The Practice of Country Living

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As I may have mentioned one or two hundred times before, I grew up on a farm.

It’s been about seven years since I moved out and into more of a townish area, but it still feels a little strange that so much of what was once part of my daily life is now . . . missing.

A drawerful of “grub” or “junk” clothes, to wear while doing the smelliest, filthiest work around the house and barns.

The buildup of callouses, from mucking stalls and pushing wheelbarrows, from making hay and carrying water.

The feel of plowed earth under bare feet, the smell of a sprawling vegetable garden in the sun, or just before rain.

The need to care for animals, twice a day, every day – hiking out to the barn in winter-morning dark, or summer-morning sunshine, and again each evening.

The harvests in summer and fall: picking apples and strawberries, sweet corn and pumpkins, green beans and carrots and watermelons.

I feel . . . mournful, sometimes, about these absences. But then I get up in the morning and I feed my cat, and I fill the bird feeders before breakfast. I put on gardening clothes to rake the yard and trim the hedges and plant tomato and pepper plants in big pots on the front steps. I get blisters. I pull weeds. I mow the lawn when the sun shines, and when I close my eyes the cut grass smells a little like hay.

My drafty old house in this little West Michigan town is not The Farm, but it is home. =] I’ll be practicing bits of farm life for as long as I’m here.

Quote from a Current Read

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‘Lucas has to move his frogs. Tonight. Can we keep them for a while? Until he can find the right ponds for them?’

Silence. Lucas peers at Minna.

‘May I ask one question?’ says her mother.

‘What?’

‘How many frogs?’

Minna takes the phone away from her ear. How many frogs, she mouths. Lucas shrugs his shoulders.

‘A great many,’ Minna says into the phone.

The Facts and Fictions of Minna Pratt, Patricia MacLachlan

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My mother let me take several boxes of books from her attic, which means my shelves are now filled with all these old children’s stories I vaguely remember reading when I was young. I’ve been rereading them, and delighting in the fact that I love them better now that I’m older.

It is one of the nice things about being an adult. =]

On Peer Pressure, Which is Weird

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One of the things I find most . . . amusing about adults is the way they chew on each other about their choices.

Now, there are some choices that are of such significance it’s perfectly right and proper for your friends and family to weigh in. There are other choices, though, that – I don’t know – seem to be fairly irrelevant?

As a server, I see this play out over and over again. 

Person: “Do you make daiquiris?”

Me: “Yes! Which flavor would you like? Most people get strawberry, but we also have mango, raspberry, peach – ”

Person: “Raspberry sounds -”

Other people at table: “You’re getting a DAIQUIRI? Why are you getting a DAIQUIRI? You NEVER drink daiquiris. Aren’t you going to get a beer? You usually have a beer.”

OR

Person: “Can I get the BBQ Bacon Cheeseburger?”

Me: “On a regular bun, or a – ”

Others: “Why are you getting a BURGER? This is a MEXICAN RESTAURANT! You can’t get a burger!”

Me: “Our burgers are actually pretty – ”

Others: “Get a burrito!”

But this behavior also plays out in non-restaurant scenarios. 

Person: “Well, goodnight everyone – I’m off to bed.”

Me: “Goodnight! See you tomorrow!”

Everyone else in room: “You’re going to BED? It’s only 8:30!”

Person: “I’m exhausted.”

Everyone: “What’s WRONG with you?”

Person: “Uhhhh . . . I’m tired? Didn’t I just say that?”

OR

Everyone: “Let’s go see Title of Movie.”

Person: “You guys go ahead – I’m not interested in that one.”

Everyone: “Whaaaaaaaaat? Why not? It’s getting great reviews!”

Person: “It’s not really my thing.”

Everyone: “What do you mean?”

Person: “Content-wise. I’m pretty sure it’s not something I’d enjoy.”

Everyone: “But you’re an ADULT!”

OR

Everyone: “Let’s do this thing!”

Person: “No thanks.”

