June 27, 2012

Yard Sale Chronicles

"This is so exciting," my husband says, pulling a large table onto the driveway. He throws a red tarp across the top of it and starts adding assorted knickknacks, books, and movies. "You are going to have so much fun."

I drop my box of Deal-a-Meal cards and look at him - a long cold stare. "You have never run a yard sale before, have you?"

He flinches. Just the previous evening he had boasted that he had run dozens of yard sales, hundreds even. In fact, in some areas of the world he was known as The Yard Sale King. But under the intense scrutiny of my gaze, he fesses up. "No. What gave me away?"

"The word fun."

He returns to his task and I feel a bit guilty. Maybe I was hardened. I had run my share of yard sales and I have never thought of them as fun. You plan, price, advertise, and pry old toys from children's hands for weeks, only to have strangers tell you that your stuff is crap and that they found that same shellacked  Elvis plaque at a yard sale down the road for half the cost. Having a yard sale is like going to church - it absolves you of your creepy past but you don't want to give up your Sunday to do it.

We continue our work silently, pulling out lamps, old games, and clothes we may have purchased at a previous yard sale. At 7:05 a car pulls into our cul-de-sac, circles twice, and speeds away. At 7:10 a similar vehicle follows. The drivers look to have some crude type of communication devices. Maybe walkie talkies.

"Who are they?" My husband asks, bringing out the Dorf videos and the Magic Bullet purchased one drunken Saturday night.

"Yard Sale People, I whisper. "Or YSP as I call them."

"What are they doing here now?" He checks the time on his cell phone. "The sale doesn't start for another hour."

I shake my head. My husband, growing up in small-town Montana, is still naive to the ways of the world. "Honey, Yard Sale People aren't like normal people. They are the bleary-eyed, sleep deprived, dark underbelly of suburbia."  I nod towards a woman who wants to get a better look at our stuff by pretending to be a garden shrub. "They spend endless hours honing their craft, and they use it for three things: to intimidate, negotiate, and shame."

"But there are so many of them," he says, noting the bicyclers and stroller-pushers who are ambling towards us. "Where did they all come from?"


At 7:55 an enclave of navy cavaliers assemble, lining the opposite street. The drivers are equipped with binoculars, Ipads and cellphones, watching intently as we set a chipped Precious Moments nativity scene on the ground. My husband looks at me. "More YSP?"

I shake my head. "I don't think so, honey. Yard Sale People are small time. Locals. Nope. These guys work for the professionals?"

"Professionals? You mean..."

"Yes." I swallow. "Goodwill and Ebay."

At 8:05  we are swarmed, overrun by the hordes. "Can't these people read the price tags?" My husband gasps. "They are all trying to talk me down a quarter on everything. Even the things that cost a quarter!"

"Try talking in a made-up accent. Eventually they give up and pay full price."

My husband sighs and I can feel his resolve begin to melt. I understand why he had high expectations for the day. Yard sales look like fun on sitcoms. But the reality is different. Gritty and stark. People of all ages, shapes, and ethnicities invade your home, trying to buy everything on your lawn except for what you are actually selling. "I'll give you two dollars for that coat you're wearing. Twenty-five dollars and I can take that Prius off your hands." It takes someone of supreme fortitude to withstand the constant barrage of penny pinching, negativity, and criticisms. It takes a woman.

Preferably one who has been raised by my mother.

"Go inside, baby." I say. He smiles gratefully and disappears into the house, shutting the blinds. The soothing sounds of Sports Center emanating from beneath the door tell me that he is going to be okay. Now to save myself.

"Okay, people," I say, bringing out the ice box full of sodas I had purchased from Costco the night before. I heard that the big bucks in yard sale profits was in playing the Snack Market, and I intended to win. "It is noon and everything is now half-priced." There were cheers from the crowd but I didn't have long to savor their reverence. Another whole fleet of cars flooded our driveway. Word had gotten out fast.

"No!" I yell, pushing them back with an old pool stick. "You are going to swamp us!"

I watch as my past is stripped from me, and though I should feel cleansed inside, it feels more like a violation. Voracious shoppers carry off used diaper genies and cracked computer monitors. Two women get into a fist fight over a one-legged Barbie. My items disappear and the crowd along with it. By sundown, most everything is gone.

