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OCT
22

The Shredder


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I have company coming into town this weekend. This is rather momentous, as no one ever has cause to come through Cleveland, so needless to say, my spare room needs a lot of work. Not only is it my writing room, but it's also the dump-anything-you-don't-want-to-hang-up-or-put-away-or-deal-with-right-now room.

Full printed out and marked up drafts of both of my manuscripts were in there, and since it seemed a little weird to just drop them in one of those Shred-It bins (nothing good can come from leaving manuscripts anywhere...isn't that the point of The Words?), I sat down last night to the task of shredding them. Of course, after about twenty minutes of shoving a constant stream of papers through the machine, I started to get sentimental. They were my words. My drafts. All my corrections and edits a smattering of red across each page. It doesn't matter, it won't be worth anything to anyone someday because notoriety is probably not in my cards, but it was enough to make me stop shredding. Well, that, and I had broken the shredder.

Tonight's task: Removing the year+'s worth of People magazines also being kept in the spare room and that need to be recycled. Pretty sure those I can part with.

OCT
19

Yoga: The Aftermath

The tight pants really weren't a big deal, in that I'm sure no one noticed. Except me, who kept looking down at myself and thinking, "Oh my gosh, what am I wearing??"

Overall, I have to say I enjoyed it. It will take some time to get the breathing right, as I had to concentrate so much on the poses themselves that the frequent "inhale up, exhale down" instructions went over my head. Or more likely over my butt, which was pointing proudly toward the ceiling during downward dog. And since a few of the moves stretched me in ways I really fought against being stretched, I can already tell the soreness that awaits me over the next few days will be brutal.

But I think that's good. It made an impact, right? Shook things up. And I'm looking forward to going back and getting better. And getting my mat a little sweaty.

OCT
16

Yoga Shmoga

b2ap3_thumbnail_yoga.jpgOr, more appropriately, How Does Lululemon Get Away With Charging So Much? It's a question for the ages. I didn't even know the store existed until a friend of mine convinced me I should try yoga. I'd always been turned off by how not exercisey yoga seems, not to mention the whole spiritual aspect, which, when it comes to anything in the exercise realm, just seems like mumbo jumbo and completely out of place.

Then she sent me to Lululemon to get suited up. It's worth noting that because they are in the same complex, I had dropped by Tiffany & Co. just prior to Lulu. I don't make a habit of buying expensive baubles (wait...yes I do), but I'd just survived a heart-wrenching breakup, and if that doesn't deserve a treat, I'm not sure what does. Anyway, imagine my surpreeze when my ONE OUTFIT and mat from Lululemon ended up costing the same amount as my Tiffany necklace. THE SAME AMOUNT. And to think I had initially planned on buying two outfits. Aw naw.

And as long as we're talking about the outfits, let's talk about how tight they are. I prefer working out in basketball shorts and a t-shirt. And when I see women walking around wearing yoga pants in their normal lives, I feel like I must be hallucinating. Or that maybe they are. From lack of circulation. In any case, if any of you are on hand for my first yoga class this weekend, I'll be the one in the back corner trying to shield the contours of my butt from being seen by the general public. I'll let you know how it goes.

 

OCT
16

Kristen's School Story

calculus.pngMy high school calculus teacher nicknamed me “Bonehead”. Consider it a term of endearment. I never liked math, and over the course of my pre-collegiate life it was simply effort, if not dumb luck, that I did my homework and managed to do better than many of my fellow students. But calculus. In calculus I’d met my match. I spent many class periods looking at the tabletop and thinking it would be more productive to bang my head against it.

The day of the AP exam, I was nauseous. Boneheaded me was certain I would fail miserably, but my teacher had great faith. He’d taken me to a math competition at Stanford earlier in the year, he’d organized ‘Calculus Camp’ for those of us taking the exam, and he’d generously spent hours with me after school running through problems again and again. Sometimes until after 8:00pm. No teacher before or since had ever invested so much time into truly helping me learn.

