Saturday, December 31, 2011
So, the ladies in my arthritis water class are generally supportive about almost everything, but they completely mocked me when I told them my New Year's resolutions would be only things that make me happy.
Right away, Janice pointed out, "Good luck with that on April 15." It appears she believes there's nothing happy about coughing up your taxes and that, unlike Martha, I couldn't be happy in a federal prison. Quite possibly she's right about that, too. Bunk beds and orange clothes, yuck.
But, actually, I think I just expressed my Happy Resolutions plan poorly. I don't mean I plan to only do happy things -- somebody has to clean up the cat barf, after all and sooner or later it will be my turn.
I mean that, here today, as 2011 fades, I am only going to make resolutions to do things that raise my spirits, encourage my better nature and, thereby, make me happy.
Here's the deal. I have two or three really big, bright, wonderful goals for this year. And, from many decades of experience, I've deduced that the absolutely worst place to store goals you care about is anywhere close to a New Year's resolution. It's way too dark and cold in there, and the moaning of the broken and lost is simply too dispiriting. Also the Guilt and Blame Levels (GBLs) are way too high for the support of optimism. Or maybe even life itself.
Here's what I meant by happy resolutions. First of all, I'm only making five. Not ten. Why does it always have to be ten? I want to abandon five absolutely jewel-like Happylutions with tender regret and whisper, "Sorry. You guys are alternates. Maybe next year. Or maybe if one of the ones I pick gets voted off the island.... We'll see."
(FYI: Moving into SweetieFry http://www.facebook.com/SweetieFry
didn't make the top five. Je regrette.)
The key distinction is that these are things I rejoice in gravitating towards. If I happen to forget all five for a week, I don't want to say, "Oh crap. I am a toadlike failure, as was clearly inevitable." I want to murmur, "Oh, wow. I've got a ton of happy to catch up on."
So, only good, only nurturing, only generous and kind, feel-good mini-parties on my resolutions list this year.
These are them: ("Screw good grammar" isn't on the list either, but what the heck.)
#1. Breathe like it's a spa treatment.
#2. Be alert for improvement. When improvement is identified, celebrate.
#3. Pay attention: Notice. Listen. Smell. Touch. Taste. Savor. Love. Be. Repeat.
#4. Be kind to somebody. Anybody. Start with you and work outward.
#5. Be grateful for something. Anything. Everything. Maybe even taxes.
#6. (Cut yourself a break. Give yourself a bonus.) Invoke festivity.
That's them. Aren't they pretty? Sweeter than a SweetyFry.
To you, I say, Happy New Year. With all the incandescence of #5, I say that I am grateful for all the magical goodness that has come to me this year, all the kindness, all the healing, all the promise, all the generosity, all the love. (You know who you are. If you got this, you know.)
And, with all the kindness I can muster from #4, I invite you to make your own Happylutions.
Posted by Annie at 12:52 PM
Thursday, December 22, 2011
Quick! Before Christmas. Before New Years. Before I forget. I want to write this down. Because it's the sort of thing that can really make a difference. And it's also the kind of thing that wears out, wears off, gets lost in the day-to-day. Like it never happened.
Here it is. It's Monday at about 6:35 p.m. -- dead dark and drizzling. There I go, driving The Flying Tomato across the familiar intersection of Lakeshore & 149th, with the green light in my favor. And there it was. My brush with Eternity.
Eternity was coming straight at me, driving a Cleveland Police cruiser, doing approximately 65 mph with its full complement of flashing red and blue lights. (And siren blasting, I'm sure, although I missed that somehow in the amazement of the moment.)
It was large. And quite colorful. And close. I registered a big-flashing-red-and-blue UhOh. And my foot saved me by stomping on the accelerator ASAP. In an instant I was across the intersection and kind of parked. In good repair and excellent health. With probably 3/4 of a whole second to spare.
I was spared! Realistically speaking, in my smallish red car with my 10 lb. Le Creuset pot full of hot sweet potato and lentil soup on the floor of the front seat, I would have been -- upon impact with that cop -- a) crushed dead and b) covered in soup. And probably have damaged the police person pretty badly, too. Not what I had planned for the evening.
So, I drove calmly up the hill, ignoring the little voice that said, "Holy sweet jumping lizards, that was close!" I drove past the Nela Park Christmas lighting display, marveling at how great it is this year after being only "just okay" last year, and ignoring the fact that there seemed to be a red VW bug, the very spitting image of mine, limned in glowing light, on the lawn. (No kidding. Go look.) Just driving along, and watching my speed to avoid the evil spy cameras on Noble Road and ignoring the fact that I was, mostly accidentally, still alive. Not dead or injured or even hot-soup-spattered. Spared.
