Archive for May 4th, 2007

We weren’t readers in my family. Well, except Dad. He read books like In Cold Blood and Hawaii (which, at 937 pages, was too big for me to ever want to take on). Mom read The National Enquirer.

Why, then, is it so hard to come up with my list of all the books I’ve loved before…who traveled in and out my door…?? Probably because I’m not talking just the books I’ve loved before. I’m having to come up with a list of the ones that had the most impact on my life.

Well, here goes:

  1. There’s the small red book of Hans Christian Andersen fairy tales that Aunt Sophie gave me when I was born. It sat in my room lonely and mostly unread. I don’t ever recall anyone reading a book out loud to me, so where I got my love of books from, I don’t know. But I have to imagine that somehow this little book of mostly scary fairy tales affected me, most likely through osmosis, and taught me something about the power of story.
  2. Naked Came I by David Weiss. Another book I never read, but it sat on Dad’s bookshelf in the den. I remember always wondering what it was about. If nothing else, this book awoke in me a desire to read (even if it was only to discover who in the book was naked and why).
  3. My Summer Diary, author unknown, published by Scholastic Books. Gift at age 12 from one of my older sisters. Started me writing.
  4. The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne. Seventh grade, Miss Fiske, Valley High School. My first real inkling of what I was up against being female.
  5. The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien. Tenth grade, Mrs. Rhodes, Valley High School. She cried through most of it, insisted the hobbits were real (can’t you see them?!?), and much as I was embarrassed for her (because in tenth grade you’re embarrassed by every nothing much less a teacher weeping in front of the entire class), she showed me that books were magic.
  6. Helter Skelter by Vincent Bugliosi. Everyone in my little gang of high school “heads” read it and passed it around. We hung out at an abandoned corral-slash-slaughterhouse near the river (at least, we called it a slaughterhouse for dramatic effect) getting stoned and freaking ourselves out about Charles Manson.
  7. Bless Me Ultima by Rudolfo Anaya. Read it as an undergraduate at UNM. That whole experience–the book, the author, Chicano Studies, studying at the university–opened my eyes to the beauty and pride of being Chicana. 
  8. Cien Anos de Soledad by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. I bought this book–the Spanish version–when I moved to Spain in 1986. It took me almost a year to read it. Then I came back to the U.S. , read the English version, fell in love with magical realism and everything else by Garcia Marquez (but especially Love in the Time of Cholera). 
  9. Watership Down by Richard Adam. I read this book for the first time recently and out loud to Dee. We both loved it. It had an impact because: one, she still loves for me to read out loud to her; two, what beautiful prose, especially descriptions of nature; and three, hours of lying in bed being present with my daughter.
  10. Cat’s Eye by Margaret Atwood. Elizabeth reminded me about this one. Explained why growing up was so painful.

Others I loved: Dona Flor and her Two Husbands by Jorge Amado, The House of Spirits by Isabel Allende, The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros, In the Time of the Butterflies and How the Garcia Girls Lost their Accents by Julia Alvarez, Bel Canto by Ann Patchett, In Cold Blood and To Kill A Mockingbird, Unless by Carol Shields, and the list goes on. Oh, I know I’ve not separated out fiction and non-fiction, but a memoir that first made me fall in love with the genre: Looking for Mary by Beverly Donofrio.

 -from Topic post: Ten Slam Dunks.

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Holding My Breath - Water, Mabel Dodge Luhan House, Taos, New Mexico, February 2007, from the Holding My Breath series, photo by QuoinMonkey, all rights reserved

Holding My Breath – Water, Mabel Dodge Luhan House, Taos, New Mexico, February 2007, from the Holding My Breath series, photo by QuoinMonkey, all rights reserved

 – PRACTICE – Holding My Breath – 10min

Friday, May 4th, 2007

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Tagged, Taos, New Mexico, February 2007, from the Holding My Breath series, photo by QuoinMonkey, all rights reserved

 –Holding My Breath – Wind, Mabel Dodge Luhan House, Taos, New Mexico, February 2007, from the Holding My Breath series, photo by QuoinMonkey, all rights reserved

PRACTICE – Holding My Breath – 10min

Friday, May 4th, 2007

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The center of a Blow Pop. That’s what it’s like to hold my breath. The uneaten half of a Tootsie Roll. I’ve got candy on the brain. Substantial unanimity. For the good of the whole. Holding my breath.

