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Posts Tagged ‘fall’

I was sitting at the vet’s office this morning, waiting for Summer Moon’s appointment for her second puppy shot.  She’s been home since September 11, and Rhythm and I have been adjusting to being a two-retriever household again.

The vet’s office has glass doors on all the exam rooms; and across the waiting room, I could see a woman bending over a dog, lying on the exam table.  She was obviously waiting for the vet to come in.  But more than that, the angle of her body and the way she held her dog, told me that she was pouring out all the love and comfort she had on a seriously ill pet. My heart ached.  That was me, back in May, holding Melody, my twelve-year-old Golden Retriever, and telling the Universe not to take her.  Please, please, please.  Not my Melody.  Not now. Not yet.  Not ever.  Please.

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Melody

Well, I lost that round.  Obviously.  And, as I sat watching the woman on the other side of the glass and sending her all my love and prayers, I also thanked the Universe for starting me on another journey with a new, beloved pet.

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Summer Moon

But then it hit me.  Hard, and then harder.   Love is still who we are, really.  Fundamentally.  At our core.  We love each other.  We love our pets. We love the small moments that make life wonderful and magical.  A sunny day.  The first hint of autumn.  A vermillion leaf on the sidewalk.  A rainy day and a cup of hot tea with honey.   The smile of a husband or a wife or a child.  We love on in the face of loss.  We love unconditionally.  We are champions at love.

As I sat in the vet’s waiting room, I realized that I was looking at love through the glass door where the woman stood over the table, holding her dog.  There are terrible people in the world who do terrible things.  We’ve seen that yet again this week.  But the black souls among us cannot change the true meaning of US, which is love.

I didn’t see the lady and her dog when we came out of the exam room after Summer’s checkup. But I hope the vet sent her home with good news. I was grateful for the moment when I’d seen her behind the glass and realized that love is truly the driving force inside us.   Love, I told myself as I left with the exuberant new life the Universe has entrusted to me.  Love.  Focus, focus, focus.

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typos

Hi, everyone.  The air has changed in Southern California.  The heat of late summer that drives my breath back into my lungs, has suddenly dissolved into a cool, clear breeze.  It feels as if the world has come back into focus.  I’ve broken out the Pumpkin Spice candles and the Gingerbread tea and wrapped the house in garlands of silk autumn leaves that I bought on sale at Michael’s because the trees in SoCal are not going to provide real ones.  (Sigh!)

Our new puppy has come home.  Summer Moon.  She’s an English Golden Retriever. She isn’t golden, at all, of course.  She’s as white as the full moon.  Hence her name.  “Moon” because of her color.  “Summer” because she came home in late summer.  She looks like an angel but is full of mischief.  Her big brother, Rhythm, doesn’t quite know what to make of her.  She has two speeds: “on” and “off.”  And when she’s “on,” nothing in the house is safe from her tiny teeth, including Rhythm’s tail.

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I’ve just finished uploading the corrected manuscripts for Mirror, Mirror, so now the paperback version will soon be available on Amazon.  I used three proofreaders this time for the manuscript, and the last one read every one of the 120,710 words aloud plus punctuation marks.  When I was an editor/proofreader, before I went to law school, this is the way we read the final version of manuscripts because we had the best chance of catching errors by reading aloud.  So this time I thought I was safe from complaints about TYPOS.  But alas!

About a week after Mirror, Mirror had been published as an ebook, I got the message from Irate Reader.  “I like your book BUT—” Insert drum roll, thunder and lightning. “BUT it has TYPOS!!”  No hint of what those TYPOS might be.  I felt as if someone had sent one of my children home from school with a message pinned on his/her back, “Your child has CHICKEN POX!  Your HORRIBLE EXCUSE for a Mother!”

My first reaction was to protest.  Three proofreaders, I told her!  Every word and punctuation mark scrutinized, aloud!  But, alas!  Irate Reader was unrelenting.   Her next email cut even deeper. She called me, “UNPROFESSIONAL!” I had a big Breneˊ Brown moment after that.  If you don’t know about Breneˊ Brown, she describes herself as a “shame researcher.”  She is a professor at the University of Houston, who has written on the topic of shame and how it affects our lives.  When Irate Reader’s wrath descended upon me, I had been reading Dr. Brown’s book, I Thought It Was Just Me (But It isn’t).  And I knew that the paralyzing, sick feeling in the pit of my stomach was shame.

