Tuesday, June 26

The Crystal Ball

As a Buddhist, I try to stay in the moment. As in right this very second. As in right now . . . I am typing. :-)

But even though I try to live in the moment, I still worry. I am not sure if you can be a mother of four and NOT worry. I have one baby (age two) who has some health issues, and one nearly adolescent son (age 11) who has debilitating migraines . . . a teen daughter (17) who's more headstrong than any woman I have ever met . . . and another daughter (age 9) who wants blue hair and plays rock and roll drums (I'm OK with blue hair, for the record, and right now she has polka-dots painted on all her nails and toes). Together, they give me a lot to worry about. Just because that's what kids to to their mothers.

Worry, worry, worry. Now it's things like doctor appointments or their first broken heart, or my teen driving a car, but once it was whether I would get into the college I wanted or how I would do on my SATS, or what the heck was I going to be when I grew up anyway.

So I used to wish for a crystal ball. Or a psychic. Or pretty much anybody who give me a solid answer. Would everything go smoothly? Would I get what I wanted out of life?

The answer is no. Not always. Sometimes yes, yes, yes . . . sometimes a resounding no. A lot of times, though, the no's make you work a whole heck of a lot harder. Sometimes the no turns out to be the best thing anyway. And sometimes, to be honest, life just throws you a curveball that knocks the breath out of you JUST BECAUSE.

And that is what I get from being a Buddhist. Not just staying in the moment, but it is what it is. Life is beautiful . . . just because it's a fantastic glorious ride. And life sometimes, in a word, sucks . . . just because. And after a while, you realize that worrying is useless because what's going to happen is going to happen. And you realize, I think, that you don't REALLY want to know what's around the next bend. Would I really have wanted to know I was going to publish 15 or 20 novels? Have four kids? Marry more than once? Have my heart broken? Have more joy than I could imagine? Nope.

Because it's all about the ride.

So tell me . . . would you want a crystal ball to tell you the future?

Sunday, June 24

The Future is Now

The topic this week is supposed to be the future, as in the future post-graduation etc. But this is going to be an old-fogey blog post and I hope no one will mind.

The last time I graduated from anything was college in 1983. (Although my next milestone, my forty-fifth birthday, is coming up on July 6, so I hope you've already planned your shopping for that grand event.) When I graduated in 1983, I was twenty years old and I had no idea what I was going to do next. I'd been a psych major, but somewhere along the way I realized that even though I'd planned on being a psychologist since I was twelve, that career was not for me. I had enough English credits that my major could have just as easily swung that way - indeed, if I'd pursued it hard enough, I could have got credit for a double major - but I can be perverse, so since I had set out to be a psych major that was the degree I wanted to have. But, having graduated, what then?

With nothing else on the horizon, I got a job in an independent booksrore. I did love my time there, time that stretched out for the better part of eleven years, but it turns out that wasn't what I really wanted to do with my life. What I really wanted was to be a writer. That's why I finally left that job in November 1994, turning my back on a month's paid vacation a year, a nice salary and full medical benefits to take a chance on my dream.

That dream took a long time in achieving realization if you define "realization" as "publication of a novel" as so many of us do. It took nearly eight years before I sold a book, nearly nine before that book was published. Despite the years of struggle, I've never once been sorry. Nor am I sorry, on some levels, that the journey took so long; I learned so much along the way and I'm a firm believer in enjoying the journey as much as you can, particularly on the off chance you will never reach your destination.

It's good to know what you want in life, although sometimes the knowledge of what that thing is can take a long time in coming.

What is not good is to live your life as though your "real life" will start after some milestone happens.

We spend so much of our lives believing "my real life will start after I lose ten pounds; then I will be happy"; "my real life will start once I get a book published; then I will be happy." In truth, I may never lose that ten pounds. As for the other, there are always big things all of us dream about, but it's always possible a meteor will fall on our heads before we achieve those things.

So, what to do?

Don't delay living. Don't delay joy. The world is filled with enough sadness - war, disease - we could spend our days and nights crying if we chose. There's so much to cry about. But there's so much to take joy in too and it's my belief that each day in each life should celebrate that fact.

What's in my immediate future?

I'm going to a bris in a few hours and it will be the first my seven-year-old daughter has ever attended. Yesterday, she wanted to know what a bris was.

"It's when they cut off a bit of the baby boy's penis," I told her.

"No," she said. "Really?"

"Yes, really," I said. "That's why, in the Jewish religion, we have a prayer just for females that essentially says, 'Thank God for making me a girl and not a boy.'"

"Really?" she said. "That's the reason why?"

"Probably not," I conceded, "but it seems like a pretty good reason to me."

She agreed.

So that's my immediate future today.

What's in my writing future?

