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And….the survey says?

I have been writing, now, for many years. Every time I start writing something new I always think “This is it! This is the writing piece that I will finish. It will define me as a writer and set me on my path to publication and personal fulfilment.” And then none of that ever happens. Repeat to fade.  I then force myself to see the bright side to the madness with each project stall, “Ahh, well. Another scrap in the heap. At least computer files don’t pile up all over the floor”.  No, they just get lost and deleted with the next worm invasion. It makes me sad to think how many of my blurbs and brain farts  the world will never know.

Writing is just about impossible without feedback. I am so fortunate that I have such an amazing audience here on my blog. I am so appreciative for every comment I receive from you all.  Since I never have feedback on my writing outside of my blog, “Fortyteen Candles,”  it has been a real challenge for me to move forward to work on bigger projects. In case you do not already know, I live in a cul-de-sac in the middle of nowhere. On the bright side, where I live puts me in a great position  to find answers to such questions as:

  • What kind of liquid fertilizer works best on corn?
  • Is that alfalfa?
  • What’s that smell?
  • When are you going to Walmart?

Back to me and my problems. Just kidding – they are now everybody’s problems! Anyway, I’ve been all over the writing map in my life…poetry, screenplays, sonnets, short stories, essays, letters to the editor, chapters, greeting cards, whole books, a million outlines, and a billion scraps of paper containing earth-shattering topics and story plots that never amounted to much. Enough, I say. Enough. I am officially, today, here, right now, stopping the insanity. I’m getting it together in a good way for a change. Furthermore, I like to believe that someday the world will thank me. Ok, a bit too much. Seriously though, I have decided to take the opportunity of asking all of you for your opinions on my writing so far. If you like my blog and enjoy what I write then I’d like to get your insights as to what you think would be a good path for me to take my writing on next.

At this time, I turn to you dear readers to help me out with a survey. I am asking you all for your valuable feedback. Just let me know what types of stories I write that you find the most interesting, entertaining or meaningful? I would be so appreciative to have  your thoughts on my writing so far. I’m hopeful I can take this information and commit to my next writing project….which I already have two really great ideas about. Sigh. I thank you sincerely, truly and in advance. Thanks.

Now, without further adu….here is the official Fortyteen Candles Writing Survey 2012. Oh, and you can pick more than one answer if you like.

A Museing

I’ve recently been sidetracked by many things going on in my life. Actually, maybe my life went exactly where it was supposed to but I wasn’t expecting it? Regardless, the purpose of my blog has sort of blurred from a cry for help to suburbia, to a cry for help in suburbia. Lately I’ve wondered I can get things together again to keep this blog where it needs to be? Where is my muse?  I realized today all I needed to do was look out my front window.

I was sitting on my couch this morning, tackling my mountain of bills, when I heard the most horrible rumbling outside my front window. I looked outside to see what in God’s green earth was going on at an hour where the sun was barely awake yet. There was my neighbor, doing something that has been quietly irking me for the past few months.

On our street, like most places where people throw out garbage, every house has one huge garbage can called a “tote.”  These cans are so big you could easily squash down six big bags of garbage and have plenty of room for a crate of rotten onions and two bike tires (Note: we also recycle here). Each house puts their can out in front of their house early in the morning on garbage day, or late the night before, along with items for recycling, and anything else they want to get rid of labeled with a “free” sign. This is a good way to find ugly sofa art, racks  that are missing crucial bolts and odd toilet parts.

Anyway, my next door neighbors are new to the area – here less than a year. I like to think of them as the “newlyweds” in the grizzled marriage of suburban life. Perhaps they aren’t used to the idea of following societal norms, but for some reason they don’t put their extra-large tote in front of their house. Instead they park it at the end of the strip of property on my side of his driveway. Seems petty, sure. But it is very irritating. This is a problem because our front yard is so tiny that whenever you look out in a front facing window on garbage day all you can see is his extra-large green tote in front of our house. Perhaps I’ve gotten a little territorial, but what the heck? Maybe we should move our can down to the last square inch of our yard next to that strip? It just seems awkward and out-of-place. I feel crowded and suffocated by the mysterious rubbish within. Is it too hideous for him to have in front of his house? Is he embarrassed that he’s overfilled his can….again? Maybe I need to send him a note to address the issue. Or take it up with the Homeowners Association. It’s the little things like that make the subdivision walls close in even more.

