Friday, May 25, 2007

A Bit Of A Medley, Today ....

from Jacqueline

Just when you thought you could not hear any more mind-blowingly unbelievable news, along comes a snippet that makes you think .... WHAT????

This is the sort of news that should have made it into Paul’s feelgood post this week – because there has to be an upside to it:

“Jalal Talabani, a former guerrilla fighter and now the Iraqi President, has checked into an American health clinic - in an effort to tackle his obesity problem Officials at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota confirmed this week that Mr. Talabani checked into the establishment for a series of tests. They declined to provide further details and added in a statement: "No further information updates are planned until completion of the President's comprehensive examination."
Mr. Talabani, 73, has recently complained of tiredness and suffering from the ill effects of being overweight. In February he was flown to the King Hussein Medical Centre in Amman, Jordan, on a medically equipped US military plane, for treatment for extreme fatigue and dehydration after he collapsed. He had been unconscious when he was rushed to a local hospital but recovered enough to be flown to Jordan. He returned home 17 days later.
When he left the Kurdish city of Sulaimaniya in northeast Iraq on Sunday, his office quoted him as saying at a news conference several days earlier: "I don't have any health problems except my obesity and I will treat it, God willing." (The Independent).

Is it me, or is there something really whacky, something way off kilter in the world, when the leader (and I use that term loosely) of a country in the midst of a terrible war, not only has time to fill his face to the point of being unconscious, but is not using enough calories to burn it all off. And now he’s here in the USA – and let’s face it, this is nirvana for the rehab-bound – to be sorted out. In my humble opinion, of all the sortings-out of which this particular human being might be in need, eating issues don’t immediately spring to the top of the list.

As Leif Enger said in Peace Like A River: “Make of that what you will.”

Onward ...

I would like to explain why this is going to be one of my more nonsensical posts, and why I may be given to rambling: I hurt like hell this week. I am in agony. My two passions have come together again and I am trying to work through the pain. Not only have I ramped up the dressage training in the past two weeks, preparing for what they call a “clinic” with a trainer referred to as a “master of horsemanship” (and if my shoulder goes on like this, it’ll be another clinic I’ll be off to), but I am in the midst of revisions on my fifth novel. Tearing into the flesh of the story to sort out the kinks, streamline the prose and hopefully make a readable book out of it.

I am not a natural reworker of words (is there such a thing, by the way?), though I have come to enjoy the demands of the process. But I love that first blast when I am the storyteller, telling the tale that’s been rolling around in my head for months, transforming the pictures in my mind’s eye into words on the page. However, as we know, it doesn’t end there – now I have to be a technician of language, the advocate for the reader, questioning the right of every word to be in the book (Hey, you – yes, you, “ridged” – what makes you think you should be in that paragraph, eh? Come on, speak up, why should I have used you when there were plenty of other choices?”)

And on the riding front, I’m taking apart movements I know, deconstructing them to find out why I cannot perfect a certain routine, and I’m trying new things (raising that bloody bar on myself, the one I’m always going on about in connection with my writing) which is how I’ve managed to upset the arm that was broken so badly six years ago, and now I can hardly move the thing. Oh, it’s only a pulled this or that, probably my internal spare parts from Ace Hardware have gone a bit rusty, nothing forever painful (at least I hope not – the world doesn’t have enough Tylenol), but I’m wondering if there’s a lesson I can learn here, something bigger, something that will translate to the business of writing.

I told my husband about the injury today – he’s away from home until early next week (guess he heard me say I was starting the rewriting). I explained what happened, and he simply suggested finding the big rubber band exercise do-dads I had to use when I was in physical therapy following my accident, and gently working those muscles so that I get strong again. He emphasized “gently” knowing that, at times, I can be a bit of a bull in a china shop, a bit over-enthused, which is how this happened in the first place.

So I’ve decided to take that advice further, to go to the next stage in the rewriting process gently, quietly. I will not be a demon with the delete key and I will not say, “That’s staying where it is!” without due consideration of the big picture. And I am going to reach for the Tylenol so that it doesn’t hurt when I hit the keyboard.

Anybody know anything about voice recognition software?

Have a lovely weekend, one and all. And remember to remember, come Monday.


  1. Our, J:

    Go gently with the shoulder exercise; exercise prudence with your dressage training, and remember to 'breathe' into each muscle change - you, and the horse; and I'd be really surprised that you would need extensive rewrites or editing. :-D

    I do so hope that your pain eases considerably: it makes you tense up muscles in reaction, and can put you off your writing and riding. :-)

    Oh, I have planned to put up 'Reading Jacqueline Winspear' on my Muse du Jour Blog on Monday. I have some more writing to do - but it's going to be bloody long. ;-D

    Get well soon,

  2. So sorry about the aches and pains, Ms. J, both the mental and physical ones. Be good to yourself. Both your dressage and writing skills deserve your respect.

