Monday, August 31, 2009

One Full Year

I started writing my first blog exactly one year ago. It's still there if you want to go check it out.

When I upgraded to this one, I didn't have the heart to take it down. It's like a digital memory, a cyber-scrapbook. I still visit it from time to time as the mood strikes me.

I can't believe I thought to check it precisely one year after beginning. So much has happened; so much has changed for me - my blogs chronicle a year of growth and establishing my happiness.

One full year, indeed.

A Bit of a Lesson

"People sometimes wonder if you can have a story without a realization or growth. The answer is “Yes.” You’ll see this most often in slice-of-life literary stories, where the story might focus on a single afternoon in a character’s life. The opportunity for realization and growth arrives, but the character doesn’t “get it.” The moment passes and the opportunity for growth, the opportunity to be a hero, is lost. In many literary short stories, this is the tragedy of the moment and it can give the story a certain sadness that draws readers (or depresses them).

In longer fiction, readers will want to see more growth. And they’re often disappointed if the realization is lost or weak. Keep that in mind if you’re working on plots for longer fiction."

- Mike Foley, Writing Teacher Extraordinaire
"Creating Plots that Sell"

Friday, August 28, 2009

Last Night

Good... Lord...

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Aren't They Adorable?

My new shoes! Retro black leather pumps with kitten heels and leather roses. Perfect to go with the black satin scoop-neck mini dress that I'll be wearing tonight -

- to the CONCERT!!

That's right, baby. We're seeing Cake at the Fox Theatre - retro/eclectic/hipster all the way!

If you've never heard anything by Cake (and you probably have, at least a few of their most played tracks) you should check them out. They're masters of the oddball lyrics, off-kilter storytellers to a brass background. My favorite song is Commissioning a Symphony in C, for its fabulous portrayal of hubris, delusion, and fresh beginnings however misguided.

As Cake is his favorite band, the tickets were a birthday present to my husband. The second present is the black vinyl underwear that will complete my outfit. Perfect for our after-party bash at the Hip Kitty Jazz Club where I will have - oops- just a few more Cosmopolitans than may be advisable for the most prudent behavior.

But, shhhh, I didn't tell you that part. It's private. ;)

(I'm the kind of girl who wears black vinyl panties to dance and get drunk in. I'm not sure where this girl was in my twenties, but I'm loving her now! )

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Interrupted by a Knock at the Door

I had finally stopped playing blog, and settled myself into the concentration required to comb over and over passages of proposal text, making small tweaks and references, when the dogs barked and I heard a knocking.

I opened the door to two young teens, dressed in shirts and ties, carrying Bibles and pamphlets and looking at me expectantly. The taller one immediately cleared his throat and started talking non-stop, interspersing his rehearsed doctrine with nervous giggles.

The younger one waited silently, shifting his weight from foot to foot in his support role. I stayed quiet and watched them kindly, waiting for a natural pause.

The older one was quizzing me about the state of my soul. "We understand most people have their own religion. You probably have your own religon. " He looked past my head to a cross hanging in the entry. With a vague wave, he continued quickly, " I see that you do. Okay, you're Christian. It's good to be Christian." He fumbled for his Bible.

I could almost watch the gears turning, the flow chart paths in his head, hear the careful training someone had given him. Hmm. So one cross and I'm Christian. That's just because you can't see the pentacle in the bathroom, the angels in my bedroom, the ohm on the mantle or the books of Wiccan spells by my bed, I thought.

Children! You are just children. I am old. You have no basis to teach me about Faith.

He was intently quoting Matthew at me, asking about my future inheritance plans. Right, God, I thought, I will be mild-mannered.

With a smile, I did what I always do in this situation. I sincerely thanked them for taking the time to share something so important with me. Then I shifted the conversation to them, complimenting their church and being encouraging. Turns out the younger one starts seventh grade tomorrow. "Are you scared? " I asked. He nodded with a swallow.

"Don't be." I reassured him. "Every seventh grader there will be feeling the exact same way. In a week, you'll be all settled. And the teachers are there to help."

They didn't even notice the way I had turned our exchange, that I was reassuring and supporting them instead of vice versa. I offered water as I always do and shook their hands.

"Good luck," I said, shutting the door as they walked away. I love it when God sends an opportunity for kindness to my door.

Children! Sheesh.

Drop Into Being

What we tell our patients is that as long as you're breathing, there's more right with you than wrong with you.

