Here's Bess with my dear friend Beth's children -- Mary Kate, Jack and Sara. They're all so sweet, such great kids. The other day, Beth overheard Jack telling his brother and sisters, "I love Miss Lori so much, she's probably my girlfriend." Ha! Melts my heart. He's all boy, too -- all rough and tumble. His first word ever was "backhoe." It's a joy to get to be a small part of their lives.
I am overwhelmed with gratitude of late and often find myself praying this little prayer. I can't say thank you enough! I'm so thankful for my editor, Jeanette, who just got this book from the beginning, and Kelly, the designer who did the cover. (I will forever be in her debt!) To Karen Joy Fowler and Emma Campbell Watson and Tamara Leigh and Gina Dalfonzo for their endorsements. To Ms. Place at Jane Austen's World for her lovely review and for the fabulous PW review. To Katie who's working on PR, and the sales team, and Pam who tracked down all the copyediting stuff which I could NEVER have done on my own.
(Okay, this is cracking me up -- starting to sound like an Oscar acceptance speech.) I am indebted -- and incredibly grateful!
(Image is one of Sarah Hazel's lovely paintings.)
This was my house over the last week -- ugh! Had to have all the pipes replaced. I'm so thankful it's done, and that I don't have to come home now wondering whether or not my house will be flooded. It's been a season of home repairs -- a new roof, a new patio (the old one had shifted and was sending water toward the foundation). Me and my bank account are looking for a breather.
If you've been reading the Jane Austen quote blog, you know that already, but after not posting here for six-plus months, I thought perhaps I should clarify that.
The book is completely done other than proofreading (whoo-hoo, whoo-hoo!) and review copies have already gone out, so we should start seeing some reviews in the next month or so. I can't wait!
The title has changed once more (but this is really it): A Walk with Jane Austen: A Journey into Adventure, Love and Faith. And -- as you may already know -- it's available for pre-order on Amazon. It's official release date is October 16.
I'm still struggling with the Lyme disease, but beginning to feel better. I'm very thankful for that. The doctors think it could be as much as another three years on treatment to get it to go into remission. I'm continuing to pray for complete healing, and at the same time trying to mentally and emotionally accept what may be a long-term energy deficiency.
It's very nice to be back!
Thanks for all the comments and encouraging words. And now that we are into double digits, allow me to wish everyone a hearty new year. In the spirit of Mr. John Knightley, here's wishing that your holidays allowed you some peaceful time by your very own fire, with bad weather outside and family within. (Or, if you are as lucky as my friend Catherine, some time sitting in the 80-degree Florida sun.)
I'm planning to post additional bits of the book here. I'm only afraid that by the time it comes out you will have read everything good in it, so I have to make you promise now to buy it anyway. Jane said something once (jokingly, of course) about all of her friends and family feeling obligated to buy one of her new books, and how she was very glad that they did feel obligated, even if they disliked it or never read it. I have to agree. The money is really all that matters to me, and I have friends enough to earn--oh, I don't know, a couple hundred dollars, at least.
I have a cover, which is absolutely gorgeous, and now I am only afraid (because I am always afraid of this, so bear with me) that the writing will not live up to the cover's promise. I think I'm not allowed to post it yet, because I don't know if it's been officially approved, and it may be a while before I can.
Several people have asked, here or in person, about an update on the Lyme disease. It's incredibly disheartening. I've had good days--not healthy, but better--followed by days or weeks of fatigue and insomnia and Lyme-induced haze, and nausea from all the medicine. Life is so far from normal. The latest tests show that my immune system is not rallying to fight the illness, so we are trying a new antibiotic, and--fingers crossed--there have been no bad reactions yet.
I wasn't ready for a new year, simply because hope is very short, almost nonexistent at the moment. I did not want a new year with these conditions, not knowing how long this will last or if all of 2007 will be under this very dark cloud. But I got an iPod for Christmas, and as I was recklessly downloading music I came across a collection of Ella Fitzgerald songs and decided that I could allow myself to buy it. And there she was singing Night and Day and Funny Valentine and Blue Skies and Over the Rainbow, and there was this tiny timbre of hope in my heart, a gift from God in the voice of Ella Fitzgerald.
Please continue to pray. Hope to be back here soon.
These were done by J. Aaron Trotman in Nags Head, NC, and I can't recommend him highly enough. He did family pictures for us as well, on the deck of my parents' house. Fun!
