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November 28, 2012

Oh No! Christmas is Upon Us!

One of the problems in our culture is the timing of holidays. By the time they have arrived, the stores are on to the next one. No wonder we all get frantic before December thinking that we are terribly behind in decorating for Christmas if we are not already on top of shopping and buying a tree.

I remember that my parents bought their tree one week before Christmas and took it down one day after New Year's. I was shocked the first time I visited Don's family during the holidays. His mother took the tree down two days after Christmas. She was tired of it. Heresy!!!! According to my mother, my grandfather put up the tree and decorated it while my grandmother took the three kids to church on Christmas Eve. They came home to find the house decorated (it must have been fairly modest) and Christmas had arrived! Unfortunately, I never knew those grandparents or spent any Christmases with them.

So, I sit here this morning wondering just when I should go and get a tree. If I buy it this early, it will just be brittle and shedding by Christmas day. But, will a tree that I buy in a couple of weeks be any less fresh? I'm also pondering ideas for gifts and wondering if I can decorate the house before the few events that I have scheduled. How do I move through this season with joy and feelings of awe instead of a sense of simply following expectations. I love Christmas as I love Thanksgiving, Easter, and some of the minor holidays -- but how to make them fresh and new each year, or even how to choose to ignore them from time to time is something to ponder.

I didn't send a Christmas card last year, so I might try to do that. I'm going to go through my creche collection and weed out those that I feel no great need to keep. I'm also weeding through my art and trying to decide what to do with so many pieces we never either framed or displayed. I'm in the middle of updating the upstairs bathroom and painting the living room. One might say that I'm in lots of transition with the idea of downsizing at some point in my life -- and even moving out of this huge monstrosity of a house. But, not for some time yet.

So, Christmas is just one of the things in transition. I frankly have no interest in the amount of decorating I have done in the past which took a couple of weeks to put up and the same amount to dismantle. I'm much more interested in enjoying the season without so much preparation and anxiety about getting it done. I'm questioning what is important enough to preserve and what can just go by the wayside. What to let others do instead of me. What it is about Christmas that is too dear to ignore?

All these things are percolating in this busy mind while a novel I'm reading calls me to put it all aside and ignore to do lists and household chores. I wonder, do I over think things or do others go through this same kind of mental exercises during the season? Yesterday, I took a friend to a Christmas tea. That is probably what I'd like to do most. Simply go places where others have done the decorating and baking and take advantage of their hospitality without raising a finger to help. That would be a lovely gift. But, what if we all thought that way? Who, then, would orchestrate all the lovely Christmas activities?

Maybe it's my age. Maybe it's the gloomy morning. Maybe it's wanting to read instead of plan or organize or get up and move. I know myself well enough to know that the mood will pass and I will enjoy going forward once again. But, every so often, I get stuck sort of like a broken record. I just need to pick up the needle and put it further on in the song -- and regain the voice. But, for now, I think I'll just pick up my book and read. Fortunately, for the world, I only have an hour to do that before I'm picking up Nico from school and taking him our for a grandma lunch to his favorite restaurant. That's enough to break this mood of mine!



Postscript: As you can see from these photos, we did, indeed, go for a Fiamma burger--the best in town!

Posted by Marilyn at 10:28 AM | Comments (0)

November 16, 2012


I had a fascinating experience this week. If you read my blog you know that I was planning to speak at the Whatcom Writers and Publishers meeting next week. I had been reading my books and going through the research to decide what I wanted to say. There was another reason to drag out those 6 boxes I have been saving - I'm trying to divest myself of unnecessary items in my basement.

The group meets on the third Wednesday so I had one more week to actually plan what I would say instead of musing through materials to find possibilities, when I had a Facebook message from a former colleague at Fairhaven Middle School. Except for friending her on Facebook, I have not communicated with Susan for years. She wrote, "Looking forward to your talk tomorrow night." I wrote back, "You have the date wrong, it is next week." She responded with the blurb from the Bellingham Herald. Yikes! I was speaking this week. I had totally ignored the dates in the newsletters since I already knew what was happening. HA! So, I scrambled all that day and the next putting together what I was going to say.

Now, if that isn't some kind of grace or synchronicity in the universe, I don't know what is. I began my talk with that story. To hear from someone you haven't spoken with in years just in time to save you from complete humiliation is certainly a reason to be thankful in this season!

After not knowing what exactly to say to so many writers, I finally decided to tell my writing story -- such as the time when I was 8 and sent in a jingle for a Planter's Peanut contest only to get a letter saying I would have won if I'd remembered to send a wrapper. Or, when I was 10 and took a Women's Day story and made it into a play. I spent hours teaching the parts to the neighbor children only to have my mother put a stop to it all when she saw us setting up seats in the driveway for all the neighbor families to come. Early writing experiences that got buried in the academic achievement that led towards a teaching career.

