Friday, December 30, 2011
So, naturally, I've been thinking about my favorites, things that resonate still, after months or weeks, things that didn't just fly through my noggin making a brief stop to blast me with special effects or trendy "it" themes or manipulative sentiments.
These are my favorites of 2011.
Favorite movie: Circo, a gorgeous look at a family under the immense pressure of running a family circus in Mexico. Watch the kids, especially. They're spectacular and sad and strong. Resilience in motion.
Favorite TV show: Louie. I love this show, and I don't love TV. Profane at times, and almost always honest. The first time my husband and I watched it, we thought, fine, another comedy, and at the end we were saying, "Whoa. That's dark. But . . . awesomely dark." I don't know why I love it. I just do.
Favorite book: Okay, there's no way I'm going to tell you my favorite book, because too many of my friends write them. I did enjoy getting immersed in State of Wonder by Ann Patchett this year. It wasn't perfect, but few books are, and she kept me engaged. As someone who has a hard time reading fiction these days without seeing the scaffolding, that means a lot.
Favorite music: Fine, I'm predictable on this one, but can I help it that I love Adele? I got to see her perform this year, which seals the deal. She's the real thing, big soulful honest heartache. And then she giggles and says something wacky in her Cockney accent, and you have to love her even more.
Favorite moment: Now, on the verge of letting the year go, looking back, bittersweet and ready to move ahead.
Tell me your favorites . . .
And happy brand new year, everyone.
Thursday, December 22, 2011
So . . . you can imagine that for a while, I thought Christmas sucked. A long while.
I tried it every which way: emulating the grandeur of my mother, skipping it all together, spending it with friends, with family. Trees, no trees. Baking, no baking.
Hubby also has less than wonderful Xmas memories, and from the start, we've been finding ways to make ourselves happy on Christmas day. We've developed traditions that make us giggle. Lox and bagels for Christmas breakfast. A firm "no-getting-out-of-your-pajamas-all-day" rule, even if we venture outside. Mimosas with our first cup of coffee. Catnip for awesome kitty antics. Movies. Lots of movies, happy ones only, please.
This year we were rolling along just fine as Christmas drew near. Then, as life would have it, something went wrong and the already dark days turned darker. Old emotional crud churned below the surface. I wallowed for a few days (though kind friends reached out and helped me through). Then one day, I did the old "fake it till you make it" trick and put on my new Pink Martini holiday CD, lit some pine incense, burned a few candles, and dug out last years remnants of wrapping paper. I wrapped gifts for the afternoon, small funny or sweet things I'd found for my large extended family. I packed shipping boxes, because they all live far away.
I felt better.
I dug out my favorite Christmas decoration, a string of pine cone lights I bought in a sweet little Oregon town a few years back. Good memories come prepackaged with those little suckers. I laid them on the mantel and plugged them in.
I asked hubby what his favorite Christmas cookies were. He said gingerbread. Not the crunchy kind, but the soft kind. I found a great recipe. I went to the store for ingredients. I picked up a rosemary tree, brought it home and decorated it with some of last year's ribbon remnants.
And voila! This year, I will enjoy minimalist Christmas: one favorite decoration, a rosemary plant that will be planted in the earth this spring, some soft gingerbread cookies. One husband, who understands. Bagels and lox on Christmas morning, a mimosa. Candles. Lots of candles. Maybe next year I will need more, but for now, this is perfect.
Happy Christmas, everyone, whatever that means to you. I hope you find those things that make it most meaningful and enjoyable, light and love filled, and in the spirit of peace and harmony for all.
Thursday, December 15, 2011
My mom died 21 years ago, not on any holiday. I've not been in a horrific car accident this month, nor has anyone I know. But something has gone wrong, terribly wrong, and it's private. The thing that was never supposed to happen did, as happens in life, and I'm old enough to know that, well, shit happens. To all of us. At any moment. In spite of holidays.
This isn't a plea for sympathy or prayers. This is a statement of fact, and I say it only because I know that sometimes things go wrong for you, too. At the worst possible time. The thing that was never going to happen didn't care that you ate green leafy vegetables or sprinkled salt on the icy sidewalk or sent your son to the best doctor in the city. It happened anyway.
So let us just stand together silently, those of us with these wrong things happening, and be solid in our conviction: This is a part of my life, just as happiness and good events are. It does not change who I am even though it makes me horribly sad or angry or frightened. I'll curse and cry and mope and wallow, and I'll get through it. I will still find joy in life, take breaks from awfulness, and ask for help and support and love and talking and forgetting when I need to.
And I'll notice all the things going right all around me. Every day.
