Thursday, December 20, 2012

"Like everyone else, I am being tortured to death" Redux.

(I'm re-posting this entry because it is that time of the year when we take stock.  By the way, my house is no longer dusty - I've had it repainted and repaired. Hey, wait.  How did that happen?)

Change One Thing is the name of a book you don’t have to read.  The title tells you everything.  Oh, you mean if I brush my teeth starting right to left instead of left to right, all the molecules in my makeup will shift and start a domino sequence and I’ll be a different person with different experiences and nothing will be the same in this dusty overheated house?

Yep. That’s pretty much it.

Hmmm.  I could almost buy that idea because I believe in causality.  If you do something different, your inner dopey baby sits up and fusses for a long time but finally it gives up and goes to sleep.

Here’s the thing about change:  it’s shy and shrinks back.  You won’t notice anything unless you keep a detailed diary and track your behavior.  One day, you are living a different life and it seems natural not some seismic personal restructuring like St. Paul experienced on the Damascus Road.

Does change automatically outpicture your wish list?  If you’re like me you won’t remember what you wished for yesterday.  It’s hard to decide what you want unless it’s specific like a better respiratory experience or a working light at the top of the basement stairs. Before I got up this morning I tried to dig up what I really wanted and could not come up with anything.  Maybe a new mattress. Maybe you'd like a different state of mind, I coaxed.  No, I like my muddled state of mind.  It clears up once in a while. Maybe more success?  No, I'm sick of success. 

There was a line in a poem by Carl Sandberg that used to be my favorite. “I’m a sucker for things the way they are.”  Now I know that’s a mean thing to say, Carl. You have to fight thoughts like that.  I’m not an ingénue anymore.  The sentiment sounds ironic and fey but it’s time to park the irony at the door and look at your life circumstances with grown up convictions and grown up expectations. Really?

Another snippet of poetry that stuck to me like a barnacle and became my mantra for a few years: “Like everyone else I am being tortured to death.” This thought might have some traction if we believe that life’s entire struggle for everyone is overcoming childhood.  Or even before childhood - at the distribution of the dna that made our future  a done deal.

Today, as I sit writing this post, I choose to believe that life as a struggle is an irrelevant idea.  “Struggle” is just another word.  Start brushing your teeth from a different starting point and see if anything happens.

Hey, as I’m about to close I realize that one year ago I wouldn’t have parted with irony for all the happiness in the world.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Everything is going to be all right.

Holidays, god bless them, make us think more than usual. Here are some pre-made deep thoughts to get you through to Jan. 2.  They are from one of my favorite books, Walker Percy’s The Moviegoer.

 "I have discovered that most people have no one to talk to, no one, that is, who really wants to listen.  When it does at last dawn on a man that you really want to hear about his business, the look that comes over his face is something to see.

 “Ours is the only civilization in history which has enshrined mediocrity as its national ideal. Others have been corrupt, but leave it to us to invent the most undistinguished of corruptions. No orgies, no blood running in the street, no babies thrown off cliffs. No, we're sentimental people and we horrify easily.”

“The search is what anyone would undertake if he were not sunk in the everydayness of his own life…. To become aware of the possibility of the search is to be onto something. Not to be onto something is to be in despair.”

“Ooooh," Kate groans, Kate herself now. "I'm so afraid."
"I know."
"What am I going to do?"
"You mean right now?"
"We'll go to my car. Then we'll drive down to the French Market and get some coffee. Then we'll go home."
"Is everything going to be all right?"
"Tell me. Say it."
"Everything is going to be all right.”

Walker Percy had it right. Just get in the car, go to a special market and get some coffee.  Then go home.   “Everything is going to be all right.”

Sunday, December 9, 2012

A continuous loop of "no exit" thoughts.

I’m having repair work done on the house and it is sometimes stressful. Stress is often accompanied by repetitive thoughts.  Being trapped in a continuous loop of the same “no exit” thoughts is horrid (I love that word). After a few hours of this I turned to my old pal, Eckhart Tolle for advice.  I went to his free meditation and tried to steady my mind so I could take it in.   It was tough going for a while but finally I really heard what he was saying.  “When you identify with the voice in your head that never stops speaking, you become the voice and it is a dreamlike state.”  Yep, that’s it.

When that happens you can’t have a clear thought.  Everything is seen through the judgment of the mind.  Halfway through the meditation I was able to have a clear thought.

Here’s the process I used and golly gee, it worked.

I asked myself:

Why are you so strangled by this situation?
What would be the outcome if the situation continued as you imagine it?
How would the outcome impact your life?
How would that affect your day-to-day well-being going forward?

Just by stating all the facts, my anxiety level was reduced by two thirds.
Then I examined the answer to the last question:  “How would that affect your well-being going forward?”  I found that while the worst outcome would be frustrating, I could live with it.”

Then I did the one practice I’ve learned from Tolle that I find brilliant and effective.  I took possession of the situation.  I said quietly: “this thing is mine” but I didn’t JUDGE it as good or bad.  It was just there - something.  Immediately the sting was gone and I was able to dissipate the “thinking loop.”  Throughout the day, the old thoughts tried to get some traction but each time they had less and less strength.

