The Hillhouse

The Journey of a Mother and Son

Five Hundred and One October 21, 2014

This is my five hundred and first post. I hadn’t intended to pass up post number 500 on such a mundane subject as Spam, but very anticlimactically, there you have it. It seems the tally of my published posts was one behind, causing me to miss my landmark. But then that’s not so very important as is the fact that I’m still at it, over three years and five hundred posts (and dozens of unpublished posts) later. The result represents several thousand hours of writing, editing and re-writing. And while I don’t yet deign to claim that I’m a professional writer, I do however, with a small amount of confidence, now identify myself to people as a writer. Not a blogger. I’m a writer with a blog, not a blogger who writes just to generate content. (Lord knows generating content has never been my problem. !)

Bloggers enjoy making entire paragraphs out of one single sentence for effect.

Not me. Well at least not yet. Never say never.

That’s precisely what turns me off when I visit other blogs. That silly, truncated format, those tiny look-how-clever-I-am paragraphs, that sing-song, cutesy tone. Just doesn’t do it for me. Kinda like the Dead. You either dig them, or you don’t. The typical blog format either works for you or not. A particular style of music can either fill your heart with joy – or make you want to rip the radio out of the dashboard. Me, I don’t write in order to have a blog; I write because I’d probably go nuts if I didn’t have an outlet. To be entirely honest, I’ve come to rely on you guys. Having an audience – dare I even say a family? – with which to share my ruminations and experiences is what has motivated me to get out of bed on many a morning.

I don’t think my writing is necessarily great stuff (no false modesty here, I really do think it’s improved in some ways), but I believe what gives it integrity is that I actually write down the things that run through my head. I don’t believe that I’m terribly different from most folks – I just think aloud, that’s all. But in that lots of people get a kick out of watching other people’s tiny dramas – or in some cases rubbernecking at their worst train wrecks – I figure at the very least The Hillhouse offers up some form of entertainment, if nothing else.

Elihu and I went to see comedian Steven Wright the other night (first time I’d popped so much money on a ticket in my entire 51 years on the planet. Hope the kid treasures the memory, at least I know that I will…) and in the days that followed I began to think more critically about what made comedy compelling. What made writing compelling for that matter. And while it may seem simplistic, it seems to me it’s mainly about the truth. Why are some things so goddam funny? Why is some writing worth reading? Because either you’ve already thought the same crazy thought yourself (and thought it was just you thinking it) or have never heard a certain situation expressed before in such an obvious, truthful way that it gets your attention. It’s either been your truth at one point too – or at least you can feel the truth in it. You get it. And that’s why I’m here. Because I need to know that you’ve been here too. Or at least that somebody else gets it. I don’t have the immediate feedback of hearing your laughter, but I do feel the presence of somebody else in the room, and it feels nice.

I’m so glad you’ve stopped by here at The Hillhouse to share in a tiny portion of our life. You’ve given me such a gift in your audience, in your emotional support and input. It continually blows my mind that we’ve had visitors from over 170 countries now, many now regular readers (before this experience I wasn’t even aware that there were so many countries in the world!). I still wonder at who many of you are – expats lonely for home, far-flung childhood friends of mine, people who arrived here on a late night Google jag…? Just who, I wonder, are you? I do know one thing: you are my friends, wherever you are, whomever you are, and whatsoever brought you here. And in exchange for your love and support I send you my energetic good wishes for a life as free from emotional stress and strain as possible, and for many wonderful surprises in the future.

My grandma taught me that the best way to accept a gift is with sincere thanks. And so tonight I thank all of you with my very warmest regards, five hundred and one times over.

 

Opinions, Please… August 26, 2012

Hookay. Calmed down a bit since the last post. Which, by the way, was widely read and responded to quite enthusiastically. (Why should readership have peaked so dramatically? I always notice a direct correlation between the generous use of expletives and increased readership. But since folks don’t know the juicy words will be there until they’re actually reading it – I don’t see how that could factor in. But it seems to. Maybe y’all are just forwarding the ‘good stuff’ to your friends. ?) And thanks, for all the help and ideas. All of it is under consideration and is being thoroughly studied by my R&D department. It’s taking quite a bit of time to review it all, as naturally there’s a lot of material to read and digest. Once again I’m reminded of how big a world this is. Depending on my mood that’s either really bad news (it’s too intimidating) or it’s good news (there’s always room for one more success!). I’m kinda walking the line in between today. I’ll feel a surge of hope, but then doubt hits me and I feel like lying down for a really long time.

