Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Comfort Zone or Pandemonium?

Buckling down and getting serious about my writing career means an entire life upheaval in the beginning. But isn’t that true with just about any new endeavor someone sets out on? No matter what new thing enters our life, chaos is sure to ensue while trying to fit it in.

I mean, new romantic relationships start taking time away from time formerly spent with others, and fresh hobbies steal moments from what used to be free time. So if my world is going to heave its kind of nice to know it will be for the betterment of my career at least. That is, as soon as I drag myself out of the house.

I’m considering joining up with a local writer’s group. Why not right? There is nothing about networking with other people in my industry that can hurt. Even if we don’t click, at least I’ll meet some new and inspiring characters out of the deal. Of course, again, in order to meet them I need to stop writing and actually leave the house.

I guess it just nerves me to think that if I’m out there observing characters (especially an entire table full of other writers) and then using them as inspirational fodder for my work, how can I ever know they aren’t doing the same to me? I can’t. So I guess that’s just the chance I have to take right? Who knows, maybe I’ll be interesting enough to become someone’s character.

And speaking of characters, it’s high time I started pulling out all the notes I’ve randomly scribbled into an almost full notebook over this past year and organize them into some kind of outline and background because I can’t even think about how fast NaNo is approaching. Funny, everywhere I went last year it seemed that very notebook and a pen came with me.

You know how there are some women that always have a bobby pin or a girlie product in their bag when you covertly insert yourself into their world to ask for one while standing in a public restroom? Yeah, well I’m the one who will always have a pen.

Because of that, my house is overflowing with free pens from anywhere and everywhere. Just this past Sunday our team -- The Forget Me Nots, Boston -- participated in the Alzheimer’s Memory Walk to raise money and awareness about this disease. With that many day care facilities, nursing homes and hospitals sharing information there were bound to be a few giving away pens.

I came home with three, one blue which is already in the Goodwill box, and two black which are now located in the living room and my purse.

The last pens I actually bought were the red Bic ones that I used to edit last year’s book. Call me crazy but seeing red for the changes that needed to be made had me noticing them more easily. I guess that’s why a lot of Editors use them. Though I am just taking a guess there, I don’t have an Editor yet so I have no idea what color ink they actually prefer.

Maybe they favor purple ink like Lucile Burt, Creative Writing teacher from my senior year of high school, did. Or perhaps they prefer graphite, or blue ink, so their suggestions for improvement stand out against the black typeface.

Whatever they use, I can’t wait to find out. I just pray it isn’t hemorrhaging all over the page.

Then again, so what if it is. There is nothing in this world that you have to work for that isn’t worth it in the end right? I’m ready to be up-heaved and forced outside of my little bubble of safety. Bring it.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Boredom Is…

Being sick. Okay, in all fairness it’s not really being sick that defines boredom but rather the lack of options when one is. I guess it was my body’s way of saying ‘oh no, I think you had plenty of excitement last weekend down at the Jersey Shore to suffice for an entire week of laying around.’ So lay around I do.

This week we got back from our long weekend in New Jersey and all I brought back was some awesome arcade booty and a killer cold. Thanks for that New Jersey. I was already on the fence about you, so this just pushed me right over the edge.

Tuesday morning I woke up and just knew something was off. I could feel the first rumblings of a cough in the upper area of my chest and my head had a slight tinge of an ache way in the back recesses. But since I never stop, I plunked myself in front of my computer instead of on the sofa. Mistake number one.

Hey, I finished 9 chapters and got all the pictures from our trip edited so I was feeling pretty good. But as the day progressed my eyelids started getting heavier and so did my cough. I made myself tea and repeated the ‘I’m healthy’ mantra over and over but by dinner time I had to admit it -- I was sick.

So I should back up here and say that being sick just isn’t in my vocabulary. I have a pretty healthy immune system and because I generally try to eat well and get decent sleep every night I’m able to fight off whatever germs come my way, even if Matt caught it first. Sick baffles me and I start to consider just how I could have picked up this nasty viral bitch.