- Jon Kabat Zinn, founder of the Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction program at the University of Massachusetts Medical School.

Today's Quote

"Never trust the artist. Trust the tale."
-D.H. Lawrence 1923

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

You're Not Just Saying That?

Okay, I apologize in advance. I realize my blog of late has been relentlessly upbeat and darn positive. I don't mean to brag and I certainly don't ever, ever mean to make you feel bad. It's just SO nice to be feeling so much better after not.

And great things just keep happening lately.

So I just had my long first meeting with my newest client, the kind where I ask tons and tons of questions and try to find out everything I need to know to write something comprehensive.

At the end, he turned to me and said, "I just have to ask. How old are you?"

I laughed. What a chance! "How old do you think I am?"

"Uh..." He wisely hesitated.

"Go ahead, tell me," I said. "I'm not at all sensitive about it, but I am curious."

"Okay. 32?"

"No, I'm 40, almost 41."

"Really?" He looked at me speculatively. "You carry it very well. It must be your hair and..." He sort of trailed off.

I couldn't help remembering the dialogue in the story I wrote just yesterday. "Really? Truly honestly? You thought I was 32?"

"Yes," he said gravely. "I did."

HURRAY!!!! (Okay, I'm not sensitive, but I'm not past rejoicing either!)

(I think he was evaluating my age because they're considering me to do some marketing and development for them, and I think he wondered if I had enough depth of experience. So, yep, I do because I am pretty old. And I've lived through a lot. I just didn't want you to think he was hitting on me - because that would have been a bit creepy.)

Something to Bear in Mind

"For more than a year, I drove around with two changes of clothes, including brand new extra sexy underwear, tucked away in my trunk... just in case he ever called and told me that he had decided he really did want me in his life..." Jess trailed off, her eyes unfocused as she moved into her memory.

"Mmmm. Mmm." Her friend just shook her head. "Aren't you glad to be done with that then?"

Monday, August 24, 2009

My Newest Story

How is this my life??????

I'm at the coffee shop. I've been dosing my drowsiness with way too much coffee (up too late again last night, but I can't complain about the reason!) and I'm working. And part of my work is below. After I played grants for a few hours, I turned my attention to my class exercise due tonight. I'm going to sell this story, so don't steal it okay? But I just have to show it to you.

My WORK is writing! God, I feel like a kid who owns a candy store. You know?

I hope you like it. You're all so great, I just wanted to share something.
(Sorry - I removed the story in order to submit it. I'll let you know when it will be out in print!)

Someone's Reason Why

"Any authentic creation is a gift to the future."
- Albert Camus

Friday, August 21, 2009

Blue Thoughts

Often when I notice unhappiness start to creep up on me, in the guise of over-thinking or anxious habits or whatever, it's because there's some underlying need that is asking to be addressed.

Such was the case last weekend. Trailing down the path of my obsessive thoughts led to the destination of desiring more contact with my husband. What with the rushes and routines of the starting school year, we simply weren't having as much time with each other as we did this summer.

It all snapped into focus for me when I was reading another great find from that yard sale - Best Women's Erotica 09 edited by Violet Blue. I put the book down and found myself discontent, ill at ease. Hmm. I was jealous.

I was convinced that everybody else was having all the fun (and writing about it!) while I was missing the party. Bingo. Once I pulled the need out into my conscious mind, it was simple enough to fix.

(See earlier post about the ease of spicing up a lagging sex life!)

Two hours of recreating the best events in the story, plus several repeat performances, put me into a MUCH better mood. There's nothing like a good, um, burst of quality time together to clear the mental, physical, and emotional channels!

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Prosperity Calling

I was lying in bed the other night, leafing through the spell section of a book on Wiccan craft.

Okay, that's a bit of a story. We were at this fantastic yard sale, where a PhD candidate was selling all of her books as well as her household bits to facilitate an interstate move. She had toys from her baby daughter, green gauze and glitter strap-on butterfly wings that my daughter pounced on and immediately wore, and books, books, and books - literary studies, fantasy, short story anthologies. One mere quarter each. We filled our trunk.

Among the haul was the Wicca Handbook. Although I'm not a follower, sometimes books just call out to me. I do have witchcraft (or healing or theraputic impulses, whatever you prefer to call it) in my blood, going back through my mother's father to our German ancestry.

I can't be Wiccan though. Have you ever looked at the craft? There are so many supplies, and things to learn, and special days, and rituals - there's just no way I have the time to follow such a complicated spiritual system. So I browse.

