Making everything personal

You’re just saying that because I’m Black. You’re just saying that because I’m a woman. You’re just saying that because I’m your mama.

We’ve all done that. Taken something way too personally. I had a student a few years ago who was going into surgery and the doctor came and asked if she had any last questions. I do, as a matter of fact, she said. I have three questions:
1. How do you feel about Black people? The surgeon said, I love Black people and Black music and everything about Black culture.
2. She said, Okay, how do you feel about women? And the guy said, I love women and I’m a happily married man.
3. And she said, Okay, one more question. When was the last time you had sex? And he said, Well, I’m glad you asked that because I had sex this morning and it was great. I’m feeling amazing. And she said, Okay, I’m ready to go into surgery.

In fact, what she was checking was to make sure that he wasn’t going to bring the personal into his public life. Did he like Black people, women and had he gotten laid recently? These are valid questions for determining his state of mind vis a vis her.

Ideally, we do a good job in spite of our personal feelings but that isn’t really how humans work. We aren’t all making or building heavy machinery in a room by ourselves. Much of the work people do involves working with other people.

That’s why it’s always amazing to me when people yell at the host at a restaurant or the mechanic or even the person at the Verizon store. What motivates us to do a better job is being treated well.

In any business, it’s a good idea to treat everyone as well as you can. Be kind whenever possible, the Dalai Lama says, and then adds, It is always possible. In the book business, you need people to do things for you. It’s that simple. To get published and then get your book to sell, a lot of people are going to have to help you out. So you are going to have to treat a lot of people like they matter. Your editor, your publicist, your marketing person, book sellers, radio hosts, the list of people you should treat with the best attention you can is long. But you can do it. Because you are basically a nice person and you want your book to succeed.

What if you have a boss or someone you work with who makes everything personal? You say, It’s not working to do it like this. We need to do it differently. And what they hear is, I hate you. I think you’re an idiot. That’s a problem. In some ideal world, what you can convey is this. I like working here. I like this place, this company, and in fact, I care so deeply, that I’d like to discuss ways we can make things work better. If your boss has an actual personality disorder, this may not work. I’ve described narcissistic personality disorder below so you can see whether they actually suffer from a disorder or just lean toward anxiety. If they actually suffer from a disorder, then here’s my advice for dealing with them, Good luck and there are lots of other jobs out there.

Narcissistic Personality Disorder is characterized by a long-standing pattern of grandiosity (either in fantasy or actual behavior), an overwhelming need for admiration, and usually a complete lack of empathy toward others. People with this disorder often believe they are of primary importance in everybody’s life or to anyone they meet. While this pattern of behavior may be appropriate for a king in 16th Century England, it is generally considered inappropriate for most ordinary people today.

People with narcissistic personality disorder often display snobbish, disdainful, or patronizing attitudes. For example, an individual with this disorder may complain about a clumsy waiter’s “rudeness” or “stupidity” or conclude a medical evaluation with a condescending evaluation of the physician.
• Has a grandiose sense of self-importance (e.g., exaggerates achievements and talents, expects to be recognized as superior without commensurate achievements)
• Is preoccupied with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty, or ideal love
• Believes that he or she is “special” and unique and can only be understood by, or should associate with, other special or high-status people (or institutions)
• Requires excessive admiration
• Has a very strong sense of entitlement, e.g., unreasonable expectations of especially favorable treatment or automatic compliance with his or her expectations
• Is exploitative of others, e.g., takes advantage of others to achieve his or her own ends
• Lacks empathy, e.g., is unwilling to recognize or identify with the feelings and needs of others
• Is often envious of others or believes that others are envious of him or her
• Regularly shows arrogant, haughty behaviors or attitudes

Published in: on July 23, 2014 at 1:21 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Is the world going to end?

