Tuesday, November 29, 2011

What Will Be Next?

As November draws to a close, I am left to wonder what the coming month and new year will bring.  I wonder where I will set my sights, on what projects I will work.

There is still the Journal Jar to complete, hopefully by the end of this year.  I have been making progress to that end and will continue to aim to do that.  My sort of children's book is finished and I have a copy in my hands, in print and binded.  I've ordered a couple more to be distributed to the selected few.  I might still look into another publishing option, but that is for next year, I believe, at this point.  I made my goal of getting the book published to send to the Hatzidakis Family for Christmas, so that is a job well done.

I wonder if I will be compelled to work on my other book projects now that the children's book is done, at least for the moment.  I would like to work more on getting the story out and organizing what I've already done into a more, well, organized format.  I've got a lot of blog entries, word documents, and some journal entries that can be reworked and compliled into a book of some sort.  Don't know if it will be of any interest to a publisher, but I can cross that bridge later.  In the meantime, I think it's a project that will garner a lot of my interest in the coming year.  Especially if I continue to do as well as I've been doing, healthwise.

There's also Thistle Penn.  He's out there, still sending me hints about who he is and how to bring him into this world.  I've got lots of scribble and mispelled typing about him throughout my writing experience.  A little organizing would do wonders for him and that whole project of a book of fiction.  So there is that to look forward to from me as well.

I am also looking to continue efforts to improve my health by eating better and finding a way to get some exercise in my life.  And I'll be looking to secure employment in the coming year.  A job of some sort to help with expenses of living.  We're finding a way to make it work. 

There is always more to read.  I've got gardening books and projects to work on.  I want to make more friends.  I would like to clean and organize the garage and office, and my clothing collection.  Organize my books.  Organize my photos.  So much to be organized.  Art to be done.

When I'm feeling well, there isn't such a worry about what to do.  I can find projects everywhere it seems.  It's good feeling healthy.  It makes the world more healthy.

Here's to good health.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Dog-sitting with Elvis

So I'm on location this week.  Back home, sort of.  I'm dog-sitting in Escalon, in the house where my sister and her family usually live.  The same house where I grew up, since I was in the 7th grade.  My parents have owned this house long enough to pay it off, I think.  Since 1981, I believe.  And there have been several different living arrangements in that amount of time.  Several different house projects, too.  Right now, the Megenney's live here, with Elvis, the biggest chocolate lab I know.  So it's me and Elvis for this week, although Suzy will be joining me come Wednesday for the Thanksgiving celebration with my parents.

For a while, my parents rented out the house to a family that included a pastor.  They lived here, evidently quite happily, for a few years.  Then my sister got a teaching job here in Escalon and the pastor's and his family's tenure ended.  Since then, my parents have added on two bedrooms and a bathroom above the garage.  And they moved back in for awhile, living with the Megenney's (before they had Elvis).  Then the Megenney's moved out and into their own house, and lived there in Riverbank for awhile. 

My parents then had the opportunity to purchase another house-- a short-sale foreclosure-- just around the corner from here.  The Megenney's moved back in to the place here, renting back from my parents.  Mom and Dad have a very nice 2-story place on a court/cul-de-sac.  They're very happy with their house, and they feel they got a really good deal on it.

The Megenney's are very happy with this place, I assume-- it's bigger than their place in Riverbank, and much closer to the schools where they work and attend.  Each boy has his own bedroom, and they have a large back yard. 

I got to spend the night in my old room for the first time in many years.  It hasn't been my room since I went away to college in the fall of '87.  Since then I've lived in different places in Iowa, Sacramento, and Santa Clara.

