Friday, January 24, 2014

The Challenges of Writing - Speaking to a 7th Grade English Class

A couple of months ago my 12 year old daughter said something that really touched me. She said that she had Googled me in class and that the entire first page was about me.

"You're kind of famous," she said and then clarified, "I mean famous for a normal person." I laughed at her observation and I was touched that a know-it-all pre-teen could be impressed by her "old" mom.

(Headshot I use in social media and one of the first images that comes up for me.)
Then a couple of weeks ago she came home from school and asked me for my email address. She said that her teacher was going to contact me about speaking to her English class. I don't know about you, but I consider that the utmost compliment from a pre-teen. She actually wants me to come to her school and speak to her class and she's not embarrassed.
I have that image from the movie Some Kind of Wonderful when the dad peeks into his daughter's classroom. He waves at her when she seems him and she lets out this blood curdling scream.
So with that reaction in mind it's kind of cool that my daughter actually volunteered me to come to her school to speak. I'm speaking to the class about the writing and editing process. Her teacher emailed me and then we talked on the phone for a while and bounced around different ideas about what I could talk about. We finally settled on this outline.
·         When I knew I wanted to be a writer

·         How I found my way back to writing with the 10 minute exercises

·         Reading my writing in public with NuestraPalabra (that really pushed me along-the importance of a support group for me)

·         Finishing my novel
·         Reading APE
·         The importance of getting a good editor, someone else to check your work
·         Revising and self-publishing

So here we go. That's what I'm going to tell those young minds next week. Writing is
work. Writing is a challenge. You have to work to get the words out and then to edit those
words until they sound right.

As I get close to revising my novel and getting ready to publish it I'm reminded of several
years ago when I first met Jennifer Lawson (The Bloggess) on the phone. I told her how
much I enjoyed her blog and her writing and she modestly told me that I was writing
about meaningful things and that she wasn't. That was so sweet of her to say that and so
sweet of her to actually read my blog and reference it on her blog sometimes, but the
truth is that she does write about many meaningful things. It's so amazing that in the
years since that conversation she has published a New York Times' Best Seller, Let's
Pretend This Never Happened. She has been on national television  shows like the Katie
show and she has led life-changing revolutions like "the traveling red dress."

We all have a story to tell. As the great Maya Angelou says, "There is no greater agony
than bearing the untold story inside of you." Jennifer Lawson has done that. She has told
us her story and in my own way I will attempt to do that with my novel.

(Please excuse the crazy alignment. Ever since I added the bullet points I can't get this to straighten out. Ironic, considering I'm talking about editing.)

Monday, January 20, 2014

The Birds and the Bees

When I used to blog over at skirt! magazine I wrote several times about the Birds and the Bees and the Flowers and the Trees. Unfortunately they took down the skirt! blogs but I went in before they did and I saved almost every single one.

This is a picture of me with my kids when they were four and one. At that time I hadn't given much thought to the fact that one day they would be 12 going on 13 and 9 going on 10. That was the furthest thing from my mind.

On skirt! I blogged about having to tell my daughter about sex. It was so much harder than I had ever imagined. If you had asked any of my girlfriends who would be the most comfortable one of us talking about sex they would have told you me. I have always been open about sexuality around my friends.

It was a completely different story when it came to the kids. Starting with my daughter, the eldest, I took the slowest route possible to explain sex. It all started with two books I used to read to them when they were little. When You Were Inside Mommy and Before You Were Born. Both of these made the beginning of the story much easier and one of them said that to make a baby it took a half from the mommy and a half from the daddy. One of them also mentioned that mommy has a special opening where the baby comes out.

As time went by and I explained menstruation to my daughter I could refer to the book and to the half of the mommy. It made it easier for her to understand that mommies have eggs. Of course later she asked me what did daddy have and I told her sperm. It wasn't until fourth or fifth grade that I was finally able to explain the whole story to her. When I finished she looked at me in a very uncomfortable silence and said, "Okay." I was mortified because suddenly I knew that she knew what happened between her father and I.

Fast forward a few years and now I have a nine year old son. I really expected for his father to explain these things to him but somehow I'm the one who has been asked the questions. Since I ripped off the Band-Aid and explained the whole thing through to my daughter I became even more matter-of-fact with my son. I decided that I would answer any question he asked as honestly as possible.

A couple of years ago he was taking a bath and he asked me what was inside his little balls. "Your babies," I answered very matter-of-factly. He looked at me perplexed. "My WHAT?" "Yes, your half of the babies," I replied. "Remember in the baby book when it says that the baby was made with the half of the mommy and the half of the daddy? Well your half is in there." After that silence and no more questions. He just pondered on that.

A few nights ago as I laid in bed chatting with him he asked me out of the blue, "How does the sperm get to the egg?" I braced myself and then I just answered the question as scientifically as possible but of course adding that the mommy and daddy have to be adults. When I got to the end he said quickly, "Okay, that's enough, I don't want to know any more."

So I stopped and I let him ponder on that. I'm sure he will come back with more questions and if he doesn't I'll ask him if he is completely clear. Given that I've never explained periods to him I know there is more that I need to explain. I have been a big mama coward in the past but not any more. I need to answer the questions directly and honestly as I can.

