Tuesday, June 30, 2009
Monday, June 29, 2009
Saturday, June 27, 2009
The other thing that's been going on the last week is the Dealing with the Canadians. We've been trying to get the finances in place for the Big Move to Victoria, which is mainly about paying for the house we've nearly bought.
Which has been a major Pain in the Ass. Yes, this is the blog post of Many Capital Letters.
David called and talked to him and likes this school even better than the Victoria one.
Our daughter, Lauren, the mortgage broker, looked up rates in Santa Fe and found us a stellar 10% down deal with her company.
Wednesday, June 24, 2009
Welcome today to Candace Havens, member of FFP and author of the new release Dragons Prefer Blondes. Take it away, Candace!
One of the things I love most about romance novels is the happy endings. I like knowing that no matter how much hell the character goes through during the book, in the end he or she is going to get a happy ending.
I can guarantee you’ll get one of those with every book I write. It may not be the happy ending one might expect, but there will be one. (Smile). In my new book, Dragons Prefer Blondes, it doesn’t look like my heroine, Alex, has much chance for happiness. She’s in charge of keeping dragons from attacking Earth. It’s a tough job, but the wealthy club owner just looks at it like another day at the office.
She’s a woman who has most definitely given up on the concept of love and happily ever afters. She’s certain those things will never be a part of her life. Imagine her surprise when love smacks her upside the head and she realizes that she could possibly lose the one person who matters most to her.
Through the years I’ve had a chance to talk to Nicholas Sparks about his various books and films. While talking about “Nights in Rodanthe” I thought he explained his style very well. “I write Greek tragedies, and there are no happy endings in a Greek tragedy,” he said. “I give people a hopeful ending, but not necessarily a happy one.” As much as I adore him and his books, it hurts my heart every time I read them or watch the films.
So, while I can’t tell you the ending of Alex’s story, I can say that there is a resolution. And that while she may not get what she thought she wanted, she does end up happy. (Smile).
Don’t tell me the endings, but share some of your favorite books that had wonderful resolutions at the end.
After cocktails on their gorgeous patio, we went to Harry's Roadhouse, which was a first for me. And it was fabulous. Great setting, beautiful patio out back (which we only gazed at from inside because of the rain). Food was excellent and the least expensive meal we've had thus far. I had the blue corn turkey enchiladas as Mary recommended and they were fab. Real lime margaritas, too, with all the tartness you could ask for. They are purportedly also open seven days a week, for breakfast, lunch and dinner, which is really something to maintain.
Tuesday, June 23, 2009
A rare picture of my primary work team, taken by the sous-waitress at the Pink Adobe in Santa Fe.
Usually one of us -- read: Kim, because she's the photographer (the one with her hair pulled back) -- is behind the camera, so we don't get all four of us at once.
These are the women I spend a good chunk of my life with. We spend a week at a time together, doing stressful, detailed work, once or twice a month. And we haven't killed each other. Val, who is sitting next to me, used to live in Seattle and now lives in Ft. Collins. Laurie, our project manager, boss, and fearless leader, behind Val, lives in New Hampshire. And Kim used to live in New York City but now lives in Orlando. (Yeah, she migrated south prematurely.)
Dinner at the Pink Adobe is always nostalgic for me, but last night wasn't thrilling. They didn't get us on the actual patio as they'd promised when I called. Seems the hostess missed the "patio" part of the sentence. Food was VERY slow -- over an hour and it wasn't that busy. Then, Kim, who eats only chicken (and tuna from a can -- don't ask) couldn't find any chicken on the menu (I know: odd), so she asked if they could make her some kind of grilled chicken. She also ordered a side salad. They did bring her grilled chicken -- a dried out husk on a plate with nothing else, worthy of a Ruby Tuesdays and a minimal salad. The manager stopped by to ask how the food was and we said what had happened. And he so didn't care. Alas. Pink Adobe is not the place it used to be. I suppose after nearly 40 years of eating there I can let it go. Doubt I'll go again with so many amazing restaurants in Santa Fe.
Still pretty sad.
Monday, June 22, 2009
Here's Tobiah, with his paternal grandfather, Miguel.
Normally Tobiah is quite a bit more jovial than this, but my step-daughter, Lauren, reported that he'd been cranky that day. Not everyone loves a party.
I got to stop by for a few minutes, on the drive to Santa Fe, to drop off some presents from David and me. I asked Lauren if the year had gone fast for her, too. She said it had flown by. She even looked a little dizzy, thinking about it.
A year ago, David and I were in Victoria, when Lauren's boyfriend, Damion called us in the early morning to say Tobiah had been born. We lay there watching the morning light over the Japanese gardens at Laurel Point Inn and the Inner Harbor beyond. We'd visited acupuncture schools the day before and David had clicked with the one in Victoria. Our world had shifted, in several profound ways. Now David thought about teaching Tobiah to fish in the lovely, gentle seascape of Vancouver Island.
I admire what Lauren has accomplished. She has a challenging career and a new baby. She and Damion are learning to build their lives together. Juggling all the families can't be easy. But Lauren cheerfully makes room for everyone who wants to be part of Tobiah's life. It takes an openness of heart for that, along with a stern resolve.
So Happy Father's Day to the fathers: Damion, Miguel, David. Happy First Day of Summer to us all -- may we have some now, for all of us who've had such a cold and rainy June. Hopefully the light of the longest day shone with radiance for you.
And Happy First Birthday, little Mowgli-baby!
Saturday, June 20, 2009
"I don't want to say I don't care," he answered, "because that sounds bad. But I also have to say that it's impossible to live an authentic life if you make decisions based on what other people think."
This is, of course, not a new idea. He's reiterating a concept that many philosophers have explored, such as Osho, David's current favorite. We all grow up with ideas we learn first from our parents, then from our schools, churches, friends and lovers. Becoming an independent adult is partially the process of learning to separate who you are from what everyone wants you to be. It's not easy to decide you disagree with what everyone around you thinks. It's comforting to be one with the group, where everyone approves of what you say. It's tempting to say only those things that will garner approval. And yet, you trade personal authenticity for that approval. If you do only those things that others will agree with and approve of, you end up living the life other people think you should have. In essence you lose your life to other people's ideas.