Forgive the long absence. I guess they've been fairly regular of late. I have been just sort of keeping my head above water, writing taking precedence over everything else--blogging, unfortunately, included. The good news is, that all these little bits of writing are forming themselves into something like a book. (I hesitate to say even that for fear of jinxing it.)
So, where have I been? Well, right now, I am sitting in Greenberry's, my favorite coffee shop, drinking tea and eating chocolate McVities. I come here to get out of the house and be around people. What cracks me up is that all these self-employed creative types come here for the same reason. And then we all sit here with our Macs (approximately 87% of the people who come to Greenberry's use Macs) and talk to no one. The other day one of the other regulars nodded in my direction and I felt amazed to have sort of connected with someone.
This week I have been fighting headaches on every front. My health insurance company sent me the bill for the first quarter of my new plan. It is going to be roughly equivalent to five or six additional mortgage payments every year, and I just refuse to think about it. It would be one thing if I felt like I was getting something for my money, but I'm feeling a bit taken advantage of. Shopping for health insurance ranks somewhere between going to the dentist and being savagely attacked. Using your health insurance is not that much more fun.
The biggest headache this week has been trying to get my insurance company to pay for claims they have had for more than 6 months. I don't think you'll want to read about this, but I'm going to tell you anyway because I have to tell someone, and my mom has already heard the sob story. The two labs total nearly $400. I sent the first one in sometime in March or April. They lost it. I sent it in again, along with the second receipt. They failed to process both of them this time. When I called to follow up, after waiting weeks to hear from them, they said they had to mail them to California since the lab was in California, and I had to give Blue Cross California 30 days to process it. That was the first of September. Still nothing. (Sheesh. I want to stick hot pokers in my eyes just typing this out.) I finally found someone this week who said she would help me, but when I called her back to follow up she said, "Oh, I'm sorry, your plan has changed so I don't have authority and someone else has to approve this." ARGH! Argh, argh, argh. Shoot me now. Seriously. Does it all have to be this painful? What we need is for some brilliant entrepreneur out there to start the Southwest Airlines version of health insurance. Cheap, no thrills, excellent service, clear expectations.
Today I am sending in roughly $1100 more in claims. I think I'll be lucky if I see any of that money again. It all makes me think how easy it would be, even today, even in America, to just slip through the cracks and end up in a bad situation. It just takes one illness, which is completely out of your control, and then maybe you can't work, and if you didn't have a support system, it would be really hard to figure out how to get help. It would be too easy to just give up. I'm lucky. No one is going to let me starve, and I still have a little income (though I don't recommend writing for those who want to be financially secure).
Oh, and I got in an accident on Saturday. I was driving home from having brunch with my friends Bev and Jordan. I was stopped at a light, looking for my phone or something. In my peripheral vision, I saw the minivan in front of me start to move and I stepped on the gas. Only, they weren't really going and the light was still red, so I smacked into their bumper. Very little damage, none to my car at all. The best kind of accident, right? So I thought. Then the lady I hit, who had been out walking around and talking to me, decided that she wanted to call an ambulance. They STRAPPED HER TO A BOARD. Sheesh! What was she thinking? So because she did that, her two preteen girls decided they had to have an ambulance, too. (BTW, I love that she just left them in the car while the medics were attending her. Excellent maternal instincts!) Now they are claiming medical expenses and saying they need continued treatment. My insurance company says they may have to settle.
On a brighter note, I got to go to the Cox Farms Fall Festival with my parents and my niece, Grace. I think that was the highlight of my fall! It's open one more weekend--big slides and free pumpkins included. If you're here in northern Virginia, take your little ones.
I promised this post last week, then my grandmother passed away and this didn't seem very important. So, here it is. (And, yes, I know I'm a little crazy. Aren't we all sometimes?)
Jane was not beautiful. I think this is one of the reasons I like her, or the idea of her. Actually, really, we don’t know what she looked like. The only likeness we have is this little drawing her sister did, that looks like just the work of an afternoon and that no one thought looked especially like her at the time. The proportions seem off—the shoulders slope, the eyes and mouth and shape of the head and neck are not quite right—yet nearly every image we have of her has been adapted somehow from this. They probably never imagined it would make it outside their little family circle. And now it sits in a little case in the National Portrait Gallery in London, the light going off and on from time to time to protect it.
