10 for 10

“We are just going to have to read translations.”

My book club friend and I had been talking about what book to read next. We’re choosy, and we have already run through so many–MOST–of the good ones.

We’ve shot the canon.

So. For our next book to read, what do we have left? I refuse to spend the rest of my life re-reading books. There must be something more out there.

By chance, the next weekend, I was introduced to a spanish language undergrad. “Can you point me to a few good novels from Spain?” I asked.

“Carlos Ruiz Zafon. Zee-Ay-Eff-Oh-En.” She assured me he was the real deal.

The Shadow of the Wind is where I began. One of the major catalysts for the action of the story is a place called the Cemetery of Forgotten Books.

Now, taking a moment to be personal here, I am a writer. See that? I just wrote that.

As I have learned more about writing and written more, I approach books differently. I am now always aware of the author when I am reading. I used to be able to forget about the author, but now I am aware of the author’s choices when he or she decides to tell the story a particular way.

For example, I read Until I Find You by John Irving and loved it. Hooray! a new author! I went to read more of his works. Then, not very far into the next book, a little boy got his eye put out in a freak car accident. I could not forgive the author for mistreating a little kid, and refused to finish the book. I don’t think he had to do that! Even if eyes of little boys are sometimes put out in real life. I didn’t think the author had to go there.

Back to Zafon: the Cemetery of Forgotten Books is an enormous labyrinth, a very secret place, where books will be protected. They will not disappear, they will be preserved and saved. The stories’ action start or is affected by this place.

In the next story by Zafon, The Prisoner of Heaven, the hero is an author. He writes sensational horror for money, and finally gets a chance to write a REAL story. He writes and pours his soul into this one, and it is dismissed by the critics. His evil publisher pulps all but a very few copies, and he is devastated.

He knows this one is better than the popular stuff he has written, and goes to the mysterious bookseller’s shop, staggering with  broken heart and having nowhere else to go.

‘You once told me of a place where you could keep a book, where it would never be destroyed and be safe forever.’


Oh, Zafon. I understand now. That’s what the Cemetery of Forgotten Books is about.

I am preparing my latest book for publication. This one is the one that matters. I have spent ten years running my soul through a meat grinder to tell this story. And I am about to make it into a book, which has every likelihood of being ignored.

If I had to sell it to a publisher who had a right to destroy it, I might be in the same spot as the brokenhearted hero. It *could* be destroyed by unscrupulous people.

I am not giving up my rights to my story, because I don’t have to. But with great gifts come great responsibility. I will have to find a way to tell the whole world that they need to hear my story. And the whole world is notoriously uninterested in me.

It is possible that this ten year story will bear the same fate as my little 5 month Miriam the Camel Driver story; a few people read it and were delighted.

A very few.

I know there are at least 10 people who will read this Big One. And I know that many more people’s lives would be changed if they read it too.

Be fickle, Fortune, and let this one be discovered. But if not, even if my 10 were the only ones that read it,  for the sake of ten it is still worth it.

What else was I gonna do with those ten years? My soul was going to be ground up anyway.



It’s to Protect What’s Really Important; I Swear

If you haven’t got your health, you haven’t got anything. So, with my busy life, I’ve been turning to meal shakes.

I have a big plastic cup and a fork to mix the powder and the water. I take this with me all over the place, because I have to go all over the place for my job.

I have a few plastic cups, but I have one fork I try to use.

Chris and I took special care to select and purchase our silverware set, and we love the feel of our soup spoons and the heavy butter knife handle.

My travel fork is one that I’ve stolen from a cafeteria. It is a crappy little fork, and that is how it should be. I am super careful to protect this fork so that it will stand in gaurding against the *real* loss of the precious household fork.

I want to hold on to the bad fork so I don’t even risk losing the fork I really care about losing.

This reminds me of another societal crappy thing we work very hard to protect. George Carlin famously refers to the Seven Dirty Words. Of course, there are more than seven. They are words we protect. The dirty words, the cuss words, the profane and the naughty ones.

They are held in reserve, not said on the radio or on TV. Well, they are said on cable–the kind of cable you have to pay extra for.

The dirty words are protected, even though they are expecially tough. In fact, the protected words are so very strong that they have an unbelievable array of meanings. Nearly unlimited. And they are some of the oldest words of any language, english included.

Why are we so careful to protect them?

I was raised to never ever use these words. I never ever heard my mother or my father curse. My dad, when upset, said “Good Night!”

None of my friends said swears. We were even reprimanded from the pulpit not to say “Gosh!” because it was too close to taking the Lord’s name in vain. It was decided that only an exclamation of “Man!” was acceptable.

They wuz crazy.

At my current job, when I started, I noticed immediately that I worked entirely with men.

Men who cussed.

Here’s the thing about cussing: Cussing is a form of escalation. It is a yellow alert. It’s intimidating. It’s threatening.

