My Creative Muse Is At It Again

nikitaliskov

Happy Monday creative muses!

Last week I told you that, for various reasons, I will not be going to Paris next fall to write. Which is just fine.

Just as I accepted that fact,  my creative muse swooped in and brought me an idea a new book (which I’ve  told you about). Her chatter, at first, is confusing and mind blowing. So much information, so many ideas, and with her Irish brogue it’s sometimes hard to understand everything.

But she also brought a new awareness to my aura’s circle. I believe that, of all of things I’ve written, this upcoming book will be the one that really works.

Do you ever feel that way with your latest creation? That of all of the things you have worked on, all the things you’ve made, that this is the one that is going to take you to that next level?

Do you listen to yourself when you hear that?

Now, “the next level” can be different things to different people. It could be the start of a whole new art collection. A whole new style or technique or genre.  It is usually something you’ve been working towards for some time. A contest entry, an art competition, being published. The next level is something every artist strives for.

I finished my blogs about How To Write Your First/Second/Third Book which I will be posting soon. And I am happy to say I am following my own advice.

I have a story line kinda worked out. When I solidify it I will write my synopsis. I think I’ve decided which point of view I’m writing as. And I have a lot of research to do on characters and settings, for that’s the kind of book I now want to write. I am missing one character I know I need but have drawn a blank on who it is. This is common, too. You don’t always have to have all the details, all the Ps and Qs before you start. Your creative muse will sooner or later bring you the piece you need to finish your puzzle.

When you get your idea and really begin to work on it, you can’t help but get excited about it. Excited about the research, excited about its development, excited about how you will start it and how you will finish it. All mediums are the same when it comes to that tingling feeling that “this is IT.” 

So what are you working on/researching this marvelous Monday?

And I’m talking to you silent readers in the background who are  starting something and finally are ready to talk about it….

Come On — Let’s Go Dreaming!

I am in one of my magical moods this evening. One of my “anything is possible” states of mind.

Do you get those now and then? 

Those times when who you really are comes through, and it’s amazing?

It’s like when I get in the “zone” when I write. It doesn’t happen all the time…I think I would burn out like a firework if it did. Or reading a book that I just can’t put down. It’s read read read crash.  It’s that adrenaline rush that teases as it blows in and out of my life.

The one thing about my pretzel view of the world is that I’m often in and out of all sorts of adrenaline rushes. The basics never change…writing, cheeseburgers, looking for artists for SEAG. 

But other nirvanas blow in and out like Wisconsin weather. One day I love yogurt, two weeks later, ick. I was on a kick for a while of a homemade snack mix of sesame mix and chocolate Chex mix and pecans. That lasted two big containers full. The container has been empty and put away for weeks. Now I’m into raspberry sherbet, but I haven’t bought any in over a week, so who knows.

My interest in airy fairy always stays the same, though, even though my choice of airy fairy changes with that same wind. 

Now I’m into dreaming. I want to do more. 

Everyone dreams, but most just don’t remember them. It has to do with waking at certain times and slipping back into REM sleep and a whole bunch of scientific mumbo jumbo I’m not interested in.

What I am interested in these days is remembering those crazy mind trips.

Watching yourself in a dream. Controlling your dream. Making choices in your dream. Knowing you’re dreaming and following wherever it goes.

It sounds so simple, yet any idea of “control” is as far away as Pluto. I mean, how do you control the madness of your mind at so-called rest?

I know dreams are supposed to be reflections of what’s in your head during the day. A way of working out problems and situations and romances and your deepest fears. Blah blah blah. I don’t care about figuring out anything.

I just want to be able to remember and record these dream trips I have so I can look back at them and wonder “where did that come from? Man, that was fun!”

Something I read said that creative people tend to have more lucid dreaming. Are an active part of their own dreams. Of course, the line between creativity and madness is a thin one. I suppose that’s what drove Van Gogh to paint Starry Night and cut off his ear in the same lifetime. 

You are all creative people out there. I keep encouraging you to come forward, but you are timid. I see. I understand. Do you have wild dreams? Do you enjoy them? Like them? Are frightened by them?

I took a book out of the library earlier this evening on dreaming. If my attention span lasts on this I’ll let you know what I learn. My creative urges, as they are, will most likely take me in another direction somewhere down the road, but let’s have fun while we’re here!

 

Take The Long Way Home

Don’t you just love when you start out facing north and when you look up it’s really west?

I wrote a blog earlier today — something about BoHo and gypsy and wrapping my wardrobe around that feeling. Blah blah and I don’t remember exactly where that was going, because I rode home from work tonight with the windows open, the fields shimmering with yellow soybean leaves and stalks of corn turning crisply brown, their tassels dancing in the evening breeze, Elton John rocking at full blast on the radio, my thin, flat reddish-brown hair flying helter skelter in the wind, thinking about my evening ritual of playing fetch with my dogs, then a bit of dinner, a bit of cleaning, a bit of TV, then digging into a good book.

Wherever I was going with my previous story, whatever wrappings I thought I needed to be who I was, whatever depressing thoughts tried to bloom from a day of data entry, whatever politics played out during the four cement walls of my workplace,  whatever aches and pains follow me day in and day out, none of that mattered. None of that matters.

Life is good. Love, in whatever form you find it, is good. It’s here and it’s now and it’s all you’ve got. Damn the job and the family members that don’t get you and the pounds you want to lose. Open those windows. Crank up the radio. Sing at the top of your lungs.

Take the long way home….

Does it feel that you life’s become a catastrophe?
Oh, it has to be for you to grow, boy.
When you look through the years and see what you could
have been oh, what might have been,
if you’d had more time.
So, when the day comes to settle down,
Who’s to blame if you’re not around?
You took the long way home
You took the long way home
Supertramp…Take the Long Way Home

 

I’m Watching Me Dream

lucid-dreamOctober is for Dreams

 

You are engaged to your old boss from 40 years ago, even though in reality you have moved to a different state and have been happily married to someone else for almost as long.

You have an important dinner date or presentation to make. All you can find to wear is some tatty t-shirt and dirty shorts. All the clothes you’ve ever owned are piled way high around the washing machine. You watch yourself throw clothes everywhere, digging, digging through the pile. Yet everything looks the same.

You are hiding from some unknown monster/entity that is clearing out your apartment complex floor by floor. You are running from room to room, finally settling on hiding under a shelf behind the clothes rack in some closet. You’ve never lived in a high-rise apartment, and you don’t believe in monsters. So you hide and wait to see what happens.

Are you dreaming? Or lucid dreaming? Is there a difference?

I’ve scoured the Internet looking for clues, for some sort of distinction between the two.  If you want detailed explanations, the Internet is your portal. If you want the I-enjoy-your-blog-so-give-me-the-short-version version, stick around. Because you and I want to have fun with this.

