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.


And taking a brain break.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016


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.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

August Days

Nothing much happens in August.

August is when the Parisians leave Paris for calmer grounds.
August is when the well-heeled English go to the country to do little other than drink gin-fizz.
August is when school children sit by the lake and learn to throw stones that will skip the water’s surface. Any other learning will wait.

August is HOT.
I remember coming for a family visit to Israel in the summer of 2005. I was greeted by my sister at the airport, and her second sentence was, “you have a lot of courage to come in August.”

It was hot.

So, dear ones—let your minds rest, let your feet up, and keep the chocolate in the fridge. Don’t struggle; let August be August.

 It’s what it is, and then it’s over.