Sunday, January 25, 2015

Let's chat about laziness

(I haven't done any writing work in two weeks.  The mood here is equal parts lethargy, lack of will, ennui and the fact that it gets dark at 4:39 in what used to be the afternoon.  Today I see that a blog visitor has unearthed this post on laziness and it fits my mood so here it is again.)

I don’t think you’re lazy.  You get up you get dressed you go somewhere you do things.  You make your smoothie and drink it.
No, I’m lazy.  Once in a while I'll do some fake hard work to avoid real work.

Do you know what lazy means?  It is a disinclination to activity or exertion despite having the ability to do so.
That’s exactly it. I'm disinclined to do anything.  I sit around.  No daily plan.  No delaying instant pleasure in order to get greater pleasure. 

What’s wrong with instant pleasure?
Doesn’t last long.

What about greater pleasure?
I don’t know.  Never achieved it. 

Maybe it doesn’t last long either. Name a person who you think isn’t lazy.
That’s easy.  Joyce Carol Oates.  She has written over 40 novels and almost that many plays, short stories, nonfiction. She writes so much people make jokes about it. I once saw a picture of her at a party and her slip was showing an inch below her skirt. She works so hard, she doesn’t even know her slip is showing.  If I worked that hard, I’d go out in my pajamas that’s how little I would care about anything else.

Maybe you’re not lazy.  Maybe you are gestating, as in incubating ideas that you will use later.  Or maybe life, as in LIFE, is so hard you are rightfully stepping aside for a day.
No, I’ve been lazy all my life. I'm lazy about the things that really matter. 

If you were not lazy what would you be doing?
I’d be working much harder and getting things done. I'd be focused. I would kill for more self-discipline.

Do you know what 'not being lazy' feels like?
Yes.  I get lost in the task - I could be dead that's how immersed I am in the work.  In fact, that's what I think dead feels like.

I believe we use the word lazy because we don’t know what to call the trait we are really exhibiting.  We don’t know to say: I work hard at physical tasks because I don’t know how to access the task I should be doing. Is there any prompt that makes you work hard?
Yes.  If I get good news I become hyper and ideas pour out of me.  My head explodes. 

Why do you think that is?
I think good news jerks us around, jiggles some part of our brain and makes it want to do things.

So the answer to laziness is to get good news every day.
No. The answer is to learn to jiggle our own brain and make it act as if it heard good news.

Is there anyone you know who has enough self-discipline?
Yes.  I know one a person who is all self-discipline.  Everything he does is deliberate and would be hard for most of us.  He never takes the easy road.  If he did that experiment where you delay eating the cookie in order to get two cookies, he wouldn’t eat the cookie.  He wouldn’t even eat the reward cookies.  He’s all discipline.

Is that person happy?
No.   That person is not happy.

So hard work doesn’t necessarily lead to happiness?
I guess not although I don't believe in that amorphous, ill-defined state known as happiness.

What have we learned here?
I don’t know. Nothing.

Friday, December 26, 2014

State of the Union according to Google

(This is a re-post.  It first appeared in January of 2013 but not much has changed.)


The president will soon deliver his State of the Union address so I decided to check the State of the Union according to Google.

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:
killing me
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
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:
I’m alone
Happiness is:
a choice
like a butterfly

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

Government is:
killing us
watching us
lying to us

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

How do I:
put this gently
get pinkeye

God bless you all and God bless America

Friday, December 5, 2014

The Dentist

(I was about to make an appointment to go to the dentist but then I read this and decided to put it off.  This post received many "troll" comments from dentists who thanked me for the good information.)

Here’s me at the dentist.  If there was a balloon over my head it would say: Dr. Dellasandro is going to be shocked when he looks in there.  Maybe he will scream.
I’m a decent caregiver to my mouth but the dentist never says anything good about how I care for my teeth.

The conversation goes like this:
Total (judgmental) silence as he inspects my mouth.
How many times a day do you brush?
Morning and night. (I'm tempted to say 'only when the moon is waning').
Do you floss?
How often?
Every day.
How many times a day?

