June 22, 2009

On Character Intimacy

My book has been calling to me. MC is frozen in the third chapter, despairing and anticipating.

I'm stuck at a major intersection; don't know which way to go. The obvious seems cliche and taboo, but it's real.

I'm not accustomed to changing the face of things so dramatically they are unrecognizable to me. I know I have the power to feel the pulse of truth beneath the superficial, but the superficial so often seems integral and necessary.

It's like I must learn another language, in order to communicate in the country I'll be visiting. They recognize hand signals, may be accurate judges of character, but there is a point when disguise becomes fabrication, and then it sounds like a lie.

I've discovered fairly recently, creating characters is like forming new relationships in real life. It's like visiting in the flesh places I've never been before. I not only have to know who/what I'm creating, I have to feel them. It's the only way to tell the truth.

It's digging deep. It won't suffice to simply imagine and draw a picture. I have to feel the pain and the passion, feel the burn of high-noon, shiver in the rain.

The pseudo-vicarious experience takes time. Days. Weeks. Years even, as has been the case thus far.

And this may be why it's taking me so long to choose a direction. I can never get in enough thought-time to dig any deeper than, "Whatcha been up to?" Small talk.

Driving long stretches of highway is ideal. I may have an opportunity soon. Ten-to-thirteen-hour trips, one-way. Then another between seven and ten. I pray the AC in the van is fixed by then so I won't be distracted by sweat and nausea.

June 16, 2009

Thoughts in Traffic

. At traffic light: In the car behind me, a young couple kissing while waiting for the light to change. Recalled when Miner and I used to kiss at traffic lights. Now, that kind of behavior would be met with words like "Ew!" and "Gross!" and "Daddy, keep your eyes on the road!"

. In huge pick-up that rushed to cross the highway in front of me and cleared less than five seconds: Driver in a cowboy hat waved "thanks," as if to acknowledge it was a risky move, but "thanks for understanding." And I did understand, and it didn't bother me a bit. A tiny courtesy goes a long, long way.

. In little red compact car in front of me: Asian guy with the coolest "Asian haircut." Spiky bangs stuck straight up, sunglasses. Fleetingly wondered why I've never gotten an "Asian haircut" myself. Considered the cultural gap between me and "Asian" -- even though I'm half-Asian -- and for a moment, felt lonely and out-of-place.

. On yet-another family van: Little cartoon character "family" stickers, with pets included. Wondered if I'd seen that same van before, and if I hadn't, wondered how many vans in Lafayette have those same stickers, in some other combination and order. Briefly considered whether or not stickers like that on the back of our van would get me pulled over for obstruction of view.

. In the CD player: Journey. "Lovin' Touchin' Squeezin'" - repeat. repeat. repeat.

June 14, 2009

Plain Vanilla

Felt my age in more ways than one today. Comes at the moments when I recognize the world is moving around me at a much faster pace than I am.

I'm just not that interested in progress anymore. Progress seems irrelevant. Maybe on some level, futile.

There's no hypocrisy in how I feel about it; I appreciate progress, I need progress just like everybody else. But a part of me knows I could live without it, and thinks I'd be much happier in life without it.

Seriously...I could be happy waking up every morning to not much more than family, earth, and sky.

I think it's because the filter of life that is me is mostly outgoing. I feel most at me when processing what the senses sense, then recreating those things in a different form. Too much stimulation, too much static, too much to process overloads me, and then I shut down.

This is why city life would never suit me. This is why I prefer silence. solid colors. plain text. brown paper packaging tied up with string.

I'm serious about having a longing to live with the Amish. A life of simplicity of purpose, a life of satisfying work and work expression. A life in which conflicts are intimate and earthy, where a nature contrary to the world is assumed.

June 12, 2009

The 4-Seam Dress

Dress shopping today for Lil' Bro's wedding was monumentally depressing.

I don't think there's anything I hate more than fitting rooms. Maybe it's the lighting, or the grungy floor, or that the stalls feel like bathrooms with no toilets. Dressing rooms make me feel icky and vulnerable and soft like the Pillsbury Dough Boy.

Unfittingly, nothing ever "fits" in fitting rooms. The dresses I picked out today were wrong, wrong, wrong. All spaghetti strapped, gathered bodice, empire waistline, falling at the knee. All were awful on me. Bold colors (orange, gold, brown) are supposed to look good on me, but in the fitting room, they just made me look green and washed out, like a sick alien.

So I left the mall empty-handed.

