My Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day

Siri helpIn the immortal words of Judith Viorst’s Alexander, I had a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day.

While traveling on the busy freeway I asked Siri for directions.  She said, “I do not know ‘get that little cat’.”

When I tried and tried again she consistently answered,  “You’re welcome.”

Determined to be more helpful than Sassy Siri, I vowed to bring cheer to two depressed acquaintances.  So, I mailed them rough  dummies of my  children’s picture book manuscripts, because my depressed, young protagonist makes me laugh.

When I called to see if they got my dummies, one said, “What do you want me to do with these?”

Seeking a more positive review, I called the other. She said, “You should meet my neighbor–she’s a good writer.” Then for the next agonizing hour and a half she recited every one of her neighbor’s poems. By then, I was depressed.

To cheer myself up, I visited my grandkids. One pointed to the back of my knee, “What awe those bwoo wines on you-a wegs, Gwamma?” (Translation: “What are those blue lines on your legs, Gramma?”)

My husband teased, “Connected, they’d make a tattooed map of Argentina.”

Later that evening, I had the auspicious opportunity of having my chapter book manuscript critiqued by a real live published writer. I beamed as I handed her draft #658. Until her face contorted. I checked the table for the sour lemon. Seems she’s averse to first person present tense. She left the table abruptly. I think to go vomit.

On the drive home, I was tempted to pout. But then Charlie Brown, Rodney Dangerfield, and  Alexander from Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day sat on my shoulders and made fun of me. (I must have been delirious. Instead of angels and devils, I got round-headed whiners. ) 

Charles Schulz’s Charlie Brown said he wouldn’t have gotten a cartoon column if Lucy let him kick the ball.

Rodney Dangerfield said he wouldn’t have had a schtick if he had gotten any respect.

And Judith Viorst’s Alexander said his story wouldn’t have been as funny if his teacher loved his invisible castle.

They all told me to embrace awkward and to look for the funny in tattooed maps of Argentina. Then they asked me what I learned from my terrible horrible no good very bad day. I had to pray the Litany of Humility Prayer to see.

#1: Like Charlie Brown, I’ll keep trying–even when success seems improbable. But, where Siri’s concerned, I now bring a hard-copy map in case she takes me to that little cat. And I’m learning to enunciate my words.

#2: I don’t send depressed people my writing. It’d be embarrassing if my manuscript was left on a ledge after a jump. But, I do listen and learn. Like Rodney Dangerfield, I’m ready for the hecklers. In fact, I savor hecklers, because frustration generates the funniest writing material.

#3: I now wear pants (mostly). The South American Department of Tourism is disappointed, but they’ll get over it.

#4: I edited my invisible castle/manuscript rather than succumb to an overwhelming desire to move to Australia (an Alexander reference). I did some research and learned that no one is passionate one way or the other about past tense. But many people have visceral, negative emotions about first person present tense. So, I revised my chapter book manuscript to incorporate the less risky formula. (Because I’m a coward.)

My writers’ group thanked me for this. (Except for one comrade who came back from the Illinois conference declaring that present tense is all the rage. That was after I’d changed my entire 8,341 word manuscript to past tense. He coerced me off the ledge by conceding that I could wait to be adventurous–for when I don’t need critique advice–which will be–um–never.)

#5: Imperfect, insecure protagonists are funnier. My characters are more interesting because of my daily frustrations.

If you got stuck on this blog because Siri won’t give you directions or because you Googled giant Argentina tattoo, you might be having a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day.

Celebrate! Then write about it. That’s how Charlie, Rodney, and Alexander got their start.

101 Reasons to Celebrate

Sadness surrounds us. I know. Recently my brother-in-law learned that he has a large, cancerous time-bomb (tumor) in his body.  Then, a friend’s brother died in a motorcycle accident and a beloved MN SCBWI member and her husband perished in a house fire.  These events led me to ponder the frailty of the human condition (and change my underwear and go to confession). It should have led me to finally write my will.  Instead, I imagined what I’d say from my new home if I made it to my preferred destination.

