Sunday, September 14, 2014

Comfortable?

Being comfortable is a wonderful thing.  We value comfort, in our homes, our cars, our clothes (especially our shoes), our communities, our relationships, our jobs.  We get angry and resentful when things upset our apple-cart of comfort.  It is much too easy to become complacent in our lives.  Everything’s smooth, everything’s normal, no disruptions to ruin our day, our week, our lifetime.  And we like it that way.

I had a boss who once accused me of being averse to change.  I told him I had no problem with change, as long as it made sense.  Changing work procedures for the sake of change, rather than to make things more efficient or profitable, made no sense to me.  He did not like my response.  But having worked in the same field for 25 years, I had a pretty good idea of where his change was going to put us 6 months down the line…and it did…and it wasn’t productive, efficient or profitable.
 
Those who know me best never know what to expect of me next.  They often refer to me as a renaissance woman.  Sometimes people ask me how I could possibly do all the things I have done in the last 20 years.  I admit, it’s not always comfortable to put yourself out there or try new things.  When my first book was published, a friend asked me how I found the time to write a book with work and home and kids.  She said that work and home and kids were all she had time for, so she had no other interests.  She had no idea what she would do with her time if she ever lost her job.  My response was that there were not enough hours or days left in my lifetime for all the things I would try if I had that extra 40 hours a week in which to do them.

The fact of the matter is, without change, we wilt.  Change is as necessary to a full life as water and sun are to growing plants.  Everyone needs to change and grow, to learn and think, to read and imagine.  Without these things, we may be comfortable, but we are not taking advantage of all the creative gifts we’ve been given.  When you expand your universe, you expand yourself.  It may not be a comfortable expansion, but in the end, you will be better off than you were when it started.

Then there is involuntary change.  When your universe thinks you need a boot in the butt, something inevitably happens that you don’t like.  You get angry and resentful and feel that you’ve been dealt a harsh blow.  And it’s true.  But if you wallow in those feelings of anger and self-pity, you don’t allow yourself to grow...you don’t allow yourself to think clearly and come up with a plan for handling the change that was thrust on you.  You can either say “Woe is me” or you can take stock of your life and make some voluntary changes of your own.  Chances are you were way past due in kicking up some dust in your comfortable life.

I know a lot of people right now, myself included, are on the receiving end of that kind of involuntary change.  It’s about as far from comfortable as you can get.  It feels as if all the security you’ve had for these many years has been ripped away from you.  How we react to that change will define our lives for months and perhaps years to come.
 
I thought to myself, for the first time in my life (and for a few short seconds), Mom never had this problem.  Dad worked and Mom stayed home and kept the house and kids in order.  She never complained and she did everything she did the very best she could because she was doing it for those she loved.  Dad brought home the money and all was well with the world.  Then I just shook my head.  I am not my mother.  I need to be out there working, doing old things, trying new things, meeting new people, writing new stories and singing new songs.

I’m not too old to change.  I’m not too old to realize the value of not getting complacent or comfortable, in my life or in my job.  And I’m a firm believer that all things happen together for good.  Even when something seems bad or hopeless at the moment, there is a greater, far-reaching purpose.  And I, for one, am willing to find out what that is!


Thursday, September 11, 2014

The Unanswered Phone - Redux

I never knew how much pain was involved in a call not answered.  But for thousands of Americans, the pain of the call not answered will never be over. 

I was running a few minutes late for work that Tuesday morning, and I pulled into the parking lot just as the announcement came over the radio that a passenger airliner had stuck one of the World Trade Center towers.  I grabbed my purse, hurried into the building, and raced to my office.  I announced to all who would listen that a plane had hit the World Trade Center and everyone started searching the web for information and turning on their radios…everyone but me.  I was dialing my phone, desperate to reach my son.  When the second tower was struck, I dialed faster.  And so began the worst 5 hours of my life. 


My son Chris was in New York City on job interviews.  We talked before he left, and he told me that he was very excited to have an interview at 9 a.m. on Tuesday morning in the World Trade Center.  He thought it would be a neat place to work.  I tried to stay calm as his cell phone remained unanswered.  I stood with my fellow workers around the computer monitors and watched news film of the towers collapsing, mortified at the massive loss of life.  My fears grew.


Soon we heard that a plane had targeted the Pentagon and that another plane, heading to the White House, had made a u-turn over Cleveland and subsequently crashed in a field in Pennsylvania.  I watched in horror, but I kept dialing.  My husband got through to me around 11, wanting to know if I had spoken to Chris.  By that time, I was on the verge of hysteria.  Needless to say, no work was being done as we continued to take in with disbelief the events unfolding on the East Coast in real time in our virtual backyard.


Around 2:30 in the afternoon, I dialed for about the thousandth time.  Chris answered. 


“Oh my God, Chris, where have you been?  I’ve been calling you for five hours!”


