Friday, February 27, 2009

You Might be an Writer If...

I have often heard it said that the mark of a true artist is his/her level of suffering. I scoffed. Artists...suffering for their work?...Come on. They paint. Or write. Or draw. Act. But suffer? Isn't that being a little melodramatic?

Oh, ye of little faith.

You might be a writer if...the act of writing causes you pain. Physical or mental. Probably both.

This is a rather recent revelation of mine. It's all come about due to my present work-in-progress, Pelorus Jack. It's a longer piece, just over 400 manuscript pages. It makes my dissertation - at 250 pages - feel like a novella.

I suppose working on a larger project is likely to bring out the worst characteristics in any human being regardless of job description. But pain?

Oh, yes, pain.

I'd like to blame it on the imminent approach of 40, only two weeks away, but I don't think it's an age thing. I think it's an art thing.

I'd noticed lately that I'd begun referring to my days spent revising as a marathon. That's what it feels like. Granted, I don't leave my desk but for the occasional bathroom break or to ferret around for some sort of food to sustain me, but I feel as weathered by the end of the day as if I'd run a good 26 miles. I wouldn't call this pain. It's more discomfort, mental exhaustion.

Pain, however, came last week. Real, physical pain. When I played violin - which I did semi-professionally for a number of years - I managed to give my tendinitis in my upper right shoulder. It's all that bowing. Well, I hadn't experienced that pain since I stopped teaching and playing about 9 years ago. Yet, last week, it was back. Cause? Sitting at my desk for umpteen hours, straight back, arms outstretched, typing like my life depends on it. This has got to be some sort of new record. I've actually managed to injure myself without leaving the comforts of my desk.

I'm not alone, though. And I derive comfort from that. Renoir, who painted well into his 80s or 90s, developed arthritis so badly, he could barely hold a brush anymore. Okay, I'm not Renoir, not even close, but does the fact that I've managed to injure myself via my art mean I'm getting close??

As for the mental anguish writing causes, my last piece, Dragon Wishes pushed that pain to its critical point. The story is emotionally about losing someone beloved, working through the pain, and learning how to open up and love again and be loved. When my character hits rock bottom and has to either open herself up or fall into the blackness of despair, I was right there with her falling through that raw pain. I began to have a sort of emotional Pavlovian response when I got even close to editing or revising that section of the piece. I got depressed. Moody. My kids took off for the neighbors. My husband bought chocolate. It wasn't pretty. It broke my heart and mended it a million times over, but it was what had to be done. I suffered.

In all honesty, it's no wonder so many artists - writers, painters, actors - "experiment" with medication. I'm not headed down that road - unless you count copius amoutns of chocolate - but my mind and body have definitely suffered for my art.

Does that make me good....yet???

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Perfect Ten

My oldest daughter got to meet one of the girls I idolized growing up, Nadia Comaneci. She was the first gymnast ever to be awarded a perfect 10 at the Olympics. She even has a gymnastics move named after her, the Comaneci salto (on the uneven bars). And all this by the time she was fourteen. By the time I was fourteen my greatest claim to fame was selling 414 boxes of girl scout cookies. Sigh.

However I was a great backyard gymnast. My friends and I would get togther in our backyards and practice handstands, cartwheels, splits, and back flips. Who could hold a hand stand the longest? Who dared to try a flip? The grass was soft, but not that soft. Who was flexible enough to pull off the splits?

In looking back, I think our backyard gym came about in no small part to Comaneci. I was eight at the time of her historical 1976 Montreal Olympics. The buzz her record 6 perfect tens caused around the world even made it into my, non-gymnastics one. I wanted to be like her. I'm not sure that it was the gymnastics so much. It was more her proud smile, sure walk, and never give up attitude. She was the liberated girl for me. The girl I wanted to become. The girl who was living behind the iron curtain and still succeeded. That's willpower.

As a writer, I try to create female characters that are strong, independent and able to take on the world. I think somewhere in there is the Nadia Comaneci of my childhood days. The girl who defied all to be the best she could be. She had so many battles to fight - poor country, Communiusm, living under one of the most brutal dictators in modern European history - and stilll persevered to excel at her craft. I have a lot of respect for her.

So it was pretty cool to actually meet her briefly on Sunday at the Nadia Comaneci Invitational in Oklahoma City. She handed out all of the awards, which is a lot, a ton really. Awards are given out to each age group per level. My daughter is in level 4 and it takes a solid half hour to hand out awards. Nadia did it. And she stuck around for a signing.