101 Reasons to Celebrate

    Number one pretty much covers the reasons to celebrate.  But I’ve never been one to summarize, so here’s a few — er — one hundred — more reasons:
  2. We’re more passionately loved than we will ever love or be loved.
  3. I did, said, and thought some pretty stupid, embarrassing, and awful things on earth, but, for the life of me, I can’t remember them anymore — and neither can God or anyone else.
  4. If we let Him, He teaches us to empty ourselves, to make room for His Love. I won’t kid you.  The emptying is painful.  It’s like giving birth — no, it IS giving birth — but, the labor pains are, oh, so worth it.  He calls our internal junk out of the stinky tomb of our souls.  I’m giving birth — to a new me! Please, be happy for me and start emptying yourself now.  You’ll thank me later.
  5. I love you and always will. In fact, I never really left you.  I’m nearer to you than ever, because I’m not distracted by my own needs. This clarity helps me to intercede and love you and accept your love better.
  6. I can finally be authentically me.  No spinning plates to impress. And, I like me better because I’m a new, improved me.
  7. All of our relatives, friends, and acquaintances are even better looking and nicer than they were on earth.  And, we get to meet people who were forgotten.  My siblings that Mom and Dad lost to miscarriage are very much alive and full of personality.  I’d tell you more about them, but I want you to be pleasantly surprised, like I was.
  8. You’ll be surprised by the things you don’t have to worry about here – like global warming, nuclear war, and hard butter.
  9. It’s never too hot or too cold here.  Like Goldilocks’ porridge.  It’s just right.
  10. You don’t have to sleep, because you’re never tired. So, no nightmares. Yet, you can rest and dream all you want.
  11. Work is optional/occasional, so no burnout.  People can volunteer to do anything they want.  One day you can be a chef; the next, a mountain climber; the next, a bungee cord tester… No one ever has to be an undertaker, a tax collector, or that guy who  puts the cotton balls in vitamin bottles.
  12. No snakes in trees selling apples.  He’s outta here.
  13. No contact lenses, glasses…We have better than 20/20 vision.  We can see into each other’s souls.
  14. Communication comes through the aforementioned process, so no cluttered inboxes, spam, or cyber viruses.
  15. We don’t have to do any gross bodily functions. Animals don’t do them either, so it’s easier to love our neighbor and his dog.
  16. But, we can eat whatever we want, whenever we want, and all we want.  You can eat just one Lay’s Potato Chip or you can eat the whole bag. Calories evaporate.
  17. Food tastes – I can’t even describe it – like heaven.  Nothing expires.  Think of the sweetest fruit, the spiciest salsa, or the freshest guacamole you ever tasted on earth.  It wouldn’t make the grade here.
  18. Everything is alive here – even the stones, the gems, the grass, the flowers.
  19. Everything smells incredible, but no one sneezes.  No one is allergic to anything.
  20. Nothing dies, so nothing stinks – not even Babe Ruth’s socks or my breath.  No need for deodorant, mouthwash or flossing.
  21. The water is so clear you can see the jewels at the bottom of the streams. And, the roads really are paved with gold.  “Eye has not seen…”
  22. Everything’s a celebration here, so the sound is of everyone’s individual expression of elation, joy and praise.  No one is off-tune here, but every soul’s voice is unique and harmonizes with the others’.  You’ve never heard anything so beautiful.  “Ear has not heard…”
  23. Everyone gets their own mansion, greater than their grandest dreams on this earth.  But, there’s no jealousy.  We all love what we have.
  24. Everyone is safe here. No one has to lock doors – in fact, we don’t need doors.
  25. No one worries about stealing. Everyone has what they need.
  26. All souls are respected — even Rodney Dangerfield.
  27. St. Gabriel and Louis Armstrong are teaching me to play trumpet. Next, Charlie Parker’s teaching me the sax; Amelia Earhart, St. Raphael, and my guardian angel are giving me flying lessons; then, by cracky, Steve Irwin and St. Joan of Arc are taking me alligator wrestling. As you can see, we have access to infinite knowledge and an eternity to explore, learn, write, read, compose, create… The sky’s the…There’s no limit.
