Sunday, September 30, 2007

New Motto

I think I'm going through a mid-life crisis.

Despite my best efforts to squelch it, these words keep running through my head, both when I'm thinking of my kids' futures, and my own.

"Life is short. Be a rock star."

What does it mean? An alternate personality? Subliminal message come to light? Alien transmission?

Maybe it's just a sign that there might be some therapy in my future.

Still, I like it . . .

Saturday, September 29, 2007

The Glamorous Life

If only my job were as glamorous as it sounds.

Freelance writer. It does sound pretty good, huh?

It's funny how people (usually those who actually have to leave home to work, and have to contend daily with bosses, co-workers, customers, etc.) get a faraway look in their eye, or lean in with interest, when I mention that I'm a freelance writer.

"Really?" they say. "Who do you write for?" I rattle off my list of current gigs, which also sound more glamorous than they really are. People are impressed when you say you write for a business journal, it seems. Go figure.

What they're thinking is this: how great it would be to jump off the 9-to-5 treadmill, or in most cases, the 7-6 treadmill (or worse). How great to be your own boss. How great to be able to hang out with your kids, or run to the bank if you need to, or to wear the proverbial pajamas in the "office."

And it's true. That's good stuff.

But, at the same time, I do have bosses, more than one in fact. My kitchen gets lonely sometimes, as I huddle in the corner over my computer all day long, with no one but the dog and cats for comic relief (and they're pretty dull, mostly). The pajama part? Well, as a woman who loves clothes but happens to be on a budget, I no longer have an excuse (read: being seen by other people) to buy new pieces at will. And a paycheck issued at regular intervals doesn't mean nearly as much until you don't have one.

I'm not complaining -- I feel very lucky to do what I do, especially as I get to pick my kids up from school every day now, and no longer does a child's illness (and subsequent staying home from school) cause something akin to an international crisis. And I can take a coffee break whenever I want (having been a teacher, I really appreciate this part).

And, maybe someday, I'll be so fabulously successful that I'll be able to afford an office and an assistant -- now that would be glamorous. And then I'd have an excuse to buy some cute new shoes after all.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Indulging in Sweet Publicity

Does this even look appealing to anyone?

"The Fortress Stilt Fisherman Indulgence," a $14,500 dessert, being served at a resort in Sri Lanka. Well, being offered . . . no one has forked out (excuse the horrendous pun) the cash to try it. It does include an 80-carat aquamarine, of course, but is this necessary?

What we won't do for a little money, and a lot of attention. And, quite frankly, it doesn't have enough chocolate for my taste . . .

photo from Reuters

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Daily Rant: The Jena Six

I was checking out the top 20 “Most Viewed News Stories” on Yahoo! this a.m., as I do several times a day. There were at least two stories on Britney Spears, one on Salma Hayek, one on Marcia Clark (of O.J. Simpson debacle fame), one on George Clooney. Clint Eastwood. Jessica Alba and Dane Cook. There was something about a rare hummingbird in Wisconsin, and a Dear Abby column.

Hard news made a weak showing, with an item about the Delaware State shooting, and something about Iran’s threat to the West. But what happened to the story that everyone was talking about last week – the “Jena Six”? How quickly we forget.

For me, this was the most important story of the week. It seems on this Saturday morning, however, more folks reading news online are interested in Britney’s latest flub, or Salma’s ability to procreate.

What about the young man languishing in jail (after a judge denied his release on Friday)? Oh, but I forgot. The demonstration is over; CNN has gone home. We’ve moved on.

This is an issue, however, that bears dwelling on. I know, I hear the groans – race issues are a sore point in this country, everyone’s weary, worn out. Tough. Because as much as things change, well, you know how it goes. Things stay the same.

No way do I condone violence, and justice must be served for the young man who received a terrible beating. But you want to know who’s not being held accountable?

The school. Because how in the world are nooses hanging from a tree a “prank”?

