Tuesday, December 20, 2005

The Christmas Letter

The Christmas Letter: A Play in Two Pages
LANE and MICHAEL are sitting at the kitchen table drinking coffee one morning shortly before Christmas. Both are in bathrobes and look tousled.
When are you going to do the Christmas letter? It’s getting late.
I’m not.
We had a boring year and there isn’t much to say. Besides, I wrote the letter last year.
No, I wrote the letter. Then you decided it wasn’t good enough, so you rewrote it. That doesn’t count.
I’m still not going to write a Christmas letter.
Fine, then I’ll write it.
(seriously) It’s a waste of time when you could be baking Christmas cookies instead. Besides, no matter who writes it, we still had a boring year.
Not for me! I think it was pretty exciting to get my play produced. And it got really good reviews.
(nodding) Well, okay. That was exciting. But that was it.
Victoria started high school this year. Aren’t you excited about that?
Oh, yeah! (waving his finger in the air) Algebra homework and boys, Two things that always get my engine running.
(rolling her eyes) You’re cute. But didn’t she look darling in her homecoming dress?
Darling isn’t exciting … and no one ever told me how much that dress cost.
(smug) Like you always tell me, that’s a “need to know” thing.
(pointing at LANE with his coffee mug) I suppose you think it’s exciting that you’re going to Vermont in February and leaving me all alone with Victoria for a whole month. But that’s going to happen in 2006, so it doesn’t’ belong in the 2005 Christmas letter.
Well, it’s a coming attraction. We can preview it. Besides, I got the fellowship award in 2005. (smiling) Oh, speaking of fellowships, how about my scholarship to the TMCC writers’ conference last April?
(skeptically) Conference, huh? I still think it was a just an excuse to gamble in Reno. (pauses thoughtfully) You know, all this “exciting stuff” seems to be about you.
Well, you won several awards in the monthly print competitions for the Houston Photographic Society. And you’re going to be its president next year.
(ruefully) If I had checked caller id, and remembered who was on the nominating committee, that wouldn’t have happened.
Okay. Victoria’s Girl Scout choir sang at a Rockets game, an Astros game, an Aeros game, a Comets game, the ballet, and Dickens on the Strand. (triumphantly) Even you have to admit that was exciting.
Not when you’re the chauffeur.
You are such a humbug. (perking up) But speaking of chauffeurs, what about the evacuation from Hurricane Rita?
Let’s see. Fifty miles in twelve hours. Way fun. And another five hours to get to Dallas from there. The only exciting thing about it was our mini-vacation in Omaha.
Good point. (pauses, thinking) Our 29th wedding anniversary is in a few days!
(mischievously) Doesn’t time fly when you’re having fun? It seems like we been together since the last century. That’s a millennium, isn’t it?
Very funny. You really think you’re cute, don’t you?
(grinning) Yes, I do! I’ll tell you what, if you think you can put all of this together into a coherent and interesting Christmas letter, go ahead. I’ll bake the cookies.
(they tap their coffee mugs together) Deal!
(in unison) Merry Christmas, happy holidays, and a joyful new year to all.

Black out.
(later, offstage) I don’t think writing a play counts as a letter. You just tricked me into baking the cookies.

Monday, November 07, 2005

Higher than a Kite

The bright blue straps of the zip line seat girdle my waist and thighs with a snug fit. Thick webbing with two leads, each terminating in a heavy metal clasp, lashes tightly through a loop in the harness, along with a zip line trolley as big as my fist. A red plastic climbing helmet sits on my head, the inside band tightened, the strap under my chin secure. On my turn, I step up onto a large log so that the guide can clip my trolley and safety lines in place.

”Which hand?” the guide asks.

“Left,” I answer.

The trolley snaps onto a half-inch steel cable with a reassuring clunk. One safety line clips on beside the trolley; the second safety line hooks onto the first. I wrap my leather glove-clad hand across the top of the trolley and pull the safety line hook in tight with my thumb. My right hand lays rests lightly on top, waiting to do its job.

“Step down.”

Suddenly, the edge of the platform feels acutely close to my toes. I am teetering 30 or 40 feet off the ground. I sit back into the zip line seat as much to lean away from the edge as to follow the instructors training advice.

“That’s good,” she coos, “just lean back and relax. It’s easier to lift your feet off the platform that way than to step off the edge into the air.”

I nod without speaking. I do not want to be distracted. From a platform high in a bald cypress tree somewhere ahead, a distant figure yells back, “Ready.”

When my guide says, “Go,” I lift my feet and sail away. Warm air turns cool as it whooshes by me. The scenery is moving too fast, defying my attempts to see anything. I look down at the ground, which falls away as I move forward, so I can fix this moment of glory in my mind’s eye and let out a long, happy yell.

I am flying and I love it.


Saturday, November 05, 2005

Kitty, Kitty, Kitty

This lovely little kitten will purr, meow, and bat your mouse (pointer) as you move it around the screen. Cute. The purring is soothing, just like a real cat. Notice the flick of its tail and ears. It might be nice to have it in the background on your computer screen for stress breaks.

Friday, October 28, 2005

Step Up and Get Fontified!!!

I got fontified and I think everyone should. Fontification changed my life. I'd share it with you, but being fontified is a private thing. It is between me and my computer. You can get fontified and have something special going between you and your computer, too!

Actually, it is possible to share fontification, just not on blogspot. Fontifier is a website that translates YOUR OWN HANDWRITING in a computer font. It is just slicker than shit.

The website link is in the title above. All that is required is to fill out a template with your rendition of each alphanumeric character and then scan it into the Fontifier site. That and $9.00 will immortalize your handwriting. And , possibly, improve it.

I am quite fond of my font. It has to be rendered at about 24 points to be readable. I don't know why, but there it is. Also, I find that bolding and italicizing make it look more like my own handwriting.

Some tips based on my experience. I believe my font is light because I used a blue pen. Try using a black pen to get a bolder look. Also, be sure to line up to the little markers on the template, otherwise your lines will look like a rollercoaster. Fortunately, they give you a chance to preview before making you pay and you can do it over if needed. The second time, I drew a very light line with a pencil and ruler across all the marks and wrote on the line. It worked well. Make your parentheses and brackets bigger than you think they should be or they will look anemic when you actually write. And if you accidently draw one or two letters a little off, waste the paper and reprint the template. Doing it over will be worth your time because seeing that one funky letter over and over every time you use the font will bug the heck out of you. Trust me on this one.

