Hemingway on Writing

From Ernest Hemingway’s acceptance speech for the 1954 Nobel Prize for Literature:

Writing, at its best, is a lonely life.  Organizations for writers palliate the writer’s loneliness but I doubt if they improve his writing.  He grows in public stature as he sheds his loneliness and often his work deteriorates.  For he does his work alone and if he is a good enough writer he must face eternity, or the lack of it, each day.

How simple the writing of literature would be if it were only necessary to write in another way what has been well written.  It is because we have had such great writers in the past that a writer is driven far out past where he can go, out to where no one can help him.

A writer should write what he has to say and not speak it.

Daytona Beach Morning Journal
Dec 11, 1954

Hemingway’s a master (of course) and I don’t doubt that he’s right (I know he is).  But, as an aspiring writer, I hope that writers can get through those lonely moments without feeling too terribly alone.

Anything but This

300,000 pounds of tomatoes – to serve no purpose other than to “fight”?  Seriously??

Call me sensitive.  Call me a bleeding heart…

But.

I find this to be an insensitive and gross waste of resources in any time (good or bad).  In a recession, when people are starving by the thousands, it’s just ridiculous.

Take that $25 and help someone eat.

If that doesn’t make you feel better, I don’t know what will!

OMG. WTH! Where did our words go?

The evolution of language, especially the history of the origin of words, has been something that’s interested me for as long as I can remember.  I think I might have pursued a degree in linguistics, if I had the vaguest notion of a viable career path in that field (other than professor, which really wasn’t my cup of tea).

That we managed, somehow, to go from scratching stick figures in caves and on trees, to formulating precise words such as Azure and Onomatopoeia, is nothing short of amazing.

Don’t even get me started on how we could have gone from stone tablets to parchment & scrolls to computer printouts and, in an odd twist, back to tablets again.

Dictionary Word Imagine

copyright (c) 123RF Stock Photos

It’s hard for me to imagine what our language will look like in 20 years, or even 10.  And it’s not just English, pick a language and I guarantee that it’s been significantly altered by texting, instant messaging, sharing in 140 and just a general impatience in trying to get our thoughts across quickly, virtually, and in real time.

I grew up on a steady diet of word games.  Scrabble, Boggle, crosswords, and even the Sunday Jumble played an integral role in my childhood.  My father was an erudite, a logophile, knowledgeable about words I really couldn’t believe existed until I looked them up. Then, assuming he just happened to know that particular word out of sheer luck, I would promptly quiz him on the meaning and it’s usage.  He always knew the exact definition to a fault.  He was this way about almost every subject imaginable.  A fan of Jeopardy, I never once heard him “guess” and his answers were always correct.

I wonder what he would think of our state of less is more when it comes to words. How so many of us have reduced our vocabulary to the point that Awesome has a dozen different meanings. And how his own daughter can often be found tweeting LOL – simply because there really isn’t enough time (or room) to expand upon the conversation at hand. And because she knows few if any really want to delve into a true conversation when there’s so much sharing, and liking, and pinning to do.

I miss words so much so that I’ve downloaded dozens of word game apps in an effort to keep the faith, lexicographically speaking. I’m taking great liberty with certain words here. But that’s just how much I’m missing words.

WordFeud anyone?

Estimates say that the average person knows anywhere from 25,000 to 50,000 words, but uses only a fraction of those words (and that was pre-Twitter).  Then there was talk, in the late 90’s and into this century, of a drastic decline in the vocabulary of young adults – reportedly almost a 60% decline.  Although, that may have been a bit of an exaggeration. Read this for the background (almost wrote deets there).

However, I think it’s fair to say (without need of a scientific review) that our collective vocabulary is on the decline, in a big way.

It wouldn’t make sense to post something like this:

Yesterday, as the sun was rising on the horizon, shining a golden blaze over crashing waves, my frenzied golden retriever tried to knock down my cranky neighborhood as I spilled a cup of caramel creme latte over her crinkled grey hair.

When one could just say:

OMG. Crazy mutt. WTH! May have to move. #MorningWalk

Early on, I tried to resist, I really did, but I’ll admit, so much of my vocabulary has been usurped by 🙂 and ;).  Occasionally, I throw all caution to the wind and speak my peace – fully and in extended vocab (but not always).

So when you visit me on Twitter don’t take offense if I happen to throw a ROFL your way…

When in Rome (and all that jazz).

Sometimes You Just Want to Say “Hey!”

I’m in solid reflection mode this week (actually this month) and I’m sure it has a lot to do with being 40.  Ack.  Now you know.  I’d hide it forever if I could, but since my oldest has just finished college, it’s more embarrassing to try and pass myself off as mid-30s then it is to just embrace being 40+.  It’s great to look young(ish) for your age, but no one wants to be mistaken for the Original Teen Mom (not that there’s anything wrong with that, but for me, high school was angst filled enough as it was…).

I wandered onto this blog >> http://40goingon28.blogspot.com – completely at random – and thanks, of course to Twitter (but we’ve firmly established my social media obsession already).  So I wander onto this really cool blog, about a really cool city (I’m originally a Bay Area gal, doncha know), and find that here’s someone who’s managed to stay on the edge of hip, even at 40.

