Kitten Wars, the Waking Edition 8/29/14

Ok, Teeny decided to let me sleep in this morning. She did not do a scratch solo last night at all. I guess a few nights ejected from my room did a little good there.  However, she truly does understand that when the alarm goes off that I should get up. So, this morning, when I hit the snooze, like I always do EVERY morning, she decided that she would instead drum on my stomach, back and arms. This is NOT to be confused with kneading in any manner. This is a fairly hard cat paw hitting in a definite rhythm. Tap, Tap, Tap, Tap  (on the stomach) Push the cat away sleepily…. Tap Tap Tap Tap (on my arm since I rolled a little) Push the cat further away this time Tap Tap Tap Tap (on my back since I rolled all the way over) Set the cat off the bed and glare at the alarm. It only went off 2 minutes ago!

Where to write?

I looked at a friend’s post this morning and it made me think. Where, if I could choose any place, any time, would I go to write? I found that my answer was perhaps too simple for the question. I write where ever I am. Having a set place, time, group doesn’t work for me. When I have inspiration, when I have an idea, when I have a problem, I write. It doesn’t matter where I am or what I am doing. I note it down. I put it on my cell, on my flash drive, on a paper napkin even. I do this because if I wait even 10 seconds, I might lose whatever it was that made me want to write it down in the first place. My son is very familiar with me writing, sitting next to him on the couch, while he is watching TV. The raised finger tells him to hold his thought until I can finish what I’m typing. He and I have learned to work it out so that we are together, not separate. He knows the rules of “engagement” with me once my computer is open and I’m typing. In return, I try to respect him when he is deep into a game, anime, or video about one of his games.

So, in reply to the question where would I choose to write? How do you take a picture of everywhere?

Writing? or Just Scribbling?

Everything that I read says that if your goal is to be a writer, then you must write every day whether it is a tiny bit of excellence or excessive excrement. I understand how this works, but I have a small problem with it, too. Well, not just one, a couple.

By trade, I’m a speech pathologist in the school systems. To say that I write every day can be a vast understatement. There are days when all I do is write: plans, lessons, behavior analysis, creative set-ups with explanation, research plans, et cetera just for my job. On those days, when I come home, the last thing I want to do is look at my computer much less put my fingers back on a keyboard. My brain is complete, utter mush when I finally find my way to a seat that is not at my desk. I’ve even been known to pass out within moments of sitting down.

When I have these days of excessive writing at work, they tend to come in spurts where for several days and sometimes weeks, I can barely keep my eyes open once I leave school. But the flipside is that once this behavior ends, I tend to gorge myself in writing for creative outlet. Writing during that time is not so much a chore as a compulsion. I find that even when I’m “resting” while the story churns in my brain, I’m truly still writing it. Ideas flow, problems solve themselves, and issues that I had before the writing flurry suddenly make incredible sense. I find my creativity spikes hard in all directions for all of my hobbies.

I’ve been told that unless you have truly written that you never know what it’s like to stick with something. Well, I have stuck something, twice. I spent a year working on and writing my dissertation. It was a work of love and hate, joy and excessive pain. In the end, when it was finally ready for its birth, I collapsed in exhaustion never more ready for something to go away than that piece. So, yes, I’ve done a long work. I chose to write a qualitative piece, instead of the more accepted quantitative, that was over 300 pages when done. So, even in academia, I was playing to my strengths of expression.

So, no, I don’t do creative writing every day. Maybe I’ll never be a true “writer” but I have achieved my goal of writing stories, poems, and papers. It may not be a “writer” in the manner that is prescribed by so many successful “writers” and “authors”, but it is my way. Perhaps it only works for me. Perhaps because my goal is writing and not necessarily publishing, that’s what makes it work.

I write for enjoyment, for purging, for release, for companionship, and for escape. I write to learn about myself, to let my brain wander to the places it needs to go to heal. Writing is a part of me that I’ve lived with since I was in elementary school when I wrote my first counted poem in third grade about wolves running free. By the time I was in fifth grade, I had improved to the point of winning the district level essay competition. So, yes, the ability to write has wrapped itself around me sometimes like a blanket and other times in the form of a python strangling me until I gave into the ideas that it wanted me to bring about. Granted sometimes the blanket brings out scribbling while the python brings out the writer.

