Friday, January 30, 2009


My fellow 4Corners writer buddies are circulating their own You Know You're In... lists. I had to contribute.

I found this one for California and boy is it where I live. I mean, a lot of it strikes a chord. Things like the body piercings are probably less common than tattoos, but since a lot of them aren't visible who would know? Tattoos seem to be everywhere. As to parking spaces you will take a parking spot just because it's there.

Plato hasn't had his own therapist but he did have his own private trainer for a while. One of Plato's descriptions when we got him from the SPCA was "Pulls like a monster truck." My husband was flipped over once by Plato, and he's six feet tall and weighs over 170 pounds. I haven't levitated like a friend of mine who got pulled off her feet by her Akita, but I've been pulled over numerous times. Her Akita has a trainer who comes to their house once a week. My friend is four feet, eleven inches tall--the Mighty Max--but even Mighty Max has her limits.

On to the list:

You know you're in California when...

Your coworker has 8 body piercings and none are visible.
You make over $300,000 and still can't afford a house.
You take a bus and are shocked at two people carrying on a conversation in English.
Your child's 3rd-grade teacher has purple hair, a nose ring, and is named Breeze.
You have a very strong opinion about where your coffee beans are grown, and you can taste the difference between Sumatran and Ethiopian.
You know which restaurant serves the freshest arugula.
A really great parking space can totally move you to tears.
A low speed police pursuit will interrupt ANY TV broadcast.
Gas costs $1.00 per gallon more than anywhere else in the U.S.
Unlike back home, the guy at 8:30am at Starbucks wearing the baseball cap and sunglasses who looks like George Clooney really IS George Clooney.
Your car insurance costs as much as your house payment.
It's barely sprinkling rain and there's a report on every news station: "STORM WATCH."
You have to leave the big company meeting early because Billy Blanks himself is teaching the 4:00pm Tae Bo class.
You pass an elementary school playground and the children are all busy with their cells or pagers.
It's barely sprinkling rain outside, so you leave for work an hour early to avoid all the weather-related accidents.
Both you AND your dog have therapists.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009


What does it mean to have been born 75 years ago? Well, the obvious things. I don't remember seeing a television until I was in my teens and a computer--nah. No way. Cars certainly didn't have them and you certainly couldn't scare up yahoo or google. If you needed to do research you went to a library. You walked to school--at least I did. I don't remember ever being driven. I lived in Minnesota--in Minneapolis--and during the winter I would walk through cold grey mornings all bundled up but I walked and I enjoyed it. During the springtime there were showers--rain storms--and we'd put rain gear on and we'd walk. One of the streets would flood and after school we'd put on bathing suits and paddle around in the water.

Given there was no television or computers for entertainment we'd play outside or we'd read. I'd join a bunch of kids on the street and we'd play games--Hide And Go Seek being the one that comes to mind. I was very much into books. I remember fondly a little library about a ten minute walk from where we lived. I went to that library religiously once a week and brought home exactly seven books each time. I read one book a day. At the end of the week, back I would go with the seven books to get another seven.

There were two ways you could walk out of my neighborhood: the way that led you the opposite direction from the library led through an empty lot (if you were disinclined to take sidewalks--which I was) to a country road in the middle of the city--odd, but there it was--to an old house that looked to be deserted. Oh, you could go on from there but I often stopped because I wondered about that house and whether it really was deserted. Being curious I used to squash my nose against a windowpane and look in. I did that any number of times; then one day found a woman staring out at me. She was probably tired of having me poking around her property. Anyway, she scared the Beejeezus out of me.

I avoided the house after that. Still, I would take that route when I wanted ice cream. There was a little shopping areas in both directions but only one way led to a store that sold nothing but ice cream and that, my friends, was Mecca. Another thing different about being born 75 years ago? The ice cream cone cost a dime.

The other way you walked out of our neighborhood led past a spooky site that had never been built on that had springs or a creek running through it. I had to go that way because it led to the library. There was probably a story behind that big piece of property but I never heard it. I'd imagine all sort of horrible things coming out of that bog to get me. All I know is I'd breathe a sigh of relief when I'd get past it safely. Up a hill, turn right, up a sidewalk to a little string of shops, to the library--and bliss.

