Lenny Kravitz’s Mama Said album is one of my favorites of all time. I played the hell out of that sucker when it came out and for years afterward. It’s been awhile since I broke it out so maybe today it’s time. Let’s start with this:

When I first thought of this post it wasn’t supposed to be about Lenny Kravitz, but before I get to the meat and potatoes of it, I’d like to tell you a story from my archives.

Circa 1995 I lived in West Hollywood and worked in Mar Vista. My commute consisted of three streets: Right on Santa Monica Boulevard, left on La Brea Avenue, right on Venice Boulevard, reversed on the trip home. Easy, but traffic laden, so I generally spent about 30-45 minutes in the car each way.

Back then I had a fantasy that one day I would meet Lenny Kravitz, we’d hit it off, and fall in love. Okay, so I didn’t believe it would ever really happen (though at 25 I was nothing if not idealistic) but since I lived in LA and often had random celebrity sightings, it wasn’t such a far-fetched idea that I might actually see him one day. It was, as the title of the post indicates, “thinking positivity.”

So one day on the way home I was sitting in traffic on La Brea Avenue when I noticed a guy with long dreadlocks entering a furniture store on the right. It’s called Little Paris Antiques now but I’m fairly certain it was called something different back in the day.

There was no doubt in my mind it was Lenny Kravitz and it was an opportunity I just couldn’t pass up. Fortunately I was in the far right lane so I quickly pulled over and parked in front of the store.

It’s worth noting at this point that I’d skipped lunch that day and had stopped by the 7-11 on Venice and Sepulveda to buy a snack for the ride home. I don’t remember exactly what it was but it was crunchy and oniony, and left a powdery residue everywhere. I’d placed the open bag on the passenger seat and had been digging into it the whole ride home, so I’ll let you do the math on how I must’ve smelled. Still, I wasn’t about to let a little onion breath stand between me and my destiny. I ran into the store and it wasn’t long before I spied the man I’d seen enter.

Now, if this was a work of fiction, this is where I’d add the twist: the man turned around and it wasn’t Lenny Kravitz at all–it was just some poser. Cue the womp womp music.

But this was real life y’all! I found myself face to face with the man who was numero uno in my book. My Lenny radar had not failed me. It was the man himself.

I remember two things vividly about that meeting. 1) He was about as tall as I am, 5 ft. 4. 2) He had the most beautiful flaring nostrils I’d ever seen. Seriously, I could not stop looking at his nose.

He looked a bit panicked when I approached him. I quickly allayed his fears by telling him what a big fan I was and how much I respected him for being vocal about his commitment to Christianity. I loved me some Jesus big time back then. He just nodded politely while I spoke and then thanked me graciously, told me how sweet I was.

Did you hear that? He told me I was sweet. Unsurprisingly, that was the extent of our romance.

Okay, so this post wasn’t supposed to be about Lenny Kravitz. It was supposed to be about positivity.

Recently I started writing at a coffee shop on Sunday mornings with a couple of fellow writers. I noticed that we seem to spend a good deal of our time (when not writing of course) berating ourselves for not writing more. For not being more dedicated. For being slackers.

And yes, by some writers’ example, perhaps we are. But spending so much time talking about how we fail keeps us from being proud of how much we’ve achieved. With that in mind, I started reflecting on what I’ve accomplished since 2012 began:

1) Finished a major revision of DIARY OF BEDLAM, thereby greatly improving the manuscript
2) Started querying agents again
3) Had a flash fiction story published online
4) Contributed one short story to an upcoming anthology (a story, by the way, that I’m very proud of)
5) Been asked to contribute a second short story to a charity anthology
6) Hired a professional editor to edit DIARY OF BEDLAM
7) Begun implementing the suggestions of said editor
8) Started a new WIP
9) Started working with a critique group

Not too shabby!

This isn’t to say I can’t improve my work ethic, but sometimes it’s good for me to step back and look at what I have accomplished instead of dwelling on all the ways I don’t live up to my own expectations.

Lenny Kravitz would be proud.

A few minutes ago I read this post about Meghan McCain’s boobs and it got me thinking. Warning–this post is kind of tangental to the post about Meghan and not directly relevant to the original.

About a year ago I made a decision to stop posting about politics online. With the exception of very few issues I try to keep quiet about political matters, and increasingly, religious matters. I’m a lot happier because of it.

