Monthly Archives: April 2014

Getting (Left) Handy

(Not Really Bro & Bride)

Bro and his lovely Bride are in Chicago this week. We plan to hang out together a lot. There are a few things they’d like to do while in town, but there’s only one fixed item on the agenda: we’re going to a Cubs-Cardinals game. Since Bro, Sis and I grew up (mostly) in the Chicago area, we are supposed to cheer for the Cubs. I think.

It’s complicated for a few reasons. First of all, Bro, Sis and I were born on the South side so there were many White Sox fans in the extended family. It is apparently the job of Sox fans to cheer for whatever team opposes the Cubs. Also, Bro and I both went to school in St. Louis, as did Bro’s Bride. So that’s another reason to cheer for the Cards. However, we did spend many of our formative years northwest of the city. So, re: cheering? I think I’ll see how I feel when we get there. A ballpark is not my natural habitat, which is all the more reason to go, observe, and take lots of notes, if my fingers will work. The high is supposed to be 48 degrees. What a great day for fun at Wrigley Field!

Anyway, we have other places to go and things to do, but Bro and I were deserted by Bride and Sis on Monday, both of whom had to work. The weather was iffy and we needed indoor fun.

I gave Bro a small list of things we could do indoors, and he was especially intrigued by the chance to go shoot arrows. There’s an archery pro shop and range about 20 minutes from my house, called Glisson Archery. I think Nicolas Cage learned how to shoot there, for the movie The Weather Man.

We settled on seeing Captain America: The Winter Soldier. It turned out we wouldn’t have time to do shoot arrows and also go to the movie, so we’ll have to plan archery for another visit. But I have to admit, I was somewhat relieved not to shoot because the last time I went, I discovered that I’m not as strong as I hoped, and it didn’t take long for my left arm to tire. Since I did a lot of ukelele practicing on Sunday—okay, a lot for me—I wasn’t sure how much more stress the left arm would take. It’s noticeable weaker than the right. This is the opposite of Bro, who is left-handed.

So…my mind being what it is, I remembered something I heard about how using your non-dominant hand can enhance your brain power. It has to do with building new neural pathways. They’ve done a few studies on this; here’s just one of them.

When Bro and I do get to shoot arrows, I want to be ready. To accomplish this (and also to honor–or compete with–my left-handed Bro) I tried a few exercises to improve my left-hand dexterity.  I found them on the Livestrong site.

Blog Hooky


One of my bikes, named Skippy

 It was too nice outside to write a post today. I went for a bike ride because I want to be ready to do 50 miles on June 21 for Bike MS Tour de Farms. Managed 20 miles, which I feel okay about, considering how hard it’s been to work in training time so far this year.

So… I’m putting up my favorite links of the day.

Writing Stuff

5 writing tips by Dinaw Mengestu, courtesy of Publishers Weekly

A writing challenge from the cheerfully profane Chuck Wendig

And the link that made me smile reeeeeally big but if I tell you why ahead of time, I’ll ruin it

Camp Tokar

Making Merry on April 23rd

Shakespeare insult mug – a study aid

Prithee, gentle readers, knowest ye the day that slips, like knave of hearts, into mine bosom on the 23rd of April? Why, ’tis naught but the day to maketh merry in the verbal vein of our dear bard, William!

In other words, April 23rd is “Talk Like Shakespeare Day.” I’m alternately thrilled and terrified when it rolls around. There’s no question it takes energy and commitment, but if you can pull it off, it’s highly entertaining. Here’s what usually happens: I’ll talk like Shakespeare when I first greet someone but then revert to my usual manner of speaking. If I’m met with a blank stare, my Shakespearean talk will peter out fast, but when my conversational partner is into it, we might trade Elizabethan banter for 15 minutes or so.

This year the festal day is especially fun because my writing peeps in The Journey are just getting back into Shakespeare Reader’s Theatre.

Here’s how that started: last summer, inspired by Joss Whedon’s film version of Much Ado About Nothing, Tim (aka NewMexicoKid) decided we needed to get together and read Shakespeare. We met a few times and read from The Winter’s Tale and the Henry trilogy (that would be Henry IV part 1, Henry IV part 2 and Henry V) and it was almost as much fun as riding bicycles. I got to play Falstaff! Never in my life could I have predicted that. I said at the time that all the Journey would have to do would be to start up on American musicals. Let me play Professor Harold Hill and my thespian dreams will be fulfilled.