I made a very quick decision; to fit in I would bring it. If the boys were going to cuss, I was going to cuss more.

It’s not that hard.

But I felt I needed their respect and to be seen as an equal.

On the  threat spectrum, where zero is no threat, cussing is a step down the continuum that ends in somebody getting killed.

I don’t want to get killed. I dont’ want to get beat up or even punched once.

So. In the same way that my crappy fork stands in protection of my good silverware, cussing stands in the place of bodily harm.

It makes sense that we are careful, and that I should be careful with the bad language. It is incredibly powerful and does it’s job very well.

There was a study done recently that talks about these powerful words even having a painkilling affect. Many of us instinctively yell one out when we hammer our finger or stub our toe. It turns out, it works.

Except. We start to build a tolerance if we over use the words too much. We have to protect them, and ourselves.

They are that special.




Maybe me

Dude at the gas station in front of me was trying to cash a check.

“No we don’t do that here. Go to the bank.”

“When does the bank open? This is my ride home”

“10 am. It is 7:30 now”

That’s a long time to wait.

I followed him out. “What do you need?”

“Oh, I’m just trying to get home.”

“What do you need? Gas?” I didn’t know if he has a car or was riding the bus


I rummaged in my purse. I wanted to give him a five, but all I had was 20s. I gave him two ones.

” oh thank you! Let me give you my business card so you can hit me up.”

” oh that’s ok.”

He took my two dollars to the cashier to buy gas. Then I thought, oh that may have been him making a pass at me rather than him offering to repay the money

Or it could have been both.

Sometimes it’s hard to be a Good Samaritan in a dress. Still felt pretty good.


If something is true it is true

Whether Einstein said or whether I said it, if its true its true

How do I know it’s true?

Empowering resonance.


Something is congealing. I have been so despairing lately of finding Excellent and Quality in every day life.

And then I was challenged regarding those definitions, and told that intuition would be a better guide for finding and defining these traits.

INTUITION! Oh please.



so we start with a search for a better definition, a more precise or usable definition..and end up with a measurement that is totally useless.

Or at least totally amorphous.

Which is sort of mockingly useless. Like “If you were more intuitive, you would understand how to use intuition to deal with your life.”

So. Intuition was blocked, so I thought more about quality and excellence.

So, I want to do something excellent. And I want to do quality work.

Side bar: I imagine it is possible to do something excellent that is not very good quality. For example,  Eggers wrote an excellent book (excellent because of the way he got it out there and how many people were affected by it) _A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius_, but I don’t think it was very good quality writing. I read another book _The Stone Diaries_, which is very high quality writing but not an excellent story.

All right. Perhaps Excellence must be coupled with vision. Someone or a group of someones must have the vision of the thing, the Stuff (item, organization, product) that will be excellent. Then the quality of that is to be worked out in practice, but the Vision is the start, and the persistence of vision keeps the excellent idea moving towards its excellent execution.

i have visions every day that i don’t execute. Execution must be coupled with Excellence

So then, for the life cycle of excellent, we have Vision,  Execution, and Excellence


And then today. Out of nearly nowhere, I hear somebody talking to me about “nature”

as in, my nature, the nature of who I am

aw crap. Is that intuition again?

No, this one smells different. They are cousins, though.

It is my nature to do the things I always end up doing.

In my case, that means striking up conversations with strangers.

I LOVE that.

and it also means having a set of things I want to work on and accomplish in a day, and being proud of the high quality work I’ve done at the end of the day while planning the next day’s work

It is against my nature to go limp and  not run full out towards a goal.

I think that when I go against my nature, the cognitive dissonance is so clanging that I have trouble hearing my intuition.

which is what makes it so hard for me to figure this intuition thing out

So here I go again.

I intuitively act according to my nature. I am in tune with myself when I do what comes


to me.

If I am doing something that does not come naturally, then I am constantly tamping down my own alarm system–my intuition–to continue behaving unnaturally.

IF, however, I do what comes naturally, i can then begin to respond in my own unique way to people around me.

It is OK for me to act like myself

it is acceptable for me to act like myself

It is in fact


which is to say:

I ought to lean into this acting-like-myself thing. I ought to run after it


because, after all, that it my nature. To do it hard.

and also, it’s a spec. It’s a requirement.

Like, I would say no if someone suggested that I stay up for 36 hours and not sleep.

I can’t do that.

And if someone suggests that I not pursue my vision of excellence…

I can’t do that.

I would have to say no.

Cult of Childhood

The movie offering to our little one this week—the one that was supposed to entertain and delight while she was recovering from a deep sick spell—was Peter Pan.

Peter Pan started as a play, I know. And it was afterwards novelized. Of course, the essence of Peter Pan is that he resists growing up.

What is so great about being a child that Peter Pan wants to keep it?