On the way home, my brain kicked into self-preservation mode: Can't not go to the wedding. Don't have anything in the closet. Guess I'll have to MAKE something.

So I did. Took less than 30 minutes. Already had the fabric, which I bought for gouchos I intended to sew two years ago.

The design I had in mind was inspired by Le Sac, which is actually the very same design used for pillowcase dresses, which I've made before for the girls. It didn't require a pattern. And with the non-raveling jersey knit fabric I had, it didn't require hems.

Four seams in all. That's it.
  • 2 side seams, leaving adequate length unsewn at the top of each side, for the arm holes (I left 9").
  • 2 seams, one across each top panel to form a casing for the ribbon, string, elastic, whatever.
To start, I cut the fabric to maxi-dress length, just to see how it looked. I didn't like it long, so I took off 6" from the bottom so it hit right below the knee. (I didn't throw that extra fabric away. I planned to use it as a belt later.)

Threaded a couple lengths of cord through the top casings, and Voila! Instant gathered neckline!

I experimented tying the belt just under the bust to form an empire waistline, and I tried it at the natural waist. For my body type, the natural waist looked best, so that's where I'll wear it.

I think I'm going to make more of these dresses. It was just too easy, and it's more comfortable than anything I tried on in the store today.

I really needed to feel good about something after the shopping fiasco. This wouldn't be the first time failure at the mall has sent me home to my sewing machine. It won't be the last.

Friday 5 for June 12: Eat and Drink

I did not realize I was such a picky person. Thank you, Friday5, for the new addition to my growing collection of neuroses.

1. What’s something you will not eat unless you also have ketchup? Sonic tater tots.

2. What’s something you will not drink unless it is served on ice cubes? A salty dog. -- Actually, any mixed drink. Warm / "cool" = icky, rumbling feeling in my gut that says, "Better stay close to a bathroom."

3. What’s something you will not eat unless it is served between slices of bread? Baloney. (I know, I know..."bologna.") And pimento cheese.

4. What’s something you will not drink unless you have a straw? Ice water with lemon juice.

5. What’s something else you will not eat except under very specific circumstances? Saimin. Must be hot. Must be fresh. Must have the proper ratio of veggies to noodles, and noodles to broth. Must have shoyu. As such, I don't eat saimin often. Can't get good saimin in Louisiana.

(To participate, visit Friday5.org.)

The Mason

It was not an easy night. 4 A.M. had me in tears on the phone because I imagined life without Miner.

What was worse? My imagination? or the self-awareness, the feel of the grimy black bottom of the barrel?

It comes in unexpected waves and threatens to take your feet right out from under you. This is why they say in Hawai'i, Don't ever turn your back to the sea.


And inspiration is wall of miniature bricks. They look so nice, one atop the other. They feel solid, settled, and secure. They belong in this just-so pattern, higher and higher in perfect form.

And then I feel the weight of them bearing down on the bones. Still so much more to build.


I need to write the way I need to cry, and at-times-scream. But putting the words together one after another is like mortaring brick upon brick, with raw, bleeding fingertips.

June 11, 2009

The Nature of the Beast

Today's doctor's appointment was much like being told,
"All right, 'Ailina. You're going into labor now. The contractions are going to come, and they're going to be unbearable, but I'm afraid we don't have anything to offer you to make the experience any less agonizing.

Oh, and you'll be in labor until December, so...maybe some reading and research will point you to some ways to manage the pain for now."
Really, I'm not afraid of the pain. I'm afraid of going through all this time not knowing the nature of the beast. If I were fighting a lion, and I knew I were fighting a lion, I could fight with confidence.

I don't know what the hell I'm fighting, but it feels like I'm fighting me.

June 8, 2009

Holey Bread (Updated)


Dear Nature's Own:

For the past two months or more, I've noticed Nature's Own 100% Whole Wheat bread has consistent flaws of large holes in the slices. This often makes sandwich preparation and butter spreading difficult.

Our latest loaf contained slices with almost 1/4 of the slice missing.

We have five children in our family, and we opt to pay more for Nature's Own bread because of the nutritional value and quality taste and texture. However, the holes in the bread slices lead us to consume more, and thus spend more than budgeted to purchase your bread. I'm afraid on account of a cost-versus-quality issue, we may have to discontinue buying Nature's Own if the slices are not whole.

Thank you for your time...
L. 'Ailina Laranang
Lafayette, LA


June 9, 2009
Control ID: *****

Dear Ailina:

Thank you for writing to us about the problem you have been experiencing recently with our Nature's Own 100% Whole Wheat bread. Quality is one of our top priorities and we have high quality standards, so when a product does not meet a consumer's expectations, we appreciate knowing about it.

