Certain Social Standards and Choosing the Happy

My two boys, enjoying the new recliners and the lovely sunlight of a winter afternoon. I feel sure if Jackson could make his recline, too, he would. 

 

The recliners were a Christmas gift for David. The family all pitched in and we replaced the couch with them. There’s the Before and After. We actually ended up keeping the couch and moving it to another room, which entailed moving stuff from THAT room to an entirely different room, which meant moving the dresser into the closet, and the Big Closet Reorganization, that you may have seen me posting about the last few days. (Mostly on Facebook and Instagram, but there’s a pic here, too.) 

It’s funny because, when I saw Megan Mulry Monday night (we saw The Favourite and had dinner after – if you want to hear my thoughts on the movie, you can listen here), I showed her the pics of the rearrangement. She’s house-sat for us before, so she was familiar with the previous set up. She agreed the recliners were a great idea – so much easier to swivel to watch movies, so comfy! – and then asked what I’d do about the fact that I have two other armchairs on the other side of the room. I started laughing and said, “Nothing! I’m leaving it as is, but my mother said the SAME THING.” So Megan starts laughing, too, saying “Omigod, me and your mom.” (Who she’s met and they enjoy each other.) And I said, “Yeah, my mom said, ‘but you can’t have chair, chair, chair, chair.'” Megan is still snorting into her beer, and says, “I know – like a meeting!”

I suppose I could put a conference table in the middle… 

The thing is – and this is part of why Megan was laughing, because our mothers are very much alike, with Certain Social Standards – the reason I “can’t have chair, chair, chair, chair” because “it looks like a meeting,” is a consideration for entertaining. That’s what Certain Social Standards are all about. There’s nothing wrong with that, and I’m very glad that my mother taught me the social skills she did. I know a lot about entertaining and putting events together, skills that have come in very useful in my corporate work, my career as an author, and in my volunteer work for organizations like SFWA and RWA. Social skills are critical for careers of all kinds, even largely isolated ones like being a writer. My podcast on Friday has engendered a lot of conversation on the etiquette of thanking authors who provide blurbs. 

But in this case, I draw a line, because David and I very rarely entertain. I do not host the Junior League meetings in my house, nor the Bridge Club. We occasionally have parties, though less often than we used to, mostly because it’s so much effort, but even then we have them outside whenever possible. When we do have a dinner party, we move everything around anyway. So why would we arrange our home with an eye toward having OTHER people like it?

I work from home. David is home a great deal, as he has irregular hours. We have a very pretty house with incredible views that we worked hard and dreamed long to acquire. It’s a place of peace and delight to us – so we set up the furniture in a way that adds to our relaxation and pleasure. 

I think this speaks to a larger point of why we make the choices we do. How many of our choices are made to please other people, or to meet their expectations? How often do we make a conscious choice to go against Certain Social Standards and instead do the thing that people might laugh at, but that makes us happy?

Something to ponder. 

 

 

First Cup of Coffee – August 23, 2018

About the Book

Not all desires are shiny and sweet—and the dark ones might change you forever…

It’s not the kind of obsession a tough Army guy can admit to—a jones for Ava, the pretty-princess pop star. Not just her body, the perfect product that sells all those magazines. Her music.

The critics call her human lip gloss, all style and no substance. To Joe Ivanchan, Ava is the exact blend of reality and fantasy that he can tolerate, the closest he’s willing to get to giving his heart after the injury and breakdown that got him out of the service.

But Ava is real. She’s a flesh and blood woman with a publicity machine and an album deadline, along with a whole team of handlers paid to shellac a pristine sheen over a damaged, desperate soul. A woman with fears, with secrets, with desires.

When Joe finds himself in an interview to join her security team as her driver, his instinct is to get away. But the woman behind Ava’s carefully focus-grouped image is even harder to walk away from. The angry needs tormenting her speak to something within Joe. Something empathetic, protective—and primal…

Besides, even a falling star can light up the darkest night.

