Flitting like hummingbirds
From apps to tweets to search engines to You Tube
Living our plugged-in lifestyles
Clicking, scrolling, swiping, texting, posting
Will we emerge to read enriching classics,
To ponder with sages life's deep mysteries?
Clickety Clack, No Time For That!
Leap-frogging from website to website
With only thirty seconds on each
Enthralled by new mail pings and blinking banner ads
Heeding our computer's sporadic gurgles and beeps
Will we still have the drive for creativity?
Will our imaginations take metaphysical flight?
Clickety Clack, No Time For That!
Consumed by our super hive
Of laptops, iPods, iPads, and iThingies
Connecting to constant streams of digital info
Only interrupted by technological glitches
Will we pause long enough to expand our vocabulary
So we can write eloquently with crystal clarity?
Clickety Clack, No Time For That!
Between different food preferences and dietary restrictions, is it possible for four friends to go out for lunch together and each be completely satisfied?
Three of my friends and I recently went to one of the trendy restaurant rows to enjoy some girlfriend chat time. After wandering for some time from spot to spot looking at menus, we were beginning to think there was no way the three of us would be happy at the same restaurant. One couldn't eat this, the other couldn't eat that.
Gluten-free friend was staying away, far away, from pasta, pizza, and bread so Italian was out. Low-sodium gal nixed Chinese. The one who was lactose-intolerant strode right past the French bistro with its heavy sauces made from cow's milk. I decided not to even mention my acid reflux; things were getting complicated enough.
"What about this menu?" I asked in front of the California-style restaurant. "Everything is made with organic ingredients. Sounds healthy."
We walked inside and were seated in a booth. "You do realize," said the one, it's not only the sodium we've got to watch our for. Just because they've got organic ingredients here doesn't mean we're home free."
Gluten-free lady's eyes lit up. "You've got that right! Preservatives and additives are soooo bad for us."
Not to be outdone, lactose-intolerant friend added, "Worse are saturated fats and high-glycemic index carbs...turn into sugar, you know."
Four green salads later (adding one thing, removing another), we agreed about future procedure: from now on, we would take turns lunching together on each other's back patios and each of us would bring our own food.
The other day, I wrote my usual grocery list and left for some routine shopping at the supermarket. As it turned out, though, I ended up shopping with two other persons...only they never knew it.
Before I saw the middle-aged, conservatively dressed man, I heard his voice. "Well, it's great that you always find the reduced fat, creamy peanut butter when you go shopping but I'm telling you, it's not here. They've got chunky regular, creamy regular, but not what you want," he said emphatically, as he continued to stare at the shelves.
The cord from his ear piece dangled across his chest down to the cell phone hooked onto his waistband. "I will not ask anyone to help me find something that is not here!" I glanced knowingly at his third finger, left hand, confirming that he was talking to his wife.
As the man continued down the aisle, head turning from side to side, I placed a jar of raspberry jam into my cart and took a quick peek at the peanut butter section as I passed by. What do you know, he was right. I guess I checked because of the flashback of my own husband invariably bringing home the wrong food item or too much of something he became enamored of whenever he did the shopping.
I could hear the man as I headed down the cereal aisle. "That's not too much sugar," he pronounced, examining the label on the back of a box of chocolate Cheerios. "You're getting the kind of cereal you want. What about something I like?" This seemed like a reasonable request. Let's see...something for my husband, something for me.
When I got to the ice cream section, a few aisles over, there he was again. We must be moving at the same pace, I thought.
"Well, my dear, let me read you the entire row of names," he said. "Chocolate Delight, Coconut Breeze, Strawberry Song, Vanilla Mountain Glory, Melon Melody, and Hazelnut Surprise. Yes, they're all lactose-free. How do I know? It says so right on the front of the container."
I had not intended to indulge in any ice cream but I wondered what kind of surprising ingredient was in the hazelnut concoction. I nonchalantly hovered several feet away pretending to be absorbed by the sorbets. As soon as the man made his choice and wheeled his cart toward the next aisle, I promised to keep my portions small as I cupped my hand around the Hazelnut Surprise.
A few minutes later, over the nuts and seeds bins. I couldn't help but overhearing him as I scooped chopped walnuts into a baggie. "You really should try the raw, hulled sunflower seeds to lower your cholesterol." About twenty seconds of silence followed his suggestion. Then, "Well, of course, hon, to lower mine also, not just yours."
