This has no point, and is not profound.

Oh, Writer’s Block.


If that’s in fact the proper name for the somewhat-conflicted feeling running through me right now … where part of me feels the urge to update this blog, while the other part of me worries that it won’t be interesting enough, or that I MUST recount each and every second that’s occurred in my life since the last time I posted an entry (including detailed recaps of Christmas and New Year’s Eve) or I’ll lose all my readers (because, of course, everyone who has ever clicked on this blog has been SICK with anticipation wondering about my holiday!).


And if I do post an entry: should I include a “profound” anecdote, or do I need to talk about cancer…?  Or will anyone care if I just list all my DVD’s (because sometimes I like to be simplistic that way)?


I know …  it’s just a blog, right? Technically, I should be able to write about whatever I want, right? But, STILL!


Anyway. The point to all my rambling above, and a big part of why writing is sometimes a struggle for me: it’s not always that I don’t know what to say. It’s more like “will anyone actually give a crapola?” about what I’m saying. Plus that whole bit about worrying whether every sentence “sounds” right, or if it’s too awkward or too flowery or too … whatever.


But I’ve decided to give in to tonight’s urge to write … because if I can’t post a frickin’ blog entry because I’m worried it might fail in some way, how am I ever going to finish a book? Just be warned, all four eyes that might actually still be reading this: some entries of “Writin’ Shotgun” — like this one, for example — might contain … well, they might contain a whole lot of nothing! (Sandwiched between a healthy sprinkling of quotation marks and parentheses.) Okay?


(Hmm, “a whole lot of nothing”… now I can’t help wondering, is that too much of a cliché? Was it proper to use ellipses before “just be warned” and dashes before “including this one” — or does my NEED to use ellipses and dashes mean that I’m too wordy, or…?)


(Just kidding.)


(Sort of.)


Well, now that THAT’s out of the way. How are you? How was your holiday season? Good, I hope!


I definitely had an enjoyable (if a bit chaotic at times) Christmas Day. Now, I know not everybody is a fan of the holidays; I do enjoy them, but I have to admit that Christmas Day is perhaps my least favorite day of the season. I much prefer the weeks leading up to the 25th… particularly the very beginning of the season. At some point, it always just starts to go by so FAST!

This actually bothers me in a way that I’m too fatigued to really go into detail about right now. And it doesn’t just apply to Christmas — although the holiday season is a prime example of something that starts out with such promise and hope and possibility, until life and fatigue set in … which makes me want to stop the clock just long enough to take a nap and get my energy back and my “Christmas spirit” back, because this is CHRISTMAS, dang it, and it’s almost over, and how can I enjoy it if I’m busy with such-and-such not-even-Christmas-related thing, or I’m just too tired (more of a problem for me this time of year)? But next thing you know, it’s the 23rd, then Christmas Eve, then the big day … and suddenly my spirit’s back but now Christmas is almost over, and where does the time go, and WHY DO THE HOLIDAYS ALWAYS GO BY SO FAST? (And, trips, too, for that matter?)

Yeah. If I felt more confident in my ability to write something “profound”, I’d elaborate on wanting to savor every second of every day — especially times like the holidays and other events that revolve around loved ones and “making memories”, and … oh, I dunno. Well, I do know, but I don’t want to go on and on for fear of sounding like an idiot. (How did I even get off on this tangent? Am I even making sense?)

And yes, sometimes I think living with cancer exacerbates these anxieties about how too quickly time passes … plus there’s the fact that I’m rapidly approaching my mid-30’s! But more on that some other time.

Meanwhile, I might as well tell you at least a little more about my holidays! As per usual, the “this go by too fast” feeling kind of took away from Christmas this year … BUT not enough to keep me from enjoying the time with my husband, with his family (on the 22nd and 24th), or with my parents and most of my siblings (lucky Missy was in Germany) on the Day itself.

The only part that was just TOO chaotic was the present-opening (NEVER AGAIN will we open gifts with 20 people milling around in a tiny space … haha, right!) but at least I can look back on it “fondly” now. Heh.

As for New Year’s Eve, I had a pleasant one. Pleasant and low-key, which was fine with me!

New Year’s Eve never was my favorite holiday, but I don’t hate it or anything… and I certainly can’t complain about this one. We didn’t go to any parties or do anything crazy. Instead, Merwyn and I went over to my brother’s in Milton in the late afternoon, and spent a little time with him and my folks, plus Angie, Doug, and my nephews Cooper and Jonah. Afterward, Merwyn and I drove through Fantasy Lights over in Spanaway (which is UTTERLY charming, and which next year I want to do before Christmas!) then came home and carried on our sometimes-tradition of eating chips and dip and watching that ball drop in Times Square. (Only this year, since we no longer have cable as of mid-2011, we had to “listen” to the Times Square festivities on the laptop, while watching a New Year’s countdown clock in another window. I’m not sure why two separate windows were required; you’d have to ask Merwyn about that one.)

