Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Friday, April 30, 2010

Van Attachment -- Kelly

I have a complicated relationship with my eight-year-old minivan. Every time I see her I see myself.

She's silver-grey, like an overcast sky or a rock road. Perfect camouflage, her color renders her invisible. Her body's not what it used to be, either, missing a big piece of trim and sporting hail stone pockmarks. There's that scrape from the misjudged turn, another from the Starbucks drive-through, yet another from a tree. I won't catalogue the dents, but they're noticeable and plural. One sliding door is broken and the other is recalcitrant and the repair costs are way too high for such luxuries.

For a long time I took pride in my van. She was very fancy when brand new, and among the cars of Oregon she gleamed. When we moved to Texas and I found myself invisible in the carpool line between a Hummer and a Porsche, I felt superior to the materialists who somehow needed a fancy carapace. I wasn't like that, you see. I was perfectly happy with my utilitarian, reliable transportation (and my Birkenstocks and jeans, but that's another story....or is it?). My van rendered me anonymous in a new community, free to observe the landscape, able to move stealthily through the new environment.

Her inside began to resemble her outside. Old French fries, kid meal toys, multiple water bottles in various stages of consumption, a gaggle of empty coffee cups, school papers, books, receipts....they all piled up between my ever less frequent trips to the car wash. I took a perverse pride in this, too. She was lived-in. I could always find something to drink. And why bother cleaning her out only to have her fill up again in a week?

But slowly I began to resent her. She was certainly not the car I'd planned to be driving when I was 50. And when four of five women in my core group of friends bought lovely new vehicles in an 18 month period I found myself with a raging case of new car fever. I had grand thoughts. I researched comfort, foreign and domestic. The van was an embarrassment, an old aunt who'd "let herself go." But a new car wasn't in the budget. As The Man reminded me, she was paid for, ran well, and had a long shelf life. I began to think of her as The Van that Would Never Die. And now that I've just paid for a major service and a new timing belt, I know she's - unfortunately - perfectly healthy.

Some of you know about my stumbling attempts at meditation and Buddhism. I understand that attachment leads to suffering. And this is certainly true when it comes to my van. The perverse pride I took in her ordinariness and invisibility was merely a cover for insecurity in a new environment and led me into disorder. The resentment I feel toward her serves no purpose other than to make me feel bad and desire something for which I have no need.

So I'm trying to break my attachment to my van and to treat her mindfully. I cleaned everything out and visited the car wash. I'm making sure that both Young Girl and I take out everything we put in and leave only minimal supplies (soccer ball, lap desk, notebook paper) inside. I would not say that I'm taking pride in my clean van or feeling particularly noble about my efforts. I'm simply trying to make my van part of my practice.

So far, so good.

For a wonderful look at practice in everyday life, whatever your faith tradition, pick up a copy of Karen Maezen Miller's new book "hand wash cold: care instructions for an ordinary life."

Saturday, December 12, 2009

The Little Match Girl--Marcia

The roads turned into sheets of ice last night. It took only moments for the cold to soak through my jeans, and it took hours to warm back up.

We canceled the Roosevelt caroling party. The image of fifty children racing, sliding, colliding, and cracking the whip along Queen Anne Street and Academy Way was all we needed to decide to pull the plug. I parked my car down by the crumbling tennis courts at the far edge of the playground and waited for the stragglers I knew would show up.

My kids immediately got out of the car and started sliding around on the sidewalk--Bowling for each other. It didn't take long before merry revelers showed up with their canned food and cookies and joined in, despite my insistence that the function was canceled.

There must have been 25 of us clustered around Allison's SUV singing because we might as well anyway. Here were children. Here were mini cupcakes, chocolate cookies, and rice crispie treats. Someone had a candle in a jam jar. Someone had a flashlight. Someone in a puffy pink snow suit came wrapped in a battery-operated light pack. So we sing. Jingle Bells, Frosty the Snowman 'was a Hmm, Hmm, Hmm,mm mm', Silent Night, Joy to the World, Feliz Navidad 'Prospero Ano y hmm-hmm, hmm-hmm.'

