Youmans (pronounced like 'yeoman' with an 's' added)
is the best-kept secret among contemporary American writers.
--John Wilson, editor, Books and Culture

Thursday, August 02, 2007

KABOOM

Global warning: This post was committed by an extravagant person late at night. It was 2:00 a.m., to be exact. It had been 2:00 a.m. all day, but now it was 2:00 a.m. with a vengeance. Some people with a long day should go to bed.

Last night we had takeout from Foo Kin John (name dear to wised-up local schoolchildren), and I had a startling and memorable fortune: You are in over your head. It is time to get professional help. Since I received Happiness is a new home on the day we bought our first home, and Good news will come to you from far away the day before I was invited to a faraway interview that led to a life-changing faraway job, I am forced to consider the possibility that the Higher Power occasionally chooses to speak to me through dratted slips of paper stuffed inside curls of dough.

He seems rather direct in this message.

Moreover, it is a highly important date in my life, one fraught with fraughtnesses.

However, this is the busiest summer of my mother-of-three life, and I hardly have the time to consider the implications or the fraughtnesses. Moreover, I promised not to blog about anything until September, so nobody will be reading this, or counseling me as to whether I really ought to spring up, rush out, and clutch assorted professionals to my bosom. Does that message mean a nanny, a head-shrinker for the mama, a head-shrinker for the children, jolly pills for me, relaxy pills for the zooming-about children, a chauffeur (lovely) and general ferryman or ferrywoman, a lady in white squeaky shoes to take me on a nice long spa visit to the funny farm, or what?

Hmm.

Don't feel impelled to embrace any of those, but maybe I'm deluded, and the cookie is sneakily pointing out my delusion. Here's my opinion: what I could really use is a spectacularly efficient yet affordable cleaning lady. Doing one's own cleaning is definitely over-rated.

If you find your way to me, despite the fact that I have sworn off blogging due to the frenetic pace of a summer with certain adorable but overly-busy children, consider the implications of The Cookie, as I cannot, being too busy to consider, render, or even plop the problem into the waiting vessel of a blog post.

In stray moments, if and when they arrive, I'll hang around the shores of Glimmerglass, looking for a message in a bottle.

*******
Morning questions: Does God have a sense of humor, and what sort? How busy is too busy? Am I there yet? Why are we having such fantastic-for-a-Southerner hot weather? When am I going to finish those stories? When am I going to reread the novel I wrote at Yaddo one more time? Where's my dang datebook?

I'm missing R, who is at camp. Time to go commit a letter. Unless the datebook says otherwise. When I find it, that is.

********
Bookish: Ben Steelman, the books editor at The Wilmington Star-News, has started a blog on his newspaper's website. Bookmark http://books.starnewsonline.com/ . His "veries": very amusing; very smart; very well-read. That's a good combination.

********
Kiddish, trala:
N, age 10, to small cousin: So where's your birthmark?
C: Mine's at home.

*******
Dervish wheel: Credit is due to David Ritter and www.sxc.hu for this photograph that so accurately described the whirl of summer: from the Arizona State Fair, 2006.

34 comments:

  1. I'm trying to think what I would do under those circumstances. Not take the message literally would be number one. I mean, it IS just a piece of mass produced axiomata ( I made that up.) You've had two other such fortunes that have seemed real, but what about the scores of others that you've tossed away because they were inane and beside the point? Still, it is striking you as important for a reason. Why not write down your thoughts in private and just let 'em rip, see where they take you. I'm quite sure you have the answer to how/if you're over your head in said Marlyan cavity. And good luck. And hurry back here. We miss you.

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  2. Mass-produced axiomata.

    I like that.

    But what are the odds of my receiving just this piece of axiomata? I could've received any of the other rather rude Chinese-fortune-cookie remarks that were dealt out around the family table last night.

    Let's see: in the light of morn, I appear to be painfully sane. The only thing wrong is that I am painfully busy.

    Perhaps it is time to pay a visit to the Doubler. If I had twice as much time, I would not be overdue on several story requests, and I would not have to zoom about the country, taking people here and yon.

    Perhaps that is the secret message.

    Or perhaps not.

    Other questions: Is Laura taking me too seriously? Am I not taking myself seriously enough? Am I secretly mad, like a crazy fortune in a bland cookie? Etc. Must think, when I have time. About September 3rd or so.

    Yes, I miss you and company, too, when I have time to miss anybody.

