Saturday, January 30, 2010

Eldorado on Ice

This was yesterday.

We hung this suet feeder on the portal post, because a ladder-backed woodpecker had taken a liking to this spot and was hammering away at it. The Wild Birds Unlimited folks thought he might like this suet. He hasn't been back, that I've seen, which is also a solution. But for two days in a row now, this flock of little birds descends on the suet like flies. We think they might be bushtits. They appear suddenly, feast for a few minutes and disappear again. Spooky, too, which is why I had to take this picture through glass.

It kind of reminds me of the twitter/blog bruhaha over the iPad, Amazon and Macmillan. Jackie Kessler, who's a lovely person and who writes really fun books, has a good summary on her blog, if you want to catch up. I think it's just the latest fat-rich tidbit and people are getting quickly hysterical over what will likely be nothing, but what do I know?

We had fog last night, so when we walked this morning, the moisture had condensed all over everything and left it frosted. Fog still hung heavy in the valley.

It's funny to me to see the cholla cactus covered in frost, but they don't seem to mind.

Maybe I'm saving words to finish the novella today, because I'm mostly just wanting to share photos from our walk.

These are worth thousands of words anyway, aren't they?

After this, we went to eat breakfast. As we left, the hostess said "Thanks for starting your day with us!" It's a new neighborhood place and David says they're still trying to find their way to be part of our community.

But I thought it was funny, because my day already felt so full.

Friday, January 29, 2010


I don't believe in writer's block so much.

But there are certainly days when the words flow and days when they don't so much. I don't really understand why.

Some mornings I wake up knowing what I'll write in the blog -- down to particular words and phrases. Other days, like today, my brain doesn't seem to have much in the way of thoughts, much less words. Sometimes, like today, I'll plug in the camera and see if I took a picture I forgot about, which is often the case. This was sunrise on Wednesday. A subtle rose and gold one, full of promise. Of course, that day the promise turned out to be full-on meetings, so I never did get to sit and write. What was on the camera got lost in the busyness of the day.

Which was okay. Consulting is a feast or famine gig and the beginning of the year tends to be lean. More work is always better. As it is, people in the company are sniffing around the corners of the hallways (this is completely metaphorical since many of us, like me, work from home), searching out crumbs of work. The fear level is higher this year, with the backdrop of financial uncertainty. (I would make an extreme promise to scream the next time I see or hear the phrase "in this economy," but since I know it's likely to be in the next hour, I must be Zen. See my serene smile?)

Cynthia Eden, a fine writer and a really lovely friend, says she's sneaking out of town this weekend, in the hopes that a change of scenery will perk her up. She lives in Florida, so I imagine her heading to the beach, which sounds really wonderful.

I suspect we all need perking up this time of year. Whether it's the low light or, for those of us in winter, being stuck indoors a lot, January is just a long and unperky month.

It seems inescapable that our moods cycle. I think often of people who are chronically ill and how their caretakers will always refer to "good days" and "bad days." David, who likes to find a reason for everything, says that something must affect people to make some days good and others bad. Okay, maybe. But whether it's biorhythms or the chemistry of what you ate last night or the barometric pressure or whether you produced enough endorphins from running or whatever, it remains that we all have good days and bad days. Those of us lucky enough to be healthy just experience this as feeling up or kind of blue.

We just don't get to be perky every day. Not without chemical assistance.

The challenge is to salvage what you can from the non-perky days. Take the time to rest. Forge ahead anyway. Do like Cynthia and find a change of scenery.

The perky is out there. Even in this economy.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Hungry for those Good Things, Baby

Yesterday was our anniversary -- 19 years now.

And yes, I'd planned this blog post for yesterday, but I had an early meeting in downtown Santa Fe that expanded ever outwards and kept me there until 4:30.

So, January 27 for us, which was Superbowl Sunday back in 1991. It's hard for me to see how nearly twenty years have gone by, how it's possible that the 90s aren't recent years.

I'm very lucky to have found him and spent these years together.

The night before last, we watched Ghosts of Girlfriends Past. I love that David doesn't complain about watching movies like that with me. Of course, anything with some comedy and lots of pretty women is generally good for him.

I recall a few years back, David went hunting with a divorced bachelor friend. They were up in the mountains for a week, doing the guy thing and came back all scruffy and pleased with themselves. We saw on the patio in the warm Autumn sunshine and they told me about the week. The friend said that he was amazed that I didn't pitch a fit about David taking off for a week like his ex-wife would have. And how, when he'd mentioned it to David, he'd said "I do what I want to." I expressed surprise that anyone would think I'd try to stop David from doing something he enjoyed. (Besides, a week to myself to write? Sign me up!) Then David asked me what I wanted to do that night and I said "Oh! Wimbledon is at the movie theater -- Paul Bettany! I want to see that." David said okay and the friend starting laughing, slapping his knee. "Oh yeah!" he says, "you do what you want, all right."

And, I thought, you just don't get it.

After Ghosts of Girlfriends Past was over, we sat and sipped some brandy and talked about love. This is another thing I love about David. We talked about the theme in the movie -- and this is a Spoiler Alert, if it's possible to spoil a plot as pat as that one -- that somehow the childhood love is purer and more meant to be than any other. Which I just don't buy. I don't like it in romance novels, the instant mate bond/fated love kind of thing. I much prefer when strangers come together, have to learn each other, have to learn to accommodate each other and earn the love.

David told me that Osho, one of his current favorites, says that the sensation of falling in love, of the irresistible passion, the Meant for Each Other, instant mate bond kind of thing is all unconscious. That people should aspire to upward love, which is about conscious choice.

When people ask me our "secret," our special formula for our happy relationship, this is what I want to explain to them. It's about being happy doing what makes the other person happy. It's about making conscious choices to be together and enjoy each other.

It's about upward love.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Nostalgic? Not So Much

I had a little Twitter/FaceBook fit the other day.

Really the ensuing conversation was on FaceBook because nobody answered me on Twitter. This is not unusual. It could be because I'm either not interesting or not important. Both things are equally true. I'm at peace with that.

Also, with Twitter, you have catch people's eye right at that moment, or it's gone. The Twitter stream tweets and, having tweeted, moves on: nor all thy hashtag or Google shall lure it back to show you half a line, nor all thy cut and paste remove a word of it.

I'm thinking Omar Khayyam would have loved Twitter. (Are all the classicists out there choking on their coffee in horror?) The first stanza of the Rubaiyat is only 39 characters over the requisite 140. He could have totally fit the structure. I just tweeted it in two parts, for grins.

Some people tweet the same thing multiple times each day. And not all of them are geeky annoying people. Roger Ebert (@ebertchicago) does it and he doesn't seem like the kind of guy who would think "I know! I'll just tweet my blog link five times a day and annoy the hell out of people!" I feel sure some social media expert at the Sun-Times told him the correct frequency. Hell -- I'm an idiot -- probably some social media intern does it for him. I can't quite bring myself to advertise my own blog more than once, but I'm a humble gal like that.