A little girl named Juliet sang a solo about a rooftop. It was staggering. Another tiny one led us in 12 Days of Christmas and we sussed out 8-12 on the fly. We questioned ourselves all the way until '5 golden rings' and we all knew the home stretch. It was good--And it was cold. The sky was crystal, the ground was crystal.

It was a great show of spirit, standing there against the chain link fence. Our new school loomed, under construction behind us, the street too icy to drive down was empty. I was proud of us for rallying and enjoying ourselves. We sang 'We Wish You a Merry Christmas' and meant it. It felt very subversive given the stir in Ashland over the Christmas tree at Bellview Elementary.

I woke up this morning, lit the flame under my tea kettle and thought about "The Little Match Girl," a story my mother used to read to me every Christmas. I bought the book for Daniel when he was born. When he was old enough, I started to read it and then put it away. It's a horrible story. The girl dies on the street because no one will buy her last match. She curls up in a ball and freezes to death.

I looked out the window at iced over grass, the hoar frost on all the branches, the dead quiet grey of the morning. And then I thought of Joanie Mc Gowan.

Joanie was a local personality. I wanted to be her. Sometimes we would wind up in the same place, the same functions, fundraisers, concerts. She had no idea who I was. I was an insignificant nobody. She lived as if she was on fire. Tall tall woman, giant hair, big throaty voice, funny funny wisecracker, great red lipstick. Living juicy. I wanted to be her friend, hobnob in her circle, become one of the stand up comedians with the group she helped start--the Hamazons. That was so me. If only she knew, we were supposed to be best friends.

Then one day about four years ago on a bitter cold morning in February, just like this one, a fellow commentator on the radio, walking on the greenway in Ashland, found her. She was dressed only in blue jeans and a bra. She was blue from cold, her great wild mane of curly black hair fanned out around her. No one really knows what happened. There was no foul play. Something snapped inside of her. She got hypothermia. She died. The gorgeous, glamorous diva, died like a transient on a cold winter night. She faked "fabulous" so well.

As the temperatures drop and the holidays loom, take good care of your friends. Light a match to a candle in their name. Keep them warm, keep them safe. Even strangers can come together around nothing more than a chain-link fence and find some comfort and joy on a cold and empty night.

Amen Joanie, I'm thinking of you. I still hear the shadow of your voice when I turn on the radio.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Growing Up--Marcia

I walk the mile or so to school this morning. The trees are grey and silver. Every breath becomes a cloud. It is so bitterly cold my nostrils ache. But it feels good to feel my feet move over the ground. I love the grey, pink, bruised blue colors of a sky aching for snow.

I remember walking through deep snow to get to the art studios at my college. I'd trudge out in a wool skirt, vintage petticoat, long undies, heavy boots, down coat, and hat. We had no choice but to walk. It is my oldest child's eleventh birthday. I want to find a way to mark it. I can walk and remember.

It snowed the night before he was born. My sister and brother-in-law were catering a Christmas party about 40 minutes north in the country. Some rich guy with a 70 stall garage. He wanted a luau and roast pig. The boys had never done a roast pig before. Betsy and Andy made it there and back over the snow-thick roads, but not without Andy winding up covered in pig fat from trying to carve that buried pig.

I filmed that day, not the pig fest, but the snow storm. The deep quiet everywhere. The branches laden with their fingers of snow. Funny, I gave birth to the loudest baby ever born in the Rogue Valley Medical Center--Daniel-The Fire-Breathing-Baby from Hell.

He yelled and he nursed. The only place he would sleep was on my chest, head tucked under my chin. That held true, minus the nursing part, until he was about six years old.

Daniel is 5 ft. tall now. He looks good in his jeans. He loves basketball shoes and knows how to move in them. He scored 18 points out of 22 at his last basketball game, and yet if you ask him how many baskets he made, he doesn't know the answer. He still loves to be read to, wants to snuggle when we watch movies, will play "guys" with his little brother, and run around in a dinosaur costume that is way too small. He will try to make friends with anyone and is sad if it doesn't work out. He still misses his best friend from Kindergarten, but still has his best friend from first grade.