The reason I can't use it on blogspot is because there's no way for me to share the font's code with the blogspot program. Alas, your friends and loved ones won't see it either unless you get them to load the font onto their own computers. But it will make you happy, and think of the terrific letters you can now fake as handwritten!

Get fontified. It's fun.


Thursday, October 27, 2005

Memento Mori

     Grief is a topic that I find it hard to write about. Death, as a concept, is not so difficult, but the pain of loss palpable in my own life after someone I care for dies is another thing altogether. Sadly, I have faced it twice in the last month and will face it again before too long.      
     I tried to write about this before and just could not. Getting the play on stage drained me emotionally, especially since it is all about death. The two deaths I am coping with could not be more different.
     My friend, Teri Selcoe, died at 78 after a brief, though intense, illness. She lived a rich life and left many beloved family members and close friends, not to mention the acquaintances and even strangers that she touched through her activism and dedication to the greater good. (Thanks, Cheryl, for that nice turn of phrase.)
     A shoulder injury bothered Teri quite a bit all summer and her efforts to treat it did not seem to be working. Finally, after extensive tests, doctors discovered that she had advanced, inoperable lung cancer that had metastasized into her bones. Her injury was actually cancer at work. Teri’s diagnosis came on August 16. She died on September 25. Those brief weeks were full of love from her family and friends; she had the death she wanted, on her own terms. If there is a good death, I think Teri achieved it.
     The second death I faced occurred on October 10. My nephew Steve killed himself in a tragic act of anger fueled by alcohol and accomplished with a conveniently loaded gun. Steve left behind three young children, a wife of ten years, parents, sisters, grandparents, aunts and uncles, cousins and friends who are all bewildered and stunned.
     It is true that Steve had faced problems in his life, including some severe ones in the last two years. It seems he is now relieved of the burdens those problems caused him, but at what cost? His life problems have now multiplied by the numbered of people grieving for him. We all have to shoulder them in one way or another. Suicide may stem from desperation, but at heart it is a selfish act, cowardly and unworthy. Perhaps this is why Western religion has always put such a taboo on suicide. (Perhaps Eastern religions do, too, I just don’t know.)
     Nevertheless, I am grieving for Steve as much as for Teri. Neither is replaceable. Neither can be forgotten. Neither is accessible. I can’t ask Steve why he did it. I can’t ask Teri what she thought of my play. Everything that could be in our relationships already is and nothing more is possible between us. That is the heart of my grief. The denial of possibilities.
     I think about this a lot when I contemplate the future deaths of people I love deeply. How I will want to tell them something and won’t be able to, want to ask them something and can’t, want to touch them but they won’t be there. It makes me breathless in the abstract. What will it be like as a reality?
     This is why I avoided writing about Teri and Steve until now; I didn’t want to think about it. Thinking about my own death is easier because I can’t. Can’t see it, can’t imagine it. Anytime I think about being dead, I am actually “seeing” the aftermath, which means I would be alive. It’s a paradox or conundrum or something. It’s a mental moibus strip.
     It’s late. My baseball team lost the World Series flamboyantly tonight. I am feeling sad thinking about other friends and family already lost to death – Drem, Randy, Donna to name a few. I think I will close and put myself to bed with this last thought: Memento mori – Remember you must die.


Tuesday, October 18, 2005

"Giraffe of Montana" & "The Painted Drum"

Authors and illustrators and books, oh my.

Literary events seem to be the stuff of my life these days. It doesn’t get any better than that! Besides the play, which I may have waxed eloquently enough about in the last few weeks, I have had two lovely author/illustrator get-togethers this week.

Last Friday, I attended a small private reception for William Bowman Piper, friend and children’s author extraordinaire. Bill’s book is Giraffe of Montana, a delightful read-along book for the elementary school set. (Well, let’s not kid ourselves … I read the book cover to cover and I didn’t have a child in my lap!) It is the engaging tale of an unlikely assortment of friends who have given up their natural habitats for - mostly – unnatural living arrangements in Montana. Besides Giraffe, there is also Casper the Crocodile, Alison the Alligator, Ella the Elephant, Dr. Oscar the Orangutan, and many, many more. King Cole and his queen, with more than a little help from their twin daughters Princess Isabel and Isabel, rule Montana with benign befuddlement.

If this all sounds a little silly, that is because it is. The kind of silliness that children love. Bill dreamed up these stories for his young step-daughter, Isabel (sound familiar?), who did as fine a job of editing them down to the essentials as any professional editor could have. By the time they were good enough to keep Isabel setting still on long car rides and in waiting rooms, they were too good to keep at home.

Things in Montana are not trouble-free; problems are plentiful. But it is a good-hearted place where the citizens work out their problems using ingenuity and friendship instead of bullying and meanness. Just the sort of place any youngster would love to visit for an evening. Sadly, my children are too grown up to be read to, and I don’t have any grandchildren yet, but I did buy another copy to send to my niece Leslie, who’s 6 and 9-year-old children will love it.

The fine stories are nicely complimented by just enough illustrations to set a child’s mind in motion and not so many that it takes away from the pleasant experience of enjoying a story while doing absolutely nothing except listening to it. The illustrator, Bill Megenhardt, seemed to be in harmony with the author and the illustrations compliment the book perfectly. They even have a twist: one small detail in each picture is incorrect and you are challenged to find it. I admit that I only found one for sure, but I heard that I could find the answers on their website, so I’m going looking for it. You can buy the book there, too, which I strongly recommend. It is located at www.giraffeofmontana.com

My other author encounter occurred tonight when I heard Louise Erdrich read from her new book The Painted Drum at the InPrint/Margaret Root Brown Reading Series tonight. I just love Louise Erdrich’s work. The first novel I read of hers, Love Medicine, just blew me away. Apparently, I wasn’t the only one, because she won the National Book Award that year, too. She is from North Dakota, around Larimore I think she told me when we corresponded after that first book, and she writes alternately about the Native American experience and the European immigrant experience. I’ve read most of her books, although I missed a few during my sick years that I should catch up on. I thought The Beet Queen was the funniest one. There is one scene in it with a birthday cake gone bad that absolutely had my on the floor, laughing aloud.

After years of keeping up with her work, I felt so pleased to hear her read and get my stack of books signed. Many people had many books to be signed, and Louise was so gracious in doing it. Ann has visited her bookstore in Minneapolis and it is one of the things we plan to do together next time I visit the Twin Cities. I mentioned that to her, and she seemed surprised. I commented that I had been keeping track of her. After I said it, I realized that it might have sounded alarming to someone who is in the public eye. So this is a big reassurance, Louise, that I meant nothing sinister by my quip. I am NOT a stalker, just a devoted fan with an under-developed capacity for ad-libs!

