Monthly Archives: June 2014

The Company You Keep

“You are known by the company you keep.”
– Heather Dubrow

I noticed something this week that I would like to share with you.

See that quote up there?  I’ve heard that sort of thing all my life. I always applied it to friendships and the workplace and things of that nature.  But something else has just recently dawned on me. The company that I keep is not really friends or coworkers at all. The people I’m around the most is my family.  And I want to tell you a little something about a few of them.

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Richard and Kelly

See these gorgeous creatures right here?  This is my boyfriend Richard and my daughter Kelly. Now, between Richard and I, we have a total of four children.  But for various reasons (other parents, summer commitments, etc.), the other three aren’t around quite as much as Kelly is these days. So, more often than not, it’s just the three of us spending time together. That makes them the two people that I spend most of my life with.  The “company I keep” if you will.

And I want to tell you a little something about them.

This week my community theatre is putting on a marvelous production of Les Misérables. This is a massive musical that is not known to be done by small community theatres…but ours didn’t let that silly little fact stop them.  Now, usually, I would be involved in the show since I’m the actor in the family.  But I decided to sit this one out for a while. I just didn’t think I had the energy to put into it (you can’t imagine the time and dedication it takes to put on any musical – much less this one! – unless you’ve been involved in one before).  But, as it turns out, I ended up being the only one of our little threesome that wasn’t involved.  Both Richard and Kelly volunteered their time to be “techies.”

Now, for this past week (the week that has lead up to the show), Richard and Kelly have been scarce.  They have spent their every waking moment at the theatre.  This is quite a turn of events for me.  Usually I’m the one at the theatre while the rest of my family sits at home wondering how late I’ll be coming home. It was odd being on the receiving end of that for a change. However, I honestly haven’t minded the time alone. I was able to catch up on some laundry, some cleaning, some reading…and some thinking.  While piddling around the house last night (opening night!), a thought crept into my mind:  My boyfriend and my daughter are just friggin awesome.

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The Southern House in Transit

Now, I’ve always known this, of course.  This wasn’t a “new” thought.  But last night, I had something specific to apply it to.

For those of you who don’t know, Richard is a musician.  He’ll tell you he plays the drums but just owns a guitar – but he’s full of it. He plays them both and is wonderful at it.  Oh, and he sings, too.  This man who has the ability and talent to get up in front of audiences and make beautiful music (even making some decent money at it at times), has spent the past few weeks of his life volunteering to help others sound their best. He’s the one you won’t see when you go see this phenomenal performance, but everything you hear will be because of him. The man who makes music is just as happy (if not happier) this week in the shadows watching as he makes sure you can hear the actors making music.

I don’t know, man.  There’s just something about that.  Such humility. Such a lack of need for attention or applause.  The ability to derive pleasure from helping others receive recognition.  That’s no small feat, in my little book.

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Kelly as Annie

And then there’s my little Kelly.

Kelly is no stranger to the spotlight.  This is the girl who played the role of Annie last year to five straight sold-out audiences.  She got up in front of hundreds of people and sang her heart out, while “Sandy” jumped on her, licked her face, sniffed in her pockets for the treats she knew were there…etc.  I’m telling you, Kelly was a pro. It’s hard enough to trust other actors when you’re onstage, but to get through an entire scene with just you and a canine as your co-star…and while singing!?…let’s just say this kid earned some serious points in my respect book for those awesome skills.  But you know what I respect even more?

The role she’s playing now.

That’s right.  This week, little Annie’s redhead is nowhere to be seen.  That spotlight that she knew so well last year?  She’s now sitting behind it.  She’s the follow spot operator.  She is making sure that you can see others as they shine.  And you know what?  She loves it.  Like I mentioned before – that takes a special kind of person.  A person who is not looking for recognition, but just wants to help.  She’s just as happy shining the light on others as she was feeling it on her own face as she played a title role to a sold-out audience. In fact, I think she’s a bit happier doing what she’s doing now.

Wow.

I hope you don’t mind the fact that I took an entire blog to give a shout-out to these two wonderful people in my life.  If that old saying is true – if you really are known by the company you keep – then I can’t even begin to tell you how proud I am to be known as the mom to that hard-working little girl and the one who is loved by that humble, talented man.

