Thursday, May 28, 2009
Wednesday, May 27, 2009
Most of the kids called it Oldtimber, but it was just the old part of town that had lost appeal thirty years before. The only businesses that survived were a couple of bars and a drugstore. Abandoned buildings lined both sides of the street, boarded windows covered with graffiti and peeling wood. Nothing new had come to Oldtimber for half a century until the new Concert Hall had refurbished one of the old buildings in the hopes that it would bring business back to the historical district. It was strange that such a place could exist, surrounded by homes, with Main Street only three blocks away—like having a leper colony in the middle of town.
Auntie Chieko raced the car around the corner, tires jolting over the curb as she swung into the parking lot. She climbed out, opened the back door, and grabbed her violin case. I got out reluctantly and slammed the door behind me, three inch heels making my feet hurt already, but it was a worthwhile sacrifice for vanity. Auntie shoved a ticket into my hand. “Go, go,” she said, making sweeping motions with her hand. “Curtains go up in twenty minutes. I have to warm up. You go around the front and I’ll meet you here after.”
Aunti Chieko almost ran to the back entrance door, her heels click-clicking in a quick tap across the pavement. She grabbed the handle and pulled, but the door didn’t budge. I couldn’t believe it when I heard her swear. Auntie pounded on the door, then kicked it when nobody answered. Grumbling she walked quickly toward the front of the theater.
My mouth took over again at that point. “Maybe they grew a brain and decided Oldtimber isn’t the best place for a concert hall after all.”
Auntie stopped and turned as we reached the sidewalk. “Look, I know this isn’t what you want to be doing tonight, but I need the support, especially with Tony gone. You could at least pretend to appreciate what I’m trying to do.” She looked like she was about to cry.
I took a step back, hands up in defense. Why couldn’t I have a filter to my mouth like everyone else? “Whoa, whoa, I didn’t mean to upset you. I was just joking.”
“Of course I’m upset! You mock and taunt who I am and what I love and . . . and . . . you destroyed my dress!” Her arms flew out, her violin case swinging toward the sidewalk just as a gray haired man stepped in its path.
“Oof,” he said, the breath knocked from him. Auntie Chieko spun, her hand going to her mouth in shock, the violin swinging around with her. She pulled the case to her chest, embracing it like an injured child.
“Principal Robertson! I am so, so sorry. I didn’t see you,” she started, but he waved a hand, cutting her off.
“No harm done, Mrs. Shimizu. It’s not the first time I’ve had the wind knocked out of me.” Then he turned toward me, his eyes much colder. “Miss Kondō, I hope you’ll find the evening a refreshing change.”
I snorted and rolled my eyes. This coming from the guy who called me a degenerate? Who was he kidding? I didn’t bother to answer. Nothing I could say would make one bit of difference in his eyes. He’d already made his mind up about me and I wasn’t going to bother trying to change it.
My eyes settled on the sunset over Principal Robertson’s shoulder. The brilliant orange and pink sat on the mountain peaks, purples streaming up into blue. It was a gorgeous sunset and just the thing for calming my nerves when in the presence of Principal Robertson.
A black worm-like figure streaked through the orange sky. If I hadn’t known better I would have sworn it was a dragon, but dragons weren’t real. It couldn’t’ be, but as it veered from the sun and headed toward bald mountain it came into sharp view. Wings pounded against the sky, its long snake-like body curled forward for a moment, just like the images I’d seen on T-shirts around the state. “What the . . .” I muttered just as a large something fell from its grasp and hit the side of the mountain with a thunderous explosion. My eyes grew wide with horror as a huge mushroom cloud grew slowly upward and a wave of dust rolled in slow motion toward Newtimber.
The line heading into the theater stopped and turned at the sound. A skater flipped his board up with his foot, wheels still spinning as he caught it and came to a running halt to stare at the wave heading our way. “What’s everyone staring at?” Principal Robertson turned around a little late. The man had to be half deaf to not hear the bomb.
