2019: Week 8 assessment

55 days into 2019 and I’m already playing fast and loose with the goals I set for myself in January. The first to bite the dust – running. Damn, I hate running. No matter how I frame it or what bullshit lie I try to feed myself, I can’t get past the fact that running just plain sucks. On a positive, my overall fitness is improving. I had my first match of the season last weekend. A three set win. So in a sense, I feel vindicated in my failure. My coach will likely take umbrage with that statement and threaten to make me run laps in retaliation.

I’ve also had a hard time balancing work, tennis, domestic obligations and writing. A strange dichotomy when you consider the fact that I have fewer commitments this year than last. I suppose it’s more a matter of priorities. A common theme in my life. Writing always gets shuffled to the bottom of the to-do pile. For the sake of my writing, it may be necessary to delegate all of the cooking and cleaning to the other able bodies living in my house. It will be a sacrifice, but one I’m willing to make. For my writing.

And if we are tallying up all things I have failed at thus far, I should be forthcoming and admit that I still haven’t pulled the trigger and joined that writing group yet, either. I’ve thought about it. I really have. Even had a couple conversations about it. Fear is at play here. Nothing more; nothing less. I’m not ready to share with strangers. I’ll get there.

So, we know what I haven’t accomplished in the first two months of 2019. Let’s talk about something I have – contact lenses.

Aging is cruel. I used to have better than 20/20 vision. Then I hit my forties and it all went to shit. Over the last few years, I’ve gone from just needing glasses to drive at night, to needing them to drive in general, to needing them to read small print, to needing them read any print at all. I’ve even had to start wearing them to play tennis.

And that, my friends, is where I drew a red line the sand. I had a long heart to heart with my eye doctor and it was decided that contacts were just the thing to solve all my problems. Monovision for everyday and recreational distance only for tennis. Of course, that’s the easy part. Learning to put those little fuckers in and take them out is a whole other ballgame.

On the day of the exam, my doctor’s nurse – (are they called nurses at the optometrist’s office??) – helped me find the right lenses then “trained” me in putting them in and taking them out on my own. I use that word loosely because it was nothing more than a meeting of the most basic criteria. Get one out and put it back in without going blind. Two minutes from beginning to end, while she stood over my shoulder.

I left their office in the monovisions – one for distance/one for reading. A little weird but nothing dramatic. I headed home feeling confident in my life choices.

Such confidence was grossly misguided.

It was a Thursday. Thursdays are a tennis day for me – a lesson followed by team drills. Playing tennis in monovision lenses is not recommended. Especially for those like me who lack grace and natural coordination. I got halfway home before it dawned on me that I would have to make the switch before I hit the court. Okay. No big deal. I’ve just been trained. Right?

Wrong.

It took twenty minutes of digging around in my left eye (I only need to change the left) with no success before I got frustrated and cut off all my beautiful salon pampered fingernails. By this time, my eye looked liked I had taken 40 grit sandpaper to it. It took me another ten minutes to finally get the damn thing out. I had started to believe that I would never get it out, and that I had made the worse mistake of my life because I was obviously not smart enough to wear contacts. After a dozen or so failed attempts and string of my favorite four letter words, I was finally able to get a contact back in my eye.

Needless to say I was late for tennis. When I finally stumbled my way onto the court, I was a right hot mess and looked like I was just coming off a four day bender. If it hadn’t been so wonderful to play unburdened by glasses, I may have returned them and filed the whole experience under “never fucking again.”

It’s been a little over a week. I can finally get them in and out with little fuss. I don’t look like I’ve been up for three days straight drinking vodka right out of the bottle anymore. That’s a step forward. I will even go out on a limb and say that I like them. They are liberating in many ways, even with the added routine.

So what have we learned 55 days into 2019?

  • Running still sucks
  • I need to hire a cook and a maid
  • Contact lenses – worth the price of admission

Lessons learned: a reminder

I am a pessimist by nature. Left to my own devises, I will wallow away in a seething swamp of negativity. Of all my personality flaws – and there are many – this is the one that plagues me most. I like to think that it goes hand in hand with my introversion and tendency to turn inward. Of course, that could just be a total bullshit lie that I tell myself in order to roll out of bed every morning. I choose not to peer too deep into the abyss, just in case.

We all have an internal monologue. Well, if we are to be honest, it’s more akin to conversation than soliloquy. At least for me. My head is filled with warring voices that do their best to dictate my narrative. I refer to them as my rebellious-self, my realistic-self, my narcissistic-self, my prideful-self, my fearful-self, my obsessive-self, my naive-self, my are-you-kidding-me-with-this-shit-right-now-self. They’re like squabbling siblings – always at odds and constantly vying for my attention. It takes a great deal of effort to find an enduring balance and avoid being swallowed whole by all their noise. Sometimes I succeed; sometimes I don’t. And sometimes I think I’ve won the battle only to find out I couldn’t be more wrong.

I wrote in a previous post about my struggle to let go and move on from my booster board position. It took a long time to come to terms with the fact that I was no longer a relevant party. Again, I am well aware of how that sounds and I make no apology for it. For my own sanity, and in an effort to hinder my proclivity for obsession over things which I have no control, I distanced myself from the entire program. I choose the “ignorance is bliss” route and proceeded to stick my head in the sand.

