Category Archives: Miscellaneous

Hello Kind World

A classmate from my MFA program died from cancer last week, and I just found out tonight. I didn’t know her. I heard her name many times and I saw her read once, but I never took any classes with her, and never met her. Still, I am sad that she left a husband and two little boys behind. She was only 47. And I am touched by this excerpt of blog post she wrote last year, titled, “Hello Kind World”:

So please, friend, bless what you have and let go of fear for the future. Today is the only day you have got. You are breathing. Enjoy your breath. You are alive. Enjoy your life. You have a daughter and parents. Love them. Bless everybody who comes across your path. And the work? Whatever. Bless your work, too. Bless your town, your bills, your possessions. You are lucky to be here for all of it. If some of it gets taken away, well fine, something else will take its place. You are an amazing confluence of billions of variables and nobody else is having your life right this minute.

Enjoy! And don’t worry about hope. Just breathe and appreciate your breath. Everything arises from that.

RIP Leila Abu-Saba

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The Mad Mad ’50s

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I watched Mad Men for the first time last night. A quick history of my TV viewing: I watched a TON of television as a kid. I could recite for you every show on every network (2,4,7, 20 and 50) from 3 p.m. to midnight any day of the week. I watched Batman, Green Acres, Petticoat Junction, I Love Lucy, The Monkees, The Brady Bunch, Scuby Doo, Happy Days and Laverne & Shirley, The Dukes of Hazard, The Love Boat, Fantasy Island and much more.

During high school I was too busy to watch TV, and in France I don’t think I even owned a TV. I watched a ton of movies during my five years in LA, but very little TV (some X-Files and that was about it), and then my friend and former roommate, W, got my hooked on The Sopranos, Six Feet Under and Sex in the City while I lived in Oakland. (All three ended.) Then about four years ago, RJ Squirrel got me hooked on Lost, and then The Office (UK), The Wire, Extras and The Office (US), Dexter, and Battlestar Galactica. Now many of those have ended and the rest are on summer vacation, so I’m looking for another show to rent. I’ve heard rave reviews about the writing in Deadwood, but couldn’t get into it. I’ve heard good things about 24 and Rome, but haven’t tried either.

I finally rented Mad Men for the first time yesterday and my first impression was that I couldn’t watch hours of this male chauvinistic show. But by the end of the first episode (enter wife and kids), I was hooked. Now I’m bummed because we watched the whole first DVD last night and not one video store in our area has the second one tonight. What’s so appealing about the show? I’m not sure. At least 50 percent of the show’s premise seems to be to show us how the 50s were different from the present. Eg: EVERYONE smoking, including pregnant women and doctors doing exams. No car seats or sea tbelts and kids climbing from backseat to front while mom is driving. Drinking at work. The boss (Ms. Menken) taking cuff links from her store without signing any paperwork. All women are secretaries who are told to show more of their legs, women say, “Whatever you want, Honey,” when their husbands disagree with them. The list goes ON and ON. The discrepancies between the 50s and the present feel a bit transparent, but they’re fun to watch, too, and they keep you thinking (at least if you’re a woman) Thank GOD I didn’t grow up in the 40s/50s! Overall, I’m hooked, but I’m not quite sure why.

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Winding Down

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This is a photo of Shea in Martin’s 1968 Barracuda that he resurrected from the garage. It was the first time I ever saw the Barracuda outside of the garage!

Not much new either than that we’re busy busy busy as usual. I’m way behind on uploading photos to SmugMug, organizing them and sending them out. Last weekend we spent at the Russian River, Sunday at the beach kayaking and taking Shea out in a $20 blow-up boat that we bought. The river has been high, which means dirty, but our beach wasn’t contaminated enough to close (several beaches have been), so we all swam and boated around and it was a lot of fun. Martin and I watched two movies up there – Rachel Getting Married and Mrs. Pettigrew Lives for a Day. I really liked Rachel Getting Married. I’m in the mood to watch as many movies as I can before life stops again in Sept (Really, I watched more movies than ever in the weeks after Shea was born because I was up half the night every night feeding him.)

Two of the three agents I sent my query to requested my book, so it’s with them now and I just have to wait. So other than my book review, which I turned in last Friday, I haven’t been doing any writing.