So many books, so little time … I have reading to do!


Thursday, October 13, 2005

Playwright's Heaven

Watching my play in performance last weekend put me right into playwright’s heaven. The cast did a marvelous job. Many of my friends sent me comments that highlighted the excellence of the actors.

  • We really enjoyed the play last night. Thought it was very, very good and well cast. –Jane and Jim

  • The actors were so believable that I couldn't believe Maya jumped up for a curtain call. –Cheryl

  • And I thought the actors were excellent. –Janice

  • The actors seemed to "feel" their parts...giving us your words and powerful emotions with such poignant beautiful realism. –Sarah

  • I didn’t realize that the Volunteers were played by the same actress until the curtain call! – Rita

It was gratifying to get kudos of my own, of course. I am not shy, so here they are!

  • We really enjoyed the play last night. – Jane and Jim

  • We all simply adored the play. We all wept (I had brought abox of tissues) and we all laughed. I am so glad you are my friend, and that we can be ourselves with each other, and I am gratified to know that there is a Mr. Mott lurking somewhere in my brain to take care of me whenI need him. – Cheryl

  • --just wanted to let you know how much I enjoyed your play. My college room-mate died last September of breast cancer, after at least 20 years of fighting it. Unfortunately, I didn't have the chance to spend time with her before she died, but I have been thinking about her since then. She died a week before her daughter's wedding. I hope that the play goes on to win a many awards and that larger audiences have a chance to see it--it is truly wonderful. – Linda

  • Sorry I was so inarticulate after your wonderful play, but it was the most moving play I've seen. It deserves to be seen by a wide audience. I'll look forward to saying "I knew her when" after your name goes up in lights. Best of luck! – Geoff

  • Loved the play, Lane. Mr. Mott and the dance was a very creative device – and beautifully effective. You must feel very proud of the production. – Janice

  • I thought it was a wonderful production.... Thank you for sharing your talent with us. – Sarah

  • The play meant so much to me, I had to back and see it again. And my friend did, too. – Lexi

There were many other wonderful comments during the intermissions and after the performances. Strangers came up and hugged me, thanking me for addressing these issues. During the talkbacks, people commented on the realism and authenticity of the play and the deep friendship it portrays. I attended three of the six performances, so I got the opportunity to bask in this wonderful experience several times.

I also got to work out some of my tears. I always cry when I read the play. I cried when I wrote the play. I cried when I rewrote the play. I cried during the rehearsals I attended. However, by the time I saw the third full production, I was only dabbing my eyes – down to a two-tissue event! Maybe I am getting this experience under my belt.

It pleased me to hear the audience relate to the work as a play about friendship and reconciliation rather than just about breast caner. That is what I think it is about, too. During the talkbacks, some of the descriptive words people suggested for the play were passion, friendship, loyalty, trust, pain, caring, commitment, honesty, resolution, faith, and catharsis. A nice list.

Now my task is to find other places to send the play, to see if I can get it produced in other cities. Or get it published. I would really like to see this play have a long life. It seemed to give such a gift to the audience.  

Another thing I really liked is that men responded positively to it as well as women, young people as well as older people, and black people as well as white people. It just seemed to tap into a universal human experience.

I know this is self-congratulatory, but I think I succeeded beyond my wildest dreams in conveying the profound experience I had when I spent those three days with Drem in 1991. It makes me feel proud. It also makes me thankful for a terrific director and actors who could invest the roles with such vitality.

Blessed be!


Thursday, September 29, 2005

Rita Reveries OR You're not in Texas Anymore

Hurricane Rita may have turned into a non-event for my part of Houston from a meteorological standpont, but it certainly created many events in every other regard.

Evacuation, Cypress: We left town, terrified of the Cat 5 hurricane apparently bearing down directly to the West of us. At 8:45 AM on Thursday, September 22, we set out on a back road, thinking we would avoid the traffic by sneaking around it. Hah! Eleven hours later, we had traveled about 50 miles, to Brenham, Texas. Thanks to my sister-in-law, Judi, who works for Omni hotels, when a room cancellation left an unexpected opening at the Omni West Park in Dallas, we got a room for that night. We got there at about 1:30 AM Friday. It was grueling. The best way to illustrate the experience is to explain that we traveled from Omaha, Nebraska back to Cypress in the same 17 hours that it took us to travel from Cypress to Dallas on evacuation day!

Destination, Kansas City: Because we got in to Dallas so late, we slept in a little and didn't get on the road until 1:00 PM. That made getting to Omaha difficult, so we arranged to go to Julia's parents house in Parkville, Missouri for the night Friday. Steve and Ellen offered us gracious hospitality and a lovely Saturday morning brunch. Considering that we had never met before, their kindness was even more welcome. Now we have officially met both parental sides of Julia's family, so at least we won't be meeting at the church when Nick and Julia get married.

Destination, Omaha: We got to Omaha in time for my niece Jeni's little boy Mitchell's second birthday party. I haven't been a room so full of infants in years! (The grandmother urges are just driving me nutz ... ) Jeni anhd her husband Jeff are nice young people and Mitchell is so smart it is amazing. At two, he speaks in complete sentences and with an understanding that is far beyond normal two-year-old development. I have had three of my own - who I thought were pretty darn smart - and Mitchell is still a wonder. He loved Victoria and the two of them laughed and giggled up a storm both times we visited their house. My brother Mark and sister-in-law Judi were so nice to us and made us completely welcome. It stopped being an evacuation and turned into a lovely family visit for a couple of days.

Consternation, Cats: Our cats hated every minute of the evacuation and ensuing travel. I can not describe how unhappy they were. We had gotten tranquilizers for them, but those did not seem to work well, so we stopped using them and bought gardening gloves for our own protection instead. We rearranged the cars so I had all of our goods and Michael had a little cat spa in the back of his vehicle .... although the cats didn't find it too appealing. They did survive and recognized home as soon as we got back. They have been surprizingly friendly towards us since arriving back at the ranch.

Reconfiguration, Calendar: Everything is turned upside down. Appointments missed, events canceled and rescheduled. MY PLAY'S OPENING CHANGED TO OCTOBER 7. It's going to take a lot of time to get everything back on track.

We survived evacuating Hurricane Rita. That's enough.


Monday, September 19, 2005

Impressive Press Release (Minus my Phone Number. Sorry.)