I didn't like school. On the way I would slow my walking to a crawl and all of a sudden I'd find myself late! Or almost late! That was far worse than having to go at all. In the winter I had an advantage as I could walk through a solid, unbroken string of yards. Wonderful to go the way of the yards and know, on a morning of a fresh snowfall, that your footprints were the first to grace those yards.

Monday, January 26, 2009


The language of a three year old is fascinating. Theo has a full range of words now which he puts into very complicated sentences but occasionally he leaves us saying "Huh?"

Like tonight's example. I was sitting with him and after a range of very normal questions, many of which included "Why?" he asked "Nana, where's my Fwapit?"

I suggested he take me to the kitchen and point to whatever it was. This got us nowhere because, as it turned out, a Fwapit has nothing to do with the kitchen. I finally said, "Let's wait until Ma Ma and Ba Ba come home. They'll tell me what a Fwapit is." All this time I was hardly able to contain my glee. Fwapit is the type of word children's authors love and I write children's books. This is a Dr. Suess word! Imagine what Dr. Suess would do with a Fwapit. Maybe he's already done something with a Fwapit: A Fwapit and a Fwipit? Can't you see them? The possibilities are endless.

My husband came home. Ba Ba and Ma Ma were no where to be found. I could hardly wait. "Pop Pop, where's my Fwapit?"

The same confusion. He didn't know what it meant either. I grinned. I mean I grinned. It's like I jumped up and down like a three year old. Fwapit. It's such a marvelous word. Fwapit. It's such a deliciously silly word to roll around the tongue. Say it, you'll agree. You have to draw out the first syllable: Fwa pit.

Finally Theo, trying like the earnest little guy he is, said "It's something you play music with." That should have lit a bulb in my brain but it didn't.

Ba Ba and Ma Ma came home. "Wendy, what's a Fwapit?" I asked my daughter-in-law.

Leave it to a mother to know the answer to everything.

"I know where it is Theo." She went outside and brought it in and gave it to him. A trumpet. A Fwapit is a trumpet!

An hour later he said trumpet perfectly but I will never forget Fwapit!

Thursday, January 22, 2009


Yesterday I introduced everyone to our extended family but gave short shrift to one of the most important members, Plato. You see him in this photograph with Theo. Plato, as you can see, is playing ball with Theo, waiting patiently for Theo to throw the ball for him.

Plato came to us in the fall of 2001 from the San Francisco SPCA. I was there with my son, Jeff, to pick out a dog. We saw Plato after the first few and all I could think was "Pick him! Pick him!" It was to be Jeff's dog, although, as so often happens, eventually he became my husband's and my dog. We saw a number of doggies that day but none even came close to capturing our attention like Plato. The grins, and the tail waggings! Superlative!

Plato is a dog of special ancestry, being partly the king of all dogs--the Akita--and the other, mutt with a fair amount of German Shepherd mixed in. Jeff chose Plato and I gave a sigh of relief.

We took him home and Jeff promptly disappeared for a couple of hours. Plato and I were in the basement. He had bonded with Jeff and would have nothing to do with me. He tried every means of escape--including a small window with a table in front of it, which he would get to by jumping from a coach to a bookcase, to the table. The window was open only an inch or two, but he kept trying, apparently thinking the next time the window would magically open for him. Do dogs believe in magic? The route he would take for his escape attempt was up a flight of steps (only to find the door closed), down the steps, to the coach, to the bookcase, to the table and back again. This went on for what seemed like hours. My husband finally came home. I brought Plato up to meet him. My husband, in his best Humphrey Bogart imitation, looked at him and said "What have you been up to, Plato?" Plato cringed, I mean cringed. Oh no, I thought. He has scared him for life.

Not to be. It simply made my husband the boss. I mean he is the boss--nobody else even rates. Plato will not go up the flight of steps from the street without having my husband give the OK. Even an OK doesn't always do it because Honcho Number One usually isn't on the steps with us, having other important things to do like pick up packages from the car, or check the mail. I'm only Honcho Number Two , so what does that make me? The one that pulls on Plato's leash until he moves, that's who.

