an accountant by now.

Writing, as with many other things, is a hard thing to pursue because it falls under the "dream" category.  Many people dream of doing it and when you start dreaming about something it becomes very personal. 

I'm very careful with the manuscripts I read because - even if it's an idea I don't agree with or may not understand - someone has taken the time to write it, to fulfill a dream, and is looking for validation from someone.

Aren't we all?  Isn't that why our children can't wait to show us a picture they've drawn or the good grade they got on a test?  We can't wait for someone to taste the meal we've slaved over or congratulate us on the project we excelled at at work?

I've been wondering if, in the manuscripts I've been reading this week that involve soul-searching and finding our passion, the underlying theme to all of them is generosity of spirit; going out into the world with good intentions that don't involve a personal agenda.

How would the world change if we all did that?

(Does anyone think Donald Trump might read this?)

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Eyebrows, Oprah, and Bratty Kids

I've come to the conclusion that in 2016 I should have loftier goals when it comes to personal maintenance. 

I mean, I haven't completely let myself go.  But I'm kind of dangling on the edge.

This hit me last night as I was scrutinizing my eyebrows, wondering if I had the energy to tackle such a monumental task - after I had looked over the fresh pimple that was forming on the developing laugh line around my mouth (really?  Pimples and wrinkles?  Come on) and checked over the heels of my feet, which I think are so rough they're wearing holes in my sheets while I sleep.

I think the softest part of my body right now are the legs I haven't shaved since it started getting dark at 4:00 PM.

I'd like to think it takes a certain amount of courage to let yourself go. Or maybe I'm just telling myself that so that when I actually jump off that cliff I'll feel better about the house dress that's hiding my socks and sandals.  And I haven't quite gotten to the point where I've seen myself on the People of Walmart website.

But I don't think it's a good sign when you look in the mirror, shrug your shoulders and hope that the Freda Kahlo look is on the cover of Cosmo next month just so you don't have to worry about it anymore.

Speaking of self-improvement...I'm kind of irritated with Oprah.

It's hard to explain.  She and I have been so close in the past and this rift between us has really been bothering me.  Maybe my irritation would be better expressed in a letter.

Dear O (she lets me call her that),

What's up with this Weight Watchers thing?  Like, I totally get that you want to lose some poundage, but why are you putting that on me?

Frankly, it's taking all that I have to be "my best self"  - I've meditated with you, I bought that "reasonable" blouse you put in your magazine for $540, and I've taken a hard look at my career and relationship choices.  Hell, I even put up with Gayle for you!  So, I'm kind of getting conflicting messages - do you want me to lose weight or be my best self?  

Because I'll be honest.  Those are two different things.

When did my best self become not enough?  When did our relationship take this turn?  I thought we were in it for the spirituality - not to rock bikini bods in Daytona next year.

Anyway.  Get back to me when you can.  Sorry about the ketchup stains on this letter.  


I feel like it's okay for me to change the subject now's my blog and I can do what I want.

Yesterday I had my first Who The F--- Are You? moment with a kid since moving into our new house.

Now, I realize that much of what we tolerate with children these days is very generational:  I grew up in southern family and it was a requirement, way back when, that you answer an adult with a "yes ma'am" or a "no sir."  The table was always set for dinner.  My sister and I were often The Help at my parents' dinner parties.

My kids really don't do any of that.  And I know that has to drive my parents nuts.

Anyway, I had this kid over yesterday - 10-year-old-girl - who came home with my daughter after school.  First, her parents had no problem with her coming over, even though they'd never met me and didn't know where I lived.

Red flag.

And in the space of an hour, this child was a whirling mass of destruction with a peppy little ponytail.

A few minutes after declining the snack I'd offered her she decided to make "queso" on the stove (big no-no in my house with the 10 year old set) by dumping almost a gallon of milk and three packages of shredded cheddar cheese into a pot and trying to melt it.  My daughter's room was destroyed.  But the pivotal moment came when I was in my office listening to her detail how she was bullying another child at school.

Last night my daughter was treated to the "be careful who your friends are" speech, followed by my reminder that she was part of a club that was supposed to stop bullying at school.  This ended up with us agreeing that my daughter was not going to spend much time with the Tasmanian Devil and will eat lunch with the kid whose feelings have been hurt.

So, I'm sorry, little child whose parents should be paying attention and aren't.  I'm guessing that since my daughter had to clean up your mess in my kitchen (that pot took her a while) and her bedroom, which was then followed by a lecture from me (and I suspect her older brother and sister as well)...I don't think you'll be invited back.

And, if my daughter has a lapse in judgement and agrees to have you over after you invite yourself (as you did yesterday)...I assure you I will put a stop to it.

My daughter might play.  But this mama don't.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

I'm Here...Whether You Like It or Not

When I started the Widow Chick blog, many moons ago, I put myself on a strict schedule of two blogs a week.  Now, that's not much when you're an angry, weepy single mom - there's always an audience for misery. 

But once you're happy...who wants to read that?

Well.  I don't know.  But I'm going to write anyway.


My living room rug looks like the giant in Jack and the Beanstalk ate a family-size bag of Cheetos and then wiped his hands on it.

It's my own damn fault.  I assured the guy who came over to do an at-home "Canvas and Corkscrews" party that it would be totally fine to do it in that room.  After all, he covered every surface carefully with plastic.  We all wore aprons.  We were all so careful.

Until the bottle of orange decided to suddenly go topless on my rug.

I'm really not mad.  Seriously.  And as my friend Candice said, while her eyes roamed from the bright orange on my rug to the blood splattered stains that I still can't get off the wall after Halloween decals left their mark..."Damn, Cath.  You look like you have a lot of fun in this house."

Hell, yeah.


The lady at the nursery yelled at me today.

I was buying some plants for my house - looking for something unusual - and when I was checking out she was very carefully packaging my plants.

"Oh. you don't have to worry about that," I said.  "They're going straight into my car."

"These are tropical plants!" she said in, I think, a German accent.  In any case, she scared the crap out of me.  "It's 20 degrees outside!"

Which made me feel sure that I was walking these poor, defenseless leafed creatures to their death.

The only thing that made me feel better was the scared look of the woman behind me who was buying herbs.


I think there's something wrong with my broiler.

Or I don't know how to use it.

If I were you, I'd be bet on the latter.

For some reason, I've been experimenting with recipes that require "5 minutes under the broiler."  Is it winter?  We're all so ready for spring that we feel the need to quickly blacken meat in the oven because we miss doing it on the grill?

I don't know.

I started out with gorgeous steaks last week and the instructions asked me to "sear, add toppings, and then broil for 5-10 minutes."

I set them on fire.


Stupid "peppercorn encrusted steaks."  I scraped that off and still ate you, didn't I?  And the kids were really excited to know that the fire alarms worked.

Tonight I tried a pasta recipe in the latest Food Network magazine.  Now, I'm not always the best a reading the instructions all the way through, but I swear there were a few steps missing.

Anyway, I wasn't too happy to fire up the broiler once again, but I thought that surely, putting it in for the minimum time, all would be okay.  And this is how it turned out.

 Oh.  Wait.  That's what it was supposed to look like.  Here's mine.

Please note the extra sprinkling of cheese on top to hide the "crust" from my kids so they would eat it.

Yes.  That's how I roll.  Everything can be fixed with extra cheese.