Hmmm, I thought, I need to lower my cholesterol too. After he moved on, I grabbed another scooper.
We were making progress. He skipped the pet food aisle as did I.
The laundry detergents were waiting for the three of us...the man, his wife, and me. "All right, I'll buy it but it's not on sale," he complained as he lifted a large box of my favorite detergent. He gave a long, last, lingering look at another popular brand that was reduced by two dollars. Truth be told, I don't think I would have noticed.
This shopping trip had paid off for me in more ways than one but, apparently, not for the man's wife. "Hmmph! I've saved you the time and effort of having to go through all this and that's the thanks I get. You can do the food shopping from now on and I'll take over the laundry," he told her, ripping off his ear piece.
Have you ever watched a man do the laundry?
THE SUN'S HAPPY DAY
The sun stretched and yawned,
Causing shafts of gold to light-speed across the ocean.
Morning mist blurred distant horizon line,
Making grayish-green water melt into sky.
The arc of flame surged from the horizon,
Spattering fringes of cloudlets with sizzling embers.
High-energy waves crashed toward shore,
Spreading white lace tablecloths in their wake.
The luminous orb arose,
Saturating the beach with life-giving light.
Seagulls hovered over shoreline shallows,
Competing with pelicans that skimmed surf's swell.
The star of the show befriended cirrus clouds,
Playing hide-and-seek with whipped cream puffs.
Warmed sea water churned and cooked kelp fronds,
Washing reddish brown jellyfish ashore.
The flaming disk watched all day long,
Emboldening surfers, kayakers and paddle-boaters.
Multicolored sailboats skimmed the water,
Entertaining tourists on decks of sightseeing yachts.
The celestial body smiled down from above,
Celebrating wobble-running toddlers and couples in love.
Sand shifted according to high and low tides,
Revealing, then concealing pebbles, stones and shells.
The shining sphere slowly descended,
Preparing to snuggle into the horizon.
Tide lazily receded toward lowest level,
Exhibiting sand patterns like quilted bedspreads.
How to stay healthy while writing your book
First Things First
As soon as you get up in the morning, get showered and eat breakfast. Once you sit down at the computer, it's anyone's guess when you will eat and wash. I know this because on the days I break this rule, I'm still in my bathrobe at dinner time.
All that matters is that your story can only be written by you. Be yourself, have fun, enjoy your characters. When was the last time you laughed with joy as you were writing?
Appreciate the gift of being able to express your ideas and share them with others. Do your very best, do all that is reasonable with gusto and pizazz, and then be humble enough to admit that the results are not up to you but to God.
Examine Your Motives
Energize yourself by reaching for the highest motives for writing your book. Beyond fame, fortune, status, bragging rights, what purpose will your book serve? Will it provide entertainment, laughter, significant information, encouragement, inspiration, wisdom, values, morals, new ideas...what?
For me, it's validating and encouraging my readers, while providing large doses of humor. I love to picture my readers getting a lift from No Rocking Chairs Yet.
"Simplify, Simplify, Simplify" - Emerson
Henry David Thoreau wrote his most famous work, Walden, while living in a cabin in the woods with only the barest of life's essentials. He chose to learn what a simple lifestyle had to teach, and considered that special time as life at its best.
To finally finish that book inside of you, you may have to let go of superfluous activities that overwhelm your schedule. Keep only those social interactions and hobbies that provide balance and contentment in your life, not the ones that add stress. It will be enough to keep up with your errands, prepping meals, and doing laundry. My ukulele has gathered layers of dust and my watercolor brushes are only dipped in color during writer's block.
Pace Up and Down
One of my tips, learned the hard way, is to pace up and down while mulling something over. Only sit down while actually engaged in writing, editing, or online research. Do arm, wrist, and hand exercises while you are pacing and thinking about what to write next. Put some classical music on in the background.
Take Long Walks Whenever You Can.
All truly great thoughts are conceived while walking, Nietzsche believed.
"The moving landscape provides an absorbing diversion which frees the mind and gives us a fresh viewpoint, and we're most at ease with the world when we walk because everything is happening at a manageable pace." - Lloyd Jones
The art of walking, with its progressive motion, implies power. Just what you'll need when you get back to your desk.
Here's what one of your favorite writers, Dickens, said, "If I could not walk far and fast, I think I would explode and perish. Walk and be happy; walk and be healthy. The best way to lengthen out our days is to walk steadily and with a purpose."
Be Dispassionate About Criticism of Your Work.