Perhaps it was the hotel room door swinging back and forth in the breeze even with the deadbolt on (in the most ghetto part of town mind you) that kept me up at night, causing lack of sleep so I wasn’t well rested. Maybe it was the 5 beers I drank in four hours at the local townie bar while watching the Patriots lose to the Jets (its $2 pints every day and all day at Riggers woo hoo!). Or maybe, just maybe, it was the very drunk, and very sad, birthday girl crying on my shoulder in the ladies room that brought on the germs.

Then again it could have been from playing skee ball for 2 hours in the arcade with all of those under ten germ machines (high score 340,000 in one game…I rule!). It wasn’t like I was carrying around a bottle of hand sanitizer that I used every time after I threw a ball. Mistake number two.

Regardless of where the little bugger found its way into my system, by Wednesday morning I was toast.

And because I don’t get sick often I’m really no good at it. Like, really no good. I set up my laptop table and a cup of chai tea and decided that if I couldn’t be at the computer, there was at least going to be a little work done on my book that day. I was on a roll from Tuesday and wanted to finish everything this week.

Insert hysterical laughter here.

I barely made it through one chapter. One chapter I’ll have to go back and re-edit again that is. I thought it was just my body that rebelled against me but my brain wasn’t functioning either. I couldn’t get clear enough to wrap my head around my characters so every word I wrote sounded stiff and forced, and that was exactly what I was trying to get rid of in the first place.

Between flushing out the fluids, downing cough medicine like it was the latest drink craze and stirring chicken soup, I was spent. With a sigh I closed my laptop and admitted defeat.

But my next move was unthinkable. Even I couldn’t believe I was doing it but I went to the free movies list in my cable provider’s ‘On Demand’ menu and started cherry picking the best of the best.

Insert sarcasm here.

I let myself watch such classics as Single White Female, Sister Act, and Jury Duty (that’s right, the one with Pauly Shore). And just when things looked like they couldn’t get any lower I thought ‘huh, I’ve never actually seen The Blue Lagoon…’

Oh yes, I definitely went there. And it was everything I knew it would be. Luckily Matt came home shortly after that and distracted me or who knows where my viewing lows might have gone. Not that I could talk to him or anything, every time I opened my mouth to say anything I went into a coughing fit.

Insert Matt’s glee that I shut up for five seconds, and he got an entire night of peace for once, here.

With all of the best bad movies already watched on Wednesday, on Thursday I decided to go with the House marathon. I was hopeful that maybe some patient would get a rare case of the common cold so I could heal myself and stop watching television all day.

No such luck. But it was nice to see that Mackenzie Astin and D.B. Sweeney are still working. The Facts of Life and The Cutting Edge were a long time ago after all.

Today is better, I’m not as snuffly or heavy-chested but even just the hour it’s taken to type this up has caused me to wear out a little (okay, a lot but I’m still in denial). So look, I gave you two good long days body, now its your turn to give back because if I don’t get out of this house and to my drum lesson today or Town(ie) Night fireworks in Arlington tonight I’m sure to go mad.

Seriously. Don’t make me pull out Encino Man, because I will.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Never Forget

This is a very difficult day for me. For the past nine years it has become increasingly more so. It is kind of hard to explain why but I think you probably know me well enough to understand to a point. I'm one of those people who absorb the energies of the people around me, take it in, mix it up and do my best to expel happiness in its place (no matter what their original state was).

Nine years ago I was inundated with so much overwhelming sadness and dark sky all at once that I couldn't transform it. I couldn’t mix it into something positive, or beautiful or radiant because there was too much sorrow coming across the wires. My entire body went limp and I felt spent every minute of every day, until the first plane made its way back into the sky again and a small glimmering of hope returned to a few.

The feeling left me very hollow and empty for weeks and I struggled greatly with how to cope with the losses of the world on that day.

