Automatic Music on Blogs is Aggressively Rude

Blog Advice: Don’t set your blog to automatically play music when people open it up.

When you open up a blog and music automatically starts playing it’s like when you click on a link you think is taking you to cute pictures of puppies but instead your screen fills with hard porn and you can’t find the “close window” box and your kid is sitting next to you and is turning his innocent 3 year old head and with eyes wide asks “Mama… what are those people doing?”

The music you listen to is extremely personal.  Like sex.  Or perfume.

Here’s another scenario: let’s say you opened up someone’s blog (because it looked interesting) and as it loads up your computer suddenly mists you with Paris Hilton’s perfume, (which smells like old civet pee), and you can’t get the smell out of your nose or your hair or skin.  The blogger who orchestrated this quaint little piece of mischief probably wears Paris Hilton’s perfume because it takes them to a happy place and they really truly want to take you there with them and they assume that their happy place is the same as everyone’s.  It never occurred to them that such a scent might make you want to get a whole body skin graft just to get the foul scent off.

I love music and I don’t trust anyone who doesn’t.  I don’t care what kind of music moves you, if you love music then we have some common ground.  Music is one of those primal arts that has been moving humans for thousands of years.

Unfortunately it’s also very emotional and personal and what makes me really happy might upset or horrify you.   This is why I would NEVER set my blog up to play the music I love automatically.  If you open up my blog, you’re essentially letting me into your life, into your living room or office, and you deserve to be treated with auditory respect.

So do I.  So does everyone.

Kenny G doesn’t take me to a happy place.  Neither does Yanni*.  In fact, Yanni makes me want to do violent things to floaty-type people who wear rainbow shoelaces and speak in gentle voices.  Someone automatically cranking up Yanni on their blog may inadvertently be responsible for crimes being committed.

If I was to play automatic music on my blog it would almost certainly be a bagpipe version of “Amazing Grace” or an accordion playing a chirpy polka.  But my favorite kind of music of all are dirges and I would love to make you listen to a bagpipe dirge!  But I wouldn’t do that to you.  Because I like you.

Recap of advice: setting up your blog to automatically play music when someone opens it is as rude as spraying a stranger with civet pee.  Don’t do it.

So how can you share your love of music with people who have come to experience your world and your happy places without being rude?  You can have a soundtrack in your sidebar that has to be manually turned on by readers.  It’s that simple.  Invite people to explore the music that makes you happy, don’t force them.

And if you absolutely insist on accosting people with your favorite tune from a Broadway production of “Annie”, for god’s sake- put it where it’s easily found so I can turn it the fuck off!

*Opening this link will, I think, prove the whole point of this post.  Go ahead, experience the irony and the anger.  As much as I dislike Kenny G music, I have to hand it to him, his blog is much more polite than Yanni’s.

Stop Waiting to Move Forward

We have a fly problem.  We’ve had it for a year but it has reached a climax.  I know why we got them and I knew what had to be done to fix the problem.  We did part of the fix but until today I hadn’t completed it.  The flies have finally become scary to me.  I’m not especially grossed out or worried about flies.  (That’s because I don’t spend time at crime scenes or work the livestock trade.)

The chickens are the reason but they aren’t the real reason.  It was our getting buried deeper and deeper into the folds of an impossible life.  We’re pretty strong people.  The clinical mental problems, bad backs, weak ankles, sprained ligaments, and general malaise aside, I’d say we’re fairly robust middle aged people.  Still, when you think life has given up on you, sent all your good karma to someone else out of spite, you let things go like poor chicken-run design.

It’s amazing how quickly a neglected small problem can blossom into something ugly and overwhelming.

I have learned not to think too much about what’s going to fall apart next* or to wait for the worst to be over.  Waiting was the theme of my thoughts while weeding.  If you think they were a navel-gazing festival of sad “why ME?”s strung out pathetically across the wildly overgrown raised bed you would be a total lunkhead (and maybe a little more mean than me) because I was thinking about waiting in a more inclusive way.  I was, more likely than not, thinking about you.  About all of us.  About this thing people do where they develop a waiting pattern in their lives that turns into the only pattern in their lives.

I’d say I’ve done a lot of waiting but I’m waiting a lot less these days.  There are so many unresolved things going on in my life.  There are fires all over the place just like in everyone else’s lives.  I don’t know if I’ll still be living in this house next year.  It really all depends on the whims of the bank and our level of meticulousness with filing papers repeatedly and consistently for months and months.  It’s so easy to say I shouldn’t bother to plant the apple tree that’s been living in the pile of dirt in the driveway because I might not get any fruit from it.  It’s so easy to tell myself that I shouldn’t tackle the unbelievably ornery weeds because if the bank makes us go then I’ll have done the work for nothing.

