Speechless

I debated about whether or not to post at all in such a time as the one in which we find ourselves. But when I thought about this illustration, I had to post.

You may wonder what this is all about. Mel Blanc provided the voice of many, many Looney Tunes and Hanna-Barbera cartoon characters (Elmer Fudd, Yosemite Sam, etc.). Consequently, he was known as the man of a thousand voices. After his passing, this illustration was done as a tribute. The title was perfectly chosen. And it describes how I feel these days. Maybe you feel the same. I would add outraged, full of grief, sad, overwhelmed, and struggling to the mix as well in the wake of recent events. Yet in these speechless days, I take comfort in these words:

The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me . . . to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion—to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. Isaiah 61:1-3

Illustration found on Pinterest.

“Your Wind Song Stays on My Mind”

Okay, I apologize. (I seem to be doing that a lot lately.) Why? you might ask. Because if you know where the post title comes from, that jingle is probably drifting through your brain right about now. (If you are absolutely confused, the ad is for the perfume, Wind Song, by Prince Matchabelli. Look here for more details. And no, this is not another post about scents.)

Along those lines, today I woke up with this song lyric in my head: “Here come those Santa Ana winds again.” If you know your Steely Dan tunes, that’s probably spinning through your head also. (The line is from “Babylon Sisters” for those of you scratching yours.)

Song earworms—they plague us for weeks, don’t they? Bet you’re already thinking of songs from the first Frozen movie (for some reason, I have trouble recalling most of the songs from Frozen 2) or, as the article pointed out, any song by Lady Gaga.

When I was a kid, any song by Glen Campbell or Queen would stay in my head, sometimes for months. (Bet you’re already thinking of “Rhinestone Cowboy” or “We Are the Champions.” Sorry.)

Advertising jingles are definite earworms. I had no trouble recalling that Wind Song ad (it stayed on my mind, you might say) even decades later. I can sing jingles I heard in my childhood. I am certain you can as well. (My bologna has a first name . . .)

This article from CNN health talks about earworms and why they do what they do.

Isn’t it interesting that a song can get lodged in our heads for months or years but a compliment or some other affirmation has difficulty taking root? If you’re like me, negative information is an earworm that doesn’t seem to go away. I call that a word worm.

Last week, my dad said something nice about my writing. Note the word something, because I have trouble recalling his exact words. Yet I can remember, word for word, a rejection I received for a manuscript about two years ago. Two years ago.
It’s time—past time—to take out the trash.

What do you do when earworms or word worms persist?

Wind Song perfume from FragranceX.com. “Babylon Sisters” from Discogs. Bart Simpson gif from Tenor.

Lemons

Have you ever bitten into a lemon? I did once, when I was a kid. Note the word once. I quickly realized that some fruit have a taste other than sweet.

Now, I realize that many people love to eat lemons. (My mother for instance.) And this article talks about the benefits of eating lemons: https://healthyeating.sfgate.com/benefit-eating-whole-fresh-lemons-4390.html

Yet I prefer my lemons paired with other things: sugar and water in lemonade; sugar, water, and tea for iced tea; or sugar, eggs, flour, and other ingredients in lemon meringue pie or lemon bars. Even the lemon candy I like is of the sweet and sour variety.

    

It’s much the same with stories. I like a mixture of sweet and sour. Lord of the Rings by J. R. R. Tolkien; Sabriel by Garth Nix; Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (2016 movie; the novelization was written by Alexander Freed). An author who writes this kind of story has to strike the right balance between hope and hopelessness.

   

Usually I love the point in the story where things are at their worst, and you don’t think good can come out of it—but then it does, sometimes at a high cost. A thoroughly satisfying conclusion is a great reward for that kind of tension.

I also think of lemons because the sourness of life sucks sometimes. I can’t help putting it that baldly. (Yes, baldly.) Jobs are lost. People you love face health issues or are in emotional pain. These moments are the “shut the book, Dad” moments Samwise Gamgee talked about in Lord of the Rings—the moments when you’re not sure everything will turn out right. I’m in that kind of moment right now. Maybe one day, I’ll provide the full details. But I wanted to write about it in the moment—when a happy ending isn’t a guarantee—because often you hear stories of triumph after the fact, after the darkness has passed and the “sun shines all the clearer”—another quote given to Samwise, this time in The Two Towers:

I know. It’s all wrong. By rights we shouldn’t even be here. But we are. It’s like in the great stories, Mr. Frodo. The ones that really mattered. Full of darkness and danger they were. And sometimes you didn’t want to know the end. Because how could the end be happy? How could the world go back to the way it was when so much bad had happened? But in the end, it’s only a passing thing, this shadow. Even darkness must pass. A new day will come. And when the sun shines it will shine out the clearer. Those were the stories that stayed with you.