I remember what I was wearing (a sleeveless black and white zebra print top in a light weight polyester and black Capri pants with a strappy open toe kitten heel sandal, because it was unseasonably warm, and I had bright red lipstick on, because I was trying to make a statement), who I was with (a co-worker that I shared an office with), who told me (another co-worker who casually sauntered down the hall and said ‘hey did you hear the World Trade Center exploded?’), how fast we discovered that it wasn’t the building in Boston but in NYC and just what it meant.

Boston.com was our first stop and there on the front page was a picture of one of the twin towers in Manhattan with a ring of fire surrounding it and dark black smoke rising out of the blue glass. The reflection of it made it seem that much worse and it honestly took me a full minute to process what I was even viewing.

I’m not a New Yorker. The image of those towers was not something I witnessed on a daily basis and frankly I don’t think I had seen them in front of me, standing tall, with my own eyes ever in my life. But as soon as I figured out what was on my screen my co-worker and I went tearing out of our office to start looking for answers.

Our tiny little space was located in a back corner of the second floor, far removed from most of the people in the know (read: everyone else in our company). The reason we fought to get the space was that we could control the heat. And we both liked to sweat instead of shiver so it was a perfect arrangement.

But on that morning the temperature was the last thing on our mind.

We made it downstairs only to discover another friend was sitting with a female co-worker who was frantically dialing her office phone and getting nothing but a busy signal. Both of her grown kids worked in the towers.

Holy shit.

She thought maybe she would have better luck at home (3 blocks away) so the four of us piled into her car and sped over there. This entire scene probably took as long to unveil as it just took you to read so we immediately turned on the television once we arrived only to discover another plane had hit the second tower.

Holy shit.

Our friend was dialing in her kitchen while the three of us sat in the living room watching the news. And then in a flash, life as we knew it in this country came to a screeching halt. A train wreck of epic proportions that even Peter Jackson couldn’t have scripted.

We watched the first tower fall.

We hugged each other. We cried.

And then, silent, save for our gasping sobs, we watched the second tower fall.

We sat, statue still, with slack jaws and frozen limbs draped over each other’s shoulders.

We found out our friend’s kids were fine.

I immediately thought of my cousins who lived in New York. Then I thought of Matt. He grew up there and had to be freaking out.

As someone who spent little time in that city I had no clue where anyone lived or worked. All I knew was I had to find out.

We raced back to the office where all anyone could really do was watch the television someone had rolled into the first floor conference room. By this time they had discovered that the planes originated from Boston and our city was on high alert.

Back in my office I began the frantic dialing spree, running into mostly busy signals but I finally managed to get through to Matt. Nothing to this day will ever be as comforting to me as the sound of his voice on the other end of the line at that moment. I knew he was in Boston, I knew we had plans that night after I got out of my part time job, I knew he was fine but all rationality dropped by the wayside on that morning.

He tried to contact the people he knew in or around the City and I managed to get my aunt on the line. My cousins were fine. Everyone we knew was fine.

I exhaled for the first time in an hour.

My co-worker and I went out front to have a cigarette and couldn’t even look at each other. All we could do was stare at the top of the John Hancock Tower, perfectly framed by the street our building was on, and pray it would still be standing at the end of the day.

So proximate to Boston, we tended to be in the flight path and traffic patterns of the bustling city. It was eerily quiet outside. Most cars were stopped and with no planes overhead it was like living on a rural farm somewhere, not a major metropolitan area.

Matt and I talked again and I told him there was no way I was going to my part time job that night (I quit very soon after this as I quickly reprioritized my life and what was really important). He said he would pick up some stuff at his sister’s place (where he was still living after moving back from Ohio) and would stay at my place that night. I told him I was going to demand it if he didn’t suggest it first.

As days went on most news channels featured not much else while new revelations about who the hijackers were, their links to terrorist organizations and how they got into our country in the first place began to materialize.