It might sound reasonable and I’m willing to bet that each and every one of you has said the same thing at some point in your life.  “I shouldn’t bother trying to look nice today because I probably won’t see anyone else.” or “We shouldn’t have a baby until we make more money.” or “I don’t want to start a garden until I own my own home.” or “I shouldn’t practice piano because in five years I’ll be able to afford a church organ and I’ll have a mansion to put it in and all this piano playing sure will feel useless and stupid.  I could have spent all this time wishing I was playing a church organ.”

Waiting isn’t always bad but it’s always bad when you’re not doing what you really want to do because everything isn’t just right.  Waiting to become an artist when life isn’t so crazy anymore means you will never become an artist.  The quack grass is a real bitch and yet I have to say that I have my best thoughts while I’m killing myself to rip out each tough little rope of root.  (I still think of Bush and his neck while performing this arduous but deeply satisfying activity.)  If you hear yourself saying things like “When I make more money I’ll…” or “Once I finish college I’ll…” or “Just as soon as I have a dozen children I’ll become a famous mime!”

(In that last case I can only be deeply deeply thankful that you most likely won’t become a famous mime because people who haven’t figured out that miming isn’t magical really scare me.)

It’s bullshit.   In case you haven’t already figured that out.  The beautiful thing about being a grown up is that you have control over what you do with your time and what you do with your life.  None of us live in a vacuum and you can’t just sashay off to the north pole to study polar bears if you’ve got family that needs you to not do that.  On the other hand, if you really wanted to do that and it was truly deeply important to you you would get your family on board with you and you would build a mutually beneficial life that includes studying polar bears.

If your husband/wife/partner isn’t keen to support you in doing what you really truly want and need to be doing in life then you might need to rethink such a partnership.  (But first you better figure out if you’ve been supportive of their own desires and needs because most people who love each other want to help each other reach fulfillment in life, but it always ALWAYS goes both ways so be sure you’re doing your end.)

There are a thousand ways to go about doing what you want to do without ditching your friends and family and not all of them involve giving up wheat and dairy.  What I kept thinking was that if you’re not doing what you always say you want to do then you don’t really want to do it.

A person who says they really want to be painter but claim they have no time and then have another baby is a person who had time to paint but chose to have another baby instead.

Think about that hard.

You might not be able to do everything in life you want if you’re like me and have an endless list of things you love doing.  However there is always one thing that is more important than anything else and you know what it is.  I remember a friend of mine, many many years ago (back when Max was an infant), telling me (with great longing, sad saucer eyes, and a general air of defeat) that she and her partner really wanted to have kids but they were going to wait until they had better jobs first so they could afford it.  Then, later on, she went on about how they would try to have children just as soon as they owned their own home.  Still later, (still childless and still not actually trying), she said that they’d start trying just as soon as they made a trip they’d always wanted to make.

I’m no great advocate of people having kids but I finally had to say that if she really wanted to have children she should just fucking get on with it because after all these years of pining and wishing and not even trying she might find she’s not even able to have them and then she’ll have a whole new problem to worry about.  I told her there was never going to be a good time because babies are damn inconvenient and if you lose your job or your house after you have one it’s really hard to send them back.

It’s the same with everything else.  It’s a universal story.  If you want to be a chef you’ll spend every damn available minute you can cooking even if you’re working 70 hours a week as an accountant.  If you want to be a mother and you have no babies you will either start trying and if you can’t have them you will adopt or foster because if you really want to be a mother you will find someone to mother and you’ll do it right now because it’s that important to you.

If you’ve always wanted to be taxidermist but haven’t done it because you can’t find a taxidermy academy in your area or you haven’t done it because no one you know wants you to become one then you don’t want it enough.   I know someone who’s doing it right now who didn’t go to an academy nor ask anyone’s approval nor wait until he’s done waiting for no good reason.  It’s possible it’s been a bit of a rocky road for him at times (sometimes that’s good for the taxidermist, right?) but he’s doing it and enjoying it and no matter what anyone thinks, he’s not waiting.

So what are you waiting for?  What excuses are you feeding yourself?

I’ve been waiting to tame my yard and strip the stupid wallpaper edging in my house because the house might be taken away from me and then I’ll have wasted my precious time.  I’ve been waiting to plant my sad (but beloved) Damson plum tree because I tell myself spending money on the soil to plant it and the effort to plant it might be wasted.  While I’m weeding out there the thing that strikes me hardest is this: it isn’t about wasted time or energy.  Weeding might be hard but every single time I do it I feel great.  I think more clearly while I do it.  I feel better when I’m done with it, even if I only cleared one square foot of garden space.  It’s the doing that matters.  There is no such thing as wasted time or wasted efforts.