I'm juggling a few writing projects at once - tween, YA, adult - and writing essays, short stories and blogs between the cracks. It's a good life. And I'm greatly anticipating the January release of my next YA novel, Scenes from My Suburban Life.

OK, I was going to insert a picture of the cover here, but I spent a half hour trying with no luck, so now I'm frustrated and giving up. Anyway, Scenes from My Suburban Life is about a girl whose novelist mother gets crushed to death by a stack of Harry Potter books; in the aftermath, she and her father move to CT where she becomes involved in a sort-of mystery involving an online predator.


Saturday, June 23

Friday Nights

When I was in high school, I wasn't much of a planner. Come Friday, it was all about hooking up with friends and finding out what was the spot to hang-out Friday night.

Friday nights were spontaneous. Maybe we'd accidentally run into someone or a friend of a friend, who had heard about a party, and then it was like, "Cool, let's go." Other times, we'd just hang-out with a couple of friends outside in the cool night, doing nothing but goofing off. And sometimes, we'd go to the latest football game only to gather in the parking lot instead of watching football.

High school events were a lot like an adventure. You never knew what your night was going to be like until you got there.

And now as an adult everyday is a plan because I have a family, and things have to get done. I grew up and did a total 180 from my teen life! haha! Since I write teen fiction, I get to revisit the goofing off and the Friday night adventures. In a way it is just as fun as it was then, since I don't have to really deal with all the high school drama, but write about it all happening to someone else. :) :)

So tell me...what was one of your Friday night hang-outs?

Thursday, June 21

Viva Las Disneyland!

Bring on Summer Vacation!

We (my DH, 3 little boys, and I) just got home from a road trip to Vegas and S. Calif. Now I'm home with a few new freckles, a mountain of sandy clothes to wash, an empty wallet, and an insanely crammed schedule. But I thought I'd take a moment to share WHY we took the kids on this particular trip.

When my oldest son was about 4 (he's 7 now), I was in the midst of searching for a literary agent, a big step in many authors' lives. One agent had requested my full manuscript, but had mailed it back because she wasn't impressed. My son wanted to know why I was sad, and I explained to him in simple terms, "No one wants to buy my book."

"What happens when someone buys it?" he wanted to know.

"We're going to Disneyland," I said.

Later that day, I spotted my son in our front yard, the rejected manuscript on his cardboard box lemonade stand. The pages were stapled together with great care, and he'd added an occasional crayon illustration.

Unfortunately, his approach didn't work. However, a couple of years later, someone did buy a manuscript of mine, and it'll be in bookstores this December. So, of course, we just had to go to Disneyland to celebrate!

I'm curious: how do you reward yourself for reaching your goals?

Monday, June 18

Weddings and anniversaries and book launches, oh my!

So this week's theme is "Calendar/Events".

I don't know about you guys, but June is always super-busy for me with weddings and anniversary parties. I love weddings and parties as much as the next person, but for anyone reading this who may be planning a wedding in the next year or so, I would strongly urge you to, in the interest of staggering your friends' and relatives' social calendar, consider a lovely Winter wedding. Or why not go completely wild and do what nobody ever does: a Fall wedding! (I can see it now: harvest vegetables, hay...well, okay, maybe not.)

Preparations for a graduation (elementary school, but still) and then camp are gearing up, too. It's all good, just a tad crazy-making, because the usual mundane things--meeting deadlines, cooking, cleaning, laundry, etc.--still have to get done. (Sigh.)

Are all of you as insanely busy in June as I am?

The real reason for a "Calendar/Events" theme is probably for me to apprise you of book-related stuff. (Not to relate stories about how I'm tearing my hair out because THERE'S JUST TOO DARN MUCH TO DO!) So now is as good a time to remind you all that Beyond Cool, the sequel to I Was a Teenage Popsicle, is due out in August--woohoo! I believe August 7th is the official release date. (But you can pre-order it at www.amazon.com if you can't wait!) If you buy it (pretty please?!) and like it, please comment on www.amazon.com or www.barnesandnoble.com or www.chapters.ca. (Chapters and Indigo are one and the same.) Thanks soooooo much in advance!

I'm gonna be having a big launch party signing sometime in September ('cuz everybody from Toronto goes up north in August) at the Yonge-Eglinton Indigo branch. (Indigo is the Canadian Barnes & Noble.) Watch my other blog (www.myspace.com/bevkatzrosenbaum) for the announcement re: the final launch party date!

Okay, off to cook, wash, label, pack...

Love ya!


Friday, June 15

Mars & Venus

It was sometime around the second grade when it became known that my middle name is Noël. Not knoll, like Noel Coward. But Nowell. Like Christmas. Only French.

And even though there wasn’t a single eight-year old among us who could speak a foreign language, much less recognize one on paper (we just figured those were words we didn’t know yet), from the moment Mrs. Parker got called out of class, and Scott, who was well on his way to being Most Likely To End Up On America’s Most Wanted, ran to her desk, snatched the class roster, and scanned the list for embarrassing middle names to make fun of, life as I knew it would never be the same.

