Saturday, March 11, 2017

I haven't prayed seriously in a long time.

(Disclaimer:  this is not a thoughtful discussion on religious beliefs.)

I haven't prayed seriously in a long time, but when Deepak Chopra sent me an e-mail with the subject line: Does God Listen to Prayers? I thought, hey, I want to know that.  Usually I approach God like this: I get up from a chair and my knee hurts. I say, Oh, god. That is shorthand for Really?  It has to hurt just to get up? My lazy default expression to many events is, Oh, my god!  Sometimes, if I look around my house and feel reasonably good and all my kids are okay, I say, Thank you, Lord

I had very formal and intense religious training at the hands of the Pallotine nuns, the German strain.  I know how to sing the Catholic mass in Latin.  I have no idea why I talk to God in this lackadaisical way. Do I think there is a man/woman sitting on a throne up in the clouds who hears me and looks down and thinks, Huh, look at that.  She thanked me so I will reward her with some peace and happiness?  Yes, that's what I probably think in my crude brain stem. But wait - that can't be, right?  A throne?  Up in the clouds?   That makes no sense even to a seriously religious person.

Ever since Google, Skype, the Cloud, etc., I believe in miracles, I believe even more miracles are in the pipeline. I believe that God is so tired of our uninteresting demands and whining he/she is allowing humans to make their own miracles.  In the near future, we will be able to jiggle our brains and manipulate our abilities and emotions. Unhappiness will be a thing of the past.  We will live in a sappy, giggly uninteresting world.  There will be no more writers because if you are already happy, why write?

Deepak's e-mail said the reason we don't get answers to our prayers is that (I'm paraphrasing here) our intentions are muddled and unfocused.  Unanswered prayers are the product of a mind that is restless, shallow, conflicted, or unable to focus.  Guilty as charged.  But wouldn't you think that God has some sentimental affection for the restless and shallow among us who are unable to focus?  Wouldn't he just say, Oh for goddsakes, that woman is never going to be able to focus, just give her whatever she asks for.  Does she even know what she wants?  Of course she doesn't.  Just give her something she asked for in the past. She might even figure it out. 

God actually did that for me and I did figure it out. All my adult life I had yearned for a newspaper column where I could express all my ideas and throw them out to the world and utilize the tyranny of my discontinuous mind. * I was certain that I had some good ideas.  From time to time I published op-ed pieces in The New York Times and Newsday, but I yearned for a regular gig.  Once Mort Persky, the editor of SHE, a sister publication to Playboy, asked me to write a column on sex.  “Mort, I screamed, I was raised in a convent boarding school.  We put on our clothes under our nightgowns.  I can’t even type the word “sex” without looking around for Sister Francisca to come and slap me.”  “That’s exactly why I asked you,” he said.  Sone  It was only recently that I figured out that this blog was the answer to my prayers.  I get to talk about anything and it's a regular gig.


*Richard Dawkins’ essay in The New Statesman, Escaping the Tyranny of the Discontinuous Mind is about something serious but applies to me in a silly way.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Fortune's Daughters is on pre-sale on Amazon

For the past twelve months I've been writing a new historical novel set in the first third of the twentieth century.  The book will be published by Lake Union, an imprint of the Amazon Group that also bought and published Three Daughters. The publication date is May 9, 2017 however the book is available for pre-order on Amazon.  

For all of the writers who read my blog, I will soon devote a new post recounting the unique personal experiences that came with my Amazon association.  

Here is the link to Fortune's Daughters and below is the prologue.



Prologue

At the turn of the twentieth century, the Hempstead Plains, fertile and halcyon, bordered by the great Atlantic, blessed by God with every source of outdoor pleasure, broke off from Queens and became Nassau, the sixty-first county of New York State.

America’s bankers and industrial tycoons built castles along the rolling North Coast and manicured the rough virgin woods from Great Neck to Lloyd Harbor. J. P. Morgan, Frank Woolworth, Marshall 3Field, Harry Guggenheim, Frank Doubleday, and Asa Simpson. The names told the history of America’s stunning growth. The unblemished county was only twenty-nine miles from the squalor of glutted lower Manhattan, where the millions were made  on the corner of Broad and Wall.

