In the mud

The Daily Life Text

I have read a lot of words these past few days, working on the local paper doing some copy-editing and writing for them, and then reading a working draft for a friend of mine. Busy is good, but the past few weeks have left me with very little inspiration for my own work, or even my essays, which are due in a work or so for the MFA applications.

So here’s a photo dump.

We went home on the 22nd for the hols and spent the night before going back to Claremont with my brother and his fiancee, Laura, making sugar cookies.

They were not the most perfectly shaped things:

Xmas trees, not shrubs.
Xmas trees, not shrubs.

And then we frosted ’em.

finishApparently I enjoyed myself.

pigI also got smacked down for making this cookie, which was, in Laura’s words, “Not your best work, Yi Shun.” Hmph.

To be fair, Laura added the weird white drizzling.
To be fair, Laura added the weird white drizzling.

Then we went home to Squaremont on the 23rd. We went to the Rancho Santa Ana Botanical Garden, where I’d only been once before. I thought it absolutely gorgeous. There is something really magical about a desert garden and the sheer variety of desert plants.

I've forgotten what this is.
I've forgotten what this is.
This is a manzanita berry shrub. Isn't it gorgeous?
This is a manzanita berry shrub. Isn't it gorgeous?
Winter sage, paired with manzanita berries. Love the contrast!
Winter sage, paired with manzanita berries. Love the contrast!
Fishbowl!
Fishbowl!

My town is best known for Mt. Baldy, which serves as our everyday backdrop and has nice bowl skiing when it’s not dusty and dry out. I haven’t been there in years, but the view of it is always in my head.

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Adrianna spent the night on Christmas Eve (we banished mom to the living room and Jim, Adri and I cooked). Mom got drunk later. I didn’t get nearly drunk enough.

testing the tonality of her wine glasses.
testing the tonality of her wine glasses.

We had a very active Christmas Day. We all exchanged presents and then we went for a walk in the hills with like, a gazillion other people who all had the same idea.

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My parents look like bookend penguins in this photo. adorable. I look like a treetrunk.

And then we picked up Kara and went to Laguna Beach to sample some incredible Japanese food. First we had more exercise in the form of a nice walk along the beach.

I love this photo! Two of my favorite people are smiling!
I love this photo! Two of my favorite people are smiling!

When we finally got back to New York, our friend Dave was happily ensconced in our place awaiting our arrival. Then Dave left and Jody arrived. We spent a lot of time doing this:

sitting on the couch in our PJs, I mean, not picking at split ends.
sitting on the couch in our PJs, I mean, not picking at split ends.

And then there was New Year’s Eve. Alan and Helene came up to a very loud place in White Plains. We ate a lot of food and had some margaritas and then we exited the madness, but not before this photo was taken.

NYE2And then the next day we went to Jen’s for a New Year’s Day party

NYD

And I think that’s quite enough photos for today, don’t you think? Meh.

Lost: Mo, size large.

