Saturday, December 20, 2014

"A Christmas Memory"

“A woman with shorn white hair is standing at the kitchen window. She is wearing tennis shoes and a shapeless gray sweater over a summery calico dress. She is small and sprightly, like a bantam hen, but due to a long youthful illness, her shoulders are pitifully hunched. Her face is remarkable—while not unlike Lincoln’s, craggy like that, and tinted by sun and wind, but it is delicate too, finely boned and her eyes are sherry-colored and timid. “Oh my,” she exclaims, her breath smoking the window pane, “it’s fruitcake weather.”

The person she is speaking is Truman Capote as a seven-year-old child. 

Truman Capote writes, “A Christmas Memory” 1956.

The woman he is speaking of is sixty-something, they are cousins, and have lived together since before he can remember. Other people inhabit the house, relatives; and though they have power over the two and frequently make them cry, they are not, on the whole, too much aware of them. The boy and the old lady are each other’s best friend…

Every year I read Truman Capote’s, “A Christmas Memory,”—makes me cry though. The old lady calls Capote “Buddy” after a best friend who died as a child. The old lady is still a child.

With his exquisite manipulation of words Capote tells of taking an old dilapidated baby buggy into the woods to collect windfall pecans for the fruitcakes, and gathering together their year-long savings of $12. 73 to buy “Ha Ha’s moonshine for the cakes…whiskey, that’s the best, and the most expensive.

 “Buddy,” she calls from the next room, and the next instant she is in his room holding a candle. “Well, I can’t sleep a hoot,” she declares. “My mind is jumping like a jack rabbit. Buddy, do you think Mrs. Roosevelt will serve our cake at dinner…”

Well, you just have to read the story…

Truman Capote has a natural gift that makes him a great guest at a dinner party—writes Irving Pen in Truman Capote 1965, “he is always interested in whomever he's talking to. For one thing, he really looks at the person he is with. Most of us see outlines of one another, but Truman is noting skin texture, voice tone, details of clothing.
One of the reasons that Truman is always interested in people is that he won't allow himself to be bored. He told me that when he meets a truly crashing bore he asks himself, "Why am I so bored? What is it about this person that is making me yawn?" He ponders, "What should this person do that he hasn't done? What does he lack that might intrigue me?"

He catalogues thoughtfully the bore's face, his hair style, his mannerisms, his speech patterns. He tries to imagine how the bore feels about himself, what kind of a wife he might have, what he likes and dislikes. To get the answers, he starts to ask some of these questions aloud. In short, Truman gets so absorbed in finding out why he is bored that he is no longer bored at all.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Let it Ride or Delete it?

Have you ever written something, then decided it was a bunch of crap and deleted it? 

I just did with this blog. I had written about will power, but I don’t want to hear about it.  “Sit up straight,” they said. “Don’t use profanities.” Crap.

Is the word crap a profanity? It isn’t abusive, vulgar, irreverent or obscene. A little dirty maybe. What about damn?

See those little chickens and that sweet old man in the above picture? I lost my two backyard hens yesterday. Both died the same day--a mystery. In trying to discover what happened to them, I read online that you should not feed potato peelings to chickens, and I thought I was giving them a treat with Thanksgiving scraps, and those scraps included potato skins. They said not to feed potato skins that had turned green, I didn’t think mine had, and I didn’t believe the chickens ate much of them, but they are both dead. My chickens were so sweet. They had a little house and free-run of the backyard. One would come up to me and sit on my lap. This morning I looked out the widow and they weren’t there. Crap.

So what does all this have to do with writing? Nothing, except I’m the writer, and I’m writing. It was my intention, in sitting down to this, to comment on a book I am reading, but I got side-tracked.  The book is Julia Child Rules, on Savoring Life by Karen Karbo. I was struck by Julia’s work ethic, her joy in savoring life, and her forty eight year long love affair with Paul Child. Don’t apologize if something falls on the floor, she said, pick it up. It is so important to have fun, to feel good and to be proud of what you have  accomplished, that you mustn’t fret if things aren’t perfect, that is part of the learning process.

