Making sense

Anne Lamott, on writing ...

"We are a species that needs and wants to understand who we are. Sheep lice do not seem to share this longing, which is one reason why they write so little. But we do. We have so much we want to say and figure out.”

Thursday, January 15, 2015

What Writers Moan About

What Writers Moan About

Falling Down

The day started out well: two cups of coffee, a leisurely breakfast, a sweet episode of The Middle (I am obsessed with this show, thanks to Netflix), some gentle reading (A Year of Writing Dangerously: 365 Days of Inspiration & Encouragement, by Barbara Abercrombie), a trip to the office (upstairs, in my home).

I was eager to get back to work on my newest project --and I've been doing swimmingly--meeting my daily word goal, outlining and plotting strategically, monitoring and adjusting when characters change their minds, or the writing is so organic it doesn't want to be contained ... and then I noticed my desk was particularly dusty. (My chalkboard wall is both a delight and a curse.)
Rather than ignore the dust and pick up where I left off in my manuscript, I started to clear my desk; I started to dust; I started to get into a crappy mood; I fussed at the dog.
I have fallen from my Happy Writer Life ladder.
I must get out of the house, buy a latte, take a short drive, feel the warm winter air on my face (it's nearly fifty degrees), run two errands, get back to my room.
Pick myself up.
Start again.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Book #2 of 2015

Lots of Candles, Plenty of Cake, by Anna Quindlen
 Once again, I found myself pissed that I was reading a library copy instead of a personal copy. I find it annoying that I cannot annotate or highlight adored passages in a borrowed book.
Instead, I marked favorite parts with magnetic bookmarks (a gift from a FB friend) and copied entire sections into my journal.

On exercise and body acceptance: (page 96)
"But I've finally recognized my body for what it is: a personality delivery system, designed expressly to carry my character from place to place, now and in the years to come. It's like a car, and while I like a red convertible or even a Bentley as well as the next person, what I really need are four tires and an engine. I don't require a hood ornament. It's not about how my body looks at this point; it's about how it works."

On why 2014 was such a sucky year for me: (page 153)
"Dan Gilbert, a psychology professor at Harvard who studies happiness, has said that one of the most traumatic experiences in the human span of life is unemployment. And retirement the way we once defined retirement is pretty much unemployment with a party beforehand."

On growing older: (page 170)
"I'm elated to have what the actress Laura Linney called 'the privilege of aging.' I'm living for two, for all the years, the decades, my mother never got." (Quindlen's mother died of cancer when the author was nineteen years old.)

When I do get some extra money, I will buy Quindlen's book and refer to it often. Excellent tome to aging and accepting and celebrating middle age.

Sunday, January 11, 2015


In the blog post dated January 8, 2015, Mom Sequitur wrote that her niece Kiersten thought she might be pregnant, a situation that had been misreported to Mom Sequitur a full decade ago. Mom Sequitur regrets the error. To clarify: Niece Kiersten has never been pregnant nor ever thought she was pregnant, nor ever hoped to be pregnant. No teen pregnancies at all for niece Kiersten. Mom Sequitur, on the other hand, was an unmarried teenager who was, in fact, pregnant. Mom Sequitur has no regrets regarding her unplanned pregnancy. If anything's going to get in the way, let it be life.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Advice from Steve Jobs

“Your time is limited, so don't waste it living someone else's life. Don't be trapped by dogma - which is living with the results of other people's thinking. Don't let the noise of other's opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary."

Thursday, January 8, 2015

I like men AND Melissa Etheridge

It started out innocently enough: my sister and her daughter and I were playing cards the other night. Somehow ... somehow ... we got on the subject of human sexuality, and how, in my opinion (not saying whether it's right or wrong or if it's an informed one, this opinion of mine ~) ... I just happened to say that I believe somewhat that some people, generally women, might, under certain circumstances, choose to be gay. As in, Well, I was married to a man for twenty-eight years, but then I decided, one day, that I was tired of shaving my legs and putting up with him wanting to put his thing there, and, well, he also is just on my nerves over every damned thing and I just decided it'd be nice to try living with a woman. A woman will talk to me and watch the Ellen show with me and hug me when I'm feeling bloated and bitchy. So, I said, yes, I can definitely see how a formerly heterosexual woman might want to check out the lesbian lifestyle.