According to Web MD (Dream1), dreams are basically stories and images our mind creates while we sleep. They can be vivid, happy, sad, or downright confusing. They can occur any time during sleep, but most vividly during deep REM sleep, when the brain is most active.

Lucid dreams, on the other hand, is more like having a dream where you know you are dreaming. In other words, you know the house you are walking through is not your house or your spouse is not your spouse and you follow along anyway. You don’t have to wake up to know that whatever is happening is not real. Lucid dreaming represents a brain state between REM sleep and being awake. More like those twilight dreams at the edge of waking.

I think most of us experience a combination of the two. Most times we find ourselves in situations and places and memories we have no control over, and we go with the flow. But sometimes we make decisions to do certain things in our dreams like jump off buildings and fly or open doors that lead to huge mansions and strange factories and more. We don’t fight the dream – we actually encourage it.

You can scour the Internet (my favorite phrase today!) for ways to become more aware/involved with your dreaming. Some sights are hokey; but others share real information.  The Goddess and I have a few suggestions for this next step of evolutionary dreaming, though.

  1. Don’t pay for seminars, pills, lectures, or anything that concerns moola. Simple – and free – ways are available.
  2. Sleep in complete darkness. Don’t let the stray light of a bathroom light or hall light unconsciously raise you from your well-earned dream stroll.
  3. Keep a dream journal. I know it’s a pain the buttocks to turn the lights on and off all the time, but the act of writing forces the art of retaining. This training will help you acknowledge and track your dreamscapes.
  4. When your weird dream ends, don’t jump up. Don’t move. Don’t even open your eyes. Recall as much of it as you can. Even if it doesn’t make sense. The mere act of recalling the feeling and actions encourages more recollection.
  5. Condition yourself at night to let your dreams go where they may. The final thoughts you have before switching gears into dreamland help influence where your dreams go. So go lightly but firmly.
  6. Allow yourself to check in and say “Hey! Cool dream!” Let it flow as a passing thought, not a change in the river’s flow. The more you find yourself letting your dreams go where they may, the more you can stand back and watch them.
  7. Unless it’s a nightmare, don’t try and force yourself awake. Many squiggly dreams make it to the surface to taunt you then fade back into the abyss. The more you let the dreamworld take you by the hand the more you will remember.

Dreaming is a wonderful way to explore the worlds of “what if” and “if only.” Not to mention “Wha??” and “Woah!!”  Those are the ones you want to explore, continue, and repeat.

Happy Dreaming!

 

 

Just Because It’s Different

fantastic-photo-3It’s a beautiful Fall Saturday. Cool afternoon, a bit of sun. Don’t have to go to work today. Going to make Chicken and Goo for dinner tonight.  I look around — the kitchen is a far cry from what it was when I first woke up this morning.  An accumulation of not being home, a full dishwasher I didn’t unload, grocery shopping, various machinery I/we didn’t put back where we found it, all made for a mess one step away from a bomb having gone off.  But I sleepily (but thoroughly) cleaned said disaster area, and moved around to work on the other piles that had accumulated from a week’s worth of busy days.

My first downfall was to put on some smooth jazz from Sirius on the telly. Second was to throw a load of laundry to be changed around “later.”

Never do later. Later never comes.

Second — and final — mistake was to go on the computer. Wrote a short piece for a publication, checked my Facebook, then came here. Decided it was time for a new blog look.  I’m like the home decorator’s best friend. If I could move every so often and decorate a new place to live I would. Not that I would feel as home as I do now — it’s just that I love playing with space and color and atmosphere.

That’s probably because I’m never satisfied with where I am.

I mean,  I AM happy. I AM blessed. I DO love my house and the view and the music and my decorations and most of my wardrobe.  But being a creative sprite means I always want to tinker with things. Not knowing what I want half the time, I tinker to the point where I mess things up and forget what was there originally.  A writer always edits and rewrites and clarifies just where their story is going. A good blogger has a path, a destination in mind when they share thoughts and words. An artist knows if their painting will be modern or traditional. And they are good with that.

Me? I have a dozen things I want to do and not enough time to develop any of them. I love this blog…this is what I want to do. I want to share laughs and insights and the weirdness of the world as I get older.  But I also have a photography blog in mind…something to do with faeries and nature paths and mystical hiding places. I’d also like to do a blog that shares eclectic pieces of the world (poetry, images, thoughts) in a more delicate sort of way. (Like one of the blogs I follow….http://davidkanigan.com/… Lead, Learn, Live…go check it out).  I also thought about starting a blog that would highlight some of my writing through the years.

But who has time to create all these things?  I thought of changing this blog theme today, and did nothing but waste two hours of time trying to adapt a new style, none of which tickled my fancy. I would have been better off doing research or writing something or looking at images.  Now the afternoon is winding down and the laundry needs to be switched and the livingroom could use a vaccuuming and the bathroom definitely needs a wiping down.

Do you all have pretzeled moments like this? As a creative sprite I’m sure you must, although the form the pretzel takes is molded more around your lifestyle.  I love my life and everything…I believe that all these loose threads of creativity are here for me to collect and make something out of when the time is right.  At least I have fun in the planning stages.

My last creative flourish earlier was to type in “fantastic images” into Yahoo just for the beans of it. I downloaded the first one that made me say “wow”…for no other reason than I found it creative. Consider that creative itch scratched (for now.)

Get ‘er Done

thThis is a question everybody can answer. There are no rights or wrongs — just a lot of points-of-view and lots of fun.  Youth vs. Age, married vs. single, male vs. female, 30 vs. 60. And my guess is that the results will be quite telling of what side you are on.

My question is:  If you had a weekend all to yourself, what would you do? I mean no guilt about leaving friends and family behind; no guilt about not fixing the car or doing the dishes or playing fetchie with your dog. Finances are taken care of if need be, but not the focus of the daydream.  How would you like to spend the hours between, say, Saturday morning and Sunday afternoon?

I’ll start.  I’d love to check into a hotel ALL BY MYSELF, with my laptop, 3-ring binder, paper and pens, Ipod, bottle of wine, bubble bath, great snack food, and chocolate truffles. I’d write, organize the files on my computer,  research, download images for my blog, edit the novel in the 3-ring binder, enter writing contests, go back and work on stories I started 6 years ago — along with using their WIFI and watching their movies.

How boring, you say. My husband said the same thing. He thinks I’d do nothing but surf the net for two days. Not So. I have sooo many things I want to do in the writing world that two days would barely be long enough. Just think — no cats climbing over my laptop; no dogs bugging me to play fetch; no Swamp People or Deadliest Catch. No questions of “where’s the ___?” or “Did you do ___?” Just me and Gaia Borealis and Darren McHale and Ginny Huntington and a boatload of other characters just waiting for me to tell their story.

Now.

