I must lead the creative life: my correspondence with Ray Bradbury

“Tom! Come see the play next Sat night. -Ray” Bradbury thought I was a guy named Tom which was perfectly all right with me.

Ray Bradbury died this week. and his death couldn’t have been timed more perfectly.  I had been out of the routine of writing every day because as most insecure writers feel, I did not know if what I think means anything new or important.

A quote by Bradbury flashed through my mind a few days ago.  Sometimes that happens before I learn of someone dying.  I don’t think it’s a sixth sense, it’s more kismet.  The quote is from Zen in the Art of Writing:

“Every morning I jump out of bed and step on a landmine. The landmine is me. After the explosion, I spend the rest of the day putting the pieces together. Now, it’s your turn. Jump!”

His routine was to write a thousand words in the morning (the landmine) then spend the rest of the day editing (putting the pieces together).

About 3 years ago I was mesmerized by an English teacher friend who had been corresponding with Bradbury for years.  I thought I’d give it a try and send him two of my poems.  He sent them back to me with this note scrawled:

“Tom!” AI (I think) Thanks! – Ray” I guess my handwritten name might have looked liked Tom to the 89-year-old Bradbury.

He included the next item which is my favorite piece.  It’s a brochure about Fahrenheit 451 in Spanish.  You can see the ragged edges, where he cut it to fit into the envelope I included with my poems:

“Tom! Love!”

Here is the play he invited me to, Falling Upward:

Although I included an envelope, I mistakenly forgot to include a stamp.  Luckily Bradbury had a stamp of Edgar Allan Poe, whom he referred to as “Ray’s Papa.”

In a story he tells on his website about how he became a writer, he talks about meeting a magician named Mr. Electrico at a carnival:

Mr. Electrico was a fantastic creator of marvels. He sat in his electric chair every night and was electrocuted in front of all the people, young and old, of Waukegan, Illinois. When the electricity surged through his body he raised a sword and knighted all the kids sitting in the front row below his platform. I had been to see Mr. Electrico the night before. When he reached me, he pointed his sword at my head and touched my brow. The electricity rushed down the sword, inside my skull, made my hair stand up and sparks fly out of my ears. He then shouted at me, “Live forever!”

It was then, Bradbury said, that he knew he must lead the creative life.  And through that creative life, he did exactly as Mr. Electrico commanded him.

what good mathematicians do: a guide to problem solving

The following is a poster in my daughter’s math classroom.   Are these not solutions for everyday life? If you have a problem to solve in any aspect of your life, try what good mathematicians do:

image via flickr

1.  they look for patterns
If your kid is exhibiting less than attractive behavior, look for patterns.  Is it from lack of sleep? Are they hungry?  Too much sugar? In the middle of the night, do they open a window, lasso a tree and swing like Tarzan and yell “Get your damn dirty apes off me?” That might be it.

image via flickr

2.  they seek new ways to find solutions

Rather than tell your child they can’t bake a cake because they constantly ask for help while you’re trying to work and they never clean up after themselves, let them try it.  I let my girls bake a cake the other night.  After the fire department calmly explained to me that you turn on the oven, not the stove for baking, everything turned out A-OK.

image via flickr

3.  they create pictures, diagrams, and charts
What a great idea! Especially when you have to explain to your daughter’s teacher that she doesn’t really dream of killing zombies with poison plants and machetes although that’s all she draws in school.

image via flickr

4.  they estimate
Estimating is a good thing.  Like when you turn down buying coffee at Wal-Mart because it’s too expensive though you spend over 3 bucks a day at Starbucks every day.  Comparing the cost might come in handy.

image via flickr

5.  they ask questions
Such as, “Does Santa still have me on his good list?” after your kid’s last melt-down.  You think you sit on a gold mine at Christmas, letting the think they’re on the bad list if they dare talk back. But then you say stuff like, “Get me the TV remote or else Santa won’t visit you on Christmas Eve!” Santa will kick the crap out of me for that one.

