It’s that time…

Mermaid Lounge It’s that time again. That time of year when I join the insanity known as The Dog Days of Podcasting, and commit to doing a podcast a day for thirty consecutive days.

This year’s project began on Tuesday (which, coincidentally, was my last day of The 100 Day Project), and continues through September 4th, and you can find my stuff at The Bathtub Mermaid, but I’m also in iTunes. (There should be an itunes link in the collection of social media icons in my sidebar.)

In previous years I’ve had oodles of essays and flash fiction to share, but I’ve been busy on other projects this year, so I’m mixing it up with interviews, creative non-fiction pieces written earlier this summer, and pieces inspired by the 100 notecards currently adorning the front and sides of my refrigerator.

The things is, my creativity always wanes in July, but my birthday is in August, and as soon as the calendar page flipped, I was inspired again.

So watch out – and listen to my Tales from the Tub – you might be pleasantly surprised.

Elseblog: The Summer Smile Ten Dollars Can Buy

bucket of flowers My friend Debra is hosting a project called Summer Love Notes this year. It’s free, and if you sign up you get an essay or piece of art sent to your email box every morning.

Debra loves to share her ideas with her friends, and I’m really flattered that she invited me to be part of the amazing group of writers and artists she’s assembled. I’ve been reading and enjoying all sorts of great stuff.

Today’s SLN post is courtesy of yours truly, and you can read it HERE.

Here’s an excerpt:

More than once, I have spent my last ten dollars fulfilling that need – buying a bouquet of irises, indulging in five bunches of daffodils, filling the house with carnations – because those small joys that bring summer into the house are the things that keep me going, even when I feel tired, frumpy, and boring.

And here’s the photo-credit for the image we used:

Photo Credit (for the bucket of flowers): Copyright: fotogestoeber / 123RF Stock Photo

Please do consider signing up for future posts – it’s really nice to have something lovely in one’s inbox every morning.

Fishing With Grandpop

Rod and Reel My friend Debra is hosting a project called Summer Love Notes (it started about ten days ago), and I’m one of the participants, which means I’ve been dwelling on memories of All Things Summer as I’ve tried to figure out what to write about.

One of my fondest childhood memories is fishing with my grandfather.

I’m not entirely certain when I became his fishing buddy, but I know I was no older than four the first time he took me to the pier. I remember the sweet scents of tar and wood, and the tang of salt in the air. I remember sitting on his tackle box, and wearing a fishing hat that would never be as weathered or as storied as his.

I remember stopping at the bait store on the way out to the fishing beach, and I remember stopping at Stewart’s for root beer ( in real glass mugs) and crinkle cut fries (in a paper boat) on the way home (served by carhops, delivered on a tray that clipped to the window).

I remember the squirmy, slippery fish flipping, flopping, and flailing on the dock once we reeled them out of the water, and I remember my grandfather knocking them out as quickly as possible.

Once we caught a dogfish (a small shark) and I remember seeing it’s teeth snapping at anything it thought it could reach. You couldn’t retrieve the hook from those and let it go, you had to dangle it from the line and snip the thread and let it fall, back into the ocean for a slow death, or into a handy trash bin for a faster one. Do fish feel pain? Do I really want to know?

Probably not.

I remember my grandfather cleaning the fish (Atlantic blue fish, most of the time) and my grandmother cooking it, serving it with fresh, steamed spinach and baked potatoes that had been wrapped in tin foil and cooked on the grill. “Watch for pins and needles,” she’d warn, referring to the bones in the fish.

What’s weird though, is that I don’t remember actually, you know, fishing. Only the activities around the actual baiting of hooks and casting of lines.

But I remember my grandfather’s hat, and his work shoes and his strong, brown hands, thick with callouses, and etched with history.

Fishing with my grandfather was one of my favorite parts of my childhood summers.

 

 

Photo Credit: juliasv / 123RF Stock Photo

Elephant Summer

Book Tea Ipad Elephant For some reason, elephants have been a theme in my reading this year. It started in the spring with a novel called The Tusk that Did the Damage, which was about nature documentaries and poaching, and included chapters from an elephant’s point of view.

