Best Christmas Ever!

The sun’s out the sun’s out the sun’s out. Melt thou most stubborn of snow, melt!

Merry Christmas! I’m feeling the good vibes now!



Aaand, kind friends offered to drive me to their house for Christmas dinner. Yum! (Sun and good food — what more does this girl need at the moment? Nothing!) (Oops, afterthought: Add a few holiday drinks to the mix and I’m set!)

A Merry Snowed-In Christmas

hollyberriesToday, I woke up in a better mood than I have in weeks. It’s a bouyancy out of nowhere, and I’m once again amazed by human resilience. There’s no reason for my mood, none whatsoever. It’s Christmas Eve and I’m snowed-in. We in my family won’t celebrate the holiday until this weekend — hopefully. I’ve been cooped up for 10 days, hiking to the grocery store, stewing in my juices.

You’d think given all this time, I’d have accomplished much writing. Hah!

Old-time Portlanders are talking about this snowfall as the worst winter in 40 years. All I know is that struggling through the snow, I meet up with fellow hikers who smile wide and offer benedictions like, Beautiful, isn’t it? even as they nearly fall on their bums. Smiles all around, shrugs, slips and slides — it’s a strange but welcome comraderie.

Today it must be 34 or 35 degrees — a step in the right direction — and when I opened the balcony window the lovely hush I’d gotten used to had disappeared, replaced by snap-crackle-popping, a most enlivening sound. Truth is, I’d never before heard the sound of a slow thaw. Ice and snow falling off the evergreens and telephone lines, snow pockmarked and slushy: unique to me.

It’s thawing out there; my heart is thawing out a little too. Time to ready myself for a bright, shiny New Year!

Though, more snow is supposed to be coming for us — one more bout before it lets us go. But I don’t care. Even if I’m snowed-in, it’s still Christmas, and Christmas was always one of the happiest times in my family. We did it BIG. Or rather, my father did it big and brought us along with him. The eight-foot tree with thousands of lights; the beautifully made nativity scene, hand-sculpted and -painted, the kind you don’t see anymore. Chipped as it was, I used to love playing with it as if it were a doll set. The multitudes of presents under the tree — too many really — maybe it was almost disgusting, but as I kid, what did I care?

I may be holed up, but it’s still Christmas.

Merry Christmas!

P.S. A few pet pictures, typical of the last 10 days.

Luna, the dog reminiscent of a cat, snuggling into the warmest spot next to my drying boots (in front of the space heater).


Trio, the cat reminiscent of a dog, playing in the snow.


Writing my Christmas Cards

eeyore-copyI can’t help but laugh at myself when it comes to writing Christmas cards. I know we’re supposed to be merry and hopeful, but I love to write a good old-fashioned downer of a card. I mean, this is my life, right? Why do I have to be merry?

If I’m not ending the year on a high note, why fake it?

Plus, writing about my conflicts, self-doubts, angsts, and all that jazz is more fun. It’s like writing stories with good conflicts. Who wants to read a novel about a happy single girl? I’ll tell you: no one.

And speaking of storytelling in whatever format it takes, my stats have gone up on this here blog since my troubles began on November 21st. Why? Because people like stories with conflicts. Seems so obvious. But I’m not going to milk my woes for the sake of stats, just so you know.

Back to Christmas cards: I’ve received plenty of favorable reviews on them over the years. Some of my friends look forward to my cards. I can imagine some of them thinking, What kind of train wreck is Lisa going to describe this year? Must be a hoot for them, and I admit I play it up a little. I mean, I’m a writer, I can do that for the sake of fun and drama.

Problem with that is that some folks might get to feeling sorry for me. That poor Lisa, what a pathetic life. But I don’t care. I like writing my downer Christmas cards…

I was thinking about all this last night after reading the following on One Word, One Rung, One Day, a blog well worth checking out. Being that I was in the middle of writing Christmas cards, I cracked up, I couldn’t help it!

“Why is it the only time you hear the word tidings is during the holidays and in reference to the song. Can you have tiding of something besides joy? I think I’m going to wait until March or April and when something makes me mad I’m going to say I offer you tiding of pain and discomfort. Or the next time Whataburger screws up my meat and cheese only burger I might ask the doofus behind the counter, “Have you been snacking on tidings of stupidity again?” “

I always did have a special fondness for Eeyore.

Ribbon Candy and Semi-Colons

ribboncandyNewly discovered holiday treat that I’ve been eating for the past few days instead of healthy snacks: ye old-fashioned ribbon candy.

That said, maybe I’m feeling better because I’m motivated to complain about something other than my dire finances, 9-to-5 jobs, loss of dreams, and every other Debbie-Downer thing that plagues me. Or, maybe I’m not better and this is a welcome distraction (like ribbon candy).

Here’s the rant: semi-colons.

How mundane is that? Maybe this is all I’m capable of at the moment, complaining about semi-colons. And when I say this, I mean my semi-colons. I can’t believe myself. I let my manuscript go out with hundreds of semi-colons? Is this why the editors rejected it?