At any rate, I digress.

This post is really about friendship, but as it relates to communication.

My little fit was sparked because I received a letter from a friend. A LONG letter, on PAPER. I felt truly put upon. I complained about it on Twitter/FaceBook, in my snarky way, and asked the world at large why my friend couldn't update me in 140-character bites like everyone else. Amusingly, my cohorts -- people from my HS and college days -- chimed in to agree. And several motherly friends sternly reprimanded me to remember the value of a letter. I expected them to have me writing thank-you notes next.

I understand why she wrote me a letter. She even said she thought letters are nice because they take you away from the computer. She wanted to tell me about the difficulties she's faced in the last few years, and why she disappeared for a little while. It was a story that took time to tell.

The irony is that I read it propped on my keyboard, while discussing on FaceBook whether it's a gift or an imposition to send someone a long letter these days.

Because, while it took time to read her letter, and I try to focus my reading time to maximize what I most want to read, the worst part was the onus that I had to write her back. On paper. By hand. And I had to do it right away because I know myself and if I didn't do it then, it would languish on my To Do list and eventually never quite happen.

And, despite, how I probably sound, I really wanted to communicate with her. If she's not going for electronic media, then I have to go to her.

I wrote the letter. As one of my sorority sisters predicted, my hand totally cramped up. She'd been there, too. I thought of all the authors who wrote their novels longhand. Worse, revising them longhand! (Do you suppose they cut them up and literally pasted them back together? I love this image.) I thought of my friend who has to read aloud her mother's handwritten letters to her son, because they're written in cursive, which he's never learned to read or write. I thought of how I used to type my college papers directly on the typewriter, rather than writing them out and transcribing -- to everyone's horror.

Now we all do it. Erm, most of us. Keyboarding away at rapid speed.

And I'm totally at peace with that.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Found Art

Let me know if you get sick of rain chain photos.

Over the last stormy week, I've been fascinated by the pattern of melting and freezing. The resulting designs are like sculpture.

It's interesting how things come together sometimes. How overlapping events create patterns. It's like evolution -- when people complain that no one could possibly know that, say, finger webbing could turn out useful later for making wings -- it's not that there was a plan, per se, but the symmetry of nature weaves together so that patterns do emerge.

Like in Twitter, for example.

Yes, I just compared evolution and the beauty of nature to Twitter. Hang with me here.

I use TweetDeck, which is an application you can download to your laptop and shows tweets from people in various columns that you can sort. So my left hand column is for the people I follow. There are about 175 of them or so. Some tweet more than others. I can mark them so they disappear after I've read them. New tweets pop up on their own and people post them. Some are interesting, some not.

The other columns are for people specifically talking to me and for people mentioning "Jeffe" in their tweets, but that's neither here nor there.

So, last night we were watching Food, Inc., which was really good and is worth the time, and I was reading a story for a friend. TweetDeck had been popping up the usual chatter, a fair amount of it, it turned out, from people watching the football playoff game between the Minnesota Vikings and the New Orleans Saints. As the game progressed, the tweets became more frequent and intense. And it became clear to me that I follow an approximately equal number of fans of both teams.

I knew it the moment the game went into overtime.

What emerged was a microcosm of the game. I didn't need to see it to know how it went. So I saved the tweets. This is the exact order of them. There were intervening non-game-related tweets that I deleted. These are tweets from about eight different people, none of whom were talking to each other.

At least, not directly.

Football Twitter Poem

me thinks the Vikings are trying to give this game away. I dont really care who wins, but would like to see a Colts/Saints superbowl.

Oh yeah!!!! Who dat? Who dat gonna beat dem Saints?

In essence, it's a brand new game. Can the Super Bowl possibly be a better game than this? (Though, it's been messy & Favre's been slammed.)

Sorry, kitteh. Mama's lap is NOT a good place during a game this important. Geaux Saints!! Kitteh still glaring at mama. Oops!

I'm not sure which is more streesful: watching the #Vikings in OT or watching Mr watch the Vikings in OT.

Percy Jackson starts 2/12 w00t

The #Vikings can't catch a break with the refs. that was not a first down. not not not not not

And that was not pass interference. not not not not not

Why don't the refs just put points on the board for the Saints and call it a game?

::sob:: please miss the field goal, please miss the field goal.....*holdsbreath*


We are going to the Super Bowl!!!! OMG Saints are in the freaking Super Bowl!!!! Shriek!!!!!!!!! Thank you Thank you Bayou Boys!

Beautiful kick. Good luck in the Super Bowl, Saints! I'll be rooting for the Colts.


They were all looking at the same game, so of course that formed the structure. And I brought the point of view, since I selected these people to "listen" to. The pattern that emerged, though, becomes something all its own.

Just like the rain chain is a skeleton for melting and freezing water, allowing a sculpture to emerge without an artist.

Saturday, January 23, 2010


No, I have no idea what I was doing in this picture. My mom took it of me on my birthday and it cracks me up.

It's apropos of nothing, really. Except that I'm clearly telling a story.

For those of you not on Twitter, there's this deal where you can use what's called a hashtag. People can add the hashtag to their message (yes, part of the 140 characters) that makes it searchable. So, if you go to, you can enter the hash-tag #queryfail and see all the posts related to that.

What you'll see is primarily agents snarking about bad queries. It can be useful, especially for very new writers who have no idea how an agent sees things. One agent has started a new hashtag #thingsIshouldnotseeinaquery. Some examples:

"I am really quit unremarkable in all ways." #thingsishouldnotseeinaquery

"I needed a new creative outlet." #thingsishouldnotseeinaquery

"I am positive that it will be a colossal seller." #thingsishouldnotseeinaquery

See? It can be really amusing. It can also get pretty snarky in the way things can when only one side of the interaction gets to be snarky. We all like to bitch about the annoying aspects of our working lives. I certainly do. But I have to be exceedingly careful about it. I'm not one of these writers who goes bananas that agents are parasites and we don't need them. I really want to work with an agent because I believe in what they are able to do. But agents hold a lot of power over writers, so I sometimes have issues with the condescension.

One day an agent, intent on showing how pressed and busy agents are, tweeted that agents do reading for new clients almost entirely on their own time. I really wanted to reply that any of us whose jobs involve recruiting new clients and building new work have to do that on our own time. I know I do. That's how business works. Selling to new clients isn't billable and work for existing clients must be prioritized. Of course, I thought better of saying this because I didn't wish to antagonize her. I'm still a supplicant in that world.

I have issues with a system where I feel like I'm not supposed to speak truthfully.

Last night I received a rejection on a query that truly took me aback. The agent took the time to tell me exactly why she was passing, which is kind of her, but I ended up wishing she'd given me the standard "not for me" because her reasons seemed so, well, foolish.

She had three points, in essence (the numbering is mine):

1) I like to see the relationship between the hero and heroine develop pretty quickly in a romance, but the beginning of this partial read more like a thriller or romantic suspense to me.

