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by Karen Fayeth

Getting Stronger as Things Get Weirder

This has been a weird year, right? I don’t think anyone will disagree. As I came sliding butt first into December, I was already disorganized and suddenly bowled over by work. By all measures, we did triple the volume of work we usually do and it was no small bit of effort to simply make it through December. But make it through we did.

In the smoldering ashes of 2016, I am working hard to get some order back to the chaos of my life. I firmly believe that being a little bit stronger, quite a bit more disciplined (and organized) and filled with more optimism will carry me through the slings and arrows of 2017.

To that end, I have returned to Morning Pages. If you have read The Artist’s Way, you are familiar with Morning Pages. The idea, according to Julia Cameron, is to prime the pump. Write three pages of stream of consciousness words every morning to get into the creative flow.

Instead of handwriting pages as suggested by Cameron, I use an online tool called 750words. That tool works a bit differently than the Artist’s Way describes, but that is okay too.

So as I sit here now on my fourth day of vacation, hallelujah, I am working on today’s words. I have fallen out of my writing discipline and I can tell I am rusty. Lots on my mind. It’s good to get back into the habit.

The best part of the 750words is that every once in a while, while priming the pump and working through the silt to get back into the flow, some solid words, some bon mots, some worthy thoughts come through.

Wanted to share these, because they may become my motto for the new year (Warning: there is some salty language, it that offends, look away):

…doubt is a persistent little bitch. Hope slides off like you are made of teflon, but doubt sticks like tar, or used up chewing gum or one of those gluey mocos you can’t quite get off your finger no matter how hard you shake. Patience and discipline, that is the kleenex to your glue moco and allows you to fly once more. The sturdy facial tissue that brings back hope.


Yeah, I have no idea what any of that means, but it made me feel good to write it. Like I was really tapping into something, so I decided to share it.

Hope your end of 2016 and planning for 2017 has better metaphors. I’ll keep working on mine.




Inspiring flowers made of kleenex. Is that hope I’m feelin’?





Image found here.




Important Distinctions

My British education continues. This time, the lesson arrived over what my coworkers call “a curry and a pint.”

At a local Indian restaurant, I tucked into some buttery Tikka Masala and we discussed the day’s events.

I’ve been watching a lot of morning television, particularly the news shows, and so I had a lot of questions.

One question burned uppermost in my mind.

Thus:

“Is the Mayor of London insane? Because I’ve been seeing various video clips on the news and he seems…well…batshit crazy.”

Boris Johnson, you mean? What leads you to that conclusion?” asked a wise coworker.

I told them of the video I’d seen that morning of Mr. Johnson, filmed just after London won the Olympic games. In the video, the honorable yet wild haired Mr. Johnson goes on at some length about how people in England used to play lawn tennis on their dining room table and it was called wiff waff. He kept saying “wiff waff” and rambling along that England originated table tennis and is the center of the sporting world and so on.

The man standing behind him is doing all he can to not laugh hysterically as an elected official natters on. (You can watch the video here, or Google Boris Johnson and wiff waff)

This video was played to set the stage for the next video, a clip that had been filmed earlier that day. In this video, they showed a large set of Olympic rings being hoisted and put in place under the London Bridge. When interviewed, Mr. Johnson went off on a repetitive rant that this adornment of the well known landmark was a wakeup call to London and an invitation to the world. His hair was surprisingly calm this day considering the wind.

So that, I told my curry crew, was the basis for my question.

Here was the reply and my lesson:

“Oh, make no mistake, he’s barking mad. However, his father was a member of Parliament and he is from a very posh family. He attended some of the best schools in the country. He was an MP of a small town for a while and then made his way to Mayor of London. The people love him.”

She went on to say, “You see, the difference between bonkers and eccentric is money. Boris Johnson is merely eccentric.”

Oh I see.

I took a sip of my beer.

Then another.

I nodded thoughtfully.

“Fair enough,” was the extent of my reply.






Image found here



It Must Be Groundhog Day

Because I’ve just lived this day, again.

Originally posted March 8, 2011

____________________________

Did You Ever Have The Kind Of Day Where….


Did you ever have the kind of day where you are going ninety miles an hour at your work desk, cranking out the emails, spreadsheets and taking phone calls left and right, all while balancing the Greyhound bus stop that is the chair in front of your desk….

And despite all the chaos and kerfuffle, just in the nick of time, you manage to whip out your one page, beautifully wrought, easy-to-read table that contains the cheat sheet you’ll need to answer every question that will be machine gun fired at you at your 3:00 meeting.

So you send that sumnabitch to the printer and grab your notebook, hike up your pants, run to the copier, and grab that thing off the machine so you can make it to your meeting at something less than five minutes late.

Then you squeal around the corner into the copy room and you are heartened to hear that the machine isn’t working. It’s done. It’s printed your copy.

Only it hasn’t.

The screen reads “out of paper, load tray three.”

Inside your head, you say, “I can deal with this.”

