Saturday, December 30, 2006

I Am Resolute: No Resolutions

I have never made New Year’s Resolutions and I don’t plan to start now. I figure the best time to make a resolution is when you’re feeling, well, resolute. And that can happen at any time. At this time of year I am feeling all sorts of things, things that might get me arrested if I decided to be all resolute about them.

For instance, by the time the 1st rolls around the kids have been out of school for at least a week. When they were younger, that meant they were bored and picking on each other. Now that they’re older and so much more mature. . . they’re still picking on each other. But they are also going out -- in cars, at night, with their friends, radio volume set to “stun” -- and that means I am staying up late, waiting for them to come home in one piece. I’m feeling slightly sleep deprived and perhaps a little surly and any resolution might reflect that.

At this point, the holiday decorations have been in place for at least two weeks, maybe three. My daughter is pleading for them to remain “just one more week, please?” You do not want to know how I’d like to resolve that issue.

By now the dog has usually eaten a significant quantity of: a) wrapping paper, b) ribbons and bows, c) the remains of a meal, or three, that someone left sitting at a height of less than five feet off the floor, d) chocolate candy, including the foil wrappers, and e) paper towels and/or napkins. My resolution for this would have nothing to do with buying more carpet cleaner, not even the one with the appropriate name.

I make a living in the world of finance and the end of the calendar year is usually also the end of the fiscal year. You don’t want to know the details, believe me, but suffice it to say that if my longing for a vista without reports and numbers and long hours sitting behind a desk were to turn into something resolute-- well, both the beach and the mountains are an easy drive from here.

So for me, making resolutions at this time of year is not just a bad idea, it is something to avoid at all costs. Really. Because once I resolve to do something, I usually do it.

Monday, December 25, 2006

Home for Christmas

Yes, I’m back and I’ve been incredibly busy. Feels like I never left.

First, I have a confession to make: It's just not that difficult to find an internet connection while on vacation, even in another country. You do know that "www" stands for "world wide web," right? This internet stuff is all over the place.

The thing is, I had decided not to engage in any internet activity while I was gone, except to check my email once in a while. For one entire week, I was going to do nothing but relax with my family and write.

But I had forgotten that I'd set my Blogger preferences to deliver all my blog comments to my email inbox. So every morning when I checked my email, I also got to read the comments on my blog. By the second day, I was laughing so hard my DS21 asked what was so funny. I said, "The CBs are decorating my blog and having a party while I'm gone."

He was horrified. "You let them into the house? While we're not there?"

I laughed and said, "Nonono, they’re pretending. On my blog. Virtual reality? Relax, these people live all over the country, they're nowhere near the house." He just shook his head, muttering something that sounded a lot like “you are so weird,” and walked away.

The second day, after I had essentially the same conversation with DD18, she informed me, "Mom, you are not allowed to talk about your blog in public anymore."

Neither of my kids have read my blog, thankyouverymuch, but they are apparently united in their opinion that I should not be doing anything fun. Kids. They’re always expecting you to be a parent.

So anyway, thank you all for making me laugh while I was on vacation and busy ignoring the real world. I hope you'll forgive me for the small deceit of being “unavailable,” but I really needed the time away to focus on my writing. No, I didn’t finish the book, but I made very good progress and discovered a couple twists I hadn’t expected. I’m pretty excited about the way it’s all coming together.

And I realized something these last couple of days. I had been thinking I was purely crazy to take a week of vacation right before Christmas. There is always so much to do and never enough time and I must be nuts, adding this stress to my life, giving myself only two days right before Christmas to finish doing everything that needed doing. But you know what? Turns out not having enough time is a really good way to eliminate the things that just don’t matter and focus on what’s important.

My kids and I had fun with our hurry-up-and-get-it-done decorating. The stores were practically deserted, because everyone else had already finished shopping. I wasn’t even tired of listening to Christmas songs, not having heard any for an entire week. I got everything important done and loved every minute of it.

Of course, being tanned, pampered and well-rested might have had something to do with it. There is something very liberating about being able to wake up when you’re done sleeping, instead of when the alarm goes off. I saw the sunrise, and the sunset, almost every day for a week. I think going away on vacation right before Christmas might become a new tradition.

However, there is just one tiny little thing left to do and I might need some help with that. Ahem. Do you all think we could maybe move some of these decorations over to the "other" blog? Because all it will take is for my kids to get one good look at the pole and the punch bowl and the goofy expression on the dog's face and they’ll start to get ideas about how they're going to spend my next vacation.

Go ahead and finish opening your presents first, and by all means don’t be late for your holiday feast. Have that second glass of wine or that extra helping of dessert. I’ll be over here waiting patiently, very happy to be home for Christmas.

Hope you all are having a wonderful holiday, and sharing it with the people you love.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Wish You Were H-- um, never mind

One day last week a challenge was issued for me to post on my blog while on vacation. Well, it took some effort to accomplish, but here I am. Hope you all appreciate it.

It was quite an undertaking. First we had to navigate the kayaks across the fjord, then hook up with the sherpas and cross the mountain range. Then we had to rendezvous with the nomads and the camels (everything they say about those beasts is true, by the way) and trek across the desert. The SF helicopter waited as long as it could, but we were running late and they had places to go and things to blow up so we had to take the train overland to the internet kiosk. Sheesh. The things I do.

Some of the more cynical among you will wonder whether I wrote this before I left and set a timer thing to post if for me. Right. Those would be the people who do not know me very well and don’t realize how much easier it would be to just find an internet connection in a foreign country and post in real time.

Don’t believe me? Hmm. I should just leave you all to wonder about it, shouldn’t I? Perhaps in retaliation for the mess you’ve made in here while getting into the holiday spirits.

And whoever left my dog outside overnight with the incapacitated delivery man and the cookies? Bad idea. I’ll never be able to order pizza takeout again.

Did you know that Blogger tracks where you are and changes the language on your laptop to fit the country? I’m pretty sure it’s a conspiracy.

I have to get back to getting away from it all now. Maintaining this state of sated bliss is damn hard work, you know.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

I am here --> X

Well, I'm not here yet, but I will be next week.

My bossy older sister, Babs, called a few weeks ago and asked what I was planning to do for my birthday this year. I told her, since it falls on a Monday, probably going to work. She said I should do something special this year.

I’m not in the habit of making a big deal over my birthday so I said, “Ok, I'll buy a cupcake and stick a candle in it.” She didn’t think that was special enough. So she invited me to go on vacation with her and her family.

Well, let me tell you, she goes to some mighty nice places and this was a very generous offer. But I hesitated, really I did, and said, “You know, the kids will be home from school and it's probably not the best time to go away.” And she said, “So bring the kids. We'll be there for two weeks -- you can come for all or part of that time.”

Hesitation vanished.

I went with Babs to this place once before, over Thanksgiving weekend five years ago. Sorry, I’m not trying to be mysterious, but this involves someone else’s privacy and I promised not to divulge the actual location. I can tell you it is not in the U.S, is closer to the equator than Miami and takes all day to get there from here by airplane. I took some pictures when we were there before and have received permission to post a few of them here. If I don’t break anything, you will see for yourself that it is a paradise.

