Dita Parker

Monday, December 21, 2009

On the longest night of the year

I want to pass on the best cleaning tip for the holidays I've ever received: Don't bother scrubbing every corner and arranging every closet unless you intend to spend the holidays in one. Amen to that. 

Fuss-free celebrations, everyone!

Be good, have fun, call on loved ones, be kind, be it mundane Monday or Christmastime, for I do believe in a certain rhyme: Love, love is a verb, love is a doing word 

Dear Santa,
If justice for all is too much to ask, please bring me a line true and pure as that, for it isn't by me, it's from that hypnotizing song by Massive Attack. 

See you in 2010. Or at the end of 2009. I may have to escape to my den every once in a while to get away from all the fuss...others are making. Not me. Never me. Far be it from me.

Now go love someone and shine on. That's an order. (Be advised: Disobeying this order will result in more mushiness your holiday-addled self could possibly take unless you have learned to muscle your way through the gagging reflex. You stand warned.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Eat your heart out

This one has been around for a while but bears repeating. My kind of humor and my kind of guilt-free holiday spirit and enjoyment. As Erma Bombeck put it: "Seize the moment. Remember all those women on the 'Titanic' who waved off the dessert cart."

1. Avoid carrot sticks. Anyone who puts carrots on a holiday buffet table knows nothing of the Christmas spirit. In fact, if you see carrots, leave immediately. Go next door, where they're serving rum balls.

2. Drink as much eggnog as you can. And quickly. Like fine single-malt scotch, it's rare. In fact, it's even rarer than single-malt scotch. You can't find it any other time of the year but now. So drink up! Who cares that has 10,000 calories in every sip? It's not as if you're going to turn into an eggnogholic or something. It's a treat. Enjoy it! Have one for me. Have two. It's later than you think. It's Christmas!

3. If something comes with gravy, use it. That's the whole point of gravy. Gravy does not stand alone. Pour it on. Make a volcano out of your mashed potatoes. Fill it with gravy. Eat the volcano. Repeat.

4. As for mashed potatoes, always ask if they're made with skim milk or whole milk. If it's skim, pass. Why bother. It's like buying a sports car with an automatic transmission.

5. Do not have a snack before going to a party in an effort to control your eating. The whole point of going to a Christmas party is to eat other people's food for free. Lots of it. Hello?

6. Under no circumstances should you exercise between now and New Year's. You can do that in January when you have nothing else to do. This is the time for long naps, which you'll need after circling the buffet table while carrying a 10-pound plate of food and that vat of eggnog.

7. If you come across something really good at a buffet table, like frosted Christmas cookies in the shape and size of Santa, position yourself near them and don't budge. Have as many as you can before becoming the center of attention. They're like a beautiful pair of shoes. If you leave them behind, you're never going to see them again.

8. Same for pies. Apple. Pumpkin. Mincemeat. Have a slice of each. Or, if you don't like mincemeat, have two apples and one pumpkin. Always have three. When else do you get to have more than one dessert? Labor Day?

9. Did someone mention fruitcake? Granted, it's loaded with the mandatory celebratory calories, but avoid it at all cost. I mean, have some standards.

10. One final tip: If you don't feel terrible when you leave the party or get up from the table, you haven't been paying attention. Reread tips, then start over. But hurry: January is just around the corner.

Sounds like a plan. But: Eggnog is for amateurs. If you're serious about your holiday diet, you need the drinks to match. How about a Very Bad Elf, or a Criminally Bad one, a sampling of Reindeer Droppings with a taste of Santa's Butt? Top it off with Fairytale of New York and you'll be all set. 

If you've been an angel all year, isn't it time you let it all hang out? Merely a suggestion from A. Friend. (If, however, you've been Satan's little helper, you've been an Insanely Bad Elf indeed.) 

Yummy Holidays!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Kickin' off the holidays

Sorry, I'm not in. I'm at Ellora's Cave colleague Michelle Polaris' where we're kicking off the holidays. 

I'm in good company. Erotica authors Adele Dubois, Francesca Hawley, Stephanie Julian and Kathy Kulig will be there with Cindy Spencer Pape and Naima Simone. Fire extinguishers at the ready, folks... These women are known for setting people's sheets on fire.

We are sharing kick-ass shoes and characters over at Michelle's. Come join the party and leave a comment by Friday 18th for a chance to win a deck of Cosmo's steamy sex games cards. Unfortunately, you have to have a mailing address in Continental United States to be eligible to win. Sorry, rules are rules. 

My boots were made for walking, as the song goes, and that's what they've done aplenty with the occasional run for the bus, so I have no doubt I could kick some butt in them, too.

[No humans were harmed while wearing said boots/in the shaping of the author's legs. Those who suffered a barefooted boo boo volunteered/do their own stunts/have stopped laboring under the illusion women "hit like girls."]

I'll come by daily to pick up the mail and check the answering machine, so if you had something on your mind, leave a comment after the beep. Or email me; addy's in the Profile.


Thursday, December 10, 2009

Dial M for malcontent

Dearest M sent me a message telling me I'm blogging all wrong. I should knock it off before someone actually starts reading me because they will stop, or be confused at the very least.

Get off the soapbox, she said, and put the finger away while you're at it. What if people start thinking I write as I blog? Now that's bad since I don't and M knows it. Others, she reminded me, don't. I should know better than to give that impression. 

What am I, the UN? [I'm not at liberty to say.] A one woman army? [Why, are you in the market for one, luv?] I think it's all about me? [What? It isn't? Oh man...] 

Where's the writer, she asked? Where's the book? The story? I either bring it up more often or she starts spreading word I made it all up. Oh, but I do love a challenge and a take-charge attitude.

It's been a long and winding road. You. Know. That. M. But you're not in publishing so you don't know how it works or how long things take, do you? I had a vague idea, but sighing audibly about it here would be unprofessional and wouldn't speed up the process, would it? Besides, you can't tire me down by making me wait.

But we seem to have tired M and we don't want M bored or confused or unhappy, we want smiles with our snarky and we want to keep her entertained. She is honest, she is ruthless and she is absolutely right. 

So, dearest M, I do solemnly swear I'll bring the writing to the front and keep other appearances and disturbances to a minimum. Or let them out only when you're not watching. M'kay?

I'm letting M give me the third degree in an interview titled "So You Think You Can Write". Watch this space. 

Also on the show: Cover art! As in: Barenaked male!! With: My name on it!!!

Didn't see that one coming, did you M? Always happy to surprise you. And always glad to be of service. So sue me. D.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

The Fixer

"We interrupt this war to bring you this year's Nobel Peace Prize Laureate!"

Can you imagine what President Obama is thinking? What do you think he'll say in his acceptance speech? "Are you sure?" "Do you know something I don't?" "Thanks for the support. No pressure, right?" 

The biggest problem those that have a problem with President Obama winning seems to be: Shouldn't it be given for something someone has done, not what they hope to do? Michael Moore will probably demand he give it back for what he is about to do.

I think this year's choice goes to show how starved for positive news, gung-ho spirit and a general sense of seeing hope in the horizon this planet is after months of being told that after we all declare bankruptcy we'll either die of drought or sink into the ocean; after even more months of rage and threats and vengeance filling the airwaves. 

No, I'm not denying these issues are real, only saying the Nobel Committee saw something in the President, or rather heard, which called to them in a voice echoing the magic words: It will be all right. Everything's going to be all right. Isn't that what everyone wants to hear? Isn't that what everyone wants to believe? That whatever it is we're going through will come to pass, and we either believe it will, act as if we believed it will, or keel over and let it all go to hell. And we don't want that. 

