Category Archives: Creative Writing

Real Neat

I’m going to veer off-topic here. Not like I’ve ever committed to one topic anyway on this blog of mine.

But I did warn you when I began my “Alphabet Soup Challenge” that I may choose to write a post that is aside from that endeavor.

The humorous blogger Mona, over at Wayward Sparkles nominated me for the “Real Neat” blog award.

award

Thank you, Mona!

Isn’t that nice of her? She’s a very cool chick who has a lot to say, about well..a lot. She does so in a quirky, heartfelt sorta way. And she’s super into music, like me. So of course we’ve become blogging pals.

As a nominee, I have been directed to answer the following questions:

  1. Which five places would you like to visit and why?
  2. What food will you not eat and why?
  3. What super power would you like to have and why? (Anything goes!)
  4. What was your childhood dream job/career?
  5. What current actor do you think would make a great Elvis Presley in a movie about his life? Rhonda would like to know this, I think!
  6. What one thing would you like to see happen in 2021?
  7. What’s the best advice you’ve ever received and would like to pass on to others?

My responses:

5 Places: All 50 states in our camper with Hubs. We would take a whole year and work odd jobs here and there to keep gas in the truck and our bellies adequately filled. Of course I’d be blogging all about it and who knows…maybe it’d result in a book!

Then of course, there’s Napa Valley, California because wine. And beautiful scenery. NYC to visit all the touristy sites and of course be in the audience at SNL. Europe (England, Germany, Ireland, Spain, the Netherlands and other places I’m sure). Cleveland, Ohio to see the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Food I won’t touch with a 10 foot pole: Sweet potatoes. I think it’s weird to have potatoes that taste sweet. Yuck!! Potatoes are best with salt, pepper, and cheese and all that other salty and fatty stuff.

Superpower: To fly. At will. Whenever I need a break from the hum drum of life. To learn about the world through my own eyes and feel free at the same time.

Childhood dream/career: I remember making countless lists of careers I wanted to pursue (I seem to recall it being pretty eclectic: stewardess, lawyer, psychiatrist) but the one I think that was most consistent was being an actress/writer. Think Rachel Bloom from “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend”. I think had I been 12 when that show came out, I’d have been the president of her fan club and very possibly her stalker.

Who plays Elvis? Let me back up here for a sec. This needs context. I posted about the fabulous musical talent Yola recently. While researching her online, I learned that she is to play Sister Rosetta Tharpe in a new bio-pic about Elvis Presley. I did a bit of pondering with other bloggers in my comments section as to who might play Elvis. Didn’t realize till now that the role has been cast. I do think he looks the part, don’t you all?

What one thing would I like to see happen in 2021? Sorry, Mona, in these turbulent times I simply can’t limit it to just one. First one is a cure and vaccine for Covid-19. Second is much prosperity and equality for humans, specifically those who have been so underprivileged for far too long. Health care for all, more financial equity, a much improved and accessible educational system.

Best advice: Life is Fragile, Be Gentle. It wasn’t exactly advice that another person verbally expressed to me. It was this sign that my Dad had hanging on the wall inside his favorite place, our garage. I think one of the best things we can do to be the best versions of ourselves is to heed this advice. Be kind to others, but also to yourselves. Because life is too fragile and precious to do otherwise.

Now this is the part of the post where I nominate other bloggers that I think are quite neat; well actually spectacular. And they are….

Crystal at Crystalbyers.com

Nicole at An Entertaining Mess

Christi at Feeding on Folly

Alice at Lutheran Liar Looks at Life

Now for my 7 questions, which I sincerely hope get answered:

  1. You have an opportunity to have a sit down with another writer. Who would it be and why?
  2. Who is the most talented Black artist (musician, writer, painter, potter, any type of artist) that you think deserves to be more widely known or appreciated?
  3. Who is the funniest person you have ever personally known?
  4. What or who is your spirit animal?
  5. What is the biggest mistake you think you’ve made as a blogger?
  6. What one aspect of your life during the pandemic is “for keeps” post Covid-19?
  7. If you were granted the ability to be highly proficient at playing a musical instrument, what would it be and why?

Alphabet Soup Challenge: S is For Summer and Spirit Animals

It’s shaping up to be an interesting summer.