2) I also don’t love the use of the dream sequences as they can take the reader out of the narrative.

Okay, these first two are very standard romance formula "rules." I must say it's the first time an agent has quoted them to me rather than a contest judge. And this is definitely a choice on my part. I'm not much for rules. I don't like lighting-fast relationship development and I think my heroine's dreams are crucial to the novel, because it's part of the movement between worlds. I can give her these though, even if it makes me wonder that she's so wedded to these rules. It's entirely possible they're just a standard reason to throw out, to back up that she just doesn't love it.

But then,

3) Finally, I was a little surprised that Jennifer’s profession was the same as yours, mostly because it didn’t seem to add to her character or to the plot in any major way. It seemed coincidental, and yet nothing in fiction is really coincidental...

Jennifer is my heroine and she's a neuroscientist. It's important because, when she becomes a sorceress, her scientific approach and way of thinking affects the magic. I mention that I have a Masters in neurophysiology, by way of giving my credentials, that I can write a woman who thinks this way.

I'm not really sure what this agent is implying, but it seems she thinks I'm lying somehow. Maybe I really *am* a neuroscientist who's traveled to Faerie and become a sorceress and this is all really nonfiction that I'm dressing up as a novel???

And it kind of bothers me that I clearly told her my profession is environmental consulting, which means she really didn't read closely. Which is also fine; it's the Blink thing, whatever.

It struck me as an unprofessional response, however. Kind of a #queryresponsefail. I'd really love to tweet it, which I don't dare do, since I'm a supplicant.

I'm taking a risk writing this blog post, really. I almost didn't do it. But I don't feel like I don't dare speak up.

I won't advertise it on Twitter this time, however... My bravery only goes so far.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Living the Dream

It's one of those dreamy snow-globe days.

As the week has been, full of snowfall, hot tea and time by the fire.

I've been sleeping well. No dreams of starving cats. Instead I've been having the long and deep questing dreams I love. Just before I woke, I dreamed that Isabel was sleeping in the arms of a black bear cub. I laughed at how adorable they looked.

This is a quiet time at work. The early part of the year is always slow for our project, which is welcome after the hysterical push of the end of the year. I don't travel again until the end of February, which means I'm caught up and am keeping up with everything right now. I have fewer than 15 emails in both my work and personal In-Boxes. My In-Box used to serve as a sort of To-Do list, so an In-Box that wasn't empty meant I had things to take care of. Over the course of last year, my In-Box swelled to over 2,000 emails at times. The oldest one was from 2/9. Just as we're now unpacked, I've now dealt with most of my email. The oldest is now 11/11 -- for a contest I want to enter.

It occurs to me, this is what it feels like not to be stressed.

I watch the tweets go by. The news and opinions. I watch the snow fall.

There are so many people to save. So many causes to take up. So many things to become outraged about. Then I think about the idea that, if you want to change the world, first change your own life. I like to think I'm doing my part by not contributing to the hysteria. I'm solving problems, making positive contributions, finding ways to feed people.

It might be trite to quote John Lennon, but this lyric hit me with unexpected force the other day: I'm just sitting here watching the wheels go 'round. No more riding on the merry-go-round -- I just had to let it go.

I'm watching the snow fall. And I'm feeling fine.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

The World Turns

It's always difficult for me to picture things as different than as they are right at this moment.

I mean, while I know in my head that the seasons change, whatever is in front of me seems to be all that's real. I look out my office window at the frozen rain chain and remember when it was rain, not icicles. But the rain is no longer real to me.

We've been talking about that, with our luck in choosing this particular house. With the recent heavy snow, David's been pointing out how some houses sit low on the hill, with long driveways sloping down towards their garages. Those people have been shoveling snow like mad. At first David didn't get it, since the snow melts so quickly here. Then he got it. Our driveway snow melts through the gravel into the ground; theirs runs down the hill, into the garage and the house.

We are grateful we didn't pick one of those, though it was not due to any foresight of ours. Though we moved from a cold and snowy climate, in the dazzle of Santa Fe's desert summer, it's difficult to imagine deep snow.

We were lucky.

People laugh at me, when I mention I have this limitation. I try to stretch my imagination all the time this way. To picture what I see in a different light, a different season. The thing is, I'm not convinced that other people are much better at it.

The big news yesterday was Amazon's announcement that select ebooks for Kindle will pay authors up to 70% in royalties. Everybody picked up the story, so there's lots of versions of that news. I just picked that one for its detail. I find the blogger in it who rambles on about Amazon's deep fear of Apple kind of irritating. It makes me wonder who's paying for his supper, but that's neither here nor there.

What is interesting to me, and is to most authors, I imagine, is that percentage. If an author is lucky enough to receive a royalty of 15%, which is the high end, that means that for a book that sells in the store for $23.95, the author gets $2.16. (Bookstores buy books typically for 40% off the jacket price.) If that same author sells that book for only $5 as an ebook on Kindle, at 70% royalty, she gets $3.50 per book. Most books available as hardbacks list at $9.99 on Kindle, which would give the author nearly $7 per book. For 100 books, this becomes a $500 difference.

There has been, of course, much wailing and gnashing of teeth over how the publishing industry is changing. Authors are worried about ebook piracy. A reader on Twitter yesterday was blasted for talking about buying new releases as ebooks. Authors "taught" her how only the paper sales matter in the first week and how, if she wanted to support them, she'd buy those.

That's the thing about change. It takes a while to adjust your thinking. To accept that a change might be a positive thing.

All it takes is being willing to see that things aren't always as they are at this moment.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

The Price of (Non-) Fame

I suppose we all know that the writers life is not glamorous.

Gone are the days of the glossy literati, if they were ever real. No Dorothy Parkers and Truman Capotes rule over social circles. If you want to be a rock star, well, you pretty much have to be a rock star.

Or a wealthy young woman with plenty of cash to spend on clothes and time to spend clubbing, but that's neither here nor there.

We all also know the writers life is solitary, with long hours at our desks, in our heads, thinking about people who don't really exist. And when our stories do go out in the world, they go without us. Maybe they have a little photograph of mom or dad, to show where they came from, but really, readers experience books without the authors. The author is incidental, in the end.

If any of us nurse ideas of being recognized, of red-carpet celebrity, we should give them up now.

Neil Gaiman, who is arguably closer to being a rock star than most authors, went to the Golden Globe ceremonies the other day, because he was nominated for Best Animated Feature Film for Coraline. Neil was accompanied by his fiancee, Amanda Palmer, who is actually a rock star.

(If you read this blog regularly, you know I've become recently attracted to this couple -- don't worry, I'm sure the crush will fade soon.)

The best part is, when posted the Red-Carpet photo of them, the caption said:

Musician Amanda Palmer (L) and guest arrive at NBC, Universal Pictures And Focus Features Golden Globes After Party held at The Beverly Hilton Hotel on January 17, 2010 in Beverly Hills, California.