Of course, Merwyn and I also kissed at midnight; then he had to go back to consoling poor Daisy — who absolutely LOATHED the fireworks show our neighbors were so kind as to put on, and barked her head off all night long. (Richard, meanwhile, while a little bit scared, took the loud booms and bangs pretty well for a sensitive Siamese.)

We didn’t celebrate New Year’s Day (does anyone? the closest my family ever came was my mom for some reason cooking corned beef and cabbage every January 1st…); however, since it was Sunday, we got to do the Think Tank, specifically a “Best of 2011” show (programmed by yours truly). Later, perhaps inspired by the many cheap DVD’s we scored during the holiday season, and in a rare burst of energy … I decided to re-organize Merwyn’s and my 10 billion-50 trillion-6037 DVD’s, books, and CD’s. Surprisingly, I made a decent amount of progress on this yesterday; but my energy did not return this morning, and now we have paperbacks and other assorted media scattered across half the living room floor. I’m confident I can finish the job, though; the clutter is nothing compared to when we first moved to this house!

That brings me to tonight — and my urge to update this blog. I’m sure the resulting entry has THRILLED you, but here it is: I updated! I wrote! Now I’m that much closer to getting back into the writing habit, and finishing my book, and … and not finding it necessary to turn every other sentence into a list of “and’s”, like I’m doing with this one. (Who cares, though? I’m writing, aren’t I?)

Finally: for succinct,  witty, thought-provoking, sometimes snarky, occasionally downright controversial writing from an author who doesn’t find it necessary to italicize half of his blog entries, I encourage you to visit my husband over at Kalhoun. Seriously, he’s a very talented writer and I’m very proud of him for getting back into blogging himself!

And he can cook! On that note, he just gently placed a steaming bowl of fish stew on a pot holder next to the laptop, so I must say goodbye for now, and go enjoy some white ruffy, butternut squash base, potatoes, carrots and general soupy goodness!


Gasp, a Kickstarter update!

Other than some Facebook updates from the road, I haven’t posted much about my epic Kickstarter journey (remember this ?). I’m hesitant to go into much detail about the actual trip for fear of  repeating myself in my upcoming book (and it’s probably “unprofessional” or something to admit that, but, technically, so is my book! Unprofessional, I mean. Sincere and written with love, yes. Professional, not so much.)

Also, while I’m a fan of Kickstarter in general, I’m not such a fan of their formatting style. I don’t know enough about HTML/formatting to explain what I don’t like; but, for example, if I push the “back” button to delete something, here on WordPress the text will disappear like it’s supposed to … whereas, on Kickstarter, if I push “back” some weird square will appear and entire paragraphs get moved to where I don’t want them. It’s rather annoying!

Still, despite my disdain for posting on Kickstarter, I realize that some who aren’t connected to me via Facebook might be wondering at this point how the trip went, or did I even go on the trip? The answer to the latter question is, of course, yes! I survived the journey! (The first question was more rhetorical, but to sum up the journey in one word: productive.)

For the most part, Heather and I followed our itinerary as planned, at least for the first four weeks. We did make a few tweaks here and there, such as adding a day in one town or cutting a day from another (and we had to eliminate Springfield, MO entirely); however, we at least visited the rest of our scheduled stops in the same chronological order that we’d intended.

Besides Springfield, the biggest change to the original itinerary is that both Heather and I (at different times, and for different reasons) unexpectedly ended our trips early. Heather made it to New Orleans before she had to fly home to New York. As for myself, I continued for another week after that and had just finished a 3-day ride on the Texas Eagle when my husband called me with some devastating news. I was hanging out at Union Station, waiting for check-in time at my motel so I could drop off my bags and proceed with my brief return to L.A., when I decided to check my messages. There were at least five of them from Merwyn. He sounded frantic. I called back, and Merwyn told me that Katie (our 13-year-old Yorkshire terrier) was in advanced kidney failure and might not survive through the weekend.

Now, there’s a LOT more that I want to write about Katie; however, at this point, I’m not yet ready. I will say that as as soon as I learned what was going on, no way could I just casually continue with my journey. Merwyn, bless his heart, managed to book an afternoon flight on Southwest Airlines (he even found a reasonably affordable “first-class” seat, with the intent to make my flight as comfortable as possible; he did this without any prompting from me, in the middle of a workday and in the midst of his own grief and worry over Katie, whom he loved to pieces. She wasn’t “just a dog” to him; she really was his “little girl” … mine, too, but point being, my husband’s heart is the size of ten Union Stations … times googolplex.)

I made it home by about 5 that evening (October 26th, to be specific — just four nights earlier than expected) where Merwyn and I spent a bittersweet last evening with Katie. We brought her here the next morning, where the extremely compassionate staff (who’d both informed Merwyn of her prognosis and taken great care to make her as pain-free and comfortable as possible the day before) helped her transition peacefully over to Rainbow Bridge.

(We now share our home with Daisy and Richard, the terrier and the “meezer” mentioned in my last blog entry. You’ll hear more about them in future entries, I’m sure. We certainly feel Katie’s absence every day, but Daisy’s presence helps a lot … and Richard even helps, too, in his own crabby old Siamese way!)