Then, I read a brilliant mystery/thriller called Ivory Ghosts that took place at a preserve in Africa and involved a really awesome female lead who saved animals and fought crime. There’s a scene in the beginning of the novel where she looks out the window and an elephant is standing outside, and it was a magical moment before the action started.

Right now, I’m re-reading a memoir Love in the Elephant Tent for review on Friday (I received the book months ago, so I need to refresh my memory) and I’m really enjoying the author’s story about dropping into a European traveling circus with no circus skills, and falling for the elephant trainer.

But this isn’t the first encounter I’ve had with elephants.

– I read Sarah Gruen’s Water for Elephants years ago on a plane ride home from Mexico. In fact, I bought my copy in the airport in Mexico city.
– I had an up-close and personal elephant encounter with the guy I dated before I met my husband, at Marine World. There was finger painting involved.
– I rode an elephant on a visit to the circus with my mother when I was a kid. Nine or ten I think.

I know there’s a lot of controversy about elephants in circuses. I also know that the modern incarnation of Ringling Brothers is doing a lot for elephant conservation. Every time I’ve encountered elephants – on television, in a performance venue, or in literature, it’s brought magic into my life.

With this many elephant-related books in my life this year, I can’t help but think this “elephant summer” will be pretty special.

14 Days In

14 Days In

So I’ve completed the first 14 days of the #100DayProject on Instagram. I’m doing #100DaysofNotecards, which involves me writing a scene, sentence, or fragment of fiction on a 3×5 post-it index card every day, and posting it to my instagram account. (For just the images from this project, click HERE; for my entire feed follow @Melysse on Instagram.)

I’m also sticking the cards on my refrigerator door every day (that’s why I chose post-it index cards), so I’m forced to confront myself with the evidence of my own creativity every time I walk into the kitchen, and I’ll confess, there are some days when looking at the increasing number of colorful bits of paper makes me really happy, but there other days when I look at it and go, “Why did I write that? That really sucks. This project is stupid.” So far, however, the positive reactions outnumber the negative ones, so maybe this project will be good for me in many ways.

I’m finding that limiting myself to just ONE notecard a day is making me much more prolific when it comes to other writing, and I’m also finding that I look forward to the few minutes I spend on each composition. Sometimes, I even take the time to make the pictures more than just a flat index card, although that really isn’t the point of the exercise.

I’m also having a great time viewing the stuff all the other participants are posting.

I had something much more profound to say, but it’s 6:43 in the morning, and my youngest dog woke me at 4:48, and then the big dogs, who usually sleep til ten, got me up again an hour later, so now it’s not even seven, and they’ve eaten, and I’ve had some yogurt and a vitamin drink (no, no coffee yet), but I have nowhere to be this morning, so I’m going to click “publish” on this entry and toddle off back to bed for a bit.

Be well, and happy Sunday.

100 Days…

Show Up | 100 Day Project

It was Deb’s idea, actually. She’s been listening to me whine that I feel disconnected from my writing, and especially from my blog.

She’s also been fielding my email messages about how I keep having ideas for things to write about but can’t find the right image (because blogging is ALL about the art now, and never mind how good the writing might be, right?) or had to finish wrangling dogs/cooking dinner/doing laundry/whatever and lost the thread of what I wanted to write.

Now, she’s a pretty patient friend, but she’s also a fixer. I mean, you wave a problem in her face and she wants to solve it. I love that about her, but the thing is, you have to want the solution.

And sometimes it’s easier just to whine.

But then the sent me a link to Elle Luna’s 100 Day Project, and at first I thought, “well, the thing I would like to try is kind of similar to what she’s already sort of doing,” but I was intrigued.

I was really, really intrigued.

So I emailed Deb and said, “I’m kind of thinking of doing something with post-it notes.” And she thought it was different enough, and ME enough that I should go for it.

Since that conversation, I’ve decided that either 3×5 or 5×7 notecards might be better, though I’m still planning to affix them to my fridge. Then, after the 100 days are over, I’ll use them for blog- and fiction-fodder.

