Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Burned Out

I have always been a list maker. I like the feeling of accomplishment I get when I make a "to-do" list and can line things out as they're completed. Even better, I like lists with little boxes you can check off as you finish things. Anal, I know. But since I'm the aging queen of multi-tasking, without a list (or several lists), I flounder around as unfocused as a hummingbird.

I returned to the day job today, and found that making a "to-do" list was entirely too overwhelming to even contemplate. Here, I make lists of things I've done. Proof that I actually did something. I've tried to look positively on this exit experience. I've attempted to wrap my brain around the fact that there are some projects, committees or reports that need to be done just one more time, or five more times, or 12 more times. It isn't helping. When you're done, you are done.

I've always wondered how people who work in factories survive for 25 or 30 years. What must you do to get motivated and be excited and productive at work, when work is the same thing day after day? My natural father worked in an ink factory. I'm not sure how many years, and I know not enough to retire from there, but for many. I'm not even sure what he did there, despite the fact that I once had to do a report in elementary school about "My Father's Job". Wow, there's a dater for you, I'm sure it would be illegal to demand such a thing from children today. For so many, their first question would be "which father?". Anyway... Dad worked at an ink factory, let's say putting the lids on the bottles, five days a week, for ten or fifteen years. My father was a musician, he played every windblown instrament. He loved music, and if it was his dream to play in an orchestra or a jazz band, it was a dream boxed up and shelved long before I came along. How did he get through the days without going stark, raving mad?

Perhaps I'm irrisponsible to chase a dream instead of sticking it out here until retirement. It is probably a selfish move that will heap pressure on poor old Papa Bear. But just this once, I don't care. Once I've given it a good, honest, back breaking try... if it's not working, I'll happily toddle off to another day job. Even if it means I have to be a Walmart greeter.

Monday, May 29, 2006

Cats, Dogs and Other Things Smaller Than Me

Tiny Isobelle, less than a pound and small enough to fit in a teacup, has completely immasculated my dog. Since her arrival late last night, he has stalked, barked, paced, barked and barked at this tiny kitten, until he's made himself sick and all the humans crabby. Isobelle is the picture of calm control. It is only when he gets close enough that she can feel his hot breath blowing back her silky fur that she attacks. Tiny claws aimed right for his vulnerable nose. Watching them this morning reminds me of the relationship between men and women. Like Isobelle, we usually know when to pick our battles, and we usually win.

Pap and the Bean made the long drive to Eastern Ohio yesterday. Reconnaisance to insure the grand girls Mom really did have a house. They're supposed to spend the summer with her. It's a shame my oldest talks better fiction than I write. When small lives are in the balance, I prefer facts.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Whirlwind Visits

We are funny creatures. In a phone call finalizing plans for a family visit, my sister-mom said to me " Kar wanted me to be sure and tell you she got fat. She didn't want you shocked when you saw her..." Who of us hasn't gotten fat since the last time we all saw each other? But that isn't what makes us funny. When I did see her, I saw the same girl I grew up with. The younger sister-niece. I remember a trip to Cal Expo when we were little kids. Kar was sitting on the edge of a fountain looking off into the distance. She was about 4 or 5, so tiny and sweet you wanted to hug her all the time. She had this head full of curls to her shoulders. On that day, she was sitting so still on that concrete edge, big blue eyes dancing in her little face, the sun glistening and sparkling in her amazing hair like a halo of stars. Even at 9, I remember losing my breath at the sight of her. Sister-Mom was standing beside me and also watching her. She says "Well, I guess I really did get that girl's hair clean." Isn't that just like a hairdresser! Kar was always a sweet, nice girl. I wish I would have been a better sister to her. Now she is a bright, articulate, sweet, strong woman.