Everyone: “EVERYONE HAS TO DO THIS THING.”

Person: “Yeah, you have fun with that. I’m good.”

Everyone: “WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU? WHY DON’T YOU LOVE US? IF YOU DON’T ALSO DO THIS THING WITH US DO WE EVEN EXIST?”

Person: “What is HAPPENING, right now?”

As a homeschooler, I had this idea that the As-Seen-on-TV! peer pressurizing (where all the Cool Kids are doing Something Wicked and/or Illegal, and they want some Other Kid to DO IT WITH THEM TO PROVE THEIR COOLNESS) was a myth, mostly, or was only something you had to deal with while you’re growing up and figuring out who you want to be.

But I was WRONG. This is apparently standard human behavior, no matter what age you are, so, unless you retreat into a life of solitude, you will be dealing with peer pressure simply because you have peers. (Kind of like the way you will always have acne, I guess, as long as you have a face? Maybe that’s just me.)

And, of course, our peers put pressure on us: Get a haircut! Don’t buy that car! Come workout with me! Have you thought about getting a dog? You should get a dog. Don’t give up learning the piano – you’re so talented! Please come to my party – it’s more fun when you’re around!

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COSPLAY WITH US IT’LL BE RAD!

What continually surprises me (and what I thought was going to be left behind with my youth) is the intensity of the pressure put on people for, again, choices that don’t really matter. You want to argue with someone about climate change or how they vote? Fine. But whether or not they’re going to see a movie? Which beverage they’re going to drink? What time they go to bed? Back off.

I say this to myself, as much as to anyone else. Every time I marvel at yet another table-full of people badgering someone because all they want is a glass of water, I wonder how often I’m that person, needling at someone else for their choices when a) it doesn’t matter, or b) it’s not my business.

It’s something to think about. Something I think about, anyway. I can’t tell you what to think.

That’d be me, missing the entire point.

 

 

 

 

Springtimes Young and Old

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April 4th, 2007, Wednesday

Here’s Michigan weather for you: bright and nearly seventy yesterday – windy and near freezing today. It was snowing the last I looked. But I don’t mind. And I refuse to say it is miserable outside! No! It is beautiful.

It depends on how you look at it.

March 12th, 2008, Wednesday

I’m outside on the swing, reveling in the sunshine and slight breeze of a deliciously cool day in March.

Uncle Bruce is off for a run on the quiet road, with Sarah behind him on her bike. Dad just pulled in – the rest of the kids are ranging all over the farm, dashing about in hooded sweatshirts and light jackets, riding Sally or just running around the barns and playing with the goats.

Oh, this day reminds me of what it means for winter to die, for spring and summer to be marching in with a green banner and swords of sun and thunder. And a hundred flashes of days past rise up and laugh: rock hunting in the driveway, walking barefoot in the garden at dusk in May as we help Uncle Bruce plant corn – the smell that hangs in the air after the lawn has been cut on a summer’s eve, and you lay there on the soft grass and listen to the far-off din of the mower, and the shrieks of the kids playing on the swing-set and in the playhouse.

March 26th, 2008, Wednesday

After the blizzard on the twenty-first, Andrea’s birthday, it is wonderful to see the sun up and blazing through the clouds in the sky above. I’m sitting out on the porch with a coat on and am beginning to shiver – it’s pleasant out, but chill nevertheless. You should hear the birds – it’s easy to tell they’re glad in this day. And there – in the distance a tractor chugs.

April 17th, 2008, Thursday

The wind is thundering softly in the tree-tops – if you look very closely, you can see new leaves at the tips of the branches. I’m heading for bed now, but I wish I could spend the night walking, wandering under a sky still touched with the light of the vanished sun, listening to the spring peepers singing by the creek, where the willow trees are already misted greenly.

Yes – spring is here again!