My husband, bless his pea-pickin’ heart, is one of the most linear, in-the-box thinkers I know. I  asked him the same question the same way.  First he said he’d spend the two days with my grandson. No — no family members. Then he had to think about it. He loves fishing and hunting. What about a fishing trip  somewhere? No — he’s a people person. He loves to do things with other people. Me too — but that’s not a part of the HYPOTHETICAL question. After a few more rounds of “reasoning” I decided he just wasn’t going to play.

I would love to know how YOU would waste two days. And don’t feel you’re slighting your “others” if their name doesn’t show up on your guest list.

If they played this game, your name might not be at the top of their list either…

What Is True Success?

So many things make us happy; so many things make us sad. So many times we wished we  had turned left instead of right; so many times we are soooo glad we did turn right instead of left. Sometimes I get really sad that I’m soon going to turn 60 — where has my life gone? Other times I look back and am sorry my mother never made 54. I’m sad that I had breast cancer; other times I’m so glad they found it when they did.

Life is packed with highs and lows, yellow and blacks, snow and scorching heat. That’s what it’s all about. That’s what it’s always been about. For us, for our grandparents, for George Washington and Kublai Khan and St. Joseph. I’m sure they all had a hundred things they wanted to do at one time, too.  Just like us. We all want to be appreciated for what we’ve done. What we’ve become. We all would like to think that our time here on Earth has been for the Greater Good.

This is not a confessional blog; this isn’t a tell-all or a bad news bomb.  I’m sitting on my sofa this cold Sunday afternoon, looking at the bare treetops in my front yard. Of course, you know me — I’m also watching football, eating lunch, doing laundry, getting ready to write some in  my latest novel, wondering what I’m gonna wear to work tomorrow. I’m also thinking about the fun I had with my grandbaby this weekend, thinking of taking some drugs for my achy legs, and feeling guilty I haven’t played fetchie with my dog today.

That’s really what this blog is about. Sometimes I feel I should be pushing this blog harder, trying to share the Word with more readers. Other times I think I’ve run this horse to the finish line, and should start a new creative venture.  Yet more often I think  I’ve let my writing simmer on the back burner for so long it’s started to dry up and stick to the pan.

How do you know if you’ve succeeded at what you tried to do? What is the measure of success? Big paychecks often are an indicator;  good health, always. Waking up every morning is a success all on its own. Family? Kids? Making the perfect apple pie? All of the above are successes if never done it before. Success has always been measured from the heart first, from the masses second. And often it takes on a meaning more cosmic than one thinks. I think I make the best spaghetti sauce this side of the Mississippi. If you don’t agree, does that mean it’s not good? Of course not. All it means is that I can eat it all myself.

Writing is the same thing for me. What is being a successful writer? Have I ever been published? A short  story here or there in the past 10 years. Have I won awards for my creativity? No. Have I ever I gotten a call or email from a publisher? No. Do I think I’m a successful writer? Yes. Definitely.  I’ve had people say positive things about my stories; I’ve brought smiles and tears to readers.  I’ve written 4 novels, 1 novella, 32 short stories, 42 poems, 84 blogs, and 3 novels in-progress. I think that’s being successful. Why? Because Ive continued to do what I love, no matter what the  result. I’ve had fun making friends, creating worlds, and trying things that make me uncomfortable. I encouraged people to believe in themselves, given life to middle-age heroines, and never killed off  the main character.

There are still so many paths to follow, worlds to explore. And that’s only after I play with my grandbaby, fetch my dogs, pet my cats, cuddle my husband, go to work 40 hours a week, clean my house, grocery shop, get together with family and/or friends, and dozens of other responsibilities. Life has only so many hours, and I’m still struggling on squeezing a few more out of every week.

So what this all boils down to is that I’ve driven the Humoring the Goddess train long enough. Hopefully I’ve encouraged you to believe in yourself, have fun with your life, and laugh as much as you can. There are so many things you can’t change, so why not toss your hands up and laugh and move on? You’ll know the things you CAN change..that little voice in your heart/head/soul is always there to remind you. Your job is to listen.

I have enjoyed entertaining you all these years more than you know. I have learned so much from you. I might try another blog, or finish one of my novels, or sit and spew poetry until I feel nauseated. I’m sure I’ll be back and visit sometime. If I start something new I’ll post it. I will look foward to hearing from you and YOUR projects. You will always find me at my email world…  humoring_the_goddess@yahoo.com.

There is always a path ahead of you. Always. It’s up to you which one you take, or how often you turn left or right. In the end, none of that matters — the only thing that matters is that you keep walking.

Keep Humoring the Goddess…and Loving your Life…

Claudia Anderson

The Muse Goes Camping

Last weekend I tried to escape by myself to get a couple of days worth of ME into the cosmos, doing nothing but writing, sleeping, and downing an occasional bottle of Reisling.  Alas, my grandbaby (who is two) and my daughter-in-law wanted to get away too. So how can you say no to that?

This weekend I am going camping with extended family (which includes the aforementioned daughter-in-law and GB) — three days of isolation up in Door County somewhere. Since there were plenty of extended family members to entertain said GB (and knowing my daughter-in-law could use a break), I thought I’d outline a sequel to the novel I finished a while ago. Now I find out there is no electricity. Hmmm. No electricity = no computer.

So I have to put my creative muse to the side — AGAIN.  Here I am in my blogs, encouraging everyone to get in touch with their muse and get into whatever creative endeavor sings to them, yet I find myself putting my creativity to the side in order to have more exposure to something else I love more.

Now there is love, and there is love. When you love your kids, you love them all 150%, no matter if they have green hair or ACT scores along side of Einstein.  We love our dogs, our cats, and occasionally the rest of our family. We love music, movie stars, and chocolate, although those loves are tinted by the recipient’s inability to directly respond back to us. But what happens when you find an activity, an expression of your true self, that you really enjoy doing. but you don’t have time enough to prove that love?

I hate always being an armchair lover. I would “love” to go to Ireland or Italy,  I’d “love” to learn how to cook a souffle, I’d “love” to ride a scooter to and from work, or Ride the Wild Surf at Ventura Beach.  But the odds of any of those “loves” are as good as getting struck by lightning (which is at least better than winning the lottery).  So I learn to channel my out-of-the-box loves into forms that I can handle in small bunches.  Classical music (Schumann, Mozart), rock and roll (Molly Hatchet, Lynyrd Skynyrd), television (Closer and House reruns), taken in small batches, often scratch the itch from the creative mosquito. Something is better than nothing, they say. And it’s true.

Better to get one bite of rich, dark chocolate, than never know what it tastes like at all.  Better to get one quilt patch done rather than still be waiting to buy the material. We don’t have to be a quantity-driven society; in most situations quality is just as important (if not more so). So I can’t spend a week or two with aforementioned GB — ten minutes of him laughing and saying “gamma” fills me during my lonely times. Walking around a city block isn’t the same escape as walking through the woods, but grass is grass and air is air, and just being out in Mother Nature does wonders for your psyche. You all have little experiences you wish you could turn into bigger ones…just jump on the little ones and forget about the bigger ones. You’ll be surprised how much satisfaction you get from them, too.

