Friday, September 6, 2013

“Raindrops on Roses . . . Sort of”

            Any precipitation finds me grabbing my camera to document cloud formation and rain. My obsession stems, of course, from the tremendously long and dry summers we’ve endured in San Antonio. Yesterday, clouds rolled into our neighborhood. In the evening thunder snapped our attention away from the television set while bolts of lightning struck within a couple miles of our house.
            I couldn’t wait to grab my camera this morning to document the relief sighing through my plants out back. The live oak’s sheen has returned with a single rinse. My yard feels happy! I don’t have any roses blooming at the moment, but there are still plenty of raindrops!
Copyright 2013 Elizabeth Abrams Chapman

Thursday, September 5, 2013

"Funhouse Mirrors"

Look into the eyes     
vacant sockets   
hollowed by decadence     
and despair   
distortions of reality   
rippled and waved by experiences   
your view, my view     
righteous and indignant   
warped by conspiracy   

Look at the smile   
deceitful daggers   
grotesque with innuendo   
and disbelief   
twists of faith   
buckled and bent by interpretations   
your view, my view   
dishonorable and corrupt   
perverted by unknowns   

Look for the Truth   
barren words   
spoken through slanders     
and mystique   
sleight of hand   
molded and modified by consequences   
your view, my view   
devout and extreme   
destroyed by secrecy   

Copyright 2011 Elizabeth Abrams Chapman

I never know where I'll find inspiration for a poem. My mother's rediscovered "The X-Files" and a recent cluster of episodes triggered the idea for this piece.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

“Plenty of Time”

            My days slipped into a routine without me even noticing it. I hog the bed as soon as David starts his morning ritual. By the time he heads out the door, I sit at my laptop to check out morning status posts, cute animal pictures, game requests, and jokes. I head over to check my email and peruse the news. Usually I multitask, running clothes through the washer and shifting them to the dryer when I return letters or write a blog post. By 9 AM, the dogs and I head for the back yard. Koi viciously snarls and snaps at the hose, tugging with all of his might to “help” me unwind this coiled snake. I slowly water each bush and hanging basket, all the while yearning for the blessing of rain upon our scorched world.
            By the time I reenter the house, the laundry’s dry. I hang, and fold, and put everything neatly away. Then I tackle another small chore—put away the clean dishes stacked so neatly in the dishwasher, vacuum and mop the floors, dust off the find layer that’s settled onto the furniture since the previous week, scrub the tubs and toilets. No matter what the task, I usually finish between 10:30 and 11:00.
            So I pull my hair back into a ponytail, don my Skechers, and head for the gym. Determined to regain my life, I push through thirty minutes of aerobics and another thirty minutes of weights. I mentally mark off the day of the week—Monday, Wednesday, Friday dedicated to upper body. Tuesdays and Thursdays focused on lower body. Weekly weigh-ins show no weight loss, but the tape measure’s become my best friend. I’ve honed almost eighteen inches off of during the last three months. Each half-inch shift gives me the push to head back to the cross trainer. Logic tells me that I spent a decade taking care of someone else, and I should allow myself time to regain my physical endurance. I arrive home sweating like a pig. No delicate “perspiration” for me! A quick soak to stretch out my muscles, and then the rest of the day remains open.
            And so I find myself with plenty of time, practically for the first time ever, to do anything I want (within budgetary reason). Some days, I’ll pick something on Netflix and do a marathon television session. Other days, the TV sits silent all day while I catch up on reading all of the books my favorite authors published over the last four years when Mom’s care shoved reading into an occasional luxury. I’ve even constructed a list of projects to do around the house—like painting the kitchen. Writing, the one thing I clung to tenaciously as HD demolished my mother, now shifts to a leisurely pleasure.
            Yesterday, I began researching some of those little details writers place into books. My curiosity queried on how long a horse can trot pulling a wagon, and how many miles per hour it would go. I needed to know what courses a nurse took going to John Sealy Hospital School of Nurses in the early 1900s. I spent my afternoon with Google and Bing (sounds like a vaudeville act).
            I find great pleasure in discovering the miracle of having plenty of time. I think I’ll luxuriate in it (and maybe brag about it) for quite a while.
Copyright 2013 Elizabeth Abrams Chapman

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

“A Lifetime Ago”

            A lifetime ago, I took one year off from teaching to play the role of homeroom mother—and to research and write a novel. I spent months hauling books to and from the library as I researched the setting for my story. Hour after hour, I took notes on the histories, cultures, religions and languages of my fictional characters. Eventually, I merged all of those notes into a plot. During the nine months of that long ago school year, I gave birth to characters and watched them grow and develop.
            When summer shifted into fall, I boxed the first draft of my novel and tucked it away on the corner of a footlocker. Its visibility often nagged at me to delve back into the pages and visit with my friends, but work and responsibilities made it easy for me to ignore my creation. During the next year, the box changed locations several times, and eventually I secured it on a shelf in my closet. I could still see it there, begging for me to return for a weekend or a holiday, but I ignored its pleas. Over the years, the box became buried under shoeboxes and bags filled with crafts I’ve started but never finished. It collected dust in my mind. Frankly, I totally forgot about it.
            Before we moved Mom in with us, I did a major overhaul of all of our closets. We were, after all, combining two households into one. I uncovered the novel one day and spent a couple of evenings rereading the yellowed manuscript. The 3.5 floppy disks tucked into the box reminded me that I’d written these words long ago.
            Resolutely, I began to revise and rewrite my story. I double checked all of that long ago research, this time in the comfort of my home using the miraculous Internet. I layered my more mature writing style into the book, but basically didn’t change the original structure of the plot, the color of the characters.
            My resolution to seek an agent faltered when Mom moved into our home, and I realized the amount of care she needed wouldn’t allow me the luxury of revisions or rewrites if my novel found a home. This time, though, I didn’t box my work away. Instead, I purchased a new, white three-ringed binder. This time, I kept my handiwork nearby for quick reads and editing. I even asked a friend to read and critique it.

            When Mom died, I moved the binder into my desk drawer and headed back into the classroom to clear my head of grief. This summer, one project after another seemed to demand my attention, and I avoided glancing at my neglected volume by shoving calendars and journals on top of it.
            A few weeks ago, I pledged to return to the path I started a lifetime ago. I Google searched for possible literary agents. I decided on a company and agent to approach, and I began the process of writing a query letter, and a synopsis, and selecting my best three chapters.
            Yesterday, I sent this story, first dreamed of a lifetime ago, off to an agent. I won’t get a response for three to six months, and I know the answer will read something like “Thank you, but . . .” However, that’s okay because I’ve accomplished such a major goal. I’ve taken a single idea, developed it into a wonderful story peopled with interesting characters. Even if it’s taken me years, I’ve wound my way through the long and convoluted writing process all the way to the final step.
            And today? I think I’ll start another novel because one’s been floating around in the background for a while. This time, I have no other responsibilities than seeing to the needs to these new characters as I give them lives, so maybe it won’t take another lifetime.    
Copyright 2013 Elizabeth Abrams Chapman