Tag Archives: Thousand Words Press

Words I Love #8: Australia Edition

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Having just watched a fortnight of Australian Grand Slam tennis, which is two weeks in case you didn’t know this odd word far more popular in England and Australia than here in the U.S., I am reminiscing about our half-year spent Down Under.   Because this was a driving trip, I sat with a map in my lap for months when I wasn’t driving myself, and the names of the towns just had such an interesting ring to them.

From my journal from August 17, 2002:

I’ll tell you straight, on top of the dreaded north/south/ east/west situation, reading a road map in Australia is linguistic aerobics.  When I attempt to announce where we are heading, it’s as if I’m five again, sounding out my letters one syllable at a time.

Oh sure, see how you’d do.

Murwillumbah is north of Mullumbimby.  Of course, you have to pass through Woolgoolga and Yuraygir National Park first.  National Parks are particularly treacherous, as you next pass Bundjalung National Park.  Because I’ve spent lots of time looking at the whole map of Australia, I know that down near Perth (ok, that’s easy) is Gnowangerup, quite near Jerramungup and Moulyinning.  While you taste wines near Margaret River (aah, the simplicity), you can attempt Cowaramup or Yallingup.  I’m pretty sure they threw in nearby Nannup to be kind to the severely inebriated.  Biddaddaba isn’t anywhere close to Nannup, but I like how that one sounds – or at least how I think it sounds.

There’s Indooroopilly, Queensland and Koombooloomba, Queensland.  Lest you think Queensland has a corner on the ridiculous name market, check out Iiykuwaratja, South Australia and Koorarawalyee, Western Australia.

If Australians like a town name well enough, they’ll use it twice for emphasis.   Wagga Wagga.  Willi Willi.  Grong Grong.  Ki Ki.  Curl Curl.  Boonoo Boonoo.  Gol Gol.  Jil Jil.  There’s the sexy sounding Milla Milla.  The tasty Kurri Kurri.  And the slightly raunchy Booti Booti National Park.

Imagine the embarrassment of trying to do serious work in Humpty Doo, Salmon Gums, Gympie or Dee Why.  Then again, other towns sound positively lovely.  To wit: Violet Town, Upper Plenty, Mount Pleasant or Daydream Island.  I’m pretty sure I’d pass on buying a home in Denial Bay or Weary Bay, and I wonder about the housing prices on Rottnest Island.  Snobs Creek must be a barrel of laughs.  There are dolphins in Monkey Mia, so I’m a little confused there.  And apparently Dead Horse Gap was particularly hard on horses.

I have a soft spot for the straightforward and highly pronounceable Big Green Island.

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I Yam Who I Yam

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I’ve been thinking a bunch about how we judge each other.   And how we have built-in infrastructure that does it in the most cruelly effective way.  

I’m speaking of the Neanderthalic thumbs up, thumbs down.  No disrespect to Siskel & Ebert, the movie critics who ended their reviews by summing everything up with a thumbs up or thumbs down, and actually trademarked the phrase “two thumbs up.”  They were professionals, after all, hired to give viewers their perspective.  If we were going to plunk down our hard-earned cash on a movie, we wanted a clear sign that it would be worth it.

We wanted a thumbs up.

But now many platforms made to share creativity have adopted the thumbs up/thumbs down rating system.  And here is why that poses a problem to that very creativity they are hoping to spawn.  Younger creatives, and hell, even older ones with seemingly thicker skin but tender hearts, focus their own self worth based on the number of ups or downs a posted project receives.  I know some really creative young people (ahem) who have removed good content because there were too many thumbs down.  Or, even more tragically, decided what to create based on what gets positive reviews.

Isn’t that bass-ackwards?  Shouldn’t we be suggesting to young kids that they should create what comes from within, and find their own worth within the creation and not the feedback loop?  Does it really matter what other people think?

I mean, I don’t care what you think, but what do you think?

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Dawn of the Dead

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(Emerged from the back of my fridge this morning. Was steak at some point.)

On this, the last day of October, I rejoice.

