Hush

I love Pablo Neruda’s poetry; it is exquisite. If you go to this link on brain pickings where I found this poem, you can hear it read by Sylvia Boorstein.

“KEEPING QUIET”

by Pablo Neruda
Now we will count to twelve

and we will all keep still.
For once on the face of the earth,

let’s not speak in any language;

let’s stop for one second,

and not move our arms so much.
It would be an exotic moment

without rush, without engines;

we would all be together

in a sudden strangeness.
Fisherman in the cold sea

would not harm whales

and the man gathering salt

would look at his hurt hands.
Those who prepare green wars,

wars with gas, wars with fire,

victories with no survivors,

would put on clean clothes

and walk about with their brothers

in the shade, doing nothing.

 

What I want should not be confused

with total inactivity.

Life is what it is about;

I want no truck with death.
If we were not so single-minded

about keeping our lives moving,

and for once could do nothing,

perhaps a huge silence

might interrupt this sadness

of never understanding ourselves

and of threatening ourselves with death.

Perhaps the earth can teach us

as when everything seems dead

and later proves to be alive.
Now I’ll count up to twelve

and you keep quiet and I will go.

Sex isn’t just in the city, it’s in your make-up bag

Musings on make-up:

1. If you want a neon dunderhead sign to appear above your forehead, walk into Sephora and say the following: “You know that spackle stuff you use to fill in holes when you paint walls? I need something like that for the pores in my nose.”

2. I have a tiny bottle of Advanced Night Repair lotion. The fact that it’s labeled “repair” implies it’s designed to fix something that’s already broken, that being my face. “Advanced” is equally disturbing because it’s not suggesting I’m at the head of the class. And, does the lotion truly know if I’m applying it after the sun sets?

3. As much as I loved the shade, I just could not commit to wearing Orgasm Blush by NARS. I refuse to buy a product that I’m embarrassed to ask for by name. Then there’s the issue of walking around all day wearing something that mimics a post-sex flush.

4. Had I known the name of this product before it was applied to my eyelashes, it would have definitely fallen under the “I can’t buy this because I can’t ask for it” rule. Now I’m doomed because I’m really impressed with everything about it except the name: Better Than Sex Mascara by Too Faced.

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I’m not sure I want to know who at their corporation weighed the options, sex vs. mascara, and decided the winner. It bothers me to think what this might reveal about their sex lives. But what I found intriguing was the “proof” touted on the product insert that attests to its being better than sex. Though none of these were standards I’ve ever been aware were used as qualifiers for good vs. bad sex.

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“Longer lashes”? Maybe if you’re into bondage? And I’m not going anywhere near “base-to-tip curl” or “dramatic volume” for that matter.

So, instead of, “Not tonight, I have a headache,” some women will defer to, “Not tonight, I’ve already used my mascara”?

Can we start moving beauty products out of the bedroom and into the kitchen? I’d buy a case of mascara named “Coffee Toffee Bar Crunch” or a dozen blushes called “red velvet cheesecake.”

 

 

featured image from total beauty.com

Five things that make me scream, “WTH?”

In no particular order:

1. A woman dining at Huck Finn’s Restaurant & Sports Bar in the French Quarter was given a lunch receipt with the “N-” word and “!00% dislike” printed below the item she’d ordered.

Okay…to start, raise your hand if you knew your servers could write messages on the receipts? Not me. Which might be a good thing, especially when we dined out during my years as a teacher. One message I did receive was the word “bitch” neatly printed at the top of a test paper. The next day, I placed the test on an overhead projector (not showing the student’s name, of course…heaven forbid I violate his/her right to privacy). I informed the class that, should anyone want to use this word again in reference to me, it had to be preceded by the words, “Your Royal Highness.” And every word had to be spelled correctly or points would be deducted.

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But back to the matter at hand…Of all the restaurants in the city, this server worked in one that bore the name of a novel that’s been under fire for years for its controversial use of that very word.