I’m marveling at how much my life has changed since last summer.

This summer we have our youngest kiddo and their cat living with us.

This summer we are limited in what we can do and where we can go because of a little something called Covid-19.

This summer we have our own camper which allows us to safely explore parts unknown (aka campgrounds).

And this summer my role at work is morphing into something unexpected and potentially very interesting.

Right now my spirit animal, the one I requested the in-house artist to create for me, is in a state of flux. Behold the Squirtoise.

The squirrel part is pondering creative ideas to bring into my new work project. She’s chewing on how best to support the kiddo in my house with the challenges they are currently facing, as well as the other kiddo who’s single-momming it over in Wisconsin. She’s spinning her wheels trying to figure out what needs to be said and what doesn’t need to be said within this blog.

The tortoise part is doing what she can to slow the squirrel’s roll. She’s firmly opposed to being rushed, particularly by outside sources. She’s soaking up the summer sun and pausing to listen to and appreciate all the other creatures in her midst. She’s the one to blame for this post not being published today instead the usual, Wednesday morning before work.

As you can see, my squirtoise is at odds with herself. She yearns to find a balance between attempting to do great big scary things in this world and enjoying the simple blessings of summer. That sweet balance between activity and relaxation. She needs to sort out when to let the squirrel be in charge and when the tortoise has to take over.

You could say the squirrel part of my spirit animal represents my enthusiasm for life. And probably my ADHD tendencies. The tortoise represents the wisdom garnered by my somewhat advanced age and desire to take things slow and live each day with intention. It’s not unlike a child/parent dynamic.

Any way you and I look at it, my squirtoise guides me as I write, work, parent, love, learn, play, and everything in between. Much like my personal Mantronym. For better or worse I suppose.

Do you have a spirit animal? What does it look like? Is it a real-life animal or person, or a mashup like mine? Please share in the comments!

Alphabet Soup: C Is For Collaboration

I’ve chosen the letter “C” for my first installment of this writing experiment because I’ve been itching to write about collaboration. It’s such a powerful thing when two or more people come together to produce something better than what they could have done as individuals.

Like when friends come together to produce fundraisers to help someone in need. Or when families come together to pull off a great surprise party for a loved one. When great scientific minds from different disciplines come together and connect the dots to find treatments to combat physical or mental health challenges. I think when people come together with a common goal, shared hearts, and varied skills and talents, wonderful things can happen.

Due to the Covid-19 pandemic and the “stay at home” or “safer at home” orders (depending on where you live) causing us to have more time at home to consume entertainment, I’m going to focus on that type of collaboration here.

One of my WIGS (Wildly Improbably Goals, a concept coined by sociologist/author/life coach Martha Beck) as a writer is to collaborate with other writers. Put our writerly heads together and come up with original programming. Learn and grow from each other. Inspire and amuse each other. Inspire and amuse the world at large.

Allow me to give you a visual that demonstrates how I envision working with a team of other writers on a tv or film set (I’d be the one taking the picture).

The fictional writer’s room from the brilliantly funny tv show, 30 Rock

If I were a producer, however, I’d be in a position where I could orchestrate interesting musical collaborations….

The first one would be Alicia Keys and Alanis Morrisette. It might sound cheesy, but I envision them putting together a 2020 version of “Ebony and Ivory”, a la Stevie Wonder and Sir Paul. Alicia would be at the piano and Alanis would whip out her harmonica at just the right moment. I think their voices would compliment each other.

How about a star-studded version of that rebellious ’80’s tune by Twisted Sister, “We’re not Gonna Take It”? It’d be along the lines of “We are the World” (remember that one?) featuring artists such as Foo Fighters, Green Day, and Pink. It’d be the rallying cry for the DNC to motivate Americans to vote all blue in 2020.

One of Hubs’ favorite songs of all time is “A Little Good News” by the Canadian songbird Anne Murray. I’d like to see Jewel collaborate with the Dixie Chicks to cover this one. Wouldn’t it be so fitting for these times?

Let’s have some fun, people! Let me know by sharing in the comments what collaborations you’d love to see in these times? Or maybe share a collaboration you have seen and loved?

Here’s the best one I have probably ever seen. Enjoy!