Bomb. It hadn’t occurred to me until that moment that we were facing fallout from some kind of explosion. My mind raced through the images I’d seen in science class and on TV of what happened when people had to deal with fallout and radiation poisoning. My heart leapt into my throat as I glanced around at the people just standing there like stupid deer caught in the headlights of an oncoming train. Nobody was moving. We were all going to die.
I didn’t even think then. A lifetime of dealing with an alcoholic and addict for parents had left me prepared to deal with whatever came my way. Not a lot surprised me anymore. “It’s a bomb!” I screamed, “Everybody get inside! Get below ground! Come on, come on!” I grabbed Auntie Chieko by the hand and raced down the street to the old waterworks. The red brick was crumbly and sealed, but I knew how to get in. I shoved past one of the boarded doors that hung on a loose nail, then pushed people in, one after the other. There weren’t many. Not nearly enough. The skinhead and his skateboard nearly dove through the opening, then a blond secretary type. The wave rolled over the far end of the street and the people . . . oh, man, the people changed. I know it sounds crazy, really I do, but as the green wave hit a tall old man, suddenly a tree sprouted roots right in the middle of Main Street. His face opened into a scream as his feet rooted first, then his body leaned forward and his arms reached out, the bark racing across his skin like a wave of superfreak ants. His face changed last of all, his mouth still open in the scream as the bark rippled and tore his skin, his eyes and nose fading into knotted wood with a gaping hole left for his open mouth.
Shocked, my eyes turned away from the tree-man toward a lady with her three children. They ran screaming down the street, she herding them in front of her like a hen and her chicks. All of a sudden it was like they tripped and spun, their bodies exploding into strings that sprouted leaves, and when they rolled to a stop, the family was a line of gnarled sage.
My heart pounded so hard in my chest I couldn’t swallow, could hardly breathe. I glanced back toward the mountain. The wave rolled ever closer and all I could do was stand there pushing people through the half-boarded doorway as fast as they would go, getting as many as possible to some kind of shelter. I waited as long as I could, but there wasn’t enough time to get everybody in. When the slow cloud was half a block away, I dropped the board back into place, a group of people surging toward me at the last moment but still too far away. The wave licked at their heels as I tied off the rope to lock the door and raced down the stairs as fast as my three inch heels would carry me.
Sunday, May 24, 2009
Wednesday, May 20, 2009
Tuesday, May 19, 2009
This week you get a bit of my Grand Prize Winning Chapter from the LDStorymakers First Chapter Contest. It's not the whole chapter, but I thought it would be a nice place to start.
“I’ve been called a lot of things in my life, but hero was never one of them. Worthless—punk—loser—degenerate—those have followed me around for a long time, but hero? No way. Who would be stupid enough to make me a hero?
“Evidently I did it to myself. I didn’t mean to. I was just looking at the sunset when the fairy bomb turned Newtimber into a ghost town.”
--Sianna Kondō, Newtimber Gazzette, July 31, 2009
“You have got to be kidding me. I’m not wearing that.” I thrust out a hip and pointed my finger at the hideous dress Auntie Chieko held in front of me.
“Yes, you will,” she said without raising her voice. She didn’t have to. Her eyes had needles in them, I swear. Black stretch knit. It was awful, but I knew that look. There would be no getting out of this one. Auntie didn’t often lay it on heavy handed like that, but when she did it was like standing in cement. I knew I’d be stuck so I shut my mouth and had to be satisfied with a glare. When she saw she’d won, she continued. “It is opening night, Sianna. You will be attending and a black dress is required.”
I rolled my eyes and pulled my little black jacket to my sides, the better to show off the leather mini-dress I’d just peeled on. “I’ve got a black dress.”
“No, you’ve got half a black dress.” Auntie Chieko marched to the doorway, her tiny geisha-like feet quiet in the carpet. She stopped in the doorway, her strong fingers gripping the frame like she’d pull it off in pieces if I dared give her any lip. I was surprised when she sighed and turned to face me. “Just put it on, Sianna. This is really important to me and I’d appreciate your support.”