Contact: Lane Devereux, fish_thru_rock@yahoo.com



Northwest Houston playwright fulfills promise with newest production timed to kick-off October’s National Breast Cancer Awareness Month

HOUSTON (Sept. 14, 2005) – Houston resident Lane Devereux will fulfill a promise to a friend this month when In the Wings Productions presents the world premiere of her play, "Like Fish Swimming through Rock," September 30, 2005 at the Barnevelder Movement/Arts Complex, 2201 Preston in Houston.

The play will run for six performances, through October 8, in recognition of National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Written by Houstonian Lane G. Devereux, “Like Fish Swimming through Rock” depicts the three pivotal days between two women whose love, friendship and rivalry extends more than 20 years and encompasses college; feminism; marriage, children, divorce; and competitive business careers. One’s looming death from breast cancer seems to be the only unconquerable challenge these two women have ever faced and, in the play, they face it together and unflinchingly.

Set in St. Louis, the play memorializes a close friend of Devereux’s who died in 1991. “She worried that her grandchildren would never know her, because she was just 42 years old when she died, so she made her friends promise to preserve the outrageous, but true, stories of her life for posterity. This is my gift to her memory,” Devereux remarked. “It is also a tribute to breast cancer patients and the people who love them. Breast cancer is a terrible disease.”

The production company is working with Making Strides Against Breast Cancer to present educational talk-backs after each performance. In the Wings Productions is generously contributing ten percent of the proceeds to Making Strides Against Breast Cancer’s 5K walk as part of its commitment to benefit the community with its productions.

“Like Fish Swimming through Rock” was refined in the Edward Albee New Playwrights Workshop, held each year by the University of Houston, in 2001. During that production, Brandy Barfield Rood, co-owner of In the Wings Productions, portrayed Maya, the dying woman. After earning her Master of Fine Arts degree from the University of Houston, Rood joined fellow MFA graduate, Eleanor Colvin, in founding their own company. Reprising Maya was a personal goal that fit well with the company’s mission to use theatre to educate and support women in the Houston area about issues that affect them.

Tickets will be sold at www.barnevelder.org and at the door.

# # #

My publicity photo. Thank you, Michael.

I can't upload the poster. It's in a .pdf file and maybe it's just too big. Here are two other photos for you. On the left is the basic fish that the poster is built around. Fossilized because that's an item in the play and pink because it's being done for National Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

On the right is the publicity photograph that is going into the programs. I like it. Michael always makes me smile a happy smile instead of a cardboard one, and he gets things just right about posing me. It makes me look damn good for my age ... I'm old enough to get the senior meals at IHOP, you know.


Sunday, September 18, 2005

Blog Aversion and How I Conquered It!

For several weeks, notions of writing in this blog have danced through my consciousness frequently. Watching TV - "I should blog this." Listening to the radio - "I should blog that." Reading a book - "I should really blog this." But there has been no blogging for a month.

"Whycom?" as one of my toddlers used to ask me.

Here is the truth. The world has been too depressing to blog about.

Yes, I know that there are pundits out there blogging about all sorts of important socially aware and policitically with-it topics, but I'm not interested in them. I don't know enough about most areas to pass myself off as an expert - which doesn't stop some people, I realize - and I don't want to take the time to become an expert in most of them. Politically, I figure I'm screwed - because I'm one of those scary liberals - so why bother. In most political arenas nobody is listening to anybody else anyway, so your either talking to yourself or talking to the choir. Or preaching at the enemy.

Ditto religion.

Hurricane Katrina is a topic that stirred profound thoughts and feelings in me. I sat on my couch watching TV and crying like I haven't done since 9/11. And wondered at the palpable stupidity of our public officials in the face of absolute misery, terror and degradation. I especially liked the interview with one of the Michaels (see, that's why I'm not pundit material, I can't remember these important details) who was adamantly denying the existence of stranded, desperate people at the convention center when I had been watching live footage from the convention center with exactly those people in it for several hours.

But this one has been hammered to death already. It was unexcusably callous, and stupid politics for sure, and he deserved to get hoisted on that petard. But everyone else is hoisting and I can't see where my petard makes much difference.

All of Katrina was like that for me. What words of mine were adequate?

I do have some personal involvement in the events. My son and his fiance lived in New Orleans. In fact, they moved there exactly one month before the storm hit, on July 29th. It was an ill-fated month from the start, with everything that could go wrong, going wrong. Just when the problems seemed straightened out and Nick was about to start classes at Tulane for his Junior year, comes Katrina.

At the time, I didn't feel much like talking about that either.

I have simply had an aversion to my blog for the past month because things have been too depressing to write about. (Oh, and I was out of town and incomputicado for a week in Montana.)

But I conquered the block! And how, you might ask? By having an absolutely exciting and thrilling moment in my life approaching which has raised me from my doldrums and started my fingers flying over the keyboard again.

My play is premiering on September 30. All the kinks have been worked out. All the little disappointments smoothed over. The cast seems terrific from the two rehearsals I've attended. The director is very competent and cares about the play. The posters are printed and absolutely beautiful. I would like to kiss their graphic designer whoever she or he may be. I'll see if I can post it here. My friends say they are going to attend. I probably don't have enough friend to sell out six shows, but I'm working every angle I can think off.

Tonight I sent about fifty e-mails and another 25 faxes to media contacts. And I did a good job, too, personalizing everyone that needed a special touch. It took all weekend and more if I count collecting and screening the names. I had guidance on the press release from my friend Maggie Hawkins, who is a super-professional PR person. Maybe I should post the press release, too. I'll think about that.

I have been eating sleeping and drinking the play for the last two weeks and it has finally lifted me far enough out ot the social-political morass to want to write in my blog again. How nice!

Actually, I can't go to bed so I may as well work on this post. I have a long list of faxes queued up and running through my computer. I can't go to bed until they're done.

But I think I'll go see if I can upload the poster and maybe some other stuff. My husband took a really nice publicity photo of me for the playbill. Michael takes better pictures of me than anyone else in the world. Do you think it's cuz' he loves me? I do.

"Smile and the whole world smiles with you," the old song says. Well there must be a lot of cheerful people out there lately, because I'm grinning most of the time. Hope it lasts a while.


Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Mea Culpa. Mea culpa. Mea maxima culpa!

I am so sorry that I slighted my oldest daughter, Alix, in my last post. It was Alix - NOT Victoria - who was with Michael and me during the famous DQ dining event I recently chronicled. It must be creeping old age - I can't tell my children apart any longer. At least I know Alix reads my blog!

Alix, my apologies. (Or should I be apologizing to Victoria?)