To those who'd prefer the same old song and dance, the President's words are hot air, nothing tangible, but how did you like them former apples? Forgotten the taste of them already? And Mr. Obama was elected President, not Superman. This is still the real world to be dealt with in real terms and a realistic timeline with real people doing the talking and dealing. We are part of the problem and the only solution. We may be the only life form in the universe who would call ours an intelligent one, but in lack of an overlord, we're all we have. This is it.

Napoleon said a leader is a dealer in hope. Think of Napoleon what you will (at least he truly loved Josephine, even when she...okay, not now), think of President Obama what you will, Bonaparte had a point. It may look like a radical airline, but sometimes a leap of faith is the only way out.

Monday, December 7, 2009

A league of extraordinary gentlemen

Ladies: Do you at times feel that chivalry is dead? That courtly love has checked out? Do not fear, fret or throw a fit, for while you wait to see whether it be a fallacy, an extended vacation or a permanent one, you too can be the perfect gentleman!

Because she's worth it!! Because your girlfriends deserve the absolute best for being the queens, saints, sinners and goddesses they are!!!

Take them out, wine and dine them, surprise them with small gifts and shower them with compliments (if you thought it, why wouldn't you say it?!), especially those lady friends of yours who at present don't have a gentleman to call their own. 

You do? Good for you! Never thought about it that way? Get going! Make someone's day. You'll make her happy and feel good about doing it, gentleman's word.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Goodwill hunting

Did les Américains among you notice how this year Black Friday coincided with Buy Nothing Day? So what did you do? Did you abstain or did someone make an offer you couldn't refuse? Buy nothing what?

Days and campaigns as the aforementioned are good for raising awareness, even better for causing guilt, and the absolute best for letting you get away with how you cop out the rest of the year. We know we should be doing something, anything, but with so much to do, so many to help, where to start? 

You know what the absolute worst-case scenario is? Sitting on your hands or wringing them instead of lending one because you know you're acting out of selfish motives doing things to relieve a guilty conscience; or believing you have so little to contribute you can't make a difference. You don't have money to give (that may be true), time to put in (that may or may not be true), or skills to offer (I don't believe that for a second).

I have bad news and I have good news. Sure as hell you could be doing more. If you're reading this in the comfort of your home or workplace, sipping your cuppa or some java and getting annoyed over my finger-wagging, you probably don't know how lucky you are, or tend to forget. Oh, you do know, and you don't need to be reminded because it sometimes makes you uneasy and I shouldn't forget you've worked hard, for everything. You've earned it fair and square. Kudos! Of course you have, enjoy!!

The good news: Even if you contribute out of purely selfish motives, whomever or whatever at the receiving end will not care one way or the other. They won't question your motives, demand an explanation, or mock your ethics or morality or lack thereof. Getting help is all they care about. Don't think about the masses you can't reach, think of the one person or the people you do. You may have relieved someone's suffering; you may have saved a life. How can anyone feel bad about that?

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

You're still the one

Have you told someone lately you love them? How lovely they are and how lucky you consider yourself being with them? Would they think something's wrong if you did? Then it's been too long since you last said it.

Hubby's birthday was a month back, November first. No, I didn't forget, but for all my demonstrativeness I didn't give full measure back then. Our wedding anniversary is coming up so to celebrate that and one amazing man, I thought I'd go all out with

10 things I love about you 

How you take center stage without making a scene.

How you teach me things I never knew.

How you let me educate you.

The most unbelievable blue eyes I've ever seen. 

You never flirt when they come on to you.

Whoever said white people have no rhythm never heard you drum.

How you keep your head when everyone else seems to have lost theirs.

How you don't bicker and bitch when you know you're in the wrong or can't win.

How you never ever give up when you know all it takes is patience.

You gave me them.

Monday, November 30, 2009

An Autopsy of the Woman as a Young Writer

"And what have we here?"

"Ms. Dita Parker, female in her mid-thirties."

"No way. Thirty-three tops."

"It says so right here, Randolph."

"No way. Older than her looks then."

"Older than her years, as well. Have a look at the report. Three lives long at least. Well traveled. Speaks several languages. Multidisciplinary education. Married with children. ATCK."

"Ouch. I hope she didn't suffer much."

"It means adult third culture kid, Randolph."

"Hmm, interesting."


"Nothing. I'm just saying."

"You are mumbling to yourself. Shall we concentrate on Miss Parker?"

"Does it say what she did?"

"She's a writer."

"Was, Richard."

"Was what?"

"A writer."

"Yes, thank you, Randolph."


"Yes,  t h a n k  y o u, Randolph. I do believe we established that."

"Does it say what she wrote?"

"Fiction, genre and literary. Essays. Blogged, translated... Don't say it!"

"I was only going to ask what she succumbed to."

"With her history, probably some sort of multiple personality issue. 'Superfluous curiosity about too many topics, blah blah blah... Infatuation with languages, dialects and word play sometimes inhibits crystal clarity and objective output and causes confusion of the comic slash embarassing kind.'"

"Did she get to work on it? Ever publish anything?"

"According to this, she started out with Roman...Romantica. Something about some cave in...Ohio?"


"No, Ellora. Ellora's Cave. What? Do I have something in my teeth?"

"No it's just... Let me see that."

"Why are you smiling like a...like... Like that?"

"Just thinking of the missus, that's all."

"Not now, Randolph. Concentrate."

"Oh, I am. Aw lawdy, I am."


"Yes, dear? I mean, Richard."

"What's in that cave?"

"A good time."

"As in..."

"A mighty good time."


"Who told me to shut up and concentrate?"

"Now Who is asking you to explain yourself. Out with it."

"You know. Romantica. What sort of rhymes with Romantica?"

"I have no idea."

"No ear for language and apparently no sex life either."


"Can't prove it by me, Dick."

"Let me see that."

"Oh, you want to see it, do you now? Caught your attention, did I? Not now, Richard. Concentrate."

"Is it cold in here?"


"Do you need to have a break?"

"No, I don't need a break. Do you?"

"Why would I need one?"

"I don't know. You look a little red. Around the collar."

"It's hot in here, isn't it?"

"I thought you were cold."

"Yes. No. I need a break. Ten minutes? No, twenty."



"You can't take that out. The report. Policy and all that."

"Yes. No, of course not. Have you seen my biro?"

"The who in the what now? Oh, right. Let me write that down for you. It's http://www.jasminejade.com/p-8212-alex-rising.aspx. And show it to Frances, will you. I promise she will be pleased. Several times."


"What? Just show it to her. You won't be disappointed either, I swear."

"Has Franny said something? She has said something. What did she say?"

"My lips are sealed."

"They will be bleeding in five, four, three-"

"Get outta here."

"A writer?"

"A writer."

"Is that a smile on her face? Did she die funny?"

"No. It says here she wrote happily ever after."

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Killing time

Remember my last entry, about how there's nothing on television? Or I think there isn't? Therein lies the problem, I was informed. That it was snobbish and what not to say so. That there is in fact loads on and maybe I haven't been paying attention and how dare I snub reality television when millions love it to death? 

Hold up. I wasn't writing off anything, merely saying in a roundabout way I don't enjoy reality TV, and believe you me, I make a point of checking out everything. Want to catch that ever-elusive Zeitgeist? Take a close look at popular culture and there you have it.

I've killed a particle of my ability to enjoy TV and film by studying them in earnest, and as with most things you set out to deconstruct, they lose some of the magic and luster in the process. Only when and if you get past the analytical phase can you go back to enjoying something in antediluvian bliss. Almost. 

The more you consume any certain form of popular culture, or any art form for that matter, the harder it becomes to find something jaw-dropping to induce goose bumps and make you want to go tell it on the mountain. But when you do, you forget everything. You exist for that moment, in that moment, wish you could hold on to it indefinitely. It may have been something as far removed from your daily experience as they come, but it rang true. It felt real. You felt it. You felt.

