Friday, June 28, 2013

A Different Lens

Original
All my physical, flesh and blood friends are tired of hearing me rave about Instagram so now I'm turning to my virtual ones.

The thing is, I'm a kinda sucky photographer (full confession, I had an initial flash of panic use of the word sucky might be objectionable and then I remembered I'm no longer twelve). But seriously, my photos are, at best, okay and, at worst, deleted.

About a month ago I noticed all these beeyoootiful pictures filling up my Facebook feed.

At first I told myself my friend's cameras were just better than mine. Since I don't suffer from any form of camera envy I was content to leave it at that, but then I noticed these mind-blowing, gasp-inducing pictures were via Instagram. And so I caved.

It took about five minutes for me to produce my first sharp-focused, color-contrast picture that brought Likes and Retweets out like rain on a Portland day, which is to say, a lot.

Instagram Perfect
The more I thought about the miracle work that Instagram performs on my lowly iPhone snaps, the more it struck me as a metaphor. In many cases my altered and adjusted photographs look better than the actual moment.

If a 'real' digitalized moment can be light-adjusted until it satisfies our treat-hungry eyes than what's to stop us from doing that to every other aspect of our lives?




Of course, as I writer, I already do this.

These words you read, they aren't slap-dashed on the page, even though that's the way I want it to seem. In reality, they're edited. Maybe not as carefully as I edit my books, essays or short stories, but I do re-read and re-work them because I want them to be their best version of themselves.

All this perfection makes a funny kind of sense out of the frustrations I experience with my own imperfections.

When everything my eyes consume, both in print and picture is as close to perfect as it can be, it makes me strive to be able to recreate all these brain experiences myself.

I'm like a teenage girl wanting to look like a magazine model, except instead of Playboy measurements I want New Yorker quality writing with skilled photographer pictures to accompany it.

We all know the right answer for the teenage girl, but what's the right answer when it's our skill sets we're trying to improve instead of our measurements?

Do we keep pushing at our raw product until it matchs the heights set by products filtered through specialty photographer lenses and teams of editors with decades of experience?

I'm not 100% sure, but I think the answer is yes. I think it's called the learning curve or the process by which we get better. But, of course, I'm just one person with an opinion, which is why I want to hear what you think.




Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Shut the Door, Amelia Bedelia

For the last week I've been living the reality show 'The Real Housewives of Portlandia.' Sixteen people sequestered in the hills of South Dakota complete with our very own tricked out mid-nineties Street of Dreams style house.

None of us brought heels, but The Real Housewives of Portlandia were horrified to discover garbage didn't get separated in our part of South Dakota. "It just feels so sinful and wrong," we commiserated as the bottle count mounted and we wantonly threw them *gasp* straight into the trash.

We threw birthday parties to commemorate important passages of time (yes, it's true, some of us are now officially, erm, thirty).

In lieu of the chic catering and chicer cocktail attire favored by the Real Housewives of other cities, The Real Housewives of Portlandia asked everyone to dress up as their favorite Star Wars character and dined on Boba Feta Crostini, TIE-Sliders and Vader Tots.

And of course, what would a Star Wars party be without Wookie Cookies and Obi-Wan Cannoli for dessert?



Bed-swapping was a commonplace event. Among the children! (I know what you're thinking and all I can say is that show's called The Real Housewives of Kinky Portlandia and I hear its ratings are through the roof).

Sights were seen. Junior ranger badges were acquired and acquired and acquired.

Guess what?

No overlap on any activity booklets that require significant parental help. Guess what else? Quality control among park rangers reviewing said activity booklets is extremely inconsistent.

Despite that, my kids pledged their troth (or something like that, you'll have to excuse the brain-fry fall-out from searching multiple interpretative centers for code breaking facts) to Little Big Horn, Mount Rushmore and Devil's Tower.

On the last day, we said our Portlandia-kumbyah good byes and one of the Real Housewives of Portlandia asked my daughter to make sure all the doors, of which there were many, in our Street of Dreams house were shut and locked.

"Are you sure? All of them?" asked Child #1.

"Yep, we get charged $100 per door," my friend specified. "So make sure to try all of them and lock them up tight."

Have I mentioned before that my daughter is an extremely careful consumer? If not, this might be the time to mention it.

