Monday, August 24, 2015

Because it's my birthday....

This post is several months in the making but it seems appropriate to share it today. I haven't been writing much lately, at least not anything novel length or even short story length if I'm being honest. Other than several lengthy journal entries and a plethora of prompts, my writing has been stagnate and it troubles me. Sure I've created other things in the interim (from multimedia canvas work to costumes to repurposed clothing and just about everything in between) but I haven't been writing like I want to which means I have some serious idea constipation and it is most unpleasant. 

I need a creative enema or something of the sort. I keep thinking it will come, just the right nudge or combination of relaxation and inspiration to get things moving again. I've tried to be patient. I've tried to be aggressive. I've tried to change my habits. I've tried beer (and good beer, believe you me). This blockage just does NOT seem to be going anywhere anytime soon.

*groan*

Today I realized something though. In this digital age with all of the hand held equipment and multiple ways to reach somebody you never get a break. You never get a true day off anymore and that just ain't right. And yes, I used "ain't" and I know it is NOT a word but work with me here.  The only aspect in my life that I am mentally, physically and emotionally able to be available 24/7 is as a Mom. I don't take time off from that gig because it's the most important one I have and I know it. My kids are great and I share a lot of interests with both so I'm pretty lucky. Unfortunately, there are a lot of other people who seem to feel I need to be available to them 24/7 and they do not deal with me not responding instantaneously to whatever they need. I'm not sure when this happened or why but everybody needs a little time away (don't believe me? Ask Chicago). 

My point is that I think my creative constipation stems from my inability to have true time to myself to write and create without interruption. I couldn't even get a day off for my birthday because people have my cell phone number and they feel it is more than acceptable to text me whenever and as much as they please. I guess I feel like there should be boundaries and that once set those boundaries should be honored. 

For example,  if I say "Hey, I'm taking a day off for my birthday to spend with my kids and do some fun stuff since they are going back to school on Wednesday. If you contact me I'm not going to answer." I would hope that people would respect this and NOT contact me, but no, apparently I was mistaken. The correct response is texting me SIX TIMES. Did I just miss the memo on this issue? Are we truly supposed to be available to people twenty four hours a day, seven days a week? Am I supposed to drop everything like, I don't know, coaching my kid's softball game to take a phone call for work? When on vacation am I supposed to seek out whatever wifi hotspots I can find IN THE MOUNTAINS to check my email regularly just to make sure I'm available to people? 

Maybe I'm wrong, maybe this stress is not causing my creative constipation but it sure ain't helping things a lick. What do you all think? Are boundaries a thing of the past? Are we supposed to open ourselves and sacrifice our sanity for the sake of work? I'm genuinely curious here so let the answers roll.....

Thursday, August 20, 2015

I participated, where's my.....

I wasn't going to weigh in on this issue since I've addressed it to some extent before. However, I find myself unable to escape the discussion. It is everywhere. Seriously. I was at work and forced to listen to Ryan Seacrest (don't get me started) discuss his opinion on participation trophies. He clearly had no idea who James Harrison was other than "a football player for the Pittsburgh Steelers." Still, he felt the need to weigh in and "jokingly" berate Mr. Harrison for attacking participation trophies. I'm not going to reiterate this story, you can catch up on it all here and about a hundred more places.


Let me say that I feel it is extremely important for kids to participate in extracurriculars. EXTREMELY IMPORTANT. They should be applauded for this participation and supported by their family and friends. I am increasingly disappointed in the lack of parental involvement at extracurricular activities but that is a whole different discussion.

Back on point, participation trophies/medals/awards have come under fire once again and the comment sections of each article reveal a massive debate. Incidentally, those comments are cringeworthy for the spelling and grammar alone (participation "metals" anyone?). I digress again.

