The Voice

Considering how much I despised the first five chapters of 50 Shades of Grey, it’s surprising (especially to me) how enraptured I became with the story.

It would be easy to assume that the highly sexual story line is what reeled me in and in all honesty it did add an element that kept me interested, noticeable by my sizeable smile and simultaneous open jaw sitting on the floor.

I knew my view had turned when I went from solely listening in my Yurbuds while heading out to run, to carrying my phone in my bra so that I could push play every time the kids left the room. I became hooked. Desperate to know what was next. Eager for the ride and excited for the journey.

In any language and on any continent this kind of reaction is motivation for a writer. Being so beguiling that the reader can’t put you down is the essence of the job; the goal. No one wants to write a snore.

When I was teaching fourth grade writing, we often spoke about the difference between telling the story and showing the story; the goal was always the showing.

In 50 Shades, so much was told using the same words et nausea that the writing appear labored and simple, even when the words themselves were sophisticated (thesaurus usage can be deadly).

How many times was she going to say his mouth fell in a hard line? How often did we need to be told that she had an inner goddess who hid behind chairs and sofas and under blankets? Yes, I understand he looked at her speculatively and with grey eyes. Biting her bottom lip? Got it. The symbol for the power struggle

But it may have been E.L. James’ master plan. Her brilliance as a writer being kept secret  until she was ready to share.

The choice to make Anastasia’s voice so repetitive was in direct opposition to the voice that was exposed when her innocence was being challenged.

This was where the real beauty of the writing came alive and convinced me of Ms. James’ true talent in the authoring department.

Granted, the scenes in the red room of pain, the bondage, the frightened girl who became totally immersed and connected in the moments of her fear revealed deep emotion mixed with gut wrenching descriptiveness highlighting some really glorious writing.

It was enough to make me forgive those wasted first chapters. Maybe they weren’t wasted after all.

Last night I started to read The Help, by Kathryn Stockett.

Four pages in, I have a picture of Aibileen. Through the story showing and Aibileen’s dialogue (shortened sentence structure, double negatives and misplaced use of words) I have an idea of who she is. I like her immediately. Read the first four pages and you’ll like her, too. Kathryn Stockett created a new and interesting character with a voice I want to hear.

I should probably apologize to Ms. James for my initial incertitude toward to her book. I still wish she hadn’t used the C word so much and feel like s.h.i.t would have been just as appropriate. It would have saved me from my personal challenge to count the word in question, pulling me out of the story thirty two times, give or take a few.

I went to be last night working out the first lines (of one of my books) that will be written  in it’s own time.

It will go something like this…

I was handed to my mother three days after I was born. Wrapped in a pink blanket she carefully pulled me from the hands of the lawyer, anxious to leave before Loretta had a chance to change her mind. I was bald and pretty, despite the ears that were far too big for my head. My brown eyes looked up at my new mother, whose own brown eyes matched mine exactly.

I couldn’t have known then what I learned all those years later. That my beginning was a gift and that I was saved.

I couldn’t have known the truth. I wouldn’t have believed it had come written in ink and pinned to my clothes.

I was the lucky one.

My older sisters, just two and three, waited in a run down house halfway across town as I was being given away. They knew nothing of me. They knew not of their mothers’ illness. They didn’t have a chance. Weren’t granted even a molecule of a future.


50 Shades, Oh No She Didn’t!

*Please be advised that as soon as I hit the publish button I will race straight to Gravatar and change my rating to a PG-13. If you like my blog, but don’t like naughty words, just go ahead and skip this post. I would hate to offend anyone, but sometimes certain things must be said!

I wasn’t going to run this morning until I remembered that I used a credit on and had downloaded 50 Shades of Grey.

There’s been a lot of controversy about the book for it’s saucy portrayal of an innocent and her seducer and has apparently been making wives blush from sea to shining sea.

I haven’t begun blushing.

Instead, I spent my six and a half mile run totally distracted, counting the number of times the word “crap” had been used.

Let me preface this by saying that it’s my mother’s fault for my utter distain with the word. She loathes it more than I. It’s ugliness and overuse has caused her eyes to roll back in her head for long as I can remember. Sometimes if it’s not one thing it’s your mother, but in this case I have to agree with her.

Why is that word used so freely when other words with the same meaning are not deemed appropriate for daytime television?

Why is it any better than the litany of other swear words that mean the same thing?

Was there not another word E.L. James could come up with?

Don’t think I am a prude. Those who know me will agree that I have a very trained potty mouth. I am a big fan of that word that starts with F. I don’t have a single problem with the B one and even anal doesn’t make me cringe.

I particularly like them strung together as in “Fucking anal bitch!”

See. Words have power.