Now here’s the bonus of this process.  When you stop judging something as good or bad, you let the thing out of the prison of negative thought and it becomes neutral. Sometimes, it becomes good. You step back and allow life to flow on.  You do not keep the situation in irons. You are interested in the outcome but not dependent on it.  It sounds hard to do but letting go of the judgment boosts your ability to step back.

This is exactly what happened to me yesterday and I wanted to share it.

Monday, November 26, 2012

"Oh, bummer. The murderer? It was me all along."

(Many readers who review my book "One Hundred Open Houses" emphasize that the book is laugh-out-loud funny but also brutally honest, painfully honest, intensely honest.  I didn't feel that way when I was writing and no one passage struck me as brutally honest. I plucked out the passage below as an example of my own peculiar take on love.)

When I finally reach the ex we have a surprising heart to heart during which we both admit we can’t take in love.  Here’s how we arrived at this strange confessional.  They have not yet diagnosed his high fever, so I emphasize how much his children love him. He seems surprised and says, “You know how hard it is for me to accept love.” 
“Get in line,” I say, just to be agreeable.  I have no idea if I can accept love or not.
“I can’t accept it either.” 
“You can’t?”  he says astounded, as if he just met me.  “Maybe that’s my fault.”  I’m not sure it’s his fault but say nothing.  And then, because I’m at work (although that has never stopped any indiscretion before) I say some other sappy things and try to close on a good note.  He finishes off by declaring, “The day you drove off from this house for the last time, you said, ‘I still care for you.’” 
I, who have a mind that retains everything, have no recollection of such a leave-taking and I’m astounded that he has tucked that scene away all these years when he forgets almost everything else. I might have said it.  I’m crazily nice sometimes. I tend to want to finish off a scene in a memorable way. 
Then he starts rhapsodizing about how great all the kids are and we are so lucky.  Rather than nitpick, I agree. The truth?  I’m embarrassed by this kind of confessional.   I feel as if we’re trying to say something important to fulfill some psychological blueprint put out by Dr. Phil.  If I never hear the word ‘closure’ again it will be bliss.  The whole concept is misguided because it would take years of hard work to get to a one-sentence wrap-up of where we went wrong.
Now here is where I can document that there is something big missing from my make-up.  I don’t see any point in talking about all this unless we are going to take it down to the last rung.  And that last rung is really dangerous because it is the simple truth but sounds horrendously callous.  Oh, by the way, I married the wrong person. OR, perhaps I’m not the marrying kind, so, no matter how much you can or can’t take in love, it wouldn’t have made any difference.  OR, when I married you I was in a trance and then it sort of seemed okay for a while, and then all those kids came and I was distracted.  But now we’re done, you know what I mean?  OR, don’t let’s forget all the hormones that kicked in during all those pregnancies and possibly distorted all emotions.
Do I care about you, do I not care about you, what does it matter?  I live far away.  Most days, I handle life on my own and you handle life on your own.  We’re not each other’s problem anymore.  Of course I said none of this. It wouldn’t be polite, to say the least, and would have caused resentment as the truth often does.
Some might see this as a cold, unfeeling analysis of our lives. But let me just remind you that we all want to hit it out of the ballpark and how can we do that if we let all the misguided sentimental untruths keep us in perpetual dawdling.  Many of my favorite lines come from Gone With The Wind and the adjective “mealy mouthed” uttered by Scarlett and the opinion “it ain’t fittin’” uttered by Mammy, come to mind.  I don’t want to be mealy mouthed when I explain my emotional life. It ain’t fittin’.   I cry sometimes and I can even sob but usually it’s when I think how the boys will feel when I die.   Maggie will be sad but it won’t crush her.  As for my marriage?  I don’t know what that was all about.  I really don’t. And maybe I don’t need to know.
You have only to remember Willa Cather’s My Mortal Enemy where there’s a realization at the end of life that the person you’ve been living with is your mortal enemy.   And suppose the person is you?  Of course it’s you.  Now that I think about it, it has to be you.  That’s why you have to take care of these things while you still have a chance.  You don’t want your dying words to be, “Oh, bummer! The murderer?   It was me all along.”
When the ‘can’t take in love’ conversation is over my mouth tastes as if I’ve been sucking a lead pipe. Thank god, the Dubai rep calls with a million questions that I am happy to answer.
By the next morning, I’m all moody and stuck.  Even the new dollars in my brokerage account don’t dispel the blues.  I was no better than The Manchurian Candidate when I got married.  I had a chip inside me that was like a homing missile.
       I found and married the man of my dreams – a tall Presbyterian professional.  I am really annoyed that I had no clarity to make the choice.  I think I had no sense of safety.  Yes, I’m sure that’s it.  Back then, women had no sense of safety unless they were married. 

Thursday, November 22, 2012

"These five foods will......"

Just in time for Thanksgiving, I'm re-running this post

I grit my teeth. According to my dentist, I grit my teeth all night. What’s that all about? Am I trying to open a tight-lidded jar of pickles every night? My dentist says gritting your teeth is like putting 20,000 lbs of pressure on your jaws. Really? It’s the same as if a cement truck with enough live cement to re-pave I-95 just landed on my sweet rounded jaw?