March 6th, 2009, Friday

Nearly 70 degrees outside! What gloriousness! The sun is blazing from a hazy blue sky. Spring skies are so pale and bright – not like autumn. Autumn is the deepest, richest blue you could wish for. I adore these early days of spring – you can smell fresh life hidden beneath the brown grass and bare branches, and the sun is hot on your hair and sickly, winter-white skin.

March 14th, 2009, Saturday

Well, you know I’m not much of a morning person, but I went out early (for a Saturday) to do chores, and the whole farm was frost-covered, and the cornfield was hazy in mist. The eastern horizon was red behind the trees, and the moon was hanging, low and bright, in the west. It was so quiet you could hear the mourning doves, and the woodpeckers, and Wilson howling at the deer crossing the field.

March 15th, 2009, Sunday

It’s a beautiful day today – blue sky, bright wisps of cloud. There was a flock of Sandhill Cranes wheeling in the winds above the church.

March 10th, 2010, Wednesday

I had me a walk outside whilst the family watched a movie. These late winter nights have been lovely: clear, cool, and filled with the gurgle of Mill Creek, swollen with melting snow, a far-off owl hooting in the wood, and starlight glimmering in the heavens.

This reminds me – I had an idea for a poem while riding Isabel’s bike on the road yesterday, but now it’s gone. Ah, well! I’m not much of a poet.

March 11th, 2011, Friday

I stayed in bed too long – that’s why time goes so quickly. It’s after twelve, I’m still in PJs, and I’ve accomplished nothing. But it’s a beautiful day. The sun is fierce in a blue and white-clouded sky, and it looks warm out there.

Oh, I can’t be depressed. Winter is over. Maybe not quite officially, but, for all practical purposes. Over! It’s only going to get warmer and warmer, and the trees are going to put forth delicate green buds, and the ground will become soft and begin to smell like new grass and the creek will flood and – oh! I wish I wasn’t going to be at school!

That’s the trouble with springtime – it’s so gorgeous and joyous and glorious that books and papers and things seem small and petty and very silly.

April 9th, 2011, Saturday

It’s a lovely evening. I walked over here with my jacket hung over my arm. It’s just too nice. Took a leisurely stroll around the pond before dressing to come over here. I watched the water, and the ducks and the red-winged blackbirds. Everything is so lovely this time of year. The world seems to delight in something – seems to love you and want you.

April 14th, 2011, Thursday

I love the seasons. I love how they creep up on you. One day, you’re walking along – and then WHAM! You look up and it’s springtime. Winter’s gone.

Today was one of those days. I took a walk around the pond and even though it was chilly, I soaked up the sun, and saw green buds coming up out of the bush-tangle . . . And the willow trees are wearing misty-green cloaks of tiny leaves – we’re halfway through April!

April 18th, 2011, Monday

It’s snowing! There’s a good two inches of heavy, wet, white stuff on the ground and still falling. Spring, where art thou?

April 26th, 2011, Tuesday

It’s been a peculiar day for weather – I love it.

It was one of those days that’s gray overhead, but in such a way that the land below becomes warm and deeply colorful. The grass was lush and wet and green – the tree branches were dark with rain, so that the new green buds frosting the twig-tips shone bright against the brown bark. The air was warm so that the rain felt sharp and silver, but clear and kindly and brisk at the same time.

Angela and I got caught in quite the shower as we walked from library to dinner in the cafeteria, but as soon as we settled in to our food, it cleared up very nicely. The daffodils and lovely purple blossoms around campus stood up tall and beautiful in their coats of rain-drops, and this evening, when Angela and I got back from Baker Book House the sky was a tumult of clouds: some long and gray and ragged against the silver-gray of dying western sunlight, and others far-away giants – white mountains stretching over half the sky.

I wanted to go flying or something.

March 6th, 2012, Tuesday

I’ve just come in from outside, where warm winds blow from the southwest, tossing bare and evergreen branches joyously – so loud it’s like roaring laughter – laughter at the melted snow, the squishing mud, the beaten grass, leftover from last year but still green.

