Sunday, January 27, 2008


Here is the baby! My niece and her husband used a family surname as his first name....and I find that awesome. He is gorgeous, and though you can't see it, he has dark hair. Lots of it. Yayyy! He also has two sisters and two parents who are a tiny big gaga, and a whole bunch of cousins (I'm not gonna even try to figure out the first or second cousin business....COUSINS, close enough). It makes my heart smile to see them all so happy.

It made me damned homesick though, and I'm trying to plan a trip home this spring or summer. It's not enough - I need to live somewhere nearer. Working on that...

It's been a week already? Hunh. I had a busy week at work, a clarifying week that will have my resume shined up before the day is out, and updated resumes posted on Monster. My stories are doing what stories do in the world of literary journals - being read and rejected with sometimes-encouraging comments. My writing is ARGH. Kicking my ass, but I keep kicking back.

Here is something I told a friend recently, and that seems important as I plan to make some big decisions. I will circle and analyze until I'm certain further analyzing will do me no good - then I decide, and commit, and I'm happy with what I choose. I dislike deciding without that time to think it through. I dig my heels in if someone tries to rush me. But generally I don't second guess my decisions and am not wistful about them. To what end? 'Tis done - move on. This is apparently a key characteristic of "happy" people.

Just finished watching a film titled "Antonia's Line," which won the Oscar for best foreign film in 1995, apparently. The film is earthy and sensual, playful, painful and lovely in turns - telling the story of Antonia's life after she returns to her small village. It has powerful female characters, something of a celebration of matriarchy. There is love, and brutality, and ambition - sigh. It is excellent, but that's not what I want to write about today. There is a moment in the film when Antonia has had a great loss, and is mourning. She says "Ehhh...there is nothing to be done but get up. Life must be lived." Indeed, it must. Dinners must be cooked, laundry washed, children raised, lives lived. Because time moves, regardless of our readiness for it to do so.

What I'm wrestling now is how the pieces of my life fit together, or fail to. I need more time to write, I want to have or make a family and my days are not being spent in support of what I say is important to me. It seems that everything touches everything else - like dominoes with teeth. Every change creates a ripple in the little pond of my life. Some people in my life are cheering me on - make the rippppplessss....., while others enjoy that smooth water. I am closer to the former than the latter. Change is good, and necessary, and it is inevitable. So, at some point, I will need to make some ripples. In fact, if you're not much of a swimmer, you may want to strap on your life vests - I'm seeing a potential cannonball in my future. :)

Good thoughts and peace to you!

~ patti

Monday, January 21, 2008


Officially, today is a holiday for my company's Idaho site. The rest of the company, however, does not observe this holiday, so it was "suggested" that it might be a good idea for us to work the holiday, reserving this day for some future date when we need a day to keep us from running screaming from the building. Sigh. Have I mentioned the part where I need a new job? :) It's on the list.

My sister's middle daughter is having a baby. Today! She is overdue and verrry pregnant, and today IS the day. I'd love to be there, and I'm very aware of the distance between me and the people I love today. Over the weekend I talked briefly with my sister, and was joking with her about this conversation I keep having with the therapist - he gives me the depression test, I say "Doesn't frustrated ranting indicate a lack of depression???" Now I smile as I say it...but I mean it. He laughs, reminds me he has to ask the questions, and then we talk about living with depression, next to depression. My husband is fighting depression along with, and in great part because of, his physical challenges, you see. Or therapist-dude tries to talk the hard-headed me into believing that some small distinction of the difference between anxiety-induced behaviors, addictive behaviors and compulsive behaviors matters. For the record? In my book - they do NOT. They may come from different places in our minds, but they FEEL the same. Your life, your actions, your behaviors are not authentic to who you are. I keep telling him - your job is to know what caused the problem so you can fix it. My job is to tell you you're not doing that great a job yet. :) It's okay, I'm charming and I say this stuff with a smile and a relatively light heart, and so that comment makes him laugh.

This weekend, while talking to another friend, we wound up talking about the things we always thought we would do that we are not doing. She is a single mom, and I am...well, I am not where I thought I would be. Here was our short list: camping, backpacking, snowshoe weekends, international travel, impulsive road trips (that one was mine). Seeing a pattern here?'s all about escape, babeeee. So we went digging into our Campus Rec calendars to find low cost opportunities to do this stuff. We're going to go snowshoeing in a few weeks on an overnighter (there will be no snow camping, a lodge and someone else cooking will definitely be involved). I'm going to take a belly dance class. We're going to find some group to try backpacking with. It's so easy to accept limits when you are tired, isn't it?