Saturday, August 06, 2005

Feats of DQ Daring-do

I did it. I managed to empty the entire inside of a DQ dipped cone without breaking the chocolate shell! After I finished, I had a perfect DQ-shaped ice cream cone with no ice cream in it. I have been trying to do this for years. The trick is, the DQ dipper has to dip the chocolate BELOW the rim of the cone or you can't get enough suction action to actually get all the ice cream. You bite the smallest hole possible into the little curl at the top, just big enough to pull the innards out by sucking, and then gently inhale the goodies inside. When I got down to the bottom of the ice cream, I had to turn it upside-down to get the last little bit. There I sat, shell in hand, beaming at myself. Michael and Tori were laughing and the people in the next booth were amazed. It was the most fun I've had a DQ since I was a kid.

My childhood DQ - in Grand Forks, North Dakota - had a walk-up booth. It shut down in the winter. It was a couple of blocks from Lincoln Park, where we swam in the summer. Lincoln Park was two blocks from our house and right next door to Lewis and Clark Elementary School where I went for kindergarten and 1st grade. We could walk to Dairy Queen, although it was a long walk for a little kid like me.

"We" aside: "We" refers to my family, particularly my three older brothers Paul, John and Mark. My other three siblings either weren't born or were too young to go with us.

I loved two things at Dairy Queen. First and foremost, something that I think about often and miss terribly, the nutty-butty ice cream cones. At DQ, they would make your cone and then roll it in chopped, salted peanuts. With a deft hand, you could get the whole surface of the ice cream covered with the shape of the cone pretty much intact. There is NOTHING better tasting than vanilla ice cream and chopped, salted peanuts. It has been close to fifty years since I had a nutty-butty ice cream cone and I still crave them. I want one right now. Once I tried to make my own. It was moderately successful - the ice cream is too hard when you get it from the store, though. Another time, I asked a DQ employee to make one, explaining how it was done. Looking at me like I was totally nuts (sorry!), the person agreed to do it, then sprinkled the nuts over the cone with a spoon!!! Of course, about 1 in 20 pieces stuck. It was pitiful. I couldn't convince the guy to roll the cone in the nuts. Oh, well, I can still dream.

The other thing that made my childhood day just perfect was getting a "mistake" at DQ. If someone made up an order wrong, they would put it in the freezer. If you were the lucky child who stopped by and asked for a mistake, you could get whatever was in the freezer. This did not happen every day, mind you, but it happened enough to make it worth asking. I guess they don't have mistakes any more, or the mistakes are just thrown away. Wouldn't it have been something to get a nutty-butty mistake? My favorite thing in the whole world free? That's really dreaming.

Other miscellany from my life: Tori registered for 9th grade today. She starts on Wednesday, which is a completely stupid time to start school, but that's what they do here in Cypress, Texas. She's been going to band camp since July 28th. High school has arrived. I have delight and trepidation in equal parts, delight that she is this much closer to growing up and trepidation at what the immediate future will bring in teen angst. Oh, well, I manage to get two other kids through adolescence, I guess I can do this, too.


Thursday, July 14, 2005

Paul Harvey Diatribe of Insanity (AND HE WORKS FOR DISNEY!)

I heard the following read on Pacifica Radio on July 14, 2005 (by someone who did not agree with it, of course) and it absolutely stunned me. From my research, Paul Harvey made this radio commentary on June 23, 2005. It is so far over the top that it is hard to imagine he actually said it, but he did. Paul Harvey is sponsored by Disney. Does this sound like a Disney message? Not to me. If you are offended by this diatribe, I suggest that you let Disney know what you think about their guy, Paul Harvey. That's what I intend to do.


I've been choking on something for weeks. Lets get it, up and get it out, for what it's worth. After the attack on Pearl Harbor, Winston Churchill said that the American people, he said the American people he said, and this is a direct quote, "We didn't come this far because we are made of sugar candy." That was his response to the attack on Pearl Harbor. That we didn't come this far because we are made of sugar candy. And that reminder was taken seriously and we proceeded to develop and deliver the bomb even though roughly 150,000 men, women and children perished in Hiroshima and Nagasaki.With a single blow, World War II was over. NewYork's September 11 Pearl Harbor, Winston Churchill was not here to remind us that we didn't come this far because we are made of sugar candy. So following the New York disaster we mustered our humanity, we gave old pals a pass even though men and money from Saudi Arabia were largely responsible for the devastation of New York and Pennsylvania and our Pentagon. We called Saudi Arabia our partners against terrorism and we sent men with rifles into Afghanistan and Iraq and we kept our best weapons in their silos. Even now, we're standing there dying, daring to do nothing decisive because we've declared ourselves to be better than our terrorist enemies, more moral, more civilized. Our image is at stake, we insist.But we didn't come this far because we are made of sugar candy. Once upon a time we uh, elbowed our way onto and into this continent by giving smallpox infected blankets to Native Americans. Yes, that was biological warfare. And we used every other weapon we could get our hands on to grab this land from whomever and we grew prosperous. And yes, we greased the skids with the sweat of slaves. And so it goes with most great nation-states, which feeling guilty about their savage pasts, eventually civilize themselves out of business and wind up invaded and ultimately dominated by the lean, hungry, up and coming who are not made of sugar candy. Paul Harvey - Good Day!

Friday, July 01, 2005

Polar Bear Gifts

Polar Bear Gifts

My friends Cheryl and Dan Marshal just came back from their dream trip to Alaska. I haven't heard all the details yet, but I do know they went to the Arctic Circle and had lots of animal adventures. Cheryl also mentioned it was a grueling tour (on the road at dawn - as if you could tell it was dawn since the sun almost never set - traveling over rugged "highways," etc.) and beautiful scenery. She had some interesting comments about the benefits of the Alaska pipeline ... that's a whole 'nother post. Best thing about the trip - at least for me - were the Polar Bear Smooches. Polar Bear Smooches may be the best candy I have ever eaten and I have eaten a lot of candy in my lifetime. They are peppermint and white chocolate mixed into a creamy (but not soft) center, then wrapped in milk chocolate. As my teenager would say: OMG!! OMG!! OMG!!

So I have put the link to Alaska Jack's website here for your use. I plan to buy myself some of these things before too long (I got to sample a couple that Cheryl brought to a Crones meeting the other night). Also, I have a birthday coming up and you can send me some as a gift if you want to! If you get some for yourself and love them, let me know.


Thursday, June 30, 2005

Birthday Calculator

Birthday Calculator

This is a nifty site where you can find out all kinds of information about your birth date, like the phase the moon was in at the time of your birth, and lots of other non-essential (but fun) information about your next birthday, like how many ounces of water can be boiled with the energy from the candles on your cake. You can also just get fun information, like how how you currently are in seconds, minutes, hours, etc. and how old you are on the Julian calendar. (That's truly impressive!)