Swimming across the pool. Remember that John Cheever short story where the whole story is about him swimming from pool to pool to pool in his neighborhood? But then when you read further about his life, you find out he lived in a groundskeeper’s cottage on a wealthier man’s estate.

Puddle to puddle to puddle.

The story about the pool, what was the name of it? There was one about a radio, too. They stick in my mind like white on rice. Like white on rice; the rice can’t shake it. I prefer brown rice – more vitamins and roughage. I switched over a long time ago. Unless I’m going to have barbecue hash, Southern style. In which case, I go for the white rice every time.

I have to get Mom to go to that barbecue place in Georgia we always go to. I can’t remember the name of that place either. Just that they have green rocking chairs and a creek running under a bridge you walk over to get to the restaurant. And then you dive up some stairs and it’s always real crowded. And they give those peppermint soft sucking mints at the end to freshen the breath.

Holding my breath.

I hold my breath when I am afraid. And then again right before I’m going to blow the seeds off a dandelion. Remember Ray Bradbury’s Dandelion Wine? When I was a freshman in college an artist friend named Anne introduced me to Ray Bradbury. He wrote a great book on writing. I like to read what famous writers have to say about writing.

I think I like it because I know they are going to say the same things I already know. Practice. Write a lot. Tell the truth. Write every day. Don’t mince words. Keep your day job. Find community. They never talk about the money. I wonder why they never tell you how poor you’re going to be in the early years? Maybe your whole life.

How many writers do we hear about that die before their work really hits the big time. I have heard of writers who become famous and then quit and go back to their day jobs because writing is too much work. That one on The Writer’s Almanac that Garrison Keillor was talking about in the background one morning when I was making a bologna sandwich to drop into my purple lunch bucket on the way to my part time day job.

Holding my breath. I used to take pride in diving into Granddaddy’s pool and being able to swim the whole under length without coming up for air. Sometimes that’s how I feel. Like I want to come up for air. But I’ve already broken the surface. And I know I’m breathing in.

Friday, May 4th, 2007

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I got up early this morning–quarter to six. I had scheduled a phone meeting with one of my colleagues in the U.K. It turns out, though, that he declined the meeting some time while I was asleep. Rescheduled it for 12:30p my time, which cuts into his Friday night. But that’s the way he is. Works around the clock.

I thought people in their 30s were supposed to be less inclined to be workaholics than people in their 40s and 50s. Yet, the folks I work with who are in their 30s are pretty intense. Like this guy in Swindon who regularly works evenings, even Fridays. It’s confounding.

I mean, it’s true that in a global economy people end up working irregular hours. In the U.S. we often meet late afternoons and evenings with our colleagues in China, and we get up early to catch the Europeans. And the people in those parts of the world often have to be on hand during their own 8-5 day for local customers plus be available off-hours to call into meetings that are scheduled according to U.S.-friendly times. But still, why don’t people flex their hours when work cuts into personal time? Sleep in late or leave early if you start early. Have a life, a rich life (and I’m not talking money). Be present for your kids.

Maybe I spent too many years burning the candle at both ends, but I’ve reached a point where I don’t want to give all of me to my company. I have too many other passions to blow my wad at one place. That’s not to say I’m not a great employee. I am! I’m intelligent and unafraid to speak up. I see the big picture yet carry through on the details. I know process and deliver results. But, I refuse to make work my universe.

I don’t know if my colleague in the U.K. is as much of a workaholic as I suspect he is. Maybe he is flexing his days and I just don’t see it. But come 7:30 tonight, he should be with his family, not on the phone with me.

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