Ask yourself, Is there anything valid and useful in the negative comments? If not, just view them as minor annoyances and march on. Remember, it's not the mountain of hard work ahead that irritates us to the point of utter distraction; it's the grain of sand in our shoe.
Accept and Adjust
I have finally accepted that I will never accomplish everything in this lifetime that I want to do, have to do, and should do. My to-do lists are interminable, self-perpetuating, and never-ending.
Of course, the important and the urgent things must be done. But the speculative and imaginative things you would like to do "someday" aren't worth the constant angst of carrying around, copying and recopying. A list is not a life sentence. Just because you have wanted to do something for years doesn't mean it is still worth doing. Reassess your to-do list.
Here's to the survival of the fittest.
Of all the old stories in my family, the one that probably will be passed down and live forever is about Mom's hilariously humorous (to us, not to her) bathroom experience in a large old farmhouse in Abruzzo, Italy. She and Dad, who were both in their 60s at the time, were staying with Dad's elderly aunt and uncle for several days in between their whirlwind tour of Italy.
Two men cousins, with whom dad had grown up in Abruzzo, and their wives, along with a few of their combined 30 and 40-something adult children, plus their assorted grandchildren, had also arranged to be there for this momentous reunion.
Let me set the stage. Mom had already been constipated for several days before she and Dad arrived at the farm. So the story, which I always visualize as a play, starts on the first afternoon of their visit.
MOM: Peter, ask your aunt if there's a pharmacy in the village center. I'm going to have to do something about my situation before I burst.
DAD: (asking in Italian) Aunt Consolata, would you give me the directions to your nearest pharmacy.
AUNT CONSOLATA: Why? Whatsa wrong?
DAD: Oh, nothing serious. Mary is just a bit constipated. Has been for a few days now.
AUNT CONSOLATA: Ah! Stitichezza! Very bad.
Having overheard his wife's loud exclamation from the next room, in walks Uncle Agapeto, pointing and gesticulating as he gives directions, all in broken English.
Exit Dad and Mom in their rental car.
The following morning, just after breakfast, while everyone is still gathered together. a neighbor from two farms down the narrow dirt road knocks on the kitchen door and Aunt Consolata invites her in.
AUNT CONSOLATA: Ciao, Lucia. What you bring?
After the two women chat for a couple of minutes, now totally in Italian, Dad translates for Mom as the rest of the family listen in dead silence.
DAD: It seems my aunt's neighbor has brought a huge pot of minestrone soup for you. She prepared it last night, as soon as she heard about your distressing condition. She says to tell you that her soup always works and that they all hope you are feeling better soon.
MOM: (in a high-pitched voice) They? Who are They? And how did she even find out about my personal condition?
DAD: Could have been someone working at the pharmacy or maybe a customer who overheard us speaking with the pharmacist. This is a small farming village; word spreads and it spreads fast.
Later, at lunch time, which, in Italy, is really more like dinner, Mom starts eating a second serving of minestrone ladled into her bowl by Aunt Consolata.
All eyes around the super-long dining room table watch expectantly.
AUNT CONSOLATA: Mangiare, mangiare.
MOM: I am eating. I only put my spoon down for a few seconds to catch my breath.
AUNT CONSOLATA: You get stordito if too long stitico.
DAD: She says you will get lethargic if you are constipated for too long.
MOM: Everyone's waiting to see if I suddenly bolt from this table. I have never in my entire life been so embarrassed and humiliated.
DAD: No, no, they're just concerned.
That evening, all the relatives are gathered in the living room, chatting and laughing. The decibel level is high. Mom gets up from the sofa, during a moment when no one is paying the least attention to her, and tiptoes down the hallway toward the bathroom. Alas, at the sound of loud flushing emanating from the pull-string toilet, all conversation ceases and everyone looks straight at Mom as she reenters the living room.
UNCLE AGAPETO: Che cosa?
As Mom signals thumbs down, condolences fly around the room.
"Oh, too bad."
"So sorry, Mary."
Others shake their heads.
ANNA: (the wife of one of Dad's cousins) The owner of that cute little fabric shop, you know, the one near the pharmacy? Well, she told me when I was in there today that the best thing to be done is lots of walking and plenty of liquids.
The following night. The entire family is gathered for the last time in the living room since Mom and Dad will be leaving the next morning. Dad and his cousins are reveling in childhood memories.
Suddenly, Mom gets up to use the bathroom. All eyes follow her.