I've been so long away from my family, I forget how much we are alike. In our book preferances, morals and standards. I miss them, I miss having a spot in the family line-up. I miss having a crowd around that talks about the same things I'm interested in. It's not that I feel out of place. I'm a bit of chameleon and can fit almost anywhere. But there really is "no place like home". In my case, "home" is always people. I would like to be closer to Oregon, to watch Lindsay starting college and getting ready to be a teacher. To see Zach finishing up High School and turning into a man. I wish I was next door to California so I could spend some real time with Haley and Tyler. Have lunch with sister-mom, debate with Ben. But I want my kids and husband there too. We're a strange family, since the depression, we just can't seem to stay together. Spread across the United States like dandelion fluff, we've learned to plant roots, but never in the same field.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Thoughts from the Garden

Yesterday I spent the entire day in the yard. That is one of my favorite kind of days, nothing else to do but dig in dirt and heave things around the yard. I love the immediate gratification of seeing the winter ravaged flower beds turned back over to rich brown earth and then carpeted with colorful flowers. This year it's snapdragons, marigolds, red rockets and raspberry freeze. Some droopy blue viny things and some round leaved tall blue things. I never care what anythings called, I pick flowers at the nursery by shape and color, read where they should be planted and name them something else. By the end of the day, with the mulch in place, my arms tingling with sunburn and my back aching with muscle strain, I feel like I've really done something. I'm reminded that I'm okay.

The process of "getting the yard in order" is different from "taking care of the yard". I take care of the yard every day. Stolen moments watering, trimming, mowing or picking at something. Twice a year I put things to rights. Once in spring when it's the season of new beginnings, and then in fall when I try to prepare it for the long freeze ahead. My best life planning is always done in the garden.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

The Curse of the Overachieving Lazy Person

I am an overachieving lazy person. I know, it makes no sense. But, it does. I'm great at starting things... formulating a long term plan, tirelessly plotting out the details, but then, the follow through sucks. I think I drive people crazy with this behavior. But because I'm a good talker, no one would dare tell me I'm driving them crazy. They just stop contributing, stop calling, stop e-mailing. Princess is the single exception to this trend. But then, she's also an overachieving lazy person, so it doesn't count.

Memorial Day weekend coming up, the annual running of the Indianapolis 500. Sister-Mom and Ben-Dad are flying in with Kar and the kids before they go to the race. It's been a long time since I've seen the family, so of course I'm freaking out. The house has to be clean, the yard has to be perfect, the dog has to be on his best behavior. The day job has to be put in order so time off can be taken, two books to edit, and Papa Bear still under the weather with his leg surgery. If I were just an over achiever, I'd be spending this time I'm writing about the things that need done, scouring the house. I'd rise at dawn tomorrow to sweep the deck, water the flowers and put the mulch in the rose bed before work at 8. From 8 to 4 I'd slave away wittling down my "in" box at the day job, and even skip lunch. From 4 until dark I'd mow the grass, plant the rest of the flowers, feed the fish, walk the dog and try to get the garage organized enough to close the door. From dark until I dropped from exhaustion I'd get the laundry done while finishing the editing on one book and the newsletter. But... I'm an overachieving lazy person. So chances are none of this will happen.

Friday, May 19, 2006

More Quacks in the News

A new "stress-relief" book by David L. Mocknick of Philadelphia, called "Who's Fred, Ha!" (described in December in New York's Newsday), prescribes a game based on the German name Frederick, which Mocknick said has curative powers. A stressed person listens out in public for words that rhyme with Fred, and hearing one (e.g., dead), he says, "Dead! Fred! Who's Fred, ha!" And that makes him feel better, says Mocknick. An accompanying CD suggests versions of the game based on double Freds or Freds with clues ("What's thermometer liquid called?" "Mercury." "Freddie Mercury (the late singer)! Who's Fred, ha!") [Raleigh News & Observer-Newsday, 1-9-06]

The fact that this technique exists is not the least surprising to me. That people believe it, buy the book and practice it, makes me shake my head in disbelief. Oh duh.

Thursday, May 18, 2006


Authorgeddon: (adj) Term describing that moment in time when the number of people writing books exceeds the number of people who read books. It is projected that this will happen in 2052.

