Tag: friends

Falling Into NaNoWriMo

Falling Into NaNoWriMo

30 October 2018

For some bizarre reason, I missed fall. I missed the leaves changing colors and only now notice how bright they are as they fall off trees. The most vibrant colors are the maple leaves back home (New York), and I do miss that part of fall.

Weather-wise, it feels like we’ve gone from warm to cold temperatures, without a slight hint of a morning chill warranting a light jacket. I have a blue and brown field coat that I absolutely love to dig out on such mornings, but seemed to miss that opportunity this year. As the weather gets colder, I also enjoy curling upon the couch with a good book and let the time pass away in another world. If only I could give myself such a day. Maybe in December.

This all makes me wonder: where have I been all fall? Answer: vacationing out of the country and out of the state. Did I sleep through anything? Possibly. My mind has been preoccupied with various personal concerns. What happened to October?!? I cannot answer this. I could potentially be in some kind of a new time warp. Or it can simply be that I have too many writing projects. And I’m also prepping for NaNoWriMo.

National Novel Writing Month. November. The month when writers plan to achieve the goal of writing 50,000 words in 30 days. Last year, I wrote 50,000 words in 21 days, and that was in between being constantly sick (most of 2017) and traveling to California for The Night of Writing Dangerously. I finished the month with 56,412 words. November begins to wind down when we become distracted by Black Friday, Cyber Monday and trying to buy some good gifts at stellar prices before we have to park our butts back in our chairs to hammer out 1,667 words a day to reach the goal.

50,000 words does not make a novel. Especially not these days. However, it’s more about the challenge. I had so many outside challenges last year that NaNoWriMo gives me another reason to focus on something that means a great deal to me: writing every day.

50,000 words might make a series of short stories. This was my original idea. Then my muse appeared and shook it all up. She told me to take all of my research and write a novel instead. Then she left before I could ask more questions.

I spent days thinking about this idea. How could it all work? I’ve spent time thinking about the novel and how each piece of research I might incorporate can become part of the bigger picture.

Then I met a dear friend for coffee. We were talking about our ambitious NaNo projects and she brought up Netflix’s “The Haunting of Hill House.” She was up until 2am binge-watching and recommended it would be a great series for me to watch to get an idea of story structure and the characters that intertwine.

I’ve written stories like this before, but this NaNo beast is something different for me. It’s a complicated puzzle.

So, I took her advice and binge-watched up through most of episode 8 until my new-old male friend came over Saturday. After finishing the series Monday night, I am thankful I waited to finish the movie. I prefer to read books before movies. She prefers not to. I wish I had read the story before finishing because I could have steeled myself for the ending. Bravo, I say! It’s a great tribute to Shirley Jackson and her writing, but goddamn! A family of seven unravels to four after several tragedies. Too much of a parallel, and I spoke of ghosts in my previous blog that also parallels the movie. I may be revisiting the idea once again later this week; it’s a small nudge in my mind, and Halloween is one day away.

Then my muse reappeared Monday morning. Told me to change the title of my story before she disappeared once again. Of course it happened in the shower so I could only finish with several thoughts about what it could be changed to. An hour later it came to me and changed it on my NaNo profile.

I have a blank wall in front of my desktop at home. My landlord doesn’t want nails in the walls or repairs need to be done before I move out. Personally, I don’t feel like it. I’m already battling an infestation of cockroaches, which is not good for my allergies (dust mites, cockroaches, etc. are high on my allergens list). I’ll bug-bomb the house when I go on my next business trip. In the meantime, Raid and I have become good friends.

The wall, right. With my horde of sticky notes of various sizes, colors, blank and lined, colored sharpies, pens and this large blank wall, I found someone posted about a sticky wall from the NaNo boards. My wall has become the tapestry for more story ideas. In fact, in the middle of watching “The Haunting…” I had to pause the movie to spend an hour writing my ideas down that flooded me. The story has large elements of flashback. However, I am taking the idea of memory triggers to use through the progression of the protagonist’s story when the inquisitive, young college intern is assigned as her care giver.

This just might work.

Last year, I merely had writing time on my calendar with reminders popping up 10 minutes before. This year I’m taking a more aggressive approach. I have written a “life schedule” (because life does change intermittently) that includes time at the gym, time writing, time for football; the time I need to spend writing when I’m on travel for work; what I’ll have for dinner. I firmly believe every writer should invest in an Instant Pot.

What I don’t have scheduled are “distractions.” By this I mean my social life, although my writing time ends at 9pm every day, and I don’t have plans to write all day over the weekend. Of course, if inspiration strikes and I have nothing else planned, sure. I’ll turn it into a writing marathon. But I need the evening before bed to unwind. Two hours should be ample enough. Still, sometimes my social life includes spending extra time with my male friend. It’s been nearly three months, but we have a common understanding. While we’re in this town for whatever strange reason, there’s a reason we spend time together. I do like that it’s dwindled down to weekends and not the week. However, I must be clear about my writing time on the weekends for November.

I have healthy snacks ready and gummy bears for those moments when I need the extra sugar boost. I have enough tea and I say this because I was so sick last year I lived off green chile chicken stew and various teas. No alcohol. I plan to go with this route again. Plus, I haven’t been in the mood to have even one drink. NaNo prep is well underway and not a minute too soon!

Then I can use December to return to life, in between holiday baking and parties, and finish the last 25-40,000 words before revising other works.

Being a writer for NaNoWriMo is an insane task, but is a challenge I need at this point in my life. It also keeps me at home with a close eye on Duke; he hasn’t been feeling well all weekend and had another bloody nose recently.

I’m done with vacations until 2019, so the story of Emily in, what is now, Fractured Seams is going to be one hell of a project.  My final prep work before November 1 includes: making this week’s meal, making breakfast before the weekend (everything should be microwavable for the week), creating my music playlist, and read 246 pages of The Haunting of Hill House because I am familiar with Jackson’s other works and recognized some of her writing from parts of the movie; I want to get in to read how she wrote. There are some new rock albums (since May) that have touched upon subjects I’ll be exploring, and it can only add inspiration. Lastly, I need to quickly tuck away my summer clothes and haul out my fall and winter clothes. Sweatshirts are going to be my favorite after work wear for writing.