We all have endless opportunities every single day to choose to do the things we really want to do, at least for a few minutes, and every single day that we choose to exercise the self discipline it takes to make our lives what we want it to be is not a wasted day or a wasted effort.  Things will change.  Life twists and bad things will happen just as good things will.  But I believe that more good things will happen when we are feeding the needs of our spirit and when we feed our spirit we are indirectly feeding our loved ones too.

I know someone is worried about the flies.  The flies will take time to eradicate.  You have to work against several life cycles before you see change.  It will take work on my part but I have risen to the challenge.  The cleaning I did today took 3 hours.  My hens are thanking me.  I feel really fantastic.  I’ll wake up and see a ton of flies tomorrow and it will make me anxious but I know what to do and I’m not waiting around anymore for things to explode or to get better on their own while I hide under my English prison table (tough enough to withstand riots and knives!).

I’m not waiting at all anymore.

*I don’t have to because I already know it’s going to be my teeth unless I get me to a dentist post-haste!  I’m already showing signs of wearing the Oregonian dental special smile.

You’re not a Writer if You’re not Writing

I have finished reading the first 12 chapters.  I have taken so many notes and I’m almost done writing a new (more detailed) outline.  I was planning to continue on from where I was, chapter 13, because in my mind I have an obligation to finish the entire first draft before moving on to the the second draft.

And then I realized that that’s just my OCD* talking.  Going through things by the numbers, doing things the way they’re SUPPOSED to be done (in order!)… this OCD glitch is so much easier to deal with than dermatillomania.  It only took about three days of pushing aside my instincts which said “You have fixed so many holes in your story and rewriting the first 12 chapters at this point will significantly change how the characters interact and what happens from 13 on… just start the second draft already!”

I listen to myself.  I am still working on the revised more detailed outline but I’ll be done with that with about another hour of work.  Then I will begin the second draft of Cricket and Grey.  I’m really excited!

It’s been one year since I came up with the idea for this series.  I came up with it right near the end of writing Jane Doe.  Writing Jane Doe was such a heavy, intense, emotional, upheaving, and exhausting experience that it forced me to look at what kind of writer I want to be professionally.  I was just telling someone yesterday that I believe that all writers have that Pulitzer quality earth shattering book in them that needs to get written, hopefully will get printed, and needs to be read… but that’s not the book that pays the bills (unless it makes its way into Oprah’s hands, and of course if it literally wins the Pulitzer it might pay a few bills).

I will finish Jane Doe eventually.  I HAVE to.  It’s important to me personally.  But after months of intense writing that literally turned my spirit inside out (and ended up helping to heal some very old yet unbelievably still raw internal scars) I took a little break and was reading some of my favorite Mary Stewart suspense novels to cleanse my palate and let the fresh air into my head.  That’s when I had the revelation that I want to be a career writer.  I want to write books that entertain, that are intelligently written yet not big heavy Faulknerian epics that make you want to kill yourself by page 112.

So this time last year I came up with the initial idea for Cricket and Grey.  By late December 09 I began writing it.  I haven’t been steady at it until late spring.

My goal is to have my second draft completely finished by the new year.  After I reach that goal I intend to work out a few chapters to the high polish point so I can start sending proposals to publishers.

This year I have achieved complete clarity about the life I want to live, what my most important goals are, what I will achieve.  Not what I HOPE to achieve.  It feels damn good.  I don’t say anymore “I hope I get this book published” or “if I get Cricket and Grey published”, I say “When I get this book published…”  Because I will.  Fact.  It’s still possible I will publish it myself (not the disrespected endeavor that used to be) but ideally I’m going to convince someone else to do it for me.

I hear so many people talking about what they want, what they wish their lives were like, and then there are all the things that are in their way.  They can’t be so selfish as to take the time to write or paint or invent or whatever… because their family has to come first.  Or maybe they can’t do what they really want because they have to pay the bills and work all week and have no time to follow dreams and selfish pursuits.

The truth is that there will always be sacrifices.  You either decide to make them or you will remain immobile and as far from reaching your goals as you were last year, and the year before…  Oh my god!  What kind of mother would put her art before her family?!

The serious kind, that’s what kind.  Sorry if that offends.  As it surely will.  I care very much how well I take care of my family but I married an artist who knows that no matter what connections you make in life, you are an artist first because if you are an artist it isn’t what you do it’s WHO YOU ARE.  We purposely had only one child (for many reasons) but among them was the fact that we are an artist and a writer above all other roles on earth and children require a lot of time.  We have only so much time.  We must give a lot of it to the development of our art.

