Sunday, December 30, 2012

Leap into 2013


We are about to end this year and start a new one. It kind of makes me sad. I loved 2012. It’s been really good to me. For one, I got to survive the “12. 21. 2012 End of the World”! Just kidding here. Like most of you I knew, of course, that nothing was going to happen. But it’s been fun watching the others (especially my sister-in-law) panic. Don’t you ever think that the Mayans may have had a sense of humor and pulled the prank of the century on us? Or even better: a prank of ALL TIMES. And since we are all still here and most of us still have our wits together, I’d like to know only one thing: Where is Peter Gersten? This crazy kookoo said that he was going to jump through a portal in the sky at exactly 11:11 am on 12/21/12 and thereby save the world because the aliens told him that it is the only way to rescue humanity from an ancient prophecy. Please watch this nut-job here:


And since he didn’t jump (or as he says he did, but his camera malfunctioned and nothing could be recorded), yet earned lots of cash to do so because of his website set up to collect donations (seriously, why do you need money to jump off a cliff? It’s FREE. And he should have done it in his birthday suit to make it count!), I say to those who donated money: hunt him down and throw him off the cliff (you never know, the portal may still be open). Or just beat the crap out of him. Peter Gersten belongs to the kind of people who prey on other people’s fears. He truly should jump through a portal and land in a place where it’s raining money, but where one pays for stuff with water.

Anyway, enough of nagging about that scumbag scammer. As I’ve said, this year has been good to me. My health and sanity are still functioning quite well, my imagination and Muses still hang around, and that’s pretty much all I really need. I also did a little traveling this year. I got to visit India, Afghanistan, England, Japan, and France, all without ever leaving my couch. No, I did not browse the internet. I used a device that smells great, feels wonderful to the touch, lets you know what others are thinking, can move you back and forth in time, and requires no electricity, gas, or batteries. What could such a sophisticated device be, you wonder? A BOOK. Here’s my TOP 5 of the books I’ve read or re-read this year:

    Life of Pie by Yann Martel
     The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseinin
    The Hours by Michael Cunningham
     A Pale View of Hills by Kazuo Ishiguro
  Sarah’s Key by Tatiana de Rosnay

Michael Cunningham even signed his book for me; check it out.

To Aneta, here's to your own literary future, Peace, Michael Cunningham

What were your favorite titles? And do you already have your book stock pile for next year? I’m working on mine and am always open to suggestions, so please comment below. I’d like to get started before my birthday, which is only 11 days away. Turning older is no fun, but I look at it as a strategic move because with age comes wisdom (or so I’ve heard) and I always enjoy getting a little smarter. And I’ve heard that books make you just that. One thing my gained wisdom has taught me over the years is to never make a new year’s resolution.  In my case it never works. I am known to procrastinate, so by the time I even come up with a resolution to make, the new year is already here, and then it just makes no sense to follow through with something I was reluctant to come up with in the first place. Instead, I make long term goals. When I was 10, I said I would become an astronaut; when I was 15, I said I would move to America; when I was 20, I said I would write books; when I was 25, I said I would get a Master’s Degree; when I was 30, I said I would never make any new year’s resolutions. I can see that all’s working out as planned, well, except for the astronaut thing…but, hey, you never know...

So let’s not break our brains trying to figure out what we’re going to do next year. Take it one day at a time. So far, there are no threats or prophecies to be fulfilled as far as the end of the world goes for next year, so only the people with Triskaidekaphobia, which is the fear of number 13, have something to worry about. The rest of you...have a fabulous new year, make memories, make love, make the people around you happy, and above all, make good choices.

Happy New Year! Cheers!

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Happy Holidays from the Queen of Procrastination

Jeez, it’s been a while since I posted here. I need to get up and have someone kick my butt for neglecting the Conundrum Corner, especially since I’ve had countless conundrums on my mind lately. So, first things first. Since Poe’s return life has fallen back onto its normal, hectic (that is my normal) rails.

I began a class on screenwriting. It is great but very difficult if you’re a novelist, therefore the boss of everything that happens in your story. Filmmaking is a collaboration of many artists such as Director, Producer, Actors, Cameramen, Editor, Costumes Designers, Musicians, etc.—you get the picture (no pun intended)—and the Screenwriter is the foundation of the movie, but not the visionary (this ah-sucks), and therefore rarely recognized (Seriously, can you tell me, off the top of your head, who wrote the script of your favorite movie? No? Shame on you!). Therein lies the problem.

Screenwriters are always chastised for “overdirecting” the script. But I can’t help not getting a little worked up if the character and his/her actions in the director’s head don’t mirror those in my head! I think this class will teach me how to share (my ideas) and how to stay as brief as possible in describing what is to be seen/heard on screen, which is truly difficult if you love words. So my writing agenda is beginning to grow. My novel, The Guardian, which I’m guarding from everyone until it’s ripe because it is just too awesome and will be a bestseller one day (this I just know) is now going to be a screenplay as well.

Next, I have officially joined the ranks of wonderful writers at Black Opal Books and my picture and bio is up on their website, so please check it out. I also got word that BOB’s Senior Editor (yikes) has begun editing Heartbreak Hotel. This is great and a little scary at the same time as I’m eagerly expecting suggestions for revision. Revisions are like the peanut butter to the jelly of first drafts (btw, there is never only one first draft). Without them, your book sandwich would be pretty plain. And if an author tells you that s/he doesn’t revise, then s/he is either stuck up or lying.

And finally, Christmas is around the corner and I haven’t even sent out Christmas cards, started baking my famous cookies, or shopping for gifts. Now, I had already mentioned several times in my other posts that I am the Queen of Procrastination, but from today’s post you see that it is not by choice. With this I’d like to apologize to the postal system that cashes in on me BIG TIME during the holidays as I always mail cards to my family and friends all over Europe and to everyone who will not receive a Season’s Greeting from the Cruz Family this year. Please, at least accept this picture.