That night, I wake up, covered in sweat. Dreams of nickels, dimes, and SUVs haunt my sleep.

"Whats wrong?" My husband asks, rubbing my back. "You okay?"

"I think Im suffering from Post-Traumatic Yard Sale Disorder," I say. He laughs and I glare, wishing he could see my face in the dark. "It's a real thing!"

"Oh, honey. Don't worry. We got half the stuff sold. Now we just have to clean out the rest of the garage and sell the other stuff tomorrow. One more day."

One more day. His words make me cold. I crawl into the fetal position, cuddling up with one of the Snuggies I managed to wrangle back from an old man who said it would be perfect to use while watching his homemade adult movies.

One more day. I just had to get through one more day.

June 19, 2012

Funny Craigslist Personal Ads

Bored out of my mind on a Monday night, I do what I always do when there simply is nothing to do. I browse Craigslist. The personal ads are my favorite. The women's are usually overly honest, but heartfelt. As for the men's...well, you can see why many are still single. These are actual ads I copy and pasted for your enjoyment (as well as my personal assessment in bold type).

1) Every woman's dream man

You truly enjoy sex and would never with hold sex because we are in an argument. No Internet dating junkies, no obese, no smokers, no drug users, no prostitutes, pimps or porn site operators.

2) An A for honesty

Please only respond if you're serious about getting laid, because I don't have time to do email monologues with you, online picture passing, or endless chatting on a computer.

3) Speaking of honesty

* Looking for Pus**  Kisses, conversation, food, a plus.

4) Tempting but...

hi i am looking for a hot babe to go out with i like horses and herding cows.i have been up on the ruby river thes past few days like every other dam fool panning for gold and all i got was 2 dollars worth of dust and not a penny more. isnt that pitafull. now i am ready to get back to what i know best and thats woman

5) How did he land the one?

Looking for a very oral woman - 45 Ideally a married or attached woman, because I don't want a full time relationship as I already have one. Please no smokers, tweakers, or real fatties. Curves Ok but no rolls of fat please. Just not my thing.

6) He does make a solid point

Looking for a hot single mom! - 33 As I grow older (and more dashing), I tend to run into more and more single women who have had the (mis)fortune of bearing a child - or seven. Many people are hesitant to become romantically involved with a chick with a kid. But speaking from personal experience, don’t knock it, as they say, until you’ve tried it. Obviously, children suck and should be avoided at all costs. The kid might want you to talk to it, or it might crap itself, or walk in and interrupt when his mom is giving you a killer hummer. That’s no good. Here are just a few of the reasons I'm looking for a MILF:Advantage 1 - INSECURITY A chick with a kid knows she’s on thin ice. She has a handicap going into the relationship Advantage 2 - RELIABILITY You pretty much always know where a mom is, which is nice for us jealous, raging types. It’s hard for a mom to have too much of a life outside of her kid, because children selfishly monopolize a lot of her time

7) Who said men weren't chivalrous?

R U FLAT CHESTED????????? Wealthy and generous gentleman willing to sponsor augmentation surgery in exchange for long term discrete affair.

8) We've come a long way, baby...

Married, seeking intelligent young plaything - 33 You are educated, endlessly smart, quick on your feet, fascinating. You also have a strong, almost paradoxical, need to be naughty, subservient, dirty, slutty. You are young, cute, attracted to older guys.
You will be my plaything. You want me to respect you for your mind, especially since I am also cognitively agile, but I simply see you as the submissive, hot little boy-toy you are.

9) Uh, okay...

Let me Suck Your Toes - 27

10) For once I have no words...

In Need Of Sexy Sugarmamma - 19 I am 6'2 and 185 pounds looking for a sugarmamma from ages 25-40. Caramel complexion and abs of steel. Have to look good and have bank cause I like the ladies. We can go out of town or hang out at your house. I am sexy and cute. Serious Inquiries only time is a wasting.

11) Well hot damn! I can finally get those shelves hung!

Chores for a BJ? - 50 Expierenced handyman availabe to help you with chores you may need done. Most all repairs and/or refurbishing. Auto detailing, electical repairs, plumbing fixes, I can do most repairs or up grades. Work free for blowjobs.

12) And my all time favorite, the ever popular selective genital wart carrier...