What was I doing when my son napped?  I wasn’t cleaning the house (always very apparent to anyone stopping by) I was writing.  Writing.  What did I do when I put him to bed at night and in between his predictable nightly wakings?  I was writing.  Back then I didn’t have to work for anyone else to pay the bills and so I was able to do other things as well.  But the point is that my housekeeping sucks because no matter how small a window of “free” time I have I fill it with writing.

Once I finally cracked the fiction code and needed to concentrate on that last summer I sent my boys away from me at every possible moment so that I could work at it.  They gave me the space.  They gave me the time.  My kid needs me but he also knows that not writing isn’t an option and the truth is that he thinks it’s cool that his mom is writing books.  I sacrificed my family’s comfort for writing.

So what I have to say is that if you don’t have the balls to put your writing first then you will never get anywhere with it.  Maybe some people have to wait to get serious until they’re children are grown and flown.  That’s fine.  But it isn’t that you had no choice.  It’s just that you didn’t choose the writing.

I’m forty years old and have been writing seriously my whole life.  I am finally clear about what I’m doing, what I want to achieve (specifically) with my work, I know where I want to be and I know essentially how to get there.  So everything takes a back seat now.  My comfort (lack of sleep when necessary to crank out the next thousand words when I’m on a roll and it’s 3am) and my house is a serious mess of cobwebs and dust-bunnies and my garden is rife with weeds and ragged grass and overgrown roses.

But it’s okay with me.  I can clean the rest of my life up once I have published my book and people are buying and reading it and my job is to write new ones.

This won’t wait.

I’m a better mother and wife for being firm and clear about my goals and my son is seeing that if you want something bad enough, if you want to change your life and make it the life you really want, then you have to work your ass off and everything else will suffer until you get there.  When he was tiny and needed my undivided attention he got it.  I wrote in every other little second he didn’t need me.  If I had been as clear then as I am now perhaps I would have found a different way of doing things.  But the point is that my kid, being the only kid, got my 100% undivided through the first 5 years of his life.  No daycare, no babysitters (only because we couldn’t find or afford any), just his parents’ complete attention.  That’s a pretty sweet start if you ask me and is way more than I got.

I am lucky to have such a supportive husband and son.  I’m lucky they’re as intense and crazy as I am.  I’m lucky that they think it’s super cool that I am a book writer.

Today they’re going to go ride their bicycles on Grand Island where there’s some walk/ride tour going on.  This is how they’re going to give me hours of uninterrupted writing time because they know I’m working my ass off to get back into gear on the book.

I already have a good life.

The pursuit of great things is always selfish initially but when greatness is achieved it’s nearly always for the benefit of so many people outside yourself.  I’m not writing this book for my own amusement.  I’m writing it because I want you to pick it up after a long day and be drawn into a world that’s interesting and reflective of the truths you know but with a little more magic; I have so much in my head to share outside of it.  Finding the  magic road to get it from my head to yours is the longest, driest, hardest, and toughest one to walk.

I’m not doing it for self aggrandizement.  I never was.  When I was typing out soap operas when I was ten I wasn’t doing it because I thought maybe someday it would make me really important.  I was doing it- I was going to say I was doing it to be a conduit of entertainment for others but I think writing back then was a lot more primal for me- I think I was actually doing it because the sound of the typewriter keys was mesmerizing and writing was the only time I felt lit up and not anxious and depressed.

If you’re a writer (and you know it if you are, you will not have to ask yourself) then you need to be in constant practice.  So do it.

Incidentally, if you would like to start getting to know the main character of Cricket and Grey you can read her journal here:  Cricket and Grey It’s so new and fresh I haven’t got it on a feed yet.  Cricket’s Journal is going to be my inspiration board as I continue on with the writing.  I took a bunch of pictures of the roads and scenery around Yamhill County to inspire me since this is where the book takes place.  So I will be uploading those and so if you’re curious about Cricket and the setting for the book, please check it out!

It’s time now to get a fresh cup of coffee and finish my new outline.  Onward!

*This is great link to information on OCD.  My husband, my son, and I all have OCD.  It’s difficult to gauge a person’s OCD serverity because often the person with OCD doesn’t report all the symptoms they experience and as this article suggests (I know this to be true) people with OCD tend to be very good at hiding their obsessive behaviors from others.  I myself was guilty of this the first time I got diagnosed.  I didn’t tell my phsychologist about the dermatillomania because I was ashamed and also didn’t know it had immense significance in my diagnosis (or that there was a name for it).   Anyway, I just wanted to point out that this is a particularly well written article about OCD if you are curious about it.

Your Blog design is HURTING MY EYES

I am about to offer a piece of advice that will almost certainly be completely ignored, and while I’m not fine with that, I feel that bringing this up and offering my help is a public service.  If this piece of advice applies to you, I want to promise you with all my heart that someone you know has been dying to broach this subject with you (because they love you) but are afraid.


