Saturday, December 14, 2013

A Wish List for Christmas 2013.

Every year around Thanksgiving, my mom asks me what I want for Christmas... and every year I have a hard time telling her something. This year was easy -- I want a GoPro camera for shooting video. That's easy.

But I have a number of items on my wish list that would be fantastic... I mean, not just a momentary joy, but truly life-changing pieces of a bigger puzzle. Now, I've been accused in the past of dreaming too big. Think about this -- in 2011, I wished for a chance to write a book. Hey, some wishes come true. So... this year's bunch of Christmas wishes, accompanied by photos of my daughter Hunter.  Just because.

1. A grant to study Arkansas foodways. Mind you, I'm doing what I can to research where our food came from and how our cuisine developed and spread on my own -- but a grant would make things easier. As it is, researching this series of books I'm working on (without an advance, in case you were wondering) is not just time-consuming. It's a financial investment. I travel thousands of years and spend thousands on food at the restaurants I'm researching, the places I stay when I overnight somewhere, and on maintenance for my vehicle. All this on a "hobby" that takes up a huge chunk of my weekends and weeknights throughout the year. It'd be pretty cool to not worry about carving that slice out of the slender budget of a single mom with a child in a pretty expensive school.

2. A decent camera lens. Last year I invested in a Canon Rebel T4i -- and my photography has taken off. It came with a kit lens, which... well, it's better than my old point-and-shoot, but still. Along with it, I purchased a mic set (lavalier and handheld), camera lights, a tripod and bag. But the impressive lens I have been utilizing most of the past several months (a marvelous 17-40mm Red Line lens) is borrowed. It'd be marvelous to have my own.

3. Clothing. My mom was awesome last month, coming with me to Branson and purchasing clothes for me -- work pants, jeans, underwear and shoes. With the Veteran's Day sales, it came to around $200 ($5 pants at Vanity Fair for the win!), and that was a blessing. However, it's time to update what goes above the waist. My blouses are getting threadbare, and the company I use ( has stopped making the model I like. I wish I had time to find a substitute as well as a replacement. For now, I use my scarves to bring a new look each day. I know, there are a lot of folks who don't have a good set of clothes. But I'm wishing big.

4. A fruit basket. No, really. Back in my TV days, each year B.J. Sams would give me a big basket of fruit for Christmas. Since I left TV, I have realized how much I miss it. I know that may sound crazy, but it's true -- having a basket of fruit on my desk at work or on my counter at home reminded me to eat healthier, and I felt better for it. A few years ago, Grav made one himself for me full of Blackapples and pears and nuts, and it was wonderful.

5. Time. With two books out and a third underway, every vestige of free time is just gone. I have my very time consuming day job. I have a wonderful five year old daughter who I enjoy spending time with. And I have a drive to tell stories. But all of that leaves little time to do anything else. I'd love to have an afternoon to enjoy a movie at a theater, or a weekend in a secluded cabin with no expectations. I'd like to sit down and watch The West Wing (of which I've never seen a single episode) all the way through in a weekend without feeling guilty for not working on my writing. I'd love two weeks to catch up with all the writing for which I've already done my research and taken my photos. A couple of hours to clean up the photo files in this blog. A morning with Hunter to bake. A few days to take my mom on the road and do something she mentioned on that Branson trip -- to just head in a destination and stop wherever we wanted to and do what we felt like on our own schedule. At 40, I now see the real value of time.

6. A clean car. I really wish I had the time set aside to clean all the debris and collected materials out of my car, and have someone shampoo the carpets and wipe down the seats and wash the windows, and maybe give it a tune-up too. After all, I can't go traveling without it.

7. A documentary series. Well, if I'm going to dream big, I might as well go all the way. I've really grown tired of the flashy food-related shows on Food Network -- and while I've been hoping for a Burger Land type program with some place like Travel Channel, I fear that ship may have sailed. What I'd really love to do is build on the crossroads of "Cooking on the Wildside" with John Philpot and Phyllis Speer -- and Chuck Dovish's "Exploring Arkansas" to create a documentary series on the foodways of Arkansas. Of course, that intersects with the wish for more time, the need for money to make it happen and the simple fact that I'm a chubby bit of tallness that's not really made for TV. But I do have a pretty decent voice, I think.

8. Computer file storage. Upgrading to a camera with a larger sensor means I get great images now, but they take up far more space. I'm saving up for a really big, 4T stationary drive for backup.

9. Patience. It's been a productive year, but it's also been very tight. My day job paid the bills when I first took it, but with rising inflation, accelerated bills and jumps in food costs, it's not covering everything any more. I know, I could chose to put my daughter in daycare rather than Montessori school, but that's more important to me than just about anything else. Why is this under patience? I know things will continue to improve. I know my life will get better. I just wish I had the patience to wait for that sometimes. Patience isn't something someone can give you. It's a gift you give yourself.

10. Built-in shelving for my bedroom. I can't really wish for more closet space, but I hope I can acquire the construction skills to build my own shelf unit into a corner of my bedroom that's pretty nigh useless to me right now. It'd also be great to build a shelf from the wall out on either side of my bed, so I can finally once again have a bedside light.

11. The ability to help and counsel my friends better. I feel like I'm lousy at this. I have a very bad tendency to stick my foot in my mouth. I wish I could help my friends in their search for jobs, contracts, assignment work, relationships -- you name it. I may be a good storyteller, but sometimes I just don't have the right timing in these personal issues.

12. A case of bleach wipes. Because there are never enough.

13. Stamina. Before Hunter came along, I was pretty good on stamina. Took me a couple of years to get it back, but even as little as two years ago I was able to take on even the craziest expeditions. The day job has made me soft again. I'll never have ripped abs (who wants those?) but it'd be nice to be able to walk more than five miles in a day, or to be able to move furniture by myself.

14. Beads. My daughter received as one of her birthday gifts, a bead stringing kit. Since then, she's been making necklaces left and right. I love to make things with beads, too -- last year I learned how to properly handknot with silk, and I have always loved the tactile sensation of working with different size beads. I hope by the end of the holiday season, if I sell enough books, I'll have some cash to spare to purchase more silk thread and more beads of different sorts.

15. Perspective. Yes, times are tight and I'm frustrated with some of the things that have happened in my life, but I have a brilliant daughter and a trustworthy companion and good friends... and I'm doing what I really want in life with writing books and stories, even if it is on my spare time. Not a lot of folks get to master their dreams. I'm lucky and I'm blessed. I wish for the perspective to clearly see that more often, rather than gnashing my teeth over the rough spots.

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