Look at All That Snow

I live in Northeast Ohio, and I have to say that I find That Certain Social Media Site exceptionally tedious when we are experiencing winter weather.

I am not a big fan of winter. I am not a big fan of snow. We shovel our driveway by hand, we shovel our sidewalks by hand, and our hundred-year-old house gets chilly when it’s cold out. I get very nervous about driving in snow, slush, and ice; and I live in an inner-ring suburb that is locally infamous for being slow in getting around to plowing and salting. This is supposedly because we don’t have a lot of industry OR the tax base that goes with it, to pay for plow trucks.

So then, cheery little posts about all the pretty snow falling? Don’t want to hear it. Chirpy little photos of adorable dogs playing in the snow? Save them for someone who cares. Smug little posts from people who can work from home and just need to sit back by the fireside and watch the flakes come down while they wait for their plow service to clear the driveway? Please just stop. Please.

Why, yes, I am being grouchy and bitter. That’s what this blog and this pseudonym are for. In real life, I quietly scroll through these kinds of posts, not liking them, definitely not commenting on them, just lurking about and being mildly irritated. This blog is where I vent, when it all just becomes too much.

To continue, I notice that pretty snowscapes seem to bring out the amateur photographer in an awful lot of people. You all probably are not being as artistic as you think you are, guys. I can see it all outside my window, without any help from you. Thanks anyway.

Finally, and possibly most irritating of all, are the people who make an event out of second-guessing school districts who decided to close the schools, or decided to keep the schools open, or decided on, Horror of Horrors! a two-hour late start. The superintendent isn’t going to change her mind just because you people are moaning about her decisions on social media, people. Yes, it is inconvenient to have your day disrupted, but being a parent means figuring it out on the fly sometimes. You may also want to consider the possibility that what is going on with plowing on your street may not be representative of the plowing that has taken place in other parts of your school district.

Man, I really dislike winter a whole heaping lot. As heaping as those two giant banks of snow on either side of my driveway. I can’t wait to heave new shovelfuls of heavy snow up to my shoulders to clear my driveway the next time around. Hooray.

Also, I hate it that we live in a walking community, and most people don’t shovel their sidewalks.

Well, I guess that’s it. You can see why I have the pseudonym, can’t you?

Love you & leave you,

Hobbie DeHoy

Ring It In

Well, here it is, the very last day of the very first month of the new year, and I’m getting in a new blog post, just under the wire. Happy 2015 to everyone!

It’s about time to be writing something, anyway, especially as I may as well finally accept that I will not, in fact,  be sending out any holiday greeting cards to friends and family this year. I bought the cards, and I even asked my husband to stop and buy holiday stamps; but yet, I could not make myself send cards out this holiday season. Possibly because it’s been kind of a difficult year. We had a death in the family, and I was very unhappy at work. I guess my joy was at a low ebb, back there in December.

But! I got kind of a terrific Christmas present this year: a job offer two days before Christmas! Yes! I have had the undiluted pleasure of submitting a resignation letter for a job in a truly toxic workplace, the frustrating yet affirming experience of being treated like dirt during the period of my two weeks’ notice (affirming, you ask? Yes, every moment affirmed my decision to get the hell out of there), and the happiness *and* the stress of starting a lovely new job, where I am working alongside kind, helpful people in a nice, busy library.

Still, all that change is kind of distracting, you know? It makes me twitter-pated (name that Disney movie!) and a little less on top of it than usual. I’ve been late to two volunteer shifts, and I didn’t send out any Christmas cards.

Well. Deep breath. As of January 20, the two people in our household who work are fairly happy at work. As of this past September, the two people in our household who go to school are fairly happy at school. Could it be that 2015 might be a year when we can just coast along in the status quo without making any big, life-changing decisions? Knock on wood…

The only thing is, and I suppose there is no harm in admitting it now that I have received my final paycheck: I used to write this blog on work time. Oh, yes. I was so frustrated and unhappy at work that I was blogging on company time. I can’t do that now that I am happy and busy at work; also, I respect the people around me and my current library enough that I wouldn’t do that anymore. Unless I get to contribute to a blog on the library website or something. But that wouldn’t be with my super-secret pseudonymous identity, believe you me.

So now the proof is in the pudding: Do I have the self-discipline to keep going with this on my own time?

Time will tell.

Love you & leave you,

Hobbie DeHoy

The Dark Month

I bought a copy of Louisa May Alcott’s novel Little Women for my daughter a couple years ago. Because if you’re a literary mother, it’s the kind of thing that you do. Before I gave it to her, I read over the first chapter, and I was kind of surprised at how not-very-engaging it is. Basically, the four March sisters are hanging around the house, whining about Christmas and how crummy it’s going to be.