Signing? Panic set in. We hadn't brought anything to sign. My daughter desperately wanted Nadia's signature. I saw her touch her forehead, as if that might just have to do. I had searing visions of all the arguments over bathing that would follow. There had to be something else. There was that copy of Dragon Wishes I always carry around. I pulled it out, and I swear, I saw the beam of light break out of the heavens and shine down on it. We were saved.

The book is now sacred at our house. My daughter hasn't put it up on a pedestal quite yet, but I've seen her eyeing a shelf in her room. She did ask me to sign it - thank God. I haven't been completely usurped as childhood hero. Not quite.

But I couldn't think of a better role model if I am.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Shout Out to the Pollinator

Spring is in the air, or rather, it was on my front porch. It wasn't looking good either. We'd had a few mild days of 60 degree weather, and it brought out not only the song birds, but also, of course, the bees. Only the one on my front porch wasn't buzzing about. It was laying on its back, legs skyward.

Perhaps it's all the time I spend anthropomorphizing everything from the lowly squid to the mighty whale, but I couldn't leave the little guy just laying there. I brought him into the house in a little tupperware container, hoping warmer temperatures might thaw him out.

It turned into quite an adventure. The bumble did thaw, and started buzzing. I was trying to write. He was trying to get away. I put a lid on the container, very lightly. Then I checked the temps. Still in the 20s. Not good for bumbles. But what was I to do with him?

I did the only thing I could think of. Cut a few early pansies, hoping there was some nectar in there, put them in the container, and then went on-line, researching bumblebess in Oklahoma.

Turns out, my little man was likely the queen bee. They are pretty much the only bumblebees that survive long enough, hibernating over winter, to lay eggs and begin a new colony before they die.

That ratcheted things up a notch.

Like a brooding mother hen, I checked the temps all day long, until we finally hit the 50s. Then, I took the - probably very pregnant with eggs - bumblebee outside in her little tupperware castle. I put it in a flower pot, sunken a little below the dirt, in a wind-free corner of the front porch, directly in the sun.

She didn't move. Still, I was hoping the sun would help. I went out to check on her regularly. When it hit 60, I went out again. She was gone. And I hope all went well. I haven't seen any bumbles since.

My visitor got me to thinking about the lowly bee. I did some more research online and what I found is pretty unnerving. Bees are dying by the millions. There are two forces at work, a little mite that's wiping out hives and Colony Collapse Disorder. The mite arrived in the late 80s via China, and is difficult to impossible to keep under control. If that's not bad enough, there's the Colony Collapse Disorder. It's not a disease, at least not as far as anyone has been able to tell. Basically what happens is that the adult bees leave the hive and never return. It's dessimated bee populations across the U.S., sometimes up to 90%. But in all that, we are at work too. Bees are trucked across the U.S. every year for pollinating almond crops, and crops in general. As the market demands have grown, so have the bees' pollinating jobs. It's not good on them. They are moved from crop to crop to crop, along with other bees, are exposed to all kinds of illnesses and, ultimately, overworked. Seinfeld really hit the nail on the head in "Bee Movie" when he said they need a vacation, but that might not be all.

Here's a shout out to the lonely bee. He's the hardest worker there is. Maybe, in need of a long break from us.

On a lighter note, Gabe's Meanderings did an amazing interview with me about Dragon Wishes. Pop by and take a gander. She made me sound so together, and high-functioning. I may have to beg her to become my publicist!!

Friday, February 20, 2009

You Might Be a Writer If...

It's been a long week . So long, I said to my husband yesterday, "Oh, President's Day. Wasn't that two weeks ago?"

Not quite. It was Monday.

Which really brought home another of those odd habits we writers tend to pick up when we're in the thick of a story - forgetfulness.

You might be a writer forget everything.

I should qualify that. By everything, I mean everything about the real world. Things such as President's Day and when exactly that was. Whether you've eaten. If you've done the laundry. Pretty benign examples, you say? Ah, but I'm only just beginning.

I suffer so badly from this type of forgetfulness, I've given it my own label - Author Amnesia. I've studied its habits too.

Author Amnesia is worst when I'm revising. I think it's the whole living in two worlds at once thing that throws my brain. Living in one world is hard enough, but to create a second one and then populate it with self-made characters, well, unless my brain decides to finally open up that extra 90% we supposedly don't use, I'm doomed.

