I’m officially done with summer! 

Especially since I heard on the radio that for the next four days we’re in for a heat wave, temperatures in the 100s. Okay, Laguna Beach isn’t as hot as inland but my loft bedroom doesn’t have any windows that open. The ex didn’t want to have to screw with the added hassle of installing windows that open when he built the loft.

Upstairs windows 002

As you can see, these windows are made of leaded glass, delicate wisteria blossoms trailing tendrils. Fixed shut. Never to allow a cool evening breeze to wash over me. Instead I have  a giant fan that sounds like a 747 revving up all night long.

Bring on the cool weather of Fall with its magical golden light, its lowering skies, the turning of the leaves (yes, there are trees that “turn” in Southern California–my favorite, the Japanese maple that blazes forth in a magnificent burst of red). And then the cold that will coax the pups back to spooning with me in our queen-sized bed.

And maybe with shorter days I’ll hunker down and get into the follow-up to Loveyoubye, not a whole big book, you understand, perhaps a novella. Not sure yet. That’s what I love about writing. It’s an adventure. But meanwhile I’ve been querying publishers for my African YA novel, Monkey’s Wedding while going through it one last time. I’m very excited about this book. This is where I honed my writing chops. Soon!



Day 3–Positivity Challenge

Continuing with posting three positive things in my life (Day 1 and explanation).

  1. Atomic Bomb, by Hot Chip. I can’t stop singing this song. It’s also covered by William Onyeabor, a funk Nigerian singer. It’s blasting right now on my recently acquired Mac Air.
  2. Which reminds me, I am so appreciating my MacBook Air. A whole new experience from my PC. Why did I wait so long?
  3. Writing. It has only taken me twenty years to finally feel confident about my ability to express my ideas. Now it is such a part of me, that I feel bereft when I’m not trying to shape words to the page.


Day 3–Positivity Challenge

Continuing with posting three positive things in my life (Day 1 and explanation).

  1. Atomic Bomb, by Hot Chip. I can’t stop singing this song. It’s also covered by William Onyeabor, a funk Nigerian singer. It’s blasting right now on my recently acquired Mac Air.
  2. Which reminds me, I am so appreciating my MacBook Air. A whole new experience from my PC. Why did I wait so long?
  3. Writing. It has only taken me twenty years to finally feel confident about my ability to express my ideas. Now it is such a part of me, that I feel bereft when I’m not trying to shape words to the page.





Sawdust Celebration Tonight

Tonight I’m off to the Sawdust Festival’s opening night celebrations. This is an artist’s venue a block from my house down Laguna Canyon Road, where they sell everything from jewelry to iron sculpture to ceramics, clothing, paintings, blown glass, even tiny little ceramic and cloth fairies. There’s also music and dancing on the stage by the water wheel. It’s an invitation-only affair and the sawdust-covered grounds are always packed to the rafters  cedar fence.

From ’82 through ’86, my ex and I used to sell our ceramic creations at the Sawdust. Mine consisted of hand-built fish, vases, wall plaques and flowers, while he had his pots, plates, bowls and cups. We made, glazed and fired all this while working full-time. Of course it was only for the summer, but those were eighteen-hour days. We also did the Westwood Festival in Los Angeles during Christmas. It was an exciting and heady time. And exhausting. It about killed us. I hurt my back and his already gimpy shoulder gave out. He continued for a while then gave it up. I began writing.

So these days I head down to the Sawdust to visit friends’ booths, see what’s new, drink some wine, have a delicious gyro at the Greek booth and dance.


Five Sentence Challenge: Empty

Five Sentence Fiction is a weekly writing challenge made possible by Lillie McFerrin in which to tell a story in just five sentences, a story that packs a powerful punch in a tiny fist. The word does not have to appear in those five sentences, it’s just for direction. If you’d like to learn more about what it’s all about, and maybe give it a try yourself, visit Lillie McFerrin Writes. This week’s prompt is EMPTY. (I managed it in three sentences this time.)

