Yearly Archives: 2010

Yes, Children, there is no Krampus…

“The most real things in the world are those that neither children nor men can see.”

Well, now I’ve done it. I went and told my kids about Krampus. Of course, I thought it was funny. And the oldest one did, too. We share the same love for all things scary and weird. But my middle kid got freaked out. And when I tried to tell her that Krampus was “just pretend,” well, that didn’t work at all. Duh. What was I thinking?

Later, I overheard her whispering to her older brother, “Do you think Krampus is real?”

His reply: “Well, if Santa is real, so is Krampus.”

That makes so much sense. And I can’t really undo what Krampus-fear I’ve put into her heart. But it made me wonder…does the older one still believe in Santa? He’s nine and he’s never asked. Seems a little old. But then again, I never asked my parents either. Because I didn’t want to stop believing.

But questioning, challenging, testing, reasoning…those are all parts of growing up. And for those of us who celebrate Christmas, the challenging of Santa Claus is a metaphor for some of the crueler lessons of childhood. It teaches us that to grow up, we have to give up something we love. Comfort is sacrificed for wisdom. Perhaps for my nine-year-old, Santa is a transitional object, in the Winnicott sense of the word…a belief that helps him bridge the gap from young childhood to the tween years.

Here’s the letter he wrote this year:

Dear Santa,

I don’t want you to have too much work to do, so I’ll just tell you three things I want for Christmas. I would like…..a Harry Potter ™ Hogwarts lego game, a Harry Potter lego set, and a nutcracker.


Your friend,


P.S. If you don’t have the parts to make these, that’s fine.

In contrast to my kid’s desire to hold onto youthful things, a friend of mine told me that her six-year-old daughter asked if Santa was real this morning. And she struggled. And stalled. But her daughter insisted, and she was honest. Because maybe the magic that little girl needs to hold onto is believing that mommies always tell the truth…and that her mommy trusts she can handle the responsibility of knowing the truth.

And what is that truth?

The truth is that this is the time of year to once again read newsman Francis Pharcellus Church’s famous words to the little girl who wrote to the New York Sun, back in 1897:


I am 8 years old.
Some of my little friends say there is no Santa Claus.
Papa says, ‘If you see it in THE SUN it’s so.’
Please tell me the truth; is there a Santa Claus?


VIRGINIA, your little friends are wrong. They have been affected by the skepticism of a skeptical age. They do not believe except [what] they see. They think that nothing can be which is not comprehensible by their little minds. All minds, Virginia, whether they be men’s or children’s, are little. In this great universe of ours man is a mere insect, an ant, in his intellect, as compared with the boundless world about him, as measured by the intelligence capable of grasping the whole of truth and knowledge.

Yes, VIRGINIA, there is a Santa Claus. He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy. Alas! how dreary would be the world if there were no Santa Claus. It would be as dreary as if there were no VIRGINIAS. There would be no childlike faith then, no poetry, no romance to make tolerable this existence. We should have no enjoyment, except in sense and sight. The eternal light with which childhood fills the world would be extinguished.

Not believe in Santa Claus! You might as well not believe in fairies! You might get your papa to hire men to watch in all the chimneys on Christmas Eve to catch Santa Claus, but even if they did not see Santa Claus coming down, what would that prove? Nobody sees Santa Claus, but that is no sign that there is no Santa Claus. The most real things in the world are those that neither children nor men can see. Did you ever see fairies dancing on the lawn? Of course not, but that’s no proof that they are not there. Nobody can conceive or imagine all the wonders there are unseen and unseeable in the world.

You may tear apart the baby’s rattle and see what makes the noise inside, but there is a veil covering the unseen world which not the strongest man, nor even the united strength of all the strongest men that ever lived, could tear apart. Only faith, fancy, poetry, love, romance, can push aside that curtain and view and picture the supernal beauty and glory beyond. Is it all real? Ah, VIRGINIA, in all this world there is nothing else real and abiding.

No Santa Claus! Thank God! he lives, and he lives forever. A thousand years from now, Virginia, nay, ten times ten thousand years from now, he will continue to make glad the heart of childhood.

RTW: Crazy Depends on Where You Start…

My one and only foray into Wyoming. Circa 1994.

“The winds in Washokey make people go crazy.”

Inspired by Road Trip Wednesday over at YA Highway and the first line of Kirsten Hubbard’s fabulous-looking upcoming debut novel, “LIKE MANDARIN,” I present….the craziest thing I’ve ever done.

Well, there’s been a whole lot of crazy in my life. Most of it good. But one of the first things that comes to mind is the way I met my husband.