So...I'm reading a book called Atonement, by Ian McEwan, recently made into a film. I've owned the book for a while, and when I began reading it again, I remembered trying to read it once before. It is lovely. Lush prose, surprising observations in a WWII setting, the lens of today on a time that is at once familiar and unfamiliar to us now. What makes it hard to read is the act of a child, a precocious and smart and headstrong child, that shapes lives. McEwan circles the moment of this act with precision and grace until it is almost unbearable to read it. Books do that to me. My dance with the written words of a book, or of letters, or emails, create such a vivid place that I feel I inhabit it. Unlike, completely unlike, the experience of film, where I am clearly an observer. In any case, one of the things I'd rather do than work today is finish this book. Tomorrow night my teaching career resumes, with a nighttime beginning fiction class. I am both excited and wondering how I'll manage it. So, another of the things I would rather do today is work on my materials for the class - my syllabus and handouts and schedule and...all of it.

Most of all, I'd like to spend the day writing. I have a story that is aching to get out of me, that I'm pacing around like a caged lioness, afraid to start, burning to start. The act of writing these stories is so involving, though. I lose myself for a time, and it can be almost frightening to do that. Right now, it feels both seductive and a little scary. But irresistible.

Find peace, stay warm and smile often.

~ patti

Sunday, January 13, 2008


Sometimes when I watch a film or read a book, I realize that it has come into my life at exactly the moment it needed to. I think this happens often, actually, and I'm trying to wrap my mind around the idea that everything happens when it should as it should, if we but let it. Actually, it's more my heart and spirit that fight that notion than my head, since in my particular experience trust often costs something.

Once was just what I needed to see right now. It's one of those indy films that makes me remember why I like indy films - actors with imperfect features and great presence, a quiet storyline with heart, people with thwarted desires, quirky and breath-catching moments of real drama. And this Irish film also has fantastic music and many reminders especially heartening for the frustrated and disheartened artists of the world. Here is what I am thinking right this minute: what you get can make you truly happy if you stop clinging so stubbornly to what you want. I don't know that this is always true, and especially not in matters of love - but it often is true of life's paths, and limitations. Most of all, when it comes to things not of the heart, but of the world - letting go of wantwantwant frees your arms and fingers to grasp some other wonderful thing, some undreamed of opportunity, that comes your way.

I know this, and I live this, and in my gut it is the unquestioned truth of how I see the world. But as I recently told a friend - of course there are moments when disappointment threatens to become bitterness. When frustration feels like it wants to seduce me, to stew inside me to resentment. It might be disappointment at my own life's limits, or frustration about the pain a loved one feels. For me, either can whisper darkly when I am tired. As the Cormac McCarthy quote reminded me just a few weeks ago - I'm in the camp of those who will find a way to be happy. What I have to allow myself room to do is accept disappointment and then move through it. Because, simply put, and plainly enough to anyone with eyes: sometimes it's hard to compromise your hopes against reality. Sometimes.

Once reminded me of that, too. The main character rediscovers hope, and he fills his mind and his minutes trying to fulfill his soul's desire. As in all things, it's the journey.

So. Speaking plainly now, because who really reads these entries? Sometimes I simply want it easier. Quieter, more laughter, fewer troubles, simpler, with less drama and pain and angst. When I realize that's what I want, I have to self-scold a bit. I have to ask myself why I think I deserve it easier, when in fact my life is in the cushy paradise section on the sliding scale of human possibility. I'm capable, smart, loved and blessed with much.

Other times, the word I would use is not easier, but settled. My father used that word as a kind of catch-all to ask how I was doing. And of course, there is no state of "settled" that can be attained. Had he lived longer, I would have loved to talk about that with him. As soon as we feel we are settled, the world (which is NOT rotating around me, dammit!) is bound to offer up another challenge, another opportunity, another distraction. It is about feeling settled in your heart, let the world send the salvos it is bound to send.

Feeling settled isn't an accomplishment, it's another kind of journey. Plan and execute and build lives all you like - my knowledge of the world is that it's all at risk, all the time. All you have is the journey, the knowledge that you can make it again. And again, if needed.