Are we devolving as a society by not objecting when this word is used so commonly that newscasters throw it around, too? Kids in school think it’s okay. Afternoon Disney programming uses is often.

By the middle of chapter three hated word number one was said ten times.

It’s my hope that when I finish the book it remains in my memory for its much talked about story line and not the for the number of times an ugly word was used to portray oomph.

Oh, I do hope so. It would be such a shame otherwise!

Grey, grey, grey.
From Pinterest.
grey grey grey
Cute Grey Boots.
grey, grey grey!
Blankets in Shades of Grey.

A Booky Wook

I’ve been thinking a lot about my book; the novel I’m going to begin sometime within this year.

I want to write a joint memoir, the story of my sister and me, but I’m not sure that we are ready. The story of our bond, of our separation through adoption, and the healing that came when she found me is complicated and painful and joyous.

But the story is not just ours. There are others who may be hurt by what they read. While it will not be my intention to do so, the truth can sting, especially when it reveals itself to those who don’t want to hear it; to those who don’t want to believe it.  I don’t know that I am ready to cross a bridge that’s lined with people I love; some of whom I’ve only just met.

If I know anything, it’s that timing is everything. My sister found me when the timing was right. Any sooner and I may not have been receptive. Any later and I wouldn’t have had a chance to speak to my dying birth mother.

My marathon is now eight weeks away. As my training amps up and the clock ticks closer to March 18th I realize that I must have a plan for where to go once it’s over.

I have contemplated another marathon, in fact I put my name in the pot for NYC 2012 and have pondered the idea of running San Francisco. With my body already begging for a rest, the “whole me” knows that the next challenge will have to be less physically taxing. My mind needs to set itself upon the next challenge, so that I can remain focused on the now. It’s just how I operate.

I’ve begun to imagine a story and (at night when it’s quiet) it’s begun to flesh itself out.

There is a heroine, though her name hasn’t yet appeared. Her story will not be mine. She’ll be a person all her own, but will come from the place that I have always considered home: a place called Maine.

A booky wook. The next chapter in my own life’s adventure.

A New Certainty For The New Year

Upon my return from a relatively slow and only mildly painful 14.2, I found my kids playing on the back porch in the warm sunshine and fresh air. It felt more like Spring yesterday, the last day of 2011, rather than a late December Winter day. Perfect conditions for running and for kids in need of time outside of the house.

After a quick shower, where I washed off the salt and loudly exhaled the tension that had gathered in my body, the girls and I settled on my King sized bed with the flowered sheet covering us up. Grace sat on my left with pink eye and a cough; Sophie on my right with her ducky mask fully flowing, Albuterol and Pulmacort on high. Another pediatric virus has come for a visit. I flipped open my laptop in an effort to write, but my brain cells like my energy were running low. The girls watched t.v. and I soon dozed off between their two warm bodies.

My biggest fear about my first fourteen miler was the boredom that seemed to be creeping in as my running time got longer. In an effort to thwart such boredom, I requested book suggestions in my last post, but hemmed and hawed about which to choose.

In the end, I picked a book called The Lovers by my childhood friend Vendela Vida.

When I was in the sixth grade my family and I moved from Miami to San Francisco where I started at a new school. Burke’s was (and still is) private and all girls, with uniforms of navy pleated skirts and white middy’s appliqued with navy blue stripes.

Vendela was one of three girls with whom I walked to school.  I haven’t seen or spoken to her since the eighth grade.

Aimee lived near the entrance to Baker Beach, the furthest walk from my house which sat a few in from 30th Avenue and California Street. She was the one I related to most and the one I’ve happily reconnected with on facebook. We were partners in crime and by the time we were in high school our names were synonymous; Aimee and Martha, Martha and Aimee.

Aimee would walk to Vendela’a house, which sat a top a hill overlooking the opposite end of Baker. I actually can’t remember if she walked to Vendela’s first or if she walked to Samantha’s and Vendela met her there (since I wasn’t along for the trek) but for the purpose of this post I suppose it doesn’t really matter.

What I clearly remember is Vendela’s mother and their kitchen. Once, when sucking on a piece of hard candy in that kitchen, I inhaled it into the back of my throat and started to choke. Vendela’s mother sprang into action, performing the Heimlich Maneuvre. It all happened so quickly; my desperation for air, that frightening moment of gasping breath to the freedom of deep inhalation. One never forgets their first Heimlich.

Samantha’s house was two block’s down from mine and the last pickup before they got to me. Samantha is an attorney now, but what I recall so clearly was her drawer full of alligator shirts and her brand new baby brother.

The three would meet me at my door and we’d walk the last couple of blocks together. The one time I recall a different arrangement was when we decided to cut through the Lonergan’s yard, only to wind up being flashed by some weirdo. Like the first Heimlich, one also never forgets their first penis.