A few weeks later — beginning the day after Thanksgiving — Merwyn and my sister Missy (and Daisy) and I all rode down to Sonoma County, CA for a quick-yet-enjoyable weekend, to visit the area where my dad grew up and officially conclude my journey.

Missy and I at the Charles Schulz Museum in Santa Rosa. No one ever accused us of being cool.

Meanwhile, Heather, my filmmaking colleague, plans to continue documenting my overall journey (the trip is just part of the book, remember!); however, after much feedback and consideration (and screening all the footage she shot in our time together) she now wants to extend the filming beyond her school year. So, “I’m” no longer Heather’s “thesis”; however, I know she’s committed to this film and I wholeheartedly support her decision to proceed with the film in a more natural manner, rather than rushing it for the sake of school.

Believe me, Heather and I went through a LOT in our four weeks on the road together (heck, even before that); our journey is a story in itself! I won’t lie; as you might expect after four weeks of almost nonstop company, we also went through our fair share of stresses. Still, we survived, our collaboration remains intact, and (most importantly) I know that she treasures my friendship as much as I treasure hers.

I very much look forward to traveling future roads with Ms. Fisch! That said, it’s a lot harder for us to communicate from a 3000 mile distance  … especially when we both hate the phone. 🙂 Right now, though, for the time being I think Heather’s focusing on school while I focus on that book I keep talking about. (Provided Heather’s okay with it, I’ll certainly keep this blog updated with any “film” news on her end  … well, provided I actually manage to keep the blog going!)

Heather and I, about halfway into the journey, at Song restaurant in Brooklyn. (I think that's what the restaurant was called!)

So. The book.

It’s a work in progress, and my tentative hope is still to have it ready it before the end of 2012. To be honest, that seems really, really far off right now (and, like Heather, I’d rather not rush things just for the sake of finishing within a specific time frame) but I think I can make it happen without “forcing” myself too much … although I’ve given myself some flexible deadlines. (This might not be a professional project, but Kickstarter is still its own sort of “contract”, which I intend to honor —  for one thing, I owe it to the many generous people who supported me!)

Basically, by this time next year I’d like to have a few actual, published copies of this thing floating around (at least enough for everyone who pledged at Kickstarter!). I still have much to learn about the process of self-publishing, but if I’m finished writing by, say, my 33rd birthday (in April), I’ll have 8 months to turn what is now a mere Microsoft Word document into a real book, with pages and a (probably cheap-looking, yet constructed with love) cover and everything!

There’s one big hurdle I’ll have to cross fairly soon … maybe somebody reading this can help?

I’m a little shy about sharing these first drafts of my letters; and I guess I don’t have to share, yet I wouldn’t mind if at least one person could read over what I’ve got and let me know if I’m on the right track or if what I’ve written is  … well, crappy. The trouble is, I’m not sure who that person should be. I’d prefer this kind soul be somebody who’s both honest (but not brutally honest) and gentle (but not overly gentle). I guess a better way to put it is that I’m seeking a non-biased opinion … yet I also wouldn’t mind if that opinion came from somebody I know personally, at least on a casual basis.

Still with me? Any volunteers? 🙂

Last but not least … Kickstarter incentives. I haven’t forgotten about them, although I admit that my “postcard from the road” idea sort of bombed, due to various factors (limited time in certain areas, lack of post offices/mailboxes, the trip’s unexpected ending, fatigue … I even sent a stack of written cards not to their intended recipients, but — accidentally — to myself, when mailing some excess stuff home from Virginia. Or, I should say, my lovely hosts mailed the package; but I’m the one who “brilliantly” stuffed the postcards, which I meant to drop in a big blue box, into the package instead … which they later generously sealed and sent my way.)

If you haven’t received a postcard yet, it might have been in that stack (which means it’s currently … er, sitting in my living room), or I might have purchased it later in the journey (which also means it’s stiting in my living room). You’ll still get a card; obviously, the postmark will read Olympia, WA (or Tacoma or wherever they send our mail from here) instead of the city the card represents, but I can at least guarantee it was purchased in that city, and (in most cases) written from the road! I apologize for this delay and thank you for understanding!

I also thank you for your patience, and faith in this project, as it might take awhile to receive the other incentives. To save on postage costs, I’d like to mail as much of the items together as possible — meaning, you might have to wait until the book’s ready for most of your prizes … if you don’t mind holding out that long!  (I’m also still working on T-shirts and coffee mugs.) However, there are some smaller prizes, such as a CD that anyone who pledged at least a dollar is entitled to. If you’d like CDs, postcards, or even bookmarks sooner rather than later, I think we can make that work … just shoot me an email!

(And if you pledged $40 or more, which means you’re eligible to program and even co-host The Think Tank if you so desire, you don’t have to wait so long; I plan to get the ball rolling on that shortly after the new year, if not before.)

Okay … bedtime now. I’m not tired, but Merwyn and I are riding the Mt. Rainier Scenic Railroad tomorrow, and I want to be nice and rested for my first time on the rails since … the journey!

Merwyn on last year's Mt. Rainier Scenic Railroad trip.