Let me tell you about a typical day. Breakfast is at 8:00 am. Theory being, I guess, that if you're going to eat that much wonderful food in one day, it's best to get an early start. All meals are served at an open air dining area and prepared from fresh local food by a gourmet chef. Yes, really.

The morning hours are occupied lounging about the pool area, engaging in desultory conversation, gazing alternately at the fluffy white clouds and the hypnotic azure water of the Sea of Whatever, listening to the gentle crash of waves on the beach at the bottom of the rocky bluff just beyond the manicured expanse of verdant lawn, and taking an occasional dip in the pool.

And that's pretty much the schedule for the rest of the day, too, unless you go inside and take a nap. And why would you, when the thick, soft terrycloth-covered pads on those chaise lounges are so comfy? If you feel like getting dressed and finding your shoes, you can go into town and take your time meandering through the myriad small shops, purchasing gorgeous local crafts.

All this leisure activity is interrupted only by a mid-morning snack, a tasty lunch, a late-afternoon snack accompanied by a sampling of the margarita of the day, and then a magnificent dinner. Of course, there is the ever present cooler full of drinks set out by the pool (ice cold bottled water, cokes, lemonade, beer, wine coolers -- the content varies with time of day). The day ends with starlit poolside conversation and perhaps a nightcap, accompanied by unobtrusive local music piped in through the invisible outdoor speaker system, the occasional burst of laughter from the kids’ conversation drifting over from the outdoor hot tub.

Food and drink are offered before you can even think to ask, before you even realize you are hungry or thirsty. Clean towels appear in your room twice a day. Your bed is made for you every morning. This picture is the view from the bedroom where I stayed, which faces east and is called, appropriately, the Sunrise Room.

Without a doubt, it is the most decadent experience I've ever had. And I was thrilled when my sister invited us to go with them again, because I never expected to get a chance to go back. Really, once was a special treat. Twice? Pinch me.

Now some of you may remember that way back in early October I wrote about how Babs was all impatient for me to finish writing the damn book already so it could get published (yes, I suspect she really thinks it's that simple -- the minute I finish it, it will hit the shelves of her local bookstore). And I said back then that I was sure as soon as she figured out how to speed up the whole process, I'd be hearing from her.

So after I recovered from the initial shock and accepted her invitation, Babs warned, "There's just one thing."

I said, "Oh yeah? And what is that?" Even though at this point I really didn't care.

She said, "While we're there, I want you to write."

And here I'd thought it just couldn't get any better. You have no idea. I nearly wept.

I've only got a week, so I have to make good use of my time. But odds are very good that I will indeed finish the damn book next week. Well, the rough draft anyway.

But I am coming back. Really.

Wait, let me check.

Yep, says right here on the ticket confirmation. Round trip. Besides, all that perfection probably causes extreme crankiness after a while.

So I'll be back. In about a week.

Really, I will.

I'm debating whether to explain to Babs how I'm probably going to need an agent.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

I'm busy here

Why is it so hard to go away for a week of vacation? The closer it gets the more stressed I feel, the harder I work to get everything done so I can leave.

Something is wrong with this picture. I mean, c'mon, it's only a week. It's not like I'm planning to be gone for eight days or anything. How tough can it be for everyone in my life to do without me for one lousy week?

What if I got run over by a truck and ended up in the hospital for a week? Not much prep time involved in that, let me tell you. And the people who know me would either be busy getting drunk and celebrating in the streets and wouldn’t notice that my chores were undone, or they’d be thrown into a deep dark depression and, again, would not notice.

Eventually, someone would make arrangements to feed the cat and make sure the dog went outside on occasion. Someone would either bring the newspapers inside or cancel delivery. Same with the mail. Someone else would clean the litter box, take out the garbage, water the plants and make sure the kids got their weekly allotment of funds.

Someone might even realize that NO ONE will be here to eat fudge and cookies or gaze appreciatively at holiday decorations and decide that all that can JUST WAIT.

At work, someone else would file the sales tax reports, though the ones for SC would be wrong because they’re impossible to figure out. Someone else would deposit the receipts and pay the bills. Someone would write the paychecks, believe me. I’ve heard the IRS insists that you deposit payroll tax if they notice you didn’t, so someone might even remember to do that. Eventually.

And either someone would come over here and write a few words in my absence or those of you who apparently have nothing better to do than pester me about how I haven’t written on my blog for a while would find something else to do.


It’s only a week. And yet I’ve got a month’s worth of work to do in the four days before I leave. So I’m busy.

And really, YOUR time would be better spent practicing how you’re going to fall all over yourselves with gratitude when I return and take up where I left off.

If past experience is anything to go by, you all need the practice.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Goldie and the Three Bears, or The Naming of the (other) Two

I was looking for an old picture today and came across some notes one of my younger sisters and I wrote to each other, way back when we were teenagers. We were insane, no two ways about it. And we were hysterically funny. I don’t even remember writing those notes, but I remember the ones she wrote back. I had tears streaming down my face, laughing at them today.

We were pretending. We did that a lot. I was writing to her from “The State Hospital for The Spiritually Possessed, The Physically Suppressed and The Mentally Depressed” and she was writing back to commiserate with me, as she had recently escaped from the same institution. I had forgotten how silly we were, and how creative. And bizarre. And twisted.

Anyway, reading those notes, I realized that my writing style has not changed very much over the years. Which was oddly comforting. Until I realized that I still write like I’m in high school. [Sigh.] Truth is, all three of my sisters are, each in their own way with their own voice, much better writers than I am. They are far more disciplined, more focused, less likely to ramble. Every one of them can make a point in half the time it takes me. But apparently I’m the only one of us who has conversations running through her head all the time and feels compelled to inflict stories on others. They claim to love me in spite of it.

Here is part of what I wrote in one of those notes (please note: my sister did not really fall down the stairs).

“I’m so glad to hear about your fall. Down the stairs, of course. I’m very happy for you; it’s about time you got a break like that.”

And I can’t even share with you the really funny stuff because, first of all, you wouldn’t get it -- you’re just going to have to take my word for that -- and second, my sister would kill me. But even back then we were making up strange names for each other and various family members. So today I decided I’m going to call that particular sister Booko. She’ll be thrilled.

There are four of us girls: Babs is the oldest (I wrote about her earlier), then me, and Booko is third. I can’t use their real names here on my blog. Really, it’s not their fault they have a sister who likes to make stuff up and share it with the general public, so I have to protect their identities. Right?

Sure I do. Mom said so.

But I have to make up names that I’ll remember so I don’t call one of them Bathsheba one week and Brunhilda or Barlora or Bitsy a month later. I still don’t understand why they got so upset when I suggested those perfectly lovely names.

I think it’s amusing that, in one of the notes, I had copied a bunch of quotes for my sister, including this one:

“When I use a word,” Humpty Dumpty said, “it means just what I choose it to mean -- neither more nor less.”