What I am doing is tutoring, editing and trying to get photos and baby books organized before September. For as much time as I spent on Shea’s baby book, there are still tons of blank pages. And I’m determined to finally do our wedding album! I’ve selected a lot of the photos and ordered an album. What a lot of work, though. And I want to finally do Shea’s first year album – seven months late. Speaking of seven months late, I had holidays cards with Shea’s picture on them made last December and never sent them out. Maybe he can send them himself when he’s 25 and they’ll be funny then. It won’t make sense for me to send them this year unless we glue a picture of Baby Girl next to him. Anyway, just busy busy busy with a million random things. Going camping on Lake Tahoe this weekend for three nights after the Berkeley Kite Festival Saturday, both of which will be exhausting but a lot of fun.

I have a new blog, although I haven’t posted to it yet. It’s at meghanward.com/blog. The whole website is waiting a redesign, though (I like the design, but the content is outdated). The new blog will focus on writing and publishing. I have so much to do!

The pregnancy is fine. Other than daily heartburn and fatigue, I feel fine. (Nothing that a nap and a Tagamet can’t cure!) Baby Girl is getting BIG. She should be five pounds right now, and I can tell she’s running out of room in there because my stomach visibly moves when she kicks or moves around. While I was trying to write my review, she was kicking me so hard in both directions (I could feel it in my stomach AND in my butt) that I couldn’t concentrate at all. Six more weeks!

That’s all for now. My next posts will be on my other blog, but I’ll post them here, too. My “goal” is to drive traffic to that site for marketing purposes, but I have a lot to learn about keywords and blog marketing, etc. I’ll be working on that over the next few weeks.

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Busy Summer

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I haven’t been blogging much because we’ve been so crazy busy this past month and a half. I was really stressed out (and not sleeping well) in June thinking about all that we had to do, but now many of our trips and projects are done, and the quiet of August will soon be upon us. Summer plans and projects:

1. Finish book – check
2. Weekend at RR with Martin’s family – check
3. Write query letter – check
4. Camping trip to Butano – check
5. Court case – check
6. Moms’ group Fourth of July camping trip – check
7. Send query letter to three agents – check
8. Convert office to baby room – check
9. Book review – almost done
10. Get Martin’s Barracuda out of the garage and running – check
11. Start conversion of garage to office – working on it
12. Gardening – not going to happen
13. Get Shea’s 18-month photo taken – check
14. Finally print Shea’s one-year photos – check
15. Make Shea’s first year and our wedding photo albums – working on them
16. Redesign website – working on it
17. Start new blog – almost ready
18. Camping trip to Tahoe – coming up at the end of the month
19. Start next book – not ready for that yet

I finally erased most of my To-Do list and put everything on little project cards because it was making me crazy to constantly look at this never-ending list. Now I can just go pick a card when I finish one project and am ready to start another (although, really I’m working on several at once.) I’m totally exhausted and have caught two colds in the past three weeks – the first all year – but I’m also really happy to get this stuff done before the baby is born. And in August I plan to take a few days to rest before the sleepless nights begin.

The pregnancy has been fine. We hiked a bunch over the Fourth, and I felt fine. I need naps many days, but otherwise all is going as planned. Today I’m 33 weeks, so just seven left! (More likely eight since Shea was 10 days late, but who knows.)

The agent search is a bit nerve wracking. I’ve had people in my writers’ group send me critiques on my query letter after I already sent it out – marking it up full of red ink – so now I’m doubting whether it was ready to go, but I do have one agent who wants to read it and to whom I’m mailing a copy today. If I don’t hear from the others within a few weeks, I’ll probably revise my query before sending it out again.

I’ve begun working on my “author platform,” and what a lot of work! I am setting up my new blog, set up a new Twitter account, joining websites, etc. More on all that in time.

All I want to do is sleep today, but I have a book review due Friday and today is my last work day, so I need to get it in gear. Hope everyone is having a more relaxing summer than I am!

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Bébés – oui oui!

Shea and I joined a French playgroup last week. We’re going to miss this week because we’ll be camping, but we’re meeting every Friday afternoon. My French isn’t as good as it used to be (it’s been 15 years since I lived in France!), but I’ve kept it up pretty well by tutoring it. And I’m excited to learn more French preschool songs and other words – like to give birth and pregnancy – two words I’d completely forgotten. I’ve been fantasizing lately about getting a master’s in French, but I just don’t have the time right now. Maybe I’ll look into taking one class at a time. I’d love to improve my French. In our group is one American couple – the man speaks perfect French and the woman is learning – one woman who’s married to a French man and speaks French about as well as I do, and three or four French women (I haven’t met them all), some of whom are married to French men and some to American men. But it’s when I meet an American who speaks French as well as a French person that I get really motivated to want to learn more, and to lose my accent. There are just so many things I want to do. Next baby arriving soon. Get this book sold. Start the next book. Start teaching writing in another year or so (if there are any teaching jobs to be had). When will I have time to take classes, especially when they’re for my personal enrichment and not for a job? (Although maybe if I teach French part-time at some private school I can get Shea in at a decent price. But French teaching is so not what I want to do for a living, unless I can teach just a couple of classes a week.)