Total (judgmental) silence.  I’m telling the truth but it feels as if I’m lying (through my teeth).   I expect him to tell me I don’t deserve to have teeth and that the starving children in Africa would be thrilled to have teeth to care for.

"Do you know how to brush properly? Show me how you brush,” he says.
Balloon:  Uh Oh.  I surmise that he has found a wrecked mouth and will send me home disgraced. Often when I’m brushing, I think about this dentist because I can’t quite accomplish the technique he has recommended (and also I’m sleepy) and I know what it will lead to.

I demonstrate a clumsy maneuver that was demonstrated to me on my last visit.  It involves using the brush at an angle so the edge of the bristles can be wiggled where your teeth meet your gums.  This is a maneuver that is only popular in the last five years.  Prior it was starting at the gum line and brushing down, as if you are sweeping all the debris down your throat.   With all these maneuvers it only works on certain areas because it is physically impossible to get that brush to angle on edge on the back of the lower teeth. Or the back of the upper teeth.

He doesn’t respond as to whether this is right or wrong.
“Show me how you floss.”  He hands me a few inches of waxed floss that frankly I think is counterproductive.  I use the unwaxed kind and in a pinch some polyester sewing thread. (I once sent this as an “aha” use to Real Simple magazine.)  I floss a couple of teeth.  Total (judgmental) silence.

The dentist hauls out his big demonstration teeth and his big demonstration brush and shows me an even more awkward brushing maneuver.  Then he flosses the big demonstration teeth. (It reminds me of how my gynacologist would haul out his demonstration uterus and show me how it could press on my bladder and cause me to urinate every five minutes during pregnancy.)  

My balloon says:  Oh sure, I could do that kind of brushing on those teeth that are not inside my mouth.  While Dr. Dellasandro gets his gear together, I see that all the decorative accessories in the room have a single motif.  A potted plant sits in a gigantic molar, a diploma is framed by a border of incisors. There’s a framed cartoon that shows a patient saying: “Oh, it hurt, doc, but I’m not going to scream until I get your bill.”  Why should I let this man cower me?

After all the talk and demonstrations, he cleans my teeth with an apparatus that must be a little like waterboarding.  A sharp needle scrapes along your gum line while a torrent of water cascades down your throat and almost drowns you.

After the picking, the waterboarding, the scraping and the polishing with a ghastly sweet sandy chemical paste, he declares me done.  Then he does something that erases all the bad stuff from memory.  He gives me a brand new toothbrush.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

The Standoff: Me vs CVS

Every week, CVS and I have a standoff - they want to see how much merchandise they can foist off on me and I want to see how I can resist.  They know we are at war but instead of shooting me, they offer me ExtraBucks.  And who doesn't want extra bucks?

Here is what CVS wants me to buy to  "Bring The Magic Home."

A Nutcracker figurine
A Northpole Family Storybook
A Magic Mechanical Santa's Checklist
When I look at this list I think "What the heck is wrong with America?"

Those who know me know that I barely tolerate Christmas.  I treat Christmas the way I treat other people's dogs.  I wouldn't hurt them if we met but I wouldn't invite them over either.  But CVS has a  dossier and they see a different Consuelo.  They have my BUYING HISTORY which is to say they have my soul.  Mike Wallace once did a 60 Minutes segment on how you could completely know a stranger by reading the items on his credit card bill:  you knew if he liked to eat out, if he gave to charity, if he went to the gym, if he had ongoing dental problems. CVS knows I love almonds, hot pepper flakes, Tom's toothpaste, dried mango chips, those little tiny toothbrushes that go between your teeth, pore strips and the occasional extra strength headache meds. They know I need eye drops and buy super strength Retin-A They know that I snack, get headaches, have decent hygiene and worry about my complexion. They extrapolate and come up with someone who is weak-willed and indulges in magical thinking,

I guess CVS is the Big Brother George Orwell was warning us about in 1984. CVS is the enigmatic dictator of Oceania.