Those moments I enjoy. I only haven't found them watching reality television. Doesn't life and livelihood feel enough as if you're on The Apprentice and Big Brother at the same time? It's sudden death in the boardroom and it's murder on the dance floor and aren't we all glad it's not us and what the hell was s/he thinking? Gimme my fifteen minutes? Ka-ching?

If that sounds elitist or finger-wagging, so be it. If I have time to kill, I opt for reading and writing; calling the amazing women in my life I'm proud to call my friends; loving Hubby; an enredo I can dance with our babies; kicking and punching until I'd need more than Firestarter to pick me up from that mat if I truly needed to kick butt. That's what's real to me.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Stranger than fiction

I didn't take part in NaNoWriMo. What I seem to be doing is IMoMoI, as in moving images of the international kind. I also have WriAWriMo going on, writing about writing, but more on that perhaps some other time.

What have you been watching lately? Did you do your homework and go Ghibli? What next? 570 channels and nothing on, huh? Will Work for Food in Hell's Kitchen while Dancing with the Bachelor Apprentice on the Amazing Race for the Biggest Loser on the Brazilian Highlands felt like déjà vu all over again, to only marginally misquote Yogi Berra? 

Still in search of drama? Emotion?! Human interest?!! Blood, sweat and tears of the really real kind? Our human condition in all its misery and life-affirming glory? It doesn't get any more real than this, I promise you that.

I've watched some disturbing, hilarious, revealing and inspiring stories this month. Some older, some new, all timeless. I didn't set out to watch nothing but documentaries, based on a true story films and true to life tales but really, there's nothing on. 

For your viewing pleasure, amazement and horror, I give you the trials and tribulations of humankind as only life seen through an unflinching lens can deliver:

Sin Nombre (Mexico/USA, 2009)

S.O.P. (USA, 2008)

Pray the Devil Back To Hell (USA, 2008)

Waltz with Bashir (Israel/Germany/France, 2008)

Katyn (Poland, 2007)

The Yes Men Fix the World (France/UK/USA, 2009)

The Three Rooms of Melancholia (Finland/Denmark/Germany, 2004)

Let's Make Money (Austria, 2008)

Crude (USA, 2009)

Band of Brothers (UK/USA, 2001)

And that's all for now, folks. Yes, I know it looks like a list of nominees. They have all in fact been nominated for some award or several, most have won at some festival or other, and I highly recommend you look into one or all of them. 

Sorry I deleted the synopses. I didn't think you'd wade your way through to the end of the list and I happened to save the best of the bunch for last. If you have any questions or comments or you'd like to tell me to sod off for not even providing a tagline (not that all even have one), shoot. 

I'll let the pictures do the talking and you'll get to do the World Tour. Or Half the World Tour. Come on, I searched for the most representative links, in English. It'll take you a couple of minutes each (I clocked) to find out what they're all about, if you don't know already. And then some, if you have the time and the inclination to go deeper.

Stranger than fiction, indeed. 

Monday, November 16, 2009

Try them and you may, I say

I like to think I'm a tolerant person. I am. I've been around the world and decided that no culture is more beautiful or less special than the rest, only different, and any ugliness is in the eye of the beholder. And that taking anything to the outer limits, say tolerance, makes you just another fundamentalist. You know, those types who by definition take things dead serious and won't change their mind or the subject.

I like to think I'm not that kind of person. Not that tolerant at all. To celebrate International Day for Tolerance, try to come up with ten things that make you go hmmm. Or grr. Here's my list.

Yes, I too could have gone on and on. The world is by no means perfect and completely to my taste but I'm an optimist. Things can only get better! Come on, repeat after me. For Dita, please... And again, like you mean it. 

Circumcising girls with razorblades and without anesthetics, no less? I don't care how many centuries of cultural tradition back it up, it's inhumane and beastly. 

Women being beaten for flashing an ankle, caned for wearing pants and stoned to death for suspected adultery, see above.

Honor killings, a contradiction in terms if there ever was one.

Maybe we are as fat as we imagine. I'm not saying we are, only that it's a real possibility we should look into if we're feeling physically and/or emotionally constipated. 

Must you sneeze, spit and cough all over the place? You don't? So why do you?

80's fashion was ridiculous the first time around, it isn't looking any better with each revival and it will remain ridiculous with every revival to come of the ridiculous fashion of the 80's.

Some flags and national anthems aren't all that beautiful.  In fact, some are belligerent to the point of being offensive.

I didn't laugh at your joke because it wasn't funny which you of course thought it was since you were drunk but let's face it, people aren't funnier when wasted, only hammered and too drunk to realize it.

There is either too much nudity on television these days or simply not enough. I can't decide.

Your favorite band sucks.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Shakespeare's sisters

Ladies, choose your weapons, Mars attacks! Not really, but trenches have been under construction here and there after Publishers Weekly announced their Best Books of 2009 list. What's wrong with the list? Nothing on first glance, but the Top 10 has been weighed, measured and found lacking in one notable segment of writers, i.e. women. 

You probably wouldn't reject something solely on the basis it was written by a man or automatically like something because a woman wrote it. A good book is a good book. And taste is a subjective issue. So what does it matter what PW's list looks like? It's a list and for many that's all it is: just another list. But it's a list that gets coverage, sells books, helps define quality. And it's notably lacking in women. 

How many women would have made it okay? One? Fifty-one percent? What if there had been no men on that list? Impossible, you say? If it's a coincidence, if gender has nothing to do with anything, how so? So women did write inferior books, is that it? Or do men have an automatic advantage women suspect/know is there but PW categorically denies exists?

See how easily and how fast discussions like this escalate into a Mars versus Venus battle of the sexes? Come on, they do. Many women, assertive women, competent and competitive women are shrugging their so whats thinking it's nothing because they have gone through life pretending sexual biases don't exist. Or it isn't pretending, per se, but rather a self-assuredness and forcefulness born out of all that competence and a sincere belief in equality which has taken many women far and even further.  

But none of those women could say they didn't encounter at least once along the way someone who didn't share that belief, who couldn't get past the face or the figure, or who didn't carry a sexist grudge that tainted everything making it that much harder for them to get along and move on. This someone wasn't necessarily a man. 

Then again maybe it was and you see where the story is headed since all women have been there at some point in their lives. Trivial or life-altering, we tend to remember the moments we turned invisible. Because we felt senseless shame. We felt rage. We felt indignation. No matter how stupid the remark, how idiotic or inconsequential the person or the situation, it raises that "Not-this-bs-again-Couldn't-think-of-anything-else-could-you-The-more-things-change-the-more-they-stay-the-same" feeling women hate hate hate. I'm sure I had a point before jumping into a trench myself...

No, that is my point. That is exactly the feeling lists like this raise. Because art isn't an exact science, it's a compilation of subjective choices without objective meters, none that they have disclosed in detail anyway, and it's therefore easy to take it as a personal affront no matter how hard you tell yourself it doesn't matter one way or the other. 

"Really?" (SNL could take it from here.) "50,000 to choose from and not a single woman made the cut? Really?" I wouldn't want a pc consolation prize to be handed out, PW is free to choose whatever they want with whatever criteria they may or may not have, but ten men? Really? What are the odds? What is their ranking method anyway?

I've read two books from that list: Holmes' The Age of Wonder and Grann's Lost City of Z. I highly recommend them, but I could just as well recommend picking up Atwood's The Year of the Flood or Munro's Too Much Happiness: Stories. They made my list. 

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Penny for the Guy?

Remember, remember the fifth of November, the Gunpowder Treason and Plot. I know of no reason why the Gunpowder Treason should ever be forgot. 

No history lecture on the way, only a rhetorical question: Do you watch certain movies at certain times? Of the year, I mean? Tonight, for obvious reasons, is V for Vendetta Night. If you haven't seen it, and if you liked Fight Club, Sin City and The Dark Knight, go get it. 