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I feel crass and filthy offering this title for you to purchase but I feel crass and filthy for lesser behavior.  Also, I will be posting regularly again.    X







Wednesday, January 18, 2017

State of the Union according to Google

(On Friday, we will have a new president.  Decided this might be a good time to repost this entry from 2013)


Google knows how the citizens are doing.  It has saved all our questions, all our searches, all our subjects and sub categories, We only have to prompt it with a word or two and it shows us where we have been, where we are and where we need to go. 

My job is:
boring
killing me
sucks
makes me depressed

My wife
doesn’t want kids
doesn’t trust me
doesn’t love me anymore
doesn’t listen to me
doesn’t respect me
doesn’t support me
doesn’t like me anymore
doesn’t like my family

My husband:
is gay
got a family
cheated on me
Betty
is mean
hit me
hates his job

I lie
about everything
too much
all the time
to myself

My house is:
on fire
making me sick
in foreclosure

I’m happiest when:
never
            
Happiness is:
camping
a choice
like a butterfly

My health is:
declining
deteriorating
better in November
not good
going down fast
getting worse

Government is:
corrupt
killing us
watching us
lying to us

I worry about:
everything
everything all the time
money all the time
my boyfriend
my boyfriend dying
            
I hate:
my job
my life
myself
everything about you

How do I:
put this gently
get pinkeye

God bless you all and God bless America
            

Friday, January 13, 2017

The ruinous price of pettiness.




I had a friend who was a famous writer at the height of his fame. He told me that instead of enjoying his success he was in “thought purgatory” over something his roommate was doing.

“What could that possibly be to distract you from all the fun?”

“He doesn’t buy any bar soap for the shower?”

“Wait. What?”

“He uses my bar of soap all of the time and never replaces it?”

“Why don’t you take your soap with you.  They sell those covered soap dishes.  I had one in boarding school.”

“I want to see how long it will be before he notices and buys a new bar. God help me, I want to escalate the problem.”

“Suppose you just let the bar get smaller and smaller until it is gone.”

“I’ve tried that.  At the end it was just a millimeter before it dissolved. I went without soap washing for a week."
 
“What did he do?”

“He went merrily along the same way and the operative word here is “merrily” because while I was being consumed with only one thought – driven by one idea amid all the good news that was pouring in to my voicemail and e-mail, he was blithe as a toddler in a field of daisies.”

“Why didn’t you Just ask him to buy some soap?" My friend looked at me as if I had an IQ of 20.  His voice rose a few decibels.

 “Why didn’t I just ask him to buy soap???  Why didn’t I just buy Amazon at $14?  Why didn’t I just stop smoking years ago?  I couldn’t!!!!!!!!!!” he screamed. “That would be so petty.  He would know that I had noticed and thought of it. He would know that I had been thinking about the bar of soap in the little nook in the shower stall. I would make me look small. Diminished.  I can’t tell him.  I compose that conversation in my head over and over but I can’t say it.”

“Why not?”

“I would be discovered as a petty miser who is squabbling over a 79 cent bar of soap.”

“By whom? The thoughtless roommate?  You are assuming his thoughts are all lofty.  Climate change.  Religion and ethics. You already have a mixed opinion of him so why worry?  And by the way, why label your request as petty or miserly and why label a simple request as a squabble?”

My friend, a brilliant writer, stopped talking and remained quiet for several seconds. Several seconds in conversations feels like a very long time.  Finally, he said.  “You are right on every level.  I will tell him tonight that we’re out of shower soap and please pick up a few bars.”

“There you go.” 

Thursday, January 5, 2017

"Your own secrets sucked out of you..."