“What’s up, Mom?”


“What’s up?  The world is ending!  Can’t you look out the windows in Newark and see the smoke?”


“I’m not in Newark.”


“Where are you?”


“I’m in Perry.  I just woke up.  What’s going on?”


“Then you don’t know.  Terrorists flew planes into the World Trade Center towers around 9 this morning.  They both collapsed, killing thousands.  The towers are gone.  The Pentagon was hit, too.  And a fourth plane crashed in Pennsylvania.  It was headed for the White House.  I thought YOU were in one of those towers.  Dad and I have been frantic trying to reach you.  Didn’t you have a job interview this morning in one of the towers?”


There was long moment of silence.


“Yes, I did have an interview, but I finished yesterday’s interviews early, so I called the guy at the Trade Center and asked if I could come in right then, rather than wait until this morning.  He said yes.  So I interviewed late yesterday and headed back to Ohio.  I got in around 2:30 in the morning. I didn’t want to wake you or Dad, so I went to Brian’s and crashed there.”


My relief was palpable. 


Chris was profoundly affected by the events of 9-11.  He made a trip to Ground Zero as soon as it was plausible to do so.  I am sure that he still wonders, as do I, about the twist of fate that kept him so far away from a place he was scheduled to be at the exact moment of that most awful catastrophe. As a parent, I experienced 5 hours of the most intense fear I have ever known, but I am eternally grateful that my son was spared on that horrible day. 


And I am haunted by thoughts of the thousands of mothers, fathers, sons, daughters, sisters, brothers and friends who spent hour after agonizing hour, on that day and in the days, weeks and months that followed, dialing phones that were never answered.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Surrounded by silence and water...

I know I’ve been silent of late.  This is a function of three things.  First, I was getting ready to leave for a week.  Second, I left for a week.  Third, having been gone for an entire week and virtually incommunicado, I returned to a week of turmoil.  But today, I’m just going to talk about part two…leaving for a week, because it was glorious!

I arrived on Middle Bass Island around 6 on Sunday afternoon…August 17.  After driving to my temporary domicile, clothes, food, and computer equipment were moved inside and I got busy getting my living situation organized.  Stacked on the dining room table were two manuscripts I had printed at home for reference and notes.  There had been a glimmer of hope that I could sit still long enough to finish both books in my time on the island, but after due consideration (how far along I had gotten in the actual writing and how recently I had worked on each story), I decided that I would concentrate on the coming of age (or should that be coming of middle age?) book.  With organization, decisions, dinner and a glass of wine behind me, I crashed early, hoping to get a good start on Monday morning.

From early Monday morning through noon Tuesday, I read and reread the original 50,000-word manuscript, correcting inconsistencies in the existing document and fixing irritating timeline issues.  After lunch, I finally began the process of writing.  With doors and windows flung wide, the sound of gently lapping water, and the cooling lake breeze blowing through, the words began to flow.  When my eyes needed a break, I would look to my left through the open French doors into the garden
or I would look right through the open living room window to the lake. 
Every evening, I would take a glass of wine and head out the front door, and walk to a bench on the shore. 
Never did get a particularly good shot of the sunset, but it was nice to take that little bit of time for something quiet and soothing.


Other than the few early morning walks I managed to squeeze in, and sleeping and eating of course, I simply wrote.  There was no TV and no WiFi.  I barely had cell service, which was hit and miss at best.  Sometimes I actually had 3G…sometimes I had 1X…sometimes I had no signal at all, which was a particular pain if I needed to Google something for the book or use my online Thesaurus.

At night, I slept with the doors and windows open wide, the incessant sounds of crickets and water becoming the best and most soothing lullaby in memory.  I slept like the proverbial rock.  Quite honestly, I could have stayed there forever.  Of course, winter would be problematic…no crickets, and only crunching ice sounds.

I ended up staying an extra night, at the invitation of the owners.  The additional time enabled me to exceed my word count goal.  My 50,000-word manuscript had grown to 80,500 words by the time I departed the island.  Even now I find it amazing that I managed to write 30,500 words, more than 12 chapters, between noon on Tuesday and midnight on Friday.
 
Staying on Middle Bass was the epitome of distraction-free time.  It’s the type of time a writer can’t find at home, with family, laundry, cooking, phone calls, door bells, e-mail, and work issues looming.  I could use several Middle Bass weeks every year!  Now all I need to do is win the lottery…then I can buy my own place on Middle Bass.  In the meantime, I will continue working on the novel with a self-imposed completion deadline of end of September and edit deadline of mid-October.  With any luck, I hope to have the new novel for sale on Amazon and Kindle by November 1...just in time for Christmas.

I hated it when my idyllic week came to an end.  Life has a way of bringing you back to reality with a jolt.  My immediate one was learning that I had been driving on an expired license since mid-July.  So I drove off the ferry and directly into Port Clinton, where I paid a premium to regain my driving legality before heading home!