Don’t let your inability to have it “your way” stop you from getting it any way you can. Just when your schedule can’t get any more screwed up, a patch of blue opens before you, allowing you a chance to connect with your creativity.  Don’t be afraid to work around it, with it. Let the tease remind you of why you love your hobby in the first place. You’ll eventually find time. They also say wherever there’s a will there’s a way. That’s true, too.

So now when I go camping this weekend I’ll be prepared. Guess I’ll have to create the old fashioned way —  with a pen and a spiral notebook and a flashlight.

I just have to be careful not to get the grand baby’s smores on my  paper.

Cracks in the Sidewalk

The fireflies were out in full force tonight, their little behinds blinking, signaling, and flirting away in the dark woods behind my house. I took off my glasses and watched the blinking blurs zigzag through all dimensions, and I wondered — what did our ancestors see around them before glasses were invented?  I myself could definitely see faeries with their little lanterns just out of reach, being busy little beauties, doing whatever little faeries do.

 What else did our primitive ancestors see?

 No wonder ghouls and Bigfoot and ghosts were so much a part of our history.  Puffs of mist, the meeting of warm air and cold, could easily be mistaken for a ghostly apparition. Everyone thinks squirrels do nothing but chitter throughout the day. Few know that their agitated squeal outweighs that of a crow at times. Why wouldn’t that sound be translated as a banshee in the dark?

 Modern day humans have lost touch with the mystic, the magical, the moronic. I suppose it makes more sense to know that moving lights across the night sky are airplanes and not spaceships, or that the little furry thing scurrying behind the rock in the yard is a striped chipmunk and not a hodag.  But what’s the harm in thinking unicorns hide in the woods or the blinking bug derrieres are faeries with lanterns in the dark playing hide-and-seek? That the hill in the distance is really Mordor? That the path that disappears into the woods is really a bridge to another time?

 I know writers tend to exaggerate when it comes to telling a story. But I’m talking about all of us and our ability to spin tales and our willingness to make things up as we go.  We should test the bounds of physics, chemistry, religion, and countless other logistics that humans have taken so long to create. In the hands of a master puppeteer, a wooden creation can take a life of its own. What is so wrong with dancing along with the puppet? To step on the cracks on the sidewalk instead of over them?

  I look at my grandbaby – everyone’s grandbaby – and admire their ability to pretend. They don’t know the difference between a box and a rocket ship, between a plate filled with noodles and plate filled with worms. We are always so quick to correct, to point out the truth, that we leave little room for imagination to grow. Of course we want our kids to know the truth. But through the effort of correction we also close the doors to maybe.  When those doors are closed, especially if they are slammed shut, we often cannot get them open again.  We have to “know” everything as if our lives depended on it. Indeed, we need to “know” not to stick our fingers in an electrical socket or to stand in the middle of the highway. But you know I’m not talking about that kind of knowing. We know lightning is an electric discharge from cloud to cloud or from cloud to earth seen as a flash of light. What ever happened to Zeus’s bolt from Olympus? And why can’t clouds be pillows?

 Those who have lost the ability to pretend have lost a valuable part of their personal development. We are brought up to understand right from wrong, how things work. That part is important ― that part assures our survival. But so does pretending. A little twisting of reality doesn’t hurt anyone, especially if it is shared in a positive, good-natured way. We tell our kids that the tooth fairy takes the tooth under the pillow and leaves some monetary reward behind; sooner or later they figure out the truth, and chuckle that they were so gullible. So it is with Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny, too. And as far as I can see, there are no mental scars in those who once believed.

 Sometimes it’s just fun to get carried away with reality, make up your own stories, your own tales, of who, what, where, or why something “is”. The truth will always be the truth in one realm. But there was a time when truth was something totally different from modern days. Who’s to say that crop circles aren’t made by aliens? What’s wrong with “believing” that carrying an acorn will bring you luck and longevity, or if your right ear itches, someone is speaking well of you, but if your left ear itches, someone is speaking ill of you?  There’s nothing wrong with a little nonsense sprinkled into your daily repertoire. Nothing wrong with spinning tales of angels bowling when it thunders or thinking dragons once roamed the earth. Make up your own stories. Create your own myths. Pretend that the lady in the grey coat you always see in the park is really Coco Channel. That the car parked under the tree in the alley is really Al Capone’s getaway car. Tell stories of ancient heroes or pixies or the Civil War. Are they true? What does it matter?

 According to Reader’s Digest (http://www.rd.com/family/encourage-your-childs-imagination/), encouraging imagination builds self confidence (develops confidence in one’s abilities and their potential), boosts intellectual growth (helps to think symbolically), improves language skills (people who pretend do lots of talking and thinking, helping to boost vocabulary, improve sentence structure and enhance communication skills), develops social skills (explore relationships between family members, friends and co-workers and learn more about how people interact), and helps work out fears (pretending helps gain self control over confusing feelings).

So the next time you see something out of the corner of your eye, or gnarly branches that look eerily like monster arms, have no fear. It’s only Gandalf, Nessy, Frankenstein, and Apollo all knocking on your door, wanting to come in. Let them.

As long as they don’t stay for supper, you’re all right.

 

Viva Las Vegas!

If you ever want to go to a place that is a cornucopia of faces, bodies and energies, there is no more an entertaining place to lose your money or your mind than Las Vegas.  Forget this Mecca’s main thrust — gambling — and slip around the edge to the weirdness that permeates the city that never sleeps.  It’s magical in its own sparkling way — gambling and lights and music and shows and people.  Lots and lots of people. It’s a place where cosmic energy mingles with electric billboards, turning normal, well-meaning visitors into Dr. Jekyll /Mr. Hyde parodies. 

 The first time I went to Las Vegas I was very family-conscious.  My husband and I took his parents and our two kids to the land of decadence and sunshine.  One child was 12, the other seven.  This was the time of the “family friendly” Vegas — acrobats flying across the ceilings at Circus Circus, knights jousting at Excalibur.  Besides stopping now and then to throw a quarter or two into a slot machine, we also rented a van and toured Hoover Dam and Death Valley.  I left the world of lights with a blue glass from Excalibur and most of my gambling money in tact.

A few years later and my husband and I got the urge to go again, this time leaving the kids with the afore-mentioned grandparents. I went out and bought some sexy dresses and a couple of those individual liquor bottles to mix with my soda on the plane.  We caught a topless show and dared to walk the length of the strip drinking strawberry margaritas right in the open.  The lights and nights were magical.  I stayed up a little later and got up a little earlier. I left the world of lights with a winning jackpot and a gold glass from the Hilton.