So it’s one of those big industrial machines and to fill the paper tray takes not one, not two, but three reams of ecologically friendly 50% post-consumer lily white paper.

Being a good office citizen, you could throw half a ream in there and call it good, but you don’t. You fill it up to the top, slam the drawer and the machine fires up.

Sweet sound of the Gods!

And the machine begins spitting out page after page after page…..

After page.

After page.

And you realize the guy in front of you must be printing like a hundred copies of his forty page slide deck and it’s HIS FAULT that the machine was parched for paper when you arrived.

Nothing you can do now but watch that machine like a bird dog after a duck, all the while not-my-copy, not-my-copy, not-my-copy shoots out of the machine, perfectly stapled and collated and tidy as you please.

“Ok,” you say to yourself. “I can deal with this.”

Then the machine stops again. The engine winds down.

“Thank god!” you think.

But wait, your copy isn’t there.

“WHAT THE [EXPLETIVE DELETED]!!!” You may or may not shout.

The LCD screen on that machine says “Replace Toner” and provides helpful animated arrows to guide you through the process.

“Ok,” you think to yourself, “I can deal with this. It can’t be that hard.”

So you find a box with a new toner tube and you follow the bouncing arrow on the screen and the old toner comes out and the new toner slides in and now you may or may not have black toner dust peppering your arms.

But you slam closed the toner door and the machine begins to make a noise.

“Warming up,” it tells you.

And you wait for what must be an [expletive deleted] eternity while the machine “cleans the wires” and “recalibrates” itself at the pace of an anemic snail.

Then holy mother of Xerox, the machine starts spitting out copies anew and more and more of not-my-copy of someone’s presentation comes out.

Then, most miraculous! The single sheet that you desperately needed finally exits the machine!

Victory!

So to be helpful you pull the other copies off the machine to lay them aside in a nice, neat stack.

And because you are nosy by nature, you look to see exactly what is the document that held up your progress and made you irretrievably late for a very important meeting, and you come to realize that it is…..

Handouts for someone’s upcoming Cub Scout meeting.

You ever have a day like that?

No way, right? Because that story just *has* to be made up. Unless truth really is stranger than fiction.





Photo by Alex Furr and used royalty free from stock.xchng


Misty Water Colored Memories. Of the Way We Were. Orale.

In the wake of my most recent (and fabulous) visit to my home state of New Mexico, I find I’m getting my old crone on.

New Mexico has both grown and grown up over the last twenty years. I suppose change is inevitable.

But sometimes I still lament the way it used to be.

So here’s a top of my mind list of how New Mexico used to be. This just happens to be what I’m thinking about on my first day back in California on a stormy Bay Area day.


Grumpy McGrumperson’s List of “That was my New Mexico”

  1. It rained in summer. It snowed in winter. The Rio Grande bulged with water in July. Farmers irrigated their land. Sure, it was still a desert, but water didn’t cost $300 a cubic meter. Cotton plants grew tall. Pecans grew large. It worked. Now New Mexico is in the midst of a terrifying descent into serious drought and a mismanaged water conservancy.
  2. If you went to the Balloon Fiesta, there was never, not for one moment, a thought that you’d just sit there and watch. You were expected to pitch in, even if you were a small child. “Safety” and “insurance” didn’t ever come into mind. We just helped, because getting those hot air balloons off the ground was what we did in Albuquerque.
  3. Breakfast burritos at the Balloon Fiesta were cheap, incredibly delicious, and you bought them out of a battered ice chest and didn’t think twice about it. Same with tamales at Christmas.
  4. Pinto beans were made with pork. No one ever wondered about or protested this fact. Ever.
  5. If you ate a Biscochito, you didn’t question if it was made from lard. OF COURSE it was made with lard. And no one thought that was weird, bad or worried that it would make them fat. Anything but lard was unfathomable.
  6. Luminarias used a real candle. None of this electric hogwash.
  7. If it said Hatch green chile, you knew it was actually from Hatch. It seemed strange to even question.
  8. When you looked into a bucket of ice at a bar, and pulled out a bottle, it was beer. Just beer. None of these foofy malt-based sugared up drinks. Just beer. And decent beer. What’s with the light, light, oh so lite you can breathe it like air. Just drink a damn beer! Or don’t. (this comes straight from the events of this weekend. I grabbed what I thought was a beer. It wasn’t. *sigh*)
  9. While on a two lane highway, when someone passed the other direction, you gave ’em a wave. Be it whole hand, the pointer finger, two finger Boy Scout style or whatever acknowledgement you like, you did it. And the other driver waved and smiled back. (in some places this still happens, but I got an awful lot of unreturned waves this weekend.)
  10. We didn’t call a tortilla a wrap. It was a tortilla. They weren’t made of spinich or tomato, and if mom made ’em from scratch they were thick and oh so very good.


There’s more, I think, but that’s enough of what’s bothering me today.

I suppose time marches on whether I march in step or not. New Mexico can’t stay the same forever and neither can I.

Must be the dark clouds I have, both mentally and meteorologically, that’s got me all stirred up.

