Saturday, April 07, 2007

Honestly, officer

I don't know how I got there. I was minding my own business doing my usual Saturday reading and checking out humor writers and there I was eyeball to wedgie with Beyonce on the cover of Sports Illustrated. I was so stunned I forgot how I got there. Maybe if I retrace my steps...

While reading my weekly issue of Long Story Short I began wondering why exactly these writers had won first place. It's not that the stories weren't good--there were some very good pieces--but I enjoyed the also rans so much more, thus proving it's completely subjective and not necessarily about talent once again. Many of the also rans (Honorable Mention) made me laugh and cry and touched me so much more than about 99% of the winners, and that doesn't even take into account the horrid grammar and rampant type-Os that failed to be edited or corrected. I know how those things fall through the cracks.

The more I read, the more I clicked to read other writers, stumbling dazedly upon the humor writers. I really needed a break from having my heart strings plucked, played and otherwise twanged. One or two of the top rated writers winkled a chuckle out of me, but the losers also rans made me laugh so much I had to break frequently for the bathroom, wondering once again why I don't stock up on Depends when I'm in the writing/reading/research mode (going to the bathroom is often a nuisance at these time.), but then I'd have to take the time to put them on. Waste not, want not, but I digress.

Anyway, I lurched into Jennifer Brown, a writer who has pulled off the unbelievable coup of winning the Erma Bombeck Writing Competition not once but twice. I wanted more--much more--so I checked Mrs. Brown out (Oops, wrong Mrs. Brown, but a really great movie with Judi Dench and Geoffrey Palmer of As Time Goes By). At any rate, I found out the American humorist, Mrs. Brown, offered classes in humor writing, citing her miraculous (not so miraculous when you read her Erma-like humor) and unprecedented twin EBWC wins as proof of her ability to teach what she does, thereby disproving the axiom that those who teach can't do what they teach.

Sorry, off track again.

I read more of Mrs. Brown's writing and followed her to the KC Star and into the back roads of the neighborhood news where she has written a few more If Life is a Bowl of Cherries, What Am I Doing in the Pits? guest columns. That led me to a search for her columns and a search through the KC Star because the links Mrs. Brown provided didn't get me to what I wanted--her humor.

Aha! I think I've finally found the twisted thread that led me to the Beyonce wedgie.

I searched the KC Star and something colorful pulled my focus. Must have been the tears in my eyes when I was laughing. It was the words Vogue and full figured. That's what did it. Vogue and full figured just don't go together. Anna Wintour, she of the razor cut hair and razor thin figure who was allegedly not the model for Miranda Priestly of The Devil Wears Prada, made Oprah lose twenty pounds to appear on the cover of Vogue. Evidently, full figured does go on the cover of Vogue because Jennifer Hudson made it to the cover of the March 2007 issue. The picture isn't that flattering and there was talk of Photoshop and Annie Leibowitz's use of perspective and bad taste in all the pictures of the spread. That led to reading about the hotly debated cover and pictures and that's when it happened.

That's it. That's how I got to Beyonce's wedgie. It's easy to understand once I retraced my steps. That's what happens when I have a laptop computer, enough V-8 to keep my stomach from noticing I haven't eaten in about 12 hours and a fast Internet connection. One thing leads to another and humor leads to wedgies. A day in the life. That is what happens when I work all night so that when I fall into bed I sleep like the dead. I haven't had a dream for days--or nights. I miss my dreams. They're so much better than the memory of that image out of my seared and bruised brain. Sometimes the mind is a terrible thing to paste haste taste baste -- aw, hell, wedgie.

That is all. Disperse.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

You are what you...

Someone once told me she didn't buy expensive food or go to good restaurants because whatever you eat or drink it ends up in the toilet. I had to stop and think about that one--for a minute, but only for a minute. That's like saying there's no sense buying good clothes that last because they just wear out or that buying anything that is made well and might cost more isn't worth it because it will inevitably end up in the trash or at the dump. It sounds almost like a good idea but then another minute ticks by and common sense rushes in--at least it did with me. It's a very negative way of thinking.

What she fails to see is that eating good food, even when it costs more, means your body is getting better nutrients. Food breaks down and nourishes the body, keeps us alive, and some part of the food--the inedible part--ends up as waste. Even waste has use. Better food--even when it costs more--means a better ultimate form of energy to repair and strengthen the body. Cheap food with lots of additives will keep you alive but you're wasting your money because it isn't good for the body. It's the same with clothing or cars or anything worth having. Buy better made clothing and it will most likely cost more because the materials and labor cost more, but the clothing will last longer. Same for cars and everything else. You get what you pay for.