He phoned me on the day my results should have arrived, stayed on the phone as I walked out to the mailbox to discover the results letter waiting, and patiently waited as I opened it and found I’d scored a single point lower than hoped. I have had many great teachers, but the one who sat with me through hours of frustration to guide me and help me understand taught me much more than how to solve an equation. For that I’m grateful to be a Bonehead.

OCT
14

You're Gonna Miss Me When I'm Gone

My neighbors recently had the huge tree that grew in their front yard cut down. This was as shocking as it was devastating to me. Like the day I got home from work to find the city had cut down all the trees lining the street in order to prep for a construction project. All. The. Trees. Gutted I was.

But my neighbors' tree? Losing it was like losing a limb. (I apologize to anyone who has lost a limb for the inaccurate and totally insensitive use of this simile.) Because it may as well have been my tree. In my yard. Covering my house. Because it did. It covered my house as well as theirs. In the days after the Awful Thing, I felt lost in my own driveway. The sun beat down directly on the house because there was nothing to shade it. I felt so exposed, and totally without bearings.

I guess all I meant to say today is that it's now fall, and there should be leaves for me to rake. The leaves I've raked for years. When I asked the neighbor why he had done this Awful Thing, he tried to cheer me up by saying I would no longer have to rake the leaves. Consolation, my ass. I loved those leaves. And I loved raking those leaves. It was cathartic and manual and somehow gratifying to see the mounds of leaves eventually end up in a big pile at the end of the yard. To me, that was fall. And I miss it.

OCT
09

J. Alfred

If you've read The History of Love, you'll recall the story about the age of glass, where everyone believed a part of himself to be extremely fragile. The book tells the story of a young man who fell in love but every time he kissed the girl and his knees began to shake, he worried that a part of him would shatter. One night to protect himself he pulls back and leans away, the girl feels hurt, and in the course of explaining ("Part of me is made of glass."), he only makes it worse. Later, he couldn't shake this regret: "That in the most important moment of his life he had chosen the wrong sentence."

This line haunts me. Because it's so beautifully accurate. And also because there are few things more punishing than regret. I have experienced this regret myself...wondered if a certain situation may have turned out differently had I not said a line I'd been rehearsing for just such a moment but rather said what actually came to me in the moment itself. Sometimes I think I've done too much planning and preparing and not enough living.

Which got me thinking about Prufrock. Because how much does my History of Love story sound like this stanza:

And would it have been worth it, after all,
After the cups, the marmalade, the tea,
Among the porcelain, among some talk of you and me,
Would it have been worth while,                                             90
To have bitten off the matter with a smile,
To have squeezed the universe into a ball
To roll it toward some overwhelming question,
To say: "I am Lazarus, come from the dead,
Come back to tell you all, I shall tell you all"
If one, settling a pillow by her head,
  Should say, "That is not what I meant at all.
  That is not it, at all."

Or this one:

And would it have been worth it, after all,
Would it have been worth while,                                           100
After the sunsets and the dooryards and the sprinkled streets,
After the novels, after the teacups, after the skirts that trail along the floor—
And this, and so much more?—
It is impossible to say just what I mean!
But as if a magic lantern threw the nerves in patterns on a screen:
Would it have been worth while
If one, settling a pillow or throwing off a shawl,
And turning toward the window, should say:
  "That is not it at all,
  That is not what I meant, at all."

Yes, sometimes it is impossible to say just what we mean, and even after we try, it is often not what we meant. That is not what I meant, at all. Perhaps it's inevitable though. We're destined to see our greatness flicker, to shatter our own selves in the quest to remain whole. Oh my gosh, what am I saying? Look what poetry does to people. Let me slap myself upside the head and leave you with this parting thought: Eat that peach, J. Part that hair behind.

OCT
06

Mayfield Library

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This is just to say that I so enjoyed participating in the Mayfield Library's author fair yesterday. I was so impressed by the turnout...most people who stopped by my booth mentioned they had a hard time finding parking. I'm also impressed by how many local authors there are in the area. I've done numerous events and met several of them, but never have I seen so many under one roof. It's nice to be among people who are all going through variations of the same process...and in most cases the same struggle of anonymity in a business where it's tough to be completely unknown.