 The third time it was my 25th wedding anniversary, and what better place to renew our vows than in the land of drive-thru churches?   We almost said “I Do” in front of Elvis, but decided we’d rather buy Elvis dice instead.  I wanted to stay up late, sleep late, lie around at the pool, win money, and get kitschy with Liberace and his museum. But my best laid plans sooner or later became parodies of themselves.  My biological clock just didn’t want to kick into glitter time.  We burped up dollar hot dogs and cheap beer. I got sunburn at the pool, put too much wasabi on my sushi, and developed a painful blister on my foot.  We drank strawberry margaritas for breakfast and milk for lunch and Pepto Bismol for dinner.   I went to bed a little earlier, slept a little later, and didn’t go through as many quarters as the last time.  I wasn’t interested in the shows, and the restaurants were less designer chef names and more all-you-can-eat buffets.  I moved a little slower and sat down a little more frequently.

What happened to the magic?  Where was the glow of the child, the carefree gambler, the woman who wanted to rub elbows with Wayne Newton and Celine Dion?  Did I finally outgrow my need to be sparkled and jingled to death? This time the glitter felt  different.  The energy that permeated the casinos and lounges had turned around on itself, slowly becoming more a part of me than something outside of me.  Maybe it was because I stopped judging everyone else’s clothes and size and gambling habits and let myself flow down the river rather than speedboat up the opposite way.  Once I let Vegas be Vegas, I was able to experience the myriad of energy levels that constantly billowed around me. And I realized I didn’t have to buzz through that world 24/7, seeing all, doing all. I just let the world of sparkle sparkle.

Once I got away from the mad desire to throw one more quarter into the slot machine, I found Vegas a world filled with all sorts of faces and personalities, all ages, all races. In this world, people felt free to be who they were, or, more often, who they dreamed they were.  In this world of make believe, all dreamers were equal.  Farmers, secretaries, and corporate presidents shared fantasies of castles and pyramids, Italian palaces and French towers.  Both babes and grandparents got a glimpse of life in the fast lane. Grannies sparkled as much as show girls, and cowboy boots walked right next to tennies. Winners and losers were all the same here: both sides of the fence existed at the same time. Einstein’s theory of relativity threads through it all, rewarding some, cheating others, and sadly, caring not what you leave behind.

People were always laughing, whether at themselves, the crowd, or each other. There was a constant flow of bodies moving between casinos, a maze of colors, heights and textures.  I didn’t know if they were rich or poor, sick or lonely; if they had won a million dollars or if they just spent their children’s college fund.  Nor did it matter. We were all merely specks of glitter in the galaxy of life, sharing a moment or two with others in a reality not our own. We shared a nod, a raised glass, a glimpse of understanding. We became part of the throbbing heartbeat of a city that swallowed us all, spitting us out when it came time to go home.   When the vacation was over, I left the city as I found it.  I left the sparkles, the glitter, and the dreams of fortune and glory to those who would follow. I had all the glory I needed back in my little town in Wisconsin.  What I did bring back, though, was a glimpse of my other side ― the kooky one who peeks out now and then, daring me to follow. That side assured me I would be back.

I forgot to get my glass.

Merlot at the Lake House

Quick.  Name a handful of your favorite movies. Not the “great” ones that are in your library ― the ones that define you. The ones you don’t admit entertain you time and time gain.  Are you what you watch? Are you big enough to admit that you are what you watch?

 It’s Saturday night: the boys are sleeping, the dogs have had their bonies, and I have settled down with a glass of merlot. Been a long day, a long week. Having just come off of my father-in-law’s passing and pressure-filled days at work, I find my emotional state still dancing on stalagmites. So I pull out a movie ― one I haven’t allowed myself to watch in some time. The Lake House.  Why is that?

There is nothing wrong with movies and books that reflect our inner selves. We are, of course, a reflection of many things around us — movies, books, the weather, the heart.  We develop our creativity based on what we’ve learned and what we’ve experienced. That is why self-help and raw human confession books are so popular. We are a world lost in the chaos of ego, everyone needing to be heard, no matter what the cost.

But back to movies and books. Both are tools of escapism; both reflect a little bit of what fascinates us deep inside. Not that we would live that life ― just that that life seems to resonate a bit with something Freud or Nietzsche would have had a field day with. Some connections are obvious; others are as nebulous as the morning fog.  My husband is nut when it comes to John Wayne ― any form, any era. Is he a big, larger-than-life hero type? Maybe not, but I can see flashes of the Duke in the way he struts sometimes.  Another good friend of mine loves books by Stephen King; I don’t think she is off on some modern-day blood and gore pilgrimage, but I can see her fascination ― the impossible becoming possible.

So what about The Lake House? Does this genre define who I am?  Am I lost in the fantasy of two time periods communicating through a mailbox? I am a preacher that we are  all multi-faceted diamonds in the rough. That we are so much more than the whole of our parts. And we are. But there are still signs in the universe (and in the media) that are plainly obvious.  Some resonate louder than others. Let’s ramble off a few of my favorite movies: The Lake House, Passion of Mind, Practical Magic, Chocolat. I’m sure that says a whole lot about my inner and outer spirit. That I am an escapist, a romantic, a time traveler. Funny that I also write about time travel, modern day women thrust into arenas not of their choosing:  alien worlds. Does my writing parallel my movie and book preferences? Does yours? Not just your writing, but your artwork; the books you read, the homemade cards you design, the jewelry you make, the dishes you cook when you are free to be yourself.

Sometimes we fall prey to pressure from the outside to be or think or watch what everyone else is being and thinking and watching.  As we get older, we fear we will be made fun of if we do not get the meaning of Barton Fink or Super Bad, or we don’t get rap or MTV, or we don’t laugh at movies filled with stoned characters or girls with their breasts hanging down to Brazil and back. I myself tremble at the thought of telling others I enjoy listening to Glen Miller and Frank Sinatra as much as Gaelic Storm or Steely Dan or Metallica. How can I be spread so thin over the planet? How can music and movies and books reflect who I am, who I’d love to be, when I’m in a hundred places at one time?

 As we get older our needs change. What thrilled us at 20 bores us at 50. Not that our youth is invalidated; on the contrary. We have evolved, just like everyone else. The things we thought risqué at 25 make us smile knowingly at 40. I suppose that’s because the world ever evolves, ever moves forward. And even though we move forward as well, we have the ability to focus on whatever era we wish. I have a friend who loves science fiction; the science part, the infinity part. This person works with computers, a field infinite and definitely scientific. Is sci-fi merely an extension of their reality? What about another friend who is very logical during the day yet hooked into murder mysteries all other times? Is her enjoyment of figuring out “who did it?” a reflection of working things out in her life?

 I suppose the point of this story is to encourage you to follow whatever direction your spirit guide sends you. When I was younger I questioned everything. “Does this mean something?” “If I turn right and go through the woods, instead of left and down to the field, does it mean something?” Now I know that every decision is just that. A choice. Turn left, turn right. It doesn’t matter. It’s neither good nor bad. It’s just a choice. Both turns take you back to who you are. Just like whatever movies you watch, whatever books you read. Enjoy adventure, enjoy historical sagas. Enjoy accounting manuals. It doesn’t matter.