2. I’m verklempt that I missed National Pothole Day sponsored by Fix My Streets Nola.  I would have sent photos from my neighborhood where some streets look like black tarred Swiss cheese with holes deep enough to be hot tubs after a hard rain.

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Photo above found at First Draft: ” We begin with one from my yellow blogger buddy Jeffrey who has become a Twitter legend as @skooks. Jeff’s pothole was there from July, 2010 to January, 2015.  This still life dates from March, 2011 and is called Pothole sofa”

3. When he discovered his flight was overbooked, a man at the Charlotte airport did what most reasonable people would do to protest. He stripped naked. And, of course, a waiting passenger took pictures and promptly posted them on Facebook. Because seeing a gray-haired, slightly overweight naked man in handcuffs is what everyone’s been waiting to see on their FB wall.

4. A recent poll by Jetsetter showed that hotel sex is better than sex at home. Assuming they mean couples already in a relationship, married or otherwise, having sex with one another (as opposed to traveling trysts), they needed a poll to make that discovery? Gosh…you think maybe not having to cook dinner, do homework with the kids, monitor bath time to make sure the kids are actually using soap and water, tucking said kids into bed after folding laundry, taking out the dog for the fifteenth time that day so it can smell six thousand blades of grass before peeing for 2.1 seconds..might have something to do with that?

5. An 11-year-old in California just graduated from college. I suppose he’ll have to pursue a doctorate and beyond until he’s old enough to drive himself to work.

Why everyone needs a crap-detector friend

This story starts before Hurricane Katrina. (And, yes, even though it’s been nine years and nine months since the bitch hit New Orleans, it remains—like it does for many New Orleanians—a seminal event in my life…but that’s a post for another day.)

I called Carrie Randolph and asked her to meet me at a local coffee shop because I had something I wanted to show her. She didn’t even ask why or what. She came. Because that’s what friends of your heart and soul do. They know you teeter between sanity and craziness, but they trust and love you anyway.

Carrie taught Spanish at the same school where I taught English. It’s where we met and how we came to be friends. To say Carrie is “just” a teacher would be like saying Barbra Streisand is “just” a singer. I admired, appreciated and respected her for her excellence in the classroom, and for her enthusiasm and passion as a reader. We both breathed books.

Her opinion as a reader mattered to me. It mattered so much that, when we both settled at the table with our coffee that evening, it was as if I slid the pages I’d written across the Red Sea. I trusted that the walls of fear wouldn’t collapse on me, and one way or another, I’d come out on the other side. Watching her read, my heart wrung its hands and my brain paced across the coffee shop. She read often and enough to know if it was crap. I knew she’d tell me the truth.

I don’t remember her exact words when she finished the pages. I do remember, all these years later, that she gave me what I needed to keep writing. And I did. Those first pages eventually grew to my first novel, Walking on Broken Glass, which was published five years after Katrina.

What difference does a reader make?

For me, it was the difference between seeing myself as writer and an author. In one of her blog posts, Jami Gold, a paranormal author, said: “I am a writer because I write, but ‘author’ embodies my goals, my actions, and my attitude toward writing.  So I swallow the self-doubt that plagues most of us writers and strive to live up to the word ‘author.’ “

One reader made a difference. A life-changing difference.

 

 

 

 

Introvert or extrovert…we all start with vert

Because I’m caught between the Domestic Diva-ness of getting the cottage and apartment ready for the vaca guests tomorrow, and playing Florence Nightingale to my husband who just had surgery, I’m just now sitting…just to be sitting.

So, I’m “repurposing” a blog post that captures my angsty writing moments:

 

“Author John Green, who has penned a number of acclaimed Young Adult novels, puts it this way: “Writing is something you do alone. It’s a profession for introverts who want to tell you a story, but don’t want to make eye contact while doing it.” From the blog, A New Fiction Writers Forum, “Why Introverts Make Good Writers”

CGBlake, author of the blog, shares a sentiment widely expressed by others, which is most writers would call themselves introverts. For many of these writers, being asked to speak publicly is about as appealing as pole dancing on Bourbon Street.

