Don’t Give Up

The neighbors were having a party, and invited us over. I hadn’t really spoken much past “Nice weather” with these ladies, and it was very pleasant to get to know them better.

To my delight, one of them was and English teacher. I immediately began to talk about authors. She confessed that she was writing a series of books.

A fellow author! I told her about my books. And how the latest took me 12 years to write.

People often ask me how I managed to keep writing over that long time. And if I ever had writer’s block.

Writer’s block seems like a pretty malady. That I might sit down at my keyboard and just not be able to think of anything to write down. That my imagination would be dried up.

Hands poised about my keys, I would freeze, then sigh. I’d get up and take a walk, because my mind would be just empty.

During those 12 years, my mind was never blank. There was a long period when I did not write on my book, but it was not because I had nothing to say.

I had a circumstance at work, with a set of people who were banding together to bully me and coerce me into doing what they pleased.

It has started as a dull roar, but escalated to an all-consuming struggle. I fell into a pit of spinning mental anguish; trying to figure out what I had done wrong, then turning to affirm my innocence, then back to self-recrimination.

It lasted for years. Then an old friend asked to get the gang together–a group of us used to get together and encourage each other’s writing.

I sat around the coffee table and talked with these old friends. I thought, “These people don’t know that I’m not the person they used to know. They still think I am an acceptable human being.”

As I drove home it hit me: I wonder if I could be the person they think I am. What is the path back to that? Perhaps it’s still in reach.

I took a look at what had been keeping me from writing. I recognized that I’d been having conversations in my head with people who weren’t there. And these compelling dialogues–that were never going to happen! –crowded out all creative thought.

I had to stop it cold turkey. No more conversations with people that weren’t there, no more. I would take that impulse, and every time I started to go down that road I would turn it into writing my book.

How could I possibly create beautiful writing when my mind was so twisted?

I couldn’t. But I could sketch basic plot points. I was alone most of the time, so I would record myself creating the story; “This is the part where I realize that Masha will not be there as long as I thought. We were going to her garden, and it was really hot and I had nothing to wear.”

I knew it wasn’t the final draft, but it was what I wanted to use my brain for. Not the miserable vortex I had been living in. I would record the voice memos and put them in the book draft. I could see where there were gaps, and I could do the next voice memo when I was alone.

Having a replacement for the toxic imaginary conversations pulled me back into the person I wanted to be.

It saved me, to have a story I had to tell. A story that was more true than anything that was happening around me, and way more true than the deceptions people were pushing on me.

I suspect every author has their story of how a book struggled to be. People could think that I didn’t give up on my book. I know that my book didn’t give up on me.

Spread It

I’d been invited to a kid birthday party, and in my circle of friends, that means there can be way more adults than kidlets. I had gone around the kitchen island to get some snacks, and was heading past the dining room table with all its seated parents to get to the living room.

One dad had his chair pushed into the aisle, and his elbow thrown over the back of the chair.

“Excuse me,” I said.

He politely moved right away to let me past.

I gave him a shrewd look and said “You’re really manspreading there.”

He’s a cosmopolitan guy, and stretched further into the space to show how very manspreading entitled he could be, leaning into my accusation in hyperbolic humor.

He knew what manspreading means. Do you?

I’ve since realized that it’s not universally known. Women started to complain about the space men habitually took up while riding on public transportation.

This sort of thing is very familiar:

It is not limited to transit. I’ve been noticing men with their legs and elbows out in any chair they land in. At work, at church, at little kids’ birthday parties.

I know as a woman, I am hyper-conscious of the space my body takes up in public space. Like it’s an expensive  piece of real estate and I’m not sure I can afford it.

I am not bringing this up to accuse men of entitlement. That’s covered well elsewhere.

I’m reading a new book Presence. The author, Dr. Amy Cuddy, gave this TED talk. Go ahead and click  after you’re done reading my weekly wonder, it’s good.

The book was written after the TED talk, and goes into so much more detail about how being positive and optimistic makes us better people. Happier people, more effective at our jobs, at anything we set our minds to.

So those entitled men spreading their body parts all over the landscape? Maybe they have something to teach me. I have been endeavoring to stick my elbows out and stretch my legs like I’ve got a right to.

Why not?

Do you have any idea how FOREIGN it feels to let my knees fall apart and stretch my legs out under a table?

This is something girls are absolutely trained not to do.

Even standing at our full height without cocking a hip to seem shorter (assuming the woman in question is tall) is rare.

And high heels for short women. If some of you reading are unaware of manspreading, perhaps you are also unaware of another female phenomenon.

Some women I have met are so accustomed to wearing high heels that their calf tendon has shortened, and it is painful to be in flat shoes.

True story.

People, I am unwilling to shrink myself anymore. I am sure I will fall into it sometimes, but I am moving into a bigger space, and I invite you to join me.

Hands on hip, wide stance, taking on the world.

It can’t hurt and there is evidence that it helps.

Maybe you can learn how to fly.

Sitting in the shade

“Someone’s sitting in the shade today because someone planted a tree a long time ago.” Warren Buffett

The internet brought me that quote last week, and then I couldn’t’ remember who had said it. So I searched for it and found that Warren Buffett is the source of the quote.

The internet said that it means “Rome was not built in a day,” and that it means it takes time to do big things.

Sometimes the internet is stupid.