Monday, November 19, 2012

LOST AND FOUND: Poe's Tale

If you know me at all you also know that I don’t write stories with a happy ending. I leave that for the cheesy Hollywood films. For this Conundrum Corner, however, I figured that there always is an exception to the rule. So here’s a story with a tail-wagging happy ending.

Last Sunday on 11/11/12, we lost our dog, Poe. Well, “lost” is a little misleading. He ran away while my husband was trimming the trees in our back yard and left the gate open. But I can’t blame Poe’s disappearance on him. There were events leading up to it. And as usual, events that influence fate come in threes, so here we go:

1. My daughter wanted to take Poe for a walk; she put on his leash, but she clipped it to the ring on which his tag with his name and our phone number is. As Poe rushed toward the front door, the ring snapped and he instantly became tagless.

2. That Sunday I was talking to my mom over Skype. When my husband came in to the room to announce that Poe had run away, my mother said, “Finally; what do you need such an ugly dog for, anyway?”

3. My husband didn’t come in and say that the dog was gone until half an hour after Poe had decided that the grass must be much greener on the other side (to use a cliché against which my creative writing self always battles).

Ever since we adopted Poe (which was last year), we knew that there was something odd about him. He has a great, goofy personality, but is not very dog-like. At times we think he thinks he’s human because he tries to sit at the table with us and eat. At times we think he thinks he’s a cat because he stretches like one and purrs! At times we think he thinks he’s a bat because he bumps into things, which would suggest that he is blind, and spreads his large ears as if trying to take flight. Anyway, he doesn’t do the most dog-like thing every dog does. He doesn’t mark his territory. When we take him for walks he refuses to pee (but he gladly waters our back yard with his urine and, at times, when he thinks he’s a maid he eats his own poop. So try not to kiss my dog when and if you see him). I believe that it was because of the lack of his pee-signs that he couldn’t find his way home.

Operation: Rescue Poe began. We had been looking for him for days. We put up flyers; KMIR6 aired him at 6 am every morning,


we asked neighbors, random people, peeked into back yards, knocked on homes where we heard a bark similar to that of Poe’s; he went viral on Facebook thanks to our family and friends.
And finally on Thursday night my daughter saw a flyer:
So we called. Answering machine. Left a message. Called again. And again. And again. And again. How could it be that no one was answering? I used my self-taught detective skills, Googled the phone number, property, people’s name, and set out on a journey. But by then it was so dark, our black dog would have been but a shadow if he had been there. As soon as we got home, the phone rang. Our throats tightened, stomachs filled with butterflies, fingers jittered with excitement...all this build-up was shattered when the caller said that she’d indeed had Poe, but that he ran away while she let him out to go potty. Back to square one.
On Saturday a gut feeling lead us to a gated community near our neighborhood. We followed a car in and questioned the first people we saw. Voilà! Their daughter’s friend had taken Poe to her grandmother’s in Palm Desert because she’d seen a man throw him out of his car. Someone had thrown my doggy out of his car? “Who was that?” I asked. It was someone from the RV community across the street from our neighborhood. Why, that was interesting. I clearly remember my husband taking a flyer there and asking what the procedure was since the RV community is a NO PET ZONE. “We immediately call the animal control,” said the security guard. That was good because Poe has an AVID chip, which would send a signal to the Recovery Center as soon as the Animal Control scanned him. (NOTE: Unfortunately, there was another hick-up. Did you know that when you adopt an animal that has a microchip, and you fill out stacks of papers and registrations and pay fees and describe in detail what should be done and who should be contacted in case the animal went missing, that your chip is not registered? Apparently, it is a DIY project. I found out the hard way. People, please check if you pet’s microchip had been registered!) But no, the RV community did not follow their “set in stone” procedure. Instead, someone grabbed Poe and threw him back out on the street. It must have been a stray dog, right? What, with the collar and a hair-cut, trimmed nails, and shiny conditioner on his coat. Oh, yeah, let’s take the easy way out...out of the RV community! Jerks!
Okay, so the above mentioned daughter calls her friend. Answering machine. Seriously? Does anyone answer the phone these days? Leaves a message. “Hey XYZ, there’s the dog’s owners at my house, and they like are looking for the dog, and like they say that he’s sick and he needs his medicine, can you call me back. Ok, later. Bye.” Yeah, I went there. I wanted my dog back right away. Who knows? Maybe this XYZ girl fell in love with him and wouldn’t want to give him back. Nobody wants a sick dog, right?
So we waited, again, for a phone call. All day, all night, and then again all day. Did I mention that waiting sucks? Especially if you are me—a person with no patience. Finally, Sunday noon XYZ calls and says she had my dog but that she is in LA and has a person going to her house to feed him and check up on him. “Can that person meet me, then? My dog has a serious infection and if he doesn’t get his medicine, it will spread, and he will die!” Yeah, I went there again. Who knows when she would be coming home? “I should be back around three,” XYZ said. “I’ll call you when I get home and you can come get him.” I relaxed but just a little. And then we waited. Again. I know I already mentioned that waiting sucks. But just to emphasize: WAITING SUCKS!
A little after three pm, XYZ’s grandma called (a very sweet lady), gave me her address, and Operation: Rescue Poe was wrapping up. But before my family put on their happy faces, I reminded them of our almost-happy-ending on Thursday. What if Poe ran away again before we got to him? So we drove in silence, serious faced, all the way to the Silver Racquet Club in Palm Desert where Poe was waiting with the sweet lady and her dog (who ended up biting my husband’s finger probably as a payback for Poe—the strange un-dog—pestering him).
Poe is now home and acts as if nothing happened, as if his adventure and our broken hearts, 7 day depression, and constant vigilance were just a dream. He’d already chewed up my husband’s shoe, spread trash all over the back yard, and stole my kids’ candy...which means that everything is back to normal.

