Sunday, September 28, 2008


Yippee!!! I finished proofreading the monster last night, bless my little soul. Got a glass of wine and turned immediately back to Hillary and Queen of the Oddballs.

Anyone who's been reading along lately knows I've been groping in the dark for something I can't name but feel sure I'll recognize if it shows up. I've been working a lot (thank you, God), mostly mundane writing just to pay the bills. My life feels stale, but I've been getting flashes of possibility lurking like day-old crusts ready to be transformed into Louisiana Bread Pudding.

With Hard Sauce.

Moving to Missouri seemed like the right thing three years ago. Now I'm not sure. My life has settled into stagnant patterns of work and worry. The oddball pieces that make me who I truly am and give me joy are falling away.

Reading Hillary's book, I realize that what I'm doing is not who I am. That lesson has been offered to me before and I thought I'd absorbed it, but it slips away.

What I'm doing is NOT who I am.

Not. Who. I. Am.

My life was once grandly, gloriously filled with romance and adventure. Technicolor. Now it's mundane and ordinary. Shades of gray. I fear that gray is a condition of getting older, and it can be. But it doesn't have to be.

Right now, I work alone in my house far too many hours of the day. I haven't been to an author appearance, a play, or even a movie since early spring. I haven't traveled anywhere other than my brother's house and the Chuckwagon Races for 18 months.

Reading the stories of Hillary's patchwork life, I see once again how things change and change and change again. Your spirit is constant. Only your circumstances change. And you can direct that change, if you choose.

It's called Co-Creation, and it asks only that you get quiet enough to locate the Flow and then enter it.

I can do that.

ps: if you missed Michelle's post about Riley's comment on silent, go read it now. Simply amazing, that girl is. Her mom, too.


I'm at it again. Reading, I mean. This time it's Hillary Carlip's Queen of the Oddballs.

Hilarious. Inspiring. Writing lessons in every chapter. The one called "Dear Olivia Newton John" races through stories at a breakneck pace and circles back to an ending so perfect I'm thinking of having it bronzed. Or maybe stuffed and mounted like a trophy.

(Speaking of mounted, don't get me started on Hillary's mother's poodle and the fuzzy house slipper.)

My true mission this weekend is proofreading a 557-page monster book, and I have to get back to it. Right now. But I'll be back with thoughts on Queen of the Oddballs. Meantime, if you've got a few moments, check out the book or Hillary's personal essay site, Fresh Yarn.

(And yes. Reading for fun after 18 hours a day of proofreading is a little nuts, but Oddballs whispered my name and I followed its slutty little pages right into bed. More soon.)

Friday, September 26, 2008

Which Is It?

In his novella, Legends of the Fall, Jim Harrison wrote,

"Some people hear their own inner voices with great clearness. And they live by what they hear. Such people become crazy... or they become legend."

After contemplating the story of Robert Kearns (and my own life), I wonder how in the hell you tell the difference. Maybe, if you hear those voices clearly enough, you don't doubt. You just do.

If you go crazy, you aren't likely to realize how you got there. Come to think of it, it's probably about the same if you become legend.


Saw the trailer for a new movie coming out in October: Flash of Genius. A story based on the guy who invented intermittent windshield wipers might not sound riveting, but I like Greg Kinnear and the clips totally captured my attention.

You know my next stop was Google, don't you?

The trailers make it look like a feel-good story. I hope they didn't make a feel-good story out of it. Even though I love stories where the little guy (Robert Kearns) triumphs over the giant (the auto industry), Dr. Kearns did not exactly triumph. I read a dozen accounts of his life, including his obit, and this guy did not win, despite multi-million dollar judgments against Ford and Chrysler.

Here's the Reader's Digest version: Kearns invented a motor for intermittent windshield wipers and took his invention to Ford. (He patented his invention in 1967.) Ford worked with him quite a while, then dropped him cold. In 1969, Ford brought out a new Mustang with...intermittent wipers.