It was all too much for me. My soul was beginning to ache and I felt I may just lose it forever if I kept watching the coverage. So I stopped. Right then and there. In the midst of a tragedy I turned off my television, radio and boston.com subscription and tried to release it.

But it wouldn’t go. Not until a few days later when Matt and I had tickets to go see one of my all time favorite bands, Godsmack, in concert in Manchester, New Hampshire.

I was driving a beat up, falling apart (read: LOVE) Mercury Tracer in those days and she was on one of her last legs. But we made it up to NH with no problems and we were ready to display our hand made patriotism at the show as we made our own flags on our plain white Hanes T-shirts.

We parked in a random lot behind some apartment building and headed for the arena. But it turns out the show was outdoors. There must have been 5,000 people on that field and every single one of them was talking to, hugging or shaking the hand of a stranger.

About five minutes into the set 5,000 people collectively held their breath for about ten seconds as the first plane we had seen in days flew directly over where we were standing. No one was watching the stage, I don’t even remember if the band was playing at the time.

All I remember is the exhale.

Five thousand people had their heads tilted up toward the night sky and erupted into the loudest cheer I have ever been present to witness. We shared that moment together. One people with one common purpose -- to stand strong in our humanity and American spirit. And it was beautiful.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

A Time to Every Purpose

Does it always have to be so perfect and lengthy? My blog that is. More specifically each post. The realistic answer is probably not. I’d likely get a whole heck of a lot more comments if I didn’t ramble on for 1500 solid words every time.

But that just wouldn’t be me now would it? Comment whore or not I will suffer with the lack of them to put my verbal vomit out there.

Who knew one could use the words ‘whore’ and ‘vomit’ in the same sentence? Oh wait, Vegas…

So there are a whole lot of happenings going down, stuff I’ve joined and things going on so it makes me wonder if I really can get back to posting more regularly (?). First of all there is the Book Club which is so rad. I always wanted to join a book club and now I did so yea! We read & reviewed Eat Pray Love by Elizabeth Gilbert last month and September is all about The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake by Aimee Bend. I’m looking forward to that one on mere title alone.

Because, really, who doesn’t love lemon cake?

Then again maybe I have eaten too much of it lately because exercise is about to take up a whole big chunk of the page in the current chapter of my life. I finally got back on my treadmill (now that temperatures in Boston have calmed back from the upper 90’s and humid) and on the suggestion of a good friend who is doing and sticking to it, we’re picking up P90X in a couple weeks with the next paycheck.

I have to, really, because no matter how much I avoid looking at my stomach, every time I do catch a glance it baffles me how it can possibly have morphed into the shape of an entire pizza plus a five piece chicken selects. Or maybe the selects went to my ass? Huh, no, that’s probably due to all the cheese and fries. (Ooh, cheese fries…)

Fast food. My one true nemesis on this planet.

So because a few of us were feeling a similar need to shed there is the new Fitness Club! Basically we’ll all talk about our good, healthier habits and give each other some virtual high fives for the efforts we’re all making toward being healthier people. No weigh-ins, no weight revelations, no pressure. And I love that.

While I’m spending all that time on the gerbil wheel I might as well get some kind of benefit so I’m reading a lot of Chick-Lit too. I really forgot how much I loved reading stories about dynamic women. Back when I was younger we simply called it ‘Fiction’ but the aforementioned mildly misogynistic catch phrase gained momentum and stuck.  So now, according to the industry, that’s what I write.

Some of the books I’ve read recently have been memoirs. I gobbled up all but one book by Jen Lancaster so far. She is hilarious, open and really, really good at conversational voice. I identified with her style and situations right away. Well, except I never owned & had to sell anything by Prada and I’m not a Republican but otherwise I get everything that flows out of that woman’s fingers. Right down to the constant cursing.

Though, unlike Word who has just presented me with a little red squiggle, at least I do know what Prada is.

Faux has trailed off again and honestly that is fine. After six straight weeks of body breaking labor work I’m fully content to not have to climb, roll, cut, pounce, sand or tape anything for a while. Plus, NaNoWriMo is coming up and I really have to start thinking up some baseline character stuff.

