Not So Zen

I suspect that I’m frivolous.

Or shallow, at the very least.

Easily swayed by immediate gratification.

There’s this whole idea that if you enjoy the gratification of doing something well, then that’s ego and dangerous to continue.

So, for example, knife-throwing. I know! Exactly what you were thinking, too, right? If you’re truly Zen, or one with the Tao, or enlightened or what have you, then you enjoy the moments that you miss the target just as much as when you hit the bulls-eye. The thrill of a perfect throw means nothing, if you’re truly throwing the knife from a pure heart. The act of throwing is everything. The end result nothing.

Clearly I’m not so enlightened.

I confess to loving the gratification. And I find myself gravitating towards whatever’s giving me the most gratification at any given time.

Right now, it’s work. I’m workin on a project that I helped to create. That I set out years ago to help envision, hire the personnel for, plant the seeds in peoples’ ears — kind of a gross mixed-metaphor there — and coax into life. And people treat me like I’m insightful and they want my expertise.

I know I shouldn’t want it.

But I do.

A couple of areas of my life feel less gratifying right now. One I’ve labored at and some people are unhappy and others are happy for things to go smoothly. Which isn’t a recipe for feeling appreciated. You get flak from the one group and nothing from the other.

And we all know that writing is one of those things where you labor unnoticed for 99% of the time and are showered with admiration for the other 1%. Starving in a garrett and all that. Much more drama than anything else.

There’s supposed to be a pleasure in knife-throwing that exceeds the desire for a perfect result. Peace in the moment. Joy in the attempt.

But, oh my, I just love it when I hit the bulls-eye.

Curse of the Interwebs

I’ve been at 97% for nearly two weeks now.

Twelve days, to be precise, including today. Yeah, it’s one of those so-close-and-yet-so-far things.

I’ve edited, redrafted, rewritten and composed 302 pages of a projected 310. I know — I should be able to finish this in one day of solid work.


It’s been a long day for me. Long enough that it’s nigh on midnight on the clock where I am, later by the clocks back at home. And long enough that I started this blog post this morning on the airplane, then decided I should be working on that last three percent instead.

Now I’m at 98%. Which feels pretty damn great.

And my heroine passed the big test in an unexpected way. (No, neither of us had any idea how she was going to solve the current riddle.)

1% on on a three-hour crowded flight to Seattle. Worth the price of admission.

When I landed, happy with my progress, somewhere around 200 email messages had filled my Blackberry. I loop I’m on had blown up with one unhappy person saying wild things — “flaming,” by the current lingo. I ended up in baggage claim with my laptop perched on my lap, my Blackberry in hand, trying to do several things at once on each.

My mom keeps asking me, if the airlines get internet, will I use it?

I’m thinking, over a thousand words written, another 1% closer. Coincidence?

No no no…

Oral Surgery

This is actually a setting October crescent moon. Held by an unstable hand. Turned out kind of cool, actually. I took this after our first party in the new house, at which I drank a fair amount of wine. Hence the unsteady hand.

The serendipity of over-indulgence.

Yesterday was all about getting ready for the party. Which made a good break for me. No working on the book. No working on work. No blog post, even. No, yesterday was packed with buying food and booze and getting the house clean.

Which, apparently I hadn’t really cleaned since we moved in.

That doesn’t seem like such a big deal, except we’ve been here two months now. And that’s a little long to go. We needed some rebound time from having our house on the market for six months, show-ready all that time. But, that was plenty long enough.

So the mundane tasks demanded my attention and that was okay.

Except for the kitty medical emergency.

I was vaccuming away, only ten minutes behind my intended in-the-shower deadline, when David came in carrying Isabel. I thought he’d captured her before the party, so I nodded and smiled when he said something to me.

“She’s got a cholla burr in her mouth!” He said louder.

Oh. OH!

I turned off the vaccum cleanerand went over to him. Sure enough, there was a big cholla burr hanging off her lip. She was frothing and salivating and I quickly yanked it off.

These things are nasty – big and spiky. Every one of us has stepped on one now. They hurt like hell, but they come out fairly easily. Even Zip, who’s not that bright, has learned to yank them out of his paws with his front teeth and spit them out again.

But, though, the cholla burr came off Isabel’s lip quickly enough, she jumped out of David’s arms, still licking and frothing, and raced for the sanctuary of the bedroom.

“She’s got one inside her mouth, still.” David said.

So, we dug her out from under the bed. I held Isabel on her back on my lap, as I sat on the floor, back against the bed. From my angle, I could see the burr embedded in the roof of her mouth. David held her paws and I tried to grab the thing, but couldn’t get a grip. White fur was flying everywhere.

Meanwhile the guests are arriving in 45 minutes, I haven’t finished the vaccuming and I’m filthy from house-cleaning.

