Carpe Diem Y’all by Michele Bernard

Writer, Texan, Semi-interested Sports Fan

Editors, Agents and Writers Oh My

writing.jpgSubstitute “damn” every time you’re inclined to write “very;” your editor will delete it and the writing will be just as it should be.  ~Mark Twain

Off to the Writer’s League of Texas Agent’s and Editor’s Conference in Austin.  It should be a damn good time. 

Carpe Diem Y’all, Michele


June 15, 2007 Posted by | Best Lines, Freelance Writing, Michele's Musings, Writerly Stuff, Writing | 7 Comments

Nuts About Baseball

A baseball game is simply a nervous breakdown divided into nine innings.  ~Earl Wilson

Subject:  Angry People.   

Thought I was going to say Baseball didn’t you?   

By now you’ve figured out that I love baseball.  In fact, I’m nuts about it.  Win or lose, baseball can usually put a smile on my face.  But at a recent baseball tournament, I felt nervous and anxious, as if I were surrounded by Angry People.  Oh wait.  I was surrounded by angry people:    parents, coaches, players, umpires.  It was ugly.  You know something has gone terribly awry when you have to maneuver your vehicle around police cars to exit the sports complex parking lot.  At the end of the day, an umpire lost his job, and a bunch of fourteen year olds and their parents have one more unfortunate incident to add to the Whacked-Out-Things-That-Happened-While-Playing-Baseball Memory Bag. 

Which leads me to the question I ponder every year while sitting in the cheap seats:  what is it about baseball (or any kid sport for that matter) that cause the people (adults) involved to lose their freaking minds?  As a parent with three athletically inclined sons, I could write a book about this phenom, having personally witnessed angry outbursts ranging from the comedic to the down-right-scary.  As a former mental health professional who worked with youth for several years, I can also attest to the fact that the number two reason parents and kids sought my counsel was sports related.  (Number One:  “My family is moving again.) Interestingly enough, in my new career as a freelance writer, the only angry comment I’ve received thus far was from someone spewing about MLB baseball in reference to a blog entry I wrote about six-year-old’s playing baseball.  

After twenty years of pondering, I still have no clue, but I have developed a few theories: 

  • The Chaos Theory:  We must create order out of chaos.  Well ordered baseball is beautiful.  It has symmetry, not unlike a well choreographed dance, with individuals contributing unique offerings to create a balanced well functioning whole.  Baseball at every skill level is always just one over-throw or one close call away from chaos.  And when you’re dealing with children playing the game, the odds of a missed play are exponentially greater.  And when you’re dealing with coaches and umpires who are not much older than the players(or worse yet, are related to the players), the tipping point becomes that much closer.  Much like a butterfly flapping its wings in Hong Kong, one dropped ball can plunge a game into chaos, creating a perfect storm on the field, in the dug-out, behind the plate and in the stands.
  •  The I Coulda Been a Contenda Theory:  Think Tim McGraw in the football movie Friday Night Lights.  He plays a former high school football star named Charles.  His son, while a good player isn’t a great player and this is something Daddy Chucky struggles with.  Daddy Chucky’s dream of watching his son follow in his footsteps quickly turns into a nightmare for all involved.  In one scene, he even duct tapes a football to his kid’s hands to ‘teach’ him what it feels like to not fumble a football. 
  • The Mama Bear Theory:   A Mama Bear’s main job is to ensure the survival of her cub.  Any perceived threat to said cub will surely result in a swipe of a French-tipped bear claw and a flash of razor sharp teeth.  Most teams carry a minimum of twelve players on the roster.  That’s twelve Mama Bears per team, twenty-four per game.  Given divorce statistics in this neck of the woods, factor in another twelve to account for Daddy’s new wife, bringing that number to thirty-six.  Throw in another twelve to account for six grandmothers per team bringing the average number of Mama Bears roaming the stands to forty-eight** (**this number higher during District Play, League Championships, and All-Star Series).  My own mother tells the story of one of my brother’s games interrupted due to two Mama’s falling out of the stands and rolling around on the ground in a heated wrestling match.  And their kids were on the same team.  All the other Mamas were later subpoenaed to testify at the trial.
  •   The Not On My Watch Theory:  This Rules Maven may or may not have an affiliation with the team.  This person knows baseball.  This person knows baseball so well, they can barely enjoy watching baseball for pointing out all the mistakes and broken rules on the field, in the dugout, and behind the plate.
  •   The Thrill of Victory and The Agony of Defeat Theory:  Many people allow what’s happening outside to dictate what’s happening inside, hence, the thrill of victory equals a state of well-being and inner-peace, while the agony of defeat equals losing their freaking minds.

Mix all the above with a healthy dose of sweltering summer heat to produce:  Angry People. 

This is one more reason I’m glad baseball tournaments only last a few days. 

Carpe Diem Y’all, Michele

Copyright © 2007 Michele Bernard      

June 12, 2007 Posted by | baseball, Best Lines, Blogroll, Family, Michele's Musings, Motherhood, Notes from the Cheap Seats, Parenting, Sports Stuff, Summer | 3 Comments

Doing Summer Week One

  A suburban mother’s role is to deliver children obstetrically once, and by car forever after.  ~Peter De Vries 

Too bad one can’t rack up frequent flier miles while ferrying children from Point A to Point B.  I’d have circled the globe by now, and be well on my way for another go around soon. 

