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Yesterday I lost two — TWO!!! — needles whilst working on an embroidery project. I’d been doing some yard work, and the sequel to all of the hoeing and weed-ripping was The Body Strikes Back (kinda like the Empire, but hopefully somewhat smaller). My joints swell, and holding onto small things becomes challenging, much to my annoyance. Himself has a cure for this – he’s rigged up a little plastic box with two rows of magnets inside, which he happily runs along the floor until he can find the errant slivers of metal. It’s nice to have someone always handy with a solution. And look – I’ve lost two needles – and somehow mislaid a poetry post – and yet the planet still spins. Imagine that.

Thoughts on the Occasion of Losing A Needle, Again: A Tanka

Guess it could be worse:
You could have lost your flosses,
Or misplaced your eyes.
Stitches affix the fiction
That you haven’t lost the plot.


You know you’re a match
Their pluses match your minus
The math just works out.

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it’s Prednisone

when the body sends snide pointers about everything you’ve missed
when your tongue can only dispense tin, or flavors you resist
when your brain’s awash in dopiness, inert, your thoughts unknown
it’s called “a cure” – it has a name; it’s Prednisone.

You know it’s bad when you’re anagramming drugs, but it made me smile, anyway.

{dear hope, sorry I can’t make the Oprah Show}

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Well, I’ve lost my last chance. The Oprah Winfrey Show aired their last episode in twenty-something years this week, and with the last credits rolling the hopes of the patrons of “Hope 2B Beautiful” rolled away as well.

Hope is a friend, fan, and was my stylist for ten years in a bright little shop with a quirky name at the end of a strip mall. She is one of those no-nonsense,prosaic sorts who works hard and plays hard (she is famous for organizing family reunions on Carnival Cruise lines – I often wished I was a relative), and she was thrilled when she found out I was a writer — made sure to introduce me to all of her kids, and her godmother, and her aunts — the list went on. Each time I visited her shop, I was treated to a new person who just needed to know that I wrote for a living. I’d be tipped back into the rinse bowl, waiting for my conditioner to finish up, and she’d trot her daughter’s friends in. “She’s a writer!” she’d tell them, while I blinked at them and tried to look intelligent and well-read with my hair straggling in wet tendrils down my neck. “I know a story you should write about,” older folks would confide, and settle in to tell me long tales about their neighbor’s son or the lady at their church with the cats, and I would imagine throttling Hope for exposing me when all I wanted to do was read my magazine and wait for my trim in peace.

When the rest of the stylists in the shop learned that I was getting my first book published, the Grand Dame O was all I heard about. “You should go on the Oprah Show!” they urged, as if I could just swan on over to Chicago, and invite myself. Hope would get busy with her curling iron and style a huge edifice of hair for me, and then hold up a mirror. “See? Oprah Hair!” she would crow. (Man, she thought she was funny.) If I couldn’t wrestle the brush away from her, I’d rake my fingers through it, tuck it behind my ears, and give her a Deadly Look. She was generally unimpressed, but I had my final revenge: five minutes after leaving, I put my hair back in my usual pigtails – with a little more body than usual, but what the heck. (Hope hates the pigtails, but I hate the Oprah Hair. This is the price one pays having a dear friend who is a stylist.)

After I was nominated for the NAACP Award, the voices of the Hope 2B crew got louder. “Seriously! The Oprah Show! I have friends in Chicago you can stay with!” “Maybe someday,” I’d say noncommittally.

I had no intention of paying them any mind – and forgot the whole thing until five months ago.

After MARE’S WAR was honored by the Coretta Scott King committee last year, my agent was contacted by a woman who worked for the Oprah show, who was scouting stories. She was young, and new to her job, but like the other story scouts and writers, had the opportunity to pitch show ideas to Dame Winfrey, and she thought that if we could just fine members of the original 6888th who were still alive, she could make a case for having me on the show, and talking about the book to others.

Survivors of WWII are few anymore. I had a few leads – Rita Williams Garcia’s mother-in-law was one of the battalion, as were a few other people I was able to track down, but they had all passed away in the last year or so. I contacted newspaper columnists, friends and family, but time wasn’t on my side. It was Oprah’s last season, after all.

