New York Times

Crazy Busy!

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“Busyness serves as a kind of existential reassurance, a hedge against emptiness; obviously your life cannot possibly be silly or trivial or meaningless if you are so busy, completely booked, in demand every hour of the day. ”


This appealed to me from The ‘Busy” Trap in the New York Times because… well, I have been so busy!  But wait, I don’t mean that as “a boast disguised as a complaint” as author Tim Kreider suggests.   It has been reality (work, kids, blah, blah!).   Actually I aspire to the “idleness” Kreider describes that is his life.   He says it is possible by choosing time over money.

How smart.  Perhaps, if idleness became the new status symbol (“sure I’d love to get together!”), then we’d all be a lot happier.


Fairy Tale Lessons

Tina Phillips

“If you do the right thing all the time, you won’t learn.  That’s why characters in fairy tales do the wrong thing.  Really, the moral is, don’t listen to your parents.”

Director Catherine Hardwicke on her movie Red Riding Hood
W Magazine, March 2011

Hardwicke puts a moody and supernatural spin on this fable.   But the basic premise of most fairy tales remains the same – parents are either absent or dead.  How else can little ones have wild adventures?  My real life kids want adventures too.  They build forts and want to go places without us.  They seek independence yet circle back to the familiar.  There’s a real life moral in fairy tales – venture out and be brave.  Has a childhood fairy tale stayed in your memory?


Amor Towles

Rules of Civility

Paul Martin Eldridge

At the end of Amor Towles’ book, The Rules of Civility, the main character Katey looks back on her choice of husband, job and city (New York).

“I have no doubt that they were the right choices for me.  And at the same time, I know that right choices by definition are the means by which life crystallizes loss.”

This is a book you want to read with late 1930s jazz playing in the background and a martini in hand.    Towles truly captures the colorful era and place in this debut novel.  As this quote points out, right choices mean another option wasn’t taken.  Of course, regret can come with that.  However, his use of crystallize shines a more sparkly light on that sad thought.  Crystallize means to take a definite form – yet it also refers to coating with sugar crystals.  Just as with Katey, time also helps her know all those life choices were the right ones.

You’ll find more thoughtful quotes in Towles’ novel… and a fun map of New York locations featured in the book on his website.


Very Vital “V” Words


“I suppose if you had to choose just one quality to have that would be it: vitality.”

John F. Kennedy as quoted in
Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr.’s
A Thousand Days: John F. Kennedy in the White House


Most people have a favorite color or holiday.  I have a favorite letter of the alphabet – V.   Strong, yet not commonly used.  We simply don’t put words like verve or vim in our everyday conversation.  A pity!  Vitality is true to its first letter.   Merriam-Webster defines it as “physical or mental vigor,  lively and animated character.”  If someone is described as having vitality, you know they’ll be full of life and energy.  Kennedy certainly was.

I want to better live that quality – I’ll start by sprinkling in more vim and vigor in my conversation.


A Banned Classic that’s Timely Now

Arvind Balaraman

“How can you frighten a man whose hunger is not only in his own cramped stomach but in the wretched bellies of his children? You can’t scare him – he has known a fear beyond every other.”

John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath was set during the Great Depression and published in 1939 but the themes are current – economic hardship, loan default, migrant workers, hunger.  Steinbeck said, “I’ve done my damndest to rip a reader’s nerves to rags.”  And he did a good job.  I’ll never forgot the scene when Rose of Sharon, who has just lost her baby, breastfeeds a sick and dying man.  It’s profoundly sad yet shows the strength of human kindness.

Steinbeck was attacked for writing about the conditions of California farm workers.  The book was burned and banned.  It was criticized on talk radio.  But it was also well read.   Grapes won the National Book Award, Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, and the Nobel Prize.

Have you written to “rip a reader’s nerves?”  Would you let public criticism stop you?


Amore, food & wine – a novel combination!


“Daniel’s other woman and two bright-eyed beautiful children were sitting under the insole of his left golf shoe when Lily first found them.  They were laminated.”

So begins Sarah-Kate Lynch’s Dolci di Love: A Novel

There is a huge category of books between so-called beach books and Literature (with a capital L), which I have never been able to define.  Lynch is such a good writer – her books cover way more than over-priced shoes and sex (not that those topics aren’t covered).  But she also paints full characters engaged in life, figuring out life’s mysteries.  You are entertained, yet there is actually something to think about after the book has ended.

Her Dolci book takes place in a Tuscan village and another novel I just finished, House of Daughters, takes place in the Champagne region of France.  The themes are similar –  women, aging, life’s passions such as love, food and wine, and how we make peace with what we expected from life and what actually happens.

What do you call this “middle” category of fiction?





Why Willpower Runs Out

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“Self control is a complicated psychological event.  It draws on your body’s energy supply, which is limited.”

Roy Baumeister, psychology professor at Florida State University
Whole Living magazine, February 2012

Isn’t that hopeful?  If you ate two donuts even though you made a New Year’s resolution to cut calories, you aren’t necessarily lacking in strength of character.  Instead, there is a physical reason why we sometimes lapse in our goals.  The professor’s studies show low levels of glucose leads to poor performance on self-control tests.  So the trick is to take care of your health and not give yourself too many willpower challenges in one day.  These and other interesting findings are in Whole Living’s article  “More Will Power to You” by Whitney Joiner.  It’s a positive read at a time when the enthusiasm for resolutions is waning – so off to the gym!


Rain, Rain Don’t Go Away…

“The rain makes still pools on the sidewalk
The rain makes running pools in the gutter
The rain plays a little sleep song on our roof at night
And I love the rain.”

Langston Hughes

Living in Oregon, you’d better love the rain.  Actually on my side of the mountains, there isn’t much.   We often have a White Christmas though… but this year?  No precip in sight.  Don’t you love Hughes’ “little sleep song on our roof” phrase?  Only thing sweeter is the soft patter of snow on the roof.  Fingers crossed!




A Charitable Time

“I have always thought of Christmas time, when it has come round, as a good time; a kind, forgiving, charitable time; the only time I know of, in the long calendar of the year, when men and women seem by one consent to open their shut-up hearts freely, and to think of people below them as if they really were fellow passengers to the grave, and not another race of creatures bound on other journeys.”
Charles Dickens

The needs are so intense this holiday season that we’re trying to do more.  We’re involving our kids in buying gifts for a little girl from the giving tree.  The number of kids who qualify for free school lunch has risen in our town and throughout the country.  That quickly puts into perspective wanting a new sweater or trinket for Christmas.  I truly don’t need any thing.

I like how Dickens poetically describes us all being on the same journey.  Why do our hearts open more to helping our fellow passengers this time of year?  I don’t know.  I do know “the long calendar of the year” is endless for families who can’t afford meals, snow boots or toilet paper.  What holiday giving are you doing this year?


A Writer’s Life for Me


“Almost anyone can be an author; the business is to collect money and fame from this state of being.” A.A. Milne

It’s funny how often people ask, “Have you published a book yet?” when they hear I write for a living.  One person imagined me writing away in my garret, starving.  No, thanks.   Instead, I publish articles every month – online, in magazines, in newspapers, and in companies’ internal communications.  And I actually collect money for this.  Milne’s quote is so right if you’re thinking of writing the Great American Novel.  That’s a long-haul – it probably takes a year to write, then more time submitting to editors, and all with no guarantee of a “yes.”  No wonder so many writers are turning to ePublishing.
I do have the book dream (and love Milne’s Winnie the Pooh books!) but, for now, non-fiction writing is a good state of being.