 Having found that contentment regarding my decisions, I wonder what it means that my other favorite movies include Boondocks Saints and Con Air.

 Put… the bunny…back in the box…

To Dream or Not to Dream…That Is the Question

       33 To Dream or Not to Dream     One of the yin-yangs of hormone fluctuation is sleep, or lack of it.  Between hot flashes and finding a comfortable position, my REM’s make rare visits,  leaving my consciousness floating in the bubbles of semi-sleep through the world of dreams.  Now, many people say they don’t dream; others leave a notepad on their nightstand so they can record the ching chang jumble that comes out in the middle of the night.  I believe we all dream, but length, depth and retaining capacity is what makes everyone’s claim different.

         Scientists and talk show hosts tell us our lives are influenced by anything and everything, and our dreams are one way of dealing with all of it. Dreams, and  their alter ego, nightmares, can result from everything from eating pizza before bed to an argument earlier in the day. Dreams can be triggered by stress, anticipation, having too much time on your hands or, more likely, not enough.  Scary movies, sappy movies, long distance phone calls — everything can leave a chip in your mind that can explode into a myriad of dreamy scenarios.

            The great thing about this flight through those shadowed clouds, though, is the variety of experiences it presents.  I doubt my conscious mind could make up half the things my subconscious does. And if it could, would it be as fun?  In my dreams I interact with bosses from 20 years ago and talk to family members who are no longer with me.  I wander the halls of my grade school, look out on Lake Michigan from a high-rise balcony, and walk through castles of long ago.  I have driven off cliffs and been chased by  unseen dragony/monster things. I have stood in a shadowy alley talking to Edward Norton and had coffee with Kiefer Sutherland.  I have run from building to building to building, either looking for something or trying to get somewhere, and have jumped and bounced and flown my way across the landscape.

            Where in Jove’s name do we get these ideas from? 

           Being a writer, I often bring some of the unearthliness of my subconscious and put it into forms that entertain me and others. Without analyzing every laugh and tear, I try to bring these esoteric beings into my writing. The more nonsensical, the better. Other people transform their dreams into paintings, gardens, photography, and card making. 

            Of course, the down side of dreams is that they don’t always give you a direct answer to your cosmic questions.  It is fairly obvious that when I dream of my son as a toddler rather than a college kid, I am searching for the olden days connection we had when I was omnipotent and he was subservient.  When I am wandering through corridors and cross loading docks and down long hallways filled with shops and warehouses and theaters I am lost in more ways than I care to admit. But instead of interpreting these dreams as portents of bad things to come, I would rather see them as insights to the possibilities that lie ahead. We have the ability to choose which meanings we take to heart and which  we toss out.  We can choose to see rain in the clouds or we can just see clouds.  We can choose to see dragons shapes or bouncy cotton balls in those clouds or we can just see clouds. 

            The best course is always to take a little of both. Don’t ignore the clouds that are really thunderheads, and don’t get the idea of stepping out of a plane to bounce on their springy tops.  But also let those clouds be dragons or snakes or baby diapers. Nod at the thread of reality that runs through the middle, then make what you will of the rest.   Don’t worry what others think your dreams mean, or if you can’t remember their endings.  The old adage that it’s the journey that counts, not the destination, is just as true in your onscious state of mind as in your conscious one.  Don’t read more into your dreams than what is there.  And create whatever you want from them.

            As for me, I’m looking forward to tonight.  I told Kiefer I’d meet him at the coffee shop sometime around eleven.  Maybe I’ll even ride my dragon there.

I’m Not Paranoid — I LIKE Looking Over My Shoulder

          

Have you every done something, created something, that, even though it was fun at the time, gave you a feeling that one day it would come back and bite you in the…leg?  I don’t mean those illicit or illegal things you may or may not have drank/smoked/ingested when you were young and stupid.  These are more the things you have done in
the heat of the moment of your adult life that make you look over your shoulder and say…oh dear…what if someone finds out?

Let me explain.  One day I was having a bad day — you know those kinds of bad days — stress and miscommunications and a bout of acid reflex that turned out to be gallstones. Too many projects, too little time. It was a tough moment: deadlines, deadlines, deadlines.  I needed therapy, I needed relief.  Other than finding another job, I needed a way to release all of my pent up emotions so that I wouldn’t start playing a kazoo in the parking lot every morning.

So what does a writer do to release the pressures of every day stress?   We write, of course!  I sat down with my little laptop and wrote this wonderfully twisted short story about sales managers and voodoo symbols and poisoned candied violets.   I had a psycho antagonist and a young, up-and-coming, newly promoted female heroine. I had a clash of egos, a bit of upper class snobbery, and even a twist ending.  It was great writing, great therapy.  So much so that, after polishing it up a bit, I thought about trying to get it published.

It was then that I felt the nibble on my leg.  What if I did get it published?  What if it became a best-selling short story?  What if I actually made money on it?  What if the world — or worse, someone I knew — found out that the story was inspired by them?  It’s kinda like having your best friend buying you a present from her favorite store, something that fits her personality to a T but is a major faux paux in your fashion circle.  She loves it, you hate it.  You think about taking it back to the store to exchange it for something more…you.  So you laugh about it with a friend at a barbecue, and who should appear on the other side of the grill but that same-said friend wearing the same-said T.  What if she heard you?  What if she asks you why you weren’t wearing your “gift”?  What if someone says, “Isn’t that the awful shirt you were just talking about?”  Odds are your friend never heard a word, but…

 This sort of paranoia crosses all generations, all friendships, all common sense. It’s not just a writing thing ― we all get weird when we say something about someone that we later regret, fearing the repercussions that might follow.  We do many things in the throes of passion that make us feel self conscious when we come floating back to reality sometime later. What would happen if the kids walked into the bedroom one night to legs and arms were all over the place when they thought you were out to a movie? What  would happen if we called in sick to work only to run into our boss at the mall? What if, in a fit of rage, we threw a rotten squash out the back door, only to inadvertently smack the neighbor’s dog in the chops?

We have been taught that we have to please everyone, make everyone feel good, even at our own expense.  While that may ring true most of the time, there are times you just need to take a chance on being naughty.  Take a chance on getting caught.  I didn’t mean any harm when I started writing my ditty.  I had always wanted to see if I could write something spooky and revengeful and strange and it was just an accident that the bad guy looked a lot like the co-worker hulking over my shoulder all the time.  I never really meant for the antagonist to resemble my co-worker. Nor would I ever think that he would go out and poison the world because sales were down.  But it made for such darn good fiction!

Maybe I’m just overreacting. The resemblance to any real person, place or publication is purely circumstantial.  Isn’t that what disclaimers are all about? No one I know would read “Horror Daily” or other scary publications and recognize my antagonist  — they are too busy reading gossip magazines.  And anyway, there could always be a dozen other “Claudia’s” in the writing world.  No one would know it was me.  Would they?

