Friday, July 22, 2011

Follow Me Home

I have a little story to tell. If you know me personally I’ve probably bored you with the details already (perhaps multiple times on the same occasion, depending on how deep into the wine I’ve dipped). But the series of events in this small true tale won’t leave me be. They are pinching me at my desk and poking me awake at night and I fear I will have no respite until I commit them to paper. Instead of simply writing them down, however, I’ve turned the whole shebang into a writing exercise. I’m somewhat obsessed with point of view. My inclination is to write in the first person or in third person omniscient as the main character. But I’m always intrigued by multiple points of view, as in One Day or The Help. I’m also a tad in awe of authors who utilize a minor character’s point of view to drive the story. And so, here, though it might be gimmicky at best and painful at worst, I give you my story as told by. . . wait for it . . . my dog. Apologies in advance . . .

The woman was straight up pissed. Cartoonish, even. Red-faced with steam coming out her ears, her eyes bloated and bulb-like, that vein at her left temple threatening to blow. You know why? Because it was her fault. She left the gate open, even after jabbing her finger at the boys and threatening a Gulag-type existence if they let me escape. She forgot I was outside. Worse yet, she hadn’t taken me running for a few days, even though she knows I’m a Husky and I’m born to run, baby. And, frankly, I think she was hungover. I can smell those things.

I saw that cracked gate and popped smoke. I didn’t mess around this time, either. I didn’t stop to sniff road kill or mark the neighbor’s mailbox (Though, for the record, if your mailbox is shaped like a wide-mouth bass, I think you have it coming). I got my sprint on. I felt badly for a moment. I knew she’d had a rough few weeks. I’d sensed the tension in her movements, heard her crying, felt the long, hard exhalations that jostled my head in her lap. She was taking up less space. The house, which was too cumbersome and too expensive for a half-time mom, was swallowing her a little each day. I thought about running back and leaning into her legs, but then the delicious heat from the asphalt hit my paws like a drug.

Honking, swerving, yelling with pumped fists—all the world noticed me as I tore down the street, crossing from one side to the other and back again. She and the boys followed me in the car. The older boy, he tried to entice me with cookies as she pulled alongside. But what’s a cookie compared to the open road? I’m a traveler, man. I won’t sell my soul for a treat. Eventually he became angry and started chucking them at me as hard as he could. Rotten kid’s got an arm. The little one? He just cried. “I don’t want to watch her die!” I heard him scream. This from a boy who has not only run into traffic on numerous occasions, laughing maniacally in the face of certain death, but who recently licked a wild mushroom “just to see if it was really poisonous.” Pots and kettles, my child. Pots and kettles.

A few miles down, she almost got me in the pool enclosure of an apartment complex. I thought the jig was up. I was cornered, trapped in some sort of fancy celebration amongst silver serving dishes and ladies in ruffled dresses. She wore running shorts and a sports bra. And pink slippers. I won’t lie; I was a little embarrassed. I was like, “Nah, party people, she’s not my owner. My real owner washes her face occasionally.” She lunged for me and I leaped over her like a creature of the Serengeti. Real Discovery Channel shit. (I’m still replaying that one). And then I was off again. Born Free . . . until I tasted pavement. Ouch. Some dude—some dude barely outta high school in a plaid button down and shitkickers—jumped out of a truck (one of those ubiquitous Northern California trucks sporting a gun rack and duck decals) and took me down. Game. Over. I guess he’d been following me the whole time, trying to help. She offered to compensate him, but he declined and, with a literal tip of his ball cap, disappeared. I heard her tell the kids, in her hyperbolic way, that he restored her faith in humanity.