We went out a week or so ago with a friend of mine and I had one of those nights where my little notebook and pen got whipped out so often with hilarious inspiration that I should have had a mini voice recorder instead.

And FYI? People in locals-only type bars give very odd looks to 37 year old women in sweats and a bucket hat who “take notes” all night. But ask me if I care. I have another novel to start in less than sixty days people! There is no time like the present to create a character.

Oh, and FYI x 2? People in bars are some seriously interesting characters.

With NaNo comes the lack of ability to focus on pretty much anything else so before that whirlwind begins it seemed right to do one craft fair this year. It’s the same one I did a couple years ago in Melrose and I’m looking forward to it, mostly because I plan to whip up a whole bunch of fun home décor from fabric and faux and sell the pants off it.

Two goals achieved -- 1. I make something out of all the reclaimed fabric I have gathering dust in my craft closet and 2. all the fabric in my craft closet finally goes to a good home that isn’t mine.

Which leads me into the next eight week project. Not only creating craft fair merch but really organizing my entire crafty life. (Now all I hear in my head is the Beastie Boys…) I have so many old photographs just dying to be attached to the pages of the umpteen half filled or empty scrapbooks taking up space in yet another cabinet. Something tells me I’ll gain space by putting them together.

So in short (not) I guess its time to reorganize and reclaim my life back. The physical, mental, intellectual and spiritual. Not to mention financial or any other ‘al’ that happens to pop up.

Only 965 words this time, not too bad.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

En la Puesta de Sol

Pretty much all the Spanish I know I retained by repeatedly watching the scene where Mouth translates to Rosalita for Mrs. Walsh in The Goonies. And also, of course, Sesame Street. Which means I can muddle my way through the Español version of ‘One, two, three, four, please can I have some cocaine & heroin so I don’t have to lock you in the closet for two weeks without food or water? Thank you, friend!’, but anything else is a stretch.

So when I found myself sitting home on a Saturday afternoon with nothing better to watch than The Day After Tomorrow on the Spanish channel (seriously, not even some really good infomercials, WTF?), I knew it was time to start writing again.

Either that or maybe I should just learn Spanish so I have a clue what they’re saying.

Without understanding the words during the commercials, I rely on pictures, inflections and facial expressions to tell me what’s going on. What I discovered is the Spanish population is really excited about everything that’s for sale, and most often I was told how much they love their Fiber One cereal.

I was proud of myself that I completely understood that ‘ochenta cero dos ochos uno ochenta cero cero’ meant 800-881-8000. Maybe more sunk in than I originally imagined back in high school.

It isn’t as difficult to figure out what’s going on during the movie because I know it pretty well, but not well enough to quote it (like The Goonies). It’s cool to watch knowing the premise and general storyline though. I can just listen and try to pick up some words without having to strain too much.

This is the way I want to relate myself to the world of being a writer -- not really understanding much about the process, but a fairly avid reader who is still, for some reason, drawn to it. Enough to keep pushing forward, even though I often feel like I’m flailing about in confusion and haven’t yet made any real progress.

I guess there’s a learning curve with every new job I’ve ever done so this is that time for me when I look down at my business card that says ‘Writer’ and I wonder what in the world I’m doing. But then I remember that what I’m doing is what I always wanted to do so a few learning experiences in the process shouldn’t throw me for that big a loop. Right?

Hell, I was the co-manager of a Victoria’s Secret store for two years and when I started there not only did I have no clue how to fold a bra (yes, there is in fact a correct way) but all my skivvies came from Bradlees.

Now when I go into Vicky’s, I can easily spot who the shoplifters will be and sell not only a new bra and matching panties to whomever I’m with, but also a bottle of body lotion as if I still worked there. Not to mention if the employee in the front room doesn’t say hello as I enter, I want to call the president to report them.

