Monday, December 06, 2010

Oh, the agony

My mama is spinning in her grave like a chicken on a spit, and Martha Stewart is clutching her chest, moaning, “This could be the Big One!”

Before I launch into this story, I should preface it with this: there is no “right” color of Christmas lights. I know that, in my head at least.

However, in the South, if Mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy, and that’s how it was at our house when I was growing up. My mother, may she rest in peace, had dozens upon dozens of “rules” that she applied to life. I had no idea just how many rules she had (and that she had inculcated in me) until I got married to a perfectly nice perfect stranger to my family’s ways and traditions.

Some examples? Sheets aren’t on a bed properly unless you have neat little hospital corners. A present isn’t properly wrapped unless you can’t detect a smidge of tape (that one alone nearly sent me to therapy.) Don’t use the same utensil in the jelly jar that you just used in the peanut butter jar. Don’t get crumbs in the jelly. Never wear plaids and stripes at the same time.

There are also strict rules about which way the toilet paper goes on the roll, and how you fold a napkin, as well as a whole canon on the proper way to handle thank you notes. But if you think those were a lot of rules to learn, Christmas outstripped them all. Yep, you could fill an entire set of encyclopedias just on Mama’s Rules About Christmas.

The one absolute immutable law, though, dealt with lights. Christmas lights were to be dainty and small and, well, white. Preferably NOT blinking, but she could take the blinking as long as they were white.

The way she taught this law was simple. From the earliest age I can remember, if I ever admired multi-colored lights as we were driving by someone’s Griswoldville, she’d tutt her tongue and hiss, “Looks just like a jook-joint.”

For those of you not from my neck of the woods, a jook-joint is slang for beer joint, and the worst sort, the kind that the bartender might have to break up three fights in one evening alone.

Fast forward to now. The Kiddo and The Husband had long planned to string Christmas lights along our front fence. It never occurred to me to tell them to get white lights. I just sort of, er, assumed that they knew that. I mean, The Husband has been married to me for how many years? Yes, 20. And never a colored light has been lit on our hill.

But what do we have on our fence? Rainbow hues of lights. Brilliant, garish lights – that, gasp, blink. Yes, my Mama is spinning in her grave. But she was a mama, too, so here’s hoping she can understand that I had nothing to do with it.

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

And they crawl back out

All over the world this morning -- okay, this afternoon -- writers are crawling out of their caves, blinking, yawning, stretching. They mumble something like, "Gee, where'd all the leaves on the trees go?" and "Got any more turkey left over from Thanksgiving?"

Yes, it is the NaNo crew, coming out of its annual hibernation. Hats off to all of you who managed to do it, who managed to plug your ears and forget about November being the kickoff for the insane rush of holiday madness, who managed to turn thought into kilobytes.

Now if you'll just tell me how you dispatched your internal editors, I'll use the scientific method to see if I can replicate your results on my own Internal Editor, AKA the Demon Muse in Stilettos. She's been busy muttering things like, "Ya didn't even have to cook the turkey, so what's up with the no-writing biz last week, huh? Care to explain THAT?"

But enough about my long, ongoing battle with the evil twin of Fran. In addition to death and taxes, Evil Twin Fran is a certainty, unless I can get her sidetracked on the possibility of doing a makeover on me or on closet organizers to manage an impossibly large collection of feather boas.

No, I'm sympathizing with that time warp that NaNo writers are experiencing right about now. I've had to do massive writing projects where turnaround time consisted of days, not months, and upon surfacing, I found the following to be consistently true:

1) I have lost all track of time and season. It's true. If my crash writing episode happened to fall during a season change, I was as confused as a bear after his first hibernation session. You go to sleep and it's fall, and you wake up, and the crocus buds are poking out of the snow. (Not that we have snow down here in Georgia, but you know what I mean.)

2) My spoken language skills have regressed to grunts and moans. It's as though I'd drained all language skills into my writing. Even a two-word sentence that sounds anything more complicated than "Me want" is often beyond me at times like that.

3) I get the mother of all colds. Doesn't matter that I haven't been around human beings besides immediate family for the better part of a month; the first day I venture out into the world, it's as though I was Bubble Boy and the bubble burst. It must have something to do with stress and the immune system.

4) I never want to see a computer again. OK, this is short-lived, but for a day or so, the urge to surf the web or tweet or do ANYTHING that remotely involves a keyboard? It's dead, dead, dead.

5) After 48 hours, the relief I feel at finishing turns into euphoria and a huge burst of self-confidence. I'm at my mountain-top, shouting, "Huzzah!" (Yes, I know, that's so not a cool exclamation, but I've always wanted to say it.)

So it's okay, my NaNo friends, if you grunt with surprise at the lack of leaves, and you wave your hand in the general direction of the Kleenex box. I'll know exactly what you mean.