First of all, we met way back in the day before Internet dating was the norm. Nowadays, it seems like every couple I know met online. They both knew about each other’s likes and dislikes, got to stalk and research and think about things before connecting. Definitely an intriguing concept. I remember reading Lincoln Child’s “DEATH MATCH” and wondering what it would be like to meet someone with the knowledge that you are “compatible.” In Child’s futuristic matchmaking world, when the revered 100% compatibility is reached, the pair is deemed a “supercouple” and their lasting happiness is ensured. Or is it…?

Eh, I won’t ruin the twist in Child’s fun sci-fi romp that looks at love, pairing, and the whole point of it all in the not-so-distant future, but I will say that meeting my own better half was nothing short of luck. Barely out of college, I went out dancing at a well-known San Francisco nightclub with a group of friends. He was out at the same club with a friend. Gloria Gaynor’s “I Will Survive” came on in the disco room and I needed a guy to sing it to. A couple of hours, a landline phone number scrawled on a piece of paper later, and the rest is history.

Would we ever have met if we allowed computers and technology and questionnaires to lead our fate? Probably not. Does that mean we aren’t compatible? Heck, I’m not sure I even know what that means. But fifteen years after the fact, I’m still absolutely smitten with my disco-loving man. It made so much sense at the time, but compared to the way the world works now, it feels a little crazy to meet a stranger and just…take a chance on love.

Post-novel blues…

Every culture has its own jargon. The running realm is no different. Paradoxically, the terms become more psychologically-oriented the longer the distance.

Taper madness.

The Wall.

Post-marathon depression.

For me, one of the joys of running is getting to be your own coach. That means every run, every race, every injury, every accomplishment, and every failure is an opportunity to learn. And to apply that knowledge in the future. I’ve always strived to make up for what I lack in talent, by running smart.

This has served me well. In the three weeks before a marathon, when I need to cut back on my mileage in order to be rested on race day, I know that I’ll start to doubt my ability to run 26.2 miles. I know I’ll start to imagine all sorts of injuries, illnesses, and natural disasters that will keep me from getting to the starting line.

Same with the Wall: the infamous twenty-mile spot in which runners are expected to start breaking down physically. What you tell yourself at this point can be the difference between reaching your goal time and spending the next six months wishing you’d just pushed harder when things got tough.

But whether the obstacle is paranoia or pain, the solution is anticipation: knowing, planning, and practicing what you’re going to tell yourself when these self-defeating thoughts rear their ugly heads. I think it’s the same with writing; understanding and knowing where you’re likely to struggle means you can pre-empt some of your pitfalls.

However, the one phase of training I’ve never spent any time planning for is the post-marathon depression; that time when the race is over, the training is over, and some of your purpose in life is just….over. And I’ve definitely felt the parallel writing process: a post-novel depression. It’s hard to shut the door on the universe, characters, conflicts you’ve come to care deeply about.

Regardless of outcome, losing something you feel emotionally invested in is a loss. And with loss comes grief. I guess grief can be seen as a symptom of a larger process—the return to homeostasis.

As such, perhaps the sorrow, discomfort, and ruminating emptiness are all the body and mind’s way of saying: Take the time to appreciate and honor all of your hard work and commitment. Reflect. But then go out, pick a new goal, and do it all over again.

Is there a way to inoculate oneself against the blues that follow the finishing of a novel or a marathon? I really don’t know.

And I don’t know that there should be.

Ragnar Relay Napa Valley edition…

Holy smokes, how fun does this sound?

It’s funny, I’ve always been a solitary runner, a solitary writer, a solitary…everything. Well, not everything, of course. But for all the little things I’m passionate about, the ones that make me me, I’ve often resisted bringing other people into my process.
And the more I think about it, process is such an incomplete word. I’ve been reading about mindfulness and meditation of late, so when I really consider my approach to these solitary passions, perhaps the better word is practice.
But I’ve opened up my practice to include others recently. Starting with attending the SCBWI conference in Los Angeles this past July, I’ve found a great group of writers that I feel connected to. We’ve even started a solid in-person crit group, and extending the practice of writing to include this type of interaction, collaboration, and cooperation has been invaluable. Of course, I’ve always had beta readers, but this is different…this is about bringing people into the very beginnings of an idea, when even I don’t know where it’s headed. There’s a vulnerability, yes. But also so much potential.
Likewise running. I’m not at the point of joining a running club. The best thing for me is to be able to roll out of bed, get my shoes on, and head out the door. That’s not time I’m willing to share with anyone else. But when a running friend suggested doing this relay race, my first thought was “I’m in.”
Total paradigm shift.
187 miles. 11 runners. Here’s hoping we really do it….