Julia insisted, however, that things be done property and with attention to detail. Unlike magazine and book editors who at the time disparaged the ability of housewives to do, well, pretty much of anything. Julia had confidence that her viewers were serious and that they could master whatever she endeavored to teach them.

Julia also did not let anyone call her "Just a housewife," for she worked, cooked, researched 16 hours a day, and believed that work gave life meaning, and mastering a skill is satisfying in and of itself. "How magnificent to find one's calling at last," she said. She was thirty-eight years old. 

Julia gave us the confidence to learn what she had to teach because she knew we could do it.

I know you work maybe 16 hours a day, and many days have little to show for it. You know what one writer said, "This past Saturday I wrote two paragraphs. On Sunday I took them out. All in all it was a pretty good weekend."

I have confidence in you, now go forth and write.

P.S. One last thing, like Julia, do as little housework as possible—something has to give.

Friday, October 31, 2014

What if?

“By the time I was fourteen the nail in my wall would no longer support the weight of the rejection slips impaled upon it. I replaced the nail with a spike and went on writing.” - Stephen King

What if we really take a chance as go for what feels right? You have heard it said that “Life’s supposed to be fun. “Go for your dream.” “Live the life you have always wanted.” But often we muck around in the mire and complain that we are dirty.

I am trying to get it.

Those of you who have followed my whining and continued search for my place in the world know that daughter and I had decided to be Real Estate Agents. We paid our dues. We took the course. We passed the exams. I even download 145 pages of Oregon laws and read every one of them.  (Poor baby.) We endured the four-week wait for the background check and the fingerprinting to come through, we interviewed Brokerages. And then we came to a screeching halt.

Perhaps we aren’t cut out to be Real Estate Agents.

I feel like the man I heard about in San Diego. He had always wanted a Rolls Royce. And then he got one. He drove his big brand new expensive vehicle out of the Dealership, around the block, and stopped. “I don’t want a Rolls Royce,” he said, and took it back.

How often do we continue with something because we have invested time and money into it, and feel we must complete the job? Now daughter and I have a saying, “We are shingling the house.” We flipped a house once and I thought shingling it was a good idea—the only problem was the shingles were “shakes.” And it looked horrible. Luckily we began at the rear of the house, and pretty much had completely covered that portion with singles-ah ugly shakes—thinking that eventually it would look better.

It didn’t.

Finally we dropped our hammers, stood back and agreed. We hated it. So we tore off all the shingles—ah  shakes—filled the nail holes, wainscoted the house half way up, board and battened the top, painted it creamy yellow with white trim, and it looked delicious, like a Boston Cream pie.

The shake-making facility took back the remainder of the shakes, and all ended well.

And now, I am off into a new adventure, one wrought with fun and excitement, and a service many of you would love to avail yourselves of.

Want to know what it is?

Stay tuned.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Field of Dreams

 You want it wet or dry?

“Grinding it out, paying the bills and going through the motions. This is a stale, energy draining paradigm — conceived by the factory line model of work — where work is simply a means to an end; a boring, lifeless means to survive.”
—Johnathan Mead.

I have looked at this paradigm—as I believe many of you have, and wondered how in the world do we live the life of our dreams and still survive? Writers struggle with this question, and since I believe we are all creative at heart, it does not matter what one’s focus is, the desire is the same, “I want to live the life of my dreams and get paid for it.”

We all know that “Build it and they will come,” is a myth, spattered with magic as in the movie Field of Dreams.  We know it takes blood, sweat and tears.  That is one reason I love writers so much, they just don’t give up. They face rejection after rejection, and still say, “This is what I do. This is my passion.” And they keep doing it.
I have been off this site for a while, but I want all reading this to know how much I appreciate you.  I am honored to have some of your valuable time—for I feel that time is our greatest commodity. It is my deep desire that I give you something in return.
The reason I have been off site is I’ve been studying—I spent 150 hours studying for a Real Estate License, I took their exams, passed, and then waited four weeks for my fingerprinting/background check to finalize. That’s done, and now I wonder if that is really what I want to do. You see, I am one of those die-hard writers who want to write. I didn’t believe that I could get paid for what I really want to do so I went off on a tangent—perhaps if I had focused on writing and selling it with the same dogged determination I used to complete that course I would be a selling author by now.
If you have any comments I would love to hear them. If you would feel inclined to tweet me I would love that, and don’t worry there will never be any “Buy this” on this site. This is ours to share.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

A Day in the Life of

“Eat a frog in the morning and nothing worse will happen to you the rest of the day.”