Here is a typical day in the life of me with Author Amnesia. I'm pretty good at getting up, and knowing where I am - although that doesn't always happen - but let's say today is a good day and I do. It's all goes downhill from there. I go out for a run, with my dog. That's when the alternative universe of my book starts to invade. Mulligan and I run along, thoughts about the story come into my head, story problems rear their ugly heads, characters begin filling my thoughts with all kinds of ideas as to how to solve those problems. For as quiet as it is at 6 in the morning, I feel like I'm running with that pack of Verizon people from teh ads all talking at once.

Result: I forget how many laps I've run.

My dog and I have come up with a way to deal with this. I switch which side of the road we are on and which hand I'm holding the leash in. It usually lets me know how many laps I've run. Problem averted.

The whole showering and getting the kids off to carpool for school usually goes well. It's enough stimulus to keep my imaginary friends at bay, until I walk into the office. Yeesh. That's when it really starts. My office desk is cluttered with lists. It's like all those strings people used to tie on their fingers. Those are my lists. They have words. They tell me to do things. Those things, though, usually require me to turn on the computer. And then, oi vey, Katie bar the door. Once that computer screen springs to life, all bets are off. Alternative universe is bursting with life.

I've finally gone to setting the alarm on my phone to remind me it's 2:50. Why is that important? Forget eating, bathroom breaks, any of that other mundane stuff. At 2:50, I've got to pick the kids up from school. And I'm carpool leader afternoons. I must get out of the house at all costs.

This usually means dropping my story-thought mid-sentence and racing out the door. The drive is about 20 minutes. You'd think it would be, easy, right? Drive to school. However, this is where the real trouble starts. My alternative universe usually hurries after me, out the door, into the car, and then makes itself at home in the empty, I-ferry-5-kids-home-every-day-after-school car. I'm helpless, devoid of computer or even trusty pen to fend them off.

The story balloons up. I'm off, chasing sheep, diving underwater, working on a tricky passage of text, all in my head. It's...distracting. Now, mind you, I keep my eyes on the road, I obey all traffic regulations. I'm not that far gone. However, I have, many a time, looked out at the road in front of me and realized suddenly, I'm at school. Huh.

And all those errands I was supposed to take care of the way - videos that needed to be taken back? Mail to the post office? All still sitting on the passenger seat of the car. I'd like to say that once the kids are on board, my mind in on the busy day they've had. It is, but my imaginary characters are a jealous lot. The vie for time. I feel like the child in the movie, "The Last Mimzy", who has her heard stuck in a bubble looking in on another world and watching what's going on. She tries to pull her head back out, but it's so hard. I get a lot of: Mom?....Mom?....Mom? Did you hear what I said?

Gees, will my kids ever know when I really am suffering from forgetfulness, or will they have me committed as soon as they are legal? Worse still, will they take my computer away????

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Being the Parent Isn't Always Fun

It was a rough Monday at our house this week. We are dealing with the issue of "lying." Man, do I hate this one. It really makes my heart ache having to be the parent.

My father told me the same thing years ago when I went through my short stint as a hardened criminal. I never understood. Unfortunately, the only experiences that count are our own. At that time, mine were utter embarrassment and a lot of pain in my buns.

I was four, in preschool, and I went on a stealing - and lying - spree. I stole money from the cash register in the play area at school, and then, having seemingly got off scott-free, went professional and stole balloons from the local grocery store when my mom took me shopping there later that same day.

Yes, I had definitely gone over to the dark side. I even lied about the balloons, saying I'd gotten them from someone.

I thought I was clear and free. I hid the balloons in my little kitchen at home, and the quarters and pennies in my shoe.

It didn't last long. My parents managed to put two and two together the very night of my heists. I got the spanking of a lifetime, but that wasn't the worst part. I had to return the things I'd stolen and apologize for what I'd done. That was painfully embarrassing. Fortunately, both my teacher and the manager at the grocery store were firm but friendly. Still, I cried A LOT.

And then tried to forget about it for the rest of my life, although the lesson stuck. I didn't ever want to have to own up to something that mortifying ever again.

What I wasn't counting on was my youngest daughter taking after her mother. On Monday, most desperate after a sticker at gymnastics, she lied to her babysitter that she'd done the required exercises for said sticker. The babysitter signed off on the form my daughter turns in each week for this fitness regimen they are doing. Then, she lied to her teacher saying she'd done them. She got the sticker. And she must have been feeling pretty secure in the lie because then she tried it on me, the person who had been with her and would have known whether she'd done the exercises.