Have fun, then go to the name link and have some more fun.

I've been busy having summer fun. School's out and I have more mom duties. But I'll get something new on my blog soon.


Monday, June 13, 2005

Time Goes By So ...

The song says "slowly," but in my life, time goes by quickly. Sometimes I feel like I'm spinning - one activity rushes into another and I don't get the time to even breathe deeply. The last few weeks have been like that. I have been doing Mystery Shopping - secretly checking out the performance of employees at various retail establishments - and I think I've gotten too c aught up in it. I am going farther afield - spending more time and money driving - to do shops and I am doing more of them. This is partly because of the money, although it isn't a lot, and partly because of the competitive rush of seeing if you can beat out the other countless shoppers for that $15 opportunity that is available NOW on your computer. After spending too much time running around doing the shops and then inputting them on the computer, I think I need to back off a little bit.

I have been able to fund some of my writing and art activities from the proceeds, which is great. Since Michael is still looking for a permanent job - or contract work will do, too - I feel guilty spending family dollars on my pursuits which may someone be financially productive but for now are not.

Speaking of writing pursuits, I am busy. I sent off a query to a national magazine for an article about 6 weeks ago. Haven't heard anything yet. I sent off an application to the Vermont Studio Center for a fellowship so I can go spend a month writing and make more progress on my book. And my play, "Like Fish Swimming Through Rock," has an opening date set: October 7, 2005 at the Mid-Town Art Center in Houston, Texas! Y'all come and see it!

I am so delighted by this. There is work to be done - particularly some revisions I want to do - but the deal is done. Not only is the play set for twelve performances, it looks like the producers will be partnering with a breast cancer charity for talk-backs, education and information, and even an art show. (Of particular interest is a photography show featuring photos of breast cancer survivors that show their scars and physicals changes in a positive way. So if you are a photographer with some pictures to submit for consideration, get in touch with me for more details.)

So much writing to do, so many things taking time away from my writing life. I had been using the concept of "a lovely ruthlessness" that I learned from Laurie Fox (writer and agent) to focus my time, but that got away from me. Part of it is summertime - everything is hot and I have a child around. Part of it is the mystery shopping, which is pernicious. Part of it is being ill and falling asleep at inconvenient moments. And part of it is the writer's bogeyman: fear of the blank page. But it is time for me to tackle these things and wrestle them into submission. I have my work and it calls to me.

Illness aside: I have been reading an odd little book that is starting to seem not-so-odd. It is titled "The ABC of Asthma, Allergies and Lupus" by Dr. F. Batmanghelidj. He states that severe, chronic dehydration is at the root of all these "illnesses" and outlines a method to cure them with a lot of water and a tiny bit of salt every day (plus healthy diet, exercise, and the other normal good-health items). I got the book (on-line at www.watercure.com) because a friend recommended it. Her co-worker, who's lupus was so severe she couldn't work, used the method and is now back at work and apparently 100% better. Since both these women work as physical therapists and my friend is not known for crackpot ideas, I decided to invest the money for the book. I'm about 2/3rds done with it and I think it makes very good sense. His science seems right - although I am not a scientist - and I figure that if all it takes is water and salt, which are pretty benign elements, what do I have to lose?

Check back in a couple of weeks to see how I am doing with the program. My goal is to not be so fatigued, to have more energy, and - ultimately - to reduce the number of drugs that I take daily.

Wish me luck!


Monday, May 16, 2005



Here's a fascinating website where you can play with a computer capable of learning. It has a neural net and has been learning for many, many years. It plays that wonderful family road-trip game, Twenty Questions. I finally had to force myself to quit because it is almost addictive. This computer program puts the intelligence in artificial intelligence!!

Monday, May 02, 2005

The Mystery of Writing

Since I came back from the conference, I have been working diligently on revisions to my manuscript.

Manuscript Aside: It's nice to use that word. It is a recognition that I am serious about what I'm doing. For the longest time, I have expressed myself as working a "piece" or "essay." Now it is not just a piece of work, it is THE work of the moment, my MANUSCRIPT!

Back to revisions. The first chapter of my book, which is the work I took to the critique workshop at the TMCC conference, was already a well-written essay, but to become the knock-out first chapter of my book, it needed more revision. (I had done four drafts of it before sending it in and getting the scholarship award for it.) Most of the critique I got encouraged me to "unpack" abstract concepts and increase the amount of detail in setting and description of people. Well, I am making progress.

I have expanded the first 1000 words of the chapter to about 2000 and I don't think any of the words are wasted or extraneous. I just didn't think about exploring certain parts of the story with as much care and detail as I have now. A one paragraph "set-up" has become about six paragraphs that allow the reader to really see the locale and the people. Instead of being incidental to the "real" story, it is a terrific sidebar that informs the main storyline significantly. This is hard work. I am spending a lot more time sweating out these revisions than I did on the original piece, which seems strange, but isn't. It's like drawing a nice sketch and then using the sketch as the model for an oil painting of the same subject. A pencil sketch is quicker and faster than an oil painting because the oil painting is more complex, with color and texture.

I am just so pleased to have converted from sketching to painting ... It feels great!


Monday, April 18, 2005



I loved this site and, if you love fiction, you will, too.

A Thank You Tip for Readers: Coolibar

I have recently had a few posts from people who read my blog. It makes me feel great and I want to thank you all, whether you've ever posted a message or not.

There are several reasons I write a blog.
  • I'm a writer; it's what I do.
  • It's a creative outlet.
  • Ideas 'r me - I'm always thinking about something.
  • People reading my posts gives me a connection to the world.

So, it is very helpful and encouraging to find out that somebody IS indeed reading.

In honor of readers, I'm going to share some very neat information about a company called Coolibar (www.coolibar.com). As mentioned occasionally in my posts, I have lupus (SLE). One of the rotten things about the way my particular case of lupus operates is that I am photosensitive. (Allergic to sunlight is the closest I can come describing it.) When I am exposed to ultraviolet light, from the sun or from fluorescent lights, it makes the lupus flare up. I get severely fatigued - like my very cells are tired - my joints ache and I get the bright red "butterfly rash" of lupus across my cheeks and nose.

