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The Enforcer, or I Can’t Believe it’s Come to This, or I’m Mad as Hell

Children amaze me. They are known as the world’s pickiest eaters. Yet, if there was sugar involved that they could potentially obtain, they could gnaw through a cardboard box in about 28.2 seconds.

My kids are no exception to this rule. They ate very well as babies. It brought tears to my eyes when they finished their tiny baby food jars of spinach, green beans, and squash. Things that even made me queasy to think about. They ate them up and wanted more. I really thought I was the luckiest parent in the world. I couldn’t wait to brag about their healthy food choices at family gatherings and play dates galore. Not that they really had a choice back then, but they didn’t exactly refuse it either.

When their little teeth started showing up, so did their change in attitude. No longer did they want the delicious dark green vegetable-like pudding I’d been serving them without complaint all the while before. I upgraded them to toddler style vegetables. “Cool,” I thought. “This is what all the hip kids at the sandbox are eating. Don’t you want to be like them? It even has wagon wheel pasta!” My kids were unimpressed. One bite and both of them spit it out. I knew it was going to be a long, bumpy road to the teenage years. And one with limited vegetable intake.

Being ultra open-minded and forgiving about differences in palates, I tried many different ways to serve vegetables: squashed, boiled, minced, raw, cooked, strained, frozen, fresh. Time and time again, the responses were the same: “Yuck,” “boo,” no,” “stinky poo poo,” “barf,” “no no,” “blech,” “ick!”

It made me cry inside when my sister would casually mention how her young daughters loved salad. “SALAD?!?I would scream in my head, in a therapeutic and cleansing way. “SALAD?!?” I would scream as I punched a pillow in my sleep. “Salad,” I would sigh as I stirred my coffee, watching my kids staring at their plates full of food. “Salad.” I would say, defeated, as I watched commercials on TV about kids loving to eat their vegetables. “Must be that they’re girls,” I would cheer myself up with. My boys don’t like vegetables. Must be a gender issue.

Now let me get something straight. It’s not like my kids won’t eat any vegetables. They only eat certain vegetables. I will list the vegetables my kids will eat, as follows:

1. Candy Corn

2. Jelly Beans

Sigh. My recent approach to vegetable intake on the junior level is that I will prepare vegetables to make myself feel better. I serve them on the side of their entrees, more of a colorful garnish rather than an expected nutritional component of their daily vitamin and mineral allowance. For that we supplement with good old fashioned Flintstones vitamins. Occasionally, one of my kids might eat a kernel of corn. Likely, because it was stuck onto something else they were actually trying to ingest. Still, it makes my heart go pitter pat. I beam as I calculate the vitamins they just enhanced their diet with. I block out all realizations it’s more likely just sugar. I rationalize that even if it’s fiber, it is still a healthy thing to eat.

This morning I had a new attitude. As my youngest son sat staring at his delicious plate of hard boiled egg and yummy toast, I realized I’d had enough. I strongly encouraged him to eat his healthy breakfast, but all he would do was have a few bites of toast…..the part of the toast that didn’t include the crust that is. It then dawned on me that this was a kid who could tear through Jolly Ranchers, Laffy Taffy and probably chew a door off our kitchen cupboards if he knew there were marshmallows hiding within. Something in me generated a frustration like TV news anchorman Howard Beale when he goes off the deep end in the famous movie “Network” and says, “I’m a human being, god damn it! My life has value! And I’m as mad as hell and I’m not going to take this anymore!”

So I did something that surprised even me. I had a secret weapon I’d been drinking for years. Something that could be used in the war against picky eaters. I sat down a large bottle of V8 Juice next to my son’s plate. I told him, calmly, that if he didn’t eat his egg and toast he was going to have to drink a glass of vegetable juice to make sure he was getting a healthy breakfast. My son thought I was kidding at first. But I sat down next to him, and the bottle, and stared at him until he ate his food. I was amazed at how quickly this simple trick worked. Within minutes he’d eaten half his breakfast.