I was also grateful for the friends and colleagues who braved the rainy afternoon (and the crowded parking lot) to stop by and see me, buy a book, or get their copy signed. It always means so much to feel supported.

And I have a soft spot for selling books to people I don't know when in these fair/event circumstances...it's always flattering when they pick my book to buy, because I know it has nothing to do with them knowing me already. It's like when the flight attendant or pilot announces over the intercom upon landing that they realize people have a choice of airlines, and that they're consequently grateful for our business. I feel that way about people who buy my book. Happy, and so, so appreciative.

OCT
03

I know what you read last summer

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Pretty sure I've mentioned before my obsession with People magazine, and one of my favorite things they do are those "books you should read for [insert whatever season it is]" features. It isn't so much reading the reviews of the books, but I love the picture that accompanies the whole thing...it will have all the books stacked. For some reason I just love looking at all those book spines in a row; love getting a glimpse about what the actual books themselves look like.

So here is my version, except instead of "books you should read for summer," mine is really a "books I did read this summer" stack. I've talked about all of them except the last 3, so let me just briefly say that The History of Love was creative and endearing and definitely worth reading (if not somewhat confusing to keep track of all the different story lines), Is Everyone Hanging out Without Me was absolutely hilarious and I liked it way more than Tina Fey's, and The Fault in Our Stars was a good effort on what turns out to be very intense subject matter, but I just can't get into YA anymore.

My total for the family summer reading competition was 2024 pages, (earning me $20.24). I beat my sister but not my Mom, but I don't know if anyone's ever beaten Mom. In any case, there were some good reads in that pile. And now it's fall, which means I'll have to see what People magazine says I should be reading. Those book spines are calling my name.

OCT
02

Word Vomit

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Remember Mean Girls? Of course you remember Mean Girls. It was a clever, smartly-done movie...and pretty much anything Tina Fey gets behind is hilarious. LL is probably my least favorite thing about the movie, but remember the scene where she talks about word vomit? About how sometimes things we shouldn't say just come out, and once we're saying them we can't stop ourselves even if we know we should?

Well, in a situation and place where I really should not have let it happen, I had a word vomit experience this week. And it's always amazing to me when I'm in one of those moments. Because it's like I become two people and can clearly see both sides. One side justifying my behavior by the injustice of the circumstances that have brought me to a breaking point, and the other side horrified that I have completely lost my cool. So there I was the other day, spewing forth my anger and frustration (both too voluminously and too honestly) and the whole time I was thinking, Why don't I shut up?, Why am I saying all this? I can't believe that I am saying all this. This is so making it worse, but why am I not shutting up?

I won't blame biology, at least not entirely (although let's definitely circle back to THAT topic sometime), but I knew as soon as I was asked to express my opinion on the subject in question that I would lose it. And I did try to get out of it. I initially refused to speak. Only when pressed (I really want to know what you think, Tali) did I acquiesce. I'm sure said asker instantly regretted it, just like I regretted my response. Sigh. It's moments like those when I think, what would Tina do?

SEP
28

I finally did it.

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I joined.

SEP
24

Emerald City

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This was taken on top of the Space Needle and is obviously a horrible picture. Can you say city bangs? I can. Why am I even sharing this picture? I am disgusting.

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I feel much better about my appearance in this picture, but you would have no idea I'm in Seattle. Unless you're familiar with Chihuly and his glass and garden exhibit. Which I wasn't. Until going to the Chihuly glass and garden exhibit. In any case, I've been enjoying Seattle and loving the chilly weather and the homeless people and the utter greenness to behold.

Since trips mean planes and planes mean reading on planes, I'll have a few books to report on soon, and I also got the first round layout options back for the interior of book 2, so looking them over will be on top of my to-do list when I get back to the Cleve. So will getting my bangs trimmed.