I found this term on a surfing expedition and thought nothing of it until the morning news today. A perky reporter was enthusiastically enlightening us on a program that is teaching dogs to read. Only single words right now: speak, roll, sit. But hey, with a little work, I'm sure we could use this to combat the devastating result of an authorgeddon. If people are going to give up reading anywhere but the internet, then we writers have no choice but to branch out into the animal kingdom. Princess stories for Poodles, Lake stories for Labradors. Why stop with dogs? Goldfish have a memory span of 15 minutes, sell them one book and you're good for another sale before your sitcom has wrapped up.

People crack me up. We get goofy and obsessive over the simplest things.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Me Thinks Thou Doth Protest too much....

Once again this morning, news of protests and outrage about Dan Brown's book and the movie The DaVinci Code. I've read the book, I'll see the movie (I like Tom Hanks). I'm certain that Dan's book hasn't changed my faith in the least... it's FICTION. A rousing good tale full of intrique and "what if's". Quite frankly, I'm disgusted with all the ministers and "christians" marching around protesting about the DaVinci Code. Do they think their parishioners are such sheep that they'll believe anything they hear or see? Shame on you Father Generic if you haven't taught your flock the difference between God's word and fairy tales. But wait... could all this furor be smoke and mirrors to deflect some truths in Dan's book? A little too close to home there Pastor Anyman? Bravo Dan Brown! For creating a book that created a furor and made people on both sides of the issue stop and think for a little while.

Richard Hatch, the first million dollar winner off Survivor. Banished to jail for tax evasion. Does the judge really think this is punishment for Richard? If the man is anything, he is manipulative and adaptable. He'll love prison. His defense? I'm too stupid to manage my books and new found fame. Ah Richard, that's weak, especially for someone who was able to "outwit, outlast and outplay" fifteen people.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Frostbitten Pachyderm

Have you seen the story about poor Maggie, the African elephant currently being imprisoned in an Alaskan zoo. Trainers, frantic to improve Maggie's waning health, have invested ONE MILLION DOLLARS to build Maggie a treadmill. For months they've been trying to trick this poor girl into using the treadmill by tempting her over with her favorite treats...watermelon, apples, carrots, peanuts, bananas and sweet potatoes. Maggie has ventured no further than two tentative hoofs onto this contraption.

Well, OF COURSE NOT! The poor elephant is freaking freezing to death! An elephant in Alaska?? The poor thing wants a cup of hot chocolate and a fleece blanket for pete's sake. She doesn't care about some stupid moving sidewalk, she wants a nice, warm jungle with a monkey on her back. A little roll in some steaming mud. What do people use for brains?

Monday, May 15, 2006

Wake Me When I know What I'm Writing

Anyone who's done any research on what it takes in this day and time to get a book published knows that the hoops one must jump through are endless and varied. From the query to the synopsis to contracts and final editing... moving hoops, fire filled hoops, hoops so tiny a poodle would squeeze through, hours spent on maneuvering one's way through these hoops just to see that product of our imagination take on form and substance. In this millenium, that is only the beginning, writer's must also take on a formidable chunk of the marketing of their book in order to make it. The roadblocks and red tape associated with getting a book in print nowdays are sucking hours of writing time away from writers. It's a wonder any of us keep at it. Let's face it, if we were actually good at sales, we'd make our living getting used cars off the lot.

Then there is the problem of genre. How lucky some writers are, they know exactly what kind of book they're writing: If it contains a vampire, werewolf, demon or ghost, it's horror. Add a dragon and it's now a fantasy. Most of the action centered around girl and boy trying to hook up makes it a love story. If the book contains any machine not yet in existance or takes place outside of the milky way, even if there is a dragon, vampire and somebody trying to hook up, it's science fiction. If your main characters are pilgrims, it's historical fiction. Pilgrims hooking up, historical romance. Any story with a police detective as the main character is a mystery, add a lawyer and either a scientist or a computer genius and now you've got a thriller.

Somewhere out there are the just plain story books like mine, genre: fiction. White Oleander, She's Come Undone, anything by John Irving... just stories. Stories about people overcoming obstacles and discovering they're bigger, badder and better than they thought they were.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

This Writers Life - May

I was a reader before I was a writer. Now I'm an editor before I'm an author. It is that progression that makes me a good editor. I know how it feels to give birth to a novel.