Why does everyone want to scare us? Every day, Facebook and Yahoo present health and nutrition news that will keep you sleepless (at least you won’t grit). I’ve read all of the “These five foods will.....” warning stories. Spoiler alert: the answer is always bananas, sugar, anything made of white flour, carrots and dried fruit. Bananas are apparently champions for promoting belly fat. If you have belly fat don’t even wear anything from Banana Republic. The Acai berry (a frequent visitor on my Yahoo page) sucks the fat right out of you while you watch Bravo. You are so full of energy you bounce around like a ping pong ball. Alas the berry is controlled by thugs that sell fake or diluted Acai. Resveratrol is the answer to everything and it’s in red wine. (Yipee!) Wild salmon and blueberries are also the answer to everything. Wild salmon, by the way, is $24 a pound and blueberries are $4 per 8 ozs.

I have a mouth guard for the gritting problem. When I remember to insert it I look like an extra from Planet of the Apes because it pushes the upper part of my mouth out. I think about all of this when I’m in the shower. Water promotes deep thinking. As little Edith Anne used to say “ and that’s the truth.”

Monday, November 19, 2012

Homemaking smugness is knocking at my door

This morning, I only wanted to eat last night’s leftover spaghetti but instead I was proactive. I delayed a short-term reward and washed curtains.  There’s nothing that makes a room look fresher than clean white curtains. I took down the basketweave linen curtains in the living room and the percale curtains in the bedroom and threw them in the washer.  Just to fill the space I added white socks and two towels.

Homemaking smugness was going to be knocking at my door.  

When the washer stopped, I took one linen curtain out of the washer. Something was wrong. I thought I was the victim of Dante’s Inferno Washing Hell also known as - somebody’s pocket was full of Kleenex and now a million bits of tissue are distributed all over the clothes. I felt what I can only describe as a mini stroke.  You stand stone still and stare while your brain looks through the files for a solution. But wait.  This couldn’t be Kleenex because nothing in the wash had pockets.  It had to be something else.  Darn you beautiful linen basketweave curtains that let in a muted contemplative sunlight and yet deliver privacy.  Darn you subtly textured linen that was just waiting to dissolve into fuzzy gunk that would collect in clumps too numerous to approach but drop like confetti on my kitchen floor.   I could vacuum the curtains but I have to wait until they dry or I might electrocute myself.

Repeat that joyful moment five times for all the other curtains and the towels.  Forget the socks.  I could conceivably wear socks with linen clumps embedded in their cottony thickness.  (I love that word embedded).  The only good to come of this is a post for my voracious blog.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

this kind of untainted emotional comfort makes my head swim.

Two house painters entered my life last Thursday. They are careful and efficient and I'll continue to think about them after they leave.  I will pass the windows and doors that they’ve painted and feel satisfied. Tom, the head of the outfit starts telling me that he likes to read biographies and he has read the biographies of Jackie Gleason, Frank Sinatra and Jerry Lewis.  The Jerry Lewis biography, he says, was written by Jerry’s first wife Patty.  He says, “I like tangible.  I like to hold the book.” 

Tom shares tidbits from the biographies:  Gleason was not that nice. If you crossed Sinatra he would get revenge. The way Dean Martin’s son died, crashing into the mountain, was also the way Dolly Sinatra, Frank’s mother, died. Her plane crashed into the same mountain.   We all agree enthusiastically that Dean Martin was one of our favorites.  After a pause, the second painter, Joe,  tells us that one of his relatives had been Captain Kangaroo’s secretary and that she made good money.  We all try to remember Captain Kangaroo’s real name.

Joe is one of seven children and his father had been a steam fitter. “My father was a smart man”, he said, “and he worked hard.”  Joe, who lives with one of his brothers, is going to his sister’s house for Thanksgiving.  He and his brother are going to rent a car and drive down.   He said two of his sisters live next to each other in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. The thought of this kind of untainted emotional comfort makes my head swim.

These two painters have known each other forty years.   They work together without many words.  They stop to eat their sandwiches at 12:00 o’clock. Sometimes they don’t finish their sandwich and take it home to the dog.  The other morning, Joe said that after he ordered his tuna sandwich at the deli he had seen them carrying  in a freshly made meatloaf and he wished he had waited. Tom said, they could pick it up on the way home if he wanted. This morning, Tom, gave me half his breakfast sandwich.  He said he couldn’t finish it and he thought someone should eat it while it was still warm.  It was an egg with sausage and cheese on a soft roll. 

Tom and Joe leave the radio on while they work except toward the end of the day when it gets very quiet.  All you hear is the occasional rasp of the sandpaper and the swish of a brush.

Sometimes, about an hour or two into the day, I stand on the ground while Tom is on a ladder and we talk more show business.  We talk about Ella Fitzgerald and Mel Tormé.  He says he really liked Tom Cruise in The Last Samurai.  We agree that even though Tom Cruise can act a little crazy we like him.  I am so happy that I can be sincere with the men and that I know all of their references. 

On a trip inside the house for water, Joe tells me that his family moved to Long Island from Westchester after he was burned.  Then he tells me how badly he was burned and shows me the places where the grafts were placed.  He says he received the Last Rites and crosses himself twice.