I actually didn't post this link right away, because I thought they'd fix it, given the chorus of corrections showering them. But no.

So it goes.

At least we'll never worry about the paparazzi.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Snow Day

A heavy, thick snow fell overnight, the deepest we've had so far in our new house.

Santa Fe doesn't cope well with snow, so schools and state offices were declared closed by 7am. It's a good day to tuck in.

Of course, for me it should be no different than most days. I work from home, for both the writing and the day job, unless I'm on travel. I don't have any meetings in town today, which is good. I had one yesterday and the one tomorrow morning -- I might just call in, since the storm is predicted to keep going. Most of the people "at" that meeting are on the phone anyway.

But for today, I feel only like curling up by the fire with a book.

I don't know what it is about a deep snow that leads me to feel like it's not a work day. Perhaps it goes back to childhood programming, when a big snow meant no school. Just as David's school is canceled. He's off-routine already, talking to classmates about whether school would be closed. Asking me to speculate. Asking me if I'm writing on my blog, which I am, just like I am at this time every day, but he's usually too busy getting ready to be bothered that I'm not engaging in conversation with him.

So, some of it is being off-pattern. Not the usual day at all.

Maybe there's something to the hibernating, as well. My atavistic animal spirit is tucking itself into its den, sleepy and satisfied to nap it out.

But the internet window is bright and full of sunshine and busy activity.

Hi-ho, hi-ho!

Monday, January 18, 2010

Glass Houses

I woke up this morning thinking about my North Carolina family.

And no, this isn't their house. This is the house in Rogers, Texas, where my maternal great-grandmother grew up. We have some Southern on both sides.

I don't seem to have any digital pictures of my North Carolina family -- my dad's family. This is because I haven't seen them since I've owned a digital camera. We aren't close, I suppose you'd say.

We used to be. Or, rather, I thought we were. After my dad died when I was three, my mom and I moved to Denver. My grandparents, though, continued to be a huge part of my life, with gifts, cards and regular phone calls. My uncle was quite a bit younger than my dad had been. By the time I was paying my regular summer visit to my grandparents, My uncle had met and married his wife. A son was born, when I was 12, and then another a few years later.

I'd always thought of myself as close to them. In a role-reversal, I now showered them with Christmas presents. And I didn't mind that my grandparents now had other grandchildren to love and pet -- ones right there, too. They told me that they loved me at the end of phone calls. That I was in their prayers. They came out to visit Denver once, to see the Air Force Academy and my dad's grave. I went back to visit a number of times over the years.

The last visit was when Grandmother was dying. Grandad had died a few years before, quietly, just as he'd lived.

I would say things changed after that, but I know it's really that I just see things more clearly now.

When people say you're in their prayers, they don't always mean that in a nice way. Over time, I came to understand that they see me as godless. I've been judged and found wanting. I first realized it when my aunt wouldn't let David and I share a bed in their house, though we owned a house together and had been together for years at that point. I suppose I knew in an abstract way that some people are bothered by the living in sin thing. It's always been a bit of a joke to me since, so far as I can tell, a blessing by God or the Government provides no guarantee of joy to a union.

After that, I noticed I didn't get invited to weddings or graduations. Not even announcements.

The only one I really talk to much anymore is my younger cousin, who chatted me up on FaceBook. He told me he reread my book and felt like he got more out of it the second time, since he was more grown up. A flattering thing to say, because it makes me imagine there are depths to what I wrote. Then he said he wanted to read my new novel. I said sure, but warned him it contains sex and magic and pagan things. He's studying to be a pastor, to the great joy of his family. I wonder who he's really doing it for.

He and I haven't really communicated since that conversation. A planned meeting when I was in his neighborhood abruptly fell through.

I suspect I'm firmly in the Bad Influence category.

Sometimes I wonder about love. My grandparents loved their tragically deceased son, so their love for me was all the greater for that, the last vestige of him. I think my uncle's love was similar -- an extension of the love and loss tied to his brother, stewed with resentment and regret. The boys, well, they loved me as children do. An exotic cousin from the West. Perhaps it's only natural that they grow up and move on. And I'm not really part of their family. Maybe Grandmother's death dissolved that last link.

I wonder, too, about religion. I just don't remember it being such a big deal when I was younger. Now, for some people, it's everything. It's us or them.

And here I thought it was supposed to be about love. Faith, hope and love. But isn't the greatest supposed to be love?

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Real Passion

It's been retro week on Facebook.

What, you didn't know??

We were to replace our profile pics with ones from when we were younger. My problem is, I haven't scanned in any of my old photos and the ones I used to have out are boxed up. Not from moving laziness, but on purpose. We like the clean walls of this house. And, with the way the views fill the rooms, it doesn't look right to have too much stuff inside competing.

So I was judicious in what I've hung up and put out. Those old family pics from when I was a kid? Eh. In the archives.

But one of my sorority sisters has been clever enough to scan in some of our old photos and sent me some.

So now I'm cruising on nostalgia. That guy in the photo was my Great Passion. Fantastic lover, stand-up comic and alcoholic. He broke my heart twice. I have a long-standing rule of never getting back together with someone after the break-up. I firmly believe that whatever caused you to break up in the first place will still be there. He's the only one I violated the rule for and, guess what?

I suppose sometimes you have to test your own rules, to verify the truth of them.

He's since fallen off the face of the earth. I sometimes wonder if he's self-destructed. There's another one I wonder about sometimes. Another passionate and dysfunctional relationship. Must be a theme.

I remember when a counselor told my mother "we seldom marry our great passions." Which I think is true. The men who give us the roller-coaster ride of passion are not usually the men who are good for the day-in/day-out routine of grocery shopping and alarm-setting.

While I know romance novels are about the fantasy, this aspect sometimes bothers me. When the relationship is SO turbulent, romantic and passionate, I sometimes get hung up on whether the happily-ever-after will stick. For me, I really need to believe in the reality of the story, to really enjoy the fantasy.

Funny -- when I started this post, I didn't intend to converge with Allison's post today, though I did read it while writing this, and while chatting with her on IM. Interesting how the mind works that way. Of course, she also had to point out that she was in 6th grade when this photo was taken. Which just means she was a snot-nosed brat when I was a sophisticated young woman.

That's the other thing I've learned from nostalgia: it's easy to look back and think how young and pretty I was then. Something I didn't know. I didn't think I was, at all. It's another way to bend what's real, our perceptions of ourselves. Now I just try to appreciate how I look, since I know I'll look back later and wonder why I worried that I was too fat or too pimply or what have you.

Maybe part of the trick is embracing reality for what it offers. David cooks dinner most nights and is a lover to me in a way only someone you've been with for almost twenty years can be. When I have early meetings, he brews Earl Grey for me and puts in in my favorite thermos.

It might not make for the stuff of novels, but it is truly romantic.