This is where things get interesting. Fast forward four weeks. (Four weeks filled with a dive down to the rockiest of bottoms. With the paralytic odor of depression. With late night conversations about fear and loss and a yearning for peace in the abstract, and concrete discussions about the market and downsizing and a fresh start.) She was reluctantly suiting up for a run (which, between you and me, usually ends up being more of a walk/run these days). She had the shoes on, the earbuds in, the thick layer of sunscreen that makes her look like a Kabuki actor dying of consumption. “Alright,” she sighed, “let’s go girl. We’ll run by the cottage today.” The cottage. The cottage that was the perfect size and the perfect price and only a mile away and in the kids’ school district and biking distance to the creek. The cottage with the red door and the blue shutters and the big-ass lawn with the big-ass tree for climbing and swinging. The cottage she’d seen online a few days back and emailed about but had heard only crickets in response. The cottage she knew she couldn’t actually have because the ad said, quite clearly, No Dogs. (And besides, she’d never admit it, but I think she had started to believe she didn’t deserve good things.)

We stalked it anyway. Just as she was about to turn the corner and head back home, she paused and, for some reason, turned around. A car pulled up in front of the cottage right at that moment.

“Do you live here?” she said to the guy getting out of the car.

“Yea, but I’m moving in a couple of weeks,” he said. And then, “Hey! I know your dog.”

I narrowed my eyes. He did look familiar. I sniffed the air. Oh Snap! IT WAS THE DUDE. THE DUDE WHO TACKLED ME.

They chatted for a bit about me--how fast I am, how pretty I am, how nice I am--and then she mentioned her obsession with the house. He invited her in to see it. She may have actually swooned. It’s like the space was designed precisely for her. And can I just tell you about the kitchen? That kitchen was ripe for all sorts of culinary nonsense.

But, alas, the ad said No Dogs. And the landlord hadn’t returned any emails.

“No problem,” the dude said. “My mom grew up with the landlord. I’ll put in a good word for you. We can call her now if you want.”

Call it kismet, call it providential, call it serendipity . . . I now call it home. And this place? This place smells like hope.

Monday, April 25, 2011

To Each Her Own

So I’m finally watching Mad Men. (Yes, I am quite tardy to that party. In other news, I hear there’s a fancy new way to withdraw money from your account without going into the bank!) Okay, maybe watching isn’t the most appropriate word. I’m devouring episodes at a pace that makes me think the Romans were on to something with that whole Vomitorium concept. (At this point, the only impediment to a complete and utter Mad Men bender is my frugality – I only get two DVDs at a time with my cheap ‘flix subscription.) In addition to being just plain riveting entertainment, the show--like the fictional advertisements Don Draper and company create—engenders a number of thoughts and feelings. Some are flippant: even though I don’t smoke I sure could go for a Lucky Strike right now; when did we stop drinking in the office; we should reinstate drinking in the office; when did we stop having sex in the office, for that matter . . . etc.

But some go deeper . . .

I was surprised to find myself, I’m somewhat ashamed to admit, enticed by the show’s clearly defined gender roles. Men brought home the proverbial bacon and wives kept house, tended to the children, and made themselves pretty. In the office, men wore the suits (good gracious, how they wore them) and women rocked the steno pads. Everyone, with few exceptions, knew their place. Maybe it’s the leaning tower of files on my desk and the 4 weekly little league games and the bottomless craters my boys call stomachs and the fact that my neurotic cat won’t eat unless I’m simultaneously petting him, but--for just a moment--I coveted that life. For someone else to make the decisions. For an either/or existence—either work or family. For blatant in-your-face sexism and gender discrimination instead of the insidious mommy-track.

I came to my senses fairly quickly. Of course I wouldn’t want to travel back to a time when women had fewer choices. And, of course I know the women of the Mad Men era were not models of contentment—a hasty perusal of any Richard Yates novel will tell you that. But I’m not sure the modern concept that women can, and more importantly should, have it all is the panacea, either. Kris and I used to spend precious billable hours debating the issue of whether it was even possible for a woman to “have it all.” We decided that, no, she can’t . . . at least not the way society (which, make no mistake, is still largely male run) defines it. Sure, today we can be wives and mothers and professionals. And that’s to be celebrated. But even as law firms announce "flexible" schedules and Working Mother magazine makes lists of family friendly companies and we stand on the shoulder pads of the brave pioneers before us and roar—we still can’t have it all. At least not in the manner it has been billed by our mothers’ generation. Which is to say, we can’t have the exact same career as the man in the corner office and also the same family life as the woman who makes her own baby food and takes her hand-knit-sweater-wearing, sleep-sharing, violin-playing kid to Kindermusik. Put another way, even if boozy workday lunches were the norm, and even if we’d now be invited to throw back the scotch with our colleagues instead of simply securing the reservation, many of us would have to decline so we could sit in our offices pumping breast milk for our babies in an attempt to assuage the guilt we inevitably feel for putting them in daycare and going back to work in the first place.