Plato is now nearly ten--from what we can gather. No record came with him, much the pity. He is a wonderful, truly special dog. Everyone adores him. You can see a little white around his muzzle but he still runs like he's two!

Wednesday, January 21, 2009


We are an extended family. That means Theo, Nana and Pop Pop, Ma Ma and Ba Ba, Plato the dog, and Pip and Pearl the cats. We get along amazingly well. Theo is my grandson who you see in the photograph. He is the little guy on the right. His friend Majid is looking at the camera. Theo is now just over three years old.

Theo likes to throw balls but has had to be restricted to throwing them outside. Not that he always listens. Lately he is into banging on anything nearby so Ba Ba got him a drum. He destroyed the first one so Ba Ba got him another. I know at some point we will have to contend with Theo with a drum set. He watched something on the computer that featured Celtic music with drummers and now faithfully follows their every movement with his own drum.

When I said we get along amazingly well I was not speaking of Plato and Pip and Pearl. Pip, a beautiful long haired gray cat, has always ruled the roost. He looked at Plato and said "What's the big deal?"

At first Pearl would not come out of Ma Ma's and Ba Ba's bedroom; lately she has gotten much braver. She actually went over and sniffed Plato's nose the other day which amazed me no end. She is also into destroying rugs with her claws. We have tried to put something called "Soft Paws" on her to no avail. She is nowhere to be found when the trip to the vet is upon us. We religiously put her out most of the day and only the less valuable rugs are on the floor. Plato ignores both cats, although for awhile he was leaving his scent in places they frequented which caused no end of problems. I now keep him with me at all times since you can only take so much of a dog marking his territory in the house.

We are in the middle of a construction project to end all construction projects. For a long time the only access to our house was up a neighbor's steps to a path, down the path and around a hedge to the back door. There was really celebration when the steps to our front door appeared for the first time. We've had almost no rain since the project began which is a problem facing California but nice for us. Plato tends to be a little careless where he runs.

I think a lot of families these days are extended families. I do enjoy ours.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009


the lives and times of archy and mehitabel
by don marquis

"i see things from the under side now
thank you for the apple peelings in the wastepaper basket
but your paste is getting so stale i can't eat it
there is a cat here called mehitabel i wish you would have removed
she nearly ate me the other night why dont she catch rats that is what she is supposed to be for there is a rat here she should get without delay"

archy is a reincarnated bard who came back as a cockroach.
Being a cockroach he cannot make capital letters or punctuation, hence the total absence of them in his poetry. He climbs above an old typewriter and flings himself at the keys. That is how he types.

archy has always been one of my favorite characters, perhaps because I choose to look at life from different angles. When I was a kid I used to lay on my bed and pretend I was on the ceiling and looking at my world upside down; then I would walk across--so adventurous!--and leap over the doorjam and walk into the next room and peruse the world next door from up rather than down. Life is very different when you're looking at it from a ceiling.

What do you see from the ceiling of a bedroom? The bed comes at you from a different angle, as does the bedside lamp and table but you can still identify them. What does a window look like from straight above? Very strange, although if you're an architect or an architect's child you're used to looking at things from different angles. All of this would rather be like taking the top off a doll house and looking down.

If you choose to look at the topside of the ceiling itself you see very interesting stuff--especially if you're on the ceiling of the kitchen, especially over the kitchen table. You might see the remains of a dinner--ah there's a glob from yesterday's meatloaf and weird--the desiccated remains of an insect caught in a spider web. Walk over above the stove and what is this? Yuk! Grease! Actually, if you didn't mind getting getting grease on you, you could slide across the ceiling and that would be dangerous--and fun, something like sliding down a bannister.

Another place I love to explore is under the ground--especially what it would be like to come out into a world you had never seen. I wrote a story about a baby mole that accidentally comes out one of his tunnels and into the night of a full moon. He is thunderstruck by the light from above and when he sees lights on the sidewalk he is awestruck. They are dancing! He is seeing a snail trail but he doesn't know it. A snail trail is magic. Look at one in the light of the moon and you'll see what I mean.