I am forwarding your comments to the Flowers bakery that serves your market and someone will be in touch with you soon.

Thanks again for bringing this to our attention and for purchasing our products. We appreciate you!


L***** M******
Flowers Consumer Relations Associate

June 6, 2009

Expanding Options

...as moving to the country is all about expanding: horizons, options, opportunities, lungs.

No longer looking only in Lafayette and the surrounding areas, but now considering Pennsylvania. Yeah, I typed it out-loud.

I'll type it again: Pennsylvania.

Believe it or not, we can get 50% more house for the $$, and 10x more land! And good grief, I swear those houses look like they were peeled off of a movie screen. Rolling hills, sweet green grasses, tumbling thunderheads over the lip of the horizon.... "Apple trees for pies, cider, and cobblers. And peach trees, too."

That's five states away from family, from Miner's job, but who in the family wouldn't want to fly up to a place with four bona fide seasons and white Christmases every year???

And Amish country! Practically in our own back yard!

Pipe dreams, perhaps. But talk about a piece of Americana. Yeah, I figure Pennsylvania isn't all it's cracked up to be, but neither is the burning Southern coast. Pros and cons to everything.

But to my mind, if you're gonna write a book, either do it in the Louisiana heat or in the Pennsylvanian hills.

June 4, 2009

Godspeed, e Ku'u Hoa Aloha...

Kumu 'Anela...

God has a timing and purpose for all things, for those He loves, and when He calls them home. I know this; I have always known this, but that doesn't make it any easier when that time comes.

I sit here three years after our meeting, and you are gone.

You've kept such a deep part of me -- Ka 'Ōlelo Hawai'i -- the language of my heart. You were so kind and generous, dedicating your time and effort to students like me. You could've spent your time with students there in the islands with you. You didn't have to struggle through learning new software, bridging the wide gaps in culture, in time zones.... But you did, and it was a labor of love for you. How could I ever thank you enough for that?

You gave me the confidence to keep learning, to keep digging into ka 'ōlelo Hawai'i, even when I felt like I'd never, ever get it. And when I had the chance to meet you in Hilo, you didn't write me off like a stranger. You treated me like a friend. You took the time to travel where I was, to meet face to face.

I couldn't express then, and I can't express now what an honor it was to meet you. I felt accepted, encouraged, valuable. I felt that my learning mattered to someone, that I wasn't alone in my passion.

E ke kumu, now, it's possible for you to know how much love I put into your lei. It may have seemed like a silly thing to anyone else, but you know the importance of it. I have always cherished the lei you made for me, and I've understood the gift you gave along with it.

I regret I never had the chance to spend more time with you. But I have the lei. I have this photo. I have the memories of our lessons; our conversations; your warm, genuine smile. I recall exactly how it felt to be on that stage knowing you were there watching me and supporting me. How can I thank you for sharing in such an important moment in my life?

I have nothing to offer except my prayers for you and your 'ohana. Their pain is my pain, e ke kumu.

I do know we'll meet again. When, God only knows. But I'm looking forward to being able to thank you in person again.

Till then...Mahalo nui loa, e ku'u hoa aloha. Me ke aloha pau'ole...

Nā 'Ailina

Landing This Thing

Energy spark is sputtering out. A few deep fluctuations between charged restlessness and blank brain. (Strange recollections of an old Atari game..."Vanguard"? Had to land the craft with little boosts of power, and if you weren't careful, you'd crash it?)

Wasted three hours on TLC reality shows (which I sorely despise), but finally pulled it out after it was too late to make more coffee. Went to take a garage break, and started typing out ideas. Turned into parenting article first-draft.

I was productive.

June 3, 2009


...has broken my heart again.

Why am I such a flake? How can I be so passionate about something one day, and terrified of it another? Where in the process do I break down?

I blame it on my "vision" and my self-expectations. Like seeing a huge, glorious mountain summit, imagining myself at the top, bathed in light, shouting victory across the broad-faced earth...and after a week of frenzied planning, organizing, and sprint climbing, I collapse somewhere in the lower-half, wishing the ground would swallow me up, and almost admitting I've grown to hate mountains.

Interpretation, please.

June 2, 2009

I Swear: Revisiting "Profanity in Fiction"

Writing exercise opened an idea box, and I ran with it. Short-short about 550 words. Not "Christian Fiction," but certainly written in the context of faith. A CF market would never buy it, because of the language.