It was the sight of the empty bottle of her precious guava juice that made her snap, that last mouthful she’d been thinking about all day at a job she hated, the one thing she could trust that would be there for her, the one line her wife didn’t cross in their marriage.

She’d negotiated the precipitous canyons of marriage to the world’s most beautiful woman, her occasional men, her lying, her empty eyes, that empty but oh so beautiful smile, being taken for granted. But in the end it came down to juice.


I have a confession to make. I bombed on the 2012 Blogathon. Instead of blogging every day in May, I missed six days here and there. I’m not happy about it. But I have a couple of really good excuses, with which I won’t bore you. But here’s the thing, I finally realized that I can’t keep it up at this point, even though blogging every day since the April A to Z Challenge shifted something in me and my writing. Compelled to ‘snap to’ faster, I became more confident. I stopped agonizing over every word. I was forced to throw my “babies” out there all spindly-legged and wet behind the ears. I couldn’t call them back.

But now I must return to that final edit of my memoir, Loveyoubye, I was working on before my April challenge.  It has been waiting for me, while I built this new writing muscle, poking me in the ribs every time I sat in my writing chair. Every time I did return to my memoir for a short session here and there, I felt the change in my writing. I’m no longer concerned that I might bore with all those details about what really happened. And for some inexplicable reason, I’m also finding that I’m able to dig deeper into my memory for those bygone days. Go figure. Thank you those dear readers who accompanied me on my daily commute. I will continue to blog, just not every day.

Margaritas With Jake

I am so ready for another trip up to my girlfriend’s cabin in Fawnskin, along the north Shore of Big Bear Lake in the San Bernardino Mountains. I’m suffering from that gotta get out of here feeling again, plus the cabin is a great place to write. Even though we’re in the middle of winter, the view from the flatlands down here is that there’s hardly any snow up there; it’s been unseasonably warm. The journey takes two hours from Laguna Beach.  Well, actually two hours and ten minutes, since I’ve always had to stop for Jake, my Staffordshire bull terrier to throw up. Twenty minutes up that winding mountain road makes him car sick. And this time there’s Fergie to consider. Will she also barf?

I can relate to the barfing. That’s what I used to do on every car trip the family took—in our Ford Prefect—especially driving Zambia’s escarpments. My dad did his stopping-only-to-pee thing (in the bush, of course, no toilets) on our way down to South Africa to visit the relatives, before heading for Durban, jewel of the Indian Ocean. Well, it used to be. I had to stick my head out of the window to upchuck, which was always refreshing. When we stopped at Beit Bridge on the border between Zimbabwe and South Africa for petrol, the native attendant would clean it off nicely; I’d get a treasured Pepsi (unavailable in Zambia at the time) and my parents would have a “sundowner” before getting back on the road.

Even though Jake tosses his food every time, I’m always unprepared.  Ever the optimist? Shot memory? So the last time, there he is sitting next to me, gazing out the passenger-side window like he does, checking out the scenery. Transported by the sounds of the group Bon Iver on the radio, I don’t notice that he starts swallowing like mad, tongue darting in and out: a sure sign of blast-off. I feel his white-rimmed intense Staffie gaze and turn to look at him.

“Wait, wait!” I cry.

With barely a glance in my rear view mirror, I swerve onto a rocky ledge in a cloud of dust and slam on brakes. Still yelling at him, I dive for the closest thing, which happens to be my sweatshirt, to prevent his spew from getting all over the place. Too late. Poor baby just couldn’t hold it. I won’t bore you with the details, I’ll just tell you that he missed my sweatshirt by a hair. The worst part of it, well, almost the worst, is how mortified he gets when something like this happens. Even though I jolly up the whole incident.

“Wow, look at that,” I’ll say in my manically happy voice while stroking him soothingly. All the while I’m eyeing the floor to see if his meal ended up in the hard to reach nooks and crannies. It didn’t I later discovered.

