Slice of Life Friday: Giving Thanks, Kinda?

Basket of Fruit and Pumpkin PieHappy Friday, everyone!  I’ve been in the process of shifting my writing studio, and the craziest part of it all is my many, many, MANY (!!!) unpublished manuscripts I’ve unearthed. Novel manuscripts, short stories, countless articles. So many. So many I’ve forgotten about, actually. What to do with them all? Mind boggling. ANYWAYS, I ran across a humor piece I’d written a number of years ago that seems fitting at this time of year, what with Thanksgiving coming up and all. So here it is, excavated from the dusty piles of paper in my office, and ne’er before seen (I know, exciting, right?):

I am NOT Complaining, But…
By Marie Lamba

 

I am soaking in money from my book advance. Oh yes.

I know what you are thinking. That gloating skank. And I know what you are imagining. Me, naked, rolling around in a room full of $100 bills. Perhaps I have the fan on to make the money flutter like it does in those 30-second grab-what-you-can booths on TV quiz shows. You hate me, right?

Well, don’t be hating. I am naked. But that’s because I’m in a tub in a brand new bathroom funded by my book advance. And the new bathroom wasn’t some luxury. Some, “Oh, I always wanted one” decadent purchase. It was a necessity. It was “just my luck.”

See, I am a living breathing example of “The Lord giveth, and the Lord taketh away.” The very day that I signed my contract for my first novel (giveth), I went down to my kitchen to nuke some tea, and found the microwave mysteriously full of water (taketh). So I called the plumber, who ripped up the wall in the bathroom above the kitchen, but couldn’t find the leak (taketh, taketh). He ripped up the floor around the toilet and found it all rotted away, and two hours later decided that the leak might be beneath the tile floor, involving the tub line. But he wasn’t sure. One thing was for sure, I needed a completely new bathroom, and my check for my book was just about the right amount (supreme taketh, combined with evil laughter).

My whole life has been like this. And, I know, I should be grateful. Whenever something major has come up, there has been a freelance job or timely tax return that pays just the right amount. I suppose I should view the bathtub (or the microwave) as half full.

And I should be used to this. See, there are the Haves and the Have Nots, and then there’s my family, the “Have Barely Enoughers.” I come from a long exhausted line of them, starting with my grandmother who went from riches to rags during the Depression, yet managed to scrape through. Then my parents, who dealt with unemployment during my father’s middle age, and tottered for years on the edge of ruin.

In elementary school, I became a Have Barely Enougher in training. When the charitable Lion’s Club truck delivered a Thanksgiving dinner to our door, there was turkey and those tasty little heat-in-the-oven rolls, but no cranberry sauce, and no pie. At Christmas they brought me wrapped presents, including a sweater that was too big, and pants that were too small. But they also give me the game Payday (which, I’m sure, was someone’s good-natured way of teaching me about fiscal responsibility). By junior high, I was tough enough to survive the daily embarrassment of handing over a state-provided meal ticket to the sneering cafeteria lady. In exchange for this humiliation, I was rewarded with a hot lunch featuring some variety of gray mystery meat.  I’d like to say I was grateful.

I couldn’t help but wonder, why me? Why my family? None of us were lazy. None of us were fiscally irresponsible. I guess we just had bad luck. Medical and employment catastrophes dogged us. Yet, through it all, we worked as hard as we could, and never lost our house, or our sense of humor.

By the time I had reached my 20’s, I was an accomplished Have Barely Enougher. My expectations were low, my skin thick. Therefore, it was no huge surprise to me when, after I got my first real job and put down the deposit on my first apartment, the publishing company I was working for abruptly closed. Also not a shocker: the day my insurance from that job ran out, I broke my leg.

Sure, there was a lot of taketh, but how could I complain? The Lord provideth the unemployment office, unto which I could hobble and collect the money that almost covered my most basic bills. And the Good Lord leadeth me unto the library where I could enjoy all the free books I wanted. He gaveth me all the TV I ever hoped to watch (until my apartment was broken into and my TV, along with most of my clothes, were stolen). I discovered I could even enjoy day trips to Atlantic City. As long as I could scrape together enough money for a casino bus fee, they’d refund it in quarters, plus $5 in additional quarters. Hell, if I only ate a $1 hot dog there, I was vacationing AND making money. Amen to that, sister.