Thank you to everyone who kept an eye out, spread the word, posted on Facebook, and helped even with as little as a positive thought! Happy Thanksgiving! Ours definitely will be!

Thursday, November 8, 2012

How It All Started...

It has finally happened. After many years of writing, stalking agents, publishers, editors, creative writing professors, submitting to magazines, journals, anthologies, e-zines, etc. someone must have either gotten tired of me or realized that hey, this chick is for real and she is here to stay. That someone is the acquisition editor of Black Opal Books. She offered me a publishing contract; I accepted, signed, and the rest, as they say, will have become history.

I am honored, proud, and excited to share this wonderful news. Black Opal Books has acquired the rights to Heart-Break Hotel and will be releasing it under its label. When I read the acquisition editor’s email that stated, “I’m delighted with it (Heart-Break Hotel manuscript). I think it would make an excellent addition to our Chick Lit line and would like to offer you a contract to publish it,” I screamed with excitement, and I think I may have even peed my undies a little. Anyway, you will probably be seeing my debut novel out next year, with a different cover and perhaps even a different name. I will also be creating a website where you will be able to find my Conundrum Corner blog, bio, stories, poems, and maybe I'll throw in some of my delicious recipes. My wonderful friend, Paula Stinson, will be taking pictures of me—and I tell ya, she’s a fabulous photographer, so I know I won’t frighten anyone with my mug—which I have to submit, with my bio, to the Black Opal Books’ website, so please take a look. I’ll let you know when it is up.

I will be pulling the original version of Heart-Break Hotel off the market in the next few days, but my collection of poetry and prose called a-Muse-me[a]nt is available. In it you can find the short story (among many others) on which my novel is based. Happy reading everyone!

Oh, and a big YAY for OBAMA! What a charismatic Mr. President we have!

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Inside the Autistic Mind

Several weeks ago I started working with autistic children. Let me tell you, they have the biggest, most beautiful eyes, which always makes me wonder whether they can see spirits. Isn’t that sort of a rule of thumb for psychics—to have big, beautiful eyes? Hmm, that would make a great novel. Stop! My mind is wandering! Anyway, what I really want to address in today’s Conundrum Corner is my curiosity when it comes to the autistic children’s stimming. Stimming is a self-stimulatory behavior pattern like flapping hands, twirling hair, sticking a hand in front of the face, drumming on a solid surface, making sounds like tiki-tiki-tiki, or other repetitive motions and sounds. I always figured that the senses of these children are elevated to a level in which everything seems louder, brighter, has a stronger scent, and so on. Often, when I think of writing a story (like I did just a few seconds ago), I want to get into the head of an autistic child and feel as they feel, see as they see, hear as they hear...to make my story as genuine as possible. I had the “luck” to get into such a situation this weekend.
My migraine was at its full swing, and during the four days of elevated sensory intakes I was ready to crash and make a dark, silent cave out of my home for the weekend. I, however, granted a wish to my husband, who decided that he wanted to try out Burgers and Beer in La Quinta. Thinking that the place would be quiet and almost empty since no big games were going on, I agreed to have a quick dinner under the condition that he would leave me alone (if you know what I mean) for the next two days.
Burgers and Beer offered nothing of what I had hoped for. TV screens were hanging from the ceiling and the walls; we even had a TV attached to our table, on which my children decided that they must watch the Cartoon Network. In front and around me lights flashed and flickered as baseball players scored home-runs, hockey players knocked their teeth out, football players patted each others asses, golfers attempted the hole-in-one, while behind me basketball players screeched their shoes on the floor, extreme sportsmen grinded their skateboards on the metal pipe, and someone at the bar kept yelling for no particular reason. The lights, the noise, the smell of various meals, the people walking back and forth as if they were on speed...it was the most horrible experience. I felt like I’d just walked into an autistic child’s nightmare. My hands were cupped over my ears, eyes tightly shut, and I began to feel my body sway in a dizzying motion, the same one that seems to sooth one of my students. I was so relieved when I finally got out of there; and I guarantee that I’m never going back! That place is safe only for people with ADD. I’d like to keep my sanity, thank you very much.

And to conclude today’s conundrum: Be careful what you wish for!