Kearns was...shall we say...extremely disappointed but didn't think there was anything he could do. In 1978, his son brought home a wiper motor from Mercedes. He took it apart, discovered they were using his invention, and had a nervous breakdown. Seriously--a several-weeks-in-the-mental-hospital nervous breakdown.

When he got out of the hospital, he filed suit against Ford. He spent almost every spare moment fighting for, practically speaking,the rest of his life.

Kearns wanted the right to manufacture his invention. He was offered huge sums of money to drop the litigation--$30 million from Ford at one point. He wouldn't take the money because he wanted something else: to manufacture his invention and supply it to the auto industry.

Within two years, he'd lost his job as a college professor and his wife had divorced him, but he fought on. In the early 90s, he won judgments against Ford and Chrysler, but had spent almost as much in legal fees as he ever collected. He died in a nursing home. Brain cancer complicated by Alzheimer's.

It's easy to see Kearns as David, fighting the good fight against the Goliath car industry. He believed he was fighting not just for himself, but for all small inventors. On some levels, it sounds like a righteous fight.

From everything I've read, including interviews of the son who helped him with the litigation, the man sacrificed his life in search of the only outcome he would accept. He would not take any of the positive outcomes offered him because they didn't fit the picture he'd created in his head.

In very different ways and on a very different scale, I've done the exact same thing. I'll bet some of you have, too.

It's easy to develop tunnel vision when working toward a goal. It's easy to lose sight of everything around you except whatever exists within that tunnel. It's easy to refuse very good outcomes because they're not the outcome.

I'm going to try to give this up. And I'm going to remember Robert Kearns. Here's to you, sir. Traveling mercies.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Rereading The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd, this reaches out and grabs me:

"She's inside you. ...You have to find a mother within yourself. We all do. Even if we already have a mother, we still have to find this part of ourselves inside."

..."When you're unsure of yourself," she said, "when you start pulling back into doubt and small living, she's the one inside saying, 'Get up from there and live like the glorious girl you are.' She's the power inside you, you understand?"

That's who I've been hearing, isn't it? The Mother of myself, the mother of us all. She's been calling to me, telling me to break out of this small living I've been doing. Telling me to rise up, rise up and live the life I've imagined. The whole damn thing, every bit. All the colors.

I hear you, Mother. I do. And I'm trying to find my way to you. To myself. To Life.

Listen carefully. Is she calling to you, too?

Tuesday, September 23, 2008


Writing for a website about green flooring products, I've been knee-deep in research for a couple weeks. And the thing is, the more I know, the less I understand.

That's not quite right. Maybe the opposite is closer to the truth: the more I understand, the less I know.

Let's take a (fairly) simple example.

Concrete is made from sand, gravel, water, and Portland cement. Producing one ton of cement also produces one ton of carbon dioxide.

Not so good.

Manufacturers started replacing some of the cement with fly ash, a waste product from coal-burning power plants. Sounds good. Except that adding fly ash may increase the level of radon in the concrete.

Actually, the particular facts here don't really matter. The key is, when you change one thing, you change everything. That's true when you're talking about green building products. It's even more true when you're talking about life.

I've been looking at how to change my life to get back to being happier, feeling stronger and more fulfilled. It feels like if I change one thing it will start a chain reaction that changes everything.

I just need to figure out where to start.

Maybe it doesn't matter where I start. Maybe the most important thing is just to start.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Flying My Freak Flag

Getting ready to go to Springfield on Friday, I tied a scarf into my hair. Glanced in the mirror and thought, "Better not wear this around Mom. She'll think I'm being...."

That's where the thought ended. I wasn't sure exactly what Mom would think I was being, but I was quite sure she wouldn't like seeing me wear a scarf in my hair. Too look-at-me ish, guess. I left it off, but thought about the reasons during the 2 1/2 hour drive down there.

