Sunday, September 14, 2014


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 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!