During that time, we've owned two houses in Santa Clara.  Well, owned the mortgages, anyway.  But we just live and own the one mortgage now, where my wife is right now, in Santa Clara.  And that's just okay with me.  I mean, I liked our other Santa Clara house much better-- it had more room, more back yard, nicer/more updated kitchen, quieter street... but I don't mind being where I am now.  I am willing to give up for what I need to be.  And I gave up that lifestyle fit, that way of living, so that I could live without the job that was killing me a little bit (or a lot) every day.  I wonder sometimes if it was my job or my mindset.  But I did what I had to do.  I made the changes.  And I'm better off today, with my health.  I'm much better off with my health today.  I can say that with confidence.  Last year at this time I had just been hospitalized a month earlier, and I would be hospitalized again in a few weeks.  I really feel good, and confident, and strong, and stable, such that I really feel that that won't be happening this year.  I feel like I am behind the wheel, and I've got a new car that is performing at its peak, and there's plenty gas, and I can just steer and drive and be aware and I'm going along safely.  And I have somewhere to go.  I'm doing what I have to do.  And the rest is gonna work out.  Somehow, it will all work out.  I can't explain how, but it will.  I have hope and faith and confidence, and I'm not in denial.  I know what I need to be working on, and I am working on it.  I am doing what I need to do.  I am put together. 

I am dog-sitting with Elvis.  Put that on the resume.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Three Recommendations For Movies Worth Seeing

Been watchin' movies.  First recommendation is Waste Land, a documentary about an artist who collaborates with several trash "pickers" at a Rio De Jenaro landfill.  Interesting survey of the role of art, the definition of art, and lots of other things, including self-esteem and value.  I really liked it.  Shows how art can transform lives, worlds, perspectives.  Very well done.

Second recommendation is for Alice Neel, another documentary, about another artist and her struggle to paint and live.  This one is posthumous, but includes much archive footage of the artist, including some Tonight Show with Johnny Carson moments.  Ms. Neel's work is distinctive and impressive.  She painted portraits at a time when portraiture was deemed to be out of vogue with the art world.  She captures distinct character from her subjects.  I really enjoyed this one as well.

I saw a third movie today, Sirens.  It was also about art, but of a different way (not a documentary, for one).  I has seen it before, but a while ago.  And actually, I think I only rented it to fast forward to the nude scenes (I was much younger then... and who didn't want to see Elle Macpherson naked, anyway?)  I must say that I think I enjoyed the movie much more when I actually watched it (with my wife, by the way) than when I "used" it for self-indulgence, so to speak.  Still, I enjoyed the documentaries better.

Overall, three movies to see, especially if you like art. 

Monday, November 14, 2011

Suzy's Surprise Birthday Party

Do you remember a special birthday party you've had, given or attended?

Why yes, of course.  I've attended more than I've had.  This means of course that I'm a very popular and well liked person.  Or something like that.

I attended a surprise party for my wife that I had a lot to do with.  Did most of the planning and all of the last minute lying to try and keep the secret alive.  We went to Dave and Buster's where I had reserved a party room.  I thought we could kill time and watch the Giants game, but I was already panicked because of all the events that had led us to be there early.  It was not a typical day.

I had left work early in a rush to make sure I got home before Suzy did-- I couldn't remember if I'd left some stuff out for her to find or not.  And she had been laid off that day--  and sent home-- completely flubbing plans.  So I consoled her when she got home and frantically thought about what we could do to get back on track.  We ended up going to see a movie-- Bruce Allmighty-- and during that time I took a phone call from my mom about how things were progressing.  I lied and told Suzy that my sister had gone into labor and that that's why my mom had called.  I even pretended that the call was breaking up and moved away from Suzy to try and get some privacy under the guise of trying to get a better signal.  Sheesh!

In the end, we arrived a few minutes too early and saw Suzy's parents coming in to the restaurant/party room.  So she knew something was up.  And that's when she saw the marquee with her name on it.  It was still surprising, even if we didn't all get to yell "Surprise!" at the same time.  And it was a bit of a fun party, even with the dour news of the day.  I think she had a good time.  I arranged for us to stay at a hotel there that night so we could pamper ourselves and not have to drink and drive.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Who Is Like God, May God Add

Nutha frum the Journal Jar.  Take One.

What is your full name?  Who were you named for?  How do you feel about your name?

