Donna Sandstrom

Donna Sandstrom
Seattle, Washington, USA
September 10
Born in Brooklyn, raised in L.A. Studied at U.C. Santa Cruz, waitressed in San Francisco, found my way to Seattle in the early 80s. Career in high tech (Aldus/Adobe) until 2007 when I left to do The Whale Trail. Writing on Open Salon since May 2008. Go Obama!


Editor’s Pick
OCTOBER 25, 2008 4:39AM

How Cam and Stellaa Saved Me, and Why I Love OS

Rate: 40 Flag

I’ve been having a rough couple of days. There are a lot of things I am supposed to be working on, but somehow I couldn’t get myself to move on any of them. And the longer it goes like that, the worse it gets. Like a hoar frost spreading into every reach of my life – the closet I started cleaning but never got further than emptying out all over the guest room; the cracked window that needs to be replaced but if I do one, shouldn’t I do them all, and really, can I afford that now? And right there at the top of the list, the book proposal I am supposed to be working on, not to mention the book itself.

 It goes like this, back and forth, back and forth, in a kind of mental ping-pong, all day. And pretty soon all the projects and ideas I have are stacked like planes over LAX, unable to land because of the fog.

 The one thing I finished was an essay that I posted on OS. It was about a friend’s suicide. Not exactly a cheery topic, but I thought it would be a good way to honor him, and an apt true story for OS.

 A few people found it right after I posted it (thank you!). I thought about sending emails out alerting people to it, but really, I felt funny about doing that, especially because of the topic. (Hurry up and read this sad story!) Then it became an Editor’s Pick (thank you!). But it didn’t make the cover, and no one else found it, and soon I watched it slip away faster than a stick on an outgoing tide.

 I started wondering if it had been worth my time to write, or to post. Soon I was on the verge of having a full blown Sally Fields moment in reverse (They don’t like me! They really don’t!). I wondered if I was investing a tad too much emotional energy into OS.

 I continued to watch the stories that had made the cover on my day go higher and higher in the ratings and most read column, like one of those strength testers at a county fair. They were excellent pieces, don’t get me wrong, but harumph, my piece was as good as that, wasn’t it? Harumph, my last Editor’s Pick didn’t make the cover either. Harumph, it must be personal. Harumph, the last thing I had that made the cover was a picture of my cat, which is fine, I’m not sneezing at it, but, well, what’s the point of writing, I might as well just take pictures of the cats.

 And then I realized I was obsessing over getting on the cover, which reminded me, of course, of Freaky. And then I fully realized the evil genius of the troll: you just *can’t* take this too seriously when you are competing with a 6-inch doll.

 Meanwhile, I had commented in one of Stella’s posts about why we should care about Sarah Palin’s wardrobe. In her reply, she called me Sandra, which is not my name, but not a big deal, really. I wasn’t sure if it was because she thought I was Sandra, or because my last name is Sandstrom, or what. I made a small attempt to clear it up but by then the thread was long and the party was moving on.

 I can almost always shake a dark mood by getting some exercise. So I took a long walk at Lincoln Park, a 3-mile stretch of forest and beach that’s just a few minutes from my house. The sun slipped like a gold coin behind the blue Olympics, lighting up the trees in their full autumn regalia, and two eagles flew overhead. I was starting to feel better.

 Later I logged on to OS again and came across this great post by Cam about the new album by AC/DC. I’m not much of a fan (don’t hate me) but Cam’s enthusiasm for the band and the new album is irresistible. Such is his power of persuasion that for the first time in my life I watched a whole video of the guy with the shorts, leading the crowd into rock and roll ecstasy at a concert in 1978. I watched it all the way to the rip-roaring end, and I realized that Cam feels about Angus the way I feel about Bruce. 

 So I posted a link to a video of Bruce in 1978, and remembered that Thunder Road always had the power to rouse me from a malaise: “you can hide neath the covers and study your pain, make crosses of your lovers, throw roses in the rain, waste your summer prayin' in vain for a savior to rise from these streets…” I was feeling much, much better.