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Nebraska is a wet heat, Greece was windy hot

Jesus had a lot to say about the end of the world. So did John in Revelations. The way Revelations sounds, the end of the world is just around the corner. The fact is that the world hasn’t ended yet in spite of thousands of years of predictions. Jehovah’s Witnesses believe firmly in the end of the world and therefore they can’t actually go to college because the world might end. Hence the poverty of most Witnesses. If you talk with them and you think, You seem like you haven’t been to college, that’s because they usually haven’t. Not that there aren’t millions of idiots who did go to college.

But back to the end of the world. When the Y2K problem was discussed, that was supposed to be about the end of the world. Three hundred billion (over four hundred billion in today’s money) was spent on Y2K preparedness and as it turns out, businesses and schools that did nothing to prepare had no problems at all. There was no emergency. All that money spent preparing for a catastrophe that was imaginary. I remember that we had planned to be out of town for Y2K but then decided to come back in case something happened. Nothing happened.

When someone tells me that the world is going end, that the United States economy is collapsing, that global warming is going to destroy the planet in my lifetime, that California is going to fall off into the ocean, that I or my children will be sold into white slavery if we continue to travel to Third World Countries. I always think, why do people say “white slavery,” in hushed voices like it’s so much worse than other kinds of slavery.

I don’t believe the world is going to end. I don’t believe the Rapture is going to happen. And if the world ends or the Russians attack or Jesus comes to take away all the right wing pundits and televangelists and their followers, leaving the rest of us behind, I’ll be fine.

First of all, because of my upbringing and all the camping, I am ready for the zombie apocalypse. Don’t try to scare to me and tell me bad things might happen to me.
I’m ready for anything.
I was born ready.
I’ve heard that before.
I’m ready for anything.
If you want to live in fear, enjoy yourself,
I’m swimming up to sharks and looking them in the face.
You know what I see?
Teeth. Lots of big teeth.
But I’ve got all my teeth too.
Bite me.

Published in: on July 22, 2014 at 8:36 am  Leave a Comment  
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You did not invent motherhood.

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This generation of parents think they invented baby making and parenting. They’re so proud of their little offspring as they push them down the street in strollers or in their little natural weave bags close to their chest. These babies need more equipment than whole Irish families had, steam trunks and all when they moved to America. These babies spend hours watching movies of themselves on their mother’s cell phones. They own their parents cell phones. Give me the phone, they say. Give it to me. And the mothers hand over the phone or the iPad and the kid stares in the screen and is happy. Temporarily. It’s wearying how much time this generation of parents seem to need to discuss every facet of their little offspring’s existence.

So let me give you a little hint new parents: You did not invent motherhood. You are not the world’s first parents. Sure, Adam and Eve had reason to be excited when Cain and Abel and later Seth and the other kids started walking. Surely there was some singing and shouting when Cain first flirted with a girl, his sister, no doubt and Abel first was able to figure out constellations. Minus light pollution that should have been easy. But we’re quite a bit later in the cycle here and there are more than seven billion of us on the planet. We all were babies or had babies or know babies.

Children grow up all over the planet without stuff. I grew up with no television. Instead of a crib, there was just a drawer for me to lie in. (Like a manger only with less hay.) And I lived. My kids grew up with one outfit of clothing each and no television and they were fine. They not only survived, they thrived.

Sure, it’s good to tell your kids you love them but then tell them to be quiet on the plane. Tell them to be quiet in restaurants. Tell them to learn to take care of themselves. Tell them that everyone is not going to think they’re the most special person on the planet. Tell them rather than just getting people to like them, why not do a good job so that whether people like you or not you’re okay? Unless you actually are royalty, tell them they are not a prince, not a princess. You’re a kid and you need to learn to not bug me all the time, to entertain yourself, to do your school work and keep your home space clean.

Do you want to wait on your child your whole life? Do you want your son’s wife to hate you because you created a man who expects to be cleaned up after and cooked for?

Every fall, every whimper, every drawing, every jump is not an act of God. You are not the first parent.

If you want your kid to be independent, to change the world then you have to allow him or her to draw wood and carry water.