Many people believe that black is sophisticated and “frames” everything really well.  While this is occasionally true in design, it is never true of print.  So if you have a blog with white type on a black background it is almost certainly making people’s eyes uncomfortable and in some cases it may actually pissing them the hell off.

When I set up my very first blog on blogspot I chose that template with the dark green background and the white print.  I had that template for at least a year.  Maybe even two, before I changed it.  When I finally changed it my blog was transformed.  I have to say that looking at it every single day had irritated my eyes though I never realized how much until I stopped having to look at it any more.

A black background is not sophisticated.

Please,  PLEASE be kind to your prospective readers and inspire them to come back by not hurting them.

Recap of public service announcement: Black background with white type on a blog…KNOCK THAT SHIT OFF!

Credentials for giving such advice: design school, two years as the color specialist at a mens necktie company, growing up with an artist mother, my own dismal blog mistakes, I’ve painted many color wheels, I like to read and I prefer it not to be an annoying experience, all the books ever printed (that are worth reading) have been printed on either a cream, natural, or white paper using black ink.

My Staff is not Bigger Than Yours (by much)

In Kung Fu tonight I struggled through a staff exercise, (not to be confused with struggling through a staph infection), and many negative thoughts went through my head such as “I can’t do this!” and “%$#)@&&!$%$%$#!!!!”.  I asked my Sifu if I could sit that exercise out because I wasn’t ready and he said No.  No.  He has this way of saying “no” with a smile full of very sharp steel.  It’s the kindest but hardest “no” on earth.  I did it.  I did not entirely enjoy it.  But I did it.

You know how in films the martial arts instructors are always deeply wise and can also paralyze a ten foot tarantula just by thinking stinging thoughts?  You watch it and you know that the master is going to do and say profound things and maybe you’re going to get a little annoyed at such VERY DEEP wisdom.

My Sifu is EXACTLY like that.  Except not annoying.  What makes him fantastic and what makes me trust him is that he is always showing us the chinks in his armor that make him human like the rest of us.  He lets us know just enough about his struggles with his ex-wife (well, we don’t get to hear what those are, just that he has them) so that when he makes us do the brutal slow wall kicks* until our legs feel as though they are catching on fire we don’t hate him.

What I’ve learned is that when he says I can do something, he’s always right.

I’ve been taking Kung Fu for a year now and I’m still having to remind myself to trust him because he never lies to me.  I have some trust issues.

This guy tells me I can knock down a 300 pound 6’5″ tall man and then, as though I was made of iron, I do it!  I just do it.  Like that.  As though this were always true my whole life.  I wish he’d tell me I can become a successful published novelist.  Knocking down 300 pound really tall men is pretty great too, though.

So when he tells me I have to participate in this exercise that I suck at and am scared of, I just do it.  Not well, but I do it.  Most of the students are really supportive so that when I say “I only know the offensive lines” they don’t ridicule or revolt or hit me with their giant staffs (not to be confused with penises**).

I don’t love the staff.

But I’ll tell you what I do love: double sticks!  We’ve been learning to fight with double sticks and I LOVE it!  When I have two sticks in my hands and I’m doing the sinwalis with a partner and the sticks are smoking (literally) with friction and the smell of the hot rattan hits the air and the rhythm is fast- being in my own skin at these moments is amazing.  Would you like to see what I’m learning to do?

(That’s my Sifu and his son Dakota. )

It’s a little long but I think you should watch it just for the broadswords comment.  Because obviously many of us are trained in fighting with broadswords… when you watch two black-belts doing these exercises together it’s gorgeous.  No other way of describing it.  It is an example of the fluidity and elegance that I love so much about Kung Fu.  To do it yourself though is even better, even more incredible and makes you believe in the power of the body to take flight.

My feelings about the staff are less warm.  I find it cumbersome and confusing.  So I’ve booked myself a private lesson with my Sifu to practice it.  I can’t promise myself that I will learn to love the staff exercises but I’m deciding right now that I can do it, that I can become proficient in it so that the next time someone assaults me with a spear I’ll know just what to do and I’ll be able to acquit myself with some degree of honor and not die.

Sifu says I can do impossible things and I mostly believe him.  Because so far he’s never been wrong.

*This is an excruciating exercise that could kill a lesser person than me.  I’ve taken the hospital stress test for the heart where you have to sign a waiver that says you realize the stress test might kill you and I think this kicking exercise is about ten times more strenuous but with no waiver.

**One of the best Kung Fu class moments was when a few of the guys were discussing the size of their staffs and I got to tell them how wildly inappropriate their conversation sounded.  Apparently guys do discuss size.

Take Your Socks Off!

