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Nature’s Hideouts

13 Oct
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During a hike I had to take a minute and appreciate nature’s hideouts.

The rejuvenating powers of nature work its magic when you’re hiking, biking, or running the trails. Probably why I’m a big fan of Bear Grylls and his adventures. They inspire the exploration of the Great Outdoors.

Granted you don’t have to jump out of helicopters or rappel down cliffs as Grylls does to appreciate the beauty and magnitudal effect nature can have on you.

Living in the city, I’m still able to find nature’s hideouts and be wowed by its effect.

Sometimes the experience is so great that I end up in the moment and forget to snap the shot. Other times I catch up and I’m lucky enough to remember.

Photographer Louie Schwartzberg’s short Tedx Talk Gratitude speaks about his project Gratitude Revealed. He captures these breathtaking shots of nature as well as the connection and gratitude he feels being surrounded by it. These time lapse captures took time and patience. When he put them together in the film with the older gentleman’s narrative  the reaction, including my own, was a collective appreciation of the day and its possibilities.

It connected you with parts of the world that made you mindful that you’re part of something much bigger. Reminding you of the blessings that come with the day was the backdrop of the landscape.

Living in a big city, it’s important to find nature’s hideouts and escape in the early morning before I tackle the day. Watching Schwartzberg’s talk reminds me of the importance of mindfulness and the place that helps me get to that frame of mind faster is within nature and any of its hideouts within the city.

 

Buen Camino, my friends.

 

 

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Writer Wednesday’s: Storytellers at Their Best

10 Oct

The good ones are found in the nooks and crannies if you look hard enough, and I found one today. A good one.

You see most people think they can tell a story, and some can. But only a few are really good storytellers, the kind you get curious about, the kind you want to get to know. Chris Stapleton for instance. He hit the country scene a few years ago and people were wowed with his songs and ability to tell it with heart and soul. Paulo Cohelo and Laura Esquivel weaved journeys into epic stories that captured my attention and inspired. Kurt Sutter with his Sons of Anarchy and Vince Gillian with Breaking Bad imagined worlds with deep, complex, strong and flawed characters in powerful stories that humbled me as a writer.

You get stories in songs, books, TV shows, and movies every one of them requires a special something. I like it when I discover or remember one. I see them and it inspires me to get off my ass and be better.

And that’s what happened today.

As I mentioned in previous posts, I recently was gifted a Hulu subscription, and found a new treasure chest of stories. Some good, others not really my style. And in this search to find the good I rediscovered my interest in documentaries. I watched a couple great ones, but the one that stood out today was Page One: Inside the The New York Times. I imagine it may be similar to the one I have yet to see, The Fourth Estate, but focuses on different parts of the journalistic world.

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Page One: Inside the New York Times

In this story I found the great storyteller I had forgotten about I had lost. David Carr is a gritty, humble, and staunch defender of journalistic integrity and the freedom of the press. But beyond that he was a great storyteller, based in truth, and I was reminded of that after watching the film, and inspired to continue my journey no matter how difficult it may be at times.

It’s a difficult period for the press, especially when it’s being attacked by people who don’t like being called out on their lies and who fail to take responsibility for their actions in addition to those complicit in their behavior or cover-up. The press, when it’s at its best, acts as a mirror and uncovers the truth behind the dark corners of what people are hiding. Some people confuse news stories with columnists and that at times is the problem. There is a difference. One is news, one is opinion. People forget. The press itself  is a good check and balance for those in power. And I’m glad that this documentary reveals the hard work that goes into being a reporter.

I especially admired Carr, who at one point in his life hit the ultimate low personally and professionally, but was able to turn the corner and find something he was passionate about: storytelling. He not only asked questions, but he asked the right questions. And that’s when you know you have a good one, because not only are they passionately curious and smart, but they’re in this invested in this quest for truth.

When you witness someone bring that sense of integrity and honesty to storytelling, it gut-checks you and makes you wonder, where’s your story?

And so I find myself getting back to it.

 

Buen Camino, my friends!

 

 

Finding My Storyteller Again.

4 Apr

I’d been inspired to be a better person. I’d been inspired to be a better parent. I’d been inspired to make a difference. Books, movies, documentaries, and shows have all had the power to affect this kind of change. But it’s been a long time since I’ve been inspired to be a better storyteller.

See the last time I felt this way, was when I finished Randy Pausch’s The Last Lecture. That amazing book inspired me to be a better person and  better dreamer. It uncovered the importance of being a good storyteller and passing on those life lessons and anecdotes to the people who mattered most. And of course, it came at the right time … You know, just when I needed it. The universe helping me out, trying to get me on the right track.