Oh? Too harsh?  Think about it.  CVS uses the most psyche-invasive kind of marketing. You could say it's also cheap therapy.  CVS is to me like what clear lake water was to Narcissus. who fell in love with his own reflection not realizing it was water.  Narcissus drowned. That is what CVS wants me to do.  Look into their e-mails, see all of my favorite things, reflections of myself, dive in and drown.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Clean up in aisle three - uh ... and four

(I wrote this post last Thanksgiving.  I think it holds up so here it is again.)

When Oprah tells me to do something I do it. Okay maybe not her fiber fat flush.
When she offered me a 21 day meditation challenge with Oprah and Deepak* and it was free I thought, why not? At the very least it will quiet my restless mind.  Oprah is not to be taken lightly and she doesn’t have to do this stuff with us.

The first day, Oprah and Deepak asked me to identify my DEEPEST desire.  They said that if I asked my heart and was alert to my daily life the answer would come. Usually when I’m asked this question I close my eyes and the first image that comes to mind I take as a metaphor for the answer. The image was a lawn chair.   Even as a metaphor - a modest chair, a resting place in a big expanse - a rest stop in a safari?- I couldn’t cram my usual superficial desires into the image.  Deepak and Oprah said not to worry.  They said to continue meditating and asking. The answer would come.  I chanted the mantra and minded my breathing for eleven days but nothing came.

It was the meditation on Surrender that began to turn things around. I do not like to surrender to anything. I’d rather control things even if it means not going anywhere or doing anything or engaging with the rest of the world.
After the meditation on Surrender, I had the ‘new to me’ idea to surrender to a couple of things. This might sound lame but it was a new thought, a thought I would not have had before.  The trick to surrendering is to catch yourself getting ‘your back up’ which means ‘defending’ yourself or your ego against something you perceive as threatening to the status quo.  We just adore the status quo (even if it’s not that great.)

During the gratitude meditation that Oprah swears changed her forever, she quoted Meister Eckhart an old German mystic priest that I had read a long time ago. I trusted him.  He said if you only say one prayer in your life let it be ‘thank you.’

Normally I would make fun of this to entertain myself.  Really?  Just say thank you? After years of looking at my life and shouting: Clean up in aisle three, uh and four the Universe is suddenly going to say: Polish the trumpets, somebody had an aha moment?  Maybe. 

That morning, feeling a bit dorky, I said thanks for the hot shower and for my strong legs and the warm and sunny weather in November. I continued with the meditation challenge and repeated my mantra even though pronouncing Om Vardhanam Namah for twenty minutes takes some doing.

During the gratitude meditation it came to me. It was such a jolt I had to open my eyes and begin to write this post.  My deepest desire was UNDERSTANDING. That was the only desire I needed because it would lead me to everything else.

This is not earth shaking or even exciting.  BUT to receive an answer to a question you’ve posed to your heart and mind and be CERTAIN of the answer is a pretty good discovery.  I could use this method -  surrender, alertness and gratitude - to get an answer to other things.

So what do we have here? Surrender to what comes your way (well, not a runaway bus), be alert to your daily life and say thank you (yes even for your annoying friend Delores who rants against the government non-stop). You can’t go wrong.  

Happy Thanksgiving. 
I say thank you every day for the people who read this blog. I am in your debt.

* Oprah & Deepak Meditation <>

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

I'd like to buy your book. I can't sell it to you.

Facing launch day for Three Daughters got me to thinking of the days of being trad pubbed when I had the great Michael Korda as my editor. Michael was the nephew of Hollywood royalty, Alexander Korda, the movie director who married Merle Oberon (the Angelina of her day). I had been summoned to see him on the basis of an Op-ed piece I had written for the New York Times.

Michael is a small man and, as a child, he claims to have been pudgy.  Lord have mercy (it's fitting to borrow from the old South here) if there was anywhere a small, pudgy child should not go it is to that bs lockjawed citadel in Switzerland, Institut Le Rosay, where the uber rich park their children.  You know Switzerland, right? It's small, neutral, icy and unforgiving.  Remember Switzerland is the place where a salesclerk threw shade at Oprah.

