I don’t write to be famous, I don’t write to be known, I write because I am and I want to be read. How sad to fill a room with paintings no one sees or play music no one hears. Writing is talking without sound, singing without score and dancing without movement and yet, it is all of them. It is a solitary art conjured from thought and expressed by the need to communicate.

HEAD-SLAPS, SPEED-BUMPS and LIGHT-BULBS, one woman's WTF, oops and ah-ha moments of life, is the name of my memoir/essay collection with why I wrote what I wrote and what happened after. They were published once and as every writer knows, once is not enough.


Saturday, December 27, 2014

Countdown


When I was little I wondered about tomorrow. I couldn’t wait for next summer with its afternoons of nothing to do but be a kid. As a teenager summers were still the best, but it was also the anticipation of the next school year, dance, holiday, family vacation or birthday. Like skin after a sunburn, I peeled my weeks and months away, for something fresher, better and pinker.  I always discounted the warmth of today and looked forward to the next big burn.

When my kids were born, I couldn’t wait until they smiled for the first time, crawled, walked, talked and ate real food. Then it was hurry up and wait for potty training, three wheelers, a full day at school, two wheelers, high school and driver’s licenses. Graduation, college, graduation again, jobs, marriage and grandchildren. All of it here and all that time of wishing and hoping gone. The memories of some of it are printed on little scraps of newsprint in my mind, the rest have been swept away in a flash of waiting for the next big burn.  

Where did all that time go?

They grow up so fast, parent’s say over and over again. But we grow too. We age and our lives fill with the complexities of relationships, our minds bulge with the responsibilities of advanced adulthood, and our hearts wish for more time, and yes, we do regret that which we wasted, while waiting for the next big thing.

One Saturday, as a fifteen year old, my mother let me stay in bed until three in the afternoon. She never let me sleep/doze/lull in bed, except for that one day. When I finally got up she suggested that I think about the half day spent in bed, not because I was sick or tired, but simply because I believed I had the time to waste.

“The day will come when you will want that half-day back,” she said. “The time will come when all the minutes and hours you spent doing nothing, will become like a raided piggy bank, when you need the chits for time. Don’t waste it,” she said, “don’t wish away your life.”

When in the midst of waiting and worrying and in the midst of wasting, I often recall my mother’s wise words and wonder, how much used, how little left.

At the end of my life I imagine I will jiggle the piggy bank and I hope I have some spare change to claim a few more, certainly not years, but maybe a couple of months, days or even minutes, when the last big sunburn begins to warm my skin. And yet I know that if I am in pain, or because of infirmity, causing pain to my family, I may throw away the precious gift of time and wish for it to be over. I will not be afraid of the endless summer to be a kid all over again.

When I turned sixty, a switch flipped. Like I have often said, on that birthday I realized that the bulk of my life and my ass are behind me.  After six decades on earth I began to ponder the amount of time I have left and what I want to do with it. Do I face my fate in a minute - expiration mid-keystroke - or do I have years left, to think about, how many years left?

Life expectancy for women in the US, and taking into account my family history, has me making into my eighties. Not much time, I often think, and yet, a lifetime can be lived in minutes when that’s all you have. As friends (RIP Jose) and family members depart I am left with time, to not lull but live. For me each minute is a gift.

As the countdown to the end of this year approaches I am want to look back and smile, and cry, and ponder the choices I have made over my lifetime which have, for the most part, been good choices. If the bad ones, and especially the bad ones, have brought me to where I am now, then they weren’t that bad, they were meant to be.

Now, is where I am, now is at my keyboard, not wasting but living and loving the chance I have to communicate all the ‘stuff’ which fills my heart, my brain and especially the sweet cream of my soul.

Because I cannot have the time back I have wasted, I will exploit that which I have left, by doing, by loving and by sharing.

Happy New Year to my on-line writer friends who have so graciously read what I have written, expressed concern for my personal travails and laughed at my wacky sense of humor.  For all of you, may next year last more than 365 days and be filled with love, righteousness, kindness and prosperity and lots and lots of  time.  

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Just the right words


A co-worker died last week. He was the nicest, funniest guy you’d ever want to meet. Forty-seven years old. We have a condolence book at work for his family and it took me three days to come up with the right words to write to them. I still don’t feel as if what I wrote, did the relationship I had with this man, honor.

My youngest daughter lost a best friend a month ago, and my oldest lost a best friend as a result of the Newtown tragedy two years ago, and I said to both, “I don’t know what to say.”

An unmarried member of my family, a bit removed but close, is pregnant. She does not want to be. I verbally stumbled and failed when I spoke to her mother.

When my mother told me that as a teenager she had been raped, I said, “I wish you hadn’t told me.”
 
Why is it, that during the most pivotally emotional times of our lives, words often fail us? Words are what we do, words are what we are about.
 
