Tuesday, December 6, 2016

The Word

A friend was rejoicing at the sale of her first manuscript to a publisher. The joy of being able to say my editor for the first time brought back memories.
Yes, there’s nothing like the first.

The first my publisher. The first my editor. The first my book. The first my agent. These can come in a different order, but that^ was mine.

But really, none of these is really mine. I don’t own them.


What writers have are stories. Stories we make with chapters we construct with paragraphs that we make by joining sentences. Sentences we make with words. It boils down to this: the only thing that we own are the words.

My word!


Even the words are a gift.
The opening verse from the gospel of John rushes in:
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

The meaning of this enigmatic phrase, for me, is that all comes from thought. Thought extended outward begins with words, and words begin with one word.

As I sit and contemplate this, I realize nothing is mine.  I rejoice at having nothing.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Deus Ex Machina*

*a.k.a. G_d from the machine


There’s a literary plot device known in Latin as deus ex machina. Originally from the Greek apò mēkhanês theós, and used in Greek plays, we have many examples from Judeo-Christian stories. I’m thinking of the biblical story of Job, where the philosophical discussion and events are resolved by the appearance of G_d from the whirlwind, and all is resolved and restored. It is not resolved by the main character, nor by any of the other characters’ actions. In fact, that is the very point the book of Job is making.
In literary analysis this has come to stand not so much for divine intervention as for the addition of an unexpected event or character not organically coming out of the story. Such things do, in fact, happen in real life. But in modern storytelling, where the heroism depends on humans conquering life’s obstacles, it often feels contrived and unsatisfying.


In the how-to circles  it's a no-no. If I read or heard it once, I have heard it many times. We don’t do it anymore.

Oh, really?

I suggest we do use it, and use it everywhere. This is where fantasy comes in. A whole genre devoted to coming up with world building rules that zig-zag between life as we know it and fantastic elements popping in conveniently to work their magic
You need the main character to get in somewhere where they can’t possibly? — Introduce, and then give ‘em, an invisibility cloak. Voila! Harry Potter, anyone? Why didn't we know about this magical invisibility thingy all along? Because we just needed it now, silly.

The same for magical realism, a genre I am partial to as a reader and a writer. Think of the uses of time-travel, not in the form of scholarly research, but a device where the main character actually gets to hop in a few centuries back and even retrieve a long-lost object.


Deus ex machina hasn’t gone away. If anything, it is used more than ever. We just have other names for it.



Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Thank YOU

It’s that wistful time of year, when I am giving thanks, or trying to.

 Thanks for what I have. That is obvious: a roof over my head, something to eat on my plate, something to cover my nakedness, and something to do.


Thanks for what I don’t have, which would not have been good for me:  various health issues, loss and desolation, and many more things I feared that didn’t materialize.

Thanks for being here, still. Like a wise old man once told me: “They give me a day, I take it.” Last I heard he is over a hundred years old, and just got a birthday greeting from the president.

But most of all—
THANKSGIVING Week, and I feel propelled to thank you.
Thank you for reading this, and thank you for comments you have made in the past. You let me know I was not alone.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

My Life as a Torte*

*Inspired by Nora Ephron’s
MY Life as a Meatloaf
Re-reading Nora Ephron is a treat, no matter how many times I’ve read her before. She didn’t blog, per se, but she is called “the original Blogger” by some.
Turns out that a friend who opened a restaurant named a meatloaf dish after her. It bore no resemblance to any meatloaf she had made or eaten before, but it was fantalicious, and people complemented her on this gourmet version of a down-home lowly staple.
Then the chef changed, the dish changed, was moved to Tuesday nights only, and eventually disappeared from the menu. Ephron saw an analogy to her life, and life in general. You have your day, your heyday, your recognition, the fade out, and then you’re gone.
Four years after her death, Ephron still lives, and some meatloaf recipes carry her name and are still googled daily. But what didn’t quite apply to her life, turns out, does apply to mine.
I, too, had a dish named after me.
Long ago I managed the storefront of a gourmet pastry shop. The owner-chef was a genius, and while she insisted on never making a down-home cookie (no chocolate-chip) and never calling a cake a cake (she only made tortes, please!)  the cakes, ahmm, tortes, were as incredible tasting as they were gorgeous. Tasteful in and out.
She made some classics, but also came up with original concoctions. One of those she named the Mirka Torte.
It was not my favorite, but it was up there. Layers of Cake (torte!) speckled with shavings of dark chocolate and orange rind hugged an orange sabayon cream, a sort of fluffy custard, and a thin strip of cark chocolate ran in between. It was light, beautiful, and as it turned out, quite popular.


