Friday, March 28, 2014

I Can See Clearly Now....

I guess it was inevitable; it was bound to happen one day.

I first noticed it with a pill bottle. It was bad enough that half the time I couldn’t even open the damn things, anyways, so it only made things worse.

Then the computer screen inched closer and closer to my face – or maybe it was me inching closer and closer to it. Where most people look at me like I am nuts on any typical given day, their reactions to me were only getting worse.
Then I noticed it at night when I would be cuddled-up with a good book, eager for an escape after a long day. My beloved books were becoming a mystery to me. The words were not the same, making it hard to concentrate. I would read a few sentences, and then give up. I couldn’t concentrate, I couldn’t enjoy the book, and reading became WORK (I have been a major bookworm since a kid – it has NEVER been work).

And that’s when I panicked. ‘I can’t read anymore!’ (wail wail wail) ‘My beloved books! WhatEVER shall I do without them! I will never read again....!!!’ (wail wail wail) ‘I can’t write! The screen is giving me headaches! Oh what am I to do!!! (wail) Oh what will I become! (wail wail wail)’

With shoulders slumped and dragging feet, I slumped around wondering and worrying what was to become of me. I couldn’t read, I couldn’t write, and pill bottles were the bane of my existence. Who was I to become now? WHAT was I to become now?

It wasn’t until looking at a tiny charm in a jewelry store, its fine, tiny, delicate engravings surely made by a tiny fairy or gnome, that reality hit. I mentioned to the sales clerk how the engravings in the charm were impossible to see, that I don’t know HOW anyone could EVER appreciate them if they are so small.

She grinned, unaware of my current state of affairs (or maybe she was), and said “Ya, my eyes are bad too. My doctor said after 40 they’d start to go, and they did. I’m just waiting for my prescription.”





Now I get it! I needed glasses! And not for distance – I would still be able to see Rick Springfield gyrating around on stage no problem! But it was for things like reading, anything tiny and close-up, that was becoming a problem. The pill bottles were deadly – why do they make the writing so tiny? I would be saved – no overdoses of Organic, Ginger-based Gravol for me! My books, my writing; they would not be lost to me, forever!

The problem? I needed.....readers.

Yes. Readers. Those little drug-store issue, oblong-like reading glasses, the ones that folks are constantly losing, finding, then losing again. For a moment, and only a moment mind you, I had a realization of my ever-increasing age.

But I wasn’t about to let panic about age, deteriorating body parts, or vanity get to me. I wasn’t about to let a bit of plastic and vision-enhancing glass get me down.

As I weighed all the pros and cons of them and processed this next ‘step’ in my life, I realized how much good they were actually going to do for me. They were like a novelty – a prop. My people-scowl would only be enhanced; I could ‘scowl with flair’ over the rims of the glasses. I would finally look smart. And I didn’t have to wear them ALL the time, just for when I was reading. I would have to have a pair everywhere in the house – in the kitchen, beside my bed, in my purse, at work, beside my computers...which only translated into SHOPPING! YAY! I could see AND I could shop!!! There were so many cute colours and designs, I could spend hours shopping and trying them on.

What a day, what a day!

So off to the drug store I went. I didn’t feel any trepidation or embarrassment, nor did any entertained depressive thoughts about aging ruin my excitement. I tried on a few pairs, veered away from those that made me look like my elementary school principal (Mrs. Ross – she was a scary one), and happy with my purchases, skipped home.

Yes, the family just stared the first time I wore them to read, and yes, I was self conscious at first when I wore them to read on the bus ride home.

But I just scowled over the rims of the glasses of those who dared to stare at me, and happily read, without a squint or a nose print on the book.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Hang in There, Baby

Inspirational quotes, sayings or words of wisdom; no matter what they’re called, I love them ‘em all. I’m sure some Freudian-type scholar will correct me, assuring me of their proper definition and naming convention, but I don’t care what their appropriate ‘term’ is. They can brighten my day, put an inspired spring in my step, and shed light and hope during a dark time. So really, who cares what the proper name is – I’m not exactly ‘proper’ most of the time, anyways. For me they all fall under the same category – they all serve the purpose to inspire and motive. I can only learn from others’ words and experience.

If I had my own way, my whole house would be plastered with those posters showcasing either a kitten hanging from a branch or a hiker climbing a mountain, with inspirational words in bold encouraging the reader on.