Hey, if you read this? Mostly, mostly I do. I'm always walking that space in the center where feeling settled sits in a field of lavender and daisies just up a hill to my right, and giving up sits in a dark, fallow space an easy downhill tumble to my left. Stay to the right. Always to the right.

Hope and light heart to you.

~ patti

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Straight Man

Finished this book over the weekend, and I caught myself smiling about a quirky funny moment while out walking last night. If you aren't familiar with this writer, Richard Russo, you should check out at least Nobody's Fool. He won the Pulitzer for the novel Empire Falls, but for my money NF has richer humor and human drama.

I am an opinionated snippetybitchet, am I not?

I'm not sure what I think yet about this book. Russo's prose and style is an almost-perfect counterpoint to Cormac McCarthy. Russo writes about minutiae of our modern lives with the sort of detail and focus that we grant it - and thus draws attention to how silly are the ways that we spend our days. While McCarthy goes straight at the big questions, such as the nature of evil or the source of joy in a life, Russo tends more toward the sidelong glance. He writes small towns with small dramas writ large, and dissatisfied middle-aged men looking for their true selves, often in bars or diners with other men who are older or younger versions of themselves. Yet from the small dramas Russo pulls large truths.

One of this book's truths is about fathers. Much of the drama centers around William Henry Devereaux, Jr's (call him Hank) discomfort with being abandoned by William Henry Devereaux, Sr - 40 years earlier. The father is coming to live in the small town that Jr. calls home, and they are both academics, both English professors. But much of the wisdom comes from Hank's insight into how his wife feels about her father. I was laughing about a paragraph in the book where Hank says "every time she spends time with her father, my own stock rises. I hate to think of him staying with us for an entire summer, but by the time he leaves, I'm going to look pretty good to Lily."

But now, writing this, I'm more interested in this idea of the sidelong glance. Maybe that's why I like Russo (not everyone does, and especially not every writer does). His characters, who sneak up on the things that scare them, who look and then look away - they feel true to me. It is a strategy that is very helpful when the thing we need to face is truly frightening, worthy of a respectful, slow, careful approach. But it can quickly become a habit.

I'm off to write some fiction. Happy Thursday!

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Slip Slidin' Awaaaay....

I've been described by some as stubborn. I once received a lowered performance review score on tenacity, based on being too tenacious. It was a tenth of a point on a 100 point scale, intended by my then-manager to illustrate that sometimes it is good to let gooooo....but I debated his reasoning as illogical. Eventually I won...but only after I admitted over a drink that he had a point. See, I can learn. :)

Not stubborn. Tenacious. Determined. Filled to the brim with midwestern, middle-class stick-to-it-iveness. But not stubborn.

Today I awoke to unexpected snow - three or so inches of fluffy white. I drank coffee and watched it out my windows and let my soul calm. Also, I stretched my muscles a lot, sore from a grueling aerobic/weight workout. Oh, and did my characteristic wince-giggle move every time I stood up. I was moderately sore.

But I'd planned to walk today. It's on my list. The list of priorities. The sun came out, and some of the snow melted, and I ran some it was late afternoon before I laced up my shoes. That's right, punk. Walking shoes, because I don't own snow hikers. Please. This is the first winter in 13 years that we've had enough snow to use a snow shovel. Now, you might be thinking "hey, you could go to campus and walk in the Rec's climate controlled comfort" - and you would be 100% correct. Except that I wanted to breathe outdoor air, clear and clean. I wanted sunlight and cold air on my face.

So off I went. Ipod, cell phone, tissues, lip moisturizer, ear warmers, sweats, fleece vest, long underwear shirt, that amazing nothing-moves workout bra, socks, gloves, scarf. Yeah, I love winter. Thing's cooling off, and the snow that had melted? It was returning to a frozen state. Only not snow, of course. Standing water forms ice, see.

By the first mile, I'd mastered the technique: small steps, stick to snowy areas where possible (ignoring the snow on ankles), watch for idiots in vehicles. But then...the snow disappeared. The next mile was all skate, and it was fun, actually...yeah, fun. The way a county-fair rollercoaster might be fun when you've seen the carny who put it together last night, and he really looked like he wanted to get back at the world for what it owes him? Yeah, like that.