He just asked for Axe deodorant--I also got him the shower gel. It promises to make "Dirty Boys Clean." Oh boy. Can't wait.


He is no longer "10 and under . . ." The expectations are greater. The pressure increases. I feel it within myself. Then I have to remember he is interested in the world, loves people, is fun-loving, kind to others, and still has a sense of wonder.

Happy birthday my beautiful, beautiful child.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Here's to writing friends out in the blogosphere --Kerry

There's really nothing quite as nice to a writer as asking her writer friends to proof a piece due for submission in less than twenty-four hours, on a Sunday to boot, and having them respond with feedback and help. This behavior merits a "true writer friend" title, and I bequeath it on Christy and Jennie, who performed the aforementioned good deed.

We writer types spend a lot of time alone hunched over the computer shooing away dogs, kids and phone calls like flies as they alight anywhere near us. We are not generally consistently this ornery, rather it is in the guidelines to the craft of writing that we have to perform in solitude because as my mother would say,"no one else can do it for you." So we are alone alot and rarely does anyone but a writer friend really understand your need to converse with other writer friends who feel your angst over a pending assignment and can help you allieve it.

As a twenty-something fledgling reporter, I thought I knew it all and writing groups were for middle-aged mommies. Gulp, I have reached that pinnacle but hey, it's not so bad here, and I get why we as writers need each other, because Lord knows asking my husband to edit something when he's trying to watch football is just plain crazy and really why chance it?

Friday, September 11, 2009

Autumn Deficit Disorder -- Kelly

It's that time of year when I long for a fall that just won't come. When the usually ubiquitous squirrels go missing, probably to Vermont or some autumn haven, because nothing in the atmosphere suggests they should bother burying acorns. When the desire to pluck a perfectly ripe apple from a tree is defeated by green pecans.

But this morning brought gentle rain and a hint of coolness. Such minuscule harbingers of fall always improve my mood and inspire new ideas.

Along these lines, here are some random plans/resolutions for the upcoming season.

1. Eschew restaurants for food I cook myself.

2. Go to my daughter's soccer practices and games with glee.

3. Revive my blogging spirit.

4. Advocate calmly for health care reform.

5. Advocate calmly, period.

6. Inspired by Karen Maezen Miller, do the laundry.

7. Attack a pile of paper a day.

8. Spend time outdoors, damn the mosquitoes.

9. Touch base once each week with an old friend.

10. Renew.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

This Little Piggy

People's appendages seem to be in serious jeopardy lately.

Maybe it's because I ripped off my own toenail (getting into the car) last month, but I seem to be seeing and hearing a lot of toe and finger tragedies.

There's the guy at Dave's fire department who severed his pinky at the knuckle when it got caught in a ladder.

Another brother sliced his finger a few days later.

My little friend Riley tore off her big toenail.

And my friend Linda was run over by a grocery cart, then stepped on by a coffee shop customer.

What's interesting about these stories is not so much the plot of it all, but the characters' reactions to it. Honestly, it's quite telling, the way one responds to driving a hammer into one's thumb.

Though I'm sorry for these folks' suffering, I am, admittedly and sickly, except for the lost finger, amused by the effects. There's been some crying, some swearing, some shrieking, some grace.

I guess there are two things to learn from all this: to study people in appendage crises, and to be extra careful right now when walking barefoot or shutting doors or using electric knives.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

43, Luckily -- Kerry

My sister-in-law died on her 42nd birthday a few years ago.
I made it to 43 today and celebrated with, among others, her three remaining children.
I threw a covert glance in her eldest daughter's direction. She resembles her mother the most. I wondered if she felt the injustice of a life cut short every day, like I was feeling right now.
Perhaps every birthday I should glance in these children's direction and remind myself that I too am mortal, that I should never ever forget what an amazing miracle it is that we walk on this earth, for whatever amount of time we're here.
Me, I'm glad for 43.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009


I knew 7/8/9 would be a lucky day! I got my first WoW (Waiting on Wednesday) post - which means a YA book reviewer has marked my book as one she's excited to read! You have no idea how cool this is to a newbie author. Seriously. I'm levitating right now. Thanks Catt!