If I had my own way, that is. But I’m not the only one who lives in my house, so I have to be unselfish and think of others. (To live a pure unselfish life, one must count nothing as one’s own in the midst of abundance. – Buddha)

Some folks downright hate stuff like inspirational posters and such, but each to their own, I say. Whatever makes you tick – whatever makes you happy – is all that matters. (The talent for being happy is appreciating and liking what you have, instead of what you don't have. - Woody Allen)

I dream of one day having my own BIG office where I can do all the stuff I’ve been dreaming about like plastering the walls with every inspirational/motivational poster, saying, and quote I can find – even the kitten/branch one (yes, even that one). (Dreams are necessary to life. -Anais Nin)

So for now I make do and jot down favoured sayings in my notebook. My bathroom (which serves as my office) mirror serves as a post-it board for sticky-notes with meaningful found quotes. That perfect one-liner of wisdom cut from a magazine is taped to the glass – a perfect place for daily reminders. My actual corkboard, which is near my mirror, is overflowing with treasured words of wisdom But sometimes those sayings that were pertinent at a certain time in my life lose their poignancy as I change and grow (older but not ‘older’), and eventually one is replaced with another, just to keep things fresh and inspiring. (I actually think there's an incredible amount of self-knowledge that comes with getting older. - Jamie Lee Curtis)

Why the obsession with those words of wisdom? Why do I love them so much? Some remind me of where I have been, how far I have come, and where I have yet to go – and they keep me grounded and moving forward. They pick me up when I fall (cliché, I know). They inspire me to move in a direction I had never thought possible, and steer me back in the right direction when I get blown off-course. (I am not afraid of storms for I am learning how to sail my ship. – Louisa May Alcott)

Again, I know this is all so corny and cliché – I know many despise inspirational sayings and quotes, but I think of it like this: like many medicines, they were made for a reason, by folks who had ‘been there/done that,’ first.

The best one-lines are, for me at least, found in the most unexpected places. Like a much-needed surprise they appear in my life at just the right time, just when I need them the most. Fortunes from fortune cookies, despite them being ‘fortunes,’ often have words of wisdom that have meant a great deal to me. I saved one for years that read ‘Sun always shines after a downpour.’ As these things are open to interpretation, and again I know the Freudian-type scholar will likely disagree with me, I took it not to mean the ACTUAL sun and rain but (in my interpretation at least) meaning that brightness always follows dark and dreary times. And I have always found that to be true.

By my favorite ‘surprise’ words of inspiration are found on the wrappers around Halls© throat lozenges. Those guys over at Halls sure were smart when they started putting little ‘pick-me-up’ one-liners – usually three or four words - on the wrappers of their lozenges; they always are a boost for me. One day when I was feeling a little under the weather, both from a lingering cold and from feeling a little overwhelmed and down, I grabbed a Halls (great promo, I know) and when I unwrapped it, the two words printed on the wrapper were just what I needed to pick me up: ‘Be Unstoppable.’ I had a lot going on in my life right at that moment, and self-doubt and uncertainty were roadblocks in changes I was trying to make in my life. Those were just the words I needed to push me forward.

Then there are then many much-cherished wise words that remain ‘anonymous.’ Someone, somewhere, had a stroke of genius and penned some of my most favored quotes, many of which are the ones plastered all over my bathroom/office.

‘Passion is what separates those who achieve their goal from those who simply dream about it.’
‘Remember, dreams are goals with a deadline.’
‘A writer is someone who has written today.’ (J.A. Jance)

So whether you think them silly, corny, cliché or downright useless, maybe

I figure we all gotta get through this thing called life – which is full of ups and downs. So whether these sayings are thought of as cliché or corny, these little gems might be just what the doctor ordered to see you through.

Hang in there, baby.

Thanks for reading,

(note: I researched to give proper credit for the 'anonymous' quotes above, and couldn't find the correct, original author. Apologies all over to the author whose credit has not been given.)

Friday, March 14, 2014

Where I Went (part 2 - continued from March 6, 2014)

I pushed through the doors of the coffee shop on that cold, rainy/snowy night, nervous yet determined. The espresso machines were on overdrive as they brewed and steamed coffee drinks of all kinds, so coming in from the damp cold into a warm, steamy coffee-shop was like stepping off a plane into the humidity of Miami (I’ve been there, at least) (see previous post ‘Where I’ve Been’ from March 6, 2014).

But Miami, however welcoming on that cold night, had nothing to do with anything right then.

I wasn’t there for the coffee. I wasn’t there to make friends. And I certainly wasn’t there for the sugar packets (that may or may not have fallen in my purse to save for another rainy day – but that’s another story).