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This was a quiet search. I didn’t tell my family, or my friends about it — not only because I didn’t want anyone to be disappointed, but because I struggled with the idea of exposure. All along, I’ve been able to tell myself that anything I said was because the 6888th’s story needed to be told. I wasn’t convinced that I needed to go on TV to do so. My goal was to find some of them, and put them in the limelight.

Well, it didn’t work, and I know my agent is really disappointed, as would be all the godmothers and great aunts and story ladies at “Hope 2B Beautiful.” But I expect an email from one or another of them in a little while, saying, “Hey! Did you know Oprah’s got her own TV network now? And she’s doing a book show??”


{Junkie? Stalker? Pervert? Thief?}

(Kinda like “Doctor, Lawyer, Indian Chief…” only different.)

About a month ago I had a bit of a laugh as well as a bit of a shudder as I realized anew that Google tracks queries.

Sometimes I think there should be some kind of flag that shows up on your computer searches, if you’re a writer. Some kind of universal symbol that says, “NOT A WEIRDO. I SWEAR!” I mean, so what if I need to look up something that knocks people unconscious? Don’t look at me like that when I’m researching flunitrazepam (Rohypnol). (Which, for my purposes, was utterly useless, and darned disturbing to read about.) And if I spend too long on a page describing blunt head trauma, well… I could be a nurse. Right?

How about all the times you catch me eavesdropping?


Being shy works to my advantage these times — most of the time I don’t get caught eavesdropping. I have my head down, my hands and eyes engaged with something else. Also: bathrooms are really good places for eavesdropping, and women seem to forget that all those stalls make a great echo chamber. (Apparently in bathrooms, most men don’t speak at all. Or, at least they don’t make eye contact. I’m going to go with E. Lockhart’s vision of being a Fly on the Wall…) If you can stand to hang out in bathrooms, you do hear the oddest things. But, especially in the bathroom… don’t get caught just hanging out. That whole “WEIRD” label is really hard to shake, no matter that you promise to put the people to whom you are listening in a book.

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No one said anything about chasing people…

The Patriot Act really put pressure on librarians to record what patrons were checking out, so they could suspect everyone of everything. Librarians: can I just tell you how sorry I am about that? I totally understand that you sometimes want to tell SOMEBODY about the weird people asking you completely random questions (My buddy Jac at the Seattle Library gets some SERIOUSLY weird ones), but I so appreciate you not calling the Homeland people every day on all the writers you meet.

Okay, so I’m not silly enough to try to check out The Anarchist’s Handbook, despite the fact that this is my Constitutional right — (you can read it online, of course, so don’t bother worrying your librarian – just keep in mind: GOOGLE IS WATCHING), but a great reference book, Hallucinogenic Plants, by Richard Evan Schultes (Golden Press, NY, 1976) now lives next to my Everyday Life in the Middle Ages — owned and on my shelf, so I can leave my “NOT A JUNKIE” shirt at home.

It just got to the point where it was too hard to prove what I was not.

(What? I sound PARANOID??? And? Is that a drug-related …oh. Never mind.)

Some days, it just occurs to me that it’s really weird to be a writer.

Michael: The Palin of Preference

Most days, Maureen Dowd kind of gets on my nerves. But sometimes she’s kind of funny..

This chick flick, naturally, features a wild stroke of fate, when the two-year governor of an oversized igloo becomes commander in chief after the president-elect chokes on a pretzel on day one.

The movie ends with the former beauty queen shaking out her pinned-up hair, taking off her glasses, slipping on ruby red peep-toe platform heels that reveal a pink French-style pedicure, and facing down Vladimir Putin in an island in the Bering Strait. Putting away her breast pump, she points her rifle and informs him frostily that she has some expertise in Russia because it’s close to Alaska. “Back off, Commie dude,” she says. “I’m a much better shot than Cheney.”

Then she takes off in her seaplane and lands on the White House lawn, near the new ice fishing hole and hockey rink. The “First Dude,” as she calls the hunky Eskimo in the East Wing, waits on his snowmobile with the kids — Track (named after high school track meets), Bristol (after Bristol Bay where they did commercial fishing), Willow (after a community in Alaska), Piper (just a cool name) and Trig (Norse for “strength.”)

“The P.T.A. is great preparation for dealing with the K.G.B.,” President Palin murmurs to Todd, as they kiss in the final scene while she changes Trig’s diaper. “Now that Georgia’s safe, how ’bout I cook you up some caribou hot dogs and moose stew for dinner, babe?”