I went yesterday to Channel 8 once again, and got to talk about writing workshops with Desiree Fontaine, who is the most fun person to be interviewed by. She gets excited about everything. I think you could talk to her about the alphabet and she would make you feel as though you were piles of fun.

But I wasn’t there to talk about the alphabet—except as it helps a person in writing. I’ve become a real believer lately in writing workshops, perhaps because the ones I’ve been giving have shown me how people who consider themselves non-writers can come together and reach deep inside themselves and write amazing stories! I also love the way they support each other, the encouraging things they say, and all the ways in which they enhance each other’s work.

One woman was telling me the other day how the workshops feel like therapy to her. They’re not, of course—but they might give people something that’s just as valuable as therapy: the chance to take the past and make sense of it, wrestle it onto the page and create some understanding of it. And then you get to get up and read it aloud to an audience of people who laugh and cry with you, who notice your superb use of adjectives at the same time they’re noticing how hard you worked and how much you gave of yourself in writing.

And then we eat fruit and scones and drink tea and lemonade, and feel a little bit more at peace.

I go along mostly feeling as though I’m pretty much keeping up with modern life. Or at least make a passable pretense of it.

After all, I have tweeted. I have visited tumblr. I can (usually) upload and download photos. Recently I’ve learned to work not only my television set but also the DVD player and the VCR without even looking for the manual. I can program the GPS to get me places (although I often argue with it.) I even go on facebook whenever I think of it, which isn’t all that often, but still. Facebook is a well-known time suck. You could go on there and between farmville and what-Jane-Austen-character-are-you and sending and receiving little green plants, you could lose years of your life, and emerge crazier than when you went in.

But today modern life soared out in front in an effort to confuse me. I found out that I’m actually an app. Or rather "What Comes After Crazy" is.

(What Comes After Crazy is my first novel, and I still feel very protective about it, since it took me a ridiculous number of years to write, and so it lived in my head longer than most children live with their parents. And now it’s been out in the world since 2005, but, like any good parent, I still try to keep up with where it hangs out, you know. Part of that keeping track of it means that I have a google alert on it, so that whenever anybody writes anything about it, google tells me about it.)

And google has reported today that it’s an app.

Aren’t apps like when you have an iPhone and you want to know what restaurant to go to, and there’s an app for that? Or you want to check the sports scores, and so there’s an app for that?

So, here’s my question. Are people, you know, going to read a whole novel…on the phone? Is that what this means? Come on now. Do people seriously want to read on screens that are the size of their fingertips? Or does this have something to do with the iPad, which as Bloglily pointed out, may be the worst name of a product ever.

I have no idea. I’m just here, making my way through winter, leading writing workshops and working on a new novel—and every now and then, going out to once again do battle with technology: arguing with my GPS, wondering why tumblr doesn’t have an E in it, and following some tweets.

Is there an app for any of that?

 

My favorite part is at the end, when I thought that camera was off—and I’m doing a high-five with the host, Desiree Fontaine, and I say triumphantly, “I didn’t cough!” It’s because I had the world’s worst cough, and I was quite sure that at some point in the interview, she would ask me a question, and I would start hacking up a lung and would fall to the ground, eyes and nose streaming. (I think the producer of the show might have been worried about that, too, since she ran and got me a throat lozenge, which later I found stuck to my skirt.)

Sometimes I just have to stop and count my blessings that I’m a writer and so I don’t have to go in public very often.

Okay, so my hair was in my eyes, and I tended to flap my arms around a bit when I got excited…but at least today I could watch this all the way through without screaming or hiding my eyes.

I’ve spent this week trying to figure out how to embed this video into my website, to no avail. And my trusty webmaster is raising children and shoveling his Massachusetts driveway, so he’s out of commission when it comes to things that aren’t absolute emergencies. 

So, anyway, here is the interview that the lovely, fun, excitable, and intense Desiree Fontaine did on Connecticut Style on WTNH-TV Tuesday. What a fun time we had!

Just go to this link, and you can see it all.

http://www.wtnh.com/dpp/ct_style/book_lovers/kissing-games-of-the-world

It’s time, people, for us to make a big decision. What in the heck is the name of this year we’re in?

How long are we going to go on referring to our year by its formal name, “two thousand ten”? After all, way back in the last century, I bet you never heard anybody say “one thousand nine hundred ninety nine,” when they were giving you the date, did you?