Somebody said that. I don’t know who, but my mornings have been wandering off in that direction.

First thing I take a slug of Noni juice on an empty stomach.  Why am I doing it? Well, Noni juice does good things for my body, and I took all the capsules I had, and am now down to the ton of juice I ordered that nobody wants to buy. I don’t blame them, the taste alone could knock them off their chair, and I don’t want to be responsible for anyone hurting themselves. That leaves me with the juice…

I just gulp it down with a chaser of water. I don’t want to dilute the juice, that would require more tasting and swallowing. Follow that with a good hot cup of coffee, though, and I’m good to go.

(Noni is a fruit of Hawaii, that according the legend, will cure anything. One lady started drinking it and began to lose weight. The family was worried, but found that she was in robust health.)

Next I write to you guys or check my email, or work on my book and in the meantime wait for my Real Estate License background check to come in. By then, Grandson has awakened, and we fight over the computer. No, we don’t fight, he is respectful and waits for me to move to my slow laptop.

The Writer in me sits here writing, that’s my dream, that’s what I really want to do. And for a writer's blog, perhaps I should write something profound about writing, but I’m not profound, I’m just me sitting here talking to you.

I have whined about taking the Real Estate Licensing Exam, that’s past, and then my fingerprints were rejected and had to be done again. (Not because I'm a criminal, because of poor prints.) So, I’m waiting. In the meantime daughter and I are researching Brokerages for a home base, as all new licensees we must be associated with a Principal Brokerage.

So now after a month or so of thinking, figuring, arguing, deciding, un-deciding, Daughter and I have chosen a logo image and a name for ourselves, and with that will come another webpage and another blog for me —something like “The Trials and Tribulations of a New Real Estate Agent.” I have been reading Barbara Cocoran’s book, #Shark Tales, for inspiration.

Here we sit fresh out of school, no lists, no leads, and so sales, hum. (I did meet a nudist at a Banking event, though, that tickled me. And  I got a tip at the same event, the problem was when I found him, he had already bought a house. 

(I’m collecting my no’s, but you know what comes after that. A YES. All you writers can identify with that. )

P.S. I want to unveil our Business image, but that will come later…

Until then, Keep Writing.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Writers, Scientific Evidence, Writing is Good for You.

We knew writing was good for us didn’t we?
Writer Natalie Goldburg, Writing Down the Bones, said it long ago, “Writing will take you where you want to go.”
Julie Cameron, The Artist’s Way, championed the cause of “Morning Pages,” a process of writing for a few minutes as a mind dump to pour out extraneous garbage. A period at the end of a sentence does wonders to stop the endless mind chatter.
See, we knew it. Now researchers are jumping into the fray. “No matter the quality of your prose,” wrote Rachel Grate*, “the act of writing itself leads to strong physical and mental health benefits, like long-term improvements in mood, stress levels and depressive symptoms.” *Science Shows Something Surprising About People Who Love to Write,” September 15, 2014­­).
We don’t even have to be good writers to reap the rewards, unless of course, the pain of rejection becomes too excruciating to bare.
My friend who sent Grate's article and I both have an intuitive nature as well as scientific. We both learn from our own experiences and do not need data to support them, but evidence is always fun.
In a four-month study, researchers found that just 15 to 20 minutes of writing three to five times during the study was enough to make a difference in the physical and mental health benefits of the writer
Writing of traumatic events helped participants. They had fewer illnesses, and if hospitalized, they spent less time there.
Apparently people who write out their trauma have lower blood presser, and their wounds heal faster than those who don’t.
New Zealand researchers monitored the recovery of wounds from medically necessary biopsies on 49 healthy adults. The adults wrote about their thoughts and feelings for just 20 minutes, three days in a row, two weeks before the biopsy. Eleven days later, 76% of the group that wrote had fully healed. Fifty-eight percent of the control group had not recovered. The study concluded that writing about distressing events helped participants make sense of the events and reduce distress."
What can I say except, writers, keep on keeping on.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Be A Proud Cat

My thought for the day:

“Don’t wait until you have reached your goal to be proud of yourself. Be PROUD OF EVERY STEP you take towards reaching that goal.”