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  3. Dear Marly,
    i have no idea when you might have time to look at the screen again and see this but, it seems to me that the fact that the message on this little slip of paper is truly resonating with you. If it hadn't struck some chord in your heart/psyche/soul you wouldn't be asking yourself if it is a real need...you would laugh it off. Therefore, here are my
    two cents:
    1. Find or Wrangle the time to sit quietly, take a few deep breaths and then ask yourself the question: What Professional Help would I love to have? Write down the first things that come to mind with absolutely no editing of the thoughts that zoom in. Then look at the list: if there are 8 answers make yourself chose which 4 appeal the most or feel "right." Then pick 2, then one. When you win the lottery, maybe you can afford all 8 professionals...but this may help you discover what you desire or need the most.

    2. a "spectacularly efficient yet affordable cleaning lady" would be the top of my list.

    OK, sorry...i've gotta add a third penny: The summer is almost over...but, and, however
    Whatever the professional help costs, it is worth it. Because a sane, creative wife and mom is the best gift any family could have.

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  4. 1. a cleaning lady--hard to find in this area.

    2. a taxi with driver because I can't be two places at once. Not so important, because one can always be late.

    3. a ridder-of-stuff who will pare down my household. Maybe this should be 2. I'm doing it at a great rate, anyway.

    I'm afraid that I'm sane but have an insane schedule... Off again. Just back from a museum class with N and off to a playdate. Hoo.

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  5. 1. My mother-in-law says you're supposed to add "between the sheets" after every fortune cookie phrase. I like the mischievous and very human sense of humor this suggests God might have.

    2. Mass-produced axiomata (great phrase!) are there for reading into, rather like runes. Therefore, I think the interpretation of Professional Help is, as Zephyr suggests, up to you.

    3. A cleaning lady sounds dreamy. Hard to find, perhaps, but not impossible? Even a local teenager could make a difference being paid once every 2 weeks to vacuum/mop floors or whatever you choose? Envision this.

    Word verification: cluqwi
    Did you think we'd cluck our tongues at you? We? Never. That photo is marvelous.

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  6. Glad to know you are still sane.
    if it were me
    not so much

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  7. Perhaps you need swimming lessons? Just applying Occam's razor here.

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  8. I asked the magic 8 ball if you were in over your head and it said Yes.

    Ofcourse everyone knows fortune cookies, like diares are full of crap.

    I think everybody is in over thier heads. I know I am in over my head all the time.

    and then to keep on adding comitments. Sometimes you just have to live one day at a time. I am glad I dont know the future. If we did we might not be able to face it.

    As far as house work, I am crap at it. I make hubby do it. Doesnt that sound awful of me. Its actually funner to do it together.

    I dont remember when I was not tired. I have decided that is what being an adult is. Each day is worse than the day before and you just have to do it all anyway or it the bottom will fall out. I hope that if one can just stay alive long enouh and things will get better.

    I was in the check out line at a country store and this woman had 3 kids. She was talking about how busy and tired she was and then she looked down to see what her kid put in her cart and all of a sudden she goes "is this an energy drink". Her boy about 10or 11 was all about it and she was to tired to argue with him and he got 2.

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  9. Hmmm. You can see we are all checking in on your blog, no matter whether you tell us to or not.

    I turned to Thoreau, thinking of your fortune, and at random opened Walden, and came across his description of sumach.." I heard a fresh and tender bough suddenly fall like a fan to the ground, when there was not a breath of air stirring, broken off by its own weight. In August, the large masses of berries, which, when in flower, ha attracted many wild bees, gradually assumed their bright velvety crimson hue, and by their weight again bent down and broke the tender limbs".

    Which reminded me of a dream I had when my firstborn was little and I a single mother trying to do everything at the same time. An old woman came to me in a department store in the dream, where I was carrying a table and my youngster, and said, peering out from the red berries on her white hair. She said "you should consider the meaning of sacrifice".

    When I woke I thought about the word derivation, of course.

    And...though I don't know what you are carrying, except a busy household life with three children and all the demands of that, and your writing, and all...

    I recall a time I felt I was at a wall. I thought I needed a beautiful clear space in which to write...where had it gone? that time, that space? Three children in a rustic cabin, many critters, my partner, my job...and where was my own space or my own time. I thought one day (after failed negotiations with partner: "I need a half hour free, once a week, I could do with that" "But I'm a writer too and I don't get any time") I must write...or I might as well die.

    Dying didn't seem sensible. Oddly I discovered within myself the ability to write amid clutter and interruption. Not ideal--but it's taken me through the past decade or two.

    That may be very very far off your sense of overwhelm (I always think of the psalm about "the waters have come over my head" in such situations). zephyr has good ideas there.

    And may all be well with you.