Despite my best intentions, I’d humiliated myself in public, by telling a story that I had hoped many people would enjoy.  I wasn’t a woman with three post-graduate degrees, all cum laude.  I was an UNPROFESSIONAL with TYPOS.   Sort of like a careless excuse for a mom who’d sent her kid to school with CHICKENPOX and now the child had to be sent back to the incompetent parent.

I was deeply hurt by having my imperfections hurled in my face.  I thought about taking the book down.  FOREVER.  I’d worked so hard on it every night for six long months.  I’d worked on it on the nights when my heart had been breaking because my Golden Retriever Melody was dying.  I’d worked on it on the nights when I’d been so tired that I couldn’t see the page because I’d been writing for the courts of appeal all day.  But I had kept on going because I had thought my characters were telling me a story that would entertain and touch hearts.  And I’d launched that story into the world after so much time and care, happy and proud, and hoping to find readers with hearts to be touched.  But, now, within a week of its publication, it had been deemed worthless. TYPOS!  UNPROFESSIONAL! All because I’m not, and never will be, PERFECT.

“The quest for perfection is exhausting and unrelenting.”  Breneˊ Brown

Since self-publishing has become an option for writers, a myth has grown up that self-published writers are the only ones who launch books with typos.  That was the gist of Irate Reader’s “UNPROFESSIONAL” (SNIFF) label.   I got a does (dose, get it?) of this prejudice early on when I published my first novel, Dance for A Dead Princess.  At some point, one of the TOP 100 AMAZON REVIEWERS got her 3-star hands on it.   But she didn’t stop at 3 grudging stars.   She went straight to the top, to THE ZON itself and advised that I was illiterate. Why, there were whole sections of the book that hadn’t even been spellchecked!   REALLY!  THE NERVE!

Turns out, Ms. TOP 100 didn’t understand that the Tudor diary of Thomas, Carey, the First Duke of Burnham, is written in my approximation of Tudor English. That means the way Shakespeare wrote and spelled.   THE ZON backed way down after I explained the development of the English language and added, “Bet you wouldn’t have sent a QUALITY CONTROL NOTICE to Random House!”

So, just in case anyone else out there besides Irate Reader and Ms.Top 100 thinks that TYPO’s are the exclusive manifestation of the ignorance of self-published writers and that all the brains belong to the traditionally published ones, let me offer the following examples of TYPOS from novels you will recognize (and by the way, editions of these WITH TYPOS are worth hundreds of dollars)

Theodore Dreiser, An American Tragedy

Characters are referred to as “harmoniously abandoning themselves to the rhythm of the music—like two small chips being tossed about on a rough but friendly sea.”

Pearl S. Buck, The Good Earth

A wall against which people set up their huts being described as “It stretched out long and grey and very high, and against the base the small mat sheds clung like flees to a dog’s back.” Editions of the book that include the misspelling can go for as much as $9500.

J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone

Some copies of this book are valued at a small fortune for this reason. On page 53, in a list of school supplies that young wizards are expected to bring to Hogwarts: “1 wand” is listed at both the beginning and at the end. That said, the typo did reappear in a few later printings even after it was caught in the second round, so it’s only the true first editions that are worth beaucoup bucks. [This example illustrates just how hard these pesky little TYPOS are to eliminate even after they have been found.]

“The Wicked Bible”

The1631 edition of the King James Bible by Robert Baker and Martin Lucas included an accidental new twist on the 7th Commandment, informing readers that “Thou shalt commit adultery.” This managed to incense both King Charles I and the Archbishop of Canterbury—its publishers were hauled into court and fined £300 (a little over $57,000 in today’s U.S. dollars) for the oversight and they had their printing license revoked. Most of the copies were subsequently burned, and the book picked up the sobriquet “The Wicked Bible” or “The Sinners’ Bible.” Only about 10 copies remain today—one was put up for sale by British auction house Bonhams just last year.

As for me, I went back over the book one more time.  I found some commas that only I would notice were out of place.  There were a couple of repeated words, a few line breaks, and an “it” for an “in.”  One very kind reader wrote to tell me that my dates were wrong at the beginning of one of the chapters.  (Bless her.)

So the corrected version is up.  I’m sure there are more TYPOS out there because perfection is unattainable for me.  But here’s the deal.  If you find any more and email me with the error, its location, and your address, I’ll send you a Starbuck’s gift card for a cup of coffee.  And I’ll send you my greatest thanks for liking my stories and for being my friend.   Even though I’m not perfect.

