Or Maybe

Or maybe, if I take a momOr Maybe Memeent to consider the POINT of my speech is for mutual understanding, I can make more of an effort to be sure I have not just spouted my words (eloquent though they maybe) and leave it at that.

Isn’t the point of talking for communication? If we don’t make some effort to ensure our listener is understanding– what is the point of talking in the first place?

And as a measure of human compassion, I want to be understood. I want you to understand what I really mean. I don’t want to cause confusion or distress because I refused to make an effort to reach understanding.

Not that you have to agree or like it, but understand. Understand, for me and my world, here’s what I have to say.

I had a boss tell me one time that good communication requires 200%: 100% from the talker and 100% from the listener.

I get- heck, I KNOW- there are people who just seem to refuse to listen. To understand. There’s probably a meme for those people too.

If we accept the premise that we’re all in this together (and I do), then I AM responsible for what I say and that it is understood.

And if I mess it up? Well, I hope you can understand.

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Loving the Hard

The constancy of change, the hell of aging.

The constancy of change, the hell of getting old.

One of The Grandmas is failing. She has moved into a facility and the villain of Alzheimer’s has stolen a lot of her away.

It’s hard.

This is the Grandma who traveled the world. Invited the world to dinner. She loves Giants baseball. She can also be difficult. She yells. She could be caustic. She gossiped. She pissed some people off. Her children tell stories that make me cringe. This is the Grandma that wore a fuchsia velvet pantsuit. Who bought herself diamond rings. Who would buy extra presents to have on hand so everyone would have a “little something under the tree.” She struggled with marriage. She married and divorced and remarried my Grandfather. And her marriage after he passed is the stuff of legends (dark, sad legends). She worked hard. She loves butterflies with the glee of a Disney princess. A delicate creature that seems so unlike her — and yet colorful being just like her. This is the Grandma that came to the play when I only had a job on the crew. And when I did my prop change, she and her friends gave me a standing ovation. And when the director scolded me, she scolded him in the lobby. This is the Grandma that when I introduced her to Little Sir for the first time and asked if she wanted to hold him, she said, “No, it’s okay. I’m over that.”

I recently told her the older I get, the more I see I am like her (in only the best ways OF COURSE) and she said, “Oh, I’m sorry. You thought you’d escaped, didn’t you?”

And as she fades, it has surprised me who has been able to love on and who have not shown up at all. Don’t they know we’re all human? That we have to love our elders? That no one should leave the world alone? That even if she doesn’t know you were there, it is the right thing to do to be there? It shakes my whole idea of love.

It’s hard.

I see a child who suffered and yet has transcended that to love and honor his mother. I see daughters and granddaughters stepping up in ways that are challenging and yet there is an understanding among us that the right thing is often the hard thing.

I see grandchildren and others who benefitted from generosity and hospitality who can’t be bothered.

?????????????????I hear my 4 year old son pray for Grandma not to cry when I didn’t think he saw her tears.

I feel my Grandma grip my hand tightly as we cry together over the constancy of change and the hell of getting old.

It’s hard.

I am honored to be able to give my Grandma the dignity and safety she gave me. She gave it to me when I had no power to get it for myself and now I am able to return that great act of love.

And yet…

I think of the people in my life. The hard ones. And I wonder if I could do the same for them. I know I love when it’s hard. I have parented. And it can be hard. And despite losing out on two marriages, I really did love through hard things. After my marriage ended last fall, I still supported him through a major surgery and recovery.

But I have my limits.

We all do.

Isn’t that why we struggle with God? It is impossible to fully conceive the Unlimited.

And I think of these limits. And I try to accept that mine are okay for me.

And the folks absent from my Grandma’s life now? I try to accept they have their limits and it’s okay for them.

It’s hard.


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Roaring Redwoods: The Race Factor


(Episode 7: Soaring Lows is available now on ibooks, kobo and kindle!)

The first characters I “had” for Redwoods were Helen and Joe. Helen took me a while to get to know. She was tricky to write: smart, modern, scarred by her upbringing… someone wanting to believe in prohibition and seeing the evidence of the law’s failure in her own home…she’s complicated.

Joe was easier to write than I would have gathered since I have not previously written from a male point of view. I’ve tried it a few times and get bored (hahaha…)

Anyway, Shaw and Mei Xing (pronounced My-Shing) came very quickly. There was no way to portray the area and the era without immigrants. The atrocious laws, cultural prejudice, and dependence on immigrants to make California what it is today is a book in and of itself. And there are a few.

But for Redwoods, Shaw and Mei Xing are part of the story. Not the story. I grew up in a diverse family and schools and neighborhoods. Race, religion, culture, language were things we accepted, enjoyed, and laughed about. There’s a story about me trying to wash my baby sister’s brown skin. And another of when a Korean friend came over delighted to find “white people eat rice.” But these are not THE story of race in my life, just a part of it.

So I wanted and Shaw and Mei Xing’s experiences to be part of the story without dominating.

I thought the idea that Shaw has more rights as a “fresh off the boat” Scot versus Mei Xing who was born in California was astounding to consider. Of the two, I found Shaw harder to write. I often wrote his dialogue and then went back to add expressions or change word order to try for his syntax.

Being a white girl myself, it would probably seem Mei Xing should have given me the harder time but there was so much about her family situation and desire to go against the grain in virtually every area of her life that I could identify with easily. Originally, I had her using more Chinese expressions, but edited them out for two reasons: I wanted Mei Xing to come across more American than Chinese;  Chinese characters are very difficult to punctuate in the programs I use to write and publish and I didn’t want to have poor Chinese grammar in my work.

But what about just writing a different race? I mean, what do I know about being Chinese?

Not a thing.

I mean, I know some things that are culturally accurate about eye contact and demeanor and first generation kids and their parents and the syntax wasn’t too hard… But really know? Not a thing.

But I do know what it feels like to have a right to belong and be excluded anyway. I know what it feels like to be in charge and have no one have faith in your ability based on nothing whatsoever. I know what it’s like to be trapped and need escape. I know what it’s like to be in love and yet that love feels impossible because of differences inside and outside the relationship.

And, like Shaw, I have been in a job that others loved and I felt like my skin was crawling with the itch to leave. And like him, I’ve had big plans for a future that didn’t work out like I thought they would.

So, I may only a bit of Scot and not a bit Chinese, but for these characters I didn’t need to in order to understand their lives. I just needed to be human.


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