“Blah, Blah, Blah…”
Wow! After spending a few days at the Starbucks here you would think I would have some sort of interesting overhear… But there is no way I would bore you with what’s been talked about. It definitely makes me miss my home Starbucks and the interesting, and sometimes quirky, people who frequent it.
Perhaps my brain is simply slow from being on vacation? Maybe interesting things were happening, and I was missing them.
Meanwhile though, at my daughter’s camp, the coach is singing a song about snot. Apparently you have to be smaller than a trash can to get to hear interesting things here. I was sold. I decided to do the rest of my writing while sitting in a beach chair watching the kids enjoy their camp.
It is a universal truth that camps are supposed to be fun and silly. So, why does it seem like most of the camps I find now are intensives in some sport or another? I mean, I know sports are fun… but where’s the silliness? It was oddly reassuring when I heard the coach singing this silly song.
Is it possible that we are losing the ability to act silly…even in front of kids? Over vacation we have been watching (meaning my daughter has forced upon us) a show on T.V. called Figure it Out
. My first instinct on watching the contestants get slimed was to roll my eyes. My second thought was: well, at least it is age appropriate. Now I am thinking… wouldn’t it be awesome if every time we did some sort of silly action we got slimed?
I am sure I would end up in jail… or back in preschool, if I went around sliming people for no good reason. Still, the thought made me smile.
So, I can’t slime people, but perhaps I will
return to Starbucks today and casually sing the song about snot. Hopefully they will consider it my contribution to adding a bit of silliness to the world.
“It’s the evil crawfish explosion.”
One of the joys of visiting Lake Tahoe in the summer is fishing for crawfish (aka crawdads) along the rocks of the shore. Yesterday we were hanging out at the beach admiring the bucket load a family had caught and they offered to give us one for our sand bucket. My daughter was thrilled…after finding a dead crawdad on the beach earlier, it was nice for her to see a live one.
Later that day, as we packed up to go home, I walked with her over to the rocks so we could set the little crawdad free again. Along the way we ran into the boys who had caught the original bucketful. They had set most of the little guys loose already. But, unfortunately for this one remaining crustacean, they had come up with a game where they dumped sand on top of it in the bucket then tipped the bucket over and waited for the crawfish to climb his
way out.. I asked if they thought the crawfish liked this and they said he had already done it a lot of times and was
What had been such a lovely memory from my childhood became tainted by the sight of the poor crawfish struggling for freedom and, earlier, the dead crawfish sticking out of the sand. It reminded me of the recent YouTube video where the old woman was bullied on the bus. A fantastic writer, Charles M. Blow wrote a piece for the New York Times about how that event relates to the society we now live in.: (http://www.nytimes.com/2012/06/23/opinion/blow-bullies-on-the-bus.html
). Somehow I don’t think Mr. Blow would be at all surprised by the behavior of these two boys.
He wrote… ”It is that part of society that sees the weak and vulnerable as worthy of derision and animus.”
You would think that in a civilized country we would be teaching our children how to care for, not take advantage of, those who are weaker or less able. Instead, we live in a time when in order to maintain our own powerbase we model
disrespect and intimidation. It is pervasive…. In the video games we play, the political debates we have, and the resources we fight over. And sadly, I think many people have become immune and even callous towards these
There are ways to combat this though. Of course one option is to donate to the vacation fund set up for this bullied woman. But to affect it on a larger scale we can consider donating to an anti-bullying campaign (find some resources for this here: http://ellen.warnerbros.com/2010/10/donate_to_the_anti-bullying_organizations_ellen_supports_1005.php
We can also join many others in the bipartisan effort led by NoLables.com to restore civilized debate and discussion (http://www.nolabels.org/about-us
And certainly we can and should do some reading about the negative effects of violent video games (http://www.apa.org/research/action/games.aspx
But most of all we can stand up for the little guy… every day, even when it is only in a small way, and even if it is
only just a crawfish.
“We don’t say I can’t here; only I don’t want to.”
It’s really not that high…. And the trapeze isn’t as far away as it looks, but when you are standing on the top of a 5 inch round log, with nothing to hold onto and only air surrounding you it seems like the most impossible obstacle in the world.
Obstacles are funny that way; I suppose if they didn’t seem impossible they would just be called play-structures. The ropes course at Squaw Valley
challenges you to face the thoughts that tell you something is impossible (although it doesn’t really do anything about the inner voice shouting‘this is crazy’
Writers face plenty of these obstacles as they go through their journey. Some of them are entirely internal (you’ll never be able to finish it)
, and others are voiced openly and with such confidence you assume they must be true (do you know how impossible it is to get an agent
And the funny thing is, I have found it doesn’t really help when eventually you do get published (because, believe me, if you stick to it, you will). Then the inner voice says something like, (no one will like your work
) and the external ones talk all about the impossibility of making a living at writing.