These words gives me hope when life hands out lemons. May they enable you to keep pressing on in a sour/dark time of your own.

Now I’m thinking of some words Galadriel spoke in Fellowship of the Ring:

May it be a light to you in dark places, when all other lights go out.

Lemon image from freepik. Lemon meringue pie image from Pillsbury. Lemonhead image from Target. Quote from Two Towers is from the script by Peter Jackson, Philippa Boyens, Stephen Sinclair, and Fran Walsh © 2002. Sean Astin as Samwise Gamgee image from Cinema Blend. Words of Galadriel and others are by J. R. R. Tolkien.

Color My World

When you think of a product that epitomizes your childhood, what do you think of? To me, nothing says childhood like Crayola Crayons. I loved getting new crayons at the beginning of the school year. Crayons and new notebook paper opened up new imaginative possibilities.

I couldn’t find the small box of crayons I have, so this box of chalk will have to do as a stand-in for childhood wonder.

Thanks to the recent rainstorms, the ground is too wet right now to effectively draw on the sidewalk, but here is a photo I’ve used on the blog before. Some of the kids in my apartment building did the handiwork. I love how the color brightens a bland sidewalk. It was a day brightener for me as well.

Did you know that non-toxic crayons have existed since 1903? I didn’t. I found out when I looked up the history of Crayola and watched a video on it. Click here for that video.

The 1903 crayons

In 1958, the box of 64 crayons was born.

I never lost my love of crayons, mainly because I love an array of colors. Whether I crochet or knit, I love to use colorful yarn. If a pattern calls for neutral colors, I usually switch the colors to those I prefer. I actually feel better when I’m working with colors and when I’m surrounded by colorful things.

Turns out I’m not the only one. According to this article, brighter wardrobe colors make you feel better. Room colors also affect your mood, according to this article and this one. But according to this post at Smithsonian.com, color preferences are not always universal. Past associations with a color and also cultural influences can affect how a color is perceived.

Do you have a favorite color? How do these colors make you feel?

 

 

 

 

Undoubtedly, you’ve seen color used in a movie or in a book to heighten a certain mood. But sometimes color is used against type for an unsettling effect (like a bright, sun-washed blue sky in a horror film).

Speaking of color in nature, with autumn underway, I look forward to the changing colors of the leaves. Until that happens, I can enjoy colorful clouds in the sky at sunrise or sunset. These photos were taken at sunrise. The clouds in the photo at the right look like a mythical firebird with bright plumage.

 

How has something colorful brightened your life this week?

The Squeezamal [creature at the right] has found a colorful new friend, Lazy Buns, who doesn’t get a move on without a cup of coffee.

Crayola stamp from somewhere on Pinterest. 1958 Crayons from PopScreen. Other photos by L. Marie. Squeezamals are a product of Beverly Hills Teddy Bear Company. Pop Hair Pets are a product of MGA Entertainment.

The World in Black and White

While researching for an article on the human eye and the reason why we perceive snow as white, I came across many discussions on how light helps us we see different wavelengths of colors (which is why certain objects look a certain color). But that set me to thinking about how black and white photography used to be the norm.

This is how my mind works. Welcome to the labyrinth. Hope you brought snacks.

So of course, once I was off on that train of thought, I was curious about when the first color photograph appeared. Wikipedia had the answer:

The first color photograph made by the three-color method suggested by James Clerk Maxwell in 1855, taken in 1861 by Thomas Sutton. The subject is a colored ribbon, usually described as a tartan ribbon.

By James Clerk Maxwell (original photographic slides) ; scan by User:Janke. – Scanned from The Illustrated History of Colour Photography, Jack H. Coote, 1993. ISBN 0-86343-380-4., Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=1007375

From there I segued to black-and-white thinking and wound up stuck there. Did you know that there is a psychological term attached to this sort of thinking? Check it out:

Splitting (also called black-and-white thinking or all-or-nothing thinking) . . . is a common defense mechanism. The individual tends to think in extremes (i.e., an individual’s actions and motivations are all good or all bad with no middle ground).

