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Writer Wednesdays on a Monday: Turning Things Around

8 May

It’s like hearing that song on the radio and you just stop because you feeeeeeeeeel the lyric.  You feel George Harrison. You feel Mavis Staples. You feel Springsteen. You feel Hall and Oates. You feel Phil Collins. You feel Chris Stapleton. You feel Juan Gabriel. You feel Ana Gabriel. You feel Katrina and The Waves.

It is in you. You feel like it was written just for you, and you sit there in your car at the stop light listening.

Them words.

You think to yourself, maaaaaaaan. They got this one right. The lyric, combined with the music. They got this one.

Then you go back to your keyboard, inspired, hoping that you can put something like that on the page. You want to make someone laugh, smile, feel your heart through your characters. And sometimes it happens … other times … you fail miserably because you just can’t get it. It’s not there. You thought you had it with all that inspiration jazzing you up, but then you lost it because of a phone call, bad memory, or wasted time. Lack of discipline attacks you on Wednesday after you had the umph to get you through Monday and Tuesday.

Burn.

I hate it when that happens.

So how is it that I try to turn things around? Especially on a Monday?

I try to remember that waking up wasn’t an accident. It was on purpose, for something bigger than just fixing lunches, dropping off kids, and racing through traffic. There has to be more that I leave my kids than memories.

Pieces of me in my writing out there for them to read and get. Whether on my laptop, in my notebooks, posts, or published writings. Something of me is out there for them to see, to get, that I’m on the star map chasing the Milky Way and hoping I land.

So when I feel like dropping it because I’ve dropped the ball as a writer and haven’t found the nooks and crannies of time to write every day, I remember not everybody is on the same ride. I’ve got all kinds of detours and stops on mine. It may take a little longer, but I’ll get there. As long as I don’t give up.

So I don’t.

I get the Andre Agassi in me … ready to make a comeback.

It’s bigger than me. That’s what I think … I can’t walk around six months from now and still be in the same spot, because it’s bigger than me. I’ve got my Zen back and it took me a loooooooooooonnnnnng time to rework my magic with this crazy environment and lack of support, with the failing of my awesome play earlier this year. I thought things would spark after that. It took a while to find my center … a lot of podcasts.

But I found it.

I woke up and remembered … waking up was not an accident. Turn the corner.

Buen Camino my friends.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here Comes The Sun …

1 May

I sat there on the tippy top of the grassy slope and noticed it as I exhaled. It wasn’t a surge, or gust, but sort of a soft welcoming wave with the sun peeking through.

After trying to catch my breath from the two-mile run I noticed it. Didn’t look like anything special, but that open patch of grass seemed to have my name on it. After getting the feel-good-feeling from my morning routine, I stretched out on the hill and then leaned back to prepare for a momentary meditative state. I took a minute. Just one … and that was all I needed for hope to come rest on me.

 

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🙂

Emptying out my tank and finding this  moment at the end of that seemed to fill it back up again.  The emotions and frustrations I was getting out of my system were long gone, left on the track to be stepped on by someone else’s Nike’s.

And I haven’t necessarily been in a dire situation, nothing extreme mind you, but I have been thinking about hope and situations that require that we lean on it. I lay there on the on the grassy hill soaking up the sun and finishing up my Deepak Chopra Zen moment. I like to clear my head, and start the day with my Power Hour so that everything can be reset if it needs to be.

Reset that crappy morning caused by a bad drive to school, just trying to make it on time without getting a ticket from that motorcycle cop,  reset that crappy morning after a bad conversation that makes me feel like I have no peace, reset that crappy morning after an encounter with the fake PTA Mafia that just stirs up anger, reset that crappy morning after a heartfelt talk with my kids to learn the other kids can still be jackasses, or just resetting that crappy morning because the emotional hangover from the night before followed me through the alarm clock.

Any of these requires hope.

And I had it.

I felt what my friend Gisela calls the  ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh moment rest on my shoulders and fill up my soul. And it was only moment, but it lasted the entire day.

Hope. I had it with me.

I looked upon crappy situations as opportunities. Most of the time these bad conversations suck the air right out of my balloon and it takes a while for me to recharge my batteries, but with this sunshine encounter I found a way to look at things differently, and I put the pettiness of others in the rear view mirror and kept it back there.

You know, I’d run this course plenty of times, but hadn’t taken the time to stop on the hill, not until I’d seen that three-legged dog a couple of weeks ago. I was so grateful I had, because now after every run I lay there for my moment of Zen, waiting,  because I know … here comes the sun.

 

 

 

 

Uncovering Great Stories …

24 Apr

Celebrating words and their magical effect on our lives under the California sun created a moment for the Jar of Awesome.

Every year, we find our way through the mazes of people and books to create our own weekend adventure. Sometimes the moments are simple, other times they’re exciting fireworks style encounters, either way we always look forward to this book lover’s tradition.