Again, this is my opinion. OPINION. Suffice to say that I am wrong. Truly, I am frequently wrong about things. And. Because I am a heterosexual woman who continues to appreciate her heterosexual lifestyle, it is true that I know nothing about lesbianism. I very likely am completely talking out of my ass right now.
"Are you trying to come out?" my sister asked me. She was noshing on a ham and cheese sandwich but got the words out rather clearly. "'Cause if you're trying to come out, I will support you."
"Me? Well ... maybe I am," I said, arching an eyebrow. For some unknown reason, I acted a wee bit like I might, in fact, be attempting to come out. (Even though I wasn't. Am not. )
It was then my 25-year-old niece piped in: "Ohhhhhhhhh, Aunt Kathleen!" she said, her eyes wider. She was, literally, bouncing up and down in her chair. "It all makes sense now!"
"Yes, yes it does," my sister, her mother, agreed. "Which explains why you went to that Melissa Etheridge concert with a woman and got so caught up in the lesbianism all around that you and she actually held hands just so you'd fit in."
(It is true that I did do that, but with a hetero friend who is married to a man.)
"And you like Elton John, too!" said my niece, with continued great enthusiasm. "Aaaaand you're progressive ... remember that Christmas when I thought I was pregnant and instead of being shocked you were all, like, 'Kiersten, you have a lot of choices available to you, okay?'"
"And you went to that writers place up in New Hampshire with a bunch of liberals, remember that?" my sister asked. "I kinda thought you connected with lesbians there."
"Birkenstocks!" shouted my niece. "You also wear Birkenstocks!"
And we all laughed and then I felt ashamed of the conversation because in my heart of hearts I do not believe that being homosexual is a choice. Shame on me for pretending to prefer the strap-on penis when what I really want, and have always wanted, is the penis attached to the man who is going to watch football twelve hours in a row and tell me to drink more water whenever the bloat sets in. Shame on me for finding entertainment value in pretending to be gay for ten minutes, or for reveling in stereotypes that do no one any good.
Like I said, I am wrong a lot.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Movie #1 of 2015

Labor Day

I'd been looking forward to the release of this movie after reading Joyce Maynard's book of the same name, which, BTW, she'd outlined (written?) in eight weeks while at the MacDowell Colony in New Hampshire. Loved the book. Moderately liked the movie. (Release date: Jan. 31, 2014 ... I watched it on Netflix ...yay Google Fiber! ... two days ago, after my husband went to bed at 8:05 p.m. Once a farm boy, always a farm boy, but I digress.)
Look. I'll see anything with Kate Winslet in it, 'cause I'm a fan, and cutie-pie Josh Brolin is always a draw. Anything promising romance, even if it's not believable, is an additional perk.
The basic premise is this: It's a hot Labor Day weekend in 1987 and Henry needs his mom, played by Winslet, to drive him into town to pick up stuff for school. After Winslet's character, Adele, has a mild panic attack in the driveway, and again in the parking lot of the discount store, the two eventually make their way into the store, where 13-year-old Henry is calmly accosted by Brolin's fresh-out-of-prison escapee, who's limping and wearing a blood-stained white tee.
Because this is a movie, Brolin ends up riding home with Adele and Henry, where the plan is he'll lie low for the evening. He ties Winslet up rather loosely and already the attraction starts to build. Okaaaaaaay. Having already read the book, I knew this was coming, but it was too weird to accept from my armchair in my living room. (I was glad to be watching the movie by myself.)
Soon, a non-descript neighbor brings over a bushel of peaches and a warning to Henry to watch out for the escaped convict. In no time at all, the con and his new family prepare pie crust, peel peaches, and as a threesome carry out an unsettling let's-make-a-pie-and-get-that-baby-in-the-oven scene that is kinda hard to watch.
Regardless, I kept on with the movie because I couldn't remember how the book ended. That's the thing about having Adult ADD and living a menopausal life: I can't remember shit.
Labor Day's ending-ending is nice, although you have to wonder if it's truly possible to carry a 15-year torch for someone who kidnapped you, tied you up, fed you chili, changed the oil in your wood-sided station wagon (the convict is a handyman), made sweet love to you one night (really?), and taught your kid not only how to make pie, but be so good at it, and changed  by the process, that years down the road the kid is a successful pie entrepreneur.
But Labor Day is only a movie. Not terribly bad for my first movie of the new year. I've seen worse.