When I married she made our wedding cake, and of course it was The Mirka Torte. When my step-mother asked her why she named this composition after me, the answer was that it is both a simple and straight-forward, as well as a subtle and complicated composition. Just like its namesake.

“You really know Mirka well,” my step-mother said.


Two years after its debut, and long after we had worked together, I ran into this cake on a dessert menu at a fancy restaurant. It was still named Mirka Torte. No one knew why, but that was just fine.

And then it was gone. Like all ephemeral things, it had its day, and then it slipped into the night.

Which is as it should be, to make room for others.

But for a moment there I had a whiff of the Nora Ephron thing. It was nice.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

I Voted

Just this--
 
 
 
P.S.
Not only am I all right with your voting differently from me, I'm all right with your choosing not to vote. Choosing to not choose is also a choice.
Just sayin', because plenty of people think it's their place to shame you. I don't. I just try to do what I hope is the right thing every day, and keep on keeping on.


Tuesday, November 1, 2016

SEASONS and SEASONINGS

Where I live, the seasons are barely delineated. Call it year-round spring, and you wouldn’t be far off. But we do our best to pretend to have, at least, two seasons.


Winter is ushered with a change of bed quilts, from the light colored and thinly stuffed to the heavier, darkly rich hued kind. 


When my kids were little, the content of their dresser drawers would change— with lighter clothes placed at the bottom and sweaters floating to the top. New pairs of socks would replace the odd unmatched singles of last year, and sandals got pushed to the back of the shoe drawer.



In truth, we can just about wear any of the clothes any time, and the bedding would not make a real difference either way. But we pretend we can’t, really, in order to have the illusion of change. Unlike folks who have what we here call “real weather,” we don’t change our tires to snow tires, and we don’t use antifreeze. We don’t need to get the snow shovels from the back of the garage, and we have no use for thermal underwear. For those who go on ski weekends— their gear is specialized, but this was never part of my life in California.


But one seasonal thing is not a pretense for me. One word sums it up: SPICES. Specifically— Cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, cloves, and that thing we call allspice, which isn’t all the spices mixed together but a kind of pepper from a West Indian tree.


Sure, you can use these in summer, and people of “real weather” think of these seasoning as ushering Fall. But in some mysterious way I find a strong urge overtakes me to start spicing and baking and stewing and sprinkling with the above as soon as November comes.

That’s today. Can you smell it all the way from my kitchen?

As the gingerbread is baking and the pumpkin soup is simmering, I reflect on how this relates to writing stories. I don’t want to write the same story over and over. I mark a new story with new and distinct words and expressions. In this way I know I am entering a different territory. Words, used like seasoning, tell me I am here and not there, and should address perception differently.
 Just as I will now dress differently.


If this sounds like a stretch, just come over and get a whiff. I’m not kidding.


Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Reflections on Clueless Notions

I’m still clueless about many things. But I’ve learned a few things about the world of publishing, and specifically-- kidlit publishing.
Cleaning and clearing some old Emails from way back in ancient times of ten years ago, I found some amusing testaments to clueless thinking.


Clueless evidence #1: my first beta reader asks why proofreading is necessary as, surely, editors at publishing houses do that after a book is acquired. He’s seen it in many movies. (By then I knew a manuscript needs to be pretty much typo-free, and my response was educational.)
Clueless evidence #2: same beta, bless him for he was fantastic with spot-on feedback, congratulating me on my first acceptance and advising I copyright all the characters as they can become major commodities. (He’s seen that in movies, also.)
Clueless evidence #3: my response to another beta who suggested some how-to books, was to say I didn’t want to read anything that would make my writing formulaic. Of course, not long after, I did read a few of the suggested books and more. Re-inventing the wheel is for geniuses, and I’m not one.
Clueless evidence #4: writing friends who suggested we writers wait too long for cursory responses, no responses, and otherwise unacceptable behavior from business professionals. We don’t put up with such in the rest of our lives, do we? I already understood this is apples and lemons. There are more of us knocking on doors and fewer of them to answer the doors. It’s called reality, and yes, we do put up with it.
There's so much more, but you get the point. There are a lot of misconceptions, and the school of hard knocks hammers us into shapes that fit the indentations.

But here’s the kicker: it hurts sometimes, but we don’t have to do it alone. These old Emails are the evidence I had beautiful walking partners, and occasionally even been one.



