Grandma Gertie always said there's not a savory dish that can't be made tastier by just a touch of tarragon.

Tsunami and Me

Tsunami and Me
too big to escape now....

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Censored by Facebook...Malicious Moi! #Only Trollops

I should have written the first draft of an article about my recent trip to Italy today. I should have worked on a poem to share at my daughter-in-law's writing group, Poets & Dreamers, next week. I should have begun to shape a story for Chicken Soup's upcoming book on random acts of kindness.

Instead I spent my day promoting today's official release of Only Trollops Shave Above the Knee. I updated my Amazon Author Page in include the title. I tweeted on first tweet in months...using the hashtag we'd agreed on...#OnlyTrollops. I posted the release on a number of nonfiction writing sites. And then I ran into trouble.

The weekly newspaper in Colville WA posted a photo of me and a press release promoting the book, and a link to it showed up on a private Facebook group contributors to this book have created. I tried to share that link, and the Facebook fascists promptly jumped in and censored my attempts. Facebook suspects that my link ontained "malicious content."

Maybe it's a bug...sometimes I've learned these descend on Facebook, little gremlins that prevent sharing of certain posts. Or maybe it's a distaste of the word "trollop."

I love the 17th century sound of this word. Trollop! It means a woman who is regarded as vulgar, slovenly or unkempt. Or a playgirl who trades sexual favors for cash...or valuable remuneration of some Trips to the south of France? A penthouse apartment in Manhattan?

Those were indeed the women our mothers warned up not to be. For some reason, they dared to shave above the knee. This book, in time for Mother's Day, collects the wisdom of the things our moms told us. You may have heard some of the warnings yourself:

What I learned from my mother I relate in "She Hankered for Hankies," which is an elaboration of one of my earlier Facebook posts. Mama didn't care so much about what we shaved. She did warn me not to order chicken in good restaurants, though. We weren't used to eating it with knives and forks at home, and ladies didn't eat with their fingers in restaurants. Understand, Mama lived in the pre-fast food era.

What she instilled in me was that when it comes to gifts, it's the thought that counts, not the monetary value of the gift. She wanted to keep it simple. She wanted cards enclosing hankies. My story is heartwarming rather than hilarious.

But about "malicioius content.": I like "trollop". I much prefer it to "strumpet" or."prostitute" or "hooker" or even stronger nouns. I wonder what Facebook would have thought if our editor had decided to title this hilarious collection, Only Whores Shave Above the Knee. 

Here's the link to the Statesman-Examiner article that got me censored this afternoon:

And here's where you can get your copy of this racy book that made Facebook tremble and shudder:

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Whistle a Happy Tune

Cheered by Bowers of Nasturtiums

When was the last time you rode through fields of flowers in a bright blue wagon, tugged along by an antique tractor? Never? Neither had I until last week.

The Flower Fields at Carlsbad Ranch only opens to the public for a short while, a spring delight, this season from March 1 to May 10, Mother's Day.

My apartment complex had scheduled an outing, and I'd hesitated to sign up. I had errands to run, books to read, stories to write. Could I spare an entire day for the trip? I decided I'd better. I'd been having a sad few days because of a post office mishap, a lost birthday gift, so welcomed a chance to brighten my vista. The online post office tracking notice showed the time and date of the alleged delivery. But my friend, the birthday girl, who had been home at the time, claimed no such delivery had been made. She searched her front porch and even asked a neighbor. No, the package simply wasn't there.

Oh, am I glad I went to The Flower Fields. Nothing can turn gloom into gaiety as thoroughly as the sight of fifty acres of giant tecolote ranunculous blooms cascading down a hillside, with the Pacific Ocean shimmering to the west. What's more, the tractor wagons bear names...and the one my apartment complex residents rode on was, aptly, Whistle a Happy Tune. Though I don't recall any whistling, certainly I heard choruses of ooha and aahs as we drove past such attractions as a cymbidium orchid greenhouse and a sweet pea maze, and gaped at an American flag made entirely of flowers.

After the ride, and before a picnic lunch, I sat for half an hour in The Artists' Garden, watching the caged birds and soaking up the color. I realized that I'd been wasting energy worrying about replacing a gift that had gone astray. Instead, I could bask in the beauty of a Southern California spring day. We all shine on.

A couple of days later I learned that my AWOL package mysteriously reappeared, discovered in its intended recipient's mailbox, thanks to a random act of kindness by an unknown person. Now that's a story in itself. I plan to call it "Whistle a Happy Tune."