The Daily Life Text

Sigh.
I do hate losing my mo. One of my favorite lines to trot out about having chosen writing as a career is that you can find inspiration in whatever you do or say. You wake up every day knowing that something is going to strike you as worthy. Everyone has something to offer you. It’s a very lucky thing, knowing that you’ve got that on your side. Inspiration’s not a problem. It’s motivation that’s the issue, motivation to get up and outside and look for inspiration. You don’t find it in a cubicle, although a good friend mentioned the other day that I am the type of person who would do better in a box, entirely closed up, if I am to really focus. Sigh.
Take today, for instance. We went to bed last night at a reasonable hour and I decided that this week was going to be the week that I get back to being physically fit. Yes, yes, I really have done nothing since Ironman. I did this jog on Monday:
mapgrab
and it took me FOREVER. I ran the loop six times, for a total mileage of 1.8 miles, and it took me 21 minutes. Argh. Speed isn’t really an issue–I’ve become quite pokey since I started distance training, and I’m okay with that–really, really–but what I was really struck by was how much my legs ached on Tuesday.
At any rate, I thought, OK, let’s just get back on the bandwagon, do cardio three days a week this week: Wednesday you’ll do the same loop six more times, maybe 7, do the same thing on Friday. By week two you should be working out six days a week, strength training on the days you don’t run.
Guess what? It’s Wednesday. I have not yet gone for my jog. Later, though, later.
The weekend was strange. Friday night I took Jim to Horsefeathers with Peggy, since he’d never been. We got home kind of late for my 5:15 wake-up call to get to the U.N. in time for U.N.-Rotary Day. It was a nice day representing ShelterBox, but I ran, as predicted, on all six cylinders that day and was totally wasted by the time I got home for dinner with Kate. Still, it was awesome to see her, and nicer still to have yet another friend in our home.
We didn’t take any photos with Kate (why not? why not? morons!), but I’ve been charged with a Flat Stanlina until after Thanksgiving, and she got her photo taken at the U.N.
yi@un
Lucky girl.
I spent all over Sunday on the couch. Totally exhausted. It was a gorgeous day, and I read Wuthering Heights and watched the BBC film version, which was unexpectedly moving.
Anyway. So here I am, flabby and unexercised. In other news, though, I’m finally beginning to wrap my head around finishing my applications for the MFA programs I applied for (really, it’s just sending in manuscripts and essays and things), I wrote close to 3000 words yesterday for NaNoWriMo, I just found out my good friend Jody is going to be Chicago the same time I am over Thanksgiving, and I think I am *this* close to convincing my brother that he needs to come out early for Christmas so we can have some quality time before the holidays take over.
I think I might actually have most of my shopping & making-stuff (I do hate the word “crafting,” don’t you?) done, too, believe it or not. Most of it.
Here’s a gratuitous photo of the United Nations building. I’ve always loved this building. It’s due to be gutted, though, because it’s way out of honking code. Asbestos and everything.
U.N.bldg
I forgot: Flat Stanlina and I had coffee together. She ate most of my egg sandwich, the little so-and-so. coffeeandsandwich
More writing now. Some exercising later. Bleh. I have a horrible hankering, by the way, to be back on Dartmoor. Wannh!
Shelterbox SRT Training 103

Eyeballs in my martini and the woes of a broken camera

The Daily Life Text

My, oh my, oh my.
How time does fly. We’ve done a lot in just a short week. I’ve mentioned our friends Colin, Carli, and Lily before. We went on that incredible Fat Tire Narnia trip with them? Right, anyway, Halloween kicked off a week early for us, as we met the Trues over in Sleepy Hollow for some good graveyard fun. Honestly, it was just us, walking (okay, first driving, ‘cos we weren’t clear on the concept of an unmarked parking lot) through the graveyard, visiting the graves of people more creative, more famous, wealthier than we are. This is where I really regretted not having a camera, since there were actually some really beautiful, very moving monuments to people. But it’s OK. Through the wonder of facebook, i have poached a photo taken by Carli that shows one of our favorites:
gravestone
I can’t remember who it was, but I’m going to have to just go back to the cemetery, maybe in winter, and take a few photos of my own.
There was one family that had some very good, very snarky epitaphs on their stones–one of my favorites said something about the adventure of a bargain.
Anyhow, we wandered through Sleepy Hollow for a bit, seeing with dismay that everything was closed on a Sunday, even brunch places and then we went on to Irvington and had lunch at Geordane’s, after which I promptly left my bag on a bench.
Oh well.
Fortunately, the people of Irvington are very nice folks and when we got home there was a message from the Irvington Police department saying that someone had found my entire bag and that I could pick it up whenever I wanted. People are good. When we returned to Irvington, we spotted this in a shop window:
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I really like the plastic-eyeballs in martini-glass detail:
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(That’s some innovative garnish.)
The rest of the week was spent inĀ  panicked preparation for our party, to which we were expecting 20, 25 people in our teeny tiny apartment. In the end, it all worked out OK–people hung out on the balcony and largely away from the over-lit kitchen. I tried to take some photos with my broken camera:
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our neighbor, blake. awesome, nice guy.
our neighbor, blake. awesome, nice guy.