Seems like a solid plan, right? Totally rational. Completely reasonable. The only problem – I failed to take into consideration my evolving resentment. The end of my tenure was fraught with conflict. I felt marginalized and discounted. It’s never easy to sit on the sidelines and watch everything you worked so hard to achieve burn to the ground on the whim of others. I was pretty pissed off about it.

The negative voice in my head is like that bully on the playground – big-mouthed and obnoxious. A real dick. I try not to feed into his rhetoric, but in moments of weakness it’s easy to fall prey. And that’s exactly what happened here. I gave rise to my anger and resentment, and in doing so, allowed that negativity to define my experience.

A couple of weeks ago, I was standing in line at a local burrito shop when a a little voice said, “Hi, Mrs. Isaacs.” I looked up and on the other side of the counter was the sweet face of one my band kids. I was surprised to see her; thrilled to see her. We chatted for a few minutes, catching up a bit before she took my order: burrito bowl, brown rice, extra veggies, no beans with steak. I watched her meticulously go through the motions. When we got to the steak, she portion out the allotted amount, paused, then looked up at me with a shy smile. She said, “because I love you, Mrs. Isaacs,” and scooped out a little bit extra.

A simple gesture, but one that afforded me a flash of profound clarity. It brought tears to my eyes and a rush of warmth to my heart. In that moment, I realized that my negativity was a product of a damaged ego and wounded pride; and, by no means, representative of my true feelings. I gave four years of my life to the band program and I have a lot to show for it – great friends, beautiful memories, a new appreciation for “team building” and drinking establishments that stay open late.

But most of all, I have a full heart. I was blessed with the privilege of serving a fantastic group of kids for four years. The impact they have had on my life is beyond measure and something that I will always treasure. In my need to nurse my wounded pride, I forgot why I said yes in the first place; and why I kept saying yes – year after year.

I have been reminded.

2019: Goals

I have always disliked the notion of the New Year’s resolution. I understand the concept and the intent, but feel it’s a failed sentiment. For me, it is a matter of scale. By design, New Year’s resolutions tend to be broad and undefined with no clear path to fulfillment. While I do consider myself a big picture thinker in many ways, to succeed at anything, I find I must break a challenge down into digestible bits. Then move through the elements step by step, in an orderly fashion from A to Z. It’s a very linear method and it’s how I approach most aspects of my life – personal and work alike. As such, this way of thinking is generally not conducive to seeing broad based resolutions to fruition. I can’t just say “I’m going to lose weight in 2019” then boom, lose weight in 2019. I have to plan it out, do a little research, set small achievable goals for myself – A leads to B leads to C leads to D…and so on.

I was diagnosed with cancer in January 2017. Anyone who has been dealt this hand will tell you what follows is a roller coaster ride over which you have zero control. None. Zilch. Nada. It dominates your life and you spend an enormous amount of time barreling from one thing to the next – tests, surgeries, treatment. It seems endless. Given my inability to work farther ahead than what is right in front of me, the whole experience left me in a weird stagnant state.

I had my last surgery in November and have spent the couple of months since feeling lighter, liberated from the burden of my disease. If ever there was a year to make resolutions, it is this one. Of course, I am who I am and thus, in lieu of resolutions, I have made a series goals.

Here are a few:

Run a 5k. Okay. On it’s face, this does appears to be a broad resolution. I’ll give you that.  But I have a reason – and a plan. I shared in my last post a few words of wisdom from my tennis coach: “One does not get in shape playing tennis, one must get in shape to play tennis.” In order to do that, he wants me to run. I hate to run so that poses a challenge. I am finding that merely telling me to run for the sake of tennis is no real motivator. I need to be able to break it down, reason it out and formulate a plan of action.

The solution to my problem – the Couch to 5k (C25K) app. This provides the goal and workable plan to get from point A to point B. The app breaks it down into weekly workouts (walking/running combos) that builds from easy to hard as your stamina improves. It charts your progress and provides a bit of verbal motivation as you run. I picked the drill sergeant to cue me when it’s time to change up the pace. I find it fitting.

So the goal is to train myself to run a 5k in 9 weeks. In doing so, I will have improved my overall fitness which, in turn, will improve my tennis game. Just in time for the spring season. Two birds. One stone. A to B to C.

Nurture the good, eliminate the bad. This is a goal that follows me year to year. There are those in my life who will tell you I am not prone to sugarcoating things. I call it how I see it. I suffer no fools and take no bullshit. Generally speaking, that’s a pretty accurate assessment. But I find that when it comes to certain interpersonal relationships, I struggle to make good on this goal. It’s a constant work in progress for me.

I do feel I have made improvements. A cancer diagnosis has a clarifying effect. For me, it put a lot of things into perspective and forced me to take stock. In 2017, I cleaned house and eliminated a lot of negativity from my life. I took to heart the notion that people treat you how you allow them to treat you. Once I accepted that, what followed was easy.

Of course, when you take a scorched earth approach, the result is an altered landscape. It can be stark and isolating at first, but what sprouts up out of the ashes is something much hardier and meaningful. However, it is important to remember that what grows must be tended and nurtured if it is to survive. Relationships are nothing more than flowers in a garden to be watered and fed. Right now, I have a garden full of beautiful flowers and it’s my goal for 2019 to continue down this positive path, weeding out the negativity as I go.