My full name is Michael Joseph Andrade.  My middle name was my father's father's name.  I don't think I was named after anybody else.  I was just named because my parents liked the name Michael.

For many years I existed under the name "Mike" but have more recently become "Michael."  Although I answer to both and don't really have a distinct preference.  I feel good about my name.  I am proud of it.  I more than once have looked up the origin of the name and found that it means "Who is like God, May God Add."

Not this little anymore
I have a nephew who was named after me.  He so far is going by "Michael" too.  Although many call him "Little Michael," but that shouldn't last long.  He's eight now, and soon will be growing out of the "Little" part, I reckon.

I like using my middle initial.  "Michael J. Andrade" is nicely balanced to the eye.  And to be like God-- that's powerful stuff.

Again I find myself looking for a resource in my books and not being able to locate it.  Man, does my library need a librarian.  When I was growing up, we had a set of World Book encyclopedias that included a two-volume dictionary.  The dictionary is what I can't seem to find right now.  It's all that's left of the collection-- we sold the encyclopedias, or gave them away, but kept the dictionary.  Or so that is my recollection.  This office of ours needs some attention.  Books to organize, filing cabinets to go through and organize, papers to be sorted and filed and recycled.  I think I may have found my next project.  A great indoor winter project.  Working the work room.

Again, I beg of you.  Wish me luck.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Elizabeth Gilbert on Creativity

Creativity is what I do.  It's what I am.  But it's not only what I am.  It's a glimpse of divinity.  Creativity is a path to another world, another spirit.  It acts on its own accord.  It's beyond logic, beyond rationality.  It doesn't always make sense.  But it inspires, rejuvenates, and astounds nonetheless.

Being creative brings forth the power of creation.  It brings forth the power of God.  Divinity is in the moment.  It bobs and weaves between the past and present.  And our attention.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

What Is Special About Learning

Gonna have to keep after it, this jar of journal, if I am to finish by year's end.  So.  Onward.

What special skills did you learn as a child?  Who taught you?

Nothing immediately jumps to mind on those questions.  I could talk about reading, but I've already blogged about that here.  And I wouldn't classify that as a special skill, necessarily.  I mean, reading is widely taught to almost all individuals throughout the world.  Getting at a more specialized skill that I learned is going to be difficult.

And don't misunderstand me-- I believe reading is a very special skill that is so very important.  But my feeling here is to try and focus on a skill or skills that were unique to my experience.  That's how I'm interpreting the word special, in this case, anyway.

For some reason one of the first things I thought of was fishing with my dad.  He taught me how to bait a hook, cast the line, "troll", and even clean fish.  Not everybody knows how to do such things.  In fact, I know people who shy away from such things, are squeamish of cleaning fish.  I guess I can understand that, but it's something I think one can overcome with a little care and patience.

We used to fish off the bank of the lake at Lake Shasta, back when we had a cabin up there.  Some years the drought was such that there wasn't any water in the part of the lake closest to our cabin.  But other years were better.  There was one day that we fished out there about the entire day.  I think that was the time that I ended up with about forty mosquito bites around my neck and shoulders, as we fished into the evening and as the sun went down, the bugs came out in full force.  And I was wearing a tank-top, so a lot of skin was exposed.  Very itchy.

Let's see.  I learned how to ride a bike... how to do yardwork... how to fire a rifle... Still, I just am not coming up with something that satisfies my feeling for the unique, special skill that I'm looking for here.  I learned things when I went to YMCA camps-- that's where I fired the .22 rifle.  I learned arts and crafts there too, carving a little something out of a piece of sandstone, weaving vinyl strands into a lanyard/key chain... making "godseyes" out of yarn and popsicle sticks... I learned to cook fairly early in my childhood, cooking with my mom and in the 3rd grade, when my babysitter took a group of kids out of the classroom and cooked each week in the school cafeteria.  We then made up recipe books for Mother's Day out of all the recipes we had done.