We refuse, as a society, a bureaucracy, a leaders, to make the hard decisions that we need to make. Like holding some dumb kids who took a “prank” into highly-charged racist territory accountable in the first place. What they did is not okay. It’s not a “joke.” Suspending them is great, but not bothering to address the racially-motivated aspect of the situation was a mistake. And it’s no wonder that the situation escalated into physical violence – that’s often the unfortunate result of pent-up frustration, the chip on the shoulder that’s helped along by authority figures who don’t do the right thing to begin with.

Most of all, it’s painful to see our children fighting these battles we should have long ago managed to put to rest. And until we choose to recognize the undercurrents that lead us repeatedly down this painful path, we’ll continue to read these stories in the news. Or, if the "Most Viewed" story list on Yahoo! is any indication, not even that.
photo by Everett Taasevigen, from


Thursday, September 20, 2007

Thursday Round-Up

It's funny -- I'm a writer, so you'd think my own blog would be updated every day, right? As it turns out, writing for other people means either a) precious little time, or b) precious little creative energy, to write your own stuff.

So on that note, it's been a week of multiple deadlines. I'm pooped -- in a good way -- but have little coherent thought to offer at the moment.

Instead, some links you might like:

Popstar Poetry -- I have no idea who is behind this site, but it cracks me up in a way that's probably not very becoming. Still, I enjoy it. A word of caution: I haven't seen profanity or anything here, but it's probably not appropriate for the kiddies either.

Cooking Diva -- Chef Melissa has a beautiful blog with some beautiful narrative and beautiful recipes. Have I tried any? Well, no. But for me this a Food Network kind of experience. I love to look at food, eat food, talk about food. Cooking? Not so much.

The Budget Fashionista -- Okay, okay, so in the interest of full disclosure, I do some work for this one. But it's where I've focused a significant amount of time and energy this week, and thought I'd share it with you.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Freelance Job Boards: The Underbelly

Just a quick one today.

The thing that cracks me up the most (and makes me cringe) when searching freelance job boards is when I see something like this:

"Need a part time writer for a Pet Publication. Orange County L.A. area. Or pay per artical........ "

Granted, it was on craigslist, but how does this happen?

Ugh, the English major in me dies a little each time . . .

Friday, September 14, 2007

Sweet Rejection

I finally heard from StorySouth yesterday on a story I submitted back in April (!). Of course, it was a rejection. Am I bummed out? Just a little. But what a rejection it was.

Usually, the rejection letter (or e-mail) says something like this: "We regret to inform you that your submission does not suit our needs at this time." Fun, right?

Well, here's my rejection from StorySouth:

"Angela, I'm afraid we're going to pass on this for now. We were fascinated by the subchapter organization and Garcia-Marquezish tone, but we still felt it needed a little more plot to connect the dots. Best of luck placing it elsewhere."

What was that? Fascinated by the subchapter organization? Garcia-Marquezish tone?

Did he say fascinated?

Best. Rejection. Letter. Ever.

And this is my reaction because a) I might be completely insane, and b) because, as my skin gets tougher, I'm also learning to take whatever nugget of encouragement I can get in the face of "no thanks." I'm choosing to overlook, for now, the suggestion of "a little more plot." I'll come around to that later, and I'm a big enough girl to admit he's probably right.

As a published journalist and a busy online writer, life's great. I'm still working on the creative writing side, however, and my ego is a bit more delicate there, so thanks StorySouth fiction editor Scott Yarbrough, for throwing me the proverbial bone. I'll chew on it for awhile, gratefully.

And, for the record, I'm now rereading "One Hundred Years of Solitude." That Gabriel Garcia Marquez really knows his stuff.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Couldn't let it pass . . .

I have nothing to say that hasn't already been said. But I remember.

The Britney/Michael Connection

Okay, we all know by now that Britney Spears gave a less-than-wonderful performance at the MTV Video Music Awards the other night. Many of us tuned in just to see what would happen, myself included. What happened was pretty much what was expected, perhaps even worse than one might have imagined.