Tell me, again, how did this book get to be a classic of American girlhood? How does anyone even make it to Chapter Two?

I mean, clearly I loved it enough that I made sure to pass it down to my daughter. She tells me she’s even read it. And I know I’ve read it more times than I can count. It’s one of those cultural literacy things, I think. In Jean Webster’s book, Daddy-Long-Legs, Judy shows up at college with no knowledge of Little Women, and is forced to read it in her spare time so that she knows what her friends are talking about when they mention pickled limes.

You know what, I don’t think we own a copy of Daddy-Long-Legs. Must fix that, and soon.

I don’t know, maybe hanging around the house and whining during the dark month of December is so central to the human condition that we can all relate to it. I know that’s where I am myself right now. I don’t feel like cooking dinner at night.  I don’t feel like being cheerful. Neither did the March sisters, and believe me, I get it.

Unfortunately for me, I’m no longer a teenage girl who gets to hang around whining and refusing to knit stockings. At my time of life, I’m supposed to be Marmee, whose brisk and cheery presence pulls the girls out of the abyss of bitching and moaning about how awful their lives are.

Man, I don’t know. Marmee sets the bar kind of high, you know? Do I have that in me? The ability to pull myself together and be an adult and not whine when the weather is dark and the days are short?

Well, I’ll tell you what, that’s going to involve some teeth-gritting on my part. But you know what might actually help? I think my family should go out and get our Christmas tree this Saturday. Having a tree with lights on it in the house always cheers me up.

All right, Marmee. Even though you are a fictional character, I accept your challenge.

Dark December, get out of the way. We’re getting our Christmas tree.

Also, how do you pronounce Marmee?

Love you & leave you,

Hobbie DeHoy

Stuck at 5,000

Yes! I am once again taking part in NaNoWriMo this year! Except, perhaps it’s more accurate to say I *was* taking part, because I hit 5,000 words and I was really proud and then I just got bogged down and bored with the whole thing and I stopped.

Still, I did learn something this month: I like writing fantasy more than I ever knew. In fact, I tried to put a more realistic family scene in my story, and I ended up just skipping the whole scene because I just didn’t care. I really had fun with the fantasy parts, though.

Except for the other thing I learned, which is that writing fantasy has its own set of challenges. I chose a by-the-seat-of-my-pants approach this year, just to see how effective that was for me, and I guess the answer is that I would do better to take some notes before I get started. If I’m creating a world that has its own backstory, I think I might have better momentum if I’m not trying to create the backstory at the same time I’m trying to push the plot forward. I start questioning whether or not my premise makes sense, whether it’s believable or not, and I’m pretty sure that’s where I got bogged down.

But, oh, look. See what I’m doing? If I have to create a backstory before I even start, I may not ever even get started. My gosh, my inner editor is loud, constantly yapping away and very hard to ignore.

I just need not to worry about it and Keep On Writing.

Ha. Easier said than done. I know, intellectually, exactly what I need to do (see above). It’s just doing it that’s the problem.

On the other hand, maybe taking on a big project like this isn’t the smartest thing at a time when I’m also conducting a job search. It’s very tough to put a lot of energy into TWO projects that make you feel insecure.

I guess that’s really why I decided that diving back into reading was a better way to handle my stress this month. Because that’s just what I did.

National Diving Into Reading To Alleviate Stress And Insecurity Month.

It’s got quite a ring to it. Don’t you think?

Love you & leave you,

Hobbie De Hoy

Gobble, Gobble

Oh, it’s the season of Advice from the Turkey People. The people who buy a fresh turkey, the people who brine the turkey, the people who make all kinds of fancy stuffings and dressings and other accoutrements to the traditional holiday dinner.

Well, I buy a frozen turkey from our local grocery store. I’ve been roasting turkeys long enough that I usually remember to start thawing it in the fridge on Monday. I do cut my own bread cubes, I do simmer the neck and the giblets to make bread stuffing from scratch. My daughter always bakes corn bread and I put my son in charge of the pumpkin pie a couple of years ago. He actually found this online recipe that makes it really easy to make homemade pie crust. I know, I couldn’t believe it either. And every year I give thanks for that green bean dish with the crispy onions on top, which is traditional and easy enough to make that I can assign it to my mother who can’t cook but always wants to “bring something.”