It's like Aesop's Fable "The Man, the Boy and the Donkey," which bears repeating here. (There's a great site http://aesopfables.com/ that has over 655 fables online with a searchable index. The site also notes that "Mr. Carlson at http://aesop.creighton.edu/ has over 3,000 books of Fables. They are all fully cataloged with much information about each and the catalog is online however he does not have any fables online.")
A Man and his son were once going with their Donkey to market. As they were walking along by its side a countryman passed them and said: "You fools, what is a Donkey for but to ride upon?"
So the Man put the Boy on the Donkey and they went on their way. But soon they passed a group of men, one of whom said: "See that lazy youngster, he lets his father walk while he rides."
So the Man ordered his Boy to get off, and got on himself. But they hadn't gone far when they passed two women, one of whom said to the other: "Shame on that lazy lout to let his poor little son trudge along."
Well, the Man didn't know what to do, but at last he took his Boy up before him on the Donkey. By this time they had come to the town, and the passers-by began to jeer and point at them. The Man stopped and asked what they were scoffing at. The men said:"Aren't you ashamed of yourself for overloading that poor donkey with you and your hulking son?"
The Man and Boy got off and tried to think what to do. They thought and they thought, till at last they cut down a pole, tied the donkey's feet to it, and raised the pole and the donkey to their shoulders. They went along amid the laughter of all who met them till they came to Market Bridge, when the Donkey, getting one of his feet loose, kicked out and caused the Boy to drop his end of the pole. In the struggle the Donkey fell over the bridge, and his fore-feet being tied together he was drowned.
"That will teach you," said an old man who had followed them: "Please all, and you will please none."
I think we've all been there. We all want to please everyone. We want to be approved of and loved. But the price for that is your authentic self.
Yesterday someone posted a comment on my blog post: "The I's definitely have it in this blog followed closely by the Me's." Because someone didn't like what I said, they went for an anonymous personal attack. They're implying that my ideas are a result of egotism, elitism or self-absorption. This is a classic way to attack a person who expresses ideas one doesn't like. Instead of arguing the ideas, the person who disagrees expresses personal disapproval. I'm meant to feel bad about myself, that I'm thinking about myself instead of agreeing with the group.
Anyone who clicks on "View My Stats" can see the anonymous poster's IP address is in David's hometown. There's quite a few hits from that part of the world on this particular post, which is not surprising since I talked about the differences in the high school educations David and I received and whether that means anything.
I'm not sure that it does mean anything. There's a big part of me that believes it shouldn't matter in our lives, what kind of education we get or what kind of background we come out of. I believe anyone can make themselves into whoever they want to be. Of course, that comes back to authenticity.
But if a big city high school education is better than one at a rural school, doesn't that bear examining?
Kathyrn Mostow's song and video are based on the well-loved Margaret Mead quote: "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has." Thoughtful, because you have to think past what everyone has already agreed to. Committed, because it takes courage to speak those thoughts and suggest that maybe the staus quo isn't quite as perfect as everyone wants to believe it is.
I have great admiration for Penelope Trunk's courage. The other day she posted on her blog, which has over 36,000 subscribers, that she had two abortions. Regardless of where you stand on the issue, anyone with any sense of the world has to acknowledge the courage it took for her to lay the issue open with her personal experience. Many people will not approve of her. But there are things more important than seeking approval.
Talking honestly and openly about the world and what needs changing, might be a good place to start.
Thursday, June 18, 2009
This is a matter of perspective, of course. His high school class had just under 100 people and mine had just over 400. Multiply that by four grades and you get an idea of our schools. His school was in a small town in Wyoming and served students bused in from neighboring towns and communities; some of his classmates traveled more than an hour to school. Mine was one of three in the school district, in a metropolitan area with a slew of school districts. All of my classmates lived within a few miles of the school.
I went to college with kids who came from graduating classes of over 1,000, so I know my school was not big, in the grand scheme.
To David's family and hometown acquaintances, though, I grew up in the big city and went to a large school, with all of the attendant vice, crime and trouble that implies to certain small town folk. Yet, when we compare stories, it was David's classmates that got into all the trouble. Granted, I was a goody two-shoes and hit high school in the early 80s compared to David's mid-70s. Still, I think the small town life drove them to more shenanigans than I ever heard about in my cohort.
My mom bought our house for the school district. It was supposed to be one of the best in the country and all three of my schools, elementary, middle and high, were brand new. David's education was what the town offered. The school was hardly any kind of magnet.
We went to David's 30th class reunion not long ago and he vows never to go to another. Many of his friends had become their parents, living the same lives, moving from one blue collar job to another. He was depressed for days afterward. I was the big-city girlfriend -- only a couple of people wanted to talk to me.
I've been reconnecting with my classmates on Facebook. And they're all doing such interesting things. Here's the latest, a lovely music video by Kathryn Mostow. She's really good.
It makes me wonder -- was the school really that much better? Was it the city and all the stimulation that it has to offer? Perhaps we were in a rarified environment, so that our school drew kids from the kinds of parents able to buy houses in those neighborhoods where David's school pulled in everyone from that section of a sparsely populated and rural state.
I'm not supposed to talk about these things, I know. I'm supposed to value the beauty of the simple life David's cohorts have chosen. We all choose what is valuable about our own lives. And yet, one friend is paying the equivalent of college tuition to give her son and daughter a private school education, to give them every advantage. Private schools wouldn't exist if people didn't believe the quality of education makes a difference.
You don't have to have it, a great education, to raise yourself up. David has done a great deal with his life and will do more. Of course, he also reads all the time. Studying to improve himself. Like my grandfather, the farm boy who got his education at the public library.