I had a little more trouble, though, ignoring the white sedan in front of me with the vanity license plate that read (with vanity plate economy) U R BLES Oh, c'mon. Truly? And was Marley's Ghost driving? Not as far as I could see.
I finally got the message. One wouldn't have to buy into the woo-woo of it all perhaps -- though I probably did. But the wake up call? For sure. Because whether it was the hand of God, or the dance of the Universe, or the good offices of my fast right foot, I was alive and well and on my way to book group. No harm. No foul. Spared.
So, right away, that begs the question: "Spared for what?" Because we know people in books and movies always say, "She was spared to do some good thing in the world." Or "She was spared and finally appreciated the preciousness of her one human life." Or. "She was spared and gave poor Bob Cratchit a big turkey and a nice raise." Or other things along that line, usually with examples.
Spared for what? That's a great question. Because if I look back -- and if you look back, you'll no doubt see this, too -- I've had a lot of close calls in my life. As close as that, if not as colorful. And I'm willing to entertain the possibility that others I don't even know about brushed by, like an asteroid, tumbling through the darkness, just as close or closer. How about you?
So we're living The Spared Life, you and I, and probably everybody alive. And I've found in the last handful of days that The Spared Life is a very fine thing if you keep inquiring of it, "Was I spared for this?" To do this good thing? To save somebody without knowing it? To pass along the U R BLES message in short hand or long hand? To move through the world as if the commonplace were holy? That's a good question. And best left open so it can keep moving unimpeded through the world.
Then, when annoyance strikes and I say or do or think something REALLY PETTY? Here's a good question to ask: "Was I spared for this?" Did I get rescued from the intersection of Soup & Death to be my old familiar jerk? Surely the Universe had something a little more generous in mind. Or, if we believe some holy, wonderful Something was not in charge right then, maybe it could be just me or just you with a suddenly better idea. A kinder, better, more loving, more ultimately satisfying way to be. In honor of the pure unbridled generosity of ... The Gift of Life.
So, here's my Christmas/New Years message unto myself and to you: I am thankful to have been spared to intend to be a better, kinder, more generous, less jerkier human being. I am renewed in my sense of gratitude for family, for friends, for home, for my juvenile delinquent cat, for my unmanageable lake and this extraordinary moment.
I tell you this not so you can watch for me, going about, doing good, because you'd likely be sorely disillusioned.
What I wish for you is that you ride my little hair-raising experience into a happily enhanced appreciation of your own gratitude-worthy life.
And to Marley's Ghost in the white sedan, I say, "God bless us, everyone. No exceptions."
And especially, "BLES U."
Posted by Annie at 3:20 PM
Thursday, September 29, 2011
I'm reading The Art of Fielding and I am in love. I'm not in love with the author, although I pause in my reading occasionally to bless, if not kiss, him. I'm in love with Henry, with Schwartz, with Owen, with Affenlight, with Pella. Even just a little bit with Herman Melville -- who woulda thunk it? I'm bedazzled. Bewildered. Entranced. My heart is busted right open and filled with the light that pours out of this book.
Which I guess accounts for why, having read the end of Chapter 15, I was so touched and exhilarated by the beautiful delineation of the human soul contained therein, that I planted a big smackeroo right on the screen of my iPad. Which I never kissed before. I swear.
[I know. I know. Let's set aside for a moment the issue of did I really kiss a book if I had to kiss it through a glass screen. Isn't that more of a prison visit, after all? I actually do share your passion for the smell of libraries and the deliciously tactile experience of a "real book." I do. But I also subscribe to the heresy that a book is a dance between two fully participating humans--writer/reader--and that dance can be danced on just about any medium which displays or purveys words that can be deciphered. (If you've ever read a book on an iPhone, you know what I mean.) And in my present state of mind, I can say with confidence that if Chad Harbach had written The Art of Fielding on &$#@*^% gum wrappers, I'd still be his girl.]
Have I read all the way to the end? Can I guarantee anything about even my own satisfaction when all's said and done? No. I'm a rampaging reader and I think it's indicative of how much I'm loving this book that I keep stopping. And waiting. Actually savoring. I'm studiously not reading reviews. And this isn't actually one of those either. This is a blog. It's about me, me, me. There are lots of reviews of this book out there in the world. I'm entirely happy to keep it that way. This is love, after all, and it doesn't bear a lot of poking and prodding. It just is.