I am not one of those writers (though pole dancing would be a totally humiliating experience for me mostly because with my lack of grace and athletic ability, I’d have a head injury in less than twenty seconds).

After spending 25 years teaching high school English, I’m not uncomfortable being in the public forum. The by-product of decades being the target of thirty or more sets of eyeballs. Over the years, I developed my teacher “with-it-ness” to recognize when their eyes looked like glazed donuts.

But teaching and sometimes (often?) entertaining teens is far less intimidating for me than presenting to my peers. It’s not so much the being “on stage” as it is attempting to be the “sage on stage” while I’m there. I’m eager to volunteer to give workshops or attend conferences for the opportunity to meet readers and/or other writers. Then, when I arrive and find myself in the company of well-respected agents/editors and writers whose books are NYT bestsellers, my inner child has a wee panic attack.

I wonder, even after having written six novels, what I could say that would be share-worthy because I don’t feel like I’m there yet. That there place where everyone else who’s found recognition must hang out and have lavish parties and chocolate-induced comas.

So, I remind myself that I’ll never be there unless I’m here first. Challenging myself to grow as a writer means being willing to fall off the pole and to trust that the people I meet will catch me.

 

The one impossible Mother’s Day gift

I’ve been procrastinating writing this post with some legitimacy. The husband had surgery on Friday, all went well thanks to the skilled hands of the physician and the grace of God. I stayed with him overnight, and we arrived home this afternoon. For the next two weeks, he is confined to the house…no riding in cars, no up and down the stairs, no nothing. I’m now praying to the HBO and SEC gods to provide entertainment for him; otherwise; I may have to find some pain pills of my own. But, that’s another post for another day.

So, why have I hesitated?

Because Sunday is Mother’s Day.

It’s a day of celebrating, honoring and thanking the women in our lives who, biologically or otherwise, nurtured, loved, mothered us.

(Disclaimer: if you’re one of those people who have lived a charmed life, raised by perfect parents and grown to be perfect yourselves, you’ll probably want to stop reading now.)

But it’s also a time I grieve the losses of my grandmothers, my mother who died when I was in my 30s when she was four years younger than I am now. I grieve for my daughter who lost her only child, my first grandchild, after a month in this world. And I grieve for the mother I could have been.

Between the ages of 24 and 32, I had five children. Five precious, beautiful, and delightfully messy kids…and I had no idea how to be a mother. To be a cupcake-baking, mud pie-making, and adventure-taking mother.

Here’s the gift I want for Mother’s Day. The gift my children, my husband, not even I will be able to give myself.

I want a mommy mulligan (not the stew…the golf mulligan, the extra you’re allowed after a poor shot that doesn’t count on your score card). I want a do-over and over and over again, but knowing what I know now.

I’ve missed so many things in my children’s lives. Some of that’s on me, some not. The reasons don’t matter. Not now. I can never recapture those times. And, for the record, this isn’t a one-woman pity party. It’s the painful reality of my life that I’ve had to own because if I didn’t, it would own me.

My children all live away from home now. One lives three hours away, the others six hours away. I miss them everyday.

I can’t ever fill the well of sadness and regret in my heart. But I’ve promised myself, and them, that I will spend the rest of my life doing what I can to fill the empty spaces in theirs.

 (The photo is of my grandmother holding my mother.)

Why reading to your children matters

“In the great green room

There was a telephone

And a red balloon

And a picture of—”

My youngest child just married a few months ago, but the lines from Margaret Wise Brown’s Goodnight Moon are as familiar to me now as they were decades earlier.

They should be. I started reading the book to my oldest when he was four, then his sister born three years later, then his twin sisters another three years later, and two years later, to the last of my five children.