I suppose some people are handed things that others have to fight for.
Wednesday, June 17, 2009
Not just for us, either. A friend IM'd me today to ask what I thought was an appropriate amount to spend on a wedding gift, given the particular relationship with the bride. And yes, I'm intentionally referring only to the bride, because this seems like a female system of balances to me.
Even if the groom helps with the registry, the suggested gifts tend to be household items. In some cases I've seen wedding registries that are clearly more male-influenced (read: lots of camping gear), or that reflect that a more mature couple has already acquired all the kitchen appliances they could ever use (read: extensive presence of techno-toys). However, even in our liberated era, I know the percentages of who is looking up the wedding registry and choosing the gift.
Yeah, this is almost always a girl thing.
Thus, for David's nephew's wedding this summer, it was me who called the bride to find out where she is registered. She didn't know who I was at first. Not surprising since we've met only at family events and have never talked on the phone. She right away said she didn't want us to feel obligated to send a gift. Which was absolutely the right thing to say. Then she said she hadn't registered anywhere, but maybe should because I wasn't the first person to ask. But she hadn't had time to drive to the next town to do it. Obviously I'm not a close relation or friend, but I felt compelled to tell her she should get online and register. David's sister was looking for the registry, too. I told the bride that the family wanted to give them gifts, to get them started in their new lives. I brushed away her protestations that they have everything they need, since I know perfectly well it's not so. They're in their mid-twenties, going to college and have a little girl. I stopped short of telling her this was part of the point of getting married. By the end of the conversation she was convinced and I felt like the militant aunt.
We'll get them a nice gift. "We" as in David and I will split the cost and I will pick it out. We give nicer (read: more expensive) gifts to the poorer couples. For another young friend's wedding we went a little higher than usual, because they need it. Not like women in Africa need medical care, but nonetheless.
I counseled my friend on IM to go lower in price, which turned out to meet her own sense of what she should send. It's funny, how we talk to each other to work it out. To make sure we're doing the appropriately supportive thing.
Now I have to go look and see if the nephew's bride followed my advice and registered.
Tuesday, June 16, 2009
Is that odd? And no, it's not a dementia thing, as some snarky individuals have suggested. I notice it mostly with writing and I suspect it's a product of the last two years of concentrated fiction writing. Not just fiction but the fantastic kind. (As in fantasy, though I hope it's also excellent.)
What I notice is I have homonym issues more lately. I type "no" instead of "know." I recently did "knight" instead of "night." Bizarre replacements where I know perfectly well what the word is, but something in my head replaces it as I type. This always happens when I'm creating, typing in a blur of speed to get the scene on the page.
There's an amazing book that my mother discovered and gave to me. (There, that makes up for saying I only planted St. Joseph to shut you up!) It's called My Stroke of Insight by Jill Bolte Taylor and is about a brain scientist's experience with a devastating left hemisphere stroke. The book is easily the best I've ever read for a firsthand account of the difference between left and right brain thinking. I'm a brain scientist myself, in my winding educational/career path, and Taylor made me understand all the rules I knew about division of labor in the brain.
What the book affirmed for me, is that creativity comes out of the dreamy right brain. That side is timeless, non-linear, unconcerned with rules and boundaries. The left brain is the one that tracks how long it takes to cook a hamburger and reminds me of my lists of things to do, and what order they should be in.
I was discussing the revision process with two writing friends lately. The essayist proposed that revision is simply like refining a grocery list, such as moving items in similar parts of the store into the same group. The fiction writer agreed somewhat, but emailed me a picture of her dining room table arrayed with notecards for her current novel: her book in spatial form.
I stymied all further discussion by trying to describe how it felt to me these days. Lately my novel feels like a glass globe I hold in my head. I tweak the colors inside, moving the shapes and swirls around.
Very right brain, I suspect.
Thus, the homonym thing. My right brain doesn't care for the letters, only the sounds and shapes. My essayist's left brain writing gets engaged more now in revision. Even then I find myself sinking into the globe's spell. I'm supposed to be reading out loud, to hear the voices. Sometimes pages go by and I realize I'm altering in silence, absorbed in the colors.
Sunday, June 14, 2009
As instructed. It seems there's a minor denotative difference between packing up and packing it in, but the sense of retreat seems the same to me. And it does make a difference to begin packing ourselves up. The move seems really real now. After more than a year of planning, of applying to schools, of applying for visas, of buying houses even: filling the cardboard boxes with my stuff really brings it home.
I've lived in Laramie now longer than I've lived anywhere. Certainly longer than I'd planned to. I'll just hit 21 years by the time we load the moving van. Long enough for anywhere, really. It's a bigger stretch for David who's never lived outside of Wyoming in his whole entire life. For those at home keeping score, that's 50 years. He'll be the first among five siblings to move out of state, too.
My moves before seemed so much simpler, first dictated by the waxing and waning of the academic cycle. Then it seemed I packed up and moved from one grad student dig to another. There was a simplicity to my life then, when I could load pretty much all of my possessions into a Honda Accord hatchback.
Moving excites the desire to return to that. As I contemplate moving each item, its relative value gets weighed against the space it takes up, the gasoline cost to transport it, the theoretical space it might occupy in the future. Right now, a lot of it seems not all that valuable.
I've been posting to Freecycle a lot. What a wonderful thing it is! Within an hour it's gone. To someone who will actually use it, too. A blessing, truly.
The houses in Victoria have no storage to speak of. Our new house has a five-foot high storage space on the lowest level. I hesitate to call it a basement. Less than a basement, more than a crawl space. Our realtor enthusiastically pointed it out as a place to keep our Christmas decorations. I didn't add, "and all the other stuff I've been dragging from place to place since college."
When people ask us why the houses in Victoria don't have basements, we waffle. David says, "because the island is a huge hunk of granite." I repeat what our realtor said, "they just don't."
Maybe, really, it's because they don't have so much stuff.