I learned a lot about tools and craftsmanship from my dad.  Dad had a lot of tools and was very crafty and industrious, designing and building things all the time.  From him I learned about channel locks, socket sets (both metric and standard), vise grips and other pliers, wire cutters, soldering irons, measuring squares, drills, saws, hammers, screwdrivers, allen wrenches, tin snips, electricity meters, stud finders, mollies, woodscrews, finishing nails, and many other special things.  I learned to have an attention for details and safety when dealing with such things.  I learned to respect tools and take care of them.  Although I don't think I ever did as good a job of it as Dad did.

I guess I could say that I learned a lot of special skills from my mom and dad that I use to this day and into the future.  Thanks for all that, mom and dad.  You guys rock.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

What's a Little Trying Between Friends?

No journal jar tonight.  Just the journal.

I'm a writer, and sometimes I just gotta write.

When did I learn to be so hard on myself?  Why must I self inflict such damage?  Why am I doing it now?

I can be going along just fine, and then wham, I'm inside my head, second guessing my thoughts, judging myself inferior or stupid or unfit to opine or transmit.  I wish I could just be.  I wish I could just be who I am.  Who am I? 

I am a writer.  And sometimes I just have to write.  About whatever it is.  Whether it makes sense or not.  Whether it flows or not.  Whether it is spelled correctly or not.  Whether it is knowledgeable or not.  Whether it matters or not.

I would like that my every word that I type came floating over the horizon with a flurry of fanfare and philharmonic symphony.  But it don't go like that.  I try to write and have a soundtrack, and sometimes that works, but not always. 

Checking with my muse puts a skip in the music.  I've got long-playing records on the turntable that crackle and pop when they sing and dance.  There's a warm ambient sound to them.  They don't have the precision of the digital age.  Sure, CD's brought clarity and exciting highs and lows to the ear.  But they don't have the warmth, the burn.  And they still skip, too.

I'm just practicing.  Trying to get my chops back.  Doing the scales, up and down.  Methodically typing them out.  Knowing that practice makes perfecter.  Because there is no perfect, only for the moment and the moment is gone.  As soon as you try to grab it, it's gone.  Past baby.  Fleeting.  Sands through the hourglass.  There's some old technology.

I wanna write big.  I wanna wrap my words around some big things.  I wanna wrap my words around the world.  And I wanna do it with style and panache and love.  I wanna love my way through this.  Love is the answer.

I wanna chase the fire again.  I want to eat the flame.  I want to sip the sparks and boil the elixir.  I want to find my way.  I wish to gain access.  I want to make the plate clean.  I want to keep the feelings flowing to the righteous river.  I want to wear pants.

There will be a victory.  There will be a time of honor and respect.  There will be a finish line.  There will be a triumph.  There will be rejoicing.  There will be dancing.  There will be embracing.  There will be love.

I will push through the walls.  I will push through the blocks.  I will find a path that I can lead my way.  I will take the steps and make the journey.  I will sing the song.  I will swim with the current.  I can make my way.  I will cooperate with the river.  I can float downstream.  I can be the writer that I want to be.  I can make the effort.  I can make the art.  I can make the love.  I will make a difference.

There is nutrition in this life.  To be had, to digest.  To be conquered as a little sprite.  I will digest my gruel.  I will eat of the forbidden fruit.  I will find my true distinction.  I will make a meaning out of it. 

Know that this too shall pass.  Know that this too shall remain.  Know that this too shall be gloriously understood all too late.  Know that this too shall pass.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Just Some Favorite Things

What is your favorite movie, book, poem and song?

My favorite movie is His Girl Friday.  That or It's a Wonderful Life.  And I really liked Running On Empty.

My favorite book is Skinny Legs and All.  Among others.  Hard for me to choose favorites, but that one's up there.  So is Ishmael.  And Writing Down the Bones.

Favorite poem?  Hmm.  Something by Maya Angelou?  I'm not really keen on poetry.  But I like a lot of African American Literature, there are some great works there.  Hard to name a favorite though.