Kitten Wars the Musical Edition 8/28/14

It would seem that I have a VERY musical cat. Teeny enjoys what can only be described as Percussion instruments in the Oh dark thirty realm of night.Sometime between 3-5 AM she has taken up the art of the litter box scratch. Now during the day, she is very silent with this one, but in the wee hours of the morning, must be her performance time. Not the normal scratch and run is she. Oh, no. Teeny must scratch the walls as loudly as possible, making the sound echo not only in the box where she is but also in the bathroom. When shooed out of it, she waits, then comes back about a minute later. But, I have developed a way to alleviate this a bit. Each night she is no longer allowed in the bedroom. Her litter box is placed outside the room as well with a crate blocking my door so she can’t scratch it instead. Fortunately for me, she has not added the Climb and Scratch technique to her percussive talents.

The Espresso Trade

This is an entry in WOEGMAN’s TTT challenge. The challenge was to write something in an alternate reality in 1000 words or less. This comes in at 994. I hope you enjoy it.

 

The petals drifted down, coating the pavement with the fragility of spring covering what was left of the evidence. Watching from behind The Times, a grin crept across his granite before he closed up shop and the vid uploaded. Pulling the umbrella down, he packed away his goods and pushed the cart down the path. Another successful experiment filmed in the park.

****************

“Yo boss! Vinny didn’t make checkpoint!” Joe Pettigucci glared at the bridge in Central Park where his muscle should have walked. A chill danced down his neck stiffening his spine. This was the fourth pick up that’d disappeared this week. Soon the boys were gonna take vengeance. It wouldn’t be pretty.

Joe walked the route. He went over Gapstow Bridge by the Pond passing picnics and people just lazing about. The Victorian Gardens were blooming as he continued on around making his way towards East Drive. Vinny would have walked right through here, but there wasn’t even the slightest notion of a man that big along the path.

Making his way to the street, a flurry of pink blossoms circled his legs while the scent of burned coffee wafted around him. As he looked down, a small piece of gold winked up from a small pile of ashes. Kneeling, he picked up the crucifix Mama Leo had given Vinny when he joined The Family.

“Gooch, what’cha got there? Anything Cap’d like to see?” Matt, one of the boys in blue, reached over to take the crucifix, but Joe held fast.

“It’s nothin’, just an old crucifix from Mama. Must’a fallen outta my pocket.” Joe put it away before Matt decided to grab for it.

“Cap’s getting worried, Gooch. Don’t like it when Cap’s upset. Things break.”

“We’ll get it to him. Just give us time.”

“24 hours, Gooch, 24 hours.”

Joe waited until Matt was out of hearing. “Boss, gotta make it happen, fast.”

***************************

It was almost complete. The tests had gone well. So far the formula disintegrated everything except metal. That wasn’t a loss, just annoying. Social media was running with the videos, swearing they were fake which suited him. A few of the more intelligent were trying to figure out where he was filming, but no one had caught on, yet. When he was ready, he’d make his demands. The Big Apple would either recognize his brilliance or disintegrate.

Pushing his cart down the path, he chose his next site carefully, waiting for one of the “boys” to walk by before he raised his umbrella. He nodded, friendly-like to the joggers and walkers alike until he was ready. It was almost time for the next delivery to be coming through. Looking out beneath his brows, he grinned.

*************************

“I’ve got it, boss. It’s in The Briefcase.” Joe picked up the leather coated metal and Kevlar reinforced case. He wound the band around his wrist securing it before setting his shoulders. The route firmly in his head, he started out.

The first checkpoint was by the bridge where he had to pick up a paper, tuck it beneath his arm. Turning to walk past, Joe watched the old man sit down and lay the paper down, discarding it. Picking it up, Joe nodded to the man, then moved on down the path. The key to the document would be in the help wanted section.

The second checkpoint was under the cherry tree as he turned to East Drive. There he was to pick up a specific edition of “Gentleman’s Quarterly” from the vendor before making his way to the street. A small package was stashed within its pages under the guise of a free sample. Once he crossed that street, he’d be home free.

Off to the left of the path, just barely on the pavement was the vendor. It was old Granite face. He got that name when his face hit the granite one too many times leaving pockmarks, permanently. Some say he was a promising chemist years ago that the boys in blue punished for not creating a coffee substitute fast enough.

Who knew? With coffee being on the critically endangered list, it was against international law to harvest the beans, much less brew a cup of joe. Espresso was out of the picture. Starbuck’s died four years ago when the bean crisis first hit. The boys were twitching from the world-wide shortage, willing to pay big for anyone willing to cross the Colombian border to bring some back. Granted having the beans and knowing how to roast ‘em for the perfect brew were two different things. That’s where The Family came into play.

Joe looked over at the vendor. Granite Face reached behind a pile of magazines to pull one out, put it on the side of the rack. Opening up the drinks case, he pulled out a soda and offered to Joe with what he thought was a smile as he came over. With his wallet in hand, Joe paid the man then took the soda and the copy of “Gentleman’s Quarterly” with him. He folded it up with the newspaper before continuing along the route to the drop-off. Every sense on alert. Walking the walk of beans was risky. Too many unreformed coffee junkies waiting for a chance.