I definitely missed fall, but you can be certain I won’t be missing NaNoWriMo and the huge community of writers working towards one goal: writing a novel (or short story collection) about something we want to say.

To anyone else who plans to write in November, best of luck! Use the community to seek out answers, ask your friends and family to support you during the frenzy writing, but most of all: take care of yourself, get plenty of rest, drink plenty of liquids, get in some exercise, make a schedule and leave some down time in your schedule. Set your cell phone aside in a different room during your writing time. Share conversations and talk about writing. Lastly, know that things in life can happen and some days you might not get those 1,667 words written, but there will be another day for you to catch up; just be flexible.

I’ll follow up with NaNoWriMo at the halfway point on November 15.

NaNo-2018-Writer-Badge

 

 

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Finding a New Life

Finding a New Life

3 October 2018

I was recently away for a week for a meeting and time with friends, as well as taking time to write and exercise. Even though this trip was shorter, I feel like something has changed in me again. There seems to be something more concrete, as if my footing is a bit more solid.

Yet there’s something strange also happening at the same time. I am not so sure I want to explore certain elements, but there is some unexplained force regarding my OCD in listening to Persian music as of late…and I don’t know a single word of Persian.

I don’t quite understand where this romanticized idea of Persia came from, has existed for a very long time, but reading some of the lyrics of the songs I have grown to love (and begun to sing along to…in Persian to my best ability) demonstrates a poetic language. My first exposure was to “Dooset Daram” by Arash featuring Helena. It has a haunting melody that truly haunts my mind, body and spirit. It has also found its way into my core to give me the freedom to write some strong poetry. Dooset Daram means I love you.

I think I found my second favorite song on my own. Not from taking screenshots of songs played through a vehicle, or listed in Shazam’s massive song listing, or from frantically typing down names and song titles, hoping I would get them right (there were a few I didn’t, but Google does a good job helping me find what I need…as long as maps aren’t involved!). “Behet Ghol Midam” by Mohsen Yeganeh is one that I know half of the lyrics now in Persian. I have the song and have watched the live version of the YouTube so many times, I have even surprised myself (and feel like inserting <facepalm> because I keep watching a particular guitarist/band member I find myself attracted to; maybe it’s the smile? A smile is universal. I’m just going to roll with things and call it a fantasy. HAH!). There are other songs that are beginning to fill my new playlist.

A year ago, I found myself attracted to a Persian man. For various reasons, I squashed the attraction. Recently I’ve spoken of a new friend; one I’ve sort of been attracted to since a weird night in June. It took me two months to take the initiative to speak to this man, and at a moment he spilled his beer as I “swooped” in to scold him about alcohol abuse, followed by introducing myself to him right away. He is also Persian. And has a beard. I’ve never been a beard person! He has his own poetic language, and I still haven’t forgotten the night he said, “Anyone who meets you can find a way to fall in love with you in less than three seconds.” There are other things he has said, that still makes me smile and appreciate the moments we’ve had, but they are now written into a poem that has been polished and, on its way, to being accepted for publication…somewhere at some time.

We’ve spent the last month, in between the three weeks I’ve been away, hanging out watching movies, talking for the longest time, and he’s been watching football (NFL, specifically NYG) with me. I’ve been having fun. Of course, it was not destined to last. For additional reasons, some out of my control, I believe the time has come for time spent together to come to a halt. That’s okay. He has some things going on in his own life and I have more writing to do. I am hoping some freelance work falls into my lap to help bring in some extra income; I am feeling the super tight squeeze of a divorce and being paid a horrible salary for my qualifications (that’s the problem with living in Socorro…along with working at a university). However, I won’t discount the fact that I do/did like him. My heart simply isn’t there, but we had respect and kindness for each other. That was refreshing.

During my time away, I realized something needs to change once again by May 2019. The numbers don’t lie: women of divorce lose 37% of their income, watch their credit scores plummet (for the most part) and takes them longer to find a job where they’re making a decent salary close to what the income was during their marriage.

Of my marriage salary (utterly pitiful), I was “allowed” $80 a month. My inheritance was taken from me, with broken promises of paying me back, and that never happened because of a dirty game called community property. I don’t get to enjoy the house that I was forced to spend my inheritance on (I wanted to be smart and invest…the Opposing Party most likely felt threatened with me having so much at one time). Yet, looking at this in a different light, I don’t want to live in a place of two past wives, and a friend thinks the house has bad mojo anyways. Several friends knew the best thing for me was to get the hell out. I did just that and more.

I fell in love with myself in Paris. This is powerful. I also think this is the reason why I want to be done writing The Downfall. It needs to be finished so that I can move on. The ending was written some time ago and I’ve been filling in the gap (middle), but I felt like I was dragging my feet through sludge. It was only after returning from Europe, then taking a small breather while in Dallas and before my meetings kept me super busy with stupidly late nights and early mornings, that the a-ha! moment and I found the voice to finally draw the reader in to feel invested in a relationship my protagonist (Kiki) wasn’t sure she really wanted to have, but was critical to the story. Now I’m on the calendar and clock to finish.

It has taken me ten months to feel semi-comfortable working in my office on my desktop again. I find it’s becoming difficult to write around the house and it’s so much easier to type on a regular keyboard. I really think signs are pointing to new beginnings. Maybe I’ll also make time to learn Persian…or Farsi…or Russian. I’m building new dreams and goals. I’m adding to my European travel for 2019. I have no clue what I’m doing the remainder of 2018, but you can be sure that I’m doing whatever I want because a) I can and b) I’m going to do what makes me happy. Men, or rather dating, really aren’t in the equation until sometime 2019, but writing─well, writing is what makes me happy and I can’t quit now. I couldn’t quit when I was in the last six months of grad school and that was at the deepest and darkest moments of my life, so declaring I want to quit after rising from the ashes goes against everything I’ve worked so hard for, and everything I’m still fighting for.