Buy the Book

Meeting Your Heroes – Awesome Experiences Chapter

A week ago, last Friday, I got to see Dar Williams in concert.

I didn’t get to tell you all about it before this, because we left early the next morning for the long road trip to my mother-in-law’s funeral. But I was super excited for this concert and so happy that the timing worked out so that I could go, as Dar has long been one of my all-time favorite singer/songwriters. I have all of her CDs. Yes, actual CDs, because I started listening to her in the early 90s and I collected every single one. (Admittedly, her two most recent releases I have on iTunes only.)

Back in the early 90s – well, and in the mid and late 90s – I was living in Laramie, Wyoming. I’d bailed on my PhD program, got my Masters degree in ’94, and had decided to become a writer instead of a neuroscientist. As one does.

I’d gotten a job with a petroleum research group as an editor/writer, in order to build my writing chops. I had a terrific boss, and a lovely quiet office, with lots of sunshine and not a lot of pressure. Every morning I listened to Wyoming Public Radio on the local station which broadcast right there from the University of Wyoming campus. After the national shows and news, it went over to Don Woods’ Morning music, which played until noon.

Don loved Dar Williams, and soon I did, too.

My memories of those days are all tied up with learning how to write and to be a writer. I first submitted work to a Wyoming Arts Council literature award because I heard about it on that station. An award I eventually won, years later.

I’d been to see Dar perform twice over the years, but in much bigger venues. That she was coming to the GIG in Santa Fe – an intimate space in my new home town – promised much. I dragged the delightful Megan Mulry along with me – who’d never heard of Dar, but is always up for art excursions of any kind. With the general seating, we snagged chairs in the front row. 

After the show – which was a mix of reading and singing, because Dar has a book out on community and what she’s learned from all her years as a traveling musician – she invited people to stay and chat, get autographs, etc. Unfortunately, in a SNAFU all writers understand far too well, her books didn’t arrive, so she couldn’t sign and sell those. 

Megan – and this is one of the reasons I love her – suggested we hang until the end, then invite Dar to come have a drink with us. “After all,” she said, “this is what the writers do, right?” And Megan and I were already planning to hit up Second Street Brewery for drinks and a late dinner.

So, we hung out, and took a series of silly selfies while we waited. It didn’t take long for the line to wear down and then I got to chat with Dar. Total fangirl moment, which I got out of the way first. I told her how I loved that she talked about public radio and local stations and how they build community, because I first listened to her music on Wyoming Public Radio. Looking back, I see now how important that connection to the greater world was for me, and how much her storytelling via song influenced me. It was funny to discover that we are almost exactly the same age, too.

For fans, I also asked her if “I Won’t Be Your Yoko Ono” was a response to “Be My Yoko Ono” by the Barenaked Ladies. The answer? Amazingly enough, though the songs came out at the same time, they were unrelated. Dar said that if she’d been more media conscious, she might’ve done a throw-down with them. It could still happen.

Megan took our picture together – a first for me, though I’ve happily posed for many photos with readers – and Dar asked about my books. She planned to download the audio book of The Mark of the Tala to listen to on the road the next day. 

Did you get that part? DAR WILLIAMS WAS GOING TO READ MY BOOK.

I can’t even. I think back to that younger me, listening to Wyoming Public Radio and trying to figure out how to be a writer. I came away feeling like I’d made a friend of one of my heroes.

Alas, Dar couldn’t come for a drink as she was leaving early, though she said she normally would. I believed her. She even said she was glad to have met us, especially as the people who wait until the end to talk to her are often weird. Like the guy who sincerely believed she was an alien and they needed to discuss that.

As Megan and I walked out, Dar called my name and hurried after us. She gave me her reading copy of What I Found in a Thousand Towns: A Traveling Musician’s Guide to Rebuilding America’s Communities—One Coffee Shop, Dog Run, and Open-Mike Night at a Time. She’d spilled water and coffee on it, which made it even better. 

Pretty awesome.