While David fetches the tweezers, I’m thinking about how we could put a note on the door while we take her to the vet, which may or may not be still open this late on a Friday afternoon. Isabel is alternately hissing and pitifully meowing.

I got closer to a grip with the tweezers, but everytime I touched it, Isabel would yank away in pain. So David got a beach towel — the big one we bought in Culebra with the multi-colored giant polka-dots on it. We wrapped her up in it, so only her little white furry face poked out.

This time when I pried open her mouth, we could hold the mummy-cat steady. I yanked that burr right out.

Isabel went to the closet to recover her composure, then slept the rest of the afternoon and evening.

I finished the vaccuming — including a redo of the bedroom — managed to clean-up and cute-up before the first guest arrived.

Fortuntately, no one was right on time.


I have this theory about hotel air-conditioners.

One can’t hep these things, really. When one travels way too much. Like I do. Don’t know if I’ve mentioned it, in the last three to five blogs or so.

Anyway, the state of the modern hotel room is this: you must run AC. Most of the windows are sealed shut, if they ever opened at all. And if you do open them, it’s usually too loud from all the 1) airplanes, 2) people screwing around in the parking lot, 3) traffic, 4) air conditioners.

No, really.

The roar of air conditioners outside the hotel forces one to close the window and…run the air conditioner.

However: Not all thermostates are alike. This is my theory, earth-shattering though it may not be.

This morning I had a conversation with a guy in the fitness room. Which is a hotel euphemism for “really small extra room into which we’ve jammed random pieces of exercise equipment.” We talked aobut how all treadmill s are not alike. That 4 mph is clearly not 4 mph for all treadmills.

This may seem like a minor, even obsessively nitpicky, point.

But you get accustomed to running at a particular speed. And the fact that the exercise machine has a digital readout implies a certain level of scientific accuracy. As if, in our common physical universe, 4 mph might be the same in a hotel in Georgia as it is in a hotel in California. Which is demonstrably not true.

And so it is with the thermostat.

One would think one could find a particular temperature, say 68, that might be one’s ideal room temperature. But 68 in one hotel in another’s 64 is another’s 74. Perhaps, I’m meant to think it’s just me, but three hotels in five nights provides pretty clear empirical evidence.

I suspect it has to do with the individual hotel’s AC system. And the motion-sensor deals kind of stop the thing running at night. Either that, or they tone down the AC at night, to save on money, you know.

Just goes to show, there’s no such thing as a sure thing.

Either that or hotel physics are as questionable as restaurant physics.

Entirely possible.


I’m in Fresno.

Which I guess isn’t that bad.

The last time I was here, in 2002 by my electronic file dates, they told us it was the intravenous drug-use capital of the U.S. A dubious distinction. I’ve asked a couple of people now if that’s still the case. They act like they have absolutely no idea what I’m talking about.

Such is the fleeting nature of human perception.

Tonight, I’m hanging back. So many things I could be working on, not the least of which is the Ruthless Revision. And all the emails. I’m not tired, but I’m not feeling the burn tonight. Maybe there’s been enough burn lately. I told Allison maybe I needed a night off and she agreed.

Which meant a lot to me.

I mean, David and my mom both tell me it’s okay to take a break, to relax, that it all doesn’t have to happen right now. But there’s been a trend lately among some of my friends, of them asking me for more than I feel I can give. Some have become angry with me for not meeting their deadlines, for not doing what they thought I should. I feel like I’ve been letting people down. Which is something that doesn’t always show in me, I think, how much I don’t like being that person.

And yet, more, I won’t become what someone else wants me to be.

So, this is a random post. Not meeting any rules or requirements. Probably not advancing anything in particular.

Tonight I’m watching a romantic movie and drinking wine.

Tomorrow is another day.

So Scarlett assures me.

Birds in Reverse

We saw a robin yesterday. The first robin of Fall, as it were.

No, I know this isn’t a robin. I took the picture to show David this unusual bird that visited the feeder and so that we could identify it. We decided she’s a black-headed grosbeak.

It’s a funny thing, being on the southern end of the Front Range now, because the birds appear in reverse order.

When we arrived, it was all about the hummingbirds, thrashers, bluebirds, jays and towhees. Now the humingbirds have all gone, even the last couple of intrepid ones that stayed to milk the feeder and the butterfly bushes as long as possible.

Then the jerichoes arrived. They stayed a few days and moved along.

Now the robins.

I know it’s unlikely, but I feel like these are birds that have left Laramie when the first snows hit. They’ve migrated down the Front Range, just as we did. They stop here to fuel up on their way to Mexico or farther.

Hi and bye.

Don’t Touch That Dial

One of the interesting things about the online community is the window you get into people’s lives.

Some people post to Facebook or Twitter once or twice a day, little stop-ins to the break room. Others post more frequently. Some in bursts of activity. Others in near-constant streams of updates.

What is striking to me is how often people refer to what they’re watching on TV.