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Take the California Budget Challenge

Think you can run this state better than Schwarzenegger and our state senators and assembly members? Think you have a better solution to balancing the budget than closing our state parks? Take The Budget Challenge and find out!

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The California Budget Fiasco

Californians are rightly outraged by Schwarzenegger’s budget proposal, which includes the closing of 220 of California’s 279 (nearly 80%) state parks, 70 of them near the Bay Area, including many of my favorites: Big Basin Redwoods near Santa Cruz (where I’ll be camping for the Fourth of July), Butano Redwoods (where I’m scheduled to camp next weekend), Armstrong Woods and Austin Creek (the parks we frequent by our river house), Fort Ross and Salt Point (where we went last weekend), Henry Coe, Henry Cowell, Portola Redwoods, Julia Pfeiffer Burns, Mono Lake, Samuel P. Taylor, Tomales Bay, and the list goes on and on and on.

Why? Because California is 24.3 billion dollars in debt and, according to Schwarzenegger, the state will stop functioning if the budget isn’t passed by July 1 (because the state parks already have thousands of camping reservations for this summer, they will close around Labor Day.) The main reason for cuts is to avoid raising taxes, to avoid taking out a high interest loan, and to avoid using the state’s entire $4.5 billion rainy day fund, which Schwarzenegger wants to reserve for emergencies like fire season. (The state sales tax already went up 1% this year, which puts sales tax in Alameda County at 9.75%.) Schwarzenegger called a May 19 special election to help balance the budget, but CA voters defeated all but one proposition–the one that freezes election officials’ salaries. So for all you who either didn’t vote in the special election or voted no on the props, guess what? Your favorite state park may close this fall. But is it fair to blame CA voters? Not completely. The failure of the special election added another $6 billion to the deficit, but there is still another $18 billion unaccounted for. Where could that money come from? Schwarzenegger suggests offshore drilling among other proposals and cuts, but Democratic opponents have other ideas.

According to SF Examiner blogger Ann Garrison, “California is the only state in the union that does not tax oil drilling profits, and … doing so could generate $1 billion.” Still, that’s 1/24th of the revenue needed to balance the budget. What about the other $23 billion? According to the California State Parks Foundation, eliminating state park funding could result in the state LOSING $350,000 in revenue because for every dollar spent, $2.35 is returned to the general fund through economic activity generated by the 80 million people who visit the parks each year. (By the way, click here for a list of ways you can help fight state park closures, including donating to the California State Parks Foundation. Something you can do immediately is send an e-mail to all of the Legislative Budget Conference Committee Members by taking ONE minute to fill out your contact information. The e-mail is already drafted for you by the CSPF.)

If the state parks do close, what does that mean? Will they be cordoned off? Will it be forever? Yes, and no. They will be locked off, and bathrooms will probably be locked, too, but there’s no way to prevent people from getting onto the land. From the Mercury News: “If the parks close, a small crew of rangers would patrol wide areas, checking in on closed parks. People still would park on highways and walk to beaches. But rangers, park managers and legislators are worried that with almost no supervision across 1.5 million acres of parklands, it is almost certain there will be vandalism, animals poached and a high risk of wildfires from trespassers.” Closures would be temporary (there’s no telling for how long), but reopening them will be expensive with the cost of grooming overgrown trails, etc.

With general funding to parks eliminated, they will be supported solely by entry fees, camping fees and small taxes. One solution proposed by Sen. Fran Pavley (D-Santa Monica) to keep the parks open is to raise those fees, close some parks in winter, partner with nonprofit groups, and find other creative solutions. John Laird, a retired state assembly member, suggests putting a $10 increase in vehicle registration fees on the 2010 ballot. Unfortunately, his proposal to do the same this year was defeated. (Notice a trend?)

No matter what happens, legislators anticipate SOME parks will close. As Pavley says, “I’m going to work hard to keep them open, but not at the expense of things like insuring 1 million children in the Healthy Families program.” And that’s where the problem lies. SOMETHING has to be cut and voters don’t want to cut anything, or to increase any taxes or fees. Hmm …

The parks that will remain open are ones that can support themselves, like the touristy Hearst Castle and Asilomar (which is supported by its huge conference center), which aren’t anywhere near as charming as the hundreds of parks that will close.

To listen to Schwarzenegger’s own discussion of his proposed budget, click here.

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