Friday, January 15, 2010


Yesterday I was telling my mom about the implosion of this project we're working on and how there's a lot of blamestorming going on now.

She loves me and thinks I'm brilliant, so she thought I made up the word. Which I didn't. It was on one of those email lists a while back along with one of my other favorites "the Dopeler Effect," which is the tendency of stupid ideas to seem smarter when they come at you rapidly.

At any rate, this one guy just hasn't done what needed to be done. Maybe he just never had the ability. And now other people are being drawn into it like a giant black hole of failure. Okay, just a little black hole of failure in the grand scheme, but with tremendous sucking power, and I mean that on every level.

Meanwhile, in the online literary world, there are a couple of writers who've recently imploded, one published, the other trying to be, both for the same issue: reviews.

Readers and writers watched in horror as a writer reacted to a one-star review of her book on Amazon with increasing anger. She has since deleted her comments, which was the wise thing to do, but it was far too late as those of others remain.

The book review blogger, Katiebabs, has now posted this story about an unpublished writer who has posted her, yes, unpublished book on Good Reads and asked for reviews. She wants to create sufficient buzz to ensure a publishing contract. The catch is, she's asked readers to refrain from reviewing it unless they'll give it three stars or more. The post on Katiebabs has an interesting conversation between readers, writers and reviewers in the comments.

The thing is: we all have to meet standards in our work. It doesn't really matter if the standard is fair or if it's just someone else's opinion. You can't bully people into saying you did a good job. Or whine your way into it. "Blamestorming" is a funny word, because we've all been there. It's easy to free-associate reasons for why things didn't go the way you want them to.

We watched Earth last night. Which was stunning in its beauty and devastating in showing the indifferent cruelty of nature. I ended up crying for the deaths of a baby caribou and adult polar bear who couldn't get at the baby walrus. It makes no sense and yet I want everyone to win.

Have I mentioned I'm a sensitive soul? Yeah, even David laughs at me, rooting for both sides.

But, like the earthquake in Haiti, it isn't God who did it, nor was it the Devil. It just is. Some hits are harder than others -- sometimes a person loses everything, sometimes your feelings are hurt or your work reputation is damaged -- but we all take them.

What's important is taking them with grace.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Taking the Long-Cut

There's a surprising amount of road rage in Santa Fe.

Surprising because there really isn't that much traffic and, at about 70,000, the city isn't large. But people drive fast and they honk and they curse.

Yesterday, a man in a glossy white pickup on the interstate behind me became so enraged that I wasn't passing fast enough in the left lane, pulled around me to the right and wedged into the barely there space between me and the car I was passing. He rolled down his window to slip me off, to ensure I could see, since he had tinted windows.

I thought: he's had practice at this.

I confess that it distressed me. People who know me well know that I am not a slow driver or an oblivious one. On the one hand I'd say that all he did was anger himself and ruin his own day, but as I watched him zoom up to the next left-lane lagger and ruthlessly tail them into submission, I knew that he also bit a little chunk of happiness out of my day.

One of the guys I've been working with in downtown Santa Fe on this project we're doing for my day job, lives in the same rural community that I do. It's a 15 minute drive to the Plaza from here and you can pretty much take either the interstate or the two lane that parallels it, Old Las Vegas Highway. You can take Old Las Vegas Highway to Old Pecos Trail to Old Santa Fe Trail and it spits you out right into the Plaza.

On a blizzardy day, wondering which was the better bet, I asked this guy which route he'd taken, if he'd come down the interstate or Old Santa Fe. Right -- I meant to say Old Las Vegas, but I got mixed up and can you blame me?

He said, "Oh I refuse to go down Old Pecos." Shaking his head in disgust, he added, "I take St. Francis in."

This is the next exit down and a big four-lane divided road. I understood that he was telling me he doesn't like the slow winding of Old Pecos. And there are slow drivers on it. Tourists, too. You can see above how it curves in narrow twists between the adobe houses. This is where Old Pecos ends and Old Santa Fe merges in and takes over.

(When I stopped on my way home yesterday, to take this picture, a man came out of the house to see what I was doing. I said, oh, I just want to take a picture of Old Pecos and he shouted back, actually Old Pecos is behind you and now this is Old Santa Fe. I just gave him a cheery wave.)

The thing is, I love to drive down Old Pecos. Even after it ends. I love the winding and the adobe and the wooden signs. I don't care that the drivers go slowly.

(Okay, this one day, a woman driving an enormous SUV with Texas plates drove very slowly and pulled into not one, not two, but three different little entrances, stopped partway, and backed out again. None of us could pass her, of course, cf. narrow streets. By the third aborted attempt I lost my patience. Not that she ever knew it.)

Yesterday I stopped to take this photo, because I knew I wanted to talk about this. Our early morning meeting had been unpleasant in several ways. People are facing difficult decisions. I still smarted from getting the finger. So, since I was already pointed that way, I drove back on Old Santa Fe Trail. I thought I'd see where it went.

It wound back through the hills, past lovely houses and ended up back on Old Las Vegas, way far down, and just before the turn I need to make to get to our community.

It soothed me.

I know I can't run away from conflict. But I must admit, it felt good to be where the aggressive people weren't, if only for a short drive.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Loving That Road Less Traveled!

Okay, no I'm not quitting fiction-writing.

Apparently yesterday's post came across just a little too dire, because a number of my fiction-writing pals contacted me privately and expressed alarm.

Which is really wonderful of them.

And that's probably why need communities like this, to keep you going when you start to flag. Business and art have such different goals, such different ways of operating that, for some of us, it's difficult to do both well. I recently read that Jennifer Marks, who does that great song "Live," (thanks to Kev for sending it to me) retired after her first music tour and is sticking to songwriting. Actually it's in one of the comments on that video. We all make choices, and some prioritize quality of life.

So, all I'm saying is, I'm trying to back off the rabid biz aspects. I've unfollowed a number of agents, or stopped reading their blogs, because the snark makes me unhappy.

I'm a sensitive soul, you know.

But I also sent out a query last night to a friend's agent. In putting it together, I realized how close I really am. Obisidian has finaled in four contests and won two. Three agents and two editors have read the full manuscript. And, as one of my writing buddies pointed out, I'm still working through the top echelons. I haven't even gone to second tier yet.

What I did do was slow down.

That was needed -- I had to do the Ruthless Revision. (Oops - I might have promised not to mention it again? Sorry!) And then with the waiting while people read it. Now I just need to ramp up keeping it out there. That's not that hard to do.

Meanwhile, I get to do the fun part, too. The writing part.

That's what's in my heart, no matter the genre.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Forever Stuck on the Road Less Traveled

I may have made a mistake.

I know, I know -- we can crack all the jokes we like about writing it on the calendar, etc. But I'm begining to think I really miscalculated, becoming involved in this whole genre thing.

When I first began writing, and I really trace this back to grad school, since I don't believe childhood stories and adolescent angsty poetry really count, my work came out as essays. To get some relief from what had become the crushing pressure of my PhD in Neurophysiology program, I began taking classes with the visiting writers program.

