Monday, March 26, 2012

Julia Cameron's Artist's Dates

Back when I lived in New Mexico, my mom sent me cassette tapes of a Julia Cameron lecture that talked about her bestselling book, The Artist's Way. I loved those tapes, one in particular. They were the kind of tapes you could listen to a hundred times, and still get a new insight on the one hundredth listen. Alas, I've still got those tapes, but no cassette player. I think of them often, though, and one theme that frequently visits my life is the idea of an artist's date. This is a special time you, the artist, sets aside for yourself to help refill your creative reservoir. You don't let time-sucking friends over ride it. It's all about you and no one but you. If I remember correctly, she throws out examples that include shopping for buttons or antique maps.

Now that I'm a mom, I have a couple of questions. Does picking up a gallon of milk count as an artist date? See, I was out, picking up milk, on Sunday and I realized that it was the first time I'd been alone in I didn't know how long. The radio was on in the car and I was listening to Krista Tippet talk to a neuropsychologist about creativity. He was explaining how the brain pathways are different when you think creatively and I realized that I couldn't absorb what he was saying. I couldn't understand it because it was a deep thought, and I almost never have deep thoughts anymore. My thoughts are shallow: "Look your brother in the eye when you say sorry, and say it nicely or it won't mean sorry." "No, you can't have the blue bib because your sister has it and I wish we had two bibs that were identical so that we didn't have this conversation at every meal." "Yes, you can have cherries in your oatmeal." "Good job pooping in the big potty upstairs!"

I remembered the famous essay by Virginia Wolfe, A Room of One's Own, where she talks about how important it is for people to have privacy to create. Not all that long ago, when I was single, I had plenty of privacy. I had hour upon hour all to myself. I had lots of time to think, and my thoughts were more complex than they are now. I have a harder time keeping up with complicated thought processes because I'm out of practice. That's okay. Childhood is fleeting. I'll have plenty of time later to exercise my deep thoughts muscles.

But I did start thinking that I need to be better about artist dates. I can't spend two hours browsing aimlessly in a hardware store anymore. But I can custom design quicker dates that suit my current life. Here are some ideas. I'll add to the list as I think of others.

1. Sit in complete silence for 15 minutes.

2. Take a yoga class.

3. Sit outside on my stoop while my kids are "napping" and draw a picture of the cement sidewalk (or something else nearby that I rarely look at carefully).

4. Turn off internet for an entire day. (This doesn't count as a date, but while internet free, I'd be interested to see what I end up doing with myself.)
5. Spend twenty minutes in a shop where I know I'm never going to buy anything. (Bike shop, carpet store? My idea is to explore a new area without tasks and chores (things I need to buy) being part of the equation.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Happy Valentine's Day, Single Women of the World

This Valentine's Day, give yourself, or a single woman you love, the gift of laughter.  Give her a copy of The Truth About Dating (The Quinn Malone series),only 99 cents!  I hated Valentine's Day when I was single.  There was always so much pressure to not feel like an unloved loser.  In all my years of singledom, I never had a single Valentine's Day that I got to spend with a boyfriend.  When I married, I thought it would make every Valentine's Day perfect.  Instead, marriage somehow neutralized the day to where it no longer mattered.  Overnight, I suddenly couldn't have cared less about the day.  I guess V-Day is a day of torture when you are single and a day of meaningless hype when you actually have a guy around to celebrate it with. 

So show a little love to your single friends on this Valentine's Day.  Single women have it hard (yes, Smug-Marrieds, they have it harder than you do, so stop whining about how having a husband is like having another child and give your single gal pals a hug and this book.  And while you're at it, try reading it yourself.  You might learn a thing or two.)

Here's an excerpt from The Truth About Dating.  After months of unsuccessful dates on, our heroine, Quinn Malone, has convinced her best friend Izzy to join Match, too.

Valentine’s Day

 “I had a meltdown on my date last night.” I told Izzy.

“Meltdown or breakthrough?” she asked. “You’re just getting more efficient.”

Maybe she was right. Ryan didn’t look particularly distressed when I left. In fact, he’d nodded and said, “Good points.” And he shook my hand before I left.

“I’m loving Match!” Izzy told me. “I’ve been out on three dates this week. I can’t believe how good it feels. This was just what the doctor ordered. I bought a six-month subscription.”

“You paid for six-months? You’ve had three dates in one week?” I asked.

“Yes. And even just the goodnight kisses have raised my self-confidence through the roof. I feel unstoppable. Match is the best thing I’ve done in years.”

“You’ve kissed people? How many?”

“All three.”

“You kissed all three men you met on Match?”