McDonald's and other fast food restaurants are cheap but they're not going to supply the body with what it needs and will supply more chemicals and additives that will break the body down. Cheap clothing wears out faster. Cheap cars break down more often. But cost isn't the only measuring stick. There are lots of expensive things made and manufactured of cheap material with even cheaper labor. It pays to look closer.

Back in my youth I sold vacuum cleaners (Rainbows) door to door. I knocked on the door of a chicken coop wondering why the office made an appointment for me with chickens. I knew people must live there, but if they couldn't afford anything better than a chicken coop I was wasting my time.

I was wrong.

The inside of the chicken coop was very nicely furnished and showed evidence of taste and style. The couple bought the Rainbow and paid cash for it. They didn't have a lot of floor or upholstery to drapes to use it on but they bought it anyway. I didn't quibble about making a sale, but I was curious why they lived the way they did. I asked.

They told me they lived there because it was well made and inexpensive to heat and cool and because it was paid for. It was part of the land the husband's father had owned for generations and the only part of his family's once vast holdings he still owned. Taxes and bad management had eaten away at their holdings until almost nothing was left but he was determined to hang onto what he still had and eventually buy back the rest.

He and his wife worked for years, scrimping and saving, denying themselves every luxury--and even children--until they had the money to buy back the land. It was too late. They were in their 70s and they finally realized they had used up their whole life looking toward some day and they forgot to live. They had no family to inherit the land but they had a lot of money. They decided to spend the money fixing up their home and buying all the things they denied themselves over the years. The couple were happy and seemed well suited to each other. There was an easy sense of familiarity in their demeanor and actions.

"I didn't give my wife much luxury over the years and she never complained. She worked right by my side the whole time. I was a fool," he said.

His wife patted his hand and looked up at him with such devotion and love. "Doesn't matter. You're still my fool."

Looking only at the outside of things is usually a mistake. When you look at the cost and not at what you're getting or what you're giving up, you're looking at the wrong end of things. Everything you eat doesn't end up in the toilet. Everything you buy to wear or use or drive isn't going to end up on the scrap heap or in a land fill. Some things last. It's getting harder and harder to figure out what will last, but it's definitely worth the effort finding it.

The saying goes that we are what we eat. It's much more basic than that. We are what we choose . . . and sometimes we get a chance to trade a bad choice for a good one.

That is all. Disperse.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

A little dream

Ever wake up from a dream so real you had trouble coming back to reality? I have.

According to Walt Disney's Cinderella, a dream is a wish your heart makes when you're fast asleep. I'm not sure about my heart, but I don't really want to be kissed and held by a vampire. However, the actor is definitely high on my list of men I would not slap if he kissed me. That kiss was amazing, and not just because the kiss was good. That kiss came with the full package of senses. I felt the press of his lips long after I woke up--for days after I woke up. I kept touching my lips because I could still feel the kiss. And that wasn't all either. His scent lingered on my skin. I felt the strength and weight of his arms around me. I could hear his voice. I tasted that kiss for days. It was one dream I couldn't shake off for a long time. Even now, years after the experience I still remember how it felt. It was a very powerful dream. Was it a wish? It wasn't a conscious wish, but a heart felt wish . . .? I don't know.

The other night (or rather early in the morning) it wasn't a kiss that woke me. There was someone in my bed. He leaned over me, naked and aroused, and kissed me. I touched his side, my hand near a mole or a freckle, as he bent down to kiss me. He pulled me closer and I smelled the clean warm scent of his skin. My fingers traced a path through the crisp dark hair on his chest, some of which was gray, and his voice sent chills through me. "I missed you" whispered in my ears and I shivered as he moved closer.

Then I woke up.

I was in shock, a psychic whiplash of shock. The bed was warm where he lay. My skin tingled where he touched me and I could still feel his weight pressing down, the smooth silky feel of his skin, the hair on his chest, his lips against my neck, the sound of his voice, his scent. I knew where I was but he was all around me. I kept smiling the whole day as the memory drifted back into my mind. He was no actor and certainly no vampire. He was real and the sense of loss is just as real.

A long time ago I learned how to get back into a dream when I've wakened suddenly. It's called directed dreaming. I can plan and choreograph and even schedule dreams. I don't think what happened the other morning was a dream. I couldn't get back into it. I couldn't even get close. The palpable sense of reality was gone and all that was left was dreams of what felt so real and so immediate. It's not the same thing.