I've told them both that if they ever have any questions they need to ask me. I asked my daughter, "Who do you think knows more about sex? Me or a 12 year old girl?" My daughter replied that I did. "I will always tell you the truth," I told her and I hope that I have.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Writing Lists & Comparisons

Along with my random thoughts that I blogged about last week is my love for lists. I cracked up when I watched, "I Don't Know How She Does It," with Sarah Jessica Parker and she's writing lists in her mind while she lies awake at night. I do that. But I have such a terrible memory that I have to write my list down. I use both my phone and my Franklin Covey planner.

This is what an old school Franklin Covey day planner looks like.

 I write my lists in my day planner and I put my appointments in my phone/computer calendar. I am constantly adding to my list and moving items from my list from one day to the other. I hate when I don't do something, forget to move it on in my calendar to another day and then it just falls off. When I go back and review the last month and it irks me to find something without a check or an arrow that just didn't get done. I'm just weird like that.

After two or more years of hearing about GIRLS from my sister I finally sat down and watched Season 1 on Amazon & On Demand. Of course I was hooked! It is such a smart, funny, quirky, weird show about so many different weird characters. I finished Season 2 right before Season 3 started and I cried during the last show. It was so sweet and sad.

I both admire Lena Dunham and I'm jealous. Jealous is such a strong word and people are so critical of it. Poor word. I think it gets such a bad rap. I think jealousy is a very natural feeling, especially when regular people feel a slight jealousy towards super successful people like movie stars and screenplay writers. What I think is more crazy is when people are jealous of other regular people like them.

I posted this on Facebook recently:  Sometimes I do what we should never do and I let a celebrity like Lena Dunham, who is only 27 and has accomplished soooo much already, make me feel like a failure at 43.5. BUT THEN I read this on Wikipedia, "Her father, Carroll Dunham, is a painter of "overtly sexualized pop art", and her mother, Laurie Simmons, is a photographer and designer who creates artistic domestic scenes with dolls." and that Meryl Streep was a neighbor and family friend at their summer rental house in Connecticut and somehow I don't feel so bad after all. I am the star of my own story! (Just a random thought)

Yeah, we really shouldn't compare ourselves to people in general, but especially not people who got a head start in life. It reminds me of the hilarious article that I read, in the fashion of articles  that say, "Five things that successful people do right when they wake up." This one is called, "11 Things Super Successful People Do Before They're Even Born!" People who are born to successful parents who have a summer house in Connecticut and are neighbors with Meryl Streep are on this list.

I know better. I know not to compare myself to others. I am just me. I am an original, unlike anyone else and I need to own that. That's what my writing is all about.

Monday, January 13, 2014

My Words for 2014

I spent the first few days of 2014 being introspective. I didn't want to just blurt out my words for 2014 without giving them a lot of thought. So here are my words and what they mean to me.

Necklace by Kelly Rae Roberts

Gratitude. For a while now I've really been working on practicing gratitude. When I start getting myself worked up or in a bad mood I have made a conscious effort to stop and to think about all that I have to be grateful for and I know that it's a lot. Especially in this past year when I had this amazing gift of staying home with the kids for the summer, taking them on a vacation they will not forget, and being here for them after school every day, often with dinner started.

Create. When I was thinking about my words I realized that two of them were right in front of me. One of them was Create. I bought myself a beautiful necklace designed by Kelly Rae Roberts with the word Create in the center. Everything I'm doing is about creating. I'm creating a new business and a new life for myself. I'm also being creative with my writing. I am creating art.
Dream. Dream was another word that I had already chosen without realizing it. It is engraved on a plate inside of my Origami Owl charm necklace. I chose the word dream because I have dared to dream bigger with my new business and my new independent life. I still have so many dreams to fulfill.
Passion. Because I couldn't have three words. I had to have four. When I went to look at my Vision Board on Pinterest, and how I could change it for 2014, the word passion just kept popping out at me. And I'm not just talking about romantic passion. I'm talking about passion about life. A long time ago an ad agency gave me an awesome black rubber bracelet like the Live Strong bracelet but instead it said, "Hazlo con Pasion." Awesome words to live by. Do it with passion. Do everything with passion.
There you go. Those are my four words for 2014. What are yours?

Sunday, January 05, 2014

Random Blog Thoughts

Warning before you continue. This blog post is a compilation of all the random thoughts that jump into my head all day long. First I used to blog and then when Facebook and Twitter came around I found another outlet for my crazy random thoughts. I realize I'm one of those people that over-shares on Facebook but I can't stop myself. I've tried to Tweet more to channel some of my random thoughts over there but I just like Facebook so much more. So my poor Facebook friends get to read all my crazy thoughts. I've warned them, "Hide me if I'm too much!" Really what I want to say is, "Don't follow me if you don't want to hear me!"

Someecard created by me.

I had a certain person tell another certain person in my family, "Loida is posting on Facebook all the time!" but then added, "Don't tell her I said that because I like reading what she says." Okay person. You've given me a backhanded compliment of sorts but I'm glad you enjoy my comments, even if they are for your own amusement.