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Another one flies the coop

When is enough enough? How do you know you are done with a manuscript? I find it a lot easier to write "The End" on a first draft than I do with subsequent drafts. I just sent off my work-in-progress manuscript (Astrid) to my agent and I had a hard time figuring out if I was “done” or not. When someone questions your work, pushes you to strive for more, it’s hard to know if you’ve reached that goal they had in mind for you.

For me, the biggest surprise in this publishing process is how little line editing is done early in the process—mostly you receive “notes” in letter form, describing overall things that need to change with not a lot of direction about how to do it. And it seems you could do one of a hundred things to fix each thing! In my experience, revision has been a bit like throwing spaghetti at the wall and seeing what sticks. But then again, I have a very editorial agent who wants to go through a revision (or two!) before ever sending to editors.

So, Astrid is gone. She’s flown from my email to a desktop where she will be printed and scrutinized. Good thing I have so much to do in the coming weeks—stewing over whether or not the spaghetti is sticking to the wall is no fun at all.

How do you know when you are done?

Friday, June 26, 2009

Dispatch from Salt Lake City -- Kelly

Some random musings from the cross-country drive:

• What do you do when you pull out of your driveway to log 2200 miles, turn on your radio, and get NOTHING? That means no NPR, no random Tejano, no books on iPod. You decide to be in the moment, as deep introspection interferes with driving acuity.

• The taste of fear: being in the middle of the pack of cars and trucks driving 85 mph on I-25, even when it’s down to one lane.

• Even though the amber waves of grain have been harvested to frankly unattractive stubble, the purple mountains’ majesty is out in full force, last lingerings of snow on top.

• Breathtaking? Two huge thunderstorm cells outlining a clear alley when you turn west into Wyoming. Alas, the alley did not stay clear; a truly horrendous thunderstorm (and, as a Texan, I’ve seen my share) with an active lightning display, followed by pea-soup fog on a twisty bit of I-80, makes the last room at the overpriced Best Western look mighty good indeed.

• Little America is still scary.

• The Hotel Monaco Salt Lake City is featuring white sangria in its fabled Wine Hour. Yum.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Books that changed me -- Kerry

I just finished reading "Thirteen Books That Changed America" by Jay Parini.

Books I don't really think about much, but am now more than ever aware of how they influenced readers in their time.

"Of Plymouth Plantation" through the "Feminine Mystique" along with such classics as "Uncle Tom's Cabin" and "Hucklerry Finn" are eloquently summarized (without having to read the cliff notes!) by the author.

I realized how many books have also influenced me in my life.

Anyone remember how cool the real Nancy Drew was? Or the first time you read "Are you there God it's Me Margaret" by Judy Blume?

Years after my juvenile forays into life shattering literature I plunged voraciously into a whole lot of a little of everything, "Ya Ya Sisters," by Rebecca Wells. "Living with Uncertainty," by Pema Chodron - they all changed me.

There are countless others. What about you?

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Happy Father's Day! -- Jennie

Here's me and the best poppa in the world in Tahoe last week:

Friday, June 19, 2009

Trip Prep

I began, today, the ritual Sorting of the Clothes.

First stop? Melange Mountain, the stratified heap of miscellany in my dressing area. I recovered a few missing items, uncovered two forgotten purchases, and discovered many things that Simply Will No Longer Do.

Next stop? The Oregon Pile, where I re-heap the clothes I may need for my trip, including long sleeved items and light jackets that make me sweat on sight, even in my air conditioned rooms.

Final Stop? Laundry Junction, where I de-dirt the delicates and soap the sturdy.

Actual packing begins Sunday!

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Working Writer-Marcia

Today was a business day. Always fun in writing land. I sent something off to This American Life--It could take six months to hear. I sent something off to O magazine, and drafted a query for Parenting.

It's fun to act like a real writer.