When I found out about a year ago that Vendela was a successful novelist, whose screenplay with her husband was made into the movie Up and Away with Maya Rudolph, I had a rush of emotions over the news. I was thrilled to hear about her success. It seemed that all my friends from that time had experienced great successes. Like Samantha and Vendela, from what I googled, Aimee graduated Berkeley and has had a remarkable career herself.

There was something about the fact that Vendela made her way in the area of writing, though, that excited me, but also sent pangs of sadness through my own soul.

I remember listening to her work from the desks inside our classrooms. I remember thinking she was talented and always enjoyed what she wrote.

The sadness came from my own disappointment at the fact that even though I had always been praised for my own writing, I had done nothing with it. It was the one thing that consistently brought me joy, yet I ignored it in search of something else, something more. My life after my time at Burke’s (and my first two year’s of high school) had spiraled out of control, beginning with the death of my father.

When learning about Vendela’s success, I couldn’t help but face my own inadequacies; my own flailing through life, uncertain as to who I was, uncertain as to what I should do, disheartened by my incapability to finish many of the things that I started. I wondered for  decades if my father had not died, would my life have been more predictable and easy? For too long it was a hard pill to swallow that I was not dealt those cards. Thankfully with age, a lot of yoga, and some mellowing, I’ve been able to better understand that life happens exactly as it should.

And also, maybe I wouldn’t have anything to write about today if things had continued as they had when I was fourteen; sheltered, a little spoiled, unaware that my own path has its own value despite the sadness and confusion that shaded the good stuff.

Fourteen. Interesting age and mileage.

As I stood in the middle of my street yesterday waiting for the Garmin to detect a signal, I paused to look at the book title The Lovers on my iPhone. There was her name below it. My pulse, detected by my watch, was elevated before I’d run a step.

I pressed play.

For the next three hours I listened to the story of Yvonne. I kept thinking how Vendela wrote the way a painter paints; her words like brush strokes of the most beautiful colors. It was amazing.

My legs turned over at a comfortable speed and I hardly noticed my miles; eight, nine, ten.

It’s usually about ten that I start to feel the pain of the run, but as I listened to the story I was more excited to see what would happen next than worry about my tired body.

Eleven, twelve, thirteen floated by. With one mile left I wanted the run to be over, but wished I could keep listening until the end of the book.

All day yesterday and into this first day of the new year I continue to feel like Yvonne is waiting for me. My plan was to save the final three-hour read for next Saturday’s fifteen miler, but like a kid who knows the Christmas presents are hiding in mom’s locked closet, I might have to peek.

As 2012 begins, I am still unsure about a lot.

I don’t know how many more viruses my girls will encounter this year or how many more mustard containers might be tossed through the air in a fit of rage. I can’t predict the future, though I’m not sure I really want to know all that it holds.

Despite life’s uncertainty, I feel clear about my own path and the decision to continue to write. There is something energizing and grounding about the knowing; about the certainty that what I am choosing for myself is what I am meant to do. It’s taken me longer than most to get to this place and it doesn’t even matter if I’m any good at it.

The action and acknowledgement that I am following my own dream is what makes it right.

Here’s to you finding and following your own dreams!

Happy New Year to you all!

A Summary Is in Order

It’s happening again! Too many thoughts bouncing through my brain, and fingers that can’t type quickly enough.

A summary may be in order.

First, I woke up yesterday wanting to write about princesses and toads, marriage and marriage counselors. I have experience with them all. I wanted to title my post Some Day My Prince Will Come. It was in no way going to be a husband bashing piece, rather an observation about marriage and how sometimes my toad really is a prince. I’ll have to explain more about that later, because it is an interesting story. I will say that marriage is more hard than anyone ever could have explained. It helps that I married a guy who is fundamentally good, even if some of his habits make me want to run for the hills screaming, “You’re not the boss of me!”  We all have our wounds and mine (just happen) to have made me really good at running for the hills. I like to be alone and to make my own decisions. It’s a challenge, but I’m committed to the cause.

This morning I started to write another post called Comma Crazy. I am such a boring girl these days. I don’t drink, smoke or do drugs (yes, drugs are bad and I know they don’t make a person not boring). My biggest addiction, besides chocolate cake, is my overuse of commas. I’ve been struggling with it for years, since back when I was teaching a room full of 10 year olds. One of my very favorite memories during those teaching days was the debates that I’d have with my assistant principal over commas. I miss Mary! I wish I could say I missed that room full of 10 year olds too, alas my days as a teacher are done. That’s a tough demographic; fourth graders. Ten year olds are not what they used to be.