Thursday, October 11, 2012

I Was Born This Way

Last week my creative writing professor and author, Cheryl Klein (you can find her work here), offered to be my thesis adviser for the MFA program in which I am enrolled. I was thrilled of course. It is very difficult to break through as an emerging writer and have someone notice your craft. I constantly have to keep up with writing contests, nonrefundable fees to the judges, submission deadlines, agents accepting queries, publishing houses accepting unsolicited manuscripts, promoting my books, etc. It is like a full time job. NO! IT IS A FULL TIME JOB! My real teaching job, for which I actually get paid on a consistent basis unlike my writing, can be considered a part time job in comparison to my writer job. And did I mention that while I have to keep track of the above, I also have to write, come up with characters, plot lines, subplots, narrative arcs, flashbacks, settings, scenes, dialogue, time frames, and on and on and on.
Often I think to myself, “What the hell did you get yourself into?” And I have no answer. I don’t think being a writer was really a choice. You know, like if you’re gay or autistic or a red head or have green eyes...you’re just born that way. I was born a writer. The first signs were my reading of everything that had letters: sings in the streets, backs of the cereal boxes, all the birthday cards at the store, movie end titles, etc. Then, some of my friends refused to talk to me because they said that I was lying; but I was only telling stories. When I was a teenager, I began to hear voices in my head, and soon I was able to see to whom those voices belonged. At first I thought I had some sort of a sixth sense, and that I could see dead people. But when you hear a unicorn talk, you know it’s not a sixth sense—you’ve gone crazy. And NO, I didn’t do any drugs. Later, these voices demanded that I start writing down what they are telling me. And so I did. I wrote my first good story when I was fourteen. It was about four teenagers, who figured out a way to fix an old Ferris wheel on the outskirts of town, but somehow they could not control its speed, and it ended up chopping their bodies into pieces as they tried to jump off it. I was heavily influenced by Stephen King during this period of my life, can you tell?
Now I’ve gotten to a point where I see the entirety of my future novel flash in front of my eyes in a span of seconds. I see the characters, their development, manner of speech, how the plot progresses, how the settings look like...it’s kind of like a movie, but better because I’m inside my own head, if that makes sense, able to observe and hear up close everything that I need to write down. This anomaly gave birth to my novel, The Guardian, which I’m currently revising and for which Cheryl offered to be my thesis adviser. I know that both my novel and I are in good hands. So please, look it up in the near future. It supposedly has the best elements of Poe and Lovecraft (according to one of my peers) and, according to one of my creative writing professors, it is a novel over which Hollywood will salivate. But I’m not here to brag. I’ll let you be the judge. Enjoy this brief excerpt.  
* * * * *
The six o’clock sunrise slowly illuminated the bedroom window of Dr. Josef Stein’s apartment. Its glow tickled Stein’s eyelids, and its warmth etched a peculiar awareness into the most innate part of his mind—the old brain—about which he once read that it controls the feelings of love, fear, instinct, and intuition.
Stein opened his eyes. He focused at the ceiling for quite some time, which was what he usually did. What he found unusual, however, was that his blurry sight was suddenly able to distinguish the vein-like cracks in the white stucco from the indescribable expressions on the faces of strange beings he used to see there when he gazed up. Like the illustrations in his books about myths and monsters, the ceiling-beings habitually looked down at him with piercing eyes, and Stein felt as though his mind had been invaded, as though the eyes could read every thought in his head. At times he was afraid, but he always composed himself and shook the fear off. He knew that the mind liked to play tricks on the eyes.
The odd faces were nothing out of the ordinary for Stein, anyway. He was the head physician and psychiatrist of Prague’s prestigious sanatorium, the Château, and over the years he’d seen quite a variety of odd expressions on the faces of his patients. But unlike the eyes of the ceiling-beings, his patients’ eyes were absentminded, not looking into Stein but through him. It was these inattentive expressions that led Stein to believe that there was something within or even without the human body—a spirit or a soul—that was somehow detached from the patients in his care. Stein was curious about that something because of an event he had experienced many years ago. He did not like to talk about it, but that experience was the foundation of his desire to learn about the human body and mind.  He turned to the study of medicine and psychiatry. And while Stein was trained as man of science and rationality, he always allowed room for intuition and things that could not be explained in a reasonable manner, things that did not have tangible evidence to influence his behavior and thinking. He gave in to what his colleagues would call a “blind belief based upon perception.” But wasn’t perception at the root of all belief?

Monday, October 1, 2012

The Lord, The Boogeyman

I came to the United States in 1998 when I was twenty. It took some time to get used to many things. For one, I learned to say “hi” and smile at perfect strangers because perfect strangers would say “hi” and smile at me. Soon after, I realized that I wouldn’t get an answer if I asked, “Hi, how are you?” I also realized that if someone asked me the same question, they could actually care less about my state of being.

When I’d say to someone, “I’ll call you later,” I actually meant it and called back later that day. When someone would say to me, “I’ll call you later,” they actually meant later, later—like next week, next month, next century.

My first order at McDonald’s took over thirty minutes because I couldn’t comprehend what the hell the man at the counter was asking me, which turned out to be “for here or to go?” Try saying it fast to a foreigner. I bet s/he will stare at you as if you had just fallen from the sky.

I had to get used to bread tasting sweet, milk tasting like water, eating a big meal at night, the shitty aftertaste of Hershey’s chocolate, driving everywhere, being annoyed when a commercial would interrupt the good part of the program I was watching, not feel guilty when I hung up on a sales person or a telemarketer, pretend that I’m not home when the Jehovah came knocking on my door...America scared me. It was a lot to take in, I tell ya. Especially for a person whose life up until now has been the complete opposite: fresh bread with a crunchy crust, milk that came from grass-eating cows, big meal at noon/ light meal in the evening, the sweet and silky smooth taste and texture of European chocolates, walking everywhere, commercial interruptions only before and after the program, no one calling to sell things over the phone, no one knocking on my door to preach...
Several years later, when I’ve become accustomed to the way of life in America, my husband took it upon himself to introduce me to everything that was before my time. Before 1998, that is.
His lessons in “what I missed” are continuing to this day, and so it came as no surprise when last week he rented the film The Lord of the Flies (and as we are not a normal family, we forgot to take it back when it was due and now probably owe a shitload of money in late fees). 
I’d heard of this movie before. Well, only that it was about a group of boys stranded on an island, and that they had to hone some survival skills. My husband and I begged our kids to watch the movie with us, but they were adamant about not wanting to see something so old that was about flies. So, we watched it alone. And I’m glad we did. The movie was horrific. When I was a child, the worst that would happen in films geared toward children would be an accident in which someone would break a leg or fall off a bike or get a bloody nose. The kids in The Lord of the Flies were complete savages. And poor Piggy! Oh, I was mortified. Had I known that the plot would involve murders, I would have never asked my kids to watch it with me. 
While I feel the film should be rated R for REDRUM, I admire its message. I interpreted it as a portrayal of humanity and religion. The monster (the dying captain) in the film can be seen as God/Devil; the boys having never seen it are afraid of it and use this fear to control the group. But when one of the boys discovers the truth that the monster in fact is the captain who had just died, the boy is murdered before he can share his findings. Haven’t we seen this repeated throughout history? In the name of monster/God/Devil (or whatever that unseen force may be) we kill. We shouldn’t believe in a boogeyman that will scare us into obedience. So long as we realize that the only things worth believing in are respect, love, and tolerance.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Krooked Kop and a Krow

Yesterday was a great day! Viktoria scored high on a math test about which she was worried for almost a week. I went to an interview and got the job! Now I have a permanent position with the CVUSD! Billy didn’t throw one of his OCD tantrums—which is always good because if you know Billy, you also know that everything has to be just so. And my husband started writing poetry! He is actually quite good at it, though he asks every five seconds, "How do you spell.... [insert any word] ?"