No, I’m not a huge fan of Halloween.  My son, who has dressed up as an eagle and a mummy and a ghost and a race car in years past, now has feet that are larger than his father’s.  His Halloween costume this year will be his fine personality and hopefully the manners I’ve instilled in him, as he walks up to someone’s door dressed in a creepy mask and asks for candy. He’s in high school.  The ship has so sailed on trick or treating.

I rejoice on this day because October is over.  For me, October is a remembrance of how life can skid sideways.  How things that seem so in order and in hand, are actually far out of order.  Fourteen years ago I was told I had cancer.  The boy with the man feet had just recently celebrated his first birthday.  The next day after my diagnosis, we walked around a pumpkin patch near the coast in a mental fog, picking out big orange orbs to decorate our home, because that is what you do to celebrate Halloween.

It’s just my luck that everyone celebrates breast cancer in October.  We are made aware.  We are awash in pink.  Corporations make millions off painting their products this color, sometimes the same products that are filled with carcinogens that give us cancer in the first place.  This bothers me.  Saddens me.  I wish that companies would simply remove the chemicals and talk about that instead.  Then donate some money to local causes that actually help women with the day-to-day issues that arise when fighting the disease.

The light starts to change in October.  Darkness is coming.  There is a chill in the air, even in California.

And yet.  Tomorrow will be November, the month of Thanksgiving.  If October houses my personal “Oh! No!” moment, then November is the month of my redemption.  It was the month I took charge those 14 years ago.  My surgery was on November 4th.  You better believe I was thankful.

Still am.  So very much.

In fact this year, during this October, I worked hard to write a new story for myself.  Thousand Words Press, the company I formed to publish my children’s book Nowhere Hair, has merged with the copywriting work I have done since 1990. While I will never stop helping women with the hard task of explaining their cancer to their kids through this wonderful book, it’s time for me to remember that my ongoing inspiration comes when I create.  With words.  With images.

Thousand Words Press’s new logo, I am now realizing, is a big orange orb.

How perfectly fitting.  A circle of life.

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Things I Love, And I Don’t Know Why #1

I love using something all the way to the very very end.

You know, squeezing that last little ooze of toothpaste.  Or putting a bit of shower water into the bottle of shampoo to make sure you’re getting the last bits out.  Plucking the last piece of wood from the pile.  Staying on my computer until the screen turns black, and there’s an almost audible sigh from the machine, as if it has done all it can do that day to help me.

I actually look forward to getting to that point in time when something is finished.  Not done, but finished.  Remember that over-enthusiastic, sing-songy “All Gone!” that we did with our young kids?  I thought it would make the idea of something great being finished more tolerable, because there was music involved.  I did it, let’s be honest, so my son would be distracted and not cry.  It worked often.

Like when the cookie was eaten, or the toy was returned to its rightful owner, or the last swirls of warm bath water had sashayed down the drain.  We would look up at me with that “say it isn’t so” raised eyebrow and quivering lip.  It even worked when the barber in town shaved my head because chemo had taken my hair follicles hostage.  My barber, kind old gentleman he, had turned the chair to face away from the mirror, and toward my son and husband.

I watched them watch me.  First, a metallic “click” and immediate hummmmm of the clippers, and without a pause, the barber paved a no-turning-back-now one-lane road down the center of my head, and kept widening it with every pass.  He had a deliberate and seasoned stroke, moving across the top of my scalp.  I appreciated how he didn’t waver in his job.  A waterfall of hair fell onto my shoulders and cascaded into my lap.  The essence of my femininity was clumped disgracefully all over my lap.

The whole procedure took less than five minutes and cost $8.  I walked straight to Anders and Hans without looking in the mirror.

“Where’s Mommy’s hair?” I asked Hans, and I bent my head down right in front of him.  His warm little fingers rubbed over my stubble and he giggled, thankfully.  “All gone!” I said as lightheartedly as I could at that moment.

Some women actually consider not doing chemo because they can’t imagine life without hair.  I can’t imagine life without life, so there you go.