The instant you type "the end", this book created through angst, sweat, and tears steps from the computer a three dimensional creature as real as any newborn child. The wait for some publisher to pick this book for their list is equivalent to taking a newborn baby straight from the delivery room to a dark and silent closet, tossing them in and locking the door. But it gets worse, once the contract is signed, the closet door is opened and your newborn is now a toddler, chained to a cutting board while editors make authors poke and cut and rearrange it's limbs. The final indignity comes once all the editing is done, and the author must see their creation lashed to a chair and firmly gagged until the book is released.

I keep this imagery close when I work with an author, something an editor who's never written a book can understand, and I try to make the process a little less anxious, a little less painful. I hope I can get better at it as I gain more experience.

Princess has decided not to move into her apartment at all. She cites money woes and an uncertain future at her job as the reasons. It makes no difference to me, all the kids can move back home if it suits them, I'm always glad to have them for company. Since her bedroom was recently remodeled for my friend down under and the grand girls, she's decided to redo and move into her brother's room. Soup has frequently advised me not to touch his room. Despite the fact that the boy left for college three years ago and hasn't returned for more than 24 hours since, we are supposed to keep his room a shrine. I foresee WW3 when he discovers "his room" is now whichever bedroom hasn't got someone else sleeping in it.

It's cold for spring, even in Ohio. Rain, rain and more rain. Nothing heavy that can cause flooding, just these random, gray days filled with spurts of showers sufficient to ruin any outdoor plans. Despite the miserable weather, the grand girls and I got most of the pots planted with flowers today. The actual flower beds will have to wait for better weather, I'm not that dedicated a gardener.

May has brought other changes, Pap's surgery, a new partnership and the loss of two pets. Ophelia, our gigantic fat cat, who was born in a shelter, moved to our house and has never been outdoors, has gone outdoors. We spent three days catching her every time she tried to slip outside, and finally she escaped us. It's been over a week and we can't get her to come inside. We catch glimpses of her from time to time, slipping in and out of the garage, but we can't catch her. She's eating something, she's as fat as ever.

The other loss was our little Pom, Feather. Inherited from a family who was home more than we are, Feather had a distinct lack of manners and did not adjust to her alone time at all. She was sad, she needed more attention and company than we were able to give her. So when an acquaintence of Neil's mentioned the need for a Pomeranian for a dear lady who'd lost her own to old age, we gave her Feather. They are both living happily now, each others constant companion. Our shitzu, Ruger, has never been happier. He likes alone time, great for napping, and is quite comfortable being an only dog.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Women Who Think

Library Lo sent me the best story yesterday:

One morning on a lake in Idaho, a husband returns after several hours of fishing and decides to take a nap. Although not familiar with the lake, the wife decides to take the boat out. She motors out a short distance, anchors and begins to read her book. Along comes a game warden in his boat. He pulls up alongside the woman and says, "Good morning, ma'am. What are you doing?"
"Reading a book," she replies (thinking isn't that obvious?).
"You're in a restricted fishing area", he informs her.
"I'm sorry officer, but I'm not fishing, I'm reading."
"Yes, but you have all the equipment. For all I know you could start at any moment. I'll have to take you in and write you up."
"If you do that, I'll have to charge you with sexual assault" says the woman."
"But I have not even touched you," says the game warden.
The woman says, "That's true, but you have all the equipment. For all I know you could start at any moment."
"Have a nice day ma'am," and he left.
MORAL: Never argue with a woman who reads. It is likely she can also think.

I think women are wonderous creatures and not just because I am one. What a marvel of construction we girls are, soft on the outside and concrete on the inside. The power we yield just by benefit of being women is a thread I see running through all my writing.