Maybe we need to redefine for ourselves and the generations of women to come what having it all means (and hope that my grandmother and Gloria Steinem will forgive us). Maybe we need to recognize that we don’t have to be everything to everyone. That having it all can mean something different to each of us. We imparted Abby, The Pecking Order’s protagonist, with this notion. I do not suggest that our novel is in any way a treatise on the plight of working women or some sort of feminist manifesto. It’s light and it’s funny (and it’s a little racy at times). Still, like most women, Abby struggles with having it all. And, like most women, she often fails by modern social standards. She is at times not likeable or sympathetic, but she is real. And that’s why we have mad love for her.

(If you feel like giving her a chance, you can download the book here.)

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

So You Wanna Stress Therapy Dog?

Yale law school now has a therapy dog available to students. A stress therapy dog. I guess it goes something like this – you take an absurdly difficult Torts exam (yes, for you fortunate non-lawyers, there’s a subject called Torts, and it isn’t remotely like tortes), after which you head over to the-well I’m not sure where they keep the therapy dog . . . wherever you must go to sign out Fido the terrier. (No, wait. This is law school. The poor pooch will have some dorky lawyer-y name like Habeas or Res Ipsa. And while I’m at it, a terrier? Really? Seems a bit of a yippy breed to be remotely relaxing, but I digress.) So you check out Habeas, take him home and curl around him in a fetal position. Problem solved? I don’t think so. And I’m not maligning stress therapy dogs. Or therapy. Or dogs. I’ve had plenty of both over the years and I’m a kinder, gentler Kris (or perhaps just a marginally less crazy Kris) for it. But I guess it’s the notion that the profession (as early as the poor budding baby lawyers in law school) is so inherently stressful that we need the likes of a therapy dog to get us through our days. It seems like a pretty clear case of treating the symptom rather than the condition. But how do you treat such an entrenched condition, with its white shoes and top tiers and all that? I don’t know. And in my defense (one can take the girl out of the law firm, but . . .) this blog only promises "tenuously related insights into the legal profession", not answers.

What I do know is that law firm culture, unless it experiences a significant shift, will continue to suck the souls from and ravage the bodies of those ambitious yet naive enough to pursue this path. It’s why David Kazzie’s Xtra Normal Video “So You Wanna Go To Law School” was not only a web sensation, but also reposted on Facebook by every lawyer I know. It’s why my former firm lost four brilliant women in a matter of two months, and shortly thereafter, every man who wanted to see his children, or perhaps just do some pleasure reading. It's why every third lawyer you know dreams of writing a bestseller and jettisoning the whole wretched practice, present company included. And yes, there is personal choice and responsibility, and sure, there are manageable firms and more mellow jobs, and fine, this post might be infused with a tad bit of hyperbole, but doesn’t the stress therapy terrier say it all?

Friday, March 25, 2011

It Was The Best Of Times

It's Friday, and it's been raining for 40 days and nights (not the proverbial 40 days and nights, people, I'm talking true blue rain) and I haven't had a glass of wine all week and I'm out of Taco Bell sauce (again) and one kid said the "F" word and the other brought home an "F" and I busted out nearly 6,000 words over the past 72 hours. So, yea, I'm a little punchy. Maybe that's why today's The Book or Bust post hit me so hard. The blogger sent the first 50 pages of her manuscript to a requesting agent yesterday. Sigh. Oh how I remember those days. Full of waiting and hoping and casting the movie and spending the advance. We wish her the best of luck - shiny pennies found on street corners, four-leaf clovers, and the feet of rabbits. And we also encourage her, and other writers in her position, to cherish this time, as nerve-wracking as it may be. Because it is a rich, rich time. A time measured in units of possibility.