I've been working on my chicken story and hope to post it here later, but Daniel made the Allstar team, for 9-10 boys so, I'm off to the baseball diamonds.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Silence begins...NOW!

In a few minutes I'm heading out to the Moody cabin for some high-level hermitry. Between this evening when I arrive and Monday afternoon when I leave, I'll finish my revision of Book One, get to the halfway point of Book Two, and possibly dabble in a WIP I've got going on the sidelines.

No TV, no intewebz, no children, no laundry.

No problem!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Ding Dong Deconstruction circa 1969--Marcia

My mother hides the Ding Dongs at the back of the fridge so my brothers can have one when they get home from basketball practice or smoking doobies on their surfboards. Only she doesn't know about the doobies part. All I can think about are those Ding Dongs. If I try to sneak a Pecan Sandie my mother can hear the wrapping, If I try to sneak one of my dad's weird Tiger's Milk bars she can heart hat too. Ding Dongs are the perfect food. Packed so tight they are soundless tinfoil hockey pucks. If I can get my hand inside the white cardboard box and back out again without making a whumping noise my mom won't know. She's very busy. There is a lot to vacuum here.

I usually wear a polyester skirt with an elastic waist band and polyester shorts underneath. Girls are not allowed to wear pants to school, but we can't swing on the monkey bars unless we have petit pants or shorts on. Petit pants are really pretty underwear that look like shorts. Caroline Krupp has a pair that are swirly like a melted creamsicle . . . pink, purple, and yellow with a lace edge. My mother will not let me have any of those. This might be a good idea since the monkey bars are close to the boardwalk and any old person walking along the beach can see your petit pants, so I don't beg too much.

I also am not allowed to have a tutu, plastic high heels from Market Basket that have yellow fluffy feathers on them, or Ken dolls. My father did let my mother get my sister and I Barbies.

If it's a day when Jim Grey spits at me at the bus stop, or Chrissy Mac Niece throws dried dog poo on my new turtleneck, or no matter what Miss Hilton in her GoGo boots tells me I can't come up with the right numbers for 24 plus 36, I can't wait to get off the bus and stuff a Ding Dong in my favorite pair of stretchy shorts (red with polka dots--Sears Chubbies) and head to the guest bathroom at the back of the house by the garage.

Cold Ding Dongs are no good. If you can hear your mother calling you, or know your big brothers are about to come storming down the hall banging on the door and rattling the knob then eat it fast. There is no place to really hide a Ding Dong. They'll find it. But the best way to have a Ding Dong is to warm it up a little.

This requires a little extra time. If you don't want to eat cold hard chocolate and dry cake that doesn't taste cakey you have to pretend you're going Number 2. Hold the Ding Dong like a little bird up close to you, but not for too long or it gets ruined and all the coating melts on to the inside of the foil. Maybe count to whatever 24 plus 36 is.

Hold your breath and sit very still. The foil is very smooth on top, but folded like tiny sails all around and whirling like going down a drain at the bottom so it can close together and not show any Ding Dong. Listen make sure no one's coming. It makes a little noise if you don't pick it apart very carefully with thumb and pointer. Open it really slow so there's not even a little bit of crinkling noise. The chocolate coating will be just right, not too soft, and not too cold where it breaks off in chunks and tastes like candle wax after Sunday dinner.

You want to peel all the just-right chocolate off with your teeth, and then eat the cakey cake, sponge-y and hole-y, but not as good as birthday cake. Birthday cake is my favorite. I eat the cake first and the frosting last.

It always seems like there will be a whole bunch of white, pure-white, whiter-than Crest-white blop of cream in the middle. Then you get to the middle and it's only the size of a gumball-machine gumball. It's kind of a gyp. Still, if you can tell your Mom is upstairs sorting laundry or changing all the sheets you have time to eat around the Ding Dong until all that's left is just a fat-pea blop of cream covered in brown cake crumbs. Then you pop it in your mouth. It is quiet and the best part of coming home after school.

Did the front door just open? Can you hear your giant brothers throwing back packs and shouting? Can you hear Mom headed to the kitchen to start peeling carrots and turn on the stove? Sometimes this makes my heart go fast and my face get prickly.