I have a cherished memory of my penchant for crazy kissing that comes from the exhausting, exuberant days when our son was a baby. I kissed him of course, on his darling pink toes, on his downy head, on his angelic belly button. He was infinitely kissable. One late afternoon I was coming up the basement stairs with a load of freshly dried laundry -- baby shirts, baby pants, baby diapers (yeah, those were the days) -- and they smelled so incredibly baby and I was freaking tired out of my mind, of course, and not accountable for any of my actions. So I planted a big old kiss right on the laundry. I kissed a load of laundry. With all my heart.
I read all sorts of books. I love all sorts of books. I love books that serious bookers turn their serious noses up at. I mean it. I have adored some bona fide trash. The New York Times and I are often not of one mind. But I almost never pick up a book that from the first handful of words is as incandescent as this book is for me.
Over the top? Well, duh. Do I care? Not a whit. Am I in love with The Art of Fielding? A book about baseball, for goodness sake? Yup.
Wednesday, September 28, 2011
Spring turns into summer.
Summer dissolves into fall.
Fall hovers on the abyss of October.
Where was I?
BOLO. Be on the lookout. For a blogger on the lam? That's me.
Here I am. At last.
So, actually. Where was I? So many places. So little time. Right here, I feel compelled to comment on the American Mindset which suggests that if one has not realized certain ambitions and accomplishments by the coming of autumn, one has wasted the summer. Not true, I say.
Here's what I was not doing:
Publishing a novel. (More about that in a minute.)
Training for a marathon. Or a half-marathon. Or a five-mile, three-mile, one-mile run.
Reorganizing the garage.
Redecorating the living room.
Hosting a Lake Day.
Finally, finally, getting into the kayak.
Becoming in any way better looking.
Getting in any way younger.
Writing in this blog.
Wasting a summer.
I had my summer. Heaped up and running over.
I awakened early and mostly rolled over and went back to sleep, noting that yes, at 5 a.m. in June, the sun is already up. Hurray for it.
I sat at our table with family and dearest friends on a fine number of occasions, relished the good food and savored the presence of the folks. Sometimes the table was inside. Sometimes the table was outside. Always the table was safe under the canopy of love. Dear friends. You know who you are.
We had a lot of rain. I love rain. Mostly, I enjoyed the rain. Mostly, I enjoyed the thunder ... if it came from at least three chimpanzees away.
We had bugs. Not so many this year, but persistently returning. I don't love the bugs but I'm down with them. Ephemeroptera. They earn their name by living one day and dying overnight. Go you, little bugs, I say.
We had a hot spell.
We had a cool spell. And as noted, really, quite a lot of rain.
The pond got renovated and restocked. We watched and blessed, but did not name, the new fish. Nine goldfish surviving. Possibly ten, but they move so fast, who can count them? Four Golden Orfes (I'm sorry. Is that NOT just the best name ever for a darting, shimmying, leaping little yellow fish?) Two shubunkins. (I'm sorry. Is that NOT the stupidest name ever for those calico-colored beauties?)
We lingered on the decks, not nearly enough. But there were sailboat mornings and sunset evenings and screaming girls dragged about on inner tubes (only one or two, but still ... a little screaming girl goes a long way.) There were breakfasts and lunches and dinners consumed in the presence of a Great Lake and a lot of wistful squirrels.
There were raccoon nights of unprecedented bravado. Those furry bandits care even less about where they go and whom they menace than the Honey Badger. And we know The Honey Badger (to put it politely) don't give a ... darn.
I revised the novel. Because:
I found -- so serendipitously ... thank you, Lynn ... thank you Universe -- a writing partner who, having been writing and writing all along, has had a real novel published and because she is a stellar human being, let me read and comment on her latest novel-in-progress and agreed to read and comment on mine.
If there were -- buried deep in my heart -- an alter ego who somehow knew what I had left out, what I was still searching for, what the book needed in order for it to be the book I could love without reservation and send whole and plenty-good-enough-for-me back into the forest where The Crafty Readers lurk? That would be Tina.
Tina, I can never be grateful enough. You are the pen pal I wanted when I was ten. And also the one I needed this summer.
Plus, thanks for introducing me to the awe-inspiring Mojito Literary Society and another *#(&@^ go-round with the *#&@^ Artist's Way. *#&@^, I say. *#&@^!!!! Which is exactly what the Honey Badger would say.
So I spent, no, lavished, a lot of my summer on rewriting Somebody's Bound To Wind Up Dead. Making it better. Making it so good. Loving it again.