If we were a store, we’d be Words R Us.

When I have a deadline looming, or a lead time shortened because of a holiday piece, do you think I can come up with just the right words, in just the nick of time? Actually, yes I can, and always do. But, what it takes to pull something coherently relevant out of my ass, is like searching through my junk drawer for a pill I know I accidentally dropped in there months ago, and it is the last one left which will save my life. I know I’ll find it but the search is frightening.

I have learned to trust in my abilities and the process. I’ve done it long enough to know, it’s there, open my mind, think of something else or just go quiet. The whisper of it will rustle the leaves at first, and if I do not close the window, and let it billow the curtains, it eventually will blow my writer’s inadequacy and malaise away.

But, when I do not have time to wait for breezes, muses and the words to fill my cup, when I only have seconds to react, I have to remind myself that sometimes I don’t have to say the right words, I just have to be present and listen.

Because the sensors searching for correctness are wound-round our emotional being, and often shut down because of that emotional overload, words never seem quite adequate anyway

I’ve been reading a few blogs by fiction writers lately who are struggling with their stories and searching for just the right words, beginnings, paths, twists, arcs and endings. So, for the singular searching for correctness and the collective struggling with the story I have advice, (I always seem to have advice). Go quiet, be present and trust in the process. When the leaves rustle, (and they will), let the curtains billow until the front passes through, (it always does).

When is the last time you struggled for just the right words?

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Al dente, firm to the bite


Now that I am slowly querying my memoir, I’m doing two things a little differently. I’m being very selective regarding the agents I’m approaching. For my two novels I raced through my favorites and then pretty much threw spaghetti at the wall hoping it would stick. Some did but eventually all the angel-hair dried and flaked to the floor. And, I’ve started a second memoir.

How is it, you may ask, that someone’s life can be so tragic, so interesting or so authentic that the events of that life could support two memoirs?
 
As I say in the query,
In the broad, sometimes hard to sell memoir market, this one bubbles up above the rest because of how it is organized.  This is not your grannies memoir, it’s the good, the bad and what the hell was I thinking, glad-wrapped.”
It’s different, that’s for sure. I used fifty-three of my columns in the first one and I have well over a hundred to choose from for the second.

How is it, you may ask, that you are writing a second different memoir and you haven’t even acquired an agent for the first?

Because the replies have been supportive and encouraging. This leads me to believe I am on to something and have just not found the right agent yet. (Call me delusional but I believe).

So there you have it, I’m beginning a new journey, in an old way, on something which is different, for readers I deeply respect. And, it is all about me, what’s not to like about that? Don’t answer.

Instead, ask yourself this question, does the pasta stick because it’s done or because of the subjectivity of the wall?

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Good benefits, sucky discount


Between my freshman and sophomore years of college I got a temporary job in retail, forty-five years later it still is my temporary job.

Working retail this time of year is like shoveling snow in a blizzard; too much to deal with, not enough shovels and people are cranky and hardly ever satisfied with your efforts, until the sun shines and the Christmas Music stops.

I’ve ridden the retail wave for most of my working life, from behind the register, working the sales floor and from the confines of the store manager’s office. I’ve owned my own stores and I can honestly say the only time I really enjoyed this time of year is during the six years I stayed home to raise my daughters. I was actually able to enter a store and enjoy the music, the displays and the shopping, probably because I could leave whenever I wanted to.

Where I work, we’ve been living with Christmas since before Halloween. You think the Christmas music started early this year, try listening to it eight hours a day for three months. I shall dismiss all my comments regarding my feelings as related to today’s American buying public, suffice to say I’ve been dealing with them far too long.  Time to get out but I can’t because the benefits are great, even if the discount sux.

For almost as long as I’ve been kissing the public’s ass, I have been writing. Man, could I write a book about what I’ve seen, heard and experienced behind the counter, in the stockroom and back offices of retail. But I can’t, because the benefits are great, even if the discount sux - I would lose my job.

I could share the poop stories: in a sock of a dressing room, four feet up the wall in the ladies room, and on the floor in the foyer of the manager’s office. I could relate about the temper tantrums, usually perpetrated by grown men, when they don’t get what they want. How women ignore their children in a store, and how they treat their children in public when they are not ignoring them, and how they thrust upon shoppers their tired, miserable, booger popping little ones is unconscionable. The arrogance and entitlement of the American buying public today, is staggering. I could quit, but I can’t, the benefits are great even if the discount sux.

Store managers, District managers and crooked CEO’s, plus employees pulling up to the back door and filling their cars full of merchandise, yes it would be a tell-all. It is the book I am meant to write but if I did I’d be out on the street, depending on Medicare, gap insurance and fuck the 10 percent.

What are you meant to write, but don’t, because the benefits are great even if the discount sux?