Ding Dong tinfoil is so thin, wipe out all the wrinkles and press it flat against your leg and it's like a Barbie space blanket. Stephanie Brown had a space blanket for Silly Skilly Days, our sleepover Girl Scout camp at Rancho Santiago. It sounded like someone was digging in garbage at a fourth of July picnic every time she rolled over. Sometime I'll tell you about Space Sticks and Tang.

It's nice to try to rub the wrinkles our of the wrapper for awhile. Pick off any crumbs with a wet fingertip, and make up things you could do with that perfect square if you could leave the bathroom with it.. But you have to get rid of it.

It's the only bad thing about stealing Ding Dongs.

If you put it in your pants you could forget and it could fall out, or your brother or Chrissy Mac Niece could chase you and it could fall out. And then they'd make fun of you until you were grown up. Or even after.

You could eat it, it's really thin. But that would ruin everything. I roll it up as tight as it can get. Squinch it down to the same size as the blop of cream in the middle of the Ding Dong and then bury it in the pale plastic garbage can under the bathroom sink. Don't let any of the foil press against the edge of the can or it will show. Careful of gooey tissues, they're gross.

Then you should probably go to the bathroom, or at least rattle the toilet paper roll and flush to make it sound real. Then straighten out your stretchy skirt and shorts, open the door, and pretend like nothing happened.

And that's how you steal a Ding Dong.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Commiserate -- Kerry

"I'd like to have the perfect twin. One that walks out, when I walk in. I'd like to catch that big brass ring. I want everything, everything," Barbara Streisand/ A Star is Born, 1979.
-listened to on a vinyl 78 lp record player by a twelve-year old girl ready to change the world.

"Hey little Mama you're a class all you own," Chris Brown/With You/2009,
-listened to on an ipod portable speaker by the twelve-year old daughter of the aforementioned twelve-year old girl.

I suppose there comes a time in every parents time in the Western Hemisphere, or at least the west coast hemisphere, when we remember with crystal clear clarity being in fifth grade and what it felt like as we observe our children undergo the same experience.

Claire graduated from fifth grade this week. She was hacked off she had to wear a bra (ditto her mother) but even more miffed that she had to still go to bed at 8:30, because Lord knows she was old enough to rule her own life, thank you very much.

She blared music from her room.

I stood outside her doorway and debated my options. Should I play the hardcore mommy card and tell her it was time for bed or should I confess that I remember what all this growth felt like?

My journey with hypnotherapy came to light. According to a basic caveat in the art of hypnosis, we are all arrested children and communicate often as such.

So from one twelve year-old to another, I went in, curled up on her bed, and started to commiserate.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Faith, Hope, and Blueberries -- Jennie

I'm a day or two away from sending my revision back to an editor. I love the suggestions he had given me, even if they were pretty tough to pull off.

Here's what got me through shrinking 55,000 words down to 40K, while flushing out characters and motivation, backstory and arc:

* faith. That what he told me to do was brilliant.
* hope. That I did what I was supposed to do. That he'll like it.
* blueberries.
* long walks.
* yoga.
* days when I didn't work but when the kids were in school.
* a serious love of my character.
* a planned week in Tahoe, following re-submission.

All that. Plus some serious caffeine.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Let Evening Come -- Kelly

My mother died a week ago tonight, and her memorial service was today.

I thought I'd share the poem I read, since I obviously haven't been doing any writing.

Let Evening Come (by Jane Kenyon)

Let the light of late afternoon
shine through the chinks in the barn, moving
up the bales as the sun moves down.

Let the crickets take up chafing
as a woman takes up her needles
and her yarn. Let evening come.

Let dew collect on the hoe abandoned
in long grass. Let the stars appear
and the moon disclose her silver horn.

Let the fox go back to its sandy den.
Let the wind die down. Let the shed
go black inside. Let evening come.

To the bottle in the ditch, to the scoop
in the oats, to air in the lung
let evening come.

Let it come, as it will, and don't
be afraid. God does not leave us
comfortless, so let evening come.