I would be proud of you if I had anything to do with your progress, but guess I can be proud anyway. I’m proud of people who are writing and people are reading, and proud, too, that you are here, reading this.

They say that writing doesn’t make you a better writer; it makes you a better person.  You begin to think better. You learn about yourself, you become more organized. Although I think writing does make you a better writer, unless, of course, you are repeating the same mistakes over and over.

Put something on paper every day. And better yet write something in your journal in cursive, yes, cursive—you know the old fashioned way--by hand. I read recently that writing in cursive increases cognitive activity in ways typing doesn’t.

This was driven home to me last Saturday at a family reunion. An aunt who is now retired, but had taught school for the last 30 years, the last few teaching handicapped children, taught me a valuable lesson.  She told me that schools who no longer teach cursive are making a grave mistake.

In teaching reading she would begin to have the student make lazy eights on their paper—remember those from school, making the old infinity symbol over and over? As the student’s hand began moving she would ask them form a letter. The easiest is a “c” she said. The “c” can easily be transformed into an “o.” Move into an “a” a small "a," for if one adds a stem up to an "a" it will become a ”b.” Add a stem down and it becomes a “q.”

This was revolutionary to me.

Second thought for the day: Listen to your elders.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Write drunk; edit sober

I am driven to comment on this:

A few minutes ago I read a writer’s blog and in it the writer took offence at the above quote stating that this quote was erroneously attributed to Hemingway. (Your guess is as good as mine.)

Second, the blogger said that Hemingway didn’t write while drunk. He wrote in the mornings before he drank. (Again, who knows.)

“Get a Grip!” It’s tongue in cheek. And it’s funny.

The point is: Write when you are uninhabited, when you are loose, free, and willing to put anything down on paper. Then when you are clear headed go back and edit.  This is sage advice.

Bottom line: I don’t care if Hemingway wrote upside down, naked or drunk, the world was made better (literature-wise) because he lived.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Do's and Don't's for Success

Here are some do's and don'ts of success from the inventor of Twitter, Jack Dorsey:

·                Stay present

·                Be vulnerable

·                Drink lemon water and red wine

·                Six sets of 20 squats and push-ups every day

·                Run for 3 miles

·                Meditate on this list

·                Stand up straight

·                Spend 10 minutes with a heavy bag

·                Say hello to everyone

·                Get 7 hours of sleep

Jack also recommends you don't do these things:

·                Don't avoid eye contact

·                Don't be late

·                Don't set expectations that you can't meet

·                Don't eat sugar

·                Don't drink hard liquor or beer during the weekday

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Why Travel?

Grandson, one-year old, at Black Sands beach Hawaii—he may not remember the caviar-black sand, the warm pools, the delight he had that day, but I do.

Clark Vandeventer answered a question that had been rattling around in my brain for the last few years. Could the world become a school house for your child? For our child—for my grandchild? What about traditional schooling? What about making lasting friendships?

My friend June said she attended 13 schools by the time she was in the 6th grade. Did that help or hinder her development? June is one of the happiest, friendliest people I know. She in ninety-one years old and most every day her answering machine will say, “I may be here or I will be out in the Universe having fun.”

I am reminded of something Pat Parelli, a horse trainer I admire and consider a mentor said, “Whatever the general population is doing, do the opposite.”

This was after he got what he called a “macho-ectomy.” “It’s like being a dance partner with your horse,” he said, “You ask don’t tell.”

Now he is a master trainer who can ask a horse to pirouette, and within that horse’s abilities, he will do it. Soon it will be without a bridle or ropes. Now isn’t this contrary to established ways of training horses where you jerk them around by the mouth?

