Just lately, I’ve come into a whole lotta luck. My famously frugal husband has opened his wallet and money, for the first time in our married life, spills. “Buy it.” “Get it.” “Take it.” These are words I’ve seldom heard.

I’ve always been jealous (also envious) although I didn’t always KNOW I was. The first time I saw a friends’ new house, a modest ranch, I tried to throw myself out of the moving car after we left. I was quite drunk at the time. And the action was more drama than a serious attempt at self-annihilation. For years I thought of that episode and couldn’t quite make out what had been wrong with me. (Besides the fact that I’d had one too many Cherry Kijafa and Coke.)

As our friends all moved into bigger houses with walk-in closets and jet tubs, we stayed put in our starter home, which I have loved all the more for being a little run-down, a little old-fashioned, and having entirely too many stairs. All my life I have wanted a nice tidy ranch, and what I got was a quad-level (with no window treatments) and a tri-level (tricked out with a splendid addition about ten years ago.)

We re-did the kitchen a year before the granite craze but managed to get in a nice wood floor in our big but cozy dining room. So, I have been content here. I have loved my house despite all it’s drawbacks. And I finally figured out what was going on with me and my friends’ more palatial abodes. I was envious of the friend who ordered new furniture on a yearly basis, jealous of the built-in bookshelves and the working fireplaces. I was jelly, as the California kids say.

This realization happened not over houses, but writers. There came a point in my life, maybe a year or so ago, when I knew I was never going to be Dan Brown. Not even Danielle Steel. I would not make money from my writing, it would not save me from a more conventional career (teaching), and nobody was ever going to say “I’m going to make you  a star!”

The star quote is something a popular writer actually told me her agent and editor, who had picked her out of Harlequin Alley, told her. Never mind star, New York ignored me. Harlequin was kind; I’ve learned a great deal from their various rejections over the years, from “you need to learn your craft” to “this is a bigger book than a romance.”

Full of jelly over a friends’ new book contract? Want the house Nora Roberts built? Wish you lived on the ocean in Kauai with a private plane to whisk you away when weather forecasts a hurricane? Here’s what you do. Make your sandwich. See how the jelly wobbles and squirts out while the peanut butter sticks to the bread? Jelly is sugar. Not good for you. Peanut butter is protein and it will make you stronger.

This is the last post I’ll be writing from my sweet old house. Next week, I’ll be moving into the ranch of my dreams. With a whole bunch of new stuff. And in late August, after finishing my next book, I’ll be back in the classroom.

Happy for the Holidays

Nobody holds a grudge like I do. Not an admirable trait, but I’m working on it. Like so much of my inner work, I look to Marianne Williamson for spiritual guidance on how to forgive. My copy of Illuminata, her book of prayers first published in 1994, has a permanent bookmark on page 132, where her prayer for forgiveness begins. I’ve said this prayer many times, and have been gratefully amazed with the results.

The holidays can be a stressful time, especially if you know you are going to see someone who has hurt your feelings or harmed you in other ways so that you’re harboring a grudge. The longer the grudge is held, the harder it is to let go of…so you can’t just read pages 132-134 once and be done. I have a person right now I’m trying to forgive. It has been weeks, and I cannot get over what they said to me. What makes it worse is waiting for an apology that will likely never come.

For years I wondered why a person who found God and went total Christian failed to apologize for something horrible he did to me way back when. I had to work on forgiving him for years. I’m still working on it! And it’s harder without the apology. In fact, the minute someone says “I’m sorry” I automatically forgive them. But this guy, never gonna say those words. I finally figured out why: because it happened so long ago, he has a different story of what happened than I do. In his version, he did nothing wrong. In my version, my life was negatively impacted for many years, until I learned to forgive him by using Marianne’s prayer.

My mom and I had a Come to Jesus moment a few years ago, when she kept asking me to read a particular book. I didn’t want to because I knew the parents of the character in the book do something horrible to their daughter, the same thing my parents tried to do to me. Finally, after one more time of Mom saying “You must read this book!” I blew. “You know why I can’t.” Mom was clueless. So I told her. Which led to the whole drama of my teen years–some things she forgot, some things she remembered differently, some things she explained away. But she did apologize. Right after I told her that I had saved my teenage journals.

Anything I write in my journal, I know to be true. I keep journals for myself. Nobody else gets to read them. Anyway, back to this recent grudge. I knew I would see this person at a holiday gathering. I decided to say the forgiveness prayer with her in mind twice a day for ten days. It’s a long prayer, and that’s a long time to focus on one person and one thing. But it is the only way I know to put the grudge behind me for good and also not feel awkward around her during the party. Forgiving is so worth it. When we fail to forgive, it eats away at us, it fuels anger and frurstration, it is just plain bad. In Marianne’s prayer, we ask for forgiveness not only for the one who wronged us, but for ourselves, too. Because when we fail to forgive, we fail our best selves.