Write. Write. Write. No post on goals would be complete without addressing the elephant in the room. Writing. I have not written much the last few years. I have a combination of reasons and I could waste your time ticking them off one by one, but I won’t. In truth, the biggest reason I haven’t written is because I have lacked desire.

Part of me wants to blame this drought on an absence of words – I didn’t write because I had nothing to say. That’s a lie. I have plenty to say. And plenty of words. Lots and lots of words. They tumble around in my head, a constant buzz in my ears pulling me inward, competing for my attention, keeping me up at night. I just couldn’t bring myself to put forth the effort to write them down, to put them out there for all to see.

I think fear plays a role. Probably more than I would care to admit. It’s never easy putting pen to paper and giving life to the things you’ve never said aloud. When something scares us, our first instinct is to run away. I have let my fear get the better of me for far too long. It’s past time for me to face this challenge head-on and that is what I plan to do in 2019.

This blog was a first step in that direction. I have plans to begin a collaborative work with a dear friend – a creative non-fiction piece that is thirty years in the making. I have also started working on a project that I have toyed with for a while, but never really committed much effort to fleshing out. I feel inspired by it. I have also been invited to rejoin a writing critique group. With strangers. I am still working this one out in my head. The introvert in me is screaming in protest, but writing groups are always great source of motivation.

I feel good about 2019. Of course, I felt good about 2017, too. It only took about two weeks for it all to go to shit. The universe has a funny way of reminding us of who’s really in charge. Even still, I am looking forward to what the new year will bring, and have faith that it will be as wonderful as I hope.

Happy New Year!

Lessons learned: 2018

The holidays have never been my favorite time of the year. I could go on and on about the decorations, the expectations, the obligations, the assholes at the mall…but I won’t.

Oddly, I don’t feel quite so scrooge-like this year. Maybe it’s all the wine. I’ve consumed more than my fair share over the past week. Pretty sure my liver is completely pickled at this point. I have switched to lemon water in an effort to flush the system and reset. I even hefted my ass to the gym on Christmas Day. Never hurts to get a jump start on those pesky new year’s resolutions.

I won’t go so far as to say that I am feeling festive. That’s a stretch even in the most optimistic of times, but as I sit here in my pjs staring at the rapidly disintegrating evergreen wreath over my mantel, I am reflective.

While 2017 was a year straight out of Dante’s Inferno, 2018 wasn’t too bad. Here are a few things I learned this year:

Doctors inevitably insist that it takes six weeks to recovery from surgery. Any surgery. Big or small. Doesn’t matter. I’ve mentioned before that I had a bout with a little cancer. Breast cancer. Lost a boob. Had a little radiation. Got a new boob. Five surgeries in all. Every time – six weeks. No more. No less. Of course, I am who I am, and therefore the proverbial thorn in my doctor’s side. I do believe my medical chart comes with a black box warning indicating my penchant for noncompliance. I’m not programmed to sit around doing nothing when I could be doing something. During the last visit with my doctor, two weeks after my final surgery, I asked when I could return to the tennis court. He crossed his legs, leaned back in his chair and gave his nurse a bit of side eye. He knew what was coming.

“Four more weeks,” he said.

“No,” I said giving him my best resting bitch face. “Too long.”

My doctor is a kind man; intelligent; a respected leader in his specialty field. I’ve been his patient for two years. In that moment, he looked resigned, beaten down. He let out a long breath.

“When are you thinking?”

“Today.”

“Today?”

“Yes. This afternoon.”

He scrubbed a hand over his face and began to go through a long list of reasons why I should limit my activity for the remaining four weeks of my six week recovery. It’s a list I can recite from memory.

“Are you telling me no?” I asked, cutting him off mid-sentence. I can be blunt to the point of rudeness. It’s part of my charm.

“No, I would never tell you no, but…”

“Good. When’s my next follow up?”

“Three months.”

“Very good.”

By sundown, I was on the tennis court drilling with my team and I haven’t looked back. Fuck your six week rule.

“One does not get in shape playing tennis; one must get in shape to play tennis.” These words of wisdom were bestowed upon me just last week by my tennis coach. I love my coach. He’s an older gentleman, north of seventy with the patience of a saint and a brutal honesty that never lets me get too full of myself. As I’ve said, I have had five surgeries over the last 2 years and it goes without saying that it has taken a toll on my overall fitness. For every week off the court, I feel that I take two steps backwards in my progress towards becoming a better player.

I’ve never been a marathon runner….or a 5k runner…or a runner at all. In fact, I really hate running. Seriously. Hate it. A glaring contradiction for a tennis player who is looking to improve and win matches. My coach knows and understands this about me. He’s also not afraid to tell me I need to get my shit together. Last week, as he sat next to me on a bench while I tried to catch my breath, he gave me an assignment. He told me to run. Not just run. Run fast. Sprint. As fast as I can for a quarter length of track. Then rest. Then run as fast as I can again – repeating this pattern over and over and over.

I started on Christmas Day. I hated it and thought bad things about my coach the whole time. But he’s right. He’s always right. I want to win matches. I want to win and so I must run. I don’t have to like it, I just have to do it.