When I’m inside, they look around my yard and at the neighboring houses. Tom tells me, “You’ve got a big pot of parsley growing, did you know?”  I didn’t.  “I’ll bring it in for you.”  And there it is, a big healthy pot of parsley that has self-seeded and grown silently.   I ate the big green leaves all day. “Look I spilled a drop of paint here but don’t worry,” he says when he’s ready to leave.  “I can pick it out with this tool when it dries.” It’s been a while since I’ve met people like this.

I think to myself, what is a better life than this? What is a better life than working with your friend of forty years and seeing that your work makes a difference at the end of the day? What is better than knowing you have survived a terrible event but look, you’re still here and you will be driving to your sister’s house with your brother for Thanksgiving dinner?  I would not mind if these two men came to my house all the time.  I like to hear them talking.  I like to talk to them.  I like to know what they are thinking and that everything is okay.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Stop Waiting

"Give up waiting as a state of mind. When you catch yourself slipping into waiting...snap out of it. Come into the present moment. "(Practicing The Power of Now page 53) Eckhart Tolle

Help comes from everywhere if you recognize it.  The other morning one of my children called about Thanksgiving and in passing she mentioned that on Eckhart Tolle’s tweet that day he had said to give up waiting.  That morning I was waiting for workmen that had been absent too long and knew instantly that this was my message. Stop waiting.  Stop waiting for anything.

Waiting always has an underlay of anxiety. Will the phone ring? Will the e-mail come. Will the check come? Waiting to move into a new house. Waiting to sell a house. Waiting to give birth to a baby.  Waiting for test results. Waiting to lose weight to start living Waiting in line, etc. etc.   Waiting  - the mental state of waiting - is useless and often thwarts the thing we’re waiting for.  I’ve always believed that good news comes in moments of unawareness. Get engrossed in something else. Distract yourself. Give up the “waiting” state of mind.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

"Bless me father for I have sinned."

I was born a catholic and attended convent boarding schools most of my young life. I attended Sacred Heart in Washington D.C., St. Mildred’s Academy in Laurel Maryland and St. Angela Hall in Rockville Maryland, a very fancy school where we had horses, our own vegetable plot and took our lessons in drawing rooms.  In these schools, we started the day with a mass and communion before breakfast.  On Thursdays, we had a 4:00 p.m. meditation during which we would sit and do nothing in front of the Eucharist for what seemed like four years.  During these meditations, a nearby dog would start to howl sending us into convulsive hysterics that we had to hide.  There was a Holy Roller Church down the road and we could also hear their excitable songs and shouts drifting over the Maryland hills.

I learned to sing the mass in Latin and occasionally read the “lesson” during mass.
We never saw the nuns in anything but full habits that were long and made a particular noise (a swish) accompanied by the slight click of long rosary beads bouncing against each other. Their faces were framed by the starched white wimples.

At age seven we got to receive the wafer that we were told was Jesus. We swallowed it whole without daring to chew.    It was the body and blood of Christ.  At nine, the bishop came to confirm us and part of the ceremony was to kiss his ring and get a slap on the cheek when His Grace gave us our confirmation name. We couldn’t wait to get slapped.  We also got to pick a confirmation name and we all chose Mary or Marie. My full name could be Consuelo Mary Saah.

Every Saturday Father Breen would hear our confessions and even at seven and eight we had to collect and itemize our sins - the only sins we knew were lying, stealing, bad thoughts.  If we didn’t lie or steal all week, we would say we did just to have a decent confession. “Bless me father for I have sinned.  I told three lies, I stole a piece of candy and I had a bad thought about my friend.”  Father Breen gave us all the same penance: “One Our Father and a Hail Mary and ask God’s forgiveness. 

I was reminded of all this recently when I read that Pope Benedict XVI canonized 7 persons making them saints. If you think the epitome of slowness is the line at the DMV, canonization is slower.  One of the new saints has been “on hold” since the 17th century.

Here are the steps that must be followed in the process of canonization: evidence of heroic virtue, evaluation of the candidate’s life and (the clincher) two Vatican verified posthumous miracles.  I was very interested to find out what some of these “verified miracles” were.

St. Teresia Benedicta was canonized in 1997 after the Vatican verified that a young girl who ate seven times the lethal dose of Tylenol was suddenly cured after her family prayed to the spirit of Teresia.
Mother Teresa is in the canonization process. Here are her miracles:
1. A woman who broke several ribs in an accident was healed because she was wearing a Mother Teresa medallion.
2. Mother Teresa appeared in the dreams of a Palestinian girl telling her that her cancer was cured.

There’s no doubt that these were good and holy women but next to the miraculous antics that take place on the internet every day, I think the Vatican is going to have take it up a notch.

I still go to church occasionally but I have a lot of trouble with the handholding and hand shaking and talking and the mediocre english translation of the latin.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

I was never so happy to see 5 a.m.

Here’s what happens when you lose power for eight days.