Oh, I’m not encouraging anyone to be a rebel–rouser, or a non-conformist just to be obstinate or obnoxious. I mean to look at the way things are done, and consider that they might be different. Be reasonable!

Here is the blog title that motivated me:
Why I Took My Daughter on a Trip She Will Never Remember
We’ve loaded our kids up on planes, trains, and automobiles to far corners of the world for a reason. I know my daughter Abigail will never remember this recent trip to Thailand or any of the other trips we take in the next few years. That’s not the point, though. I want our travels to shape the woman she becomes. I want her to see, before she is able to develop an idea of what’s “normal,” that America isn’t the world. I want her to see people living differently than we do in America and speaking different languages and eating different foods. That’s no judgment of America. I just want my kids to understand the world is bigger, and if I have the power to expose them to these things (and I do), I want them to see this while their view of the world is still very much being formed.

There is another reason, though, that we travel with our young kids.
My daughter will never remember this trip, but
I will.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Can You Put Your Writing First?

This is a tough one.

“Well, I’ll do the dishes first.”

“The clothes need folded.”

The child wakes up, time to fix breakfast. He wants to use my computer.
These are the sort of things that peck at you, and you wonder if your writing is a waste of time after all. Who wants to read my words? And why am I expending all this energy putting words on a page when there are smarter, wiser, more skilled people doing it already.

Stop It!

This is your self-expression. This is your gift. Did Michelangelo say, “Whoops, my chisel slipped, guess I’m a lousy sculptor?” No, he said “If people knew how much I worked at this it wouldn’t be so wonderful.”

I didn’t know he said that. I figured he always knew he was a genius.

So, hop to. Get with it. Write!

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Mark Twain

When we moved onto our farm in Hawaii I found a gem of a book among the rubble. It was Mark Twain’s book Roughing it In The Sandwich Islands. What a find. It further enamored me with the genius that was Mark Twain.

This morning upon hitting  #amwritingakasthomas, I found a link to Mark Twain.  Could I not follow it? Nope. I did, and found the following essay “Concerning the Interview.”

It's a must-read.


Thanks to the Mark Twain Foundation and its trustees, the PBS NewsHour brings you for the first known time in print an essay by the American literary giant on a topic dear to our hearts -- the journalistic interview. In the course of Twain's career, he was frequently interviewed by reporters. The 10-page handwritten essay has been sitting for more than 40 years in the archives of the Mark Twain Project at the University of California, Berkeley. It was written in either 1889 or 1890, a time that coincided with the rise of "yellow journalism."

“Concerning the ‘Interview.’”
No one likes to be interviewed, and yet no one likes to say no; for interviewers are courteous and gentle-mannered, even when they come to destroy. I must not be understood to mean that they ever come consciously to destroy or are aware afterward that they have destroyed; no, I think their attitude is more that of the cyclone, which comes with the gracious purpose of cooling off a sweltering village, and is not aware, afterward, that it has done that village anything but a favor. The interviewer scatters you all over creation, but he does not conceive that you can look upon that as a disadvantage. People who blame a cyclone, do it because they do not reflect that compact masses are not a cyclone’s idea of symmetry. People who find fault with the interviewer, do it because they do not reflect that he is but a cyclone, after all, though disguised in the image of God, like the rest of us; that he is not conscious of harm even when he is dusting a continent with your remains, but only thinks he is making things pleasant for you; and that therefore the just way to judge him is by his intentions, not his works.