I’m putting in 38 hours in 4 days with my new job because of the subject matter I’m studying and observing. After an afternoon coffee, which I rarely have, I still took a nap tonight which explains why I’m still up. It actually started with adding more Persian music to my playlist when inspiration struck to write this next post around 10pm while reading posts on tips beyond divorce (of which several I have done or am doing). Instead of sleeping, I’m still writing.

Puppy Duke, who is really not doing well although he still doesn’t appear to be in any pain as he wags his tail and wants to cuddle up to me, has had enough thinking that I should have been in bed eons ago, as time is different for a canine than a human. He’s most likely correct, but I write when inspiration strikes and sometimes sleep needs to be sacrificed to get things written down to have a clear mind. Or it’s my insomnia.

Things that are happening at this time cannot be explained. I’m not exactly looking for explanations, but I am accepting that footing I spoke of at first, along with some type of a clarity, that is allowing me to keep moving forward in life and in writing.

 

An American in Literary Europe

An American in Literary Europe

A Phlog
(Photo Blog-photos by Jade Bookends, LCC and Zach Ruslan are copyrighted and acknowledged throughout)
9-22 September 2018

In a short, while seemingly long, two week time period, I ventured out on vacation. I proved to myself that I was ready to begin life as a solo traveler…and one who has many stories from the places and people over the course of two weeks.

And writing! So much writing! I was writing story notes and ideas, and poems on my phone when I wasn’t near my Surface, big notebook or smaller notebook. So much writing.

I didn’t realize it at the time, but I began my trip exploring the places that sparked literary stories from writers like Ernest Hemingway; he spent time in Madrid. Only after I was done in Spain, leaving the airport, and looking at the hills in the background from my seat window, did I now fully understand Hills Like White Elephants. I previously mentioned I’ve never been a Hemingway fan, yet it was in Madrid that began my literary tour.  It was in Madrid where I stood at the top of a staircase, Escalerilla De Piedra, clearly marked by a balcony, leading down to Sobrino de Botín, the oldest restaurant in the world. It was at the top of these stairs where Napoleon stood. History lines the streets, stairs, buildings, and architecture.  Hemingway ate at Botín. He did not eat at a small restaurant just a few doors down and above the doorway hangs a sign-their claim to fame. Walking past Botín, further down the sidewalk, then taking a right to walk down a narrow street, my tour guide spoke of authors who walked in the same spot.

 

Madrid, Spain. Copyright 2018 Jade Bookends, LLC

I spent 5 hours in Madrid’s city centre, ate tapas with a cervaces (beer), enjoyed a chocolate (hot) and churro at Chocolatería San Ginés, and took the Metro back to the airport to continue my trip to Paris. My day of speaking Spanish would have to wait until I reached Barcelona later in the trip.

In Paris, there was Victor Hugo, and I could hear the music score of Les Misérables in the backdrop of my mind, taking me back to the root of my exposure to the story and music; signing a solo part of “On My Own,” scored for Eponine; going to NYC to see the show on Broadway. The Paris Opera House, inspiration for Gaston Leroux’s The Phantom of the Opera, in its sparkling evening glow light. I remember walking along the Pont des Arts bridge in 2014, and, somewhere, there are photos of the bridge railings lined with locks of love; those locks were removed a year later (2015) because they were too heavy and the weight threatened the structure. I was on the same bridge during this trip and the view of the Seine is now what accents the city of romance.

 

Notre Dame and Paris Opera House. Copyright 2018 Jade Bookends, LLC

Standing in front of Notre Dame, surrounded by a lot of people sitting, standing in line to enter the cathedral, and taking selfies, our personal guide asked our group how we heard about Notre Dame: the animated Disney movie was the most popular reason. For me, I have a more personal connection with the cathedral from my visit four years ago. I’ve never read the books, and this Disney buff vaguely remembers the movie. And it was Victor Hugo who wrote The Hunchback of Notre Dame.

In my writing, Notre Dame is the setting for my short story, Lost in the City of Lights. When I wrote the story in October/November 2016, I did not have any clue that my life was beginning to unravel. I wrote the story for a class; when I read it at a much later date, there was an “Oh my!” moment, followed by “I had absolutely no idea I was predicting a future life not that far off.” The story is filled with hope, discovery, searching, and love of many levels. Writers love to talk about their stories, but this one seemed to be the pinnacle of one of the best stories I’ve ever written. Paris did that to me when I first visited in 2014. Notre Dame was my first sightseeing stop and it obviously made an impression.

On the Seine River, during a dinner cruise, a dear friend asked me to be his model for his new camera that worked well in low light; I readily agreed, and this was before I was sporting a beautiful Mediterranean tan. As the boat glided by, I said, “Notre Dame! It’s the setting for my short story.” And he took a few more pictures. My friends were really great during the cruise and one scolded me for taking selfies when he and his wife could easily take my picture, and he instructed I give them my phone. It really warmed my heart, and brought even bigger smiles to my face, being surrounded by such good friends. “You’re always smiling,” one friend said, as he lightly pinched my dimple. I think my energy and spirit was infectious. How could I not smile…I was in Paris!!!!  I was going back to Italy and Spain was a new country for me.