But at least I’ll be doing something I can complete, and that will keep me interested in amused.

For more about the project, in general, follow the link above (you can click on the image in this post).

For my stuff, specifically, you can follow me on Instagram: @Melysse.

What would YOU like to do for 100 days?

Practice (2015 Lent: Day 1)

Cello Practice

My first online presence was my own website, way back in the ’90’s hosted by SDinternet.

My first online writing, however, was at OpenDiary (which is now closed). It predates LiveJournal, and while I played in LJ’s sandbox for a while, I prefer my own space, the ability to write short pieces or long pieces as the mood strikes, and the lack of high-schoolish drama.

For the longest time, everything I posted was essay-length, and now I’m much more likely to do short bits. For the first several years, I posted daily. Now, while I still write daily, it’s usually not stuff I post, but sections of longer pieces I’m working on offline.

I go months without posting here, often without realizing just how long it has been.

A few days ago, I found a site with a suggested list of 47 words (47 because they included Sundays and didn’t end on Maundy Thursday) to be used as inspiration for a Lent project. It asked for people to share pictures that embody the daily word, but I prefer words to photographs most of the time, and as I don’t really belong to the church that suggested the project, I feel funny about participating directly.

Still, I seem to like having some degree of external accountability, even if it’s only committing to a project only I know about.

Today’s word is “practice.”

When I was doing music every day, I didn’t like practicing very much, just like I never liked doing homework, but at least now I recognize the value in the former. (I still don’t see the point of homework.)

This blog, however, was created, in part, to be my writing practice. As I’ve explained more than once, I don’t keep paper journals. I don’t see the point in writing things no one will read. (I do have stacks of notebooks, but they’re filled with fragments of stories, and will eventually get used.)

I’m not promising to be a slave to this Lenten project, but I don’t think it would hurt me to return to a practice of daily blogging.

Maybe it will even help me – I’m between projects, and am always happier and more productive when I have lots of different things going on.

Photo Credit: alenavlad @ 123RF.com

SNL from Behind the Couch

SNL 40 Weekend Update

I was five when Saturday Night Live began its run. At that time, my favorite book was still Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day, my ice skates still had two blades, my bike still had training wheels (and tassels), and there was a really good chance my hair would be in braids, mostly because it was the only way to keep it from tangling.

My mother watched SNL from the beginning. I don’t think she watched it religiously, but she watched it. And I watched it with her, though she didn’t know I was. You see, I watched it from behind the couch. I’m pretty sure I didn’t understand a lot of the content back then, but I’m also pretty sure the rhythms and cadences of fast-paced sketch comedy were absorbed by my young brain and as-yet-invisible pores.

By the time I was ten, I sometimes dropped references to SNL in conversation with my mother and her friends, who would look at me with expressions that read, “Who is this child, and is she psychotic, or merely precocious?”

By the time I was fifteen, SNL had ceased to be my mother’s show, and had become mine. I stayed up late on Saturday nights to watch the whole thing, usually alone in the living room, my mother and step-father long since asleep. Every so often, in an attempt to form order from the chaos that has always made up my sleep patterns, Ira would come out to the living room and point out the time.

“It’s late,” he would say. “You should be sleeping.”

I would grin and reply, “So should you.”

He would agree that yes, he should, and sometimes he would watch with me for a few minutes. Then he would ask if I understood something, or if I really thought it was funny. We’d analyze a sketch, and then he’d wander back to bed and leave me to enjoy the mystique of being the only person awake in the house at 12:45 in the morning.

I’m willing to confess that I harbored a secret crush for Dennis Miller, but that was before we knew he was bat-shit insane – and not in a comedic way, but in a politically skewed way that seems to imply some kind of traumatic brain injury.

I stopped watching SNL, for the most part, when I moved to Texas ten years ago. It’s not that I don’t still find it funny. When I do catch an episode, I laugh at it.

Partly, I stopped watching because when I’m awake at that hour, now, it’s because I’m caught in a story that I’m writing, and don’t want to stop.