For us, the age of querying agents and readying manuscripts for editors and crossing our fingers (and toes and legs and eyes and any other body part capable of crossing) began (believe it or not!) nearly 7 years ago. And, for The Pecking Order, it has come to an end. We are now entering a new era with respect to that book, one equally rich, equally teeming with potential. So stay tuned for an exciting announcement in the next few days. Long live The Pecking Order!

Oh, and p.s., to all you naysayers: I really didn't drink wine for a week. Not since St. Patrick's Day. Which I spent with Kris. I won't go into the sordid details, but her first words to me the next morning, via text no less (because neither of us could make the short walk to the other end of her house), were, "Dude. You with a tolerance is a bad bad thing." Cheers my friends:)

The Book or Bust: We're Off To See The Wizard#links

Sunday, March 13, 2011

All the Ladies in the House!

I love women. Not in the Sapphic sense (though there was a rockin’ mom at school pick-up last week . . . I’m talking ink, pixie-cut, yoga body . . .), but in the divine secrets/traveling pants/ride shotgun with Thelma sort of way. In the way girlfriends can sense a shift in each other’s moods over the span of hundreds of miles. In the way a night out with the ladies can act as an intravenous drip for the soul. In the way even the most gut-wrenching laments inevitably evolve into gut-busting laughter in the presence of certain women. Sisters, you know what I’m talking about. (And guys, in case you’re wondering, yep . . . we talk about everything. It’s a good thing. A necessary thing. Get over it.)

For some reason, though, women can be the harshest critics of one another. Who among us hasn’t judged or been judged by body type or clothing style or parenting choices? (My kid used a pacifier until he was 5, so I've received my fair share of snarky comments.) If you work outside the home, you’re likely familiar with that particular breed of professional woman, more senior to you, who views your ascent up the ladder as a threat and is more likely to step on your fingers than lend a hand and hoist you up a rung or two. It used to baffle me, this lack of gender solidarity, but I think I’ve figured it out. I guess maybe it boils down to a feeling, however misguided, that her success/happiness/ability to eat 17 bowls of ice cream without gaining an ounce somehow negatively affects my ability to do the same.

But that’s just crazy-talk. What if Kris—Kris my writing partner, my kindred spirit, the doppelganger of my very heart—what if she had refused to pass my resume on to the rest of the firm’s hiring committee because she didn’t want the competition? We’d have missed out on not only a deep friendship and rare creative partnership, but also on the little things that make life rich--late-night wine-fests in the office and Mah Jongg tournaments and repeated viewings of the O.C. (Seth Cohen, I still love you; Coop, I wish you’d died earlier; Oliver, I’ve erased you from my memory).

I guess what I’m saying is, other women gettin’ theirs doesn’t preclude you from gettin’ yours. In fact, I’d argue it serves as inspiration, a light to guide you on your own path. Case in point: the go fug girls, hilarious purveyors of my favorite website, have co-authored a novel, Spoiled, coming out in hardcover on June 1. The two-worlds colliding storyline appeals to every fiber of my young-adult-chick-lit-Pretty-in-Pink-loving being. (And, really, with characters named Molly Dix and Brooke Berlin, how can you go wrong?) But, aside from the book itself, I dig that two women have realized a dream. If they can make it happen, we can, too. And so can you. And you. And all of you. I hope they sell a gazillion copies. Love and luck to them . . . and to all my gurls.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Seeing the Color

There are a number of things that differentiate people who write. And not in some highfalutin, elitist way. And I don't just mean professional writers or writers who have work published. I mean writers in the broadest sense of the word. Those who write letters and long e-mails and meticulously crafted Facebook status updates. Those whose love to read and cherish words, especially when they are strung together in prescient and precise metaphors and similes. Take this one from my new favorite book, This Is Where I Leave You by Jonathon Tropper (do yourself a favor and read it): "These middle-aged women in the early stages of disrepair…genetics help some more than others, but they are all like melting ice cream bars, slowly sliding down the stick as they come apart." My goodness, that's good. But I digress.