How’s that for embedded into the company culture, seeing as though it’s about ten years since I left that job. Plus I will never wear cheap undergarments again, that much I know after working for a foundations company.

The one thing I know with absolute certainty when it comes to visual media, however, is that I have a soft spot for happy endings. Okay, it isn’t so much a soft spot as a twisted need to have everyone ride off into a sunset and live happily ever after. Yeah, and not always metaphorically speaking either.

Seriously, a setting sun in the final scene of a movie is so cliché but from all I’ve seen in this world, the more commonplace, comforting and familiar, the more it tends to resonate. In other words, I just don’t care if a 75 foot wall of water wipes out most of lower Manhattan then freezes the entire northern hemisphere, as long as those helicopters arrive to pick up Jake, Dennis and all their smiling friends at the end. As they pan out, there better be some orange in the sky reflecting off the snowy white backdrop or there is no satisfaction for me.

I would end every single movie exactly how Grease ended with the teenage sweethearts literally flying into the sunset and waving, smiling in perfection of perfectness, to everyone they are leaving behind as they head off to make their perfect way in the perfect world. Sigh.

And I always cry at the end of cheesy teen movies where the protagonist and antagonist both discover themselves, discover that they are now best friends (and make no apologies for it) so the entire school falls in love with them, even though everyone picked on them incessantly for the first hour and forty minutes (Can we say Made: The Movie anyone?).

The ‘going after what they want and coming out the other side smiling’ spirit forces the liquid salt every time. Even in Spanish, “we’re saved!” is the most recognizable human emotion to register on the face and my belly gets all warm and squishy.

Now I am at this place where I have to keep pushing for publishing of my first manuscript, to have my own ‘go for it’ moment if you will, but in less than sixty days NaNo begins and I start the process all over again.

Wait, what? I have to start writing another one before the first one has come to any sort of resolution?

Well, in short, yeah. After all, someone who doesn’t keep writing doesn’t make a very good writer do they? Huh. Funny how that works.

So now what? Now I have to come up with an entirely new cast of characters that I can channel into a whole slew of words while still keeping the old ones inside. This directly competes with what an old boss once called my ‘completion syndrome’. She was so right.

All I really want is for my first cast to be released into their happily ever after, their sunset. To go get a beer and watch a game and forget all about any of the troubling situations I forced them to experience for 200 some odd pages because they are ready for the world to see that they do in fact live happily ever after. (Seriously, it doesn’t really ruin the ending to tell you that most of them do, if you read this post you already pretty much know that’s going to happen so I make no apologies because it really isn’t a spoiler now is it?)

But life rolls like that sometimes, if I try to follow all the rules so stringently I’ll never really get anywhere. I’m the one who taught me that (or was it Ferris?); I said those words once or twice some time ago, long enough ago to feel like forever.

Of course at the time I was probably referring to why I was speeding or weaving in traffic, but why quibble over little details like that right?

In the spirit of being a writer I’m coming back to this blog again full force this fall. In fact I’ve been doing a lot of thinking lately about all the balls I tossed about. The ones I spontaneously threw up into the air before I learned to juggle.

Yeah, those balls. Not the ones I need to make it in the literary world. Those I already have, in droves thank you very much.

I still don’t know how to juggle so it’s pretty much inevitable that a whole bunch of them are going to have to hit the ground. Which, after months (maybe years or even decades if I’m being really honest with myself) of trying to head-butt all the ones I couldn’t hold just to keep them airborne, I have to say isn’t bothering me as much as I thought it would.

All the ones I find still in my arms, after dropping my chin and abandoning the ones barely escaping gravity, are the ones I’m keeping close. I’m not positive of all the things that will fall just yet and that doesn’t even freak me out. Probably because I haven’t had to let go of them yet but again, details.

Guess I’ll just decide later if I’m interested enough in the Spanish channel’s weekend programming to learn more than sentences containing illicit drug names. Maybe I’ll check out a few more Jake Gyllenhaal movies while I mull it over. Donnie Darko had a happy ending right?