It’s okay to be selfish with my time. I think this is a plight shared by mothers and wives alike. We give so much of ourselves to those in our charge that we forget to save time for ourselves. And should we be blessed with a bit of alone time, we are plagued by guilt. Always – the guilt.  My daughter graduated six months ago and my life as a band mom came to an abrupt end.  I suddenly found myself in possession of a rare commodity – time.  Precious time.  Me time.  Time to do what I wanted, when I wanted and with whomever I wanted.  

At first, it’s a little overwhelming.  You aren’t quite sure what do with it, this golden egg that has dropped into your lap, seemingly out of thin air.  You look around to see if anyone sees what you see; to see if anyone steps into reclaim it.  When no one comes, you take it in your hand, wrap your fingers around it and hold it close to your breast.  

“Mine.”

The word lingers on your lips, a mere whisper at first, as soft and sweet as a baby’s breath.  

“Mine,” you say again.  

The word comes louder this time, with gusto.  Your confidence builds.  You scramble to your feet, still clutching the golden egg tight against your chest.  With the sound of your heart pounding in your ears, you take one last look around, just to be sure no one is watching.   Then slither off into the shadows, to the place where your secrets are kept. With a gentle hand, born out of the fear that the egg will dissolve into dust right before your very eyes, you tuck it away.  Nestling it safely among all the things you treasure most in life.  All the while, repeating a single word. 

“Mine…mine…mine…”     


On lessons learned: an epiphany

They say to have a successful blog, you need to have a theme, continuity, some sort of consistent content.  My rebellious-self thinks such a rule is complete bullshit.   Who says I have to follow a formula?  It’s my blog.  Not yours.  Mine.  My realistic-self knows and understands there is some merit to this.  If only to give clarity and the illusion, however fleeting, of forward momentum.  In an effort to keep things moving, I’m going to fall back on a founding principle.  I started this site as a means of discovery.  Every experience in life, be it profound or trivial, is an opportunity to learn.   To learn is to grow; to grow is to live.  

And with that, here we go:

As I mentioned in my last post, my daughter recently graduated high school.  In this day and age, most kids are involved in extracurricular activities that dominate not only their own time, but also that of their parents.  Her activity of choice – marching band. 

I never used to be a joiner.  Even now, I have to really want to do something to get involved.  I’m not sure how it happened, or exactly when it happened, but somehow I found myself sucked down what I like to call the “booster club rabbit hole.”  In the blink of an eye, I went from casual volunteer to all in – up to my eyeballs in booster business.   I lived and breathed band for four years.  It was one of the most rewarding experiences of my life.

It was also one of the most exhausting – both physically and mentally.  In the run up to graduation and the end of my tenure, I was conflicted.  I was tired and more than ready to turn over the keys to the castle to the next generation of band moms; but at my core, I am a control freak.   Change is hard.  Letting go is harder.   In the final days, I cried.  A lot.  I just couldn’t imagine my life without band.   I also couldn’t fathom how band would survive without me.  

Yes.  I know.  The arrogance of that statement is not lost on me.  It’s just that at some point, I let the role I played as “band mom” solely identify my existence.  I was a band mom.  Nothing more; nothing less.  I wouldn’t allow myself to accept the idea of life after band.   For them or me.

I’m not much for spontaneity.  I don’t make quick, unfettered decisions.  I mull things over, weigh my options, consider the repercussions of every action I take, and plan accordingly.  As such, I had an exit plan in place for leaving my booster position.  I knew exactly what needed to be done, how it should be done and when.  The only problem – everyone else.  I fought it for a while, agonized over it, wrote a few blistering emails, cried a lot of tears.  Then one bright sunny Saturday morning in June, I had an epiphany.  I’d had enough.  I was done.  Totally over the whole fucking thing.  By the afternoon, the handover to my successor was complete.  The baton officially passed.

I was free.

One week later, I was sitting on a sandy beach in the Caribbean with my family and my old friend Bacardi, doing absolutely nothing.  It was wonderful.  In the six months since, I’ve read a lot of books, binged a lot of television, and played a lot of tennis.   I have moved on from band; and band has moved on from me.  

Life goes on.

  

On a return to writing

I started this blog several years ago, during a period of personal transition.  I dubbed it my “journey of self-discovery.”  It was a means of navigating the shit life threw at me without actually having a nervous breakdown.  We all go through such times – pivotal points of change where what was is no longer, but what comes next is unclear.  The uncharted path forward littered with the debris of uncertainty and self-doubt.

I have always found writing cathartic and have long been fascinated by the first-person, introspective essay.  Especially when written in the vein of  philosopher Michel de Montaigne.  He dared to pose the indelible question, “Who am I?”, and then spent a lifetime seeking to find the answer through the art of composition.  As an introvert prone to spending a great deal of time stomping around inside the cluttered recesses of my own head, I find the prospect of introspection both enlightening and liberating.

So what changed? 

Life. 

My last blog post was nearly 3 years ago.   A lot has transpired in the intervening time period.  I changed jobs, sold my soul to my daughter’s band booster club,  started playing tennis, came down with a bit of cancer, saw my daughter graduate high school then stood on the sidelines as she navigated her way through her first successful semester of college.  To say it’s been a roller coaster ride would be an obvious understatement.  The highs were invigorating; the lows gut wrenching, at best.  

Now, all these years later, I find myself once more standing on the precipice, Grendel’s mother at my back – the ever present reminder of challenges faced; before me, the uncharted path forward, littered with the debris of uncertainty and self-doubt.   