Go on now. Hugo Weaving's in it, and Stephens Fry and Rea. And Natalie Portman! John Hurt!! Don't take your movie violence on an industrial scale? Too bad, The Wachowski brothers didn't mess up this one.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Don't lose your head

I got lost on the way to work and ended up roaming Blogistan for far longer than I had intended. What I didn't write, I made up in reading. Fantastic stuff. Brilliant characters. Time robbers and hateful rubbish. Opinions, attitude and even substance.

Cyberspace is to man as the universe is to mankind. It makes you feel small, it makes you wonder can anyone see or hear you, and if you don't take care it will make you lose your sense of purpose and direction. 

Case example: The Accidental Writer, AW for short. AW writes a naughty and nice story and gets hint exactly where to submit. She does; the required digest, a witty query letter, curious about where she stands as far as this particular genre stands. Will she receive a generic rejection? Will she get any answer?

AW has no way of knowing for sure. Back in the writing game after some odd years in odd jobs in odd places, it's the first story she sends out. But she has a good feeling about this. Call it intuition. In that moment in time, that story feels right for its market.

She receives an offer for it she accepts. Some of you are now calling her a lucky bastard, some of you are shouting "Lucky bitch!" and some are wondering what she has done to deserve a lucky break like that. All of you will have to stop mentioning luck. As far as AW knows, it's not a matter of luck but a combination of pitching, talent and timing. The right story in the right place at the right time. 

"So now what," asks AW, and those of you who haven't spaced out. "Write it and they will read it, right? No? No?! What do you mean who and where are 'they'? The ones at the end of the rainbow, of course. The readers."

We're losing AW again. She's getting lost in space, deep in cyberspace, searching for those readers and that rainbow. She wrote that naughty and nice story; she got an offer for it; she is working to work it out and get it out. And no one will ever find out about it if she doesn't get to the right place at the right time, manuscript in hand. Here's hoping AW navigates her way there and back and back out again. 

Social media can make you a king for a day and a fool for a lifetime. Knowing your limits and honoring other obligations is essential, but pleading total ignorance about the importance of meeting and greeting and generally sticking your neck out won't do. You don't get published by accident. You don't want to be ignored by accident either. 

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Surviving Picasso

I took a trip to Helsinki to see a man about a painting. And some sculptures, portraits, photographs, lithographs, sketches, still lifes... If you're anywhere in the vicinity, say a ferry away, get thee to the Finnish National Gallery. No, sorry, they're not coming to Oslo or Copenhagen or anywhere else in Scandinavia for that matter, and once the National Picasso Museum in Paris reopens, these babies aren't budging.

This is Picasso's own collection ranging from the late 1900's to the 1970's. You may not care for fine art. You may not like Picasso. You may say "My three-year-old can do better." Personal opinions aside, I linked my exhibition experience to my own craft and beyond and came up with

10 writing lessons by Picasso

1.) It's never too late to get the career you want or to do whatever it is you're postponing until the kids move out, you finally do switch jobs, go back to school, divorce, marry, the wind changes and humidity is optimal. In his sixties, Picasso was only getting started.

2.) Passion. Picasso had a passion for art. It meant closing the door behind him and tuning out everyone and everything else. The idea of moving to some remote location to become a recluse be it ingenious hermit may not appeal to you. But could you carve space for what you are most passionate about? Sure you can, and no, it's not selfish or self-indulgent. If it's important to you, make it known and take the time. Don't wait for permission or validation. 

3.) There's no substitute for hard work. Picasso was always working, as many writers will attest they are. His work was an integral part of him. He breathed it, lived it, could not be separated from it. Most of us do need a break from whatever it is we consider or hope one day to be a livelihood just to be able to spend time with friends and family, but if your mind wanders, don't take out the ash and start sprinkling, you may have found your calling and hear its call.

4.) Inspiration. Picasso didn't sit around waiting for the muses to move him. His body of work consists of some 50,000 pieces. Ideas are everywhere. You only need one to get going.

5.) Influences. He was influenced by everything from a cobweb to his contemporaries. He stole from many, but he didn't do what they had done, he turned it into something all his own. Know your peers and predecessors, but avoid comparison.

6.) Free your mind. Picasso experimented, played with and tried out everything. He didn't limit himself and he defied being pigeon-holed. Maybe he was that multitalented because he kept in touch with the curiosity and open-mindedness of a child. You don't grow old, he believed, you ripen.

7.) Reinvention.  Picasso reinvented himself many times over. He'd take a technique apart, study it thoroughly, and then move on to something else, not because he was exhausted with it but because he had exhausted it. He carried what he'd learned with him, all the richer for it. If you feel stuck and ready to stuff it, it doesn't mean there's nowhere to go, it only means you've stopped looking.

8.) Integrity. Picasso was fearless in his art and his opinions, in expressing them and himself. He got in trouble for it, but he kept true to himself and his vision. Some parts of yourself you never sell. Only you know what those are. 

9.) The masters and critics of his time didn't care much for his art. Most simply didn't understand him. Picasso didn't care if they cared, or understood. He thought they were trying too hard, searching for meaning in the wrong places, not seeing beyond the lies art tells to tell the truth. The only question should have been: "Do I enjoy what I'm seeing?"

10.)  "Everything you can imagine is real." Joy and pain, bulls and bullfighting, war and peace, women, the Minotaur. These are some of the themes Picasso kept revisiting. Hundreds of variations could spring from any single theme. If there was only one truth, one answer to every question out there, we would have no use for art or stories. But art, or writing, isn't a science. People are complex, motivations vary. The arts deal in possibilities, in the "Why not?" and the "What if?". In that universe, there's plenty of room to move no matter what your story, theme, genre or technique happens to be. Don't ever let anyone tell you otherwise.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Learning to fly

Finally got to see Up! *sigh*And the kids got to see Mom crying at the movies. (Happens all the time with Hubby, I can't help it, I don't see why one should even try to.) My 5 yo climbed on my lap and patted my cheek, and I cried some more. It was such a sweet instinctive attempt to console me I couldn't help it. Why would one even need to? *and another*

If you've begun to suspect a secret vow to dumb down and churn out the same old same old has been taken in La La Land, try an animation. Astounding stuff coming out on both sides of the Pacific. I'm talking about Pixar and Studio Ghibli. They are alive and kicking proof there is magic in cinema, the old-fashioned kind with original insights and twists in every single title. Heart, a sizeable one. Spirit and imagination. Creativity at its finest. There is an old school mentality, even sentimentality, to them, the Hero's Journey, but always something fresh and startling as well. The themes are universal so anyone, anywhere, can relate. The undertones are such an adult enjoys them, the story simple enough for a child to follow. And they've never failed to leave me feeling happy and uplifted.

Pixar takes to the skies with Up as so many Ghibli productions have done. Howl's Moving Castle came to mind. I wasn't surprised to hear of John Lasseter's admiration of Hayao Miyazaki who is considered by many in the film, comics and gaming industry to be the greatest animator alive. I think he's a genius. 

Even if you don't have kids, go see or rent their movies, Ghibli or Pixar or preferably both. If you feel you need a chaperone, take your child or borrow one, I promise you they won't be disappointed. Neither will you, especially if that inner child of yours has been in hiding for too long. You'll come away ready to take flight. 

Thursday, October 22, 2009

She will be loved

I can't stop smiling to myself or doing the samba, and doing either in this infernal climate of Arctic winds and inhumane temperatures is considered plain wacko, at least when done in public. Yes, I remember promising myself and all the world I would undergo an attitude adjustment and put a lid on the b, m and w, and maybe buy a thicker parka and stop complaining about the weather. I said I'm both smiling and dancing, what more do you want?