So, I revisit the question of profanity in fiction. Found some great articles addressing this same issue:
Some of these authors feel profanity has no place in Christian Fiction; there are other ways to express expletives. Some authors refuse to compromise authenticity for publication, even if it means foregoing a "Christian Fiction" categorization.

For me, my "spiritual/inspirational" writings are "spiritual/inspirational" because that's how the story came out; not because I set out to write it that way.

I have not written a categorically "Christian" story, and I suspect I never will aim to write a categorically "Christian" story. Call me a purist, but when there are stories I must write, I write them, and I don't write them for a particular market. (Yes, this may doom these particular stories to self-publication, but at times, my goal is less to have a wide readership than it is to express myself. Even if my kids will be the only audience for these works (a la posthumous), then so be it.) I don't look at these stories and think, "Where will this fit in?" I look at them and ask, "Does this say what I need to say?"

When God puts a story on my heart, He doesn't say, "Okay. This one's going to be Christian Fiction." He puts a character in my head, connects me with his/her pain, shows me The Way, and burdens me with the responsibility to express in words his/her experience, and all the nasty things that entails. So it is with the new short-short.

Not all my stories are God-inspired. (This is a personal issue and irrelevant to the immediate topic.) But for the ones that do contain a spiritual/inspirational theme...I write them as I feel they should be written; some contain profanity, others don't.

So who IS my audience for these stories? Perhaps that's the big question. Perhaps Christians who came to the Lord from a very, very rough, socially unacceptable place. Perhaps readers who are in a very rough, socially unacceptable place. Maybe readers who are neither, but rather, spectators --

-- like the person who pays to watch a movie she really knows nothing about. She sits down to a black screen with little more than a title. She has no idea where the movie's going, what the characters are all about, who's the good guy, who's the bad guy, who will "win." She holds to her seat to watch a pseudo-life unfold and is patient to see where it leads. She draws her conclusion long after the lights come up.

That's my ideal audience. Meeting the reader where she's at. She trusts me enough to allow me to take her on a journey, and I trust her to take it all in without telling me ahead of time how we should get there or where we should end up.

Perhaps this is an ideal audience for most writers, Christian or not.

Honestly, I would never scorn the Christian market. We need the Christian market. I need the Christian market, as a consumer.

But the Christian market isn't my place. If given one choice, I wouldn't choose to go before a congregation to give testimony, and I wouldn't choose to go into a bar to give testimony. I'd walk around in all the usual places I go and tell my testimony to whoever would like to hear it.

June 1, 2009

Land & a Modular Home?

Move to the country is a year out, give or take a few months. Plenty of time to find a place that will meet all three criteria: Lafayette access, desirable home, private acreage.

Went to look at a house in New Iberia today. Another gorgeous home, to look at the photos. All the bells & whistles -- crown molding, tray ceiling, granite countertops, beautiful yard...but all less than 100 feet from a busy industrial road. Doesn't quite meet the "private" criteria.

So far, nothing has met all three criteria. But land sure is abundant. Plenty of forested lots, many with some water source...and no house.

We may not find the complete package, so the "modular home" option has come up in conversation. I have to confess, I have a hard time seeing a double-wide in our future, but honestly, some of the manufactured homes out there are unbelievable for the price. Definitely not what I envisioned when I thought of "manufactured."

We couldn't find such a great open floor plan in an onsite construction. Really, a layout like this is just what this family needs, since we spend so much time together learning, playing, doing.... And the difference in price....

Of course, there are cons to consider: appreciation issues, lender issues, zoning issues, etc. I'm confident we could overcome them if we found just what we wanted.

Found a log cabin a little further Northwest than I'd like, but it sits on about six acres, gorgeous wood accents throughout, fishing deck on a placid little lake. Every room says "Writer."

I can't help but wax dramatic about it all. "Is this the room I will stand in and declare, 'This is where I shall write my novel'?"

There's more than our domestic future in the cards here. Everything must align perfectly for the sake of inspiration. The older I get, the more I think I have only one crack at the book. (I know this isn't true, but that's the fatalist talking.)

I know in the end, God's going to throw exactly what we're supposed to have in our path, so I'm not at all worried. Anticipating, antsy, anxious...yes. Ready to get on with it. But it's His timing, and I have patience when it comes to that (most of the time).

We'll keep looking, keep throwing ideas back and forth. And in the meantime, I'll keep writing, hoping I can gain momentum that will stick through to The End.