Handsome w/ Herpes - 39 Even though I have this curse, I am selective...So, if you are slender,cute,fun,funny,great fun smile, between 27-37 and under size 8 and want to meet a great man that has never been married w/no kids(yet),then let me know

Me So Hungry

It's day two of The Slim Fast project, my attempt to lose eight pounds by drinking nothing but chocolate milk.

Everywhere I go there are people eating, and my stomach growls at every opportunity. I sequester myself inside, trying to ignore the myriad of commercials telling me I deserve to eat just one. It will pay off, I tell myself, donning the red bathing suit I purchased last year at Macy's.  It seems to have shrunk. Ocean water must be warmer than I thought.

My husband's potato chips are taunting me from the counter. "Come get us," they call to me. "We won't tell." I want to throw them, crush them, make them hurt, but doing so will only get me in trouble with my husband and further fuel his theory that I am becoming more like my mother every day.

"Just stay focused and breathe." I tell myself, trying to meditate the munchies away. It's no use. Visions of food mascots parade through my mind. I suddenly understand how Adam felt when Eve frolicked around him with the apple.

I retire to my bedroom where I spent the afternoon fantasizing about a naughty threesome with Mayor McCheese and a Keebler Elf. Even the Jolly Green Giant will do at this point. But not Little Green Sprout. I do have some boundaries.

Dieting sucks and I suddenly wish I were back in a time period where a little extra meat on a person was considered not only a good thing, but sexy. Of course, those people didn't live very long lives, but what years they did have, they knew how to live.

My arm itches and I begin to scratch it, noticing for the first time in my life that it is made of meat. Hmmm. Nope. Self-cannibalism is still out of the question. For now.

I start to rationalize with myself. "Hey, you don't have to drink Slim Fast. You could just consume the same amount of calories in food form. Then you get to eat and you are still on your diet."

I narrow my eyes. I have had this arguement with self before and I recall that self is quite the liar. I am not going to fall for it this time.

"Just shut up," I say, wanting to give in. My stomach growls again in response. It doesnt want to listen.

"Let's just make it through this one day," I bargain with it. "And then tomorrow we can decide if we want to do this again."

"Okay," my stomach reluctantly agrees, "but you'll be hearing from me while you sleep. I hope it's worth it."

June 18, 2012

Inn Too Deep

Conversation with my mother during a recent road trip:

Me: The country out here is beautiful

Mom: Yeah, wouldn't it be great to open a bed and breakfast out here?

Me: In theory yes, but I think it would be hard work. Not sure I'm up to it.

Mom: It wouldn't be hard work. You could just hire someone to do the work for you.

Me: I've known a few people who have B&B's and most of them are barely scraping by. I doubt I'd be able to afford to hire anyone.

Mom: What you do is hire a college girl who needs extra money. She could be your maid and you'd give her a room. Then you can enjoy your place and just hang out and write and talk to the neighbors.

Me: (scratching head). Mom...that's the plot of Newhart.

Mom: And you could get a handy man to live there too.

Me: Let me guess...he's a lovable yet dimwitted local with a knack for fixing things. And he lives down in the basement right?

Mom: Yes! Wouldn't that be fun?

Me: Still Newhart.

Mom: Or you could hire someone from another country who could work cheap. A maintenance man.

Me: Mom, that's the plot of Fawlty Towers.

Husband: (laughs out loud). Yes, I do believe your Inn would be more like Fawlty Towers.

Me: (getting frustrated). The owner of Fawlty Towers never looks like he is having fun. He just wants to be left alone but the Inn keeps falling apart.

Mom: I don't know why he isn't having fun. I'd have fun if I owned an Inn. I'm still not sure why he's at war with his wife. But I think he is secretly having fun.

Me: (bites lip). You do realize these are TV shows right? That people like me sit around writing things and none of this is real?

Mom: Of course I realize that! But it does look like fun. Especially when you have neighbors like the Daryl brothers.

Me: Mom...

Husband: Honey...leave her alone.

Mom: You know what would really be fun? Having a big house and opening up a designing business with a few of your friends. Why don't you do that?

Me: Mom, that's the plot of Designing W....Oh, never mind. Yes, mom. That would be fun.

