Monday, March 26, 2012

The Write Library Etiquette

We lined up in small groups, invariably holding hands with a partner.  The heels of our leather shoes tapped along the polished surface of the hallway leading to the double doors.  I remember the excitement.  There it was.  Parked along the curb.  The Bookmobile! 

Proceeding in what a casual observer would consider an orderly fashion, I inwardly squirmed like an excited puppy.  Anticipation peaked at the two-step entrance as the stuffy smell of new carpet wafted through the open doorway.  The blue floor-covering looked pristine− even though that was not a word in my vocabulary at the age of seven.  I recall hesitating, wondering if I should remove my shoes. 

Entering the mobile library and circling the rows of books was as thrilling to me as a field trip.  I don’t recollect having field trips as a child, but if I had, I could not have been more eager.  We did not speak−not even in whispers.  In a well-behaved manner, we waited patiently while the librarian initialled the card at the front of our chosen books, each of us mouthing the word thank you as we turned to leave. 

Beaming, I stepped down to the pavement, bony knees protruding from my box pleated navy jumper.  I walked smartly back to the classroom; a book tucked tightly against my skinny frame.  A treasure I could enjoy for a whole two weeks before the Bookmobile rolled around to our school again.

That memory and my love of books and libraries have not diminished throughout the years.  Yet as time passes, I notice a change in the library etiquette.  It is not the reverent silent oasis of my childhood.

I introduced my granddaughter to the library when she was a toddler.  The small local branch had a spacious colourful children’s section that included an abundance of wooden puzzles and a play table with an assortment of stimulating toys.  I would read a storybook with her perched on my lap and then allow time for puzzles and play.  It was our habit to choose another storybook to read after we returned home. 

This became a much-anticipated activity.  Now as Sophie approaches her fifth birthday, we still include a trip to the library with each visit.  Her little sister Sadie accompanies us whenever possible.

Sophie and I have explored several libraries within the county.  I instilled in my granddaughter a respect for libraries.  We must refrain from making noise, and aside from quiet reading, keep conversation to a minimum.  Much to my chagrin, at the age of three, Sophie shushed two talking librarians.  This is a libaary, she reminded them.

However, visiting the larger centres is very different.  The noise level has increased considerably.  I am disappointed to see children racing and screaming, falling down and rolling on the floor.  Mothers slouched in chairs balancing a Tim Horton’s and an iphone.  The play areas resemble day care centres.  The first time we encountered this behaviour, Sophie clung to my side.  Inexplicably, I felt I had let her down.  That I had misinformed her.  That I had taught her something that was no longer relevant.

Sophie looked at me and said, No running in a library.  Right, Nana?  My reply was lost in the din.

Monday, March 19, 2012

My Cones Are Not Write

My cones are not normal.  I had no idea.  My husband pointed out my flaw.  Look, Phyllis.  I looked.   

That day standing in the bathroom, he said, I like them but you do realize they don’t match.  What do you mean they don’t match?  I took a closer look.  I pulled the blind open and stood in the natural light.  Are you sure?  He laughed.  Phyllis, it doesn’t matter to me but I thought you should know.   

I suppose I always knew but never stopped to think about it.  Never wanted to admit it.  My face flamed in embarrassment.

I snatched the shower curtain off the rod.  After all, I had only draped it there so I could show my husband how coordinated everything looked.  The grey towels−the grey shower curtain.  Only the curtain wasn’t grey, was it.  No, it was brown.  In the store it looked grey.  The same as the valance across the window.  It wasn’t grey either.  It was somewhat blue-ish.

Recently I decided to do a makeover in our open concept bungalow.  I painted the bathroom when my husband refused to get involved.  When he saw my shaky paint line along the ceiling and the wavy baseboards, he took on the task of doing the mammoth kitchen project and the guest bedroom.  Whew!

From the guest room my husband called out to me, anything but green.  Okay, I shouted back as I left for the paint store.

There it was.  The proof was on the wall in broad strokes.  It was grey in the store, I muttered.  His silent accusation brought me to a higher pitched defence.  I know it looks green now but I’m sure...My voice trailed off.