I began the tradition of cooking the traditional turkey dinner about ten years ago, when I must have gotten completely fed up with driving to relatives’ houses and just started making Thanksgiving dinner on my own. I think it was the year that my daughter was three, my son was one, and my good friend was going through a divorce. I know she came to dinner that year, and I was very happy to have her. I remember hovering helplessly above the turkey with a meat thermometer, which I had never used before, wondering where to shove it into the bird; and then just handing it over to Pen, who stabbed it into the turkey with considerable authority. I remember the awe I felt at her decisive action, even though she had never roasted a turkey before either.

Last year, I decided I had roasted too many turkeys too many years in a row, and we went to my parents’ house instead. Yeah, mistake. Remember up above there, when I told you my mother can’t cook? Well, she bought pre-made stuffing from the prepared-food section of the grocery store, spooned it ready-made into the turkey, and that was our experience for the year. I mean, I wasn’t exactly expecting her to make it from scratch, but really? You can easily buy the kit with the bread cubes and herb mix and all that. I am totally taking back Thanksgiving dinner this year. If I have to go through the tradition, my grandmother’s way of making stuffing, and me eating it and floating on waves of heavenly homemade-stuffing bliss, is my reward. Darn it.

And it turned out that my husband was also mad, because after decades of being a vegetarian and not eating turkey, he turned forty and started eating some kinds of meat. And what did I do that year? Delegated the turkey to my non-cooking mother. So I guess I’m taking Thanksgiving back for both of us this year.

I’m trying to think of Thanksgiving this year as the very first year when my husband and I will be making and eating our very own turkey together. Of course, it’s also the very first year when my dad, who died in April, won’t be with us. I mean, judging from his general demeanor on the day, Thanksgiving wasn’t exactly my father’s favorite holiday, if he even had one. But, you know. It’s one of those firsts that you have to get through when you’re grieving from a loss.

So this is my Thanksgiving post, perhaps a little too early, but I can feel free to post about it again, or move on to some other topic, before or after the actual holiday. Because I can do whatever I want on my own blog.

Happy Turkey Day, everyone.

Love you & leave you,

Hobbie DeHoy

Subject, Verb, Object

I love words, and sentences, and paragraphs, and stories. It’s why I’m a blogger. I blog solely for the sheer love of the thing, because it makes my life fuller, and because it cheers me up to feel that I’m making efforts with my writing.

However, even I didn’t enjoy studying English in school very much. So many English classes consisted of identifying the subject, verb, and object of a sentence.

Subject, Verb, Object. Subject, Verb, Object. Absolutely ad nauseum, believe you me.

Sometimes we got a little crazy and learned about direct objects and indirect objects. But then it was back to Subject, Verb, Object (pick which kind). Subject, Verb, Object (pick which kind). I mean, yawn.

I’m thinking about this because I realized, in the course of reading blogs that I follow, that my knowledge of restrictive and non-restrictive clauses was shaky at best. Particularly when it came to using that or which to introduce a clause.

I mean, I get it now. I did a nice handy Google search, found a site that ended in .edu, and educated myself about clauses and how to introduce them. I won’t get into it now, because that’s really not the point of what I’m writing.

I’m just wondering, now that it’s far too late, why my grade-school English education relentlessly hammered Subject, Verb, Object into my brain until it was so repetitive I was ready to throw my pencil across the room. Why all this repetition, when a whole world of sentence structure was still out there, waiting to be discovered?

I had a sixth-grade English teacher who taught us to diagram sentences. I remember prepositional phrases, compound sentences, complex sentences, and even compound-complex sentences. But even then, I don’t remember ever learning about clauses, either restrictive or non-restrictive.

As a side note, Mrs. Parker, said English teacher, was always telling us about the grateful students who would come back years later and thank her for teaching them to diagram sentences. Maybe my life and career have gone the wrong way (how could that be? I’m an English major!), but I have never once had cause to use my finely-honed sentence-diagramming skills. Still, diagramming sentences was certainly more complicated and engaging than yet another year of Subject, Verb, Object.

And I was lucky enough to have an eighth-grade English teacher who taught us about gerunds, infinitives, participles, and the passive voice. However, he was definitely more interested in style and usage than sentence structure. He made me a better writer, in those tender years of my adolescence, and I loved his class.

But, somehow, clauses eluded me all through my grade-school education. Unless I just don’t remember them. Still, look at how much I do remember. And I love this stuff. I love thinking about sentences and how they’re put together. I can’t believe I ever would have forgotten learning about clauses.

I’m not exactly sure what my point is. I’m certainly not about to use my experience as a springboard for complaining about my teachers, and I was lucky to have three strong English teachers in a row in middle school, or the woeful condition of public education thirty years ago.