On the first day you go about your business - hey wait there is no business because the internet is down.  It 's  2012 - they have systems in place, don't they?  We would have power in a couple of hours. I put all the food in the freezer,  got out the flashlights, a few candles, a few books, no big deal.  By six, it was getting dark.  Twelve dark hours stretched ahead of me.  I tried to read by candlelight and then flashlight but I couldn’t concentrate.  I got out the transistor radio and listened to “talk radio.”  Talk radio is all about political extremes.  The only station I could get came from Connecticut and the host was an Obama basher.  He kept bashing and bashing.
I turned off the radio and there was nothing to do but think.
I found out that thinking is overrated.  Thinking is awful.  I realized I hadn’t thought in a long time and liked it that way.
I tried to stop thinking and pay attention to my breathing.
I finally fell asleep. 
I woke up two hours later fully rested.
After a long, long time I fell asleep again and woke at 5 a.m.
I was never so happy to see 5 a.m.

On day three I opened the refrigerator and the stench punched me.
I got a big black garbage bag and placed all the food into it.
When the refrigerator was empty I noticed that things had spilled into it over the years.  Red things had spilled into it and also green and brown things. The spills had fossilized.  I was happy to have a legitimate chore and began to scrub the refrigerator.  After a couple of hours, the refrigerator looked beautiful - white, clean and empty.  I yearned to decorate the refrigerator with new food but that was the road to madness.  
I began to dust books in the bookshelves with a small brush.  This was not as satisfying as the refrigerator so I abandoned the project.

After eight days of this life The Stockholm Syndrome set in. This psychological phenomenon is also known as capture-bonding in which hostages express empathy and have positive feelings towards their captors (in this case LIPA).
I was still looking down the street for LIPA trucks but I was also wishing for the power to stay away so I could live this simple, media-free life.
I raked leaves, visited the library, cleaned out the silverware drawer, organized my socks. I was decoding Fifty Shades of Humility prior to joining an order of nuns.

On Sunday, all persons who had been around to commiserate had returned to their lives and I was alone.  There was a rhythm to my day and I succumbed to the absence of electricity and put it out of my mind.   As is always the case, the moment I gave in to “what was” the situation reversed.  Help came from the Hawkeye State, Iowa’s nickname. I drove down my street on Monday evening and saw two big trucks.  On the side it said Hawkeye Electric.  Iowa is also known as The Corn State because it produces one-fifth of the world’s corn crop.  It is also known as “Land of The Rolling Prairie” because of the vast rolling prairies that cover the state.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

I can hyperlink

The Novice Approach

When I put out a boxed set of four titles, I thought I could just make a file with one book following the other separated by page breaks.  It seemed logical. I looked in the mirror and said: You are one smart cookie.  I announced this new project to my local group, The Indie Chicks, and the chicks weighed in with opinions and suggestions.   After about half an hour which is the time frame needed for hurtful truths to seep into my brain, I realized that I was a naive and ignorant slut.  A "boxed set" was not just an e-book with several titles.

The Slow Awakening
The first suggestion from an Indie Chick :  Don't name it "Boxed Set," stupid,  because it will get buried in all the other boxed sets. Call it Consuelo Saah Baehr's Boxed Set or something else.

The second suggestion:  Are you inserting a cover picture at the beginning of each book?  This makes it look more professional. (I hate it when people say something makes it look more professional because it  involves hiring a professional and receiving invoices.)

The third suggestion:  If you provide cover pictures of each book, you had better compress the image.  If your file is too big, you will get a bunch of one-star reviews from customers with cheap e-readers who can't access the entire file and will start cursing you and your stupid books.   I've attached a whole slew of crappy one-star reviews for you to read in case you think I'm being overly cautious. You do know how to insert and compress a picture in a doc file, don't you?  Huh?

The fourth suggestion:  If you provide a Table of Contents - and if you don't you're stupid - your Table of Contents should have hyperlinked titles so readers are able to click on a title and immediately get to the desired place instead of scrolling around and cursing you and your stupid books trying to find it.   In case you think I'm being overly cautious, here are some one-star reviews given for this reason.  You do know how to hyperlink, don't you? Huh?

The Hard Won Outcome - or sometimes Google and U-Tube are not the answer.
Inserting a picture in a word doc turned out to be easy. Use the "insert" prompt and select picture from the menu and then select "from file." This will take you to the list of pictures you have stored on your desktop or elsewhere and you can click on the selection and open.

Compressing a picture - or learning how to compress a picture turned out to be impossible because every version of WORD has different menu options and all of the instructions I found were for versions other than mine.  I could have right-clicked for three years and never seen a menu that offered the simple words "compress file."  Even my own toolbar "Help" option was so vague they might have said: "take two eggs and whip them until frothy" that's how un-helpful it was.  The cover pictures remain uncompressed. I think Calibre, my conversion program, compresses everything when it converts files.  I hope so.

The hyperlinking odyssey.  There are many Google pages of tutorials in hyperlinking and many of them give instructions on how to hyperlink sections in a doc file to the table of contents.   There is not a single tutorial that gives those instructions for my version of Word.  I tried for three days to hunt down a tutorial where I could recognize my particular menu options.  I did trial and error hoping to trick my Word program into doing what I needed.  I never got those lovely underlined blue words that spell hyperlinking success.  Last night, I got out of bed at midnight and tried again to find a way to hyperlink.  My boxed set was live on Amazon and although no one had bought it, there might be a sale at any time.  That poor soul would have a hard time navigating the titles.