The problem, as I see it, is that places like Facebook and Twitter don’t foster meaningful dialogue about politics. This is especially true of Twitter–140 characters isn’t enough to delve into any issue, even if you post a link. Sure, there are conversations that happen there–I’ve had them myself–but it is easy to take things out of context because it’s impossible to follow every thread of every conversation. At some point someone is going to assume you’re a jerk based on a snippet of conversation that might not have much bearing on how you actually feel about a subject. How could it when the original conversation originated 24 hours ago, took place between ten people (some of which you don’t follow), and began with a link to a relevant blog post or news story, now long buried in a barrage of tweets?

To me, this fosters anger and misunderstanding, and it’s ultimately not productive. Unless, of course, your aim is to provoke, and then you become just another asshole on the Internet.

Facebook isn’t much better. It’s mostly just a place to further the culture of ugly sound bites and noise we are increasingly comfortable with. Unless I’m willing to truly engage, and this means making sure I know exactly what the hell I’m talking about on any social/political issue I post about it, I’m better off keeping my mouth shut.

Otherwise, I’m just another asshole on the Internet.

There are times when I feel like my choice to be silent is a copout, the result of my cowardice and dislike of confrontation. But this doesn’t happen very often, and over time, it happens less and less. I’m not a journalist–I don’t have time to research even my most heart felt opinions to the degree I feel comfortable shooting off my mouth about them. This might change. I’m a passionate person whose equally passionate about my views. But for now, I need to spend my time on the things that benefit myself and my family the most. It ain’t politics, folks.

This isn’t meant to be a judgement of my friends and colleagues who do post about political and other somewhat controversial matters. What one does with one’s Internet space is up to them and I’m free to follow or friend accordingly. Some people just have stronger stomachs than I do, or are adequately informed and worthy of my attention. Many are not. What’s that they say? Don’t be that gal.

Don’t be just another asshole on the Internet.

I’m curious to hear what you think about this subject. Hit me with some comments, people.

On Tuesday we celebrate the one year anniversary of living in our house. To celebrate, I thought I'd post pictures of my office space.

John Hornor Jacobs started this "trend" of writers showing their office a couple of months ago. It took me that long to clean up and rearrange my office, but over the weekend I finally got it in some kind of working order.

Here is the wide shot:

WIW_overview

The room is pretty big, but since it's got to function as both my office, my gym, and our guest room, space must be used wisely.

Well, maybe not so wisely, because my desk is huge, and I love it. I got it from a Craigslist ad about four months ago.

WIW_desk_books
There are actually no bookcases in the room since I've got a big one in the hallway right outside the door. But these are the books I use on a regular basis or that inspire me so I keep them close.

WIW_desk_chair

WIW_desk_front

I know three monitors seems excessive but really, they are very useful.

The picture below is my treadmill desk. It's really not very high tech–Mick just built me a little wooden platform I can rest my laptop on. I try to go 10,000 steps a day, and most days, that means I have to spend a little quality time on the treadmill.

WIW_treadmill_desk
I was going for a Mad Men vibe with my furnishings. Didn't quite acheive it, but I'm very happy with it just the same. I got this chandelier for less than $100 on Overstock.com.

WIW_light

Another Craigslist find. This dresser is actually one of my favorite pieces of furniture in the house.

WIW_dresser
So I mentioned my office is also the guest room. This is actually a trundle bed that pulls out to make a king-size bed. Buying this was one of the best decisions we ever made because it saves so much space but allows our guests to be comfy.

WIW_bed
Finally, this chair (another Craigslist item) doesn't serve much of a purpose other than to be awesome (it's partner is in the living room).

WIW_chair
I still need to paint since the mint green doesn't quite do it for me, but that might not happen for awhile.

So this is where I work most days. If I'm writing a first draft I use a yellow legal pad and write all over the house. Sometimes I sit at the dining room table too because for some reason I find it hard to sit in the same spot all the time.

Wanna see more writers' offices?

John Hornor Jacobs
Daniel B. O'Shea (He inspired the treadmill desk)
Keith Rawson

Apple_pie I know I've said this before, but there are very few people in the world I love more than my grandfather. He's 88, and he's old. I ought to know: he never stops reminding me, and everyone else, of it. Born in Blaine, Arkansas in 1922, he's the oldest of eight children and they were a poor family. Like barefoot-in-and-living-in-a-one-room-cabin poor. He recently told me they ate a lot of meat growing up, then proceeded to regale me with tales (again) about hunting possums and squirrels, even a hedgehog once (he admitted they might not have eaten that).

Above all, though, my grandpa is a man of simple tastes. I only point these things out because they provide important context for the story I'm about to tell.