My sister got married over the weekend and we had the most amazing time co-hosting a bilingual and bicultural ceremony and the celebrations to go with it. Little baby sis was the most beautiful baiana bride, and I love my brother-in-law and his friends to pieces for how they treated her all day. She was the uncrowned but undoubted Belle of the Ball and Queen of the Night, and I'm so happy for them and her I could burst.

We've been forced to spend much time apart over the years, but we've managed to forge a connection that transcends time and geography. I've managed to nag and egg on, I've listened and spoken my mind, been annoying and cheerleading. What are friends and big sisters for anyway? She knows I'll stand by her always, despite the times apart and hang geography.

I wish her and her soon to grow family heaven, and when life gets a little hellish as it inevitably at times does, I hope she doesn't start thinking twice about calling me, anytime, wherever she or I may be. And if you haven't called your siblings in ages, please do, now, right now. Can't stand the sight of them, huh? I think they miss you, too.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

An unfinished life

I conducted a birthday interview of a fascinating lady, a prominent figure in her home town, with much history and many stories to recount, and dame-dazzled Dita falling under her considerable charm, exuberance and grace. In the end, I didn't want to compress her life into a few paragraphs; I wanted to write a memoir there and then. And I wanted to know the source of her buoyancy. She pointed at a portrait, a chiaroscuro I had noticed walking in, the eyes vividly done, a luminous face standing out from the shadowy background.

In most cases of the much mocked and misunderstood Pollyannas, it is either or: life has either been good or life has dealt a death-blow, the latter often leading to a life filled with either bitterness or gratitude. Her lust for life had become indestructible the day her eldest son had died. Not that very day, of course, she added, but with time, when trying to make sense of something that made no sense, only hurt. She had forced herself to go on undefeated and decided to honor the spirit of her spirited child by celebrating his life and talent, not concentrating on the fact he was gone. She couldn't change that. Nothing or no one could.

She had had time to think about things. It was her eightieth birthday. She had survived Hitler and Stalin but she had also done the unnatural and outlived her child. And how she told the story of the last time she saw her first-born and how she had reacted to being told he had been killed, how I watched the pain resurface and try to take over, it could have happened four weeks and not some forty years ago. The exact times and the weather, what everyone had been wearing, the policemen's names. Like watching a piece of film or looking at a picture that hadn't faded, she could bring it all back. She told me it wasn't his life that flashed in front of her eyes but all that could have been. A life with his wife and baby, a career in art.

Maybe the trauma stamped the day in her mind for life. Maybe she needed to remember everything. Maybe she couldn't help but remember. His death had first made her crazy then kept her sane. It was as though the worst having already happened, nothing else could touch her. Any following misery had been a trifle in comparison. All the good she had experienced had been a bonus. Guarantees had expired, certainties had ceased to exist.

Dealing with and getting over the bitterness and anger had been the hardest part. Watching people destroy their lives and take others with them; the disregard and indifference that for a while had seemed prevalent; realizing she could have been as insensitive had not something of infinite value been taken from her; wondering is that what it takes to learn awareness; wishing the price for such tutoring hadn't been as staggering and long-standing; coming to terms.

No time had healed the wound. She said no time ever would. The pain had gradually subsided but the loss was forever. Life had been a good school but the lessons death had taught her had been immensely more valuable.

She was by no means finished with life and living. She was very much alive in this world, with all her senses, in every sense, even when she owed all her light and glow to the dark.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009


Do you live in the moment? Get things done ASAP because you may never have another chance? Or is it the perfect reason to take the scenic route? Make a phone call, smell your flower of choice, or stop to think and forget to start again, to quote the infinite wisdom of Pooh, since you may never have another chance?

But isn't the insistence to live in the here and now sometimes only a desperate attempt to hold on to the status quo, even when you sense resistance is futile? I don't know what else explains this sudden melancholy. Jorge Amado said the only sin and the greatest insult against life is sadness. Well, forgive me Jorge for I have sinned. After some northern exposure one-on-one you would have too. But you would not have been much of a writer had you stuck your head in the sand, the seemingly endless sandy coast of Bahia, somewhere out there, way out there. Way too far out there.

I'm not exactly sad summer is over. Saudade is the Brazilian Portuguese word for how I'm feeling; a bittersweet longing. It grips me every fall. A fragile state, a vulnerable existence where I have no right to claim I enjoy every passing second to the fullest, not if I'm startled by the sight of raindrops and rusty leaves or threatened by the darkest of nights and dusky, foggy mornings. Why do I fear them so much? They're beautiful. This is Scandinavia with its changing seasons and temperatures. It is what it is. What it's supposed to be.

I like to think I live in the moment. I cannot honestly say I do if I'm this hung up on summer and bracing myself for another winter of discontent. I'm bound to shut out much and that's no way to experience the world or write. That's no way to live at all. I'll force myself to pay attention instead and remind myself to doubt everything I'm sure of, especially concerning myself.

We're not everything we believe ourselves to be. And we're more than we think. We may sometimes see two very different faces in the mirror but as long as we can live with both and not shun either I guess we'll be all right.

So what's your kryptonite?

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Waiting to exhale

Do you believe dreams tell us something about what we are doing or where we should be going? What we should be paying more attention to or what we are trying hard to disregard?

My latest recurring dream has been of losing control of my car. I'm behind the wheel but the damn thing isn't going where I want it to or stopping when I brake. I've headed into collisions while trying to do something, anything, to stop it from happening, but it's always crash boom bang. I'm alone in the car, I'm not physically hurt, only pissed off I couldn't do anything to prevent the accident. Again.

Read into it what you will. My SWAG is it's all about the waiting game; waiting for my editor to tell me am I still standing or did I fall on my face or my ass with the edits. Fall on your ass and no one will notice the bruises. The situation is salvageable. Fall on your face and have your disgrace written all over you in bold black strokes.

I'm still behind the wheel. But someone else is driving that car. And it's as soothing as it usually is behind the eight ball.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Breaking the habit

I decided to spring clean my den. Out with the old, in with the new. The colors were starting to look a lot like that season coming up, that F word, that four-letter word, f..., f.... I can't even bring myself to say it. Since spring is about to burst in my Southern home, a spring cleaning it is at Casa Dita.

But these colors, these other templates, really... I'm the lady in red, I'm the one who wears black. Black or colors. Pastel colors I leave to blondes. What does one even have to do with the other, what I paint my den or what I decide or decline to wear? Some colors, things, or whatever are me and some categorically aren't. Because I say so? Because I think so? Because I'm absolutely convinced it is so and some fashionista would agree?

(My mom surprised me with a day at a day spa once, complete with a color analysis. Guess what season I was? F... You know, the one coming up. Autumn. Let's use another dialect and call it something more poetic and say autumn.)

How often do we consciously stop to think about all the ways in which we are programmed to function? The ways in which we ourselves have determined what and who we are? All the things we've picked up on the way, willingly or unwittingly, and decided this is me? The one who does/speaks/reads/avoids/studies/lives out or rages against this and that and the other because it says something essential about what we're about. Maybe it does. And maybe it's only a comfort zone, and not a very safe haven at that, only what we are used to, what we know best and draw comfort from when the alternatives look strange and forbidding.

I still don't think I look pretty in pink. But it's not poor pink's fault or problem, only mine.

Friday, August 14, 2009

True colors

What do you do? It's one of the first questions asked when meeting someone new. In effect people are asking who are you, but what if what people do has nothing to do with who they are? In some cases it doesn't.

Have you found your calling? Do you know what it is? If you're not at it, could you quit what you're doing and go for it, make it sustainable? So what do you do? If you can't remember what possessed you, if you're thinking what the hell was I thinking, wasn't life supposed to be more than this, well... It pays the bills and feeds the family and/or one ravenous cat.

