Grabbing The Mic

22 Mar

It involved getting bailed out of county jail, stepping in a pool of vomit on the subway, riding in the trunk of a car in a zebra bathing suit, playing with a lighter and can of hair spray, and a dead cat in the wall of an apartment.

It was only an hour, but it was the most inspirational sixty minutes of the week.

Hanging out with a bunch of storytellers and a glass of wine proved to be a memorable evening. I came away feeling motivated to finish my own stories after hearing about these adventures. Something about hanging out with a bunch of creatives and listening to them craft their epic misfortunes into Silver Lining Playbook stories centered on friendship was contagious.

I came home ready to dig deep, although with my life I didn’t have to go far to capture moments. Although the one thing about these artists was that the stories were free flowing. No script. They had it in their head. They performed their stories. They were animated and I felt like I was part of the circle. I was there when he was making the call from county jail and no one came to bail him out. I was there watching the woman slip in a pool of vomit on her way to steal the elderly woman’s seat on the subway. I was there when the zebra bathing suit got pulled over by the CHP. I was there when the curtains caught on fire from the can of hairspray. And I was there when the girl had to break her lease because she kept getting fleas from a dead cat in the wall.

The stories came to life. These storytellers were the writers, actors, and directors themselves. They placed full confidence in their stories and their ability to tell it. They stepped on stage, grabbed the microphone, and began. Fear or no fear. They grabbed the mic.

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I left away with that feeling … the one with butterflies. They took creative control of their story and it was empowering to see. No one changed their timeline. No one added unnecessary  dialog. No one changed the integrity of their characters. No one changed their soundtrack. No one changed their stories.

It was great to see how their bravery helped maintain their creative control.

I watched. I listened. I learned.

I might be grabbing the mic soon myself, as I was invited to come back “try it out”.

And I just might.

After my experience with the play director, creative control seemed to matter more in my next endeavor. But I’m not rigid, I welcome constructive criticism, and collaborations. I like input that makes the story better. With every creative, story and characters matter. Every writer has this intention.

But not every project ends that way.

So my lesson learned during this inspirational outing?

Be brave enough to grab the mic and hold onto your creative control, but be willing to work with others, just choose people you trust when sharing your visions.

 

 

 

 

 

 

I Just Joined A New Club, But Wasn’t Aware of It

17 Mar

I could be your worst Book Club nightmare.

Just strolling on in to eat the snacks and talk about scenes in the book that only come out in the movie. It’s taken me a year to read two books. Just two. And I’m not even finished yet. It’s not to say that the books are bad, they’re not. They’re actually pretty good. Really good.

It’s something else holding me back, interrupting the nooks and crannies of quiet time and peace, making my eyes heavy, so heavy that I knock out with having only read a page. It’s the culprit that keeps your bookmark on the same page for weeks, it’s the thing that keeps you renewing different copies of the same book from the library for over and over again. It comes to a point where you should really purchase it by now.

It’s parenthood.

Yup, that pesky responsibility keeps getting in the way of a good book … well parenthood and my love of Netflix. I usually keep this shame and embarrassment to myself. I mean what kind of writer am I if I’m not reading other people’s work? I mean I even have an autographed copy of Elizabeth Gilbert’s book hanging out in bag, next to the Chapstick, still marked on Chapter 4.

Lie.

Chapter 2.

The embarrassment even compels me to lie where my bookmark falls. I’m so used to keeping it to myself, I try to downplay it in public. But every so often when my buddy posts something, I am reminded of this failure even more and there’s downplaying it to her. I confess. Automatically. And after our little conversation I think I should really be banned from any book club entirely.

You see my blogging buddy, Jackie Cangro is an avid reader and posts these amazing reading lists on novels that appeal to every kind of book lover. And every time I see it, I jot down at least one or two books and let her know how amazing they sound and how ready I am to walk on over to Barnes and Noble and head over to Amazon.com to buy it.

But that never happens.

I end up being the bad Book Club member of a club I was never invited to be a part of, sad I know. The kind you don’t want to invite back because they never finish the book, or they have yet to get started.