I'm of that age that has seen our place in the world go from subserviant to a man at any cost, to the feminist "I can do anything you can do", and back again. Perhaps it's because I've spent most of my life in households occupied predominately by women, or because my family, by blood and marriage, is large, sprawling and fat with 'em, but I thank God every day for making me a girl. The young girls of this generation have so many excellent examples of successful women, a role model on every block. And yet, we still have women suffering through life in abusive relationships, turning to prostitution to make a living, or starving themselves to meet societies image of "perfection". That is why I will always write about strong women, and where that strength comes from.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Back in the World

The Chief has come and gone with good news and bad. The bad news is he didn't write a contract on my book. "Too short, not young adult, you need a new title". Hmmm... could I be the only writer in the world that doesn't need to reduce every first draft by one third? I'm okay with this assessment, there are areas I'd like to expand, characters who'd like to say more and if I don't have to keep it a young adult book, that means I can let all the nasty characters swear. My mother will be so proud! The good news was a partnership offer. That's extremely good news. Less than two years to go before I drop the day job... it would be nice if there was some income still coming in.

Papa Bear is adrift in pain after his leg surgery. His leg hurts, his foot hurts and he's dealing with that very male malady of hating to be helpless. I'm sure boredom is also rearing it's ugly head, there's only so much Jerry Springer a guy can watch.

Saturday, May 06, 2006

When They Work, They're Wonderful

Just when I thought smoking was my greatest addiction, my computer went on the blink. Two days of no internet, no e-mail, no working on my latest book. It was horrible, without these distractions I noticed the spider webs in the corners of all my rooms. I really looked at the matted messes that were my dogs. I had the urge to... bake. Two days of domestic hysteria and I'm happy to say my computer is back and functioning once more.

Crazy house this weekend. The grand girls called and wanted to come for a visit. That was a good thing, despite their diminutive size, they've been trained for the garden since they could toddle. Between the three of us we got the the flower beds and grass in tolerable shape for the Chief's visit, which begins this afternoon. Princess has carried the grand girls off to a woodshop class, then to the Prof. Squared for babysitting until Sunday when Bean will pick them up, spoil them half to death, and then deliver them to their Dad. Princess and I will pick up the Chief and then we have dinner at Library Lo's with the inner circle. Tomorrow we have the reception with the rest of the writers in the afternoon, and then tickets to the Palace Sunday evening. Monday we're working until the matinee of MI3, Tuesday he goes home and Wednesday I go back to work to get ready for the Art Show on Thursday. I'm definately too old for all this excitement.

Papa Bear's surgery on his leg is Monday. His Dad will be taking him, I'll deal with the aftermath. Now I need to act like a proper homeowner. Dishes to wash, laundry to switch....

Monday, May 01, 2006

A Quack a Minute

One of the more frustrating things that comes from telling a native Ohioian that you were born in California, is the snappy come back: "Oh, you're from that state full of fruits and nuts." guffaw, snort, ha ha. I love Ohio, but to all those people who have attempted to make me believe that California has cornered the market on the loopy and unusual, I submit this:

Chiropractor James Burda , advertises a miraculous cure in which he sends patients, via telepathy, back to the origin of an injury so they can understand the pain and make adjustments. Dr. Burda says he need not meet the patient, nor even talk by phone, because e-mail works perfectly well, even for people who want chiropractic treatment for their pet. According to his Web site, he discovered his skill by accident, while driving around one day. Not surprisingly, the Ohio State Chiropractic Board announced in April that it would hold a hearing to review Burda's work. [Plain Dealer (Cleveland), 4-6-06]

Mr. Burda conducts his mental magic from Athens, Ohio, but don't you worry friends in Canada, Australia and England... e-mail works perfectly well! Jeesh, how in the world do people who fall for this stuff get through the day? I have no argument with the concept of mind over matter, but someone else's mind over MY matter - and by e-mail no less. Mr. Barnum said it best: "There's a sucker born every minute."

In other news, the Chief's visit to our little burg is just six days away. Much of the mystery of his visit was solved by a long phone call on Saturday, he HAS NOT read my book. Brave man, I must give him that. As the mother of five, I have excellent skills in the art of making people feel guilty and he got both barrels. A copy of my manuscript is now housed on the nightstand in the guest bedroom. I have also thoughtfully provided a red pen, some document flags and sticky notes. The room locks from the outside and I have polished the key. As mother always used to say "they have to go to sleep sometime".