I have come full circle.   

      

Promise of a new year

“Hope
Smiles from the threshold of the year to come,
Whispering ‘it will be happier’…”

― Alfred Lord Tennyson

Christmas is not my thing.  I make no bones about it, and offer up no apology.  If I had my way, I would spend the entire month of December on a beach in the Caribbean – book in one hand, frozen concoction in the other, the grit of sand between my toes, the roar of surf in my ears.   No traffic, no clutter of decorations, no batshit crazy holiday-goers with blood in their eyes.

Of course, it’s not all about me.  Ever the humble conformist, I bow to social convention.  I put up a tree, battle the mall, send out Christmas cards. All the while, with an eye to the horizon.  The new year shining in the distance, a whispered promise drifting in on the wind.

Change is in the air.

As I write this, I am well aware that the new year has come and gone.  My January was a fantastic whirlwind.  But that is a blog for another day.  I’m only just beginning to collect my thoughts:  reflecting, evaluating, forging the plan ahead.  I’m not one to make resolutions. To me, they amount to nothing more than simplistic commitments bearing unrealistic expectations.  Having said that:  I do look upon the new year as a period of renewal. Redemptive, in a way.  A chance to build upon what works; adjust what doesn’t.

Last year was a period of transition for me.  The hip injury I suffered a few years ago progressed into something too significant to ignore.  I was forced to address it once and for all.  It was a frustrating process – slow and tedious with more setbacks, more pain, more tears than I care to remember.  It took almost a year, but I have finally put the “yoga class from hell” to bed.  It’s quite liberating to be out from beneath that beast.  Physically, I am in great shape – the best in five years.  I’ve slimmed down and toned up.  I feel fantastic.

With a look ahead to 2016 and in an effort to exploit this new found freedom, I began to explore an idea that has rolled around in my head for a while now – tennis.  I wanted to play tennis again.  I played when I was young, but haven’t in over twenty-five years. There are a lot of reasons for this – lack of opportunity, physical challenges, my social introversion.  Joining is difficult for me.  But if there is one thing I have learned over the last few years, it is that one cannot truly live within the construct of self-imposed isolation.  ‘I can’t’, ‘I don’t’, ‘I won’t’ are phrases born out of fear.  And fear is detrimental to our natural evolution and quest for a satisfying and fulfilling life.

Bearing that in mind, I signed up for tennis lessons last week.

I think 2016 is going to be a fantastic year.

Let’s see where it will take us.

 

 

Things I’ve learned: Summer/Fall Edition

“And the yellow sunflower by the brook, in autumn beauty stood.”
― William Cullen Bryant

I always go into summer with three basic goals:

1.)  to write a lot;

2.)  to read a lot – preferably while lounging by the pool under a hot Texas sun, sipping a frosty margarita; and

3.)  to spend some quality time in nature – just me, my camera, and a blank Moleskine.

I always go into fall wondering what the hell happened to my summer.

It’s an eternal struggle.  The “best-laid plans” and all that jazz.  The truth is: summer is never as free-flowing and easy-going as I like to believe.  It is hectic and frenzied, a precarious balancing act dictated by obligation and commitment – life, love, band camp. Of course, that doesn’t mean it is a fruitless endeavor.  Quite the opposite. My summer was filled with moments of unscripted relevance, and it is within these fragments where true clarity is discovered. Here are a few things I learned over the summer…and into the fall:

1.  Sometimes the hype is right.  I’m not one to blindly follow the crowd.  I think it’s fair to say I spend a majority of my time in perpetual lag  – always trailing a few steps behind the cool kids. I attribute this to two things:  a.) an abundance of ignorance, and b.) an unwillingness to trust in the judgment of others.  One doesn’t have to look much further than E.L. James, comic book hero movie reboots, and selfies to understand the latter.  I hold firm in my belief that popularity rarely equates to anything worth a damn.

While this line of reasoning is beneficial in sidestepping steaming piles of mindless nonsense, it also tends to isolate me from the more noteworthy components of popular culture.  The Showtime series Homeland is one such element.

In the spirit of full disclosure, I should note that I make a concerted effort to avoid original programming distributed by pay-cable networks – HBO, Showtime, et al.  This has less to do with the quality of the works produced and more to do with my prudish nature.  I find the nudity and explicit sex depicted in these shows gratuitous and unnecessary.  There is an adage:  just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.  I mean, really, explain to me how opening a scene with a main character receiving sloppy fellatio from a handful of naked courtesans contributes to the art of storytelling.  It is beyond my capacity for comprehension.

But…I digress.

homelandHomeland is the American version of an Israeli series called Hatufim.  It’s a spy drama – well-written, well-acted, and character driven.  All things that put it right up my alley. The only problem – it’s put out by Showtime, i.e. lots of gratuitous sex with little to no intrinsic value to the overall plot.  And so, despite the critical buzz, the media hype, the constant nagging from my inner circle, I ignored Homeland – for four seasons.

What changed?

Boredom (and maybe a little wine) on a soggy weekend in early June.  I binged for two days straight.  On the show, not the wine.