It's pointless to dwell on the imperfections of the performance, or the performer. I have imperfections, too. We could probably dwell on them for hours. It would be less than interesting, partly because I have never been held up as an object to be emulated but mostly because, in the end, there's not much to say beyond the first stinging barbs.

But here's what I do want to say: much has been made of Britney's physical appearance -- she's been called paunchy, jiggly, lard-like. I wouldn't go that far myself -- I'm thinking she looked thicker, but less than lumpy or droopy, which, as anyone who's had kids can attest, is a feat in and of itself. Still, the talking heads have been brutal -- and then, naturally, there's been a backlash. It's been a busy 36 hours.

The real question becomes, however, why would someone who knows darn well that they'll be held up to vicious scrutiny, and who is clearly not in the best shape of her life, slip into a sparkly bra and undies and put herself on display? I mean, seriously, think about it. Why?

Here's what I think. It's something like the Michael Jackson Syndrome (which I have just invented), that disconnection between reality and fantasy.

Consider this: Most of us women don't see ourselves as we really are -- we look in the mirror and, typically, see flaws before all else. I think for folks like Britney, it's the opposite. She goes to photo shoots, and then sees these pictures (touched up, of course) that make her look amazing -- all the lumps, bumps, extra width are miraculously gone. She has (I'm guessing) surrounded herself with hangers-on that tell her everything a girl wants to hear -- you look great, better than ever, they're all just jealous -- because she's the meal ticket, and who wants the fun to end? So how could she possibly see herself as we do -- warts and all?

There's no other explanation for leaving the house the way she does, and I'm not being glib.

Someone needs to save her, and quick, before she finds her own Neverland.
photo from

Monday, September 10, 2007

Daily Rant Update: Parent No Show, Part II

This one (Daily Rant: Parent No Show) seems to have hit a nerve, so I'm readdressing it just to make one thing clear. In no way am I bashing all parents who don't show up for PTA or PTO or whatever it's called in your neck of the woods. Obviously, for some it's simply not an option (I figure if you have a newborn at home, you're basically excused). And if you're a parent that's involved in any capacity, kudos to you. I've got your back.

The problem is bigger, however, than small unavailability issues. Having 10 involved parents out of a pool of hundreds is unacceptable -- and I'm not just talking about showing up to meetings. The idea that it should just be left to the other parents who aren't as busy isn't cutting it. Most of us are very busy. All of the time. I was running a newspaper, writing freelance, and raising two kids under 8 while I was on the PTO board -- I didn't do it all well, all of the time, but really it's simply a matter of making the decision that it's important, and doing what you can to make it work.

And perhaps there are many schools out there with loads of parent involvement -- I just haven't had the good fortune to be part of any of them. Thus my frustration.

I still think we're not doing a good enough job as communities in general to support public education. And I still think, on the whole, people are much better at pointing the finger than taking action.

Cynical? Yeah, I guess. But I calls 'em as I sees 'em. And thus far, the evidence stands.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Women I Love: Paula Deen

Paula Deen was just on Oprah (a luxury I now enjoy, being a work-at-home freelancer -- yippee!), and I was inspired.

Top three reasons I Love Her:

1. Her laugh is the greatest EVER. I should put it on the ipod for when I'm tired/frustrated/stressed out. Totally re-energizing.

2. She uses three sticks of butter for one cake. Fabulous. Justification? "I'm your cook, not your doctor." Take that, arteries.

3. She's a Supermom. Warts and all, she's a mom's mom through and through. Love it.

De-Funct, Part Deux

My third and final announcement for Poetry Thursday, which no longer exists:

Last week I posted a link for their Next Big Thing, the Big Asterisk Poetry Project. Please disregard -- as it turns out, that project is over before it began. I'm beginning to feel like a jinx.