I wanted to say something. I wanted to say it bad, but I had nowhere else to go and Auntie had been nothing but kind to me since Mom kicked me out for throwing away her booze. I owed it to her to be supportive and I knew it, even if it meant wearing fashion decades old. I clenched my teeth, the black knit itching already, but nodded. Maybe I could dress it up a little and make it my own. I could add a belt or a jacket, or just trim it up a bit. I nibbled at my lip, trying to visualize the changes. It seemed like a lost cause, but I’d try. There was no one else in the entire universe who could have gotten me to wear the lousy dress, but I’d do it for Auntie Chieko.
I finally made it out to the car after Auntie Chieko honked three times and called my cell phone. I’d given the dress a few changes that made it more to my liking, but only the slip and a silky black blouse kept the itching at bay. I’d trimmed the sleeves off and cut away the collar to expose a little more of my assets. This, of course made the edges curl, but it had just the effect I was going for. I didn’t think she’d care nearly as much as she did. As soon as I slammed the door I felt the negative vibes shooting from her. She would have called it angry chi. For me it meant I’d done one more thing wrong. Why couldn’t I think before I did stuff?
“Did you have to cut it?” she asked, one eyebrow quirked and her mouth turned down.
“If you expect me to wear it, uh, yeah.” I didn’t mean to say it disrespectfully, but it popped out that way. I was too used to being on my own and having to defend myself from drunk and stoned parents. The changes I’d made in the past few weeks had been hard, but I’d do them for Auntie Chieko. She was everything her brother wasn’t, including out of jail. In her I had a home free of pain and addiction, but I’d traded my freedom and gained a lot of responsibility. I felt bad that I seemed to hurt my aunt every time I turned around, but I couldn’t help it. There’s no filter between my brain and my mouth.
Auntie didn’t say anything more, though I knew it was killing her. It was frustrating that she wouldn’t just tell me what she felt. It had to do with the Japanese culture her parents knew so well, and my dad had never taken the time to teach me. I didn’t understand it and sometimes the frustration made me say things I didn’t mean. “If you didn’t want me to adjust it, you should have said something. You know how I am.”
“All too well.” Auntie threw the car in reverse and backed out of the driveway, the bumper scraping the asphalt as it leapt into the road. She threw it into first, the tires chirping as she surged forward and raced toward Old Newtimber.
Quote of the Day: “Writing is a form of personal freedom. It frees us from the mass identity we see in the making all around us. In the end, writers will write not to be outlaw heroes of some underculture but mainly to save themselves, to survive as individuals.”
Monday, May 18, 2009
So much is going on lately that my brain is just exhausted and I can't think of what to blog about, but rather than leave you with nothing I decided to post another poem and only hope it will satisfy until tomorrow.
Monochrome mountains stand tall and proud
encircling this valley of mine
while their children litter the fields
and the yard
where I plant seeds of grass
and rows of peas
not so gracious as their guardian fathers,
nibble at my garden and twist my carrots
to grow sideways instead of down.
Most days I know not whether I shall harvest potatoes
or infant mountains masquerading as stone.
Still--I love my rocky home,
with spritely sunflowers and prickly burrs
that whisper against little boys' shoes
and gather in pantlegs to come in from the heat.
There is safety in this frozen desert,
joy in this simple life of seasons and stone
with granite majesty guarding the seeds of my life
and memories of home.
Saturday, May 16, 2009
The great, red dragon bursts to life.
The growl thrums deep from engine throat
while clouds of smoke
billow and whirl about his snout.
He raises his great snake neck,
head swaying as he searches for prey,
then dives to the earth
and devours great chunks of her flesh.
Earth Eater he becomes
as time after time
he dips his head to feed,
a pile of refuse building beside him.
And as the sun begins to set,
the great red dragon
lifts his head
The smoke stops,
the growling ends,
man drops from dragon's back,
removes his hard yellow hat and wipes his brow-
and leaves the dragon
with nose perched in the air
waiting for another sunrise
in which to feed on Mother Earth.