Wednesday, November 30, 2011
Did I mention that I was in the midst of a snotty, head-achey cold, and had been traveling since early in the day by car, bus, plane, and taxi, hacking, coughing, and burning through three travel packets of tissues, much to my fellow travelers' delight?
At 2:00 a.m., afraid to roll over for fear of having to warm up a new spot in the bed, I thought, "Hats! Why didn't we wear hats?!"
This morning, after securing an emergency appointment with only the second HVAC company I tried, I read this:
Warm Trees, Cold People
Friday, November 18, 2011
Monday, November 7, 2011
Friday, November 4, 2011
Food manifestos are not new. I love Michael Pollan’s simple rules for eating only those things that come to us from the earth, not from packaging. I love the phrase “Life is short; eat dessert first.” Food means so many things to we humans that the “rules” are often conflicting. In my second novel, Eating Heaven, the main character Ellie is a food writer with food issues. By the end of a story fraught with figuring out her past, her present, and her unhealthy relationship to food, she figures a few things out. See if Ellie’s 7 simple rules for eating make sense to you, too.
How to Eat
by Eleanor Samuels
Why do most women in our country have an obsession with food, the eating as well as the not eating of it? We gladly feed others, yet we struggle with our own hunger. Is food a panacea to fill our empty souls? Have we lost touch with something vital—say, self-fulfillment, or even just self-acceptance—and all we can do is medicate ourselves with the pleasure of fat and calories (or heaven forbid, carbohydrates)? On the other hand, if we don’t eat and lose weight, might someone love us more? If we’re hungry and our stomachs growl, are we more virtuous than if we’re full and satisfied?
I’m just one woman, with my own variations on the female love-hate relationship with food, but I say, let’s start a revolution. Let’s make food simply food again, sustenance and nourishment, and fun when the occasion calls for it. From here on out, I will try my best to live by these seven secrets of the sane and happily well fed:
1. Eat when you’re hungry, and don’t when you’re not.
2. Eat food that tastes good. Period. No exceptions.
3. Eat food that leaves you sated instead of waiting for the next allotment.
4. Eat food that nourishes your soul as well as your body. Consider it a spiritual quest.
5. Savor every bite. Enjoy every meal. If you’re not fully aware and appreciative of what you’re eating, you’re just wasting it.
6. Eat with friends, with people you love, or with your own good company—anyone who appreciates food, drink, and good conversation as much as you do. (This would not include a TV set.)
7. If you start worrying about eating, stop it. Be happy you can eat.
Thursday, October 27, 2011
Friday, October 21, 2011
Now, this is fine if you’re deep in the “introvert” range of the Meyers-Briggs scale, but for those of us who nose over the line into the “extrovert” category, it can get a little lonely.
Lucky for me, I live in Seattle, a holy grail convergence zone for writers. Sure, the Pacific Northwest is dark and dismal nine months each year, but it’s excellent (either in spite of or because of all that moisture) for quite a few things: coffee, music, natural beauty, bookstores, and many of the authors that fill those shelves.
When I first moved here five years ago, I didn’t know a soul, but that didn’t last long. I met Garth Stein (before the dog book) at an event we were both reading at, and liked him immediately. It’s hard not to—he’s pretty much the most likable guy on the planet. As writers are wont to do when frustrated by writing, we met for coffee. It became a regular thing, and soon other writers were joining us. Before long, there were seven of us.
What is now formally called Seattle7Writers, an awareness and fundraising nonprofit comprised of over 40 published authors, started simply as a coffee klatch, a kvetching, laughing, celebrating bunch of friends who got what each other was going through on a daily basis. We could clink to the good stuff—a good cover, a manuscript turned in—and offer condolences on the not-so-good stuff—a delayed pub date, a request for massive revisions, even sometimes the “orphaning” of a comrade (the state of an author whose agent or editor has left for greener pastures at another company).
The core group now gathers monthly for business, and by business I mean juggling the demands of putting on several fundraisers at a time, collecting and distributing donated books for pocket libraries throughout our community (in shelters and prisons), and the myriad other requests we receive and ideas we generate. It’s exhausting, and it’s amazing. Groups of writers in other cities are now considering organizing as well, the most lovely tribute of all to the work we do.
Lest you think we’re workaholics, the entire group of forty plus is invited quarterly for social time, that precious couple of hours where we laugh hard at our stumbles and mourn together over titles not chosen, readings ill-attended. If not for the company of these writers, we’d all still write. We’d still publish and tour and do the work we do. We just might not be as happy, or as fulfilled.
Visit www.seattle7writers.org for more information.