Lucy Crowe's Nest: 2015

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Christmastime Courage: An EMS Story

The call comes in around six a.m. because that’s when old people tend to get up. Rain or shine, winter or summer, sick or retired – they like to see the sun rise. I’d been at a house fire the night before and my partner had been chasing transfers, so the page for the little old lady fall doesn’t hold a lot of appeal. We grouse around, find our boots, and set off in the early morning chill with the ambulance lights bouncing off the downtown Christmas lights and the new sun cutting the horizon.
                Feeling the lack of coffee.
                Our patient is supine on the floor of a living room that is rife with collectables, Santa wrapping paper and two walkers. The obligatory poinsettias on spindly end tables. Maneuvering the cot will be a difficulty, but not impossible, so my partner initiates that project while I tend to the fall victim.
                Almost certainly a broken hip, with the classic rotating of the ankle, the shortening of one leg. She rates her pain at a ten – on a scale of one to ten - in that quiet way the elderly have of voicing a difficulty without letting it own them. She had fallen, she said, in the bathroom, but Frank had helped her to get dressed and had gotten her this far before they both gave out.    
                “He was going to take you?” My question is abstracted; I’m listening for her blood pressure.
                ‘To the hospital?’ was the tag on my unfinished question, but she misunderstands, and answers a bit archly. “Well, he always has. Taken care of me.”
                And for the first time I see Frank. He hovers in the kitchen doorway on the telephone – small, thin and bent. Not looking as though he could take care of anything this morning.
                My partner has wrestled the cot into the living room, and from there it’s easy peasy – our patient is small, our cot a modern wonder. Pillows for comfort around the hip, two steps going down the porch, across a beautifully manicured lawn and we’re in the rig with a minimum of discomfort.
                I dash back for the jump kit, across the porch and into the living room. And for the first time I see Frank.
He’s crying. He had, of course, thought we’d left, and he’s leaning against the china cupboard with his face in his hands, shoulders shaking, when I come back in.
                He’s quick. His head comes up, hands mop his cheeks, and I notice how big those hands are, How rough, with their stubby nails and scarred knuckles.
                “Forget something?” he asks drily.
                Courage wears a lot of faces. But this face, here today, is the one that’s breaking my heart.
                He’d always taken care of her. And today he couldn’t get her from the bathroom to the front door. Always held her hand, and today we’re doing that. Slept with her for probably sixty years and tonight he’ll sleep alone. In one horrid and irrevocable moment, his life has changed utterly, and he wants to know if I forgot something.
                Yeah, I forgot to be kind.
                Courage is hardly ever about the rush you get when you dash into the house fire. It’s not about extricating the accident victims from the mangled car or even doing CPR on the SIDS baby. Courage has love and compassion at its core.
                So I put on my own courage face and breach the comfort zone between myself and this man I have only just seen; and I hug him. At first he stiffens, but then he hugs me back and for a long moment we just stand there like that.
                Finally I say, “Do you want to ride to the hospital with us?” and Frank and I walk out into the new morning.

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*Art Source

Sunday, November 1, 2015

We Loved October

 I’ve always been a bit startled by the concept of a God who demands an accounting at the end of the day. The notion of “Where did you err?” is a frightening one, and the list, alas, all too long. But here - what if the question is “What did you love?” Will the list, again, be unending?
                I hope so.
                But for now, let’s stick with October. Dear God, we loved October. Every glorious, gold-tinged, sweet-smelling moment. We ate popcorn in the bleachers at the football games; we kicked leaves all over the yard; we laughed, hard and often.
                October found us strewing decorations all over the house like madmen. Jack-o-lanterns, witches, twinkling orange light strings. To hell with the diet, we gained extra pounds in cookies and millions of teensy candy bars.
                In Galena, we drank too much wine and sat on the porch of our cabin with the owls hooting and the crows cawing all around us. All night, we talked, laughed, reminisced.
                Three birthdays in October! Beautiful faces reflected in candlelight, family and friends gathered, another year whooshing past like the leaves blowing off the hill.
                We sang around a bonfire, we scavenger-hunted, we played dress-up with the delight of small children. We sat transfixed before the millionth showing of “Hocus Pocus” and got goosebumps crossing the yard in the dark after “Nightmare on Elm Street.”
                Halloween! The gem in the crown. The rush, the exuberance, the very air alive with expectation. Could there be anything better?
                Chocolate, rum, granny smith apples – all sweeter in October.
Life – yes, sweeter.
                And that Oogey-Boogey Man November lurking just around the corner? BOO! It's here.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