Basically, I believe we need to teach our kids to participate for the fun of or for the love of an activity.  But I also believe they need to be taught to compete in healthy ways. Everybody is good at something, we all have our own special talents and all that jazz, right? Our kids need to be taught that lesson because let's be honest, just because I wrote a bunch of books doesn't mean I've got my multimillion dollar contract, movie deal or even the ability to make a living off my books at this point. Those athletes making millions of dollars a year on contracts (whether you believe they are overpaid or not) do not sit around eating junk food and playing video games. They work hard for many years and have to keep their bodies in great shape to continue competing.

In fact, in every aspect of our adult world we see competition for employment. Sure, there are arguably some jobs that give you a paycheck just for showing up - not sure where they are but how do I get one?? - yet more often than not potential employees are in a competition with others for a limited number of positions. Once you get that job there will be competitions for bonuses, raises and promotions.

So again, I will raise the question why would we teach our kids to believe that everybody gets something just for showing up when that is just not how the world works? For those who disagree...where's my multimillion dollar book deal because I participated.....

Thursday, July 30, 2015

In search of....

Wanted: Scathing, honest critiques of my writing. Don't hold back. Tell me what doesn't work as much as what does.

Would you respond to this "want" ad? Would you follow through?

I've been pondering this for quite some time. I've participated in several panels and forum discussions about reviews. I think that we've sufficiently throttled the poor dead horse named Review but here I am discussing it again. I guess I figured it's high time I explain my unusual take on reviews/critiques and why I crave some one and two star shred-fests.

What do negative reviews do for authors (or any artists for that matter)? I'm not talking about blatant, personal attacks so please do not misunderstand me. The reviews I'm referring to are the constructive critiques of creative works.

It is important to know what resonates with people, what speaks to your audience and what doesn't. Critiques/reviews provide this feedback and every creative needs to know what works and what doesn't. Negative reviews are as helpful in this matter as positive reviews. What do we learn from only receiving glowing feedback? Not much and let's be honest, nothing good comes of excessive ego-stroking. Even my favorite novels have extremely negative reviews - just roll over to goodreads, type in "The Hobbit" and check out the one star reviews. Granted, only 2% of the reviews on "The Hobbit" are 1 star crappers but 2% of more than 17,000 means there a sizable number of Hobbit-haters.

Is it too much to ask for some of that hate? Somebody to go through and shred everything I write, to point out all of the glaring errors and wretched holes in my work?

Apparently the answer is yes.

Is it fear of hurting my feelings? The fallout of too many artists losing it over negative feedback? I'm still trying to sort out the why of it but I know I'm not the only one. So here I am, on behalf of myself and some of the most solid creatives I know, asking all of you who value what we do to let it all out, to give us the brutal truth we need.

Maybe then we can weed out the crap that's flooding the world, like Twilight and Fifty Shades of Grey. Just sayin.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

For my beautiful, talented, headstrong daughter....

It is no secret that I have a daughter. She's beautiful and talented and headstrong and I love her. Maybe that's just me being a proud Mom but I will let you decide.

She plays softball. This was her first season and she fell in love from the get go. She was fortunate to be placed on this incredible team where the girls got along from day one. At their first tournament game on Thursday they sang and danced and goofed off as a team. Nobody sits alone - EVER. They cheer for each other so loud that it echoes across all of the fields. They rallied and won in extra innings.

But, we live in the Midwest and as most Americans know, this summer has been one of the wettest I can remember. There have been a lot of rain outs. A LOT. This weekend (July 16th-19th) was set at the beginning of the season to be the alternate date for tournaments so, as a sports-friendly family, we purchased her plane tickets to visit my parents for July 20th. Unfortunately, the league now wants to play the championship game on Monday evening meaning that my daughter, and at least a few other girls, will miss the biggest game of their season because the league has opted to give deference to supplemental league play in which only a handful of the girls are participating. My kiddo was initially in tears but it did not last long. Today as she sits here waiting to play her next tournament game, knowing that if her team advances she will not be able to advance with them as the schedule stands now, she is working on alternate ideas. This is her plan:

1. Write a letter to the league to give to the league official prior to the tournament game tonight:

Dear DYA,

Hello my name is ****** and I have been given permission to write this letter and am doing so willingly. I am very upset about the tournaments and that the championship will be on Monday instead of being today or tomorrow.
I am a one of the softball players and have been there every game. I have been working hard and having fun this season and I was really looking forward to tournaments. In the beginning of the season everything said the season would be done by mid-July. The rain dates were listed as the 16th-19th so my family purchased our plane tickets for the 20th so I wouldn’t miss anything. Now that the championship is on Monday I won’t get to play if my team makes it. I am not the only girl who did so. I don’t think it’s right for girls who want to play softball and have played all season to miss out on the biggest game of the season.
            What I think we should do instead is push the Allstar league back because it is only a supplemental league so it should come after our league not before our league.
 I would also like to say something about fall softball in this letter. I have signed up for fall baseball since there is no fall softball. It is so sad that boys get a fall baseball league if we don’t get a fall softball league. There are not enough fall sports for girls. Why?


Sincerely,

******

Not bad for a ten year old, eh? Did I mention that there is fall baseball in this league but no fall softball?? She's fighting that too.

2. Arrive at the field early for her game and speak with the girls from the four teams left in the tournament to have them sign a petition to attach with the letter, one to have the games played this weekend and the other to create a fall softball league.

My kiddo knows that her actions may not change things but she wants her voice heard and she's not going to leave for vacation without knowing that she tried. I'm supporting her. Will you?

Friday, July 10, 2015

When life gives you lemons....

...sell them to the highest bidder and buy a six pack of your favorite craft beer.



Sometimes I have so much to say that I can't get the words out. It's been a bit of a hell week (or hell weeks, plural?!) for me and I've written plenty, just not publicly for fear of repercussions that could be harmful to my family. My journals are overflowing with rants to expel the frustrations so they would not seep over into real time where my kids would feel them.

It didn't work. My kids felt it anyway. And they responded in those incredible way.

Let me back up a bit. It's not a secret that I'm divorced but I don't broadcast it out of respect for my kids who are still struggling with the breakup of their family. They've been through a lot and I did not want to pile on more. It seems that divorce still carries a stigma.

In most ways, I am MUCH better off since my divorce. Our marriage was no longer healthy for so many reasons. I am not going to get into the blame game but needless to say, I lost custody of most of my friends in the divorce and I've been left with some serious trust issues. Not that I don't have some incredible friends around here, I do, but they all have their own lives and I do not like to impede those lives. Some would call it "trouble asking for help." I would rather save my "help me" card for something truly dire - say auto wreck by the side of the road - because I have no immediate family in the area.

I'm getting off track again. This was not supposed to be the point of this post. The point is that I had a rough week and I have been dealing with it as best I could in the circumstances and my incredible kids have not complained one bit about not having our usual Wednesday excursion because Mommy's car broke down and needed some serious repairs. They have not complained that I have been preoccupied with getting my car fixed and doing some other un-fun things to try to improve our situation leaving little time to help my daughter sew her Walking Dead messenger bag or teach my son some new painting skills. Not only did they not complain, last night when we parted ways so that they could go with their Dad for the night, I returned home to the most delightful surprise.

Not only was my house clean - and I mean "Mommy clean" not "Kid clean" - I came home to the cutest little arrangement on my bed. How awesome are my kids?


So you know what, bring on those lemons. I'll hock 'em and buy ice cream to share with my kids. 

Friday, July 3, 2015

If I had a million dollars.....

Every time somebody asks me what I would do with a million dollars I can't help but mentally sing the awesome Barenaked Ladies song. Don't know it? You can catch it here. It's a neat little ditty. And it makes me think. What would I do?

A million dollars is a lot of money to me. I've struggled financially for a long time now, never seem to catch up, you know, the whole single mom and starving artist thing do not gel. So, yeah, I daydream a bit about having a million dollars.