There! I did it. And, I’m feeling better. Complaining like this about my street somehow seems to put a smile back on my heart! Wait….I feel more complaints surfacing. The flood gates are opening. But, they’ll have to wait for next time. For now I have to keep a watchful eye on any infringing totes from cul-de-sac greenhorns. Fortunately this is easily done at any time….either by daylight sun, or night time glow from the Walmart parking lot behind our house.

Self-Checkout Lanes = Twenty Minutes of Your Life Back

Why do so many people hate the self-checkout lanes at Walmart? I’m just asking, here. I’m one of those people, too.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve wearily pushed my overloaded shopping cart up to the front of the store, being completely exhausted to the core and willing to make a deal with the devil if I could just be teleported twenty minutes into the future where I was sitting on my couch with a cup of coffee and all this shopping drudgery was well behind me. But that is just a daydream. Instead, I stand in a position in front of all the cash registers where I have the perfect vantage point to assess several things: Which lines are too crowded? Which people have too many items in their carts? Which cashiers look like trainees? Which cashiers are on their cell phones? Which cashiers are about to go to lunch? Which cashiers don’t give a damn?

At this point I notice that every self-checkout lane is empty. Crickets are heard instead of squeaking conveyor belts. The aisles leading up to them are gleaming. Makes me wonder why. I am suspicious that the rest of the customers know something I don’t. Occasionally you might see an employee zip through with a candy bar. They are in and out in a flash. Makes me wonder if they’ve really paid for their items. How could it only take a few seconds to do a transaction at Walmart? I chalk it up to tomfoolery and shenanigans, and think no more of it.

My next step on my check out journey is to narrow down my lane options to the top three that are most likely to process my order quickly: The disgruntled cashier with two customers with overloaded carts? The cashier on the cellphone with one customer but her boyfriend is hanging around talking with her? The cashier who is a trainee that keeps trying to scan a pack of gum? I need a few minutes to assess the progress of each lane. I gaze again over at the self-checkout lanes. In and out a person went with a club pack of bacon and a club pack of Twinkies. Ahhh…the breakfast of champions. He must be single. Still, again, in and out like a flash. How can that be? Maybe he left the Twinkies and bacon there for re-shops and cancelled his order. Nope. Looks like he has a bag with him.

After noticing the lines I’m assessing aren’t moving, I feel like I’m in a public service announcement for the dangers of wasting your life waiting in line. No lanes are moving and I’m trying to find my quickest escape route before I die. The panic and pressure I was feeling to get the hell out of Walmart before I ended up crying in a fetal position next to my cart and screaming for St. Jude to take me to the angels was too much to bear.

Without thinking, I abruptly sent my cart and me on a one way trip to the self-checkout lanes. The other shoppers gazed at me as if I had gone mad. I heard them whisper and buzz “She’s lost it. Those scanners are the devil’s work!” Well that also could have been my internal critic or my rumbling stomach. A bacon and Twinkie sandwich sure sounded good right about now.

The self-checkout lane is sterile and cold. The computer monitor stares at me, unblinking. I unload my cart and carefully hit the “start” button.  “Please scan first item!” I’m told by a cheerful invisible voice. I scan the item. “Please put item in the bagging area!” The cheerful but authoritative voice tells me. I put my item in the bag and jerk my hands away, afraid to touch anything I shouldn’t. “Please scan next item!” The chipper but bossy voice tells me. “Please put item in the bagging area!” I try to put the item in the bag, but it won’t fit completely. Again, I’m scolded “Please put item in the bagging area!” I jostle the item angrily until it sits in the bag. “Please scan next item!” I’m told before I can figure out what to do with the two full bags. Can I take them off the bagging area? Will I get in trouble? The cheerfully nagging voice never yelled at me about what to do in this situation.