Needless to say, it didn't work.

I found myself in much the same situation as my parents some 35 years ago. And man, was it hard. My heart hurt to got hrough with the steps that needed doing. First, she admit to her lying to both her teacher and her babysitter and apologize to each of them. My heart ached like I was four all over again and it was my fault. I mean, I'm the parent. I'm responsible for this little being. I felt raw mortification all over again as I stood next to her. Second, as punishment, she got three swats on her buns and is no longer a part of the fitness program as far as rewards go. She still has to do it, but she gets no more stickers. Ugh, I feel like an evil mother as I write this, and my heart hurts, but I keep thinking, today stickers, tomorrow, at fifteen, what will it be?

I haven't enjoyed being the grown-up this week, and honestly, when my parents said, "This hurts me more than it does you," I never understood. Until now. Is it okay to say that growing up sucks sometimes??

Monday, February 16, 2009

Shout Out to Presidential Contenders

It's President's Day, and now that I am nearly 40, I started wondering why exactly we have a President's Day. What's it good for?

I got to thinking about our democracy, about the field that entranced me for fifteen years of my life while I studied courts, governments, and the will of the people. I taught poli sci for a number of years as well at the university level, and still, in all that time, I never really thought much about President's Day, other than as a it being great day off.

But this morning, the day got me to thinking. We honor our President's, past and present on this day, for a job well done. Sure, they all have their downsides, but one thing is for sure, they are there in the service of their nation. That's no small feat. And one huge sacrifice of personal life and freedom.

The day also got me to thinking about all of the people who ran for president, but lost. Without them, we'd have no democracy. They are, in many ways, as important as the candidates who won.

So my shout out today is to the presidential contenders who lost, and I found one in specific that I thought I'd highlight, Samuel J. Tilden.

Tilden ran for president in 1876, which turned out to be the most contested presidential election of that century. He ran against Republican, Rutherford B. Hayes, who won...sort of. Three states in the south were contested - Florida, South Carolina, and Louisiana. The south was pretty tired of Republican reconstruction following the Civil War. In each of these three states, one set of Electorial votes was cast for the Republican candidate, and one for the Democratic candidate. No one knew how exactly to count the votes.

The result? Stalemate. Without the states, neither of the candidates had a majority of the Electoral votes needed to become president.

The issue went to Congress, where an Electoral Commission was set up to decide who would be the next president. It was originally evenly divided along party lines with one sole independent, one of the Supreme Court justices. However that member, David Davis, resigned, and a Republican was chosen to replace him. The members all voted along party lines and Hayes was chosen as the next president.

Tilden bowed out gracefully saying (I love this part): "I can retire to public life with the consciousness that I shall receive from posterity the credit of having been elected to the highest position in the gift of the people, without any of the cares and responsibilities of the office."

He retired thereafter to his home state of New York, where he died as a bachelor. His service to his country and fellow Americans didn't end there. He left more than 50% of his amassed fortune ($7,000,000) - about $4,000,000 - to the city of New York to found a library (see why I love this guy??).

Despite a crushing loss of the highest office in our nation, Tilden carried no grudge. To show his deep faith in the American system, he had the following carved into his tombstone: "I Still Trust in The People."

So here's a heartfelt shout out and thanks to all of the presidential contenders who put themselves out there for their country and went on to leave lasting, perhaps not as showy, but very lasting, mark on our shared history.

Friday, February 13, 2009

You Might Be a Writer If...

A week of skiing has given me a whole new perspective on the idiosyncracies of writers, at least this one. It's amazing where stories show up, and, honestly, what a writer will do for a story.

You might be a writer if, in the face of imminent doom and personal destruction, you'll do anything to find a story.

This week, I've faced the perils of skiing and lived to tell about it. I've skiied in near white-out conditions when I could only see a few feet in front of me, down slopes that were more ice than snow and against wind that wanted to literally blow me uphill. And in all that, while self preservation was way high up on my list of things to do, I still had an eye out for the story. If I couldn't be comfortably ensconced behind my desk at home in my office with my mind thousands of miles and a century away in New Zealand, well, then I had to find something to inspire me, to write about. There had to be a story here somewhere.

And I found it.

Carved into the mountain.