What do these people have in common? Many things, I suppose, but certainly the art of observation. Of taking in their surroundings, appreciating the nuances, the absurdities, the cliches, the beauty, the offensive. (This is, by the way, what makes Tropper's work so brilliant, so engaging, so freaking hilarious. Apologies, this post is apparently now doubling as a plug for my new favorite book.) A dear friend of mine sums up this quality as seeing the color in life, and seeing it as brightly in the grocery store as in the Yosemite Valley. This week, while I was traveling for work, there was plenty of color to see. Is there a better place than the airport, where time seems to melt and bend, to take stock of your surroundings, welcome epiphanies, and consider the existential? Okay, well, maybe I left the epiphanies and the existential for another day, but what follows are my observations from four airports in two days:

A woman, late twenties, early thirties, dressed fashionably with all the trappings of upper middle class-dom, an iphone, a Netbook, a purse with a name I recognized. The first time I looked her way, she had three fingers in her mouth. And I mean in there. Up to the second knuckle. Okay, that's fine. We all get that pesky popcorn kernel wedged between a molar now and then. And if you don't have floss, who am I to begrudge you going in for it. (I will spare you a diatribe on the germ factor in airports . . .). When I looked at her a second time, probably five minutes later, her fingers are still in there, deep enough to tickle her uvula. Only those time she was taking a different angle, leading me to believe this was not a battle against a popcorn kernel shell. The next time, 15ish minutes later (and before you wonder who's the strange one here, she was in my direct line of sight to the gate from which I'd be boarding), Fingers. Still. In. Mouth. And, again, we're not talking biting off a hangnail. We're talking four fingers all in. So I had to wonder, what is going on there? Is it a fetish? Did she just have oral surgery? What would make someone who appears to conform to social norms flout them so obviously right there in the mini micro brew at the Portland airport?

I accidentally walked into the men's restroom at the Spokane airport (no, I wasn't drunk or tired or anything, really, other than, wait for it . . ., nonobservant). I skated in, somehow missing the five unoccupied urinals on the wall, with no problem. When I went to leave, those urinals had occupants so I had to hide in the stall and wait for the entitled to exit. Eventually they did. And neither washed their hands. What is that, men?

A Medicare eligible woman with a nose ring. Nothing else about her tipped its hat toward counter culture. That intrigued me. And not because I have some misguided notion that people with the wisdom of years subscribe strictly to the mainstream. I understand that people now in their 60s were doing things in the 60s and 70s that I've never imagined. I get that. But let's be honest, those folks, if they still embrace the spirit of that time on into their golden years, usually wear it on their skin in the form of tattoos or something else other than piercings. Nose rings seem so, I don't know, Portlandia. So 90s. So Eddie Vedder. And I'm interested in when this woman decided to pierce her nose and what led her to finally say, yeah, let's do this.

I could go on and on, but this post is already much too long so I will leave you with this. A woman who walked to the plane with me, wearing polyester slacks, the kind with the coarse seam down the front and an elastic waist. The kind my kindergarten teacher used to wear in, lo, 1978. She was talkative, steady on her feet, younger than the woman with the nose ring, and headed to Spokane. She told me with pride that she hadn't flown in 30 years. 30 years. Almost as long as I've been alive. (Yes, if you've done your math, you know that's a little generous to me). So why was she there? What finally spurred her to get on a plane after 30 years? A funeral? She certainly didn't have an air of mourning or sadness about her. A graduation? Not the right time of year.

There are so many questions and so many possible explanations for all of these things. And, in reality, I could have struck up conversation on all accounts and found answers. But that's the thing about writing and observations; if I had asked, I couldn't craft my own characters and write my own endings.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011


In an uncharacteristic move (and a possibly unsettling one for those who know me), I'm keeping this brief. In short, I’ve had an epiphany, courtesy of my kids fighting over the last of the gummi cherry hearts. It goes like this: to achieve balance, sanity, success as a writer, I must get my Roshambo on . . . play a little Rock, Paper, Scissors.