I wonder which is preferable, to walk around all your life swollen up with your own secrets until you burst from the pressure of them, or to have them sucked out of you, every paragraph, every sentence, every word of them, so at the end you're depleted of all that was once as precious to you as hoarded gold, as close to you as your skin - everything that was of the deepest importance to you, everything that made you cringe and wish to conceal, everything that belonged to you alone - and must spend the rest of your days like an empty sack flapping in the wind, an empty sack branded with a bright fluorescent label so that everyone will know what sort of secrets used to be inside you?  This is from Margaret Atwood

Really?  On first reading I love the idea of this quote but then...?   I'd love to have all my secrets sucked out of me.  Secrets are not all that precious.  The stuff I wished to conceal when I was trying to make my way, I gladly reveal now.   I like to sit around.  I'm an emotional eater.  I am not against lying although I'm recently adverse to stealing.  I have intimacy problems. I'm full of shame sometimes.  Every successful social encounter leaves me feeling filthy. Yes, filthy.  I still talk too much.  So what?   'So what' to everything. I call it my "so what" cure.  

There are still scenes from the past that make me cringe. Cringe as in hunching my shoulders inward and turning to confront myself.  When I write that sentence the scenes become insignificant.  I call this my "state exactly what is troubling you and it will diminish" cure.  
The things that are precious to me, images that I remember with a full heart are not secrets at all.  They are small ephemeral moments that catch someone close to me stunned by life.  Yes, life can stun you, good or bad.  In that moment, there are no secrets - just you and the thing itself.  And you can recover. You can recover from almost anything.
I recently saw The Master, and the best scene in that movie is when Phillip Seymour Hoffman sits very close to Joaquin Phoenix and asks him the sort of questions that I wish someone would ask me.
What is the most important thing in your life?  What do you wish would happen more than anything in the world?  What makes you most afraid?  

The answers are not the answers of old: children, health, accidents. 
The most important thing in my life is the ability to keep on going.  More than anything in the world I wish to know myself better.  I am most afraid of fulfilling my childhood dreams.

Saturday, December 31, 2016

It's New Year's Eve. I'm sitting in my office in the house.

(Facebook showed me this post in what they call "your memories." It was posted  in 2013. Since it's New Year's Eve and I have to re-introduce myself to my followers (if any are left) after a long writing sabbatical,  I thought it was appropriate to re-post.) 

It’s New Year’s Eve.  I’m sitting in my office in the house. There are two windows in the room and I’ve covered them with venetian blinds because the sunshine in the morning is so beautifully invasive that I can’t see my computer screen.  

This room was originally a bedroom.  It was the Jill part of what developers like to call a Jack and Jill set up.  I sleep in the Jack part across the hall from the bathroom.   This room is located inches to the right of the front door and in the early days (I was still tolerant) when carousing co-workers needed a place to sleep I would tell them to come in the door, make a sharp right and just get in the bed. I never locked any of the doors even though my house is only one block from a main road and the Railroad Station. (I was tolerant and crazy.)

With the arrival of my first dial up internet connection I made the bedroom near the front door my office and moved the bed upstairs. This became the room where I re-invented myself as a publisher and purveyor of digital books that I learned to build and upload to Amazon.  I also created a blog and began posting simple ideas that seemed brilliant in the shower. In this room I've received good news and disappointing news.  I’ve cried in here several times. (Not recently,)

Here is some of the good news I’ve received in this room over the years:
1.  Can you come in to town, I think I’m starting labor?
2.  Can you come in for the award luncheon?
3.  I’ve been asked to work on a show.
4.  Grandma, it’s me.  Can I come over?
5.  We got the house.
6.  Consuela, I read your manuscript last night.  It’s wonderful. (This from my devoted agent who never in twenty-five years has gotten my name right.)
7.  “Daughters is the best book I’ve read this year.” (Daughters has received 119 5-star reviews and 47 4-star reviews.  One reader gave me four stars because she was mad when it ended. (Since this posted, Daughters now has 2,158 reviews, the majority five stars.)
8. One Hundred Open Houses does not sell well but when someone buys it and connects - aaah! “I loved this book.  Now, how did the author get into my mind and pick out every thought I’ve ever had, do have and will have and get it all together in this book?” This is my personal favorite.
9.  Hello, Ms. Baehr.  This is Rachel from Fast Company Magazine. We’d like to include you in our Kings of Content article if you’re willing. Do you know anything about me, I asked?
10. Dear Consuelo, My name is David Blum and I run the Kindle Singles division at Amazon. We’d like to publish Thinner Thighs in Thirty Years as a Kindle Single.  (Ok.) 