But junkies weren’t the problem this time, it was something else, something sinister that was hitting only The Family, but that would have to wait. The delivery was first or their credibility was gonna suffer. Joe stuck the coke in his pocket for later as he left the park and strode to the waiting car. Getting in, he handed over the paperwork that had directions for the perfect brewing machine plus a free sample of the product. Cap stuck his pinky into the rich brown granules and tasted the dark espresso that only The Family could provide, then nodded his head for Joe to hand over the case. One more happy Cop in the Espresso Trade.

Kitten Wars 8/24/14

I learned something very important in the cat world today. A lone folded towel in the middle of the dining room table is fight worthy for queen of the table rights. Cleo who usually never jumps on the table saw the towel from the couch and bounced over to it. Teeny who knew it was there but had basically ignored it, saw Cleo jumping to the table and instantly went to investigate. Much silent tussling and cat wrestling occurred until Cleo won the towel. Mind you they were on top of the towel during the entire event and not once did it come unfolded! Another of the cat mysteries, I’m sure. After all, it wouldn’t make a very good bed unfolded!

A Little Cat’s Music Kitten Wars at Peace time 8/23/14

While writing “Songbird” I listened to “Phantom of the Opera” and other musicals that Andrew Lloyd Webber composed to get into the mood. While I frequently listen to all sorts of music, my cats usually ignore me and the computer. Until I put on Webber, overall, my computer was generally left alone, too. Little did I know that “Phantom” must be Teeny’s favorite music. I was singing along with “Think of Me” while I was composing the story on the keyboard when she leaped into my lap. Now most cat owners will think nothing of this, but keep in mind that Teeny is an affectionate in her own time kinda lady. She will talk to you, tell you she’s hungry, and knead on your shoulders on the couch, but getting into your lap is not her favorite thing. When she wants affection, she will call to you for you to come over to where ever she is poised ready for her scritch. SO for her to leap into my lap was very unusual.

Once in my lap, she started purring loudly, head bumping me, and kneading my legs as if she couldn’t decide which was the most important thing to do. At this point, I did a very silly thing. I STOPPED singing. Her head popped up. She put her face up to mine and took her paw to my lips where she proceeded to try to open them as if by that I would start singing once more. So, taking her clue, I started singing again. Once more the purring, the kneading, and the head bumping began. When the you tube vid was over, Teeny stared at the computer screen and very ladylike put her paw on the screen, then turned back to me with a look of “Make it happen! It can’t be over” So, I ran that video and sang for her that day. Can’t tell you how many times I sang just for my cat, but finally she dropped down off my lap. Supremely happy with herself, she walked over to Buddy, who was sleeping, and half-heartedly hissed at him telling him how stupid he was for sleeping while she and I had been communing.

Language Through Van Gogh

Unit using Van Gogh’s Starry Night as the central focal point

Unit focuses on language with additional references to 1) History, 2) Art, 3) Science, 4) Music, 5) Writing

Part One:
Draw, paint, or otherwise represent an “impression” of Van Gogh’s ”Starry Night” that is not an exact duplicate. Leave out various elements such as the church, the village, etc.

 

starry night

Part Two:
Let it be highly visible in the classroom so that students become very familiar with your version. While you are “waiting” slowly put up a wall beside it that contains small info blurbs about Van Gogh, the history of the time, the situation that he painted it in, and how the painting was originally received. Then add information about how the modern world has received his works. Include references to the art world, astronomers, and Don McLean. Add a copy of the song’s lyrics. Add further references to how people have been interpreting the painting. Make references to astronomers, religious references to the stars in the sky, the church, and the cypress tree. Add a word wall. Add a “what you are learning” section. Add a further section concerning questions that you expect them to answer. Add a writing component.

Part Three
Ideas for organization:
A section called “To Think About”
This section contains the facts about the painting, its reception, the themes present in both the “impression” one and the original. Mine has the following facts listed:
1) Van Gogh is considered one of the greatest painters of all time.
2) The style of painting is called impressionism. It is not supposed to look like a picture but rather an “impression” of what is seen.
3) The painting on the wall is my “impression” of Van Gogh’s “Starry Night”.
4) Van Gogh’s paintings were considered “childlike” by his peers.
5) “Starry Night” was painted in 1889, the year before Van Gogh died.
6) People today continue to try to interpret “Starry Night”.
7) Many discussions and papers have been written about the number of stars in the sky.
8) Astronomers used the positioning of the stars to tell the day that he painted “Starry Night”.
9) Van Gogh painted his “Starry Night” the day after looking out the window at the asylum.
10) The church was a creative element that did not exist in the village he was painting. It was from his hometown, instead.
11) At the time of his death Van Gogh had only sold one painting.
12) Don McLean wrote a song about Van Gogh titled “Vincent”.
13) The song was a major hit. People do not refer to it as “Vincent” but as “Starry, Starry Night”.
14) The cypress tree shows up in other Van Gogh paintings.