I know it's hard to see in the picture to the right, but that big spot of white is actually a shamrock. It was carved into the mountains more than a century before by Irish immigrants on the trail of that illustrious metal that brought so many out West, gold.

I had to think about the story behind that shamrock for a while. It's at least the size of a football field, if not bigger, and it was made by felling all the trees on the side of the mountain until they resembled a shamrock. The Irish did it to mark their territory. There is a cross to the left of it, and a few other, now no longer recognizable symbols hewn into the forests by immigrants marking their land and their claims. What strength that must have taken, first to work in the mines all day searching for that shiny gold that sparkled like the sun, tears of the gods, I think the incas called it, and then hew out trees after to mark your claim.

And to top it off, to my knowledge, there was no great gold rush in Keystone, CO, but the Irish left their mark nonetheless. For generations to come, anyone who visits Keystone will see that they were here, seeking out their fortunes, following hope, looking for a better life, and leaving their mark. (The local security system that runs surveillance for the area is called Shamrock Security).

That's the story that found me this week. I'm glad to be able to pass it on and give voice to the many who were here so long ago. Next time you're out this way, keep an eye out for the shamrock. It is insanely green!

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Hot on the Trail

You can take the story away from the girl, but you can't take the girl away from the story.

But I have to admit, all this snow has changed the story. I am now hot on the trail of Keystone, Colorado's own very cool story, which I plan to post on Friday...if I live that long.

Let me say that this going skiing thing is the perfect way to get my mind off of edits and revisions, mostly because I'm trying to stay alive in frigid weather while shooting down the side of a mountain on a pair of slippery toboggans attached to my feet.

Some people call it fun.

Did I mention its really really cold?

And snowing?

No joke. And the wind is blowing so hard, I actually have to lean into when going downhill, which is really counterintuitive because it means leaning into the scary steep hill and begging to go screaming down it if the wind should let up, which it inevitably does when I'm least expecting it.

It's all in good fun, though. I think. I don't think my family is out to get me, but they've definitely gotten my mind off of my WIP.

Just not off of writing. Along the way down the scary steep hills and mountains in between ragged pauses when my lungs search for oxygen, I've kept my eye out for the story here, and I think I've found it. I've got some more researching to do, a few more pics to take, but by Friday, provided neither of my arms suddenly finds its way into a cast, I plan on revealing.

Stay tuned!

Thursday, February 5, 2009

You Might Be a Writer If...

Ooooh, it's my favorite day of the week, the day I get to talk about all of the
strange habits that life as a writer has brought upon my lowly existence.

Since revising has not only taken over my life but pretty much defines it throughout wake and sleep, I've noticed lately that I've developed yet another writerly tick. I have to admit, I had this one when I was working on my dissertation all those years ago. I think it's impossible writing projects that bring out the real dysfunction in me. It's not an eye tick. It's not biting the side of my mouth thing. It's far worse.

You might be a writer consider finishing a book a surefire way to lose weight.

Let me clarify. By finish, I mean, that's it, basta, finite, the end is the end, there are no more revisions. None. Walk away form the keyboard and don't ever come back (until you start the next project, of course).

Why would this be a guaranteed way to lose weight?

I think it has to do with all the imaginary calories I burn each day as I revise. Take my present book. It's set in 19th century New Zealand on a sheep farm. During these last three weeks of intense revisions, I've rebuilt a boat, mustered sheep, rowed out to French Pass from the coast so many times I've lost count, milked cows, collected eggs, sheared sheep, chased a girl (my character is a boy), been thrown overboard, swum with dolphins, and saved a ship from sinking.

It's been a busy few least in my head. Writing and revising all of that imaginary activity has worked up my appetite. I've taken to nibbling...for the whole cast. Peanut butter, caramels, nuts, and a whole lot of radishes.

Why radishes, you ask? I got tired of carrots. And gum just doesn't do it. I've tried.

I'm getting tired of radishes, though. Which might explain why I've begun buying up chocolate like famine is imminent. It's sitting in my pantry, calling to me. Waiting for me. Promising to help.

Did they eat chocolate in 19th century New Zealand? Would it hurt to snag just a little?? Will my hips ever forgive me???

I swear as soon as I finish this work, I am going to go on a month long hike, just so my muscles remember what it's like to move in real life, not just in my head. And my brain gets a chance to flatline for a few days. Oh, the joys of flat-lining.