So…what if you don’t believe in prayer? I have atheist and agnostic friends. Prayer is just not their bag. But they are all very smart people who have used their intelligence to come to their own conclusions about life and death. To those people I say, use your intelligence to forgive. Just bring a mental picture to mind of the person you need to forgive and then say “I forgive you.” You may have to do it a lot. And don’t forget to forgive yourself in the process. If you use your mental ability, cognitive skill will help you get to forgiveness. You’re forming a habit of mind, and it is one that will make you happy for the holidays.

Union Born & Raised

My great-grandfather knew Thomas Edison. GG Hines was one of the first union electricians. And my grandfather was in Local Union 58 of the IBEW, the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers. And my father. And both my brothers served Local 58 for many years. They marched in the parade every Labor Day for many years.

My husband is in the United Auto Workers, UAW, as was his father, and his grandfather, before him. I have uncles in the UWA as well. I’m in a union myself. A teacher’s union. My degrees are in English. And so I have a book suggestion for anyone who thinks the unions are too strong, too weak, too corrupt, too big: please read The Grapes of Wrath and get back to me. The author is John Steinbeck who worked canning fish in California.

And I’d like to dedicate this post to the person who unfriended me on Facebook because I didn’t fly an American flag on Memorial Day. Today, I’m letting my freak flag fly. And I am able to do that because of a little thing called collective bargaining.

My Merry Merry Month of May

A few days ago, I had eye surgery to remove a lens full of cataracts and insert a nice pristine new lens with a special built-in something that made my eye 20/20. In two weeks, I’ll undergo the same procedure for my other eye. For now, I’m trying to rest my eyes and just in general not strain myself. I am not supposed to bend over because the blood will flow to my eyes and the stitches might tear. Yes, stitches inside my eye! Amazing.

What’s even more amazing is that I’ve never had 20/20. I’ve had poor eyesight all my life. “Oh, Magoo, you’ve done it again” bad. Now, if all goes well, I will have, at the ripe age of 57, 20/20 vision with no reason to even wear reading glasses. This type of lens is not covered by insurance, they cover the one without the reading sight bonus. Still, I managed to convince Al of the pure magic of it all.

This must be how movie stars feel after lipo-suction. No effort, new tummy!

Nothing comes without a price, and my price is May. My vision is perfect in one eye, horrid in the other. The computer and smart phone letters are kind of smushy. But I’m reading a great book on my Kindle using LARGE print. Love that feature. And I can watch television.

When I set all this up, I knew I would have to give the month of May over, pretty much, to healing my eyes. They are an essential tool for writing, and being sighted just makes the world that much easier to navigate. So I resolved to obey doctor’s orders, not tax myself or my eyes, and not worry about writing, teaching, the conference, or anything else.

I don’t know why, but my heart sank when I saw the restriction on mascara. Six weeks without eye make up! I hardly wear makeup anymore, but I do wear it to school. So this will be the first time I walk into a classroom without face paint plus silvering hair. (I am loving my silvered hair!) It will be fine but I have to smile at my vanity. Still. At my age.

I’m trying to move from vanity to radiant health and continue to work on the changes I’m learning from The Lean. For now, I’m sticking with the first half of the changes and when I feel stronger (next week?) I will read and incorporate even more (I bought The Lean as an actual book so I could study it.) to see what else I can do to clean up my food act. I’m also hoping next week I’ll want to get back to writing my novel. I miss Twitter, too!

Meanwhile, I am able to hand write my morning pages with no fuzziness, so I’m doing that. And I can talk on the phone. Doing quite a bit of that too as family and friends check in to make sure I’m okay. I’m better than okay. I just need to be really patient with the way the internet looks smushy. And now you know why I won’t be around much in the month of May



See Ya!

Another Michigan winter, another road trip to Florida. My dad lives there. Our friends have winter places there. Snow does not go there. But, my laptop does. And since Dad and Al love to golf and Dad has no internet connection, I will be alone at least a few days with my beloved pink  laptop working on my synopsis.

The plan was to have the proposal in the mail Friday. Didn’t happen. I find that whenever I make a plan, especially a writing plan, some snag occurs to thwart my best intentions. Other plans have gone awry as well. We planned to hop off I-75 on a mini-adventure to Akron, Ohio. But I am sad to report that Chrissie Hynde’s vegetarian restaurant there has closed.

Have you noticed how after you joined FB you didn’t blog as much? And then after you joined Twitter, FB kind of went away for awhile? And then came Goodreads and all manner of hell broke loose. I’m trying to manage the various social media but for the trip I will probably mostly be posting photos on FB. Of course if we’re not FB pals already, I’ll be delighted to friend you at my Cynthia Hines Harrison page. Fair warning: I take kind of fuzzy pictures.