So the dilemma is this:  What do I do with this great story now that it’s written?  Do I keep it in a journal, hidden away, only to go back and read it whenever I am under pressure?  Or do I get brave, send it out to contests and publishers and take my chances?  Do I give in to my paranoia, or throw care to the wind and just go for it? 

I think for now I’m just going to let it sit in my computer.  I’ll wait until the pressure is released and the people in my office return to being human again.  Then I will send it out to such obscure publications that there would be no way in Hades he would read it.

I also will remember not to eat any candied violets.

Dinner With the Queen

In the mundane throng of your very predictable life, don’t you now and then want to just break out of the box and do something different? Now that you have the experience of all those years behind you, don’t you want to make that experience mean something? Don’t you ever want to be bigger than life? Just for a day?

Oh, you say, I am happy being just who I am. Of course you are. We all try and walk that fence between selfish and selfless; between modesty and bravado. But admit it. There are many times in our very predictable life that we’d like to do something unpredictable. Of course, unpredictable varies from person to person. Bungee jumping is one way, as is impulse buying a Hummer. More low key, there are times when we want to guffaw aloud instead of snickering quietly. We want to dance naked in the living room and wear chuggy boots with a sundress. But most times we settle for eating Thai as a means of excitement. While that sounds fairly adventurous, I assure you, the dreams of the experienced are filled with possibilities never imagined by the inexperienced. In other words, the older we get, the looser the parameters of our dreams become.

There was a time in my life that I worried about what others thought of me and my opinions. A time when I tried to fit in, vaporously reflecting their ideas on religion, child rearing, and employment. It was important that I pulled my own weight, never rocked the boat, nor raise the hackles on someone’s neck. I was (and still am) respectful of others.

But eventually I got to a point in life where I wanted the river to flow where I wanted it to flow. I wanted my own boat, my own crew, and my own destination. I found that the further I wander down the road, the less I’m concerned about what I have done and more about what I can do. The thought of being no more than a passing blush in the cosmos makes my selfishness bubble to the surface. So I find myself wanting to be bigger than life: a heroine to all, someone who makes a mark and leaves it for others to decipher. That doesn’t mean I want to be an assassin or a movie star or a nuclear physicist. But a motivational speaker, a middle-aged trend setter, a famous author — what’s wrong with that?

Maybe that’s not really “out of the box,” but for me, it’s peeking out from under the lid. I’ve been a loving mother, a great wife, a dedicated friend, and all-around good person. I have dotted all of my i’s, crossed my t’s, and given to the United Way.

But now and then I feel this little quiver in my reality that makes me wonder what it would be like to leave the cookie baking and office typing to someone else and find something different to do with my time. How cool it would be to become a fashion maven or a world traveler. To stand before a crowd and sing like an angel. To be the next Food Network Star. To be asked to be on the next “Tour of Homes” because my house and garden are so incredibly fantastic that the world ― or at least the citizens of Whitewater ― have to experience them. To nosh with Stephen King at lunch and have dinner with Queen Elizabeth. To design a line of clothes that would knock the socks off Calvin Klein or raise enough donations to build a new wing on the local hospital.

All right — maybe not the “Queen Elizabeth” part or the “wing on the hospital” part ― but to create something new, something eye-catching, something memorable, would be a trip I would never forget.

We love and appreciate the little things in our life. Our friends, our family, all are a part of who we are. We work hard and, if we are lucky, play hard. Being famous would take us away from all that we worked so hard to create. And, after all, celebrity does have its price, privacy and anonymity being the first two privileges to go.

But while those platitudes make perfect sense, every now and then my daydreams take a cosmic swing to worlds just past my fingertips. Writing a best seller that becomes a movie lover’s dream, people paying $200 a ticket just to have lunch with me, opening a boutique that splashed between the covers of famous magazines ― what a thrill that would be! Who wouldn’t like to be a travel reporter visiting small European towns or American homesteads and talk about their cuisines and cultures? Who wouldn’t want to have their art on display at at the Art Institute or the Milwaukee Art Museum? Who wouldn’t want to be the one person the President could come to for advice?

Aspirations breed inspiration. Not being afraid to follow the muse within your heart brings freedom to your soul. Feeling positive about who you are enables the world to mold itself around you. Most ― if not all of us ― will never get a chance to live out those kinds of dreams. Not on that grand of a scale. But that doesn’t mean our inspirations can’t be grand. That our forward movement can’t be grand. Understand that grand is all in one’s point of view. Don’t worry what any other point of view is but yours. Dress up for any or all occasions. Paint a mural on a wall. Start blogging your most outrageous ― and delicious ― recipes. Grow an exotic garden, take pictures of it and enter them into photography contests. Design jewelry. Show horses or dogs. Enter your prized whatevers at the State Fair.

Don’t be afraid to break out now and then and have a good time. What others think of you is not nearly as important as what you think about yourself.

Besides ― I’m sure the queen made other dinner plans anyway.

Real Lists vs Fantasy Lists

            Everybody makes to-do lists now and then.  As we get older, our nows seem further back in history, and our thens become obsolete.  So to keep track of the void between the two we need a list to keep things straight. But what kind of list do you make?

            My husband is very fond of making lists.  When he gets ready to go fishing or hunting, his list fills up two pages of college-lined paper.  There are things to bring, things to pack, things to sort, things to find.  I must admit that part of the length of his list includes things to bring/pack/sort/find for everyone else, too. But that is another story.  His real “to-do” list reads more like an instruction manual, all bullet points being checked off before he takes off to the wild blue yonder.

            I make my share of “to-do” lists as well.  Mine usually consist of mundane things to remember:  take ground beef out of the freezer for dinner, call Teresa tonight, write a check for my son’s lunch fund.  Practical, important things that I need to remember to do so that my day — and life — runs smoother.  My real list also extends to calling work or home and leaving voice reminders to myself in case I misplace my physical list.  I can’t help it if my list barely fits on the back of a sticky note; my real list is limited by energy and time and the phases of the moon and how many sticky notes I have.

            But what exactly is a fantasy list?  How is it different from a reality list?

            A real to-do list has tangible edges.  They have beginning bullets and ending periods.  Real lists can be scratched off one line at a time.  Progress can be made and seen through ledgers and spreadsheets and check marks on college-ruled paper.  Real “to-do” lists create deadlines and goals, culminating in that “feel good” sensation when you cross off a task that has been completed.

            A fantasy list, on the other hand, is as wild as clover in the field.  Each task reproduces itself every time you turn your back, manifesting into a half dozen more fuzzy bullet points on your list.  Fantasy lists are things you dream about, things that may or may not come to fruition.  Fantasy lists may have a foot in reality, but often it’s a child’s size 2 shoe, something that, for all practical purposes, couldn’t hold you in a mud hole if you tried. If you are able to check off one line on your dream list you are doing good.