February is over. Spring is coming. The wind today, and the sunshine, mixed together into a 60-some degrees Fahrenheit that makes the bones sing. At four-thirty, I slipped out into the musty-smelling darkness of the Red Barn to work on my muscles. Not sure of the good my pitiful attempts did, but, I felt better afterwards, and then took a walk with Wilson and Lyza.

The boots I wore were too big, but so scruffy and worn they were well-suited to the squelching mud among the dead corn stalks past the lane. Up and up I went, into the depths of the field – until I climbed to the top of the field’s highest knoll, where I could survey the farm, all awash with bright yellow late-afternoon sun, shining off the metal roofs of the green barn and the tin shed, and glinting off the corn stalks, of all things, so that the field lying before me shimmered golden under the clean blue of the sky.

This is my Shire. I met Olivia on my way back, and walked with her. I could hear the shouting laughter of the other girls in the hay meadow. I could hear red-winged blackbirds for the first time, today. It is . . .

Well, it just is. And that is enough, for now.

March 11th, 2012, Sunday

If this is my Shire, what does that make Cornerstone?

Took a walk, underneath glowing blue sky and warm sun, watching Wilson poke through dry cornstalks, and listening to distant planes slicing through the atmosphere and leaving wakes like their wings stirred the water of a great, deep, overhead ocean.

April 7th, 2012, Saturday

It’s been a good day. Got up at eleven, sat and read, sat and listened to music, ate lunch, lazed around while Mom did a fury of cooking. I think that makes me a bad daughter, but I was a decent sister this afternoon, I think. The weather was so lovely, all sunshine and blue sky over tilled brown fields and breeze in green-budded branches and the smells of lilac and sun-dried cut grass on soft wind. So I and Iz and Annie and Olivia and eventually Cara and Alissa and Anna got dressed up and went outside to play at Dark Ages.

April 19th, 2012, Thursday

Calvin Festival of Faith and Writing! 4:30 pm and I’ve heard so much. How can I go through it all and think properly about it?

The day began warm and humid, all sun and blue sky. It is now gray and green and wet, but the birds are singing and the flowers at this school look to be laughing. Red berries shining from between glistening dark green leaves – purple, lilac-like flowers pulling green stems down to soft brown ground – yellow and orange pointed tulips standing all covered in raindrops.

It’s perfectly lovely.

May 1st, 2012, Tuesday

9 pm. It’s been a while since I’ve slept, but I am . . . content. Thankful. I’m “good,” as they say.

Been for a walk around the pond . . . Cool, gray, whispering evening. The kind of evening that smells of cold water and green, green grass. And the sun had left the sky full of silver and blue clouds – sky reflected silver and rippling in the pond as the golden lights of Pickitt and Hansen began to come on in the dusk. And it struck me as so beautiful – the whole grand picture of things – so alive.

The red-winged blackbirds singing in the maple trees and the smell of the honeysuckle bush beside the little apple tree on the other side of the pond, and the distant laughter of young men and women clustered on the newly-cut grass, and the traffic running on the roads, roaring in the distance to remind all that there is a great life to be had out there – an even bigger horizon to discover. I felt small underneath the great expanse of darkening sky, and so filled with good things.

April 11th, 2014, Friday

For the first time since August, I’m sitting on the front porch in a patch of morning sunlight, while Jiggs rolls in the dust, purring deep in his throat. The birds have returned: robins, red-winged blackbirds, Sandhill Cranes, and a host of them are singing in the highest tree branches above the house.

March 31st, 2016, Thursday

Sitting on my back stoop, with a tomato and a salt-shaker in hand this evening. Sparta’s all lit up in the darkness – robins and sparrows are chirp-chipping up in the maple branches and a chill, after-rain breeze is blowing the sound of spring peepers my way. It is peaceful, and beautiful, and makes coming back into the house, to write here and think about things, easier. Taking a tiny moment outdoors to be refreshed reminds me of the way I used to take walks around Cornerstone’s pond. Getting away – looking at the sky – listening to birds and frogs – it all reminded me how big the world is.