Anyway, all good things come to an end, and so did our great day. Today we woke up a little later than we were supposed to, rushed to Billy’s soccer game, got pulled over, and received a speeding ticket by a jerkosaurus cop who still had donut crumbs on his chin and was parked in the oncoming traffic (is that even legal?) Crook!

Oh, well. That’s life. Anyway, below is my husband’s first work of brilliance. Enjoy!

Koo-Koo Krow on a Kraps Shoot
by Gary Cruz

Koo-Koo Krow on a kraps shoot—
Morning dew, sliver of light.
The hungry krow: What a sight!

It’s warm; it’s fresh,
maybe even its last breath.
A twisted tail-tease,
an early morning dinner with ease.
And not a high-beam in sight.

Figure-eight—
Now or never would be too late.
Roll the dice: After all, it’s just some mice!


Thursday, September 20, 2012

Murder, She Wrote


I committed a murder last night. But before you give me the life sentence or worse, the death sentence (actually, the life sentence would be worse), let me justify it.
After having worked on homework for three loooong hours with my kids, I decided that we would finally relax, cuddle up in front of the TV, and watch the best movie ever made, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. Just as we were sucked into a suspenseful scene in which Harry is backing up into the roots of a tree in the Forbidden Forest, and a dark figure is about to attack him, my husband, who was outside in the backyard, started screaming at the top of his lungs. At first, my kids and I ignored the cries because we are used to him trying to get attention in this way (my husband’s the boy who cried wolf). But when ten minutes had passed, the scenes in the movie had gone from gloomy to whimsical, and the cries in the back yard still had not ceased, we began to worry. We went to check on our boy-who-cried-wolf. There he was, in his boxers and a pair of slip-on Vans not on his feet but on his hands, poking at a giant SCORPION! With its tail curled up in a ready-to-sting position, this THING moved about our patio as if it were a battlefield. It dodged the water hose, the legs of the chairs, and every time it got poked in the head with the tip of a stinky Vans shoe, it seemed to get angry and move vigilantly forward to find its attacker.
“Kill it! Kill it!” my kids and I screamed. But no. Our boy-who-cried-wolf kept on irritating this creature until it finally decided that since it can’t stab the Vans-hands, it would just go after the bare feet (mine and the kids’) that were dancing around it with extreme caution. At that, Billy and Viki took cover in the kitchen and watched as I, their brave mother who always has to save the day because their dad dares not make a kill or even a decision to make a kill (I’m so glad we don’t live in the hunter/gatherers period—we’d probably starve), grabbed one Vans shoe off the boy-who-cried-wolf’s hand, and smashed the enemy as it approached. There was no time to think about strategies or consequences; the shoe had to come down. Literally. (see below)

As it landed on the hugest scorpion I’d ever seen in my life, something splattered all over my feet and legs. At that, my husband screamed (again)... [feel free to insert any type of scream here; the more feminine, the better]. He pointed at my legs and said, “Now you have scorpion poison all over you; you’re gonna die!” Some more screams—from inside the house this time. My kids began to panic and completely freak out and begged me not to die. It took some time to assure them that I WILL live, that their dad is just trying to scare them, and that he’s nuts. Well, I didn’t have to really convince them that he’s nuts; they already know that. After everything and everyone had finally calmed down, and we were back in the living room finishing up our movie, my husband said, “I can’t believe you killed that beautiful creature.” My kids and I stared at him in disbelief until Viki took care of the situation, “Dad, just because you’re a Scorpio and have a scorpion tattooed on your boob doesn’t mean that you’re related to it or even that it likes you!”