I have been lucky in a way. I’m in my 40’s now, and I’ve gotten by. My whole family has. KNOCK ON TONS OF WOOD. Why tempt fate? Why ask for more? We don’t have money, but so what? If our “luck” continues to hold, we’ll always make it through. Endure. Soldier on and all that crap. Just think of the Have Nots who have all the hardships and never have just what they need to survive, never mind bus fare to AC. I mean, wah wah. Why am I such a whiner?

And yet I can’t help but think, what if God skipped a few takeths, just once in a while? Imagine if the money that never seems to rest in my account for more than a month, actually got to stick around long enough to accumulate interest? The amount of cash my husband and I have earned and had to immediately spend over the past 25 years is staggering. What if there had never been a leaking roof (and rotted rafters), or zapped out electrical panel from a freak storm, or totaled car (not my fault), or emergency double root canal?

I imagine myself like those people, the Haves, whose cars are bigger than my living room, and whose dogs get more expensive haircuts than my whole family combined. Who never have to limit their shopping to end-of-season clearance racks and who wouldn’t give reduced bruised produce even a glance.

Hm. Somehow I don’t think I’d ever quite be like that. If I were literally rolling in dough, wouldn’t I still drive a little car and be scandalized by overpriced jeans? Penny pinching is in my blood. But it would be nice to have money for my children’s college, and to not have to worry about meeting all the bills, and to take a dream vacation without a gripping terror that I am crashing into bankruptcy. I guess my luck could get worse (God forbid), but couldn’t it also get better?

MP900309434Soon my novel will be out. Will it sell well enough to change things? Will it undo the generations of struggle and transform my family from Have Barely Enoughers to the best sort of Haves? The kind of Haves that wisely use their money to improve the environment and find a cure for cancer? (Are you listening, God?)

Actually, I KNOW the book will sell. How can I be so sure? Well, let me put it this way…there are some wet spots blooming on my ceiling, the heater is acting up, there is a strange mold in my bedroom closet, and my tooth is just beginning to throb.

 

Slice of Life Friday: On Laughter

Yesterday my husband came home after a long meeting with folks and set down his briefcase in the living room.  “What’s this?” I said and pointed to the seam running along his arm and side and ending in a large white washing instruction tag.  His eyes grew wide as he realized he’d just spent hours walking around with his shirt on inside out. And I, sympathetic person that I am, just laughed and laughed and laughed.

ROTFL. LMAO. I live for stuff like this. I may have married this man for the entertainment benefits alone.  After all, he’s the one who thought the iconic Beatles song was “Hey Dude.”

I love those belly laughs where you cry and you can’t breathe. Like the time when one of my daughters was drawn to the cookie display at the supermarket bakery, and set her toddler hands on the glass, only the glass wasn’t there that day and she went sailing through onto the shelf like a pastry pretty in pink.

My kids may have inherited some of this slapstick humor. To this day, they can’t see me buy corn without cracking up.  Apparently there was one time many years ago that I was carefully selecting corns and placing them into a plastic bag. Unknown to me, there was a hole in the bag and as each corn went in, it sailed right to the floor. For some reason, this delighted them.

Then there was that particularly harried day when I pulled up to the gas station to fill up. Okay, I’d meant to pop open the gas tank lid and say fill it with regular, it’ll be cash.  Instead I popped the trunk, and said “Fill it with cash.”  Good thing the guy didn’t call the cops and report a robbery attempt (you know how threatening I look, especially with tears of laughter spilling down my cheeks).

Love to laugh. Sometimes, though, it can get a little out of control. I’ll be doing something mundane, like paying for groceries, and something will tip me off. Like maybe we’ve just bought corn AND cookies from the store bakery. I’ll giggle. Then snort. And before you know it I’m remembering every funny scenario in my life. I can’t help it. I’m laughing uncontrollably. My kids, who have witnessed this hot mess a number of times just shake their heads and say, “Oh mother.”

But what can I do? The laughs are everywhere. And all I have to do is remember my husband singing that classic Four Seasons song “Walk Like a Clam”… and I’ve lost it all over again.

Happy Friday.