For the first time ever I can now see how vegetables will improve my kid’s nutrition – not by my children actually eating them, but by my threatening that my kids will have to eat them! I hated the fact that I had to make vegetables the bad guy, but you can’t argue with success. And who knows? Maybe someday my kids will actually want to eat vegetables. But until then, at least I can truthfully say vegetables are an important part of my children’s nutrition. And, yes, now I can finally boast at family functions and play dates galore that my children are always eager to eat a healthy breakfast.

Is it Too Late or is it Right on Time?

Too late. It’s too late, actually. That’s  how I feel more and more every day. Too late for what? Too late for chasing dreams? Too late for taking chances? I don’t know, maybe too late for everything.

But that kind of thinking has been with me my whole life. It must have started when I was due to be born in October, then showed up late in early November. The die had been cast. Even when I was a kid I remember thinking I was too old to start ice skating lessons in fourth grade, because all the kids in the Olympics started when they were two. I remember at nineteen years of age talking myself out of modeling school because all the decent models had been in the field since they were fourteen. I finished my first college degree late, at the age of twenty-three, because of being sidetracked by irresponsibility. I got married late at the age of thirty. Then I returned to school for my next degree even later, at the age of thirty-one and considered myself the old lady of the nursing school class. Even though I wasn’t. I just felt that way.

The song “Undun” by the Guess Who was ahead of its time. Actually it was right on time for me, as it was from the year of my birth….1969. Because it is “my song” as I’ll call it, I cling to each lyric as if it speaks to me personally. A prophecy. Is it too late for me? Will this endless lateness eventually make me “come undun?” Even though this spelling for the word “undone” is incorrect, I’ll forgive them because she must also have been too late to worry about grammar. Plus, I’m sure they were hippies.

If you live your whole life feeling like you’ve already missed the boat, what’s the point in ever hoping to get anywhere? That is the million dollar question I’ve asked myself more and more often lately. Especially when it is coming up time for my next birthday. I wonder, what have I done this past year? What did I end up missing out on because I was too late? What can I do this year while I still have time to do it?

This year I’m going to start seeing the glass as half full. Instead of thinking about all the things I’m too late for, I’m going to make myself focus on what I’m RIGHT ON TIME for. So, at my tender age of fortyteen…what am I right on time for? I’m right on time for a slower metabolism, I’m right on time for a midlife crisis, I’m right on time to worry about my retirement, I’m right on time to be the mother of pre-teen boys (and the whole can of worms that comes  along with that), I’m right on time to be part of the sandwich generation and by then I’ll be right on time for another midlife crisis (why stop at one? I’m not a quitter).

So, I can see there is so much left in life that I am at the perfect age to enjoy. I’ll never miss out again on the surprises of life, thinking every opportunity is in my past. “I’m right on time” is what I’ll say as a I pay each bill, as I plan for my future, as I face another car repair or broken furnace. I’m right on time for the minute I’m in. Best of all, I think I’m right on time for a nap.

Freedom and Happiness and Other Notions of Youth

When you are a kid all you dream of each and every day is the time in your life when you are a “grown up.” You think once you’re older you’ll be able to drive, have a cool house, do what you want and stay up late. I have specific childhood memories, circa age nine, of what my house would be like when I grew up. I was going to live with my best friend in one of the many ranch houses that surrounded our elementary school. On a cul-de-sac, no less! I didn’t really know what my occupation would be, but I was going to own about ten dogs. My best friend wanted to own ten dogs, too, but she also wanted to be a truck driver. She thought we could also drive around town in her big rig which she would name “The Black Widow.” Yes, the times were good in the daydreams of youth.

Looking back now as a “grown up,” I know I have full freedom to own ten dogs if I wanted. I could also buy a ranch style home in the town where I grew up. I also have a full reign to go to truck driving school and find a truck I could drive around town in. And if I felt like it I could name it “The Black Widow.” But I do not choose to do any of these things. Especially the truck driving part. That was kind of the dream of my best friend.