And, oh, the excitement of those days.

I loved meeting the visiting writers, and the other students. I loved the workshops, the stimulation of it all. And they supported me in very useful ways. I learned to explore my new art. An artist's retreat accepted me to stay for two weeks, I received fellowships and other awards.

And I was rewarded early on with publishing success.

I wouldn't say the magazines fell over themselves to publish me, but it was fairly steady, from Redbook to Literary Mags, I published in several a year until, eight years after my first class, I held my essay collection, published by a university press, in my hands.

Then I stalled.

There were a lot of reasons. Mainly I couldn't quite get the two nonfiction projects I was working on to gel. So I wrote a novel, Obsidian, about sex and magic. I thought, oh, I'll sell this and the genre work will bring in the money so I can focus on the nonfiction projects.

Yeah, it didn't work out that way. Even though one of the editors at a sci fi magazine I'd published with said that an agent would snap up a writer like me, no one has. One agent early on wrote me a letter saying how disappointed he was, because he'd loved my idea but then I'd gone and written it like some kind of literary book.

A few months later, I went to the RWA National conference, where my name tag identified me as unpublished. Because Romance Writers of America considers you published only if it's in the genre. A month before, I'd been a featured writer on a panel at a book festival. At one lunch, I sat next to a woman I didn't know. In fact, I did at every meal since I knew no one. I don't remember her name -- she was another unpubbed wannabe like me. At the end of the meal, she said she looked forward to reading my book. Foolishly, I pulled my essay collection out of my bag, saying I had some with me. She looked at me like I'd offered her dog shit and said, no, she meant my romance novel, whenever I got it published.

I sent my first query on Obsidian 12/20/07. Just over two years ago, for those keeping score at home. Admittedly, it wasn't really ready for prime time then. Hindsight is 20/20. Meanwhile, a gal I know wrote a book while snowed in during December 2008, that she just sold in a three-book deal.

Jayne Ann Krentz wrote an interesting post on the FFP blog recently. She speaks frankly about writing as a business, which she's clearly better at than I am. She says this:

DON’T GET TOO FAR AHEAD OF THE CURVE: Trust me on this. I’ve been there and done that and it rarely goes well. Back at the beginning of my career I tried to do a futuristic/paranormal. That very first manuscript had all of the elements that I now work with freely: romance, suspense and a psychic twist. I can’t tell you how many rejection slips the manuscript garnered. They all had the same theme: “Really enjoyed the writing but unfortunately there’s no market for this kind of romance.”

She could be talking about me. For some reason, no matter what I'm doing, I never quite fit neatly into what everyone else is doing. I didn't in high school, I didn't in my PhD program. I don't now.

I really don't think I'm doing it on purpose.

At any rate, I'm back where I was three years ago when I started writing Obsidian. Unable to sell my current project, I think I'm going back to nonfiction. I actually know where to take one of the two I was working on then.

I have learned one thing, that querying and selling have to be background activities. You can make yourself crazy if they're your main focus.

It might be precious to say, but it forever and always must be mainly about the writing.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

My Number One Pal

I'm working on being kinder to myself.

I know this sounds like a no-brainer, but it's not for me. I get in these modes where I find I'm flogging myself for more work, faster, better. This is exacerbated by my community of writers who focus heavily on word count, some doing 4,000 words per day, another doing 20 pages per day.

I've found that I can reliably produce 1,000 words per day. I can do more than that sometimes, but not for more than, say, a week or do. But 1K works for me, what with the full-time career and other commitments.

Also, for the past year or so, I've been writing this blog. I started out trying to post every day. I didn't make that goal. I posted 247 times in 2009. That's 67.7% for those keeping score at home. Almost spot-on 2/3. And you know how the song goes, two out of three ain't bad, right?

Fairly early on, I began taking Sundays off from the blog. Day of rest and all that. I'd like to tell you I spend the time studying philosophy or reflecting on my spiritual journey, but really it's more about obtaining fancy coffee drinks and lolling. When I figure out how to make a religion out of this, you all can sign up.

Most days, I post to the blog first. I exercise, then try to keep the blog post to 1/2 hr. I started out trying to keep it to 300-350 words, but I find normally I write about 500-600. That seems to be where I end up. Then I switch to my book or WIP.

Work in Progress, doncha know.

I never called it that before I hooked up with the romanceys. The lit types always refer to their book or their collection, whether it's done or not. It's an interesting distinction. For the lit types, it's always a book, pubbed or not. For the romanceys, it's a WIP until it's pubbed. Or maybe contracted.

Anyway, until just recently, I only counted my 1K for working on my book. And then I realized that, not unlike calling a book a WIP, I was devaluing what I write here. As if this is not part of my writing life, not part of keeping the writing juices flowing and honing my skills. Which it absolutely is.

Otherwise, it's not worth doing.

So I revamped my Progress Count spreadsheet to include my blog word count at the beginning of this week. What? Of course, I have a spreadsheet, in which I track progress on everything I'm working on. Yes, it has formulas and calculates completion dates from today's date. I celebrate this slice of Virgo in me and let her do these things to keep her happy.

This is why I know my blog tends to be 500-600 words. Which, when I get to count it, means I'm already more than halfway to my daily goal by the time I finish posting.

Which makes me feel good.

Then, when I turn to my book -- right now it's a novella -- I'm already halfway there. And interestingly, I put in 1K words on that every day except for one, when I stopped at 891 because work called and I never it made it back. Right now I'm only 135 words shy of making 7,000 words for the week. I'll likely do more than that, since I'll work on the novella today.

People often refer to the carrot and the stick method of motivating themselves, usually meaning a combination of treat and punishment. This is actually a misinterpretation of the original saying, which referred to the practice of tying a carrot to the end of a stick and dangling it before a donkey's nose to keep him moving forward. In that scenario, the carrot is forever out of reach.

With this approach, I gave myself credit, and carrots, early on in the process. And, son of a gun, it worked!

And the writing? It's good, too.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Fantasies and Delusions

I was seized by a fantasy yesterday evening.

This happens to everyone, yes? That's right, you're reading or scanning Twitter or some such and this dream flies into your head of what might be.

Mine? That Neil Gaiman read my book and thought it was so great that I got to hang out with him and Amanda Palmer.

This is them on New Year's Eve, from Amanda's blog, from whence I obtained this great pic. I've been following Neil on Twitter and I feel like I like him so much. I started paying more attention to him around the time I wrote this post. He and Amanda have been publicly involved since midsummer. At one point, around this concert he tweeted something along the lines of "I'm making tea and Amanda is dancing in her scanties. we call this division of labor."

I have a total crush on both of them.

I know, I know -- it's the false intimacy of the internet. In person they might be shallow and self-absorbed. Probably three days after I write this, we'll hear some UK tabloid screaming that AFP has been dragged off to rehab and we'll see a bedraggled Gaimain looking gaunt and haunted as he sorts out his finances.

