Where I write

Where I write

March 12, 2015

Secrets that We Keep

    Journals make people nervous. Let me be more specific. Having someone who knows us find and read our journal can produce as much anxiety as walking naked on a public street. Unless you live in nudist camp, but I bet even people who wander in the buff keep their journals private if not his or her privates private. Above are my two journals that are at least 15 year's old. I'm not a journal writer, but at one time I tried. I got bored with my own thoughts. But that's just me.

 One journal is full and the other half full, both contain a lot of angst, and fear and a whole lot of whining. I wouldn't want the world to read either. But then journal writing is not intended for an audience. 

     Journals are suppose to be a safe place to express one's feelings knowing that no one else will ever read what is written.  In a perfect world that is.  I knew a woman who  burned her journals for fear what she wrote would be read. (My imagination sprang to life when she told me that. Had she robbed a bank? Been married 10 times?)  Some people store journals in secret locations. Other people freak out when they lose their journal. I've met people who  refuse to even write in a journal for fear it might someday be read.
    Recently, the writer Anne Lamott said in an interview that she was thrilled when her deceased father's journal was given to her by a woman who had lived with her father. It probably felt as if he had come back to life, if only on the page. Anne said she loved her dad, a writer, a lot and they were close. He died some years ago. She had some happy expectations when she opened his journal.  Much to her surprise her dad wrote some nasty things about her and her lifestyle at the time. She was angry and deeply hurt. How does one yell at a dead person? Eventually, she was able to put it in perspective and forgive him. Still, it stung, as of course it would. Spoken words can be forgotten but when it is in black white. Harder to forget and forgive.

     Then there are the old fashioned letters. Remember them? How quaint the concept now seems, paper, envelopes and stamps.
   In this book that literary critics panned, but the public loved, a farm woman in Iowa dies and her children find her old love letters. The steamy letters were written by the loyal wife and mother to a handsome photographer of historic bridges who had passed through town. The letters are hot enough to warm up a cold Iowa night.  The farm woman and the photographer enjoyed more together than old wood buildings over water. Though the book was fiction, the premise was believable enough for it to be a best seller. Probably because we all have known or heard of someone who stumbles across an old letter(s)of a deceased relative. And we think we know people, right?

    Then there is email. We hit delete and it feels as if our words are gone forever. We are safe. Maybe not. 
Hillary is a prime example. Her emails will be made public. Whatever your politics, the thought that someone would publish all my emails makes me cringe. My mundane  emails about whether I should cut my hair, what I had for dinner, and discussions of how Enrique Iglesias is more handsome without the mole, would make people know how truly shallow I really am. 

Hillary said she mentions her yoga classes in her email. I don't blame her. Yoga is tough. 
    Maybe as I sometimes do, Hillary complained  about yoga teachers who expect us to be like circus performers. Maybe she said, "How can the teacher expect me to put my feet over my head without wrenching my back? I'm not 25 anymore." 

   Finally, I don't know what keeps me holding on to my two journals. Maybe I just like to read them now and then and feel smug at how much wiser, secure and happier I am now. Or maybe I read them and think I haven't changed all that much. Or maybe I just don't like to throw away anything I've written. 

      I'll end with a  quote from Anne Lamott. I promise not to write a mean thing about any of my family or friends. Until you are all dead. Then all bets are off. If I die first, go ahead and say what you like about me. Just don't read my journal.

February 24, 2015

Tea Leaf Reading 101

      In my novel I have a character named LaDonna who is a tea-leaf reading gypsy. Oh sure I know my LaDonna sounds stereotypical, but tea leaf reading interests me. Writers get to be selfish. Sitting all by my lonesome and writing  has to come with some benefit. When I worked for a newspaper, I was required to report upon school board and chamber of commerce meetings. For me, tedious and often downright sleep inducing, but I got a pay check which was nice. Now I get to write whatever I want to write. For free, but at least it's for me. That's even better, perhaps not for the checkbook, but for my soul.
     Of course, I want to entertain readers, too. All fiction writers want their readers to join them in the world he or she has imagined and written about in the pages of an engaging book. In my novel, I want you to come with me on a play date that includes a gypsy who will tell you your future in a tea cup. The dishes, the dog that needs walked and the taxes that must get done, can wait. I promise no one says on his or her death bed they wished they had kept a  cleaner house or had a nicer front lawn. 