Karen E. Hoover
September 27, 2003
Friday, May 15, 2009
A year or two I was talking with my friend Eric about music and he suggested a group to me that I'd never heard of and whose name I immediately forgot. Every time I saw him after that he'd ask if I had looked them up yet and I was embarrassed to admit I had not. Knowing I was going to be seeing him at CONduit next weekend, I decided to rectify that this week and simply fell in love.
I've blogged before about how big a fan I am of renaissance and middle age music--but I am also a fan of modern day music with all the accompanying drums and electric guitars. Now imagine combining the two and what you get is Blackmore's Night. It is a fascinating combination to me. Not really dance or chillout music, maybe writing music for me as it certainly puts me in the mood for fantasy writing with a little added zing, but it's not like anything else I've ever heard.
You can check out their bios here and I've posted a video below and reset my music for the week to Blackmore's Night on the sidebar. Leave me some comments and let me know what you think!
Quote of the Day: “Be yourself. Above all, let who you are, what you are, what you believe, shine through every sentence you write, every piece you finish.”
Thursday, May 14, 2009
I've been thinking for quite a while that I needed to set myself a schedule on what to write each day so that I've got something coming out each and every day. So--I've borrowed ideas from several of my friends blogs and came up with a couple on my own so there's something a little different to come back for each day. So, here's the list! Hope you'll stop back by more regularly now that I'll be putting fresh stuff out every day.
Random Mondays--If you like my usual rambling blogs, you'll love Mondays. This is where I'll talk about whatever pops into my head or has been pinging through my brain for a while.
Teaser Tuesdays--I'm stealing this idea from my friend Ali. You can read little bits of my writing on Tuesdays and see what you like. It could be a random paragraph from the middle of a book or an entire chapter. You'll just have to come back and see what I've got for you!
Wordless Wednesdays--I've seen these from a couple of my friends, though of course now that I'm trying to remember who it completely eludes me. Wednesdays can be anything that struck me during the week in a profound kind of way. A picture. A bit of music. A clip of video. I don't know what form this will take yet, but I'm going to have fun with it, I just know it.
Thoughtful Thursday--This comes again from my friend Ali. This is where I'll post the stuff that really means something to me or causes people to think. Heck, if it makes me think it should make anybody think. lol
Friday's Review--For reviewing books, movies, music, and videos. If you have a book you want me to review, this would be the day for it.
Saturday Poet--For posting poetry and/or song lyrics.
Sunday Lessons--Here is where I'll continue my lessons from Mom posts along with any other lessons I've learned.
So, that covers it. I'll be starting tomorrow with a review, though what I'm reviewing yet, I have no idea. Probably music tomorrow as most of the books I've been reading lately have been for friends' critiques. Thanks for your support, guys. I sure hope the new format will work better for us all!
Quote of the Day: "It only takes one person to change your life – you."
Wednesday, May 13, 2009
I apologize for getting behind on my Lessons from Mom list. Life has been super, super busy and well, I'm having a hard time coming up with meaningful lessons from Mom. I guess they're all meaningful, but my brain's just not going in that direction right now. Mother's Day was a little harder on me emotionally than I'd thought it would be and constantly dredging up memories at the same time has been painful. Joyous, but it still hurts.
So, I'm going to change this a bit and will post 3-5 things all at once every few days unless something screams at me and says it needs a day all for itself. That will give me the chance to blog about other things as well when they jump out at me.
Forgive me, folks. Some days my intentions are just bigger than my ability to follow through. I'll still get my 25 things in there, it just won't be quite the way I'd originally imagined. Mom's lessons were too important for me to race through without contemplation. Thanks for your patience.
We will now continue our regularly scheduled program.
Quote of the Day: "You should never be ashamed to admit you have been wrong. It only proves you are wiser today than yesterday."