Friday, January 2, 2015

Book #1 of 2015

The Vacationers, by Emma Straub
This light-hearted, witty read is a good one. I laughed; I identified; I will long remember the characters. I'm sure there's a movie coming soon. Meryl Streep will play Franny; Kevin Kline her husband, Jim.
The story revolves around Franny's thirty-five-year marriage to Jim, and how he has been unfaithful, and can their marriage be saved. Set on an island in Spain, the vacationers include two adult children (one immature, one sarcastic) and a gay couple: very Modern Family-ish. Throw in a tanned and sexy twenty-year-old tutor, and you've got a tidy little dramedy with some beach sex thrown in.
The figurative language employed is every English teacher's dream read ("Carmen slept on her back, while Bobby curled up like a seashell next to her, his mouth open."/"He heard her pivot on her rubber soles and squeak out of the room ... ."/"The water! Franny wanted to run toward it with her hands clasping open and closed like a lobster's claws, to hold on to it, a shimmery dream.")
Although it was 22-degrees in Kansas City when I read this book, I recommend this beach read to any married or divorced woman, or any woman, for that matter, who has thought about smothering her man in his sleep.

50 in '15 ...

After a MOST-shitty year, I bid 2014 adieu with an assortment of curse words and finger maneuvers.
I was ready to celebrate a BRAND-NEW year and was damned near giggling and all bouncy like a thirteen-year-old who got kissed for the first time when, within hours of greeting 2015, I learned that several friends were having the worst new year of their lives: death of a sibling, a new cancer diagnosis, a return cancer diagnosis, a long-term marriage dissolving like wet sugar before all the Christmas cookies had even been eaten.
And yet ... .
I am still standing (*cue Elton John's survival anthem*). We women are remarkably resilient, even when we think a sad Hallmark commercial will be our undoing. We persevere. We might drink too much vodka or sneak a cigarette or eat ourselves into the nearest Lane Bryant for leggings, but we will find ourselves back on our two feet, even if we're wobbly or feel a tiny bit dizzy. It's what we women do, isn't it?
This year-2015-is a BIG year for me: I celebrate (if this is the right word) a thirty-year wedding anniversary in April AND I turn fifty in August. Two BIG life events, both in the same year.
Now that I recognize fully that no one is guaranteed a tomorrow (I didn't always think like this; youth is a stage filled with optimism and a sense of immortality~), I want to carpe diem every day of 2015.
Here's a list of fifty things I want to do the year I turn fifty, listed in no particular order:
50 in '15
1) Take a girls-only trip to Memphis to see Graceland.
2) Take a 5 a.m. drive to CMSU, the university where I met my husband. Drive around town, eat breakfast by myself (not sure I've ever done this), and then see if the little chapel where I got married is still standing. (I want to start driving when it's still dark outside. A little weird, but this is my list.)
3) If little chapel still exists, travel there with husband on anniversary weekend and get new picture taken, right there on the very same bench we'd sat on thirty years ago as newly married college students, broke and scared to death. (Also: pregnant)
4) Go to the zoo.
5) Go to a drag show.
6) Do amateur night stand-up.
7) Get a literary agent.
8) Lose twenty-five pounds. I would say fifty, but why set myself up for disappointment?
9) Walk fifty miles. (Too easy?)
10) Bicycle fifty miles. (Still too easy?)
11) Run fifty miles. (There we go.)
12) Write fifty poems.
13) Write fifty essays.
14) Write fifty blog posts.
15) Submit work to fifty journals.
16) Get turned down by fifty different agents (food memoir; novel; YA novel).