Saturday, June 13, 2009
This is not to say that some of the men in my life haven't played football, on official school teams, even. But I feel safe to say that they were not Football Guys (Hominus footballis).
This morning there was a pack of them at the Starbucks counter. Wearing their Cowboy football outfits, hulking shoulders straining the shirts, coach-type guys in civilian clothes yukking it up with them. They surveyed the world with macho good spirits, believing they are the gods of their doman. Oblivious to the irony of the caramel macciatos (macciatoes?) cradled in their large hands.
I can't really explain why they irritate me.
Maybe it goes back to those formative years of high school. The Football Guys were my antipode: the popular brawn to my outcast brain. They lumbered through the halls with witless, charming smiles, sure of their place in the world. A place won through size and aggression.
Both of my men who once played football didn't stick with it and bailed before the later years of high school, which I think demonstrates their enormous good sense. David quit because of the physical damage. And because basketball was more fun. He still has neck problems from ramming himself into those tackling dummies. Kev will probably argue with me about this post, but he bailed for theater in the end, which was infinitely sexier to me.
I know there are the gals who go for the Football Guys. But I was never one. I wasn't much of a cheerleader, either, and bailed on that after my twelve-year-old go at it. Chanting and doing the hokey-pokey while the boys played just didn't seem like that much fun. Especially when the angry male coaches yelled at us for being in the way.
I suppose the Football Guy epitomizes to me everything that is unattractive in the male. Where men vilify the extreme female: the vanity, the irrationality, the emotional manipulation, I dislike the brutality, the extreme competitiveness, the machismo-fueled ego. I know football players can be smart men, but I think that's not a part of themselves they've chosen to develop. Truly, not all football players become Football Guys.
It's interesting to me that American football hasn't really caught on with the rest of the world. It remains a sport that is uniquely ours. One wonders why that would be. Why we're the only culture that thinks it's neat.
Why are we the ones stuck with the Football Guys?
Friday, June 12, 2009
Amazing how many people ask us that. On an astonishingly regular basis. I'm getting to the point where I want to say, BELIEVE ME, I will announce it to the world when we get an offer! I really feel for those women whose family and friends ask "Are you pregnant, yet?" We know you love us, support us, want only the best for us. But really, you are not helping.
At some point you're doing everything you can and you just have to wait.
Here we are: waiting.
Today we stopped by our real estate agent's office though. Dropped in on her after lunch. She's so fabulous that she doesn't care. She's the best in town. I implicity trust in everything she's doing.
"We just came to nag," I tell her. "So you can tell us not to worry."
And Donna hesitates at this point. I'm sure she's going to tell us to worry. That she's lost confidence. Maybe stopping in to see her wasn't such a good idea.
"I don't want you to think this is freaky," she says, and hesitates.
Okay, "freaky" isn't "you'll never sell your house in this market." I'm betting she's going to suggest we bury the St. Joseph upside down in the back yard and I'm opening my mouth to tell her we already did, if only to shut my mother up.
"But there is no reason your house isn't selling," she says. "The gardens are gorgeous right now. When we show the house, it just shines. Everything is perfect. You should have an offer by now."
She takes a breath.
"What I want you to do is think about letting go."
She goes on to tell us a few stories: the woman whose house wouldn't sell in the hottest market ever, until her dog died and she confessed relief, because she'd been sure the dog would never survive the move; another woman whose completely updated house could not be sold and who emailed or called Donna every day telling her how no one would want it and it would never sell.
"I can't explain it," she says, "but I've seen it happen, over and over."
Donna, freaky theory or no, is likely right on. When we first put the house on the market, I wrote a blog about how much I hated it. We have loved this house. Loved, loved, loved it. (Note my dutiful use of past tense.) We knew it was our ideal house the first time we saw it. We loved every minute of living here. We wouldn't sell it, if we weren't moving away.
But we ARE moving away. Away to Canada, to British Columbia, to Victoria. To a beautiful new house that we'll love living in. It's time to let this one go. It belongs to someone else now -- we just don't know who yet.
To prove it, this weekend we'll start seriously packing. We'll take our favorite stuff down off the walls and box it up. I'm depersonalizing. Withdrawing myself from the lathe and plaster, from the original wood trim and leaded glass. The reflecting pond we made, with its carefully balanace ecosystem, will delight someone else. I'm trading it all in for our new life. My pound of flesh. It's a price I'm willing to pay, a sacrifice I'm willing to make.
My life lately is all about cutting, have you noticed? Not my forte at all.
But I'm getting good at it. Let it all go. What remains is the best part.
Thursday, June 11, 2009
Understandable. It gets old. Those of us in the sunny West rely upon our average of 330 sunny days each year. The last two weeks of nearly unceasing rain has people making grumbling remarks about Seattle. They also make absurd statements like "Since when did Denver get a monsoon season?" This from people I went to high school with. Who have lived in Denver for 40+ years. They should know better.
Before the drought, our Junes were always cool and rainy. They've forgotten.
Memories are short. And subjective experience seems to be the shortest. We've been in a drought for ten years now. An entire decade. Did you remember it had been that long. I didn't -- I'd been saying eight years. Now I'm wondering which two years I lost... At any rate, this decade-long drought in the western states has exceeded the infamous Dust Bowl.
Nobody seems to know this.
Of course, we don't have the icons of that drought. The enormous dust clouds. The ragged people fleeing the farms to wander the cites with their belongings on carts. Technology allows us to irrigate, to control the flows of the rivers, to truck in water. Instead of losing livelihoods, our urban lives are impacted by hot, sunny days, perfect for recreation.
Now people are saying they miss the drought. They're right -- there isn't much of one at the moment. (That link updates weekly, so if you're reading this later, the map might be different. But what it shows as of June 9, 2009, is small patches of abnormally dry soil in the West and huge swathes of soil with normal moisture -- it's a miracle, really.)