Partly, I stopped watching because while it’s still entertaining, I watch it now with the perspective of having done improv on stage for a bunch of years, and having interviewed a lot of writers and actors who came through Second City (still the proving ground for comedy writers and actors, still the pool from which many SNL cast members emerge). I analyze it. I pick apart the sketches. “Why is that word funny, when another one wouldn’t be? How would I change it?” And when they go for an obvious joke, or make a poor word choice, I’m as upset as a sports fan would be when a baseball umpire calls SAFE when a player was clearly OUT.

Mostly, though, I stopped watching SNL because I live in the Central time zone, and that means it starts at 10:30, which is too early for SNL. True, it’s not prime-time, but it’s not late enough to be late-night, either, and without that 11:30 start time, it feels like just another mainstream comedy show.

The humor is still there.

But the mystique is lost.

Maybe this means I’m getting old.

But maybe, just maybe, it means that I prefer my comedy a little bit dangerous, a little bit edgy, and if it’s happening at 10:30…it’s not either. (I could DVR it, and watch when I want to, but the thing is…I wouldn’t. It would be wrong somehow, to DVR something that’s supposed to have the element of risk associated with live performance.)

Still, 40 years is an impressive run. There’ve been good casts, great casts, and a couple of truly awful casting choices that were quickly rectified, but on the whole it’s remained a good barometer of what’s going on in our world.

Even so, I think it was best viewed from behind my mother’s couch, when I still had the innocence of a five year old.

If I’d known then what I know now, I’d have embraced comedy in general, and improv specifically, much earlier in my life.

Begin as You Mean to Go On

Red Cups

I don’t quite remember where I heard the phrase, the advice, really, “Begin as you mean to go on,” but I think it might be a paraphrase of something from Louisa Alcott’s Little Women. In any case, I decided last year that the way one begins a new year should set the tone for the whole year.

Last year, as the calendar page turned, I was finishing a story, but it was the all-day celebration – music and laughter, friends and phone calls, that really set the tone.

This year, I rang in the New Year from Texas with the population of Newfoundland, because I was still so tired from traveling back from Mexico the night before. This morning, I woke to a sore back, but with a happy disposition, nevertheless.

I cooked and baked, shared some new recipes and some old, had friends at my table to share brunch, and played board games with some of them until late in the evening. I cuddled dogs and enjoyed the heat of my fire (though we’re now out of fire logs) and now we’re curled up in front of the television watching season 2 of Call the Midwife on Netflix (I’ve seen it all, but Fuzzy got hooked on it while we watched it with Mom over Christmas), and waiting for a quiche to finish baking for a late supper.

While we watch television, I’ll be finishing chapter one of a new story, and all-in-all, I think that’s a good way to start a year. Writing and coffee, friends and family, dogs and delicious food, laughter and fun and quiet time – all in balance. All in harmony.

What more could one want?

Holidailies 2014

Photo Credit: Alexandr Kornienko / 123RF.com

Christmas in La Paz: Close to the Edge

september-in-the-park-500-by-JohnnyBerg-stockxhcng

“The wind shows us how close to the edge we are.”
~Joan Didion

Roaring through the arches of the patio, the wind here is mournful and heavy, almost a tangible presence.

My parents live in the desert, a desert that ambles down to the water’s edge, but if all you knew was the sound of the wind you’d think they lived on the open prairie.

I remember a line in one of Laura Ingalls Wilder’s books about women on the prairie going mad from the combination of relentless wind and isolation. How much different were the women who lived here? Were they more resilient? Were they more mentally stable? Or is wind one of those things that spooks even the strongest of us, as it whistles through our hair and tickles our skin.

Outside, it sounds of pan-flutes and empty bottles, of breath and sadness.

And yet, the wind itself brings refreshment, cooler air, fewer insects, even as it stirs up clouds of dust and dries your skin.

If you’re already close to the edge, even the slightest breeze could push you over.

And if you’re not? If you’re well-grounded with your feet firmly planted, does it nudge you toward that precipice or merely tease you with ghostly caresses and wordless whispers?

Wind.

It’s power and breath and life.
And dust.
And despair.

Never ceasing.
But not always discernible.

Holidailies 2014