image via flickr

6.  they create a plan to solve a problem
Especially when that plan involves chores for the kids to solve the boredom problem.  When your child says, “I want to do something fun. I’m bored. I have no friends to play with,” say, “The laundry’s lonely. Maybe you and the laundry have a slumber party with movies and popcorn. At midnight go wild and crazy and play Spin The Folded Towels. Whoever wins goes to the closet and sorts the linens.

image via flickr

7.  they explain their work
Very important when using their vocabulary words in sentences. They write, “My lip is sanguinary.”
You say “Shouldn’t you expand it a little, like WHY your lip is sanguinary?”
And they say, “It’s a sentence, C’MON!”

image via flickr

8.  they take time to do a good job
Of course! That is why kids take 3 hours to empty dishwashers. They simply take time to do a good job.

image via flickr

9.  they check their work
Listen up anyone who tweets. How do you know who’s talking to who with all those RTs and hashtags? #checkyourworkwhiletweetingdangit

image via flickr

10.  they use math to solve everyday problems
Math is wonderful especially for Californians. Like when most of your income goes to mortgage and property taxes.  When Jerry Brown takes over, he’ll take out more taxes.   But don’t worry because as Brown admitted, he has no plan for California.

housework: doing it right will kill you

Martha Stewart at the 2009 premiere of the Met...

Image via Wikipedia

“Housework, if you do it right, will kill you.” ~Erma Bombeck

I have no intention of ever doing housework right.  I’ve never done it right this far so why break a winning streak?

But educating myself in housework is another thing.  That’s why I bought Martha Stewart‘s Homekeeping Handbook.  She starts it out with Cleaning Products 101.

If only there was a periodic table of elements simple enough to understand what exactly goes into cleaning a home.  There’s abrasives, bleaches, builders, enzymes, fragrances, solvents, and surfactants.  This is where I wish I studied for my chemistry final.

Good news: you don’t need bottle upon bottle of toxic cleaners because Martha breaks it down into simple choices. This is essential when enlisting children in the wonderful art and science of cleaning.

This is Martha’s Universal Cleaning Kit: First, get a caddy (I have one, but it needs washing, naturally).  She writes, “For routine cleaning, less is more.”  Only 6 items needed:

1.  “An all-purpose cleaner, such as Mrs. Meyers or a solution of 2 tbsp. mild dishwashing liquid…and 2 cups water in a spray bottle.”  I chose Dawn because it’s blue and my spray bottle looks like the one on the cover of her book.  No, I am NOT anal retentive.

2.  “A mildly abrasive cleanser, such as Bon Ami.”  At Wal-Mart I walked up and down the cleaning aisles to find this Bon Ami to no avail.  Behind a display of something cheap and toxic, I found a slew of Mrs. Meyers cleansers.  I chose Mrs. Meyers Lavender Scented Surface Scrub.  Aaaaaahhhhhh.  I never thought scrubbing the kitchen sink would remind me of a bath.

3.  “Glass cleaner, or a solution of 1 part white vinegar and 1 part water in a spray bottle.”  I’m all for the cleansing power of vinegar but not the smell.  It reminds me of dying Easter egg and having to open a window.  So, I went with the ever-reliable Windex.

4.  Rubber gloves.  Got ’em!  Who doesn’t have rubbers handy?

5.  Lint-free white cloths.  I have these – old cloth diapers!  Unused, of course.  There was no way I was coming anywhere near my babies with safety pins.

6.  Medium-bristled scrub brush.  I know I have this…somewhere.  I purchased a tile/grout brush because face it,  my husband will find out I’m using his toothbrush to scrub the scum behind the faucets.

So, armed with my ammo, I will tackle this house cleaning thing though I can’t follow Martha’s directions to a tee.  It’s like copying a master artist.  I can’t copy a Picasso no matter how I try.  But if I paint in his style, I take pride in the finished product.  As long as the house smells like lavender.


easy as pi

Albert Einstein

Image by afagen via Flickr

Math lovers unite! Today, March 14, is Pi Day. This is the day we celebrate that universally sexy number 3.14. May all your radials converge, connect and line up any way you want.

And how serendipitous that today is also Albert Einstein’s birthday who said: “I want to know God’s thoughts; the rest are details.”