What would a baby mole have to have in his tunnel to see where he was going? Moles are nearly blind, and after all, he's a baby and babies love to explore. I decided Mother Mole would drag flower pots in from outside and fill them with lightning bugs; then he could explore the tunnels to his heart's content.

Looking at the world from different angles, to a photographer, can show you things you've never seen and because you've never seen them quite that way before, they become magic. Think of the photographs in the movie "Three Days of the Condor": a picnic bench in stark black and white seems like something from a different world, perhaps because it's seen in stark isolation, apart from it's usual location, in a park.

Having faith is seeing something from a different angle. I never had much faith--being more inclined to only believe things I could see. I have grappled with faith a lot since my brother's death. I'd like to believe his spirit lives on. I'd like to believe he's in a better place.

My sister, trying to convince me to have faith, wrote this beautiful piece of poetry, which I will quote:

When you look out your windows, and see the leaves of the trees, blowing, and the branches, bending, you believe it because of the wind. You obviously believe in the wind, well, being on the other side, is like the wind. God doesn’t destroy something; it just changes shape. Think of water--water—like rain. When the weather gets colder, rain comes as snow. Colder yet, it becomes ice. Hotter, it becomes steam. God is not wasteful, especially with the spirit. After all we learned down here, do you think he would throw it all away, after the spirit has had a long and useful life, wouldn’t that be wasteful? God is the biggest example of recycling, look at what He does with rain.

I am just about convinced. Thank you, Joyce. You've made me cry.

Saturday, January 17, 2009


I was thinking of opposites yesterday. Dark Light! Down Up! In Out! Hard, Soft, most commonly associated, perhaps, with male and female? Heaven Hell. Sad Happy. Now we're moving toward something with true personal resonance.

We can find other opposites that have resonance, but when you're in the middle of grieving someone, there is nothing more devastating than Dead, Alive. Alive, Dead. It doesn't matter which way you turn the words, Dead is the more powerful word when you're grieving someone. You don't even think alive consciously except you think constantly about that someone when they were alive and now they'll never be alive again. No more crazy wonderful conversations over the phone, no more wonderful emails. I went to a psychologist not too long ago to talk about the manner of this person's death because it was truly terrible and I was trying desperately to come to grips with it and I had found I couldn't talk to anyone else about it because of the nature of the death. Yes, it was terrible, and it happened to this someone I loved, and how can I ever come to grips with that? And the guilt! Maybe I could have helped!

This, of course, is about the brother I'm grieving. Perhaps you're grieving for someone too. If so, perhaps we can talk, and we can grieve together.

Thursday, January 15, 2009


You met me yesterday. I hope you will come back many times and follow my journey!

I have a lot of plans for 2009. First, to get my young adult novel RUN! in shape to query agents. RUN! follows a group of children running from an abusive home. It happens in the 40's. The children cannot go home. They are continually running. One advantage for having made it to three quarters of a century, you have a lot of history!

The oldest, Kate, leaves her home after a particularly bad incident and takes the younger children with her. In the 30's and 40's a young runaway like Kate, if caught, was routinely put in jail and the younger returned home. They cannot go home, they cannot go to the police. Where do they go? To a whorehouse--to Madame Rose. There is a strange underworld operating in RUN! Madame Rose contacts her friend, Mother Philapa. Mother Philapa sends the children to New York on a train in the company of three nuns. The period made for strange bedfellows.

Of course things never work as smoothly in real life and this is real life tempered with a little spice and a little humor. Just when they are starting a new life with a benevolent spirit named Esther they must flee again. This time they end up in a broken down, decrepit hotel for old men. The children prove to be the catalyst for change in the lives of the old men.

This is the start of my story. It is one of the rare times when I've known where a story was going but when you're a writer, strange characters show up and take over. A character named Cecil showed up in RUN! and is going to influence the story--how I'm not sure as yet.

I do hope I hear from you!

Wednesday, January 14, 2009


I've done it! I've actually got a blog!

As I write this, I am toasting myself with a glass of wine.

Wow. A new year. It really is. I got myself a blog.

This first post is going to be small. I've got to get used to the new Me!