On Saturday, I put on a green crinkly shirt and red earrings and tied a red-and-burgandy scarf in my hair. Mom and Nancy (SIL) and I went to a quilt show. Later, when my brother was working on a pretty heavy-duty construction project in his yard, I stepped in to help. So there I was with a silk scarf fluttering around my shoulders as I bounced around dragging dirt and rocks out of a field. Having a total ball.

It crossed my mind to take the scarf out of my hair. Not to set up my Ipod stereo while I worked. Not to sing or dance as I loaded rocks in the back of the golf cart.

But here's the thing: I'm eccentric. I'm too loud and too enthusiastic about strange things. Left to my own devices, I wear clothes no one else in my family would and colorful cowboy boots that make them roll their eyes.

But trying to fit in squashes my spirit. AND it doesn't work. I've got a freak flag. Letting it wave is the only way I can get right with myself and the world.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Thank You, Mrs. Piland

Shirley Piland taught Journalism to several generations of high school kids in Ava, Missouri. I was one of those lucky kids.

I make a living as a writer with a grand total of one other writing class to my credit. I've been writing magazine articles in the past few weeks. I was a little freaked out when I started the first one. Or, I was until I remembered Mrs. Piland standing in the front of our class, patiently explaining Who, What, When, Where, Why and How.

I type those words at the top of the document and delete them as they get addressed. As I write—more than 25 years since the last time I saw her—Mrs. Piland is in the room with me.

My beloved teacher died a few years ago. I hope that, somehow, she hears me this morning as I say thank you.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Taking Flight

Life has been whispering to me lately. It's been telling me to get out of my house and find a circle of smart, creative women here in KC. It's been telling me to get reconnected with nature. With magic. With myself.

Yesterday I had the sudden urge to visit Kelly Rae Roberts' blog. Kelly is an artist and a writer whose work I love. Turns out, she has a new book out. And of course, it's exactly what I needed to read right now: Taking Flight: Inspiration and Techniques to Give Your Creative Spirit Wings

I hopped straight over to B&N. Snagged my copy five minutes before the store closed. It's gorgeous. And so inspiring. Until 2006 or so, Kelly couldn't even imagine herself as an artist. A social worker, she longed for something else. Then she ran a half-marathon, something she never imagined being able to do. Later she attended Artfest, an art workshop, and decided to listen to her soul's desires. Now she sells her art, has a licensing agreement for her work, and has a new book out.

I'll have what she's having.

Stayed up half the night reading and imagining and weaving the beginnings of new dreams. Do yourself a favor. Follow the links above and check out Kelly's work.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008


In a crowd, I'm a sponge. Heck, in a coffee shop with two other people, I'm a sponge. Always watching and listening and absorbing what people say and how. I've got years of notes about intriguing conversations I've overheard.

Might be a tad creepy, but it's my nature, part of what makes me a writer.

I've heard some bizarre stuff over the years, but something I heard recently is pretty high on the WTF??? list.

The first woman—mid 30ish, I'd say—was obviously in the middle of a divorce, one she was seeking because she "just doesn't love" her husband. No big reasons, she said. He's loves her and hasn't done anything hurtful or unkind. She simply doesn't "feel it for him."

My guess is she's having an affair, but it's only a guess. An educated guess.

So the first woman says to the second: "Hey! I'm going to put it in the divorce that he has to get a vasectomy! Do you think they'd let me make him get a vasectomy? I sure don't want him to have another kid and then get to pay me less child support. I need all his money. He can't have another kid."

You've got to have a pretty big sense of self to decide to pull your kids away from their father, decide to break up a family because you "deserve to have more fun." You've got to have a giant pair of stainless balls to then think you have the right to dictate your former spouse's future.

Like Hilary in the fabulous SNL skit last Saturday, if the Barack campaign needs some balls, this woman could loan him hers.

I'm fascinated by people's relationship to personal power. Some believe they have it all, no matter what the circumstances. Others think they have none. Neither is ever totally accurate, but like I mentioned yesterday, "believing is seeing."