Questions asked:
1) How did painting “Starry Night” the day after seeing it change it?
2) When people called his work “childlike” how do you think that made him feel? Why?
3) What is your opinion of the 11 stars in the sky?
4) What is different about the way Van Gogh portrays stars and the way we are taught to do so?
5) Why would Van Gogh call the big brown-black picture a “Cypress Tree” and why have it so strongly portrayed?
6) What themes are seen in this picture?
7) Are these themes or elements in the original?
8) How is this picture similar to Van Gogh’s?
9) How is it different?
10) Why did I choose to not include some things?
11) What would you paint or draw in this style or method if you could? Why did you choose that?
12) If you were to write a song about a piece of art, what would it be? Why?
13) How is impressionism different from a landscape or a portrait?
14) Would you have represented the wind and stars as he did?
15) Is this the way we see a starry night?
16) How were astronomers able to determine the exact time and date?
17) What is the rotation and revolution of celestial bodies?
18) How would revolution and rotation help determine positioning? Dates? Times? Places?

Things that we are learning from this project:
compare, contrast, time, place, identify, data
Astronomical features, interpret, express, perspective, relationships, history
Diversity of application, discuss, write, technique, themes

For further exploration:
1) Ask the students to draw something in the style. When they are done have them explain what they did and why.
2) Ask the students to write words about a piece of art to a popular song to share with the class.
3) Ask the students to write their feelings about Van Gogh and his treatment by his peers. Have them compare it to the way they feel at school. Create a Venn Diagram.

Thoughts on “Songbird”

“Songbird” was written in part about an old friend from UGA as well as something that I used to do in the drama building. Back then the theatre people and the music people shared the same building. It was an old lady with beautiful granite/marble stairwells that echoed perfectly. I was extremely shy back then, but those stairwells called to me as nothing else did. Whenever I would have a lull between classes and knew that no one should be going up to the third floor, I would sing songs that filled my heart. As soon as I heard someone open one of the doors, I would scatter through the closest of the four doors to either the outside, basement, lobby, or third floor and make myself scarce. I tried assiduously to not get caught. In the five years I was there, I was only caught singing once by someone who had a feeling it was me. He literally timed me out of one of my classes just to verify that it was indeed me singing in the stairwell. It was then that I found out that he and several others had been listening to me sing for quite sometime. I was thoroughly embarrassed at being caught, but extremely thrilled that someone was listening considering that I was truly only singing because those stairwells begged for it.

The old friend that actually brought the story to mind was one who would play jazz and ragtime on the practice pianos. In my story, James is him in my mind, all grown up. My friend would play at all times of day and night changing pianos each time. He couldn’t help playing any more than I could stop singing. It was who we were at that time. He wore a brown trench coat, a long grey-tan scarf, and I believe a fedora, but it could have been another style of hat. He was always dressed as nicely as he could be. Despite the obvious quality of his clothes, they were threadbare and patched. He carried himself with a natural pride of knowing who he was, even when he was diligently watching for any night watchmen. It was several month before I ventured into the practice room where he was playing “Tea for Two” and introduced myself. Actually, I should say that he introduced himself, as I was too shy to say much of anything. I believe he knew I had been sitting close by listening for quite a while as he nodded at me like an old friend.

We sat saying nothing as he went through all sorts of ragtime, jazz, and blues. After a while, I sang softly to something he was playing, he grinned and from then on played things that I might know. It wasn’t until a good while later that I found out that my extremely talented friend had been living where ever he could for the last few years. He had put his degree on hold due to a family misfortune and was all alone in the world. As I was living in an all girl’s dorm, I had nothing to offer him other than a warm meal and friendship. He took the friendship, declining food, saying that I was a student, too and couldn’t afford it.

So, “Songbird” was made for that time, that place. It is a mix of what could have happened, could have been.

Songbird

When I was a musical theatre major in college we had a gentleman who would come and play the most amazing songs on the piano. He wore a long brown trench coat. I remember creeping up to the practice rooms just to listen. One time I even sat in the room just listening to him play. We became friends of a sort. He was college age, but always on the look out when he played. I found out later that he was homeless. He was making his way through college while sleeping where ever he could. Playing the piano was his way of losing himself for a brief time. So, this story is for that long ago friend of music. He inspired me.