The name Booko comes from way back when we were toddlers and our parents would read to us. Apparently she never wanted them to stop, because after about the ninth reading of the same book they had to resort to hiding it, pretending it had disappeared. And she’d ask, “Where’d the book go?” Except she was maybe two years old and it came out sounding like book-o. So for a while that really was her nickname. She’s stuck with it again now.

And I’ve decided to call my youngest sister Goldilocks, Goldie for short. Partly because she has always had a natural golden tint to her mostly brown hair, but also because she has had to deal with The Three Bears her whole life. Poor baby. As a child she had extremely long, beautiful, curly hair that had never been cut. And every day mom wove it into two long braids. I still remember the time we convinced her it was going to bleed the first time mom cut it. The three of us thought it was pretty funny, until mom found out what all the crying was about.

So there you have it, Goldie and The Three Bears. We made up outrageous stories no one else would ever understand and made each other cry and still make each other laugh. All the good things sisters are supposed to do.

And I just realized -- I never did find that picture I was looking for.

I got distracted by something shiny.

Sunday, November 26, 2006


Quiet. Be quiet.

They're gone. The laundry is dry and folded. The hair dryers and kool-aid scented shampoos are packed. The laptops and cell phones and assorted cords are tucked away. Shoes, jackets, hats. All packed up and loaded in the car. The long round trip to school and back has been completed, the girls returned to their respective dorms.

It was a good visit, one of the best, but now it's done.


The boys are still here somewhere, they're not leaving until morning and they’ll be back later to shoot pool, but now they're off doing other things and for the moment the house is quiet.

Resting. Until next time.


The TV is off, the radios and CD players are silent. I know that is not the phone ringing. Who would dare? Whatever it was, that noise has stopped now as well.

The dog is snuffling gently in his sleep, exhausted from keeping track of so many people. The cat is making soft little mewling noises, burrowed deep into a stray blanket left on the couch.

The only other sound is the clicking of the keyboard and soon that too will cease.


Listen to that.


At last.

Until next time.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Tis the Season . . . for Company

I’m probably not the only one who has ever rolled her eyes and groaned at the thought of having out-of-town company, but it’s not always a bad thing. For instance, I'm convinced the only time my house is really clean is just before overnight guests arrive. But why do they always want to talk to you? Isn't it enough that you've supplied clean towels and fresh fruit? Apparently not. They invariably turn on the TV at top volume and settle in for a long chat. Why don't they ever want to just sit quietly and read for a while?

Of course, there are the horror stories. My mother-in-law was a lovely person, but nothing could summon a sense of dread quite like hearing her say, "Don't worry about me while you're at work, I'll find something to do." Like the time she did laundry and down-sized three pair of pants and a favorite sweater. Or when she threw away my potato peeler and bought a new one that "worked." Ahem. I'm left-handed, that peeler worked great. And the time she informed me -- after I shopped for all her favorite meat-and-potato meals and had a roast in the oven -- that she and my father-in-law had switched to a low-fat, low-cholesterol, no carb diet.

There are those too infrequent visits from my mom, which summon not dread but gratitude -- with just a smidgen of guilt. Like the time I came home from work and she said, "I noticed you had a few apples on the bottom shelf of the fridge so I made a batch of apple-cinnamon muffins." Delicious. Thanks, mom. Or, "Well, I was a little bored, here alone all day, so I washed all the inside window panes." Above and beyond, mom. Thank you. Or, "Your daughter and I had the best time after school today with her homework project, constructing a scale model of the Coliseum out of toothpicks." There truly aren't enough words. Thank you for saving me from that agony.

There's the sister who visited recently and we had a great time and she managed to leave while we both still wanted her to stay. Incredible timing. It doesn't always work that way with sisters.

There are the old college friends in town for one night, with whom you talk awkwardly about old times, painfully conscious of how much you've all changed and how seldom you ever think about old times.

There's the company who makes you want to count the dishes after they leave -- not because you think they stole anything, but because you need to know how many dirty plates and cups they left sitting in various odd locations throughout the house.

And then there is the company that comes out of nowhere, with no warning. Last week I got a call from my daughter the day I was to pick her up from college for Thanksgiving break.

"Mom, can you give Susie [not her name] a ride home, too?"

"Sure." It was 38 degrees and raining. I was sure her mom would appreciate not having to go out in that.

"And can she maybe spend the night?"

"Yeah, that's fine." After all, Susie's mom lives 15 minutes away from my house and the less time spent driving that cold rainy night, the better.

"And, um, maybe would it be ok if she spent the weekend, too?"


"It's a long story. I'll tell you later, ok? But can she? Spend the weekend? If she needs to?"

"Well, of course, but--" What?

Incredibly, Susie's mom had told her it would be best if she found another place to stay Thanksgiving weekend. Let me clarify something here. Susie and my daughter have been friends for more than six years. Susie is smart, cheerful, funny and loving. She has a smile that could light up three square city blocks. I've helped her get ready for prom, told her when she went overboard with makeup and even curled her hair, for godsakes. This is not a bad kid. I can not imagine her doing anything that would make her mother ban her from home.

So I was stunned.

Wednesday night I found myself sitting on the couch watching football with Susie while my daughter escaped to her room for a private phone conversation with her sort-of boyfriend. And Susie turned to me and said, "I just don't know what to do about my mom." And I heard her side of the story.

I’ll be the first to tell you, my kids are far from perfect. They have on occasion caused me to feel extremes of anger, sadness, hurt and disappointment. But I know, way down deep in that unconditional place where mothers know these things, that there is nothing they could do or say that would ever make me tell them they could not come home. So it doesn't even matter to me what Susie might have done, there is just no excuse for this banishment. Do I sound judgmental and full of condemnation? Imagine that.

Seeing the hurt and confusion on that sweet face, hearing the vulnerability in her voice just broke my heart. And hearing her thank me repeatedly while in the same breath she apologizes for the "inconvenience" of me having to take her in this weekend makes me see red.

Unfortunately, I know her mom well enough to make conversation, but not well enough to call and ask what the hell she thinks she's doing. Plus I've learned that the best intentions are usually the worst reason for doing anything.

When there is nothing you can do, you need to do something else. So today the kids will rake some leaves. If that isn't penance enough for imagined sins, on Sunday they will help me bake Christmas cookies. I'll probably force them to eat a few, maybe even insist they take some back to school. That should erase any lingering guilt about accepting impromptu hospitality.

Company. The good, the bad and the can't wait till they leave. I thought I’d seen it all. Until this weekend brought a new kind, one not previously encountered. The kind you want to hold close and comfort and yet, at the same time, the kind you hope you never need to entertain, ever again.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Still sick, still whining

Thanks everyone, for all the well wishes and [lack of] sympathy. . . and phone calls and emails and more phone calls and still more emails. Geez.

Yes, I'm still sick. Yes, I went to the doctor. She said I have a virus and should get some rest. She gave me medicine, including something called lidocaine -- you gargle with it and it numbs your throat so you can swallow. Wonderful stuff. It's one thing to lose weight because you've cut down on calories, it's quite another to lose weight because you can't even swallow your own spit, let alone nourishment.