An Ode to Tommy Pickles: Hero of the Millennials

Baby Boomers worry a lot about the next generation, don’t we? Funny kids, always on their magic phones, never in church. Chock full of news about spirituality and hashtags, but they don’t know how to balance a checkbook. We blame their video games for the violence in our nation, their lax beliefs for God’s new absence in America. We wish they’d learned more about math and less about the Perfect Selfie, am I right?
                Actually no, I’m wrong, we all are.
                Theirs is a generation of vivid color, bright love, universal acceptance. They not only like new toys and new ideas, they understand them, and while their God may not look like ours, I’m pretty sure He’s very much a presence.
                In short, they’re the Nickelodeon kids - the little ones we parked in front of morning cartoons while we brushed our teeth and fished Pop-Tarts out of the toaster. They did homework with Hey Arnold and learned about wildlife with Eliza Thornberry. But most importantly, they watched The Rugrats, and people, a generation weaned on Tommy Pickles can’t go wrong.
                Do you remember him lighting up your television screen with that big toothless grin? Toddling in and out of trouble with his diaper sagging and his “sponsitilty” clutched to his chest?
                “A baby’s gotta do what a baby’s gotta do,” he said, and he did.  Tommy is the John Wayne of the Millennials - adventurous, courageous, and guided by the firmest moral compass known to man.
                He taught us about loyalty - always at Chuckie’s side, nudging him forward, encouraging. He didn’t let the bad monkeys take Dill away, even though a large part of hoped they would.
                Stubbornness? Did anyone ever dig in like Tommy when he was on a mission? Whether it was reaching the cookie jar or breaching the playpen wall, when Tommy Pickles had a goal he by God reached it.
                Tommy gave us an openness to different cultures and beliefs, accepting with fascination stories from both Jewish and Christian grandparents, noticing but not giving a hoot that Suzy and Kimi’s skin was a different color than his own.
                He taught us to be comfortable with ourselves and to have fun. “Nakey is good, Chuckie! Nakey is free!”
                Imagination? Tommy created whole worlds from his seat in the sandbox, and he took everyone with him.
                We needed Tommy Pickles; we still do.
                Take heart, people. He lives on in the hearts of the next generation.

-What do YOU think of Tommy Pickles and the Millennials? Comment below!  (No account? No problem.  Just choose "Anonymous" in the drop down menu, and you're all set.) -

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Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Summer Imp

Summer is for the child in us. You know her – the giggling, golden imp who sleeps until ten, wakes up with her hair in a tangle and doesn’t look back on her way to the lake. Bare feet, brown shoulders and sand in her swim suit bottom, that’s her.

I’m an adult.
I do adult-speak, adult thoughts, adult action all day every day, and sometimes I think I’ve completely forgotten the language of the child. Do you remember that easy happiness? Big, belly-aching laughter, tears on your cheeks, feet kicking with sheer exuberance?  The wonder found in waxing moonlight, Daddy’s Pall Malls and first kisses? The cold rush of creek water around your ankles, the whisper of ghost stories beside a campfire?

Summer beckons us backwards, calls us home.

Ah God, what heaven, to give up taxes and jobs and the tangle of relationships. To have a conversation that has nothing to do with car payments or dead people.

The child in us remembers, she knows how. If we let her out, she’ll play music on the car radio so loud your eardrums will burst. She’ll kick off her shoes, curse like Davy Jones and drink rum through a straw in a paper cup.

It’s summer! She’ll scream it before she belly-flops from the raft into the mossy green lake water. No school, no job, no bills . . . No worries.

Ah, there it is. No worries. That’s why she laughs.

And here is where we butt up against the impossibility of ever being her again. Because the adult has learned the fine art of worry and is loath to turn loose of it. Worry, it seems, is intrinsically bound up with every article in our grown-up arsenal – our spouse, our children, our house, our jobs. Our happiness?