Published in: on July 21, 2014 at 7:34 am  Comments (1)  
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Life after you grow up

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You start off easy. You are in love with trees. You get excited by leaves falling and the way they pile up in yards. You like the colors of leaves in fall. Or you like palm trees, their fronds wide against the heat. You like flowers. You’re excited by roses. By lilies. You like sunshine. When it rains, you go outside and stand in it. You put on boots and you walk through water. The water splashes your legs. You like the puddles, the water, the splashing. You are very happy.

You grow up. You go to school. In school, you are told to do many things. Most of them make no sense. You start getting tired. Especially you are tired of people telling you what to do for no reason. You get angry, and then you get a break. It’s summertime. You like popsicles. You like lying around at the pool and swimming in the pool and eating sandwiches and you like eating and then lying around stuffed with egg salad sandwiches feeling kind of tired and thick with eggs and not having to do anything.

But then you go back to school and it all starts over again and it makes you very tired.

The older you get the more things there are to be upset about. School, kids that don’t like you. You have to eat carrots. You want nice jeans but don’t get them. You want to skip school, but you can’t. You want to just walk through the woods and fields but you can’t. You have to do stuff. You always have to do stuff.

You get a job and you have to pay for time now to go see woods and fields. You have to sit at a desk. You have to wear a collar. You have to stand in line. You have to do things for other people. You have to put up with other people who are just mean to you. You have to put up with people who are stupid. You cram stuff into long days full of work just to wait for tiny days when you can think and do for yourself. Those tiny days are consumed with driving and stuff that isn’t fun either.

There is a tree life out there somewhere. There is a big sky life. Walk away from Facebook and games and the television. Go outside with a book. Sit under a tree or in a hammock. Just read a book. Just listen to music. But get away from the games and the television. Facebook is never going to awaken your imagination. Give your parents a call. Family, books, trees, leaves, beaches, music. Friends. That’s what we have that matters.

Published in: on July 20, 2014 at 8:23 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Let’s change our parents

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Kids wish their parents would be different. It’s easier to fix yourself then to fix your parents. It’s easier to get your kids to change than to get your parents to change. We are meeting as a family in Hawaii in a couple weeks and I’ve gotten to thinking about what kids want from their parents. Of course, it changes over time but let’s try some stages.

Stage 1
Feed me. Feed me more. Feed me what I want to eat. No, not that. I don’t want vegetables. I don’t want greens. I don’t want carrots. Don’t give me peas. Give me ice cream. Give me pizza. Give me otter pops. Give me candy. Candy me, as my daughter used to say. Just candy me.

Stage 2
Don’t make me do my homework. Don’t make me clean my room. Don’t make me do anything. Let me do what I want to do. Let me play. Let me sleep in. Let me ride shotgun. Let me have my friends over. Let me go to the party. Let me have a party. Let me wear this purple dress. Let me wear these purple pants. Let me dye my hair purple. Let me have this purple back pack. Let me eat cake.

Stage 3
Leave me alone. Quit talking to me. Quit asking me questions. Quit asking me what I want to do when I grow up. Quit telling me what to do. You’re not the boss of me. I’m the boss of me. Go away. Knock before you come in my room. Don’t come in my room. I don’t need your advice. Leave me alone.

Stage 4
Leave me alone but give me the car. Leave me alone but leave me the keys. The keys to the car. The keys to the liquor cabinet. The keys to the lake house, family sailboat or trailer camper parked in the back yard. Leave me alone but give me money. Leave me alone but treat me like an adult.

Stage 5

Can I come home for Christmas? I need to do my laundry. I need supplies. Actually, I just miss you guys. Are you making a turkey? Are you making pies? Are you going to make extra pies? Can I bring a couple of friends? Do you guys have any furniture you want to get rid of?

Stage 6

Listen Mom, Dad, when you visit, please don’t touch my stuff. Don’t criticize what I spend my money on. Don’t start in on who I’m dating or the music I listen to and I don’t even need to hear it about my job or lack thereof. I do fine. Just, take it easy. But thanks for visiting. Any chance we can go to dinner?