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Clutter Chitter Chatter

When I got an email from John Benz a month ago, asking if I'd review his book, I decided to give it a go. Apparently he'd found my name and contact info from a Chicken Soup for the Soul review I'd posted on Amazon, and figured perhaps I was a like-minded lady, somebody interested in positive thinking. And I am, of course.That's why I write inspirational creative nonfiction. Additionally, I'm a licensed clinical social worker, and have worked as a psychotherapist.

While John's not a licensed mental health professional, he discloses this upfront in his book. Instead, he bills himself on his blog as a performance coach. I doubt that this is a profession overseen by any governmental regulatory board, but still I wonder what, besides life experience, compels people to enter into so many of these paraprofessional fields these days. I've learned that a friend of a friend is paying $50 an hour to a person to help her clear out boxes of old files and to decide what to keep and what to discard.

I've finished reading John's book, and find it full of constructive upbeat advice. I endorse his basic concept...we can free our surroundings and life of negativity. This makes good sense. Why should we wake up every morning to see an object given to us by a person who hurt us? Why should we continue to let our closets overflow with clothes that remind us that we no longer fit into items we wore two decades ago?

A great deal of the book resonated with me personally. Last year my late husband's son and I cleared out my garage in my country home in Colville. We took truckloads of materials Ken had accumulated in the '80s and '90s to the dump. Boxes and boxes of books and cassettes he'd ordered and never used...material on how to make money on the Internet, how to start a small business, how to get rich on the stock market, how to create money-making mass mailings. Ken never followed up on any of these projects.

When I put the house up for sale, I began to clear out drawers, closets, cupboards. I too had clutter dating back a decade or two, even though I'd given away a lot when I joined the Peace Corps in 1987. I was still discarding and giving away stuff up to the late October afternoon I vacated the house and started the drive from northeastern Washington to Southern California.

I'd traded three and a half acres, a four-bedroom 2500 square-foot two story house with a 1200 square-foot garage for a miniscule one-bedroom apartment in a senior independent living complex. I declined to rent a storage space. I gave away, sold, or trashed everything I didn't simply treasure.

Now I'm on the alert again to how quickly objects can pile up. I sort through the accumulated papers, the bills, the "to do" lists, the magazines and newspapers regularly, determined to not get caught up in clutter once again. Yes, it's freeing not to have to worry about how my son will have to sort through so much, once I've left this world.

A few of my friends apparently have grown so accustomed to living with clutter that they don't seem to notice that they can no longer close their drawers or closet doors. I wonder if this is a modern phenomenon. I can't imagine my mother or grandmother putting up with such an overstuffed drawer. I think many people these days could benefit from some of these how-to-clean books. But somewhere there must be a good word to say for moderation. There's no need to go all OCD about objects. Would you really trust an author who admits she cried in the shower when she discovered a trace of mould in the soap dish? Or who recommends we iron our socks and sheets?

Curious about the burgeoning popularity of books addressed to boarder hoarders and aspiring minimalists, I've read some of the reviews of such bestsellers as Marie Kondo's The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, and Brook Palmer's Clutter Busting, I suspect Benz's book is a better investment and a more inspiring read. He doesn't recommend, for instance, that you talk to your old tee shirts to tell them how appreciated they've been before you heartlessly toss them in the trash pile.

John Benz's book reads as if it's written by a practical and sane man, or I wouldn't have plowed through to the final pages. He offers good advice and I plan to lend the book to a friend or two who might benefit from his suggested techniques.

I have a couple of minor quibbles, though, involving the title, Do the Clearing. One, it reminds me uncomfortably of the term used in Scientology, "going clear." Two, it brings to mind the 1960's dance the twist, do the mashed potato, do the swim.

And there's one anecdote that certainly gave me pause. It involves a client's story that she lost out on possession of a trophy to her classmate simply because that girl "had boobs." I genuinely can't believe any teacher would say to her students what this one is alleged to have said on page 153. After working years as a psychotherapist, I learned not to believe every single word my patients would tell me.

If I were shopping for a performance coach, I think I'd go with John Benz. His website has a recipe for a yummy sounding peanut butter blossom cookie.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

You Can Book Me

Authors' Fair, San Bernardino Public Library 4/11/14
At the San Bernardino Public Library's annual Authors' Fair I didn't sell many books. Neither did many of the other authors, so I don't take the lack of sales personally. Despite a good publicity push by Linda Adams Yeh, people seemed to find other things to do on a Saturday other than chat with local writers. Many of those who did attend expressed interest in certain titles, but also indicated their disposal income had already been disposed elsewhere. Possibly at the grocery store on Friday night.