Now being an adult, my ideas of what freedom and happiness truly mean are completely different. I see the world now as broken up into two parts: responsibility and obligation. There is no room to fit the imaginative ideas of freedom and happiness. At least not very much room. And certainly not from the innocent childhood perspective.

It is funny now that as an adult I dream of the time when I was young. That was a time of true freedom and happiness. No responsibilities, debts, obligations, and the knowledge that anything you really worked at could possibly happen someday. Didn’t want to go to class? Skip it! Want to stay out all night drinking and watch the sunrise? Sounds like a plan! Donuts for breakfast? Velveeta cheese for lunch? Beer for dinner? Yes, yes, and yes. And to think that I considered all three of these food categories sound, rational adult choices. Twenty-somethings.

Fast forward a million years. I know that I am not too old to have dreams or plans for the future, but it seems unlikely at my age I could, say, start a new sport and train really hard and end up in the Olympics. Which was always the measure of my youth. How much time I had left to do things….whether it was sports, modeling, learning a hobby, playing an instrument, becoming “famous.” Time was always a factor I considered in my countdown to adulthood. But, as the Rolling Stones continue their world tour well into their early hundreds, I think that maybe the concept of youth is becoming a more extended period of time.

Much like the ideas of “freedom” and “happiness,” “youth” is also relative. You’re as young as you feel, right? Actually that is something only old people say. Anyway, I realize now that in order to regain my youth, freedom and happiness, I will have to start training for the Olympics. I’m hoping that if I’m persistent I can win enough public sympathy that the Olympics Committee will suddenly recognize the importance of creating a special program for middle-aged first time athletes.  If this works out (fingers crossed!), count me in for skeet shooting. I have a feeling I’d be really good at it.

SO MANY AWARDS…WWSFD?

Seriously…What Would Sally Field Do? I have to replay this clip, because only she can express my gratitude in a way that goes beyond mere words on the page:

Alright, I’ve been such a slacker lately. Always putting off for tomorrow what I should be doing today. I’ve been so fortunate as to have been nominated for NINE AWARDS over the past few months. I always think, “I’ll do the requirements tomorrow and spread the love to some other deserving bloggers!” But, tomorrow comes and goes, and these amazing awards sit unacknowledged. I can stand it no longer. They deserve to see the light of day.

So…this morning I made it Priority Uno to sit down at my computer and put together a list of all the thoughtful people who have nominated my blog for a bounty of amazing awards. I would like to thank you all for considering me…and YES I ACCEPT EVERY LAST ONE OF THEM!!! You are all so kind and generous. I’m one lucky blogger, for sure! I hope you will be forgiving that I cannot follow the specific rules of each award requirement. I’ll do my best to morph them into one rule requirement so I can properly accept these. Following are the amazing bloggers and the awards they nominated me for. The next section is a list of who I’m nominating for each award, and the general acceptance criteria. Thank you, again, for your consideration! I can only hope you’ve enjoyed my blog as much as I’ve enjoyed and looked forward to reading all of yours!

1. Reader Appreciation Award, nominated by http://s1ngal.wordpress.com/ (p.s. this link was so old that it no longer appeared! I had to use my own creativity to come up with this show-stopper image):

2. Beautiful Blogger Award, nominated by http://wordsbecomesuperfluous.com/ and http://catnipoflife.wordpress.com/

3. One Lovely Blog Award, nominated by http://teepee12.wordpress.com/ and http://tinylessonsblog.com/ and

http://mindfulness4now.wordpress.com/

4. Liebster Blog Award, nominated by http://viewfromthesunroom.wordpress.com/ and http://catnipoflife.wordpress.com/

5. Reality Blog Award, nominated by http://tinylessonsblog.com/

6. Addictive Blog Award, nominated by http://s1ngal.wordpress.com/

7. Very Inspiring Blogger Award, nominated by http://baarmychris.wordpress.com/

8. Seven Things About Me Award, nominated by http://thefurfiles.wordpress.com/ and http://peachyteachy.wordpress.com/

9. The Booker Award, nominated by http://mindfulness4now.wordpress.com/

The Rules of this Nomination:

1. Identify and show appreciation of the blogger who awarded you

2. You must add the award logo to your blog

3. Tell your readers 7 things about yourself

4. You must nominate 5 – 10 of your favorite bloggers for this award

5. Inform your nominees that you’ve nominated them

A. Appreciation!

1. Thank you to http://s1ngal.wordpress.com/ for your two nominations. You are so generous!

2. Thank you  http://wordsbecomesuperfluous.com you are very kind!

3. Thank you http://catnipoflife.wordpress.com/you are amazing!

3.  Thank you http://teepee12.wordpress.com/ you are wonderful!

5. Thank you http://tinylessonsblog.com you are thoughtful!

6. 4. Thank you …http://mindfulness4now.wordpress.com/ you are very lovely!

7. Thank you….//viewfromthesunroom.wordpress.com/ you are very supercalifragilisticexpialidocious!

8. Thank you…http://baarmychris.wordpress.com/ you are very sweet!

9. Thank you…http://peachyteachy.wordpress.com/ you are very supportive!

10. Thank you…http://thefurfiles.wordpress.com/ you are very awesome!

I love all of your blogs so much, you are all inspiring and creative people. Thanks so much for being part of my WordPress world!

B. Seven things about Fortyteen Candles:

1. Pets: two cats, a rabbit and a fish

2. I am horrible at returning library books on time. HORRIBLE!

3. I think I can count on one two hands the number of “great book ideas” I have floating around in my head.

4. I wish I was able to live by the ocean. I think the smell of salt air and the sound of endless waves are energizing to the soul.

5. Chocolate. Enough said.

6. Coffee. Ditto.

7. I hope to do more traveling someday. There is so much more of this world I’d like to know.

My Nominees…aka “The Fab Five-to-Ten-ish” If you accept this nomination, please pick an award from those listed above that you desire, follow the rules you’ve decided to follow and share the wealth with others.

1. http://s1ngal.wordpress.com/

2. http://peachyteachy.wordpress.com/

3. http://tinylessonsblog.com

4. http://wordsbecomesuperfluous.com

5. http://catnipoflife.wordpress.com/

6. http://bellybuttonblues.wordpress.com/

7. http://fiftyfourandahalf.com/

8. http://jillinoisrn.com/

9. http://lifeonwry.com/

10. http://40isthenew13.wordpress.com/

11. http://thefurfiles.wordpress.com/

Na.No.Wri.Slo

This November a yearly writing journey begins for thousands of aspiring novelists. National Novel Writing Month, or “NaNoWriMo” was created years ago as a way for struggling writers to finally put a time limit on their dreams and commits them to finishing a novel in an international group effort.  Ideally, this would be one of the fabled Great American Novels. But, as any true writer knows, just having a completed manuscript is worth all the gold in the world. The goal is to write a 50,000 word novel in  the span of one month: November. That breaks down to about 1600 words a day. Sounds simple enough, right?

The writers that I’ve heard about who are able to work on this project literally start the day with a pot of coffee at Starbucks and sit in front of their laptops writing and writing and writing themselves insane. They take brief bathroom breaks, I believe. But not too long as to avoid any procrastination with buying more coffee. Or eaves dropping on another writer. Or doubting their work. Or wondering where their plot lines are going. Or wondering if they really have plot lines. Or plot points. Or becoming unsure if their work is a science fiction romance or a simple down home cookbook.

For years I always dreamed of writing a book. I mean, how romantic would it be to be part of a creative wave of writing energy, inspired by the dedication others around you have with pushing themselves forward to completion? Thinking this was the push I finally needed, since we all know writing in solitude can be tortuous, I went so far as to sign up for local chapters of NaNoWriMo a few different times in the past. Why not? A) It’s a global event B) that is free (just the right price for writers) and 3) it gives people the opportunity to get caught up in the creative updraft of a million pounding keyboards. Destiny? Finished book.Reality? Hmmmm….the idea looks good on paper.