But then I realized something … I HAVE been part of a book club and finishing books every month sometimes three, four, five books. I just wasn’t realizing it because it was the Parenthood Book Club. I’ve been hanging out with Dr. Seuss, Mo Willems, Victoria Kann, Herman Parish, Ted Arnold, Roald Dahl, Henry Winkler, Beverly Cleary, Jack Chabert, Jeffrey Brown, Tom Angleberger, Wendelin Van Draanen, and many others.

So I stand corrected.

Parenthood hasn’t  made me a terrible book club member, I just joined a new club and wasn’t aware of it. Adventures come in all kinds of genres.

Here are our top picks:

jedi-academy

For adventure and young Jedis.

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scaredysquirrelbooks

My kids enjoy the laughs Scaredy Squirrel brings.

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The Here’s Hank series is one of the funniest and engaging stories involving a young boy and his adventures with family, friends, or school.

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MoWill

This series always cracks up my kindergartner. Easy to read and fun.

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Lorax

Who doesn’t love Dr.Seuss right?

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Amelia

We love Amelia Bedelia’s smart, strong, funny, and independent mind. Her adventures always keep my kindergartner engaged.

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Shredderman Books

Standing up to bullies, solving mysteries, and doing the right thing are all part of this amazing series for young kids.

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WhoWas

My son loves this nonfiction series! It talks about the lives of important historical figures in a way that’s interesting for young readers.

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ralph

I loved Beverly Clearly growing up and was so happy that my son enjoyed the adventurous story of Ralph and his motorcycle.

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charlie

This classic had my son looking for Willy Wonka Gobbstoppers and Everlasting Chewing Gum. It was an imaginative ride that proved to be one of his favorites.

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FLY_GUY_COVER

Fly Guy! His stories make a kindergartner and 3rd grader laugh. Fly Guy explores both fiction and nonfiction genres. His adventures in fiction explore school, museums, restaurants, fly swatters, Frankenstein and other fun stories that revolve around friendship. The nonfiction series helps kids learn about science, animals, and environments.

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Feel free to check some of these out with your young book lovers. There are so many authors and books that we’ve come across that I couldn’t mention, but if you know of any feel free to share!

Have a great weekend!

Weekly Photo Challenge: The Road Taken

13 Mar

Everything here is pretty amazing but this was a nice surprise when we made a left turn instead of a right …

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Weekly Photo Challenge courtesy of The Daily Post

 

Sandbox List Adventures: Tackling The Warped Wall With Pharrell Williams

11 Mar

Beat the wall! Beat the wall! Beat the wall!

They stare at it … mesmerized, chanting and cheering for them to reach the tippy top and grasp it with their fingertips. They scream as the Ninja Warriors cling onto the edge and pull themselves up. They ring the buzzer and raise their hands in victory.

Both my kids have envisioned this adventure countless times. They zigzag through the swings, attack the monkey bars, scale the rock walls, climb the ropes, balance on the imaginary floating steps and then  climb the slide … AKA The Warped Wall. They are masters of the playground obstacle course.

They are Mini-American Ninja Warriors and they are always up for the challenge, even when kids on the school playground recently made my son feel bad for being enthusiastic about this adventure. These Pokemon loving kids were not feeling the Ninja Warrior vibe, and left him solo to play this “boring” game on his own. And despite being sad, he tackled that playground obstacle course and had fun on his own.

It was heartbreaking to hear what happened, and like any mom I had that parent talk, the one that assures him of his unique awesomeness, the one filled with hugs and chocolate cookies, the one paraphrasing Pharrell Williams’s song of the summer. But in addition to words I found another way to lift up his spirits.  I found a way to take his Ninja Warrior dreams to the next level …

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We discovered a Ninja Warrior Gym with the help of navigation and a few freeways.

This Sandbox List Adventure is definitely going in The Jar of Awesome.

He was able to hang out with kids who were equally jazzed about the sport. There was nothing boring about this at all. He was jumping, swinging, climbing, and balancing his way through these mini obstacles and loving every minute of it and his sister was loving this ride just as much. I think she was born a ninja.