No, mom, I do not have strep. Yes, they did a test. No, I do not have a fever anymore. I have it from an authoritative source that my tonsils are not red and swollen -- which is a damn good thing since I vividly remember having them removed when I was six. For those keeping track (incredibly, some of you are), even after repeated attempts to cough up a lung my blood pressure is 120/80, which is not bad. Stop worrying.

But to tell the truth, I'm cranky as all hell. I hate being sick and this has gone on long enough. I've run out of chipper pleasantries to offer those who ask how I'm feeling, so here’s the truth:

My head hurts and my coughing muscles are sore. I wake up during the night, engage in crud removal (yes, I can be more descriptive, be careful what you ask for), and can't get back to sleep. The bags under my eyes have baggage. I've gone through three boxes of Kleenex and my nose is raw. I try not to look in the mirror. I can't rest because I have things to do. I have to concentrate to swallow. And the dog is back from Charlotte (I don't know why, probably it's a conspiracy) so I can't even sleep late on the weekend because he can't be trained to use the litter box for anything other than a snack tray.

Don't ask.

Oh, you think THIS is bad-tempered, self-indulgent whining? This is nothing. You should read the other stuff I've written this week. I was going to delete it all but then decided to keep it as a cautionary reminder. Of what not to do when you're sick.

But I have lost five pounds.

So it could be worse.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Get Some Rest

You know how when you’re sick and go to the doctor hoping for a miracle drug or call your mom hoping for chicken soup via long distance but really you’d settle for a sympathetic “poor baby” and instead they both say: Sounds like a virus. Get some rest.

And you think: Yeah right, if I had time to rest I probably wouldn’t be sick to begin with.

I’m so familiar with this exchange I no longer even need to go through the motions. I can shrug off advice without even having received any.

So when I woke up Saturday morning, besieged by what were clearly professional-strength germs, I thought: I should get some rest. So I did not go to the all-day writer’s workshop I had been so looking forward to. Damn it. But I did have to go to the grocery store. And I returned a couple library books, as long as I was out. I even raked a few leaves, which was a truly bad idea considering how much I was coughing.

Sunday it was raining and I thought: I need to get some rest. So I did a few loads of laundry. Made some soup. Put sheets on the guest bed. Did stuff around the house. But nothing strenuous. Because I was resting.

Monday morning my throat was so sore I could barely swallow, but I had to go to work. Except I felt awful. Those germs had adopted a “take no prisoners” strategy and they were winning. I was starting to sound like Marlo Thomas. Drastic measures were needed. So I called my boss, ignored the “you sound, um, different” commentary (give me a break), told him I was sick (nope, not coming in at noon), endured the infliction of guilt (why do bosses do that?), and went back to bed.

And slept. All day. Woke up twice and ate soup. Went back to bed and slept. All night.

And I feel so much better now (cough). Really. I’m fine (sniffle). A couple naps under my desk at work today (like that’s going to happen), I should be back to normal in no time (right).

Ok, gimme a week, tops.

It’s just amazing what a little good advice can do, once you decide to take it. Really.

TUE PM: Ok, in defense of my boss (clearly, the fever has caused delirium), I had only been at work about two hours today when he said: Maybe you should go home. And get some rest.

Gee, SO glad to know I looked as bad as I felt, because who the hell wants to look better than she feels? Of course this also means I may have been mistaken all this time and he does indeed have a mother.

Nah. More likely he believed me earlier when he said: So, you sound pretty bad, what do you think you have? And I replied, deadpan: I’m pretty sure it’s the plague which, as you know, is quite contagious.

I’m going back to bed now.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Memory Lane

Back in the early 1990's, when I lived in south Florida, I wrote several dozen Op Ed type articles of various lengths for a local newspaper. Last night, for reasons unknown, I took a little walk down memory lane and re-read those articles. All of them, God help me.

Most of them were so-so, some were truly awful, and a handful were pretty damn good, if I do say so myself. At least half of them were extremely political and I am somewhat in awe of the woman who wrote them with no apparent fear of reprisal. There were even a couple that generated letters of thanks from various members of the community, which I had saved as well.

But all of the articles, good and bad, made me smile just a little. There is just something about the remembered feeling of seeing your name and picture in the local paper, accompanied by your very own words. It did make me wonder, though, whether in a dozen years I will look back on these blog entries and say: most of them were so-so, some were truly awful, and a handful were pretty damn good.

Since I'm currently suffering miserably from the feverish, aching, coughing, congested head cold from hell and feeling more than a little uninspired [read: lazy], here is one of the articles, published 12-4-93, that still makes me smile. I did not write the headline.

I should note that the then-teenaged daughter of the friend about whom I wrote was outraged by the article, and vehemently defended her mother's culinary choices. Just so you know, I've already been raked over those coals. My dear friend, who also wore the hats of talented writer and merciless mentor, thought it was outrageously funny and told her daughter to lighten up. Even though we exchange cards and family news once a year, I miss her. And I think about her every Thanksgiving.

Thanksgiving's not the same without turkey

I have a friend who is a vegetarian, which was the cause of speculation this past week. What does she eat at Thanksgiving? No turkey means there's no gravy and, therefore, not much point in mashed potatoes or dressing. What is left of the traditional feast? Rolls and cranberries?

I thought of her while making room in my fridge for my own turkey, which thawed as slowly as April snow in Minnesota.

And while I cleaned it, a process more difficult than bathing the dog.

And while explaining to my curious children its various internal parts.

And again, when I needed help removing the thing from my oven, as it weighed more than the combined birth weights of both my children.

And the next day, during painstaking hours spent removing leftover meat from the bones.

I thought of her all weekend, while eating countless turkey sandwiches, and found I had discovered two new reasons to give thanks.

First, that the pilgrims did not have a side of beef for their celebration. And second, for this one day, in spite of the mess, I am thankful that I am NOT a vegetarian. At least not yet.

Ok, I have to admit this is not a verbatim copy of what was published. I added back in five words that were deleted from the final copy due to word limit constraints. Hey, it’s my blog, I set the limits here. The article as posted above is 195 words. That's hard to do. Don't believe me? You try it. Really.

Write an article and post it in the comments, 200 words or less, telling me something about your Thanksgiving celebration -- the best, the worst, the one you’re planning for this year. Who knows? In a dozen years or so, you might look back, read it and decide it was pretty damn good. Or it might just make you smile.

And no cheating. I will count.

Ahem. I heard that. I'll have you know I am much more proficient at counting words than heads.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

The One Time I Couldn't

There are a lot of things you need to do when you move from one state to another. There are all the obvious things like connect the utilities, forward your mail, give your mom the new phone number. And the not so obvious things. Like registering to vote. Ah, you already know where this is going, don't you?

Ten years ago, during a presidential election year no less, I was not registered to vote. Oh, I was old enough, and had a clean criminal record and proof of citizenship. But we had just moved. Ok, so we had moved eleven months and three weeks prior to the election, but it seemed like just yesterday. I was working full-time, the kids were little and had to be driven everywhere, and life was hectic. And I didn't really forget, exactly, I just hadn't gotten around to it yet. The election was still weeks away and I took for granted there was plenty of time. No problem.