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Notre Dame from the Seine. Photo Copyright @Zach Ruslan

I got lost in Paris.  Physically got lost. Google maps did not help between the hours of 11pm and 1am. This blondie’s compass is already broken, and I remember standing some place, looking at my location on the map that put me smack-dab in the middle of the Seine, and I began to panic: I was lost, I was alone, and I was a female, lost and alone in a foreign place. The moment I felt these feelings rush into tears, I stopped walking, cursed my phone and Google maps, and gave myself a pep talk. I had been in worse situations, and with someone standing right next to me. After drawing in a deep breath, I told myself to regroup, back track, and find my way. “You can do this. You got this.” It was just me-I had no choice…and taxis sleep at night,

When I was telling this story to my friend, K, recently, she said, “Sometimes you have to get lost to find your way.” Paris was my getting lost, and I certainly stumbled in Madrid, but it was a bit easier to navigate because of a more structured street system; I understood the public transportation system (wish I had used it from Disneyland into the city-would have been a huge money saver!), and my knowledge of Spanish. (I can actually read French, German, Spanish, and Italian very well…German is my strongest speaking language, followed by: Spanish, Italian, French, and a few phrases in Mandarin.) My stumbles in Europe weren’t of the knee-scraping kind, but more of moments I braced myself to prevent a fall; my knees never really touched the ground this time.

While wandering, and getting lost, I read The Real Midnight in Paris by Paul Brody. The Lost Generation, as I mentioned, is my forte literature period. I’m beginning to think 18th and 19th century French literature might be my next hobby for studies.

I can’t seem to read enough into The Great Gatsby (F. Scott Fitzgerald), and have read a few more of his works. I’ve read a few books about Zelda, including an autobiography, and I must say while those two were free-spirited in their own unique ways, they were also toxic to each other. From reading about their lives from both sides, there is no one side to choose (Scott vs Zelda) in their marriage. Both parties were to blame. It’s one of those slippery-slope conversations, because I do defend Zelda at times. Scott certainly could have provided more support, but this leads into the testing waters of the Fitzgerald’s’ marriage-that slippery-slope.

That was such a different generation and the whole reason expatriates ended up in Europe: they were (to put it bluntly) pissed off at the previous generation. And the US entered WWI late. I studied literature through war at SNHU, and it covered just about everything from WWI all the way through to the Civil Rights and Women’s Movement, and not stopping there. We began to study literature around the Afghanistan war.

“I’m going through my own war; how can I possibly survive this?” was a question I asked several times throughout the 10 weeks of class, often in tears because I couldn’t be the A student I strived to be; it was hard to take literature and apply it through the lens of life (in this case, war). I struggled. I struggled with my own personal war the last six months of grad school, and I struggled with the class because it didn’t focus on any one generation.  It didn’t focus on a specific type of literature and seemed like it was an all over the place progression; kind of like my life during that time. It was the worst literature class.

After using Europe as my literary excursion, a few things make sense now.

Literature changed because of the Lost Generation. The freedoms that the U.S. didn’t allow were part of a different tapestry in Europe. Writers could be exactly who they chose to be; who they wanted, and needed, to be.

Perhaps that’s my correlation to Europe: France and, now, Spain. There appeared to be more of an US presence in Europe than in our home country during various stages of wars and everything in between.

Europe certainly gave me more of a chance to experience the food, culture; delve deeper into literature terrains, and a good way to lose myself (Thanks, K. That was the perfect explanation.). It also reminded me that: I still love Paris. There’s something about the City of Lights that acts likes a spatula, folding me into layers to mold something dynamic.

I didn’t discuss my trip around the Mediterranean Sea and the stops in ports. I will touch on it briefly.  Alexander Dumas was prominent in Malta, where you could take a boat ride to Comino to see St. Mary’s Tower, a setting in The Count of Monte Cristo film).

In Naples (Napoli), our cab driver got us past the long queue into the restaurant where Julie Roberts ate during Eat, Pray, Love. While I still haven’t had my EPL moment, or I did in some other fashion, the pizza and beer was so good, my friend and I split the pizza. In our cab, we zipped around side streets.  Once back on the boat, I grabbed a glass of wine and my Surface to write with Mt. Vesuvius in the backdrop.

In Genoa (Genova), I ate gelato after our excursion allowed free time. Nothing beats gelato, cannolis, wine, and the food overall in Italy…and France…and the Sisk beer in Malta is the best.

In Sicily (Sicilia), Mt. Etna was smoking and I amply used beach time to get some rest, before walking into the Sea to feel the cool water quench my body.  I still have Milan, Venice, Pompeii, the Amalfi Coast and Verona on my next to visit Italy list. I’ve been to Rome, Florence, Lido, Pisa, and the Vatican City.

In Barcelona, it was more about Gaudi’s architecture that is extremely prominent around the city.  Our city tour excursion, mostly on the bus, took us past Casa Batlló and we had time to walk around La Sagrada Familia, forever under construction. I had paella and sangria for lunch when were given free time to explore the city.

 

Casa Batlló, Barcelona, Spain.  Below La Sagrada Familiar. Gaudi Architecture. Copyright 2018 Jade Bookends, LLC

 

I got to see the rare tiger dolphins from my cabin balcony one morning and loved the way the Mediterranean sun bronzed my skin, without much effort; I only had 2-3 hours on the beach, didn’t really sit on the pool deck of the ship, and spent most of my time walking around. I am truly of a Mediterranean (and European) descent; I am the only one in my family with an olive complexion and green eyes.

bronze blondie

The Mediterranean Sea. Copyright 2018 Jade Bookends, LLC

But, Italy…ah, Italy. I fell in love with Italy in 2010, and that love is even greater after this trip. I threatened to pack my suitcase and get off the boat to stay. It could have become my own Under the Tuscan Sun.  I’ve had numerous people tell me I need an Italian man. I don’t need any man, but when/if the time comes, it will have to be someone who appreciates me, won’t hold me back from any dreams I continue to pursue, nor oppress me or suppress me. If that man is Italian, then bonus! And this is getting off topic quickly. I’ll keep dreaming of spending significant time in Italy.

I’m always happier when I’m away from “home.” These two vacations (Paris and the Mediterranean cruise around France, Italy, Malta and Spain) was exactly the type of vacation I needed to get completely away. I was exactly the person I know I am with a few surprises and did the one thing I’ve become really good at: doing anything that makes me happy…and it shows. In Paris, the City of Lights, the city known fro romance, I was able to learn what it means to truly love yourself. I needed that kind of love back and found it within. It took quite a while, and it started with being kind to myself, as JDF told me from the very beginning. I worked my way through kindness to find love. It’s been a long journey.