The smiles were worth the drive, and knowing that I had made this possible, especially after such a difficult week on the playground, was so rewarding. As a parent, finding these moments for my kids filled that sometimes-I-don’t-know-what-I’m-doing-as-a-parent-but-I’m-trying-my-best-space with a giant high five.

They left feeling energized, enthusiastic, and ready for more. He left feeling awesome. He left feeling like he could beat that wall! And he left with one request … a feel-good song. Happy by Pharrell Williams. It was the theme song for the rest of the day.

 

 

 

40 Days And The Jar of Awesome

8 Mar

When he said it … I thought … dude. Yes! Why hadn’t I thought about that before.

So last Wednesday I revamped my search for appreciation in the little things, in addition to the big ones, during this 40-Day Fish-Stick-Friday Lenten Season. People are always giving stuff up, stuff that’s bad for you, but you can also give something to yourself or others, something that might be lacking or something you know you need.

I’m big on gratitude as it’s a daily practice of mine, because I’ve learned if you don’t appreciate the little things the big ones might lose their fluff after a couple of days.

But I learned this lesson as an adult.

I thought it would be great to get my kids to be mindful of moments and practice gratitude with me. I thought maybe I’d step it up as a parent.

So I got the idea from Mr. Tim Ferriss, and if you haven’t met or heard of Tim Ferriss, I stronggggggggggggggggggggly suggest you check out his podcast. He’s right on the mark, discovering strategies, routines, and stories that can affect change and help improve your life.  From Navy SEALs to Tony Robbins, to storytellers, to scholars, to actors like Jamie Foxx he covers it all and I’ve definitely picked up some good tips. Over 200 episodes and I found the one, well several actually, that gave me a moment … a pause … a shift that added something. This one in particular helped in parenting, helped with kids, could help with anything really, but thought kids would learn from this lesson.

The Jar of Awesome.

Just a regular mason jar with the word AWESOME written across it and any time a moment of awesome, big or small, took place, we’d write it down and put it in the jar so that we could remember. We’d write it down, so that when things happen, we can be grateful for them, mindful, we can remember things that were made to be Kodak moments of the heart, even when you don’t have a camera.

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So we’re off on the mason-jar journey, and I’ve realized the kids enjoy being reminded of their awesomeness. They forget the little moments, but smile the feel-good smile when they’re reminded. And I know we’ve only just started, but I’ll be sure to take a picture of it once we’re at the end of our 40-day journey. Who knows? We might actually keep it for 365 days.

The Jar of Awesome … here we go.

Writer Wednesdays: The Voice

1 Mar

They’ve got 90 seconds to do it.

There they are sitting with their backs turned, waiting to hear the voice that moves them enough to turn around. Blake, Adam, Alicia, Gwen. Ready to give a somebody a chance. That somebody is there, waiting in line to be discovered. Some people put it out there, giving it all they got, vulnerability, pain, strength, happiness. Emotion. They leave it all out there and they get a chair to turn.

They’ve got 90 seconds to do it.

That’s the writer’s life.

We’ve got about 90 seconds to pull it off … maybe even less. 90 seconds for someone to care enough about a character, a journey, a story, a voice to keep reading, to keep turning the page.  Writer’s don’t have reality TV shows giving them a break, because our life tends to be a reality show with its on plot twists and dramatic downfalls, although if Project Greenlight came back I’d have no problem with that. I often wished we’d get a competition show for writers and wrote about that once. But the writing process is not all that exciting. Pajamas, bad ideas, taking over the Starbucks tables. Don’t know if people would tune in.

But regardless if we’re on air or not, writers do have about 90 seconds to connect with someone, connect enough that they read the next paragraph. 90 seconds for someone to hear our voice.

And the weird thing is, even though I hate reality television, The Voice tends to slip under the radar for me. Watching it often inspires me. It reminds me to cut the BS,to empty the tank, to leave it all on the page. I like the fact that I hear one constant theme throughout the seasons. Emotion. These coaches keep emphasizing emotion. If you feel it when you sing it, odds are people feel it too and the connection is made.

I see this in writing all the time.  If you’re honest enough and feeeeeeel what you’re writing, no BS, whether it’s comedy or drama, if you’re genuine about it, you’ll make a connection. You just have to be vulnerable and strong enough to take that chance. And sometimes chances like this pay off. So, when I’m in a rut, or fallen off my writing schedule and discipline was out the window, when I’m trying to get back on track, I remind myself of The Voice, of stories or movies that connected and ask how did they do that?

Emotion. Honesty. 90 seconds.

 

 

Insecure Writers Support Group Badge

 

 

 

Motivation Mondays: The Three-Legged Dog

27 Feb

Putting things in perspective becomes extremely difficult when you’re at rock bottom. You forget to ask the right questions because raw emotions tear into your being. You’ve finished three pints of Ben & Jerry’s and still find that there’s need for more.

I’ve been in these situations more times than I thought possible, as the Universe keeps “building” my character, but it took me until my mid-thirties to be able to find perspective at a faster pace. Before that, the anger, frustration, and hopelessness of the situation would stick with me for a while before I could flip the switch,  learn the lesson, or ask the right question. I have failed on all kinds of levels, multi-faceted levels, in every aspect of my life from writing, parenthood, love, and friendships, to self-discovery. I haven’t met someone who hasn’t failed yet, although I can think of a few who say they haven’t failed at all and just hide it well.

But I don’t point it out to them. No need. Some people just want to keep their lessons to themselves. All good. I don’t necessarily wear a sign and promote things myself, but I don’t really hide from failures, disappointments, betrayals, disasters, or gut-wrenching losses.

And it’s not that I don’t care, or I don’t get embarrassed, I just realized that when something like that happens, I can find my way through the messy truth. The emotions are still there and they’re still painful, whenever I fall on my own, or have been pushed down the most jagged cliff on Earth by someone I know or don’t know, but I stand up a lot faster. Broken bones and all.

I tend not to forget this turnaround lesson, this approach to finding my way back, because I’ve had so much practice, but I was recently reminded about perspective last week.

You see here …

 

This dog was racing through the open field. Jumping around. I swore he was smiling. Totally. Now normally you would think so what, right? Not a big deal.

But Maxie is a three-legged dog. Three-legged. I had only seen that once before and it blew my mind at how carefree and spirited he was sprinting through the grass just enjoying time. Now most dogs don’t really have problems, but this one. Yeah I’d say he has something to complain about, but he wasn’t, at least not when I saw him. He was sprinting like Hussein Bolt.

He was carpe all over that diem. His perspective was different. So I had to introduce myself and the owners were gracious enough to let me snap his picture. Maxie had that good mojo and meeting him was one of the highlights of my week. I got some of that feel-good feeling, that sunshine-in-my-pocket kind of feeling. It was good to get a reminder, even if I didn’t need one.

Buen Camino.

 

 

Weekly Photo Challenge: A Good Match

22 Feb

 

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🙂

 

Oreos match with everything …

 

 

 

Weekly Photo Challenge courtesy of The Daily Post.

 

 

Cake Wars Reminds Me That I Need A Multi-Vitamin

20 Feb

The age of parenthood caught up with me as I fell asleep at nine o’clock on Friday AND Saturday night.

My nights of partying it up after the work week are a 20-something memory. I’m all about the Netflix now. But I couldn’t even stay up to watch Peaky Blinders. Peaky Blinders!!! My new obsession next to The Walking Dead. I couldn’t even manage to open up the computer and type out an idea. I wrote part of it on a piece of paper, but couldn’t remember what I had written the next morning. The times of writing into the wee hours of the moonlight, during the week ceased to exist, unless I had a shot of 5-Hour energy. Or a nap. Something I haven’t seen since pregnancy.

I think I need to start taking a multi-vitamin.

All my energies got swept up this week and then I was hit with the yearly Scouting Luau Extravaganza that required my kid’s troop to be in charge of games. We were also encouraged to participate in the cake baking and decorating contest.