And I was reading along, musing about how the positive energy that you send out into the universe and to each other is probably the pivotal aspect of spells, when the phone unexpectedly rang.

After 9:30. PM. Which is late in my house.

I picked it up expecting some sort of crisis. Instead, I found out that I got the job!!!!!!!

The prison ministry group decided to hire me. I'm starting with a $400 project and we'll go from there. HURRAY!

These last few months, I have made more money from my writing business than ever. I finally make enough to support my family, if need ever arises. Ever since I left teaching, it has been a long slog trying to find a lucrative place for myself in the world. I have patiently and steadfastly continued to try over and over until finally I have built this.

My own growing business! Increased income! Positive energy galore!!

I knew I could do it, if I was only given enough faith and time, belief in myself and my sincere intentions. And I did.

Why can't I, huh? I can, and I will.

Now I choose how to enjoy my windfall in this life I'm living.

I Don't Much Like Spinning My Wheels...

it doesn't take me anywhere.

I've been making up lots of stories lately. I'm particularly good at it.

Unfortunately they're not the kind on paper, the kind I can send into the world in return for fame, money, or just recognition. These stories are the ones in my head. You know, the little stories you make up about what someone is thinking, or why such and such happened in your past the way it did, or what tomorrow, or tomorrow's next year will be like.

And so. And then. And next.

I'm extremely good with these stories. I suspect most of us are. Our brains have to do something with our thoughts to keep themselves occupied.

But when I find myself falling into the realm of too much storytelling, I've learned to pull back and relax. To recognize it as a sign of stress and trying to do too much. Trying to be too much.

I try to approach my brain with gentleness and compassion, listening to its stories with the same sort of kind humoring I would give to a small child. It can't really help itself; it only wants love and attention.

Sometimes I laugh at it, just a bit. Sometimes I marvel at the range of its imagination, the things it can construct out of the barest wisps of experience. Frequently, I mine this inner narrative for my writing, informing my fiction, my blog and my work.

Over the last few years, I've come to recognize that I've brushed up against some pretty serious mental illnesses. Depression, generalized anxiety, post traumatic stress disorder, and, my favorite, OCD. I've realized that mental illness is exactly that - an illness, a departure from complete health. When my body gets stressed in a physical sense- through other illness, fatigue, or poor nutrition - or when mental stressors tax my emotions and psychology, then mental illness starts to rear its mythic heads.

For reasons I don't completely understand, my own illnesses are always mild and livable, more like an annoying cold than a bout of pneumonia. When I feel symptoms cropping up, I pay extra attention to my healthful regime. Through careful lifestyle choices, I medicate my mentality with physical health. I'm not suggesting everyone should do this, or only this. I think actual medications are great for some people; they're just not for me.

I'm reflecting on all this because I watched a show this week that had an extreme impact on me. A&E is doing a series on Generalized Anxiety Disorders that is fascinating and heartbreaking. I caught the OCD show.

At first, I was horrified and feeling that bit of superiority we all feel when we watch other people doing odd things in their lives. Really? You have to kiss your dog 12 times? You have to check the door over and over? You have to gauge your face to make yourself feel "better?"

But then I started thinking about neural pathways. About the way our brains like to lay in a response and then follow it again and again. About the small distinction between habit, addiction and compulsion. The pain that this man and woman were battling against, desperately seeking protection from, was so evident, so overwhelming. I felt incredibly sad for them.

And incredibly lucky that somehow, in all its wanderings, my own brain can keep itself from that. One thing I noticed was that the sufferers were extremely serious. They took everything so hard. They struggled so valiantly. Christa even said, "Trying to stop my obsession is the whole point of my life." Well, there you go, I thought. If she did stop, she would have to face the emptiness of not knowing what else to do with herself. I just really felt for her.

Later that night, I said to my husband, "You know, I'm really worried about those people with OCD."

Then I heard myself. We both started laughing.