Socks aren’t sexy.  They can sometimes be pretty, cute, sporty, sad, rustic, happy, rugged, or even versatile.

But they are NEVER sexy.

So when you’re undressing for a romp, I suggest that the first thing you remove is your socks.  Always.  (You should do this anyway, even if you’re just undressing for bed, with no prospect of a romp.)  Because even for those of you who are sex-gods: you are NOT sexy in your socks.

Should you ever find yourself completely naked except for your socks, you should book yourself an appointment with your therapist immediately (and book one for your partner too, because after seeing you like that they may have a very hard time getting in the mood again for a long time).

I’m going to give a little piece of extra sock advice: white tube socks are the most hideously unsexy socks on the planet.  You shouldn’t even own any.  But if you are so misguided as to wear white tube socks: take them off the second you wish to appear attractive and sexy to another human being!

Just in case you asked:

What’s so bad about white tube socks?  They sag.  They bag.  They are always dingy after the first wear.  They’re white for god’s sake!  They’re uninspired.  Not designed for feet.  Instantly bring to mind: stinky bachelors in airless apartments that smell like dirty laundry, old pizza crusts under the bed, Budweiser beer cans in the sink, and tighty whities.


*Unless you happen to have a sock fetish.  You might want to make sure your partner is also a sock fetishist.

Rereading the First 12 Chapters

I’ve written 79, 175 words of my novel Cricket and Grey.  In August I got gastroenteritis and kept writing.  Then I reread what I wrote while I was sick and realized that  being sick makes me write drivel.   I had to trash over 5,000 words of what I can only say was a wishful scene between my two main characters which, if  allowed to remain, would effectively end the whole book.  Because there’d be nothing left to say.

Then I had to get ready for my trip to New York.  I thought I’d do some writing while there.  You know: writer holes up in a seedy hotel and writes, drinks booze, doesn’t shave for days, and maybe there’s some naked typing in there somewhere?  Didn’t happen.  It turns out I can’t write in New York because I can’t shut the noise and the energy out enough to hear my own thoughts.  The best I could do was write notes and save up bits for later.

When I came back I had to work long hours for my job, I was jet lagged, my family missed me and needed me, I was so damn tired from my vacation that I had to rest.  I couldn’t dive back into the book yet.

The problem is that today, as I sit at my desk poised to submerge myself back into the story, I’m feeling drifty.  I’m scared I won’t be able to pick the last thread up.  What if it’s all a pile of crap anyway?  The task right now is to reread the previous 12 chapters but I’m scared to do it.  I’ll want to start rewriting it all today.  But I’ve promised myself not to do any rewriting until I’ve actually finished writing the whole first draft.

I’m going to sit back and read it.  I have to do it.  Then I was thinking I might write a couple random scenes that are floating in my head, little character vignettes, little nothings that don’t even have to find a place in the actual novel if they’re trash, but just a little scene to bring me back into the thick of the story where I lived constantly in June and July.

Part of being a professional writer is being able to step away from a project when you need to and come back to it without a bunch of artistic freak-outs.  This is part of the job.

Onward then.

New York Notes

Possibly the most beautiful woman in the world.  The co-founder of the Weird Girl Writing Guild.  Tara.  (Not my sister, who is the other most beautiful woman in the world.  Why so many gorgeous Taras?  As it happens I’ve met a THIRD gorgeous Tara… and none of them seem to be husband stealers.  Unlike the other Angelinas of the world.)

I took notes while I was in New York.  I will share some of them with you.

New York Notes:

“I’m always surprised that New York accents are real.”

“I think it’s pretty horrid that anyone in this world is named Snookie”

“I’m completely fascinated by the strange relationship between New Jersey and New York.  And why are Jersey people so weird?”

“The single most wonderful thing about New York is the cultural diversity.  Truly phenomenal!  People literally from everywhere in the world, speaking every language, wearing every style.  But it isn’t just that.  It’s also that there are people from every background, of all interests, every sexuality.  I feel like it wouldn’t be exaggerating to say that if it isn’t here, it isn’t anywhere.  I’ll bet a lot of New Yorkers think that too.”

“Muggy, damp, hot, foetid, air rising from underground storage.  Bodies, odor, hot gusts of air (full and rich).  Ripe summer city.  Blaring noise, jubilation, high heels, dripping faces (mine), stoic expressions, tans, pain, old friends in new places.”

“Is it worse to call a woman a ‘douche’ or a ‘cunt’?”

“The subway is actually a furnace capable of cooking human beings.”

“New York is everything at once.  Everyone talks about what a melting pot it is, and it is, but it’s also a place where you can smell everything at once.  Lots of people smoke here.  Tara says a regular pack of cigarettes costs $13.00.  So I don’t know how anyone can afford it.  But clearly they do.  I like the smell of cigarettes.  Always have, so I don’t mind.  There’s smoke, perfume, soaps, sweat, dirt, other body odors (!), excrement, old filth smell that plumes up from the underground grates.”