It was like this, in the before time. I remember the summer I turned 16. I babysat for two kids and we would ride our bikes in the chilly rain to their golf and tennis lessons. When I was young, I used to write in my books the date I finished them. (No, I don't know why.) I finished Little House in the Big Woods on June 8, 1974 and I noted that it was snowing. With an exclamation point. Cold and rainy, yes -- even then snow in Denver on June 8 was remarkable.
Of course we're all tired of the rain. We want to sit on our patios. We want to play in the mountains and soak up the western sunshine. We've had enough of cold and want summer already.
But in all the wanting for the warmth, let's take a moment to give thanks for the rain.
Wednesday, June 10, 2009
So, this morning, while I was "deciding what to blog about," which translates as sucking on Starbucks and screwing around on the 'net, I took a quiz on how common my name is.
There are approximately 171,636 people with the last name Kennedy. This Surname ranks the 130 most common in the United States. There are an estimated 87,363 Females with the last name "Kennedy". However, the first name Jeffe was not found in our database meaning that you are pretty unique. It is estimated that there are less than 5 people with your exact name in the United States.
Heh. "Pretty unique." As opposed to "very unique" or "more or less unique." The thing is, my friend Marin Untiedt got a definitive three women with her name.
No, I didn't try plugging in Jennifer Kennedy. I don't want to know. Which is part of the reason I never use Jennifer.
It feels like a constant battle though, trying to use "Jeffe." People get confused, which they don't like. I used to introduce myself as Jennifer first and then convert people to Jeffe, but many refuse the converstion and then I don't know who they're talking to. So I've gone to just introducing myself as Jeffe and forging through the first difficult exchange, which consists of repeating my name back and forth.
[Me] - Hi, I'm Jeffe
[Them] - Confused look
[Me] - Jeffe Kennedy
[Them] - Jeff?
[Me] - Jeff-E. Like Jeff, with an eeee on the end
[Them] - variety of responses at this point:
Like on Family Circus?
Like the peanut butter?
Isn't that a man's name?
Is that short for something else?
Inevitably if I 'fess up to that last question that Jeffe is short for Jennifer, they'll gratefully run for the familiar and use Jennifer. It's almost pathological. Interestingly, people not from the US are much more flexible about it and will assimilate "Jeffe" without a blink. So I know it's not that hard.
The other thing I've learned is to give people a reason for it. If I explain that my dad made up the nickname and that he died when I was three, that I feel like this is a piece of him that I can carry around with me, they soften and agree. If I say there are ten million Jennifers out there, they act like I'm uppity, trying for a different call signal.
When I was in high school, this group of girls who didn't like me decided to call one of their own Jennifers by my nickname. I'm not sure how long it lasted and I don't think that Jennifer liked it very much. Or maybe she was just mortified by the strange and competitive maneuver. But I remember my shock when these girls, who never spoke to me, called out "Jeffe!" and turned out to be calling to this other girl. The cluster of them turned to see my reaction, avidly watching for my humiliation? Horror? Tears, perhaps? Instead I learned that they thought I had some power in my name. They wanted to show me they could take it away.
I suppose we all want our names, like ourselves, to be "pretty unique." We're willing to concede that absolutely unique may be asking for too much, but we all want to be that individual, beautiful snowflake.
But really, that kind of thing comes from inside. Which no one can take away.
Tuesday, June 9, 2009
Okay, not really. Though I will have a special guest later this month: author Candace Havens is doing a blog tour to promote her new release Dragons Prefer Blondes. I've told her she has to adhere to the themes of love, power, fairytale endings and being generally careful of what you wish for, since I, myself, am so scrupulous about it.
Actually, today is the 9th of the month, which means I cross-post with Sole Struck Fashions. Yes, that's right: they have NO criteria for deciding fashionista eligibility.
In keeping with my new Sole Struck role -- last month I extolled the many virtues of second-hand and vintage clothes -- I have a new shopping tip today.
Check out a Police Auction!
No, it's not just for stolen bicycles anymore.
Have you ever wondered, say, what became of Imelda Marcos' 1,220 pairs of shoes? (Well, actually they made a museum of them -- no, really. Though maybe it's gone now, because the link they give for the museum itself doesn't work. However, you can salve your shoe-museum craving here and here.) But what about all those other ill-gotten gains? Naturally there's a website to auction them off, once they've served their time as evidence.
So, okay, these are cops, so the descriptions tend to say stuff like "Womens Shoes, 2 shoes." It's always a great find, when you can get two shoes at once. But they have pics, which you can enlarge to play detective like the little "Steal It Back!" guy -- which you have to admit adds a bit to the thrill -- and see that, yes! these are Ann Marinos.
The inventory changes rapidly, of course, with auctions finishing all the time.
But that Dolce & Gabbana leopard print jacket you just had to have and couldn't afford? Yes, still available! Only just under eight hours left on this baby, at the time of posting. High bid is $82. A small price to pay to channel Marisa Tomei in Cousin Vinny.
For the entrepeneurs: no visit to the Property Room is complete without a thorough perusal of the bulk lots. These are the "fell off the back of the truck" stories. Current bid on 20 pairs of Aeropostale jeans valued at $960? $99! 50+ pieces of womens underwear going right now for $180! More Aeropostale jeans! And Aeropostale shirts! Actually a LOT of Aeropostale stuff. One begins to imagine the late-night highjacking of the Aeropostale tractor-trailer. A driving rain, a dark night... Is that a car broken down in the middle of the road? Oh no, it's a trap! Take everything, just don't kill us! But wait... the cops are here! Bright lights flashing. Except they take everything, too. Evidence, doncha know.
Actually, this is the site disclaimer, provided by the Office of Inappropriate Capitalizations:
Our company receives hundreds of packages from many sources every day. These Packages arrive From: Store Closures, Insurance Claims, Misguided & Unclaimed Freight, Post Office Undeliverable Packages, and Unclaimed Merchandise. In Many Cases we do not know the Origin of these goods. Where we do Know the Origin of the product we will Describe it in the Auction. All products are Vintage, Pre-owned or Antique.Okay, "antique" may be stretching it, but the savvy shopper can find many great deals here. And make up the stories to go along with them.