****************

“There will never be a day, when I won’t think of you…”

A sweet, lilting soprano voice filled with longing caressed the hallway as James walked through the front door of the theatre building on old North Campus. He could feel the notes wrap around him comforting the bitterness away, coating him in warmth even though the icy wind tried to whip the door open behind him. She was singing. She sang off and on in the marble stairwells where her voice soared, reaching for the angels, then disappeared as quickly as the notes evaporated into silence. Who she was, he hadn’t a clue, but like every other time he hustled to the stairwell hoping to catch a glimpse of his siren only to find it empty.

The school had dubbed her their little “Phantom”, but with her voice she was more “Christine” than “Phantom”. The banked emotion that she let soar made everyone stop what they were doing for just those moments to feel her voice.

No one had ever caught her. Some said she was a ghost but James knew better. One day when he silently crept to the stairwell, he thought he had her. For once he was going to lay eyes on the one who had haunted him for the last couple years, but the upstairs door closed behind her leaving only what drifted slowly down. She was gone. He caught that cobalt scarf as he raced up the stairs only to find the hallway empty. Looking down at his hand, he smiled. There in the folds were a few stragglers of long, silky mahogany hair. She was real.

“If I ever catch her…” Zac, the music director, paused beside him, “It’ll be Webber all the way.”

James nodded, knowing the feeling. Their little joint department hadn’t had a true crystal voice like that in a long time. Imagining what she could do for a show, he smiled. “We need to find her first. Too bad the university wouldn’t foot the bill for cameras. At least that way we would know what she looks like.”

As he walked across the lobby to his office, his fingers caressed the scarf that was folded in his coat pocket, always with him.
************
Panting, Josephine picked up her knapsack where she left it. Once again the lure of the stairwell had called out to her. When was she going to learn? Security had already warned her, told her that the school was no place for her. They even threatened to call the police the last time she was found. One day she would be caught and sent away, she knew it, but the way she felt when she sang, took away all the pain. Singing was her refuge, her respite, it allowed her to dream if only for a moment. On the bad days, the threat of getting caught was more than worth the moments of peace.
**************
Days passed without a sound from the one he sought. After a week went by, James began to wonder if maybe his special song bird left. His fingers just about rubbed a hole in the sheer scarf as he wondered where she might have gone. Surely she was a student at the very least? Perhaps, she was studying for spring midterms? It was a bit early for them but some were more studious than others. Without realizing what he was doing, he put on “Phantom” just to listen to the songs she loved to sing.

“Playing the music won’t bring her back. Give her time. She’ll sing again.” His secretary handed him the latest schedule of rehearsals for the play he was directing.

“How long has she been here? Haunting us all with her voice?”

“She showed up about a year before you did. At first she sang only classical songs that were being taught to the voice majors, so we all thought she was a student. Then she branched off into other genres. Theatre people thought she was a voice major. Music people thought she was theatre. So, no one knows. All I know is that the stairwell calls her. She’ll be back.”
***************
Two weeks later, the night was bitterly cold with sleet slamming its way through, piercing anything it hit. Not able to remain outside any longer, Josephine slipped through the loose door in the basement. Creeping slowly as she kept an eye out for the night watchman, she threaded her way through the scene shop and over to the prop and costume shops where she gathered blankets and a wool sweater. With soft feet she moved over to the main office where she knew a small heater was kept. There she huddled trying to warm herself.
***************
“Come feed the little ones. Show them you care… all it takes is tuppence from you”

The ice storm had convinced him to stay later than normal. He was glad he did when he heard her voice. As silently as he could, James walked to his office. The voice, her voice, was thin, yet still she sang almost too softly to be heard. There were pauses, jumps and dips that shouldn’t be there, but still … she sang. He eased through the door to his office. There she was huddled in ragged blankets, her hair a straggled mess, the marks of street life showing as she rocked herself.

Reaching behind his back, he closed the door. She jumped when the latch caught, but didn’t rise. Instead, she burrowed further in the blankets.

“Please, don’t call the cops. I was only trying to get warm.”

“I just want to meet you.”

“I’ll go.” She reached to turn off the heater.

“Stay.” Moving slowly to not scare her, James turned the heater back on before sinking to his heels beside her. Reaching into his pocket, he pulled out her scarf. “I kept this for you.”
Despite her shivers, a smile bloomed across her face as she reached for it.

“Thank you. I’ll leave as soon as I get warm, promise.”

“No talk of leaving. You’re safe.”

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