June 11, 2012

Lanie the Prophetess (From The Universe is a Very Big Place)


Lanie stepped outside of the motel room, a steaming mug of coffee cupped between her hands. She took a sip, letting the drink sit in her mouth for a moment before swallowing. It was decaf but it was still pretty damned good.

Lanie inhaled deeply, breathing in the crisp, fall air. Autumn was the very best time of year to be a fortune teller. Even atheists and agnostics came around to have their cards read or their palms glanced over come Halloween. Good thing too. Her wig was fraying and she’d need a new one. Maybe something long and sleek this time. Something Cher.

“Morning, gorgeous,” said Ernie, closing the door behind him. He was wearing jeans with holes in the knees and his knockoff Members Only jacket purchased at the Asian district in St Paul. “Let’s get some pancakes before the girls wake up. I got something to show you.” Lanie followed leisurely behind her husband as he hustled to the Motel diner: The Blue Moose CafĂ©.

“Where we going to anyway?” she said as Ernie opened the door for her. The restaurant inside looked very much like any other restaurant Lanie had seen during her years on the road. Red booths and speckled tables, waitresses in outdated hairstyles, and a jukebox near the entrance that serenaded its guests with Johnny Cash. A few of the roadies whose names Lanie couldn’t remember nodded at them as they made their way towards the rear of the place.

“Flagstaff, Arizona, baby.” Ernie said as he scooted into the booth. “Home of the Chipotle tribe. The greatest Indian warriors in all the country. More scalping per square foot there than anywhere else in America.”

Lanie narrowed her eyes and leaned across the booth. “Let’s make a deal, Ernie. You save the shit for the customers and so will I.” Ernie grinned and snapped his fingers at a nearby waitress.

“So what do you want to show me?” Lanie asked after ordering her hotcakes with extra syrup and bacon. Ernie raised his eyebrows but kept his mouth shut and Lanie was tempted to kick him under the booth. He never gave up his dramatics, even when they were alone. Finally, he reached into his coat pocket and produced a bloated white tube sock that clattered and clanged when he threw it on the table.

“Ta da! Once again the World’s most Virile Man has come through for the woman he loves. Check this out.” Ernest picked up the end of the tube sock and dumped the contents. Ten cent pieces scattered across the booth, some rolling into Lanie’s lap.

“You’re pilfering from the dime toss, Ernest?” Lanie couldn’t believe it. Ernie could be called a lot of things, but she had never thought of him as a crook. A crock but not a crook.

“What? It’s not like I’m stealing from the church bowl. These people don’t care what happens to their dimes once they toss them into the plates. The only thing they care about is whether or not they win the giant teddy bear. Why do you have to be so negative?” Ernie scooped up the dimes with his right hand and pushed them into his lap. The waitress returned with their breakfasts and gave Lanie a look that said she knew she was going to be paid in change and it wasn’t making her happy. Lanie returned the look with a helpless shrug.

“But what about Don? He okay with this?” Don was the owner of the show and had already threatened to give Ernie a booth at the far end of the midway, the worst possible place to have a booth, if he didn’t cut out his crap. This was Ernest’s fourth booth in the last six months.

“Pfft. I keep the books. It all balances out.” Ernie took a bite and considered. “They expect us to take a cut. We’re carnies, Lanie. That’s what we do.”

Lanie straightened up and looked at her husband. She was a gypsy. A witch. A prophetess. She was not a carnie. She finished her breakfast in silence and threw a five dollar bill on the table. “That will pay for mine,” she said, rising with the dignity of a queen - leaving her husband staring - and a few of the roadies gossiping.

Lanie walked across the parking lot, weaving in and out of the parked trucks bearing the slogan “The Bob Cat Carnival Show”. She waved hello to Maria, the Mexican woman in charge of one of the cotton candy stands who was pregnant with her 7th kid and couldn’t find the daddies of the first six. Lanie took out her key and opened the door to room 133, the nicest room in the Blue Moose Motel.

Spring and Chloe were propped up on their elbows, watching The Smurfs on their shared double bed. Lanie huffed, wishing they would take advantage of the free HBO. She worked hard to give them nice things and they never appreciated it. “Time to go,” Lanie said, turning off the television. “Take a spitz bath and put on your clothes. We can drive through the McDonalds and pick up Egg McMuffins on the way out of town.”