“No one should wear black underwear under white pants.”

“Instant coffee is stupid.”

End of actual notes from travel notes.  I don’t love New York the way a lot of truly creative wonderful people love it.  I’ve been three times now and each time I had the sensation that it would kill me pretty quickly if I lived there.  The energy there is so intense that it vibrates in my blood.  I can’t sleep well, I can’t shut out the perpetual buzz.  A child can get so lost there in seconds, a child can disappear like vapor, invisible.

What I love about it is that when I’m walking around there it’s so inclusive (even though there are tensions everywhere) so that being white or black becomes somewhat meaningless.  Being straight or gay is of no consequence.  The energy that prevents me from living there is the same energy that fills me with an incredible awe for the thick human diversity.

I have been sequestered in this small town in the bible belt of Oregon and going to New York was like communing with nature, in a way.  It was magnificently multicultural.  I am nothing but a piece, and I am comfortable with that.

I sat outside to eat at an Italian restaurant on the east side of Midtown and the flow of people was like slow lava.  It reminded me of dining on the patio of a restaurant in Jerusalem, just outside of the old city.  The heat, the humidity, the light and the international languages being spoken across my salad.  Deja vu.

The real signal that I needed to take a break from blogging was the post where I basically said I hate all human beings.  The truth is I love them.  All of them.  But they frighten me.  They disgust me sometimes.  They are small and wretched.  Yet when they rise above their base instincts and do amazing things my breath is taken away.  I can’t bear a world in which we hate people for the color of their skin or for their economic background or their sexual orientation.

Walking among the yamakas, hijabs, dreadlocks, afros, waspy plastic jobs, gothic regalia, men holding men’s hands, people who’s sexuality is a complete mystery, and ordinary secretarial types… I felt as though everyone belonged, everyone was perfect.

Just as they are.  And doesn’t that reflect on me as well?  I am not a super-model.  I am fat America.  I am imperfection incarnate.  I am dark and viscous.  I am the gum on someone’s shoe.  Still, what I love about New York is that there is room for absolutely everyone.  I’ve never felt less self conscious of who I am.

Okay.  I admit I felt pretty damn self conscious about being pork-chick.  However, I belonged.  I did.  I love that New York is unapologetic.  I would like to be unapologetic too.  That’s what I promised I’d be in 2009.  I may not have truly made the mark but I sure as hell gave it my best shot.

What felt good was to stretch my legs across forty New York blocks a day.  What felt good was to see the details; the trash heaped up double width at the curb stinking thick in the night, the lights obliterating the stars (New York has its own constellation), saying a non-secular prayer for the homeless sleeping on cathedral steps because New York is so unkind in winter I can only hope they all have warmer places to stay when the snow comes, the subway rat waddling under the rail as though so fat from the crumbs of life it couldn’t run.

I couldn’t write while I was there.  I wanted to invoke the rites of all writers: to stay in a hotel all day long with typewriter clacking away, making the windows shiver and the traffic stall, to not get a blow job perhaps, but to chew grit against the sharp skyline and spit words out like black Oregon teeth.

I couldn’t do it.  Nothing.

I took my son to New York with me when he was three and a half.  He remembers the Central Park Zoo.  Barely.  This time I kept thinking of him.  I have this one child.  I want him to appreciate the world.  I want him to NOT grow up to be Glenn Beck.  The whole trip I thought of this young son of mine.  I believe that growing up in Oregon has some benefits and I’m happy for Max to enjoy the quiet of our little town, which he loves dearly.  Yet I would be remiss if I didn’t endeavor to give him more than McMinnville.  I want to take him back to New York City.

I want him to feel comfortable walking amongst yamakas, hajibs, berets, women and women loving each other, men and men loving each other, Dominican Republic people dancing on 6th avenue, transexuals, Russians, French people, Nigerians, hipsters, rappers, hoofers, South Americans, Mexicans, Midwesterners, rockers, artists….

I may never want to live in New York but I will always be comfortable visiting it.

I Shot New York City

Summer is packing up.  Summer always feels like a bad relationship where I am only in it for the produce and it’s only in it to give me skin cancer and the second it starts packing its bags I realize what a shit I’ve been badmouthing it while enjoying fresh tomatoes and crisp sweet cucumbers that I’d never have had if it weren’t for June, July, and August.   And yet…I couldn’t be more excited to shut the door on the long days, the heat, and the unremitting LIGHT.