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Autumn has come to Southern California. Trouble is, the change is so subtle you have to know what to look for to realize the seasons are turning. Suddenly the air seems very focused and sharp, even though the temperature is still 81º. Crows caw, sounding ominous and lonely in the late afternoon heat. Fewer mallards, and now no ducklings, swim circles among the dry reeds in the  pond close to our house. Trees grow brown, and their leaves shrivel, but hang on. Here and there, a few liquid amber trees – a relative of the Eastern maple – change color, some turn dry gold, others dusty red. But autumn here looks more like summer drying up than a season of breathtaking color and bountiful harvest.

I know because I am an ex-pat Southern girl. People hear my accent and ask how I got from Tennessee to Southern California. The answer is simple: in 1985, I agreed to a too hasty marriage to the wrong person, who had taken a job here. Without even one prior visit, I arrived in San Diego in November 1985 and realized at once I was living in a foreign country. I hadn’t bargained for that. But I hadn’t bargained for much of what was to come.

Autumn in the South, is a deep, lush season. It begins in September with crisp, cool mornings warming to sharp, golden noons, and cooling to vermillion sunsets. The trees go from green to brilliant gold and flaming orange and red almost overnight. Then the leaves fall, covering the grass in deep pools of vibrant color. When I was a child, my parents paid me a minuscule wage to rake them into piles to be carted away to compost. I couldn’t resist the temptation to build leaf forts first and jump into them, scattering red and gold in all directions.

Autumn in the South means FOOTBALL. (Not football.) When I couldn’t be bribed into raking, my father would take over the chore, wearing a soft plaid flannel shirt, transistor radio in his breast pocket. The long golden afternoons marched to the steady cadence of the announcer’s voice, punctuated by my father’s sharp cries of joy or dismay at Tennessee’s progress.

Autumn was bittersweet for me because it meant back to school. On one hand, school was my forte: I was an excellent student. On the other, school was the place I began to perfect the art of covering my true identity from the world. Good little Debbie Hawkins with her pigtails who sat up straight in her desk, did her homework, and never gave the teacher any trouble was not the real me. The real me was hiding underground.

Autumn always brought new clothes. In those days, mothers sewed. Late August meant sitting on high stools in department stores, looking at pattern books, and picking out new school dresses. I wasn’t a fan of figuring out which patterns to buy. You could never tell until they were sewn up if the dress was going to flatter or make you want to hide forever. But I loved walking between the tables that held the bolts of fabric, fingering the soft wools, the supple jerseys, and the crisp cottons. I wanted one of each. School was rarely a creative exercise. It involved regurgitating long lists of facts the teachers thought our lives depended upon. But holding and draping fabric in autumn grays and tans and browns – ah, that was pure magic!

My first child was born during the beginning of the second autumn that I lived here in exile. She was a September baby, coming at just the moment when the lazy summer air focused sharply on turning the corner into fall. The man whom I had married had vanished back to his twelve-hour days at the office. I had thought we would at least share parenthood. But I was wrong. Alone in a tiny rented cottage, I struggled to learn the ways of new motherhood with a child who cried twenty hours of every day. One morning, I saw a group of children from the local preschool pause in front of the liquid amber tree in the cottage’s front yard. They were picking up the dusty gold leaves that had fallen. That poor lonely liquid amber was the only tree of its kind in our tiny community. The rest were palm trees and evergreens. No wonder the children had journeyed from their school to see a phenomenon that in the South was as common as breathing autumn air. Alone and exhausted, I began to cry for all the autumns my California children would never have.

Since that day, I have traveled a long journey, coming to love this strange, raw land that is home to my three amazing children. I have decide this blog is going to become the story of that journey; and how I, perpetually an ex-pat, came to terms with largely foreign ways. Once upon a long time ago, I was a graduate English student, studying Irish literature. Somewhere during those days, I read that if you are born Irish, you are always Irish, no matter where life takes you. And now, after more than twenty years in exile, I can say, if you are born Southern, you are always Southern, even if you marry the wrong person and raise children in a foreign land. But I can also say, that leaving and looking back teaches you so very, very much about who you are and how to appreciate the place that created you. If I had never left, I would never have learned who was hiding inside of me.

Stay tuned for more of the journey. And happy autumn wherever you are.

Fall in San Diego

Southern California autumn

In Tennessee

Tennessee autumn

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