My Alphabet Soup Challenge

I was late to the party. Not an uncommon occurrence for me, when I reflect back on my life.

Or I could say I missed the boat. The boat that scores of other bloggers hopped on last month. The “A-Z” challenge. For whatever reason, this annual blogging challenge didn’t come to my attention until last month, when I began reading Crystal’s “A-Z” challenge blog posts. And while enjoying these posts, I found myself thinking that I should do this. It’s just so up my alley.

But April is outta here and now we are in May and I’d feel like a dork if I started it now. And today’s is Mother’s Day and I probably should be publishing a post about that.

But….

I’m going to embrace my dorkiness and do it anyway. With a twist though. My way. In other words, not starting with the letter “A” and ending with the letter “Z”. I am committed to covering each and every letter in the alphabet however. Just not in order.

Being that I’m starting this writing challenge this month as opposed to last month, I’m already not “in order”. So I’m going to just roll with that.

That’s why I’m calling it the “Alphabet Soup” challenge. I will keep the list of the letters with the corresponding words in a special draft folder and cross them off each time I publish a post (lest I accidentally choose one letter twice). Until I’ve done them all. It might take a while but I’ll do it regularly. I’ll aim for once a week, but there might be a week here and there where some other topic has taken up too much space in my brain or in my heart compelling me to write about that instead.

I hope you’ll stick with me folks. It’s going to be an experiment. And if there ever was a time to be experimental with the writing I put out there in the universe, this, my friends, is it.

Right Now And Write Now: How I’m Rolling

Things have changed in oh so many ways. And I suspect the changes in my life, both at work and at home, are going to continue, in wild and unexpected ways. For better and for worse. As all of ours will due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

I was banished from my workplace yesterday. It came to light via email yesterday morning that I may have had contact with someone who tested positive for Covid-19 last week. Not anyone at work, but an unknown individual (HIPPA prevents the employer of this person from publicly naming them) at a location where I was picking up items for our food bank.

While I donned a face mask during this pick up and am fairly certain did not get any closer than 6 feet from anyone else there, my employer gave me the rest of the week off (with pay, thankfully) as a precaution.

Me in my office last week. Gawd, I need a haircut.

So here I am now, at home, overthinking everything and anything. Unsure what to do next. Determined to maintain continuous virtual contact with my co-workers, at the ready to answer questions or complete other tasks assigned to me that can be done from home (what those tasks might be remains to be seen, but I am determined to roll with it). In other words, I finally broke down and decided it is in my as well as my employers best interest to sync my personal cell phone to my work email account. I suppose I’ll be setting up a Zoom account on this phone shortly too.

All that said, I am, alas, at home today until next Monday (with maybe one trip to the store in the mix). So clearly I ought to take care of our little sanctuary. Do some cleaning. Organizing. It’ll make me feel better and it will increase our collective level of comfort.

But not until I engage in some serious venting lamenting writing. I can’t tell you how long I’ve been fantasizing about just one day during which I inhabit the role of a full-on, at home, creative writer. One who furiously taps away on her Chromebook drinking an array of beverages all the while-starting with coffee and ending with a glass of fine Pinto Grigio. Wearing the comfiest of clothes , making sure to get up and stretch and/or dance to keep those muscles loose and the mental energy high.

So that’s my plan for today. I think anyway. Because I also know this….

Don't You Know I Have Plans for You? - First Churches of ...

Silver Linings

You may think I’m delusional, but there are silver linings in this pandemic situation, don’t you think? I imagine if we all gave it some thought (now that we have more time to think) we could all come up with some.

And I propose that we should all do it now, before the novelty of our new normal starts to fade. Because if we’re being honest, it will.

So I am going to strike while the iron is hot and go first:

  • Getting to know my co-workers better. Because we serve low income seniors, many with underlying health conditions, we have to band together to meet their needs in new and different ways. We are finding ourselves problem solving together on a moment to moment basis it seems. Like drive up service, which we started doing last Friday.
  • We are all learning to be more hygienic, washing our hands for longer, and more thoroughly. Did you see the video clip of Gloria Gaynor singing the 20 second chorus to her hit “I Will Survive”? Wouldn’t it be fun (and smart) to take that to the next level and find other 20 second choruses to belt out while hand washing?