Listening to these voices it is easy to forget that the reason I started writing was because I loved it. Rather than the sheer joy of writing, the obstacles begin to look like the purpose for my work.
At the top of a 100 foot tall pine tree I was so intent on ringing the bell that proved I had reached the top that I completely forgot to look at the beautiful scenery surrounding me. And ultimately that is the biggest problem with using the word can’t
; I become so focused on overcoming the obstacle that I forget I am actually there because I want
“I wish they would still let us light a fire in the fireplace…. Early summer nights can get cold here.”
We’d just finished our tour of Vikingsholm
and were talking with the wonderful park ranger who had provided such great information on the beautiful old house.
As a child I’d spent my summers at Lake Tahoe, and it was a family tradition to hike down to Vikingsholm and have a picnic there. So I remember the spot fondly and was so glad to finally be able to share it with my own family. But even more, I loved taking our hike because it was the first time I had gone back since using it as the setting for one of the scenes in Betting Jessica
I recently wrote a guest blog post for Romancing the Genres
where I describe why I love to write contemporary fiction. I enjoy being able to use things I observe or overhear or past experiences. The scene from Betting Jessica
is a perfect example of this.
On one of our trips when I was young a terrible storm came up and began raining and then hailing on us as we were half way down the mountain. My mom had us hold towels over our heads to keep the stone sized hail from hurting
and we ran down the mountain until we reached the castle. When we arrived there we found all of the visitors huddled inside and they quickly made room for us.
As I took the tour my memories of that experience overlapped with the story I had created. I asked the park ranger if the fireplace was ever used, and this led to us talking about that childhood experience so long ago. I explained that I remembered a fire being lit in the fireplace and at some point the ranger pulling out his guitar and leading the storm hostages in song. She told me that although the fireplace was no longer used, she had heard stories about the previous ranger playing his guitar and sometimes having a fire there.
Fortunately, Betting Jessica
is fictionalized because when they arrive at the castle after encountering a similar hailstorm they are able to have an intimate moment sitting on the hearth in front of the fire… something that couldn’t actually happen at Vikingsholm today.
Still… as I stood there, getting ready to shoot a YouTube video for my fans, Erik and Jessica were as real to me as the ghost of my past self.
Main room at Vikingsholm
with fireplace in the background.
“What if I gave myself a sticker every time I practiced being flexible this summer?”
HA! We were talking about the challenges of being a summer mom as opposed to a school year mom… and one of the moms came up with this way for rewarding ourselves: A sticker chart with a big reward at the end of the summer
For some of us (not naming any names) the biggest challenge of the summer will be missing the routine of the school year. We will have to practice our calm breathing when our child asks if they can put up a lemonade stand instead of tagging along on the list of errands we had planned to accomplish.
Others will need the strength to fight the workbook battle…the challenge of encouraging the kids to maintain the skills they have learned so that when they return to school it isn’t such a shock to their systems.
Finally there are those who will have to hold themselves back from scheduling a million different ‘fun’ summer activities; so that by the end of the day the kids are such crank-meisters that no one is having any fun at all.
Each of these challenges deserves a sticker when accomplished and a reward at the end of the summer. Because, although summer is fun and is about the kids and isa time to be together…. It is also a landmine filled with fights and battles and tug-of-wars; and I am not talking the kinds that require squirt guns.
Tomorrow I will wake up and it will be the dawn of a new period. One filled with no alarm clock (except that we can’t sleep too late or there will be a bedtime battle), no lunchboxes (except I know we can’t have pizza out every day so I will have to fill the fridge with something healthy), and no homework (except, somehow I will have to create fun ways to encourage math skills).
I force a deep breath and give myself a sticker already for not hyperventilating. It is clear my reward chart will be filled before we even reach the 4th of July.
Happy Summer to all my wonderful mom friends!
“Funnest isn’t a word.”
In my twenties I was the master of making up words; so this conversation brought back fond memories. Words like - havenly, webdom, and annoyingish (or pretty much anything with an ish on the end) come to mind. I would suggest that there is nothing so empowering as creating a word which describes something perfectly.