Chloe jumped up and ran to her brown grocery store bag, digging for her favorite jeans. Spring quietly sat there, glaring accusingly at her mother. “But we just got here last night,” she said. “I’m not going. I’m tired.”

Lanie resisted the urge to roar. She wasn’t going to get into this with the girl again. Instead, she grabbed Spring by the elbow and pulled her up onto the floor. “You’d think you’d be excited to see all these new places. Most little girls don’t get to sleep in a different room every night. You two are the luckiest little girls in the entire universe. Right, Chloe?” Chloe nodded and lay on the bed, wriggling into her jeans. She had been making the rounds through the concession stands lately and Lanie hoped she would not need new pants any time soon. “Now hurry up. We have to hit Flagstaff before the snow.”

“I hate the snow,” Spring mumbled. “When I grow up I’m living in a house where I sleep in the same bed every night and there is never, ever any snow.”

“Be boring then,” Lanie said. “And see if I care.”

June 7, 2012

Pretend Writer

Last week I played a game of make-believe. I pretended to be a famous writer. Maybe even a not-so- famous writer. But an important writer nonetheless.

I woke up, frizzed out my hair (as most of the famous writers in my imaginary collection have frizzy hair), put on a pair of jeans, my artsy peasant shirt, and my leather jacket - an outfit that I hoped said creative, yet cool. With laptop in hand, I headed to my favorite coffee shop.

The cafe was bustling with customers looking like their skulls would pop if they didn't get a caffeine fix in the next fifteen seconds. But I walked in casually, smiling at everyone, and offering gratuitous nods to the laptop beneath my arm in case anyone missed it, all the while maintaining a certain level of unreadability. Writers are supposed to be mysterious and I didn't want to let anyone down.

I took a pen out of my purse and slipped it behind my ear. Writers are inundated with brilliant thoughts and I wanted to make sure I could capture mine before they were gone. But brilliant thoughts are fast little demons and most of mine melted away before I even realized I had one. No worries, I thought. The point was to look like I had brilliant thoughts, not to actually have them.

After ordering, I took my bagel and diet coke out to the patio. It wasn't sunny out but a true writer lives on the edge. A few clouds, and a few more sprinkles, wouldn't stop Hemingway! However, they did stop my computer and I had to fold it back up and retreat inside after it froze for the third time. Luckily, no one saw the retreat. They did, however, see me tripping over the chair leg of the nearest table and spraying diet coke on an unsuspecting old lady. I threw an apologetic smile and a wet nap at her and slunk to the other side of the coffee shop, hoping her eyesight wasn't good enough to name me in a lineup.  Waiting the appropriate fifteen minutes for the last cycle of coffee drinkers to saddle out and a new batch to arrive, I ceremoniously opened my laptop and began my heavy pounding of the keys followed by long, intense gazes into nothingness.Passerbys in polka dots and khakis spotted me. One even stopped to talk to me. "What are you doing, young lady?" She asked. "You look very deep in thought." I was secretly thrilled. For one, she had called me young. For another, deep. Double Ching!

"I am writing a book." I announced proudly, wishing I wore spectacles so I looked more literary.

"A book?" She gasped in disbelief. "That's very impressive."

The lady smiled and left my table, thoroughly impressed. I didn't mention that I was actually just looking at pages of the book I had only partially written. Writer's block had hit me a few days before and I was stuck. But why spoil it for her?

An old man sitting at the next table overheard my conversation with the waitress. "Good for you," he said, and his friends around the table nodded in unison. "Too many people your age waste their lives watching TV and playing them video games. I'm proud of you. You are doing something worth while with your life." The other men nodded in agreement and continued to talk about the hope of Generation X.

I had just gotten the approval of the Baby Boomer generation. Some of them may have even served in a war! I glowed, stuffing the TV Guide I had filched from the counter neatly into my purse. The crossword puzzle would have to wait. Yes. I am a writer Maybe I wasn't currently writing anything, but I knew brilliance was in there, lodged somewhere in my brain, waiting to be poured out onto paper.

I let the men know it's time for me to return to my work. After all, important things are going on in my head. I'm just not sure what they are. For the last few days I had thought and thought, trying to figure out something worth writing, and nothing had come. Today, I would at least pretend to do it.