I always acknowledged my problem with dark colours.  I came home with a pair of black dress pants for my husband that the tag defiantly sku’d as navy.  Of course, everyone knows that dark brown, black, and navy are nearly indistinguishable anyway. 

It was more than that now.  I no longer trusted myself when it came to choosing colours.  I thought of the living room curtains I brought home last spring.  They looked a perfect match for the sea green accessories.  At home they transformed to a brilliant turquoise. 

Marv prepped the kitchen for painting.  Pick up some paint Phyllis, he said.  Gritting my teeth and grumbling under my breath, I swung the door closed behind me. 

This isn’t green is it, I asked the young recruit at the paint shop.  The ring in his lower lip quivered but he kept a straight face.  You see, I floundered, I have a little problem with certain shades.  Nah, this is yellow, he said.  No, I certainly don’t want yellow.  Is this one yellow, too, I asked, peering at a paint chip?  No, that’s peach.  Frustration was mounting.  I wondered how he would describe me to his friends.  A dizzy old broad came in for paint today and kept asking me the colours.....

Exasperated, I left the store only to return the next day.  This time I brought home paint chips for the kitchen.  My husband eyed them.  Yes, the top portion will be a medium grey, and below the white chair rail will be espresso brown.  He nodded his approval. 

It was a relief to find a person at the paint store to help me with the colour selection.  He understood when I explained my affliction to him.  No, it’s not the young person with the lip ring.  He seemed to avoid me.

Unable to shake my frustration, I turned to my trusty laptop and Googled!  The first thing I discovered is that colour blindness is rare in women.  Only .5% of women are born colour blind to 8% of men.  Various web sites confirm that my condition is not colour blindness, though it sure feels like it. 
Further research resulted in a believable explanation.  Here it is folks.  I have Protanomoly.  Self-diagnosed, of course.  But it fits.  I have a problem, not with most primary vivid colours, but with the saturation of colour in various shades.  The way I understand it, the retina is made up of rods and cones; rods being responsible for night vision and the cells responsible for colour perception are the cones.  Cones are located in the centre of the retina.  People with normal cones are able to see all different colours and subtle mixtures.  Aha!

Now I know for sure.  I don’t have the write cones.

Monday, March 12, 2012

The Imp on Your Write Shoulder

With my son’s permission, I am sharing a letter I gave him on his twenty-fifth birthday− ALMOST TEN YEARS AGO.  Any parent can attest to the swift passage of time when we think of the ages of our children.  I have never talked about the imp with Brodie.  Did he appear?  Somehow, I think he did. 
Wishing you continued happiness and success, Brodie
Happy Birthday
Love, Mom

So here is the birthday letter that marked his first milestone!

My darling son Brodie,
I am going to share something astonishing with you.  You are old enough to hear about this now.
At some point in everybody’s life, a little imp crawls out from behind our ear, (I kid you not), slides down our neck and onto our shoulder.  He takes a look around and then taps (it’s more like a sharp flick) on our ear lobe to get our attention.  He says, ‘So, bud, is this it then?  Is this where you wannabe forever?  Are we here to stay?’
Whoa.  It’s startling.  Quite a revelation.  You look around and see your world through the eyes of this annoying imp.  What a jolt.  He forces you to take stock.  You begin thinking, ‘What have I done, and what do I want to do?  Where am I and where do I want to be?’
It sounds like I’m making this up but believe me it’s true.  Besides, would I lie?  I don’t want to alarm you but you are almost 25 years old.  This is a definite milestone in life.  The imp can appear earlier of course...or later...but he will definitely show up.  I’m speaking from experience.  Actually, it happened to me twice but that’s another story. 
I must warn you.  When you look through someone else’s eyes, you see things you never saw before.  Sometimes it can be wonderful and you start appreciating everyone and everything you have.  Other times, though, it can be scary.  The opportunity only comes when you have the imp’s gift of vision.
It’s quite a power trip knowing you alone rule your destiny.  Think about it.  You make it all happen.  And having that pesky little imp on your shoulder is not necessarily an irritation but a support system.  When he shows up you know it’s time to move on to your next stage of life.  Enjoy it to the fullest.  I gave you life; it’s up to you how you live it.
With pride and love in my heart
I wish you the happiest birthday
Your loving Mother