Another movie has that glorifies childhood. Winnie the Pooh and Christopher Robin have a bond that they know will only last through childhood; the ache of that moment is so strong through A.A.Milne’s prose:

“If you live to be a hundred, I want to live to be a hundred minus one day so I never have to live without you.”

“If ever there is tomorrow when we’re not together… there is something you must always remember. You are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think. But the most important thing is, even if we’re apart… I’ll always be with you.”

Which…like a flipping minnow, makes me remember…A.A. Milne and JM Barrie wrote these two characters of childhood in the same time and place in history: England, within 20 years of each other. Peter Pan was a play in 1904, and Winnie was 1920s.

One hundred years earlier, in a different place, the Brothers Grimm published the children’s stories they had been collecting. Unlike Barrie, and totally different from Christopher Robin, the brothers had no interest in children

They collected these stories for philological purposes. Philology is a word we don’t really use anymore, we now call it linguistics.  At that time in history, Europe especially was interested in how human races developed. The brothers Grimm wanted to find a trace of how language had developed and look part the limitations of written words. The oral tradition preserved in the stories that had been handed down since before people could remember, were the clues they were following.

Who first said “Once upon a time…”?  The Grimm’s tracked that as best they could, and used that linguistic record to see where the races had settled. At that time, their languages defined the races: Germanic, Scandinavian, Slavic, and more.

At that time, Germany didn’t even exist. It was a geographic area of many different factions. The Grimm’s wanted to unite it.

A lot of people wanted to use racial arguments for territorial rule. This was also the time of colonial expansion. Germany was too factioned at the time to colonize much, but England had almost the opposite problem. Their race—superior in their eyes—had the burden to rule in their widening empire.

Over time, these racial definitions redrew the maps for most of Europe. Deep into the 20th century, during the Cold War, soviet expansion over ‘Slavic’ territory continued.

That was one offshoot of the study of fairy tales, one that was closer to the original intent of Jacob Grimm’s motivation.

Another offshoot was that people were once again exposed to the stories they loved as children. These were an illiterate tradition of story telling, but they were now transcribed. Just like Chaucer saved the English language from the Norman conquerors, the brothers Grimm brought these stories back to light.

They were not the first.  Charles Perrault, a Frenchman, brought us Puss in Boots, Cinderella and Red Riding Hood. And even earlier D’Aulnoy had invented the phrase “Fairy Tales.”

After the Grimm’s, though, something happened.  Hans Christian Anderson in Denmark wrote original fairy tales. He was also trying to promote the united Scandinavian identity. His stories were written not long after the Grimm’s published theirs.

Then back to England. Oscar Wilde, who died in 1900, wrote fairy tales too.  These were very English, satirical Victorian pieces. The very structure of the story is childish, even if the topics are not.

The idea of children’s’ literature is firmly in place by the 20th century. And JM Barrie, with Peter Pan, gives us the idea that growing up is to be resisted.

The idea of a boy having the adventures—as also occurs in Doctor Doolittle (also from that time)—how exciting!

And then after WW2, the beloved Wardrobe opened, and the four siblings discovered Narnia. Battle fought, good conquers, and a kingdom won, but then the children return home as children.

In my homeland, America, another man became tangled with the idea of childhood. Walt Disney founded his creative empire on the imagination of children. Which coincided so well with the population growth of America—the baby boomers and their newly affluent parents.

Those same parents who had lived through the depressed as children, and the rationing of the world at war.

If they could be adored by the stuffed creatures in the hundred acre wood…

Or be able to fly through adventures in a Neverland island of constant adventure and no responsibility…

It might not have been for them in their girdles and suit-and-tie days. But their children could watch Davy Crocket and by gum, they would HAVE that raccoon tail hat.

And Disneyland still is freshly painted and pretty and more popular than ever.

What I don’t know, and hope to find out, is whether any other non-English-speaking culture has this same cult of childhood. I haven’t read enough translated literature to be sure.

I’m sure Peter Pan has been translated for others. But does France have a correllary character? Did the brothers Grimm have a hero boy that descended from their original hausmarchen?

I would love to read those stories too.












womanly flow

Have you read _flow_? it talks about that state of perfect challenge, a blissful state of doing something *just* hard enough to be interesting and to have a chance at success…And the place where we are most likely to achieve that satisfaction is in our JOB.
I love my daughter, but I do not like being a mother. I mean, almost all of the activities of being a mother are very drudgey.
I love the right sort of mental challenge. And wifing and mothering…not that kind of challenge.
So. arranging the flowers in the bouquet of my life…how do I fit all these in?
How do i arrange it to be pleasing to me?

How would she know?

She kept saying “Mommy! I have to get out of here.” I told her that it takes to me get better when you are sick. Time and sleep. “No mommy, sleep is not going to help.” So I told her that I know it does because I’ve been sick before. “Really?” she said.
poor thing.