So perhaps it makes total sense that I like to squeeze the tube until nothing else comes out.  Because that means, really, that you’re about to get a brand-spanking fat new tube.

And I love that, too.

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Words I Love: #5

This week it shall be words of gluttony, in homage to the recent holidays and the damage done to waistlines across America.

To wit, the word glop.  It just sits up there, all jello-y and slightly wiggling.  A glop of mashed potatoes is what everyone gets at the Glader house, because a spoonful just doesn’t convey the message.  And honestly, it’s more like 4 spoonfuls.  Which is equal to one glop, if you must know.

Sop is a cousin of glop.  Sop comes in and cleans up the mess that glop leaves.  Damn glop, can’t take him anywhere …  Sop is often found near a thick slice of bread, or, actually more precisely, sop is IN the slice of bread, because sop is what you do with your bread and that last drizzle of gravy smooshed all over your plate.  When I think of the word sop, I see glistening lips and hear lots of slurping sounds.

Now, we all need to make way for plop, who is the superstar of the family, forever known for her role in the Alka Seltzer commercial.  Ah, the days when advertising copywriters would use words that evoke sound!  Plop, plop, fizz, fizz, OH!  What a relief it is!   The “p” on the end of plop sounds like a beautiful bubble bursting, and it’s so fitting.  When you plop a few ice cubes into your cocktail, there is a satisfying tiny splash.

Then you can do some gulping, which certainly isn’t recommended if you are drinking my husband’s margaritas.  But gulp is so lusty and big.  There is bravado in gulp.

And I bet you have never realized that gulp spelled backwards is another fantastic word?  Plug.  Plug is not a word of gluttony.  It’s a word of control.  Which is what you need to do here in the new year to fit back into your jeans.

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The Universe Speaks

Call it the law of attraction.  Or karma.  Or just a spectacular coincidence.

But what would you call it if you had a conversation with your mentor about how you really really should think about speaking to others about your topic of passion, and not just in a casual way but in a Stand-Up-Before-You-And-Get-Paid fashion.  Then you leave that person and stop at the library and check out a few books on public speaking before you pick up your son to go home.  And at home the little light on your answering machine is blinking.  And the nice lady who just left you a message says how she would like you to be the program speaker for her upcoming fundraising event.

I mean, what do you call that?  Other than ah-mazing.

I’ll take it, of course.  And ask for many more helpings, please.  If all I must do is focus on what I want to happen, which is sometimes harder to do than I would like, then I should get on that.

And so should you.

Maybe we should all sit down with a pen and pencil, and just focus in on a few things here this new year that we would like to happen.  Maybe say them out loud a few times.

That way, whomever is listening can get right on the job of making our dreams come true.

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The Road to “Yes!”

The train tracks from Alaska into Canada.

I am lucky enough to now be blogging for Facing Cancer Canada, which gives me an outlet to talk very much to the cancer community.  “It won’t always be about cancer,” I told Chantal, my contact there.  “My life is not all about cancer.”  She understood, and actually encouraged me to simply write what moves me, as they want to show all sides of the cancer experience.   In it, after it, through it.

This is my second blog post.

We’re a posse that understands the meaningfulness of firsts.   First time in the infusion lab.  First tug and eerie release of your here-to-fore sturdy hair.  First time hearing the solid “thunk” of the door closing as everyone flees the radiation room, yet you are left behind.

So many firsts.  So many difficult firsts.

But life has a way of evening things out.  The pendulum swings back.  The trick, it seems, is to catch it and go for a new ride.  Take a chance.  Try something new.

I am now on the side of more pleasant firsts, thankfully.  Like this past weekend, I was part of a gala event called Truth Be Told for the Premiere Oncology Foundation in Santa Monica, California.   I was invited as a storyteller, along with 10 other cancer survivors, to put a face on this disease.

I grabbed, and I swung.  I mean, I’m not a professional speaker.  I like speaking.  Do it a lot, actually, every day.  But not on stage.  And certainly not alone, without notes or a podium.  Terrifying?  You bet.   But so amazingly juicy to force myself to push through my comfort zone.