This week, the extra miles were worth it, as we were able to do the things we needed to do, with plenty of time to do the things we wanted to do.  And it was fun.  Even the Summer Reading Challenge proved to be a good time, not only for me, but for my son and his buddy as well.   The boys have decided to create an original graphic novel based on whatever inspirations they receive after reading A Raisin in the Sun.  I can’t wait to see what they come up with.

We saw our first summer action flick, Pirates of the Caribbean:  At World’s End.  Loved it.  Have I mentioned I have a huge crush on Johnny Depp?  We also took in a minor league baseball game.  Mucho fun, what with all the between inning high-jinx:  crazy mascots, break-dancing umpires, fans racing the baselines wearing swim fins, life jackets and snorkel masks.  Oh, and our team won too.  

Not a bad way to kick off summer. 

But today, I hang up my car keys and declare myself off-duty.  For, much like the airline pilot required to take time off between flights, this taxi-driver needs a day to curl up with a good book and rest.

Carpe Diem Y’all, Michele    


June 8, 2007 Posted by | baseball, Best Lines, Blogroll, Carpe Diem Quotes, Family, Michele's Musings, Motherhood, Movies, Parenting, Summer | Leave a comment

It’s a Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood

walking01.jpg  Every individual has a place to fill in the world and is important in some respect whether he chooses to be so or not.  ~Nathaniel Hawthorne

Have I mentioned that I love my neighborhood?  It’s a great neighborhood, situated in the heart of a historical district within walking distance of a revitalized hip and happening town square.  Our house, referred to by some old-timers as “The New House” (because it was built in 1950), is literally surrounded by some of the most amazing, lovingly restored Victorian homes in this part of Texas.  (We refer to our house as the place where people stand to take pictures of our neighbor’s houses).  When stepping out to retrieve the morning paper, I’m as likely to be greeted by folks enjoying the neighborhood walking tour, as I am an artist or a photographer standing in the corner of my yard, cameras poised on the ornate spirals of the majestic homes across the street.  I count this phenom as one of the many perks of living in the non-descript house as I’ve been privledged to meet some really cool artists and photographers over the years.

I enjoy looking at my neighbors’ houses as much as the tourists and artists do, but the thing that I really love about my neighborhood are the neighbors.  Here are some of my favorites:

  • The cowboy-hat-wearing-redhead who belts out arias while walking her big red dog.  I can hear her coming from two blocks away, and like a child tuned into the melody of an approaching ice-cream truck, I run to the window to listen and enjoy.
  • The happy woman who rides the big blue adult tricycle with the safety orange flag attached to the back and a big dalmation attached by leash to each handle bar.  I’m never sure:  is she walking the dogs or are they walking her?  But I am sure she’s enjoying herself based on the big grin she flashes as she passes by. 
  • The bow-tie wearing, scooter-riding businessman who buzzes past my house every morning and evening during the work week.

I love that the individuals are as colorful as the homes around me, making my neighborhood a truly fun place to be. 

Carpe Diem Y’all, Michele

June 4, 2007 Posted by | Best Lines, Blogroll, Carpe Diem Quotes, Family, Michele's Musings | 4 Comments

Summer Reading Challenge and an Appeal

raisin.gif What happens to a dream deferred?

Does it dry up

Like a raisin in the sun?

Or fester like a sore-

And then run?

Does it stink like rotten meat

Or crust and sugar over-

Like a syrupy sweet?

Maybe it just sags

Like a heavy load.

Or does it explode?


My fourteen year old isn’t nearly as excited about his summer reading assignment as I am.   Each summer, I like to sink my teeth into a classic, whereas his reading preference leans toward baseball stats or whatever is written on the back of his favorite cereal box.  This summer however, he is to read playwright Lorraine Hansberry’s classic play, A Raisin in the Sunand be prepared to write an essay about it the first week of school.   

“Read? But it’s summer!” he complains.

“Welcome to high school,”  I reply.

“Do they have it in graphic novel form?” he asks.

“Graphic novel?,” I ask.

“Comic book form,” he says, “I could read it in a day if it were in graphic novel form.  I read The Red Badge of Courage graphic novel in less than two days.  I don’t understand why every book can’t be in graphic novel form.”

I feel his pain when I realize what he’s getting at.  As one with dyslexia, he’s learned that when reading material includes pictures, it’s much easier to get into the story with the much needed context clues provided by the illustrations.

“Well, perhaps you can put it on your life’s to do list to translate the classics into graphic novel form so future generations can enjoy too,” I reply.

“Yeah maybe,” he replies with a heavy sigh, clearly defeated.

I realize in that moment what my summer reading challenge will be and I don’t mind saying, it’s a little daunting, trying to figure out how to bring this work alive for this kid.  When I think about the main themes of this work:  the American dream, the African American experience, Feminism, then I look back at my fourteen year old son reading baseball stats, I shake my head, feeling just as defeated as he does.  Yet, at the same time, I find myself looking forward to the experience.  

I still haven’t figured out the how of it all, but this is what I have so far:

1.  As Tuesday and Thursday mornings are already days where he will be doing school/athletic realated activity, I think the afternoons will be designated to either read from this work, or do something experiential in relation to the work or one of the main themes. 

2.  We’ve invited his best friend to join us, thinking that maybe this will increase the cool factor, or at least give my son someone to be bored with and exchange dirty looks with.  

And that’s as far as I’ve thought it out.  I am totally open to suggestion.  Any thoughts? 

Carpe Diem Y’all, Michele

June 3, 2007 Posted by | Best Lines, Blogroll, Books, Carpe Diem Quotes, Family, Michele's Musings, Motherhood, Parenting, Writerly Stuff, Writing | 7 Comments