Sadly, the furthest I’ve ever made it into NaNoWriMo was the actual signing with my local chapter before the event begins. Usually it is in September or October that I convince myself “This Is The Year I Will Write That Damned Book!” Must be the changing of the seasons, or the back to school mode, or Fall is just so darn inspiring. Anyway, as the days got closer to the November First start date every year, my email inbox would start to explode with emails of NaNoWriMo deadlines, inspiration, encouragement and tales of other’s writing success.

Let me explain that the idea of a writer toiling away in a creative frenzy doesn’t include the actual reality of many writers: Family. Jobs. Commitments. The day-to-day grind of washing dishes, preparing meals, keeping your loved ones clean, and who can ignore the daily “must do’s” of scrubbing the floors and curling up into a fetal position and crying? Please. And so on. These are the necessities of keeping life functioning and moving forward. Unless you are young and not married or without kids or are in a position to be able to dedicate thirty days to doing nothing other than writing, drinking coffee, writing, going to the bathroom, hallucinating. Not that there is anything wrong with this. This is my dream life if I ever win the lottery. No doubt.

But, back to reality. I am encouraged that so many aspiring authors are able to partake in this NaNoWriMo journey. However, I’m feeling the pain of the aspiring authors who aspire to be able to participate in NaNoWriMo one day. Sitting down to the keyboard is a luxury I treasure between breaking up fights among my kids, washing dishes, doing laundry, working, paying bills and staring out my front window onto the bounty that is my cul-de-sac in the middle of nowhere.

So, this year I’ve decided this year to expand on the idea of NaNoWriMo….I am starting an offshoot program called NaNoWriSlo. Yes, it is the National Novel Writers (who write) Slowly club. Our goal is also to produce a 50,000 word novel, but it is at a more practical pace – between five to eighty-two words a day/week. At this rate your novel will be complete in about maybe a couple a years or so? It depends.  You might not finish it at all. And that is also ok. This group will be very supportive, and encouraging, but also very realistic. A daily schedule for the first day might go something like this:

  • Morning: Make coffee, sit down at key board. Enjoy sitting down for a minute. Time to check email.
  • Mid morning: Update Facebook status: “Just started NaNoWriSlo…WOOOO! Don’t count me out John Steinbeck!”
  • Late Morning: Clean bathroom and start dishes.
  • Lunch: lunch
  • Early Afternoon: Refreshed and ready to go! Start typing outline. After seeing what that crash was from upstairs.
  • Mid Afternoon: Call Plumber to fix toilet damaged earlier when book shelf fell onto it somehow. Or that’s the story your kids are going with.
  • Late Afternoon: Coffee time! Also time to go to the store to get food for dinner.
  • Homework: Plan to start Outline tomorrow, first thing. For real this time.

So, our group will start around November first-ish, and go on until you think you’ve finished your work, whatever form that may be in. No pressure. At all. Or not even. We’re mellow like that. And if you do manage to finish something following the strict guidelines above, you will become the face of the NaNoWriSlo international campaign I will start-up. Just as soon as I can get up from this nice comfortable chair.

A Museing

I’ve recently been sidetracked by many things going on in my life. Actually, maybe my life went exactly where it was supposed to but I wasn’t expecting it? Regardless, the purpose of my blog has sort of blurred from a cry for help to suburbia, to a cry for help in suburbia. Lately I’ve wondered how..how I can get things together again to keep this blog where it needs to be? Where is my muse?  I realized today all I needed to do was look out my front window.

I was sitting on my couch this morning, tackling my mountain of bills, when I heard the most horrible rumbling outside my front window. I looked outside to see what in God’s green earth was going on at an hour where the sun was barely awake yet. There was my neighbor, doing something that has been quietly irking me for the past few months.

On our street, like most places where people throw out garbage, every house has one huge garbage can called a “tote.”  These cans are so big you could easily squash down six big bags of garbage and have plenty of room for a crate of rotten onions and two bike tires (Note: we also recycle here). Each house puts their can out in front of their house early in the morning on garbage day, or late the night before, along with items for recycling, and anything else they want to get rid of labeled with a “free” sign. This is a good way to find ugly sofa art, racks  that are missing crucial bolts and odd toilet parts.