    Unlike you, I adore the revision phase. The creation of the story is childbirth for me ... painful and difficult. But the revisions! Ay Dios! I'm finally free to make it sing!

  3. Re Mr. Talabini and his generous waistline...perhaps Dennis ("I Swallowed Springfield, IL) Hastert should join him.

  4. I once heard somebody say Americans would do anything to loose weight except exercise and eat right. So glad we're not alone.

    Paul, you are SO funny.

    Our J, love the pictures of the little pony who could. Invite us to come watch you perform in the Olympics. Okay? And Marianne is right. Be careful with that shoulder.

    I'm with my buddy Louise. The initial creative process is TORTURE for me but I love to edit.

  5. Jacqueline,

    How fortunate for Mr. Talabani.

    The LA Times ran an article yesterday about the way in which US forces have become the de facto health care system in Iraq, setting up stealth clinics to treat people who are getting no health care whatsoever. Adults who look older than their age, and kids who look younger due to malnutrition and failure to thrive.

    The doctors have fled for the most part. The piece cited one brave soul, "Ibrahim Khalidy, a doctor and colonel in the army" who refused to leave because "I love my country too much to run." There was mention of another doctor who stayed, but had her hands chopped off by insurgents.

    While we're at it, how's about a shout-out to Times Staff Writer Tony Perry, dateline Abu Fleiss, Iraq, for bringing us the story?

    Ah, to be in Rochester.

  6. How ironic that Mr. Talibani would come to America to deal with obesity.....when we're the fattest people on the earth!
    Maybe he can be the next Jenny Craig spokesman....or Subway---eat fresh!

  7. Sorry to hear about your shoulder. It is the area I protect the most with light weight lifts and cable exercises.

    As for Talabani, I understand the chubby. There is just so much food and so little time. As I tell my thin daughter, "If we get cut off from food, I'll last months. You have no reserve." Mr. Talabani is planning ahead.


  8. The most recent editions of Microsoft Word come with Microsoft's own voice recognition engine. Generally the best known second party Speech-to-Text software for MS Word is Nuance's "Dragon NaturallySpeaking 9" (, which is much more sophisticated and not a bank-breaker at about $100.

  9. from Jacqueline

    Thanks, one and all for your comments. You know, regarding the rewriting, it's not that I don't enjoy it, so much as dread it - but once I get going, like you, Louise, I love to make that writing sing. And I'm not alone in the dread either - my husband bought me a first edition of "Journal of a Novel" - the letters John Steinbeck wrote to his editor while writing East of Eden. Makes you feel better to know that your heroes wallowed in varying degrees of angst while writing.

    And on the subject of eating, or should I say, over-eating, I saw a statistic yesterday: apparently 2/3 of Americans are either overweight or obese - old Mr. Iraqi President doesn't stand a chance in a country where a clinic is actually called "Mayo."

    And the shoulder is a little better today, thanks. Of course, Jim about hit the nail on the head when he mentioned light exercises. Those who take part in equestrian sports - which are really demanding on the body - are notorious for not warming up. If I was going to run for a couple of hours I'd warm up, but it never even crosses my mind to gently ease my muscles into what can be a brutal sport in the way it stretches the body. So, from now on, warm-ups for my riding, and warm-ups for my writing - just like John Steinbeck did when he wrote the East of Eden letters.

  10. Aches and pains suck. I have so many now I just want to pull my hair out, but that would just cause more.

    Obesity is a horrible issue in this country and as a mother of three I worry about it with my kids. So far, they are all healty and eat decent food, even the two teenagers eat realatively well. But I can tell you that we live in a world where we are always on the go. My kids all play travel hockey. They are very active, but we are going from rink to rink, city to city and that sometimes means fast food. I try for the "better" chains, like subway. I also try to plan and pack them food instead of stopping, but it's hard.

    Rewriting is my glory. I love that part of the creative process.

  11. from Jacqueline

    When I was a kid, I used to listen with indredulity to a neighbor who always had something wrong with her - every day brought a litany of pain. I wonder if I'm getting like that sometimes. But I look to my parents for inspiration - eighty years old, still both in great shape, they dance five nights a week, hike, manage a pretty big garden and can stay awake to read late at night - I am out of the game before the hours reach double digits, but I put that down to writing for hours each day, riding for hours each day, walking the dog, working in the garden, to say nothing of the reading ... can't be a slouch, I might want to be president of somewhere one day!

  12. Our J, I hope all goes well with your shoulder exercising, and am so sorry to hear that you're in pain.

    And thank you for the Thelwells!!! I love those fat little ponies and their intrepid riders something fierce.

  13. Yep, love those Thelwells. He really knew Shetland pony behavior. Had a look at his website. This one caught my eye for lessons learned about Mr. Iraqi President.