Of course not.

Naturally, during the “zeroes” or the “aughts,” we didn’t have to face this problem. Which was good, because we had lots of other problems that were more pressing: planes flying into the World Trade Center, for instance, plus an economic meltdown, a major hurricane, a tsunami, and a whole bunch of sex scandals.

Everybody was happy to just go around saying, “two thousand one,” “two thousand two,” and all the way up to “two thousand nine.”

But I think it’s time we rethink things. After all, the changeover to “twenty” has to happen sometime—surely we’re not going to be saying “two thousand ninety-nine”—and I say future generations would appreciate it if we’d just make the change right NOW and spare them the problem. They’re going to have their hands full with fixing the mess we’ve done to the planet, and the least we can do is pass down the best way of saying the year. They’ll thank us for it. I can just hear our great-grandchildren saying, “Well, it’s true that they pretty much destroyed all the rain forests and killed off the polar bears, but by God, they gave us the best darned way of thinking of the date.”

Besides, “twenty-ten” sort of has a nice, cool, compact ring to it. And just think, when we get to “twenty-twenty,” there can be all kinds of clever puns about perfect vision, and that will be fun.

Last night, listening to Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert, I did an informal study of how each of them referred to the new year, and I’m disappointed to say that these two trend-setters flipped back and forth, but mostly landed on saying “two thousand ten.” That’s to be expected, I suppose, as we, as a culture, learn to wrap our tongues around this whole new way of saying the date.

But today at Starbucks, a whole group of people waiting at the counter to pay for their coffees got into a major discussion of this problem, and the view was resoundingly unanimous: TWENTY-TEN IT IS.

The People have spoken.

So how many times have you said the name of the year so far? And what are you calling it?

I barely have time to type today because I’m busy thinking away away ten pounds. It’s clear that somehow along the way through forty pounds of Christmas cookies, I forgot to get in shape—and now it turns out that tomorrow morning I am going to be taped on a television show. Yes, that’s right. Channel 8, WTNH in New Haven has a fun show called “Connecticut Style,” and they’ve invited me to come and talk about Kissing Games of the World and how insane I was while I was writing it and stuff like that. The show will air at 12:30 p.m. on Wednesday. If you live far away and want to see what decline and neglect will do to a person who is used to working at a computer all day long, you can go to WTNH.com and see the whole train wreck.

ALSO!  Because it seems to be Media Week in Sandi Shelton World, there is another media event I am doing this week, one that I won’t even have to take off the fleece sweatpants, the wooly sweater, the mukluks, the fingerless gloves and the plaid hat with flaps, in order to appear before the public.

My friend Barb Scala has begun an internet radio show, called “Bloom Talk,” and I have the honor of being her second guest EVER. We are going to be talking on the phone LIVE from 3-4 p.m. on Thursday, Jan. 7th. To listen, you just need to click here …and if by chance you’re a Working Human and can’t listen live, I hear that it’s downloadable and you can listen on a podcast.

Also, if you’re available and want to be on the radio yourself, you can call in (877-864-4869) and ask me questions. Really! Ask me anything! I’ll be talking about how I got started with writing, how it was always my dream from the time I was a little girl…and then how it then happened that it took me 17 years to write my first novel, despite the fact that it was something I always always ALWAYS wanted to do.

In fact, that’s what Barb’s show is about—how women need to let themselves “bloom” and not be scared to do the things they really want to do.

And now, without further ado, I must go to about 100 sit-ups.

Which I am scared to do.

I don’t usually make New Year’s resolutions because—well, frankly I don’t feel as though January is the true beginning of the year. It has always seemed to me that September is really the time to get organized, rearrange your drawers, get your hair cut, balance your checking account, and start planning for the future.

But recently, in our never-ending quest to lose five pounds and to look ten years younger, two friends of mine and I have decided to do the Five Tibetans every single day that we can possibly make ourselves think of it. “Doing Tibetans” isn’t as risque as it sounds; it’s really a series of five exercises, which were supposedly developed thousands of years ago as a way of stimulating the endocrine system and opening the body’s energy centers, or chakras. Hence, doing these exercises is said to make your body function as though it is 23 years old again.

We are looking forward to that, let me tell you.