SEP
18

Holding Out

The first winter I was in Cleveland, I let the temperature in my house get down to 58 degrees before I turned on the heat. But it was September. So close to the heels of summer, I couldn't stomach the thought of turning on the heat. Five years later, I'm less tolerant of being cold when at home, but I still try to postpone the heat as long as I can. If I make it until October, I'm happy.

Yesterday morning when I was leaving for work, it was 43 degrees outside. Not exactly balmy. But I've got plenty of cushion room before I even think about turning on the heat. It's still 64 degrees inside. We'll see how long I last.

SEP
15

Hopes and Dreams

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I snapped this pic over the weekend because wishes greatly exacerbate my sentimentality. There's just something about wishes. They're personal, oftentimes they're private, and they represent what we hope for most in our lives. In the professional world, "Hope is not a strategy" has been beaten into my head, and probably for good reason. Hope gets nothing done, it doesn't bring results. But wishes are a different animal, and many times the things we wish/hope for are things we don't have the ability to bring about in any way; things on which we cannot necessarily affect change. And in these instances, hope is perhaps the only strategy we've got.

When in NYC a couple of months ago, I went to the Times Square museum. From the replica of the New Year's Eve ball to the relics and costumes from various Broadway shows, it's a colorful place. But the most striking thing in there (honestly it looks like the beginnings of a parade float) is the Hopes and Dreams wall. It's little squares of confetti paper stuck to the wall, each bearing a handwritten wish from someone who's come through. The best part about these confetti squares is they are what gets shot into the air on New Year's Eve when the clock strikes twelve. All that confetti you see sailing through the air on TV? It's people's wishes, and something about that made me clutch a hand to my heart and steady myself just to absorb the impact to my sentimentality scale.

Of course I wrote down a wish, something I will never get, something not even hope can bring me, but I'm one of those dewey-eyed dopes who believes it's important--even if you know you'll never get what you want--for the universe to know how you'd like things to go if it were up to you. Silly, I know. Pointless, I know. But still. When my wish sails through the sky at the moment the new year begins, I hope it settles near the feet of someone who reads it and hopes that I got my wish.

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SEP
11

Today

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I remember.

SEP
09

Instagrammy

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I set up an account over the weekend. Maybe I was jealous of all the instagrammy goodness going on out there...all my friends' square-shaped pics that flood my newsfeed. So here I am, a new account holder. Ready to take pictures of...I have absolutely no idea what. Especially after my recent epiphany about chronicling. I guess we'll just see what I can come up with. Hopefully more than just the funny things my cat does. (Although for the record, she's thrilled about potentially being featured. She's still glowing from the recent Monopoly game piece addition.)

SEP
05

Stranger than Fiction...and Funnier, too

I was talking to a friend of mine the other day, one who I grew up with back in Oregon, and she was telling me about the book she's writing. It's about her life, and as she was telling me about some of the events that will be included in the book, I was shocked. Truth is stranger than fiction, everybody knows that--or at least everyone should--and I actually found myself at one point asking her, "He really did that??" when she told me about one of the scenes from the book. I honestly couldn't believe it, to which she quipped that it would not be possible to make this stuff up.

That's why I love real life. It's why I love reading about real life. And I know I say it all the time, but I just love memoirs for that reason. It's so satisfying knowing that what you're reading about really happened. And I think the potential for grand emotions is heightened. Real life has the potential to be more heartbreaking, more inspiring, more joyful, more hilarious, and certainly more unexpected than anything we can make up. That's probably why I'm sixty pages into a new novel right now (I know! I know! What am I doing reading fiction?) and can't seem to get into it but was in stitches when my friend read me the opening pages of her hilarious memoir. Life is just funnier. Now, back to this novel. Groan. (Watch, it will turn around any second and become the best thing I've ever read and I'll be eating crow for days. Which, incidentally, would also be pretty funny.)