My favorite song is "As" by Stevie Wonder.  Beautiful.  Amazing lyrics and masterfully sung by my favorite artist.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

The Journal Jar Runeth Over

You guessed it!  Here comes the prompt:

What was the best birthday you ever had?  Why?

It's kinda hard to outdo your original birthday.  The moment when you officially became "of this world" is a miraculous, emotional event.  All other birthdays just pale in comparison.  That being said, I don't know that I really had a standout birthday.

There are lots of memories, though.  I had a rough go of it early on, as I kept getting ear aches when I was supposed to be having birthday parties.  But around the time I was five, we had a party at McDonald Land, and several friends and their moms came and it was a blast.  Ronald MeDonald was there.  I think.  But I do remember the food was good.  And we had fun playing on the jungle gym type thingy stuff.

It was also fun going to O'Farrell's for an insane amount of ice cream.  Hoy vey!

But lately, I've just been thankful to have a birthday.  Because someday they're gonna stop.  Don't know how those celebrations will be, once that happens... but until then, I'm thankful to have what I have.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

The Goat Lives!

Been working a lot lately on my picture book.  It's my book and I can cry if I want to.  I've got the story down to about the way that I want it, I just need to get the illustrations done and plugged in to the software that the online publishing company gives you so you can make your own book.  Thanks to the people at Blurb.com for the nifty interface.  It's kinda clumsy at times, but that might just be my computer (not enough memory).  So I'm making progress.  Added several new drawings tonight and I'm slowly making my way through the narrative.  For those who don't know, I've written a story based on an old legend about the Wild Cat of Samos.  My story focuses in on the life and self-transformation of the Wild Cat's friend, a goat.  See what I've written about it all before here .  The story has changed a bit since going to the Children's Book Writer's Conference in Big Sur last December (more about that here).  But at it's heart is a genuinely wonderful moment in time that I will treasure forever.

We were traveling in a car on the island of Samos with my good friend from college, Armand.  His dad is from the island, and we were there visiting because Armand had gotten married and had a blessing ceremony for the relatives in Greece who hadn't been able to make the ceremony in the US.  So we had jumped at the opportunity to go to Greece and have an authentic traveling experience with a built in translator and tour guide.

As we toured the island, there were several jokes that cropped up and repeated themselves, as happens in groups where the people are fun-loving and have a sense of humor.  It may even happen in groups that don't have a sense of humor and they just don't notice.  But anyway.  Under circulation was a story that one of the tourists had run across in a book about the natural history of the island.  Armand and a couple others in the car had shared some laughs about the Wild Cat of Samos (see link above for story).  But for my wife and I, it wasn't until this moment in the car that we came to know of the Wild Cat.

It seems to me that Armand was driving, but I don't know if that's so because we didn't rent cars on the island.  But anyway.  More than ten years ago and I just can't remember all the specifics.  But someone in the back seat noticed some lights glowing on the hill off in the distance.  They asked Armand, "What's that up there?  Do you know?"  To which Armand replied, "Why, that's the Raging Flaming Goat of Samos."

The car erupted in laughter and we did some other joke-bit tid-bits, including "Sunday! Sunday! Sunday!" and "$21.95 pays for the whole seat-- but you'll only need THE EDGE!!!"  We laughed long and hard, though we weren't exactly sure why.  Later, Suzy and I learned the story of the Wild Cat of Samos, and we laughed some more.  The story became a running gag.  I embellished it each time I told it, like a growing tall tale.  I had the Wild Cat working out on a stairmaster while trapped in the cave.  I must have told the Wild Cat of Samos story a dozen times to different people we were traveling with.  What I don't know is why or how Armand came up with a goat?  Just more for the humor, I guess.

So now I've created a story for the Raging Flaming Goat of Samos, with a cameo appearance by the Wild Cat of Samos, as well as the Gilarmis brothers.  Hope to have it illustrated and printed in time for Christmas this year.

Wish me luck.