But it was a bit of a revelation to me, because I've been sorting through why I want literary success so much. Forgive me for belaboring, since I suspect I've run through this particular soul-search on here before.

I count my blessings: I have a great life, a terrific loving relationship with a wonderful man; I have family and friends who love and support me; I have a career I enjoy, with fabulous colleagues and the best boss ever (and I'm not saying that just because I know she reads this) that pays me well enough for the man and I to have a lovely lifestyle; we have a gorgeous house in a beautiful place; I enjoy terrific health and I feel good about how I look. I want for nothing, really. I am happy. I see people struggling with dire health issues, with dysfunctional families, straining to make it economically and I count my blessings. I should be satisfied.

And yet, I'm not.

I have this wanting that claws at me. Sometimes it feels like it's at the back of my throat, as if I'm longing to speak. Like spiders of yearning wiggling around in my chest.

I want that book contract.

It's not validation as a writer that I need. I've got that with the essay collection, which makes me luckier than many writers. More money would be nice, but it's not a huge consideration. Do I want fame, celebrity? I've never had much desire to be a rock star and I'm not hugely social, so I don't think so.

I think I just want to get to hang with the cool kids. Maybe it always comes back to that.

Or maybe this is what it feels like when you've got the pyramid of needs handled. If I review my list of blessings, I've got the Physiological, Safety, Love/Belonging and Esteem going. Now I should be all about the morality, creativity, spontaneity, problem solving....wait! This is the pinnacle? Acceptance of facts??? This is my reward for getting my shit together?

Hell, no wonder I just want to hang with Neil and Amanda!

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Serendipity and the Whole Enchilada

"Is soup for lunch okay with you?" David asked me.

I said that sounded fine.

"But is that what you really want?"

"No, I want Harrys blue corn turkey enchiladas, but soup is fine."

David jumped on the idea, though and soon we were in the car headed to Harry's Roadhouse (thanks to for the pic!), just down the way. Never mind that I'm supposed to be on the post-holiday diet. Or that we ate at Harrys only a week ago. In fact, we've been eating there about once or twice a week. We were both feeling blue for no good reason. I'd dreamed the night before that one of the agents who has my manuscript told me all the reasons it wasn't any good and would never sell. David is watching his last few days of vacation slip by before the semester cranks into gear again. We both felt like a bug was working on us.

So we went to Harrys and waited only a few minutes for a table.

The hostess seated us in front of a window and began scrolling down the shade to cut off the southern sunlight streaming in.

"Don't do that for us -- we like it," I said. She looked startled and said "okay," but left it down. So, I opened it again. The man at the table next to us was staring hard at me and started to get up. David and I both thought he was going to be mad at me for opening the shade again.

This has happened before. No, really. I'm a sunshine kind of gal. I love nothing better than to sit in the sun. It's a mystery to me why people in restaurants ask to sit by the window and then ask for the shade to be drawn. An even greater mystery: the shade pulling request is always accomodated over the shads open request. Why? Why? Why? People act if I'm unreasonable when I say I'd like them open. Shade closing always trumps other desires. Rodent people rule the world.

But I digress.

I realized I knew the man staring at me -- had known him all my life. I called them Uncle Tom and Aunt Susan when I was a little girl. Their third child, Andrew, is the "envy baby" -- born nine months after I was, because next-door neighbor Susan on the base in Selma was so inspired by my birth.

My "what are you doing here?" was quickly replaced by the realization that, duh, they were on their way from Colorado Springs to Tucson, to the house they're renting for three months, once again next door to my mom and her husband, Dave.

We talked over lunch -- no need to move our little two-tops even. We were all amazed at the serendipity of meeting up. Though I told them I hadn't missed that they planned to blaze on through Santa Fe without saying anything to us.

I called my mom to tell her on the drive home, but she was already on the other line with Susan.

Tom and Susan pronounced it a good omen for their sojourn to Tucson, that so many pieces fell into place for us to be at lunch next to each other. David and I returned home, much lightened for the good company.

It's something for me to remember, that for all the times I've feared I've missed opportunities, for all the rejections that seem like the end of the trail, that the universe delivers gifts also.

When it's meant to be, it will be.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Blink Blink

The other day as I was driving home, this woman pulled out in front of me.

I knew she was going to do it. I could see her from a ways off, watching the oncoming traffic to her right. Whatever it is that telegraphs what other drivers are going to do, told me that she'd already decided to go after that group coming from her right. She looked at me, now approaching from her left, but pulled out anyway.

She had already made up her mind, after all.

Much has been made lately of the split-second decision. The knowing without conscious thought, as in Malcolm Gladwell's Blink. It's an interesting concept, and I think Gladwell makes good points, in both Blink and Tipping Point, about how we decide, from life-mates to editors buying manuscripts. (Same thing?) This plays into what I was talking about yesterday, with how our brains filter information.

It's important to be decisive. Without decision, you are paralyzed. Unable to act. And it's nearly impossible to analyze all the factors that go into a decision in reasonable time to act. If you wait until you've analyzed every possibilty, every variable, the moment has passed.

Decision means to cut away -- same root as incision, only you take it out instead of cutting in. You cut away your other options until only one remains

The important thing, I'm thinking, is that only one course of action remains for just that moment. If conditions change, you have to be ready to alter the decision. The lady in the other car made her decision, but she was then unwilling to let go of it when another factor, me approaching from the other direction, presented itself.

Much is made, also, of the ability to stick to decisions. To select a course of action and persevere regardless of obstacles. We've all witnessed the virtue in that. Countless stories abound of people who achieve great things this way. However, we can all think of people who persisted along a course of action regardless of the fact that it wasn't working. If I decide to drill my way through a brick wall by banging my head against it, it's likely my skull will give before the wall does, no matter how strong my resolve.

But then, it would be a bad decision in the first place.

I'm a fan of the bad decision, actually. I truly believe it's better to make a bad decision than no decision. The paralysis of trying to make the perfect decision is excrutiating. The key is then being willing to constantly reevaluate the decisions I've made. To question the basis for them. Why did I believe my skull was stronger than brick at the time. Perhaps I should reconsider my assumptions.

It takes resilience and flexibility. Something that grows more difficult as we grow older. Just as our bodies tend to stiffen, so do our assumptions. Young people are sometimes derided for being flighty -- changing majors and mates with flagrant flexibility. They are urged to pick one thing/person and commit.

Perhaps those of us who've gotten good at committing should be urged to reassess.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Good for You

I'm thinking that the reason New Year's resolutions are so powerfully seductive has nothing to do with the new year, in so many words.

I think it's because, in our culture, the early January return to "real life" demands that we change patterns anyway. No more with the sloth and gluttony. Here we are setting the alarms again, getting up for work, not eating Christmas cookies for breakfast. Since we have to deal with the offense of an electronic wake-up at an offensive hour, why not go for that extra half-hour that would allow me to cook a healthier breakfast? And if I'm cooking a healthy breakfast, why not try to plan healthier menus all around?