Underneath, I know I still have some work to do. Underneath, I know my anxiety and depression hasn’t disappeared, but to continue down the path I’m going between working out, writing, talking to my therapist, asking friends for help when I need it, I know these mental health issues are only temporary in the grand scheme. And that’s okay.

More than anything, my vacations inspired me to keep writing, to begin new stories, to make my current stories and poems even better, and to remember the writing path I dream of traveling. Tying in the literary components of the trip also made me realize it’s everywhere. With some effortless research, we can go anywhere in the world and will find literature and history seeping up from the stones, dirt, and even water to remind us of an imagination that can transform the writer and reader to some of the most fantastic places in this world and in other worlds.

Writing with Genova, Italia in the background from the cruise ship. *Sheer bliss* Copyright 2018 Jade Bookends, LLC

Genova writing

A special thanks goes to my good friend, Zach Ruslan, for the fabulous photos he provided…and it was tempting to use them all, but didn’t.

Doesn’t Belong Here

Doesn’t Belong Here

2 September 2018

“X doesn’t belong here” was a strong opinion, recently told to me as a bunch of friends and I were on a boat along the Seine River in Paris. I need to get past this. I can do this. I am on vacation and moving forward is only going to get better.

Ah, Paris. How I’ve missed you. Between the literary scene, and inspiration of Notre Dame, used a setting in my short story, Stuck in the City of Lights, I forgot how I missed the smells of fresh baked goods and cafés along the sidewalks. During this part of my trip, I have: gotten lost along the streets for nearly two hours, trying to find my way back to the hotel (this blondie’s compass has always been broken); got my luggage stuck in a subway turnstile <facepalm>, and not gotten much sleep, as it goes when doing work on a committee. I spent five days in Paris: two and a half days working. Prior to my meeting, my primary dinner was bread, wine and cheese. The bread is so good here, I honestly don’t need anything else. Plus, I’ve had two really good dinners and some good lunches. Because Parisians eat so late and take several hours for the meal (starter, entrée/plat, dessert), breakfast is even more sustainable for me: a pastry and cappuccino. And more cappuccino. I need espresso or straight-up coffee to truly get through mornings as a human.

The third part of my trip: a Mediterranean cruise. My girlfriend had me at “balcony” and “Italy” back in February when we had our final meeting date. She mentioned she was surprised how fast I answered her email (less than 5 minutes); she wanted to do this cruise, but really didn’t Mewant to travel alone. She thought of me, and I am thankful. I thanked her for asking me. She thanked me for coming along. So far, we’re having a great time. Unfortunately, I forgot to bring more bottled water, and drank from the tap last night. I will remember water is included with my drink package.

It’s 11:37pm in my time zone. After a day of travel, taking the TGV from Paris to Marseille, and boarding the ship, it’s been a full day. Yet, here I am: without another day at the gym or getting some serious walking time in and I’m feeling my anxiety build up a little. To unwind, I’m on the balcony, writing. Writing helps to clear my mind. It’s helping me to wind down, when my mind continues to whir at an exponential rate.

The humidity has done some great and bad things to my hair. It’s made my skin glow while creating a small minefield on my chin. I tried a new drink tonight, couldn’t figure out why my nose was running until I read the ingredients; gin, and I can’t drink gin. In fact, I asked my new friend to finish the gin I had in my house (back in the US). The sun is bronzing my skin, and this blondie will return ridiculously tan.

I see another cruise ship not far on the dark horizon. In the distance I notice a coastline with lights, faint, but a city is still there. I’m unplugged from my phone until I’m in ports, while remaining plugged in to my music. I can still hear the waves over the music currently playing. This is the calmest cruise ship I’ve been on. And the water, the water is a blue I’m still trying to find words to describe it.

And all day long I’ve been saying, “I can’t believe I’m on a boat again. I can’t believe I was in Paris again. I can’t believe I’m going to return to Italy.” This trip is my way of making new memories. Could I see myself on another cruise by myself?  Perhaps, but why…it’s safer to travel in numbers. I know I can do it; I’ve proven to myself I’m capable of doing anything; I am Wonder Woman. Someone else does not belong here at all!  The most important thing to remember is this is my life and how I want to live it. I still want to do the things I spoke about…it may just take me a little longer to get there. I’m not letting anyone stop me. For those who dare to criticize me, share negative opinions, I’m done-take what you think I should and shouldn’t be doing and shove it up your ass. I’m done!  I’m done with the negativity. I’m done with the criticisms. I’m done with the drama. All of this, too, doesn’t belong here. I’m done letting it enter the space I’ve created for myself. I have no shame in blocking out those once in my life who don’t mean well or are simply too toxic.

Wonder Woman stands for strength, grace and love. She is a fighter, protecting without bias. I still have room in my heart for love, just not yet. This is my time to be selfish. This is my time to be myself or even more of myself than I thought I could become. I’m on a stepping stone (title and topic for my next blog) and only working my way up. I surround myself with people who are happy to see me smiling and laughing again; I know it’s been a long haul; I know where I came from and where I still need to go, but I’m stopping to enjoy life along the way. I’ve lost too many close to me at young ages. I need to take time out to remind myself life is short: here today, gone tomorrow.

Outside: I feel the boat turning. I see another cruise ship out on the water. The coastline lights dimly point the way to where we’re headed Sunday morning. The cool air is welcoming after a blistering NM heat. The calm sea gives me a rhythm to write along with it, slowly relaxing me so that I can sleep longer than 4-5 hours. I have a new friend whose kind, and I haven’t had that kind of kindness in a very long time. I am returning home to do more travel in September before I begin working on Plan B and C in October. The new friend won’t have a place in these plans.