Turns out, all that hype was right.  Homeland is fantastic.  Claire Danes is wonderful (a total nut, but great).  Mandy Patinkin is brilliant.  Mr. Wickham plays an assassin.  An assassin!  How awesome is that?

rupert friendThe lesson here:  Mr. Wickham makes a great assassin…oh wait…it is really easy to fast forward through all that icky parts to get to the good stuff.  Who knew?

Everyone, but me.

2.  Nothing beats a birthday at the beach.  Birthdays depress me.  I know, so cliché, but it’s the truth.  I spend half the day contemplating the reality of my own morality, and the rest stuffing my face with cake to mask the pain.  Of course, then I feel guilty and spend the next two weeks at the gym trying to undo the damage.

This year, I took a different approach.  I went to the beach.

IMG_7716We spent the week in one our favorite places, just exploring.  There were sunset cruises and wildlife eco tours; a bit of shopping, a little sunbathing, a lot of food and wine.  On the morning of my 43rd birthday, I took a solitary walk along an empty beach as the sun came up, had a photo shoot with a cooperative Great Blue Heron, and ate my weight in mussels.

It was the best birthday ever.

From now on, all my birthdays will be celebrated at the beach.

3.  Starbucks has desecrated the sanctity of Christmas.  If I can’t have snowflakes and sledding dogs with my overpriced, calorie-laden latte then it is all for naught.  We might as well just cancel Christmas.

4.  Letting go and moving on.  I once wrote a blog about the ten things I learned in my thirties.  One of the most important lessons:  nurturing healthy relationship, and eliminating the bad.  Easy advice to give, tough advice to follow.  This is especially true when you fail to recognize the signs of a shifting landscape.  No partnership is perfect, of course – be it familial, marriage, or friendship.  We are only human, and thus inherently flawed.  Yet, if we take care and are vigilant, we are able to forge meaningful and beneficial bonds.

In every relationship, there is a certain degree of compromise and acceptance – the old give and take.  My husband snores like a freight train, but he takes out the trash.  It’s a trade-off.  We make it work.  It is along a similar vein that I measure all the relationships in my life – give and take.  Is it mutual?  Is it proportional?  Is it fulfilling?  Often these are easy questions to answer.  But sometimes I am blindsided by the realization that what was once mutually satisfying, is no longer viable.

For the last year, I’ve struggled with such a revelation.  In hindsight, the writing has been on the wall for a long time.  I blame complacency.  I am a creature of habit, and will sometimes go out of my way to avoid confrontation in order to sidestep the unpleasantness of change.

My epiphany came with an incident last Christmas that to most may seem trivial – a homemade gift given in love without so much as a thank you.  Yes, I know.  Trivial.  In the spirit of the season, gifts should be given without the expectation of reciprocation.  But the lack of acknowledgment hurt my feelings – deeply.  I’m not sure why it affected me in this manner.  I’m not prone to such sensitivity.  Yet, it did.  I suppose it was the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back.  One more thing added to a growing list of irritating and hurtful trespasses.  It changed my whole view and shined a light on something that I had long denied.  The friendship was dead.

And so, I have spent the better part of the year coming to terms with that reality.  It’s been difficult.  There is a certain amount of grief that comes with it.  And resentment.  But I have come to accept the fact that the friendship, in its original state, is gone. It is through this acceptance that I have found peace.  I suppose that is all we can hope for in life – peace.

5.  Awww moment of the week:  This is the part of my blog that I reserve for a picture of something adorable.  In light of recent events, I’d like to take a moment to pay my respects to the victims of the Paris terror attacks.

paris peace

NaNoWriMo – Week 1 update

Total words written since last Saturday = 15,850.

I started out slow but have gained a lot of momentum in the last few days.  It’s amazing what an outline and few zippy action scenes can do for you.

Wish me luck for week two.

Write on.

On graduation, moving on, and NaNoWriMo

<tap, tap, tap>

Is this thing on?  Are you still out there?

Yeah.  It’s been a while.

Okay, six months.  But really, who’s counting?

Look, I’m not going to insult your intelligence by throwing out some half-baked excuse. The truth is: I haven’t been in the mood to blog.  I offer no apology.  It is what it is.

On graduation…

So, as some of you may recall (or not…it has been a long time), I’ve been busy doing that whole college thing.  It dominated my life for a couple of years, but in May, I finished one leg of that journey.  I have to say, I was a little unimpressed with the whole graduation thing.  It was anti-climatic and…well…boring.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m proud of my accomplishment, but there is this sort of fizzling deflation to it all.  I spent a long time entrenched in projects and presentations, lectures and exams.  I endured the humiliation of “yoga for a grade”, suffered the frustration of group work, and survived a brief foray into historical geology. All of it accomplished without breaking a bone or committing a single felony.  Of course, in the spirit of full disclosure, I did spend two months in physical therapy for a blown hip-flexor after the whole yoga fiasco.  But thus far, I have succeeded in resisting the urge to run the instructor over with my car – hence the felony-free status.

Namaste, bitches.

I suppose it’s my own fault really (the graduation thing – not the yoga thing).  In my single-minded pursuit of that little piece of paper, I allowed myself to develop unreasonable expectations for what it inferred.  I elevated its celebratory value to an unattainable height, and summarily, set myself up for devastating disappointment.

The lesson learned here:  next time I will skip the commencement and opt for something a little more exciting like watching the Bourne trilogy on Blu-ray in my pajamas and mortarboard, eating take-out, and drinking a bottle of Costco’s finest store brand Cabernet.