The Interview was not a happy invention. It is perhaps the poorest of all ways of getting at what is in a man. In the first place, the interviewer is the reverse of an inspiration, because you are afraid of him. You know by experience that there is no choice between these disasters. No matter which he puts in, you will see at a glance that it would have been better if he had put in the other: not that the other would have been better than this, but merely that it wouldn’t have been this; and any change must be, and would be, an improvement, though in reality you know very well it wouldn’t. I may not make myself clear: if that is so, then I have made myself clear–a thing which could not be done except by not making myself clear, since what I am trying to show is what you feel at such a time, not what you think–for you don’t think; it is not an intellectual operation; it is only a going around in a confused circle with your head off. You only wish in a dumb way that you hadn’t done it, though really you don’t know which it is you wish you hadn’t done, and moreover you don’t care: that is not the point; you simply wish you hadn’t done it, whichever it is; done what, is a matter of minor importance and hasn’t anything to do with the case. You get at what I mean? You have felt that way? Well, that is the way one feels over his interview in print.
Yes, you are afraid of the interviewer, and that is not an inspiration. You close your shell; you put yourself on your guard; you try to be colorless; you try to be crafty, and talk all around a matter without saying anything: and when you see it in print, it makes you sick to see how well you succeeded. All the time, at every new change of question, you are alert to detect what it is the interviewer is driving at now, and circumvent him. Especially if you catch him trying to trick you into saying humorous things. And in truth that is what he is always trying to do. He shows it so plainly, works for it so openly and shamelessly, that his very first effort closes up that reservoir, and his next one caulks it tight. I do not suppose that a really humorous thing was ever said to an interviewer since the invention of his uncanny trade. Yet he must have something “characteristic;” so he invents the humorisms himself, and interlards them when he writes up his interview. They are always extravagant, often too wordy, and generally framed in “dialect”–a non-existent and impossible dialect at that. This treatment has destroyed many a humorist. But that is no merit in the interviewer, because he didn’t intend to do it.

There are plenty of reasons why the Interview is a mistake. One is, that the interviewer never seems to reflect that the wise thing to do, after he has turned on this and that and the other tap, by a multitude of questions, till he has found one that flows freely and with interest, would be to confine himself to that one, and make the best of it, and throw away the emptyings he had secured before. He doesn’t think of that. He is sure to shut off that stream with a question about some other matter; and straightway his one poor little chance of getting something worth the trouble of carrying home is gone, and gone for good. It would have been better to stick to the thing his man was interested in talking about, but you would never be able to make him understand that. He doesn’t know when you are delivering metal from when you are shoveling out slag, he can’t tell dirt from ducats; it’s all one to him, he puts in everything you say; then he sees, himself, that it is but green stuff and wasn’t worth saying, so he tries to mend it by putting in something of his own which he thinks is ripe, but in fact is rotten. True, he means well, but so does the cyclone.

Now his interruptions, his fashion of diverting you from topic to topic, have in a certain way a very serious effect: they leave you but partly uttered on each topic. Generally, you have got out just enough of your statement to damage you; you never get to the place where you meant to explain and justify your position.

Read by permission of Richard A. Watson and JPMorgan Chase Bank as trustees of the Mark Twain Foundation.

P.S. In those days long paragraphs were common. Now they say that readers don't have the patience to follow long verbiage.

What do you think?

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Put yourself and Your Writing First

This is a tough one.

Can you do it? Can you put yourself and writing first?

“Well, I’ll do the dishes first.”

“The clothes need folded.”

The child wakes up, time to fix breakfast. He wants to use my computer.

These are the sort of things that peck at you, and you wonder if your writing is a waste of time after all. Who wants to read my words? And why am I expending all this energy putting words on a page when there are smarter, wiser, more skilled people doing it already.

Stop It!

Writing is your self-expression. It is your gift. Did Michelangelo say, “Whoops, my chisel slipped, guess I’m a lousy sculptor?” 

No, he said “If people knew how much I worked at this it wouldn’t be so wonderful.”

I didn’t know he said that. I figured he always knew he was a genius.

So, hop to. Get with it. Write!

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Wow, This Man Made Us Laugh

I was so shocked and saddened when I discovered that Robin Williams had passed. I had to put this clip on my site. Robin "Captain my Captain"* we loved you.

The Best Robin William Moments / Mashable

What can I say? We can't see into another person's life, how Robin, one of the funniest men to grace this planet, could suffer from depression and take his own life. He achieved greatness, success in his chosen field, financial awards, and was sad. It shows me, once again, that we have to learn to manage our own state--by that I mean our state of consciousness.


*I loved, loved, loved, The Dead Poet's Society