One of my favorite bloggers, Tamara Out Loud
, recently came up with the word jeex and then held a contest to see who could find the best definition. Some of them were pretty funny… but the one I loved best was, Jesus Sex: that type of intimate sex you have with a husband where you feel Gods’ presence in the lovin’.
The idea that as individuals we have the power to change one of the most fundamental aspects of culture (language) is both outrageous and powerful. It may also explain why I felt comfortable, indeed compelled, to do this in my twenties but now find the idea smacks of arrogance. Who am I to challenge words which have developed over centuries of use?
This is true not just with words though. I finally understand why it is always the young people who challenge the status quo. I hate to admit it, but I have become fatalistic in my philosophy… fatalistic and accepting. It is not only that I believe I cannot
change things… but more often that I am humble enough to see that my changes may not always be for the best.
And this is where arrogance helps. Because, when you believe you are an innovator and influencer, than you are not so worried about nitty details like appropriate usage.GrammarGir
l says it best when describing Steve Jobs’ usage of the word funnest: …(he) just thrust "funnest" into the spotlight. I predict the "funnest iPod ever" campaign will increase the general use of "funnest" and could even push it into the informal usage category. Now that's power.
Not just power, but the powerest
“If the parmesan cheese suffered in the earthquake it must have also effected the Parma ham.”
Oh no! I hadn’t even considered that. It was enough when I heard up to 10% of the cheese had been harmed. Now I had to worry also that there would be a less ham. And in fact, according to an article in the UK newspapaer,
The Gaurdian, one farmer lost 100 pigs when a building housing them collapsed. (Read more here.
Italy has had its share of troubles this year to be sure. Between the floods on the Cinque Terre coast, the monetary/budgeting issues and now the earthquake I am sure the people there feel like they can’t catch a break… or perhaps are being picked on.
On Saturday I received an email from a friend I met there last summer. She told me that she and her family live in that area and have been dealing with all of the debris and ongoing aftershocks. I know how scary this can be. In 1989 I was living in the bay area during the Loma Prieta earthquake. In fact, I was actually at the World Series game when it struck. That was scary enough… but it was the ongoing fear of aftershocks which put the biggest strain
on my emotions.
We convince ourselves that we are in control of our lives…but natural disasters like these fly in the face of that assumption. They show us that things can change in an instant.
Fortunately, my friend and her family are fine…. shaken (metaphorically and literally) but fine. Life will go one, as it did after the floods…. As it did after the earthquake I lived through. Even the parmesan production will continue and will eventually resume normal levels. The question is what we do with the emotions which arise from challenges like these. When I have stood at the precipice of this truth, where I am reminded that very little of my life is actually under my control, I have had to decide if I would live in fear, building walls and protection around myself or live each moment as fully as possible.
Ironically, in my third novel, Molto Mayhem
, it is only when my main character, Lucia, arrives in Italy and is
thrown out of the protective cocoon that she has built for herself that she begins to find the peace that comes from letting go and experiencing each minute of her life.
And to me, this makes perfect sense…. Because there is no place like Italy to experience the true pleasures of life; the beautiful sound of language, the attentiveness of a good friend and the true wonder of a hunk of 24 month old aged Parmesan cheese.
Picture courtesy of Martin Argles for the Guardian
“It’s a huge hot dog.”
“Are you kidding? It’s obviously a huge… you know… hanging from the ceiling.”
While I let your imagination figure that
out let me discuss some business. Next week, to celebrate the one year
anniversary of my blog, I will be giving my book, Betting Jessica
, away for free on Kindle. Tell your friends… it is a great way to snag some summer reading.
Okay, so now that I’ve gotten that out of the way… back to my overhear.
My husband and I are definitely not
art experts; not that we don’t appreciate art, but some of it, especially of the
modern variety, leaves us scratching our heads. So I had to chuckle when I heard the couple having a conversation not unlike a recent one of ours.
The funny thing, though, was the rest of the conversation:
“Nooooo… seriously? Are you kidding me?”
"Well than what is it?” (Said in an annoyed tone of voice).
Innuendo is funny that way. What might be obvious to many can be lost on a few. In the romance genre there are varying levels of heat (another innuendo meaning sexuality). Description and use of sexual relations can range
from the erotic to the sweet. Since my writing is sweet, innuendo can play an important role.
The problem is that, although I might know where I am going with language my readers who I have been thrilled to note are as far away as Australia and Italy, may have no clue what I am talking about. Cultural relevance has a strong impact on innuendo. So that hot dog (which, by the way, is a uniquely American term) might not bring to mind the same universal image as sausage.