So, we took out the flour and sugar, and since we wanted it to taste better than the rest we also took out Trisha Yearwood cake recipe. It was on. Cake Wars. Nick Jr. Edition.

 

All of them were actually pretty great, but these were some of the ones that caught my eye. Including my kid’s Lego version of an island with a shark swimming in shredded coconut waves. His sense of humor cracks me up.

But I can’t lie to you the whole baking process was a little stressful as we decided to do the baking and decorating on the same day, instead of being smart and splitting it up into two days. Baking usually calms me down, but there was nothing relaxing about this process, especially when we were on deadline and cups of flour were spilled, you barely had enough milk, eggs were poured in at the wrong time … you know when the mixer was on high and half of the yolky batter ends up on the wall and the clock is still ticking.

But I took a breath.

I didn’t want to be one of those moms, you know … the one that takes over their kid’s project and forgets what matters most is the process. So, I took our uneven cakes out of the oven and just made peace with the fact that we were going to be late and get the stink eye from some of the moms.  But it was all good. The shredded coconut covered the frosting disaster and the Moana and surfer dude Legos were rocking that beach cake. We had a good time at the event. We brought a cake. We didn’t win any cake decorating prizes, but we were happy with it, my kids were proud of it and I was glad to have put the brakes on my irritability.

But all that activity and buttercream frosting contributed to my lack of writing and parent exhaustion. Daily vitamins are definitely in my future.

 

 

Gratitude With Diane Lane on Valentine’s Day

15 Feb

You know, I was never one for elaborate celebrations or grand gestures of love on Valentine’s Day. Don’t get me wrong, I still liked being the highlight of someone’s thoughts and getting some chocolate, or a nice card with hearts on it. I still liked knowing that I was on someone’s mind.

And I never made a huge deal of it so as not to put added pressure on whoever I was with at the time. But a card, a nice meal, some chocolate, some laughs, and a genuine hug that expressed heartfelt connection and intimacy was all I needed.

I look back now and remember times when I was younger and felt lonely, when grandiose productions of others professing their love made the loneliness bigger. I remember the Aquatnet days wanting that candy gram and plastic flower to be presented in class, you know, from that special someone. Now they have it on Facebook or Instagram for the whole world to witness this romanticism. Some people share just to be genuine and open up their book of life, letting us read a small page of it, others do it for showboating-look-at-me reasons, cheapening the heart and romance.

When you’re younger these things seem important.

But I realized how gratitude on Valentine’s Day is just as important as love.

I may not have gotten the red-carpet treatment, but I was able to share moments of life with people I loved. Babysitting for a friend over the weekend so that they could have some kid-less alone time and feel like normal people again made me smile. Getting a card with the best kindergarten spelling and Crayola Crayons masterpiece from my daughter filled my heart. Playing Valentine’s Bingo, cupid’s arrow, making kids at school smile and being helpful in my kids’ classroom hit the spot. Eating a steak dinner, I didn’t have to cook for myself brought a smile to my face. Finishing the night with a small band, playing some good tunes, while sipping a margarita felt nice. Ending the night with Haagen-Daasz chocolate ice cream and watching Netflix a definite plus.

A day and night filled with non-Facebook worthy moments, but special nevertheless.

During all this, I was reminded of Diane Lane in that movie Under The Tuscan Sun. I love Diane Lane. In the movie she talks about how she wanted a house, a home, dinner parties with family, being with people she loved, kids running around, laughter … that would have made her happy. Fast forward to the end of the movie when someone asks her if she remembered what she wanted when she first moved to Italy. Does she remember? She smiles as it hits her. She had a house, a home, dinner parties with people who had become her family, people she loved and that loved her, kids running around, not her kids but kids that brought her joy anyway, and laughter. She realized she had it. Happiness. They both smiled.

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🙂

Valentine’s became a day of gratitude, grateful for all the small acts of kindness and love that gave the sun more shine. It could have been a regular Tuesday for anybody, but it was my Valentine’s Day adventure, and I felt love from those that mattered most.