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  10. Oh! All these messages when I said that I wasn't going to write till much later.

    It's very sweet.

    And they are thoughtful and interesting comments, and I really ought to go visit all of you. Instead, I'm going to go and write R about what time I am arriving at her camp. But I will read them again when I get back, because they make me feel so pleased that my e-friends are so ridiculously smart and nice.

    Lovely quotes and sentiments and turns of phrase: I send you all a tiny bouquet of forget-me-knots, tied up in a blue ribbon.

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  11. all those and another. :)

    RSS readers really are a wonderful thing, mixing the best of blogging and email.

    In any case, even the most literal way I take a fortune (or of my own personal habits, an array of tarot cards) is to view it as a friend with no context and a version of myself with all my context. The fortune, the mass-produced axiomata, in your hands can be both a focal point through which to pass many different perspectives, and a piercing view to pass through you from many different perspectives.

    During my stint of tarot-interest a few years ago, I would pull a card, consider all its meanings, and all the possible ways to apply each of them to my current situation.

    I don't believe there's anything divine, but some sort of cosmic, mathematical resonance when these things come together. So many bits and constructs of matter fly through the universe, like water specks in a cloud or a flock of birds on wing. A clever mind or camera can caputre those particles for an instant in time and see images in them, but the truth of matter is that it does not hold still. Even if we remember a split second where each autonomous piece worked with each other to make a masterful, visual whole, their dance did not end.

    But that does not make the moment of masterpiece meaningless.

    A fortune cookie doesn't change your life or give you permission, but, as evidenced by this very post, it does give you pause, inviting consideration and examination.

    I hope you find the time you seek!

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  12. I can't add anything to all these other people's wonderful thoughts.
    This too shall pass, you won't feel so overwhelmed for ever, and you could perhaps ask higher power just to look after the stuff you can't deal with just now and keep it safe, or something like that...
    I don't hold with magazine horoscopes, but one of them I picked up in a discarded magazine on a bus told my fortune so plainly and accurately and with a boldness so uncharacteristic of these things that I wonder if I really read it, but I'm sure I did.
    Hang on in there, we'll see you soon. Hope the carpal tunnel thing's better...

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  13. Oh, coolness! A passel of axiomatistas gathering in the comments-kitchen! (Glad to see you emerge, BTW -- missing your wit and intelligence.)

    Since I am one of those Believers in Comic Timing and Message-Leaving from the Divine Forces, to add to the happy noise and confusion, I opened my copy of that Zen moldy oldy, The Blue Cliff Record, to find added commentary for you.

    I opened at random and got the Sixty-Second Case (of course, the case number started me giggling) -- here's what Thomas Cleary's lovely translation shared:

    "By means of the knowledge that has no teacher, he produces the marvelous function of non-doing; by means of unconditional compassion, he acts unasked as an excellent friend. In one phrase there is killing, there is giving life; in one act there is releasing, there is holding. ..."

    And, further on into the exegesis, "... An Ancient said, 'Reaching an impasse, then change; once changed, then you can pass through.' "

    And my inner prompts tell me that's all she (me) wrote for this particular comment...I hope there's a jewel just for you in it.

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  14. What a nice and intelligent bunch of people you are. I couldn't have chosen better if I'd been given free pick of the world. Thanks for all the interesting, thoughtful, and amusing comments.

    I believe in cosmic timing and comic timing, and I imagine that they can be the very same thing--and perhaps were, in this situation.

    The whole family got an earful from these fortunes. I can say that my eldest, ordered to pay for the meal, refused.

    About midnight last night, I arrived home with my daughter from camp--she decided to come home for the single day between two sessions instead of staying over--she opened the last cookie. It told her that sticking close to home today would be the right thing to do.

    These are weird little fortune cookies.

    Back to my world of playdates and ferrying children and doing camp laundry. It's a bad day for black sock.

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  15. Is it September already? No but we miss you over here too.

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  16. I sense a short story in here somewhere of the magical realism genre, where the usual harried mother/wife/family driver/cleaner/shopper/homework enforcer discovers that by consulting fortune cookies, all her problems are solved...or are they????
    Maybe I will start my own fortune-writing business. Here's one: If you believe it, it is real.
    Here's another:
    Aren't we all in over our heads? Tread water. Help is on the way.

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  17. Yes, in a metaphysical sense we've been in over our heads since the day the little half-us of an egg went out on a date with a sperm. So that's a fairly accurate fortune, although help is not always on the way. Perhaps one should be the help that is on the way.

    I'd feel called to write a story about fortune cookies, except that Ingrid Hill has already written one that I liked. Hmm. I wonder if the world could handle an anthology of fortune cookie stories? Sounds like a Klima anthology...