I’m still clueless about so many things I glibly talk about. What do I confidently really know about global warming? Preventing lung cancer? Personality disorders? It if am honest, I would have to say that I know close to nothing, and mostly echo what I’ve heard, or think I may have heard, or maybe I, too, saw it in a movie. But I still jabber about it.



Occasionally I get a peek into my cluelessness. Even more mercifully, I am not alone. Everyone of you who’s reading this is walking along, and I hope you can hear my footsteps as I’m trying to catch up with you.



Tuesday, October 18, 2016

SENSITIVITY READERS

Many say that you should only write about what you know, and others say you should write about what you want to know. I’m in the latter group.  I do stick with what I know, and know intimately, when it comes to the main character. This is essential for me even more when the story is written in first person, and the narrator is the main character.


But there are other characters, and they often come from other places, other faiths, even other times. Seen through the main character’s eyes-- the narrative voice remains an authentic observation of their “otherness.” But as readers are diverse, I always felt I should run a story with such characters by Beta Readers who would have known them intimately. 

One of my novels, set in the South, has a narrator. The narrator is an outsider, lands in the American South, and marvels at the difference of her northern California mind-set and the people and place she finds herself in. I ran many of the southern dialogue lines by a native of the specific area, and, once the second draft was done, I had the whole story read by my first Beta reader, a native of the American South.
This turned out to be insufficient. Another reader objected to the way a character spoke and acted. I revised, again. This time with a reader who was not quite from the same place in the south, but of the same race as the secondary character.


I have done similar things with other stories. I did not know there was a name for such readers, but I’ve learned. They are now called Sensitivity Readers. They will check the authenticity of voices and manners, because they know from the inside. At the same time, they will point out anything that strikes them as pointlessly offensive.

A simple internet search using this term will show not only that it’s established, but there are sites that hire such readers, vet them, and for a fee will connect writers to a specific need. I was ignorant that this was recognized and monetized, and had turned to friends or other writers with an exchange of reading their work-in-progress. I know what I don’t know, which is plenty, and I know feedback is invaluable.


In search of authenticity, I try to remember not to sanitize what real life sounds like. This is not about the PC police waving their badges.  At the very least, it is a good idea to run work by people of a different background and weigh their feedback. In the end the process is enriching well beyond the mining of my own mind.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

ATONEMENT

Tomorrow is the Day of Atonement, YOM KIPPUR, of the Jewish calendar.
Some mistakenly think it the holiest day of the year. The Torah is explicit that the Sabbat is holier, and is one of the ten commandments. But the Sabbath comes every seven days, and it’s easier to try to breath in holiness once a year rather than every week.

I do not fast on Yom Kippur, and haven’t since the last time I tried, too many years to count. That’s another story which I managed to insert into my WIP in fictional form. 
But I do attempt a form of atonement.

If I offended you in any way, I’m sorry.
If I failed to help you when I could have, I’m sorrier.
If I caused you harm*, I’m sorriest.

*Unless you are the gang that broke into our home in mid-June. I hope you are caught and arrested, and I will gladly testify to make sure you don’t walk away with a slap on the wrist.
I am clearly not ready for sainthood.


Wishing all who observe a calm and reflective day, and may you be signed and sealed in the book of life for the year to come.

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Favorite Old Rosh Hashanah Posts, Again