Wish I could find a way to send you some of this wet weather, my Fair New Mexico.




The Fine Art of Letter Writing

Over this past weekend on our fun boondoggle of a vacation tour, The Good Man and I found ourselves up in Sonoma, California. Land of wines, a California Mission, and a fantastic historic plaza. Beautiful, wonderful Sonoma.

Another fabulous feature of Sonoma is that the writer Jack London lived there for many years. He and his second wife built an enormous home out in the tall redwoods, which sadly burned down, never to be rebuilt. They built a smaller cottage, and in fact, Jack London is buried there near the site of his home. This location, the ruins of the big house and London’s grave are all part of the Jack London State Historic Park due for closure in 2012 because of ongoing California budget woes.

Since both The Good Man and I are avid readers, we were thrilled to take a tour of the site.

One of my favorite parts of the museum was the many letters both to and from Jack that are on public display. He was quite the articulate one.

Here’s one that especially resonated with me. It’s a rejection letter from the editors at The Curtis Publishing Company in Philadelphia. I believe this was a query to the Saturday Evening Post.




Here’s what it says:

Dear Sir

We have found the “Sunlanders” a story of exceptional interest. We should wish to give it a place in our columns were it not our policy to exclude the tragic from the magazine.

We thank you cordially for giving us an opportunity to examine this manuscript, and hope that you have in hand some tales of a more cheerful manner.

Very truly yours,

The Editors


So, you know. Ouch. Your story? Rocked. But it’s sad. We don’t *do* sad. Write something happy, why don’t you?

Of course, this is also a very strong example, perhaps, of a writer not doing their homework before querying a magazine. I might be guilty of this.

This is but one of the many rejection letters that London received over the course of his notable writing career. He’d wallpapered his cabin in Oakland with them and there were many more to go. His first book was rejected 600 times.

Now that’s tenacity.

Then there’s this letter, a brief note included in the collection with no explanation:




It says:

Dear Comrade – I can’t read your letter. I’ve wasted twenty minutes, ruined my eyesight and lost my temper, and I can’t make out what you have written.

Try it over again and more legibly.

Sincerely yours,

Jack London

PS I can’t even make out your name

Oooh, rasty, rasty Jack. Love it.

But my favorite, far and beyond the best of them all was a two pager regarding some delinquent payments.

It’s a doozy.




Here’s the text:

Messrs M. Clark and Sons,

Gentlemen:

In reply to yours of December 26, 1913, addressed to Mrs. Shepard, which Mrs. Shepard has kindly forwarded to me. I am glad she forwarded to you the letter I sent her the other day.

Before we get to the business end of it, let me tackle the mental end of it, namely, your inability to understand my remark that if you had collected the $1000 when it was due, I would not be pinched for it now. The funniest thing is, that it is just that $1000 I am pinched for now. Put yourself in my place: Mrs. Shepard had charge of the house building and the bill paying. I earned the money. Mrs. Shepard always let me know roughly what bills and expenses were paid each month. Anything that was left over I spent. Naturally, since the $1000 was not collected at the time it was due, it was left over, and I spent it. You know what a dead horse is—–this $1000 is now a dead horse to me. I cannot unspend the spending of it in other directions. Please know that I am very busy, that I travel around a great deal, and that I do not keep up from moment to moment in the details of work performed for me by others. Not until the house burned down did I learn that a first payment due you had not been requested by you.

Now to the business end of it. Here is the situation in a nutshell: I have had what I call a real hard year. No drunken sailor ever spent money more lavishly than I have been compelled to spend it in the past several months on law and lawyers, in a battle line that encircled the globe. Every copyright I possessed was attacked, and I was being robbed by pirate motion picture companies, not only of motion picture rights in my stories, but of book rights, dramatic rights, translation rights, second-serial rights, reprint rights and all other rights whatsoever. I have just now won that fight. Please believe me when I tell you that I am still nursing my financial wounds. By the opening months of 1914, money will be pouring in on me. But I haven’t any $1000 cash right now that I can rationally afford using to pay a dead horse. On the other hand, if I should be sued, I would see my way to paying the money, plus the legal expenses and costs, and shrug my shoulders and get along all right.

But you have so far been so eminently kind and satisfactory (too eminently kind for that matter), that I feel impelled to make a suggestion builded upon your own suggestion, namely, of a note. If you will take a note from me for the total sum of money at stake, payable in six months, I will have that note lifted before the six months are up.

I can only tell you that we are going ahead as fast as possible for the rebuilding of the house. Men are chopping down trees at the present time, which will go into the new house.

Sincerely yours,

Jack London

This letter made me laugh out loud. Makes me want to take a few lines from his work the next time I have to write a gripe to someone who has ticked me off.

Here’s a good example: Dear Sirius Radio, it’s a dead horse, I’m not going to sign up with your service again. I’ve been spending money as lavishly as any sailor ever did (*cough*iPad*cough*) and I’m tapped out. Now go away.

Good ol’ Jack. One hell of a writer.


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