SEP
03

Weekend Totals

4,400 words. That was my total written over the long weekend. Not too shabby. Although it definitely cut into my pages read total (this is the final month of the family contest), which was like 20. Of course that didn't stop me from picking up two new titles while at B&N this weekend. (You know, for all this reading I'm doing.) If I can read the book I just started as well as the two I just bought before the month is out, I'll deem September a literary success. And if I win the family contest, I'll deem this the best summer ever.

SEP
01

When a Writer Cleans House

I cleaned house yesterday. For seven hours. A few have expressed their bafflement as to how a house as small as mine could possibly take seven hours to clean, but this was a cleaning the likes of which I have never done in the 5 years I've lived here, at least not all at once. Going through every drawer, cupboard, and closet. Throwing away bags upon bags of crap I don't need, making a pile of stuff to give away, etc. It was quite an undertaking. One that left me exhausted from standing...not to mention lugging heavy bags and boxes up and down the stairs all day. But my house is now so improved, and I'm reveling in the lack of clutter; the improved organization.

Mass organization projects such as these affect me in ways they probably wouldn't if I weren't a writer. On one hand, they cause me to look back. I've been in my house for five years, and as I sorted through the photos, letters, and mementos I've acquired during these years, it was hard not to wax sentimental. A lot of things have gone down, from the most joyful to the most heartbreaking, and it's as if yesterday I relived them all. On the other hand, mass organization projects also cause me to look forward. The jumbo pack of Q-tips I found in the upstairs hall closet (Thank you, Costco) will last me nearly 1000 days, for instance. Almost three years. And I wonder what life will look like then. Will I still be in this house? This city? This job? All I know for sure is I'll be out of Q-tips, but it's a little exciting to think that even as an established adult, there are still unknowns out there; things to figure out, chances to take, trails to blaze--even if we are later to the game than we had always planned on being.

And all this just from cleaning out a closet. No wonder I only do it once every five years.

AUG
28

Wild

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I resisted reading this book. And I tried not to like it. I'm not sure why, I guess because I don't care about hiking. And once I started reading, I was somewhat less than sympathetic to the author's I've-made-a-mess-of-my-life plight. Because she HAD made a mess of her life. True that the redemptive theme of the book never really grabbed me, but the hiking, surprisingly, did.

Call me crazy, but the scene where she tries to load her backpack only AFTER she's flown to the west coast and is minutes away from actually beginning her journey was hilarious. Who wouldn't make sure everything fit beforehand?? And the frequent mention by other (male) hikers about her pack being much heavier than theirs just added to the hilarity. The hiking piece of the story...the piece about a girl who knows nothing about hiking taking on one of the most ambitious hikes possible (and solo!) was fascinating, that's just a fact. And I thought the author's use of flashbacks was good, too. (Although when you get to the one about the horse, skip over it if you are sensitive to sad animal stories.)

And as much as I tried not to let it, the end moved me. Not because the author had made up for her previous behavior, but she ends the story with a lovely sentiment about how even though it's impossible to know how things will turn out when we make a certain decision, it IS possible for them to work out even if we are at rock bottom; even when we haven't got a plan, a clue, or a dollar to our name. An inspiring message, no matter the source. Well done, Queen of the PCT.

AUG
26

Three before Two

I have a confession. I started writing my third book. I know, I know, it's ridiculous. I only just barely made all the changes recommended by my editor to my second book and handed the manuscript over for typesetting. There's still so much time before book two is even out, and here I've gone and started on book three. It makes me feel like a mom who's robbed her baby of his babyhood by immediately upping and having another baby.

But the thing about getting books out there is it takes so damn long once the writing is done that you find yourself--even when in the thick of the book prepping and publishing processes--missing the actual writing. It's what writers like best, after all, and considering I finished the manuscript way back here, this means I haven't actually written anything in months. So I couldn't help myself. Not to mention the fact that one of the chapters that will go in book three is fresh on my mind and should really be written up pronto. At any rate, I've begun. It will be slow-going with everything else happening bookwise, but I don't mind. 684 words in, and I'm already hooked.

 

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