In fact, these are amazing exercises. Since we’ve been doing them (about six months now, really), we’ve all lost a bit of weight, noticed that we have more energy, and—well, who knows? Soon perhaps we’ll regress to the point where we’re dancing late at night in clubs and drunk-dialing old boyfriends.

As an added winter bonus: doing these exercises also makes you warm! And they take just about ten minutes a day, fifteen if you lollygag as I often do. Here’s a video of a sexy man doing the Five Tibetans on a beach somewhere.

And if you’d like to read about the benefits, and the incredible story of how these rites were discovered, there’s a book, "Ancient Secret of the Fountain of Youth" by Peter Kelder, that tells you all about Colonel Bradford, a mysterious retired British army officer who learned of the rites while journeying high up in the Himalayas. Not only does the book teach you how to do these, but it lays out in splendiforous detail all the lovely things that happen to people who get their chakras spinning just right every day.

I tell you, between doing the Five Tibetans and drinking the green smoothies, I expect to be considerably younger by the end of the next decade.

 

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I don’t know anybody who doesn’t love Thanksgiving.

Oh sure, everybody admits it’s a lot of work, and often it’s a strain getting a bunch of people who are all related to each other to be under the same roof without, you know, things being said. But all in all, pound for pound, you will hardly find a nicer holiday than Thanksgiving. Never mind that they’re trying now to attach an adjunct holiday to it, by calling the day after Black Friday. We see through that completely…and we are NOT going along with it. Charlie, who is 6, put it best. He said, “I don’t really celebrate Black Friday.”

And I think that is the wise way to approach a day that asks you to get up in the middle of the night and go shopping, of all things.

Anyway, so Thanksgiving came and went. We had ten people here, in a house designed for maaaybe five, which can often be just the thing that magnifies even the slightest difference.  (“What?! You like steamed broccoli? Were you raised by wolves or something? Don’t you know the only way to eat broccoli is to saute it?”)

Despite all this, we had a wonderful time. This year we had two vegetarians, a gluten-allergic person, two 2-year-olds, a pregnant person, a few people with asthma, a 6-year-old, some people who think the minimum acceptable indoor temperature has to be in the very high two digits, others who suffer from hot flashes (mostly me), and plenty of food to keep us all groggy and busy. As usual, we had turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, and green beans for the meat-eaters—and Indian food for the vegetarians. This has been the family story for years now, that we serve food for both the pilgrims and the Indians.

By Friday, naturally, everybody was ready for Chinese food. And on Saturday afternoon, there was a blow-out feast with a little bit of everything on each plate. I myself had turkey, saag paneer, dumplings, pork egg foo yung, and pumpkin pie. Others ate stuffing, lo mein, and tikka masala.  The babies settled on raisins and whipped cream. (There’s a wonderful picture of one of the 2-year-olds face down in his chocolate cream pie. I think it’s a symbol of Day Three of the Thanksgiving holiday.)

It was loads of fun. Over the three days, we managed to replace a computer router, two cell phones, and a camera—as well as play Beatles Rock Band as often as possible, in each conceivable configuration. The two-year-olds made wonderful drummers, using my bamboo knitting needles as drumsticks. Josh, who is 2, loved stuffing our decorative baskets with random objects and distributing them all over the house. I expect to find the bag of onions any day now.

Basically hardly anyone slept. People were up all night, wandering through the house getting drinks of water, changing diapers, or taking to the living room couch where they hoped they might find silence. 

And it was over far too soon. Right after Saturday lunch—a lunch interrupted by the whole family needing to get to its feet to do the celebratory Miles Pooped On the Potty dance, I could see that time was running out. Everybody started sauntering through the house, packing up their items that had managed to get scattered all over. Teddy bears, computers, cameras, cell phones, BlackBerries, pacifiers, Play Stations, leftovers, blankies, and luggage all were packed up into the station wagons.

As Miles, age 2 1/2,  put it so succinctly, “Pack up my potty chair. I’m going home!”

It’s only Sunday night, and I’ve since called everybody at least twice. I’m afraid I can’t wait for Christmas.

Usually this is the time of year when I start grousing about being too cold, and how the leaves are blowing off the trees in great numbers, and the yard is full of pine cones and I can’t go to the beach anymore. But this year, I don’t know…There seems to be goodness—even wonderfulness—everywhere I look around me lately. Here’s a list, because I think it’s important to write down these things, even if all it means is that I can go back and read the list some other time when I’ve forgotten.