For the most part, we've got just about as much power as we believe we have, as much as we're willing to presume. There are exceptions, of course, but most of the time we have far more options, far more ability to shape circumstances than we realize.

We—hell, this isn't general, I'm talking about myself. I just have to pull on my big girl panties and get on with it. It's really time.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008


Back when I believed in magic, it happened all around me. All. The. Time.

Since I've lost touch with it, it has stopped happening. Maybe that's the why people say, "Believing is seeing."

Sunday, September 14, 2008

What I Want

I follow politics. I'm interested in the election. But I've been a little reluctant to write about it here because I figured I'd either be preaching to the choir or pouring gas on a fire. Neither is a good idea.

Loved Michelle's post about focusing attention on what we want rather than what we're against.

But the last straw just broke this Campbell*'s back. Broke it clean. In this interview, McCain asserts that Palin "knows more about energy than probably anybody else in the Unites States."

*flames rising in brain*

Okay. Okay. Reframing here. Give me a minute.

What I want is a president who recognizes truth when he (or she) meets it in a crowd.

*my ancestral clan

Thursday, September 11, 2008


Rescued my laptop from my friendly neighborhood Mac Genius just before the store closed last night. Losing it for more than a week showed me just how serious my connection to it is. Maybe a little too serious.

Anyway, while I was disconnected you were spared a rant about the chilling chants of "Drill Baby Drill" during Palin's convention speech and another about how appalling the campaign is getting. I'm trying to let go of how much I resent the way McCain's using Palin's femaleness to fight dirty, but we'll see how it goes. Discussion of lipstick and pigs could ensue.

Had another of my you-should-write-this-story dreams last night, the physical sensations in this one so real they begged description. More on that later if I get time.

In the feast-or-famine tradition of freelance writing, I'm snowed under with projects at the moment. Very thankful, but also very pressed, stressed, and tired.

More soon. For now, hello world! Glad to see your bright, shiny pixels again. I'll be around to comment soon. Missed you all something fierce.

Oh, and how about a hand for Apple!! My MacBook experienced a repeat of a "known problem." It's now out of warranty by about 6 weeks, but the original incident happened when it was only 3 months old. Apple replaced the exhaust fans and the logic board at No Charge. Out of warranty, the repair cost me zero dollars. Zero. Dollars. And a customer service rep pledged that if the problem reappears, they'll replace the computer. I don't love having the problem, but I sure do love Apple's response to it.

Apple Rocks!

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Technical Difficulties

Won't be around much for a while. My laptop is in the shop for repairs.

Having serious withdrawal.......

Monday, September 01, 2008

Heart of Gold

"You can see the drinking and the swearing and the rough edges. Or you can see the heart. It all depends on how you look at it," B said.

A wagon turned completely upside down—two horses on the ground, three men trapped. Cowboys ran onto the field, unhitched the horses and helped them up. They lifted the wagon off the men and set it aside. They cleared the field for the ambulances. None of this was easy and most of it was dangerous, but everyone did whatever they could to help.

Another wagon tipped over on its side. The horses continued to run hell bent for leather. The driver and his cook were on the ground, their heads bouncing off the dirt and rocks as the terrified horses dragged them across the field. The driver kept a grip on the reins and finally pulled the horses to a stop. The men jumped up, righted the wagon, and finished the race. The crowd went wild.

"That's heart. That's what you're seeing right there. Those boys are 100% cowboy, 100% heart," shrieked the announcer.

Others might see it differently. That well known "prudent man" of legal convention probably would not run between rearing horses or scramble up from near-death to finish a race that couldn't be won.

Truth to tell, I almost choked during the opening ceremony when Dixie began to pour from the loudspeakers. Elvis, no less. And it stopped me cold when the minister's opening prayer mentioned that it "doesn't matter whether you're Baptist or Catholic or even Presbyterian. We all worship the one true God."

Really? All 30,000 people there were Christian? I guess there is no diversity in that universe.

Might sound funny, but I enjoyed every single minute of the chuckwagon races. Maybe I saw its heart.