At midnight, my google search took me to an Amazon kindle authors forum discussion and right there (God - he called himself Derek) posted a numbered tutorial on how he had achieved Table of Contents hyperlinking success and it perfectly matched my Word menu options.  I tried it, I did it, I achieved the blue underlined words and when clicked they took me to the intended spot.  I uploaded the file to see if it would retain its hyperlinking ability when it got to the Kindle and it did.  As Truman Capote said: "dizzy with happiness is no mere phrase."

One other small triumph:  Recently I uploaded all of my titles on the Kobo platform. Today I went there to see if there were any sales.  For almost a month it has said: 0 sales and $0.00 amount earned.  You are a loser. Today it said 2 sales, $4.18 earned and country of sale is New Zealand.  I love the internet.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Consuelo Saah Baehr Library, Vol. 1 (boxed set)

That title sounds really pretentious but I don't mind. I have a friend who built a house and called it "The Library."  The main room looks like a library in a castle with shelves to the ceiling and rolling ladders. I've had to leave my sensitivities by the door because the internet is pretentious, the book jackets are flamboyant, the subject matter often frivolous but if you want to play the game you've got to get off that darn high horse and get your content out there.

With that disclaimer, I have decided to create a "boxed set" of four titles for the modest price of $4.50. If bought separately, the books would cost $9.00.  My talented daughter created a gorgeous cover showing the spines of the books and we used the over-the-top cover of "Thinner Thighs In Thirty Years," (my Kindle Single), as the cover for the set.  I stayed up half the night figuring out how to insert the book covers before each title and compress them. The instructions for compressing a file are almost impossible to follow and I finally gave up and just inserted the covers in their original size.  My royalty will be lower because of the increased file size but at some point, I decided to let it go.

I'm relating this vignette because it is an instance where I took action before the Christmas season and tried a new marketing maneuver.  I was proactive - something that was not previously in my nature.  I've learned a lot from my on line community - a generous inventive group of people who help each other without hesitation.   D.D. Scott is the person who put me on to boxed sets.  D.D. divulges everything about her publishing experience down to how much she earns on each of her titles and at each retailer.  She will give you detailed instructions on how she created her audio books, how much it cost and how much she earns from them. She divulges everything.

The group I belong to is called The Indie Chicks.  The Chicks live all over the world but a simple request post from one of us will rouse the rest out of their nests in a matter of minutes.

I'll let you know how it goes with Consuelo Saah Baehr Library, vol.1.  I'm thinking when someone gifts a Kindle they will want to fill it with books and perhaps a boxed set.  If you can think of a better title, please give it to me.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

"Hello...are you there?" "Yes."

I've been neglecting this title and today I decided to showcase Nothing to Lose with an excerpt.  The Times Literary Supplement review had this charming line: "Pert, pithy and very New York.  Full of the admirable offhand observations of an unfooled eye."  It's available for the Nook and the Kindle.
(set up:  At the worst possible time in her life, April has to deal with a blind date sent by a friend who is riding high on the upwardly mobile elevator)
One night in late summer, the telephone rang and a voice April had never heard, high but self-assured, asked if she was April Taylor.
“My name is Bob Waller.”  There was a moment of silence.  “I’m calling at Sylvie’s suggestion.  I’m recently separated and she said you were in the same boat.”  Again a long silence that she didn’t feel obligated to fill. “Hello…are you there?”
“Yes.”  Another silence.
“Well, are you?”
“Am I what?”
“In the same boat?”
She had a vivid picture of herself and Bob Waller in a flimsy rowboat, in the middle of the ocean, wearing business clothes.  Yet she felt no responsibility to be friendly and helpful.  Sylvie had no idea how fat she’d become.  This man would show up at her door and faint.  What could she tell him: I’m very fat, can you take it?  “I guess,” she finally answered Bob Waller.
“I have a little boy who spends the weekends with me.  How about you?”
“How about me what?”
“Do you have children?”  He asked hopefully.  He would be disappointed if she were any less emotionally stranded than he.
This made him thoughtful and silent.  So what?  He was the one who wanted to row out of the harbor of loneliness into the port of togetherness. She considered offering him this metaphor but decided against it because she could feel herself seething with anger.  Why?  What did she have against this stranger?
“Well…uh, I was wondering if maybe we could go out or something.” Her slow, dim-witted delivery had appealed to him.  She could hear the eagerness in his voice.
“I don’t know.”  She wound the telephone cord around her wrist.
“I know it’ll be awkward, but you’ve got to start somewhere.”
You don’t have to start with me.  “How long have you been separated?”
“Three months.”
“That recent?”  It was just something to say but he took it as a criticism.
“You think that’s too recent?  It seems kind of long to me.  How long have you been separated?”
“I’m divorced.  I’ve been divorced for seven months but I haven’t been living with my husband for a year.”
Long silence.  “Well, what do you think?  You think we can go out and see what turns up?  Come on, it’ll be good for you.  I know it’ll be good for me.”
“I’m not in such great shape.”
“Who is?”
“It’s been a long time.  Don’t expect much.”
“I won’t.”
“I mean really don’t expect much.  Dating is the last thing on my mind….Look, if you just want someone to talk to, we can talk on the phone.”
“Stop worrying.  It’ll be all right.  We’re two adults, two battered souls. We know what the score is.”
For a moment she wanted to accept.  He was patient and kind.  “All right.”
“Sylvie said you were a lot of fun.”  He waited for her to confirm this. “Are you a lot of fun?”
“Oh, sure.  A laugh a minute.”
“ So how about tomorrow night?”
She gave him the address and hung up.  Right away she was sorry she’d said yes.  Which one did she hate more, Sylvie or Bob Waller?  Why did Sylvie still consider her a friend?  They hadn’t seen each other for almost two years.  Sylvie, with all her reversible clothes from Talbot’s, was a stranger.  Now she was going out with a stranger, as a favor to another stranger.  He would fall down the stairs and kill himself when he saw her.  It would serve them both right.
After the call, she was starving.  She opened a can of Old El Paso tamales.  She was crazy for the taste of corn.  Doritos, Fritos, all those corn-y snacks were high on her list.  The tamales were standing erect in their cornhusk envelopes, five stiff soldiers.  She fished one out, shook off the sauce and ate it in two bites.  Bits of reddish fat clung to her fingers and she decided to heat the rest.  When she finished the tamales, she wished there were more and debated whether it was worth going out to get another couple of cans.  No.  Her ribs hurt, something new that had cropped up.  There was a bursting, wrenching pain that began when she sat on a soft chair or slept on her side.  She got up to bind herself with a scarf and stubbed her toe.  She cursed, brushed her teeth twice to get rid of the sauce taste that clung to her mouth and went to bed.
That night she dreamt she had a new apartment in an Art Deco building.  She kept finding new hidden spaces that she hadn’t been aware of before.  The apartment was empty and she was anticipating the fun of furnishing it from scratch when she noticed a huge, old couch, hogging almost all the space.