Nonetheless, the participating writers themselves seemed to enjoy talking to one another and exchanging ideas and tips on how to market books and stories.

Highlights for me included hanging out with neighboring authors, former San Bernardino Sun columnist John Weeks, cartoonist and Uncle Jam publisher Phil Yeh and children and YA novel writer Beth Winokur.

And a surprise for me...a reunion after 60 years with a high school acquaintance who had been married to a fellow Scian social club member, and who lives in nearby Riverside.

Other memorable moments in The Inland Empire:
  • Listening to Phil explain to a bewildered browser that what we indeed were selling were books, yes, books. Imagine selling books in a public library. Books!
  • Suggesting to a woman who leafed through a copy of Not Your Mother's Book...On SEX, which includes my story, "The French Way," that no, it's not particularly suitable as a gift for a 14-year-old girl.
  • Overhearing visitors express disbelief that John Weeks could not be "friended" on Facebook...not that he's a recluse. He simply doesn't maintain a social media presence.
  • Watching program librarian Linda Adams Yeh scurry from table to table, making every participant feel valued, through the genuine warmth of her welcome and interest in our well-being. Did we need a snack? Did we want to take a brief stroll to stretch our legs? Did we need help getting the books back to the car? 
No, it's not always about selling the books and counting the dollars, though I did stop to deposit a couple of checks at my local ATM. For me the joy derived from belonging to a community of writers and readers...from being among kindred spirits.

My son later reminded me that selling five print books in today's digital age is nothing to sneeze at. That encouraged me. Yes, I'd do it again. Have books, will travel.

It's still a delight to know I have stories in over a hundred books, and that people are reading them.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Italy: Three Truths and a Lie

An ersatz photo op in Verona

On a gondola in Venice
A jazz flautist in Milan

Linda and me after 4-course feast at Hotel Mediterraneo Rooftop Restaurant, Rome

I'll be writing more about my recent trip to Italy with old friend Linda Safford for the summer 2015 issue of Uncle Jam, but here's my capsule summary of Italy. First the truths:
  • The food and wine can't be beat...from pasta to risotta to seafood, nothing proved short of the highest quality...and the gelato is indeed to die for! Chianti isn't California-harsh when made from Tuscany grapes.
  • Music indeed accompanied our gondola glide through Venice, though our gondolier didn't sing. The gondolas contained six passengers, and the gondoliers are too busy navigating and maneuvering around the narrow canals. But a supplemental gondola with only three passengers accompanied our bevy of boats, with an accordionist and vocalist aboard. So, yes, we heard Italian love songs.
  • And I'd love to hear more music in Milan. I was thrilled with the La Scala Opera House, where we took a sneak peek at a rehearsal for this week's performances of Giselle. Afterwards, I sat in the adjacent square, marveling at the jazz acrobatics of a pert flautist who played both Beatles and Bach.
And now for the LIE...and it's a big one. Juliet's balcony in Verona, Casa de Guieletta? It's phony, fake, and made in China! It's also a playground for pickpockets, according to our tour guide. So instead of trudging down the street to see it, I wandered the Verona open market, admiring paintings, delicacies, and even a floral display with a prettier version of the alleged balcony of Verona's favorite the top of this page.

Here's some info from WikiTravel:
In fact, the house has no connection with Shakespeare's fictional characters - although the house is old, the balcony was added in 1936 and declared to be "Juliet's house" to attract tourists. You can visit the house itself (€4 entry) - it contains a sparse collection of Renaissance frescos rescued from other demolished palaces, and the bed from Zeffirelli's 1968 movie, but not a lot more.
The balcony overlooks a tiny courtyard containing a statue of Juliet. There is an unbelievable amount of graffiti and general scrawling on the walls, floor, seats, anything that will hold ink - there is a tradition of writing love messages to Juliet, and visitors leave notes, trinkets and bits of chewing gum fashioned into love hearts. Juliet's house is a popular romantic shrine, but its popularity belies its value; compared to some of the treasures around Verona, Juliet's house has very little to offer.

Now for the Super Shock...and steel yourself for this. Per Lois Leveen, Shakespeare didn't set that scene before any balcony at all! The direction in the play reads, [Juliet appears above at a window.]

Read Leveen's fascinating article in The Atlantic:
An architectural atrocity...