And then I switched to Jim’s camera, which has uber-aggressive flash and does not show the spookiness of our black-lit, scary apartment.

our friend matt the banana.
our friend matt the banana.

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Really, really fun. We had a great time. I, by the way, was the only one who didn’t immediately guess what my friend Tom, who came in the LORD outfit with the FLIES pasted all over him, was. Argh. SO LAME.
I said it before, and I’ll say it again: I have awesome friends. Folks really got into the Halloween concept, and everyone seemed to either be drunk or having a good time. Snort!
And now, the view from my window lately:
DSC00402
In writing news, on Wednesday afternoon I hit a massive glitch in my most recent manuscript, freaked out, and sent in applications to three MFA programs. Why, yes! I am a spazz! Thank you for asking!
At any rate, the day after I’d paid all the application fees and sent away for my transcripts, I fixed the glitch and sent the novel off to my group, and then I had a ridiculously good HopBack beer and felt lighter than I’ve felt in months. I really like this manuscript, and think it has a good chance, but now I’ve got to wait a month until my critique group gets back to me with what they think.
Fortunately, it is now National Novel Writing Month. So this is what I’ll feel like for the rest of the month.
keyboardrage4ov
Also, I went back to the gym for the first time since Ironman. I guess that should read, “I did something with my body for the first time since Ironman,” ‘cos I haven’t been a gym rat in ages.
At any rate, it’s now gorgeous, gorgeous fall, and I can start looking forward to winter pursuits. Yay!
That’s it for now. I need to be better about keeping up this thing. I always feel better after I’ve posted. Lugging too many memories around in my very small brain can’t be good for me.

Crumbs in my keyboard…

The Daily Life Text

…bees in my bonnet.

I had a dream last night that Jim and I were in a triathlon. It was some kind of weird triathlon/adventure-racing hybrid, though, because there was underwater bush-whacking involved. My friend Pamela was there, for some reason, likely because she has been a huge champion of us during the Ironman thing and many of my previous cock-eyed projects (she is an Iron-peep herself), and do you know what?

I found out during this weird, epic race that I had not actually ever completed an Ironman. Of course, as dream thingys go, this one was in real-time, so I had already done all the things that are required when you finish a race: told your nearest and dearest, celebrated with your friends, blogged about it, told the local paper, notified the charity you’re raising money for that you’ve done it, so they can shout it from the rooftops…It was a horrible, sinking feeling. And then I thought of Pamela, waiting for us with her camera at the next TA, and my black heart sank way, way down to my bike shoes.

I did not know what to do, especially as Jim and I were getting ridiculed and laughed at by the race directors at this point in our Iron-AR, and we were neck-deep in swamp-weed, and it was nighttime.

I guess I did the only thing I could do: I woke up, feeling out-of-sorts and not remembering why until just now.

I think all of this has to do with my work-in-progress. No, no, my work(s)-in-progress. I have three, you see. THREE! One of them, a young-adult novel, I’ve been working on since 1999. That’s a decade ago. A lot has changed about this work, and it’s actually been to editors in its first incarnation (early 2004) and agents in its second (early 2006). So it’s not exactly staid. I personally think this last incarnation is the best. But I’m calling it a WIP because it’s missing an ending.

The reason it’s missing an ending is because I had it turned into my critique group, and so had stopped work on it, choosing to wait and see what they thought of the most recent turn of changes (I went from third person to first person) before I wrote the ending to it. We’re almost there. While WIP I (call it “YA Draft”) was out with the critique group. I started WIP II, which I’ll call, for lack of a better phrase, the Women’s Literature book. I quite like this novel. It’s complete in its story arc and just needs to be fine-tuned, and then I’ll send it out to a select list of agents. I’m not really looking forward to that. But it has to be done.

WIP III was a National Novel Writing Month project. It’s a middle-grade fantasy book that rotates around some talking animals and a man-eating cabbage. It’s the reason my dog, Sprocket, has his own Facebook page. (Someone said it was a good idea to exercise thinking the way I thought my animal characters might think.) I don’t know where that’s going, although it, too, is complete in that there is a beginning, middle, and end.