She took her instructions to heart. After checking each and every deck door she turned her value-conscious attentions to the interior doors. Luckily, fate called me upstairs before she'd locked all the doors to the multiple bathrooms and bedrooms.

What did we do?

One of The Real Husbands of Portlandia picked the locks, of course. Which, in my estimation is a much more valuable skill than toting small dogs through fancy boutiques or driving a too-small sports car through busy streets of any other Housewife city.

If you've enjoyed this episode, make sure to tune in again in 2015 when The Real Housewives of Portlandia take on the Grand Canyon.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Closing Doors

Full Disclosure #1: This post was going to be about something else entirely, but I deleted the whole thing and started over because it wasn't ringing true.

Full Disclosure #2: Being a single parent is harder than I anticipated (which is kind of a duh moment, right?)

Full Disclosure #3: Everything in my life is wrapping up in a grand finale and I'm feeling a little bit sad about it.

School is ending. Baseball has ended. Girl Scouts finished for the season and the Spring choir concert has been sung. Even my book is ending (fingers crossed there). It should be ready to go out on submission after this final edit that should be finished today.

Despite the fact that the plan is to leave our beloved Portland for only 18 months, people keep telling me things like "We're so sad because we think you're never coming back." Which makes me sad because I catch emotions like the flu and that only serves to add more fuel to their 'you're-not-coming-back' fire.

To cap off all these endings, I had a random visitor stop by my home on Wednesday. It was a woman in her sixties who had grown up in this house. She'd cuddled up next to the air vents (just like my kids do) and been lowered up and down in the dumbwaiter by her siblings (just like my kids aren't supposed to do). In the basement, she burst into tears when she saw her father's work bench.

"It's still here!" she said and hugged me.

"Of course it's still there," my husband said when I told him. "The thing must weigh 300 pounds and it's bolted to the floor."

My surprise visitor told me this house holds all her childhood memories. As it holds all of my children's.

The rational part of me knows we're not going away forever. It knows this house has seen generation after generation grow up and move out, but still...but still, I find myself clinging to the metaphorical doorframe.

This is just the beginning of something fun and new. An adventure. A suburban D.C. lark. One door closes and another opens. I know all the rhetoric and I've been busy using it to brainwash prepare my children. Which is why it's so strange that this teensiest bit of Portland nostalgia blue has reared its head when I was least expecting it.

I'll get over this, I know I will. Before I know it I'll be keenly focused on all the things that are beginning instead of ending. But until I do, I'm hoping I don't get anymore unexpected visitors who regale me with tearful, wonderful stories of all the perfect childhood memories to which this house has borne witness.

Friday, June 7, 2013

My Inner Editor Lives at Home

It's true.

She has her own bedroom carpeted in pink shag and a beanbag chair where she can hang out and read all my blog posts.

Although, read might be too strong of a word. I think peruse is a better description.

Last week I was confronted in the kitchen about a guest post that Hart Johnson did on my blog entitled "Can We Love Our Second Children As Much" in which she talked about her recently released second book.

"Mom," my inner editor said, blocking my path to the office. "How could you write that? Is that really the way you feel about Child #2? You really don't love him as much as you love me?"

Understandably, I was a little slow on the uptake. My inner editor cleared it up by showing me the blog post.

"Did you read past the title?" I asked.

"Yes!" My inner editor HATES questions like that.

"Huh. So you saw I didn't write that post and that it was a metaphor for a second book?"

In lieu of a response my inner editor informed me that she, under no circumstances, will ever wear an "I'm a Peg-a-Sister" shirt. From this, I've taken it to understand that I can't hide my Christmas list ideas on the open forum of my blog.

My inner editor has a long list of things she'd prefer me not to talk about on my blog. The mere act of speaking the words is tantamount to betrayal so I won't speak, spell or even think them in the private recesses of my brain.

Even though they'd make really, really good blog posts, in the interests of household harmony they're going to have to sit on ice until my inner editor is slightly older, you know, like thirty-six with kids of her own.

Inner editors are tough customers.

Especially when they can burst into your bathroom while you're taking a shower and insist on heated conversation while you're trying to wash your hair. In order to avoid moments like that, this summer, instead of posting about pre-teen angst, I might be talking about censor-approved subjects like ice cream, swimming, road trips and books.