That was a long time ago … And then Mitch Albom resurfaced.

You see, I hadn’t felt like a better storyteller in a long time, but this book … this book turned up the gears and found its way onto my path. And it found me just in time.

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The first time I read Mitch Albom, his book Tuesdays with Morrie, changed my trajectory. It helped me look for the lessons and wisdom that were passing me by, helped me listen to the stories and advice that my Dad, my mentor, and other good friends were trying to pass onto me. It helped me appreciate.

The next book I discovered, helped me to chase my own stories, make-believe and true. I was caught up in Frankie Presto’s story and his amazing life. I hadn’t heard of The Magic Strings of Frankie Presto, but I was so glad I went looking for “something,” to read. I found it. Now that I’ve read it, I feel sad that I might not have come across it. It’s one of those amazing things you’re so glad happened that you get a little sad, because it could have almost never happened.

But it did. And I’m glad.

As a storyteller, I can appreciate how it is so beautifully crafted, woven with hints and clues and then everything connecting with the big reveal. I loved the mixing of jazz legends, musicians, and artists that came into Frankie’s life and how Frankie changed their lives. I enjoyed the different points of view and voices. I thought it interesting that Music, itself, was a character, the narrator.

Frankie’s journey across the globe, his musical and love adventure, drew me in right away. I loved this character, his passion, his humble kindness, his quest, his life lessons, his love for his guitar, the magic behind the six strings, and his love for Aurora. I rooted for him. I wished for things to happen for him. I wished for him to find his story, to know about his father, his teacher, his past, and his future. I rooted for his redemption and for his love of Aurora.

Throughout his journey I was inspired to find any lost stories of my own, stories of my father, of his childhood, stories that I never knew that could tell me something more. I was inspired to write something new. I also felt like writing my own stories, so that my kids would know my own adventure, so they could fill in the gaps when I was gone. I wanted to leave them something.

Frankie Presto reminded me how important stories are, and the importance of passing them onto the people that matter. Frankie Presto helped me find my storyteller again. When a book can do that, it’s pretty awesome. I hope he does something magical for you too.

Buen Camino my friends.

 

 

 

Friday Feel Goods

5 Jan

Now I would have been the first to doubt this mini-accomplishment. You know … because of my below basic book club member skills. I had two books on my GoodReads page all year and I didn’t finish them.

Sad. I know.

For being a writer I’m pretty lame at reading. But in my defense I am a kick-ass member of the Parenthood Book Club. I make an awesome chocolate cake and rock during discussions. The kids and I finished so many interesting books filled with funny characters and great stories. But our highlights were reading the series Chicken Squad by Doreen Cronin, Junie B. Jones by Barbara Park,  Timmy Failure by Stephan Pastis, All The Wrong Questions: Shouldn’t You Be in School?, by Lemony Snickets,  Grandpa’s Great Escape by David Walliams, and Wonder by RJ Palacio.

 

You see?

Kick ass member.

But when it came to being an adult and opening up my GoodReads shelf, I was super lame. So when I finished a book in three days, I totally got the feel good vibes! I felt all warm and fuzzy. It was one  in the morning and I was still turning pages, that’s how hooked I was on the book.

 

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I had heard of this book for some reason. I think a friend had mentioned it a while back when it first came out. Then I heard it had turned into a series with Nicole Kidman. I hadn’t watched it, but I thought if I need to open up the New Year with a good story this one might be it. I wasn’t into the hype or popularity of it. I just got drawn to it somehow. Strong female characters, someone said. And I was like … yeah. I need some strong, female characters.

Little Big Lies.

Duuuuuuuuuuuuuude.

I don’t want to give away any spoilers in case it’s still on your to-do list, but if this book can be finished in three days by someone like myself you need to read it! Now granted it took me some time to figure out the beginning and latch on, but after a couple of chapters I was in. By the middle of it,  I couldn’t put it down. I was up passed my bedtime reading via flashlight, cozy under the covers, cracking up at times, exhaling in frustration during others, and gasping in surprise towards the end. It’s a story about three women and the “big little lies,” they have to tell themselves and each other in order to get through the days with ex-husbands, teenage daughters, encounters with the Gossipy-Mommy-And-Me-PTA-Mafia, unfounded accusations, and the school drama and scandal that brings everything crashing down at the end. The lies ALL COME OUT. Big and little.

It. Was. Awesome.

I got the feel goods after the big reveal and those warm and fuzzies continued even when I got to the last page. Finishing a book! Being engaged in this story in the lives of these women. It was a good way to end the week. You know, it was on my self-project list for the year. Read 12 books in 12 months. Could it be done by someone like myself?

Hmph. I wasn’t sure.