“And they were kissable? You wanted to kiss them?”

“They were all babes. The first guy, Joe, had a kind of country boy charm to him. He was sweet. He paid for dinner.”

“You let a guy pay for dinner?”

“Why not? And as we were leaving, I figured, I’m going to kiss him. So I leaned in and gave him a small kiss on the lips. He was taken completely by surprise. It was fun.”


“The second guy was a banker and he was a little straight-laced. But I think I’m just what he needs to loosen up a little. And he’s a little short.”

“How short?”

“It’s not too bad. But he’s just a couple of inches taller than me. It bothers me more than I’d like it to.”

“Height? Who cares? Remember Max?” I asked.

Izzy rolled her eyes. “The name rings a bell.”

Max was my…how do I say this without being trite? It’s not possible. He was my first love. We dated ten months before breaking up. Even though I’m the one who did the breaking up, I took the three-year plan to get over him. Izzy surely reached a point where she was so sick of Max’s name that she wanted to scream. But I almost never bring him up anymore. I probably haven’t mentioned him more than five times a year for the past 3-4 years.

“When I first met him,” I began, “I didn’t think he was good-looking at all.” Izzy had never met Max. I wasn’t living in Omaha back then. “I fell for him because he was so funny and because he had so much integrity.”

Izzy nodded. “I still don’t understand why you two broke up.”

“We were moving down different paths. We had completely different life goals. He wanted a wife. I wanted a partnership. But toward the end of our dating life, I remember sitting with him at El Patio. Remember that restaurant?”

“In the student ghetto?” Izzy had visited me enough times in Albuquerque to know my haunts.

“Yeah. And I suppose I knew that we weren’t going to make it. And I remember thinking that if I could just keep looking at him forever, I would.” I grimaced. “We broke up that same night. About some stupid fight. I can’t even remember now.”

“So, by the end, you thought he was handsome.”

“No. Even then, while I was staring at him, I remember thinking ‘All this pain he’s causing and he’s not even good-looking.’ I loved his looks anyway.”

“He sounds like he had a lot of charisma.”

“He did. Charisma is deadly,” I warned. I did a little internal survey. It was still painful to talk about Max. I moved on. “But some guys just make you click, you know? And no one has it all. So if it happens with the banker, if you fall for him, you won’t care about his height anyway.”

Izzy nodded. “And he’s a great kisser. And, we’re going out on Valentine’s Day!”

“Valentine’s Day? When is that?”


“How do you manage all this? I haven’t had a single kissable guy since I started Match. Except for Caleb, who just wanted sex.”

“What about the guy from California?”

“Derek. He flies in next Saturday.”

“You should kiss him.”

“I don’t know if he’s kissable.”

“He’s cute. He’s flying across the country to see you.”

“I’ll try. Okay. That will be my weekend goal. To kiss him.”

“You won’t regret it,” Izzy said.

On Valentine’s Day, I had Moo Shu Pork take out and listened to the Cowboy Junkies’ Trinity Session cd until I felt completely desolate. Izzy called. “How are you doing?”

“Aren’t you on your date?”

“Uh-oh. You don’t sound good. Do I hear the Cowboy Junkies?”

I felt my eyes tear up. “I don’t know why I do this to myself,” I said. “It’s just a stupid greeting card holiday.”

“Yesterday, everyone at work was saying ‘Happy Valentine’s Day.’ I told everyone, ‘Happy Friday the 13th!’”

That made me smile, a little bit. “What about your date?”

“I’m dressing for it right now. So tell me, what are you going to do to make yourself feel better?”

“Eat a pint of Häagen-Dazs?”

“No. First, turn off the Cowboy Junkies. Second, watch a movie. Go rent something you haven’t seen before but always wanted to.”

“I’m kind of settled at home,” I said. “I thought I’d stay in for the night.”

“It’s 6:30!” she snapped.

“I don’t know how safe the roads are, what with all those happy couples driving around on dates.”

“Listen to me,” Izzy said. “You have a guy flying in from California next week, to see you! Now march yourself outside right now and rent something funny that will get you out of this state you’ve gotten yourself into.”




I rented Buffy the Vampire Slayer, the movie. It wasn’t as good as the television series. Izzy was right, though. It did make me feel better.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Murder with Art, A Ruby Neptune Mystery (Book 2)

The second book in my Ruby Neptune mystery series, Murder with Art, is now available. 