I heard a psychologist suggest that wanting to have fun at work and with what you do is a childish notion. I hope I misheard or misunderstood (the radio was on but so were the kids in one cacophonic choir.) I'm sorry I missed the explanation as to why loving your occupation so well might be for the worse. Because most of mankind can't? Because we can't all start chasing stars, someone has to get down and dirty, literally?

A child stares longingly at the ice rink before the ice show. The child's parents imagine the child gliding across the rink, competing, performing, excelling. The child follows the chiller truck and dreams of driving it one day. That may be the ultimate fun job when you're four. It might still be the ultimate fun job at forty. What we don't suspect and what the driver does not care to share is that he drives as a meditation. That the absolute perk is not having to take any of the work home. That those free hours are his to use as he pleases. No one looking over his shoulder, no one calling after hours, no one threatening to take over if he goes on vacation or turns his back for one second.

Nah, you say. The driver only took it as a second job to pay for alimony after a messy divorce that cost him more than just money. You know, maybe he did. We can't really know without knowing him which one is the case. Is it something he does or is it who he is. As long as it sits well with him, I guess it's none of our business.

Don't ask me what I do. I'm working on it. Ask me who I am and I'll tell you the same. Just don't ask me to stop chasing that star quite yet. They fall out of the sky all the time. And if, for whatever reason, probable or inconceivable, this turns out to be a less than stellar crash and burn ride, I still won't have the skies gloating. You can't blame a girl for trying. Wouldn't you rather go down fighting under your own flag than sail for the rest of your life under a false one?

Sunday, August 2, 2009

The long goodbye

I lost a friend to the world again. We used to live fifty kilometers, some thirty miles apart. Then we stretched the distance to close to a thousand miles, seeing less and less of each other. Now there are more than five thousand miles to cross and we'll be lucky to see each other once a year. Hubby, always seeing the upside of everything, tried to console me. "Yea, we have a place in the Caribbean!" I guess that's one way of looking at it.

I've lost so many wonderful, crazy, beautiful people along the way because such things as email, cell phones or Skype didn't exist in my early youth. Calls were expensive and often hard or impossible to get through, letters took forever to get where they were going and some never made it and you never learned about it, maybe only never heard from someone again or left someone waiting for news which never arrived.

On a day like this I remember them, so many of them, especially those I never saw or heard from or managed to find again. I remember them because they made me laugh. I remember them because they made me cry. Gave me the most wonderful compliment I've ever received, my first kiss, words sharper than any knife, and the strength to hold on no matter what.

On a day like this life feels like one long goodbye. Almost too many goodbyes to count except I could. All I have to do is remember why I liked them, why I feared them, why they held me enthralled or appalled, why I respected them, how I earned their trust.

On a day like this I'm grateful for all the people I've managed to keep in touch with, ever grateful for all the ways out there to keep in touch. I let them know how much they mean to me. I'm safe in the knowledge that even if I once felt there's no such place as home, I still found one in someone. On a day like this I'm not likely to forget. All the ones I lost to the world will always be here to remind me.

Saturday, July 11, 2009


A day in the life
A moment in time
A sea inside
A cradle of sand

Upon that shore
In that water
I try not to wade
You invite me to stand

They are only numbers
It is merely a date
Stay on dry land
Love your fate

Organza for armor
See-through skin
That's how you breathe out
And the light gets in.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

You've come a long way, baby

Dear Alex,

I'm writing to you on this 4th of July to wish you happy birthday and to tell you how proud I am of you and how you've fared these last twelve months. I sent you out into the world a year ago to the date, remember, and for a while you made no contact. You had me worried for a while, you know, but you did tell me as you headed out not to wait up, only leave a light on for you.

That I did, and you found your way back with good news. Remember how happy I was, how utterly speechless, but with something that big, that good, that wonderful, how could I have done anything but fought for my breath? But you couldn't stay, could you; you only came back to pick up the rest of your things and to tell me I would have to stay on alert for just a while longer.

Honey, if the first stretch was a nail-biter, the second was nothing short of the screaming mimis. And screech I believe I did, if I remember correctly, not that I do, happy day, fuzzy day, when you mailed to tell me you wouldn't be coming back and not because you didn't want to but because someone wouldn't let you. You had some work to do and you needed my help. You had someone to help you out and someone for me to work with, and boy have you been a handful, but a sweet, rewarding, educating one. One-year-olds usually are.

They get all the attention and they know how to demand it. The expectations are high but probability of survival uncertain until you learn to trust your skills. They get to pave the way, make all the mistakes later written under 'learning the stupid-ass way', enchant with their novelty and enrage with their unpredictability.

And I'm telling you now, sweetie, start misbehaving and you'll find yourself on your way back to me. You truly want that? Didn't get your fill of being my toy boy to order around and use mercilessly any which way I could think of? Twisting you this way; never knowing what I wanted from you next; turning you that way; demanding and then pushing for more? Do you truly want to risk the chance I may not have evolved enough in your absence to handle you with more care and subtlety? No, you can't talk to your successors; they're all under house arrest until they do my bidding.

The whip is still cracking as the stories are spinning, so stay put and enjoy the hands and treatment of someone who knows what they are doing and is willing to teach me the ropes, too. No, you can't complain or you'll be dealing with Mommy Dearest. And neither of us wants that, do we? Alex? Baby? Are you listening? Stop acting like a one-year-old and give me a big sloppy one. I promised no favorites, but you always remember your first one. I can promise you that.

With love and Mavala Stop,

Your Tenacious D

Monday, June 22, 2009

Manic Monday

I survived Midsummer's 2009.

They should make t-shirts with that as a slogan since every major holiday can be hazardous to your health up here in The Land of the Midnight Sun. Midsummer is a big production of bonfires, barbecues and get-togethers of all kinds. The Sun stayed up all night and so did we.

But the body count, after such a fun weekend...puxa vida! Manslaughter/drowning/driving under the influence shouldn't be eligible for national sport, but watching the news this Monday morning made me wonder why so many set out to prove that having fun without booze is just faking it. Some heavy drinking going on in this part of the world, and when I say heavy I do mean a going for the gold attempt to get wasted.

There are two sets of nations within these Nordic countries, and two sets of peoples: the introvert winter version and the extrovert summer one. This is of course a gross generalization you should pay no mind to while on the other hand there's truth in it. How could the extremities in weather, length of day, the very quality of light here not affect a person? I insist they do, and not only because I feel it in me but because I see it all around me, in the faces and demeanor of strangers and loved ones alike. I'm a child of the tropics so maybe I shouldn't even be commenting on this, and this isn't what I meant to talk about.

In other news: Thunderbirds are go. There were two things in my inbox signaling it's time to get back to work (and the drawing board...) on the ongoing epic drama of getting my story published. First item: a message with a beautiful picture of a beautiful man attached ['Honey, he's mostly...naked,' my perceptive hot man from the cold commented. Oh yeah.], cover art, with my name on it. It gave my heart quite a workout. (Seeing one of the men or my name, you guess which.)

The second message was the heart stopper, or that's what it felt like until I got into it and over myself. Content edits, en masse. Okay, so I don't have a comparison, but my first impression was that the list was long, my second thought oh mi god they hate it, my third why do they want it since they hate it, my fourth that my editor had done a thorough job while I had somehow failed.

This is of course a gross exaggeration with not enough truth to mention in it. I looked at hunk supreme, the one on the cover that is, who urged me to read on and asked would he be standing there and would my editor have done such a thorough job of it if I had in fact failed, the publisher didn't want it and actually hated it.

And what did my editor say that wasn't merited. Things I should know better and do differently if I wrote the story now. Wait. I've been given the chance to do just that, with someone to usher me, with enough distance and detachment I can take the story apart in cold blood then breathe new life into it. As long as I don't pay attention to the Ghost of Midsummer Past, the one who started talking while I first read the content notes, the one who wrote the story some twelve months ago. I should hope I've learned something, a lot, enough, during the past year I can now get down to redeeming the characters and the story without that ghost hovering about.