It's been fun seeing everyone "return" from the holiday hiatus. FaceBook and Twitter are full of grumblings and resolve.

It was also interesting to see how many people took "vacation" from the internet also. As if that, too, is work. Which, I'm beginning to think, it really is.

I did it, too. On New Year's Day, when I did nothing, I never turned on the computer. What I did was lay about and read. And it's funny to me, that reading now falls under "doing nothing" in my mind. I really needed that relaxed time, however, to get back in the reading groove.

We've all noticed we're not reading much. Smart Bitches, Trashy Books posted an article on the topic, triggered by an NPR article on how ebooks are changing us, which cites an article in the Atlantic Monthly by writer Nicholas Carr on whether the internet is making us stupid. If you can pick only one of the three, read Carr's, even though it's long. It will be good for you.

I don't believe the internet is a bad thing. This kind of linking of essay to article, one provoking another's thought is a wonderful tool. I also think that rewiring our brains to process more information in faster slices is okay, too.

And, like the readers Carr talked to, I agree that I'm losing something.

I, too, can feel my attention wander after a few paragraphs. I skim. I get a taste and move on. Even something I want to read, I sometimes find I just can't. I made a deliberate choice many years ago not to watch TV, because I do believe it undermines the imagination and trains you to follow other people's ideas. But I hadn't realized how profoundly the internet is affecting me, until I spend the last year writing and reading blogs, posting to FaceBook and following Twitter. And not reading nearly as much.

So, this morning I'm back at it. Got up right at 6am, exercised, fixed my healthy breakfast and sat down to write this post at 7. In a few minutes, I'll move to the novel I'm working on. Or the novella. I actually have six projects I'm drafting at this time, which might be a problem. And one novel I'm trying to sell that I may yet have to revisit.

When I finish my work day, I'm now inserting an hour previously spent noodling on the internet. I'm going to walk away from the computer and just read. By the end of my day of reading, I found I had it back. I relearned my old trick of sinking into a book.

And damn, it felt really good.

When I sell my novel and have to make edits, while writing the sequel and finishing the novella, I'll want to be able to access my ability to move quickly from project to project. And then to stop it all and just read.

It's good for me.

Monday, January 4, 2010

No, Thank YOU!

I'm not a Thank-You Note writer.

I'm one of those, yes. Not that I wasn't raised right. My mother tried to teach me to do it. Made me do it on occasion. She also had a little sculpture my first boyfriend, Kev, gave her, of a man tugging on the reins of a stubbornly sitting mule.

Ha ha, guys.

I don't do Christmas cards either. I tried a few years to do it. One year I did Valentines to everyone instead. After that, well, not so much. I am deeply grateful to the friends that have retained me on their lists, despite my non-reciprocation. To me that's love -- that they know I'll never send a card back and they accept this in me.

I'm a bad correspondent, too. Since I'm confessing. When I went to college, my stepfather, Leo, gave me a stack of stamped envelopes with their address, so I could easily write home. He often harrumphed that it was the worst investment he ever made. Of course, that was just a gambit to try to keep me and my mother from running up the long-distance bill (remember when it used to cost by the minute to talk on the phone?), which was a failed premise from the start.

Ironically, I think all of this is because I'm a writer. When I do write a letter, it goes on for pages and pages. And once I've written a "story," I feel I've written it and I'm done. I don't want to write it again.

I know people really hate it when they're asked "did you read my blog?" so I try not to say that. And yet I find myself in conversations where I'm telling a story and the other person will say, oh yeah, I read that on your blog. So, I try to mentally track who I know reads this regularly. You can imagine how well that goes.

At any rate, my lovely stepsister, Hope, sent me a Thank-You Note for her birthday gifts, for her December birthday. And two days later, sent me another for the Christmas presents. Even though she knows we don't do Thank-You Notes. Yes, my mother told her, having given up on them herself. And yes, Hope reads this blog.

I was planning, Hope, to threaten you at this point. That if you persist in sending Thank-You Notes, worse, multiple ones, that I'd have to escalate by sending Thank-You Gifts. (Note: no writing involved.)

But then, I re-read Hope's birthday thank-you and it's so sweet. And I love hearing how she liked what I sent.

Hope and I don't get to talk much. We're new to sisterhood with each other and we're both busy. We don't have an established pattern of communication, really. We only talk when we're together. So it goes.

Maybe this is okay then. I send my gifts and she sends her thank-yous. I tell my stories here.

What's most important is embracing each other for who we are.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Me and My Dream of Doing Nothing

Yesterday, I did absolutely nothing.

And it was everything I thought it could be.

Actually, I don't have a dream of doing nothing -- but the line from Office Space feels inevitable. And if you don't know what I'm talking about, you should drop everything you're doing and go rent the movie right now. At any rate, I am generally a busy person. David says I am always busy. I'm willing to concede the point. I'm the person who, (AVATAR SPOILER ALERT) after the triumphant end of Avatar starts wondering what he's going to *do* there now. Sure it was challenging and exciting when he had the steep learning curve and the conflict and all that. But, while tribal life looks so peaceful and bucolic, wouldn't you get, well, bored after a while?

I think it mainly looks attractive to us because we are so busy.

And busy I have been. This new project I've been working on that's so political involves countless meetings and hours of phone calls. Visiting and revisiting deadlines. Then I had another project that I had to deliver by midnight on December 31, which is not nearly as magical as it sounds. My colleague worked all week on it, when I wasn't on other calls or going to meetings. She read over it while I took a shower at 6:30pm on New Years Eve and then I emailed it off. David and I made our 7:30 dinner reservation.

Normally, January 1 is a busy day for me. I come from Marie McGee's School of How to Make Them Think You're a Lady (Even If You're Not) and one of the tenets written in stone is Thou Shalt Take Down Thy Christmas Decorations on New Years Day. Anything else TACKY. (Nothing is worse than "tacky" in Marie McGee's world.) And normally I like that, starting the new year clean and fresh.

But you know, I just wasn't feeling it yesterday.

I started this blog one year ago on January 1, so I had planned a bit of a year in review. Revisit the metrics. Discuss how it went. That sort of thing.

Wasn't feeling that either.

I dragged myself out of bed at 9am, which is the longest I've slept in for quite a while. Though we did stay up until 1, which was also impressive. 9am is just the time the sun hits the big armchair on the west side of the living room. David brought me coffee. Then oatmeal. I sat in my nightgown and read.

When the sun moved off the chair, I spread a blanket on the floor, and followed the sun across the floor all day -- until 4:17 pm, in fact -- reading and gazing at the sky.

I watched the sunset. I took a bath and used all of my scrubs and lotions. We watched a movie and I went to bed at 10.

I did load the dishwasher before bed, but that was my lone concession to productivity.

I've never had a dream of doing nothing, but it truly was all I thought it could be.
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