I read an incredible number of books, with both of my wonderful book groups and on my own. I read classics, magnificent stories, terrific reads and enjoyable crap. Fast and indiscriminately. I loved them all. Reading is so fun.
I listened to retreats conducted by Pema Chodron, my defacto spiritual teacher. I listened to them in my car on my way to working out and on my way back from working out, several days each week. Pema has taught me a bunch of stuff. She is kind. Compassionate. Forgiving. Encouraging. And on tape. So she couldn't beat me with the big stick for being a lazy student. Not that she would, of course. But that she should.
I'm learning from Pema to stay with what's uncomfortable or scary or sad and to be glad for life when it's sweet and sour and itchy and grouchy and good and bad. And, once every two or three days, to be present and awake to whatever's here and now. For about 30 seconds. I'm also learning to forgive myself for not being present every minute of the damn summer. I'm learning all that from Pema. Thank you, Pema. I'm grateful. No kidding.
I got my knees back. Both of them. I worked them out sufficiently to make them wholly acceptable unto me. I need now to work myself out enough to make me wholly acceptable unto them.
I went places with Bill. Stayed home with Bill. Talked with Bill. Ate the above-mentioned breakfasts, lunches and dinners by the Great Lake with Bill. Lived another summer with Bill. Lucky, I. Thank you, Bill. Always.
The same goes for John. And Allie. And Cujo. And all my other dear, dear people. You know who you are.
And now summer is over. Savored to the full extent of an idle, distracted, regretful, forgetful mind. Which is a lot of savoring, it turns out.
Let's BOLO for winter now.
And in case you don't know from watching a lot of crappy crime-related TV, BOLO is explained in the post located right below this one.
Summer may be over, but the blogger is back!
Posted by Annie at 1:01 PM
Friday, April 8, 2011
But not actually dead. And not actually people. More like potential, imaginary, fictional dead people. Like, if I were to find myself in the beer cooler at Dave's Super Market, I'd go "Wow, what if someone walked in here and there was a dead person (a blue dead person) leaned stiffly up against the six packs of St. Pauli Girl." How cool (NPI) would that be???
It's like I'm living the first five minutes of "Castle" or "Bones" over and over again. In my head. At the store. Only not as gross. I'm usually eating something or planning to eat a little something in the next two or three hours or so, so I try not to be imaginative in that gross and disgusting, sort of liquidy, way that Castle and Bones specialize in. Eeww.
My point? Getting there. I LOVE those stories and I relish all the lingo. Like recently I encountered BOLO in Tina Whittle's debut novel The Dangerous Edge of Things. (Read this novel. I read it. I loved it. It's way fun. Just do it. And if my just do it recommendation isn't persuasive enough, see my review at Amazon.com. http://www.amazon.com/Dangerous-Edge-Things-Randolph-Mystery/product-reviews/1590588193/ref=cm_cr_dp_all_helpful?ie=UTF8&showViewpoints=1&sortBy=bySubmissionDateDescending And ask me why I have such a ridiculous user name there. Go ahead. I ask myself, myself. Lizzie? Really?)
I'd seen BOLO in books and heard it bandied about on TV before but I had to look it up. It means Be On The Lookout. As in "As soon as I saw Frankie Brancusi leaned up against the six packs of St. Pauli Girl in the beer cooler at Dave's, I put out a BOLO for Ralph "The Iceman" Boyardee. 'Sonofabitch is at it again,' I muttered, 'and this time, he's mine.'"
I like BOLO. It's the kinder, gentler kid brother of the APB. "Keep an eye open for .... If you happen to run across.... When he shows up at the N-Spot .... lemme know. But for crissake don't shoot him. Just, you know. BOLO."
Now for the non-crime, philosophical application. My experience suggests that if you put out a BOLO for something you'd like to see in the world or in your more immediate life, it has a better chance of showing up. (I know. Woo woo. Wackyass. New Age bs. Get over it. Choose to be happier, you sour cynic.)
What I really need right now is some serious spring. I have two new bionic knees and it's tough to get them up to six million dollar speed inside the house. Walls will stop you. Plus it's been slimy, icy, dark and rainy/snowing for quite some time and a change would be appreciated. Therefore I invite us all to BOLO for spring. And to give us all a little boost, here are some signs of Spring in Cleveland that might be interpreted as signs of winter in other, less challenging climes:
The small round "lakes" in the roads are no longer frozen over into teeny, tiny skating ponds. Check. (And swerve to avoid.)