I was there to write.

As I ordered a frothy, not-so-skinny, ‘extra pump,’ double-sweetened, Vanilla Latte, I scoped out the sitting area. I spotted a table in a dark, unlit, low ‘traffic’ area, and although the table was tiny, I was happy to call it mine. While the barista made my drink, I went about unpacking my laptop, notebook and pen, feeling very professional and very writerly. Just as I was admiring my tiny writing table with everything ‘just so,’ the barista passed me my drink, and I settled the cup expertly by my mouse. With a determined adjustment of my Barbie-logoed hat, I sat down before my laptop and tried to calm my nerves.

Due to various circumstances in the previous month (stress, worry, health and everything-else-in-between), I had been unable to write. I had let external forces get the better of me and sap me dry of my creativity, concentration and zest. And I had been beating myself up over it.

I had decided that maybe taking an hour – and ONLY an hour – away from home life and domestic distractions to work on my never-ending novel was just what the writing doctor ordered. I was determined to get back on that horse I had so ungracefully fallen off of. I wanted this more than anything (except for a skinnier body, better hair, Rick Springfield on a platter...the basics).

Could I do it? Could I write something and get back on track after being all-but dormant for the last month or so? Could I get lost in my story – in my words – and be productive? Would I let low self-confidence get the better of me?

With a deep breath I reviewed previous paragraphs written a few weeks before. Then I lifted my hands to type, and then.....

I felt too squished. The table was too small. I was in fear of knocking my hot drink onto my laptop. The chair was giving me a cramp. The air was too hot. My feet were too cold. The wall beside me was making me feel claustrophobic – which I’m not normally. I didn’t like my back being towards the bathroom. The guy at the table next to mine was getting on my nerves (for no reason other than the fact that he was just...there). An older guy, a ‘regular’ as I could tell by the way he talked to the barista, kept eyeing everyone who entered the shop, including me, as if he owned the place.

I usually prefer walls and corners and anywhere where I can feel protected and watch everything going on around me, but I suddenly felt too closed in. I had no room to move. At all.

Never mind, Lisa, GET ON WITH IT!

I took a fortifying sip of my too-hot latte then, resolute and determined, hovered my fingers over the keyboard and focused on the screen once more.

Just as I wrote not one, not two, but THREE sentences I was sure made sense, I saw movement out of the corner of my eye.

A girl sitting at one end of a long ‘group inviting’ table started to pack-up her laptop. Although the spot wasn’t particularly private, at least there was more room, and it was kind of in a corner against the window. The coffee shop wasn’t too busy so what were the chances of a whole group coffee addicts coming in to take over the table, I wondered? Despite the fact I wasn’t feeling very virtuous and willing to share a table, I had to make a split-second decision – did I stay, or did I go? Was I willing to risk leaving my private but squished spot only to potentially have loud, unwanted table mates, all in the hopes of having a bit more room?

I had to try – I was too squished. So as gracefully and professionally as I could, I gathered my stuff as quickly and demurely as I could and settled into my new spot. I spread my stuff out EVERYWHERE, so as to prevent any ‘neighbours.’ Then, after a deep breath and a little self-talk, I kept my eyes focused on my screen and dove in.

I ignored the two young moms catching up gossip on a couch across from me, a baby held in one mom’s arms. But then I started to worry about someone coming up to the one mom and scolding her for breastfeeding her baby in public, given the current ‘trend’ to do so as so commonly relayed in the news these days. As I wrote, I mentally planned my attack on the potential busy-body, plannin

And I wrote, and wrote, and wrote some more. Before I knew it, an hour went by and the baby, the hens and the writer-guy were forgotten. I had committed myself to only an hour, but I was on a roll! I called home, announced “Just another half an hour!” then continued clacking away at my keyboard until.....

...the low-battery warning appeared on my screen. I hadn’t brought my cord as I didn’t know what my situation would be like, but it was perfect timing, nonetheless. An hour and a half and 2,250 words later, and I was victorious! I did it! I DID IT!

As my writing friend would later tell me, I had to ‘trick my brain.’ I had to remove myself from my usual writing space and schedule and, although there were other distractions - ones that really had nothing to do with me - it was what I needed to get and stay focused in an anonymous environment. I tricked my brain, alright, and despite my observations/worries about people around me, I got more done than I ever would have in my usual ‘space.’

With my work saved, my latte gone, and my bags packed, I stepped out of the warm steamy shop into the cold slushy/sleety/snowy night, happy as a clam in Miami, and content with what I overcame and accomplished.