 I'll add two events to the good news portion:  11. Dear Consuelo,  I'm an editor here at Amazon Publishing and we'd like to buy your book Daughters and re-publish it.  12. Dear Consuelo,  I'm happy to offer you a contract for your new historical, Fortune's Daughters. (I said "yes" to both e-mails.)  

2013 was a good year.  I got rid of a couple of bad habits. (Well, almost.) I did not lose a single pound although I was sure I would lose about five every single day. (Oh, you have to stop eating? Who knew?)

What I liked best were the e-mails and comments from people who read The Repurposed Writer.  The post goes out with a little click and the next morning readers weigh in.  I’m always surprised.  Who knew these good times were waiting for me?  Thank you. Thank you. 

2016 was a good personal year. I learned how to re-write.  And re-write.  I learned how to "show up" most days.  Will do a post on "showing up" in the near future.

Happy New Year! 

Sunday, September 11, 2016

A purity of intent. Redux)

(When a blog visitor reads a post from the archives, I re-read it.  This is a re-post of an entry about POTUS. He'll he leaving us soon and it's a nice way to say good-bye.)
 
 
Yesterday I changed my mind about two things:  President Obama and sports.
Normally, I would not watch a presidential news conference in the middle of the day but it interrupted one of my favorite game shows (yes, I know, you think less of me now).  Instead of "Who Wants To Be A Millionaire" there was our fabulous looking president telling us in a sure, strong voice why the Iran deal is much better than no deal because the alternative is to blow Iran up into smithereens (little bits and pieces.)  The president didn't say that last part.  He said war was the alternative.
The president also mapped out all of the safety nets that were in place in the deal in case Iran wanted to sneak around and build nuclear weapons behind our back.  The president also said that a nuclear plant is not something you can put on a dolly and wheel out of sight.  I was astonished at the reasonableness of his remarks considering that this initiative is a major game change in the way we deal with the Middle East. 
There is a new note in our president's voice. He is calm and sequential.  There is a purity of intent that comes across when he lays out his reasoning.  There is a purity of intent when he challenges the opposition to be courageous enough to embrace the alternative view which would be war. 
Normally, given my penchant for grand irony, I should have been madly in love with a president named Barack Hussein Obama II.  Holy Toledo, is this a joke?  In the early years, I was not a fan. I didn't mind that he was not as pure as advertised.  I didn't mind that he was backed by Wall Street money or had to repay lobbyists like the impure presidents. Remember the $536 million sunk into that trainwreck Solyndra? I particularly didn't like the stealthy way the health bill was passed, cobbled together with possibly non-constitutional legislative tricks. I didn't like the way the press was slobbering (yes, slobbering) over him because I considered it democratically unhealthy.  I had a hunch that Michelle had a chip on her beautifully toned shoulder.  After all, she was a brainiac, too, and why should she be demoted to issues like childhood obesity instead of making the big decisions.
My respect for this president grew slowly.  I began to pay attention toward the three quarter mark of the first term. He was publicly stubborn.  He would not be bullied by the press to provide answers before he was ready.  He had his own way of dealing with the world outside of the USA.  We didn't have a puppet in the Oval Office.  Maybe the president grew, too, and I'm appreciating the man he has become.  Either way, we are the luckiest country on earth to have this intelligent man who has nothing political to lose, leading this country as best he can. A naysayer once said to me, "This charming, handsome man is privately killing America."  "Don't discount charm," I replied.
My second awakening is about sports.  I have only a passing interest in sports.  I know from the headlines that sports figures sometimes do very dumb things.  Two of them blew off a finger over the July 4th holiday.  A couple of them have shot people.  Dead. Many of the men marry gorgeous women and then divorce them.  Those were my default thoughts about sports but last night I changed my mind.  I watched the entire Espy awards show and not for the reason you think.  I did see Caitlyn's good speech but that came late in the proceedings.  I watched the entire show because I was riveted to the men and women who received awards. The clips of their feats were fantastic and showed tremendous physical talent.  The recipients were modest, thoughtful, grateful and gave short interesting speeches. Two of them made me cry.  Yay sports!
And by the way, have you noticed what a brilliant and interesting man Mike Tyson has become?