Aside: Once, before I knew I was photosensitive, Michael and I spent an August weekend in Laredo for my birthday. On Saturday, we walked across the bridge to Nuevo Laredo and spent the day in the marketplace, buying gifts to take home to our children and friends. Our big plan was to go to the famous (original, I think) Cadillac Bar in Nuevo Laredo for dinner that night after ducking back to our hotel for a little nap and shower. Which we did. We took a cab to dinner and ordered drinks - for Michael, probably beer, but for me, a sloe gin fizz, a drink I had read about in pulp fiction but never tasted. Very good, by the way. As the evening progressed, I started feeling a lot of pain in my hands, though, and by the time our dinners arrived, I couldn't even hold my knife and fork, let alone feed myself, because the joints in my hands were absolutely throbbing in pain.

I knew I was photosensitive and had to avoid exposure to sunlight from then on.

Back to Coolibar. My friend June gave me a catalog from Coolibar. They make clothing that is impenetrable to UV light, like clothes with sunscreen, really high SPG sunscreen. Wow - a way to be in the sun again. I ordered a pair of pants and a beach shirt, which is like a lightweight jacket with lots of airy, breathable places, that can take a dunking. They sent me a free hat to go with. The pants I selected are white, the shirt - hooded BTW - is pale pink, and the hat is white, so I am actually coordinated in this outfit. I plan to wear it gardening, walking, swimming ... well, maybe not swimming in the pants. But you get the picture. Oh, and the fabric is so lightweight and silky feeling that it is hard to believe it is cotton.

So, any of you who are sensitive to sunlight or just worried about skin cancer, check out Coolibar and maybe you will find something for yourself. They are not as expensive as I expected, but definitely more than Walmart or Target - think department store reasonable. And when you consider the benefits, they are very reasonable indeed.


Friday, April 15, 2005

Houston Holocaust Museum Visit

I'm not going to try to come up with a catchy title for this one. It was a powerful afternoon. My 13-year old had a school assignment to visit the Holocaust Museum and, since she was off school today, I decided to take her.

I remember finding out about the Holocaust at about the same age, maybe 12. It horrified me then and it horrified me in college when I saw the movie "Night and Fog." So now I'm 54 and I was horrified again to see it.

I had more of a personal feeling about it this time, actually. My friend Stephie and her family - who I didn't know until I was an adult - were on the last ship to make it into a foreign port without being turned away. So close to being lost. My Uncle Bob, as a young soldier, helped to liberate a concentration camp, something he never talked about and I didn't learn until I was an adult. So I have this new knowledge to bring to viewing the Holocaust, and it made the experience more difficult for me today.

There we were, walking along with the Mandy Potemkin narrating into our ears with his lovely voice over the headsets, and I was crying and my daughter was patting my shoulder to comfort me. She was sweet. I don't remember crying when I was 12 ... maybe the sadness comes with age.

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Write Away

I spent last week in Reno, Nevada at the TMCC Writers' Conference. What a terrific week. I had the privilege of taking a memoir workshop with Joelle Fraser-Porter, author of The Territory of Men. This fine book is available in bookstores and I highly recommend it. Joelle was a generous workshop leader, giving a lot of excellent comments and suggestions to everyone in our group. If you ever get the chance to take a class from her, do it!

The most important thing I got from the workshop was a desire to revise my work. I saw how just a few well-placed revisions could dramatically improve my writing and I plan to put the time into making those revisions.

I have a lot more to say about the conference and about my very first forays into the world of gambling, but that will have to wait. I've only been home a day and I haven't got my rhythm back, so to speak. But when I do, I'll be back.


My Unitarian Jihad Name is: Sister Katana of Desirable Mindfulness.

Get yours.

When you get your Unitarian Jihad name, you will find a link to Jon Carroll's April 8, 2005 article in the San Francisco Chronicle about the Unitarian Jihad. It is wonderfully inspiring and I recommend everyone read it and take up arms ... well, link arms anyway!

Thursday, March 17, 2005

Homicide, Suicide or Natural Causes

I haven't written for quite a while. I was depressed. For one thing, it didn't seem as if anyone was even reading my blog and I threw myself a lovely pity party to celebrate that fact. For another thing, I had a huge fight with my husband of 28 years, who is my best friend, and it just left me unable to cheer up and get on with things.

Marital Fighting Aside: We bicker sometimes, but we don't usually have serious disagreements. We have been married so long that we know the outcome of most disagreements and either avoid the topic, agree to disagree or no longer give a rip about things that seemed monumental when we were younger. This is one of the nice, comforting realities in a long established marriage. It is funny to think now of some of the "issues" that almost tore us apart in earlier years because they are not significant in the greater scheme of things. When we married (after both having had failed marriages) we made a pact:
Homicide, suicide or natural causes, there's no way out except a pine box. It has worked well for us and, I think, would be worth considering by younger couples who think they cannot stay married one minute longer because of disagreements about money, politics, child-rearing or whatever. All those things eventually sort themselves out despite your best (or worst) efforts, after all.

So we had this fight. Totally unexpected. Knocked me for an emotional loop. And took three miserable weeks to sort out. It is very miserable to be mad at someone who you are used to being very affectionate with. Sometimes, we would ALMOST forget we were mad at each other and have a tender moment. That's pretty funny in hindsight. Hell, that was pretty funny when it happened. Fortunately, we still have a child at home and managing her life's little details required us to communicate with each other. Eventually, we had a (dreaded by men)
TALK, which did not clear things up immediately, but did make clearing things up easier the next day.
I am happy to say that we are happy again.

While I as in this state of depression, I began to question my spiritual resources. It seemed as if I could not find any solace and that I had no spiritual guidance to turn to. In the past, I have felt a deep connection to earth-based spirituality. (Yes, I am a Pagan.) But that connection has been disconnected in recent years. Oddly, I go to church but don't think of church as a spiritual resource. It is actually a social and intellectual resource for me. But in my demoralized wanderings, I came across an essay on the effects of prayer and positive language on water crystals. I had seen this essay in print, but lost it. Thanks to the someone who e-mailed me a copy in my time of need - especially because the photographs were much better than in the print edition I saw. In this article, it said that the two words which had the most profound effect on the qualities of water crystals were love and gratitude.

So I, in my disconnected despondency, decided to just say the words to myself whether I believed them or not. When I went to bed, I would say "Love and gratitude, love and gratitude" until I fell asleep. If I was going about my daily business, I would say "Love and gratitude" whenever I happened to think of them. After a while, I started saying it more like a blessing. "Love and gratitude for Michael" or "Love and gratitude for my writers' group" in a litany. (I even did this when I was mad at Michael - aren't I good?) It feels very good to say those words. Am I praying? I don't know. I try to visualize love and gratitude in my body, coursing through my bloodstream when I say it for myself; I try to imagine it flowing from me to the people I say the words for when I am thinking of others.