At 7:45 a.m. I hurried upstairs for my running clothes. I’ve been really lucky that Brian doesn’t have to be at work until 10:00, so most mornings I can get in a decent run. Today I ran a terrific 6 miler and listened to the Miranda Lambert album that I downloaded a few days ago. The woman is brilliant and that is not an understatement.  Her words, voice and music touched me to the core of my being. It made me think, what makes something brilliant? Is brilliance when you feel it in your heart and not just notice it with your senses?  If that’s so, then brilliance, unlike beauty, is in the heart of the soul, not the eye of the beholder.  I thought about some of the other things that I consider brilliant. This week’s Boardwalk Empire is one of the most brilliant pieces of television I’ve seen, since Dexter came home to find Rita in the bathtub.

I also thought a lot about one of my favorite writer’s, the brilliant Jane Hamilton. When I read A Map of The World and The Book of Ruth in 2000 (they were out earlier, but I was busy being a NYC working girl with no time to read), I was in the middle of what I like to call my, “early mid-life crisis.” I was 29, had quit my job, wasn’t married, didn’t have kids, and was seriously depressed that my life wasn’t exactly how I thought it should be.  I decided, then, that I wanted to be a writer for a living, but was afraid I’d never be able to make it happen; afraid of more failure. I chose to be a teacher instead, where I did lots of editing and teaching about the subject I loved most. That thing they say, “Teachers teach because they cannot do,” in my case was sadly true.

The rest of my week is going to be easy breezy. I can’t wait until my Saturday 11 miler and hope that my Garmin arrives by then.

Sometimes a summary is in order, but I think I was able to cover what I needed to.

Sort of like Cliff Notes to my life.

Too Soon for Writer’s Block

It’s been one week since I started the blog. I’m surprised at how inspired I am to write and to run. My little spill the other day has made it difficult to run, so that leaves me in a bit of a pickle. The blog is my attempt to document the marathon training, so what’s a blogging gal to do when the training isn’t happening?

I woke up this morning, not sure what to write about. Writer’s block already?

Instead of sitting at the computer, I went out into the garage with the girls and watched them ride their big girl bikes.

And there it was, the, “Aha moment,” I was waiting for. Maybe training isn’t actually only about running and cross training. Most training plans incorporate rest days and any good athlete knows how important resting the body is to avoid injury and aid in performance. Maybe my training plan must also include writing when there is nothing to write about, in order to help me focus on the long haul. What is the end result going to be?

I’ve already written about uncertainty and the difficulties that come with not knowing what the outcome will be. For me, this process is going to include writing, as a means to keep my eye on the ball.

Of course there’s stuff to write about. I must keep writing, even when not running, even with a swollen ankle, even with kids spilling apple juice in the vicinity of the laptop, on rest days and sick days. Writing is what is going to help me meet the challenge; probably the biggest personal challenge of my life.

Thank God I love to write!

Writing as a Practice

froggy pajamas, compression sock, iced ankle, and last night’s quinoa left on Sophie’s chair

At this very moment, I am sitting in my froggy pajamas, with a compression sock on my left foot, which is elevated on a chair, wrapped in a Ziploc bag filled with ice. I had just gone upstairs to locate a journal I had written while taking a class at UC Berkeley in my late 20’s.  The class was called Writing as a Practice. The purpose of the class was to pick an activity that I did 4-5 times a week and write immediately afterward. I chose running. Kind of like blogging, pre-blog Universe.

As I rummaged through the drawers in my closet, where my journals are hidden, I racked my brain about where it could be. I move my journals around often; truth be told, there’s some scary stuff in there. Moving them makes me feel like they are safer, though really, no one is looking.

The Berkeley journal wasn’t in my drawers. Maybe it was on that really hight shelf, in that box with all my old photos? Instead of going to find a chair to safely climb up, I stepped on the lowest built-in with my right foot, stretched up to grab the highest hang rack with my left hand, and reached for the box with my right hand. At that very moment, Sophie, recovering from a really horrible yesterday (ear infection, fever, the works), ran into my closet crying that I can’t run today! Some days I have to peel her off of me to get out of the house. In my haste to get the box, and my frustration of having Sophie completely under foot (I also didn’t want the box to fall on her), I slipped and landed squarely on my left ankle. CRACK!

I laid on the floor for Brian to come help. Tears streaming down my face, I yelled for Sophie to, “Go get Daddy!” She didn’t. She wanted her, “Hoppa Woobie” and was crying herself.

Ok. Regroup. I’m mad as hell, but what can I do? The smart thing is to rest the ankle. It’s throbbing up my thigh. Forget the running today. Hopefully if I give it a day or two, I can still do my long run on Sunday? Adjust the schedule again. One step forward, two giant steps crippled steps back!