Until one day, someone on the radio said they hoped everyone had remembered to register to vote because it was now officially too late.

Too late? And I had not registered. I went that very day, hoping maybe I'd heard wrong and it wasn't too late. Maybe they'd make an exception. Nope. No mistake, no exceptions. Oh, I registered all right. Just too late.

I spent weeks kicking myself and feeling horrible. Like a criminal. Disenfranchised. I never thought I'd use that word, it sounds so corny, but it is very accurate. Until then, I had voted in every election since the day I turned eighteen. Sometimes my votes were misguided -- driven solely by party loyalty or influenced by factors other than the issues -- and sometimes they were pitifully uninformed or cynically apathetic. But I had never before failed to exercise my right to vote.

Election day rolled around and it seemed everyone I saw, even complete strangers in the elevator, asked me whether I had voted. Unable to admit my own stupidity and unwilling to lie, I told everyone I usually voted on the way home from work. Which was true. Just not that year.

So, go ahead and ask me today. I will answer: "Hell yes, I voted. Did you?"

Because I remember all too clearly the one time I couldn't.

Post Script

POST SCRIPT: This is a separate entry because I’m not sure I can figure out how to add it to the last post without screwing it up.

Ahem. It has been brought to my attention that more than six people, maybe as many as nine, read this blog. Frankly, I am staggered by the concept. Geez. Just because I make a living in the world of finance does not mean I can count heads with any degree of accuracy. Especially when some of you are practically invisible and never deign to comment and the rest of you refuse to hold still so I can get an accurate tally. Not to mention the fact that some of you have more than one head and that just throws everything off kilter. Damn aliens.

So when I said that all SIX of you who read this blog had been pestering me with stupid, albeit charming, questions . . . well, you have to take into account that whole "thirty to fifty percent margin of error" thing you're always hearing about.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

So, now it’s my turn to ask

This is multiple choice, short essay. Pick a question and answer it. Or, for extra credit,* answer them all. Feel free to write several comments, you won’t break anything. Probably.

1) Think about the last book you didn’t finish reading and, without telling me what it was or who wrote it (hey, it might be one of my friends), tell me what about the book made you put it down.

2) Or, if you’d rather, tell me the same thing about the last movie you couldn’t finish watching.

3) Think about the book you re-read the most often and tell me what emotion it evokes in you -- that is, what do you feel as you’re reading, what makes you keep coming back to the same book, time after time. And go ahead and tell me what book it is, this is a good thing.

4) If you had to recommend one book for your mom to read, what would it be? Would it be the same for your dad? Why?

5) Has reading a book ever made you extremely angry? Why? (Again, please don’t identify it; we don’t want hurt feelings here.)

6) What do you feel when you think about a long winter weekend spent downhill skiing? Is there anything you’d rather spend a long winter weekend doing?

7) How many blogs do you read on a daily basis? Why?

8) How many books do you read in an average week? Why?

9) Compare your answers to 7) and 8) above and tell me something significant about that.

10) Make up your own question, something no one has asked you yet but the answer to which you’d really like to share with the rest of us. Extra points for creativity.

There. That ought to keep you all busy for a while so I can get some stuff done. I’ve got company coming later in the week and the house is a mess.

*Extra credit can be used to purchase merchandise on the BCB Merchandise page. You can’t find the link? Really? Keep looking. Take your time.

Since you asked, and asked, and asked . . .

First of all, knock it off. Do you know how many of you people sent this email questionnaire to me? Too many.

Second, I do not reply to nonsense like this because it often carries germs that can wreak havoc with computers that don’t have the latest anti-virus software.

And third-- well hell, if you really want to know, and since the six of you who sent it to me are pretty much the only ones reading this blog. . . but I’m deleting the questions I don’t feel like answering. C’mon, there were more than thirty of them and I’m busy here.

About Me: (this really should be changed to something more accurate)

What time is it: Is this a trick question? Do you not have a watch?

Full name: If you know me well enough to ask all these stupid damn questions, then you’d better know the answer to this one at least.

What are you most afraid of? Success beyond my wildest dreams.

Place of birth: Minneapolis, MN. There was a fire at the hospital the day after I went home, but I had nothing to do with that. Really. Something about faulty wiring on the holiday decorations.

Loved someone so much it made you cry: Of course I have. Geez, I’m a daughter and a sister and an ex-wife and a mom and a friend. Besides, everything makes me cry. Just ask my kids, who claim a bad weather report can make me cry.

Favorite Flower: Purple irises and yellow tea roses, together. Why, are you sending some? How nice. Thank you.

Favorite Drink: Ice water and unsweetened tea, hot or iced.

How many times you failed your driver's license? Who says I have one? I’ve never failed any test, as far as I can remember.

Before this one, from whom did you get your last e-mail? You mean before ALL SIX of these? I think there was a really long one from Bob Mayer -- it was a million-word history of the US Special Forces [from an online class of his I'm taking]. I should be reading that instead of answering all these questions. And there was one from the library, saying some books were due in a couple days -- I should be reading those, too.

What do you do most often when you are bored? I’m rarely bored -- the voices in my head are quite entertaining.

What time is Bedtime: It varies, but it’s usually way too close to the time I have to wake up again.

Last person you went to dinner with: Why? Did they become suddenly and violently ill?

Ford or Chevy: Among other things, my grandpa had a garage. My dad used to tell a story about how, when Ford first came out with a V-8 engine, it was really difficult for mechanics to work on it without special tools and after that grandpa hated Ford cars. My grandpa could swear fluently in Norwegian. I do a passable imitation. Dad said he’d never buy a Ford, even though he freely admitted it was a stupid reason not to. So, family tradition says Chevy. In two languages.

What are you listening to right now: I believe that sound is crickets.

What are your favorite colors: My daughter says it’s black; a direct quote: “I’ll only go clothes shopping with you if you promise not to buy anything black.” But I also like deep jewel tones.

How many Tattoos do you have: Wouldn’t you rather know what and where they are? Sorry, don’t have any. They expand and turn green.

How many pets do you have? Well, the cat has me, so maybe that doesn’t count. And I sort of have unofficial half-custody of a dog. I no longer have any fish, hamsters, guinea pigs or iguanas.

What would you like to accomplish before you die? To finish living. And to FTDB and see it published. And then another. And travel everywhere and talk to people. Maybe even ask them stupid questions.

What are your favorite movies: I have no idea; I don’t do well with names. Probably the ones that came out before special effects were invented -- the ones with sexy banter and witty dialog that makes you think.

Beach or Forest? I’ve already spent way too much time at the beach with kids -- and then cleaning up the sandy swimsuits, towels and other sunscreen-glazed, brine-encrusted paraphernalia -- but I do enjoy a long walk on an empty beach in the winter months and I love watching the waves and the pelicans. Otherwise, it’s the forest. Or the mountains. And there is nothing quite like the wide open expanse of the plains, where you can see the curve of the earth.

DIRECTIONS: Now, here's what you're supposed to do. . . Wait just a minute here. Do you really believe for one minute that I am going to follow directions?

And maybe I have some questions of my own. But this post is already way too long, so look for them in the next one.

