So, I hope your holidays were happy with a minimum of stress (I know, I know, what planet am I living on, right?) As for me, I’m glad the holidays are over and the kids are back in school. I like routines. I like to know that I’m doing the same thing at the same time every day. Boring? Yeah, but that’s how I roll.
I usually don’t make arbitrary New Year’s resolutions, but I have decided to work on being a healthier person this year. Like drinking more water. Reducing carbs. Going to sleep early. I think I can do this because I know how rotten I felt in 2019 and I don’t want to repeat it. Feeling rotten impacts the most important aspect of my life -- my writing. (Human beings are important but in a different category.)
Without my health I can’t complete the dream which is publishing my books and finding readers who are excited about my work. I’d like to give up coffee too, but at this very moment I’m sitting in the coffee shop drinking my second cup. That may need some kind of compromise.
Remember when you were young and couldn’t wait to become a teenager? Remember when the days went by soooo slowly before your birthday or Christmas or getting your license you thought you’d burst? Something happens with time as we reach adulthood, some kind of anomaly of Einsteinian physics (I have no clue what I'm talking about but it sounded good.) What I’m trying to say is, now that we’re grown-ups time is speeded up. As we get older, we ask repeatedly where did the time go? It’s hard to believe but Thing One will turn 13 tomorrow. Happy Birthday, sweet thing. Hold onto time as long as you can.
So, you may be wondering what’s going on with my books. I’ll give you a hint – it’s kind of like being pregnant for a loooong time. Like years. Like being an elephant. It’s been so long now that people are afraid to ask. Well, the first book in the trilogy, called The Solitary Sparrow, is out to publishers. My agent assures me the book is wonderful and will find a publishing home. All it needs, she says, is one publisher who “gets” it and then offers publication. In the meantime, I try to keep busy on the sequel, A Pelican in the Wilderness, and continue to wait for a phone call signaling labor pains are about to begin.
I’ve added a new job to my plate. I’m transcribing my father’s memoirs. Back in the day when television was new and exotic, he was the host of a children’s show on local television, which made him a local celebrity, or as he likes to say, a big fish in a little pond. This was at a time when Mr. Rogers, Bozo the Clown, and Captain Kangaroo were big stars. The state archives has asked him to donate his films, photos, and ephemera (a fancy archive word for stuff), along with a written remembrance. My father and I decided it would work better if he talked to a recorder and I transcribed. He dictates with little interruption, no verbal tics, no “ums” or “you knows” and without anything but a bullet list, which is really amazing. I couldn’t do it. I am not a verbal person at all. Ask me to speak extemporaneously into a microphone and I freeze. But he’s a natural. And a natural “ham.” He’s always “on” even in his private life. A friend of mine says he tap dances when the refrigerator light goes on. He would agree. I’m very happy that the archives will keep his ephemera and written record. It’s a history that deserves to be remembered.
My word for 2020 is Kindness. I’ve been in such a rageful funk for the last three years that I’ve forgotten that kindness can happen. Hate seems to be everywhere. And once it’s out it seems to embolden others to attack. I’ve experienced hateful behavior myself on an otherwise innocuous neighborhood forum, usually dedicated to where you can get your tires rotated or buy the best mulch. I recently left my usual lurking position and jumped into the fray when I sensed that a woman who innocently asked where to find a plumber was being verbally attacked. Her crime? Her spelling was incorrect. Also, she had a weird name. And, she told us apologetically, she was from another country but was now a citizen. Translated: she was a non-native, spoke a foreign language, was an immigrant, and strongly needed a dose of whup-ass. When I came to her defense I was branded as, well, just another woman who needed to butt out. The main bigmouth replied, “Now, little lady, don’t accuse me of attacking women.” If he knew me, he’d know I’m not “little” and I’m definitely no “lady.”
Anyway, just as I lost hope that kindness wasn’t even practiced anymore, lo and behold a miracle happened. My sweet Thing Two who is six years old, but who is really an old soul, likes to shop in thrift stores. She loves clip-on earrings and 1980s toys. Recently after shopping at our favorite thrift store, we approached the counter when a man came in with a donation. He saw us, stopped to chat, and pulled out his smartphone. Before I knew what was happening, he ran his electronic credit card and paid for our purchases. That was $20 worth, folks. I couldn’t believe it. After thanking him profusely, I nudged Thing Two to do the same. She was speechless. Her mouth hung open like a little guppy. But I’m glad she was there to see kindness happen in person. Perhaps as she gets older kindness will return to civilization.
Just a last thought about the rollover to 2020. In the great grand scheme of things, we’re living in the only body and on the only planet we’ll ever have. I’m not trying to be morbid here, just throwing this out for your consideration. The following quote appears at the beginning of The Solitary Sparrow. I used it because it fits the book’s message perfectly and because I admire Carl Sagan. I think it gives us the long picture. And it’s a reminder that we are part of a long thread of humanity on this pale blue dot.
“That’s here. That’s home. That’s us. On it, everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you have ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives […] Every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every revered teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every superstar, every supreme leader, every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there — on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam.”
Welcome to a new year and a new chance to be kind. If you are a reader of books, thank you! If you are a writer, sit your derriere in the chair. Have a great weekend!
Earth, described by scientist Carl Sagan as a "Pale Blue Dot," as seen by Voyager 1 from a distance of more than 4 billion miles (6.4 billion kilometers). Courtesy of NASA.