Picture a chunk of clay. Picture a beautiful vase. Take clay, remove what is not the beautiful vase. Let dry. Add whatever enhances the beauty of vase in question. That is my next challenge on the way to ensuring you'll get to see that beautiful man and that cover, the one with my name on it. Honoring the time put into making that cover, editing the manuscript, reading my submission, writing the story and every person and lesson in between.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I have an exorcism to perform, and some pottery to attend to.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Bittersweet symphony

What a weekend. A christening and a funeral, drops of joy and sorrow and rain, laughter in remembrance, giggles and giddiness under the sun and at the door of things to come. I looked at those faces, old and young and younger still and hoped they would honor the promises made. That promises once made had been kept and that good-bye was not tainted with remorse.

I wondered do they know that the next two minutes and twenty seconds is all they may have? Would they be able to let go there and then without pain or regret? Many of the people who even choose to talk about this say that if it's a full life, a fulfilling life, you couldn't let go, you wouldn't want to. Think of all you'd miss out on. If it's such a full and fulfilling life, shouldn't you be able to, with everything said and done? Things usually aren't, are they, said and done, hence: pain and regret. Enter scapegoat: Death. But come on now, he didn't do it, or leave it undone. It wasn't his choice of words, or his silence. It is always ours and we're only projecting.

To make a life and a work complete requires playing all movements from a composition. As beautiful as any individual movement may be, it is only a part of the whole. Leave one out and have someone asking about it later on. Leave something out and start wondering why the sweet doesn't taste as sweet anymore. Disown whatever makes up all the heaviness and be burdened with it.

What if being on a first-name basis with the Grim Reaper is the only way to guarantee he has nothing on you? Call his bluff, let him know you're onto him and watch his act fall apart. Invite him in and cast him an understanding glance and see him take off that cloak. Grant him an understanding word and he will be crying on your shoulder in no time how all the world hates him and how he knows it's a dirty job but he honestly forgot to read the fine print. He won't smell your fear (he gets that a lot) but Life most certainly will and she will resent you for it. So take a fearless bite out of the bitter and taste how sweet the sweet tastes once more.

What a monotonous piece life would be without the tensions, the contrasts and counterpoints it takes to write a symphony. Leave a part out and it doesn't sound right. Leave another out and it doesn't ring true at all. Let the music play in all its complexity and dance as slow or fast as you dare. And show some sympathy for the devil, will you; poor Reaper has two left feet.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Viva la vida

"This week I 'ave been mostly writing about Immortals." (Picture Jesse from The Fast Show.)

Not vamps but characters of the death-defying, undying kind all the same. I have a short novel well under way and another thingy outlined I will probably hack in two, but I'm sure the characters won't mind, it's not like it will kill them.

What possessed me, I'm not sure. The aftershock of one Moebegone day? Our constant fight against The Great Nothingness? What's even more baffling: I can't stand the thought of living forever. It's not uplifting, it's exhausting. It takes away the immediacy, the beauty and poignancy of living knowing I might go on and on. Why work for the betterment of all we're brought to task over, why look after you while you watch my back if we got all eternity to get this right? I don't want all eternity. I want the here and now; no excuses, no explanations, one shot at kindness and loving and forgiveness, not all I dare ask for.

The only way I can think of going on and on is through the Celine-Dion-My-Heart-Will-Go-On method. (No comments from the peanut gallery, thank you.) That I can live with. I like the idea of epigenetics, of the ghosts of our ancestors haunting our genes. The Iroquois were onto something with their law and idea of seven generation sustainability. Or, for the biblically inclined: sons bearing the sins of the fathers? Same difference, basically. I'm haunted, you're haunted, she's haunted... Everybody! In my life we'll always go on... (Quiet in the peanut gallery, please!)

I'm more than the sum of all my parts, biology and sociology combined; every inherited susceptibility, every country and culture my parents introduced me to. I know most of what there is to know about the sociological bit but close to nothing about the biological part. I've seen quite far down the line but only on the surface level. Still those ghosts lurk inside me and what activates or inhibits them, we'll just have to wait and see.

I can't defuse those little time bombs. I don't know the combination or where they keep it. But there is an army inside me ready to save my life and with any luck my children's. Whether they want those particular pieces of inheritance or not it's theirs. Sorry, my sweetie darlings, Mom isn't all-powerful as you'll soon discover, and I agree Dad is quite fabulous but he isn't master of the universe no matter what he says and you might think.

So this week I've been mostly writing about what I don't know. I usually do. What I want to learn more about, what thrills me, terrifies me, haunts me and taunts me. Writing about what you know; now where's the challenge in that? As for the resting in peace business? I sure hope I get some sleep when I'm dead.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Saturday night's alright (for writing)

So I don't have a life. Or I have my friends' life and they have mine and the chances of making a simultaneous sweet escape are few and far between. Now that summer is here, it says so in my calendar and it is unseasonably warm, people with their surreally long vacations scatter like forest fauna fleeing fire. Away, away! You come back here, I say. Don't you dare leave me. Stellaaa!!! Ah shucks, she's long gone.

Every other person living in and around the capital seems to have come from somewhere else. I guess that's where they're headed and it is as if they could not get there fast enough. (Scandinavians are big on summer houses and cottages, preferably by some lake in the middle of nowhere. Amenities aren't necessary; peace and quiet are.) Or they're on a plane to Spain or Greece or Italy where they will run into the neighbors, colleagues, relatives etc. they were running from in the first place. (I've yet to visit London without running into someone I know who doesn't live there either. Small world? Microscopic.)

Hubby's working, the kids are sleeping over at his parents, and I'm living la vida loca sitting in our garden reading and writing. Ever grateful for the amenities, even more so for the peace and quiet.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Secret garden

Who knew there was a story central hiding in my garden? Who could have imagined a city girl would enjoy roughing it in the bush and digging in the dirt this much? Hubby is Nature Boy, I'm only learning, and gawking openly at said shirtless guy's abs and chest and biceps gleaming and straining while he swings that shovel and it's getting hot in here and I digress but you would too just looking at him working or working out or just standing there. (I swear love is one major distraction no matter who you are or what you're trying to do.)

There we were, discussing perennials, or Hubby talked while I tried to deduce from Latin and the context before he caught on to my confusion what sort of plants might those be. And something came to me then and there, a storyline that had absolutely nothing to do with plants or gardening, and I was forced to excuse myself and leave poor hunk hanging in mid sentence while I rushed off for my notebook. He knows by now I'll drop anything except someone's baby when my hands shoot up as if I was about to catch a ball, my eyes focus on some distant spot and my mouth opens the tiniest bit as though I was going to say something. It's funny as hell, his impersonation.

It happened several times during the weekend and I don't know whether it had something to do with concentrating on some rather mundane tasks, from where the wind blew, me or him, but I got so much done in the garden and orchard as well as by way of filling that notebook with ideas, dialogue, questions, and even some answers.

I've noticed that doing things as a meditation is conductive for creativity. At least it works for me. One of my favorite torture racks and methods of getting my mind flowing: indoor rowers. Yes, I know there are gurus out there to teach you to do the same without moving a muscle but I'm a run for the bus kind of girl; I absolutely need to use mine or I will get cranky and restless.

I know what the guru would tell me is of the essence. It's all I focus on when I row row row my boat not so gently down the stream. Having nothing to concentrate on but your next breath, being able to concentrate on nothing but breathing can be oddly liberating. (And, shameless product placement: forget about the latest fitness fad, you'll outlive it anyway, try any Concept2 rower, it will outlast you, and get the best no frills strength-endurance work out ever no matter what your current weight or starting level. No, they didn't pay me to say so. Would they? If I asked nicely? No? Dita who? Damn. I still love those machines.)