Jane’s niece, Caroline said in her brief memoir of her aunt:
“Her’s was the first face that I can remember thinking pretty, not that I used that word to myself, but I know I looked at her with admiration—Her face was rather round than long—she had a bright, but not a pink colour—a clear brown complexion and very good hazle eyes—She was not, I believe, an absolute beauty, but before she left Steventon she was established as a very pretty girl, in the opinion of most of her neighbors . . . Her hair, a darkish brown, curled naturally—it was in short curls round her face (for then ringlets were not.)”
Caroline was much younger than her aunt, and perhaps her admiration made her see Jane in a more positive light. Her sister Anna was older, and got to the point of being very good friends with Jane, and almost feeling like her peer. She sought Jane’s advice on her marriage and brought around silly books she had gotten from the lending library for their general amusement. She even started to write and Jane offered guidance.
She wrote in a letter to her brother James-Edward:
“This has brought me to the period of my own greatest share of intimacy; the two years before my marriage, & the two or three years after, when we lived, as you know almost close to Chawton when the original 17 years between us seemed to shrink to 7—or to nothing. It comes back to me now how strangely I missed her; it had become so much a habit with me to put by things in my mind with a reference to her and to say to myself, ‘I shall keep this for Aunt Jane.’”
But Anna was not so entirely gracious about Jane’s appearance:
“The Figure tall & slight, but not drooping; well balanced, as was proved by her quick firm step. Her complexion of that rather rare sort which seems the peculiar property of light brunettes. A mottled skin, not fair, but perfectly clear & healthy in hue; the fine naturally curling hair, neither light nor dark; the bright hazel eyes to match, & the rather small but well shaped nose.”
Which all sounds very nice. And then Anna adds: “One hardly understands how with all these advantages she could yet fail of being a decidedly handsome woman.”
I have often felt that way myself—there are parts that should add up to a good-looking whole that don’t entirely. Tall and thin, with lovely eyes, a decent complexion (not as much of that smooth tan as I would like to have gotten from my Norwegian forebears, but still, decent), a nose which could be called “small but well shaped,” thick-ish brown hair that looks good when I do something with it, although that’s not very often, and cheeks which are “a little too full,” which is how another family acquaintance described Jane. My ears are crooked, and there are moments when I look in the mirror and think the jowls are beginning. Then there are moments when I catch myself in the mirror and think it’s not so bad as I thought, and maybe it’s actually far better than I usually imagine. But I’ve often thought that, if there is beauty here, it is with a kind of weirdness underlying it—like the disproportions of Cassandra’s sketch—which throws everything off.
The current American fashion, as everyone knows, is boobs-on-a-stick. As I am not actually a stick figure, and you have to have a good imagination to see my breasts, I do not exactly fit in. But then, I think this is not really a trend for normal women so much as for cocaine addicted, surgically altered models.
I try to tell my friends that I am actually a fat little skinny girl, but no one believes me. The only place on my body that seems capable of carrying fat cells is my stomach, which I wouldn’t mind if there were something to balance it out, but there’s not, so on my worst days I look rather disproportioned.
If you caught me sitting on the couch you would as likely see my little pudgy stomach sticking out as not. The thing is, it’s easy to hide these particular faults with a good outfit, a series of carefully constructed optical illusions. But it is still there, this weird little body, my skinny little frame with the stomach of a much larger woman, and I know it even when other people don’t.
My sister-in-law, who is wise and witty, tells me that women are supposed to have stomachs. Jane probably had a stomach and couldn’t have cared. But then, they were (and I think the British still are) much more satisfied with normal sorts of bodies than we are.
I don’t believe in plastic surgery. For one thing, I think it’s far easier to learn to be content with your body than to have someone knock you out, cut you open, and stuff foreign objects inside you. Maybe I’ve got that wrong. Maybe surgery really is easier than contentment. But I think contentment is healthier and more admirable and in some way much more attractive. So I am choosing to believe that my stomach looks big only because the rest of me is so very small.
I don’t think Jane would have wanted to be the most beautiful person in the room. I imagine that she was incredibly content with her own little blend of beauty and intelligence and wit.
She gives her characters only the vaguest physical descriptions. Odd that we have such clear pictures of them in our minds, because she didn’t labor over this at all. We get to know them most through what they say, their friendships, their place in society, the choices they make.