    Who is Miz B? One I know, one I don't know? Come back and play--I'll be around more after school starts.

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  18. Hey Marly,

    Hope all is well.

    Is the pot boy keeping the chores at bay?

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  19. Hey, Susanna--

    Yes, this week we are in the throes of soccer camp, football weigh-in, a dash of math, summer jobs, etc.

    Summer tends to bring out the laziness in boys of all kinds.

    New hat? New old hat?

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  20. Ms. Youmans,

    The Town Crier has commissioned me to write some front page articles, and for the first they suggested that I do a profile on a local writer - specifically, you. They gave me your contact number, but the person who answered said he knew nobody by your name. If you could send me an email at pelletierd at hartwick.edu and let me know if you would be interested and how I might contact you if you are, I would very much appreciate it. My apologies for intruding on your blog, but they are very interested in featuring an article about you and I wasn't sure how else to contact you.

    Thanks.

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  21. Hey Marly,

    In summer it seems, those with children are always in over their heads. Help will come in the form of school I hope, and then we teachers will be in over our heads. :)

    If you decide to do an anthology of fortune cookie stories let me know I would be tempted to try writing one.

    Meanwhile I am with the others who vote for the cleaning lady. I hope you find an affordable one, although children pressed into slave labor always helps some. Keep your chin up, school days are coming soon.

    Speaking of omens and such why did I get a word varification of kooxqx? Am I really a kook?

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  22. Hi Dan--

    No problem. Will do. Look for me in the mail...

    b. q.,

    I have been pressing them into action with some success. Had B saw down a tree yesterday and another today. They were small but hefty.

    Saw that you sent me something and will look soon. I'm still drowning in things-to-do, but cheerfully drowning, I hope.

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  23. late-week thoughts! Hope you're still breathing okay, above water or below.

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  24. Annie,

    I have learned to breathe underwater, it seems: lots of winding rainbow-colored reeds, fastened together by friendly little frogs at the joints.

    Amazing, isn't it: school will soon begin. Human nature being what it is, I feel sad, even though I'll have more time.

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  25. See you soon Marly, glad you've survived!

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  26. Hi there, Miss Lucy--

    Yes, I shall be winging back to the e-nest some time soon.

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  27. Okay so now I am the one in over my head. The children came back on Monday. I now see 691 children every six days. Plus, the car that I thought was fixed wasn't and I had to take it in on Monday and pick it up yesterday. There are issues with mama's social security check as well, and I'm not allowed to ask because she has to tell them I can.

    Driving home last night, after picking up the car I thought about the word "overwhelmed" and wondered, what is whelmed? Is it a word? I know I am over whataver whelmed is. I am over everthinged at this point and in dire need of a painting/drawing respite. However there seems to be no respite in sight until Sunday.

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  28. Hello, Donna--
    The five just arrived back home, after almost a week in Cullowhee and another at Sunset Beach. It's Sunday; hope it was your drawing day... Me, I'm ready for a nap.

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  29. Hey Marly,

    I did get to draw some on Monday, it being a holiday and all. Check it out at my blog, you know where.

    Glad the five are back. When do they start school?

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  30. Today!

    Will stop by later--I've got something big on my plate and need to do some carving, pronto.

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  31. Thank you for sticking up for DRG at TRE, I don't understand the grudges alot of people have against publishers – especially small publishers.

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  32. Hi Daniel--

    I suppose, in the end, Godine doesn't need a whit of help in that regard. The books defend the house, and that's enough.

    I'll have to go back and read some more of your blog, when I finish the next four urgent things and come to a lull.

    It does seem that blogs could do more to talk about small publishers--everything connected with "branding" in books appears negative (often connected to wide-selling authors of poor quality), but wouldn't it be possible to clarify the worth of individual publishers in a way that hasn't been done before? What would that mean, though?

    ***

    Friends & passers-by--

    I'm back from the mountains and the sea and will start posting again in the next week. My children's school started today, and now I have three manuscripts to turn in (pronto!) and a talk to cobble.

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  33. Looking forward to your victorious return!

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  34. Thanks, Annie--
    I wonder what is fermenting in your brain these days. I'll stop in after I tick off a few time-consuming duties.

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Alas, I must once again remind large numbers of Chinese salesmen and other worldwide peddlers that if they fall into the Gulf of Spam, they will be eaten by roaming Balrogs. The rest of you, lovers of grace, poetry, and horses (nod to Yeats--you do not have to be fond of horses), feel free to leave fascinating missives and curious arguments.