Meanwhile, the rest of the western hemisphere is begging the bad boyfriend to stay; who cares about the skin cancer he brought?   Isn’t that what doctors are for?  They’re crying in the corners with mascara running they’re so sad they might curl up in a codependent ball and die.  They’re sad their kids are going back to school where the words “I’m bored” become a sad empty echo and they’re  already missing the fat steaks on the grill and the bouts of volleyball with the Smiths who wear speedos and bikinis (because that’s how they “roll”) and worst of all they have no idea how they will fill the vast empty hours of fall.

Autumn feels the pain which is why the hours grow shorter.

I’ve missed you.  (In case you didn’t know.)

I was going to bullet point the summer but in Kung Fu this week my Sifu was counseling me because I was feeling discouraged by the newest setback (a sprained ligament) and he was telling me to remember that Kung Fu is a long journey, a lifelong pursuit.  It isn’t about today or yesterday or tomorrow.  It’s about cumulative progress that shouldn’t be measured in weeks but in months.  He told me to look at all I’ve already achieved this past year of taking Kung Fu.  He told me not to look at this little injury nor allow myself to wallow in the many (constant) set-backs I experience because there’s something much better to see in the broader vista.  He’s right.  If you are like me and tend to get caught up in the  gritty little details then pay attention:

Don’t measure the minutes, the ticking clock today, now.  Look at the last few months and ask yourself what you’ve accomplished.  Don’t compare yourself to anyone else.  Just look at your own barometer and see how far you’ve come.

I’ve come a long way up from the bottom of the lake since January 2010:

  • I’ve lost 20 pounds of flesh from my bones and only have 74 left to go!
  • I progressed from a yellow belt to an orange belt in Kung Fu.
  • My back hasn’t gone out completely in over a year.
  • I’ve increased my physical stamina 100%.
  • I’ve become properly medicated for the first time in several years.
  • I haven’t lost any more friendships.
  • I shot New York City and survived the subway humidity.
  • I may lose my house some time in the next year and I’m not freaking out.
  • I’ve written 79175 words into the first novel I’m going to get published.
  • The seventy nine thousand one hundred and seventy fifth word is: thoughts.
  • I grew 10 pounds of strawberries using no water and no effort.
  • For the first time in my life I watched a brutal boot-camp style workout from the sidelines and wished my foot didn’t hurt so I could go out there on the matt and beat the shit out of a prostrate punching bag.
  • I received my first fat person insult yelled at me on my bicycle from a stupid-ass teen passing me in a car.
  • I shot my first 38 gauge six shooter.
  • I shot my first twelve gauge shotgun.
  • I discovered a person named Glen Beck who is the most asinine puerile simpleton.  I didn’t know they still made them that dangerously stupid.
  • I didn’t get the swine flu this year.
  • I have kept 7,355,980,444 negative thoughts about my fellow man and myself bottled up until I could compost them safely in private.
  • I’ve somehow managed to make my son believe I’m the best mom in the world and that I’m “calm” and “don’t yell” and caused said son to thank me (at nine years old) for not making him feel bad for who he is and for his peculiar quirks like some other people do.
  • I’ve made my first batch of chutney.
  • I managed to walk away from my self-made spotlight long enough to adjust my attitude, get in touch with myself, come clean (sort of) about my love for two Celine Dion songs, and to listen to the ominous quiet.
  • And to remember that the reason I write is because for me the world is a clamorous resinous intensely charged place and there is no way to shut it out or off so the only other option is to write it out and channel its energy back out of my head as quickly as it enters.
  • It’s also exactly the same as breathing.
  • I don’t have life’s answers but this year has brought complete clarity about what I really want, what I’m really about, what really matters, and what race I’m actually running in.
  • I’m very close to overcoming my fear of corkscrew curls.
  • This year, for all the stumbling dark crawl through the pit of the devil’s stomach*, has proved (yet again) to be better than a bullet to the head.

That’s a lot of fucking progress.  If I look at last week all I can see is that I canned some shit and my foot started hurting like I’d broken a small bone in it and I missed two Kung Fu classes and cried like a baby because something’s always wrong with me and it pisses me off.  But when I look at my life’s progress in terms of months I see that this year has brought so much positive change, progress, and adventure that I won’t need to look back in January and wish I’d done anything differently.  We can only ask each of ourselves to move forward valiantly, trusting in time, in the people who love us, and hit the matt like a champion even if it means next week we’re nursing hot water bottles like old ladies.

Right now I think the best thing that’s happened to me all year is to learn to fight with two sticks.  Before this year I couldn’t even fight with one!

*It is important to remind the Glenn Becks out there that when I say “the devil” I don’t literally mean Satan, because Satan is a FICTIONAL figure in the bible which is a metaphorical account of the history of man and woman but not of dinosaurs or evolution or other necessary FACTS of earth.