 In the same thread, Stellaa had posted a link to, well, I don’t want to spoil it for you, but I’m warning you, it involves Austrian men wearing shorts, and it could give a person nightmares.

I said as much, and in her reply, Stellaa called me by the wrong name again. This time, since the Real Sandra had also commented in the same thread, I thought we should clear it up. I’m Donna! I piped up, with an exclamation point, even.

Stellaa immediately apologized. In fact, she said she was going to put her head in a meat grinder. As an apology, she also offered a link to this. And that, my friends, is when my night, my day, my week, and maybe my life changed.

I started laughing the second the video started, and laughed harder and harder as it went on. You know that scene in Mary Poppins when they have the tea party in mid-air and they are laughing so hard they are almost crying? Like that. It was a soul-clearing, fog-cleansing, primal force that sprung up from my belly and melted the frost like a blow torch.

When I got up from the table, I felt a little buzzed, like I could float. I started doing the dishes, and threw out the old flowers drooping in their vase. And I thought about Norman Cousins, the writer who recovered from a serious illness with a self-prescribed program that included watching Marx brothers movies.

"I made the joyous discovery that ten minutes of genuine belly laughter had an anesthetic effect and would give me at least two hours of pain-free sleep," he reported. "When the pain-killing effect of the laughter wore off, we would switch on the motion picture projector again and not infrequently, it would lead to another pain-free interval."

Aha. Exactly what I needed. So thank you Stellaa, thank you Cam, thank you Freaky, thank you OS. The Finsk Disco will be on my medicine shelf for a long, long time. Today feels like a new day. Now I’m going to get started on the closet.

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medicine, laughter, os, humor

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Excellent post! You should be on the cover.

Blessings to you and now I guess I'll check out those
Austrian men in shorts, I'm a slave to temptation.
Ok. Enough of those Austrian guys. On to the Finsk
Disco teachers and now my day is made.
You're a very neat lady, Donna. And I'm warning you right now, that if we're ever in the same area code, you'd better look out because a hug will be stalking you.
I love this post. As much as I love her, Stellaa usually makes my blood boil. I'm glad you had this experience. I identified with much you said about the loathing and joy that is Open Salon.
Donna, this is a great post, vulnerable, honest and the way we all feel at times. Cam is one class act, and Stellaa has a heart the size of the state she lives in. She's one passionate classy lady who's not afraid to call things straight up. And she's not afraid to apologize either.

I love this line:

"It was a soul-clearing, fog-cleansing, primal force that sprung up from belly and melted the frost like a blow torch".
Great post. I was really hoping one of the Disco teachers would fall though.
well, if I'm going to be confused with someone, I'm glad it's you! Stellaa, are you quite alright? You called me by another name too. Spending too much time late at night being a webnaut with a bottle of sherry near by ;-) ?

I somehow missed the video on Cam's comments thread, but just watched it. I was really too stunned to laugh...but I found the parquet floor inexplicably moving.

Glad you are feeling better.
great post--and about procrastination, um, yeah, doing that right now
What a nice post!
I'm so glad you were helped to feel better.
Nice people helping other nice people is just the nicest thing.
Take care of yourself, Donna.

I had a close friend who felt the exact same way and left Open Salon for good. He was very attached to this place and took every snub not being on the cover very personally. We used to discuss this at length and I was unsuccessful convincing him that, while it was unfair, it wasn't a reflection on him nor does the best writing or most important pieces get the proper recognition (and of course the most sensational headlines and/or people who can supply artwork with their thoughts, like me, enjoy an advantage, for better or worse.).

I have been showing up every Tuesday at the New Yorker with 10 cartoons that I worked on all week long without one single approval in 6 months. Last week after my ten jokes were glanced at I was given a "You got nothing here." I really don't mean to make this about me but wanted to share that probably everyone here knows how you feel and I personally found hearing similar stories like this that makes me feel better (and a bad person, I think!). It's my clumsy way of saying glad you won't stop sharing your writing with us. And it's OK to send notices to friends– that's what it's about.
Thanks everyone, I'm feeling all warm and glowy!
DakiniDancer, I'm guessing you didn't make it all the way through the austrian guys ;) (I didn't either)
Cam - right back atcha!
Skeptic - never underestimate the healing power of a good shared laugh -
Mary - thanks!
Julie, that's just mean ;)
Sandra - thanks, I didn't mind getting mistaken for you either :)
Odetteroulette, aren't we all...)
Donna - You're always a bright spot in my day, even if you're writing about suicide. {{HUGS}}

(thumbified for OS Peer Appreciation Day!)
Okay, so there's no such thing. But now there is because I made it up.
I have that power.
Believe me, I know exactly how you feel Donna. Not about OS, but about writing in general. And remember, there's one human being out there somewhere making those decisions and that person is bound to have biases one way or another).

I admire, as Mary does, the vulnerability and humanity in this piece. I hope you keep on keeping on, personally.
Thanks, Margie -

Bob, it's a really interesting psychology, this process of putting creative work out there and wanting acknowledgment for it. I'm sorry your friend left OS - did he find what he was looking for somewhere else, or just give up? And may I say, I don't know what the editors at the New Yorker were thinking. The first thing I do when I get my issue is scan the cartoons to look for yours!
Jodi - I'll second that OS peer appreciation!
Hillbilly Aunt - thank! And truly, I don't envy the editors, especially with the volume and quality of writing here. I don't know how they even get through all the titles, much less the content. And you know, Freaky does really help keep it all in perspective!
Rob - thanks!
Donna, My first full post was an EP, and I thought "this is a piece of cake." BTW, you commented. I'm a pretty good writer, but I've discovered how many fine writers are here, competing for acknowledgement and recognition, and I have no idea what the criteria are for making EP, let alone the cover. When I read K.M. Breay's recent satire, I almost soiled myself laughing. I can't write like that, but I can write like I write. I haven't had an EP since that first one, but Sandra Miller, whose writing is elegant, read a post of mine last week and told me it should've made the cover, where her stuff's often been seen. I was flattered, and realized then and now that when you write, it has to be for yourself first, because you have something to say on the "page" (even if it's electronic), and because the act of crafting sentences and paragraphs gives you either extreme fulfillment in the moment, or satisfies your compulsive need to express yourself, or both, even if you're sitting in a room alone, with music or the TV as background.

You can write. Just keep at it.
Hey, Donna -- did you know I read and rated your post about the suicide? I agree, the post should have made the cover. It was very well written, with lots of photos -- just what the editors normally choose.

I just DO OS when I have time now. There is SOOO much to read, in some small (but very small) way I feel sorry for the editors wading through all the wonderful material. Yet, if it makes EP, it is a shame not to make cover as well. As they note repeatedly, there is only so much cover space!

Glad you are feeling better -- hope you enjoy a very OS inspired weekend!
Sympathize with the unnoticed blues. Take comfort in the fact that in this culture it is the fate of a good writer to BE an audience, not to HAVE an audience.

And enjoy your many fans.
Donna, I have such a warm place in my heart for you - you always leave thoughtful comments on my posts. and they always gives me great encouragement. And - I love your exquisitely expressive and straight from the heart writing. Even though I don't always have time to comment, I do try to catch your posts. Please feel free to email me when you have any new post. I wish I had more time to focus on writing, but I'm doing the mama thing now.

You can look at CCC's "crypt" posts and see that many OS posts get lost in the mix. The editors have a huge task - the sheer volume is amazing. I just posted two posters, and they were rather similar - one is an EP and the other not. Last week my other posters were on the cover - for a about 2 hours! Here and gone again. I have a whole buncha EP's that never made the cover. Actually, I'm quite happy with an EP - it tells me that it was seen and appreciated, that's enough.

I don't take it too seriously - what I really value is the discourse and the high comedic factor. Yes, there is NOTHING like an all consuming laugh fest. And a high five to Freaky (does she have five?) who adds a good dose of irreverence.
Enjoyed this very much. Life is not fair I guess, and some of my best posts have been lost in the ether here. But it feels so good to write them and to send them in, even when they don't make EP. What I like best about OS is the quality of the people, even more than the writing. OS is a soft place to land.
La donna, (Open Salon editors) è mobile! This piece was wonderful (I declined Cam's invitation to the ACDC party, dog being from a time before electricity -- especially as applied to guitars -- was invented). And the OS social networking stuff does work when it's working. And, psst, this might be only second best but (advance plug for future piece) you make the next Woofie crypt collection (biggie wow!) :-).


You note in your biography

Worked in high tech (Adobe) for fourteen years. Jumped ship last year to start the rest of my life. So far, so good!

I think OS is good for starting life in writing. And you have responded to me in the past and it was much appreciated ;0).

I don't have anything like a book proposal but like being here because well . . . we can write stuff and sometimes people read it. The gamesmanship of covers and picks and emailing others to respond seems silly and unnecessarily competitive at times.

I'm glad that what happened is you needed real human contact with decent caring intellingent people and there it was . . . right on your computer screen. That is what is cool about OS.
Donna, What a beautiful post. Proud of my fellow pacificnorthwesterner!!

You delve deep in this piece and come up with something that is common to all of is. Our writing is a very intimate part of us so involves much of our emotional life. I have been humbled by the level of disclosure that we accord each other. This cannot exist without a measure of trust. We place our writing before each other in trust and hopefulness and are repaid with kindness. What could be better?

Thank you for posting this. rated and loved
What a wonderful, honest post Donna. The very best thing about OS is the people. Where else do you get to hang out with funny, intelligent, literate people who totally understand the solitary worlds of writing and art? I'm so glad that they were able to throw you a life preserver (cleverly disguised as laughter!) when you needed it the most. Now I'm going to check out your post and those Austrians in shorts. Keep writing!
I know I put a comment here somewhere...I think it got eaten.

I think this post demonstrates what's best about OS -- the fact that we can have complicated relationships with OS, loving it, being frustrated by it and being addicted to it all at once. And we can do that because the people here are so cool

I've not been a good reader lately. I've been doing most of my reading via cellphone, which means I can't rate or comment. I've been reading, though. And you are not overlookable, believe me.
you've proven over and over what you mean to me Donna, I treasure you as a friend, and remember our first encounter on OS. You are in fact, a sustainer, someone who lifts others up with your lovely words, and yet you are worthy of every praise you receive for your own wonderful work.

thanks for your honesty, and your friendship
I know what you mean. :-D

Still, I like being in the fish bowl, even though I'm just a goldfish amongst all these cool-looking Beta fish. But watching the others, seeing their successes (and failures - not every post is a home run) is inspiring as well as communal. I'm old enough to know that I'm certainly no Dickens, no Twain - I occasionally have short spasms of goodness, and I am ok with that.
OS is a wonderful place, a lot of fun, and there are many wonderful and talented writers here - but it isn't a measure of how good a writer YOU specifically are. There are thousands of voices out there right now, and you most definitely are one of the ones that is heard.
Thanks for sticking around, Donna. Rock on. Hey, don't you have a book proposal to work on now, young lady? ;-D

Donna, I always rate the posts I read, but I don't always comment, especially if someone else has already said what I would say, OR I've got 11 OS windows open because I have so many writers I like to follow. It's really frustrating to feel like you're throwing your soul out into the ether and not getting anything back, but I think the well-knowns get read pretty frequently, even if people don't always comment. And BTW--I got Editor's Pick today, but no cover. That's happened a few times to me, as it has to other people here. I'd love to make the cover every time 'cause you know, writers, we're always looking for validation. But I'll settle for my occasional Editor's Picks.

