Sunday, January 3, 2010

What's In a Name?

I know this will seem quite ridiculous. But, here it is anyway. The other day I spent running around and hitting some of the after-the-holidays sales at a few department stores. I had a gift certificate to spend at a particular store, one we had dropped a considerable sum of money during our Christmas shopping excursion. The day I went was also the expiration date on the $10 coupon.

I wanted a new pair of house slippers for the winter and, since I would never pay the kind of prices this particular store charges for slippers on a normal day, I took advantage of the sale and got the cutest pair of blue slippers (blue is my favorite color) for about 80% off of the original price. That's my kind of shopping.

And my husband was quite happy as well.

Anyway, to the point. Later, when we got home and I was taking the tags off of the slippers, I happened to notice the brand name attached to the inside sole. I won't drop that name here; but suffice it to say the name is of a very famous designer. Most of us will never own an article of clothing designed by this stellar talent. But I'm walking around with her name on my feet.

Does it make the slippers any softer? Not really. The quality is excellent; don't misunderstand. But, they were no more comfortable after I knew the designer's name that before I knew it.
So, what's in a name? Why do we assign so much value to the word we use to identify one thing or another?

Being that words are my life's passion, I have to be careful with this. I love the pictures language can paint. But, we have to be so cautious with the value we give to simple words. More directly, the words we use to name people. As children, we learn that certain labels make people okay; and others make them unacceptable. Those values determine whether we give love and acceptance, or withhold them and offer judgment, fear, and hate in return. What names equate acceptance? White, thin, gay, fat, straight? What is tolerable?

Believer? Christian? We form the judgment in our heads almost automatically. Human beings are classifiers. One quick sweep up and down and the person is classified; filed away in our internal filing system and treated accordingly.

How many hearts have been broken because of what's in a name?

Maybe it would be a gift if we were blind to those classifications, at least until we got the chance to know the person. Then, maybe we would understand that human beings are deeper than their skin color, more than their sexual orientation, beyond the religion they happen to accept. A word, a label would not be the entirety of their existence.

I've had a front row seat to the destruction an unsuitable classification can render. Whole families have been divided over the changes a new label can bring. Friendships have fallen to the superiority of one name over another. Sometimes, they have failed to even get off the ground because once the die was cast, there was nothing left to do but walk away.

How sad it is to think that something so simple can close off one person to another. How can a simple word like Baptist, or female, or Democrat describe the complete character of a human being? So much of the picture is missing.

In this instance, I envy very small children who delight in the taste of language on their tongues, and the smiles of the faces their eyes hold. They don't know enough yet to drop people into their appropriate groups.

They see a smile and simply return it.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

New Year, New Beginnings

I know it's cliche`; but I love the new year. I love the beginning of things, first day of the week, first day on the new month. I even get a little giddy over the new network shows that premiere every fall.

There is something comforting about the process of starting over. Mistakes? That was last year. Maybe it's all in my head, (maybe?), but it's almost like a mental block goes up protecting me from that embarrasing moment at the bank or awkward slip of the tongue at a friend's party. When it's the new year, we get a do-over.

What would I like to do-over in 2010?


For one, I'd redo all of those moments wasted worrying over the things I cannot change. Things like, what the people in line at the store think of my outfit; or whether the lady on the phone meant to be rude. Maybe those things just don't really make all that much difference in the grand scheme of things. So, maybe 2010 will be the year I forget to worry so much about the thoughts other people may or may not have about me; and a little more about the things I can do to clean up the place a bit.

Another thing. Who needs anger? I want peace. Anger is so overrated. For a long time, it was the fuel of my resolve, the power in my conversations. More than anything, I want the elusive element of peace in my life. I wish for it in the lives of friends and loved ones; most especially for those who have drifted further away from me.

The new year is so fresh and new. It's the clean slate that has yet to be marked; the story yet to be told. I have so much hope, so much to look forward to. In this next year, may all of us have peace, prosperity and love written all over 2010.

Peace be with you all,

Saturday, December 19, 2009

My Favorite Accolade

As a writer, especially in the very beginning, words of praise and compliments on your writing mean a great deal. When a customer or an editor calls your work 'excellent' or 'very well written', the reassurance hits that maybe, just maybe, you are a talented writer.
Up to now, by far my greatest compliment came just a week ago. A large group of people were coming to my house to celebrate my daughter's birthday. My dad came up early, spending a good deal of the morning with us as he often does on a Sunday. A first draft proof copy of The Starter Life was sitting out on the dining room table, (begging to be edited as it does most days.) Well, as I was bustling around the kitchen preparing dinner, I looked over to see my dad sitting at the table, reading my book.
My dad is a man of few words. He does not throw compliments away. He does not spend excessive amounts of time on flattery or flowery adjectives. Watching him sitting in my dining room reading The Starter Life spoke for itself.
Time passed and dad turned several pages. I'm not sure how much he read in total; but he sat there for a long time anyway. Dad and I don't sit around talking about how much we mean to each other; but we both know. There is a priceless mutual respect I treasure; which is why the hour he spent reading my magnum opus was the best accolade I could have.
Thanks, Dad.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

The Glorious Freelance Life

Okay, so maybe glorious is a bit of a stretch; but so far freelancing has treated me very well. As a writer, I have picked up ghostwriting work on Textbroker and continue to seek work elsewhere. My day revolves around one exciting project after another. Maybe it isn't exactly the glamorous life of a best-selling novelist; but for the first time I am finding an outlet for my life's passion. As editorial reviews trickle in, my confidence builds and I learn more and more about the craft of writing; and the pursuit of excellence in it.
I know I am an incurable goof; but some mornings when I open my laptop for the first time, steaming cup of coffee in hand, somewhere in the back of my mind I can hear Jim Croce crooning "I've Got a Name" and I see pines and winding roads. Something about this has to do with writing, though I haven't figured that part out just yet.
For what it's worth, I've decided to reacquaint myself with my dear old friend Freddie, who, like me, is too adept at bouncing all over the place, though I am happier about it than she is. (Just to catch you up, Freddie is the main character in my novel The Starter Life, which is still in its adolescent-not-quite-edited stage.) I had an epiphany the other day about my life; and I think dear old Freddie fits the same bill. I am like the air bubble in a level; I bounce around outside of the level marks, but sometimes I get dead solid centered. This is the place to be, where inspiration flows and the words just hum.
For now, my freelancing profile keeps building; and the novel collects less dust on the shelf. The good news is that I find myself consulting the AP writer's guide less and less. Semi-colons are, after all, not the enemy.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

My Breast Cancer Awareness Month

October is breast cancer awareness month. For years, breast cancer was completely off of my radar screen, now as I grow older, it has become more important than ever before. Clink the link below to access the full article.

You Don't Have to Tell Everything You Know

Have you ever found yourself the recipient of unwanted advise or unsolicited opinions from other people? Can you imagine a world where the old adage "If you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all" was followed by more people? What can you do to make the world a better place. Click the link to read more.