But Jake is not to be mollified. Keeping his eyes downcast he humps into the backseat and curls up in a tight unhappy ball. Up at the cabin, I open the car’s back door for him but all he does is ease up into a sitting position and stare forlornly through the window. Until he sees a squirrel. All is forgotten. He jets from the car and streaks after it.

For the next six days we get into a routine of hiking the hills where Jake can chase squirrels to his heart’s desire—no rangers up here—and an occasional trip into town for forgotten groceries. And I write with abandon. Is it the refreshing mountain air, or is because I don’t get distracted by the cobwebs in my studio and the sudden desire to weed?

On our last day, I decide to have dinner in Big Bear City (population 5779). I’d been craving Mexican food and I wanted to take my time over chips and salsa and a margarita. A jumbo with lots of salt. But I’m torn. I’m not that fond of eating alone and I won’t leave Jake. My craving overtakes me. So at sunset, I bundle up and Jake I head into town to find a Mexican restaurant. My plan is to leave him in the car while I charge inside to order something to go and while I wait I’ll have a margarita. I stop at the first Mexican restaurant I come to: Azteca Grill Baja-Style.

“Sit anywhere,” the cheerful waitress yells over her shoulder as she bustles by.

I wait  at the bar then give her my order and disclose my plan, adding conversationally that Jake’s waiting for me in the car.

“You can bring him out there, if you like,” she said, inclining her head toward an enclosed deserted patio.

I charge back to the car and with Jake attached to his leash I head for the patio, my breath coming out in small steamy clouds from the cold. Grinning up at me the entire way to the table I selected, Jake starts to jump up onto the chair opposite me. Eyes darting around in case someone saw this move, I give him a surreptitious shake of the head. With an embarrassed look, he slides from the chair and settles down next to my feet. The waitress brings me my margarita, chips and machaca burrito. I drink, scoop salsa and share my burrito with Jake, trying not to mess too much from my uncontrollable shivering from the cold. He doesn’t seem to notice.

Lion’s Roar

Okay, another writing prompt, this one from a fellow African, “The Gypsy Mama.”  Write for five minutes on the word “Roar.”

I’m lying on a narrow bunk–in that tight “V” in the front of the boat my just-married son’s South African in-laws commissioned for the entire family for the honeymoon–alongside is my husband on another bunk.  Separated by the walkway, our feet almost touch at the tip of the “V”.  I can’t sleep.  It’s only the third day of our week-long trip on Lake Kariba, Zambia, where I’d spent many a holiday back when the country was still called Northern Rhodesia, when I lived in Nkana as a kid and then when I was married to my sons’ father.

Now, I’m an American citizen, living in the States with another husband, an American, who’s freaking out.  Mr. Amiable is not admitting this.  Instead, he seems to have shut down, barely functioning, shunning me.  This is the first time I’ve seen this side of him. At least to this extent.

He spent the entire day on the top deck, sitting uncovered in a chair under a punishing African sun nursing a single beer, despite my pleadings, my two sons’ at first jokey jabs– that’s how he’s always communicated with them; they know him as Mr. Sardonic Wit, with a disarming self-effacing side–and then hey, Mom, what’s up with him?

I will realize years later when he starts disappearing for weeks at a time without explanation after twenty-five years of marriage, before bailing altogether, that this along with a lot of other things weren’t my fault, that his attacks (oh so witty, yet oh so punishing) were defense mechanisms, a way to distance people, until he couldn’t keep up the facade anymore.  But I hadn’t caught on yet.  I was still throwing pieces of myself out of the basket beneath the hot air balloon that was our marriage to keep it afloat.

I toss and turn on the hard bunk, wanting to reach out to him, to comfort him.  Off in the distance, a lion roars, a sound unlike that you’ll find up close on a safari or in a zoo; this sound is deeper, like it’s coming from the soul of the animal, mournful and true in the night air.