Look, you can even get the pants to match!
Monday, June 8, 2009
It becomes an intermediary step between the immediate decision and the final decision. Should I get rid of this dress? This dress that I've loved, that I wore to Suzie's wedding and first kissed Harry in? I'll put it in this trunk, with other old clothes and use it in a quilt someday.
Now what's happening is, I'm faced with moving bags and boxes and trunks full of old clothes I've been saving. Sure, I sometimes use them in quilts, which is nice. But I never have made picnic blankets from all those old jeans. Never touched most of those beautiful fabrics I couldn't resist buying. If civilization collapses, however, I can make blankets for all of you.
I give David a hard time (part of my job description) about his not-dirty, not-clean clothes. He has several intermediate stations for them. The chest by the bed is for clothes clean enough to be worn again, but too dirty to hang up. The bathroom floor clothes pile is for another level of dirtiness, though not quite to the point of being committed to the laundry room.
That's part of it -- the unwillingness to commit to the final choice. To be without the thing.
When I started the great Ruthless Revision, I also created an outtakes file. Which I hadn't done in a number of years. As a young writer, I kept an ongoing outtakes file. Any time I cut even the smallest phrase, I attentively pasted it into this document that I saved. Kind of a living morgue. A museum of brilliant prose that could work somewhere, someday. But really it was just to soothe the pain of deletion. Much easier to cut, paste and save, than send it into oblivion. When you're a young writer, it's tempting to think that these wonderful words you weave together can somehow be lost forever. That you'll never recover them.
This is, of course, utter nonsense.
Which is something I learned, when I discovered that I revisited my outtakes file about as often as I dig into my trunks of quilt fabrics. I admit it: often if I make a new quilt, I just go buy exactly the color and pattern I need. And often it's easier just to compose something new than fidget with some old fragments, to finagle them to fit.
But, I created an outtakes file for the Ruthless Revision, because I was feeling that pained about it. It's especially redundant because I'm saving the entire original draft. Enshrined, as it were. That first morning, though, it made me feel better to save the HUGE CHUNKS I was cutting out. After a while, I wanted to check for a bit of information from a section I'd cut. I discovered my outtakes document wasn't even open. Not only that, I'd failed to paste that bit into it. I hadn't pasted cuts in for pages and pages. It was easy enough to go look it up in the museum draft.
Apparently I didn't need my little crutch anymore. I'd just been deleting away.
This ruthless mode can be liberating. Cathartic, even. I'm planning to sell my sewing machine and I'm moving no fabric to British Columbia.
Someone else can make the quilts when civilization collapses. I'll be busy writing. And deleting.
Sunday, June 7, 2009
"But I told her I felt I was beyond that now, that I didn't need more critique. So we just talked in general, about life and the business."
I think it startled us all a bit at the time -- her writers group -- because it seemed, well, arrogant. Our friend felt the other author wasn't any better than she was. Our friend wanted to be one of the pantheon, not one of the supplicants.
Don't we all.
It's a good question: when do you stop taking classes? When have you "made" it and no longer need anyone else's input?
Faith Hunter, whose books I really enjoy, posted on Facebook this morning that she has published "20 books and I feel like [Skinwalker] is the first." She's living Madonna's "Like a Virgin," she says, because she feels this one might be IT.
One thing I've noticed over time is that the published authors agonize as much as the trying-to-get-published ones. That's how life is. The ancient Greeks said you couldn't "rest on your laurels," referring to the crown of laurels awarded in athletic competitions. You only are what you're doing right now. Credit for past accomplishments depreciates rapidly over time. Before you know it, you're in a "What Happened to..." feature. Presuming you were ever interesting enough to rate that much.
Continuing to grow and learn is part of this.
There's also an idea that an artist can be contaminated by classes or writing workshops. That the originality of her work can be damaged forever. I do believe this can happen, like the phenomenon of the MFA workshopping, which tends to produce writing of a particular literary style, to the point that you can recognize writers from a particular MFA program by the "sound" of their work.
I'm currently taking an online class on plotting. This is in line with my recent efforts to see how I can change my writing style at will. As a writer, I never plot things out ahead of time. I have a general idea of where the story is going, but how I get there is always a surprise.
But I'm not liking this class at all.
And I'm torn: is it because I'm resisting changing my approach or is it because the class really is functioning at a level below my skills? One gal I know already quit the class for this reason. I'm still wondering if I should at least complete the lessons, basic as they may seem, for the exercise of it. But every time one of my classmates exclaims "oh THIS is why I could never finish a book!" I wonder.
It's a constant choice, when to be confident and when to accept that you can improve. Maybe we need our own little mantra for this, praying for the wisdom to know the difference.
Saturday, June 6, 2009
I figure I'll write out the update here, then I can tell people just to go read my blog, which saves me typing the same stuff over and over, and has the bonus of irritating people, because I've found most people really hate being told to read my blog. It's the techno version of "come over and see my slide show of my vacation and I'll tell you about it then." Beware of expressing idle interest in someone else's obsession -- you'll regret it sooner or later.
For those listeners at home who may just be tuning in, I've been working this last week on trying to discern where the two different voices are in my novel, that this agent identified as conflicting with each other, to the detriment of the book. One is a more commercial voice and one more literary. Guess which has to go?
David, the love of my life, offered to have me read it aloud to him. This is a big favor, because he doesn't really read fiction. I did once read the entire Ender/Speaker for the Dead series to him over a summer of road trips. Now that we have more comfortable incomes we usually fly places and have very few road trips.
So, I printed out the first couple of chapters, read them to him and he stopped me anytime he lost the thread of the story or thought it got vague. Which ended up being a lot. It's a good thing he loves me because at one point when he stopped me, I snapped "What? I don't get ANY description?!?"