Book Review: Navajos Wear Nikes

I just finished Navajos Wear Nikes  by Jim Kistofic (University of New Mexico Press) and I have the urge to start it again, it was that good. This is a memoir of a young boy who is transplanted from an ordinary life in Pittsburgh to an extraordinary life in the heart of a Navajo reservation.

You know a book is something special when you think about getting back to reading the next chapter during most of your busy day, and when you stay up late into the night to read just one more word. Kristofic takes you into a world that feels unvarnished.

He’s an outsider, a newcomer to the reservation as a young child, as are we who know nothing of this world. With the author, we are initiated into the foreign and the familiar. We wince with the pain of brutality, ache with his sorrows, and always throughout it all there is laughter. This is a place where the land shapes life, where bullying is all a part of making you a “Tough Noodle” and where an ancient culture blends in surprising ways with the modern world.  It’s revealing, enlightening and at times downright hysterical.

As we laugh at the narrator’s keen observations and at the original pranks that only kids on the reservation could possibly think of, we feel ourselves starting to fit in and understand.

Kristofic is a wise and witty narrator and I recommend this amazing memoir to anyone who is looking for a great read, for entertainment, and for words that will take them where they have never gone before. Read it for fun, include it in classrooms and libraries, and share it like a gift with others.

Truly an outstanding experience!

Taped Reading from Over My Head

Here’s a video of me reading an excerpt from my YA novel Over My Head during Lucas Mangum’s Awesome Reading Fest in 3-D at the Doylestown Bookshop… Thanks, Lucas for setting this event up!  It most definitely was awesome.

 

Celebrity Poodle Insulted

Ella the poodle's unhappy reaction to her portrayal in new novel: "Call my lawyer at once!"

Invasion of privacy. Unauthorized biography. Poodle protocol violation.

Shocking accusation: Poopsie the Poodle, the sometimes star of the novel OVER MY HEAD, may be modeled after real-life apricot poodle Ella Lamba.

“We are not amused,” barks Ella’s lawyer, who points to allegedly insulting comments such as the following from Marie Lamba’s new young adult novel:

I pick her up and rub her pom-pom ears. “No more surprises, okay?” She licks me in the nostril. We’re the best of friends. “Okay, I’ll see you later.” I set her down.

Poopsie does her head tilt thing again like she’s trying to understand. It must be tough having a brain the size of a walnut. I wave bye and she tilts her head the other way, suddenly seeming sad and lonely. I leave and lock the door, feeling sad myself. Poor Poopsie.

“This is an outrage,” says the attorney for real poodle Ella.  “Brain like the size of a walnut? It’ll be poor author once this is dragged through the courts.”

Lamba the author went on record saying, “It’s fiction. And it’s supposed to be funny.”

“Funny?” the attorney said. “In this novel Poopsie, who is obviously modeled after my client, is insulted, dressed in American Girl clothes, even misplaced.”

“But no dogs were harmed in the writing of this novel,” Lamba said in a weak voice. “I love my dog. Sang, the character in the novel, loves Poopsie and does her best to take care of her. It’s not Sang’s fault the dog is a little loopy. I mean, wait. Not loopy. Can you strike that? What I’m saying is off the record, right? Right?”

Later, after this blatantly anti-poodle comment, TMZ caught up to Ella the poodle at her favorite posh doggie spa, and asked for her reaction to this latest insult.

But Ella, ever the classy one, just rolled her eyes and would only reply, “Grrr.”

OVER MY HEAD now available in ebook! (Paperback coming soon)

Okay, crazy excited here!  The ebook version of OVER MY HEAD is now live!  It’ll be popping up in other ebook venues over the next few days, but it’s available through Smashwords for $2.99. RIGHT NOW!

Yippee!  (Insert sound of heels clicking.)

Even if you don’t do the whole ebook thing yet, you can click on the link and download the first third of the book for a free preview, and then you can get the paperback when it comes out in the next few days.  This is definitely a summery beach read, filled with lifeguards, love, drama and, yes, an apricot poodle.

Just click on this link!: Over My Head at Smashwords

Not sure what to do with myself now.  Eat dark chocolate in celebration? Yes, that does sound right.

Here’s one huge summertime HUZZAH!