Friday, August 28, 2009

Does Anyone Out There Read Mandarin?

Several months ago I learned my first novel, A Line Between Friends, would soon be available in Taiwan and Mainland China. Optioned twice, by both The Commercial Press in Taiwan and the Shanghai Wanyu Culture and Art Company in China, the translated version was scheduled for distribution this summer. I haven’t yet received the new product, but I have seen the new cover:

Today I think I received my first review, but it’s hard to tell. The problem? I can’t read Mandarin. Google Translation, which I now offer as a blog gadget, helped a little bit, but I’m afraid the expression, “lost in translation” comes into play. If anyone is interested in reading the blog entry by Fran Wu, it can be found at

When I heard Taiwan and China were interested in this novel, I couldn’t help but wonder if the story and/or the characters’ motivations would translate. Noelle and Joel, the main characters in A Line Between Friends, sprung from a 1970s coming-of-age, and are 100% Western in culture and nature. Their Chinese counterparts grew up during the Cultural Revolution, (under Mao from 1966-1976), where students were sent to the country to be “reeducated.” All books, except for Chairman Mao’s “Little Red Book,” his quotations/instructions on life, were banned.

Today, however, it looks like the Chinese can read anything. Even my little novel. I wish I knew the Mandarin word for “unbelievable.”

Monday, August 24, 2009

Book Review: Dreams From My Father by Barack Obama

Dreams from My Father Dreams from My Father by Barack Obama

My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Getting to Know Obama, the Man
There is no way around expressing that this is a remarkably well-written memoir. Per the title, the author, Barack “Barry” Obama, tells not only his life story, but also focuses on the subject of race in America. He tells his personal history as well as the history of American’s race relations and understanding through the eyes of a biracial boy-turned man, coming of age in the late 20th Century.

Throughout his life, it’s apparent Obama has commanded attention through his intelligence, good nature, handsome being, and strong family background. This tale is as much about his Midwestern-born white mother and grandparents, “Gramps” and “Toot,” as it is about his biological Kenyan-born father. It’s still remarkable to comprehend that this narrator, given his roots, eventually becomes the elected 44th President of the United States.

I enjoyed listening to the narration of this story by the author. He unabashedly recalls both events and conversations of his youth, and without fear or tiresome, guarded political motivations. He expresses true accounts of his coming of age and the understanding of his heritage. And I particularly enjoyed Obama’s recollection of his journey to “Home Squared,” when he visited Kenya for the first time and related my own first visit to this fascinating country. Every American, black or white, can’t help but learn about the role of race plays in a community when traveling the streets of Nairobi or the red dirt roads of the Western Provence.

Please read (or listen to) this book. Love him or loathe him, at least get to know him. This book commands great respect and I give it my highest recommendation.

View all my reviews >>

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Why I'm No Longer a Disc Golf Tournament Director

Mike is a fantastic tournament director. He’s been running disc golf tournaments for some 25 years and they’ve ranged in size from a few people to hundreds. His ability to run a smooth, fun event is one of the reasons why the Northwoods Open is arguably the most popular disc golf event in the state of Wisconsin. He credits all the support he gets from the disc golf community, which includes a staff of experienced tournament directors and statisticians; however, I happen to know his success comes not only from his experience, but also from his personality.

First of all, he’s a golfer and has been since 1974. He loves the sport, loves the discs, and loves most of the people who play. He’s got a strong voice, with stock-market-trained diaphragm projection, and he has created an amazing 27-hole course, literally carved out of the forest. Maintaining it is a top priority. It’s impossible not to notice all the thought and care that goes into the course at Sandy Point Disc Golf Ranch.

Also, he gives everyone who participates in the Northwoods Open a player package, Pros and Ams alike.


THE SUBJECT OF PRO PLAYERS vs. Amateur players came up today in a phone conversation I had with a person who called to ask about the tournament. He wanted to participate, but hasn’t had any tournament experience—even though he insisted he and “his partner” were phenomenal players. I suggest he enter the “Intermediate” Division for men, as it’s the competitive division for players just getting started with PDGA competition. The entry fee for this division is $35, which is $70 less than the Open Pro Division. Also, because this is a PDGA-sanctioned event and players must be current dues-paying members to participate (or in the case of amateur and recreational divisions, pay a PDGA tax of $10), his total fee would be $45 for two days of competition.

After asking several questions about the format, scoring, the check-in procedure (which would be “impossible” for him because he works two jobs—blah-blah-blah—) he wanted to know about payout.

“Now, I don’t mean to be modest (?), dear, but I noticed there’s nothing on your website about payout,” he said.

“Well that’s because we have no way of knowing what the payout will be until we have a final figure on the number of competitors. But the payout will be in line for the requirements of a PDGA A-tier event for the pros and B-tier event for the amateurs.”

“What kind of cash are we talking?”

“Amateurs don’t receive cash awards in PDGA events. It would compromise their amateur status. Instead they receive merchandise vouchers that are redeemable in our pro shop.”

“Well, that’s not right,” he said.


What came out of his mouth next was a combination of an incredulous reaction to this ridiculous practice, and a lecture of how it wasn’t right to contribute $45 to an event and expect to get no cash in return.  “Let me put it to you this way, dear, how would you like to go to a competition, pay for it, win it and get nothing but a voucher in return?”

Sigh. I looked at the clock and remained calm. “If you want to play for money," I said, “then you should play in the Open Pro Division.” I wanted to add: “But it’ll cost you even more, DEAR!” But I didn't.