It's getting dark now, and I manage to get past the icy section. Take that, angry carny-guy messing in my karma. It's all good. I'm smiling a lot, rocking out with the Boss on my Ipod, listening to the MTV unplugged album, and a car passes from behind, so I step over further in the parking lane (no sidewalks, Boise has the MOST screwed up system of sidewalks you can imagine). I am skirting a parked car, another car is approaching from the front...and then a horn blasts behind me. It's loud. Really loud, like a percussion on my body. There is a moment that I'm pretty sure I'm going down. My heart is in my mouth suddenly, and I recognize how stupid it is, how stubborn and not tenacious this walk is, how it's maybe possible that I am self-destructively-stubborn/tenacious/determined and the time has come to pay up for my folly - so I freeze, flinch, try to decide whether to flatten myself into the parked car or take a flyer onto the hood...and then nothing. I turn around, and an idiot female person in a truck is parked in front of the house I just passed, honking at someone to come out of the house. Seriously. So uh, a few hand gestures come to mind. I go with the hands raised, palms up, incredulous look -WTF??? She points at the house, laughs, smiles. Across the street the guy I always see running in the summer when I walk in the early morning is in his driveway, clearly trying not to laugh. He is in his sweatshirt and looks ready to watch a football game. Comfortable. Bastard. "You want I should kick her ass, or explain the world to her?" he says, and then I turn to face him and the two of us just grin.

Yeah, so then I realized. No, I'm not self-destructively stubborn/tenacious/determined, and there is no payment due for any so-called folly.

Seriously. But it's possible that next time it's this snowy I'll go to the Rec. See? I told you I can learn.

Yours in the spirit of tenacity. (Truth told, I LIKE stubborn.)
~ patti

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Feeling the Love?

Well. I read in my local paper today that most people make sweeping resolutions that they abandon within weeks. They are going to lose 100 pounds, train for a marathon, get out of debt, find a career that satisfies them... Okay, problem number one: I'm reading that list and nodding, even taking notes (ohhh...a marathon, good one). And then the part about how impossible those resolutions are, and the likelihood of failure and abandonment fills three or four inches of column space.

Sometimes, and by that I mean freaking often, I am annoyed by the fact that anytime people dream big, they're told that they are being escapist. Not really. We dream big, I think, because the level of our discontent has never been so high. And it's not - NOT - because of thwarted consumer desires that we are reaching for more. Nope.

A friend and I, each of us raised in relatively (?) religious homes, talk often about the visible levels of panicky consumerism, the crazed casting about for stuff that we see in our neighbors, our families, ourselves. He and I talk often about questions of faith. We aren't wholehearted fans of blind faith...or maybe we're just not able to grasp it. But lately, those talks circle back to what we see substituting for the faith of earlier generations. We are desperate to make meaning of the world, to find meaning, and not simply to subsist. We are told, often and charmingly and sometimes quite loudly, that meaning might be found in a bigger house, or a better sofa, new car, a sexier computer get my drift. Sometimes, for a moment, we do find happiness in objects. There is pleasure and appreciation in finely made objects, in lovely possessions, and in beautiful spaces. But it is fleeting, and the cost is often high (and interest-laden). And most importantly - it doesn't stand in for the greater pleasures, the deeper pleasures - being elsewhere - and that is the quest.

I think our resolutions are often about this frenzied quest - so I say dream BIG. Put the marathon on the damned list. Put debt free on there. Put "new life's work" on there. And then go make them happen. Break them down, attack them, but don't start by turning your dream into a shadow of itself. The world is likely to do that, but you don't need to help it in the effort.

My list? Yeah, here we go:
* Lose 10% of my current weight. My diet is excellent - no resolutions there. (Bite me, no numbers will be offered)
* Walk or workout most days each week.
* Snowshoe weekend with the chicks I love. Bike 1/2 century ride with those same women.
* See more of my family. I suck at that. They can't find Idaho on a map, either. :)
* Volunteer as a court appointed special advocate. This is the year.
* Finish the three stories necessary to complete my first book of stories.
* Submit the four finished stories everywhere in the known universe for publication.
* Change my job. More time - I need more free time, more flexible time.
* Keep my center. Always. Big love goes out to the one who helped me find my center this year. Your faith gave me faith.

So, that's it. And it IS doable. I'll prove it.

Seek peace.

~ patti