Tap, tap, tap. My fingers hit the keyboard. I started with the word I...and added on. I did this. I saw that. I lived. I breathed. I loved. I cried. I conquered. I submitted. I became master of my own universe. On paper at least. Words and whole thoughts began to appear on the computer screen. And they were...good. I wasn't sure what had shifted but as I pretended to write I really did write, spilling out my hopes, my dreams, and my thoughts (some of them almost brilliant) into the next chapter of my book. Tap. Tap. Tap. I created worlds. I destroyed worlds. That is what I do. Oh glorious day. There is magic when it all comes together, especially when you have no idea how the fuck it happens.

Suddenly, my cell phone rings and it's my husband, asking me to pick up hand soap and toilet paper. Fast. I fold my laptop and put it in it's carrying case, wondering if Emily Bronte would have written such an amazing love story if she had ever been married?

And of course, accidentally knock the rest of my diet coke onto the ground, splattering the old man who had so kindly inspired me. I offered him an apologetic smile and my last wet nap, trying to maintain an ounce of dignity as I dab the bald spot on the top of his head.

The old men smile and murmur to each other, nodding as the representative of Generation X trips over her shoelaces and bolts out the door.

My husband texts as I get into the car. "Can you grab me a coffee before you leave." I look through the window and see the old men watching me and decide to go the Starbucks down the street instead.

June 6, 2012

Ray Bradbury - How You Saved Me

Some people don't handle endings well. I am one of those people. I hate endings. I mean, I really hate them. Often times I will stop reading a book during the last chapter just because I don't want it to end. "Aha," I say to the book, "I haven't finished you. That means you are stuck there, in my head, forever. Let's see you try and leave now!"

I'm not good at letting go.

 This applies to my own life as well. Whenever I finish one chapter of my life - like taking a class, writing a book, or cleaning out the garage - I mourn it. Sure, I may have grown from the event, experienced my own real-life character arc, but I am acutely aware that I can never go back. For better or worse, that story has been written. All I can do is start to work on its sequel.

Today I heard that one of my favorite writers, Ray Bradbury, has died, and it fills me with this horrible feeling that the world, no, the Universe, has forever shifted. I got 'hooked on Ray' when I was a teenager, reading The Illustrated Man and Something Wicked This Way Comes until the books were so tattered and dog-eared they were unreadable. For a kid in search of adventure, it didn't get any better than spending a summer with Mr. Bradbury. Ray took me to places that I had never been: from deep space to mystical midways, we made the journey together. Each adventure was a thrill ride and from the beginning he strapped me in and we made our way up the ramp and over the precipice, before slamming back into the world below. He left me wild and breathless and hungry for more. He knew how to write, and he knew how to make me believe, and he was an adept in doing it in only a few words, a skill I'm still aspiring to learn.

As I grew older and began writing myself, I looked to Ray to guide me. When I was twenty-two I purchased Zen in the Art of Writing. I thought, If anyone could teach me how to write (and to be Zen) it had to be Ray. I'm ashamed to admit, that at twenty-two, I just didn't get it.  I was looking for the magic formula that would make me a successful novelist, and instead all I found was a collection of essays. Essays? What good were these to a writer? Especially an impatient, young, Aries, female writer who wanted to know what to write, right now! If I had wanted parables I would read the Bible.So I tossed the copy aside, or maybe garage saled it, and went to other sources for wisdom. Workshops, manuals, conferences, any type of road map that would quickly guide me to success.

Then, About six months ago my world caved in. All around me things were changing: loved ones were dying, children I knew were being bullied, friends I loved saw their stories end. With each new horror I retreated deeper inside myself. The world was suddenly something much different than the world I thought I knew. In a forgiving world aunts didnt die, kids were safe and healthy, and true love lasted forever. In response, I stayed in my pajamas, ate ice cream, and gave up writing. 

"I need help," I finally said to my husband and I went to the one place in the world where I had always found salvation: The book store.I'm not sure what I was looking for but I paced the aisles of Barnes and Noble hoping to find it. For some reason I bypassed the self-help section and made my way towards the writing section. I shook my head as I entered the aisle. Surely, nothing there could help me. I probably owned every writing book they sold already. Even so, I closed my eyes and walked, dragging my fingers over the spines of the books, waiting for that magical lighting rod to strike that would tell me I was on the right track. Suddenly, I felt a spark in my fingertips and I looked down to see my hand resting on a small paperback wedged between two giant hardcovers.It was Ray Bradbury's Zen in the Art of Writing.