My favorite Jewish New Year story is one I already posted two years ago on the eve of Rosh Hashanah. I suppose that just as we repeat the ritual of dipping apples in honey, saying the same annual blessings and making the same honey cake in more or less the same way, I feel it is not wholly inappropriate to post part of it here, again. (The complete version is in the link under the first sentence^.)
My mother was a permanent guest at our home every Friday and holiday.
In 2001, friends of my father and stepmother were visiting the bay area from Israel.
I didn’t know them well, and when they called, I asked them to come for Rosh Hashanah dinner. I figured that they could use a taste of home.
My mother was a Kugel fan. If you haven’t heard of kugel, let’s just say that it is a casserole of cooked-anything-at-all mixed with beaten eggs and seasonings. I had promised her a round kugel for Rosh Hashanah. Round, like all New Year dishes that symbolize the closing of circles.
I didn't make kugel often, so I set out to make the best. I had a mother to honor, Israeli guests, and an urgent need to respond to the disaster that had just struck our nation-- with the perennial Jewish celebration motto: They tried to kill us, we survived, LET’S EAT!
My mother dreamed of potato-kugel. So I grated and seasoned and mixed and mashed, pouring the mixture into a greased round dish and into a 375 degree oven. 
Then it occurred to me- the last time I made carrot-kugel, DH mentioned not once, but twice, how much he liked it. So I grated and mixed and added the cinnamon and brown sugar and to another round dish it went, also into the same oven.
DD came in and asked what I was making.
 “Kugel, for the New Year,” I said.
“Yum. I love noodle-kugel,” she said. Oops. I wasn’t thinking of her favorite. So I boiled egg noodles and mixed in the eggs, apple sauce and the raisins, and into the oven in yet another round baking dish went kugel number three.
It crossed my mind that having something green for the New Year was sort of mandatory. Think harvest, re-growth, life. Zucchini-kugel would have to serve that role. More grating, beating, mixing, pouring. The oven was almost at full capacity.
DS came in. With the resolute expression six-year-olds are so good at, he informed me that he doesn’t eat any of these kugels. In desperation I made the only kind I knew he would: chocolate-kugel. Not very traditional, but it was round and it was going to be irresistible. Think dark-chocolate not too sweet soufflé, only this one stabilized with matzo meal so it doesn’t collapse.
 By then I was ready to collapse. 

Our guests arrived right after my mother. Introductions were made, and they complimented our table. I lit the holiday candles, and DD blessed the round challah. DS said the blessing over the fruit of the vine, (ours-wine, his and DD’s grape juice) and we said SHE-HEH-CHEH-YANU, the prayer of gratefulness for having arrived to this day. It had never meant more.
I opened the oven door and brought out the first. 
“Wow, kugel!” our guests exclaimed.
I went back and brought the second. 
“How nice, a kugel!” the wife said.
I was feeling positively giddy when I brought the third. 
“Ah, kugel,” I heard. It sounded a bit like a sigh.
Not done, I came in with the fourth. 
Another kugel?” said the husband.
I felt positively sheepish bringing in kugel number five. But it was chocolate; the only one DS would eat.
I suspect our guests from Israel thought they really had landed in Oz.
All right, folks— Let’s eat!

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Re-Vision

Why are revisions so difficult? Because a real revision (not tweaking here and there) requires seeing in a whole new way. RE—VISION.
 
By the time a story is submitted, it’s been revised and tweaked many times. So when it returns with an R & R (revise and resubmit) request, what writers consider as good a non-acceptance as there can be, it’s because it’s not the other R, the final one. (Rejection)
Revision! Yippy! But now I have to look at the story in a new way.

Maybe what I thought the story was about turns out not to be. Maybe a character that meant so much to me doesn’t serve the story well. Maybe a sub-plot is more of a main plot, or the plot isn’t a plot at all.

But…they liked it enough to want to see it again. Now, if I could only figure out why or what they liked… because a house once carefully constructed now feels wobbly, and the removal of a few of its support beams threatens to make the whole come tumbling down…

This is where Re-Vision is crucial.  To let go of the house I built and carefully decorated, I try to imagine the inner-walls in different places. Try to imagine a different entrance. Imagine re-doing the upper floor.

Well, that about describes the process from the outside. From the inside—there are no words, except—

It’s hard.

 

I just got through it, again. The house is still standing. Have faith, you can do it.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

PROTOTYPE and SINGULARITY

“Everyone is kneaded out of the same dough,
but not baked in the same oven.”
—Yiddish Proverb
Aside from the notion of whether it is nature or nurture that shapes personality, and with it, destiny, there is something that every writer must struggle with and every reader must decide whether to accept or reject: how stereotypical can a character be before we call the narrative racist, or sexist, or simply poor and formulaic? There is nothing to make the character singular and thus fully fleshed out.
And the other side of the coin is really the same question, only read in reverse: how unusual can a character be before we exclaim that such person would never do this or say that? Would a twelve-year-old use proper archaic English they could have only glimpsed from Shakespeare? Would a four-year-old remember something that happened when they were two? Both are possible, but not typical, and many would say are unbelievable.
I ask, because I have read enough reviews, given reviews, or gotten feedback, and have seen both reactions. “Formulaic,” and “unbelievable.”

Classical musicians face similar balancing dilemmas when interpreting well-known pieces of music. A piece of music must sound different and new, thus it lives. But it can’t be so singular that the composer wouldn’t recognize it, and the listener would have their expectations smashed.


I like the Yiddish proverb above, because it reminds me of this delicate balance: similar, but not the same. Made of the basic stuff, but formed into a different shape.