And I lose those five...ten...or so pounds that have layered themselves over me like the ungodly number of pages and words I've cut or rewritten.

Somebody needs to come up with a new diet for this Revision I can do from the confort of my desk, with my imaginary characters playing along and that doesn't require me to give up chocolate (only radishes).

Ideas, I doomed...oh hell, where's the chocolate???

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

The Book Review Club - The White Giraffe

It’s my very first book review!! Kudos to Barrie Summy who organized this group of authors turned part-time reviewers. I’m honored to be a part of the group. We will each post a review the first Wednesday of the month. To read through them, just click on the neat icon to the right (The Book Review Club). Here’s my first swing at a modern classic, Lauren St. John's, The White Giraffe.

St. John’s adventurous tale begins the night of Martine Allen’s eleventh birthday when a fire destroys their house and leaves Martine an orphan. “You have to trust, Martine. Everything happens for a reason.” These are the last words her father leaves her with before the unfolding of these tragic events.

Martine soon discovers that she has a living grandparent, something she’d not known before her parents’ death. And it is her grandmother, Gwyn Thomas, who her parents named as Martine’s legal guardian. Martine travels to South Africa to live with her grandmother on a wild preserve, Sawubona, where one mystery after the next unfolds concering Martine's past, her future, and the legendary white giraffe, with whom Martine is mysteriously linked.

Fate soon brings them together. She and the giraffe, whom she names Jemmy, quickly become friends, and Martine learns that she has a special talent to both understand and heal animals, although how far this talent goes remains unclear. She also learns that she isn't the only one interested in the white giraffe. Bounty hunters are after him, and by accident, Martine’s leads them straight to him.

Martine fights a race against time to save Jemmy before he is lost to Africa, and her, forever.

The White Giraffe is a fascinating read, especially because it exposes the reader to one of the many colorful, rich, and mysterious sides of Africa, the savannah. Martine is a character that I easily felt sympathetic too, without feeling too sorry for, given all she faces and has to tackle.

What is even more intriguing and makes this story all the more interesting for me is that white giraffes really exist. Rumors of one began in 1993, but it wasn’t until 2005 that it was caught on film. To read more, click here for the article in National Geographic. And good news for readers who really enjoyed this story, the movie version is due out in the near future. Click here for more information.

I enthusiastically recommend this book to Daring Girls and Adventurous Boys who enjoy danger, wild animals, and a waltz on the wild side of Africa!

Monday, February 2, 2009

Shout out to Punxsutawney Phil, Bringer of Spring


I LOVE February, mostly because it means the end of January. January has always been a long, dark, boring month to me, despite all my tries to spice it up, find the good in each day, you name it. I still breathe a huge sigh of relief when February rolls around.

And to top it off, today, February 2, is Groundhog Day. Down in Oklahoma, where it doesn't get quite as dark or as cold as up north, Groundhog Day sort of gets shuffled under, but it holds a spot near and dear to my heart. I grew up in Indianapolis, where we longed for the passage of winter into spring.

I must have passed this dormant excitement about Groundhog Day on to my children. They insisted on dressing up for it this morning. My youngest, however, informed me that she was pulling for the groundhog to see his shadow. She wants more winter, more snow (That's what happens when you live far enough south). She'll not be disappointed. I've already been on the official Punxsutawney website. Phil's seen his shadow again.

Oh wait....Not familiar with Punxsutawney Phil? I wasn't until Bill Murray made that awesome movie, Groundhog Day, which centered around Punxsutawney Phil, the illustrious groundhog who lives in Punxsutawney, Philadelphia, where they have been celebrating Groundhog Day since 1886! That's a long time. Although, according to Groundhog Day history, the idea of celebrating a day predicting the oncoming of Spring goes way back to the Romans. I'm serious. You can read all about it on the Punxsutawney Groundhog Day website.

Phil's been quite the character throughout history. Why, during Prohibition, he went so far as to threaten the world with 60 additional weeks of winter if he couldn't get a drink. He traveled to D.C. to meet President Reagan. And, of course, he's been on the Oprah Winfrey show.

Reading all of this has left me with a hankering to join the tens of thousands who make their pilgrimmage each year to Phil's stump to listen to the furry seer. For those who yearn to see green buds, it sounds like it's worth a trip. Here's a shout out to Punxsutawney Phil, one of American's oldest, dearest and furriest seers who brings hope the beginning of each dreary February that longer, warmer days are just round the corner.