April 26th, 2016, Tuesday

. . . and this journal is for spring. Violets and daffodils and new grass and green buds on the ends of bare branches – all of Sparta is blooming under the sunshine, waking up, shaking off dead leaves and starting to smell again, of earth and pollen and buzzing insects. There’ve been roaring thunderstorms all over the state today – powerful enough to shake the floor – and in-between there’s blue sky and gray clouds blowing wildly away.

It’s so pretty. Like a postage-stamp town. Like radio theater or an old play or the Anne movies. It makes me want to set a pie on the windowsill and buy gardening clothes. Or garden until the clothes I’m wearing at the time become too dirty to be used as anything but gardening clothes.

May 15th, 2017, Monday

I’m sitting out in the sunshine, in my backyard swing, as birds chatter from the surrounding tree branches and four o’clock sunlight pours from hot blue sky. It’s a beautiful day, still part of my weekend. The restaurant is closed and tutoring won’t begin until after Memorial Day weekend – after Paul’s visit and Vanessa’s wedding and the first Sonnenberg family picnic of the summer. Tony’s off to work and the neighborhood is quiet . . .

Peaceful.

March 18th, 2018, Sunday

The sun! Is so – bright! Pale sky and white sunlight blazing on brown, dead fields and bare branches: that is quintessential March. But we’re only a few days from the beginning of spring, now, and soon the world will turn warm and green and new again.

May 8th, 2018, Tuesday

“It’s summertime, summertime, sum-sum-summertime . . .”

jk. It’s not summertime. Summertime’s not ’til mid (post-mid) June. But it’s warm, and green, and lovely. Every growing thing in the country has exploded into bushy spring leaf, dandelions and violets are bobbing up out of the lawn, and giant farm equipment is thundering up and down Sparta main street as the farmers get as much planting in as possible between rainstorms.

 

And here we are once again. =]

Spring is coming.

Today’s Writing Dreams

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When I was twelve, I started writing a story about a merry band of preteen travelers who must cross mountains and save a damsel from a horde of dragons.

My writerly goals at the time were simple:

  1. Finish my first epic fantasy adventure.
  2. Get it published.
  3. Enjoy dazzling success.
  4. Build a mansion in the woods, from which I would coldly refuse all of Hollywood’s requests for film rights.

You know, the usual stuff. But goals change, over the years.

At seventeen:

  1. Finish something.
  2. Seriously. ANYTHING.
  3. How can you be a writer if you’ve never finished a story?

At eighteen, in college:

  1. Pursue creative writing major.
  2. Get good grades on essays.

At twenty-one, in college:

  1. WHO CARES ABOUT GRADES?
  2. YOU CAN’T MAKE ME DO HOMEWORK!
  3. I’M WRITING ABOUT DRAGONS AND YOU CAN’T STOP ME!

At twenty-two, post college:

  1. Get a job – ANY job – that has something to do with writing.
  2. Start a blog.

At twenty-four:

  1. Novels. Must. Be. Interesting. And. Suspenseful.
  2. Are my characters miserable? No?
  3. THEN I’M NOT DOING MY JOB.

At twenty-five:

  1. I just want to finish this book. This one dumb book.

At twenty-six:

  1. Why is it taking so long? This is all I’ve ever wanted. To be done writing this one book. I’ve done it before. I can do it again. I can.

At twenty-seven:

  1. Okay, seriously, I am not allowed to do anything, ever, until I finish this book.
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Stupid book.

I’m twenty-eight, now.  I’ve met some of my goals, and haven’t met others. I always think of more: to be writing, to be working on. I want to write better stories. I want to write faster. I want to blog more, journal more, write more letters, read more to learn more – on it goes.