A delicate, almost undefinable balance. A good visual is the tightrope walker. I think of her as I dialogue with my characters, and pray I don’t miss a step and fall off.


©Tightrope Walker by Seiltänzerin (1913)



Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Ethical Questions



There are places where we don’t expect high ethical conduct, and are pleasantly surprised to find it. (Example: Does anyone expect insurance companies to be driven by high moral standards? The astonishment of positive encounters with such suggests we don’t.)
Then there are situations where ethics are a must, because trust is the foundation of these alliances. (Example: with physicians, therapists, or teachers. The astonishment of negative encounters suggests we had assumed the very best ethics from them.)


Having had, personally and through friends and family, some positive and negative experiences lately, I got to thinking about ethics and the gap between what we say and what we do. I say “we,” because while I am not guilty of most of the mentioned below, I can’t and won’t exclude myself from the abundance of failures, often explained as “that's how it’s done,” and “this is the real world, darling.”


But it got me wondering, and questioning. No reasoned answers in this post, just questions. I would love yours: the questions and the answers, if you’re so inclined.

These are all examples of things I have come to realize happen all the time.


*Is it all right to play editors against each other in a bidding war for manuscripts?

* Is it all right to look for a job while you still have a job?

*Is it all right to look for an agent while you have an agent?

*Is it all right to look for a spouse/partner while you have a spouse/partner?

*Is it all right to say publicly you are an in-network provider but say privately you will only treat privately “on the side,” for much more $$?

*Is it all right to take a friend’s confidential confessional life story and publish it without their consent?

*Is it all right to ghost-write and for $$ let the payer put his name on it?

* Is it all right to promote a friend’s product/book while having a less than high opinion of it?

While most are legal, I’m not one to see any as truly ethical.  What do you think?



Tuesday, September 6, 2016

When the Universe Sends a Message…

After the dry spells, the rain must-needs-come.  
(Paraphrasing Matthew 18:7)


This August I got some revision work done, and critiques for others. What I couldn’t manage were original stories. I was as dry as a California summer, which also happens to be where I live.
But September, and its promise of rain, did not disappoint.

Walking with a friend, we chanced upon a group of lady-walkers. I suppose we were a group, also. A group of two to their five.

My walking companion recognized one of the ladies, and a lively hello and a series of introductions followed. At some point the fact of my writing for children was mentioned, and the next thing I knew, one of the newly introduced ladies exclaimed, “Are you THE writer of the wonderful….” 

That book was published five years ago and had a very limited release. The publisher closed its doors shortly after. I hand-sold copies to bookstores close by, and they always sold out. I also gave a few to friends. I still have some left, as do a couple of the local stores, and Amazon.


I confess I was surprised. I don’t expect, nor do I get, my name recognized. Especially in connection to this modest release.
The lady proceeded to tell me she read it to her grandchildren many times, and it’s one of their favorites.
 All right, now I should be blushing. But instead, as soon as I got back home, I felt inspired to start a new story.
A chance encounter broke the dry spell. The party’s on, and I’m back! 

Sometimes I just need to know someone is reading what I wrote.

Welcome September, and welcome rain.


Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Accentuate the POSITIVE

You've got to accentuate the positive
Eliminate the negative
Latch on to the affirmative
Don't mess with Mister In-Between

You've got to spread joy up to the maximum
Bring gloom down to the minimum
Have faith or pandemonium
Liable to walk upon the scene…
©1944 Johnny Mercer

This old song typifies the approach some take in their social presence, and these days Facebook may be the face of this sentiment. Grinning with thumbs-up, “look how wonderful me and mine are faring,” and “smile, smile, smile!”

The other side is simply called Headline News. This accounts for most of what we consume as news-worthy: terrorism, spectacular crimes, the public disgrace of famous individuals and the general cries that the sky is falling. That’s the “pandemonium” that walks upon the scene.


I have concluded that the reason I often feel out of place is that I am, congenitally, in-between.

When we write stories, a balance brings wisdom and insight. This is where “Mister-In-Between” is sorely needed.

I love Mister-In-Between. I’m his Missus, or his Miss, or whatever goes in between. Ms./Miz?

Maybe we can start the In-Betweeners movement. You know, for those whose homes are neither squeaky clean nor messy. For those who like their food neither bland nor super spicy.
And most of all, for those who seek balance.