Oh, yeah, for sure, not a claim to fame, there are plenty of others.  But not as many as I’d like to think, and I lost my calling card somewhere on the road between 35 and 40.

You haven’t lived until you’ve tried to figure out what to wear to a rock concert at 40.

So I’m reading this uber cool blog and flipping channels and Fight Club is on.  I’m not a die hard fan, but I enjoyed it when it first came out.  Which led me to thinking about Trinity, The Matrix, women-as-strong-role-models and how cool that whole entree into the 21st century Mod Life was.

Yes.  Yes!

Where’s the place in the world where I can be a 40 year old mother of four, urban transplant to suburban, art & science loving writer, and still love Fight Club?

Where, I ask you.

Don’t know?  Me either.

But that’s where I want to live.

I’ve never been super cool, or super hip, so I really shouldn’t put that much pressure on myself.   But if you’re young, take heed, one never gets over the urge to at least try to be somewhat edgy (whether that’s trying to be the opposite of cool or trying to pretend like you don’t care or sitting on the stoop posing as a hipster) – there’s an inner you that never goes away.  Even when the world views you as something other those aspirations.

In another life, I’ll choose to come back as an actress (another dream I never pursued) and spend my days being every cool character they can think to put up on the screen.

Is 50 the new 20?

It’s no secret that we’re all living longer.  That our collective expectations, of when one should be considered “fully” an adult, have adjusted drastically.

20 years ago, 11 year olds were babysitting and walking to the store for mom, 18 year olds were starting careers, and men and women were starting families at the ripe old age of 24 or 25.

Now, 13 year olds have babysitters, 21 year olds are moving back home, and if you’re 35 and not married, your friends will say “Well, not to worry, families start at 40 these days…”

At what age does adulthood fully set in these days?  Hard to say, but I’m at a loss for words every time I see the trailer for the lastest Meryl Streep flick – Hope Springs.  Starring Streep and Tommy Lee Jones as a couple trying to rekindle their marriage and their love, the tagline runs something along the lines of:

Hope Springs, finally – a love story for adults…

Finally.  A love story for adults.  Because those other love stories featuring “kids” playing at love (even though they’re 30) don’t really count.  Because now we expect you to be a solid 60 before we’ll consider you worthy of mature decision making?  Have we reached the point of 40 being the new 18, where 50 is the new 20?

Wandering through my days (I really don’t wander as much as I intimate in my blog, but it sounds more youthful doesn’t it), anyway as I run through life I am struck by the fact that young adults, in their 20s and 30s are encouraged to be more youthful, put off “growing up” for a longer period of time and Enjoy Life.

As if there is zero enjoyment in putting down roots, establishing one’s self, and embracing a family life.

As if there exists no reason to get a job at 30 and work at said employer until one retires.  (Of course, this is no longer a reasonable expectation, or option, in a world where employers will slice out a large chunk of their staff without hesitation, forethought or remorse.  A world where employers are no more loyal to their employers then a major sports team looking to make salary cap room for the latest celeb free agent.)

But is 60 really the new age at which one can be called an adult?

Have we gone that far?

No wonder my 9 year old doesn’t feel the need to make up his bed or take on the responsibility of cleaning his room (not that I let him get away with that, but all I hear is “Mom… none of my friends have to do this!”   Is this true?  Is he right?)

And if so, what am I doing here?  I should be out skateboarding, or hanging at the Apple store, picking out the next gadget to beg my mom to buy for me (she being only a decade into adulthood should be happy to comply right?).

I know it is just a movie, and sappy taglines are par for the course.

But…

There’s a long stretch of life post college and pre-pre-retirement age.

I’d love to see us stop writing off mid-life as insignificant and embrace it for it’s worth.  Mid-life is that wonderful time where you’re old enough to know better and young enough to Just Do It!  Mid-life is that time where you’re still learning from an older and wiser generation, but you’re also coaching a youthful set toward the goal of Life in Full Living Color.

Mid-life is the time where you can consider a new career, a new hobby, a new way of doing things and you’ll still have half your life to enjoy that new venture.

Mid-life is wonderful!

Baby Boomers have been usurping our vision of life since, well, since they appeared on the scene 40 or 50 years ago.  Angry, mad as heck, and shouting “Dont Trust Anyone Over 30/Authority/the Man/Your Mama…”  Then they swapped out Hippie for Yuppie and activism for MBAs and began to Seize the Day (read: they made a lot of money, bought a lot of real estate, and they’re fairly well set).  Never mind the dust left behind for the rest of us.

Baby Boomers have been trampling on Gen X’ers day in the sun for, well, for all of my life.

And now they’ve crowned themselves the official Adults in the room.

That’s life.

Meanwhile, please excuse me, I’m headed to the mall and then off to see NKOTB (that’s New Kids on The Block to you adults)…

Small Town Dreaming


Several years ago, I feel in love with a house (I say “I” because my husband isn’t the type to fall in a love with a house, per se, he’s unequivocally happy where ever we lay our heads, and would be just as happy in a RV as he would the “perfect” home).  Speaking of which, we might try that RV thing some day…. But I digress.