Monday, March 05, 2012

Dressed to Write

Writers do it in their pyjamas.  Of course, I can’t speak for all writers.  I do know of some who do not dress until mid-afternoon.  No names.  When writers mention not getting dressed until 3:00 in the afternoon it is a sign of a very productive day.
A well-known author, one of my favourites, uploaded to Facebook a picture of the sweater she wore while writing her bestselling novel.  Man, my pyjamas look better than that holey sweater.  Not that I would consider uploading a picture of my p.j.’s any time soon.
I suppose it depends on which part of the day you are most productive.  A favourite sweater might be something you wrap around yourself when you are pecking away at the computer at 2 a.m. 
I am not a nighthawk.  I am anxious to turn on the computer, coffee in hand, sometimes as early as five a.m.  More often than not, I become so involved in my writing that I don’t bother getting dressed.
The first embarrassing moment in my pyjamas happened when the mail delivery lady rang the doorbell.  Normally she leaves our mail in our roadside box.  This could mean only one thing− a parcel.  I can’t remember what parcel I was expecting but I had no choice.  I smoothed my bed head and swiped at possible mascara smudges.  Wearing a bright smile, I opened the front door; my greeting alert and chipper to dispel any notion that I was in bed at 1:00 in the afternoon. 
While I signed for the parcel, I said, excuse the pyjamas.  I work from home and  just...well...I... I note her disdainful expression−oh yes, no mistake−and my voice fades.  She clearly looked me up and down.  My wrinkled plaid flannels went under the microscope.  I almost read her mind.  Look at this lazy ##$% laying around the house all day.  I am out here in the wind and snow.  She was an older woman, well, older than me.  She never smiled.  Not once.  I want to defend myself by saying that I have done some of my best work in pyjamas, but I don’t.  Can’t win them all.
There are other times the doorbell rings.  Members of a religious group distributing pamphlets.  Always smiling and courteous.  Even though the dog is bouncing and barking non-stop.  They wonder if they might come in and talk.  No, not today, I explain.  I am working.  My attire never draws scornful glances.  They smile.  I smile back.  Do they believe me, or do they think I am making an excuse?  I am tempted to ask.
 Usually more than one adult comes to the door, always with an adorable toddler or two in tow.  A quick glance to the driveway normally reveals at least a couple more people in the waiting van.  This puzzles me.
If I invite them in, would they turn and wave to the others to join them?  Though curious, I do not ask.  It would be crowded in the small front room.  The dog sniffing everyone.  The kids trying to pet her. 
Would I offer them tea and coffee, cookies for the children?  I picture myself fluttering around, my flannels flapping and my slippers scuffing the kitchen floor.  Apologizing for not having fresh baked goods, putting the kettle on to boil...  It does not matter.  I am working and could not invite them in.
Since I changed the location of my office−do you remember the January 9th blog, The Write Space? − I work squirreled away in the basement storage room.  When that door closes, I hear nothing.  Well, I do hear the dog when she barks. 
I can usually tell by Lex’s bark what she sees outside.  If bicyclists go past the house, she emits a couple of woofs and is not interested enough to jump down off the bed.  If she spots another dog in the yard, there are ferocious barks followed by a heavy thump when her feet hit the floor.  A scurrying of toenails across the hardwood as she races from window to window. 
When a stranger is at the door, I hear noisy barking, non-stop.  If it is a friend, she gives a couple of welcoming barks, leaps to the floor, and she runs to the front door whimpering.
To be honest, since I started working downstairs, I don’t answer the door at all when I am writing.  I still answer the telephone.  It’s the what if....scenario.  Besides, they don’t see the pyjamas.
Am I more productive when I work in my pyjamas?  Beats me.  I am not going to get dressed to find out.