Anyway, my next door neighbors are new to the area – here less than a year. I like to think of them as the “newlyweds” in the grizzled marriage of suburban life. Perhaps they aren’t used to the idea of following societal norms, but for some reason they don’t put their extra-large tote in front of their house. Instead they park it at the end of the strip of property on my side of his driveway. Seems petty, sure. But it is very irritating. This is a problem because our front yard is so tiny that whenever you look out in a front facing window on garbage day all you can see is his extra-large green tote in front of our house. Perhaps I’ve gotten a little territorial, but what the heck? Maybe we should move our can down to the last square inch of our yard next to that strip? It just seems awkward and out-of-place. I feel crowded and suffocated by the mysterious rubbish within. Is it too hideous for him to have in front of his house? Is he embarrassed that he’s overfilled his can….again? Maybe I need to send him a note to address the issue. Or take it up with the Homeowners Association. It’s the little things like that make the subdivision walls close in even more.

There! I did it. And, I’m feeling better. Complaining like this about my street somehow seems to put a smile back on my heart! Wait….I feel more complaints surfacing. The flood gates are opening. But, they’ll have to wait for next time. For now I have to keep a watchful eye on any infringing totes from cul-de-sac greenhorns. Fortunately this is easily done at any time….either by daylight sun, or night time glow from the Walmart parking lot behind our house.

Killed by the Sandwich

I’m among a generation of other people caught up in the middle of caring for children and parents simultaneously. This generation has become known as “The Sandwich Generation.” Much like those pieces of turkey and cheese, I am being squashed by those two pieces of bread.

It seems like things were easier long ago, when families lived closer to each other in the same towns. Back in the day you would have the support of cousins, aunts, uncles, in-laws, which greatly helped relieve the stresses of people who were taking care of multiple loved ones. Long ago it seemed like neighbors cared more for each other, and communities and families supported each other and were willing to pitch in when times were rough.

My elderly mother’s recent stroke really highlighted the fact that I am all alone in her care. My siblings live in other cities and states. A phone call once a week from them to me or my mother doesn’t do much in the way of relieving the stresses my mother and I both encounter while trying to make sure she is safe, happy and living her golden years in the most fulfilling way possible. Living with the stress and fear that her health and well-being is all on my shoulders alone makes me terrified.

Finding the services and support to care for our elderly in a way that they can stay independent in their homes is an area that is severely lacking in our society. I recently learned that assisted living facilities begin at $2,500 a month. And they don’t take insurance, so this is needed in cash. Some places make you prove your finances ahead of time to show you can pay for two years worth of this cost before they will even consider admitting the elderly person. Medicare facilities, which would pay that cost for the elderly person, are few and far between. And I’m sure the waiting list is incredibly long.

It makes me outraged that the fate of every person will end this way….you work until you retire – if you can afford to do so. Then, you use up the rest of your money living as modestly as you can, and when there is nothing left then you go on Medicare – and hope you can get into a facility that is a decent enough place to live out the rest of your years. It is a sad state of affairs that our golden years ahead may not be so golden after all.

In addition to caring for my mom, I am also raising young kids. They are still at the age where they need me to be there for them for just about everything. And of course I give 150% of myself to them, because I love them and because I am their mother. They do not know how thinly stretched I am also trying to also take care of their grandmother, as well. My elderly mother knows I am her only family member in the area, and she knows I would do as much as I can for her also. But these two forces are pulling in opposite directions making me feel stretched to my limits in the middle.

I know I’m not alone in this struggle of trying to do it all for every family member.  It seems like there are a million silent Generation X’er’s in this same situation. So, where can the Sandwich Generation go for support? We are all quietly struggling to hold our families as close as possible for as long as possible. Considering how many of us there are out here, I’m really surprised this hasn’t received more coverage in the media.