But I marked all those sections and our relationship survived and was fully repaired over cocktail hour. It's funny, because the agent told me that if I could make the fixes, she'd love to see it again, but that she also understood that this was the "hardest and most emotionally frustrating part of the process." And she wished me luck. Turns out I needed it.
The next morning, I sat down to revise. And decided pretty quickly that David was an idiot who had no idea what he was talking about. All the stuff he picked out was really good stuff.
Just then, an email arrived from a contest I failed to final in, with comments from the judges. Now, I've pretty much stopped reading judge's comments. I enter the contests for the opportunity to put my novel in front of editors and agents if I final. If I don't final, most of the time it's because at least one judge REALLY HATED my book. Like giving me a 50% score hated. Usually the other judge will give me a nearly perfect score. So between the two, I don't get super-useful feedback. Just the love/hate thing.
But I decided to look at these comments, to see if any of theirs coincided with what David identified. These scores turned out to be unusual because all three judges ranked me highly, with just enough points taken off to keep me from finalling. And they ALL picked on the exact thing the agent pointed out. And their comments? Yes: exactly the sections David thought slowed the story.
Another writer friend told me she read her novel to her tattoo-artist boyfriend, who was not a reader, but spends his days talking to people. She says "I'd want to kick him when he'd stop me and say 'what? wait? what?' But he was invariably right.'"
There's been discussion lately on the FFP loop, about finding someone to critique your work who understands your particular sub-genre. Several people have chimed in that their best critiquers don't write anything remotely the same, but they know a good story.
I lost a page and a half in the revision of Chapter 1. I read it again to David and he didn't stop me once. He was surprised when I stopped at the end of the chapter, he was so caught up in the story.
So, yes, it's painful. But I see that I can do it now. One of the judges clearly also writes in first person and she warned me to watch out for "I wondered," "I thought," "I saw," "I heard" and "I noticed," as constructions that yank the reader out of deep POV (point of view). She means that it brings in the narrative voice and the reader loses the sense of being in the character's head. She's dead right. I've been searching for those phrases and they cluster in the "slow" sections. Alas.
I suppose it's part of life, that you never stop discovering new flaws. As you get things polished and handled, new problems are revealed.
Guess I won't run out of stuff to do!
Friday, June 5, 2009
I wouldn't call him a rec center regular, because he's not there every morning. He's not even there on the Monday, Wednesday, Friday mornings, like the three Walker Ladies who spend more time yakking while they "stretch out" than they do on the weight machines or on the walking track, where they insist on walking three abreast, which annoys the people trying to jog in the outside jogging lane.
No, Pacer Guy shows up more or less randomly. Often on Friday mornings, however. He's distinctive in the lemon green ball cap that never comes off his head. And his behavior.
Pacer Guy had just gotten off the leg press machine when we arrived. Knowing from past experience that this is his favorite machine, with which he has a tumultuous relationship, I took the opportunity to get on the machine, hoping to use it before he returned. Cuz that's what he does -- he apparently leaves. Sometimes he wanders around the central pulley machine to stand and watch Fox news for a while. (This is Wyoming: of course they play Fox News in the gym.) Other times he'll head off down the hall, past the basketball courts, through the glass doors to the atrium. I've seen him get all the way to the front doors -- a straight visual shot from the weight room -- before he turns around and comes back.
As I worked my leg press repetitions, Pacer Guy circled back a couple of times and I realized he wasn't done. In some ways, it seems he never is. I finished and he jumped on, quickly shifting the weight pins to his preferred load. He did three or four reps. And headed out the doors.
He came back, of course. Pacer Guy does this most with the leg press machine. But, when he was safely on the biceps curl, apparently done with the butterfly one (can you tell I've never bothered to learn the actual names for these?), I started in with that. Every time I stood up to increase the weight, he jumped up from the biceps machine, only to retire back to his seat when I saw I wasn't abandoning the field. Finally, he popped up and paced off somewhere. I finished and Curiously Tense Blond Jogger Girl got on. Pacer Guy returned, saw someone ELSE was on the machine and took off again. Then New Overweight Guy, who's being very dedicated and earnest so far, marking all of his weights and reps on the spreadsheet the personal trainer gave him, used the machine. This was the last straw for Pacer Guy, who disappeared after that. I thought he'd left, but David, who was dodging the Walker Ladies on the track, reported that Pacer Guy had gone upstairs to stalk around the treadmills and rearrange the Pilates balls.
Yesterday I went to Denver to visit my mom. She's back in the neighborhood for the summer, so we went for lunch at the Bent Noodle and hit Nick's Paradisical Garden Center for supplies: pink impatiens, tadpoles and water hyacinths. She said she didn't know Ruth has dementia. And we talked about how hard those debilitating chronic diseases are on the caretaker. I saw how it drained her, during Leo's long decline.
"I don't think Mother had Alzheimers though," she said.
"Because she always knew who we were. She didn't forget things. It was more like...like her anxiety overwhelmed everything else so she couldn't function."
"I find myself doing that," she admitted.
"Hell -- I do it!" I told her. "I suppose it's just a constant battle not to let emotions overwhelm what's rational.
By 6:30, the weight room had cleared out. The machines quiet, ready for the next wave.
Thursday, June 4, 2009
Monday afternoon, I heard a crash outside. I looked out the window, which is right over my desk and saw a beige pick-up pulling away. The back of the truck was very near our parked car, but the car kept going so I didn't think much of it.
Less than a minute later, the doorbell rings. A woman with a red geranium perched in one hand and a little dog circling manically at the end of a leash in the other says "Is that your green car out front? Someone just hit it! Backed into it and drove away! But I got the license plate. Mouthed to the driver: 'I see your license plate.' She kept going. Turned right on Grand."
I should have run out when I heard the crash, I suppose.
As it was, I went to our neighbors across the street first. Ruth and Mike are in their 80s, very pleasant neighbors. From what I saw, the truck had backed out of their driveway and was likely driven by one of their many grandchildren who come to visit. Only Ruth was home. Given her dementia, the conversation was unproductive. She can make neighborly conversation, but has no idea who's been there visiting or not.