As he blathered on with his complaints and his lecture, my cell phone rang with my husband’s personalized urgent-sounding ring, and I knew I had to end my call with the incredulous lecturer disguising himself as a disc golfer. I had already spent far too much time explaining things like foursomes, saying your score out loud after each hole, turning in your card and being responsible for the math. . . . 

I’m happy to take entry fees over the phone and give lodging and local campground information, but I can’t conduct a player’s meeting on my dime when my other phone is ringing and I have a list of five other calls to return.

“I can’t have this conversation,” I said. “I have to go.” CLICK.


ANY SEASONED TOURNAMENT DIRECTOR will tell you that there can be 200 wonderful people participating in a tournament, who help make the experience fun and exciting. But he’ll also tell you that there’s ALWAYS one a$$hole, who threatens to mar your positive efforts.

The trick is to not let him get to you. 

Mike learned that a long time ago. I, on the other hand, crave an a$$hole-free existence and simply won’t tolerate a bully on any front. (Especially one that calls me “Dear” in every sentence he utters). This is why I’ll be back in Tucson during the 15th Annual Northwoods Open and Mike will be here, running what I’m sure will be another highly successful disc golf tournament.

Best of luck to all the great players who grace our Northwoods home each year. Have fun, and remember to LOOK UP!

Thursday, August 13, 2009

The Family That Skis Together . . .

I grew up in a waterskiing family. For two weeks every summer, we left behind the concrete western suburbs of Chicago and headed to Michigan, to a magical place called "Corey Lake." They were the best two weeks of the year.

We had a wooden Milocraft boat with first a 35 then a 40 horse Johnson, strong enough to pull us all out of the water. Pictured in the photo along with the boat, the "VO-5," are (from left to right) Debra, Mary Beth, Tommy, Gayle (who is peeking out from behind my shoulder as I perch on the stern), Dad and, of course, Mom in a stylin' 1960s swimsuit. Mom always got the first ski.

In our family, skiing was a rite of passage. I started at age three--yes, when I was three year-old. The photo of me at right is from the summer of 1964. We used a device known as a "Flexiboard," a set of skies connected at the top. It was handmade by a local man named Mr. Bowers, who lived next door to the cottage we always rented. As evident in the photo, my parents made sure I was safe, dressing me in both an orange life jacket and a ski belt.

One summer on the Flexiboard, led to two skis, then to dropping one ski, and finally, graduating to the slalom level. I have fond memories of my Aunt Eddy bribing me each summer with candy rewards:

"If you get up today and go all the way around the bay, I'll give you a Bubs Daddy Bubblegum," she said. Such sweet incentive worked every time. I soon became an accomplished skier, leaning so far back my ponytail hit the water. I haven't skied that hard since I had kids, but every now and again, I'm tempted.

My husband came from a sailing family, so it was I who introduced him to the powerboat and the exciting activity of waterskiing. It didn't take him long to learn. It never takes anyone I teach long to learn. I've lost count of the number of people to whom I've supplied the basics, including things like, "let the boat do the work."

I wanted our girls to start at the age of three, like me; however, neither was all that interested. But they are now. Willow's been dropping one for a couple summers and then this summer, she decided to try getting up in the deep on one. She did it the first time she tried. And Camille, who suffered a broken arm all last summer and couldn't ski at all, popped right up her very first time out. "That was fun!" she said. By the end of the summer, she even tried venturing outside the wake.

Fun indeed. Here's a little video of all four of us enjoying Camille's last day at Sandy Point earlier this week:

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

A Sprained Ankle Waiting to Happen?

When they first brought home this new-style skateboard, the Ripstik, it had sprained ankles written all over it. I, who spent a good portion of my high school years on crutches, didn't want to see the same thing happen to my kids. But I don't think either one of them has ankles as skinny as mine. (Mine are like wrists).

I'm happy to report that within just a few days, both Willow and Camille learned how to work these two-wheeled contraptions and they've had a lot of fun with them. Even better, no sprains!

Thursday, August 06, 2009

When’s The Last Time You Were Carded?

“May I see some identification, please?” asked the Super Wally World cashier.

“Excuse me?” (I genuinely didn’t hear what she had asked).

She held up the bottle of chardonnay. “Your I.D. I need to see it.”

I’m not sure if I smiled or smirked, but I did say “sure” and fished my Wisconsin driver’s license from my wallet. It took the middle-aged blonde in the blue smock a moment to locate my birth date and then key it in, but soon she fumbled with the computer keys and handed back the license. “I bet I just made your day, huh?”

Truly, she did. My guess is that we were about the same age.

I’m fairly certain I haven’t been carded in over 20 years. I forgot anyone ever got carded for buying alcohol.  And I certainly haven’t been mistaken for a girl under the age of 21, particularly since I’ve given birth. Did I mention my 12-year old daughter was with me at the time?

Which reminds me, the other night when accompanied by both our 12 and 14-year-olds, we were out to dinner at a local restaurant. Willow, 14, ordered a piña colada, which she found on the specialty drink menu. To this request, the waitress asked whether or not she wanted it with alcohol.

“She’s fourteen,” I said.

“Don’t you know that minors are allowed to order alcoholic beverages with their parents’ approval?”


No, we didn’t know that. But according to an article in the New York Times, “Minors can drink alcohol in a bar or restaurant in Wisconsin if they are accompanied by a parent or legal guardian who gives consent. While there is no state law setting a minimum age, bartenders can use their discretion in deciding whom to serve.”

I’m sorry, but I think that’s just wrong. Card me any day of the week and that’s fine; however, don’t offer my children alcohol—even when they’re 27 years beyond the legal drinking age.