"I think I'm supposed to get this," I told my husband, furrowing my brow. Why? I wasn't sure. Ray I hadn't been terribly helpful before and I seriously doubted he would come to my aid this time. And it wasn't just my writing that was plaguing me, it was my life. But it was only 7.95 so what the hell?

By the time I got home I was already reading passages to my husband (who is also a writer). "Listen to this," I said, excitedly flipping through the pages of the first few chapters, "Why do we write? Because if we don't write, if you are really a writer and you don't write, you will die! Ray says so."

My heart beat beat rapidly. It was true! Whenever I spent too many days away from a typewriter - or at the very least a pen and paper - I felt a part of me wilt and fade. As Ray says the poisons (of the world) would accumulate and you would begin to die, to act crazy, or both. I hadn't been writing and the funk inside my soul  had been growing like mold. Retreating from the world wasnt the solution, I realized. The world was full of horrors and I had to face them. But I was a writer. And to quote Mr. Bradbury...an hours writing is tonic, fighting back the horrors of the world and (keeping them at bay).

I didn't have to accept the world as it was. I was a writer. I could change it! My fully adult self was learning what my twenty-two year old self just couldn't know. There were bad things in the world but there were good things too, and if I couldn't see them I could at least create them. I had that power!

Ray revealed one final life-altering secret to me, a secret I never found in any other 'how-to' manual. Ray said that when you write you must write with zest and gusto. If you are feeling your words others will feel them too. It is your passion that will fuel others and spur them on to read. And to write with zest, you must live with zest. Live each moment, allowing the experience to course through you. Jump from that precipice into the great abyss, for it is only through embracing the unknown that you will live courageously enough to write courageously.

Since reading Ray's book again, I can say that the existential dread has diminished. I live each day with gust, love, joy, and zest, just as he suggested. Then I allow those feelings to seep into my writing and my words have  become more authentic.It's a circle...live, write, write, live. It's all entertwined for a writer, or for any artist. I write now because if I don't, I will simply wilt. And the world needs all our strength as it goes through its newest cycle of growing pains.

Ray, in a way, I owe you for saving me. You brought me out of a slump and back into the world. I can't control what goes on around me but I can experience it , write about it later, and even change the ending. I can show people the marvels of the world and point out the injustices as well. Words have that power. In my world, loved ones don't die anymore, they are cured from their ills and go on to do great things. Children aren't bullied, they stand up to their aggressor and become heroes. And stories don't end, the just...

June 5, 2012

Where's My Zen Again?

It's almost one in the morning and I'm watching my husband sleep. His breathing is slow and measured, and his eyelids flutter gently, indicating he is deep in dreams. A smile crosses his handsome face. He murmurs something, chuckles, and rolls over. I sit up taller, trying to eavesdrop on his dreams, wondering who is making him smile. He calls my  name and I give him a satisfied nod, then plod off to the computer to do anything but sleep.

I'm in too much pain to sleep. Somehow I hurt my back. It could be that I was working out without stretching first (bad bad!) or that I was lugging around a pack of books and a computer which probably weighed more than I do (at least before they offered me the free pastry at Panera) or that I sat cross-legged at my computer for three hours without taking a break, or finally, that I was rearranging the garage to get ready for our weekend yard sale. At any rate, my back protesteth and I am screwed.

In the first few months of the New Year I had planned to be more Zen (see first post), or at least to slow down. Six months later I can report that my Zen Experiment was an epic failure. Although I'm happy to be living my energetic life, lying here in pain tonight makes me realize Zen and I are still worlds apart. I'm still doing, running, and moving. And I'm still worrying incessantly, counting down time like its the last piece of pizza at a Jenny Craig reunion. But sitting here tonight, hoping this pain goes away before I chew through my own leg, I realize I have to recommit. If I don't I may end up killing myself before I ever see those goals I work so hard on.

If I'm not making any sense blame it on whatever it was I took in the dark to get rid of my malady, probably something left over from my husband's root canal. The bad news is that my back still hurts. The good news is that I can't feel my teeth.