I called the police. Gave them the plate number. They said they'd look for the vehicle. Called insurance. The whole deal. The damage almost certainly exceeds the value of the car. (No, no -- it was the Buick, NOT the Jag!)
When Mike came home, David talked to him, told him what happened. Mike immediately phoned up the grandson, who came right over. They examined our car and his beige pick-up, then came over.
We had the conversation in our entrance hallway. The grandson says he thinks he would have felt it if he hit our car. He is twenty-something and earnest. Mike clearly believes him. Mike says how's there's no damage or green paint on the grandson's truck. I refrain from pointing out that the kid has had three hours to clean it up. They also note that the paint left on our car is white. I don't ask how beige scraped over dark green looks different than white.
What I do say is that right now the cops have the kid as a hit and run and he should go to the cop shop. I figure they'll deal with it, match the paint, etc.
The cops call later, say the kid is playing dumb and they can't do anything without my witness. Whose name I neglected to get. The insurance company is not so sanguine and is talking about having the claims agent check the kid's truck while they check ours.
I'm torn. For us, there's no fault. There is a $500 deductible. And it annoys me that the kid isn't taking responsibilty, though I also believe that will catch up with him.
I keep seeing Mike's face in our evening entranceway, the weariness on it. The need to believe his grandson wouldn't lie. Mike and Ruth no longer make their annual trek to the sunny Southwest and instead have stuck out the last two long Laramie winters. Ruth is too far gone for it.
We've knocked on the neighbors' doors, looking for the woman with the red geranium, who told me she was there visiting her dad on the corner. No luck. We'll run a classified in the paper through Sunday, looking for her or her dad.
After that, I don't know. Maybe it's worth $500 to leave Mike alone.
Wednesday, June 3, 2009
I've mentioned before that I have a plane-crash, well, "obsession" is probably a fair word. I find that a big part of this is the wanting to know what happened. I can't help but envision those final moments. What was it like for the passengers? Were they sleeping when the plane hit the ocean? Had they already vaporized before that?
However, I'm finding that knowing doesn't provide full satisfaction either. In fact, knowing too much can be a real detriment to enjoying life. I work on tap water -- I know what I'm talking about here. Sometimes the illusion of safety is what gets you on the plane in the first place, and in the 211th place also. Which is why I'm kind of sorry that I read the cockpit recorder transcript from Colgan Flight 3407. You know the one, the turboprop plane that iced up and fell from the sky like a big rock onto someone's house in Buffalo, NY.
The kind of plane I fly on all the time between Denver and Laramie, through blizzards, etc.
You trust in your pilots. You have to. And you make certain assumptions in that trust: that they're not exhausted, that they're well trained, that they know what they're doing.
You can read the whole transcript of course. I confess I skimmed. The interesting part is at the end, of course.
Which is also the really scary part. For example:
"I've never seen deicing conditions. I've never deiced. I've never seen any--I've never experienced any of that. I don't want to experience that and make those kinds of calls. You know, I'd've freaked out. I'd've like seen this much ice and thought oh my gosh we were going to crash."
That was from the young co-pilot who was only making $16K and had to still live with her parents, commuting from Seattle.
The pilot has asked her to see if there's ice on her side of the plane, too. He talks about being a Florida guy, how all his flying hours are around the Phoenix area, how he'd like more flying time in the Northeast before he upgrades to a bigger plane. He does the wrong thing when the plane stalls.
One of the worst parts is the top of page 55, where they reel of the standard spiel about cell phones, seat backs and tray tables. Meanwhile the pilots are saying to each other "son of a gun, look at all that ice -- wonder why we're not crashing?"
Not that any of the passengers could have done anything. Except trust that their pilots have the knowledge to take care of everyone on the plane.
Sometimes knowledge is power. No matter unblissful it might be to know.
Tuesday, June 2, 2009
I remember it because I called the florist in Seattle and asked if she could do lilacs. The shop was next to the big medical center performing Terry's latest MOAS. (Mother of All Surgeries, as Terry's sister dubbed them -- a good name since the surgeries were too complex for a simple word like "bypass" or "extraction." They seemed involve opening Terry up and scraping cancer off every surface they could reach and clipping pieces off of whatever organs were too far gone to clean.) So the florist was helpful, had a listing of patients, but wasn't sure if she could find lilacs or not.
When she asked me what the card should say, I answered that I'd like it to say "The lilacs are blooming here -- come home soon."
She paused a moment. "I'll find some lilacs," she promised me.
I don't know if she did or not. You don't expect a thank-you note from someone who's had her third MOAS. And by Thanksgiving, Terry was gone.
The funeral was Catholic and obnoxious, with the priest talking about how joyful Terry would be to be rejoined with her maker. How all the pain she suffered was for a reason. I wanted to stand up and shout that, no, there was nothing joyful about this. That she died far too young and in conditions no one should have to go through and that her death was a waste of a vivacious and beautiful woman.
But I bowed my head and pretended to pray.
Monday, June 1, 2009
So, there I am, browsing through the Kmart offerings, since I'm all about the inexpensive and temporary this summer. Transient me. They have those tall, many-shelved carts, that they wheel out to the sidewalk on sunny days. One row against the brick building, one at the edge of the walk, creating an aisle between. (Tip: dig deep to the back for the impatiens that haven't gotten sunburnt.)
This young mother and her little girl walk by. The girl is two or three, wearing a cute denim sundress. Mom has her hands full of petunia six packs. It's a gorgeous day.
"I think I'll just take this off," announces the little girl.
I glance down and she is already slipping the buckles on her straps and shucking her dress to her ankles.
"No!" Mom yelps, shoving her flowers onto the nearest open ledge. She's down on her knees, pulling the dress back up. "We can't just run around in our panties! It's indecent exposure."
I laugh at this and the mother rolls her eyes at me.
We wonder how we learn things.