Probably teaching absolutely all the ins and outs of complicated sentence structure was just out of fashion then. It’s probably stayed out of fashion since then, too.

But, you know. My interests are rarely in line with the prevailing popular culture. I’ve even been reading articles that suggest that blogging is on its way out, and it’s all about twitter now. Well, I very much like meandering on. I did create a twitter account, because I couldn’t live with the possibility (remote) that someone else might steal my pseudonymous twitter handle, but my experience has mostly consisted of getting desperate-sounding emails from the twitter people encouraging me to get more involved with their product.

Still, here on my nice little blog I can talk about myself a lot, and go on and on about clauses and sentence structure. Much better than racking my brains to come up with witty one-liners on twitter.

Twitter might be a little too Subject, Verb, Object for me. And I’ve had more than my fill of that.

Love you & leave you,

Hobbie DeHoy

Silent “W”

Here I stand, all, all, alone… shrieking into the void about the poor neglected silent “W.” You know, the “W” that appears in “wrought iron.” That silent “W.”

Speaking of wrought iron, why in the world am I constantly reading the word “wreaked” as the past tense of  the verb “to wreak,” as in “to wreak havoc?” The past tense of “to wreak” is wrought, everyone. Even if “wreaked” did not happen to sound exactly the same as “reeked” (and is there a more stomach-turning word than “reeking” in our language? If there is, I don’t want to know about it), the word wrought sounds very much more powerful and resonant. Why would anyone use “wreaked” when “wrought” is so, so much better?

**Note: my inner editor, who never knows when to shut up anyway, is totally in crisis right now. Because in the above paragraph, I used a lot of quotation marks and some italics to designate the word to which I’m referring. All those quotation marks, and there are far too many, look weird and overdone. But using quotation marks and italics in the same paragraph? Appalling inconsistency? Well, I say this, without italics or quotation marks: Pipe down, inner editor. This is a freaking blog post. Chill out and continue your blogging rant already.

Anyway, back to the silent “W.” If I have to read the word “nerve-racking,” minus its silent “W,” one more time, my inner editor and I are both going to flip. It’s “nerve-wracking,” WITH the silent “W.” For goodness’ sake.

And don’t get me started on people who think “baited breath” is acceptable usage. We’re not talking fish bait, we are talking about how your breath has temporarily abated due to shock or stress. “Bated breath” is the order of the day.

My point is, if you’re going to write spine-chilling, overwrought (oh, look, a silent “w”) prose, just please, please, please, do it right.

Cheers and adulation for the silent “W!”

Love you & leave you,

Hobbie DeHoy

Book People

So I’m exploring all these new-to-me authors who fall under the category of “literary fiction,” according to the Adult Reading Round Table. I have this handy list from a fellow librarian, and my, am I having fun with it. For some of the authors, it’s clear to me that reading one book is more than enough. However, I’m amazed and energized by the number of authors whose work inspires the reaction, “Where have you been all my life?”

Chris Bohjalian, where have you been all my life?

Marisa de los Santos, where have you been all my life?

See? See what fun I’m having?

I’m even doing the second-chance thing with some authors. For instance, my book club read Geraldine Brooks’ novel March a couple of years ago. Except that I didn’t. I don’t know if I’ve read Little Women too many times or what, but I just could not get going with March. And then, lo and behold, Geraldine Brooks  came up on my handy book list, and I wanted to get her checked off my list, so I tried again with People of the Book.

And my gosh, am I glad that I did.

Geraldine Brooks, where have you been all my life? And why, oh why, didn’t I appreciate you before?

People of the Book is a fantastic read. Ms. Brooks has a gift for moving her settings back-and-forth between contemporary culture and centuries past. And each story from the past has a link to the eponymous book in the title.  It’s sheer craftsmanship, I’m telling you.

And I love that the contemporary setting is in Sarajevo. I never knew much about Sarajevo, except from the news stories back in the 1990’s, about the violence and the ethnic cleansing and the other unhappy events that were newsworthy. I’m grateful for a more thoughtful, literary view of an Eastern European city, particularly this one.

Well, I’ll tell you what. I’m going back to try again with March.

Except I’ll have a terrible time getting through this author list, if I keep falling in love with the authors and passionately pursuing and reading every book they’ve ever written.

And that, my darlings, is a beautiful problem to have.

Love you & leave you,

Hobbie DeHoy

 

Socially Awkward

Does it seem a little, well, high school to you, when people post pictures of themselves and their friends on That Certain Social Media Site? I mean, I’ve always been a little camera-shy myself, so I don’t appear in a lot of candid photos. And now, in my forties, I’ve never yet taken a selfie. I do have friends my age, and older, who definitely think it is the thing to take and post a group shot at a restaurant or when they are all glammed up ready to go out. And I’m sorry, but every time I see one of those I think high school yearbook. And not in a good way. Can we seriously get beyond behaving like a bunch of seventeen-year-olds, twenty-five years later? I guess not.