For example, here’s something that I just experienced a few minutes ago: I was checking in with one of my favorite writers, columnist for USA Today Craig Wilson (and former resident of Saratoga Springs, New York where I myself now live), catching up on a few of his past articles, and then decided to Google the stats for his daily audience. Daily planet-wide readership for the rag is a little better than 3 million copies a day. ! Seriously?! That’s crazy. And I got all excited the other day because my hits had grown from 1000 to 12,000 in just a few months, and my world map now had over 40 countries. What-ever. ! I must also remind myself that that number reflects only visits – not actual readers. Also, as someone pointed out this summer much to my chagrin, many of those hits – including those from abroad that get my heart beating faster – may well be accidental. Folks who may be searching for one thing and finding me instead. Oh well.

Undaunted, I carry on and make a plan. I will write to those folks whose writing I enjoy, and I will enclose a bit of mine. Maybe even throw in a CD. Or a rock. Something that might make my correspondence stand out. My first thought was to write Craig. His writing is gentle, easy – just cynical enough. No wonder he’s the choice for USA Today. His writing doesn’t offend, and it usually makes you feel good. I read his only book, a collection of essays entitled “It’s the Little Things” and, like many readers do, by the time I’d finished the book I felt like I knew him. It’s so easy to feel like that with the author of a memoir. I remember shortly after discovering Michael Perry last year (he has a new just-released book called “Visiting Tom” – check YouTube for the lovely promo video) I was fairly in love with the poor fellow. He’s a farmer, a writer, a musician, a parent. Hey! So am I!! I laughed out loud more than a few times as I read through his stories – and I guess I can attribute much of my warmth towards him to a deep gratitude for stirring me out of my laughter-free solitude. I’d felt so damn lonely these past few years out here in the country, and Mike made me feel so much less alone. I immediately got online and began to check out his site. His videos, his music, interviews. All of it. I got excited – it seemed like he might be able to offer me some help, some direction, some… something. I don’t know what. But I discovered that even this guy, who really isn’t that well-known, and for whom paying the bills is still a source of stress, he had far too many fans to deal with personally. Crap. My heart sank down to my toes when I saw his pleas: there were too many folks for him to respond to personally, that he felt bad about it, but thanked his readers for their support… That was the general gist of it. So I’m not sure about bugging him anymore. And after seeing that Craig has over three million pairs of eyes reading his daily column, I have doubts about writing him too.

Then I think again. Ok. Mike might be busy right now with his book tour and his new release, but he’ll be back in his little Wisconsin farmhouse by winter, and by then he might just have a little bit of time to consider a letter from me. Hm. And Craig, come on – that guy’s got a comfy day job. He’s got his routine, his nice house in a Virginia suburb… why he might even be getting a tad bored these days with all that routine. Who knows? Maybe he’s got the time to help me out. Maybe he might be happy to read some of my stuff. Give me some ideas, write a letter or two of recommendation…

In the ’90s I worked as an accompanist for a handful of comedy groups in Chicago. After so much time watching the actors doing their thing, I got to thinking that it might be something I could do too. Playing in the band in “Tony ‘n’ Tina’s Wedding” I enjoyed acting in a couple of improvised scenes, and from that I got the idea that I might do more. I’d played keyboards and sung on a handful of commercials and thought that on-camera work wouldn’t be much different. But for me, it was. I was just never good with cameras rolling. And it seemed the more auditions I went on, the more nervous and the worse I got. Looking back on it now I realize that if I’d just done more – rode it out, so to speak – I would have improved. I might have caught on. But I didn’t… and well, I didn’t. I really sucked. And my sucking, combined with my need for everyone to like me, that sucked even more.

This writing thing – the idea of writing other writers for help and guidance – it’s bringing up those queasy feelings I had at commercial auditions all those years ago. It makes me ill, and I just don’t like it. I know it’s different. I’m older, I have nothing to lose, and no matter how things turn out I still have my family, my chickens and my view of the mountains. So I’ll continue. I’ll get a plan, identify some goals, write some letters. But what material to include?