Anyway. So I think my terrible triathlon dream had to do with these three books, which are all sort of looming over my head. I’m almost done with the women’s book, which I like a lot, although I hesitate to classify it in that genre. I mean, it’s about a young woman, sure. But it’s not Maxine Hong Kingston, and it’s not Barbara Kingsolver, or Jodi Picoult. It’s my own work. It’s a little bit Jennifer-Weiner, I suppose, but only in that there’s some contemporary conflict.

So, according to my dream, the rub boils down to this: I’ve been telling people I’m a writer and that I’ve been working on some fiction. And I am, and I have been. Just Google me, you’ll see. But clearly, some part of me feels quite incomplete. Best get done with these things, then, before they end up doing me in with more dreams of incomplete aspirations. (“What? You mean I never actually graduated from college? Crap.”)

I think, too, that my brain has been on overdrive. I’ve been reading a lot of good work (see the “Stuff Other People Wrote” section for some choice reviews) and really enjoying the added inspiration. I suppose this restlessness might be partially post-race blues, but I think, also, I’ve long seen several things as being on my agenda. Ironman and becoming a part of the disaster-relief community have each been long-term goals over my life; now that I’ve accomplished those two goals; perhaps I am just telling myself that it’s time to move on with the rest of the stuff too. Dispense with the to-do list, in short order, as it were. And then? After that? Perhaps non-fiction. A guide to lifelong to-do lists.

At any rate, my horrible dream has left me feeling high-spirited. There is a lot of work to be done, and I am looking forward to it.

Here are some more photos from Schweiz.

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I think the way one building is built into another is hilarious.

I also love this teeny tiny church, perched on a ridge.
I also love this teeny tiny church, perched on a ridge.
I am nuts about this graffiti, too
I am nuts about this graffiti, too, found in an underpass in Lucerne
and just as nuts about this photo of me and Lara.
and just as nuts about this photo of me and Lara.
i like this one the best, though.
i like this one the best, though.

“Is this thing on?”

The Daily Life Text

My pal Mike Smith turned me onto a guy named David Allen, who does podcasts about Macs, and now, writers. He interviewed me about my work, the writing and the editing and all of the stuff that goes on around it.
It’s my first podcast. It’s very exciting. Thinking–and speaking–on the fly is very hard. Feedback, of course, is always welcome. Here’s the link. Big, big thanks to David, who was a lovely, kind interviewer–and an even kinder editor!

It’s no good, Capt’n, she’s fogged in!

The Daily Life Text

Today is one of those brilliant writing days. It’s raining like gangbusters, and I can hear the sound of the traffic on 287 because of the shusshing of the tires on the tarmac. When I finally took the time to look up from my work this morning I was shocked to see how foggy it was out, and how little I could see of the opposing hillside. I immediately opened my balcony door too see if it was just the rain on the window hindering my eyesight, and the briskness of the air outside had me pulling on a pair of fuzzy slippers right away. Fuzzy slippers! In summer!
It was not the rain on the window; I really was socked in all around.
As I type, a big boom of thunder has rattled my windows, and I’m happy I’m inside, pecking away on my computer. I’m also happy about the fact that I’ve decided to shelve my swim for today and double up on workouts tomorrow. It’s far too good of a writing day to waste on getting to the pool and back by bus and over an hour on swim.
What I’m not happy about, however, is the lack of overhead lighting in our little apartment. The grey day outside has made it obvious that I won’t be able to put off my big lighting purchase until after July, as I had planned.
I am in the market for an Arco lamp by Castiglioni. I have the name of a fairly reliable reproducer in Brooklyn, so I believe I will make that purchase sooner rather than later. I have wanted one of these lamps forever, so I think I will take advantage of the fact that we are going to be in Brooklyn this week, and pick it up. Boy, oh boy. Lighting.
arcomoma
Anyhow. It’s already 9:25. On to breakfast with the newspaper and then forward to more writing and reading. Forthcoming: a review of Elijah of Buxton, and some reading of the first book in the Faeries of Dreamdark series. And, of course, pecking pecking at the keyboard, trying to make my most recent story arc work.