Thursday, November 02, 2006


I have noticed a trend lately in my phone conversations: they all get interrupted.

For instance, I’m talking to one of my sisters and she says: "So what are you going to do for -- Did you finish that science homework? Well, go do it. Now. -- your birthday this year?"

Talking to a fellow writer: "And the agent called me back and was really interested and asked -- You should have been in bed ten minutes ago! Turn off that light! -- to see a full."

Talking to my mom: "And I just finished reading a really interesting book that I think you'd -- oh, can you hold on? I've got another call -- click.

Talking to my daughter as she walks across campus: "And yeah, so I was up till like one o'clock studying and I'm so freaking -- Hi, Trey -- hang on, mom -- did you [hand covers phone] mrpffl, brmph, skrfpl, ok, I'll see you then -- mom? I'm back and God, I have so much homework and I'm so freaking tired."

It's not that I consider this behavior to be rude, because I don't. Not really. It's just life. And the funny thing is, not long ago it was my life. I used to create those same interruptions all the time.

Not long ago, picking up the phone and dialing a number, especially a long distance number, was guaranteed to set off some primal urge in my children to engage in activity that required my immediate intervention. Or it would activate some secret call waiting code and cause every person I know to call me at the same time.

Not these days. These days, if another call comes in while I’m on the phone I ignore it, knowing full well it's a computer trying to sell me a satellite dish or a recording of a politician’s wife telling me to vote. And I don't believe the cat has ever engaged in activity requiring my immediate intervention.

What no one seems to realize, though, is that their call has interrupted ME. And my writing. But if I tried to explain, they'd think: Yeah, yeah, big deal, it's just words -- you can get back to it later, right?

Right. After all, it’s not like lives hang in the balance.

And, really, what would my mom think if I suddenly stopped her mid-sentence and said: "Hang on, my heroine is trying to decide why, if she trusts this guy not to kill her, she can’t trust him enough to let him seduce her?"

Or if I said to my daughter: "One minute, my hero is trying to decide whether it might make his life easier to just kill her now rather than keep trying to get her to tell him the truth."

And I'm sure my neighbor would understand if I said: "Let me call you right back about that geranium sale because, over in the back yard, the bad guy has just lit the match that will start the four-alarm fire that will have my hero and heroine putting aside their differences and fighting for their survival when they realize the house is on fire and they have to move the dead body before all the evidence goes up in flames. And I'm trying to remember whether I wrote the scene where the heroine took all those incriminating documents and hid them in a safe place, which is NOT in the house, or whether I just imagined that part."

But no, I don’t do that. Has anyone ever heard me say: "Hold on while I finish writing this kiss." Or "Just a minute, I think I've figured out an important motivation here, give me a second to get it on paper."

No, you have not. But maybe that's all about to change.

Just giving advance notice. From now on, you call me, you run the risk of being interrupted.

Sunday, October 29, 2006


Have you ever been so distracted by your thoughts you just function automatically? You know, you arrive at work only to realize you don’t remember much of the 30-minute commute? Or you get out of the shower and can’t remember whether you used conditioner?

Well, it happened to me yesterday in the grocery store. I’d just had a long lunch with a brave, strong, funny woman who I’d been wanting to meet and was thinking about that. I was also thinking about the next twist in my plot and that maybe I’d figured out how to handle it better. And about the three new paperbacks I just put in the cart and wondering when I was going to find time to read them. And about the book I need to read before that online class starts on Wednesday. And making a mental note -- yeah, like that works -- to call a roofer on Monday. And then I remembered I’m having out-of-town company week after next. And. . . well, I was distracted.

This is usually not a problem in the grocery store. I don’t know why I even bother to make a list, because I could dig one out of the bottom of my purse from three months ago and it would be pretty much identical to one from a year ago. Unless I’m making something special, like fudge or lasagna, and even then it will just say “fudge stuff” or “lasagna ingr.” because I know what goes into each and that’s all the reminder I need.

The problem is that my relatively new routine of cooking for one now that both kids are off at college hasn’t become ingrained habit when it comes to grocery shopping. I still have to remind myself not to buy Pringles, for instance, because I don’t eat them.

So I got to the checkout and was a bit startled by the total. I wondered whether the person behind me had slipped a whole tenderloin across into my stuff, except when I looked no one was there. I became increasingly concerned as I loaded all those bags into the car. And somewhat alarmed by how many trips it took to lug them all in to the house.

I had intended to get some cans of cat food and a few of those little white boxes I’ve recently discovered. You know, the ones that contain a plastic dish of low-fat, low-calorie, no-cholesterol, high-fiber, nutritionally balanced food you shove in the microwave for four minutes and it doesn’t taste half-bad if you don’t think about it or look at it too closely and no one is going to complain about it and it sure makes life easier after a long day at work and why the hell hadn’t I tried this sooner? Those. Just what had I bought, anyway?

Well, short answer, enough food to last a good long while. Unless the kids come home again soon, then it might last two days. Real food. Food I’m going to have to do something with other than shove it in the microwave. Sigh. At least I won’t have to shop again for a while.

Except I realized this morning -- I forgot to buy Halloween candy.

Maybe I can turn off all the lights and pretend I’m not home Tuesday night? All that door-answering is really going to cut into my reading time. And if I’m writing, chances are good I won’t even hear the doorbell.

No, I’m going to have to go to the store again. Anyone have any tips on how to focus?

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Who's Been Sleeping in My Beds?

Well, it all started innocently enough. Usually it's just the cat sharing space with me these days. And even then only when she's cold and sleeps on my feet until I wake up, notice I can’t move and convince her to go stalk something in the darkness. The dog has been spending a lot of time lately with His Favorite Person, who lives in another city.

But then my kids decided they would indeed be coming home during their four-day fall breaks from college -- on different, consecutive weekends. Who was in charge of planning that? So they called their father and begged him to bring the dog home for a visit at mom's house.

Which is fine. Really. Except I'd kind of gotten used to NOT being awakened before dawn every morning by 85 pounds of energetic black lab jumping up on the bed and slurping my face as a signal he’s ready to go outside.

So last Saturday and Sunday morning were loud and interesting. You know, it's probably not a great idea to start the day swearing like that, but the good thing about dogs and cats is they don't repeat what you say and embarrass you in front of the neighbors.

Monday morning, my son was snug as a bug in his own bed. It had been a while, and I appreciated how nice it was to have him home for a couple days. Except that Monday morning usually requires the playing of really loud music as a motivator to get me up and out the door to work on time. Not this week.

Tuesday morning brought the realization that the population in my house had grown significantly overnight. The guest bed and both couches in the bonus room were occupied by large male life forms. This was not really a surprise. House rules: You drink beer and shoot pool till 3:00 AM at my house, you'd damn well better plan to spend the night -- or you will be attempting to explain yourself next time I see you.

By Wednesday morning the boys were gone and my daughter was in place, home for one night because she had a doctor appointment that morning and it couldn't be rescheduled. She was back on campus by noon, attending the last day of class before her break started.

