Friday, December 16, 2011

Milk Face

At the 4th grade Holiday performance this morning, my daughter was by far the best whistler. I’m bragging. Which isn’t like me. But there’s a reason why: by being the best whistler, my 4th grader effectively blew away the small rather arrogant boy standing near her who frequently calls her “milk face.”
We are pale people. We don’t tan, and if we are even partly naked in the sun we tend to blind people with our reflection. My 4th grade daughter also happens to be a platinum (natural – no toddler tiara funny business here) blonde. So you can probably conclude where the name “milk face” came from.
When my milk face daughter told me of the boy’s name-calling, I hugged her tight and told her what every good parent does – that Mr silent pursed-lipped faker face is really short so he’s definitely going to grow up angry. (She hasn’t studied the French Revolution yet so I skipped the most obvious reference for his condition.) Then I pushed her away, ran to my desk and scribbled “Milk Face!” on the back of an old AT &T bill.
I did the same thing with “Caption Obvious.” This time the name was hurled at me by my 14 year-old daughter. I had done about as much to deserve this as good ole Milk Face had done to deserve her verbal abuse: nothing. I’d merely pointed out that Miss 14 year-old sassy pants had better study for her European History test instead of watching Glee
Duh. Thank you Caption Obvious.
I know I should have taken her phone away, or made her clean up the dog poop in the yard, but instead I waved her away, ran to my desk and scribbled down “Caption Obvious!” on the back of a mortgage statement.
Good dialogue is precious. The kind that you can’t-no-way-not-a-chance-make-up on your own supersedes all comforting and punishing. I mean milk face? How good is that.
Which leads me to conclude that writers are bad parents. At least fiction writers. We have to make stuff up, and it’s hard. Like trying to bend a spoon with your mind hard. We need all the help we can get and if that means abusive, disrespectful name-calling, then fine. 
Bring it on, Shawty.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Sailing To Heck

Feng Shui can hijack your life. It happened to me. So I wrote a novel about it.

My character becomes addicted to the ancient Chinese rules of direction and placement, which causes a lot of problems. She can’t use her front door for one thing (unlucky direction). A whole lot of freaky remedies follow suit, but I swear on my grandmother, Gunnie’s, life, they’re all true.

I’d love nothing more than to let you in on some of these remedies, except then I’d be risking my fingers. You’re not supposed to give The Secrets away. You’re supposed to take a class. And Feng Shui Masters don’t fool around. They know all too well that I need my fingers to finish my book.

Happily, however, there are times when Feng Shui can be just a case of good old common sense.

Consider Sailing to Heck.

A few years ago, my husband was sent to Spain so we packed up the three small daughters, pre-paid our Verizon bill and left sunny CA.

 Picture a quaint countryside; toothless old ladies selling fruit at every corner, cobblestone streets echoing the click-clack of hooves, miles of rolling green vineyards – picture this, and you won’t be envisioning where we were. Where we were was in an industrial town built around its port. Busy, dirty and thriving - but not quaint. No Spanish, no childcare, no schooling, no car, and not even (as it turned out) much time with aforementioned spouse; that’s the real picture. Plus it was approximately twelve thousand degrees every day, and dinner, in Spain, is served at 10pm.

Maybe you’re a parent and just reading this makes your stomach feel as if a small bowling ball has been dropped in it. Or maybe you’re not a parent, never want to be a parent, and feel nothing at all at the thought of being on house arrest in a foreign country with a couple of elementary school students and someone who’s witnessed less that four orbits around the Sun.

Either way, the point I’m making here is that our home base was ultra important.

Back to Sailing to Heck.

It’s a picture. Make that a painting. The sole piece of art in our flat. It was, as far as we could tell, an image of a tiny, dark, defeated sailboat heading straight into an endless, black eternity. Like a big black “Dementer” waiting to suck your breath out, this painting was in fact more than a painting – it was a black hole in the wall. Big enough to fall through. Or jump into. Or stare at, and stare at, and stare at, until really, what was life worth living for? Sailing into the deep dark underworld of Heck seemed to be the only option.

This is not good Feng Shui. Unless you’re a Vampire or a Spoken Word Artist, this type of décor - especially if it is your only décor - is not inspiring.

Time for some Feng Shui.

I have never defaced a work of art in my life. I don’t even walk on chalk. But when you take into account Spanish Scrabble things change. Even the endearing name we gave the painting lost its luster. Something had to be done. Taking it down and stowing it behind the burgundy pleather couch was an option - but what if it was damaged, dusted or worse? We had already broken a lamp, one glass and four plates (we had to keep track). No. We needed to remedy, not remove.

It was simple enough. #1 daughter used her brightest crayons to create a new happier boat, flag and all, which we taped gently onto the canvas. I explained that one never does this to artwork. Leaving a sticky note on Monet’s Haystacks for instance, would get you arrested. But here, in our mental ward white apartment roughly the size of my thumbnail, a little tape was a lifesaver.

The painting was still black and the boat was still sailing into it, but maybe the people on board didn’t mind so much now. One could imagine their cheery, expectant faces as they sailed off into the untold waters. And lo and behold, we became cheerier too. In fact, we were even giggling again - every time we looked at our newly renovated painting. Siesta passed faster, the scrabble words came easier and our casa sweet casa became a bit less, well, black hole-ish.

This is a Feng Shui remedy. A few crayons and some tape. Even a Stick ‘Em can work. Feng Shui is supposed to make your space cheerier. And your space is a reflection of you. Sometimes we get so complacent, busy, stressed out, we don’t notice that our surroundings no longer (if they ever did) reflect who we are and where we want to go. I bet most of us aren’t hoping to dock in Heck anytime soon. But if we’re not careful, our surroundings might be navigating us there - slowly, silently, efficiently.

Try this: move 27 things in your home. Switch photos around on the shelves, remove a few books from your desk, slide your wastebasket to the other side of the room, maybe even place a half-filled red vase in the South West corner of your bedroom to attract love (please, just take the pinky).

Then sit back and note the new air. It could be subtle - a small breeze barely detectable bringing in a tiny change, or it could be a huge gust delivering a new opportunity, a stroke of good luck or a new friend. Try it. What the heck.