Not only did I get to simmer for 2 days with some soulful people, but I got to share my work with the audience, and ask them to consider the importance of including our kids in our cancer treatment.  In other words, saying yes to opening myself up to strangers allowed me to further a discussion that I am passionate about.

Life is just a series of firsts, punctuated by long stretches of the same old, same old.  For cancer patients, saying yes is part of the treatment.   We have to agree to some protocol and move forward.  But having an enthusiastic “Sure!” to what comes after we’re all finished with our doctor visits, that is part of the wisdom borne of a cancer diagnosis.

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Happiness in a Cup

It’s not as impressive as Jesus appearing in a piece of toast, but it did make my day.

Happy 4th of July.

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Oh Daddy

He was a whistler and a whittler, and I miss him so.

Most nights, after we ate dinner, dad would sit in his chair, pick up a piece of wood and, depending on the point in its creation, would either sand or whittle with sharp as a razor knives.  Whales.  Birds.  Strange objects.  To my right on my desk is a interlinked set of ovals whittled out of some light wood.  His knife strokes are right there for me to see.

These links are symbolic.  I was born on my dad’s 41st birthday.

He was a fisherman and a tinkerer.  He taught me both.   I can still picture in my mind all the different fishing holes we visited. Our neighborhood had Square Pond, arrived at after a walk through the Connecticut woods and across a simple, open meadow.  While he would go fly fishing for Big Mama, the bass he was sure lurked in the deep, I would flit along the shore,  trying to catch bullfrogs or successfully catching tennis ball-sized Sunnies.  A longer car ride away was the place where we tried for carp, one from an overpass and another down by the river.  When I grew to be in middle and high school, we would try for salmon in Washington State, a long windy drive out to Fox Island until the road dead ended, and then an equally long windy walk past the blackberry and raspberry bushes down to the huge dock overhanging the Narrows.  Instead of the light poles with a red and white bobber, we used long, heavy salmon rods laden with herring that took all you had to whip it out there into the current.  We’d catch dog fish (which I believe were a kind of shark) that the Vietnamese fisherman who squatted for hours while they fished would take home, and every so often we would land a salmon. On every fishing trip there was a lot of casting and reeling in.  Casting and reeling in.  “Something’s out there, Sue,” he’d say.  “Just got to be patient.”  He was ever the optimist when it came to fishing.

He showed me the value of working hard.  Of trying to fix things yourself.  Of being creative in your down time.   Of telling good stories.  Of reading.

He could carve a beautiful turn down any ski hill, and perhaps his greatest gift to me, other than making me in the first place, was teaching me the same love for skiing.  He started me at 4, as I have done with my son, first in between his legs going down the almost flat hills, then watching as I shusshed down the slopes and doing the inevitable sweep of the hill behind me.

He carved me a small wooden mouse with a tiny leather tail that was pinned to my jacket or hat when I skied.  He told me it was a mogul mouse, that would help me navigate through a mogul field and not fall down.  There was nothing, he admitted, to be done about the snow snakes.  You just had to carve those turns and hope for the best.

We worked together to bring back to life a 1971 MGB-GT.  That meant many evenings after school and on the weekend, after he had played his round of golf with his buddies, we would attack a certain part of the car with the Chilton’s manual by our side and a whole heap of good intentions.  I learned to gap spark plugs.  Fiddle with duel carbs.  The crazy make-up of a disk brake system with all it’s little “shoes” and moving parts, and how to apply Bondo.  I learned with him that the electrical system on a British car is a thing of mystery, no matter what the pages of the manual say.  And that the simple touches, like the rear view mirror affixed to the right front fender, are both necessary and rakish.

He called me Chatterbox and Finella.  And George, sometimes.  You see, I was the son my dad never had.  How I wish I could hug and kiss him today.

 

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The End of Days: Part 2

OK, I’ve never done a two-blog.  I try to be very concise.  Give you a nibble, not a 3-course meal with coffee.  But if I wrote ALL the strange things that happened to me on Saturday in one long blog, you’d hate me for taking up so much of your time.