So here goes, in no particular order:

  • First of all, it stopped snowing, and we got our rightful autumn back. It’s even been sunny and 70 degrees a few times since that fateful day a few weeks ago when we had all the snow, and I was sure we would never have any warmth at all.
  • My cousin Jennifer, who moved to California a few years ago and started her own life, is coming back for a five-day visit. And for once, we don’t have to do a whole bunch of other things while she visits—like attend funerals or try to see each other between her work schedule. We are going to talk and talk and talk. (Note to self: Lay in a supply of throat lozenges.)
  • Oh! GOOD PUBLISHING NEWS! My book—Kissing Games of the World—comes out in paperback next week, which means that it is now somewhat affordable. The average person doesn’t have to choose between eating a plate of beans and buying a book. (You can even order it on this site—just cast your eye over to the right side of the page and click on your favorite book-buying venue.)
  • And even better news:  Target has named it a Breakout Book, meaning that it will be on display in all Target stores, beginning Dec. 27 until Feb. 14.
  • Oh! And even more interesting Kissing Games news. My publisher is sending the book out to bloggers who might want to review it on their site or hold giveaway contests. It was recently reviewed (most favorably, actually) by a woman who writes the blog Baba’s Farm Life. Read her review here. She may become my new best friend.
  • My writing workshops have been the most fun things ever. The fact that three times a week now, I get to sit with writers and help them with their manuscripts while we all eat the blueberry scones I’ve made—well, that is just the best reason to get up in the morning I can think of.
  • Lyle Lovett has a new CD, and a song called “Keep It In Your Pantry” keeps making me smile.
  • And the most important thing: IT IS NOT SNOWING.

I have barely gotten used to the idea that the leaves on the trees are turning from green to yellow, haven’t even let myself take in the fact that they are going to, you know, FALL OFF the trees and then we’re going to be back in Stick Season again…and then, for no good reason at all, SNOW started pouring from the sky today.

Snow!

And not just a little bit of snow either. Not just snow as a nice decoration. This was BIG. Huge, fat flakes of snow—honestly the size of baseballs—blowing so hard through the air that they flew  sideways. They were mesmerizing, actually: the kind of snowfall that makes you feel you’re looking through a kaleidoscope of changing shapes, with pieces flying in from all over.

It would have been nice, if—hello!–it not been OCTOBER 18th! This is the time of year when a person is still strolling through apple orchards and bringing home a bushel of Macouns to make apple crisp. We’re still supposed to be picking the very last of the really great tomatoes off the vines. In fact, until last week, I was still going to the beach, and calling it nature’s hospital!

I take this kind of weather personally. I’m from Santa Barbara, a place where the weather knows how to behave year-round, where the earth doesn’t ever give you the sense that all of nature has gotten tired and is heading into darkness. In Santa Barbara, you just know that it could always be 72 perfect degrees outside…and that you yourself could stay young and firm with just a little bit of extra effort. It wouldn’t even be that hard, Santa Barbara whispers to you.

But of course that’s not true. Now that I live in the world of seasons, I have gotten used to the idea that things really do change, that life goes through cycles, that the light green of spring has to become the yellow of autumn, and then has to turn back again. You know, the dark and the light. The great circle of life.

Outside the sky is getting darker earlier every day, and the sunsets are brilliant crimson with huge purple streaks. Eight of the trees in our front yard are already bare, while the dogwood tree in the back yard has turned a lovely copper color and is dropping bright red seeds on the ground. The air smells crisp, the evenings are cool. Some nights lately we’ve made a fire in our fire pit, and sat outside looking at the stars, shoving our hands down into our pockets, pulling our hoods a little tighter.

Our lovely next door neighbor died after a summer of illness. My daughter’s college-age friend is battling cancer and has decided to forego further debilitating treatment now that her tumors have recurred. Another friend is in the hospital awaiting the results of tests. He sits in a room overlooking rooftops and tries to make sense of his symptoms.

I stand and watch the snow falling on the still-green leaves, coating the last great tomatoes.

And slowly, slowly I think I might know what the snow is trying to tell me: Pay attention. Hold onto the moments. Breathe deeply. Look around you. Learn to savor.

And try to remember where you put the mittens at the end of the season last year. 

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