Like this guy did:

  • We have more time to get stuff done around the house. The small projects, like cleaning the refrigerator and a bit of re-decorating, organizing file cabinets. Which can all be done at a leisurely pace, because we have the gift of more time.
  • We have more time for reading and expanding our knowledge base. That’s always a good thing, right people?
  • The leaders are emerging, which gives me hope. Not tRump of course, but others. Governor Cuomo comes to mind.
  • We all get to catch up on those favorite shows we have dvr’d and not yet had the time for. Mine include This is Us, Bless this Mess, and Shameless. What might you all have in the DVR hopper?
  • We get to enjoy live virtual performances from our favorite performers in their homes. Please feel free to share your recommendations in the comments.
  • We get to sleep in more. Huge bonus in my opinion!
  • More time to relax (read:cuddle)with our funny, furry companions.

I know there’s more I’m not coming up with. But I’ve got time to figure it out. As we all do at the moment.

How I’m Rolling In The Current

At the tail end of 2019, I submitted in this post that 2020 ought to be my year of “Clarity”. I won’t presume that any of you fabulous readers will hold me accountable for this declaration, so I will do the deed myself.

I’ve gained much clarity in my work life in this new year. The dynamics are changing (new boss) and the expectations my employer has for me in the coming year have been clarified. I’m feeling enthusiastic about the new changes to come and the support that I’m experiencing.

I’m also feeling more clarity in terms of what I am paying attention to. As well as what I’m not giving my attention to. For instance, I’ve decided that for Lent, I’m giving up on stalking a certain state’s court website for updates on the legal status of a person who has wreaked havoc on the lives of my family (for the last 6 years, give or take), specifically it’s most beloved members. I’ve come to realize that this stalking I’ve been doing is draining my mental and emotional energy. Not to mention it’s completely pointless. What happens, happens. Checking it obsessively is not going to impact the outcome.

A musical “epiphany” I had recently drives this realization home for me. It’s from the momentous song we all know by heart: “Let it Be” by the Beatles. The line after “Let it be” is “there will be an answer”. And all this time I’ve been focusing on the “let it be” part. I have faith that there will be an answer, not only in this wretched aspect of my family’s life, but in all things. It’s about faith; letting go and trusting the answer will come.

My 2020 soundtrack is providing me with clarity in how I approach things these days. “Listen as your day unfolds”. That is a great line; the first in “You Gotta Be” by Des’Ree. I see it as a directive for me to pay attention to my environment in the day to day. To pay attention to the people I encounter. The feelings I’m feeling, both emotional and physical. The media I consume.

Clarity with what my writing process is happening as well. I’m honing in on what works and what doesn’t. A prime example is that, per David Sedaris’ suggestion, I’m jotting down my daily observations. I find it to be a sort of therapy in that after I’ve done it, I feel refreshed. It’s helping me sort out what it is exactly that I have to say and how I want to say it.

A rare moment in time with pretty kitty Karl and Radar-ling napping peacefully together.

Before I sign off here, I have a question for you all: What are you clear about in your writing and/or personal life? Right here and right now-in the current?

18 Things That Need To Be in My She Shed

Imagine the tune “If I were a Rich Man” from Fiddler on the Roof while you read the following:

If I had a she shed

Doodle doodle doodle

Diddy doodle doodle blam!

All day long I’d write and putz and sing

If I had a sheee shed!

I would of be writing and playing hard

Doodle doodle diddy blam!

If I were a righteous bitch

Doodle doodle doddle diddly blam!

Now that I got that out of my system, here’s what I envision will be in my future “she shed”:

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  • A small fridge/freezer combo in which to store bottles of Pinot Grigio and Merlot, ice, and pints of gelato.
  • A window with a view of lilac bushes.
  • A good sound system and internet access.
  • A large desk for my chromebook adorned with pictures of family and friends and uplifting artwork. Like the image above.
  • A comfy gray or tan love seat with large matching pillows.
  • A large vision board hanging on the wall above the aforementioned (leather) love seat.
  • A sturdy bookshelf that I get from a thrift store and up-cycle.
  • Hearty plants in colorful pots of varying shapes and sizes.
  • A special little table to keep essential oils, diffusers, and candles. This place is going to smell goooood.
  • A comfy yet indestructible dog bed for Radar.
  • A microwave. To heat up my peppermint tea or to make nachos.
  • A Keurig coffee maker with an array of caffeinated options.
  • A pair of bean bag chairs. So when I invite a friend or two over, we have comfy places to sit down and shoot the shit.
  • A dart board. Pictures of OWM to affix to it for when I feel the need to rage against the patriarchal machine.
  • A special basket to house all my fuzzy socks.
  • A ceiling fan for when the hot flashes emerge.
  • A sink, so I can properly clean up when I knock over a glass of wine or the essential oil diffuser.
  • A velour blanket to drape around myself on chilly mornings.
The original version, by the Monkees, is featured on my Soundtrack for 2020. Plan to learn this on my ukulele ASAP.

Passwords and Other Secrets

Recently I changed my primary work password to “GOODJuJu!!”

And I don’t care that you all know it now. What on earth would you do with it anyway? Break into my office, type it in and read my totally uninteresting emails? Go ahead, knock yourself out.

I think this is the best password I’ve ever come up with. Every time I type it in, I remind myself that my daily goal is to spread light in all my interactions with others. Not like I achieve that goal on the regular. But I try nevertheless.

Since I’ve shared my work password, it makes sense to follow the thread of spilling secrets. Tell you about the stuff that I’ve been doing to gain clarity for myself as an ambitious and creative writer.

Don’t get too excited. It’s all really just baby steps. But I think they still count for something.

First secret: I partook in David Sedaris’ Master Class online for Storytelling and Humor. Truth be told, I signed up for this class because of the “storytelling and humor” part-not so much for David Sedaris. I can’t say that I don’t like him, I do; it’s just that I knew of him but hadn’t read anything he has written. Still haven’t, actually.

Signing up for this class was something I did to help me learn in more detail how I can improve my creative writing. My ability to tell humorous stories that people can relate to and appreciate. It was a purely selfish investment that I decided to make in myself. And I have no regrets.

I had have great interest in interacting with the “community” within this online class. I’ve introduced myself, entered a piece of my writing in a contest even. The prize in this contest is David’s feedback on your piece. I think it’s safe for me to assume that I’m not going to win. And this is not me feeling sorry for myself or me being fake humble. My life is too good and blessed for that shit.

I’m not a great writer. I might be, someday. Or not. Either way, the joy writing gives me will not be overtaken by feelings of self-doubt about my ability to grow my readership on this blog or elsewhere.

I would estimate that it took me 3 hours, within the span of 5 days, to decide which piece I should enter for this contest. That’s how I found “Grammerly”, because in order for my piece to be accepted for consideration, it had to be under 600 words.

“Grammerly” also informed me that my piece was at an 11th to 12th grade level. So clearly, there’s room for improvement.

After doing a bit of editing on the piece I chose, I gave it a couple of days, then went back in to see the one comment made on my piece. It was “I feel like there’s too much information in this piece. I’d like to see it pared down to it’s bare bones”. He was spot on. I veer into the rabbit hole of verbosity in both my speech and my writing.

Whether or not I go back in, make some major edits and re-submit is up in the air. I honestly don’t know if that’s even allowed or appropriate. Or maybe it’s expected?

For now, though, I just want to share what struck me most from being a student of this class. The following is taken directly from the notes I made to myself as I participated in this class and worked through the accompanying workbook.

David’s “work spaces”. Loved the imagery. Made me think that I could write about my ideal work space. Like a “she shed” type deal.

Tuning into your surroundings will open you up to moments that could become stories and the parts of your world that belong in your writing.

“I don’t like to write about people I don’t like”. I concur, David. Neither do I. So I won’t. Period. Hopefully this declaration doesn’t come and bite me in the ass later.

David has a conversation with every person in line at his book signings. He also writes thank you letters. He’s such a nice boy.

Take incidents and stitch them together for a story. I love the creative reference of stitching. Also, following threads. And rabbit holes.

Paint a mental picture in a readers head. Go to readings?? David said he learned a lot from doing this. A lot about what not to do, that is.