I've found new motivation to learn the ins and outs of gardening. The fact that my kids get to eat berries, fruit and vegetables they've planted and tended to themselves is no small bonus. And we supposedly live in a city, the second largest in the nation. I don't think of this as a city, not compared to most cities I've lived in and considering we actually grow food on our lot. I've never had a garden like the one we have now. I love it. For the foodstuff, for the inspiration, and especially for its patient, loving and understanding head gardener.

Friday, May 22, 2009

What it feels like for a girl

I got into a debate over how little girls should be dressed. Gender neutral preferably, as a friend of mine wants. Her problem is that her second daughter is not the tomboy her big sister is. She is a princess in the making, loves all things pink and frilly and girlie. Her mother apologizes for her daughter's tastes. I said she really shouldn't. It makes dressing like a boy okay and being a girlie girl something to be ashamed of.

Girls can wear jeans and cut their hair short, wear shirts and boots, because it's OK to be a boy, but for a boy to look like a girl is degrading, because you think that being a girl is degrading. So says Julie in the film The Cement Garden. (Yes, it's Charlotte Gainsbourg's voice in character in that Madonna song.) In the original Ian McEwan novel, the passage equals girls dressing as boys to a promotion. It was written some thirty years ago. That was then, this is now, right?

I know mothers who have bought baby dolls to their sons to cultivate nurturing tendencies. I know fathers who have refused to do the same so their sons wouldn't develop gay tendencies. Bah, humbug, I say; nature takes its course and it won't ask us for directions. Boys will be boys, girls will be girls, up to a point and always to some extent. Why not let women be women and men be men, and I'm not rooting for any Mars-Venus division.

I'm rooting for variety and the little differences that make the battle between the sexes a win-win mock war at its best, a man look at a woman in appreciation then look again, a woman compliment a man and leave it at that. Or not. And I'm not going into a discussion about equality. We're not quite there yet, and we're not getting there unless we treat equal rights as a human rights issue. Some rules apply to everyone, and it has nothing to do with what you decide to wear to work. Or the playground.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Working on a dream

I sit here writing, and freefalling. To the occasional observer spending a day at the beach and catching a passing glance, it may not be obvious whether I'm waving or drowning (cf. the poor soul in that Stevie Smith poem). Waving, my friends, waving.

I am fortunate to have a spouse who takes kindly to my aspirations. I have it easy, you say? No, I don't, actually. Any woman who wasn't married from her childhood home to the first man who asked (Hey there, Kev, it would've ruined everything, admit it!), who has led an independent existence before settling down, will tell you that it is a huge decision to let someone support you for any period of time. It has enabled me to get closer to where I want to be, but it brings up issues I suggest you take up and discuss thoroughly in advance, not suffer in grudging silence later on.

How could my husband stand for it, even for a little while? He knows what it's like to truly want something, work for it, and not have it fall on your lap, especially before you're ready to give it all you got. He has worked in fields that aren't easy to enter. They're also occupations where it doesn't matter who you know or don't know. What matters is how you do it, have you got it in you.

I don't have anyone to recommend me or help me make this sustainable. All the people I know in publishing or anything remotely related are people I came to know while getting my MA. People I consider close friends, people I have fun with. People who could not help me without risking me taking over their next project. Not that I probably could have; these are all professionals in their own right and successful in their chosen fields. They haven't offered, and I didn't exactly want their jobs or even to enter into the line of work they now excel in.

I wanted to write. No. I wanted to be a writer. Okay, so the former is a prerequisite for the latter, but you know what I mean. If you can't imagine it, it won't come. I wanted to think of myself as a writer, for a living, for life, introduce myself as one, not just as someone who writes.

I have support. I have tenacity. I have the chutzpah to say I have talent. If I don't believe in this, who else would? I know my strengths and I'm awkwardly aware of my weaknesses, in writing and life. I also know it's up to me to get this thing going, keep it rolling, keep learning and growing. Friends will be friends, and we'll keep it that way.

I don't want to shout to be heard, I don't want to strike out to reach out. I don't want to do things for show or effect. If that's what it takes, I might be in one humongous puddle of poo. I write to tell the truth; the emotional truth. You don't need to know more than that to decide whether I'm flunking it or dunking it. When I finally get that first story out. (I have a heaven sent editor who hasn't tired of my newbie questions and giddiness, yet.) When someone eventually reads it and rates it. Please tell me that's all you ask of me. That's all I ask of you.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

If opportunity calls...the answer is 42.

I went through some shots taken on our last family vacation, yet another attempt to familiarize my children with the world and the places their mother knew when she was younger and still loves. I thought about how your childhood home gets etched into you; the good, the bad, the ugly, happy and sad. Odes to joy, monuments carved in happiness, unmarked graves in your heart. Some try to escape it, some escape into it, but it always remains a frame of reference, even when the neighborhood changes, and the neighbors.

It's not Eats meets West for me, it's North vs. South. It was in my childhood, it still is today. That makes for dichotomies aplenty. It keeps life interesting and leaves no space for tunnel vision. It makes me wonder how the other half lives, or third, or tenth. In the face of 'facts' or 'truth', it forces me to ask what if the opposite was true.

I'm good at making a stand; I'm terrible at taking sides. Sounds contradictory? No, it's not you, it's me. I'll watch a game and root for whichever team is losing and drive my husband nuts. Diplomacy is an admirable or an abominable trait, depending on who gets vetoed. I once asked the writer in me whether she had any use for a negotiator. Appalled by my sudden uncertainty and my suspecting that anything in this world and our psyches would not be worth studying and writing about, she deigned to concede that yes, maybe I was onto something.

As fate, the universe and/or the economy would have it, I suddenly had more time to read and write. (It's back to business now and I'm not sure whether I'm glad or sad. Both.) Serendipity granted me two pieces that made me go hmmm. Nadine Gordimer talking about a double process where detachment and disinvolvement mingle with empathy and sympathy for others, a process which manifests itself as heightened powers of observation. Keats praising 'negative capability', the ability of being in doubt and ambiguity without reaching after absolutes.

Eureka! Yes! Thank and praise those two passages for helping explain the compulsion to know the different sides to every story and still not go crazy when you're not granted straight and comprehensive answers to Ultimate Questions like Life, the Universe and Everything.

(I talked about this with a former colleague of mine. Her husband is into astrology and I suspect that secretly so is she because she listened politely, smiled compassionately then said "But you see, you're a Leo and a Leo rising with the Moon in Aquarius." Right... Back then, I did not dare ask, so those in the know: translation, please! Someone supposedly in the know said it's the third culture kid effect. And just so you know, labels make me ill at ease even if there's a modicum of truth in them.)

That compulsion is inherent, a part of my make up, my constant companion in life and writing. I guess you could do worse as far as aptitudes go. And Bob's your uncle, the writers among you say. Everyone and their brother mother sister lover can and should be able to go the Keats-Gordimer way if they want to write. If they want to be fit for human consumption, get a job and find a partner and keep them. Maybe so, but if it's the only way to fly, do we acknowledge it, work on it, work for it? What about our other traits and talents?

You have to value your strengths, honor and cultivate them, or take on whatever role is handed to you and read from the script. You have to use what you have going for you to the best of our ability, take it as far as you can. Of course you would first have to recognize what that something is, unveil and study it and decide how it will serve you and, with any luck, effort and inspiration, others. If you're not hurting anyone, run with it. It's yours, all yours. If opportunity sees you're busy with other things, it won't present itself. It will go out in search of someone not only waiting but prepared to be introduced.

And I'm starting to sound like morning after copy for some running shoe company. I'm all over the place with my thoughts this week, and with so much happening they're all over me. So let me wrap up by quoting and paraphrasing Miss Stefani's Deep Thought: Since life is short and you're capable, what you waiting for?