Lightness. Compassion. Softening. Humor. Joy- my own anecdotes.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Tough Day

A headache dogs
my every move
Two kids are sick
three trips to school
phone calls
a doctor's visit
splinter the hours
of what was supposed to be
my work day

a friend comes to share
her crisis
she calls right before
dropping by
I cannot say no
I know she has nowhere else to go

She needs to share her life
with me
someone who cares
someone she can trust to
be there
with her

at least she is
a friend
sharing her life
with me

Monday, August 17, 2009

Two Poems


The sprig of rosemary
I pluck from the bush beside
The yoga studio
Surprises me
Spicy, more pungent
Than I remember
The seasons change
My perceptions are not the same
Everything continues to

It is what It is

Last night I brought a single flower
Into bed along with me
Laid it beside my pillow

Through the darkened strokes of time
Its petals were a silken whisper
I opened up my deepest heart
Poured forth my hushed and secret stores
Into silent acceptance
Invoking memories
Crushed joyful in my fists like
Blackberries, leaving my fingers
Stained with juice
And scent that will not
Wash away

Dark’s knowings
Given to my single flower
Beside me, beside myself

Sunday, August 16, 2009


I've been thinking a lot about a friend lately. She's been going through a rough time, and I really feel for her. The last few years have been particularly difficult, in that ongoing way that is draining to live through and painful to watch. About all I can do is stand by and give her my message of love and support.

I may not agree with every choice she's made, but so much of life is not knowing where our choices will wind up taking us. And she certainly deserves more happiness than I've seen in her.

Also, she has two beautiful children, a girl and a boy, adorable and deserving as all children inherently are. My heart breaks for the difficulties they've had to witness and adapt to. For their sake and for hers, I hope this long lasting struggle can have a contented ending.

With every beat of my heart, I hope she's okay. I hope her family will be okay. I hope they will find love and security and joy.

I don't know if she reads my blog - it's not really her thing. But I'm posting my good wishes here as a public declaration, and as a hope that already, even now, things are just that slight bit better than they've been in the past, and will continue to steadfastly, unfailingly, beautifully improve.

Lots of love,

Friday, August 14, 2009

The Universe Suggests...

I've come across this poem three times recently. It reminds me of something I wrote once ('cause me and Raymond Carver, we've got a lot in common as writers, uh-huh).

Since I always find it beautiful, time for it to appear here:


Suppose I say summer,
write the word 'hummingbird,'
put it in an envelope,
take it down the hill
to the box. When you open
my letter you will recall
those days and how much,
just how much, I love you.

Raymond Carver

In general, there's a shortage of love in this world. This sweet, simple tribute to the beauty of its lasting power reminds me of one of my favorite Sanskrit chants:

Lokah Samastha Sukhino Bahvantu
May all beings be happy.


I search the words
The images
And try to find
The best part of
Hidden away

The blue-lit love
The spider web light
Silking between us

I come up against
The emptiness
And try to just
Let it be
Simply a part of

Simply here, simply now
With purity
Washing away
The grit of everything
That stings

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

A Pleasing Possibility

I just received a very nice invitation to submit work from Daniel Dragomirescu, the editor of a new journal called Contemporary Literary Horizon.

Being quite the skeptic about online offers-that-sound-a-bit-too-good, I approached the accompanying website with healthy hesitation. But I found a fabulous new literary venture.

To use their own description, Contemporary Literary Horizon is:

A European independent bi-lingual Literary Journal of Poetry and Prose in the English and the Romanian language published in Bucharest, Romania
- : -
CONTEMPORAN LITERAR ORIZONT Revistă de cultură şi spiritualitate contemporană

It looks so intriguing. I've never read Romanian poems before, but there's one by poet Ana Blandiana called The Closed Eye that I found insightful and evocative. Check it out and give the website a browse to see what you think.

I'm considering subscribing, just because I have such a soft spot for the underdog and for people who are following their blissful passion despite obstacles. It's not easy to get a new journal off the ground!

I wish them every success.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

On My Way

I just got one of the best emails ever!

Remember I told you that I was taking another writing class? I've been so busy with the start of school, my husband's birthday, and all my business writing that I haven't had any time for my fiction.

It's too bad because I have the start of three super stories jingling around in my head, and I'm trying not to lose them before I can sit down and do them justice.

Keep your promises, Keep your promises, she hissed, staring into the crackling fire before her. Her fingers worked steadily, crumbling the silvery-green leaves onto the flames.

That's the start of one. I think she's a witch; maybe it's Fantasy genre. Not sure yet.

Anyway, I haven't had much time to write. So when my assignment was due this week, I leafed through my old files, looking for a story or excerpt that would meet the lesson criteria. The one I chose I barely remembered writing, two or three years ago. I didn't remember that I had revised it several times.

Which meant that when I opened it up and read it, I thought, Wow, this story is done!

And today, my writing teacher said the same thing!! He said that is read like a completed story and was ready for publication. That I should send it out.