I can’t help but think about a specific tree I love when I read that quote.

My house was built in 1950. When we first saw it, before we bought it, there was an enormous tree as old as the house itself. 50 year old tree, more than 100 feet tall.
It spread shade over our house, over the lawn and over our neighbors.

It was a glorious tree. I loved that tree.

It died. It caught a virus and had to be cut down. It was hollow in the middle. Look:


And now our backyard has no shade. Someone, once, a long time ago, planted a tree.

And it was glorious.

And then it died.

We had a mature tree in our front yard too. That tree died first. We got another tree, and it is growing. There is a draught in California, where we live, so last summer I scooped the water from my daughter’s bath and dumped it on the tree.

I hoped it was growing. I couldn’t tell because the leaves were all brown.

But look at it now:


It’s green! All green baby leaves in the place it’s supposed to have leaves.


t’s not the sort of tree that you can sit in the shade of.

Which is why that statement by Warren Buffett is more complicated that just, Rome wasn’t built in a day. There are steps and stages, and delayed gratification when it comes to planting trees.

And then there is the part where the tree is almost completely self-sustaining.

I am certain that the person who planted the original tree in my backyard is dead. He did not get to sit in the shade of that tree like I did.

I wonder if I will be around to sit in the shade of the tree that I did plant in the front yard.

I’m still glad I planted it. I can imagine the people who will sit in its shade. One day.

how to get ready to travel the world

Veronica has been saying she wants to see New York City and Paris.

Me too. I’ve seen NYC, but not Paris.

In addition to getting her a passport, I need to help her get the hang of what it means to travel the world.

Ask yourself:

What does it REALLY mean to travel the world?

There are the amazing new sights and sounds; flavors, smells and shapes. The new ways of doing and seeing that lodge in your heart and add a new dimension and understanding to everything.

Yes. YES.

and also, there is the part where you travel on public transportation and walk.

And walk.

Don’t forget the museums. The feet aching museums.

I thought I would try to expose my daughter to some of these things.

We each have tomorrow off.

I thought I might take her to the Norton Simon Museum in Pasadena. They have exotic and splashy art. For a first real art museum, this could be a good one.

She’s been asking to take a train ride. I thought we could walk to the train (WALK! Like World Travelers!) to the train station and go to downtown Union station.

Union station in LA is beautiful. I’ve always wanted to spend time exploring it. maybe Veronica would do that with me.

Then we could walk across the street to Olvera. It’s a bit like going to Mexico, visiting Olvera street.

You can see this is starting to be my favorite choice. Norton Simon can wait. We’ll be having tacos on Olvera.

Chris is worried that it will rain.

That happens when you travel the world too. We’ll bring an unbrella.


I heard someone say last week, that she no longer makes room for overwhelm.

Really? I didn’t think overwhelm worked like that. Whelm implies a flood…and a flood is irrisitable. A different thing, a foreign substance fills your surroundings and threatens your very life.

Water, or quicksand, can overwhelm you in a physical way.

Emotional overwhelm is actualy internally created. I think all of us have felt overwhelmed from time to time. I certainly know what it means when someone else tells me that they feel overwhelmed.

It’s a sense of helplessness.  A sense of being trapped and incapable.

I guess if it comes from my mind, maybe I can turn it off. If I am overwhelmed by feelings and expectations, maybe I can change them.

How crazy is that?

I remember when my daughter was first born. I was overhwhelmed, totally. All the things it took to take care of a newborn! I felt that it would take everything I had and more and I would still fail.

I realized after several months that I was crying. I was crying every day. Not all day, but at least once a day.

I watched myself cry every day. I thought about it, and one day, when I was starting to cry because I was so overwhelmed, I was disgusted with myself. Not only was I so overwhelmed that I was crying, I was mad at myself for crying. It made me want to cry more.

So, that day, I saw myself, and I said to myself, “Crying is the problem, not the solution.”

After that I stopped crying. I did continue feelign overwhelmed, but at least I wasn’t mad at myself for crying.

I cry all the time.

But that was the day I decided to stop crying every day because i was scared and tired and ignorant.

I decided. and I stopped.

I wonder if I can just stop being overwhelmed.

I am going to try it.

Let’s see…Being overwhelmed is the problem, not the solution.

Yeah. That’s true.

Let me see if I can stop the problem

It’s just so exciting

The thing is, she learned about curling irons yesterday. Someone at the mall demonstrTed an expensive one. 

We did not buy that one, but I showed her the miracle of Amazon and we chose another curling iron

She was almost hyperventilating, she was so excited 

And at 2:30 AM She went to the bathroom. It woke us up.

I went to check on her. 


She had lost a tooth, which she hadn’t even realized was loose and tomorrow was day camp with zohreh and everything was SO EXCITING

I didn’t even bring up the curling iron

I tried to think about how to help her get to sleep. I tried to tell her a story, but she kept interrupting with relevant facts.

I made her get up and eat milk and a graham cracker. Then we watched doc mcdtuffins

While the show was on I tried to figure out how to do the tooth fairy. We are low on quarters.

When she went back to bed she checked on the tooth. I told her the tooth fairy might not have put her on the route since she lost it in the middle of the night

She thought the tooth fairy has spies that keep track of all the teeth

Just when I think her breathing is even, she rolls over

I wonder if I could rob her piggy bank to fund the tooth fairy?