Recess, which once consisted of much anticipated cartwheel competitions, now became mini marathons, as I did my best to flee the surly band of thugs, armed with the lyrics of “The First Noël” that they sang at the top of their lungs. And it took me two full days to discover the one place, (besides the principal’s office), that none of them would willing enter.

But after nearly a week of being camped out in the girl’s bathroom, while my friends all progressed from cartwheels to back hand springs, I finally emerged, sweaty and defeated, head bowed in shame, as they descended upon me, harmonizing together in a lofty, prepubescent soprano.

“Why do they do it?” I wailed, looking to my mother for insight, while knowing that she alone was completely to blame, for giving me such an awful, horrible middle name.

But she just shook her head as she sat down beside me. And after pouring me some milk and passing me a cookie, she told me the scariest, most confusing thing I’ve heard to this day. “That’s what boys do when they like you,” she said, nodding as though it made sense.

What are some of your favorite "cultural" differences between the sexes?

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Wednesday, June 13

Divided by a common language....

When we moved from the UK to NZ I worried about lots of things..... my job, the children's schools, having no friends, missing my family..... you get the picture. Not once did it enter my head that we'd have problems with the language. Why would it? Everyone speaks English. Wrong!!!! Okay, not wrong... we both speak English, but wrong of me for thinking UK English is the same as NZ English.

Let me give you some examples:

Crisps.............. Chips
Chips................Hot Chips
Flip Flops ....... Jandels
Trousers......... Pants
Sweets............ Lollies
Ice Lolly......... Ice Block
Kettle............. Jug
Polo neck........ Skivvy
Work top........ Bench
Vest................ Singlet

See what I mean? And it can, and did, lead to misunderstandings. Like the time when we'd only just arrived and my son did some homework and when he got it back it said 'fix it up'! How was he meant to know 'fix it up' meant 'do your corrections'?????

And who knows what 'down the gurgler' means?

And why don't they understand me when I say someone is 'all mouth and trouser', or that someone is 'on a hiding to nothing'?

Anyone else had trouble with lauguage?

Monday, June 4

Culture of Beauty

On May 28th, Japan's Riyo Mori was crowned Miss Universe in Mexico City. No, I didn't watch the pageant, but the fact that Miss Japan won has been a topic of some discussion the past few days, here in the Land of the Rising Sun . And the perfect lead-in to my assignment for this week - to write about beauty.

Actually the elusive question of beauty has been something I've been mulling over for some time, ever since reading Scott Westerfield's UGLIES. (I highly recommend his books in this series: UGLIES, PRETTIES and SPECIALS.) In Westerfield's futuristic world, children are raised to think of themselves as ugly until which time as they can undergo an extensive operation that will make them beautiful. The books give rise to the question: exactly what is beauty?

In Prettytown, beauty is defined as having clear skin, symmetrical features, silky hair and perfect, nubile bodies. This ideal is drilled into the heads of pre-operation children ('uglies') so much so that they willingly submit to giving up their individuality in order to become pretty.

Though the technology in Westerfield's world is more advanced and the emphasis on beauty taken to an extreme level, I couldn't help but draw parallels as I was reading to the very real pressures our societies place on being beautiful and the artificial lengths we will go to to achieve that beauty.

We may think we have come a long way from the old Chinese hobbling of women to achieve a dainty, small foot, or the Victorian corsets that displayed an abnormally-small waistline, but we still pander to our societies' definition of what Beauty is. In the Western world, we paint our faces and lacquer our nails, poke holes in various parts of our bodies to display jewelry, prick dye into our skin to adorn ourselves with art, inject toxins into our muscles to eliminate wrinkles and even submit to the knife to change our appearance.

So what does this have to do with Ms. Mori?

Interestingly, when she was awarded the crown in the largest beauty pageant in the world, reactions here in Japan were mixed. Naturally, many are proud to see Asian beauty celebrated. Others question whether Ms. Mori, who attended school in B.C., Canada, is simply an Asian version of a Western ideal.

The latter I find very interesting because exactly what the ideal for beauty is in Japan these days can be confusing. Gaijin (foreign) models are often used in commercials and advertisements. Dolls and posters feature children with round, light-colored eyes. Many women bleach their hair. My daughter, who has blonde hair and blue eyes, was the darling of her Japanese elementary school. "Big eyes" are considered beautiful - eyes very unlike the traditional Japanese almond-shaped eyes. To what Asian ideal was Ms. Mori to aspire?

Have you noticed differences in what is considered beautiful within certain societies/parts of the world?

What do you consider beautiful?

Does it even have to do with looks?

*(AP Photo/Eduardo Verdugo)