Monday, May 11, 2009
When I was ten or eleven one of my older sisters came to live with us. She'd spent a lot of time in Mexico and had learned to cook authentic Mexican food. The first time she cooked for the family and I came to the table I asked, "What's this junk?" Probably not the best approach, but I'd always been a little picky with my food, meat in particular, and was not impressed with the smells wafting up from beneath my nose. It was kind of soupy, with vegetables and pork and there weren't any spoons. We were supposed to eat it with homemade corn tortillas we tore into triangles and used like spoons.
After being chastised for my rudeness, Mom enforced the "one bite" rule. I had to try it and if I couldn't choke it down I could have something else. I was determined I wasn't going to like it, but I gave it a chance and took my single bite. And another. And more and more until I was done and asking for seconds.
Mom put the "one bite" policy into practice in other areas of her life as well. It was a matter of you never know what you can do until you try. I can't begin to tell you how many walls we painted, how many times Mom fixed her own plumbing by calling people in the know or getting a book and figuring it out, or how often we tore down walls and built them up again. She laid her own carpet, tried to break my horse (and broke a collarbone in the process), wrote family history books, and improvised anything and everything that needed a fix.
At the age of seventy she took it upon herself to build a shed and a deck on the back of our house. When I offered to help her (because I love building stuff too), she turned me down. She wanted to do it herself and I have been very impressed by the quality of her work. Had she ever built a deck or a shed before? No. She just figured it out and did it.
I have always loved that quality in her. She was not only capable, but teachable, and took pride in the work she did. I love to go sit on my deck or stand in my yard and look at the wood and know she created something with her own hands. She wasn't afraid to try new things, and it's a quality I try very hard to incorporate into my own life. Thanks, Mom, for teaching me to find ways to do whatever needs doing.
"There's always a way to learn about what needs doing. You've just got to be brave enough to try."
Sunday, May 10, 2009
I used to think Mom had a direct line to God. I can't begin to list the number of times she came up with what appeared to be a random answer that was the perfect fix to my problem. Whenever I had a challenge her first question for me was, "Have you prayed about it?" More often than not the answer was "no," but you'd better believe her reminder made the difference.
I asked her once when I was a young teenager, "How do you know if the answer you are getting is coming from Heavenly Father or if it's just coming from inside yourself? How can I know it's the spirit talking to me and not just what I want?" She taught me a beautiful lesson on prayer then, one that I continue to use and will for the remainder of my life.
She said, "Make your decision prayerfully, then once you've decided what you feel is best for the situation, kneel back down and tell the Lord what you've decided. Say, 'If this is wrong, no matter how bad I want it, please close the door, but if it's right, please open a window and let it come to pass.'" It takes the worry out of decisions for me. It lets me make the decision with his guidance, but then allows me to put it back in His hands so that His will can be done.
The biggest challenge for me has always been trusting Him to let it happen-or not-once the decision has been made, but Mom's faith taught me that lesson too. You just have to keep moving forward and trust that, as Mom used to say, "The Lord won't drop you down a big, black hole. He may let you get awfully close to the edge at times, might even let you lean out over that hole, but he's got a safety harness on you. You've just got to trust Him."
The scripture on this lesson is one I've heard a million times over my life, but stands as a great reminder to me on a daily basis:
"Proverbs 3:5-6: "Trust in the Lord with all thine heart and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge Him and He shall direct thy paths."
Saturday, May 9, 2009
Saturday was chore day in my family, and chores usually included something that got us outside for several hours at a time. Mom was a huge gardener coming from a long line of farmers. The smell of fresh turned earth was like chocolate to her. Every spring she would be outside doing something as soon as the snow had melted enough for those little shoots to come bursting through the soil.