Moving on…

My post-graduation summer was low-key – just how I like it.  I read a few books, dabbled in a bit of writing, staked out my favorite table at the local bagel shop.  I took it easy – a well-deserved break.  By contrast, fall has been a whirlwind.  My daughter is a high school freshman in the marching band.  That’s a blog for another day, but let me just say one thing on the subject: EGADS.  Fortunately, this Saturday marks the end of competitive marching season.

It’s also the beginning of NaNoWriMo.  Participant-2014-Twitter-Profile

A coincidence?

I think not.

I have participated in two Camp NaNo events – you now the one with the adjustable word count?  But I’ve never had the time come November to commit to NaNoWriMo.

Until now.

I’m excited for the new challenge, but a little intimidated.  My writing style – the physical act of writing – is slow and tedious.  I like to ponder an idea; try it on; strut it out in front of the mirror – really get a feel for it before I buy into it.  Definitely not an efficient way to write fiction and needless to say, my current word count reflects such.  That will have to change, of course.  Otherwise, I will be doomed to failure.  I think I’m up for it, though.  I’ve started a new project, fallen down the research rabbit hole, dusted off the old Scrivener, and fleshed out a workable plot – albeit rough.

I’m ready for this.

Bring it, NaNoWriMo.

Write on.

Photo of the day

My daughter is a snarky thing, but sometimes she humors me.

IMG_4434

Photo of the day

Bear with me while I continue to sift through my photos.  I am in a wondrous state of rediscovery.

This one was taken along the Tidal Basin in Washington, D.C.  He seemed quite determined, almost as if he were a duck on a mission.  I watched him for long time, followed him, harassing him with my camera – but he was steadfast and never altered his path.

My writer’s mind imagined he was a covert agent on the way to a clandestine meeting with a top-level CIA official.

What?

IMG_3693

Photo of the day

This photo is one out of the archives.  Taken in D.C. during a summer trip, I was always drawn to it, but a little disappointed in the quality.

So, I futzed around with it.

I’m not sure it is any better, but I still like it.

IMG_3285

Photo of the day

“In nine lifetimes, you’ll never know as much about your cat as your cat knows about you.”
― Michel de Montaigne

IMG_8904

Photo of the day

Despite my proclivity for holiday bashing, Santa was good to me this year.  He left a shiny new laptop under my tree.  In the process of transferring files from the old machine to the new, I stumbled across some older photos.   Some are total shit, others aren’t too bad. I like the colors in this one:

IMG_9915

Photo of the day

“But pleasures are like poppies spread,
You seize the flower, its bloom is shed;
Or, like the snow-fall in the river,
A moment white, then melts forever.”
― Robert Burns

IMG_8770

Photo of the day

“A thing of beauty is a joy forever.”
―John Keats, Endymion: A Poetic Romance

IMG_8702

The best-laid schemes…

I have spent the last few days ridding my house of nauseating Christmas cheer.  The holidays are all fun and games in the outset, but there comes a point where the scale is tipped, and all those decorations begin to call to mind a tinsel and glitter infused bordello – or at least, what I imagine such an establishment might resemble.  I’m not one to suffer clutter for long, so the purge was swift and exact.

Of course, now that the tree is gone, the nephews departed, and the NYE champagne hangover nursed, there is a question of what comes next.

I try to avoid New Year’s resolutions.   Rash promises made in the heat of a self-loathing pity party aren’t normally destined for fulfillment.  In my 41 years, I have only realized one true resolution – a weight loss of 50 lbs some seven years ago. I did keep it off, so maybe that should count double.  Hmm…I digress.  As I sit here on this cold January morning, sipping coffee and listening to Norah Jones shoot the moon, I have the itch to plot a path forward.

So, I asked myself this question:  What do I want to accomplish in 2014?

I had to make a list.

  • Write 2000 words per day, everyday.
  • Finish Retribution rewrite #7 (or is it #8 now?!?) by spring break.
  • Publish one kick ass blog entry per day.
  • Submit a scene per week to the writing group for feedback – or a good laugh.
  • Graduate.
  • Conquer fitness boot camp and run a 5 K.
  • Read two non-academic books per month.
  • Learn to kayak.
  • Take kick ass photographs from moving kayak without drowning.
  • Learn to speak Italian.
  • Attend the U.S. Open – it’ll be Federer’s come back season, I can feel it.
  • Complete an outline for Summer of ’87.
  • Complete a draft for Summer of ’87, and win NaNoWriMo doing it.
  • Survive the holidays without committing a felony.

Too ambitious?  Yeah.  Who am I kidding?  Federer isn’t going to stage a come back this season…or anything other season, for that matter.

As for the rest…well, as much as I’d like to say it’s doable, it’s obviously not.  I have a life – work, family, school, outside obligations, nagging phobias.  After a healthy dose of reality and little soul-searching, here is a more reasonable list:

  • Write four days per week.
  • Publish 3 blogs per week.
  • Post a daily “photo of the day” on the blog.
  • Complete a working draft of Retribution by summer.
  • Graduate.
  • Submit a scene per week to the writing group for feedback – or a good laugh.
  • Read one non-academic book per month.
  • Get within five feet of a kayak; take a kick ass photo of said kayak; post it on the blog.
  • Attend the U.S. Open; cheer for Djorkovic.
  • Consider validity of YA/coming of age concept novel Summer of ’87; participate in NaNoWriMo.
  • Survive the holidays without committing a felony.