Thursday morning and I was alone again with the four-legged creatures. But I checked all the beds, just in case. I’ve discovered that running around half-naked in the morning is not a good idea, even if you're really, really sure and could have sworn no one was there . . .

Then Friday morning there were four girls camped out in various locations. Yes, they had planned to sleep over at someone else's house after attending the fair, but things change. Usually not at 11:30 on a Thursday night, but it can happen. Sure, no problem.

By Saturday morning, I was so confused and sleep-deprived I got up early, did a head count -- just one female child, far as I could tell -- and started getting ready for work. I do not have to go to work on Saturday. Sigh.

Sunday morning? Who knows? I’m ready for anything.

So that's who's been sleeping in my beds. And on my couches. And in my sleeping bags. You wouldn't think a middle-aged, divorced mother of two college-aged kids would spend much time wondering who is sleeping in her beds, would you? Shows how much you know.

Don't even get me started about who's been eating my porridge.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Movin' On -- to the State Fair!

The State Fair is in town this week and I am not going to go. Not only that, I am going to enjoy not going.

When I was little, mom and dad would take all three of my sisters and me to the Minnesota State Fair. Going to the fair meant riding the Tilt-A-Whirl and Ferris wheel and making spin art pictures that you’d take home and have no idea what to do with until 20 years later when mom tried to send them home with you and you told her to just throw them away already.

It also meant walking through the animal barns and pretending you were unaffected by the smell. Yes, I can tell the difference, by smell alone, between a cow barn and a chicken coop. My people are farm people, and to farm people the purpose of a fair is to show off farm things: the best animals, the latest machinery, the wonderful hand-made quilts and, of course, the canned and baked goods.

And it also meant that, at some point, you ended up with a caramel apple. Why? I have no idea. I don't like them. Yet every time, I ended up holding this top-heavy thing on a stick, no idea how to bite into it without getting sticky goo all over my face, teeth sliding off the skin of the apple. You might as well try to bite into the side of a city bus -- you wouldn’t make a dent in that either and yet you’d end up with nasty stuff all over your face. Of course no one ever got arrested for trying to eat a caramel apple.

And the goo spreads. To those strands of hair blowing about, sticking to the slick brown mass. Hands reaching up, brushing away, becoming hopelessly mired in sweet stickiness. Your sister bumping into you, accidentally of course, getting some of it on your arm. Multiply this by four small children and the potential for disaster in the car on the way home is almost unimaginable. What the hell were my parents thinking?

Someday I'll have to ask my mom about it.

Trips to the fair with my own children were somewhat different. The first time we went I asked: Should we go see the animals first or go on a few rides? My husband and two kids paused in their mad dash to the midway, staring at me with horror and disbelief: Why would we go look at the animals? Since no good reason came immediately to mind, we didn't. What a bad mother. If my children are ever plopped down, blindfolded, in the midst of a farm building and required to identify which animals inhabit said building-- well, it won’t be pretty.

Then there was the year my son, too cool for the family thing, convinced us he and his buddies were old enough to go on their own. I think they were fifteen. We dropped them off, said a prayer they wouldn’t try to bite a city bus, and picked them up again after the fireworks display. When you consider the possibilities, one lost cell phone seemed a minor consequence.

A couple years later, my daughter tried the same tactic. Why do kids always remember how old their older sibling was when they got to do something? I’m sorry, but it’s different for girls. It’s not fair (no pun intended), but that’s the way it is. And somehow, I ended up being the one to go with them.

Five girls and me. At the fair. We met up with two other girls whose parents were all too willing to let me look after them, as well. One of these girls was so petite she didn’t even reach my shoulder and her mother confided to me: You really need to keep a close eye on her, she tends to wander.


So. Seven girls and me. At the fair. Stumbling over thick electrical cables, dodging around the oblivious folks who will walk straight into you if you don’t move, juggling five jackets and three purses -- all of which I had tried to insist they leave in the car -- two drinks, one slice of pizza and a half-eaten cone of cotton candy. Ok, so the cotton candy didn’t last more than three minutes before it hit the trash. I have a low tolerance for sticky fair food. The girls had the time of their lives, screaming their way through one brain-mashing ride after another -- while I was ready to scream just standing there. Counting heads and holding stuff.

On the way home they all thanked me and said it was the best fair ever. I think the next year we decided they were old enough to go on their own.

So that’s why I’m going to really enjoy not going to the State Fair this week.

But you know, I heard they buried all the cables on the midway this year. Of course, if I went I could walk through the animal barns. And look at the quilts. And eat some sweet corn on the cob. And stand there, unburdened, under the clear night sky and watch the fireworks.

Anyone want to go with me? The forecast says sunny and cool. Perfect weather for the fair.

C’mon, let’s go. But leave the damn jacket in the car.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Silence is . . .

I have been thinking lately about silence. It occurs to me there are as many different varieties of silence as there are causes. According to one reference, by definition silence is “the absence or lack of noise” or “a refusal, failure or inability to speak” or “an absence of notice or acknowledgement of something.” But silence is not an absence of communication, nor is it void of meaning.

I have known many different kinds of silence.

There is the comfortable silence between old friends, the embrace of easy camaraderie and echoes of remembered conversations folding around like a warm cloak.

There is the eerie silence after a hurricane when the wild creatures that fled to safety have yet to return home.

There is the tense angry silence of misunderstanding between lovers, hurt feelings and injured pride, a long night spent hugging the side of the bed.

There is the silence of a disapproving parent, weighted with generations of disappointed expectations, more effective than any scolding.

There is the silence of a sleeping child, interrupted by quiet murmurs and soft breathing, a mere pause in activity, a source of wonder.

There is the silence of grounded air traffic, of tear-drenched memorial services and the stoic throat-choked endurance of public grief.

There is the awe-inspired silence as the last note of brilliantly played music resonates through a crowd of people collectively holding their breath in that syncopated moment just before the applause.

There is the silence of inattention, of distracted absorption in other things that often leads to startled realization and rushed apologies for the lack.

There is the silence just before dawn on a winter morning, before the plows and the sleds, when the first heavy snow has fallen during the night, muffling the world in a thick blanket of white.

There is the awkward silence of newly met strangers, not knowing what to say or how to say it, broken by self-conscious laughter or inane remarks.

There is the taut silence in the night that speaks of danger, when even the crickets are still, sensing the unseen threat.

So many kinds of silence, saying so many different things.

And then there is the silence of an overture rebuffed, a message not deemed worthy of a reply, the kind of silence that wields a weight capable of crushing the spirit and destroying the soul. A dismissive silence for which there is no defense and no remedy.

It hurts.

But what hurts more is the slow realization, too late, that you earned it.

And there, echoing with self-condemnation and contrition . . .

. . . is silence.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

It Was a Tough Week

The summer I was 12, my parents had a swimming pool installed in the back yard -- the kind with a blue vinyl liner over several hard-packed inches of sand. There are many, many stories I could tell about that pool, but today I’m remembering my dad cleaning it. He was a teacher and had summers off, so he’d clean the pool every morning and then go golfing.