Let’s start with Paper, the medium of my chosen art form (ignoring, for the purposes of this strained metaphor, the Kindle and all Kindle-like devices). You wanna write? Then do it. Get your ideas on paper. Sit down and scratch out some prose. And do it often. But remember, as even the youngest Roshambo player quickly learns, you can't throw Paper every time and expect to win. At some point, those Scissors have to come along . . .

. . . and shear off the useless, the superfluous, that which hinders forward progress. Yes, I’m talking about cutting from manuscripts (you should have seen the carnage from our first professional edit), but also about life. Sure, it’s nice to make homemade confections for your kid’s bake sale, but what are those gooey chocolately squares doing for your characters, your plot, your agent search? A whole lot of nothing. Carve away the unnecessary. Stop by the bakery on the way home and call it good. Get some wine while you're at it. It helps.

And don't forget the Rock. (Anyone else picturing Dwayne Johnson? Shirtless? But I digress...) I’m relying on homonyms here to make this work but, again, it’s my strained metaphor so my prerogative. Rock. Not a stone for skipping, but Rock as in I Wanna Rock and R.O.C.K. in the USA and, dare I say it, Rock Lobster. In other words, ROCK! Surround yourself with kick-ass music. With transcendental art. With film and theatre and dance and paintings and clothing and humor and food that beckon your muse. That expand your mind creatively. Talk with people who challenge and inspire you. And then take that inspiration (and your glass of Cab, and one of the brownies you pilfered before shipping 'em off to a bunch of ungrateful third-graders), and start throwing Paper all over again.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

'sall good

A word about rejection—not Rejection with a capital “R,” but simple puny plain vanilla everyday mundane rejection. (Because that shift key does make a difference. Think about “right” vs. “Right,” for example. See?)

Okay, fine, for comparison’s sake let’s talk briefly about Rejection. Rejection of the capital variety--professional Rejection--is painful, but also expected and somewhat anonymous. Over time, you get used to agents scribbling “good luck with another agency,” or “not for us,” or, simply “NO!” (“Good God, no” is obviously implied) in the margins of your carefully crafted, blood-soaked and tear-stained queries. At some point (if you stick with it long enough), though you’re disappointed, you really do develop that duck’s back. The Rejections slide right off. I’m not saying you won’t harbor a vendetta against a particularly nasty agent or two, perhaps one who felt the need to say something akin to “how could I possibly sell this you stupid stupid fat smelly writer?” But I digress. Once you land an agent, you face publisher Rejections. These are the biggest and scariest of the big “Rs,” especially when you get the type of Rejection your agent labels the “kiss of death.” (As an aside, why is it a "kiss?" Bitch-slap seems more appropriate.) Which means the publisher “loves your writing style” but doesn’t know “how to sell the book.” In other words, “we dig the book you’ve forgone school plays and promotions and any hint of a normal sex life for, but not enough to go to bat for it.” And there’s nothing you can do to fix it, short of writing an entirely different book. Which is the opposite of awesome. But, again, though you may not like it, you can handle Rejection from these faceless powers that be who sit atop slush piles drinking Manhattans and mocking your font choice.

Lowercase rejection--that’s another animal altogether. It involves watching your mom’s face contort in pain as she reads your manuscript. It’s your friend asking how your “little project” is going before launching into details about her pug’s hemorrhoids. It’s posting your blog on Facebook and getting no love, while your drunken rant likening goldfish crackers to manna from heaven garners a host of thumbs-ups and a page of comments. It’s real and it’s painful and it plays into all your insecurities and fears and co-dependencies. And it sucks. Because I think we all can agree, rejection from someone you know is exponentially worse than a stranger’s rejection.

But I learned something this week. Somewhere along this crazy path to publication (or maybe to financial ruin and cirrhosis of the liver; the jury’s still out), rejection stopped slaying me. I have a friend--an uncommonly bright and talented friend--with whom I shared my work recently. I’d shared short stories and excerpts with her before but, I have to admit, only those I’d chosen carefully because I knew they fit her style—dark and gloomy and decidedly non-mainstream, bleeding into the margins of acceptable subject matter. I knew my current novel wasn’t her brand of artisanal whiskey. I knew that from the first time I told her about it over breakfast and she raised her eyebrows, impaled her pancake, and changed the subject to some new foreign film about excrement. But I sent her the first chapter anyway, just for shiggles. Because if you aren’t willing to put yourself out there, then what’s the point? Might as well keep your desk job.