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Moron Television Awards

Since the launch of MTV in 1981, this television network has been slowly but surely headed through a downward spiral toward doom. At first it served its purpose, with all its VJs playing music videos, news about music artists and their upcoming concerts, hosting charts and awesome Unplugged sessions. Then came Beavis and Butthead, and shortly after that, MTV bought into the whole reality-show-craze. That is when the music somehow got lost in the void which got filled with idiotic programming, and the network took a wide turn toward promoting pathetic rap and hip-hop artists who can’t spell or have no imagination, so they call themselves Yo Money, Cash Money, or Two Chainz (don’t even get me started on this idiot!), for example.
Like any other almost-teen, my daughter is obsessed with music videos, award shows, and mediocre media. I have to somehow control this flow of pathetic information into her brain, and so she has a nine o’clock curfew every night in order to prevent the TV from polluting her mind.
Thanks to our cable box, however, she was able to record the latest MTV VMAs. Yesterday afternoon, she asked me to watch it with her. Here I must pause, get up off my chair, and take a deep bow of gratitude to whoever invented the 4x fast-forward button on our cable box. My daughter and I were able to watch the whole show in less than 20 minutes, most of it without causing permanent injury to our ears, eyes, and brain. 
VMAs was a freaking circus, led by a muttering midget, Kevin Hart, who is supposedly a comedian. Uhm, not funny! Then, what was the deal with the blond parade? Chris Brown is no longer brown; he's blond, with some sort of a blue kink, which makes me think that he subconsciously wants to be a Smurf. Miley Cyrus went blond, looking like a doppelganger of Pink, who is also blond, by the way. Demi Lovato is also blond, but whoever dyed her hair just made Demi look like a Mexican gypsy who accidentally stumbled out of the welfare line and onto the stage. And Nicki Minaj? [insert sarcastic laughter here] Her hair wasn’t even blond; it was totally yellow, as if someone had spilt a highlighter all over her head! But I guess dumb blondes have more fun—the operative word here is DUMB. Surprisingly, Katy Perry’s hair was black, which only suggests that the blues, pinks, reds, and whatever other colors her hair used to be, had done their work of seeping into Perry’s brain and damaging it without the possibility of repair. She sounded like a moron when she presented an award. 
Next, let’s move on to One Direction. All I have to say is that One Direction needs to get a one-way ticket out of the U. S. of A. because boy-bands are a passé. Any boy-band after New Kids on the Block has just been awkward and unnecessary.
Moving on to the cast of the Twilight Saga, which, surprisingly (NOT!) without its protagonist, Kristen Stewart, came to promote the last part of Breaking Dawn. They said that the film is going to be SO epic....! I beg to disagree. Give me a break. Nothing with a small pack of wolves is epic! The Twilight cast can kiss the Harry Potter cast’s ass! Now that was a true epic! Which reminds me, Emma Watson, sweetie, what the hell are you doing at the VMAs? You are bigger than this. You don’t need this kind of exposure. I hope you remember it next year.
Next, I’m only going to say a few words about the Lil Wayne & Two Chainz performance: What the fuck?
Green Day: I know that you have survived the impossible by becoming the only punk band that still sticks around. But please, wipe off the eyeliner and pack it up. Go plant a tree, build a house, have a son...I mean, be a man. Leave the screaming into the microphone to someone younger.
And one last note: Am I the only one who thinks that MTV is becoming more and more prejudiced? Out of sooooo many white artists, they only invited Katy Perry, Taylor Swift, and Pink. HA! Maybe the network should merge with BET next year.
Okay, I think this pretty much sums up my impression of my twenty minute fast-forwarded show that was the VMAs. With this, I would like to give MTV a brilliant piece of advice. Change your name! Everyone knows that MTV no longer stands for Music Television. With all the reality shows geared toward stupid pregnant teenagers, thrashing women, indulging in drunken orgies... You’ve already shown your true colors; now show what the “M” really stands for: MORON TELEVISION.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Labor Day's Labor of Love

Happy Labor Day! Since I have a day off, and today is supposed to be dedicated to all the hard working people, I figured that I would do a little labor of love about the subjects I love: writing, reading, and books in general.
Enjoy the famous quotes of some people I look up to. And if you are an aspiring writer (I hope you know what laborious occupation you are getting yourself into), may the following serve as a guiding light through the tunnel of madness (or you can call it “imagination”, but really, who are you kidding?).
Oh, and happy anniversary to my Muse—my husband Gary—whom I “fished” out of the ocean at Laguna Beach fourteen years ago.
 
“Either write something worth reading or do something worth writing.”
~ Benjamin Franklin
 
“This morning I took out a comma and this afternoon I put it back in again.”
~ Oscar Wilde
 
“A writer is congenitally unable to tell the truth and that is why we call what he writes fiction.”
~ William Faulkner
 
“If I don't write to empty my mind, I go mad. As to that regular, uninterrupted love of writing. I do not understand it. I feel it as a torture, which I must get rid of, but never as a pleasure. On the contrary, I think composition a great pain.”
~ Lord Byron
 
“The greatest part of a writer's time is spent in reading, in order to write; a man will turn over half a library to make one book.”
~ Samuel Johnson
 
“Every secret of a writer's soul, every experience of his life, every quality of his mind is written large in his works.”
~ Virginia Woolf
 
“You can never correct your work well until you have forgotten it.”
~ Voltaire
 
“I like to write when I feel spiteful. It is like having a good sneeze.”
~ D. H. Lawrence
 
“He who does not expect a million readers should not write a line.”
~ Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe
 
“There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.”
~ Ernest Hemingway
 
“Words have no power to impress the mind without the exquisite horror of their reality.”
~ Edgar Allan Poe
 
“First, find out what your hero wants, then just follow him!”
~ Ray Bradbury
 
“My own experience is that once a story has been written, one has to cross out the beginning and the end. It is there that we authors do most of our lying.”
~ Anton Chekhov
 
A word is dead
When it is said,
Some say.
I say it just begins
to live that day.
~ Emily Dickinson 
 
“I am irritated by my own writing. I am like a violinist whose ear is true, but whose fingers refuse to reproduce precisely the sound he hears within.”
~ Gustave Flaubert 
 
“The artist is not a person endowed with free will who seeks his own ends, but one who allows art to realize its supreme purpose through him.”
~ Carl Jung 
 
“I try to create sympathy for my characters, then turn the monsters loose.”
~ Stephen King 
 
“Words are the most powerful drug used by mankind.”
~ Rudyard Kipling 
 
“The author must keep his mouth shut when his work starts to speak.”
~ Frederich Nietzsche
 
"All writers are vain, selfish and lazy, and at the very bottom of their motives lies a mystery. Writing a book is a long, exhausting struggle, like a long bout of some painful illness. One would never undertake such a thing if one were not driven by some demon whom one can neither resist nor understand.”
~ George Orwell
 
“And as imagination bodies forth the forms of things unknown, the poet's pen turns them to shapes, and gives to airy nothings a local habitation and a name.”
~ William Shakespeare
 
“Invention, it must be humbly admitted, does not consist in creating out of a void, but out of chaos; the materials must in the first place be afforded; it can give form to dark, shapeless substances, but cannot bring into being the substance itself.”
~ Mary Shelley
 
“If there's a book you really want to read but it hasn't been written yet, then you must write it.”
~ Toni Morrison
 
“A writer should have another lifetime to see if he's appreciated.
~ Jorge Luis Borges
 
And finally:
my mind is like a teapot:
thoughts slowly simmering
until they reach the boiling point;
and only when I can no longer stand
the whistling in my head,
I pour them out
on paper
                                                  ~ Aneta Cruz

 

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Who Wants to Live Forever?

