I sit by the peaceful light of the television. Music comes from it. It is bright—bright, so that I can study. But it is soft—soft, so that the children can sleep.
Blonde heads. Dark heads. Quilts. Sleeping bags. Some with pillows and some without. All the children are sleeping.
All except for one. She climbs on my lap, as she always does, and I wrap my left arm around her. My right hand writes notes. Big words. Lexicon. Subdialect. Pronunciation. The little girl says she can write her name. I give her my pencil. She writes something that starts with B and ends with something that looks like an uppercase Q.
But we write quietly. The children are sleeping.
A fan is blowing. The music is soft and sweet. It is piano music, worship music, sleeping music. I am relaxed. The little girl is warm in my arms and my chair is comfortable and I wish I could sleep with the children. But there is too much light, and I must study.
The girl gets off my lap. I study harder. A twenty-page PDF turns into a page and a half of notes. I check the time; the head teacher should be here in five minutes. I study another source, this time a shorter one that only needs half a page of notes. The children are still sleeping.
The teacher is late. A fat little boy approaches me and asks to go to the restroom. I let him out the door and watch for his return. His earlobes jiggle when he walks. A little blonde girl asks to go potty. I let her out the door and watch for her return.
Surely the children are used to waking up by now. Their teacher should be back by now. But I will not turn on the light. No. Let the children sleep.
This darn computer. Just deleted. Another. Perfectly. Good. Blog. Post.
I suppose it's okay to be mad.
I'm not sure how to be mad.
"Just let it go."
Why? I'm mad.
"Stop with the attitude."
Oh, yes. I know I'm usually perfect. Forgive my humanity.
"What would Jesus do?"
Flipping tables is a viable option.
And my computer isn't the only thing that messed up within the past hour and a half. My cast iron skillet. My perfectly good cast iron skillet had rust on it. So I scrubbed it off and re-seasoned it and I hope I don't end up ruining the thing because I got it for Christmas almost two years ago and it's serviced the household perfectly well since then.
On the bright side, I got to write this morning. And the weather was nice.
I'm terrified. I'm submitting the first chapter of Book 3 as part of my creative writing college class. I sent in the rough draft and I don't think my teacher likes it very well. I made the rookie mistake of starting the book by introducing too many characters. You'd think that, by Book 3, I'm done making rookie mistakes. Apparently not.
I'm less mad.
Still a little mad.
But less mad.
The skillet's going to be fine. I can always write another blog post. The only thing I can copy verbatim from it is a quote by Dorothy Parker: “If you have any young friends who aspire to become writers, the second greatest favor you can do them is to present them with copies of The Elements of Style. The first greatest, of course, is to shoot them now, while they’re happy.”
Maybe if I write for a while I won't be angry. Maybe if I listen to music and crochet or play sudoku or do push-ups I won't be angry.
Maybe if I take deep breaths I won't be angry.
Dear readers, I genuinely don't know how to cope with anger. The emotion is new to me. I spent so much time growing up being scared that I forgot to ever feel angry. What am I supposed to do when I'm angry? Please let me know in the comments. Thank you. God bless you. And please, review us on Amazon. We need all the help we can get.
The air is pleasant, cool, and sweet.
I walk a path with sandaled feet
That fairies showed while starlight glowed
Upon the forest, dark and neat.
The path leads me to rolling fields
That grass and flower both do yield.
There are no trees or rocks or bees
But birdsong rings like bells oft pealed.
The fairies draw their harps and flutes
They sing to violins and lutes
At me they glance, then start to dance
With clicking heels and stamping boots.
I join the fairies' joyful song
I dance for I know not how long.
I pant, perspire, start to tire,
But the dance has just begun.
I wake to see the rising sun,
Remembering that midnight fun
That to me seemed just like a dream
But wait--my shoes--I'm missing one.
I had a post written and my website decided to delete the thing. My original post was more of a rant than a self-respecting blog post, so I'll take it as a sign that I need to write about something else.
Suppose that, instead of ranting about my insecurities, I'll talk about what I'm grateful for.
Two separate people said that they like my shirt today. One of those was a five-year-old who wasted no time in touching the fabric. Granted, it's a soft shirt, and rather comfortable. It's green with a nice pink and red floral print. The top half of the shirt is fitted and stretchy, and there's lace at the hem. More importantly, it has a modest neckline--which is something hard to find in the Junior's section at Kohl's.