Ah no. Draw a line. The worry could go – couldn’t it?-  if we let the laughter back in, if we allow ourselves to be mesmerized by the flash of minnows in creek water or the swoop of barn swallows above the hill. It’s still summer – it’s not too late – and I propose a compromise. Give the imp just a toe in the door. A day off work, a double scoop ice cream cone, pink toenail polish from the dollar store.

Soon enough, the leaves will fall and the taxes will come due. I say, let’s laugh while we can. Let’s eat watermelon and dance in the moonlight and for a teensy window of time, just be.

No worries.

Happy August.     

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Thursday, July 23, 2015

Home to Maycomb

"Maycomb was an old town, but it was a tired old town when I first knew it. In rainy weather the streets turned to red slop; grass grew on the sidewalks, the courthouse sagged in the square. Somehow, it was hotter then: a black dog suffered on a summer’s day; bony mules hitched to Hoover carts flicked flies in the sweltering shade of the live oaks on the square. Men’s stiff collars wilted by nine in the morning. Ladies bathed before noon, after their three-o’clock naps, and by night fall were like soft teacakes with frostings of sweat and sweet talcum."
I was probably ten when I first stepped into Maycomb and felt the drowsy July heat on the back of my neck. The light was different there – hazy and green, filtered through the lace of leaves and pink magnolia blossoms. The air – limpid and thick, sweet with Mimosas and sprinkled with fireflies. I padded barefoot though the soft dirt between the collard greens, shivered in Boo Radley’s shadow, and never wanted to come out again.
I have, in fact, returned every summer, and turning that first page always feels like coming home. Because Harper Lee’s magic is twofold; in reading her, I am transported not only Scout Finch’s childhood, but also to my own.  Open the book, and I am curled again on my grandmother’s couch. Sunlight is warped through the multi-paned windows; it throws rainbow prisms across the pages and the maple wood of the coffee table. Through the screen I can hear the indolent hum of bees and the long whistle of a bobwhite; from the kitchen the muted chatter of conversation. Water droplets traverse the length of my pink lemonade glass and Scout’s honeyed voice is as Southern as Brer Rabbit.
Anyone who denies the power of the written word has not read To Kill a Mockingbird.
Whenever the cynical half of my soul decries the value of an author career, I have only to remember the ten year old on the couch soaking Harper Lee into her soul the way sun tea takes on color. This woman’s words made me want to fashion my own; to create from sheer nothingness a world as layered and nuanced as the one I inhabited seemed a magic beyond comprehension, and I knew, even then, that I would have to try.
I’m still trying, and even on my most wretched day I’m forced to admit how much I love the by-now familiar process. Words, you see, are a gift.

"Since Atlanta, she had looked out the dining-car window with a delight almost physical. Over her breakfast coffee, she watched the last of Georgia’s hills recede and the red earth appear, and with it tin roofed houses set in the middle of swept yards, and in the yards the inevitable verbena grew, surrounded by whitewashed yards."

I can see it, can’t you? Harper Lee is back, blowing through our lives like the sweetest Alabama breeze, whispering in our ears, bringing with her the all of the old magic. Never, ever, has a sequel been more anticipated.
My copy of Go Set a Watchman has been ordered and should be arriving in the mail any day now, at which time I’ll be off the radar for a bit.
I’m going back to Maycomb.

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Saturday, July 4, 2015

Uniquely American

Art by Henri Peter
We put our flag away the weekend after Memorial Day, and here we are, unfurling it again on this gorgeous lavender evening, twilight hour thick with lightning bugs and the smell of fresh -cut grass. Down the block someone sets off a bottle rocket – whine and pop, laughter – and through the open screen I can hear the Jimi Hendrix version of the Star Spangled Banner. When we wrestle the flag pole into its bracket, the brilliant stars and stripes are glorious against the smooth purple sky.

            It’s good to be here, isn’t it?   Here, barefooted in my front yard in the middle of my town in the middle of my country. 

            And I love tonight – the carnival lights and the stink of spent firecrackers, the facepaint, the music, and all the rowdy raucous hullaballoo that is so us. 

So noisily, uniquely American. 

Here, tonight, we won’t question ourselves. Let’s not bemoan our property taxes, the healthcare system or illegal immigration. Instead, let’s remember who we are, where we came from.  We the people. The first ever, anywhere, to believe that a dream could be shaped into a government and made to work not just for a few, but for all.  We the people who absolutely could not wear the cloak of oppression, could never bow before a king or accept a class system. We the people made up of different religions, colors and ethnicities but yes, all us. All American.  