It must be the nurse in me, but I really think there needs to be a way to unite the Sandwich Generation. If our communities and families can’t give us the support we need, perhaps we can give this support to each other. It is amazing how wonderful it can feel just knowing that someone else is out there to listen, support or offer advice or wisdom to you from their own experiences.

“On the New York Times Bestseller List!, I Want to Be _________”

Sitting here gazing out from my vantage point on the cul-de-sac in the middle of nowhere, I find it hard to believe I once had a literary agent. In fact, I once had a few literary agents wanting me to sign with them. Crazy? Yes. But it’s proof that persistence pays off.

At the time I was working as a grunt in the publishing industry. It’s amazing the inspiration you find living on barely enough money to pay your rent AND buy spaghetti noodles for dinner. Plus, typing out the payment requests for authors and illustrators every day reminded me that other people were, every minute of every day, fulfilling their dreams of becoming published.

Somehow, I was inspired by my living situation at the time and became 100% committed to writing a humorous book about my experiences in New York. I worked on that manuscript day and night, which is easy to do when you have no kids, and can’t afford a social life beyond the obligatory pint of beer after work. My manuscript came together quickly because I wrote it with passion. Things are easy to do when you enjoy them. One day it was finally finished. I then dutifully studied how to write the perfect pitch letter, and found suitable agents to query. Suddenly, agents wanted to read my manuscript. I couldn’t believe my luck when one day I received two letters from agents wanting to represent my work! Here, I, low man on the publishing assistant totem pole, was now having to decide between two literary agents.

One agent had his own literary agency, and the other agent was really an agent’s assistant at an international entertainment agency. I went with the agent who owned his own agency, and in good faith signed on. Unfortunately, the plans he had for my book coincidentally “inspired” the publication he showed my idea to. Two months later my book idea was a featured story on their magazine cover. I learned the hard way about copyrighting – and how you can’t copyright “inspiration.” Sigh. Life goes on. I was never able to reach my agent by phone again, but a few weeks after the magazine with my story idea came out he left me a scratchy and vague voice mail saying he was in Los Angeles. Whatever that was supposed to mean.

Fast forward to recent times. My fears of making more mistakes with my writing and the publishing industry – and knowing my belief in the good of people doesn’t always work well in the business world – stayed with me for years. I had writer’s constipation. I had many ideas, and started many books, but then with no end in sight I would let them fizzle out. All because of a fear that I’d make another naive mistake and get taken advantage of. Then along came Joyce Carol Oates.

My writing career was revived earlier this year, thanks to some words of wisdom from Joyce Carol Oates. I don’t remember the specific words, because I read them on a blog and didn’t memorize them. But her words stayed with me and haunted me and sank into my brain until I was convinced she was right. This was my green light to go forward with writing again.  She said something along the lines that if she had to give advice to new writers she would tell them to start with blogging. It is a way to find your audience, to fine tune your writing and get quick feedback on your work. So, I started this blog. And she was right. She was RIGHT. SHE WAS RIGHT!

In all my life’s ups and downs I have been so inspired by the bloggers here on WordPress. There is endless creativity out there, and an audience for everyone’s voice. I usually never know what to write about, but somehow the words show up. They always say to “Write what you know!” But that is hard to narrow down, and really not helpful. The freedom to write here on my blog without judgement, expectation or limits is what helps me color outside the lines.

I often get confused on what “humor” writing really is. Why are there two categories of humor that agents represent: Humor: Non-Fiction and Humor: Fiction? What is the difference? If I write about my experiences but embellish, or change the names to protect the innocent is it now fiction? These are the little details that lead to procrastination and a cobwebbed keyboard. I was so frustrated by this question that one time I asked a literary agent in an online discussion forum what the difference between these two categories was. I received a snarky and condescending answer in return. And I still didn’t know the difference between the two. Sigh, again.

I’ve recently been hit with a lightning bolt of an idea. One of those “Of course!” moments of what would be a fun and interesting writing project to take on. And taking a chance on writing is always a good gamble….it’s free! Which is good in this economy. Starting today I’ve created an outline of something that perhaps I might finish. And send off to some agents. And hopefully get published. And if I’m published, I damn well better get on the New York Time’s Bestseller List. No pressure, if you know what I mean.