I dream of flying (and not in a plane). I dream of going to a university of sorts where I learn about esoterica. I travel the world and the universe in dreams. I connect with those close to me in dreams and communicate with them. What happened was no dream and it is a wish my heart definitely made. My soul, my mind and my body also made that wish.

It's no wonder fantasists who create worlds where dreamers can take someone anywhere they want to go warn about getting trapped inside the dream. There are some dreams so real they are worth being trapped inside. But therein lies the danger.

Dreams are addictive and seductive. A dream can be like a siren's call that lures us onto the rocks. Such dreams are an escape from an unhappy reality that leaves us depressed, miserable, unfulfilled and resentful of the choices we make that keep us bound and gagged. Dreams are like a vacation, an escape into a happier reality, but they are a limited escape. For a few days or a week or even a month, vacations offer a break from day-to-day realities, a chance to rest, relax and recharge before going back to responsibilities and duty and work. Vacations don't last.

Dreams shouldn't last in the abstract. If a dream is a wish the heart makes, then it's time to pay attention and make the dream a reality instead of making reality a dream. Nothing is impossible . . . only difficult sometimes to achieve. Dreams have their place, like vacations, but living inside a dream far from the reach of reality is no vacation. It's not even a picnic. It's the road to a padded cell.

I can still feel and hear and smell and taste him. He's real . . . and he's not real. He was here; I'm certain of that. He isn't here now and now I need to get to work. That is my reality. My heart wishes for a different reality but I won't find it in a dream. The dream is a trap, seductive and highly addictive because it insulates and isolates me. The dream is an escape that puts life and reality on hold. The dream makes it easier to bear the depression and the misery and the longing, but happiness is close enough to touch. All I need to do is reach out and take hold of it in the here and now.

Dreams fool us into believing they are real, lingering in the mind and in the senses to be called up any time. It's still nothing more than a dream. Dreams are wisps of fog that disappear under a warm sun. Dreams should disappear so they don't trap us and anesthetize us to pain and doubt and fear. Dreams are a road map, a candle on the path to take us to reality but only if we are willing to leave unhappiness and missed opportunities behind.

I remember the dream. I feel everything I felt the other morning when I let down my guard and listen to my heart. But I still have to work and earn a living. I have other dreams, like writing and selling and publishing my stories. That dream is a reality. I have other dreams to fulfill, but not in the darkness in the middle of the night or as the sun warms the horizon and rises up to warm the air and clear the fog. Those dreams will have to wait. I'm busy with reality.

Even Cinderella climbed out of the cinders to go to the ball. Without the pumpkin, mice and rats, Cinderella would still be sitting in the ashes dreaming and waiting on her evil stepmother and stepsisters.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Paperwork in a paperless society

Contracts, contracts and more contracts. I'm sick of paperwork.

In addition to the paperwork that accompanies all the stuff I'm selling on eBay, I have finally settled on a publishing company for one of my novels. I'm sending the contracts out today and have already emailed copies to their office. I don't know why they need hard copies, too, except for the signatures. So why not send them either by snail mail or email but not both? Oh, well, just one more thing about publishing to learn and handle.

Last evening I received an email from Colleen Sell of Cup of Comfort books. She bought one of my stories for Cup of Comfort for Single Moms. That book will be out April 2008. Now that I'm finally in that means advance notice of upcoming titles and a better chance of being published by them again. That brings my list of published anthologies to seven, two of which will be out the end of this year or beginning of next year. I haven't been told the final publishing date.

And then there's my first published novel with no one else's name on it but mine. I can live with that. The publisher also asked if I'd be willing to edit some of their books -- working around my schedule of course. He had lots of nice things to say about me and what he knows of my work, which gives me a warm, tingly feeling. All the hard work is finally paying off--in dollars and cents for a change. The offer is a good one and I may just take it if I can find a few spare hours lying around somewhere.

I'm finishing work on two other novels and I already have publishers interested in them. I'm finding out that the trick to getting past the guardians of the holy gates of publishing is to have at least one published book under your belt.

Tor contacted me again about writing a book about Andre Norton, but I don't know where I'll find the time. I sent them an outline and a couple of chapters I roughed out and explained my currently very full schedule. Tor said they'd wait for me and slot me in whenever I was ready. They had more papers for me to sign, but just knowing they're interested makes it work the effort to sign and initial all those papers.

Well, back to the paperwork so I can take them to the post office and send them on their way. Hopefully, I won't have to fill out, sign and mail any more contracts until tomorrow. I'm not used to writing longhand any more.