Anyway, it’s once more into the breach, dear friends. Shakespeare Readers Theatre revives this Saturday. I can’t be at the first session, but we have another one coming up early in May, and I’ll be there with bells on. Or jester’s motley. Point is, I’ll be there. I start practicing for it on April 23. Here is a helpful site, if you want to play along.

A Memory


We lost my husband’s mother on April 11, 2014.

What I’m missing about her today is the way she used her interest in stories and art to forge memories with those she loved.

In the summer of 2006, two of her grandchildren often stayed with her while their parents worked. She entertained them by helping them create a masterpiece on a closet door. Over many days, they worked together on an elaborate story, drawing or cutting out pictures to represent the events, and pasting them into a collage.

She loved that closet door, as did the grandchildren, and it was still in her condo when she finally had to move out. I don’t know many  details of the story, but I do have pictures of the door collage that made her so happy.


Still on Hiatus

But you might be interested in World Book Night, which is coming up on April 23, 2014. I’m excited because in addition to a possible appearance by Scott Turow, Patricia Skalka will be reading from her debut novel Death Stalks Door County. I have a guest post appearing soon in this space. She has additional upcoming events to help launch the book, but this should be fun if you’re able to get to Chicago.

EDITED on 4/18/2014 to add: If you’re interested in attending World Book Night, an RSVP is required, as space is limited. In fact, I think it’s full and there’s a waiting list. Follow this link to RSVP.

A Smile for Mickey Rooney

Mickey Rooney

“And if you stamp on Mickey Rooney
He would still turn around and smile…”
— from “Celluloid Heroes” by Ray Davies

Mickey Rooney was a genuine Hollywood legend, but before hearing of his death yesterday, I can’t remember the last time I thought of him. He wasn’t exactly a box office draw in my lifetime. My introduction to him came while I was in college, in the days before cable TV, some stations would run movies overnight on Saturdays, between, say 11 p.m. and 5 a.m. They might be mystery, horror, or science fiction marathons, or they might be some other genre.

Often these stations ran Hollywood musicals. One night might be Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers night; another might belong to Gene Kelly.

One Saturday night I got drawn into MGM backyard musicals and stayed up until dawn. Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland owned that subgenre. “Let’s put on a show!” was the tagline for every last one of them. Mickey would be the mover and shaker, while Judy Garland was the girl next door who carried a torch for him. Mickey was easily distracted, and would break poor Judy’s heart multiple times before finally realizing she was the only girl for him. This usually happened right before (or after) the fabulous success of their DIY show, which they never expected would come off properly.

I said it before and I’ll say it again: The Blues Brothers owed a lot to those MGM backyard musicals. Other than the musical style, the main difference for me was that the women were not treated as kindly in The Blues Brothers.

But to return to Mickey Rooney: if they personified the tornado in The Wizard of Oz, he would have been a shoe-in to play the part. He went through money, drugs, alcohol, and wives (eight!) like few other people, even in Hollywood. He had an amazingly varied career. People didn’t often take him seriously, but he had serious chops. Both Cary Grant and Anthony Quinn, when asked who the best actor in Hollywood was, named Mickey Rooney. Tennessee Williams is reported to have said Mickey Rooney was “the only great actor in the United States. He can do anything.”  It’s a compelling argument: Rooney had a varied career, playing roles as diverse as Puck in A Midsummer Night’s Dream (1935), Army in Requiem for a Heavyweight (1962)  and Bill Sackter in Bill (1981).

He did his job, making MGM piles of money in the 30s, but he showed himself capable of much more. He continued to act after WWII, but his youthful, unsubtle energy had gone out of style. People didn’t remember (or didn’t care about) some of his excellent dramatic work. There was a long period of his life when he would do almost anything to keep body and soul together. Supposedly for $500 you could get him to go to private parties and pretend he was best friends with the host.

Finally, with the help of his last wife Jan, he reinvented himself in 1979 by appearing on Broadway in Sugar Babies and reminding people that there was a reason he was considered legendary. His life wasn’t always easy, even after this late vindication. But no one deserved a comeback more than he did.

Today’s my day to “turn around and smile” for Mickey Rooney.

Public domain photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons