Archive for February, 2009

I Draw Weredogs

Mungo, a character in one of my novels

Mungo, a character in one of my novels

I like to draw my characters as I write. This was a small were-dog as he appears in the beginning of one of my unpubbed novels. Drawing is so much easier than writing…

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Here is a doodle I made in my notebook some years ago. It’s a gorilla with a rose on his chest. I have no idea what I was thinking. I doodled it in Memphis, TN.


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My diary collection

My diary collection

I’m a terrible diarist. I have a stack of old journals with an average of three used pages apiece, and yawning rafts of blankness in the backs. But the used pages  add up over time, and a few still seem halfway entertaining. So here I offer what I wrote a few years ago on the night of my first grad school class as the most “mature” person in the room…

July 8 – The first day of my first grad school course, Literature for Young Adults. I’m an old adult. Blistering heat and blubbering humidity and my head still hurts from bonking it on the hub’s elbow the other night and I’m wondering if I have a subdural hematoma. I look up symptoms on the Internet and one is irritability. The symptom is growing by the minute.

I get there early.  Others have the same idea, and the room is half-filled 15 minutes ahead of time.  A cluster in one row is laughing and talking animatedly, and they have “teacher” tattooed in radiant light all over them. I sit a few chairs away and soon the place fills in. There’s a very chubby young woman in front of me munching pretzels. A bookwormish woman with straight hair and glasses gushes to the professor about how quickly she reads books, like a frat boy bragging about how many cans of Leinie’s he can chug in a sitting.

One of the radiant teachers with a no-nonsense haircut asks the professor if she can incorporate the “state standards” in her papers, telling how she would hew the line in each instance to fulfill the bureaucratic mandates. The professor is taken aback but deftly clarifies how the Anal One would do so.

After we all write a one page essay about who we are and why we are taking the class (yawn), we are told we must  read and write about one extra book, and are shown the list of options, then sent packing to the bookstore to rent the textbook in the lower level.

When I arrive, I hit the basement  where a big sign reads, “Grad Students Must Purchase Books Upstairs.” Upstairs I can’t find the book, so I go back downstairs. What are you doing, asks the employee. I don’t know what I’m doing, I reply. She asks if I’m a grad student and I say I am. You have to go upstairs, she says quickly. I did, but couldn’t find the book, I answer. Ask the lady in the desk in the corner in a blue pantsuit she tells me, her leg twitching as if to kick me in the butt on my way out.

The lady in the blue pantsuit is on the phone but she eventually gets off and goes to the basement to get the book, while I scoop up the required paperback reading. One of the books, the one we need to read for the next day, is not on the shelf, I tell her. The professor said she ordered 35. Well we don’t always order as many as they want, she explains. Can’t you go to a library? She doesn’t mention that the textbook she has just dug up for me costs $66, USED! The new price is $88.00. And there aren’t even many pictures in it, and it isn’t even thick. My total comes to $125.00 and I still have to go to the library to get Bridge to Terabithia. I go home and call the doctor because I now feel irritable enough for at least three subdural hematomas.

Postscript: As it turns out, I ace the class and love YA lit so much that now I write it, meself.  I do not have a subdural hematoma.  I become friends with the radiant teachers. And we all begin to take  turns bringing the pretzels.

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black button eyes

black button eyes

So what do Brad Pitt and Newbery Award winner Neil Gaiman have in common? Buttons, of course! As in Pitt’s recent film role of  Benjamin Button, and in the spooky button eyes of Gaiman’s alternate universe people in Coraline.

I’ve always been a fan of  the button, as well as of those gents, and I own a collection of decorative sew-on fasteners vast enough to repair any given article of clothing. I even bought a book that shows you how to get that country look and enhance everything from bustiers to picture frames with a slathering of hot-glued buttons. I admit I have yet to try any of the projects. Decimate my collection for a faux-country-tarted-up bustier? I guess the book just doesn’t push my buttons .

Instead, I’ve collected these button factoids. They require no sewing or hot glue to enjoy, only your “scroll” button:

– Buttons are considered too fancy for Old Order Amish. They use straight pins, snaps and hook and eyes to keep their shirts on. The Puritans shunned buttons as crazy-evil vanity, too.

– Buttons form a major part of countless cliche expressions; cute as a, bright as a, button nose, button your lip…

– Buttons were invented 3,000 years ago but people didn’t figure out how to actually fasten clothing with them until around 1200 AD. Until then they just hung around looking cool.

– The word “button” comes from one of two French words but no one knows which; one means “bud” and one means “push.” It is NOT derived, as many mistakenly assume, from the word “butt.”

– A campaign button from President Obama’s 1996 Illinois Senate campaign sold for over $4,000. Of course, purists will argue that was technically a badge.

– The phrase “belly button” has only been in use since 1877, according to Medterms. I would have thought someone would have come up with it sooner; it just seems so basic.

– “Hnappurinn” or “Button” was the title of a children’s movie made in Iceland in 2008. I don’t know what it’s about but I’m pretty sure Brad Pitt wasn’t in it, and that the children in it aged the normal way, if at all.

I heart buttons

I heart buttons

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Call me Certainly.

I love it when people tell me stories. And because I write books about offbeat things, the shared tales list heavily toward  eccentric.

One of my favorites is also one of the simplest. A woman at a book signing walked up to confide that as a child, she named her favorite doll “Certainly.” Why? Because no one had told her it wasn’t a name.


Certainly came to mind yesterday while I was flipping through a great handbook, “Edit Yourself” by Bruce Ross-Larson. I found Certainly plopped in the middle of a column of WEAK MODIFIERS. Turns out Certainly has many sisters and brothers: Actually, Definitely, Hopefully, and Rather, to name a few.

I’ll think fondly of the whole family next time  I’m slashing the fat from my deathless prose, and try to ignore the mental image I now carry of little dolly heads being callously lopped. It puts a disturbingly literal spin on that old editing phrase “killing your darlings.”

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Great Deals

That was the headline in the classified section; “Great Deals.” I had found myself without anything else to read while downing my Blue Bunny Lite cup of yogurt the other day, and figured I might as well check out the potential bargains.

Why these were listed under “Great Deals” rather than “Surreal and Outmoded Objects” is beyond me. Here are the listings, verbatim:

BEEHIVE: Red Wing Beehive 4. Perfect. No chips or cracks. $65

Honey, this sounds like a sting operation.

COAL CHUTE: late 1800s, brass, w/shovel & bucket. $95

Well, thank St. Nuggie the shovel and bucket are included! All I need is a coal-burning apparatus and someplace to set the chute. There were good reasons we stopped burning coal in our homes.

RECORDS: approximately 4,400 45’s. Mostly older. $110

4,400 45’s? That is a tsunami of vinyl. Where would you even begin?

SAUSAGE STUFFER: 15 lb. capacity for venison OR OTHERS (caps mine; this is Milwaukee, home of Jeffrey Dahmer). $225 obo

I’m still stuck on “or others.” Hide the dogs and cats!

 I know you can go to e-bay and find any number of ridiculous things for sale. But find ing a clump of really odd stuff nestled in the same corner of the neighborhood rag really ups the entertainment value. It’s the classified’s News of the Weird.

Besides, since it’s local I could drive there and save the shipping I’d have to pay on e-bay. My husband does bring home venison, and those sausage stuffers are heavy!

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The Writer’s Prayer

I wrote this a few years ago with a collection of light verse that was mercifully never published. This little  item, though, I thought might deserve resurrection, along with a few others I’ll sprinkle in from time to time like those tiny M&M’s they make for cookies. If my wits ever do fail me, everyone will  know exactly why…

The Writer’s Prayer

Now I sit me down to write.

I pray the Lord my wit be bright.

If I should write aught that is fake,

I pray the Lord my wit to take.

Linda S. Godfrey

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Saint Nuggie

Something I’ve always liked about the Catholic Church’s saints – even
though I’m a Lutheran – is that they come with great stories. My
personal faves are St. George, who dropped a dragon, St. Christopher,
who was given a dog’s head by God to help prevent vanity, and St.
Columba, who scared away a water monster near Loch Ness.

I was pleased, then, the day the statue of St. Nuggie came to me. He
lay crammed into a Zip-lok bag with a handful of bedraggled dollhouse
characters that I found in a flea market. Only a few inches tall, sans
markings or labels, there was nothing remarkable about him. Just a
youthful, contented face and a hand making the peace sign that somehow
reminded me of the way my brother’s hand used to look just as he was
bending his fingers at the knuckle to administer a nuggie.

Saint Nuggie close-up

Saint Nuggie close-up

A nuggie, for the happily uninitiated, is a knuckle rub to the top of
the scalp, usually accomplished by holding the recipient in a firm
headlock. While physical nuggies are unpleasant in the extreme, I
thought perhaps a spiritual nuggie might be useful now and then. A
saint that could give me a light knuckle rap when I spend too long at
the blog or reach for a second Nonni’s biscotti would be a friend

So, St. Nuggie stood watch on the base of my nightstand lamp for two
years. Just recently, however, I got some new glasses, and took a much
closer look at him after he had toppled into the wastebasket for about
the 200th time. It was only then that I noticed he pointed to an eensy
red heart with his other hand.

Sakes alive. I realized with chagrin that this was no Saint, this was
a tiny plastic statue of a tween-age Jesus! I may be a Lutheran, but I
know a Sacred Heart when I see one. Eventually.

I was horror-stricken. Had I committed blasphemy by calling him St.
Nuggie all this time? I cringed for three or four seconds and then
decided not. This is, after all, a three-inch tall piece of hard
plastic with no name written on it. Perhaps Saint Nuggie just likes to
wear jewelry in the shape of a heart because – being a Saint — he’s
got a good one. Or maybe he had bypass surgery and the incision stayed
miraculously open. Yep, a mere deuce of rationalizations did it for
me. Saint Nuggie he will remain.

I do hope no one will report me to any canonization authorities for
making up my own saint. After all, that guy in Green Bay who dresses
like the pope and calls himself St. Vince has been getting away with
it for years, and he’s still admitted into Friday Night Fish Fry.

Besides, I’m sure that if there were anything wrong with the
misidentification, St. Nuggie would have had me rubbing my scalp in
penitence by now. Not that he’s ever stopped me from eating that
second biscotti. All he lacks is a good story. I’m hoping he will
reveal it to me one of these days, and if it’s any good, I’ll share.

It would be heavenly if it involved a monster.

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