I also met with a spiritual adviser, and friend of long-standing, named Rita who helped me to think of some was to reconnect spiritually with my inner goddess/mystery/life. That has been helpful, too. And guess what? Some very lovely things have happened in my life and the lives of people I care about. I am not drawing conclusion here, but I'm not about to stop saying "Love and gratitude" either.

What are those nice things, you ask? Well, let me tell you.

A producer called me Sunday and asked if she could book my play "Like Fish Swimming Through Rock" for a month next October. Her production company is In The Wings Productions in Houston and she loves my play. It just so happens that she performed in a major role in the play when it was work-shopped several years ago in the Edward Albee New Play Series at the University of Houston. And now she's a producer. How lovely!! I love this play and I am truly pleased that it will get its premiere next fall. Hope you can come.

The other wonderful news was tonight when my son called to say that he had received the Phi Theta Kappa (honor society) scholarship at Tulane University as a transfer student. I am very proud of him. He is not a graduating senior. He did that several years ago and went off to college once before with a fabulous scholarship. But he wasn't ready for the commitment and dropped out. Two years ago, he found his own path, went to community college while working full time, and got inducted into the Phi Theta Kappa honor society along the way. All with no financial help from us. He will get his AA degree in May and then go on to complete his bachelor's degree. It has been his own effort along his own path and I think he will be just as terrific in the future as he has been these last few years. Go, Nick!!!

It would be nice if this good karma would trickle into Michael's job search soon. They do say good things happen in threes.

Anyway, I am going to try to get back in the Blogger saddle and write regularly again.

Oh, and BTW, the occlusion in the vein of my left eye is still there, but getting smaller, which makes it easier to read and focus. Love and gratitude to my eyes for working at all; I really appreciate them.


Thursday, February 10, 2005

Digital Clock for the Hopelessly Analog

Designed by students at a Polish university, this clock is guaranteed to capture your attention, if only in disbelief. How slick!


Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Memoirs in Reno

I am going to a writers' conference in Reno, Nevada in April. This would be exciting under most circumstances, but there are several especially exciting elements to my trip. First, I won a scholarship to the conference - the Fred Salas Scholarship in Memoir. Second, I haven't been to a writers' conference since Bread Loaf in 1995. Third, I've never been in Reno. I've never gambled before either (at least not in the casino sense), but that is not so exciting for me as worrisome.

Gambling aside: I think I would be a bad gambler because I persist in the face of bad results too long. I justify playing computer games ad nauseum on the basis of "my luck's about to turn." When you are doing this for money, you don't want to be that personality type. Friend Jane suggested a $5.00 per day limit playing 25 cent slots. I suggested nickel slots, but she says those are hard to find.

I will be staying with my friend Sam - as in Sandra, not Samuel. She is an experienced gambler. In fact, she must be what is called a high roller because her hotel room and meals (and, thus, mine) are going to be "comped." (For those of you who don't speak the casino language, that means free.) This part is truly exciting. Also very exciting is that I had enough reward points to get a free plane ticket. Okay, I had to pay $10 in service fees, but that's nothing compared to a round-trip ticket.

All-in-all, this trip to Reno is shaping up to be fun. After the conference, Sam and I are going to visit her place in Lake Tahoe for two days, then back home to Houston. I'm going for 6 whole days!! That's exciting.

The writer who will be leading my workshop is Joelle Fraser-Porter, who wrote "The Territory of Men." I intend to read it before I go.

Now you know what's exciting in my life. I'm going to go watch a TV program at 8 PM - Project Runway - so I will bid you ...


Monday, January 24, 2005

Better Late Than Never

I've been away. Mentally, anyway. Just overwhelmed with stuff and so I haven't been here, writing. Not that I have heard any particular clamoring for me to get my butt back in gear and write something. It occurs to me that no one else reads my blog, but that's okay, I write it for myself and if anyone else reads it, they're just lucky.

Stuff. Hmmmm. I have an occlusion in a vein in my left eye. Right in front of the macula.

Macula aside: This is a critical part of the eye mechanism. Without your macula, you cannot see anything. That is why macular degeneration is a very bad disease.

I have lupus, right? One of the drugs for lupus is Placquenil (spell that six times fast) and Placquenil can cause macular degeneration. Because I took a lot of it, over a long period, I had to see an eye doctor every six months to check for any signs of deterioration. Never had one problem. A year and a half ago, I went off Placquenil, but the effects can occur long after you stop the drug.

Add to this already scary background the fact that I had the most horrible hacking cough known to womankind from Christmas Eve until about a week ago, and the eye situation gets even more harried. I would double up with racking spasms of coughing that left me gasping for air and weak-kneed. On the 30th of December, I woke up and couldn't clear my left eye. It was blurry, like there was something left in it from sleeping. (Actually, we called that stuff "sleep" when I was a kid and I guess I still do, so I thought there was still sleep in my eye.) But there was nothing external.

With my Placquenil history and my horrid cough, I immediately called the optometrist I see for an appointment, wondering all the while if I shouldn't be seeing an opthamologist (MD) instead. But she was very thorough and said I had a small hemorrhage in the eye, right in front of the macula, which was interfering with my vision. Instructions? Sleep with my head up and come back in 10 days. 10 days later, no change, I still can't see correctly. Now the instructions are sleep with my head up, stop taking my daily low dose aspirin, and see an opthamologist who is a vitreo-retinal specialist. Two days later, I saw the fellow, who I had actually seen years ago when nothing was wrong with my eyes.

Guess what? It's not a hemorrhage, it's an occlusion, which seems to be a kind of blood clot that blocks the vein and creates (because it's in front of my macula) a haze that interferes with my vision. Probably caused by the lupus, but who knows for sure? Come back in a month and, oh, by the way, start taking a low dose aspirin every day!!

One neat thing is that I got the see pictures of the inside of my eyeballs! Pretty neat, all spidery veins and stuff. Another not-so-neat thing is that they dilated my eyes and then not only shone the strongest light in the world directly into them, they also took photographs with a flash that was even brighter! Oh my god, did that hurt.

I still can't see properly. It gives me headaches because I keep trying to focus and I can't actually. But no detached retina, which is very good, and not the BAD kind of lupus complication (arterial occlusion) so that's good, too.

On to more cheerful stuff. I won a scholarship to a writers' conference in Reno, Nevada in April. I am very stoked. It is the Fred Salas Scholarship in Memoir. I will be taking a workshop with Joelle Fraser-Porter who wrote "The Territory of Men." Very exciting to be going to a writers' conference.

More later, I promise, ye mysterious readers (or not).