But there’s one goal I keep coming back to. It’s been with me from whenever I started writing stories until now – this one writerly quest:

  1. Write stories I love.

I’ve been reading through a stack of all my old favorite books. I’ve been borrowing books from the library and from friends in search of new favorites. I’m trying to note the common denominators – the elements that, again and again – satisfy me most as a reader. I write them down. I look for them in my own projects and ask myself if my writing makes use of my most-loved story-things.

  1. Is this a story I love?
  2. Am I enjoying the story I’m writing?
  3. Does my writing make me smile?

Twelve-year-old me would surely be disappointed in twenty-eight-year-old me, because we are definitely not living in a mansion, in the woods, ignoring desperate pleas from Hollywood.

But twenty-eight-year-old me is a better writer, who has written all the way to the end of a book or two, and – perhaps most importantly – twenty-eight-year-old me has written stories she loves, and has every intention of doing so for the rest of her life.

Stick with me, Kid. We’ll get to that dragon-hunt: just you wait and see.

Beautiful Things

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This:

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This is easily one of the loveliest things I’ve ever owned. It is a quilt, made to look like a bookshelf full of all my best-and-most-loved books, from childhood into now. Two of the titles are of stories I wrote myself, and I just . . . it’s so beautiful.

My aunt Jan made it herself, because she is marvelous, and my mother gave it to me for Christmas. I spent the morning wrapped in it, and wearing it as a cape. The quilt is as warm and soft as it is beautiful, and it now has the place of honor in our home, draped over the “good” couch, where everyone can see it.

I unfurl it for display every time someone comes to visit. I smile every time I look at it. It is a treasure, like favorite childhood books are a treasure. Like family is a treasure. <3

I am blessed.

Many Happy Returns

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Today is my father’s birthday.

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Here, my father is pictured with his wife, my mother, on Mackinac Island. If I remember correctly, we were all biking up to visit the airport.

My father is a tall, relatively quiet man with a great voice and a nice laugh. I grew up listening to him tell stories, and read aloud, and it wasn’t just fun because they were good books, or because he’s an excellent storyteller, but because he’s got the best voice for it.

I’ve always liked his singing voice, personally, but he disagrees. I did watch him win a contest once – between himself, my mother, and one of their good friends – over cards at the kitchen table, as all three of them tested who could hold a note longest.

Mom: *gives up*

Mark Shook: *gives up*

My father: *still holding note*

Mom and Mark Shook: *staring*

Me: *staring*

My father *still holding note*

Mark Shook, leaning over the table, voice hushed: “He’s pretending to be an airplane.”

My father is thoughtful; he considers things before speaking, and I’ve always admired that. Been surprised by it, too, sometimes, when I was sure I knew how he thought about something, and then turned out to be wrong. My father is helpful, willing to give up time and space and energy to lend a hand where needed. My father is a generous tipper. Generous all ’round, in fact. He’s a good listener. My mother calls him a peacemaker: I don’t think I’ve ever heard my parents raise their voices at each other.

I write for a lot of reasons, but one of them is that when I was very small, I started having trouble sleeping. I don’t remember much about this stage of life, but my father tells me he suggested I try writing. He also tells me that I took his advice, and wrote. I don’t remember what I wrote about – I’m sure it’s all gone, now. But almost thirty years later, I’m still writing: sometimes late at night, when I’m having trouble sleeping. It still helps.

Happy Birthday, Dad. May it be a good day, a good weekend, a good start to another year.

Another Happy Birthday, Among Many Happy Birthdays

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Today is my sister Olivia’s eighteenth birthday.

Olivia is the youngest of the Frazee girls, the last Frazee girl, if you will. She came along in the year 2000, when I was about to turn ten, and just as I had really gotten used to there being three of us: Me, Isabel, Andrea.

We were having a “sleepover” (we hadn’t left the house; we were just all in the same room) the night before Olivia made her appearance. We were all in the same bed, even though we were getting too big to really fit, but it was an excuse to build a blanket fort and stay up late reading. I got up in the middle of the night, for one reason or another, and realized our parents were clattering around in the kitchen, getting ready to head out.