On Sunday, we went to the local casino to play bingo. It's one of my grandpa's favorite pastimes, and I try to take him whenever I'm able to. It was a fun group: me, my uncle, my aunt, my grandma, and my grandpa. With daubers in hand, we sat down with a mind to make that bingo parlor our bitch.

(And indeed, we did. I bingoed twice, back-to-back, winning a total of $600, and my grandma bingoed a couple of games later and won $500).

Bingo_receipt

As family tradition dictates, the winner must buy the losers dinner. Since I had pocketed the most, I said I'd pay. We sat down and my grandpa, who is not a great eater on his best days, looked at the menu and said "I think I'll have Belgian waffle." Breakfast for dinner? Awesome.

It came time to order and my grandpa said what he wanted. The waiter said "I'm sorry sir, we don't have waffles." Apparently, the casino restaurant stops serving breakfast at 11am. Disappointed, my grandpa quickly looked at the menu again while the rest of us ordered. When it came his turn, he ordered the salmon. My grandma raised an eyebrow.

"Soup or salad, sir?" the waiter asked.

"Salad," said my grandpa.

"What kind of dressing?"

"What kind do you have?"

The waiter listed the options and my grandpa chose bleu cheese. My grandma raised another eyebrow.

While we waited for our dinner to come, I played keno and mention was made of how surprising grandpa's choice of entree was. I figured he just had a hankering for some fish. What did I know? My grandma, now with both eyebrows pointing toward the heavens, just sat and shook her head (they've been married 65 years; she might know a thing or two about him).

The salad came and my grandpa began eating it. At some point he asked "Why'd they call it blue?" and my uncle replied "It has little blue specks in it sometimes." This seemed to satisfy my grandpa and he finished the salad without incident.

When our entrees came, the waiter placed my grandpa's salmon in front of him. My grandpa said "Why'd he bring this?"

That's when the trouble began.

Grandma: "That's what you ordered, honey."

Grandpa: Silent

Grandma (to me): "Ew. I can smell that fish from over here." (she's notorious for her dislike of seafood).

Grandpa: Silently cuts up his salmon

As more conversation about the salmon followed, my grandpa reached for the salt shaker and began sprinkling it all over his fish.

"Dad!" my uncle said. "You're not allowed to have any salt."

"Salt is good for you," grandpa replied.

"That's one thing the doctor said, you can't have any salt."

My grandpa returned to silence as the rest of us began eating our own meals. A few moments later, he placed his fork over his fish and pushed the plate away from him.

"Father," grandma said. "Aren't you going to eat that?"

"I'm not hungry."

"Well you ordered it, you have to eat it."

"It's okay," I said. "He doesn't have to eat it if he doesn't want to."

Meanwhile, my grandpa began tearing the lids off of the thimble-sized containers of half & half and drinking them.

"Grandpa," I said, "Do you want me to buy you a glass of milk?"

"No, these are good," he said.

Now I have to stop here and mention that normally, this sort of wanton display would have mortified me. And yet, as the waiter approached us, watching with horror as my grandpa sucked down the mini-containers of cream, I felt totally okay with the situation. This, I think, is what parents must feel when their children act out or do otherwise embarrassing things. You love them, and you just deal with it.

I addressed the table. "I kind of feel like somehow, this train has run off the tracks."

The waiter looked at me, then at the salmon, apologetically. "You want me to take this?" he motioned. I nodded. Before he left the table, my aunt spoke to my grandpa.

"Daddy, do you want some apple pie with ice cream?"

"Sure," grandpa said.

"Will you eat it?"

"Yeah, I'll eat as much as I want of it."

This could have meant one bite or the entire plate. I decided to take the chance.

Me (to the waiter): "Do you have apple pie?"

Waiter: "We sure do."

Me: "Bring him some apple pie and ice cream, please."

Waiter (taking the salmon away): "I'll take this off the check for you."

Me: "Oh, and can I have another glass of wine?"

My grandpa did, in fact, eat every bite of his apple pie and ice cream. At one point he did begin eating it with his fingers and my aunt said "Daddy, use your fork." Having had enough I said "Really, who cares how he eats it?" And my grandpa piped up and said "Fingers were the first utensils!"

Gpa_maddie
My grandpa with my cousin Maddie

I never did finish "25 Days of Books." I can't believe I faithfully did it for 24 days then on the 25th and final day, I just couldn't bring myself to post anything. I still can't, even if I know exactly who I'll be posting about. But I figure I've got until Friday to do it. Surely you can hang on until then.