A few minutes pass. The toilet flushes. Head held high, Mom struts into the living room.
DAD: Well? Any good news?
MOM: (triumphantly) Yes! Si! Finalmente!
All Dad's relatives burst out in joyful laughter.
A few start singing.
A couple pat her on the back.
Uncle Agapeto pours the wine.
AUNT CONSOLATA: Congratulazione!
MOODS AND REALITY
If you think your moods don't affect your perceptions, here are some examples of how my own reality is colored by how I feel on a given day.
If I'm hungry during one of my beach walks, It's amazing how many things will remind me of food. The sun is an egg yolk. The long, thin sea grass, which lies coiled in heaps upon the sand, looks like cooked spinach spaghetti. Clam and oyster shells remind me of an oyster bar. The overcast sky is like a dimly-lit restaurant and a few puffy white clouds are whipped cream.
Kelp bulbs broil in the sun. Tiny crabs that scurry over the sand will grow into delicious Dungeness crabs. Kelp is the color of Dijon mustard.
See what I mean!
Now let's say I'm in a sad mood, disappointed perhaps that a book event has been cancelled. I now notice things I did not pay attention to before: bird droppings, litter, the patches of blackened sand, broken seashells smashed by uncaring people, dilapidated houses lining the beach, seaweed being attacked by sandflies, rocks as splintered as my hopes.
Want more? How about suffocating humidity, lonely cliffs, a solitary seagull staring straight ahead, palm trees with scorched leaves, an abandoned plastic shovel, murky algae, smelly kelp, piercing wind, wavelets collapsing on the beach.
What if I'm feeling frustrated? Recently, I forgot to bring my hat to the beach and was utterly annoyed. After only a few minutes, I felt the intensity of the burning sunrays on my face and worried that I might get a bad sunburn without my protective hat.
The wind started to blow in strong gusts. My new hairstyle was replaced by a tangled, disheveled mess.
I never see anyone I know during my frequent walks. But, of course, now I did. And who was it? A well-known book agent. He would not have recognized me if I had remembered to wear my large canvas hat.
Then, when I had just decided nothing else could go wrong, I looked up at a line of seagulls flying directly over my head.
I really should have worn my hat.
With holiday food binging over, I entered the supermarket with a clear resolution to choose my food with discipline rather than react to it.
I was minding my own business when a rotund, jolly-faced man, who was closely watching me as I scrutinized the eggplants, suddenly struck up a conversation.
"Ahhh, eggplants. I used to make the best eggplant concoction ever," he sighed. "You see, I was a chef in my younger days. Now I have a number of conditions that restrict my diet."
"Don't we all," I responded.
He then went on to tell me his very favorite ethnic signature dishes, pronouncing each recipe name perfectly, whether French, Italian, Greek or Mexican. With passion and longing in his voice and facial expression, he described in minute detail how to prepare the most incredible lasagna with ground veal.
"We really shouldn't be talking like this," I said, "I'm on a diet also, and it's no use reminiscing about dishes we no longer should eat."
'Well, we can cheat 20 percent of the time and still be okay," the retired chef smiled. I unobtrusively glanced at his waistline and had my doubts.
Finally extricating myself from this conversation, I selected two extra large eggplants and, by the time I got to the checkout line, I had picked up a least 11 additional items that weren't on my original list.
By gum, I reasoned, if I'm going to cheat 20 percent of the time, I'm going to do it in style!
FAMOUS WRITERS ON WRITING
It seems as if almost every other person I meet lately believes they've got a book inside of them. Well, if they let it out, they'll probably drop three pants sizes!
Actually, an estimated 81 percent of Americans want to become authors. So, just in case anyone out there is fantasizing about the writer's life, here are some of the most insightful quotes about writing by writers who have paid their dues.
"The profession of book writing makes horse racing seem like a
solid, stable business." - John Steinbeck
"Almost anyone can be an author; the business is to collect money
and fame from this state of being." - A.A. Milne
"Writing is easy. All you do is sit staring at a blank sheet of paper until drops of blood form on your forehead." - Gene Fowler
"There is no way of writing well and also of writing easily."
- Anthony Trollope
"Beyond talent lie all the usual words: discipline, love, luck -- but, most of all, endurance." - James Baldwin
"Publishers don't nurse you; they buy and sell you." - P.D. James
"All good writing is swimming underwater and holding your breath."
- F. Scott Fitzgerald
"Writing a novel is like driving a car at night. You can only see as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way."
- E. L. Doctorow