So part two of my day.

Having survived a marauding lady deer, we continued our hike.  Anders loves to give me options of the routes we can take, and as I considered the two that he proposed, I wished that somehow we could end up walking past these houses that I’ve heard are perched up in the woods.  I mean that literally.  Occupants of these homes have to walk up long, winding dirt paths from the car park to get to their houses.  Cool in nice weather.  A bitch, I’m certain, in the rain with groceries and a crying child.   This thought had nothing really to do with the two options he gave me.  It just popped into my head.  I noticed it, and let it go.  Very Northern California of me.    We chose a direction and set off.

Now again, we do a lot of hiking.  Over the course of 20 years with this man, I’ve taken a million steps.  Most of them have been with a dog in tow.  Never has a dog of mine killed a defenseless bunny, but guess what?  Yup, today was the day.  She did one of her signature hop moves into a bush, I heard the distinctive crunching noise of something going very badly, and when I turned and gasped, she dropped the adorable, gray, still-trembling but very much in the last moments of its life bunny.   I stood there with my hands covering my mouth, muttering, “Oh noooo, nooo, nooo,” endlessly until Anders snapped me out of it and told me there was nothing to do.

My dog is now a bunny killer.  Certainly the world must be coming to an end soon, because this just was so not ok with me.  We continued on, and at this point figured there was nothing to lose to go down some new paths we had never tried before.  I mean, what are the odds of MORE strange things happening?  I let the man with the internal compass lead, and after having not passed another living soul for an hour of walking, we passed a mom and young girl in a deeply wooded area.  Soon thereafter the trail dead ended.  Unless this young girl was part goat, I’m at a loss to understand where they came from.   Because it seemed so … odd … we continued to look for the path.  Stomping through undergrowth and through a little creek, we realized that there was nothing on the other side and we needed to turn around.  As I looked down to pick my way back across the water, I noticed a submerged old glass bottle.  Now, I love finding old bottles in our yard.  It happens every so often, when we are digging somewhere, as our yard back during the turn of the century when this house was built was the dump.  And here were funky old bottles just half submerged in the muck, calling to me.  Cool.  Very very cool.  I dug up two and was going for my third when Anders told me it was getting dark and we needed to go back down the trail to find another way out.

Do you know where this is going?  The way out, a path we had never gone down before, was the SAME one I had wished to find.  We passed the houses tucked up on the hillside, and even some woman carrying up her groceries.  As we exited this area, there was a wedding reception in the grove of redwood trees, yellow lights twinkling and beautiful people in love.

Had my thought really manifested in this action?   On this day, it sure did.

So.  We made it home.  Didn’t get hit by a car, or see a streaker, or have any other animals burst into song.  It seemed that the crazy part of the day was over.  We made appetizers, I made a fire in the outdoor fireplace, we poured ourselves a nice glass of wine and sat down for a game of Scrabble.  A party at the house above us was in full swing, the happy conversations of young people laughing mixing with the music we had on the stereo.

I commented on how much I loved the moment.  Perfection.

Until the sound of something unexpected thunked off the wood trellis above our heads and smashed onto stone somewhere near.  And the party sounds above us ceased right about the time Anders screamed “Your Party is Over.”  My lame-o “That was so uncool” hardly encapsulated how un-cool it was.

Some dumb-ass drunk kid decided it was bright to try and pick us off with a missile of a glass Bud bottle thrown from 150 feet away off their deck.   Because it might have been the end of the world for one of us, and then it would have been the end of the world for the one left.

So, in review:  Deer.  Bunnies.  Glass bottles both old and uncovered from decades in the muck and new and thrown with a crash into our midst.  Ideas coming to life.  Weddings.  And yes, the cops.  In my house.  Any one of these situations would have made for a unique day.  You know, dinner table conversation.  But mixed together into a melange of strangeness, it qualified, at the end of the day, as quite a day indeed.

Was your Saturday as strange as mine?  Please tell me yes, it will make me feel better.

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