I enjoy your work.
Donna, I really loved this post and have been in your shoes at times--once in particular--wondering of the work of a post was worth it. Our time is precious, and it's helpful to know that even one or two people are moved by our investment. Thanks so much for this generous and heartfelt piece.
Good post. Never fear, you're being read.
Donna, it was great reading this post. I've been discovering OS recently and doing my best to contribute meaningful content, and quality writing. And I sympathize with your feelings about finding an audience, or building one, or stumbling upon one, or just having the opportunity to share, to question and answer, to not only get the ideas into words, but to participate as the words generate new feelings and more words, and human contact on a human level. I think that's the beauty of OS, as I've experienced it so far, and I think there's something really valuable in the kind of community you are finding here.
Wow, and wow, and wow again. I'm humbled and a little speechless at the warmth and depth of these responses. I treasure them all, and will spend a lot more time with them over the weekend. This has turned out to be a transformative experience, start to finish. It may even make me an AC/DC fan ;) Thank you all so very, very much.
Donna, you are truly a fabulous writer and although I read (and rate) much of what you write, I don't always comment so I am trying to rectify that here today!

It's true that there is so much on OS that is fascinating and well written and visually pleasing and intellectually intriguing and on and on. I know exactly how it feels to want to be read by more than a couple of people. Coveting the Cover may be partly driven by ego, but I think for so many of us it is simply a desire to have a wider audience for the writing we put so much of ourselves into.

And this is where I go into my rant about the organization of OS. I find it hard to believe that this chaos would be anyone's choice. Surely there are better ways of helping us find the posts that would be of interest to us. I have about 25 OS people on an RSS feed (including you, Donna) but that is terribly clunky, at least on my computer.

I think a lot of people must just throw up their hands and walk away like Bob's friend. And I can't entirely blame them. There needs to be a better way of finding and being found in the OS crowd.
Working my way down from where I left off..

Stonecutter – absolutely agree. Writing is important first, for its own sake, and the process you engage in as a writer. There’s a deep satisfaction in creating something, even if no one reads it. I remind myself of that all the time ;)

Lisa – thanks for the comments in both stories! Keeping up with OS is definitely a time management challenge. And as said above, I think the editors do a great job, with such an abundance and breadth of material to choose from, except, of course, when they don’t pick Freaky ;)

Hontonoshinjin – Thanks, and interesting observation about being an audience. Wasn't it always so, though? Writers have always read. and inspired each other...

Artsfish – what I really value is the discourse and the high comedic factor. Absolutely! BTW, I just went and checked, and I think with Freaky it’s a High Four - proof of her higher place on the evolutionary chain, of course ;)

Lea- OS is a soft place to land Very much so! Pretty unique, I think...

CCC – merci beaucoup! And I am thrilled to be in your next crypt. Er, collection.

Dorinda - what happened is you needed real human contact with decent caring intellingent people and there it was I think you hit the nail on the head…thanks -

Roger – thanks!

O’Stephanie – Yes, there is a deep trust that allows us to write from the heart here; what a wonderful thing to experience -

Lisa – Laughter as life preserver, yes! And I didn’t know how much I needed it till it happened…

Liz, thanks – I think you captured the mysterious elixir that is our relationship with OS. (And the debates were about a billion times more fun because of you!)

BBD – thanks so much for the kind words, as always. They mean a lot to me.

Bill - Thanks, and yes, yes I do! If you could email me that reminder once a day…;)

Merwoman, thanks – I take comfort in the fact that this process is one that all writers have gone through since, well, probably since we started scratching on cave walls ;) It’s just a tad bit more accelerated now.

Lainey, thanks – and keep at it too!

JE – Totally agree, and a belated welcome to OS.

Umbrellakinesis: I hope the tea didn’t land on the keyboard;) And yes, it’s great to be in such good company here in the PNW, a writer’s paradise.

Susan – thanks so much for taking the time to comment, and as always, you are spot on. I agree, the best thing about the cover is the visibility it affords. Writing is like hatching something, important for its own sake – but having people read it is like getting to watch it fly - you never know how high or far it will go.

And Amen to the better organization tools (and editable comments! And the ability to rate them!) I’m delighted to be on your RSS feed; I still just work my way through the Most Recent list, starting with where I think I last left off…

It makes me sad to think of the people who’ve walked away. I hope they come back.