We look forward to what this festival will uncover. Sometimes it’s all about meeting a special author, other times it’s about discovering a new story, or running into my kid’s favorite super hero, sometimes it’s about exploring the science stations, or cooking demonstrations, and sometimes it’s about witnessing a great performance on stage. This weekend we were lucky enough to experience it all, although the Caped Crusader was missing … probably solving a crime though.

It was our yearly outing to the Festival of Books and the fact that we didn’t have a meltdown definitely ranked as a Top-10 Outing.

But the one special surprise that snuck its way into our hearts was discovering The Legend of Rock, Paper, Scissors. Now if you know anything about kids, you know that rock, paper, scissors is a major tie-breaker decision maker around here. So when we uncovered the origins of this very funny story, mom scored some points. If you have kids I strongly encourage you to read this one. The fact that we met the author and got it signed? Mom got a high-five for that one. The fact that we got four of our books signed? Yup. It was chocolate time.

So as I sat there on the grass, under a tree, listening to the band on the nearby stage, unloading our reading treasures and eating the goods from our homemade picnic, I thought … definitely a moment to be captured on film. Definitely a moment to be grateful for … definitely a moment for the Jar of Awesome.

 

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The Adventure begins …

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Checking out some authors …

 

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Hitting the stage to rock some children’s music …

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I loved checking out this wall … can you find ours?

 

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My kids thought this would be a great book for me …

 

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I decided to pick that up plus a couple of freebies 🙂

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We stopped by to spread some kindness during our book loving tour …

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Before departing we left our mark on the wall of books …

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Our awesome loot at the end of the day …

Yup … it was a 10 out of 10. High five mom.

 

 

All Kinds of Messengers …

19 Apr

Things eventually work out … somehow.

I never used to think that … like ever. I’d be like if they don’t work out the way I want them to or planned them to, then that’s not really working out for me.

That’s what I used to think.

But as kids came into the picture and gray hair followed, I realized that’s the perfect philosophy, and I was recently reminded of this through one of my meditation sessions … and a text message.

During my recent meditation session, with Deepak, we focused on hope during uncertain times. And as he was talking about people’s reactions to different scenarios it clicked. That used to be me. Somehow during this journey, this moving on up to the East Side to a deluxe apartment in the sky to finally get a piece of THE pie journey, a switch happened. It happens to everyone. You’re not in the same place you were last year. You’re either better or worse, but you’re not in the same spot.

Over 20 years ago, the semester before I graduated college I was so worried about what my life would look like, I mean I had a plan, but the steps on the yellow-brick road weren’t quite lining up. Everyone I knew had a gig waiting for them after turning in their cap and gown but me. That uncertainty freaked me out. I worked hard my entire 18-year old life at the time and felt like … where’s my reward? When is success gonna come rain down on me?

The uncertainty made me feel uneasy and stressed out. I wondered with all my suit-and-tie friends getting their foot in the door, whether I’d even make it out of the parking lot. But eventually I met Matt, the guy who gave me my first break, and it happened. It just took a different route and eventually it worked out … somehow.

And with last week’s meditation sessions, I was reminded of the lesson. I thought about all that wasted time, freaking out and stressed out and worried everyone would be a success except me. I didn’t approach uncertainty through a positive lens, as I thought uncertainty to be a negative thing. Now I realize I should have looked upon it as an opportunity, a chance for something great to happen, or for a learning experience that would have led to personal growth. Either way it would have been a win, short term or long term, but a win nonetheless.

I trip out how the universe sends me these reminders through various messengers, just to put an exclamation point on that message.

During uncertain times, unemployment, broken relationships, new jobs, new city, first-time-stay-at-home parent, when you’re in the thick of it … just pause. I don’t remember pausing to turn my thoughts around 20 years ago, so I learned things the hard way. But now I have all kinds of pauses, and I remember that eventually things will work out, that Hope is in my corner, sometimes hiding, but it’s there. I just have to remember it’s there. That’s what I’ve come to learn through the years, and with Deepak’s help.

But I was also reminded of this with the help of a text  …

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The universe is funny sometimes. It has all kinds of messengers.

 

 

Emptying Out The Tank …

10 Apr

Now I know you’re aware that I’m not the greatest morning person, I lived with that my whole life, but climbing 63 stories in the evening wasn’t something I had in mind, especially after a 7 a.m. hockey game, 10 am Jesus class, a two-hour-visit to the school carnival, and two-hour baseball game.

Nope. Not what I envisioned.

However, the Powers That Be at the American Lung Association thought it would be an awesome idea to scale Los Angeles’s second tallest building just in time to see the sunset. You know … during epic traffic encounters on the 101, 5, and 110 freeways.

They thought that after the exhaustion of scaling 1,039 steps in claustrophobic environment with close to 500 people the skyline would be one to remember.

They thought that because it was my fifth trip to the top of the AON Center that it would be a laid-back workout, that I knew what I was doing.