But as of today … things are looking good.

Finishing a great story just sort of feels like drinking the last drop of hot chocolate in your warm and toasty mug.

That’s how it made me feel. Not because it was a warm and fuzzy novel, far from it. There’s a murder in it. But it cracked me up and made me smile at times, because I could totally recognize some of these people. But it also frustrated me at times because I thought c’mon … you ladies are stronger than that. I was invested in the story until the end, until the last word.

I thought maaaaaaaaaaaaan! Friday Feel Goods feel great.

If you have any page-turners you’d like to suggest for my year long reading quest, feel free.

Buen Camino my friends!

 

 

 

 

 

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Writer Wednesdays … Fan Battles, BS-Ometers, and Nooks & Crannies

1 Feb

When you decided to pursue your passion a twist came at the end of it … Along the journey and after all the obstacles, you ended up seeing what was behind the giant curtain.

Through the discovery, some of the mystery disappeared.

How is the doctor different when she’s a patient? How is the lawyer different when she’s a client? How is the teacher different when he’s the student? How is the pitcher different when he is the batter? How is the writer different when she is the reader?

Yup. Perspectives change when you’re on the other side.

As a writer this question has been posed to me before.

Like the doctor, lawyer, pitcher, and teacher, the writer becomes more aware of the approach and of the details. We  give our fellow writer the benefit of the doubt, but don’t walk blindly into the story.

We just pay attention more. We can smell the BS when it surfaces and tries to camouflage itself as substance. I feel like my BS-ometer has gotten better throughout the years. You notice things that others might not, even with the most avid readers, you still have an edge because you’ve been behind the scenes.

But aside from having a finely tuned BS-ometer,  I get into the nitty-gritty of it with characters. I’m in the nooks and crannies. Characters are big for me, whether it’s from a book or on a television show. Characters are what make it happen for me. Story and plot are intriguing, they peak my interest, but characters are what make me stay all the way to the end. I pay attention to how the character mattered to this writer and how they developed. I’m constantly on the look-out for that A-HA! moment and see how the character responds. Is it the way I thought she would?

When the character becomes so amazingly great that it changes me from a writer into a fan, that’s a job well done by the creator. It’s hard for me to watch series finales sometimes because the fan in me battles the writer in me. Sons of Anarchy, Breaking Bad, LOST, 24, The Closer … all of these had me on the edge of my seat for the series finales and as a writer, I battled with the fan inside of me.

The fan roots for the underdog and the happy ending, but sometimes as a writer you just know … you know that can’t happen because it’ll betray the story and the character’s intention.

Being a writer, enhanced the reading and watching experiences for me. I see the strings being pulled and think wow how amazingly awesome that they pulled this off, or when I’m disappointed I think, man there could have been a better way. The fan and writer constantly battle each other when the stories are good.

Some people may think it works against them to know what’s coming, to know how the pieces are being moved. I just think it makes you pay attention more, makes you look at the decisions being made and if you end up becoming a fan … well then, once a fan, always a fan maybe even a die-hard fan.

 

 

Happy Wednesday

 

 

Getting Through The Twilight Zone

6 Jan

A night of smiles, laughter, celebration, and pride. A night of feel-good feelings to be remembered all year long never happened.

I turned to Plan B ready to find the silver lining, to have a good night despite the bad taste in my mouth. A quiet night of resurgence that included a comeback story waiting to happen was foiled by a bad conversation that exhausted my being. The DMV-clerk-type-of encounter … that kind of exhausting.

Bad conversation people you just need to stop.

I mean do you hear yourselves when you talk? I feel like I’m trapped in the Twilight Zone, the Pig Nose episode where nothing makes sense. This circular logic of bad conversations does nothing for my sanity, it makes me sigh louder and rub my face harder.

So I zoned out. The rest of the words, I chose not to hear them, I just let them think what they wanted to think. I let them have the last word because that’s what mattered to people like this … having the last word. It’s a power thing I guess.

I had given up the possibility of a rational conversation when I came to the conclusion that I could not say anything to make this person see the light and change their mind. Normal people might say … hey why don’t you say how they make you feel, even though you tried and tried and tried different approaches, why don’t you try again until they hear you?

To which my reply would be … there are no hearing aids sophisticated enough to improve these listening skills.

Some people are just permanent residents of the Twilight Zone.

So after a couple pieces of chocolate failed to remove the funk hanging over me I closed my eyes for  a bit and imagined that the A-Team was really real. I tried to think of a way to contact them, but remembered newspaper circulation is down.