The week between Christmas and New Year's has, for some time now, been one of my favorite weeks of the year. It is, after all, the week I "met" my husband Mick online fourteen years ago. He responded to my personal ad on AOL Digital City LA and we corresponded a couple of days before talking on the telephone. The whole thing culminated in a New Year's Eve 1996 meeting (technically we met in person on January 1, 1997). Picture me shoving a plastic cup full of champagne into his hand and saying "here, drink this quick." These were my first words to him face-to-face, and I think he knew then he had a keeper.

But that isn't even what I came here to post about. For several years now, I've been fantasizing about letting my hair grow in gray. Oh, it's not as if I'm snow white on top, but I do have quite a few pretty little gray hairs that are just aching to come out.

  Gray_hairs

When I presented my plan to my aunt, a look of horror crossed her face. Her response, as she petted her own perfectly highlighted hair, was: "Why would you ever do that? You'd look like some old hippie."

Okay, so I'll admit that the idea would be better if I had a sexy little gray strip at the front, but who says a woman can't grow gray, as nature intended and still be beautiful? I spend well over a thousand dollars every year and many hours in a chair every other month or so, being carefully colored and highlighted.

It just seems like maybe there's more to life than that.

At this point it's pretty certain I will keep up my coloring/highlighting ways. But one of these days, don't be surprised if you find me proudly sporting my graying coiff.

Please, indulge me for a moment, because for no reason at all, I'm having a bit of a moment.

Except that's not exactly true. There have been lots of reasons for moments lately. This one just came as a surprise.

But it was brought on by a song that always provides me with moments, so I should've known better when I pushed the "play" button for it on iTunes. It's a song that seems to sum up my dark side, at least the way I perceive it, perfectly. It's called "Look Around," by Blues Traveler:

Here are the lyrics:

You'll get no answer from me
About what I want or what I get
Brave enough to speak afraid to see
Confuse the issue till you forget

And I've tried
To finally decide
Why
I'm in your face

And if you can't already tell
I am unable to let things go
I'm told I do it very well
But more important you should know

That all the same
You've got no one to blame
But yourself
If you call that a waste

Cause it ain't me
That's been hurting you inside
And if you've learned
You'll know much more than I

That you're gonna have to go and find it
You'll have to dig beneath the ground
You'll have to unearth every ugly stone
That kept you on your own
And simply put them down
You're gonna have to look around

You'll get no answer from me
About what I get or what I want
That was enough to make her leave
She's not the first one come and gone

And I don't care
Buyer beware
Of me
Cause it might get rough

If you want peace then live alone
If you wanna hide then find a stage
Each a brief but perfect home
To accommodate your rage

And sometimes
In the midst of all my crimes
I feel lost
Or have I lost enough

Remaining friends
Remind me as they say
It's up to you
The things you throw away

And still you're gonna have to go and find it
You'll have to dig beneath the ground
You'll have to unearth every ugly stone
That kept you on your own
And simply put them down
You're gonna have to look around
You're gonna have to look around

You're gonna have to look around

<END>

Okay, if you've stayed with me this long, do me a favor and tell me your favorite song(s) for moments, good and bad. Extra points for links to lyrics or video.

 

I just realized I haven't posted once in the month of August. This is my half-assed attempt to remedy that.

Lately, I've had a lot of trouble shutting my brain up. It's always a problem, but for the last few days, it's impossible. My mind is going a mile a minute, jumping from one thing to the next, and I'm unable to concentrate on the task at hand, which of course, is the book.

Of course, Restless Mind Syndrome is not new to me. In my early twenties, I wrote a poem that included this line:

"Even in the center of the bustling crowd, the screams in my head remain ever loud."

Right now those screams are pretty much blocking out everything else.

I used to go for a run when things got this bad. The fatigue seemed to have a calming effect. But at the moment I'm unable to do any sort of exercise that demands that much physically. A glass of wine helps, but frankly, I have to drink more than a glass to get the desired effect.

So I turn to you, gentle reader, for advice on how to turn off those voices. What do you do when you're having trouble concentrating? A hot bath? A shot of whiskey? A run on the treadmill? Tell me what works for you.

Earlier in the week, literary agent Nathan Bransford wrote:

"It sure seems like the majority of people in the
world think they can write a book. And not only write a book, but write
it as well as a published author. And not only just as well as a
published author, but just as well as bestselling published authors who
are among the elite in terms of building an audience and having their
work catch on with readers. There are lots of people out there who
think it's easy, think they could do it, and all but a handful are
wrong."

It was part of a longer post about writers having difficulty figuring out if their writing is good or not, which you can read here.

