Monday, August 31, 2009

Can't believe I forgot...

...the two other great things happening:

The U.S. Open starts today! My love for this tournament makes no sense at all, but the very idea of it makes me smile. Tennis is a fun sport to watch. I'm always amazed by what it looks like to watch the players fight so fiercely--against each other and with themselves--up so close. You can almost read their minds, the cameras are so close to their eyes between some shots. It's intense. And there is part of me that has always felt like a bit of a Manhattanite, even though I have no viable claim whatsoever to the title :)

Donald Miller's next book, A Million Miles in a Thousand Years comes out any minute. I'm a fan of his, anyway, and this book looks especially good. He's writing about living a story, which is a really cool concept. I'm excited to see how he pulls it off. Here's a provocative interview between Don (I use his nickname, like we're close buddies...) and his publisher, if you want to check it out.

Things I'm happy about today

Little stuff that seems worth noting:

We have oceans of birds migrating across our yard. I can't even exaggerate how many there are because I couldn't count that high if I tried. It's like they come through in waves of 1,000 or so. It's bizarre and beautiful and something else I can't quite describe that probably has to do with awe.

We watched BEE MOVIE this weekend (sound warning for those of you reading this in a place where a loud link would be awkward). Unexpectedly funny. I love that Jerry Seinfeld did something so unlike what I'd expect from him. His hysterical tutorial about the importance of bees to society (along with the bird exodus I mentioned above) make me remember that God orchestrates life on a much grander scale than I'm aware of. If he thought up migration and pollination, I can probably trust him to work out the details of my life dilemmas.

And I had a great conversation with my agent this morning about new perspectives for book #3, and the restorative benefits of time in the country.

Oh! And the frog is mostly eaten. Still some bits of garnish on the plate, but I'm not sure they're required. It's good to be frog-free

All in all, life on this Monday is complicated and unexpected, but moving toward something entirely other than what I could have a good way. And at least it's not dull :)

How about you? What are you happy about today?

Friday, August 28, 2009

The hum and the crunch

Still munching on this frog.

Music helps me get over big hurdles. I left my first marriage playing Martina McBride's Independence Day over and over again on my car's CD player as a reminder to myself that as scared as I was, this was the right thing to do and life would somehow turn out okay. (Of course, somewhere around the NY/Connecticut border, I realized that she was actually singing about a mother who burned her house and abusive husband to the ground. That seemed extreme. So I threw the CD away at a rest stop and switched to Stevie Nicks' Landslide. "I climbed a mountain and I turned around" seemed to capture my dire situation without all the flames.)

Today I'm listening to Brooke White's High Hopes and Heartbreaks, which might just be the best CD title ever. I'm not repeating any one song this time, but rather absorbing and reflecting on the overall message that life is interesting and exciting and messy, and rarely turns out the way we think it will. And I'm thinking about an email I received yesterday from a friend I hadn't spoken to since high school. She's faced down more frogs than I can imagine over the past decade, and yet is doing amazingly well. I wonder if stories like hers--about survival, and finding the next chapter of your life so you can thrive--are so popular because we all have frogs that land on our plate at one point or another, and we long for proof that the effort will be worth it, that there's new life on the other side? I'm grateful to be back in touch with her.

How about you? What music gets you through the challenges? What encouraging stories?

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Bon Appetit!

I have to eat a frog. It's a big one, and totally not something I would have put on my plate. But life isn't always a serve yourself buffet.

I've read this book (it was the first thing I thought of when I saw the hardcover edition of my first book). You'd think it would help. It all sounds so reasonable in the abstract: start with a big bite, keep a positive attitude, note your progress not how far you have to go before it's over... But it's not so easy when applied to real life. I mean, we're talking about something so yucky that the best analogy is eating an amphibian. That's some pretty gross stuff.

So help me, awesome blog friends: how do you make yourself do unpleasant yet necessary things? Any tips?

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

The real story

Yesterday afternoon I dove into this book (I'm slowly making my way through my TBR pile...) It was intense, but I expected that. What I didn't expect was the lesson I learned afterward as I scrolled through the reviews on A huge number of readers were FURIOUS over the bait 'n switch the author pulled, promising her sister's story and spending 98% of the book telling her own instead. I didn't disagree with their assessment, but I was surprised by how angry they were.

They weren't disappointed in her story--it was almost as grim as her sister's. But they hated being duped into buying the book based on something different than what it actually was. The general sentiment was that either your story stands on it's own literary merit or it shouldn't be published. But you shouldn't lie to readers.