Confirmation. Validation. Encouragement. Yay!!

Tomorrow I can start looking for a home for it.

Without the homework deadline of the class, I wouldn't have revisited this story. I told you I'd sell something this fall.

Monday, August 10, 2009


"When you are starving, even the romantic full moon reminds you of bread."

- a bit of Bengali folk wisdom discussed at lunch with my dear friend while talking about relationship choices.

God in Heaven, I'm grateful for my life now!

Friday, August 7, 2009


At the “local” Farmer’s Market today, I bought my family strawberries that had been picked this morning in Santa Maria!

I don’t know exactly the driving distance to Santa Maria, but I know it’s incredibly far away from here. That’s quite the expanse of state to travel.

Based on my conversations with the regular farmers, it’s not unusual for them to get up and pick the day's produce in the earliest morning hours and then drive 100 miles or more to make the market. You have to go where the customers are, I guess. It’s just one more reason why I like supporting their work.

People are willing to go any distance – especially if their economic survival depends on it.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

The Fruits of Victory

More and more often,
When I feel
Dismayed, betrayed,
Left behind

I remember to realize
That not only
Did I win
This high-stakes game

But that I myself,
I am the Prize

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Deeply Contented

I cannot believe this day! How did I ever, ever get here?

The whole family's back to school. My daughters were thrilled to start third and fifth grades, and they came home raving about their teachers. We're so pleased. (Even if it is totally confusing to start school in August. August?!! Is it summer or fall? It was 104 degrees yesterday and after school, we went swimming!)

I surprised my husband by accompanying him to this teacher work day yesterday and helping him set up his classroom for this next year. We knocked out bulletin boards like a world-class team - 8 boards in one morning. His classroom looks so fantastic!! All yellow, red, and blue with flag borders and stars everywhere. (He teaches US History.)

I told him to consider it an early birthday present. He was so proud of me for coming with him. It hasn't been easy for me to be near schools and such after stopping my own teaching. But, like any long lasting grief, bit by bit, things keep getting easier.

Which brings us to today. First, I hit my favorite nine am yoga class. Aah, the stretching... Then, I popped over here, to what used to be my favorite Redlands cafe. I haven't been here in absolutely ages. They're in the middle of a rather disastrous remodel, with blank walls and chairs and counters scattered about. I used to come here all the time, when I was lost and lonely and hunting for work.

Now, I'm a published writer. I'm a registered yoga teacher. Best of all, I own my own business and have a KICK-ASS job!! I am working RIGHT NOW. Getting paid to sit here, sipping my blended chai and researching grants for my favorite nonprofit. Browsing through emails. Sending back responses. WRITING things.

Man, that college degree did pay off! :) I am so unbelievably lucky!


Isn't this a nice quote? I found it while I was catching up on old work email, ending one of my client's requests.

"To love is to take delight in the happiness of another,
or, what amounts to the same thing,
it is to account another's happiness one's own."
- Mike Gottfried Leibniz, 1646-1716

Monday, August 3, 2009

Everything in its Right Place

The smooth comfort
Of your stomach beneath
My flattened palm

Your breath rises and falls
As warm as our bed

In our world
Where we are
Making everything
Just right

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Dahrling, it's too dull...

A friend once told me that she had broken up with her longterm boyfriend because the sex with him had become banal. That's the word she used, "banal." Isn't that a great usage? Next we'll be talking about the world-weary ennui of urban living.

Anyway, she went on. "If the sex life is boring, I'm out of there." At the time, I agreed supportively, the way girlfriends do. But something nagged at me.

Later, I figured it out. She was pinning the weight of their poor quality interactions on him exclusively. But two people are involved in relationships, and especially sex - well, commonly ;). If the sex was banal, wasn't that actually a reflection on her as well? In my experience, it's pretty darn easy to spice up a routine sex life. In fact, it's one of the things that one person can VERY successfully bring into a relationship. Who says no to more spice??

I just know that even when my own marriage was having its difficulties, we still never had less than good sex, and usually GREAT sex, and often FANTASTIC sex. If you like sex, it's just not that hard to enjoy it - and to be a bit creative.

In the long view, I actually feel a bit sorry for my friend now. We haven't talked juicy girl talk recently. But I can't help wondering how her hunt for the perfect relationship with exciting sex is going.

Or whether she isn't bringing her own problems along with her.


I've been noticing that extraordinary sex is as warm and melted as butter...