Thanks again everyone, for making this place what it is, and sharing your thoughts and time so generously here. You 'da best! And on a side note, I am so glad we went through this, of all elections, together.
Well I was having a slow day yesterday and missed this. My bad, it would have lifted my spirits. I watched the video and appreciate your very clear and honest description of what it is like to wonder if anyone is EVER going to look at what you have written. Sometimes they just don't. Thanks for the perspective. People are always spelling my name SuZanne when it is Susanne. At least that mispelling tells me they understand the pronunciation. Does that mean they get me? LOL
Donna, you were able to stop the hoar frost from spreading......
that is in itself a true feat of the day.
You're one pretty cool dudette!! (dude-ette)
Susanne - glad you found your way here, and enjoyed the videos. If nothing else, I hope everyone who read this had a good laugh!

Gary - aw, thanks. Yes, I now have a secret weapon to keep the frost from setting in - that Finsk video is gold! Watched it again with a friend tonight and it was just as funny as the first time ;) I want to track down a copy of Norman Cousin's Anatomy of an Illness, I think I have found my prescription for health. Thanks again for stopping by -
Welcome back, Stellaa, and glad you didn't mind being part of this story. That falling in love with the world thing while watching the Finsk guy - it's utterly contagious :)

Thanks again, and see you on the dance floor ;)
Hey! I'm more than a little peeved at everyone making fun of Swedish disco instructors in white leisure suits. Enough is enough!

For all we know, this guy could be a banker who does this sort of thing on the side, just to pick up a few extra kroner for beer.

And history may show that a sport such as this, who is probably just trying to decompress while the world economy blows up, was responsible for the idea - now embraced by our own "free market" wizards - that in 1992 had the Swedish government propose an injection of government money into the nation's biggest banks in exchange for a minority stake in order to head off a financial panic.

This worked in Svenksland at the time (that's probably why this guy has so much free time to dance!), and it may work here in the "real" world of Bush, McCain, and Palin before the market debacle is all over.

Disco and Swedish socialism. It's got a beat.

- Yours truly,
- Uncle Ingmar
You know, when you put it that way, it doesn't sound so bad (Disco and Swedish socialism). And if Obama doesn't win, it's going to look a whole lot better ;) ::adding to list::

Thanks for stopping by, Uncle Ingmar -
Jah ... jahhh ...

Well, I long ago got over the insult from a time when Americans - especially those pious American political leaders from places like Keokuk, Omaha, and Dixon - constantly criticized my films, because they were so "dark" and had a lot of furtive sex, snow, and long views of frozen lakes and raging rivers.

And what do you know? - Sen. McCain this week-end could not, he just couldn't! - acknowledge the source of the idea for the bank bailout (while forgetting one of his palsy-walsy former secretaries of state); and he gagged, visibly, when it was suggested that -ANY - technique used in this country to stabilize the wobbly economy could in any way be called socialism.

"Arrrrrrgggggghhhhh!" he seemed to say, sticking his tongue out.

Why can't he swallow his medicine like the rest of us?

Some Stockholm disco and a viewing of "The Seventh Seal" might be good for him, even this late in the game.

But, you'd probably have to put him in a straight jacket first and strap him in a chair. Maybe gag him too just to be safe.

He's a hard case, like some Swedes I used to know actually.

Jah ...
Donna, I had to laugh at your feelings about the apparent lack of attention to your post. I just wrote one yesterday about the suicide of my husband years ago and then it just kind of disappeared, sunken below much better-written and happier posts, I'm sure. It took me longer than anything else I've ever written and now.....well, I'm sure you know how I feel. But I too am now able to take joy from the things in your post so the gift of laughter goes on. I'm off to forward that disco thing to my Finnish yoga instructor/dancer.
Glad it worked for you, too, Katina! Finsk disco dance lessons - the gift that keeps on giving :)

Good on ya' for writing your post. I'll head over there later when I have time to read it. Welcome to the fray! :)
It is wonderful to know you!
I'm sending you a link to a performance of "Sweet Home Alabama" by the Leningrad Cowboys. It represents a seminal moment of relief in my long stressed out life.