So, what would I do?

Obviously I'd pay off my debt. I'd like a house in Seattle, Washington. One with a huge kitchen, a giant library with three walls of floor to ceiling bookshelves and A LOT of windows with an incredible, inspiring view. The kids and I don't need anything intense but we need those three things.

Then I'd help my family, naturally. My parents have been there for me and I really want to make sure they can retire and do what they love for their second careers. Then there's my supremely talented sis and bro-in-law who are chefs (YUMMMMY) who should be sharing their talents on their terms. I do so love watching them cook together, it's entertaining and rewarding. My brother and soon to be sis-in-law could use some love too, just a bit to get them going in the direction they choose.

What about some friends? Those incredible people who actually DID stick with me. You know who you are and I am grateful for you all.

Once they are all covered, I will have lots of money left in that million to do good things. I want to help other people like us, people who work hard their whole lives and just need a little help to get going. I surround myself with talented people who just need a break because we help each other, we push each other and we support each other when it seems that we will never make a life doing what we want to do. There are other people out there like us. And I want to help. I want to level the playing field.

A little too Shiny Happy People for you?

Too bad. I just cannot understand the need to accumulate fortunes that you could never hope to spend in a lifetime when there are people out there struggling to make ends meet, going without food to make certain their kids don't, and drowning in debt working at jobs that make them crazy. There is not enough art or intelligent literature in this world to make it a better place. There is so much money out there just sitting, just fading and collecting layer upon layer of dust when it could be going to better places.

So, what would I do with a million dollars? I'd do my damnedest to change the world.

Friday, June 12, 2015

It's all about the sideboob....or is it?

Sideboob: noun, informal; The side part of a woman's breast, as exposed by a revealing item of clothing. (Oxforddictionaries.com)

Pull up your friendly neighborhood Google search, select "images" and type in "side boob" for the search. You will find a lovely and often amusing selection of images, mostly celebrities and all women. I'm not here to post pictures of these examples but feel free to check them out.

I recently heard that sideboob will rule the world one day. At first glance I can see how it could be true but then I dig deeper and realize that sideboob's predecessors (cleavage, knees, ankles, etc) have all fallen by the wayside when replaced with something more risqué and none of them have brought about gender equality let alone the advancement of the "fairer sex."

I'm going to argue that sideboob is nothing special or exciting and if a little fatty flesh is enough to cause such a ruckus then women have a tougher road to gender equality than I thought. I get that the female form tends to be more attractive than the male body and things like sideboob can garner attention across the media - especially social media - but is it the type of attention we want as a gender?

Backing up just a bit, I'm not saying well all need to be covered head to toe at all times - I live in the Midwest and that would make summers awfully uncomfortable - but I am saying that letting it all hang out to get attention is not perhaps the best way to accomplish our goals. Some women have worked very hard to gain respect and recognition in male dominated fields and they did so without sideboob. Marie Curie, Mother Theresa, Madeline Albright, JK Rowling and Oprah come to mind.

On topic, I wonder what Madame Curie would say in response to Nobel Prize winner, Tim Hunt's recent comments about female scientists? Makes me wonder what Mr. Hunt's thought on sideboob would be? My favorite article on this debacle can be read here


Marie Curie....look out Mr. Hunt she's a distraction with her mold and all. Good thing there's no sideboob involved.
 
How much could Marie Curie have accomplished if she'd only taken advantage of her sideboob abilities!? Or...not.
 
Still, my friend insists it's all about the sideboob. The claim is that some female authors, artists and other performers are getting extra attention (and profits) by showing some sideboob. I examined this by doing some research online and found, as noted above, that there is A LOT of attention given to sideboob. So I wonder again if my friend is right. Maybe he is, maybe a little sideboob would help me realize my dream....but then I think, if it works, will I feel good about it? No, I won't. I know I won't.
 
I'm going to argue that it's not all about the sideboob, at least not for me or, I'm guessing, Marie Curie either.