That is all. Disperse.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Once again with feeling

I don't believe in coincidence.

That being said, I wonder sometimes why the same people keep popping up my life again and again when I thought things were finished. People aren't the only things that keep popping up; situations pop up over and over. It took me a long time to figure out what was happening. After all, didn't the people get it? We were done. Time to move on. And yet, they kept coming back as if to haunt me or someone would mention their name or I'd meet someone who knew them and things would start all over again. It was as if the Universe wouldn't let me get past the past.

That is because the Universe was giving me a kick in the pants to let me know I had unfinished business or there was something yet to learn that I had missed the first time. Sometimes the Universe was giving me another chance because either the other person or I had take the wrong path. I've learned to listen and pay attention. Like I said, I don't believe in coincidence.

I recently connected with some old friends from high school who mentioned someone I've been trying to put into the file I marked "Finished" and shove to the back of the drawer. It was so unexpected. We're chatting about high school and mutual friends and acquaintances and suddenly they drop a bomb. The "Finished" file was open again and I knew I'd have to deal with it again or it would keep popping up when I least expected it and when I thought the past was past. I was living in a fool's paradise.

I know why I've walked away from people and situations in my life. Things weren't working or the other person couldn't get his act together or because I was tired of waiting. I'm a very patient person . . . about some things. Waiting for people to make up their minds is not my long suit. It's like when I was married to Nick.

"Where would you like to go to eat? What movie would you like to see? What would you like do tonight?"

Any of those questions would be opening the door to a long back and forth discussion of, "I don't know. What would you like to eat, see, do?" The worst times were while we were driving on the freeway and I was the one driving (or worse yet, he was driving). There is no time to waffle. A decision must be made or we'd spend hours circling the city on the outer belt or end up driving down into parts of town best not see up close and personal in the dark of night or during a storm. I made the decision. I got impatient. I didn't want to waste time doing the, "I don't know? Whatever you want is fine with me." dance.

Whether I like it or not, the Universe doesn't care how impatient I can be. It continues to throw me back into situations or face to face with people and demands I pay attention and make the right decision. I can be stubborn. When I'm done, I'm done. But the Universe doesn't care when I think someone is done, especially when It isn't satisfied with my decision. I can kick and scream and pout and ignore the Universe all I want, but until I do what I'm supposed to do I'm going to keep coming face to face with what I've left undone or did badly. I know I should have done it right the first time, but I don't always know what right is or was.

I thought I was doing what was best for the other person by walking away. Or maybe I thought it was time to leave. (I've always known when it's time to leave the party.) Many times I have been wrong and it was because I was so focused on playing the martyr or on licking my wounds and bearing my broken heart to the grave that I didn't realize all I had done was run away because I couldn't face the other person or open my mouth and say what was on my mind and in my heart. I knew best. What arrogance!

I made a decision for someone else thinking I knew best. I thought they would be better off without me, that I was hurting them too much, that it would hurt less if I was out of their life and out of the way. I was wrong. I had no right to make that decision. In any relationship between two people there are two points of view to consider. I don't have the right to make the decision for someone else and to do so is the height of arrogance and conceit. It's not like making a decision about where to eat, what to watch or which route to take to put a stop to the endless round of "I don't know, what do you want".

I can say it's because I don't want to hurt them any more. I can play the martyr. I can decide walking away and ignoring them will hurt them less, but it's not my decision. It's not completely their decision either. It is our decision. But that means we have to talk it out, be completely honest about the present and the future, put our intentions and our emotions and thoughts on the table and work it out together. I don't like anyone making decisions for me, so I'm certain no one else wants me to make decisions for them. Relationships are two-way streets.

I'm not talking about cutting a toxic influence out of my life or turning away from someone whose only intention is to suck the energy, creativity and life from me. That's a different story. Only an idiot who is allergic to poison ivy takes off all their clothes and rolls around and beds down in it and expects not to be affected.

I've learned. It takes a few kicks from the Universe sometimes (I am stubborn) but eventually I get the message that I'm not done yet. Until I open my eyes and pay attention, that person is going to keep popping up in one way or another like a manic jack-in-the-box. The message can be subtle at first, but eventually the Universe gets tired of waiting and makes the decision for me, forcing me to face my fears and the other person whether I like it or not. It doesn't matter how much time has passed and it doesn't matter if I've said my goodbyes, as long as I've left something undone or made a decision for someone else I had no right to make, my past will come back to haunt me and I will have to face my fears.

Who knows. Today may be the day.

That is all. Disperse.