Luckily, I still get free reign in my novels. And luckier still, lots of character insight into the ups, downs and switchback roads of a pre-teen mind.

What about you? Is your inner editor the kind of tough critic who haunts you in the shower? Or does yours give you a little more leeway?

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Deep Thoughts Courtesy of Star Trek

I'm about to commit heresy in certain circles. The new Star Trek left me ice-cold.

Last weekend Child #2 was my Friday night date. Dressed in an Avengers t-shirt, shorts and Crocs with a little bit of marker on his face he was, well, dressed like many other men in the audience.

We settled in for an epic adventure complete with popcorn, fruit snacks and water (cause I'm a mean, mean mom and always no to soda).

Child #2 was full attention on the screen the whole time, but I was somewhere else altogether...namely in Oakdale, which is the setting for the book I'm editing.

It was a welcome two and half hour time capsule that allowed me to work out the exact thing I was attempting to say at the end of one chapter. Every now and then I emerged from my thoughts long enough to note Klingons, explosions and women with tails.

Afterwards, I started thinking, not about the movie because it didn't give me much to think about, but about entertainment in general.

Is it up to the movie or book to suck us in, even when we're dragging our feet or is it incumbent upon us to meet entertainment halfway?

My attention (and I'm sure yours as well) is fractured in hundreds of different ways. Because of all this breakage I need things to reach out and grab me. Glue me to my seat. Shake me. Forcefully demand my attention by saying "You! Over there! PAY ATTENTION."

The trick about this, because there's always a trick, is the thing that glues me to my seat isn't the thing that glues you or you or you to your seat.

There are a couple of take aways from this, the first being write what you love because you never know what's going to be seat glue. The second, is that throwing lots of plot gimmicks (the literary equivalent to Klingons and Tribbles) into a book is no guarantee you'll produce something of quality.

As for reviews, they're almost always going to be mixed.

Case in point, Child #2 said Star Trek was SO TOTALLY AWESOME!!!!

As for me, I'd probably need to see it again to give it a fair review, but fortunately I don't hang out with sadists so I think Kahn is safe from my wrath.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Run Johanna Run

This is that time of year when every afternoon and evening is filled with at least one extra event.

Tonight, for example, I'll be watching my son play in his tournament baseball game.

He's a little boy who went from being terrified of a ball coming at his face, to a little boy who wakes up early on game day because he can't wait to get out there and "cream that ball".
See that ball in the picture on the right, it's about to be hit hard in a line drive. Proud, proud mommy moment!

This weekend I cheered my daughter on while she ran Portland's Starlight Fun Run with her Girls on the Run running buddy. She trained hard. She did the whole thing!! Sunday morning she told me she wants to run with me on a regular basis and we're already making plans to run future 5ks together.

While she was running, my son was off on a Boy Scout sleepover where they, "played with fire", carved spears, fished, tempted fate with crawdad claws and made S'mores. He came home in mud covered pants, but explained he wasn't dirty because he'd had a bath in a bucket the night before.

Tuesday night there's an 'end of running season' pizza party followed by piano lessons. Wednesday night is an 'end of baseball season' pizza party followed by book club. Thursday is the Second Grade Play and Friday we rest...in order to get ready for the Girl Scout sleepover and a friend's slumber party the next day.

And wait, did I mention I'm currently a single parent?

My husband sent me a text this weekend. It read "Sitting by the pool and reading a book. Really miss you guys!"

You'd think I would have been annoyed, but I haven't had time. When I'm not going to kid events, I'm randomly shoving things in boxes and lugging them up to the attic in order to get our house ready for rental while we're off on our year in Washington, D.C.

During the day, while it's quiet, I'm chained to the keyboard in order to finish up edits that need to be done before the kids get out of school....T minus 7 days and counting.

It's all good stuff. I wouldn't change any of it.

I could however, really use Hermione's Time-turner. Just for a week, you know, or maybe two. I promise I'd give it back. Truly! Really, I do. Cross my heart. Pinkie Swear, even!!

What about you? Do you dream of a Time-Turner? Or do you have time management down to a Harry Potter free science?