  28. There are no handicaps or illness.  Every part of our body functions perfectly with no aches or pain.
  29. Our brain-functions better.  I can converse with Einstein and St. Augustine without scratching my head wondering what they’re saying. And, I think fast enough to say my funny one-liners on time, not just wish I’d said them.
  30. There are no bad-hair days.  No head lice epidemics. Hair doesn’t fall out or grow, so we don’t need to get haircuts or shave.
  31. Our toenails don’t grow.  Perfect manicure and pedicure all the time.
  32. Crops and plants replenish immediately as you pick them. Grass always stays the same length, so no need to mow. Everything’s alive, so if  you want the smell of cut grass, just ask the grass. It’ll comply.
  33. Our features are perfect. No need for mascara, eyeliner, guyliner, or anything artificial of any kind. So, no plastic surgery.
  34. Travel is done by our minds.  We think it; we’re there.
  35. We never get lost.  And, we never have to ask for directions. We have internal navigation systems.
  36. We still have our distinct personalities. Yet, there’s no politics.  Everyone’s on the same, enlightened page. And we learned that no one on earth had all the answers, except our patient God.
  37. Everything good, true, or beautiful created on earth is here.  There are museums full of stuff.  That poem I wrote in 5th grade?  God liked it.
  38. We can hang with all animals.  Monkeys don’t steal your food or wipe it on you. Camels don’t spit and insects don’t bite. There are even dinosaurs, tarantulas, and snakes here, because God says He didn’t make any mistakes.  They have these sensors in their feet so they don’t step on you. (The dinosaurs, not the tarantulas and snakes.)
  39. You’d be surprised who’s here that you’d never expected – and who’s not here. But you understand that being here was each person’s choice, not God’s.
  40. All souls need your prayers.  I didn’t get into Heaven by myself.  My praying family and friends lifted me through the roof.  Their faith helped me say “yes”.  If someone’s name pops in your head, it’s probably a cue to pray for them.  If no one’s name pops in your head, pray for those who have no one to pray for them.
  41. No one needs privacy or shadows.  We like the Light.
  42. No need for translations.  Everyone understands everyone.
  43. No one’s older than 33, but we can be any age we want, 33 or younger, at any time.  Sometimes it’s nice to try things over or just to be held on Our Dad’s chest.
  44. There’s no gravity here, unless we want it for an earth-simulation experience, so no saggy body parts.  We don’t need gravity — even to travel. Everything’s alive to will itself in harmony with everything else.  Even the streets paved with gold will themselves to serve God from under our feet.
  45. Everyone’s body is in perfect proportion. No need for weigh scales or liposuction.
  46. All wounds, inside and out, are healed. No shock treatments or blaming your mother for anything.
  47. Everyone has all of their teeth in perfect alignment.  No cavities or dental floss…
  48. We can and do touch and feel pleasure in its purest form.  Cowabunga!  THIS is what God intended? Who knew?
  49. The colors here are like none we see on earth.  Even colors are alive!
  50. There’s a flash mob every moment for every new soul(s) entering heaven.  Keeps the twelve tribes in party mode. St. Michael and his archangels invented this aerial dance with OT King David.  It’s #1 on the pop charts and going viral. They can’t wait to teach it to MC Hammer and Psy.
  51. God, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit really are three Divine Persons in One.  You’ll understand when you’re here.
  52. Jesus is drop alive gorgeous.
  53. Mother Mary is more beautiful than Angelina Jolie.
  54. Joseph’s a really cool guy.  So humble…
  55. Everyone’s the same religion here.
  56. We don’t have to pick out what to wear here. And, no one’s butt looks big.
  57. Adrenaline without pain. We can do everything we wanted to do on earth, but were afraid, couldn’t afford, ran out of time…They’re called simulated earth experiences.  Earth-like things are allowed to happen – parachutes not opening, whales swallowing you, etc., but we never experience the wounds or death that comes from trying it on earth.