And so I closed my eyes and thought of Plan C to help turn things around and during this meditative state, I remembered a moment in the day. I saw the sun hitting the outdoor skating rink and my orange skates cutting through the ice. I swayed from side to side and found the magic. I remembered Bruno Mars and Andy Grammer blasting through the outdoor speakers.

I closed my eyes and remembered that.

I was grateful for it. I thought I felt that magic today despite knowing what the night was supposed to be. Then after a bad conversation … I was still able to close my eyes and see the smile on my face while a zig-zagged on the ice. I had one moment today … today when I thought I would not have any … I had at least one and it carried me through the Twilight Zone.

Buen Camino my friends.

 

 

 

My Inner Liam Neeson

4 Jan

Dear Fool Who Stole My Credit Card And Decided to Get An Erotic Massage at The Geisha Spa House in Paris,

You suck.

I mean when I decided to go to the science museum and expand the minds of my kids with the interactive exhibits exploring planetary research stations, Eco Challenges, and the science behind sports I had no idea you were lurking in the shadows of their computer system ready to steal my credit card number.

I’m all for random acts of kindness and picking up the tab every once in a while but I think you’ve misunderstood what generosity means. I totally could have bought you an eclair … a chocolate one at that. But you decided to push the boundaries a little.

I mean someone handling the knots in your deep tissue with elbows and hot stones sounds awesome. I love hot stones but I kind of wanted throw one at your face followed by an elbow. A Muay Thai elbow. That would have been really relaxing for me, actually.

I mean to spend $550 on a massage sounds a little excessive, I mean for fifty bucks you could have gone downtown and had Bertha work the kinks out. But no … you decided to go all out this year. I mean you could have even given a nice tip. But I guess your generosity stopped you there. Didn’t want to steal anymore for a tip, huh? Or perhaps the tip was included. I don’t know. I just know you were really living it up before the New Year got started. I mean it’s 2017 why not go all out, right?

Yeah … you still suck.

And the thing is before I decided to take up meditation and lead a life of Zen and finding happy moments I probably would have gotten all Liam Neeson on you and been like …

I don’t know who you are. I don’t know what you want … other than dirty massages … but what I do know is that I have is a particular set of skills … I will look for you. I will find you and I will kill you.

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Yeah … my inner Liam Neeson would have gotten crazy on you. But the funny thing was I didn’t get crazy. I didn’t freak out about losing all that money. I didn’t curl up in the corner and cry. The credit card people flagged you before you could do any more escargot damage and I imagine the shady places you visit don’t take to kindly to red flags when paying bills. I mean there might be a bruise on your face the size of a hot stone already. A couple stones actually. Who knows?

But having heard this news to start off the New Year could have really sucked for me but it didn’t.  I just shook my head at the thought of you and wished you a painful death as you fell off the Eiffel Tower. I shook my head in disbelief. I shook my head at the inconvenience of your existence.

I shook my head thinking … you suck.

And then I went for a run.

When I came back I thought, this wasn’t a bad experience, this was just good writing material, a story waiting to happen.

Thanks for story. But don’t get too crazy … my inner Liam Neeson isn’t that understanding.

Sincerely,

The Guat.

 

 

Writer Wednesday’s

5 Oct

So how do you know when it’s over?

Like any relationship … you know, because there’s that tiny quivering feeling in the pit of your stomach letting you in on the secret, letting you know that the end is near.

After weeks of sleepless nights and Costco-sweat-wearing days, there’s a big exhale when I type THE END. It takes me a longgggggggg time to get there and sometimes I wonder if I’ll ever see the finish line.

Doubt. Anxiety. Insecurity. They all creep up on me during the entire process. Never sure if it’s going to be good enough. Never sure if people are going to relate. Never sure if people are going to laugh. Never sure if people are going to keep reading. Never sure whether to send it out. Never sure if it’s going to pay off. Never sure if the daydreaming I’m doing today is gonna pan out in the story tomorrow. Never sure of a lot of things, but once I get past all these inner voices (as well as the outer voices who think I should just get a “real” job) and I get to the end, I know.

I do, because I feeeeeeeeeeeeeel it. Definitely.

There’s closure.

Stuff that’s necessarily missing from my current existence, I find in my made up world. My character, dead or alive, has come full circle. A messy and dramatic one, with multiple post visits to a shrink included, but never the less an adventure that has come to an end. It isn’t to say that another adventure isn’t waiting for them tomorrow, it’s just that the adventure they started with me, the day I was day-dreaming it up has finished.

So I put on a new pair of Costco sweatpants, and dig into my messy life archives and see if there’s another story that’s ready for the page.

Not everybody feels it, not everybody goes through the Costco sweatpants phase, everyone has a different journey. Difficult and emotionally exhausting, but we all get there in the end and high fives are a requirement.