Disclaimer: I’m weird about TV. I really don’t like it. The sound of TV chatter irritates me and I hate hearing it going in the background. I’m psycho enough about this that we don’t have cable or satellite or other feed. We have a television set that we use for the DVD, to play Netflix. But I’m just not a live feed kind of gal. It even bothers me when I click on an article link and discover it’s a video news story. Okay, so there’s that.

So I didn’t “see” any of the Balloon Boy saga yesterday, which was a “a media spectacle of nightmarish dimensions, stunn[ing] viewers nationwide.” The article goes on to say “It began mid-afternoon, and we watched for almost an hour…” Okay, I’m naive, but how is the entire nation watching this for almost an hour? I thought everyone was working then?

I suppose everyone is watching video on their computers. I know Hulu is big — I hear many people reference losing hours to watching old TV shows on Hulu. People also talk about watching movies during the day. Things like “settling in to watch all three original Star Wars movies – yay!”

A lot of these folks are full-time writers.

Which is, of course, my personal brass ring. And when I dream about having that much time to write, I imagine the complex novels I could produce — the ones I can’t quite seem to get my head wrapped around in a couple of hours a day. I think about how much more I could produce.

When I mentioned this to two of be wanna-be-a-full-time-writer friends, about how many writers seem to be watching movies and TV during the day, they both said “I wish!” Which surprised me and, when I said so, they said “Well, I’d like to have that opportunity.”

Of course, I already work from home and they both have the cubicle/commute thing, which I would also hate. And I come from a family of women who don’t fritter away valuable daylight hours. Maybe we all think we’re still desperately tilling the hard Texas soil, but the only time any of us would watch *gasp* DAYTIME TV is if we were sick. One exception: my grandmother religiously watched Days of Our Lives, but for that hour and that hour only. And she always had some sort of mending task set aside, so she could continue to be productive in that hour.

So, I’m wondering now. Is that part of the Writer Dream?

I know plenty of gals who are on various “writing grants” — whether it’s the husband with the well-paying job, the Stay at Home Mom whose kids are in school enough to give her some time to herself, or other kinds of support. I know one gal who left her DC career and lives on her late grandmother’s land and takes care of the property in return for the family’s financial support.

I suppose it all comes down to quality of life. Something unique to each of us.

Hope Is a Thing with Feathers

Allison asked me recently why I thought we do this, the writing thing. If we’re fundamentally insane to think that we could get that brass ring we’re seeking. I said “yes.”

Crazy in a good way maybe. But still crazy.

I recall some of the writers at the UW English Department throwing around the statistic that there are as many writers making a living at writing as there are pro-football players. Which sounds plausible. And no, I didn’t even attempt to fact-check that one.

It’s probably a decent analogy in that the miniscule proportion of football players who make it to the pro ranks does nothing to deter the dream for millions of football-playing young men.

But that doesn’t make it a rational thing.

If you want to play the odds, you become a civil servant. Once in, you’re set forever. And that’s exactly what you get. If you’re willing to work hard and want money, you go for the big money businesses. Those are rational, sane choices.

Which is why most writers have other identities: teachers, professors, HVAC marketers, IT professionals, university book buyers. Even environmental consultants. We’re playing it safe, working the day jobs, keeping the finances in order.

Nobody sees how crazy we are inside. How we obsess and fret. How we nurse our dreams in the dark confines of our hearts. Feeding them little bits of hope now and again. Nursing them back to life when they get crushed and bruised.

The dreams belong only to us, after all.

A Time to Every Purpose, Heaven or No

It’s coming up on that time of year.

No, not Christmas, despite the rumored store displays. Fortunately I haven’t been to a Target or like store recently, so I haven’t been bombarded yet. I’m a strict holiday-orderist (yes, I just made that up). All holidays in their proper order. No Christmas activity of any kind until after Thanksgiving. No Thanksgiving discussions until after Halloween, All Saints Day, Day of the Dead.

Part of moving to a new place is learning the new rhythms.

It’s been odd to me that I haven’t wanted to get the Halloween decs out yet. Some of that is where my focus is, on finishing this revision. I haven’t done a number of things I normally spend my time doing. And being out of my normal patterns, feeling like this is a vacation house and not my usual life at all.

But a huge part of it is the weather, too. The leaves are starting to turn on a few trees now, but we haven’t hard a hard freeze. Certainly no snow. David and I are out on the patio in the evenings, having cocktails and watching the sunset, which would just NOT have happened in Laramie.

So, part of me — the Denver girl who had to wear a parka over her hula dancer costume one year (I wised up and picked WARM costumes after that) and the Laramie girl who associates high chilled winds whipping dead leaves around with Halloween — thinks it’s still summertime. After all, the flowers are still blooming.

But now I’m starting to feel it. Like a whisper in the air. The veil is thinning. The restless dead are teeming in the wings.

The coyotes yipping at night could be the first yelps of the Hunt.