            Tonight, we’ll cheer about that. We’ll sing about a flag that waves in every hollow, on every mountain, across the prairie of this, our home. 

            Happy birthday to us – may we never take us for granted.

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Saturday, June 20, 2015

A Father, to a Daughter

In my dream, it is a perfect October day. A sky hard and blue as ceramic, the whole world on fire with the crimson death of summer, harvest in full swing; it is the sort of day that a child takes wholly for granted. 
I am sixteen and I’m driving the best tractor known to man, an International 806. Pulling a full wagon load of corn up the incline to the main road and not thinking about the yawning ravine off to my right. Until I throttle the engine back and it dies.
Here is where the dream veers into the realm of nightmares. There had been noise – the growl of tractor engine, indistinct radio static, birdsong – but now there is silence. My hand reaches of its own volition, moves languidly, like a fat bass under water, and turns the key in the ignition.
The engine stays dead and the tractor begins a slow roll backwards. 
I am going to die.
But then a miracle happens. The wagon strikes something hard. The tongue bends - the crash of metal on metal exploding into the quiet - and the tractor comes to rest, cockeyed, back tires just on the edge of the path. A handful of corn dislodges from the load and drops off into nothingness, brushing elm leaves on its way down the abyss.
My legs are jelly, but I jump from the tractor, roll once in the hard dirt and sit up to see . . . my dad.
He had been following in the grain truck, had seen my dilemma and accelerated to catch up, stopping my roll with the nose of his truck. 
Fathers, you see, stand - always and implacably - between their children and the stuff of nightmares.
A mother is the indispensable giver of hugs and kisses, the untiring listening ear, the arms that hold you when you cry. Fathers don’t know what to do with tears, but they will single-handedly slaughter every demon in your universe and they will, if you let them, give you all the tools you need for life. 
My own father taught me how to work and how to dance. How to play poker and how to pray. When I couldn’t balance a check book he got out his pencil; when I drove home drunk he summoned an awesome and righteous anger. 
He has been, and remains, the only hero in my universe whose feet aren’t made of clay. 
Father’s Day . . . well, it doesn’t quite cut it for most dads, does it? Chocolate, or socks, or a blue work shirt hardly say what needs to be said. 
But I think he knows. A father, to a daughter, walks amongst the gods, is the brightest and most infallible star in her sky. Although he would laugh out loud if he were to read this.
And then I would be embarrassed.
Happy day, Dad! I love you.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Maypops and Loblollies: Share Your Thoughts On My Query Letter

Maypop Flower Inspired Art by Liz9923
Today I typed the word “Loblolly” at the top of a page and took a deep breath. A big, lung-expanding breath like the one the captain of the swim team sucks before he dives into twelve feet of crystal blue water. 
“Beneath the Loblollies” is the third installment of my Rush series – wheeee! – and I’ve already typed the first word to the first outline, so I am well on my way. 
For me, there is no favorite aspect to writing. I have never not written, so I only notice the process when, for whatever reason it stops. Like an emphysemic gasping for air, I hunger – suddenly and acutely - for something not there. 
Until I open a new document and brush my fingers over the keys. And breathe again.
Book Two, “Maypops in September”, reached its conclusion about a month ago, and while that felt, on some level, like a death in the family, it also holds the promise of a new beginning. I am launching my beloved with all the oomph I can muster behind it, and I won’t be a bit surprised when it makes the NYT bestseller list. 
To that end  . . .  the search for agents begins! Query query query. Social media and conferences and online classes, and I am really enjoying this so much more than I had anticipated. Today I am sharing the joy by enlisting your help, oh loyal and awesome follower. Beneath, I have attached the query, which – minus its opening paragraph, which is uniquely tailored for each target agent - could also serve as a back cover blurb. 
Would you open my novel based on the following?
Detective John Rush knew well that nobody dies without complications. A death, any death, grew tentacles that strangled and bruised those standing closest to it.
John Rush arrives home from the city still bathed in the aftermath of a brutal car-jacking, certain that his new position with the rural Drug Task Force Team will be, in comparison, the proverbial piece of cake. He has failed to account for the tumultuous nature of life on the lake, and the reminder comes all too quickly in the form an unexplained death and a missing teenager.  Rush suspects that his new bride and her sister – recovering addict and sometimes ghost whisperer – are more deeply embroiled than they would have him believe, but when the girls close ranks nothing short of an arrest warrant will break them.
Life is further complicated by the arrival of Rush’s volatile daughter, currently on the outs with her mother and less than enthusiastic about building a relationship with Rush’s new family. When she steers unerringly into the midst of a drug dealer’s scam and pronounces herself in love with all the energy of her sixteen years, Rush is admittedly out of his depth.  While he would normally turn to his wife for commiseration, he is all too aware of her current devotion to her firefighter career and is reluctant to press her. Will family ties withstand the constraints of two unique and very demanding jobs? And will Rush prevail against the dark appetites a seemingly aboveboard town father?  
“Maypops in September” is a literary fiction work that unflinchingly explores that darker side of human desires even while it celebrates the resilience of love. At 85,000 words it is comparable in size – and the stand-alone sequel to - its predecessor, “Sugar Man’s Daughter”, which was published by Rainstorm Press in September of 2013. I am currently seeking representation - with high hopes of finding a new home for my work - and I believe that my experience has left me with an understanding of the publishing and marketing experience. 
Please feel free to search me out on the web. I can be found at my author’s site,, my twitter page,, and on Facebook,  My first novel can be found for sale on Amazon,  as well as Barnes and Noble, Thanks so much for your consideration!         
Okay, don’t pull any punches, people! Let me know what you think!