A decent compromise, I think; and one that has potential.  It helps that for the first time since last spring, I am feeling creative and inspired – and open to interaction.  The latter is always difficult for me, especially in this particular forum.  I’m going to work on that.

Alright.  Let’s get ‘er done.

Write on.

A Year in review…and photos, too

So, here we are again.  One chapter in the book of life ending, another beginning.  I always look forward to a new year.  Part of it is the unmitigated relief of having made it through the holidays without committing a felony; but also, there’s an unspoken promise of recommencement.  The aura of renewal and the endless possibilities of what may come, beckon me like a moth to a flame.

It’s all illusion, of course.  Logic dictates that there is no real difference between the end of one year, and the beginning of the next; no earth shattering kaboom; no sparkling fairy awaiting the stroke of midnight to sprinkle a handful of pixie dust on our heads, magically erasing twelve months of poor choices and lost opportunities.  It’s just another day, like any other.

But to hope is to be human.  A new year ushers in a sense of liberation and emancipation, and gives us permission to let go of our past and embrace the future.  This is a concept I readily espouse.  Although, I find that in order to completely move forward, I must first reflect.

It was a productive year, albeit exhausting.  What did I do, you ask?  Well, I’ll tell you.

This year I:

  • continued my foray into the mysterious world of geology, tried my hand at a little field work, and discovered I should leave it to the professionals.
  • participated in April’s Camp NaNoWriMo and won, exceeding my 25K word goal by nearly 5K.  Of course, I haven’t let a single word written during that month to see the light of day.  I shuddered at the very thought.
  • embraced a dairy-free diet.  My stomach and I get along much better these days.
  • spent the long Memorial weekend with the BFF and her family, exploring South Padre Island.  There’s nothing quite so relaxing as a beautiful beach, good company, and jug of margaritas.
  • discovered – and conquered – statistics.  Did you know that sometimes in statistics, p’s and q’s wear hats?  Crazy, yet oddly adorable.
  • learned that I’m too old to frolic on New Orleans’ Bourbon Street.  It’s a task best left to the degenerate youth.  I did, however, have a wonderful time celebrating the BFF’s milestone birthday in the city she loves.
  • took a step toward tackling my fear of being eaten by a bear while camping.  No, I didn’t go camping in bear infested woods.  That’s just stupid.  I did go hiking for the first time, though.  And loved it.  Maybe next time I will forego the hotel in town and stay in a cabin by the lake.  Yeah, right.

While my writing was somewhat sporadic after Camp NaNoWriMo, I did take quite a few photos.  In the spirit of the coming year, and in an effort to toast 2013, here are a few.

Enjoy.

IMG_1936

IMG_2138 IMG_2200IMG_2578 IMG_2283 IMG_4790 IMG_4795 IMG_5060 IMG_5137 IMG_5144 IMG_5236 IMG_5319 IMG_5329 IMG_5338 IMG_5926 IMG_5939Happy New Year.

Finding rhythm

Time management and multitasking are two virtues I was not blessed to possess.  I often struggle with attaining a harmonious balance between work, family, school, writing, and all those nagging little commitments generally associated with everyday life.  To the frustration of my inner circle, I must take things as they come, one at a time – chronologically. Experience has taught me that if I don’t adhere to this rule of thumb, I will devolve into:  a)  anger-laced irrationality; or b) total despondency – or what I like to call, the “fuck it” syndrome. Couple the latter with my inclination toward introversion and it is safe to say some things aren’t afforded the attention they deserve, or would otherwise receive under less stressful circumstances.

My focus the last six months has been school.  I’m almost finished and what I thought would be an easy semester, turned into an avalanche of homework that took more time than anticipated, and certainly more than appreciated.  Add to the mix, my daughter’s fall band and robotics schedule, and well – something had to give.   That something – this blog.  And my novel. Both became victims of the aforementioned “F.I.” syndrome.

Now in the aftermath of the semester that seemed to never end, I find myself with a bit of free time on my hands.  That’s not to say there aren’t new commitments and challenges eager to step in to fill the void left by my schoolwork.  There are cookies to be baked, cards to be addressed, gifts to be bought, malls to be conquered, and good cheer to be spread.

Blah, blah, blah.

I have to be honest here.  I’m not a big fan of Christmas.  The season’s inflated commerciality and disingenuous propaganda give me heartburn, and I resent the additional obligations and expectations to varying degrees.   After several hectic months, the last thing I want to do is be bogged down by holiday sludge.   What I want to do is get back into the rhythm of writing.  Whether it’s this blog, or my WIP, or something new – it doesn’t matter.  I just want to sit in front of my computer and get lost in the glow of the written word.

My words.

So, I am faced with a bit of a dilemma.  Bake cookies and address stacks of Christmas cards or write?  Do what’s expected or what I want?

I say fuck it.

Today, I write.

Nobody reads Christmas cards anyway.  As for all those cookies I don’t plan to bake now – I’m sure my friends and family will understand.  And if they don’t – I have a long memory and will adjust my cookie recipient list accordingly.  

Write on.