The blurb:
In an art gallery in New York City, a wealthy banker is murdered. Manhattan’s art scene is full of people who would have benefited from his death, but newly-published writer Ruby Neptune takes it personally when her best friend, a local artist, becomes the prime suspect. Still traumatized from the death of her neighbor a few months earlier, Ruby jeopardizes her tenuous recovery to investigate. As the incriminating evidence piles up, she realizes she’s gotten in too deep, but it’s too late to turn back. Ruby has no choice but to seek out the truth, even if it means drawing the attention of the killer onto herself.

This book can be read on its own, but it's even better if you read it after you've read the first in the series, Murder Beyond Words.

I uploaded it last night (February 7th).  It probably went live at about 3AM on February 8th.  When I logged on this morning at 6AM, someone had already purchased a copy.  If that was you, would you drop me a line to say hi and let me know what made you buy the first copy? 

Click here to purchase Murder with Art on Amazon.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

The Gut-wrenching Pain of De-cluttering Bookcases

It's a dreary day, ideal, one might say, for de-cluttering.  But cloudy days bring out the opposite of productive energy in me.  However, here's a quick update on what happened over the weekend. 

Our basement had been totally torn apart because we got the walls insulated.  This meant that we had to move everything to the center.  If clutter causes stress, our basement would cause an anxiety attack in anyone who wasn't blind.  Just to do laundry we've had to navigate around piles of crap.  While we were all recovering from the stomach flu two weekends ago, my husband cleared up the area by the washer/dryer.  On Saturday, we turned on a movie for the kids and began moving everything back onto shelves, rehanging the peg board for the tools, and sorting through the stuff that we have but don't know what to do with so store down where we can't see it. 

The workmen who have been insulating our house were planning to return on Monday morning to put insulation on our windows.  We have a 100-year old house and our windows have a weight and pulley system that creates drafts.  They had some new device that covers the openings of the weight cavities.  So even though I didn't want to start the Big Bedroom De-clutter till Monday, I felt obligated to clean up sooner.  While my husband finished in the basement, I did a deep dust clean of the bedroom, vacuuming on the top of all the windows, all the baseboards, and in all the nooks and crannies of our weight machine.  From there, I did that in all the windows upstairs. Too bad dust is a completely useless resource. 

Since the bedroom looked pretty good, I decided to get back to it later and start on an easier project, my kids' room.  We have an entire wall of books.  I started sorting them out yesterday, because we are totally out of room.  I had my little boy with me.  He was busy trying to read all the books I took down and objecting to any of his books being given away.  We were rocking out to Six Little Ducks and a bunch of other kids' music.  Pretty quickly, he lost interest and started pretending that his bed was a train he was taking to Florida. 

Books I removed: Ethan Frome, Life of Pi, Biography of Zora Neale Hurston, Alice Walker's In Search Of Our Mother's Garden, which I've had since I was about 24 years old.  The Strange Incident of the Dog in the Nightime, Kitchen, by Banana Yoshimoto, The Three Musketeers, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, North and South, Mauprat, by George Sands (which I've had since I was a student in Brooklyn), and many, many more.  It was heartbreaking.  I bought tons of them when I lived in New York City in my early twenties, and I've carted them with me to various apartments, then to New Mexico, Minnesota, and Nebraska.  Now I've got a 1300 square home, more space than I've ever had in my entire life, and I'm getting rid of them?  It's painful.  I remembered exactly where I bought many of those books.  The stores and the street vendors.  And then, after I had this huge pile of books, I looked up and the bookcase was still completely overstuffed and full, with no real room. 

I got rid of a bunch of my kids' books.  Criteria?  If I don't like reading them, goodbye.  Then I opened their closet (which we never use.  I had to move two pieces of furniture to get to it, and inside were about sixty more books.  So I took a pile of them out, and put them on the shelf.  I'm going to try to read and throw out books that I don't like.  Also in that closet is a crib that we apparently can't give away because of recalls for side-dropping cribs.  We have a Visiting Nurse friend who gives a lot of our stuff to at-risk new mothers, but she can't take the crib because of the recall.  Ironically, she is the one who gave us the crib in the first place!  We used it for both of our kids.  Now we can't give it away.  I hated to think of it in the dump, so I just shut the closet door and moved all the furniture back.  I'll deal with the closet another day. 

I'll come back to the bookcase again, after my husband has sorted through all of his books and hopefully thrown a bunch out. 

De-cluttering is tiring because it's so emotional.  It was easy to just clean the bedroom this weekend.  It was draining to de-clutter the bookcase yesterday.  Since I've put the bedroom project on temporary hold, I decided to tackle the bathroom.  I'm going to go up there after nap-time today with a big garbage bag.  How hard can it be to toss out half used hair care products and expired tubes of cortisone?