  58. We learn the truth about history and how God worked in it.  Like we learned that aspartame made tons of unsuspecting people sick.  And, many of the victims of the holocaust had a speedier route to heaven because the suffering they endured on earth emptied them. God evens everything out in the end, so we don’t fret the past here.  We just marvel at how God was always there with us, in control.  Nothing from the evil side thwarts the joy of Heaven.  It only makes us marvel more.
  59. We can meet anyone – from any century.  And, no one is unapproachable.  As you read this I’m hanging out with C.S. Lewis, Johnny Carson, Chris Farley, Gilda Radner, and my mom and dad and brothers, while Etta James and Elvis Presley serenade.
  60. There’s no time here, no deadlines, and no anxiety.
  61. There’s no dust or lint, so no housework or cleaning out belly buttons.
  62. No predators — animal or human. Children are safe.  Males know the color of female’s eyes and when they say they love you, they mean it.
  63. I can do a cart-wheel. So can Grandma.
  64. That guy who took credit for my idea at work?  Doesn’t matter here. He’s sorry and forgiven.
  65. We don’t have to tweeze or wax anything.
  66. No need for Kleenexes.  No boogers.
  67. No crabby cashiers, expired coupons, or stock market crashes.  Everything’s free.
  68. No problems finding parking spaces and no road rage.  But, you can drive a Roman chariot, a Lamborghini, or invent your own car, like the ones that fly in the Jetsons.
  69. One Boss. He’s the King, actually.
  70. He’s not like an earthly king.  Our King loves everyone and treats everyone kinder than fair, regardless of race, color, gender, and ball team affiliations.
  71. Our One Boss gives the ultimate bonuses – mansions and His own  life.  In fact, we think of Him as Our Dad, Our King, and Our Loving Spouse. I know that sounds weird, but you’ll appreciate this later.
  72. No scary movies here. No dead people allowed.
  73. I don’t run funny here. (At least nobody laughs.) And, I’m as fast as I wanna be.
  74. We can really see what it’s like to fly like an eagle and swim like a dolphin.
  75. No Internal Revenue Service, speeding tickets, or jails.
  76. No varicose veins, hemorrhoids, foot fungus, acne, or gingivitis.
  77. Mosquitoes and vampires don’t suck blood here.
  78. My team always wins. (Actually, not really, but, I’m happy now because when someone wins, everyone wins.)
  79. No need for alcohol or drugs to get high.
  80. No smoking, because no desire to smoke.  No addictions here.
  81. Sandy beaches without sand fleas, cigarette butts, or dog poop surprises.
  82. Magnificent forests without tick bites, outhouse anxiety, and angry bears.
  83. No inclement weather. It only snows or rains if you want snow or rain. (They make the best snow angels here.)
  84. Rainbows with or without rain. And real gold at the end.
  85. No darkness unless we need some for shadow puppets. The sun/Son always shines.
  86. I can’t kill plants here.
  87. No need for mouse or ant traps.  They aren’t annoying here.
  88. No gray hair – unless you want it.
  89. We remember only the good. Same with Our Spouse.
  90. We are always thankful.
  91. Nothing tastes bitter and nobody is bitter.
  92. You can pet porcupines, squeeze skunks, and stroke stingrays with no adverse effect.
  93. Words never hurt and we can trust our name on everyone’s lips
  94. Nothing is hidden. Unless you want to play hide and seek.
  95. No waiting here – in line, for the check in the mail, for success — ever.
  96. No time-outs, tempers, or tantrums here.
  97. My dog, Wally, and my cat, Maggie, still remember me. Your pets will, too.
  98. I get to say all the things I wished I’d have said on earth – and say them better than I would have.
  99. I get to do all the things I wished I’d have done on earth – and…
  100. No more anger, fighting, sickness, suffering, guilt, sorrow, or shame here.  Everyone is happy, contented, and forgiven – forever.
  101. This place is – Heaven!

    Click the photo for Nicholas David’s goose-pimple inducing rendition of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” from The Voice-2012.

Disclaimer:  Much of this comes from the tiny, presumptuous imagination of Anna Marras; it’s not THE GOSPEL.
Qualifier: The Bible gives us genuine reasons to celebrate.

1 Corinthians 2:9: “But this is just as it has been written: The eye has not seen, and the ear has not heard, nor has it entered into the heart of man, what things God has prepared for those who love Him.”