I’ve been going through the 200+ posts of the past year and a half trying to pull out a few favorites. But so far, I just can’t seem to choose. Friends, do you have any favorite posts? Even if you don’t remember the title of it, might you remember the gist of it? Was there a post or two you remember liking more than the others? I could really use some input. As usual, I’m easy to find; my email address is on the ‘about’ page here as many have already discovered, and of course, there’s always Facebook.

So please, if you have any ideas for me – send em! I can’t thank you enough for your help, for your company and your friendship. I really value your opinions, so please be forthcoming with them. I can take it. ! (I think.)

 

A Darkening Upon Me August 25, 2012

Filed under: An Ongoing Journal... — wingmother @ 12:57 am
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Damn it. I’m just not cynical enough, I know it. I should be more ironic too. And slick. Yes, I should be hipper, slicker. Not sure, but I think so. And I’m not really funny. Endearing, yeah, sometimes, and probably amusing too, for a second maybe, but not laugh-out-loud funny. And I haven’t introduced my readers to any quirky, ornery curmudgeons from my rural neighborhood, no insane girlfriends have moved in and talked me into starting a cupcake business for the racing market of Saratoga, I haven’t confessed any radical sexcapades from my years as a rock goddess on the road, I don’t have an exotic pet that I carry around with me (although I did once have a parrot whom I carried to the market in a poodle bag until he chewed up all the woodwork in my kitchen and ended up back with the breeder) and I’m not recovering from an addiction. Well, kind of. I do still kinda want a cigarette every now and then. But naw. No one cares. That’s not a real jones. So. What do I got?

Well, I got a goose named Maximus who tries to hump me when I let him share the kiddie pool with me. He gets pretty excited sometimes, and I have to grab him by the neck and talk him down. So, well, there’s that. It’s funny I guess, but I haven’t been clever enough to weave it into a narrative yet. So it’s a missed opportunity, I suppose. I begin to wonder, are there any opportunities here at all? I mean, real gems, keepers? Is there any one thing in my entire blog worthy of an editorial staff – or more accurately an unpaid intern – anything that shows promise in its infant form? Perhaps I’m too dark; perhaps the gems are simply strewn everywhere and I’m tromping on them, unaware of the beautiful works they may yet come to be…

Here, in the mass of posts I’ve made over the past year and a half – here, amongst the some two hundred and forty thousand or so words I’ve assembled – at the very least, I must have created something useable. Something printable. Something worth a professional binding. Maybe? Oh fuck it. I don’t even know where or how to begin. It’s a self-help, educate-yourself-through-YouTube world and I still don’t know how to do it… Get an agent, I gotta get an agent. I know this. I’ve heard this. But seriously, what, am I high?  It’s a flippin huge world with big expectations and lots of rules. Just getting a friggin agent seems as unattainable as my getting into my beloved 1963 Avanti with the Studebaker engine and driving off. Seriously, even if I might have the gumption, I have no fucking clue how to start. Really.

In isolated moments of inspiration and hope I think ‘it can’t be that hard…‘  Then… Fuck it! I’m not gonna get into this mess. Yeah, just fuck it all. What a stupid idea. I’m not a writer. I have no street cred, no history or experience. Geez. I can’t do this. Really. I’m being naive here. Shit, I don’t know. Maybe I don’t know. Maybe I can do this… I gotta calm down here. This is no good. I’ve lost perspective.  I go upstairs, distract myself with a snack, some mindless tv. Gotta checkout for a minute. Go back downstairs to my desk. Sit there. Breathe in, breathe out. Now. Ok. Where was I? Publishing. Yeah. Just how is that supposed to work?  I still have no inspiration.

Man, I’m tired tonight.  But it is my window to work. Gotta make hay… Without my son here I’m free to think on it for another week yet, to even begin to consider a plan…. but then I realize there’s a huge process and a sophisticated industry that I know nothing about behind it all – and I feel stopped. And that’s frustrating. And exhausting. So for now I’m just gonna put it all down for the night, turn off the lights.

And for the next eight hours at least, things really are gonna get dark.