Statements like the following are examples:
• It’ll always be like that.
• They will never change.
• I am worthless.

Ever have thoughts like that? I have. 😔 These thoughts are often byproducts of discouragement and defeat. I’m grateful for wise people who gently point out when the needle of my mind is stuck in the groove of this sort of thinking.

I can’t help thinking of Morpheus, a character in The Matrix (played by Laurence Fishburne), who advised,

I can do that by changing the “record” in my mind:

• One bad circumstance doesn’t dictate that life will always be the way it currently is. After all, seasons change.
• Even the most set-in-his/her way person people can change.
• I am valuable and strong.

Ever fall into a rut thought-wise? What did you do to climb out?

Henry insisted on a black-and-white photo with his newfound friend, the Pusheen Cat, both of whom say that strength is their defining trait.

Olive is like, “The world is always black and white as far as I’m concerned. Just look at me.”

Matrix gif from uproxx.com. Tartan photo from Wikipedia. Other photos by L. Marie.

Armed and Dangerous

See this?

This is a sword. It might not look like it, but it is. I use it to slay the elements.

You hear that, Winter??? You’ve thrown what you got at me. Minus 11-degree temperatures with -20 windchill. Snow falling every day. Freezing rain on top of that some days. Days when I have to scrape snow and ice off the car sometimes two or three times a day. But you will not get me down! No, no, no! You. Will. Not. Break. Meeeeeeeeeeeee!

This is my fighter pack.

Yes, that is a cup from Starbucks. It is a hot mocha. Got my sword and my gloves. And my lemon loaf cake. And I’ve got books to keep me warm. (And soft blankets.)

   

See these? My babies! I call the one on the left Darth Vader. And the one on the right has a space helmet vibe. How apt that these are space heaters.

   

Don’t let this sunny day fool you. It got to ten above (-12 Celsius) that day and sixteen on Sunday. The forecast calls for more below zero weather with snow.

   

Ha ha, Winter! You think you’ll break me. Think again!

Life is like that sometimes, isn’t it? It hammers at you, crusts you over in disillusionment with its icy winds.

So I bought this the other day.

It may not look like much. But the title on the package says something to me. Not to the surface me, but to the bone-deep me that needs a good word every now and then. It reminds me to keep dreaming even through the crusty moments. Dream big dreams, girl. Not just dreams of warm, sunny days to avoid giving in to the winter blahs but dreams that say cold, dark days like this won’t last forever. That there’s something beyond those midnight blue-hued days where you’re kicking icicles off your car. Off your heart.

Yeah, I know. Sometimes the iceberg of life is way too much for your little boat. And my little pep talk, with its mixed metaphors, is only a tiny splotch of Sunshine Yellow paint on your Great Wall of Despair. I don’t want to make light of anyone else’s pain. This pep talk is really to remind me to keep going, even when I don’t want to.

So, Winter, you won’t have the last laugh! Not on my watch.

Oh yes, Winter. I’m armed and dangerous. Don’t mess with me.

Even Kitty has a found a friend during the cold days. Though I don’t think this poor cat knows what she’s gotten herself into.

Photos by L. Marie.

Drive On, Worker Bee

People are like cars. Some are newer, sportier models, zipping down the street, engines freshly oiled and cranked for speed. Some are reliable sedans or mini-vans. They get where they’re going. Some are older models that have weathered many storms, but are in need of an oil change every now and then.

(Where is she going with this? I hear you whispering.)

Lately, I’ve felt like the old model slowly making its way on the road, while the newer models zip around me, heading toward opportunities beckoning toward them that older models seem denied.

Of course, that’s a matter of perception. But man, I’ve felt beaten down lately.

Recently, I received this badge in the mail:

I have to thank Andy of City Jackdaw for it. He told me that the worker bee is the symbol of Manchester—a reminder of its industrial past. But it’s also a reminder of their resilience in the wake of the May 22 bombing at the Manchester Arena.