I believe our subsequent conversation went something like this . . .

“Ummm . . . I read your chapter.”



Awkward pause.

“I’ll tell you what I did like about it. I liked the setting.”


Sniffle. Cough. Yawn.

“You write kind of flowery.”


“Maybe if you, like, toned that down a bit . . . .”


“Anyway, Lou and and I had an amazing time in Napa. We never left the bed, and let me tell you . . . .”

So, you know, essentially she hated it. I guess I should feel honored she said anything at all; she has a rule that if she can’t honestly heap praise, she keeps her mouth shut. (Clearly she’s not cut from the same “pleaser” cloth that I am.) Though I think she must have strained to find something nice to say. I mean, I appreciate the effort, but the setting? Really?

But here’s the upshot (to borrow one of Kris’s favorite phrases) . . . it didn’t bother me. I get it. It’s not her style or a subject matter that interests her. And I am a flowery writer. I lean toward the verbose and I never met a metaphor I didn’t want to whisk off to Vegas. I think it works for this book and the demographic I’m wooing. I’ve been writing long enough and had enough input over the years to feel secure in my vision. That doesn’t mean I won’t take another look at it with her comments in mind--criticism is always helpful. I may tone it down a bit, but I don’t anticipate a major overhaul. One person’s excrement is another person’s art and vice versa. It’s nice to finally live here, in a place where rejection doesn’t sour me on my work. In fact, I might even invite my friend over for pancakes when the book is published.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011


You know when you first hear a word or phrase and then you hear it again and again in a matter of days? My latest iteration of this phenomenon, which really should have a name (yes, I know awareness is probably sufficient, but a quippy name would be so much better), is with the french term "mise en place". Credit goes to an episode of Top Chef, after which it showed up in varying contexts and situations. I've comandeered it as my own now, terrible accent and all. And while mise en place is a beautiful thing to say, not to mention a lovely concept for we type-A-the-Container-Store-might-be-my-heaven folks, the phenomenon I will call awareness (for lack of that quippy term) has recently spoken to me in a more profound way--not with a word or a phrase, but in an idea, a notion, a lesson, if you will.

The weeks leading up to the holidays included for me a book club meeting, a Mahjong game (if you don't know it, learn it, its fantastic, not to mention addictive and, in my house, always involves wine), and a fair amount of yoga. Out of each of these delightful endeavors came a consistent theme. At book club, we read Last Night in Montreal about a girl, Lilia, who, as a result of a vagabond childhood, couldn't stay in one place, emotionally or physically. She remained on what she called the surface of life, never diving in, never taking the risks, feeling the fear, experiencing the pain, or relishing the joy. At Mahjong, a dear friend discussed her fear of buying a dog for her kids, already anticipating the death of the animal they don't yet have but know they will love like a family member. All of this made me think about what is required of us, in the bigger sense. How invested must we become in our own existences? I found the answer at yoga - sweet, blessed yoga, where construct is meaningless and questions can be cast aside for their cosmic irrelevance. At the end of a practice, sweaty and splayed out on our mats, we were told to thank ourselves for showing up. Just showing up. Not for executing the best downward dog or flying into crow. But for being there, ready to take on whatever the body and the universe was offering up that day. Showing up. That is what is required of us.

For you fellow over-achievers, showing up might connote mediocrity, but to my mind, it is anything but mailing it in. Showing up is engaging, opening up, being vulnerable to all that life has to offer, the good and the bad. Because, to be sure, you can't have one without the other. That might mean bringing home that new fluffy puppy, or allowing yourself to finally fall in love, or continuing to write in the face of repeated rejection and failure, all of which bring both joy and pain. So this is me, showing up. I hope to see you here.