I got to spend some time outside today when I watched the kindergarteners at recess. It was a lovely day. Not too hot, not too cold. The sun was shining. There was a gentle breeze. The trees were a vibrant green that seemed contagiously alive.
I'm over my cold today. And my classroom had the good kind of Kleenexes that are soft on your nose and don't fall apart easily.
I watched the preschoolers when they napped. All of them slept. Usually, one or two of them will be awake. This time, they all slept. I used the 45 minutes I spent in the classroom to crochet a pocket for the cardigan I'm almost done making.
Someone left a review on Amazon for Where the Clouds Catch Fire. They left a rating on Where I Stand, too, but not a review. I don't care. Both of them were five stars.
I got to talk to my friend yesterday. I went shopping, too, and bought two books of crochet patterns for less than $10. One of them is full of gansey patterns, built to look like 19th-century British fishing sweaters. I can't wait to make some of the wonderful things in that book.
I treated myself to ice cream after work today. There's a small business downtown that we try to frequent. Downtown was busy, so I was forced to parallel park. I maneuvered into the parking spot perfectly on my first try--and I don't think I've parallel parked since my driving test.
You know what? Today's been a good day. Thank You, God, for this good day. Please show me how to make someone else's day a little better. Amen.
Apparently, September is National Suicide Prevention Month. Or last week was National Suicide Prevention Week. Or something like that. In honor of that, I'd like to post a poem I wrote a while back that's actually a parody of "Another Irish Drinking Song" by Da Vinci's Notebook. Written from Rowan's perspective, the poem details his backstory as well as his mental state between the first and second books. If you haven't read Where I Stand, go ahead and skip this poem. Major spoilers ahead!
When I lived in Mount Shannon as a lad of just thirteen,
I came down with a headache so pure fierce I couldn't see.
My parents and my siblings all came down with headaches too,
So Mum and Da and Maeve and Padraig died of typhoid flu.
I took my sister Libby and we left that cursed town,
We hoped and fought and prayed so that our luck would turn around.
Consumption came and took that lovely lass away from me,
I tried to follow, but I picked the wrong confounded tree.
By God's grace, I got married, and we had a daughter fair,
We gave our lass a sister with her mother's golden hair,
But then the scarlet fever came and took our baby girl,
Our only solace in the fact she's too pure for the world.
When we had done some crying, Cait gave me a baby boy,
And then another girl so that our home was full of joy.
But then the Vikings came, the monsters tore our home apart,
They took my wife and killed our babe and broke my aching heart.
Once more, I took a rope, prepared to see my Savior's face,
A storm came up, deterring me in a strange act of grace.
I should have left my children with their uncles and their aunts.
I couldn't bear to leave them, so they joined my sorry dance.
From town to town we wandered, always hungry, cold, and poor,
I couldn't keep a job to keep the debtors from our door,
We tried to sail to Scotland fair and turn our fate around,
We met up with a storm and then my oldest daughter drowned.
Perhaps I'll take a rope again, perhaps I'll fly away,
Perhaps heaven is nigh to me, but I won't go today.
My son's still young and needs me, and I want him hale to grow.
It seems that God still wants me here, but why I do not know.
Seven years have gone away since Vikings took my bride,
Four of those I searched for her, travelling far and wide.
It was two years last September that my daughter sailed away.
They never quit the earth, though, and I held them both today.
My son has got his mother back, my daughter's got her da,
The joy I feel makes up for all the years spent low and sad,
The next time troubles taunt me, I'll keep my feet on the ground,
For God, it seems, takes pleasure in turning fate around!
Allow me to breathe a quick sigh. You see, I've recently been given a job as a substitute teacher, and I'm still adjusting to leaving the house at 6:55 in the morning. And in four minutes, I'll have to start making cornbread muffins to go with the chili Mom's making. So let's see how much I can write in four minutes.
It'll be like the journal exercises my Fiction Writing professor tries to get us to do. I don't do them, personally. I spend most of my free time indulging my tendency to daydream. And I use the term "daydream" very loosely. "Lucid hallucination" sounds too much like a medical problem, but it's closer to what actually goes on in my head.
That's what I told the little girl at work yesterday. I was put in charge of watching the preschoolers while they napped, and one little girl was determined not to fall asleep. She ended up sitting in my lap most of the time because she missed her mommy, but hey, I enjoyed it.
But after about twenty minutes, I wanted to get back to my crochet. And I knew that the little girl's real teacher, who was on break at the moment, would be Very Annoyed at the fact that her charges weren't obeying her orders.