At any rate, you can visit their old site for further info, or not. I'm not going to tell you what to do.

I am mulling over, however, the possibility of starting some poetry-related blog of my own. Haven't quite figured out what type of project I'd like to initiate. Suggestions are welcome.

Daily Rant: The Parent No-Show

Pet peeve alert: I'm about to complain, but just a little. Bear with me.

I attended the first PTO meeting of the year at my son's school Tuesday night. Including the board, there was a total of 10 people there. Where, pray tell, were the representatives for the other couple hundred families? That's a good question.

I've lived in three different states, in three very different communities, and the common denominator is this: pulling parents in to the schools is harder than, well . . . I'm not feeling very creative, so let's just say it's hard.

I've been on a PTO board in northern Michigan. Our number one problem? Getting parents into the school.

I've been an elementary school teacher in Florida. Our number one problem? Getting parents into the school.

Now, I'm a parent in a mid-size town in southern Illinois. I'm new, but it doesn't take a genius to figure out one of their biggest problems. You get the picture.

So my question is this: How can parents continue to piss and moan (I'm being as G-rated as possible here) about what's going on in the schools, when they refuse to get off their duffs and show up? Is this just my bad luck, to land in these areas, or is it this way all over?

Public education actually involves the public, in more ways than just tax dollars. It's a lesson that many parents just don't appear to be learning.

Sunday, September 2, 2007

Big Asterisk Poetry Project

Since I made such a big deal about the end of Poetry Thursday, I would be remiss if I didn't post a link to the founders' new venture, Big Asterisk Poetry Project. Go to to check out their preview page; the site is slated to go live on Sept. 4.

Also, I'd love to hear about poetry blogs you know and love, so if you have one to share, please leave a comment!

Saturday, September 1, 2007

Where to Now?

Moving is a funny thing. I've been thinking lately how the experience is a very distinct ladder of phases, but instead of jumping off the top (which one might think more symbolic of moving faraway) the move is actually the first rung up. And then you climb, navigating travel troubles, unforeseen (or intentionally ignored) costs, emotional upheaval, excitement, regret, fear, hope.

It's like a death and a birth at the exact same moment -- mourning the loss for what's been left behind (romanticizing it as soon as the door closes behind you), and rejoicing in the new that lies ahead (while at the very same time secretly dreading the unknown).

I know this because I am a relocation addict. I know this because my whole life has been a study in movement, in change, in adaptability. I would complain, but I'm all too aware that some part of me lives for this, depends on this.

So what happens when you get to the top of the ladder? Well, turns out there's a wide open view, and it's hard to imagine staying forever in that small space where you stand. Distance, movement sometimes equal possibilities. And we all know that right where you are almost never seems the perfect place to be, because life is messy. But the catch is that life follows you wherever you go.

You may think this means that I'm not happy where I am, which is actually not true. I've managed to live a number of placed around the country, both as a child and as an adult, and I feel quite drawn, quite rooted in this mid-size Midwestern town poised on the Mississippi, with a deep vein of history running through it and a future that looks less certain. I came from booming Central Florida, where the sun is shining and the investors are smiling all the while plowing citrus and gator holes under like so much garbage. If that's progress, I don't want it.

People look stricken when I tell them we just moved to this area, and ask "why?" I give them the pat answer (my husband's employment, we have family here), but the truth is that we're here because somewhere in my gut told me "this is the next place." And something will happen here. So we came.

And this is it, for awhile. My daughter's in middle school, and my son will be next year so, good sports that they are, we're done giving them the runaround. They'll settle in and play in the band and have football games and dances, and part-time jobs at the Dairy Queen or whatever. And whatever's supposed to happen will.

And in all likelihood, even standing still at the top of that ladder, we'll still spend most of our time mourning the past and rejoicing in the future, because that's what we do, isn't it? That's what we do.
artwork: Martin Puryear, Ladder for Booker T. Washington