I lie there succumbing to the sound and remembering those days when me, my mom and dad and little brother lived on Kantanta Street, when it didn’t go all the way down to the pump station and the Kafue river, when I could hear lions roaring  in the bush at night as I lay on my bed wishing I was someone else.  And then all those trips with my parents up to East Africa along dust ruts that passed for roads hearing the lions’s soft grunts as they padded around our rondavels at night.

I relax, comforted by the sound of the lion’s roar, feeling a deep kinship that brings tears to my eyes, that makes my heart soar and I am comforted.

Letting Go, One Hole At a Time

Yesterday, while I was at yoga, Fergie ripped yet another hole in one of the two cottonwool-filled pads in the “donut” doggy bed she and Jake share in my writing studio. I stopped by the market on my way home which gave the little precious more than enough time to do her job.  Both pads are dotted with patches, mostly iron-ons from the supermarket, except for the embroidered ones my surfer ex-husband used to collect.  Just below Fergie’s butt in the photo below you can see two identical overlapping specimens—an embroidered Santa-like surfer with a long flowing beard and exaggerated feet ala Robert Crumb planted on the surfboard with the words,  “Keep on Surfin’ Hawaii.” I finally found a use for those bits of the past I’ve been hanging on to.

Seeing the dismayed expression my face as I walked into a cloud of cottonwool, Jake offered me his ball and a look that said, I would NEVER do anything like that.  He wouldn’t: Jake is all about balls, Frisbees and me. At fifteen months old, The Ferg is still making her mark on the world.

I gathered and stuffed all the matted cottonwool back into the pad, but instead of whisking it into the house for immediate repair, as I usually do, I left it there with the torn side tucked under.  A first for me.  Could it be that my Type-A ways are a-changing?

Day two, and Fergie hasn’t noticed all that lovely unfettered cottonwool beneath her, despite the fact that’s she’s bored. It’s raining outside and she’s already worked Jake over a couple of times and pawed my computer off my lap. How long will it take?  Who will be first to work on the blue pad?  Fergie or me?

Beginnings, Endings and Crackling Grass

If you’ll remember I attended an essay workshop up at Lake Tahoe.  Turns out it was actually at a house in Squaw Valley, site of the 1960s Olympics, the entrance complete with Olympic rings and the famous flame:  six women, a massive stone fireplace, hammered iron balconies, and a dining room table that belonged in King Arthur’s court.  This was where we dined, but mostly where we wrote.  I’m not going to tell you about how I stalled time and again on the page in response to the writing prompts.

Instead, I’ll tell you about the desperation run I took in 25-degree weather that second day to clear my head.  Dressed in my winter clothes—Laguna Beach style—blue jeans, a sweatshirt and gloves, I tried to ignore the cold as I charged down the road and into the meadow that is Squaw Valley proper, evergreen trees not yet dressed in their winter white.  It was only at a point where the trees converged into a dark narrow path, lowering the temperature by a couple more degrees that I finally turned around.  By now, my nose was dripping, my toes about to snap off and I was shivering so hard I veered drunkenly off the path.

There’s a soft crackle and I stop.  Around my feet, a carpet of tiny frozen spears of grass pokes up this way and that.  I drop to my haunches and press down on an untouched area with my gloved hand, feeling the resistance there.  Another satisfying crunch.  Feeling a sense of wonder, I grin.  Moving around, I press down on another spot, then another and another.  I finally have to stop; the cold has become unbearable.

I run back to the house, feeling some kind of reintegration beginning to take place inside of me, something I vaguely recognize.  I’ve undergone this experience before when beguiled by nature, whether it’s here in my adopted country or my native Africa.  I’m reminded that as in nature everything in its own time and that I have to trust myself.  The words will come.

I wish I could tell you I aced the rest of the writing prompts.  I didn’t.  But I did come up with a killer ending to an essay I’d been working on.

Ah, the writing life.