Winter is an etching, spring a watercolor, summer an oil painting and autumn a mosaic of them all. -Stanley Horowitz
Lloyd M. Burke
August 1916 - October 2008

My Papa. A wonderful husband, father, grandfather, great-grandfather, and friend. The "L" of L&M. The time-study man with the Shaklee charts, a garden of ripe tomatoes, 100-year-old jokes, and a smile & a jig for every occasion. Congestive heart failure and Alzheimer's took much of Papa from us long before his actual death. But his presense is still what held the family together. His passing has not only made me aware of my own mortality, but it is now what drives me to make every day worthwhile and important.

I miss you, Papa.

Ah fundraising. The time of year every parent dreads as after all family members have been hit, children need to be escorted from door to door. Such is the case with my fifth grader who is trying to raise money for a class trip to Washington, DC.

The grade takes this trip every year, so we’ve known our turn at basically begging for cash would come ever since we moved to this school district back in the first grade. The kids did it year after year, so it seemed as if it would be easy enough. But somewhere over the course of the past five years, the same folks must have been approached over and over again as they’re not as eager to buy now that my kid is out selling. They’re certainly not as generous as Aunt Kim or Granddaddy Leroy – go figure.

No, my son is learning the valuable lesson that “work” is just that – work. And not everything is handed to you on a silver platter. It’s a life lesson, but a bitter pill to swallow just the same.

And it’s dangerous to be friends with me this year because in addition to class fundraising, my son will also be selling popcorn for the Cub Scouts. Neighbors are beginning to cringe when they see us out. :) When the PTA comes calling for us to sell holiday wrap, I think we will have to decline (insert friends and family rejoicing and breathing a sigh of relief here).

Why you should never send your husband for birthday balloons:
It was a gorgeous summer day. The humidity was noticeably lower and there was a breeze. Far from the computer and the cell phone, I was enjoying the quiet of a leisurely drive. I had my car windows open for the first time in a long while as I stopped for gas.

The station was quite busy; many people were out enjoying the weather. As I pulled in, I noticed the deafening sound of someone's car stereo cranked up beyond the limits of most eardrums. The vulgarities being broadcast from that stereo were so offensive -- and so frequent -- that I couldn't believe anyone would listen to that (no to mention inflict their choice of "entertainment" on everyone else).

I had my baby in the car and was grateful that he slept through the ordeal. Others weren't as lucky: an elderly gentleman cleaning his windshield was clearly taken aback by the language, and the woman pumping gas next to me had a carload full of children (she was NOT pleased). Everyone was turning to see what kind of person would cause such a stir, only to learn that there was no one even in the vehicle! The driver was apparently in the store, but left his million-decibel gansta' tunes for all to enjoy. How thoughtful.

Now I'm the first to defend your right to watch or listen to whatever you want -- but when it involves "slappin' your b___" around, "puttin' a cap" in their posterior, or "f___in'" someone up, I tend to draw the line. If you want to listen to that kind of crap, please do so within the comforts of your own home, with earphones, or at least have the courtesy to turn the volume down and your windows up. I'm just sayin' ...

"No race can prosper until it learns that there is as much dignity in tilling the field as in writing a poem." -Booker T. Washington
"With a clear and meaningful purpose will come the motivation and the energy to follow that purpose. When you're sure of the what and the why, you'll find everything necessary to handle the how." -Ralph Marston
"Don't aim at success - the more you aim at it and make it a target, the more you are going to miss it. For success, like happiness, cannot be pursued; it must ensue ... as the unintended side-effect of one's personal dedication to a course greater than oneself." -Viktor Frankl
On this, the last day of school, my son’s heart was broken by a flippant 10-year-old little minx named Kiley. Joe has had a crush on this girl almost the entire school year, and he’d finally gotten up the courage to let her know. “She’s pretty and smart, Mom,” he beamed. And they were friends. Then Kiley found out that Joe liked her in a boy-girl kind of way, and suddenly everything changed.

At first, she didn’t know what to say, and then she told Joe she thought he was “weird.” Oh, the look on his face. It was as if someone had just slapped all the happy out of him. He didn’t know how to react. “Sorry, I like someone else,” would have been a less than favorable response, but it was preferable to, “You’re weird.”

Joe’s friend came up and put an arm over his shoulder. “It gets easier, dude,” the boy nodded in a studly fashion. “It’s hard when they turn you down, though,” he offered. The wisdom of this child’s years told me that he had broken many a heart. I secretly giggled at his bravado, but was glad that he could be there for Joe.

I hated to see my boy hurt, but this was all part of growing up, and it certainly wasn’t anything that the rest of us had not been through at one time or another. Still, Joe had other wonderful girls interested in him over his vast tenure at the local elementary school. They saw something special in him that Kiley just didn’t see. Perhaps she was overwhelmed by the attention of Joe’s feelings suddenly becoming so public; he hadn’t been too weird to be her friend before that. But isn’t that always the way it works –- the one you love (or, for 4th grade purposes, the one you are in “serious like” with) is never the one who loves you back? Until you get married, that is, but that’s a whole ‘nother blog post.

Joe says he’s not ready to move on and now consoles himself with cold Yoo-hoos and his new Wii. But something tells me that there’s a 5th grade girl out there just waiting for my little weirdo. And she will be very lucky to have found him.

“Sayid is staring at me,” my husband says. A LOST calendar hangs in our kitchen, and the character of Sayid is ‘Mr. June.’ It’s one of those photos where the eyes follow you wherever you go and it creeps my husband out. February was fun: LOST returned for season number 4 and the character of Sawyer was the calendar model. Yum.