Inside: I’ll sleep in a twin bed as I am sharing a room with my girlfriend; her husband didn’t want to be in Europe or on a cruise, and she has a bucket list, too. There are some attractive men on the cruise, but I don’t think there are many single ones. Maybe I can learn more in the sports bar. The food is spectacular. I was judged by a Frenchman for the amount of wine I was drinking at dinner.  Mr. Judgy Judgerson, you don’t know a thing about me…stuff it.  There are two couples at our table speaking French, not appreciating our efforts to speak the language. They claim they don’t speak English, but I’m calling out “bullshit.” Our waiter speaks Spanish…I cannot believe I came to France to speak Spanish so much!!

Removing myself from the daily life I have in New Mexico, I am really focused on enjoying a vacation I deserve and worked so hard for. I am not the same person I was in 2016 or even 2017.  There are things that don’t belong here with me, and I metaphorically just threw all of it overboard.

I am going to retreat to get, what I hope is, a good night’s rest. There’s more sun and fun to be had tomorrow and many days to follow. Even though I may be sleeping, the writing never stops. I’m writing in my mind, on my Surface, on my phone, in a special notebook and on napkins. Inspiration strikes every day. Bon soir!

Dinner Cruise along Seine River. Copyright 2018 Jade Bookends, LLC

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Portals

Portals

16 August 2018

Today is a day where I feel like I’ve been here, there and somewhere in between and somewhere entirely different.

I’ve had a whirlwind of two weeks. So much has happened. I continue to live a life that I enjoy. I started a new job that I am having fun with as I learn new things and apply my writing and communication skills. As of 2pm on my first day, I was correcting grammar in documents during a team meeting. Because I didn’t have a computer yet, I was sent to a training class the remainder of the week that also involved field labs, so that I could familiarize myself with the material. After being in this town for 17 years, I finally got to see a few demonstrations of things that go boom! My new job isn’t a secret, but everything else I am doing in my position is classified for the purpose of training. I can’t go into details outside of the scope of my job.

It also feels like a fresh start. I’m working someplace where only a few people know my history. I can be myself, not have to answer questions, and continue to keep my life private without bringing up a past life. I can focus on my new job and the work I have to do, and at the end of the day focus on my environment and writing. I do mention Duke though; early morning and late nights are times he has blood trails around the house. I can’t leave for work knowing there’s a small pile of blood.

Also on my first day, I left at the end of the work day to go to another rock concert in Albuquerque.  I sang with the bands, danced in my seat, and really had a great night. A woman in front of me told the man she was with, “She knows the words to every song and is rocking out. I want to dance, too!” It was late returning home, but worth the moments being out supporting the music industry. After all, I am constantly listening to music: when I work, when I write, when I drive, when I travel, when I workout; when I walk Duke, when I am at home doing chores, when I’m falling asleep, when I wake up in the morning and prepare for the day ahead of me; nearly 95% of the time.

My week ended early and I took Duke to Albuquerque on Friday afternoon. That evening, I was at a social event and met a new friend-someone who expressed interest in hanging out with me. Before everyone gets excited, it’s not sustainable for a very specific reason I prefer to keep out of the blog, and I won’t allow it to go anywhere. Besides, I’m not exactly there yet, but it is someone who enjoys watching a movie, talking on the patio, and gives a ton of compliments.  Additionally, I’m going on vacation soon and it will be a good time to get some distance, as a close friend put it. I’m not playing games. I am simply enjoying the alone time I have come to embrace, and I still block out 7-9pm for writing, and this new friend respects this space I have for working (as I call it), and works around my schedule. It’s nice. I’ll take the kindness.

And then I hit a wall this week.

August has become one of those hard months, and today I reminded myself that I need to take care of myself, and get a therapy appointment scheduled before I go on vacation. At first August was the month I lost my brother (7 years ago). Then there was a loss of remembering today; a former anniversary. I am still struggling with ways to deal with an anniversary after divorce. This is my second one. Last year the divorce was still fresh and raw. I want to create new traditions, but don’t know where to begin. So, instead, I find myself on the patio as soon as dinner was over/dishes done, hugging a tissue box, writing and just feeling the emotions. I can’t do anything else, and it’s damaging to try and control them. I had another good friend reach out to me today; to check in on me. It was thoughtful of her, and I had to quietly leave my desk after she said they still thought about me and worried about me, whether I knew it or not. It struck a cord because it means something when it’s friends and family. They say divorce is like a death. The only difference is the other person is still alive.

And while in the heart of the emotions today, I joined other friends in celebrating the life of a good hearted professor who suddenly passed away Monday night. When I got the message that same evening, I just looked at my phone. We’re all stunned. My heart bleeds for his wife; I’ve seen what losing a husband can do to a woman. I don’t think my mother ever got over my dad’s sudden passing. During these times, the new widow is surrounded by friends, family, and a community whose lives were touched in profound ways by this man. Students stood up to say a few words, and we could hear it in their voices, see it in their faces just how much of a difference he made in their lives. The good ones are taken from us far too soon.

Once again I am reminded how short life is. I stopped taking it for granted after my dad died, then forgot until my mother followed ten years later; then it was my brother. I have to work even harder now, but I make it a point to do the things I enjoy: eating at a nice restaurant, going to the movies, going to rock concerts, going to plays, going to Disneyland/Walt Disney World, going to football games; traveling and I have zero problem doing it alone. But, I don’t have to do anything alone if I don’t want to.

Tomorrow is another day. I’ll be dealing with an emotional hangover. I’ll be thankful to see Duke wag his tail when I wake up-grateful for another day I have him with me. I’ll be talking to friends, and getting ready for another weekend; of which Sunday we have plans to gather. I’m taking a special bottle of wine to share so that we can toast our dear friend we’ve lost.

Most importantly, I’ll remind myself that we are only here for a short time. Every day, every moment, every experience makes up our being. What we do today does have an impact in the future. Our lives are full of portals, but once that door closes for the final time, that’s it. We have to embrace the best life has to offer here and now.