It made me think of a few other books I've felt disappointed by for similar reasons, and made me take a bit more seriously the relationship between my titles and the stories I tell.

What do you think? How much leeway do you give the relationship between a book's cover and it's content?

Monday, August 24, 2009

It's still summer, right?

This is the longest I've been away from this blog since I started recording my random adventures and THAT DOG's shenanigans a few years back. I've missed you, blogsphere!

As I mentioned over at 40 Days, we had a bit of a family emergency. My awesome Uncle Chris died somewhat unexpectedly. As Steve and I drove north to be with family members who came in from all over the country, I thought it would be better to unplug for a bit and just be there, rather than blogging/tweeting/facebooking the experience. I love the support that comes from sharing bits and pieces of life with folks I wouldn't meet any other way. But at the same time I sometimes find myself thinking "Wow-this will make a great tweet!" when I'd be better off focusing on what's going on where I am.

So I feel like I've de-fragged a bit from that state of automatically translating every experience into 140 word sound bites! Still though, it's good to be back :)

Speaking of life getting back to normal...I have two new novels that I'm carving out time to read before summer is over:

Jonathan Tropper is one of my writing heroes. His stuff is just so fantastic, and his latest, THIS IS WHERE I LEAVE YOU is getting rave reviews. I'm alternating between being sad I haven't been able to read it yet, and remembering that this is why I love books: they don't disappear if you don't catch them in the first 20 minutes after they go live.

But I can still be at the front of the line to buy Julie Buxbaum's AFTER YOU when it hits my local bookstore tomorrow.

How are you stretching out the last days of summer? Or better: what are you excited about for autumn?

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Think about direction, wonder why you haven't before

I have to say, the pickle party post is a tough one to follow! But I'll try...

Over on my other blog tonight, I mentioned a quote from R.E.M. that I've heard so many times, but never really thought about before:

"Stand in the place where you live, now face north. Think about direction, wonder why you haven't before."

I think maybe this caught me now because I heard two talks at a conference today that inspired/challenged me to think about my direction, and how I spend my time each day.

In the middle of one of the talks, this sneaking suspicion came over me that I'd lost direction (or, as I once heard a pastor say, I'd "lost the plot") in my life. In the middle of the session, I grabbed a pen and jotted down my priorities on the back page of my notebook. I included all kinds of things: writing, family, friends, THAT DOG, God, Steve, writing, family, church, and then moved them around and around based on two criteria:

What don't I ever want to live without?
If something HAD to go, what would it be?

It was surprisingly easy to line things up, and daunting how out of whack I've gotten in planning my days. I felt an odd sense of hope in this wake-up call, though, like I have a chance to get back on track now, rather than live with regret later.

Have you ever had a wake up call like this when you think about direction? If so, how hard was it to break old habits and recalibrate?

And don't worry...even though canning pickles is not ANYWHERE on my list of life priorities, I'm grandfathering the party in under the "time with friends" category...I'll make sure to report back on every slice and jar :)

Monday, August 03, 2009

Lookout Larry...

I've been laughing on and off for several days now, because my awesome friend Chemistry Girl invited me to partake in some quality girl time next Sunday. If you know me at all, you know there's not much I like more than hanging out with the ladies. But this gathering will be a new experience for me...

We're going to can pickles.

It's never occurred to me to can pickles (or peaches or peas or tomatoes, for that matter). I have vague memories of my Mom doing this type of project, most of which involve her saying, "Stand back! This water is hot!" and me watching in baffled frustration as she ruined some perfectly good cucumbers. (I've always liked cucumbers.) And since then, I've always been certain that my canned-good needs could be satisfied--inexpensively and with a minimum of effort--by my local grocer.

But I'm living in a new place now, and my new friends can pickles. And if they're willing to take novice me under their wing, why would I say no?

This won't be a small endeavor. Last I heard, there were five of us, 80+ pounds of cukes, untold gallons of vinegar...and important decisions to be made regarding whole vs. sliced, slices vs. chips, and straight vs. crinkle cut. I'm working mightily to come up with some opinions on the perfect pickle between now and Sunday!

I think the day will be hysterical, and tons of fun. But I have to admit that when my friend emailed her plan to do 15lbs of pickles I panicked, wondering what on earth Steve and I would do with that amount of ANY food product, let alone one so specialized. (I even spent a whole afternoon trying to come up with a viable pickle-themed decorating scheme for our apartment, where every room would be adorned by a few thoughtfully-placed jars...) Since then, fortunately, the ladies have assured me that I can do just a few pickles...

But if you're a member of my family, start planning your January meals around pickles, because that's what I'll be putting under the tree at Christmas!