I needed this reminder, as I consider my life. Worker bee? Check. I’m happiest when I’m working on something. Resilience? Why do I always forget how necessary that is? Haven’t I lived long enough to know that you have to persevere through hard times? Rejections, money issues, writer’s block, loud neighbors, illness, the death of a loved one (I’ve experienced all of the above recently), breakups—they pop up like potholes here and there on the road of life. It’s our choice whether to stall out or drive on—to persevere through them.

   

I’m grateful for friends who prayed for me and encouraged me through this dry season, where I’ve felt trapped in a canyon surrounded by walls of doubt; a place where I can barely write even a grocery list. Words fail me. This too shall pass, they say.

I’m suddenly reminded of some lines from Peter Pan—“second [star] to the right and straight on till morning.” Sounds like driving directions to me. I know you can’t get to Neverland by car. You need pixie dust for that. But I can return to a state of wonder—a place I see just over the horizon—if I keep on driving.

Have you felt stuck in a canyon lately? What did you do to climb out and keep going?

Photos by L. Marie. Cutie Cars by Moose Toys.

A Crisis Point

This past weekend I went with some friends—Me, Myself, and I—to see Spider-Man: Homecoming. Thoroughly loved it.

There’s a scene in it where the hero, Peter Parker, reaches a crisis. That’s not exactly a spoiler. If you know the hero’s journey model, you know that a hero usually goes through a crisis before the end of the story. I have to quote a line here from the movie in order for the point I wish to make in this post to make sense. So, if you don’t want spoilers of any kind, stop reading at the bold and start back up again at the next bold point.

⭐ SPOILERS!!! ⭐

After Peter messes up so badly that he has to get help from Iron Man, Iron Man decides to take back the suit he had given Spider-Man to use while fighting crime. Peter declares, “I am nothing without this suit.” The sign of someone in crisis.

⭐ END SPOILERS!!! ⭐

In The Writer’s Journey—Christopher Vogler’s look at mythic structure as discussed in Joseph Campbell’s The Hero with a Thousand Faces—Vogler talked about the ordeal or crisis a hero faces. This is part of the hero’s rebirth.

A crisis is defined by Webster’s as “the point in a story or drama at which hostile forces are in the tensest state of opposition.” We also speak of a crisis in an illness: a point, perhaps a high spike of fever, after which the patient either gets worse or begins to recover. The message: Sometimes things have to get worse before they can get better. An Ordeal crisis, however frightening to the hero, is sometimes the only way to recovery or victory. (Vogler 161)

I teared up at the scene from Spider-Man that I mentioned earlier, because it hit close to home. For most of my life, I’ve been writing stories and other things. But lately, I haven’t been able to write much at all. Anything I attempted seemed strained. Even writing a blog post has been difficult. Most of my friends are busy with their books. But I got nothin’. Some of this is due to the steadily mounting rejections I’ve received for my fiction books or criticism I’ve received for nonfiction work. But to be honest, it’s mostly due to self-doubt—feeling like a failure. So, I freeze up every time I think of writing anything—even this post, which took twice as long as posts usually take.

“I’m nothing without writing,” I found myself declaring. I had reached a crisis.

I knew I had two choices: (1) to believe that declaration and continue to go on a downward spiral; (2) to get up again and find out what’s really true about myself.

After some soul searching, I got up. Instead of writing, I’ve been doing other things. Like making miniature rooms out of paper and fabric. (Um, I’ve always been a little quirky.) Like taking photographs of flowers. Like crocheting. Like hanging out with friends. Like watching great movies. Like babysitting. Like taking walks and enjoying the wind on my face.

    

I think you already know by now that what I’d believed about being nothing without writing wasn’t true. I’m more than what I do or don’t do. I’m still who I am—me, warts and all. Life will go on, whether I put pen to paper ever again or not.

I’m reminded of the phoenix and how it had to die in order to be reborn. This season of my life has been a kind of death and rebirth. Old as I am, I still needed to be reborn; still needed to see life anew.

Who am I? I’m L. Marie. Daughter. Sister. Friend. And right now, that’s enough.

Is it me, or do you see a face in this tree, like a person saying, “Ooo”?

Vogler, Christopher. The Writer’s Journey. Studio City, CA: Michael Wiese Productions, 1998.

Spider-Man: Homecoming movie poster from heyuguys.com. Phoenix image from clker.com. Photos by L. Marie.