So, here I am, reading through the manuscript before sending it to Nice Agent for a look-see; making minor changes along the way (scary how there’s always room for improvement); and all I’m seeing are semi-colons. Everywhere; for no reason; they’re out of control and annoying like ants at a picnic. See; what; I; mean?

What the bleep was I thinking?

Seems like I’d finally figured out how cool semi-colons were and took them too far. Like discovering eye liner back in high school and assuming that if a little goes a long way, more is better; or, like spritzing on perfume then adding two more squirts just in case; or, like feeling great after the first cosmo and sucking down three more because you can. 

So, was that correct semi-colon usage? Someone, tell me, because I don’t know anymore!

Happy New Year, a Little Late

I’m back and officially ready to start the new year. The head cold I mentioned turned nasty indeed. I spent most of last week in bed after my sister and nephews returned to California (on the 3rd). This week, my priorities include reacquainting myself with my writing routines.

In truth, I’m anxious because I haven’t written in a few weeks. This is my usual reaction when my routines crumble. Right now, the tension is helpful as an antidote against winter inertia. Weather-wise, January is my heart of darkness. Holiday socializing and errand-running and family stuff propel me through December. But now?

All I can say is that you can’t take the California out of the girl. Sunlight is good. January is a pain in the neck. Interestingly enough (at least to me), now that I live in the Pacific Northwest I find that my most vivid holiday memories are bathed in sunlight.

These memories begin with my childhood home, which was built into a steep hillside above Tennessee Valley, with my elementary school nestled on the valley floor and a quaint cemetary dotting the opposite hillside. The Kirkland family’s homestead with neat white fences and grazing horses also sat opposite. Beyond the school, the Godino family also owned land — and a Shetland pony that I adored. They were the last family along the valley floor before the horse stables and the anise-scented trail that led to Tennessee Valley Cove. The pebbly beach sat on the cusp between the San Francisco Bay and the vast Pacific. These days, the area is integrated into the Marin Headlands recreational area with trail signage and port-a-potties and hikers-bikers-runners in their yuppie gear. In those days, it was a wilderness that I roamed at will.

This was my little universe, a universe over which I often gazed from above a layer of fog that had seeped over the hillsides and pooled in the valley. I was in the same grade as a Kirkland daughter and a Godino son, and I could pick out the street halfway down my hilly neighborhood where several other schoolmates lived: Kathy, Nancy, Kim, Kristi, Robin, Melissa, Julie, Mike.

Best yet, the eastward view from my house led my eye past the old-fashioned grave markers toward receding layers of a larger world: Strawberry Point, the Bay, Angel Island, the Oakland and Berkeley hills on the opposite shore. I’m convinced that this perspective beyond my little universe — plus the freedom to wander hills with nothing but sea-salt laden wind, tall grass, and my dog for company — was pivotal to my development as a writer. I could imagine anything as I gazed past the edge of the continent. And I did.

But back to the holiday memories: On Christmas mornings, my sisters and I woke before dawn. From bed, I watched the horizon lighten over my world with purple shimmers. Soon enough, the fog layer turned into a vibrant canvas in pinks and oranges before the sun finally revealed itself and a frost-sparkling morning. By then, it was time to wake our parents. Our living room sported a wall of picture windows. The memories are as simple as this: Sunlight drenched us as we opened presents.

In the here and now, it’s only 2:00 p.m. and the rain puddles already reflect orange from the garage light across the street. It’s a still, gray day. The stream next to my building is more like a river, and water gurgles fountain-like over a portion of tree trunk that floated from who knows where. The sound is comforting.

Choosing to Believe

boysinsnow2-copy.jpgI spent most of today in bed reading and sleeping. I had a feeling that galavanting around in the snow yesterday with my much-adored nephews would send my head cold over the edge. I’d been maintaining a minimal head cold all week in an effort to shore up my energies for little Trevor and Andrew’s first visit to real live snow. Their first snowball fight, first snow angels, first snowman. We had a blast. This was also the first year they were old enough to fly up from California with my sister for the holidays.

Today I’m paying for all the fun, but I don’t mind. I choose to believe that my body is clearing itself of toxins just in time for the New Year. This choosing-to-believe bit is something I do with myself. It’s like Steve Martin wrote in a recent New Yorker essay:

Through the years, I have learned that there is no harm in charging oneself up with delusions between moments of valid inspiration.


Despite my kvetching on this blog, I’m actually an optimistic person. And besides, delusions are fun. For example, I experienced my first snowy Christmas this year — with actual falling snow! Firsts are good at any age, and I chose to believe that the snow was a good omen for 2008.

Especially for my writing. I’m full of plans for using my time more wisely, finishing my current novel, and traveling back to Ireland for research. A bright and shiny start to 2008! Delusions are great — charge myself up enough and the delusions will become moments of valid inspiration and action. Maybe this is what Steve Martin meant in his essay.