My writing has always taken a back seat to "responsibility." As I told the group, I have always fought against the fact that I respond to external rewards. After trying to write a mystery which I spent more time revising than writing, I finally hooked up with Enslow Publishing. Aha! Here was a responsibility. A contract. A deadline!!! I know about that. I'm a good student. And, so I can claim three books to my credit -- all of which were fun to research and write. And, I spent time on Wednesday night explaining about the experiences I had interviewing people all over the world through the internet and pulling together information for books on organ transplants, teens and alcohol, and book banning with an emphasis on Madeline L'Engle.

But, what about the topics sitting now in my files or half written things on my computer? I had hoped I could continue on my own with all that experience, but I'm still just dabbling. One thing for sure -- between my writing group and the talk I gave, I must say that I'm more than ever inspired to get back to my computer and write.

Of course, it would help if someone, outside of my own conscience, would hold my feet to the fire! No matter how old I get, I'm always fascinated by the mysteries of the human spirit.

Posted by Marilyn at 8:54 AM | Comments (1)

November 9, 2012

Rules & Regs

I've been more prolific lately. Perhaps it is because I have had more time to write. Perhaps it is because I've been laid up more with a sore leg. Perhaps it is because of all the election stuff. Perhaps it is because I just met with my writing group and they inspire me. I don't know.

I was thinking of my entry on Facebook when I said that I had a rule for my life that I broke during the election -- that of not watching television during the day. That made me think about self imposed rules and where they come from. My television rule is easy -- my mother spent a lot of her day watching television. She loved the soaps and was generally a person who had little hobbies or interests outside of the home. I think it is because she married right out of high school and never had a chance to figure out where her natural talents would take her besides marrying and having a family.

I remember a time during the war when her sister went to work for Boeing. My mom thought she might like to get a job. I remember my dad thinking that was humorous since she had no marketable skills. I don't remember him saying it in a mean way. He felt that he was the breadwinner, and her job was staying home and taking care of her children. I also remember thinking that it would be pretty cool if my mom had a job like my aunt. I always felt her time was so wasted watching television. I think television is addictive enough at night. I long ago decided never to emulate my mother and watch it all day.

I have some other rules that have to do with tidying. I rarely go to bed with dishes on the sink. If I am really sick, I will get up and tidy my bedroom so that I don't have to look at the mess while I'm lying in bed. Silly, but there you have it. I turn off lights when I'm not in a room. In fact, my neighbors say they always know that I am at home because I leave more lights on when I'm gone (maybe to fool the burglars). My motto for my home, in general, is make it feel welcoming and comfortable. Don't sweat the stuff you can't get done or make perfect -- just take one project at a time and let the rest go for now.

Some rules regarding my kids -- don't tell them lies, always let them know where you are and when you'll be back (and expect the same from them), be congruent - that is, don't think one thing and say another; model what you want them to be, and try hard to respect their individuality. Love them and let them know.

And, then there are the Donel rules that still stay with me and stick in my head. I've mentioned these before in this column. "Marilyn, keep BOTH hands on the wheel. You never know when something will happen." "Marilyn, stop driving over the speed limit." "Don't tell me your worries in bed at night and then go to sleep while I stay awake worrying about them." "Stop putting negative things in the atmosphere. You are what you think." "You have a roving anxiety. When you are not worried about something, it lands on whatever silly thing is near."

It's actually sort of fun to keep these words of his close to my heart. I miss his admonishing me. He was never ever mean. In fact, we usually laughed about our foibles when we complained about each other. I'm sure that I had lots of comments about his own idiosyncrasies. The other day Dani said, "Mom, no wonder you are feeling down today. You always feel that way in October." i just laughed. It is exactly what her father would have said. "Marilyn, you always get a cold this time of year." "Marilyn, you always get depressed in January." "Marilyn, you never sleep for the first week of school.' He could always remember my history enough to calm me down and let me know it was just the way I always reacted. That assurance was enough to know that it was probably short lived and I would, indeed, survive.

Rules help us live in the boundaries we have chosen to live by. Rule givers and reminders are people who love us enough to remind us when we are not paying attention. What kind of rules do you follow in your life?

Posted by Marilyn at 4:32 PM | Comments (0)

November 7, 2012

Post Election

A lovely, if anxiety ridden, night last night. I don't remember ever being so involved or so concerned about an election. Partly because I feel like Obama didn't beat his own drum. He accomplished a great deal in his first two years, but he never really explained that. He never gave the big picture. Four years ago he made big promises, but no one can move this behemoth of a government in a short span of time. I wanted him to speak to people's concerns and fears. I don't think he always did.

Romney has a likable image, but even though my roots are in the Republican party, I don't elect representatives to congress to vote as a bloc in order to destroy the power of the president. I find their remarks distasteful about women, about abortion, and frankly their slanderous Fox News lies about the Obama. I have followed Romney enough to hear him take both sides of the same issue and I liked Ryan even less. Too bad the man who gave the excellent concession speech was not the candidate that I watched run the race.