Either out of nervousness or momentary blindness, or because he was still in shock from having his wife walk out on him, Bob Waller didn’t show by word or expression that there was anything unusual in his blind date. She wore a silk shirtwaist in size 20 with a self-sash that she considered leaving off.  It was colored in what the fashion world called ice cream stripes.  At the last minute she added hoop earrings.  She had blow-dried her hair into a careless, no-part disarray of waves and curls.  Her green eyes looked restless and feverish because of a light tan acquired on the previous weekend.  If you didn’t stray below the neck, she looked pretty.
He appeared to have planned and timed the evening and picked her up at 7:00 for a 7:30 dinner reservation at a restaurant on the West Side. As they walked along 34th street looking for a cab, she realized he was trying to look at her when he thought she wasn’t looking at him.  But that was crazy.  She was an expert in pretending not to be looking when she knew people were looking at her.
She found Bob Waller handsome in a babyish way, with round cheeks, round eyes and a heavy, labored gait that didn’t go with his slim, tall body. She said as little as possible, waiting for the more relaxed atmosphere of a dimly lit restaurant to get acquainted.
The Café Lyon was small and narrow and cozy, accommodating about twenty tables.  “They serve everything on one plate here.  Very unpretentious,” he said with the proprietary air of a longtime customer. “The food’s terrific.  I always drink the house wine.  It’s Sebastiani.  See that woman, she’s the manager.  The French make good businesswomen. Tough as nails, but very proud.  They use the best ingredients and if you complain they get annoyed.
“How do you know?  Did you complain?”
“Me?  No, I love everything.  There was a man who sent back a lamb chop because it was too pink and she had a fit.  He said he had asked for it medium and she said that was medium, and in any case, the meat was choice and the chop would be ruined if it was put back in the fire.  It would be dry and tasteless.  Then she said a lot of other angry things in French to the waiter.”
“What happened to the idea that the customer is always right?”
“Oh, she was right.  Don’t you think?”
“No.  The man should have walked out.  And maybe tossed the lamp chop around a little.”
He was disappointed and she saw him reassessing the evening. Might she throw something around?  She made a conciliatory gesture. “Why don’t you tell me about your marriage?”  After all, he was spending good money to take her to dinner.
He perked up at once and motioned the waiter and asked for some white wine while they decided what to order.  “Is white all right?”
As the waiter was leaving, he changed his mind.  “Uh…make that a vodka gimlet.”  The waiter looked questioningly to April.
“I’ll stick with the wine,” she said.
“My wife was a very pretty woman, he said by way of a preamble. “She was the sort of person who had to always be going someplace where she could put her prettiness to work.  You know what I mean?”  April did and nodded.  He had described his wife very concisely.  “Well, after a while, a marriage settles in.  You can’t always be going places.  Anyway, she became restless. Very restless.  She used to tap her fingernails on any surface.  Tap, tap, tap, while she was waiting for the bacon to cook for my son and me or while she was waiting to add the softener to the wash cycle. Tap, tap, tap.  She was very edgy, but I never dreamed she would leave. She walked out…just like Joanna Kramer.”
“Joanna Kramer?”
“Yes.  Ted Kramer’s wife.  You know the movie Kramer vs. Kramer? Well, it was just like that with me.  I could be Ted Kramer except that my wife took the kid with her. Also, I’m not in advertising.  Also, I’m not the Class A jerk that Ted Kramer was.  I didn’t neglect my wife or work long hours, but it was the same basic situation.  I married a girl who was too pretty for me and she got restless.  There was no place for her to put her prettiness to work and she was afraid it would all be gone and she’d have nothing to show for it.”
April was surprised at her lack of sympathy.  “What was your wife’s name?”
“Why do you ask?”
“Why do you ask everything in that suspicious tone of voice?  It’s not information I can sell or anything like that.  I just want to picture the woman you’re talking about.  This callous, adventurous woman.  Is it Ramona Waller? Or Elizabeth Waller or Cynthia?  It helps to know.”  Actually, she thought Mrs. Waller was smart and brave.
“Ooooo, Samantha.”  She bobbed her head up and down as if she now understood everything.  “There were a few years where everyone was naming their girls Samantha after Katherine Hepburn’s role in some movie. Her parents must have been high-class.”  Why had she said that?  She really didn’t think that.
“Yes.  Yes, they were.”  He was appreciative of her deductive powers.