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Mothers are the Weavers

Mothers are the weavers. As indispensable as water, sunlight or oxygen. Their role is at once concrete and nebulous - undefined, and yet, somewhere, surely, carved in stone.

Here, I think, is the gist of the project: She must begin the weave with the threads from the past -  light and dark alike, gossamer silk as well as good, durable fishing line.  The threads my mother received from her own mother were as varied and colorful as the prairie land birds. Bright strings of flowers, art, and music, shot through with solid browns of practicality and fortitude. The courage thread is surely pink – neither neon nor pastel, but the deep, lovely shade of crab apple blossoms. It is an old thread, handed down from a grandmother who survived a train wreck and a mother who counted green stamps during the Depression.

So - first the fabrics and textures at hand, and then the unique new cloth of her own existence.  My mother wove in a blend of humor that laughs, always, at the inappropriate. A love of all things medical and all things mysterious. She filled our tapestries with cookies and Hail Marys, Band-Aids and hair ribbons. And love, always love.

A mother makes us who we are; only she has the bravery and the skills to shape a life, and never actually credit herself with the accomplishment of that monumental task.

The first lullaby sung to my first child was a gift from my mother, who had received it from her own mother and so on, probably all the way back to Eve. “Hush little baby don’t say a word”  and “Honey tie your shoe”. “Don’t eat an hour before swimming. Or communion” and “Never ask a boy on a date.” Along the way, the child became the mother, the new child the recipient, and the fabric of life brightened yet again. 

Mothers are life.

And so, to all the mothers, and especially to my own, who is the bestest, the brightest of all – happy day!  Joyous day! 

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Friday, April 3, 2015

The Crux of Childhood Easter

My childhood Easters were all about dressing up, which, for me, made it the less-than-favorite holiday. I was more of a Scout Finch kid, comfortable in over-alls and bare feet; a dress, any dress, could only itch.

My mother, however, delighted in this highest, holiest of Catholic days – and showed her joy in the display of six clean and lovely offspring. Three boys in suits. Three girls in matching dresses, jackets and shiny black Mary Janes. We swore that she pinned the lace head cap right into our skulls.

Mass? By Easter Sunday we had been half a dozen times in as many days, had observed the fasting rules (staying up until midnight on Good Friday in order to eat  M&Ms) and kept our Lent promises. (I give up pop, television, calling my brother bad names.)  Holy Week was at last behind us, and soon, soon, the dress could go back in the closet.

But here is the crux of childhood Easter. We were better people then.  There are days, I think, when I would sell my soul to be the little girl with straight bangs and an itchy dress again – she exists, in my memory, so whole, and in my mind I can trace her Easter route from start to finish.

