Tuesday, December 22, 2015


Whether you are a Christian or not, it is impossible to ignore 
the frantic gift-giving/receiving/contemplating/hunting/gathering/chasing that sweeps the land at this time.

And would you want to? I do my version of it and enjoy every bit. 
Giftation, or Giftatis, take your pick. It’s in the air, and I’m not holding my breath. I’m taking it in.

But I got to thinking what makes a gift really great. For me, it turns out to be the same whether on the giving or receiving end of it. It has to do with purpose and thought. If something I do involves concentrating on the person and their needs, it is fulfilling. If I sense the same in something I’m given, it is rewarding.

Generic does nothing for me.

We say, “it’s the thought that counts,” and mean the gift was a dud, but at least the giver thought about us. I think this saying is a dud.
A good gift conveys the thought was directed and specific. I can feel the joy that went into it, and this joy is akin to the joy I have experienced giving in the same way.

A long time ago, in what could have been a galaxy far away, a little boy who knew I had always wished I had an older brother growing up, made me an older bother. He made my older brother by drawing him, almost life size, and giving him a birthday, (three years older than me) and a face. His name is “Mirka’s Older Brother,” and he hangs inside my closet and greets me every day to start my day right.

It didn’t cost; it was all thought. That little boy was my son, way back in kindergarten.

His little sister, not yet four at the time, taught herself to draw what she knew was my favorite animal. She practiced feverishly on hundreds of pieces of paper until she felt she had it. 

She gave mom a pet no one else had.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Suggestions are NOT Commandments

Writers and Artists—Burn those “shoulds”

I was having a most rewarding talk with a multi-published and lauded writer, and we found that, from my modest perch and his lofty one, we came to see many of the writerly edicts as, at best, helpful suggestions. Unfortunately some of these suggestions are taught as indispensable commadments in creative writing classes, and repeated in interviews by respected creatives.

Here is a summary of a few of these suggestions, with a suggestion from me that if something is helpful to you, keep and cherish it. But please, PLEASE— don’t parcel it out as a commandment. We already have ten official ones, and many more unofficial ones, taught at our parents’ knees.
1. WRITE EVERY DAY. It is helpful for many, but in no way a measure of dedication or a predictor of good work.

2. READ A LOT OF SIMILAR BOOKS TO THE GENRE YOU ARE WRITING. I do the opposite, especially while working on a first draft. I don’t want “voice seepage” or derivative plotting. But some find that reading a lot of similar books revved their engines. Either is fine.

3. NEVER GIVE UP. You’re welcome to give up. Many times. As often as you need to.

4. NEVER ASSUME YOUR WORK WILL BE THE EXCEPTION THAT ALLOWS YOU TO BREAK “THE RULES.” This is true, and I don’t suggest anyone be presumptive of anything. But if we didn’t have rule-benders we would never break new ground, either.

5. BELIEVE IN YOURSELF AND YOUR WORK. That sounds nice and it is empowering. But I believe in something bigger, and pray that I do the best work I can. Sometimes it isn’t all that, y’know. If you believe in yourself that’s all right also.

6. IGNORE THIS BLOG POST AND OTHER CURMUDGEONLY ONE LIKE IT. This, I’m afraid, I wholeheartedly agree with. Be your own boss.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Tree Longings? Not me ~

First Hanukkah without kiddos, and their first without a menorah. Living away from home in Christmas land, the memories of Hanukkahs past but faint echoes somewhere in their hearts, I wonder if, despite the way I raised them, this sentiment may have been part of their ethos—
Not me. For me, Christmas lights, trees and carols are for the outside. Lovely, but other.

Home, on the other hand, is all Hanukkah. Lovely, and ours.

This year it’s just us—

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

The existential foolishness

…of this blog 

Even a fool who keeps silent is considered wise
Proverbs 17:28

Herein lies the vanity and senselessness of blogging. But I’m not so proud as to avoid being a fool. Another way of saying, I put myself out there about this and that and the price is the appearance of self-preoccupation and the delusion of self-importance.

No wonder my more tasteful friends in real life turn their noses at blogging.

I certainly don’t do it to promote a product, (blogging of the personal sort rarely works for that) or to gain followers and climb some popularity ladder…
(Evident, I think)
… Personal blogs everywhere have been on a waning trajectory.

I do it because I like to. I like each and every one of you who read it, and I love when you chime in.

We’re all fools. Let’s frolic in our folly together. Winter is coming, and it can be dark and lonely out there, in the land of the seriously wise.