Stage 7

Mom, Dad, listen, I appreciate the loan I really do, but you can you quit judging me. I’m doing my best.

Stage 8
Mom, Dad, I have my own life to live. I don’t have time for you. I love you, but I don’t have time for you right now. I’m busy. Listen if we are going to communicate it needs to be on my terms. I can talk with you on Facebook, but I don’t believe in email or the phone or Facetime, so you have to respect my terms. Also, you can only visit me when it works for me.

Stage 9
When did dad become such an asshole? He’s so selfish and it’s all about him. And when did Mom become such a weirdo? She’s a narcissist. Listen you guys need to understand that we love you but it isn’t all about you. You should go to therapy. You need to become better people.

Stage 10
Listen you need to take yoga, go to therapy, get acupuncture, watch intelligent movies, read more, travel more, exercise, eat the right foods, listen to good music. Be interesting. Is it me or are you becoming less interesting? Be interesting. We’ll see you at Christmas with the kids. But listen, we know how to raise the kids so please just take your advice and shove it. We know what we’re doing with our lives. We know everything. Would you please be smart cool ideal parents? Is that too much to ask?

Published in: on July 19, 2014 at 7:36 pm  Leave a Comment  
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In Nebraska

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1. This is a picture of Greek clothing from the 19th century. The male in the middle is wearing a skirt. My lesbian daughter probably wouldn’t wear this skirt. She wore a skirt when she was three but then she started growing up and wanted overalls.

2. During music lessons, she kept a small python in the overall pockets and sometimes the python sneaked out onto the piano keys.

3. The piano teacher finally got used to it.

4. Later I got my picture taken with that snake around my neck.

5. After that snake and the iguana went to reptile heaven, I wanted another python and another iguana, but we did not get one. That was probably a good thing.

6. Something big might happen this year.

7. I am in Nebraska City.

8. I am way off my sleep schedule and I feel like a crazy person.

9. I don’t think I am a crazy person.

10. I have another manuscript due by end of the month. That’s fine. I’ll do it.

Published in: on July 17, 2014 at 10:24 pm  Leave a Comment  

Happy Anniversary

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Leaving for Nebraska tomorrow. It’s too soon to be leaving my home world. I like my bed, my garden, and having all the fruits and vegetables I can eat. Nebraska has a lot of meat and pork and corn. If I ate meat, I think Nebraska would be a really good place for a meal. The Lied Lodge where we stay is pretty nice, there are hiking trails through the orchards and of course the pool for swimming.

When I get back, it will time for Mark and I to celebrate our anniversary. We have been together for twenty years and have been married for fourteen. We looked better and younger when we first got married and before we had raised teenagers. We looked much more sprightly and energetic.

Here is what I have learned in twenty years of hanging in there.

1. Listening is important. Very important.
2. Kindness is way important. Just be kind! Even when you think they are wrong. If you’re mean, it breaks the love strand at least temporarily and there are only so many times you can break it.
3. If they make you laugh, you put up with a lot more.
4. It really doesn’t matter how you dress. Unless someone’s going to take your picture and then maybe it’s vaguely important.
5. The more stuff you can do together, the better.
6. Long conversations keep the story going.
7. When you travel, unless it’s for business, travel together.
8. Have fun together.
9. Kisses keep the story going.
10. Finding the right person takes magic. The right person is kind, funny, cool, crazy, adventurous and always on your side.

Published in: on July 16, 2014 at 8:00 pm  Comments (1)  

Vertigo

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You can get vertigo from time travel and jet lag is a kind of time travel.
I feel like a space walker.
I feel exactly the opposite of a purring cat.
I feel like a scratching cat inside my head.
Like a space walking zombie.
(The fact that I know what it feels like to be a space walking zombie
will be covered in a separate blog.)
It takes one day to recover from every time zone travelled.
That would be three days.
Jesus got better in three days,
I plan on doing it in two.

These are the symptoms of jet lag that I am having fun with right now.
Being exhausted in the daytime.
Vertigo.
Hormone imbalance.
General queasiness.