The Jewish philosopher Maimonides (1135-1204) called for moderation in all things. This centuries-old guidance still holds.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Writing Trough the Hard & Dry Patches

There is a  of video showing Ellen DeGeneres crying at the intro to her (otherwise upbeat) talk show, saying that “today is a bad day.” She tells her audience that she’s been asked how she can go on when she’s sad.
Some days, some weeks, some months, are just like that. The show must go on.  Ellen did.

For us, functioning on a less glamourous plane, this state is still familiar. What to do when there is no contract, no deadline set, and no external reason to go on? Creative folks have all encountered this. I sure have.

I've heard writers tell others to go for a walk, or set a manuscript aside for a time, or do something nice for themselves. Some swear by chocolate. Coffee works better for me. But then, I start my good days with it anyway.

Some think talk therapy is part of the answer, and there are therapists who specialize in plowing through and out of creative dry spells. I never had the budget for such, but I wouldn’t hesitate if I had.

There’s a third way, and it’s the only one that has worked for me. I call it “write anyway.” I have also told progeny, when they hit a wall, that you only know how to get out of a ditch by actually climbing out, a.k.a. doing it.

Something about grinding the wheels and suspending the critic inside (and the sabotaging voices outside) while creating, has been therapeutic for me.
It doesn’t actually matter that the results are not golden, the process is.

You’re back in it, and the stalled engine is starting to rev up.
 Vroom--- vroom, go!

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

The Nest… Never Know What’s/Who’s in It

Allow me this frivolous empty-headed meditation on the empty nester in summer.


It is summer, and the heat makes me lose more than a few IQ points. Summer also means that my kids, not quite children but not quite adults, (though technically they can vote and sign documents, but that’s another thing) come and go. I frankly don’t know from one day to the next “who’s for dinner.”

When they were really kids, and really lived here, it was “what’s for dinner.” Things change. But only slightly.

One thing that hasn’t changed is the notion that Mom can be interrupted at any time, because she is, y’know, MOM.

Not conducive to meditation, drafting, or any task that requires earnest focus. Heat doesn’t help, either.

In other words, these days should be cherished and respected for what they are good for.

Like—



And taking a brain break.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Was I LUCKY?

In the middle of June, I was a victim of crime.
It happened like this:
Before eight, still in my nightgown, the doorbell rang. I peeked through the curtain in my room to see a tall, burly, African American man, wearing a dark hoodie and holding a brick in his hand. I realize it reads like a bad-dude cliche, but I tell it as it was. I went to get DH up from his downstairs office. Something about the doorbell ringer felt “wrong,” somehow. 

Before DH had a chance to even stand up, BOOM! —a loud thud, the house shook, and the door upstairs was kicked-in.

I, always leery of guns, said, “he’s IN,”  and then I added, “get the gun!”
 DH managed to get his gun and run upstairs as loudly as he could. I heard a scuttle. I called 911. I let them know it was ongoing.

I was too scared to go upstairs, but when DH came down they had run away. (I only saw one, but DH confronted two.) The first was in our bedroom, and ran out with “something.” Only after the police arrived (within minutes) I realized the burglar had taken my pocket book.

They escaped in a car that was waiting for them downstairs, a Subaru-like gold or gray SUV with a sunroof.

I have alerted the bank, and the credit bureaus, and something called ChexSystems. (This last one recommended by my bank.) All accounts were closed. As they took all my seeing glasses, (those were in my pocketbook) I couldn’t drive until I had an exam and glasses made. My address book with many addresses that I still wonder how to retrieve, was also in the robbers’ possession. Not that they can get much from it. Some of the people in it are not living anymore. It was that old.

Weeks later, we were notified by a check-cashing service that someone tried to cash one of my (by then canceled and account closed) checks. They provided a phone number where someone pretending to be me said she indeed wrote that check. They have the crook on camera. The police have a detective on the case.
These criminals are not just brutes, they’re not very smart. In the end they got nothing they could use.

I have had friends and neighbors tell me we were lucky. It could have been so much worse. That brick could have been used to bash my head. They could have gotten more stuff. They could have had a gun.

So why do I feel so unlucky?

Too many people are victims. As I shared the story with dear friends, they opened up about their brushes with brutality. We made jokes about the difference between outlaws and in-laws. You know, the first burst in and leave quickly, the second burst in and… you get it.

Suggestion: do not tell crime victims they were lucky. It is well-meant, but let time convey this, seeping in as all experiences that awaken us will do.


The physical damage is relatively light. The emotional will take time to absorb. It took me almost two months to write this post.