Church. Latin words that I hadn’t yet prayed for solace, because I had never needed solace. So – just a drone unremarkable as the noise of honey bees.  Sunshine through stained glass windows and incense tickling the nose. My mother’s unmitigated soprano soaring in glorious praise, my father’s occasional cough. (Dear God, let him get hiccups, I would pray my sole Easter prayer. Nobody got hiccups like my dad.)

Mass at last finished, we would go to Grandma’s. Tulips in bloom, and bird’s nests cookies. Gossip at the kitchen table, and the surreptitious teasing of the fat housecat. 

From there to my aunt’s. Uncle Don was probably six feet tall, but he seemed as big as the sky to us; he could lift us all the way to the ceiling. 

Older cousins who teased, aunts who scolded, the smell of peppered roast and mashed potatoes and the lull of adult conversation, and all the while . . .  I think she knew. The restless little girl in the stiff linen knew even then how fast it was all sliding past. 

And while she wanted the hell out of that dress and the day was dull beyond measure . . . Ah, wouldn’t it be good to have it back now? To see us as we were that day? 

But Easter is all about joy, isn’t it? Cleanliness and that simple rock-hard goodness that, in adulthood, is as elusive as the last egg. How did my parents do that? How did they keep hold of that solid, essential all-is-wellness? 

Another Easter. Tulips in bloom and little girls in dresses. Hot, drowsy sunlight through stained glass windows and my daughter’s voice the perfect echo of my mother’s.  Holy holy holy. 

Ah, life is still good, people. Jesus still loves us, and here we are, having straggled whole through another year. Take heart.

In fact, be joyful, people.

Happy, happy Easter.

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Thursday, February 19, 2015

Know That This Is Transient

February in Illinois is a splendid and confounding mix, comprised of blizzards and silvery rain showers, northers howling over the prairie and tentative crocus tips peering up through the snow. We’re never quite certain we’re going to make it, are we?

But Lent is already upon us, and to me this is a beacon in the darkness. I’ll tell you why:

Lazare veni foras.” 

 Lazarus, come forth. Best story ever, people. And the reason for this is not so much that beautiful blaze of glory when the man emerged from the tomb as what proceeded it. Jesus wept.

That sticks in the mind, doesn’t it?

Why? Why would this man - this Jesus who was to become something at once as glorious and mundane as a household name – why would He weep?

Well . . . why do we weep? It’s not so hard, is it, to follow that shitty path of discouragement, despair, loss? If you’re reading this, then you’re alive, and if you’re alive, odds are, you’ve been there. We weep because we’re at the end of our rope. Because winter is eternal, because we are exhausted, or maybe because the worst has happened and we will never hear the beloved voice of a friend, a spouse, a parent, a lover, again. 

We weep because we’re lost, because we can’t find the light. 

We can’t even believe there is a light.

Death doesn’t pick favorites. It’s as random as the smile of a stranger in a crowd, as capricious as March sunshine. It swoops down and plucks one from among us, and there is no recourse. No chance to say “I love you” or to retract a cruel word, no familiar arms to hold us, no warm and lovely voice in our ear.

But there is something to take away from this, and it isn’t despair. Jesus wept that day because he had lost a friend. He was exhausted, discouraged, and ultimately certain of his own impending death. But then He stood up and He shouted.

“Lazarus Come Forth!”  

And Lazarus did. We know that he did.

Your loved one won’t. Not here, not now. But you can’t go forward thinking that this is the end.  The entire purpose of Jesus’s life was to show us that there is no end. Whoever you’re missing, whatever darkness you are traveling in, know that this is transient, that time shuttles us forward, always so rapidly you don’t even know you’re moving. You won’t be in this bad spot forever. 

Because there is another side, okay? There is.

Winter ends, the crocuses bloom and Lazarus heard the voice of his beloved friend calling him. Come forth. Come out into the sunshine and stand tall.

Friday, January 30, 2015

Notebook in Hand, Head in the Clouds

© Irene Owens
“I’m a writer, what’s your superpower?” The tee shirt advertisement screams at me from my Facebook page and I can’t click away from it quickly enough.

Well, it is silly, isn’t it? So much easier to get behind an occupation like firefighting. EMS. Or even motherhood. Writers are the nerds of the universe, let’s face it.

But lately it occurs to me that, at least in the beginning, the purpose of this blog was to promote my novel. (Sugar Man’s Daughter, for sale on Amazon and Barnes and Noble. Oh please,  tell me you are here because you have read it and love it!) Anyway - somewhere along the line, the Crowe’s Nest took off and gained a life of its own, and it’s all about things like ambulances and chocolate chip cookies. Matchbox lyrics and Easter.