This house, a somewhat simple house, had a mid 20th century small town charm to it.  Original hard wood floors, spacious nooks and crannies… As if calling to me, I drove past that house weekly, circling the block and wishing.  As luck would have it, the house was on the market.  As fate would have it, it was priced at almost twice the amount we could have afforded to pay for it.  And so I dreamed (as I am known to do).

Days passed.  “Want to go for a ride kids?”  Being preschoolers, they happily compiled.  And off we’d go, down the road, over the river and through the woods (no, no, not really).  But we took many a “drive” simply so I could see that house one more time.

What is it about certain “things” that speak to us in life?  Whether a lifestyle, or a career, or a house?

That house seemed to speak to me, calling my name.

Time passed.  And the house didn’t sell.  A year later we found ourselves miraculously in that house, thanks in part to a recession (a great recession) and a lease option.

What joy!  I was in a paradise.

For a time.

A large house with charm for days, big enough to provide space and room for each of our children, and then some.  A gloriously blooming garden replete with beautiful flowers three seasons out of the year.

But (there’s always a but)…

Turned out the the house had leaks.  Really bad leaks in places where you’d expect them, and then places where you wouldn’t.

Turned out that the picturesque small town was home to a handful of really (really) nice people and then the rest were, well, not so nice (ranging from indifferent to downright rude especially toward us, the newly arrived not-from-around-here “diverse” neighbors).  I was amazed at how little they knew about each other, even though many had been in the neighborhood for 10, 20 or even 30 years.

Turned out that original hardwood floors come with original plumbing and electrical wiring/outlets.  Outlets that appeared to be artifacts of a bygone era (AC/DC, what’s that?).  The kind of outlets only your grandparents would know what to do with, and they would have made reference to their grandparents, oil lamps, and minimal electrical needs.  This museum worthy wiring came with the requisite trips to the fuse box every evening when all were home and the gadgets were actually on and running.

Turned out that there were chipmunks and a squirrel living in the walls of our house.  Oh and a possum under the back deck, so big he could have scared away a city dog any day.  In what appeared to be a casting call for a Ken Burns take on The Insects, the carpenter ants had established enemy camps in three of four corners in the kitchen walls.  This all makes for great stories (after you’ve moved).

Turned out that the rated “10” school in our neighborhood was great, but not so great for our kids.  Particularly our delayed reader.  When I asked if we should be concerned about dyslexia, they responded with “well, we might not ever know what the ‘problem’ is.”  He was in the first grade.  It’s funny but educators will talk until their blue in the face about the trouble with boys being late readers but when faced with the reality of the challenge few are capable of truly stepping up to the plate.

Turned out that even though small towns are fairly safe, much more safe then a big city, overall, crime still lurks around the corner (the only attempted break-ins I’ve ever experienced were in this small town).  On a side note, small town police can be quite friendly though, and would often park outside my house, waiting to  see if the perpetrators ventured back to the scene of the crime.

Turned out that the lack of cultural activities for me (a big city gal) was a bit more than I could bear.  Opera? Please.  Diversity?  Not so much (although a neighbor did say, well, we’ve got several kinds of Protestants in the neighborhood).  Foreign film festivals? Are you kidding? And don’t get me started on the abysmally low WalkScore….

Turned out that paradise takes more forethought and hindsight and less wishing on a star, then I’d thought.

We were there two years, and by the end we were so miserable that the original charm and beauty of the house and its setting was more of a prison then it was a life to be loved.

So we hit the high road and headed back to the big city.

Now we’re in the cramped confines of a big city low rise, with shared spaces in every corner and a kitchen that would make galley kitchens laugh.

Gone are the wide open spaces that was our back yard.  Gone are the flowers and bees and the old oak tree (yes, we had that too).  Gone are the dreams of raising kids small town American style.

And yet, we’re happier then we’ve been in a long time.  And the delayed reader is thriving (thanks to a school with much better resources and an attitude that says “it’s only 3rd grade, we’d hardly write him off yet”).

And culture is right outside my door, along with mass transit (not to be taken for granted), and a schedule so full we really don’t have time to sit around and miss our old precious homestead…

But there are moments when I’d love to look up at the sky and see stars like I’ve never seen them before.  To hear the calm quiet of a small town night, with crickets playing their music in the background.

So we take what we have.

In the moment.

And keep our memories tucked in a special place, in our hearts.

Reflections for the Week

I think we’ve established that I spend way too much time thinking about social media.

It’s what I do for work, and my hobby, plus a favorite pastime, so that makes for a fair amount of time spent being *social* online.

But one of the things I love about the myriad of connections I make along the way is the sense that the world is so big and yet so small, all at the same time.

Perhaps that’s why we’re drawn to events like the Mars Rover landing. Just how big (and on the flip side), just how small is our universe?

Will we expand beyond the here & now to a greater unknown? Or do we need to check ourselves lest we lose the one life sustaining place that exists in this whole big universe?

I’m going to go out on a limb and say, regardless of what is or what isn’t, that we need to take care of this world’s ecosphere.  It’s unique, it’s precious and we depend on it.

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