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.

 

 

The Countdown Has Begun!

27 Mar

10 Days!

The countdown is on and my Randy Macho Man Savage quads are preparing for this battle. Don’t know if my calves are ready though. But the rest of my body seems to think that I’ve got this.

In 10 days, my vitamin-D-deficient-but-glucosamine-fueled body will be sprinting, running, jogging, walking and then crawling up 63 stories,  along with hundreds of other sweaty and out of breath climbers in claustrophobic conditions to help raise money for the American Lung Association.

But why?!

Why does this insanity take place?

I’m not a morning person.

But I see his smiling face under a Dodgers hat, I hear his hearty laugh, and I smell that Jovan Musk aftershave in the hallways … and I wake up with purpose. I wake up ready to run stairs. And what kind of elevator-loving-stair-hating person does that?! What kind of person with BenGay-Advil-Ice-Pack-loving knees laces up her Saucony running shoes to storm high school bleachers or winding staircases hidden in the hills, instead of hitting the snooze button?

 

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Me … I do it … because he’s worth it.

63 stories.

Yup.

He’s worth the trip to the anti-aging aisle at CVS.

Every year I still bake the cake, even though he’s not gonna blow out the birthday candles. Every year I tell the story of why they call him Chito 7 Pantalones. Every year I replay the messages left on my answering machine just to hear his voice again. Every year I decide to make the excruciatingly difficult journey up 63 stories, painfully possible. Every year I go in believing I’m Lindsey Wagner, putting my bionic knee to the test, climbing over 1,000 steps just for him. Every year I finish knowing full well I have nothing bionic in me.

But every year I do it because I am my father’s daughter and his spirit is still with me.

It’s with me on skydiving adventurous or beach bum days, it’s there on the passenger seat when I’m hearing that feel-good song, it’s  with me when I’m chasing dreams, and when I’m trying to be a better parent. He’s there in one of his many baseball caps that I wear with a smile, he’s my TV buddy when I’m watching The Walking Dead, Peaky Blinders, or Narcos. He’s there high-fiving me when SC wins, and he’s also a member of my Ben & Jerry’s Chocolate Therapy Support Group.

He’s there when I’m climbing stairs.

I got 10 days.

The countdown is on.

 

 

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.

Microphone-Whealans1

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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Heres_Hank-02

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.