One can't sit in a room alone day after day and just write. Alright I admit some writers do, but I get antsy.  Many writers travel, or take classes, do all sorts of fun stuff so they can write with authority on subjects. Leaving the keyboard and joining the real world can be beneficial.  So when the opportunity to take a tea leaf reading class, right in my own neighborhood, of course I had to attend. Here we are pondering our tea cups. There were about 20 women in the class, and there were tasty sweets, too! I never turn down sugar. My dentist thanks me for that. Keeps him busy.
I'm still learning, and have since  even bought a tea leaf reading book to understand the symbols. I don't intend to become LaDonna, trade writing for reading tea leaves. One basic thing to know, though, is you must use a cup with a wide bottom. No mugs. Preferably white.  Loose leaf tea is another requirement, and some understanding of what the symbols can mean. Intuition is as important as the tea. And there are other rituals, but I can't give away all my secrets.
What do you see? The woman teaching the class said she saw a man on the left walking and on the right, a figure, perhaps God, or other protective spirit, slightly above watching over the man. Or maybe you see something else. I liked the teacher's interpretation. 
I saw a fish tail in this clump of tea. Do you see the tail on the upper right? Maybe you just see a clump. The teacher said it looked like a bush which can mean new friends. A fish symbolizes good fortune and success. I like both takes.
I learned you don't have to dress up like this gal to be a tea leaf reader to be credible. Though I have to admit that is one cool hat she has on. Right? Writers usually have an idea of what  characters look like and then search for words to describe that image. I'm still struggling with describing my La Donna but getting closer. I like to think of her like the woman pictured below. Or maybe not. I guess I'm waiting for her to come to me. Writers get to say odd things like that.  I can't wait forever, though, so for now I'll just write.
I've always thought it would be great to have red hair. I'll never look this glamorous, or have such lovely skin, but it's fun to create a character who might. Another perk of writing. We get to inhabit the bodies and minds of people we will never get to be in real life. That's okay. 
I've got a cute cabbage tea pot (thanks Linda!), and when I'm needing a break from writing, I'm ready to practice tea leaf reading. Once I finish this novel, maybe I will make a character a scuba diver. I'd like to see that fish jump out of my tea cup and meet it eye to eye deep in the ocean blue.



February 4, 2015

Back in the Saddle Again.


     There are some things in life we have to learn the hard way. I was told to back up my computer files, but did I listen? Nope. Harold in my writing group reminded me dozens of times to back up my novel, but I couldn't be bothered. Too lazy. 

    My computer died in December.  After a lot of anguish and hand wringing, a lot of moaning and groaning, several trips to the giant electronics store  I am back in the saddle again. With reluctance I forced my aged brain to learn about computers, but most of all I learned when a young man at an electronics store tells you anything is easy, such as "oh it's easy to  transfer information from your old hard drive to a new hard drive" don't believe him. To the geeks who work at electronics stores everything is easy. Besides learning to always back up everything, such as oh say a novel you've been working on forever, I've learned with computers easy is relative to how geeky you are. 

    Every electronics store should hire a wise and patient middle aged woman who will  take us other middle aged women by the hand, pour us a glass of  wine, and kindly help us decide what computer to purchase,explain Windows 8.1 and how to transfer photos from our phone to our computer and so on. But then I also dream of being able to eat whatever I want and never get fat and that will never happen, either.

    My screen, speakers, desk and chair are the same, all I purchased new was the tower...the brain..the big black thing in the photo above that operates the computer. Too bad I can't just buy myself a new brain. Maybe then I could remember something longer than a minute. In the end I recovered my novel and most my photos, but I lost stuff too. Lesson learned. There will continue to be lessons until I die, but that one I can check off the list.

     Anyway, I was at my writing group yesterday and my friend Denise gave us some wonderful prompts to write. I'm going to share what I wrote for one of them as I attempt to get back where I was before I lost my mind...I mean computer. Denise asked us to write a letter to our 15 year old self and wouldn't you know I happened to find a photo of my 15 year old self just the other day. Really. Thanks Denise for the great prompt!


Dear Teenager Self: 

Enjoy high school. Got to class and listen. Focus less on making the pom pom squad and more on the honor roll. Don't enroll in Home Economics just because you think it's easy. You will never want to thread a needle or cook a roast. Ever. Take Spanish and Consumer Education and don't worry about hemming skirts. 


Be happy you don't have a job, or a car payment or a mortgage or have to worry if social security will be still around when you are 65. 

All you have to do is go to school, learn and have fun with your friends. Enjoy life and don't be in such a hurry to grow up. 