Thanks for reading!

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Where I've Been (part 1)

I had been in a bit of a slump.

A tornado-like build-up of everything happening all at once stressed me to the max, all but paralyzing me. It sapped me of my concentration; the ability to focus on anything, gone. My ‘get up and go’ had pretty much left the building, and my gumption and drive had evaporated into thin air. I was overtired, stressed-out and not sure which end was up. The perspective I had always used to rationalize life’s little upheavals was gone.

I love to read – I couldn’t concentrate. I walk in the early mornings for overall health – I couldn’t be bothered. I write in the early mornings because it’s what I do, who I am – I was paralyzed. I would sit down every morning to write and would freeze.

My writing productivity was almost non-existent. Sure I’d religiously sit down at the computer every morning, but I was lucky if I was able to get a few thoughts out, never mind a few words. I kept creating daily writing goals, but despite my determination to fulfill them I couldn’t and it was bringing me down even more. As well, this poor little blog that had served me so well began to suffer.

As each unproductive day went by I became angry and frustrated – with myself. I beat myself up for letting things get to me; for allowing them to consume me. The stresses and worries I had were valid; my family and their health and needs definitely took precedence over everything else and I truly wouldn’t have it any other way. But I was in a funk I didn’t like.

After a month things slowly started to turn around, and all the things that were previously worrying me were slowly righting themselves. Added to that, I received some fantastic writing-related news, and I wanted to be excited about it. A lot of negatives turned into positives, and the tornado left my world to go mess up Dorothy’s life.

I could enjoy a book and I returned to my early morning walks. Bit by bit I got back on track.

But the writing scared me. Had I lost my mojo? Would I ever get back to where I had been? I’m a busy momma, and finding and keeping time to write is challenging. Would my short, early-morning writing sessions be enough to get me back on track and keep me there?

I (try) to write every day early in the morning when everyone’s in bed. The kitchen – the nerve centre of it all – is where I write, and I soon realized I was letting household chores distract me. But by enabling distractions what I was really doing was procrastinating; shying away from dealing with the low confidence and fear I had developed during the previous non-productive writing month. I was scared to try and write, yet I was desperate to work on my almost-finished novel. I wasn’t giving myself a chance to try, and I blamed everything else for my stalled writing. I needed some uninterrupted time to try to get back into it, and I needed that time to be away from my usual writing place of the kitchen.

And then I had an idea. I had always been curious about those who write in coffee shops. Would the noise and distractions be too great? Would I look too cliché?

I decided maybe there WAS something to it. Maybe the fact there would be nothing else for me to do in the coffee shop BUT write would be just what I needed. True, I could so easily get swept-up in internet surfing, but I didn’t have to sign-on to WIFI (I wouldn’t know how, anyways). Or I could just as easily while away the hour with a good book - if I brought one, that is. Or other people could get on my nerves, but that happens every day, anyways. Or, even better, I could sit and stare into space – a real treat in my busy life.

By then my frustration and anger had given way to determination. I simply had to get away and try to write. There was a coffee shop not too far from home, and I could bring my iPod and ear buds to serve as ‘earplugs’ and to act as conversation deterrents, should anyone dare talk to me. I would ONLY go for an hour, and ONLY write for an hour. I made sure my goal and intentions were not overwhelming for my first time back in the saddle.

And suddenly I was excited! Maybe I COULD do this! This could be the final step into getting back to normal – whatever normal was in the first place. Maybe this could be a new ‘routine’ for me. But my excitement was soon peppered with apprehension. If it didn’t work out, I consoled myself, THAT’S OKAY. My enthusiasm fueled my miniscule confidence and I had hope that maybe I could, eventually, get back to where I had been.

Feeling very writerly and very SoHo, Manhattan (even though I had never been there before), I stowed my laptop, iPod, notebook and a few pens in my über-professional laptop/tote bag, and on a rainy Saturday night, I stole away to a nearby coffee shop...

...wearing my grungy old sweats and my hair tucked up in a cap sporting a Barbie logo.

Not very writerly, indeed.

(stay tuned for part 2 next week - hope you'll come back!)

Thanks for reading,


Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Coming soon - Not Your Mother's Book: On Being a Mom

Yay! This was just finalized the other day - my story 'Rules' will be in Not Your Mother's Book - On Being a Mom (by Publishing Syndicate), coming out in April. The book is full of funny stories about - you guessed it - being a mom. My story (spoiler alert) is about the pets we can and can't have in our house (it was written a while ago - some things change ;)