“Please scan next item!” The computer was getting impatient. I didn’t know what punishment for non-compliance was within its arsenal of touch screen buttons, and I didn’t want to find out. I just grabbed anything I could and hurriedly found the UPC code to scan to keep the voice quiet. I crammed it into the bag before the voice could belittle me about my bagging prowess. “Please…” the voice started, but I scanned my next item before it could finish its monotone sentence. “Please…” “Please…” it kept repeating before I put the items in the bagging area. No computer was going to tell me what to do. These commands were all what I was going to do anyway. I’m getting credit for the thought.

Finally my order was through. I had to pay. I felt weird feeding my money into the machine. How easily could it suck my money in and say I never put in any? I felt completely helpless until it credited my money on the screen. Finally it spit out my change. I looked out and saw the people in the other lanes still hadn’t moved. How easily I could have still been standing at my vantage point assessing the situation, instead of taking a chance to get ahead. I could have been there twenty minutes or more at the mercy of indifferent cashiers and shoppers who wouldn’t let someone with one item ahead of their shopping cart full of miscellaneous items. I felt empowered as I put my money in my wallet. It was good to try new things! It was…”Please remove your bags!” What? “Please remove your bags!” I was still being yelled at. Even while I was soaking in my glory and empowerment I was still at the mercy of the monotone voice. “Please…” I took them off before that sentence could reach its predictably annoying end.

With bags finally in cart, I left the store minutes later. The other people waiting in line could easily be there at least twenty minutes more or longer. I really savored the idea that I had gained twenty minutes of my life that belong to me – not Walmart, not the lines, not to disgruntled cashiers and selfish shoppers.  I kind of pitied the people still waiting, even though it was their decision to wait there in the shadow of an obviously quicker way to pay. I’m convinced that perhaps my new enlightenment must have been the work of St. Jude.

* Newsflash* My Blog Now Has 100 Followers * Woo*Hoo!!

Yes it’s true. This very afternoon my blog follower count reached THE TRIPLE DIGITS.

I am so happy and excited beyond belief that so many people out there enjoy my blogging and writing. Honestly, I never would have started one if it wasn’t for the encouragement of Joyce Carol Oates. Not to me, directly.  She is very pro-blogging for new writers in general.

I really appreciate your interest and the incredibly helpful feedback on my posts. It’s a great thing knowing there is such a supportive, and growing, community of fellow writers and bloggers here on WordPress. Best of all, “meeting” so many talented people here has helped me to discover, read and enjoy the many interesting, creative, exciting, funny and original blogs that you all have created 🙂

All Shook Up

Hello All,

I started this blog two months ago as a way for me to vent and be creative in a completely anonymous space. I never had complete anonymous freedom before, and I’ve found it to be amazing and cathartic beyond all my hopes.

However, I never really thought down the road about what I’d do someday if I ever wanted someone I knew to read this blog. I figured this would be my anonymous playground for years to come. But, as an aspiring published AND PAID writer*…I realized that sooner or later my baby, “Fortyteen Candles,” would have to see the light of day to those who knew me.

Two weeks ago I sent my blog link to two very old friends of mine (not old like ancient, but old as in I knew them back before there was “the internet” old). Anyway, they both read my blog and were completely supportive and wonderful. I felt a great relief that I could start being true to my thoughts and feelings, and also be confident that these were being well-received by an audience that included people who really knew me. I know I haven’t divulged any great secrets here, but I was hoping that I could kind of do that someday. And even better, I wouldn’t have to listen anymore to that obnoxious internal editor who mocks me every time I think I’m about to write.

Fast forward to the modern day…aka two weeks later. I’ve dreaded posting on this blog. I’ve had the internal editor pop up and CENSOR my thoughts on everything I wanted to write about. For every idea I came up with all I would hear is “That’s stupid!” or “Boring!” or “Too personal!” Yuck! This has been like fighting off the flu. I know I have to keep fighting back these negative vibes or my blog will ultimately die.