17) Meet fifty new people.
18) Throw away fifty things.
19) Donate fifty items.
20) Write and send fifty hand-written letters. (If you'd like to receive one, please leave your mailing address ~)
21) Attend fifty cultural events.
22) Read fifty books.
23) See fifty movies.
24) Play fifty games of SCRABBLE.
25) Drink fifty glasses of wine.
26) Eat out fifty times.
27) Take fifty walks with the dogs.
28) Attend church services fifty times.
29) Go fifty days without television.
30) Go fifty days without playing Bakery Story.
31)  Save fifty dollars a week for 2015 Christmas Fund.
32) Get a job that pays enough for me to save fifty dollars a week.
33) Get a literary-themed wrist tattoo. As of today, I am leaning toward Maya Angelou's "Still I Rise."
34) Take a trip to Galena, Illinois, with Shawna and Kelly (cousin and sister)
35) Eat a foot-long corn dog at the Liberty Fall Festival. With no guilt.
36) Drink fifty glasses of gin and cranberry juice.
37) Learn fifty conversational phrases in Spanish.
38) Learn fifty conversational phrases in French.
39) Go camping at Watkins-Mill.
40) Talk husband into selling our house and moving somewhere where there are some fucking trees.
41) Continue daily yoga routine.
42) Journal every day.
43) Learn to meditate.
44) Hang out in a Barnes & Noble at least twice monthly.
45) Take a daily shower with ZUM soaps, especially anise-lavender
46) Visit aging relatives.
47) Finally read Thoreau's Walden.
48) Get Mom and Dad's ashes buried. (I feel extremely guilty for posting this as #48)
49) Make a shrine to Mother Mary. (More guilt, double-downed)
50) Read poetry every day.

And in more bad New Year news ...

Learned on Facebook that a high school friend's cancer has returned.
Dammit. Fucking cancer.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Prioritizing to a count of four

Within the last three days, I have learned that two women (around) my age have died suddenly: one from the flu, the other from a heart attack.
Of course I am freaked out. The hypochondriac in me immediately goes on high alert: What were they doing that I might be doing? What did they have that I might have? Too much Starbucks? Too much exposure to children? Job loss? Too much waistline? That weird vertical earlobe crease?
And then the realist in me kicks in and I do some 4-4-4 breathing, which a counselor taught me to do years ago: Inhale to a count of four; hold the breath for a four-count; exhale to the count of four.
I cannot even fathom making out my New Year's Resolution List for 2015, including such usual resolves: eat more vegetables, drink more water, sleep eight hours and then WHAM!! being hit with sudden death/unplanned death. No one writes: Don't die in 2015.
Oh. My. God.
Oh. My. God.
Life. Wow. Full of surprises and heartache and good chocolate and food poisoning and ten thousand great things and another ten thousand shitty things.
Makes a person rethink her existence, and the planning that goes into living. Am I really in charge?
I am in charge of prioritizing my life's joys and stressors, that I know. I can choose to wake up feeling happy; I can choose to watch a cartoon instead of the CBS Evening News; I can choose the broccoli over the banana pudding; I can choose to believe that good things happen to good people.
Until they don't.
I can choose to google the shit out of Why a 50-year-old-woman dies from a heart attack?, or I can choose to sit in my comfy reading chair with a cup of hot tea and an excellent book. Which action will cause me the least amount of stress?
Which future job will cause the least amount of stress? Would I be happier ringing up people's groceries or returning to the classroom? Becoming a nanny again or getting my real estate license?
For now, right now, I am choosing my reading chair and a new book. Also, four calm breaths.