The truth is, I'm not sure if I can write a book worthy of publishing. If I do get published, I'm not sure if Diary of Bedlam will be the book that succeeds or whether it will it become one of those awful novels authors talk about that sit in their desk drawers as a reminder of their early failures. Of course I dream it will be a huge success–I fantasize about winning an Edgar and which actors will play my main characters. Then I set aside the fantasy and get down to work, because dreams will only get you so far.

I know the odds are tough and I know I have a lot to learn about the writing craft. But I admit to having blinders on, because if I stopped to worry too long about whether I can write a book that's good enough (and lucky enough) to get published, I'd give up. If I didn't think I could do it eventually, I wouldn't have even started. 

And frankly, I'm not fit to do anything else. It's either this or being a barista at Starbucks, or a greeter at Wal-mart (not that I'm dissing any form of gainful employment since I have not been employed, gainfully or not, in ten years).

If I sound desperate, I am. But it is what I'd call controlled desperation. I know I want to write a novel. I know I want to have it published. I am driven by these wants, but drive is not enough. For me, some amount of desperation is necessary to motivate me to move forward. Sure it would be nice to move before the desperation stage, but hell, the only thing that really matters to me is that I'm moving.

When Diary of Bedlam is polished and ready to submit, I'll go back to work on it's sequel, the first draft of which is about 1/3 finished, called Diary of Deceit. But maybe for good measure I should change to working title to Diary of Desperation.

I think a lot about success, and I also think about failure. But since thoughts of failure come more naturally to me than those of success, I'm careful to shut away those niggling "maybe I can't do it" feelings as soon as they rise up. If it turns out I'm wrong and I can't do it, I'll deal with that later. After all, there's a Starbuck's on every corner, and I hear they're hiring (although in this economy, maybe not).

In the meantime, I'll leave you with this video of Howard Jones performing "Things Will Only Get Better" with Ringo Starr and Sheila E.:

The lyrics in verse two seem applicable to writing: "A lonely path, an uphill climb, success or failure will not alter it."

When I found out I had to have ACL reconstruction surgery, of course I googled it, looking for people who had the same surgery. I found a few blogs about it, but I quickly found that reading them raised my anxiety level. Still, it was good to have a little information in advance from people who had been where I was going, so I’m going to pay it forward by writing about what happened to me. This promises to be a long, boring post, but hopefully it will help someone like me who wants to know exactly what happens when you have ACL surgery.

The surgical center I went to was Kerlan-Jobe in Los Angeles and my doctor is Dr. Daniel Kharrazi. So far, I’ve been really pleased with the treatment I’ve received from Kerlan-Jobe, Dr. Kharrazi, and especially the staff at Kerlan-Jobe.

Holly_recovery


Poppies veterans
Last night Mick and I watched about an hour of The Hurt Locker. Midway through I asked Mick to pause it and I said “I hate this movie.” I expected him to be disappointed that I no longer wanted to watch it with him. Instead he said “It’s boring.” So we turned it off and watched Glee.

I’d never compare Glee to an Oscar-winning movie, but The Hurt Locker filled me with anxiety. Too much chaos, not enough story. That said, I always feel a little guilty for my disinterest in war films, as though I’m not appreciative of the tremendously brave work soldiers do. They have to live through it and I can’t even watch a film about it? Boy, I am a wuss (not that I think that was ever in question).

One of my favorite blogs, The Pioneer Woman, has recently run a series of photos called “Coming Home.” I’ll tell you, nothing puts a lump in my throat faster than seeing pictures of soldiers coming home to their loved ones. I can’t imagine what it would be like to be separated from my loved ones for months on end like that, not to mention the things soldiers witness on a daily basis while they’re serving in a war. How could life ever be the same after that?

When I was a kid, Memorial Day was the day we went to the cemetery to visit my Grandpa O’Neill’s grave in Santa Rosa. He died when I was seven. I remember the cemetery set up flags all along the perimeter and the veterans sold red poppies. I would walk among the rows of graves, reading the stones. The ones with photos held a particular fascination for me, and a few featured soldiers in uniform.

I will be spending this Memorial Day with friends eating my fill of Spanish food like tortilla de patata and chorizo, a far cry from the Memorial Days of my childhood. But along with this, I will be thinking about all the soldiers who have given their lives in service of our country as well as the soldiers who are currently serving. Politics aside, they are doing their job, and it’s a tough one, one that I would never want to do. For that, I am thankful.

And of course, I’ll be thinking about my Grandpa O’Neill who died so many years ago, and my Grandma Nancy who now lies beside him. Neither of them were veterans, but for me, Memorial Day will always remind me of that cemetery in Santa Rosa, California.