The Blur Called June

The Blur Called June

14 July 2018

Just before July 4, I received a text from a dear friend. She told me to stop slacking, having men chase me around and get back to my blog. After looking at my blog history, I understood what she was saying. June was a blur, which explains why I missed the remainder of the month blogging. Although I did spend some time working on novel, so not all was lost.

My birthday was weird this year. I can’t remember the last time I didn’t have something planned for the annual (week-long) celebration.  This year I woke up early to go to the gym, met friends early afternoon for lunch, had dinner with another friend, drinks out with a bunch of single friends, and had an absolute ball hanging out with a group of First Responders from the Bay area (CA). Since Friday mornings are quiet in my office, my assistant and I walked to the student building to get coffee there. I ran into the CA crew again. “It’s the birthday girl!” “Karen!” “We missed you at the bar last night.” Sorry guys, I was busy-it was a night I had planned to stay in and not drink. And so on went the conversations. Between hand shakes and casual side hugs, I wished them a safe trip home once their training was done for the morning.

I am going to stop here to say my birthday week was interesting and there will be a few chapters in my creative nonfiction work…on schedule to begin writing this fall.

That was a Friday. I had to make a run across campus to drop off some paperwork. As I was leaving the office I was in, I opened the door and BAM! walking in my direction was my ex-husband. Even more so, had I stepped out of the office, I would have run right into him; the steps he was taking up were in my line of traffic. I knew he saw me. He looks like hell; he hasn’t taken care of himself at all. I immediately closed the door, stepping back into the office. I prefer not to put myself in situations where a conversation might spark with this man. I waited a few more seconds, that felt like 20 minutes, before I walked back to my office, dropping f-bombs in a text to a friend and my cousin. After that unexpected encounter I was reminded I did not need any validation; my assistant had witnessed the friendly exchanges with the CA crew. A point was made.

It must be a record to avoid an ex when you both live in a very small town. I avoided any close contact with him for seven months! I do a very good job at hiding in a small town. Very good. It also took me six months to open my new home up to mutual and new friends.

I am not the same person I was two years ago. I’m not even the same person I was a year ago. 250 pounds of weight had fallen off my shoulders; 68 off my frame and a ton of muscle added. To say I can bench press my dog is an understatement. My golf game also needs a revamp.

I have two homes: here in New Mexico where my life is, and in New York where my family still lives.

I spent that weekend packing for a trip back to New York for my niece’s high school graduation. I come from a large family. I am the oldest of my siblings. They all have children; my sister now included in that category. My stepchildren used to be part of that chaos, but those days are long gone (and they’re in their early to mid-20’s now. No, I have not heard from them. The oldest wears his heart on his sleeve and struggled with details that won’t be discussed here). In my immediate family alone, there are 17 of us. 17!!!  18, if I count my aunt (mother’s youngest sister) whom we are all very close to.

I love every minute spent with 18 of us…and a reason I enjoyed a few glasses of wine in first class on my way back to NM after my trip ended.

Toss in my cousins we’re close to, and we are the ones you will find sitting around the bonfire telling stories all night long because we all grew up together. Kristin, my near twin, is my partner in crime. We have never let distance keep us away. I’ve been to NH consistently the past three years, and it’s not stopping. She’s now begging me to move there, but I dealt with the snow and storms for more than half of my life. It’s refreshing to not have to worry about white knuckle driving in the winter, and I am truly spoiled by the sun and nice weather in the Southwest. I’ve seen more sun here than I have while living in NY.

In addition to my niece’s graduation, there was a family reunion, surprise 90th birthday party for my great aunt, and a post-party bonfire…although the bonfire was merely an extension of the day’s partying.

Seven days when I generally survive four, but I had a voucher and had to work within my budget and times with the airline to maximize the voucher. With family. A chance to see some friends; I would need another four days to see other friends whom I haven’t seen in ages. Six days with my adorable 9 month old nephew, brother-in-law, and sister.

And six days of bullshit. People bitching about other people. People bitching in general. People bitching about me and at me. Three days in I had reached a saturation point once again. My sister took a moment to talk to me at one point. She got it. She was in target range, too. I told her I understood why my ex-husband would leave the room when things became more intense and the complaining increased. I also told her, “I did not come home to deal with this. I’ve been dealing with bullshit for 15 months, and this does not entice me to come home again. Not for a while.” She talked me down from the emotional rung of the ladder. It’s also the last time I will be in NY without a car. We both agreed that we might plan to stay at a hotel the next time. It’s an added cost, but some things are worth it.

I didn’t like my sister growing up. There’s five years between us, but we, like all my siblings, have grown to be the best of friends as adults. It’s a shame our father never got to see us like this, and our mother got to spend ten years watching us grow closer. We certainly aren’t the perfect family, but after nearly losing my second brother from a 20 foot fall out of a tree early December, our bonds have tightened. Not even the best diamond cutter can break this bond. We count our blessings every single day. Being home to see my brother, still recovering, made some other things in my life so much less important while placing a few other items on a high priority list. Family photos being one priority.

My aunt went through our grandmother’s photo album when we all gathered at her house for dinner the night before my sister and I were scheduled to leave. She began to dissect the album, creating four piles of pictures for us to take home.

I am the keeper of the family albums from the very first one through 1987. My sister has the albums from 1988 to whatever our mother kept current. With the age of digital technology, the point to keep photos in albums is almost moot. I learned my brother didn’t have any photos from his childhood. The time for change is now. Plus, I don’t want to move 8-10 boxes of photo albums again, so one of my priorities is to begin to distribute childhood photos to my siblings and digitize all of them while I’m at it. The glue on those old magnetic albums can eat away at the photo, especially the writing on the back if not carefully peeled away. I also have new photo albums to put the pictures into and send them off to my siblings. It helps me with my downsizing project and gives them memories.

The Syracuse International airport is a mess while under major renovations. My aunt dropped me off late Monday afternoon (my 7th day in NY had come to an end), and after a long hug, she told me, “Don’t talk to strangers.”