My favorite boy in the world—my son Billy—used to always tell me that he wants to marry me. This, I think, is the purest, most innocent and unconditional demonstration of a child’s love. My daughter would immediately call him a weirdo, of course, and try to convince him that sons can’t marry their moms. Billy, however, didn’t believe her and was determined to stick with his marriage proposal. Until recently, when my best friend’s son, Stephen, explained to him that it is indeed true: “Sons cannot marry their moms because by the time sons grow up, their moms will be old. And you don’t want an old wife, do you? ”

After Billy conveyed Stephen’s explanation to me and apologized for not being able to marry me in the future, I became really sad because I realized that a part of my son’s innocence had been stolen. I didn’t know what to say or how to react, so I just stared at him through the tears which were quickly filling up in my eyes. Billy must have sensed my feelings. He immediately hugged me and said, “Don’t be sad, Mom. I won’t let you get old. I’m gonna become a scientist and invent some pill and make you be young forever. And then I’ll marry you!”
At that moment, I flashed back to my very own childhood. I used to say something very similar to my Mama (Hungarian Grandma), with whom I was very close. There were times when her face would express such sadness thatI couldn’t help but wrap my little arms around her and wonder why she was so unhappy. One day I asked her, and she said that she was sad because she wouldn’t see me grow up; she could feel that her time was near. Even at the fragile age of eight, I understood what Mama was referring to. That is when I promised her that I would become a doctor and come up with a miracle shot that would make her live forever (now I see that Billy is a lot more considerate than me; he knows how I hate needles, so he wants to invent a pill! Bless his little heart).
Unfortunately, I can’t stand the sight of blood, needles (well, sharp objects in general), and sick people make me sick. Clearly, I never became a doctor, nor did I invent anything even remotely close to a miracle shot, so I couldn’t make Mama live forever. She died of a heart-attack and since then, I have been reluctant to make any promises.
I cried for weeks after Mama’s death. She was a devoted Christian and always used to tell me that when I’m sad, lonely, or feel like I’m in trouble, I should just close my eyes and pray to God for guidance. I wasn’t brought up in a religious household or even a religious country (religion was forbidden back then in Czechoslovakia), but I always thought that there must be some sort of a higher power, which Mama called God, but for which I did not have a name yet. However, after this so-called God had taken my Mama away, I lost all belief, whether in God or whatever the higher power was called. Nevertheless, one day I did close my eyes and prayed—to Mama. I prayed for her to come back; I prayed for her to forgive me because I couldn’t make her live forever; and then I prayed for her to come back again.
That night I began to believe in spirits. Mama came to me in my dream, which was so vivid I wonder to this day whether it was a dream at all. She told me that she was at peace, happy, and healthy, that she was watching over me, and that every night, she rubbed my back just like she used to do when she was alive. And if I stopped crying and worrying about her or about what I’d promised her, I could even feel her around me.
I did. And slowly my sadness dissipated, and I knew that Mama would be with me forever.
I was wrong. Several months ago, I had yet another very vivid dream about Mama. She told me that it was her time to go. “But you died already!” I shouted in my dream. She smiled, kissed me, and said that this would be the last time I'd see her in my dream because it was her time for reincarnation. And when I woke up in the morning, with a pillow soaked from tears, I sensed that I needed to make my Mama immortal in this world to get some sort of a closure for myself and to prove that I can keep a promise.
Though I haven’t seen Mama in my dreams since that sad night when she said her last good-bye, my Mama lives eternally in the pages of my book and in this poem.
Mama

Transparent—
a misty cloud
she floats above the corner of my bed,
in all her goodness, watches me sleep
night after night.
Sometimes she gets closer,
and her presence wraps me
with silky-soft,
pleasant warmth
unlike my blanket.
Through fluttering eyelashes I peek
and dare not move.
To disturb her fragile being
would be my nightmare.
I breathe her in and out
to the rhythm of my thumping heart,
and my mind, clear of all distractions,
wonders—
Does she know I see her? 

As for Billy—I hope that he becomes a scientist or anything he wants to be. Being young forever isn’t such a bad idea, is it? I just don’t know that my old mind will have the wits to keep up with my young body.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Power Struggle

I think of myself as a pretty reasonable person as I don’t have very many dislikes and am usually up for anything. Besides stupid and inconsiderate people, the only thing I really hate is heat...or more precisely, being hot.

I grew up in the mountains, with six feet of snow; and when it didn’t snow, it rained; and when it didn’t rain, the sun would only occasionally peek out from behind the clouds as if it was shy to show its glowing face. I loved it because I got to wear furry boots, cozy sweaters, and sip on Earl Grey with milk and honey all day long. So why do I live in Indio where the temperatures in the summer can easily reach 120F, you ask? Good question. I’ll get back to you on that one as soon as I figure it out.

Every summer I suffer as the heat thickens the blood in my veins, which in turn set off migraines that can last up to several days at a time. But I don’t panic. Migraines are not something I can’t handle. I just drink plenty of water, turn the a/c way down, close the shutters, and try to sleep them off. What I can’t handle and immediately panic is when my toes begin to sweat. Yes, that part of the body actually sweats. I found that out just a little while ago when my neighborhood experienced a power outage.

As soon as I heard the CLICK, I lost all self control, which I’m known to maintain under any terrifying circumstances. I began dialing the power company at will. To no avail, of course, since the whole neighborhood probably had the same idea and tied up the phone lines, so all I got was the busy signal. And while the sweat was oozing down my back, into my panties [oh, yeah, graphic details here, this is rated R], straight through my ass-crack, only to rest in my nomad’s land, my loving husband decided to turn on his Pandora and start playing Ziggy Marley’s When the Lights Gone Out. At first I was too preoccupied with the small pools of sweat filling up between my toes and thighs, all the while thinking how long it would be before I’d have to change (or just take off) my underwear, so I didn’t realize what he was doing. But when he continued his power outage concert with Some Like It Hot by Robert Palmer and Glenn Frey’s The Heat Is On, I got really fed up and told him that if he wanted some “butter” after the power came back on, he’d better play some Ice, Ice Baby! He must not have been able to find the iconic Vanilla Ice because soon after my threat I heard: I’m dreaming of a white Christmas...and voilà, the power turned on!