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I had to take down my previous post for privacy reasons. After being contacted by a few concerned friends, I knew this was not the right time for this post. Thank you all for your thoughts, comments, wishes, support and so on.  And if you don’t know what I’m talking about…good.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again – the WordPress community offers support unlike any that I ever knew could exist in an online environment where most people are anonymous. You are all amazingly wonderful and encouraging.

Thank you.

For 9/11

 

 

I lived in New York City from 1994 to 1999. It is a city unlike any other because everything is larger than life. The buildings there are so tall that most streets remain in shadow much of the day because the sun simply can’t reach them. Looking up and down the avenues you see nothing but a thin strip of blue sky between two rows of dark skyscrapers lined up on both sides of the street, one after another, until they disappear into the horizon. The company I worked for was located in a small to medium-sized building by New York standards. My department was on the nineteenth floor of a twenty-one story building – just a third of the size of some other New York buildings.

 

I’d always put off seeing the sights when I lived in New York, always thinking I’d get to it some other day. I was only inside the World Trade Center buildings twice. The first time I was a teenager and went up as a tourist to see the view from the top. The window was floor to ceiling and had a railing to hold onto. I remember standing there at the railing, marveling at the view and feeling the building actually swaying – as it was designed to do. The second time I was there to hand-deliver something from my company to the mail room in the sub basement of one of the towers. On both occasions I was overwhelmed at the size of the one hundred and ten story structures. Where most buildings in New York City are enormous, the World Trade Center buildings were colossal. If you were in front of them you would practically need to lie on your back and look up from the ground to see how high they went up into the sky.

 

Like most everyone else, I will never forget where I was on the morning of September 11, 2001. I remember it was a sunny day and I was driving to  class at college. That morning I was scheduled to demonstrate a sterile dressing change on a plastic mannequin at the School of Nursing. I remember being in the middle of my demonstration when someone into the room and said an airplane just hit the World Trade Center. Immediately I tried scanning my brain for a plausible explanation as to how someone could have misguided an airplane into one of the two buildings that could be seen for miles and miles and miles outside of the city. A few minutes later we heard that another plane had crashed into the World Trade Center. The teacher and I ran to the computer to get on the internet and find out what was happening. We never got online. Everyone else in the world was doing the very same thing at that time and the system had crashed.

 

I drove to my sister’s house  right away to watch what was happening on TV. I remember getting there just before one of the buildings collapsed. Around the same time I heard about the plane crashes at the Pentagon and in Pennsylvania. I numbly sat there with my sister and her newborn twin daughters, all of us staring at the TV. The only thing I could think of was the phrase “What the hell is happening? What the hell is happening? What the hell is happening?…” For days afterward I stayed glued to the TV watching history unfold. Along with the rest of the nation, I read the never-ending news tickers at the bottom of the screen – hoping at any moment they would finally tell the world just what the hell was happening.

 

It is impossible to process all the horrific images of 9/11, but a few will never leave my mind. I’ll never forget seeing people running up the street to escape a mile high gray wall of smoke and ash that was trying to envelop them. Or watching day turn into night within seconds as people recorded video looking out the windows of storefronts they’d taken cover in to hide from the choking smoke and ash. TV cameras kept panning motionless scenes of destruction – mangled with twisted metal, debris and crushed fire trucks. Everything was chillingly silent except for the warped and echoing alarm systems that dutifully continued to warn of an apocalypse that had already happened.

 

Time does not heal all wounds. Even eleven years later, just seeing a picture of that day can bring back very raw emotions. I can’t even imagine what it was like to be in New York City on that day and having experienced firsthand that unimaginable pain, loss, devastation, grief and terror. Although I no longer lived there, many of my friends were there on September 11, 2001. It seemed everybody knew someone who knew someone there. It affected the world. We all became New Yorkers on that day.

 

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