When my first grandchild was still no bigger than an aspirin, I bought a copy of Goodnight Moon, and anticipated that sweet moment when we’d snuggle and read it together.

I’d like to share that my reading to my children when they were young developed a hunger in them reach for books to feed themselves. But, they all came to the table late, as it were, only now as adults with tastes of their own.

My older son reads Chuck Palahniuk when he’s not reading to his daughters. His brother reads golf books along with an occasional Holes and The Hunger Games. My oldest daughter samples writers ranging from George R.R. Martin’s Game of Thrones to Emily Giffin. One of her sisters prefers nonfiction along with bites of women’s fiction. Her other sister, born with Down’s Syndrome, reads Nancy Drew, Disney books, and whatever she can find about her latest star crush.

I mention my daughter’s syndrome to make a point. Well, perhaps, several points. Doctors told me she may not ever be able to read or write (she does both), and her love for books is testimony to the power of stories to transcend and transform…even for those who some consider “disabled.”

This past Christmas, I found a graphic print with one my middle daughter’s  (her twin) favorite expressions when she tells me goodbye, “I love you to the moon and back.”

It’s so sweet to come full circle.

“Goodnight stars

Goodnight air

Goodnight noises everywhere.”

From Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When a book idea falls into my brain, and I’m not there to catch it

This post originally appeared on Girlfriends Book Club, a blog written by a gumbo of about twenty-seven-ish women, who share their agonies and ecstasies about writing, for authors and for readers. Funny, smart, talented women. And me.
     A few nights ago, I took my customary running leap into bed (we have one of those old, four-posters…and, yes, I know there are stools for beds, but they look too much like church kneelers, which I find disturbing next to my bed. But that’s another story). Just as my cheek met the cool pillow, an idea charged through my sleepy stupor into my brain.
     A brilliant idea. Brilliant, I tell you. Nothing less than brilliant. Enough to hip-shove The Hunger Games into Twilight. Enough to make Brad Pitt want my phone number to ask if he could play the male lead. Enough to tell Angelina she couldn’t bribe me for the female lead.
     I can’t tell you the idea.
     Why? Because I can’t remember it. Because I didn’t drag my brilliant butt out of bed to write it down. Because I didn’t lean over and risk a head injury to find the paper and pen I store in my nightstand to scribble the idea.
     I should know better. Well, I do know better. As soon as I hear my brain whisper, “Oh, this one is so A-MAZING, you won’t forget it,” I need to make one of those Bella Swan Cullen new-vampire dashes to write it.  Unfortunately, unlike Stephenie Meyer, I do not wake up from a dream with a four-book series in my head.
     So, where do my ideas originate?
     In the most boring of circumstances.  Like one day, after retrieving mail from my mailbox, I wondered, “What if a woman went out to get her mail and never returned? Or what if she walked out in one year, but when she walked back into her house, twenty years had passed?”  (BTW…if I want to watch my adult children practice synchronized eye rolling, all I have to do is mention this idea.)
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     Those two words, “what if?” can launch me into writer orbit. But I have to be willing to turn ideas inside out and upside down. I have to muzzle the editor in my brain who says, “Go you…you’ve just thought of the dumbest premise in the known universe.”
     Years and years ago, I attended a conference and delighted in listening to Georgia Heard talk about her recent book, For the Good of the Earth and Sun:Teaching Poetry. What I most remember is her talking about poetry constantly surrounding us, that it’s everywhere…from the worn steps outside your grandmother’s house to drinking coffee with a friend.
     And while those may not be ideas that carry a novel into hundreds of pages, they’re a beginning. Even poems marinate in my brain. When I read “Patterns” by Amy Lowell or “The Lanyard” by Billy Collins, I just know a story is there waiting to happen.
     If there is anything I’ve learned, it’s this: whatever the idea, however ridiculous and goofy it may seem at the time, I must write it down.
     It’s a gift. And it doesn’t always keep on giving.