Now onto my second secret (or is it my third? That’s subjective, I suppose): During the time I was taking this class, I received an email announcing spring 2020 dates for the Listen to Your Mother shows.

Let me back up for a sec: I first heard about this annual event in 2016 from a local-ish “mommy” blogger named Stephanie. Essentially, LTYM is a franchise that is locally produced in various cities in the U.S. Primarily women get up on a stage and read original pieces on the theme of “Motherhood”. A percentage of the proceeds from ticket sales goes to charity.

I instantly loved this whole concept. The idea of others sharing their personal stories about motherhood, a topic dear to my heart and which I have much to say about, really intrigues me. I knew I wanted to be a part of it, someway, somehow.

So, with David encouraging me to do readings, I started considering applying to be part of the cast. I congratulated myself recently when I realized that I could simply click on the “word cloud” I have featured on my blog’s front page and read all the posts I have written on one particular topic.

But then after reading the few posts I have published that featured “Motherhood” and then proceeded to view video clips of past LTYM speakers, I was overcome with self-doubt. I mean, if this is is all I’ve got to offer and these are examples of my potential “competition” why the hell should I proceed?

Now is the part of this post where you might expect me to say something along the lines of “Nothing ventured, nothing gained” or “What’s the worst that could happen?”. Both of which are 100% true.

However, while I’m not closing the door to auditioning for LTYM, I’m also not necessarily doing it this year. At least not with any of the pieces about motherhood I have published on this blog.

I think it’d be wise to heed David’s advice: attend readings. For me, it’ll be the LTYM show this spring. See what it’s like. Take notes. Make some connections.

Baby steps, right?

Swearwords: the spice of the English language

The following post is brought to you by the mantronym KISS. Which, today, stands for Keep It Sweary, Sister!

Swearing. Colorful language. Cussing. Foul language. Profanity.

I love it all. Truly. But my thoughts and feelings about it are a bit nuanced.

  • Fuck is clearly the “worst” one. But one I really dig when it’s used in the right way. For humorous purposes. When it’s shouted in anger and with malign intent, not so much.
  • Shit! Love this one for sure. I feel like this is one swear word that is harmless. And it’s just so fun to say!
See what I mean?
  • Goddamn. I was totally going to write it as “GD” because I personally think it’s the harshest of all the swear words. It’s almost always said in anger or extreme frustration. I always want to kick myself when it comes out of my mouth. I’m (obviously) not a big believer in swearing being a mortal sin, but I feel like God would surely disapprove of this one.
  • Bitch. To me, this is a fun one. It wasn’t always. It was something I whispered (and truthfully sometimes still do) to myself when another female is pissing me off. Note to self: Cut that shit out! I think as a gender, we women have begun to embrace this one. Like “way to be a Boss Bitch!” or Lizzo’s line in “Truth Hurts”: ” I just took a DNA test and found out I’m 100% that bitch.”
  • Sonofabitch! Makes me think of my dad, which makes me snicker. Besides his other favorite swear word, “Horseshit” (his response sometimes when asked how he was feeling or when his restaurant meal wasn’t to his liking). He also used it when he was railing against some dude that pissed him off, like when Trump spoke on tv.
  • Motherfucker. I know, technically I commented on this one already (see “Fuck” above). However, “motherfucker” is really in a realm all by itself, right? Not that I haven’t uttered this word in conversations before, when speaking of some despicable male who committed deplorable deeds. I just think it’s a spice to be sprinkled very lightly to have maximum impact. I love, love, love Eddie Murphy, for example, but after about the 22nd “motherfucker” in the “My Name is Dolemite” movie on Netflix, I had to turn it off. The word, unlike “Shit”, loses it’s power when said too liberally.
  • Asshole. Such a funny word!! And isn’t it funny that while it’s literally a body part, it’s also a swear word? I have no misgivings about hearing others use this word or using it in personal conversation (well, maybe not in a professional setting I suppose).
  • Dick. Also quite hilarious as it’s also a name. And a body part. But my favorite use of this one is:
This can be seen in the home of one of my friends, who lives with her husband and two teenage sons. One of the reasons why I love that woman!

Hopefully I haven’t alienated any of my patient followers with this post, but to make up for it I will end with this spectacular image…

Kevin Bacon as “Dick” in “I Love Dick”