So much for this election. I'm glad it's finally over. I'm tired of the ads, I'm tired of the rhetoric, I'm tired of feeling annoyed, I'm tired of telephone calls, I'm tired of debates, I'm just tired of it all. Election night, itself, was fun. Dani and Charles and the boys brought over dinner and stayed and watched TV until they needed to take James home to do homework. Katy came home from school just as Obama was announced as the winner which sent her over the top. Then, she and I stayed up until we heard the speeches.

That's it for now. We can go back to business as usual. Life, for me, is good.

Posted by Marilyn at 11:39 AM | Comments (0)

November 6, 2012

Election Day!

It's election day and I am filled with anxiety. I woke up at 2:30 a.m. last night and even checked BreakingNews.com to see what is happening in the world. Come on, only people under thirty take their iPhones to bed with them. I'm am definitely not in that generation -- but, there you have it, my confession! This morning I found myself watching MSNBC until I had to go run errands. Then, when I returned, back I went to BreakingNews.com.

Martin, who designs the website got me hooked. He put it on my iPhone and it began to beep every time a new item came up. That can be very distracting. You are having a perfectly good conversation with someone and the news beeps at you. That is enough to raise your anxiety right there. It doesn't beep anymore, but I must say that I was tied to it during the hurricane also. It does give me something interesting to do on those late night potty breaks.

I'm especially disconcerted by all the reports of attempts to suppress voters in some states. This morning there were reports of a voting machine that came up with Romney's name already checked. I am sickened by the erosion of democracy in America. There are so many things that need to be fixed. Not the least is the millions of dollars spent on elections, and the despicable hate ads that clog our airways. We need laws to control our own behavior.

I must say that I'm tired of all the ads and the rhetoric on Facebook and Twitter, but I'm glad that the common folk have a voice that they have found on social media. I can choose whether or not to read what is said, but I love that they can say it. I love that different celebrities have been making U Tube videos for their candidates and that things that happen during this election are almost immediately available to the populace. Even if you have to wade through what is (or is not) truthful, it is better than listening to the party line and not having anyone saying, "Uh, duh! You said just the opposite thing last month"

So, I live for awhile with my anxiety. Of course, I want my candidate to win. Of course, I think it is the best for the country. Of course, I'll be unhappy if he doesn't. But, more important -- I voted and now I'm following the news and watching the parade. What more can I do?

Posted by Marilyn at 3:03 PM | Comments (0)

November 2, 2012

Absence Does Not Make the Heart Grow Fonder!

I've been very lax about the blog. Last week I wrote a long entry, only to lose it before it was published. That simply was more than I wanted to recreate. So, I let it go. Once I spill what is in my head on paper, I have difficulty recalling it. It is as if I have a full cup of tea that I have poured down the drain. Oops! Gone forever!

That said, I have been rereading my Enslow publications for a talk I'm giving at the Whatcom Writers and Publishers monthly meeting in November. I joined last year, although I have only gone about four times. In all the writing conferences I've attended, I've never heard anyone explain about writing for the kind of publisher that puts out books for libraries. So, I volunteered. Ever since, I've wondered why in the world I did such a thing. Last month the presenter talked about writing scripts for TV and the stage. He was very funny which raised my anxiety. However, he also went on a little too long. So, I can promise them I won't talk over my limit. Finding that much to say might be a challenge.

Whatcom Writers and Publishers is a mixed group of people -- many of them older folk. But, there are some in their 40s and 50s. Most have published something even if self published. They meet monthly over dinner at the Yacht club building and usually have about 40 in attendance. It is a chance to give a plug to their work. They have their books on display which you can buy. It's fun to see what local artists have published and learn the ins and outs of self publishing.

One of the persons I met the first night is a Master Gardener and she wrote a cookbook that friends of mine have used several times. After meeting her, I sat next to her the next meeting and bought the cookbook which pleased her greatly. She was astounded that I knew the Porters and that had twice eaten her recipes at their house.
So, the group serves as a conduit to bring people together in a nice way.

I have been re-reading my three Enslow publications in preparation for my talk. I must say that I have been pleasantly surprised by several things. The first book on transplants is surprisingly good (if I do say so myself). I can see why it continues to bring in dribbles of cash. The second book on alcohol and teens is dry and very academic. I told fewer human interest stories. Now, I'm reading the L'Engle one which I also like very much. Except that a) I don't like the artwork that Enslow used or the layout, and b) it sold as part of a series on banned books and I think it would have been better to sell as a biography. It is still selling, however, although it needs to sell another 500 before they make back their cash layout to me. That may never happen.

I'm planning to talk about the process of writing and researching the books. I don't know what I can say to people who do this daily. I'm not feeling much of a writer lately since I'm ignoring my blog and have only been writing reports for committees. I'm laid up with a bad knee although I made it to the physical therapist yesterday and have hope for a walking future. I'm tired to limping!

Not much else for now. Hope you had a Happy Halloween -- at least our weather set the stage with creepy rain and wind.

Posted by Marilyn at 11:06 AM | Comments (0)