So today I thought I’d purge all of this out of my system. I’m fighting  back the best way I know how – I’m writing an essay. P.S. This is the essay. I sent my internal editor out to Walmart to try to find something made in the USA, so I know I have some time to work in peace.

My vow is to forget who knows about my blog, and not care who might read it. I still intend to write whatever is on my mind with complete freedom of the WordPress. So, if I come up with a few more essays than I have in the past please realize it is a medical necessity for the health and well-being of “Fortyteen Candles.”

Whew! Thanks for listening. I’m feeling a little stronger now. My blog is feeling a little better, too.

(* more on this another day)

Another Invincible Day, Soundtrack by the Eighties

Here’s to the music of the eighties! It forever circulates in my brain like a ghost, making any day that’s “average” to those who weren’t a part of the eighties music culture a HECK of a lot more interesting, exotic, artistic, dreamy and meaningful.
For example, on this ho-hum Tuesday morning I woke up with this song in my head. Needless to say, I’m feeling quite invincible. I even feel somewhat Ferris Bueller-like.  Even though this song wasn’t in the movie “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off,” it definitely should have been. Rest assured, I’ll play it loudly and proudly as I roll out of the driveway in my nondescript minivan, headed off to nondescript adventures in the nondescript sleepy cow town beyond. It certainly kicks the intrigue of my dull errands up a notch.

Good Morning!

Good morning, Monday! Good morning, cul-de-sac! Good morning, Walmart! Good morning, garbage truck! Good morning, cliquey neighbor who ignores me!

Celebrating the start of my 416th Monday being financially marooned in Pleasant Valley.

Pleasant Valley Thursday

When I was a kid I never remember dreaming of growing up and living on a cul-de-sac in the middle of nowhere. My dreams were much bigger…frequenting the night time talk show circuit, famous for no reason, rich, beauteous, and so forth. Fast forward twenty years and now I realize life is not about endless adoration. My life is about living on a cul-de-sac in the middle of nowhere.

Now I don’t want to get too deep, or philosophical here (although I can’t help that as it was my major in college, which might also be why I don’t live the life I’d imagined I would as a kid). However, in contrast to what the great Forrest Gump mused so many years ago, life is not like a box of chocolates. When you live on a cul-de-sac,  you’ll always know what you’re going to get. From the same cars that drive by at the same time every day, to the same kids that come to your door to sell the same candy for the same school whale watching trip to see the same whales, to the same guy who mows his lawn in a tiny Speedo swimsuit and over-sized ear protectors for noise reduction. The sun comes up and the sun goes down and a new Groundhog Day begins.

Now, I realize I’m very fortunate to live in a community that is a safe place for kids to grow up. Don’t get me wrong. However, I lived for many years in New York City and the transition from the Big Apple to the middle of a cow pasture (the Big Crapple?) has been rocky at times.

Most days I try to ignore the fact that my town might very well be sponsored by Walmart. The new Walmart Super Center is the largest structure to loom over our valley, and might well be the largest in the state (insert a little home town pride here!). And, it is where you’ll bump into your neighbors and see what they’re up to by what they’re putting into their cart. “Still have that problem with ear wax?” or “No luck yet with toilet training junior?” A town with no privacy. But we don’t have much else for entertainment.

The town itself is so quiet, that I swear every word I utter is hitting the aisles of Walmart within the hour. For a while there I tried to speak softer, but I soon realized I couldn’t do that for the rest of my life. It’s unnatural and might lead to high blood pressure, ulcers or facial tics. Eventually, I surrendered and now fully accept that my life is an open book to most of my street, the surrounding school district, and regional dairy farms. We finally found our place. Somewhere between the Groundhog Day predictability of the Ear Protector and Speedo-Wearing Lawnmower Man, and the Candy-Selling Whale-Watching Kids is our family…the Loudest Family on the Cul-de-Sac.

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