Me, wide-eyed, looking over the banister: “Is the baby coming?”

Dad, nodding. “The baby’s coming.”

I ran up to tell the others. It was very exciting.

Olivia is the cheerful one. This is partly because of her personality, and a lot because our mother insisted we older three not crush her joyful spirit with our sarcasm, our rolling-eyes, our attitude. Olivia very rarely displays attitude. So rarely, in fact, that when she did we’d all sort of gather around and stare, and then giggle helplessly because it was so adorable.

She used to wake up singing every morning, and could, thankfully, carry a tune pretty early-on. (She can still carry a tune, although I doubt she still wakes up singing every morning.) She began to develop a solid fashion-sense at seven or eight years of age, which the rest of us have come to rely on, and she can always be counted on to help with hair.  (I like to think can take partial credit for her hair-styling-knack, because I used to let her practice on my hair when she was a toddler, using a brush more like a weapon than an instrument of beautification.)

Olivia is an excellent cook, a charming cosplayer, and an award-winning writer at our county fair. She’s great with kids, her favorite color is purple, and she never shares unflattering pictures of me when I’m included in a selfie.

She also has very lovely ears.

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She has always looked nice in pictures. It’s pretty annoying. 

Happy first-birthday-of-adulthood, Oves! May it be merry and bright. <3

Lights! Camera! Snooze!

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So, I’m trying to think of someone less qualified to discuss action than me.

Me, thinking: ………………………………..

Me, still thinking: ……………………………………………………………..

Well, there’s probably someone. I can’t be the worst writer-of-action in the world. Hopefully. Anyway, I’m going to discuss it briefly, because, again: not very qualified.

I learned that action sequences were going to be difficult for me years ago, long before I was really making any effort to write them. It came up while reading, actually, and discussing a book my sister and I had both enjoyed.

Me: “…. yeah, I really loved it! I guess the only thing would be the fighting.”

Sister: “The fighting?”

Me: “Yeah, the fight scenes: they were hard to picture. It was hard for me to see what was going on.”

Sister, now staring at me like I had two heads: “That . . . was one of my favorite parts. It was like watching a movie: I could see everything happen. It was great.”

Me: “Er . . . . .”

This was my first clue that something happens to me when reading book-action (chases, hand-to-hand combat, battles, shootouts, duels – you name it), and it’s best described as a kind of eyes-glaze-over-blah-blah-skimming-and . . . action ends: we’re back!

Your first response might be, “Oh, well, you’re just reading the wrong books. You’re reading poorly written books, or authors that are maybe better at the other parts of the story.”

No. That’s not it. I’m talking about books I love, about authors I adore, about award-winning or otherwise critically-acclaimed, respected fiction – it all gets the same eyes-glaze-over-response. On rare, rare occasions, an action-sequence breaks through this mental block, and I don’t skim, I stay focused, and I visualize what’s happening. Generally, though, I prefer it when the author goes Tolkien-at-the-end-of-The Hobbit: just knock the point-of-view character unconscious and fast-forward to the battle’s aftermath.

I love that.

Anyway, this has been a problem I’ve been trying to deal with when it comes to my own writing, because it’s difficult to write well if your eyes are glazed over and your brain is going blah, blah, punching, stabbing, who cares? Are we done yet?

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“No, no – it didn’t put me to SLEEP, it just . . . um . . . was so exciting I had to close my eyes and then, er . . .”

There are a couple different ways to address this problem, I think:

One: never ever write anything that includes any kind of conflict that can’t be settled with a conversation, a summit, or while your point-of-view character has been knocked unconscious.

Or two: learn to write the kind of rare action sequence that gets past your barrier and makes you pay attention – makes you care.

One of these options is a lot more work than the other. I think I’m up to it, though. And it is a good excuse to reread books with the kind of action I enjoy, and to keep reading more books, looking for more and better action sequences.

Onward!