Whoever said, “it’s just like riding a bicycle,” never stair climbed in his life. Like. Ever. Let me tell you, scaling this monster for the fifth year in a row was not easier the fifth time. It’s never easy. I still felt just as suffocated in the enclosed stairwells as I did the first time around. I still felt my calves burning and my knees aching by the 27th floor. I still tried to not look up at the signs because 63 stories seemed so far away when I was still on the 31st floor. I still thought those volunteers with pom-poms were lying to me when they said, “you’re almost there, you’re almost there” because they were, well everyone was lying except for that chick on the 61st floor. I still felt like I was going in slow motion as it became harder and harder to breathe. I still felt all the heaviness, and weariness of every nook and cranny of my Ben-Gay-Icy-Hot loving 41-year old muscles. I felt it all with every step and every breath.

But one thing kept me going.

One.

I kept seeing my hands hold his hands at the hospital. I kept thinking I was the last one to talk to him before surgery and the last one to see him before he passed away. I kept seeing moments from my childhood sporting awesome polyester bell bottoms and moments from adulthood where talks and laughter surrounded us. I saw them all, and just when the exhaustion of the 45th floor hit me, when I thought I was losing the pictures in my mind I saw the poster. There it was taped on the stairwell, a picture of my Dad, my sister and me, “Why We Climb”.

Yup.

That was all I needed to pull whatever reserve I had remaining in the tank, and I pushed passed the I’m-gonna-pass-out-right-now-feeling. I ran by the people sitting on stairwells, clinging onto bannisters for dear life, and standing at the last water station.  I saw number 61 and pulled the Ninja-Warrior-Gatorade-Commercial-Worthy athlete out and stormed up those last steps.

I hit the roof running and the burst oxygen filled up my lungs as I stepped outside. I raised my hands up like Rocky and put my finger up to the sky. I got there in 16 minutes and 16 seconds and 16 seconds.

They thought the sunset would be a memorable one …

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🙂

They were right. I still remember it.

 

 

Goodbyes …

3 Apr

It was like the ending of the Breakfast Club, but without the cool music.

Although we deserved it. We deserved all that good 80’s music.

A buddy of mine recently decided to graduate and move onto bigger and better things. Packing up her bags and setting her sites on new adventures, a Guardian of the Galaxy type of quest. The very next week, I find out that an amazing blogging buddy of mine Cayman Thorn over at Drinks Well With Others has decided to close down the bar for a while and live his life to the fullest, blog-free, although he promises to check in from time to time.

This double whammy made me think of all the other buddies I’ve lost to the follow the-yellow-brick road journey. Sometimes it’s slow, losing touch is like that. Some relationships were meant to be novelas in length, others short stories. Both deeply meaningful, both leaving their mark.

But both saying good-byes in different ways. I’ve had buddies say so long with a big dinner, speech, scrapbook maybe even Facebook promises. And then others, like my buddies in the blogging world, some disappearing slowly with less and less posts until there are no more and others leaving you with one last farewell story, the kind that involves a pause … a moment.

Both departures made me think about the positives I got from each encounter. The laughs over corny jokes during traffic on our way to meet friends for Saturday morning brunch, or the boosts in confidence after reading his comments on one of my many stories. Both buddies made me laugh, both made me feel good about being myself, and both of them were just awesome people I was glad to have met. After the bummer-you’re-leaving shock slowly wore off, I was hoping they had some good memories of our conversations and outings as well. I was hoping I gave as much as I received. I was hoping I made them laugh when they needed one, gave them a high-five when they felt like they fell short, and brought them sunshine when it storming down on them.

I was hoping they learned something from my friendship as I had learned from theirs. That’s something they don’t really teach you when you’re growing up. That after a break-up with a boyfriend or girlfriend, or after a friend moves to a new city or new endeavor, it’s still a loss. But one that ended on a positive note. Nothing hateful or worrisome or ugly about losing a friend to something better, something they were looking for, something on their yellow-brick road. You feel a twinge of hurt because they’re leaving but also a warmth in your heart, because they’re on their way. You feel like Red at the end of Shawshank Redemption. At least this was how I felt.

So in honor of their new beginnings I write this post for them and for all the other buddies that have moved on and set their sights on a new city, a new adventure on their way to something different, something bigger, something that gives them purpose. For Lame Adventures, Blissful Adventurer, 50 Year Project, BrickHouse Chica, The Strugglers Handbook, Mikalee Byerman, This Man’s Journey, Chica Writes, Apple Pie & Napalm, Alicia, Monica, Sandy, Lisa, Clara, The Other Lisa, Vicco, Jonathan, Doc, Talia, Rizza, Jarre, Anthony, and Patty

Buen Camino, my friends wishing you luck! I’ll be here if you change your minds and want to hang out.

 

 

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

 

 

 

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.

 

 

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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.