It’s also weird when you see one person who you think is really very nice, posing with a couple of other people who are really just mean. And I know, I know, this sounds a little high school of me, too. But still, it weirds me out. Evidently, the nice person doesn’t think her friends are mean people. Does that mean she’s maybe not really as nice as you think? Or that she just is able to get beyond certain behavior attributes, in a way that makes you feel small because you still die inside when you realize you have to be in the same room with those same people?

Why, yes. I am socially awkward. How did you guess?

Certain behaviors, such as catty questioning and snide assumptions, still do cause me to freeze up and shut down in the presence of certain other people. Maybe I’m such a quiet person in general, that this is not terribly obvious. Maybe it’s clear to everyone that I am passionately wishing myself elsewhere. How can I tell? And wondering about it too much makes me anxious and unhappy, so I do try not to dwell on this kind of thing too often.

Unfortunately, there are times when you are simply stuck. There you are, through no fault of your own, right on the fringes of the Bitch Clique. None of those women are going to talk to you, and so you sit there, alone, trying desperately to remember your real friends, who are nowhere in sight and can’t help you; and trying desperately not to focus on yourself and your aloneness, because that will only make you more upset and you really just want to be in that place where you know you are a good and worthwhile person, even when the people immediately around you can’t see that, and not care what they think, but there you are, and it just isn’t time to leave yet. Yes. I am too sensitive. And I don’t really think there’s much hope, anymore, that I will grow out of it.

The kind of amusing part is the assumption that prevails in Bitch Cliques; the assumption that because you are quiet, you are also blind and deaf. It would clearly be the act of a sneak and a varlet to go around telling tales on people. Still, I wonder about some friendships. I wonder if they would still exist if some of those women knew the way their very dear friends talk about them behind their backs, within the hearing of someone who doesn’t count because she doesn’t talk.

I mean, I talk about other people too. I’m not that high-minded. But I only talk about other people when I am very sure I can’t be overheard.

I know those quiet types. I’m one of them. I know how much you hear and see when you are on the outside. And I know quite a few people who should think before they open their mouths and start talking about their very dear friends.

So it’s kind of funny and sad when you see them posing in a photo on social media.

Because you are the quiet one, and you know what you’ve heard.

Love you and leave you,

Hobbie DeHoy

Purely Spontaneous

This may be completely obvious to anyone who’s ever read this blog (and thank you, thank you if you have!); however, I have decided just to come right out and say it: I never edit a blog post. At least, I don’t edit in any serious way. I will re-read it once or twice before I publish, just in case I made any glaring spelling or usage errors, but that’s the extent of my editing process.

In fact, last week I tried what WordPress described as the “improved posting experience, ” merely because I occasionally like to kid myself that I’m really cutting edge with new technologies and I’m not afraid to try them. However, the new posting experience delayed my posting for probably about seven minutes, and those seven minutes drove me absolutely batty. Clearly, I am not a very patient person. I want to write it and publish it and get it right out there. I am back to the classic posting experience, and I am extremely comforted by the link I can see, right over there, that says “Publish immediately.” If not sooner! Impatient me!

I don’t know, blogging just seems to be a form of writing that is spontaneous and casual. I don’t want it to come across as over-thought and over-edited. And with my current process, there is small danger of that!

Also, when I try to write fiction, the editing part is the part that just kills me. Nothing I write ever sounds good enough, none of my characters ever appear natural enough, and as for my attempts at a plot, oh my. Editing is when my brain takes up its scalpel to dissect every sentence I’ve written and show me why it’s terrible. I’m pretty sure that if I ever started editing a blog post, I would never publish anything. And how will I get better if I get stuck in the editing process? And stay there, paralyzed, too afraid to go on?

I’m actually thinking about maybe trying NaNoWriMo once again, and I think this year I will do myself a favor and just not read anything that I wrote the previous day. I’m sitting here, right now, imagining myself committing to the double discipline of writing a certain number of words per day (how many is it again? Do they say? I haven’t taken part in NaNoWriMo in so long I can’t remember) AND of resisting the temptation to go back and read what I’ve already written.

Oh, yes, AND  the discipline of keeping this blog going for November, too. A triple crown!

Do I have it in me? The discipline to do all of this? I guess we won’t know until November 30.

Love you & leave you,

Hobbie DeHoy