Everywhere we lived Mom had a garden, and we're not talking a little fifteen by twenty foot plot of land. That was about all the space she could afford in our small California yard, but in Washington, where we had vast fields to roam, we had a plot as big as our house devoted to her vegetables and we still went and gleaned the fields of asparagus after the workers were done. In Oklahoma she had to learn how to garden all over again as the combination of heat and clay baked our tomatoes and made it nearly impossible to get carrots out of the ground, and yet despite that, we had not one garden, but two. One for all the above ground vegetables and another field just for varieties of potato. In Bountiful, Utah she moved the fence line for the garden up so that a quarter of our half acre plot was taken up by her beloved garden. Until then the entire fence had been covered by gorgous flowers. It broke my heart when Mom began uprooting them but when I complained her answer was, "we can't eat the flowers."
The last six years of Mom's life she lived with my family and we knew from the beginning to plan for a large garden. We were blessed to get one of the biggest plots of land in our neighborhood and Mom devoted probably a third of our back yard to gardening. Even when her knees hurt so bad they would bring her to tears, she would put on her knee brace and go out to rototill. I told her to wait and let me do that for her, to save her energy for the things I didn't know how to do. She would nod her head and say okay, and then as soon as I left to run errands she'd get out the rototiller and do it herself. It was her passion.
She once told me that she felt about gardening the way I felt about writing books, and that was when I finally understood and gave her the freedom to follow her heart. I let her play in the dirt to her heart's content and she couldn't have been happier, despite the limitations her body tried to place on her.
As a result of her example, I not only plant gardens wherever I live, I have learned to love and appreciate our beautiful earth in all its glory. Mom and I admired many a sunset together and have often pulled off the road during a trip just to admire some little bit of art God created in his mountains or sandstone cliffs.
"The Lord must be the greatest artist of all, creating this world for us. We owe it to Him to use it and treat it with respect."
Friday, May 8, 2009
Mom always used to say she admired the way I would reach out to "the underdog", but she never realized I learned that lesson watching her.
When I was young there was a sister in our ward who sought Mom's counsel on a regular basis for the emotional difficulties she was facing. I was obviously never privy to those meetings, but I do know how busy Mom was. A widow trying to raise two very active kids on her own while helping her ailing parents is never an easy task, yet somehow she always found time to help this sister, to just be there for her and listen.
She never had many close friends and yet she seemed to be a friend to everyone. She always reached out to the hearbroken, brought meals to the sick and elderly, gave extra time and attention to the misfit teenagers, and never showed impatience with those who had speech impediments.
Thank you, Mom, for showing me that beauty lies within the person, not without.
"You never know what's inside somebody until you open them up and take a look."
Thursday, May 7, 2009
Mom believed in me. From the first I can remember she always encouraged me to try new things, to spread my wings and see what I was capable of. When I said, "I can't", she always said, "Yes you can. I have confidence in you." That was a lesson learned from her grandmother. Grandma Rainy wrote that she always tried to make her children see she had confidence in them, that it was the greatest gift she could give them.
When I told Mom I wanted to write a book, she said "great! I bet you'll be good at it. You're so gifted with words." When I told her I wanted to build a den, she said, "wow, that's an ambitious project, but you're so capable I know it will turn out beautiful." When I told her I wanted to adopt the children we were fostering, despite their challenges, she said, "You'll make a wonderful Mom. I know you can do this." Whenever I dealt with any kind of challenge, whether it was facing a friend I had hurt or trying to accomplish an overwhelming task, she was there cheering me on.
When Mom took her last breath, my first selfish thought was, she's never going to see me published. Immediately after a wave of peace flowed through me and I realized something: she didn't have to. She knew, with absolute certainty, that my time was coming. In her eyes I was already there. She gave me the confidence to spread my wings and try and it is a lesson I want to pass on to my own children.
Monday, May 4, 2009
I'm heading out of the house to get some writing done today. I don't know why, but it's always easier for me to write in a public place. Probably less distractions pulling me away from the writing, you know, things like . . . oh, laundry, dishes, that sort of thing. I'll report in later on how much I got done. I'm hoping for two to four thousand words today, so I'd better get started!
Sure do wish there was a Barnes and Noble or cafe around here . . . .
Quote of the day: "I get up in the morning, torture a typewriter until it screams, then stop."