            Fantasy lists can include a wide diversity of ideas and ideals.  Lose weight often tops a lot of lists.  Variations of this task are:  lose five pounds in three weeks so that you fit into your jeans, or lose 25 pounds by next summer so that you can fit into a bathing suit.  Pull weeds is often another chart topper.  It doesn’t matter if you have mums in a pot or a vegetable garden on the hill; weed pulling is often an arduous task that takes forever and seems to produce no long-lasting results.  Fix the squeak in the (fill in the blank) is a good one, too.  How long has that lid or chair or washing machine door made that high-pitched, irritating noise?  How much longer can you endure it before you finally take care of it?

            There are other bullet points on a fantasy list that are full of good intentions but most times get lost on the sidelines:  sew the falling hem on your pair of brown pants; give the dog a bath; call your sister.  Sometimes the list is full of ideas triggered by others:  find a recipe for a spaghetti squash, something like Emeril’s but with not as much garlic; look up how many Academy Awards Tom Hanks has won; call Jill to see if she wants to go to the café for coffee or to the pub for a burger, and if she wants to do it next Thursday instead of tonight because your son has baseball practice at five and the café doesn’t serve alcohol and a beer would really go great with that cheeseburger.  These are innocuous-looking thoughts that have the intention of being done, but somehow never get checked off the list.  This is most likely because a few points from the “real” list sneak onto the list, taking precedence over the more drawn-out ones, and we never seem to get back to the ones that were triggered by our wandering mind.

            Once we step up to the next level of a fantasy list, the bullet points look more like a doodle than a black dot.  The list gets more complicated in an ethereal sort of way: find out how much a flight to Cancun would be in February versus July; check out the price of cottages in the North Woods, say Eagle River or Sturgeon Bay; research the difference between inter-galactic space flight by nuclear fusion and nebula-to-nebula propelled travel for that science fiction story you are writing.

            The edges of the “to-do” list may get a little fuzzy, but that doesn’t mean that these ideas aren’t earnest.  These tasks are just as important as calling for a dentist appointment or making sure we pack aspirin for the trip.  They are just a little harder to maneuver; they are not weighed as heavily as the ones on the “real” list, and are scoffed at by those whose bullet points are five words or less.

            I just don’t get it.  Fantasy lists are just as important as real lists.  And I’m sure that if my husband sat down and made a fantasy list with me, he would be able to move that hunting trip to Alaska right up there to the top of the list.

Chocolat Under the Tuscan Sun

Life is a kaleidoscope of feelings: it is pain and death, birth and life. Because the cosmic implications of these things are way above my head, I would rather contemplate my own daydreams.

When I was young I always daydreamed of living in a big house. Living at home with three brothers, then in a little apartment of my own, I fantasized about living in a house rich in history, complete with sculptured gardens, fountains and shaded verandas. The where of the house never quite crystallized; it always existed in that nebulous place half way down some winding, deserted road, picket fences guiding the way, stone lions at the gate — all that.

Time slipped along, and, seeing as I didn’t become an actress or a rock star, there was no easy way to obtain said  mansion with sculpted gardens, fountains and shaded verandas. It didn’t seem to matter, though, once I got married. Children came into my life; changing diapers and trips to the park were more important than parlors with fireplaces and crystal chandeliers. Practicality seeped into my daydreams. Suddenly having a house with a washer and dryer on the same floor or a fenced-in back yard made much more sense than twenty bedrooms to clean.

Eventually my little children turned into teenagers, and my daydreams evolved into finding ways to keep one step ahead of them. I couldn’t let my personal plans take me too far away — after all, how could I play the slots in Vegas when my kid would be throwing some video game/poker game/who-knows-what-we-can-get-away-with game I’m sure he’d throw given half a chance?

Now that one son is married and the other in college, I have finally let my daydreams take on a more surrealistic tint. Escapism is now more enjoyable than ever before. None of this taking off to the Dells or locally-based casinos — now my fantasies are more like Under the Tuscan Sun or Chocolat.

            Take my first daydream: Tuscany. I want to take a bus trip down Italy’s back roads and just hop off at some wonderfully enchanting town and find a charming place to live and settle down. I want to work from home (writing or editing or something that makes a lot of money from my own living room). I would like to be thin as a rail and meet some exotic Italian and ride off in a Ferrari to his vineyard in the country.

            Or how about a different daydream? I could always be whisked off to some quaint little town in France. I would blow into a town on the spring breeze and make a living doing something creative — say, making chocolate. Or, since that idea has already been used, perhaps I could open a shop that sells oatmeal raisin cookies. I’d wander through this quiet gem off the beaten path, taste the local cuisine and throw simple gourmet parties with skill and grace. I would be thin as a rail and meet some exotic Irish pirate and ride off to his pirate cove off the ocean.

            Both of these video women slipped into their new world carrying only one suitcase. They looked absolutely divine in whatever they wore, laughed and bonded with the locals, and made a difference in their little town. They had no husbands or pets, no costumes to sew or dog poop to scoop. If children were part of their scenario, they were precocious and well mannered and never experimented with drugs or peanut butter on the roof of the dog’s mouth. They had an invisible source of income (enough to either buy a dilapidated house or a run-down building) and turn it into something beautiful and homey, and most likely never had a second mortgage piled atop the first one. These beauties didn’t have to punch a time clock or find clean underwear for everyone or make room in their basement for more hunting and fishing gear.

I know, I know — they also had to make it alone through their world. They didn’t have that magical bond that ripens through the years, nor the love of family, nor friends who knew and cared about them for years.  Their new roots would never have enough time to dig in very far, and they’d never get a chance to go back to ‘the old neighborhood’. Their choices were made from circumstances I will never know, and their futures would be fruit born on the branches of a totally different tree.

The great thing now, though, is that I don’t really have to leave home to escape. Dreams, like movies, can be created at a moment’s notice. I can include family and friends in my escapades, or keep them separate through my writing. There’s no reason why I can’t create Tuscan or Athens or even the Great North Woods right here on my little patch of land. Food, music, good times, all can be a part of any reality I choose. All I have to do is play. I can play Italian music and put a bottle of Lambrusco on the table, or hang Japanese lanterns and put a movie like Ran or Shogun on in the background and use chopsticks for my homemade stir-fry.  I can have everyone dress in togas or play polkas to go with my polish sausage and sauerkraut. I don’t need an occasion — I don’t need an invitation.   

Happily ever after doesn’t only exist in the movies. The possibility exists every time we wake up, every time we turn around.

Don’t let your hang-ups of what others have or do or where they go stop you from planning your own escape, even if it’s for an hour or an evening. My glass from Goodwill can be fine Italian crystal and my basket from last year’s Easter can hold the most fragrant of delights. No one will know, and, if you are creative enough, no one will care. They will play right along side of you.

I’ll tell you, though … I wouldn’t mind going for a ride in that Ferrari now and then …