I hear a noise from the bed. My husband murmurs again, snapping me back to the present. I smile. For just a moment I'm zen.

"Honey," he says when he notices I'm not lying beside him, "get back in bed. I miss you."

I miss him too. If I can't sleep maybe I will just be there with him, listening to him breathe, content that he at least is having good dreams tonight. The medicine is kicking in...and I'm starting to have good dreams too. Too bad I'm still awake.

June 1, 2012

Prepare to Follow Your Bliss

I woke up this morning and had one of those magical epiphanies that changes everything. I realized that I am one of the luckiest people on the face of the earth. If someone would have told me a year ago that I would be living my dreams right now, I would have thought they were on something, but here I am, married to my soulmate, writing novels, and teaching fitness-dance classes at a spiritual center.

It wasn't an easy road. I had been working at the same place for the last four years and had pretty much resigned myself to the fact I would probably be working there forever (or in a very similar situation). Not that there was anything wrong with my workplace. On the contrary, my boss was great and my coworkers were kind and supportive. But something was missing. I knew this wasn't the life the Universe wanted me to live. My cup was half-full and I was all miserable, even if I only admitted it to my husband and myself.

At the time, I was working on a novel but the writing was flat and uninspired as I slogged through chapter after chapter. The world I created seemed inauthentic and as one dimensional as the paper I wrote on. But I was determined to get through it, even if it meant endless edits. I was also working out, and had been attending aerobic style dance classes. It's funny, I thought, when I was younger I danced all the time, but for some reason I simply stopped. Why?The simple answer was that dancing (and writing) came after everything else: work, kids, husband, social obligations, house. I didn't have time to microwave a potpie let alone carve out any real time for myself.

Even though I was exhausted I decided to get a certification in dance fitness. It was intense but I completed it and my wonderful husband hung it on the wall. In my life, I've accomplished many things in my life, but that simple certification was one of my most significant.

Every day I practiced my routines (choreographing them myself). I did this before and after work, and on my lunch breaks and I'm sure my husband thought I had gone off the deep end a bit when he would come home and see me shaking around the living room coaching an invisible audience (although he swears it was also a turn on. Men!). One day, while having a drink with my husband at the bar, he looked into my eyes and asked me if I wanted to quit my day job.

"What will I do?" I asked.

"What you were meant to do," he said. "Teach dance and write books."

Whenever I am angry at my husband, I think back to those words. What he was offering me was the opportunity to be the Real Me, the kind I had only imagined. It was a huge sacrifice too. We would be giving up my income, insurance, and the 'prestige' of me having a real job to take a risk. He would have to take on all of the bills. I would have to stop buying 'extras'. There might even be endless nights of ramen noodle consumption. But I had to go for it. I realized that no amount of Starbuck's Latte's were worth giving up what my soul really longed for. To hell with new clothes. To hell with professional haircuts. I would shave my hair bald and wear my mother's velour sweatsuits if it meant following my dream.

Carpe Diem!

Seven months later, here I am. Some days I write so much I feel like my fingers might become permanently crooked. And I'm teaching a group of ladies that often can't afford the cost of the class so I comp them.  I haven't made a profit yet, but I will. The more I follow the path that was chosen for me long ago, the more I know I will be taken care of. I have faith.

Following your bliss is not easy. It's work! I don't sit around eating bon-bons watching Oprah (Oh, but on some days I'd really like to).  I write, edit, critique, workout, choreograph, advertise, market, network, and smile. On top of that I still take care of the house (hey, it's only fair) I work harder at trying to create a new reality for myself than I have ever worked at any job. The work can be grueling, but the happiness that comes from following your dream is something you can't put a price tag on.

I'm certainly not saying everyone should vacate their cubicles and audition for American Idol. I never could have attempted this while raising my sons. And I'm lucky I have a husband who believes in me enough to shoulder the burden until my career matures. But if you have a dream, you should never stop working on it. There is another saying: Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity. In my opinion, truer words were never spoken. Prepare and wait. I feel lucky, but I understand that determination mattered much more than luck in the grand scheme of things. You can't just dream, you have to do.

Meditations on The Shadows of Dark Root

I may have gotten a bit metaphysical during the creation of The Shadows of Dark Root. I always knew I wanted Maggie and her companions to j...