I couldn't just tell her, "Go lay down and daydream." She's four. She doesn't know what the word "daydream" means. So I lean close to her ear, in an attempt to not wake the other sleepers, and tell her, "Why don't you make up a story in your head?"
She couldn't do it.
Daydreaming has always come naturally to me. When I was little, our minivan had a VHS player in it. Sometimes, when we didn't have a VHS in the car with us, we'd pull the screen down and watch The Black, Black Bug. The Black, Black Bug was completely imaginary. I have no idea whether my mom or I invented the concept. But I've spent countless happy hours of my life staring at a black screen in a moving car. Talking about an insect that doesn't exist.
It's 6:02 and the muffins aren't going to make themselves. There might be type-o's in this blog. I'm sorry to say that I don't have time to correct them. When you've spent all morning with small humans who confuse p's and 9's, you tend to stop caring about type-o's.
Anyway. Have a good weekend.
It's fun, isn't it,
Listening to different languages
And being able to pick out words that you know.
Apparently otra is a word in Latin
as well as in Spanish
It means "other," in case you were wondering.
(I know you weren't. It's okay.)
I saw a onesie on Instagram
That said Mo Ghra, "My Love."
It's a romantic term, but I want the onesie anyway.
I laughed at a phrase in French
That translated, "You have a head
Like a sandwich," in case you were wondering.
(I know you weren't. It's okay.)
Labor Day is upon us! And with it, for some people anyway, comes road trips. Having driving literally across the country multiple times, I've gathered some tips and tricks that make road trips more fun and enjoyable for everyone. Except for maybe the driver. It's pretty hard to have fun while trying not to kill everyone going down the highway at 75 miles an hour.
Rain, rain! Come and stay!
Let us in your puddles play!
Let us see your lightning glow,
Let us hear your thunder low!
Rain, rain! Fall to ground!
The world's so nice when you're around!
Books and tea are better when
The raindrops patter overhead.
Rain, rain! Don't go away!
Stay and water us all day!
The flower bloom and taller grow,
And dance with bows and curtsies low.
"You need diversity in your writing," says the internet, "or you're racist."
I glance over my book. I've got Irish people, Scottish people, Norse people. "I've got diversity," I say.
"That doesn't count. You need people of color."
Sighing, I set aside my Welsh character and turn to a little project I've started. A murder mystery set in 1876. "There's a black person in this one," I offer. "Her name is Miss Ellie. She's a receptionist and cleaning lady, and she's really nice to the main character."
"That's a stereotype. And don't make your black characters minor characters who work in the service industry. It means you're racist," says the internet. "And you can't just have one black person in your book. Throw in more blacks and some Hispanics."
I go to the government for answers. Specifically, to the U.S. Census Bureau archives. Skip down, skip down, there's Illinois, there's DeKalb County in 1870.
Total population: 23, 265.
White population: 23, 212.
Black population: 53.
Hispanic wasn't even a category. However, the census was kind enough to note that there were zero Chinese or Indian people in DeKalb County in 1870. Or in 1880, for that matter. I looked at the data for both years.
After some math, I concluded that, in 1876, DeKalb County, Illinois, had approximately three black people for every 1,000 white people. In other words, whites made up 99.7% of the population and I would be historically accurate if I whitewashed my entire cast. However, since I don't often get to work with this kind of diversity and I'm honestly excited for it, I'm keeping Miss Ellie and her family.
Don't get me wrong. I'm not trying to offend anyone. I mean to be respectful in my portrayal of other cultures and races. But I almost feel that, in the writing community anyway, things have gotten out of hand. The only thing people care about is representation. You have to have black people and gay people and women in your story, even if it's not historically accurate. If you don't, you'll get burned at the stake.
Most of those issues, I don't feel qualified to discuss. I grew up in DeKalb county, and I honestly don't think the black population grew too much higher than 53. There were two African immigrants (maybe from Ghana, I forget the country) who went to our church, and my good friend across the street was Hispanic. And that was about it. So I'm definitely not going to write a book where the main theme--or even subplot--deals with issues of race. At least not at this point in my life. It's just not an issue I have experience with.
What's your advice for putting people of color in books? Let me know in the comments below! God bless y'all, dear readers, and don't forget to review us on Amazon!
M. J. Piazza is a Jesus-loving, dog-walking country girl who just so happens to write books.