He’d skim the top first with the long-handled aluminum skimmer pole, then hook up the brush attachment and hose contraption and vacuum the pool. Very slowly, so as not to stir up the stuff on the bottom. Up and down the sides, back and forth across the bottom. Slowly. Seemed like it took forever. I guess he had a routine because you could look out the porch window, note where he was standing, and know exactly how much longer it would take. When he finished vacuuming, he’d skim the top again.

When he was done and it was once again a pristine expanse of shimmering blue water sparkling in the sunlight, you felt like you had to just stand there and appreciate it for a minute. You almost hated to be the first one to jump in and mess it up. Almost.

Today I’m feeling a bit like that pool of glittering vacant water. The events of the week have vacuumed all the interesting stuff right out of me. I’m empty.

There are no acorns or twigs or ponytail holders on the bottom. No leaves or dead bugs or forgotten toys floating on the top. No squirmy salamanders trying to climb the slippery sides or dead moles swirling in the skimmer bucket.

All the good stuff is gone, vacuumed up and skimmed away, leaving me with no interesting thoughts or emotions. Nothing to say.

Pretty soon someone will come along, jump in with a big splash and stir things up again. But for now, the water is still and empty.


Sunday, October 01, 2006

The Facts of Life

This is pretty cool. I say some stuff, a couple people come over and read it, and say stuff back. I haven’t broken anything yet, in spite of playing with all the various options -- did you know you actually have to enable anonymous commenters? Who knew? I struggled with the irony of that concept, let me tell you -- so I guess I’ll just keep on talking. Well, on the weekends anyway, because the rest of the week I’ve got things to do.

Speaking of talking, I have an older sister. I also have two younger sisters, but I’ll probably get around to them another day. They all live in another state. My older sister (I’ll call her Babs because that isn’t her name and, even better, she can’t stop me) has been calling me on the phone quite a bit lately. Maybe once a week. A noticeable increase from the usual once every month or so. Stoic Minnesotans that we are, that seemed quite sufficient, thank you. And during these conversations she invariably asks how the writing is going. Yeah, silly me, I told her I’m writing a book.

I’d reply with something like: Just fine, thanks. And how are the kids?

So the other day I finally asked her about it: Babs, what is with all the recent interest in my writing progress (or lack thereof)?

Babs [in her bossy yet supportive oldest sister voice]: Well, I want you to hurry up and finish it so it can get published.

Me [after a stunned silence]: Okaay, but you’re asking ONCE A WEEK. Just when, exactly, do you think this is going to happen?

Babs [impatient with my inability to see things her way]: I don’t know. Soon. Next spring?

So after I stopped laughing, I shared with her my take on the publishing business. It goes something like this:

Publishers of mass market fiction are a bit like pimps. Unlike the heroes in romance novels of olden days, they are just not interested in virgins. They want writers who have done it a few times. Writers who can do it consistently, time after time, and on schedule. Writers who can make the next time seem as good as the first time and look good doing it, no matter that they have a headache and hungry kids to feed and a dog grown fat and lazy from lack of daily walks.

Babs interrupted at this point to chide me for not walking the dog.

I continued, undaunted: They don’t care that you really want to do it, that you’re sure you’ll be good at it or at least get the hang of it after a few tries. Enthusiasm and good intentions don’t count.

Babs: But I’ve read some of your stuff and it’s pretty good.

Well, thanks. I think. But teasing and flirtation and short excerpts don’t count. They want finesse and polished technique and proof that a writer can make it all the way through to a completion that leaves the customer satisfied and ready to pay for it again next time they’re in town. And most of all, they want writers who can rake in the big bucks from lots and lots of happy repeat customers.

And the truth is, I’m a virgin with no regular customers. Haven’t even done it once yet. And those publishers, they’re going to want to see some proof. Word on the street is that I’ll probably have to do it quite a few times for free before they think I’m good enough to get paid for it.

It’s going to take a while.

And I’m working on it.

Between phone calls.

OK, so maybe I got a little testy there toward the end of the conversation.

Come to think of it, I haven’t heard from Babs since I explained to her the facts of publishing life as I see them. She’s probably walking her dog and counting her blessings that she doesn’t hear voices.

Either that or she’s devising a way to speed up the whole publishing process. I’m confident she’ll tell me what to do once she figures it out.

Hang on, the phone is ringing…

Saturday, September 30, 2006

On Being Nice

All this white space has been bothering me, you know. It’s just sitting over here waiting for words. So I’m thinking maybe this blog is good for something after all. We’ll see.

I know I’ve joked about niceness quite a bit over on “The Blog That Wouldn’t Die” and how it seems everyone is all the time telling me to be nice. But have any of you ever had someone do something really nice for you? I don’t mean nice like holding a door open when your hands are full or not cutting you off to slide into that last parking spot at the mall. I’m talking about seriously nice. The makes you want to cry kind of nice.

Some of you might remember I mentioned a while back [not here, in another forum -- I know, the internet is a confusing place] that in July a co-worker’s 18-year-old son was diagnosed with lymphoma. My DD is the same age and, until this news, my co-worker and I had similar expectations for what the fall would hold for us as parents. He and I both were looking forward to sending our youngest child off to college, spending big bucks so they could pursue higher education and lower parental supervision.

All that changed for him and his family. Forget about AP test results, they were now looking at blood tests, CAT scans and MRIs. No more worrying about alcohol consumption at weekend parties, they were hoping the white blood count would stay high enough to allow the chemo-therapy to commence. And he had an oncologist advising him not to enroll his son in college at all, it would be too stressful and his son would need to concentrate all his energy on fighting the cancer. Balance that against the reality of an 18-year-old needing to maintain full-time student status to be eligible for continued insurance coverage of what was now one hell of a pre-existing condition. Tough choices.

They were lucky to find some very supportive people at a local community college who helped enroll the son in a curriculum of online classes, even made room in the ones that were full, so he could minimize stress and germ exposure. And that was nice. But that’s not the really nice part.

This young man was on the golf team all through high school. Sort of a star player, actually. So his buddies from the team decided to hold a fundraiser golf tournament to show their support. Help the family out with some of those expenses insurance just won’t cover. They found a small local course that agreed to cooperate, set up the tournament with entry fees and a system of letting people sponsor each hole on the course.

Well, they held the tournament this past weekend. My co-worker said there were so many people there you would have thought it was a PGA event. “Everyone I know or am supposed to know,” was his estimate. A local church donated hot dogs, chips and drinks. In addition to the entry fees, eighteen holes were available for sponsorship -- for which they had 70 sponsors sign up. Cash prizes awarded to the winners were, without exception, donated back to the fundraiser. When all was said and done, this bunch of teenaged boys raised more than $11,000 to help cover their friend’s medical expenses.

My co-worker was visibly moved as he told me all this, overwhelmed by the outpouring of community support and friendship. So was I.

It’s early days yet, but the chemo treatments are going well and everyone is sounding very optimistic. And one little corner of the world is a nicer place.

I may not always manage to be nice myself, but I sure know it when I see it.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

How Did This Happen?

Not sure how I ended up with a blog, I didn't ask for one. Blogger must think I have something to say here.

Blogger is mistaken.

Go read something else.