Hah! “You do know who I am, right?” I said to her, laughing as I moved towards the doors inside.

I didn’t speak to many other passengers on the flight home. I was tired. I had suffered a minor sports injury before leaving for NY, so between that and sleeping on a pull-out couch all week, my body ached; I slept the longer leg of my trip. It took nearly two weeks to work the ache out of the muscles and be comfortable in my own bed again.

I also returned home knowing Duke’s time has shortened.

June went by in a blur: more writing was done with The Downfall, my birthday, travel to NY, then July appeared.

I love my family. Being home puts me back in the heart of my roots. The foundation from which my life began to build and grow. I am blessed to be part of such a large, close-knit family. Being home also gave me a chance to slow down (as much as a NYer can), unplug (since my cell signal doesn’t work very well), and appreciate the time given to surround myself, and be surrounded, by loved ones. I was the one who chose to move away from the daily drama 17 years ago, and thankful I can return to this home, complete with a different kind of a chaos that is quieter. The older we grow, we learn the order of our priorities change.

And in the middle of all of this, long before I went home for a short bit, Kiki (protagonist in The Downfall) and her siblings realized something similar. How they continue to grow as a (smaller than mine) family is written into the story. A story that is very close to being finished; my July priority, which means time out with friends, and meeting new people, has dwindled significantly. I can’t let the distractions pull me away. A writer can’t afford to see two hours turn into six if writing isn’t involved. It’s all about time management, and I have scheduled writing time back into my calendar again to help me with this novel goal.

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Finding Purpose

Finding Purpose

10 June 2018

This past week was an emotionally heavy week for so many: those who have lost loved ones, those who spoke about losing loved ones, and those who felt the impact of another loss of life…all related to suicide.

Anthony Bourdain was a shock after hearing about Kate Spade. We, as “regular” people, aren’t in the limelight all the time, but celebrities or not we all keep our personal lives quiet. Even the most successful can be struggling and those close to them might not fully understand; especially if mental health problems aren’t discussed.

The struggle is real.

This is my pre-birthday weekend and I felt like I had tumbled to the bottom Friday night. Unlike last year when the only thing I could do was curl up into a ball and let the feelings wash over me, I knew I didn’t have to suffer alone in the dark. I knew I had friends I could count on. I only needed to ask, and that is something I am not afraid of doing.  A friend came over stayed with me until 6am, letting me talk, reminding me I am a beautiful person and an amazing woman.  Every woman needs a gay best friend and this person is just that. My two best friends checked in with me Saturday. My response, “I have coffee and picking myself back up to tackle the day. It all starts with writing to get the muddle out of my head.”

I still struggle. I am still dealing with anxiety and depression, and I continue to see my therapist twice a month. And I talk about my mental health. I have to. I have to do it for me. It’s okay to be selfish when it comes to taking care of yourself. After all, if you can’t take care of yourself, it will be hard to take care of another person. It’s really easy to forget something so basic, so simple, when we’re caught up in the daily grind of life and relationships. I know I lost a big part of myself in a marriage. It’s been a lot of fun rediscovering because that lost part of me is who I have always been since I was young.

We shouldn’t be turning our heads the other way. We shouldn’t be keeping things bottled up to a point where tragedy occurs. Suicide is not a solution. It’s a quick fix for the victim and years of pain and hurt for the living left behind. And I’m not talking about this from my own personal struggles. I’ve lost friends, a high school sweetheart, and some family members to suicide. It affects us all.

This is the point in my blog when I begin to talk about writing, as I begin to weave life around the discussion. The Downfall is coming to a conclusion after a minor setback with my pup over Memorial Day weekend. I’ve been stupidly busy with my job that I haven’t been able to work (writing) as much as I need to. Not being able to write every day also messes with my head. Writing is my therapy. I write because it’s something I have been doing most of my life. My stories have messages that are important and I want to share. There is power in storytelling.

I listen to Sirius Octane just about everywhere: in my car, at work, home and occasionally on my phone. The dj’s are really cool, but Kayla Riley is my favorite. I was driving to Albuquerque the other morning, a day or so after we learned about Kate Spade’s death, when she was on air. Papa Roach’s “Born for Greatness” finished playing and she began her commentary, “We all have a purpose in life. We just need to find that purpose.”

With time and space for reflection, as I heal and move forward, I discovered one of my purposes in life is bringing people together. I do a really good job with this.

My other purpose has always been to hope my writing makes an impact in at least one person’s life. I know that my poem, “Youth Lost,” in Mountains, Rivers and Heavens, has done this because I watched the ripples in the water wash up to my feet.

I hope to see another impact from The Downfall, Seeing in the Dark¸ and my other unfinished novels (Women in the Library, Strength).

The more I write, the better I feel. And I don’t limit myself. I’m still writing poetry, writing on this blog, helping Duke-pup with his blog; still scribbling on note pads, sticky notes, sheets of random paper, and on my phone when ideas strike me. In fact, the light came on last week when I think I finally found the right words for pitching The Downfall. What did I do? I read it to a small group of friends I had at my house on a Sunday afternoon. It worked. I’ve been trying to test-pitch it to anyone who asks me about the book and they are more interested in my spec-fic novel (Seeing in the Dark); both are equally powerful. However, the pitch made it the ears of interested men and women. My job is nearly done.

The muddle, as I call it, is a mud puddle of fog swirling in my mind that makes it hard to do anything. It’s not quite gone, so I am going to keep moving, get out to exercise and get back to The Downfall. There are several reasons this book need to be competed, but this is not the time or place.

If the weather is decent where you live, get outside, take a deep breath and smile knowing we all have a purpose in life. We’re not just here on this Earth and in time to simply live. There is more, and even raising a family is a huge purpose. Our purpose can be very small or big. We are in control of ourselves. Nobody else has that kind of power over us, even if they think they do. If we love and take care of ourselves, we’ll be a better person for those in our lives.

Have a great Sunday afternoon, dear readers.