It’s all good! But today I think I’ll talk about writing.

I don’t remember not doing it.  My mother helped me put words to paper before I could even spell. I was always the kid with the notebook in hand, head in the clouds. I studied landscapes, emotions, and the small, nebulous bits of life that a lot of people don’t give much thought to – what, precisely, does a March wind feel like? How best to describe the scent of August corn? Or burnt brownies? People squirmed beneath my avid stare, never realizing that the silly bespectacled girl was trying to find the right words to describe the mole on their chin.

John Steinbeck was my hero. Still is. Such a beautiful magic, to take mere worlds and create . . .  a whole world. Complete. Every sense engaged, so that the reader sees what the author sees, feels what he feels.

I had to do that. And I say “had to” because there was no choice. The author in my head clamored to be heard day and night, restless, always restless, until the pen was put to paper.

I was never a poet, didn’t like short stories. For me, it was always The Novel. I finished my first one in high school – well over three hundred pages that my mother painstakingly typed on an old-style typewriter. Corrections in white-out. Imagine that for a moment, and you will understand how blessed I am that this woman loves me.

I wrote throughout my time at junior college. I wrote in the early/late hours when I came home from my factory job. I wrote when my kids were small and after they had grown. Through a marriage, a divorce, another marriage. I wrote letters to editors and essays for teachers. Journals for me and books for the world. I created characters out of thin air, and I made them whole, and now I can’t imagine a life without them.

God, I think, loves me as much as my mother does because today I am a published author. This is huge and exciting, and on the days when I am impatient with my publisher or upset over a late royalty check, I only have to remind myself that the miracle has already happened, and I hold my book in my hands.

To the world, this isn’t as exciting as screaming down the road in an ambulance. Or rolling up on a fire with the lights and sirens full bore. It’s not like a first kiss or the laughter of your child.

But it’s close, people, it’s close.

Yep. Remember the nerd factor?

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Thursday, January 15, 2015

The Secret Recipe for a Happy 2015

©Mary Engelbreit Studios
Why does the New Year begin in January?

Google blames Julius Caesar, which makes perfect sense to me, because, well, Julius didn’t live in Illinois, did he?  Here in the Heartland we all know that the year actually begins in March – lovely gray tempestuous month, cold and warm and gusty and gentle all at once. Rainy winds and tiny slivers of sunshine, the days at last stretching out until we have an evening again.
But January? Oh dear. Cold and dark, so bleak and . . . well, January.

It’s hard, isn’t it, to get excited for a year beginning with frozen pipes and frostbitten toes? How to set goals when even daylight is confined to just a few precious hours?
Ah, but we persevere, don’t we? Thankfully, perseverance is a huge part of the human make-up.

What does your 2015 look like? Are you a goal-setter, a trend setter, a roll-with-the-tide type?  No matter your inclinations, I’ve got ideas for you, and they are mostly along the lines of feeling better even in January. They look something like this:

1.) Sleep more. Seriously, people, aren’t you tired of being tired? Everyone I know is exhausted – work and run, run and work, and no end in sight. So pull the shades, snuggle your teddy bear, and just lay down. Pure heaven, try it for a few hours once in a while.
Or maybe until March.

2.) Rum. And brownies. All right, maybe not every day, but once in awhile won’t kill you. Think of it as a social thing – a drink with the hubby, a snack with the kids. Lay aside the soul-draining low carb restrictions and taste life now and then. Great stuff, chocolate. Rum, even better.

3.) Exercise, yes. Throw snowballs and build igloos. Wade in the creek, ride your bike, hike up the hill. Drag that old treadmill out of the basement and to local scrapyard – and then do the spider dance when you realize you have cobwebs in your hair. Exercise is good.

4.) Love more. Love everything more – your people, your pets, your bugman, your supper. The thing about love is you have to apply it liberally. Big, sloppy paintbrush, spread that stuff around everywhere. There is no shortage, okay? You can’t run out of it.

Sleep, food, exercise, love. There you have it, the recipe for a simple and lovely 2015. And no more being mean to ourselves, people!

We are, after all, supposed to be happy.
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