“But how can you compare your life to a movie?  Kramer vs. Kramer was full of shit.  Just good old Hollywood craperoo.”  She knew that was not herself talking.  It was Don.  She was talking and behaving like Don.
“Why do you say that?”  He was startled by her language.
“Why do I say that?  Because there’s no way Dustin Hoffman could have a kid that looked like the kid in the movie.  Even with a mother like Meryl Streep.  And, for another thing, he was too frenetic.  The first fifteen minutes of that movie, where he tries to make French toast and does everything wrong…how could you believe anything after that?  I was glad she left him.”
Bob Waller looked at her in a funny way.  As if she might be glad his wife had left him, too.  As if he were taking out the enemy instead of someone who could offer him succor.  Fortunately, the waiter showed up and they ordered the food.
“My quarrel with Ted Kramer was that he treated Joanna like a piece of furniture.  He marries this gorgeous superior person and then expects her to be satisfied to wash his socks.”
“That’s not too hard to understand,” said April.  “My husband thought I was born to wash his socks, and you know what?  I did, too.  My husband was perfect. A perfect person.”  Right after she said that, she realized for the first time that Harald was not perfect.  That she might not even choose him again even if she could.  This sudden reversal so engaged her, she wanted to stop talking and think about it.  Bob Waller looked bored.  He didn’t want to hear about her marriage.
“Look,” he said, pointing to the end of the bar where the lady manager was sitting on a stool, “that man.  I think he’s her boyfriend.  When he shows up, she shuts up.”  The man was leafing through the receipts in a surly way.
“Maybe he’s the manager.”
“No.  He might own it, but she runs the show.”
There was nothing for her to say.  He seemed to get a second wind and told her about his childhood.  He had been an altar boy at St. Thomas the Apostle Church.  He was originally from Boston.  Boylston Street. Georgetown University was his college.  Then, he, too, was at the end of his vivaciousness and looked nervously around the small room.  Their food came and they ate it.  April said it was delicious.  She was tired of acting like Don.
“Where do you work?” she asked.  A guarded look came over his face, as if she was going to show up at his office and call him sweetie.  It was true.  When you were fat, people expected underhanded behavior.  If you were capable of being fat, you were capable of anything.
Her feet were beginning to tingle, as were parts of her thighs.  Of late, she had been losing sensation in different parts of her body, as if sections were going to sleep or the blood supply couldn’t penetrate all the fat.  When she thought her circulation was about to give up, she became alarmed. She bought a detailed body atlas put out by Hammond, the map people, so she could see how it all worked.  She often studied it, tracing her own blood out of the heart, into the lungs, back to the heart, out the arteries, to the capillaries where the nutrients were extracted, drained by the veins and then, the used, tired blood going back to the heart to be replenished again. It was the used, tired blood part that got her.  Was it too used and too tired to take the journey again?
The ice cream had separated in her dish.  Bob Waller looked tired. Little beads of perspiration had formed on his upper lip.  There was a pointlessness to the evening that gave her a headache.  She felt more sorry for him than for herself.  Did he know as an altar boy in Boston that his life would take such a turn?  As he was learning his ethics from the Jesuits, did he suspect he would have to cope with the faithless Samantha and then attempt to lift the leaden stone of rejection off his chest by calling a faceless stranger connected to him by the fragile thread of coincidence and Sylvie Straight, nee Beck?  Sylvie, who now wore wraparound skirts and short-sleeve cotton lisle shirts with repeating patterns of strawberries or smiling frogs, who had been elected treasurer of the Episcopal Women of Ardsley, New York.  Oy vey.
She decided to go to the bathroom.  It would give her legs and feet something to do.  It would give Bob Waller some privacy to fall apart and it would give her a chance to pee, which she badly needed to do.
The bathroom was small and not altogether clean The door had a hook latch that rattled when anyone walked by.  She looked for a place to hang her pocketbook and finally placed it in the sink.  She sat down on the toilet.  Immediately there was a loud snapping sound.  My god, what was that?  The seat had broken.  She jumped, startled and the sudden release of pressure on the seat made the two pieces come together again catching the flesh of her under thigh.  Now the pieces seemed cemented together with the glue of her blood and skin.  Some blood began to collect on the dirty white tile floor.  She let out a cry of pain and fear.