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Robin Williams: The Perseids are in Good Company

I delayed writing about Robin Williams because I wanted my words to be thoughtful, rather than reactionary.  I knew I had to wait because my reaction to his death surprised me.  I’m not what some might call a “fan boy” (or “fan girl,” so to speak).  I haven’t swooned over a celebrity since Peter Tork (of The Monkeys) and Justin Hayward (of The Moody Blues) were in their early 20s, and I was even younger.  For many years I’ve listened with interest as celebrity death announcements were made in the media.  Normally, I remember those performers fondly for their accomplishments and thankfully for the entertainment they have provided.  Once in a great while, a death will affect me to a much greater degree.
 
When they broke into the programming to announce that Robin Williams had died, I was completely taken aback.  I remember Robin’s first appearance on Happy Days and how we all laughed at his performance.  No one had ever seen the like.  He made the improbable and the impossible not only believable, but funny.  He launched a new kind of comedy that took the industry by storm; and he kept it up for 40 years.  He could bring down the house with a look, and no other actor or comic was able to emulate his improvisational genius…not then, and likely not ever.

As an actor, Robin showed us his other sides, his serious side, his sweet side, his emotional side, his angry side, his passionate side, and a side that was a more conventional version of funny.  He became his roles, and we believed he was Adrian Cronauer, or Alan Parrish, or Sean Maquire, or Patch Adams, or John Keating…even Mork, or Mrs. Doubtfire, or the Genie.  He breathed life into those roles and into our lives through them.

And he gave.  He gave his time, his money, his friendship and whatever else he could muster.  The Windfall Foundation that funds many charities, Comic Relief, many USO tours, donating performance proceeds to help rebuild Christchurch, New Zealand after an earthquake in 2010; the list of his charitable work is substantial.

Over the course of the last two days, I have spent much time thinking about why Robin Williams’ death has caused me to feel such a profound sadness.
  What I realize is that I am not sad for Robin Williams.  I am sad for all of us he left behind who will no longer have that bright, shining star to make us laugh and cry and know there is good.  

And Robin, he gave his wit, his humor, his brilliance, his genius, his passion until he had nothing left to give.  I would like to think that when he breathed his last, he said to God, “Beam me up, Scotty, I’m finished down here,” and laughing, God transported him on a beam of light to become a shooting star.  He has joined the Perseid’s as they streak through our sky and will sprinkle a little humor down on us every year as he passes by.  Safe travels, Robin.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Sale starts today at 11:00 a.m. EST

I’m running a Kindle Countdown Deal on A Mystery in the Mailbox

In the US, the sale starts today, August 11, at 8:00 a.m. PST (11:00 a.m. EST).  The Kindle version of the book will be offered for $2.99, a 70% discount, for 32 hours.  For every 32 hours you delay purchasing, the price goes up by one dollar, the discount goes down by 10%.  The final sale price, $6.99, a 30% discount, ends at 12:00 a.m. PST August 18.  Then the price returns to the list amount of $9.95.

In the UK, the sale starts at 8:00 a.m. GMT on August 12.  The Kindle version of the book will be offered for £0.99, an 84% discount, for 32 hours.  For every 32 hours you delay purchasing, the price goes up by one pound, the discount goes down by ~17%.  The final sale price, £4.99, an 18% discount, ends at 12:00 a.m. PST August 19.  Then the price returns to the list amount of £6.99.

This could be your best chance to get A Mystery in the Mailbox, Kindle version, at a deeply discounted price!  Just remember, the longer you wait, the less you save.  And did you know you can "gift" Kindle books?  If your friend or relative has a Kindle you can buy the book for them, and it will automatically download on their Kindle.  Not a bad gift at $9.95 and an even better gift at $2.99!  Enjoy! 

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Day 5 of the Challenge, posted a bit late

I’m thankful for Fridays, because they give all of us working stiffs a little glimpse of what retirement holds.  I am thankful for the many tremendous Northeast Ohio musicians who perform around the area religiously and most of the time for pretty low pay.  They lend an immediacy to the local creative scene that artists of other genres can not.  And finally, I am thankful for my health, something most of us take for granted.  It’s never too late to make improvements to our own condition!

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Day 4 of the Challenge....

Here it is, Day 4 of the 5-day challenge.  I am thankful that my daughter received the marketing materials we ordered, with plenty of time to spare before her first fall craft show, The Shabby Chic and Attic Sale at Rider's Inn.  I am thankful that my husband suggested we attend the In Cahootz concert at Perry Park this evening.  I really enjoyed the music, and I love the lack of stress I feel whenever I am on the shore of Lake Erie. I also had the pleasure of running into several friends while I was there.  I am thankful that the new knee brace I ordered from Amazon is working so much better than the old one.  It looks a little funky, but it really decreases the pain.