In another country, in another time and place I am a normal person.

In that time zone or that parallel universe,
the other Kate is zipping around the house like a set of hot wheels.

But in this universe I am Humpty Dumpty.

Published in: on July 15, 2014 at 7:44 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Home to Los Angeles tomorrow

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Bed at the Benaki Museum. I don’t think this is going to fit with our decor at home, but I do like it.

It’s going to be great to be in Los Angeles for two days. I want to see the Dawn of the Planet of the Apes one of those days. It’s such an important movie, kidding! with ridiculous amounts of CGI. But the popcorn will be great and I like the apes so much and the storyline which makes no sense is really a fun fantasy.

Here in Athens, people are ready to watch the final World Cup game. They watch it at these outside bars where they have large television screens and they can drink and watch the game. Greeks in the shops and restaurants in Athens speak some English and they like to practice it. They say most of the tourists are Europeans not Americans. Maybe Americans don’t like all the police everywhere.

The key to coming back from vacation is to keep calm and carry on. I know given many meetings and a lot of work that needs to be done that it would be easy to get riled up immediately and I plan to resist that.

We miss the dogs and I can’t wait to see our garden is going. When it’s hot in Athens, it’s different than at home. First of all, we run the AC all the time at home and we are driving around in a car with AC. Here we walk and take the bus back and forth to the airport so the heat drains you. It’s fine on Patmos where the ocean breezes blow in. But here, the city closes down for three hours in the afternoon for good reason. It is simply hot to think.

It’s windy in Greece on the islands and here but here the wind doesn’t cool you down. However, if you wear dresses and skirts as I do you have to be careful about the wind. My friend Jen who’s all about going commando will have to be warned if she comes to Greece since that situation could be dangerous.

For those of you planning to go to China. There are 250 Starbucks there but the Starbucks in the Forbidden City has been closed as it was damaging that historical site. I really hate the idea of Starbucks and McDonalds being anywhere special that I go. When I am travelling, I would never go to any of those places as I want local drinks and foods. Even at home, I avoid ever going to any kind of chains fast food or otherwise except Starbucks. I have to admit that I drink Starbucks almost every day at home. I am sure there are better coffees but Starbucks is everywhere and I run on coffee like cars run on fuel.

When I get home, I am going to keep myself flowing toward stories. Toward writing and reading and thinking and slowing down. I have big plans that involve doing something big with my life.

Published in: on July 13, 2014 at 6:58 am  Leave a Comment  

Delta Riot Police in Syntagma square cut down on fun vacation feeling

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The Delta riot police are out in great numbers throughout the area around our hotel, Syntagma Square. They don’t want to be photographed, but the streets have many large riot buses which are equipped and with riot gear, and they police the streets near our hotel with machine guns. The feeling in the streets is oppressive. The police move around the square. It really slows down tourism in this country to have these unfriendly looking folks with these unfriendly looking machine guns and here in Syntagma Square it looks like a police state.

We went out last night with our friend Adrianne Kalfapoulou and drank quite a bit of Tspipouru and ate salad. One of the things that’s clear is that in the U.S. you can be friends with people of other parties in normal circumstances. But here in Greece, tensions are high enough that it’s hard to be friends with someone who is on the right if you are on the left because the stakes are high. In the U.S. the parties are so similar, each party competing for how much they can support the military industrial complex. But, here, the parties represent very different sides.

We are going to walk around the Acropolis a few more times before we leave. We did some great writing in Patmos just up the hill from the Cave where John wrote Revelations. We had revelations of our own as we each finished final editing of our books. I am still toying with my book here in Athens, but Mark has already finished his and sent it off to the agent.

We hope that what we’ve written will have the same magical realism that you see in Revelations with fire and danger and explosions and horses.

Here in Athens, excitement about the World Cup is high. Hopefully the Greeks are not protesting this weekend but watching soccer.

Published in: on July 12, 2014 at 6:21 am  Leave a Comment  
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