Ten thousand ducks are engaging in a social convention that can only be described as "duck speed dating." Check. (In case anyone ever asks you where baby ducks come from, tell them Lake Erie. It's a kind of single's bar. For ducks.)
Against my better judgment and in spite of my kind warnings, daffodils are popping up like the true morons they are. Check. Check. Check check check.
The buds of the leaves of summer 2011 are clearly delineated against the blank gray of the sky. Check.
The grass is green. Greener. Checking. Checking. Keep checking.
The wild garlics are springing up like the creepy intractable weeds they are. Soon the garden will be in full and lavish ... ah ... smelly garlicky weed bloom. Check. Pewie.
Now it's your turn. BOLO for spring! It'll make you happier, I promise. And if you happen to see Ralphie B. hanging out up at Dave's, lemme know. But for crissake, don't shoot him. Just, you know, BOLO.
Tuesday, January 11, 2011
I'm back. And I've been gone so long even Blogger didn't remember me. What can I say. It was knee surgery. It was Turkey Day. It was Christmas. It was New Years. It was my birthday. I was preoccupied. But I'm here now.
Talking about ice.
I'm confident that if you're savvy enough to go bloggering about the Internet, you already know that the Native Americans formerly (and I believe now un-PC-ly) known as Eskimos had something like 100 words for snow. Presumably that was because they didn't have TV, cars, drive-in movies or iPads and got really familiar with snow. Which was one thing -- maybe almost the only thing -- they did have.
This is a pretty story and there's a lesson in there I'm sure, but apparently it's not exactly true. These indigenous peoples, while they must have had many distinctions for snow that even, say, Clevelanders don't have, they didn't have 100.
According to Wiki (No-Leaki) Pedia:
"One can create a practically unlimited number of new words in the Eskimoan languages on any topic, not just snow, and these same concepts can be expressed in other languages using combinations of words."
Apparently, this is because of prefixes and word combos like "ohno more crappy" snow or "don't tell me it's ^&*%$ snowing again" snow. Which aren't distinct words as much as a possible heartfelt sentiment of the Inuit peoples.
Which brings me, inevitably, as always, to me.
And to my lake which is currently freezing over because it's been way cold. And rather calm. Which creates excellent conditions for the freezing of lakes.
We have lived at the brink of this lake for five full winters now. This is Winter #6. We get asked quite a few questions about when, how, why -- all that -- the lake freezes. The answer, the truth, is: Beats me.
Every year it's been different. The first year it didn't freeze at all. It tried. But no luck.
Winter 2, it froze overnight. From a turgid, gelular (I knew there was no word such as gelular -- gel-like, it was) sort of subdued state at bedtime, it went dead solid by 3 a.m. I wrote about this in my third unpublished novel, as follows:
"It was a white night. For a moment I couldn’t absorb what I was seeing. At dusk, the ice had been just a thin line, barely visible on the horizon. And Emily had showed me the slushy bubbles she called Slurpee Ice just beginning to congeal. Now the freezing had overcome everything. The lake was a bright plain, flat and dazzling under the stark glare of a high, almost-full moon. Just like that. Close in to shore I could see a few black rivers of water still moving. Fed by some warmer current and still alive in that pale, dead world."
(This insight on the part of my protagonist was followed shortly thereafter by murder and mayhem and a denouement that occurred out there on the ice. But that's not important now.)
And it actually was also an introduction to one of my own 100 words for ice: Slurpee Ice. Granular coatings of crushed coldness that snap frozen. Just like that.
"Ah," I mused back then. "So that's how it happens!"
Nope. That's how it happened in Winter 2.
In the ensuing winters I have coined such new expressions as "Chunky Monkey Ice, Sparkling Diamond Ice, Crazy Jumbled-Up Ice, Blowing Sand Dune Snow/Ice, Hockey-able Ice, 'Look At That Triangle of Ice!' Ice." Last year was "Wooee! Big Mountain!" Ice. And this year "Telephone Line Ice" for unexpectedly smooth ice with lots of long, straight, hair-line cracks running through it.
So, big surprise. It's never quite the same. That's just the way of it. Yesterday there was a bald eagle sitting out there wondering why there was a &*(&%% floor between him and the fish. Today a coyote, moving quick. On very cold paws, I'm guessing.
Every year. Every season. Every day is different on Lake E. The photo I took 45 minutes ago, is out of date now as snow coats our world. The breakers of autumn have become a silent field of snow. There's a word for that.
I think I'll call this one, "Beautiful."
Posted by Annie at 2:19 PM