Being forced to wait another eight months for the LOST saga to continue makes me sigh ... heavily. After the Writer’s Strike, LOST’s season was cut short -- and for a myriad of reasons I can neither understand nor explain, new episodes will not air until January 2009.

Now there is a threatened Actor’s Strike which could delay all fall programming. (Of course you can’t really count LOST as fall programming when they don’t return until after New Year’s, but who’s talking semantics?) Where will the madness end? I support those who are not being compensated for an honest day’s work, and in the case of the writers, it was not fair for the networks to profit from online advertising while the writers who created the programming got short-changed. Last time I checked, however, actors were some of the highest paid people in the land. Can anyone justify why they are holding out for more money?

Speaking of the writers, LOST is very well-crafted, and unlike its predecessors (offbeat shows like Twin Peaks and The X-Files), it goes back and ties up loose ends. Well, so far, anyway. There are so many loose ends at this point, however, that I’m beginning to wonder if those eight-month lags between seasons are purposefully implemented to give us time to forget that all the i’s are not dotted and t’s are not crossed. Remember when TV was a relaxing escape? There’s not much relaxing about this show. I don’t mean to complain -- seriously, I love, love, love LOST. With a story is this intricate, you get pretty invested in the overlapping plotline- and character-development. And with so much crap on TV (Celebracadabra, I’m talking to you), that’s a hard nugget to let go of. LOST is the one stimulating hour of television per week where I don’t have kids, bills, or deadlines looming. And for that hour, it’s all about the island.

I wouldn’t care if the network decided to air LOST at 4am every other Sunday -- I would still watch (or, rather, my TiVo would). They killed Boone, and I stayed. They killed Charlie, and I stayed. They kept Kate, and still I stayed. Those of us who have tuned-in from the beginning have too much invested in this wild story to pack it in now.

The best part about LOST? For me, the answer varies. But in season 4, it was standout Yunjin Kim as Sun. If you didn’t cry when she went to Jin’s grave, man you’re made of stone. Oh, and I’d be slapped if I didn’t mention the long-awaited reunion of Desmond & Penny.

There are two seasons left … 34 total hours of programming … and if someone doesn’t tell me why that foot statue on the island has only four toes, there’s going to be hell to pay! But no matter how long we have to wait, no matter how much we bemoan the fact that there always seem to be more questions than answers, we have to go back! Yes, LOSTies, you heard me right. You don’t think the writers came up with that mantra by accident, do you?

"A cliche is only something well said in the first place." -Bill Granger
Freelance writers: your world is an up and down mixed bag of responses from pubs nationwide. There will be rejection, but as I’ve been told many, many times, “Don’t take it personally.” If you are producing quality work, have queried regularly, and followed all publication submission guidelines, your time WILL come. But editors, please do writers the courtesy of at least being upfront about things. I once queried an editor who was not interested in my story idea. He sent me a very nice email saying something to the effect of, “Thank you … not at this time … but please query again.”

And so for months, I continued to send story ideas his way. When one really great idea came across my desk, I immediately queried this editor, certain in my heart and soul that this story could not be turned down. His reply? “Thank you for the offer. Unfortunately, we don't have it in our budget to pay freelancers. That said, I'd welcome anything you'd like to submit but am unable to reimburse you for it.”

It was an unexpected speed bump. That’s the kind of information that should have been put forth upfront. And unfortunately, it’s not in my budget (or anyone else’s I know) to work for free.

But I didn’t take it personally. I pitched the same story idea to an online publication and they were thrilled. Being in the right place at the right time really does have its benefits. And in this business, perseverance is everything.

"Writing is the only thing that, when I do it, I don't feel I should be doing something else." -Gloria Steinem
While visiting my son’s school one lazy afternoon in late May, I met the Principal in the hallway. It was a particularly hot day, and the man’s face was very red. His hair looked wet –- I couldn’t be sure if that was from perspiration or an overzealous glob of hair gel. He promptly pulled me aside and said, “Do you know what your son has done?”

These are words you never want to hear from an authority figure.

I knew what he was talking about, though, and it wasn’t bad news. The NC Writing Assessment is given to all 4th, 7th, and 10th grade students and is a make-or-break score for going on to the next grade level. The test is similar to an EOG (end-of-grade) exam, but administered in March because each test must be hand-scored.

Educators don’t give old fashioned A’s and B’s anymore. When report cards come home, they’ve got newly defined achievement levels:
4 - superior (performance considered above grade level);
3 - mastery (performance considered at grade level);
2 - inconsistent mastery (performance considered below grade level); and
1 - insufficient mastery (considered failing).

The Principal was taking the opportunity to congratulate us as my kiddo did very well –- making the highest score in the school and the only Level 4.

I’ve always been proud of my kids, but being a writer, this moment was especially gratifying. Now if I could only get my oldest to turn off the video games long enough to hear me say that ...

To blog, or not to blog: that is the question. Will this be a good fit for the rest of my site? Will I have the time to commit to quality entries? And do people really want to know what I think? After evaluating the pros and cons, I decided that blogging would be an excellent creative outlet for thoughts that really have nowhere else to go. Mini essays, if you will. I could ramble to myself -- or keep a diary, I guess -- but putting words into print keeps them organized and accountable. And there is certainly professional benefit to keeping my writing skills sharp. I take inspiration from other bloggers who make it look so easy!

Feel free to chime in with your comments, but remember that this is a forum that will live online forever, so please be courteous of all thoughts and opinions.

Enjoy. Contribute. Or just lurk. I look forward to hearing from many of you and hope that all readers are able to find something of merit or satisfaction. So here we go.