Little do these people know all of the thoughts that run through my head all day long! Thoughts, dialogue, just stuff. When I was younger I used to worry that maybe I was a little crazy but then as I got older I realized that's who I am. (I have literally been running dialogue in my head since I was a little girl. I can remember being 8 or 9 and always making up stories and scenarios in my head.) Maybe that's why I'm a aspiring writer. Maybe all of these random thoughts will totally come in handy one day when I write the great American novel.

I've always talked way too much and I know this comes across on my Facebook posts. I remember being a little girl and getting into my cousin's car. I must have been around 11 and she was around 19. She turned and looked at me and told me right in front of my aunt and my cousins that before she started driving I needed to be quiet and she didn't want to hear me talk. She may have been a young, nervous new driver but I didn't know what that was like at the time. I just remember getting my feelings hurt really bad and being very embarrassed.

The second time my feelings were hurt like that was when I was 21 and I was doing an internship at the St. Pete Times. I've written about it before but I can't find it now to refer to it. A woman asked me, "Do you have to make a comment about everything?" I should have said, "Yes I do," but I was too young and embarrassed to reply. If she were to ask me the same question today I would tell her that yes in fact I do. That's one of the cool things about getting older. You really don't give a crap any more. Well mostly.

So I guess what I'm saying is that Facebook, Twitter and my blog are an outlet for my all my random thoughts and my talking. Sometimes I feel like good writing material gets lost on Facebook. Once I post them they go into the Facebook archives somewhere and unless I scroll back and back I will never remember all the stuff I've said.

Maybe I'm thinking more random thoughts because I just need to get back to my routine. Thank goodness the kids are going back to school on Tuesday. As hard as I've been trying to work over the vacation it was a real challenge with them at home. I felt like I should be on vacation too. It didn't help that both Christmas and New Year's Day fell right smack in the middle of the week so that meant that Tuesday and sometimes Thursday were a wash too. Well especially the Thursday after Christmas.

So once the kids are back to school on Tuesday I'm back in business full time, all day. Tuesday is
also the beginning of Spring lacrosse! Practice three days a week which in turn will force me to exercise. I have a good 4.5 months of cool weather to exercise outside and to get back in shape. Fifteen pounds! That's all I'm asking for body. I figure that if I take it in small increments it will make it more realistic and I can fool my body into letting go of that weight.

So end of random thoughts for now. I have more. I've started a Word document to record random thoughts on my phone so more will be coming your way soon. On to a productive new work week!

Saturday, January 04, 2014

First Blog of the Year and A Word for 2014

I keep reading all these articles and blogs about not making New Year’s Resolutions. A couple of them even had a list of all the things that the author said she wouldn't do, including NOT losing weight.

The funny thing is that I can’t do that. I can’t just say, “I’m just going to eat whatever I want and not care about gaining weight!” Because guess what? I WILL gain 30 pounds instead of losing them. For sure.

But on a serious note about resolutions, I want to be enough for myself. I want to do the things that are good for me, including eating right and exercising, even if I don't list that as a resolution.
I want to be the girl I have been waiting for, like Kelly Rae Roberts says in the print above. Or in the words of Gwen Zepeda, "I've finally captured the girl I deserve." I really believe it. I know that I am enough.
I recapped 2013 in my last blog and I said that in 2014 I want to make my business work. The truth is, I’ve really been thinking about this a lot and I decided for sure. I don’t want to go back to Corporate America. It's a "revolution" like the little boy says in the AT and T commercial. A resolution revolution that I want to be my own boss.
I am more passionate about running my own business and writing than I am about working for someone else again. So in order to do these two things I am going to make all the necessary sacrifices to make it happen. I know I've been working on this already but part of me also feels like most of the last seven months were more of a vacation. At least the first four months were.

But now if I want to make this business work I need to hire an intern and an assistant.  I need to take all the steps to set this up and run it like a real business.
I am determined.
Some other blogs and articles I saw in December discussed thinking of a Word or even three words for 2014 in lieu of resolutions. I had forgotten about this idea and then on Friday I was reminded about it twice.
I saw it written on my December page of my day planner (yes, I still use a real paper planner), "What is my word for 2014?" I asked myself.  I saw that and said, "Oh yeah!"
Then later that evening I was having a drink with a girlfriend and she brought up the same thing. She told me her word for 2013 and her three words for 2014, which got me to thinking about it too.

I haven't decided on my three words yet. I want to really give them some thought, so I'll get back to you on that.
On one final note, Friday, January 3 was the 14 year anniversary of the last day I saw my mom and talked to her. I knew that my mom was sick and that I could lose her at any time but I still didn't know when. I didn't know that THAT was the exact final day. I wonder what I would have done differently. I wonder what else I could have said to her. Did she know that I loved her? No doubt in my mind she did and that makes it a little better.
Think about that when you say goodbye to your loved one next time, especially your parents. Every day treat them like it may be the last time you see them and tell them how much you love them. Even though I know she knew I loved her I would have told her one more time when I left her house that evening.