Michael survived. He read history at Oxford, served in the Royal Air Force and ultimately landed at Simon and Schuster, where he worked for over forty years, a good part of that as editor-in-chief. (The only part I don't quite believe is 'the Royal Air Force.)

Besides me, he edited both Ronald Reagan, Richard Nixon and a long list of celebrities and best-selling authors.   I was not his usual charge - a homemaker from Long Island recovering from four pregnancies and three children under five.  What the pregnancies hadn't sucked out of me, the suburbs had taken.   I had no reference for the slick hushed offices of Simon and Schuster much less it's already famous editor in chief. 

Michael was not only the top editor, he wrote at least a dozen best sellers including POWER, what it is and how to get it.  One of the tips on "how to get it" was putting your desk on a platform so that no matter who came to your office you where above them.  The day I walked into his office he was lying on the floor.  "This is for my back," he said.  "I horseback ride every day in Central Park and I've hurt my back." He could have been hanging on a tree by one arm and eating a banana.  I was already on overload and my five year old was waiting in the lobby probably playing with the elevator and yelling all aboard when the doors opened.

Here's part of the dialogue.
Michael: Would you like to go out to lunch?
Me: No, thank you.  (I had one kid going bonkers in the lobby and two waiting at home with 14 year old Tara who let them eat frozen berries in my bed.) 
Michael: I'd like to buy your book.
Me: I haven't written it yet.
Michael: I want to buy it on the basis of the Op-ed piece 
Me:  I can't sell it to you.
Michael: Why not?
Me: Suppose I write it and you don't like it.  That will be devastating.  Why don't I write fifty pages and then re-submit it. 
He agreed, got up off the floor and ushered me out. 
I collected my five year old and left for the chaos at home.

I did sell the book to Michael Korda about a month later and it was mildly successful.  It was my start down this long road.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Anticipation abounds!

As I reported last April, one of Amazon's imprints, Lake Union, bought my novel, Daughters.  On the brink of a re-launch, here are the details of what's been going on in the last seven months.  Daughters was originally published by Delacorte Press and had professional editing and proofreading but there were still many glitches in the 720-page manuscript.

1.  The first step was the long process of re-editing.. The re-editing was not for narrative content but for inconsistencies within the narrative of historical references, dates, inconsistencies in the story lines of each character, etc.

2.  The second step was proofreading.  This step included English usage, grammar, awkward phrasing, etc.  I had mis-used or omitted about a gazillion commas.  (By the way, the rules of comma use are so long, complicated and open to interpretation they are useless for normal writing.  No.  Really.  They.  Are.)  I had paid particular attention to the use of which/that but the proofreader shut down all my "thats" and changed them to "whichs."  

3.  The third step was selecting and approving a cover.  I have to applaud Lake Union for including the writer in this process.  In traditional publishing they can put Hitler's Baby on the cover and you have nothing to say about it.  You see the cover when it's done.  Lake Union allowed me to reject designs, images and typeface during several rounds.

4.  The fourth step was jacket copy.  Again Lake Union allowed me to approve, re-write and suggest material for the jacket copy.   We also decided on a title change because the publisher didn't feel that the original title conveyed the depth and reach of the novel.  "Three Daughters" is the new title.

5.  One day in September I heard from a man in Michigan who was going to direct the audio version of the novel. (Amazon has its audio book studios, Brilliance, in Michigan.)  The novel is set in Palestine and there are many foreign phrases and accents in the book.  This dedicated man had researched every non-English phrase and wanted me to confirm the pronunciation. The actress selected to read all 19 discs (23 hours of listening) was excellent.

6.  One evening two weeks ago, the UPS man left several big packages in my vestibule.   My son, who was visiting, opened one box and found copies of the first printing of "Three Daughters."  It was nice to have him there to show all the proper emotion because I'm a dud at showing proper emotion.  Besides the paper edition, there is a digital edition, MP3 edition and an audio book.

7.  After a conference call with the head of marketing and my author coordinator, I am awaiting the official publication day next Tuesday, November 25. 

Anticipation abounds.