A sigh of relief and my panic-threshold-restored-to-its-normal later, I figured that the next time I feel powerless because of a power outage I’ll just put on some Christmas songs and wait to get a “cool” gift.

Monday, August 27, 2012

If the Pant Fits...

After store-hopping for almost a week and looking through a thousand pairs of hideously bedazzled, awkwardly studded, and purposely shredded jeans (about which Billy said: “It looks like a cat scratched them!”), I have one question. What the hell is going on in the world of children’s fashion? When it comes to adults, I’m used to seeing clothes that only fit either the skin-and-bones models, whose breasts double as M&Ms and their asses moonlight as cast-iron flat plates known as comals (so get your tortillas ready) or morbidly obese people, whose clothes are really made of bed sheets with busy patterns in order to distract the attention from what is hidden underneath.
But what about the children? To be more precise, what about girls who grew out the “girls” size but are not quite the “juniors” size either? Why is it so difficult to find a nice and comfortable pair of jeans that would fit the developing body of a tween like my daughter? After rummaging through hangers and shelves of all the stores at the malls and boutiques in various plazas, we came home with only three pairs of jeans that had a somewhat acceptable fit and appearance.
Finally, upon my sister-in-law’s advice, Viktoria and I decided that our last resort would be a visit to Wal-Mart. We haven’t been to that store in over a year, and I was reminded why. Not one employee speaks English, out of twenty-four cash registers only two are open, a woman from the PhotoStudio, located across from the registers, chases you through the isles to get you to take your children’s photos after shopping, and after you’ve purchased three items (dishwashing tabs, sponges, and Palmolive—no pants, of course, that would be wishful thinking), the cashier/bagger somehow manages to put them into seven different plastic bags! You know you won’t be seeing me at Wal-Mart for at least another year.
To conclude today’s conundrum, here’s a challenge to all those smarty pants (pun intended) on the reality shows like Project Runway or What Not to Wear or whatever other reality crap there is: come up with something into which the girls going through their “ugly stage” will fit and feel comfortable and pretty for at least one fucking day! It’s difficult enough to watch them struggle with their “new body" image, and to watch them struggle into pants only adds to the frustration. Now just imagine the improvement in their mood and self esteem if the pant fits...

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Woman on the Moon


“That’s one small step for [a] man, one giant leap for mankind.” 
                                    ~ Neil Armstrong, 10:56 pm EDT on 7/20/1969  
Though this beautiful sentence had been uttered nine years before I was born, it has had a huge impact on my life. Even before I became familiar with Apollo 11’s mission to the Moon, I was infatuated by the Cosmos. I dreamed of becoming the first woman astronaut and religiously studied everything there was to know about the celestial bodies, cosmic laws and theories, types of telescopes, types of spacecrafts...I even spun in circles for long periods of time just to get myself ready for the astronaut training in which I wanted to prove that I wouldn’t get dizzy in case my spacecraft entered an unexpected vortex or a wormhole.  
I remember exactly what sparked my desire for such an out-of-this-world occupation. Night swimming. Every night before I went to sleep I stared at the sky. My bedroom window was on the sixth floor, so the light from the street lamps didn’t quite get the chance to pollute my view. The apartment building in which my family lived was one of the very first ones in the new development that grew like mushrooms after a heavy rain in an area that was mostly fields of potatoes and hills with small forests. This sort of seclusion from the rest of the city granted privacy, silence, and (on cloudless nights) spectacular possibilities to observe the night sky.
I would lie motionless on top of my blanket and gaze past the Moon, into the vast blackness above me just before I dozed off. My body would get into an odd, trance-like state as I felt myself lift off the bed and hover just above it even though my legs, arms, and torso felt like they were made of lead. Then, I would close my eyes and swim off into space. I was (and still am) an excellent swimmer. The frog-like kicks of my breaststrokes would propel me from my bed, out of the window, and high up above our twelve story apartment building. I would hover for a while above the potato fields, the tips of the trees, then, with more kicks synchronized with the movements of my arms, I would swim up through the dark sky, past the last layer of Earth’s atmosphere, out of the orbit, and far, far away where our known Universe expands into a never ending blackness filled with clusters of light that only I could reach. Eventually.
As I grew older, my desire to become the first woman astronaut (could the world handle a woman on the Moon?) grew stronger; however, the rude awakening that came in the form of the realization that I lived in a small communist country (Czechoslovakia at the time) where such dreams were actually threatening nightmares to a political regime which emphasized that women should only be teachers or doctors or nurses or cooks or [insert any other occupation whose fundamental role is to take care of or to cater to others] shattered my dream, and as soon as the Iron Curtain came down and I decided to flee to the country of the free, I was too old to realize my childhood dream.
And so it is my deepest desire that when I die, I’d like my ashes to be taken out of the Earth’s orbit and scattered amongst the cosmic matter where they can float off to the farthest reaches of space and twinkle in the light emitted from the billions of stars that illuminate our Universe. 

Astronaut
Drifting—
The Horror; the Peace.
Dark void with Flares.
Home—Earth—Vanished.

Drifting—
Velocity? Time?
Your guess—as good as Mine.
The Unknown; the Fear.
Surrender within.

Drifting—
into
Oblivion.

 God Speed, Mr. Neil Armstrong! (8. 5. 1930 – 8. 25. 2012)
What did you see on the far side of the Moon?