Cultural relevance goes far beyond nationality, however. In a white paper entitled, Culturally Relevant Physical Education in Urban Schools: Reflecting Cultural Knowledge
, by Sara B. Flory and Nate McCaughtry, they define culture as: local to the social situation, including socioeconomic status, language, family structure, violence and crime, personal and public safety, immigration issues, race, ethnicity, and religion.
I would also add age to that definition, as this too influences how a person defines the world around them. It is obvious when writing for children for example, that adding age-appropriate words goes beyond length and complexity. Great children’s authors incorporate significant aspects of lifestyle into their writing (e.g. referencing video games, or school environments).
The trick as writers is to understand our audience and what they
find relevant… while at the same time not becoming so specific that other readers feel left out.
I felt sorry for the woman who couldn’t understand her partner’s reference. I wanted to explain to her that if she simply walked a few blocks down to the Rose Festival she could experience a corn-dog for herself and see how much it looked like that piece of art hanging from the ceiling.
“Have you noticed the UPS guy’s been using the porta-potty in front of the neighbors’ house?”
Seriously? Yeah, really…. The guy has been doing that. A house on our street has been doing some remodeling and apparently the construction workers toilet has been seeing some extra use.
To be fair… driving around all day is kind of a crappy (pun absolutely intended) job. I don’t know about you, but I am always sipping something when I drive; coffee, water, soda. At some point it would have to get to you, right? And then what? I imagine that is why I often see fed-ex and UPS drivers stopping into Starbucks.
In a past life I spent a lot of time on the road as a sales rep. (selling checks which is so funny I just had
to say it). Anyway… I know what it is like to require a pit stop and I became very good at sussing out the very best spots to, shall we say, take a break. So… just in time for your summer travel, here’s my list of top five places to go to
the bathroom when you have to go
(please note: porta-potties are nowhere on this list
5. Hotels (in the olden days it was useful that they also had phones).
4. McDonalds (‘nough said… who hasn’t done this?)
3. Community Colleges (just be careful of the parking)
2. Starbucks (duh! Although not an option long ago when I was on the road)
1. Libraries (where next year you should also be able to find a copy of my book, Untangling the Knot
Like how I snuck that in? Yes… it is official! I have finally received my first book contract and will be publishing the digital version of Untangling the Knot
by Christmas and the print version sometime next year.
Am I excited? Definitely! I love the publisher (Soulmate Publishing LLC); am thrilled to be working with a great editor; and can’t wait to hold a hard copy of this wonderful story in my hands before I turn fifty. (Click over to The World of my Books
to see more about Untangling the Knot
As a side benefit… today marks the one year anniversary of my blog
. What better way to celebrate than with an announcement of this wonderful milestone. Today in particular I’d love to hear about your own dreams being
worked on or already fulfilled; so please leave a comment.
And remember… Every journey begins with a single step (even if it is only in the direction of the porta-potty).
The sound of grunting and balls flying.
Tennis! I’m talking tennis at the French Open here guys so get your mind out of the gutter (or the erotic novel you are reading.) It amazes me how loud tennis players are now days while at the same time the judges still ask
viewers to be silent… as if the players could even hear the clapping over their own loud cries.
Two years ago I was fortunate enough to be at Roland Garros, the stadium for the French Open. Of course our first attempt was rained out; a devastating event when you have travelled all the way from the U.S. to attend. (To be fair, the Parisian cafes may have factored into our destination decision a bit as well.)
Ironically enough, while sitting outside one of the stadiums waiting to see if the rain delay would ever end, my husband and I had the great fortune to make a wonderful new French friend. A woman who was such a fan she went to almost all of the tennis matches around the world. It turned out to a be a highlight of our trip, sitting there on that wall, watching torrents of rain fall, and learning all about each other.
Sometimes, especially now as the school year is ending, it feels like the whole world speeds up; so that there is never time to simply chat with a friend or stranger. It is only when life throws me a curve ball; stuck in line at a store, waiting for an overdue appointment, or during a rain delay, that I am forced to take a breath and be present to the space and people around me.
Sometimes that looks like attention to detail (maybe an overhear or two:>). But sometimes it leads to conversation…. And from there, to friendship. I think this is one reason I love to travel on my own. Stuck in an airport with no company but myself, fellow travelers frequently reach out and begin to talk.
I am sure my husband would say his favorite part of that trip to Paris would be when we returned to Roland Garros a couple of days later and got to see some phenomenal tennis; grunts and all. For me, though, the highlight will always be that remarkable afternoon spent talking with a new friend.