Someday you will go to your 40th year class reunion and realize that boys are just human and not one of them owned a white horse and would ride you into a sunset toward a castle. Besides, who wants to clean a castle anyway.


Appreciate your young and healthy lungs, eyes and heart. Love your mind and don't worry about what  people are thinking about you as you will later see that they weren't thinking about you at all.Give your mom and dad and little brother, Billy, a lot of hugs and kisses and hold them tight as they will all be gone way too soon. 


Finally, appreciate you can wear a mini skirt and tube top as that will end, too. Love, Your younger self.

I'm closing  with a photo I took at my high school reunion this summer. I knew all these gals when they were 15 year's old. I can even remember their names...Jenny, Michelle, Debbie and Debbie, Jan, Cindy and Chris. I'd never forget their lovely faces.

Whatever they may or may not want to tell their younger selves, and I'm sure these intelligent and gorgeous women would have plenty to reflect upon, I have to say we all turned out fine.  


November 19, 2014

 


Sometimes, instead of writing, I browse Craig's list looking for stuff like a purple couch. I've always wanted one.  Owning a purple couch, as compared to brown or black, feels like a risk I can do unlike sky diving, driving in Los Angeles or getting a tummy tuck.

When not trawling for purple couches, I read the help wanted advertisements for servers. Most servers (no matter what they tell you) are always keeping one eye open for a restaurant that offers more money, less side work and shorter hours. I like looking at the want ads for two reason. One because it makes me feel as if, even though I'm not writing, I'm doing something productive. It's  a mind game I play with myself. One of many of which I am the star justifying her actions.
 
The second reason I like to look is how they are written. Here is an ad for a private country club looking for servers. Servers needed who can supply Warm Welcomes, Magic Moments and Fond Farewells.


Just how warm? Luke or steamy? If not balloons and streamers, a big hug, or a smooch? Is there a server training manual on how to be warm? And what about these magic moments?
Can a server top this? Doubtful this can be created plopping a plate with a bloody rib eye and a baked potato on the table. I don't know about your life, but I've never ate in a restaurant and experienced a moment as magical as wearing an evening gown and being swept off my feet by a  man who kisses me passionately in the middle of the street. The pressure to compete with that makes my server self tired at just the thought.


And what about those fond farewells. This looks fond to me. What is better than cowboys waving and telling you happy trails. Cute. Too bad we can't fit horses into the restaurant. Besides, if people have tipped well most servers will feel very fond about the guest and be smiling as they leave. If they have not tipped, well then comes the attitude problem.

Speaking of attitude. Here is another posting on Craig's List for a server wanted.

     "Restaurant/bar/nightclub is in need of great, happy, food servers.
Please be available and ready to work. We don't deal with ATTITUDES please!We are busy NOW, so, we need you ASAP! Come on!


The person who wrote that ad seems to have a bit of an attitude.  Rather pushy, eh? At least the word please is used. I know what the ad means, but impossible. Everyone has an attitude. It's our perception that makes the decision if it is good or a bad attitude. Surely the writer of the ad has never seen this chart before:








A person without an attitude would have to be like this....
 
So far they haven't figured out a way to replace servers with robots. Yet.

The most warm welcomes, magic moments and fond farewells have never happened to me because a server, a stranger, created them. It was because of the people that sat at the table, my friends or family, and dined with me.

When we rely on a server to make us enjoy our meal, then we will always be disappointed. No one has ever made me happy. Oh people have kept me entertained for awhile, but in the end it was my own choice whether to smile.
A server doesn't need to become your best friend. His or her job is to be competent and kind, serve safe and tasty food, and then adios!

 If the person sitting across the table from you isn't someone you want to be sharing food with then even if the server tap dances while standing on her head and whistling your favorite tune, it won't be enough. I understand what restaurants are looking for, serving not just food but people's emotional needs as well.

I don't know about you, but I have trouble figuring out, and meeting, the  emotional needs of my loved ones much less someone
coming for a hamburger. People need to be responsible for making their own magical moments.  And perhaps they should also be required to supply the warm welcome and fond farewell to his or her server.  Its likely they will get one in return. I see so many grumpy faces every night coming into the restaurant. Why? These aren't people suffering in hospital beds, or walking into a funeral parlor,or visiting the tax man.  
Anyway, I betcha if this young man applied for the restaurant job he'd be hired even with an attitude... though perhaps he'd have to keep off the shirt.