What a lucky lady am I.

***

company

 

 

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…You Lose Some

“The greatest test of courage on earth is to bear defeat without losing heart.”
– Robert Green Ingersoll

I’m a Loser.

loserThat’s right.  Capital “L” and all.  La-hooooo-za-heeer. (Said in my best Jim Carrey/Ace Ventura voice.)

I often blog about my writing successes on here.  Last year, I wrote about winning first place in the essay category at the Chautauqua Festival Creative Writing Competition.  Then, I went on to tell you about my first published work appearing in the Chicken Soup for the Soul series, and now I have a second story appearing in another Chicken Soup for the Soul book, which will be available in August of this year.  Pretty awesome stuff, huh?

But you know what I don’t often blog about?  All the other submissions I’ve sent in.  Or better yet, all the rejections I’ve received.  And trust me, there are PLENTY of them.

Yesterday, in fact, I received two rejections in one day.  That contest I won first place in last year?  Didn’t even place this year.  The next Chicken Soup for the Soul book that’s coming out after the one in August?  My story wasn’t chosen.  These are just two loser-ish examples (did I mention they happened in ONE DAY?) but there are many more where those came from.  I sent my boyfriend Richard a message yesterday saying “Okay, I’ve received two writing rejections in one day. Tell me I’m pretty.”  (Yeah, I probably won’t be winning any awards for my sense of humor anytime soon either…)

Why am I telling you this?  Well, after my rejection-filled day yesterday, something dawned on me.  I had some pretty good luck straight out of the gate last year.  Now, mind you, I’ve written all my life – as early as I can remember I was giving poems to people as Christmas gifts (did I mention that I’m also cheap?…)  But it wasn’t until a few years ago that I started sharing my writing publicly- starting with this very blog site you’re looking at now.  After the positive feedback I received on my blog posts, I decided to take a chance at submissions.  Lo and behold, I won that essay contest (my first submission EVER!) and then it was shortly followed by a call from Chicken Soup asking to print the story I submitted to them. Whoa! Talk about your beginner’s luck! But soon after those first boosts to the ego, the rejections started coming in.  Magazines didn’t want my essays. I didn’t place in other local writing contests. My blog stats started dropping. And for a brief moment, I sort of felt like giving up.  But you know what?

I didn’t.

And why didn’t I?  Well, I was one of the lucky ones who had been blessed with the feeling of winning.  I knew that just because I “lost” a few times, that doesn’t mean that my stuff wasn’t “good.” It just didn’t get chosen this time.

I kind of have this theory.  I think every life is filled with a certain pre-destined number of wins and losses. And I’m not just talking about writing submissions here.  I’m talking about all that life has to offer – in your professional life, your creative life, your personal life – all of it. They’re not all going to be losses, but they’re not all going to be wins either.  As far as this writing thing is concerned, I was honored with a few of those wins upfront. But in other aspects of my life?  Those wins took a little while longer. I had to go through quite a few defeats before I got to the winning portion. In fact, I’m in the middle of a few defeats now.  But you know what gives me hope?

I know that my time to shine is coming.  I just haven’t gotten to the winning portion yet.

You get it?  You buying what I’m selling here?

We don’t always get the wins up front. But that doesn’t mean they’re not coming. It’s so tempting to give up, isn’t it?  It’s so hard to believe that the good stuff really is out there somewhere.  But it is.

It is.

A few years ago, after my second divorce, I had pretty much decided that a “win” in the love department wasn’t possible.  And then, out of the blue, I met Richard.  And you know what?  That wasn’t a “win” either.  Oh, it is now, don’t get me wrong.  But at first?  Phew.  Let’s just say ours isn’t your typical “their eyes met and it was love at first sight” story.  (Well, it was for one of us…but I won’t get into that right now…)  I could’ve given up on this too.  And trust me, I wanted to. But somewhere deep down, I had a feeling that a win was coming. And you know what?

I was right.

us3Richard and I have what I’ve only dreamed about in the past. I honestly had no idea that a relationship could be this good.  This sweet. This tender.  This supportive.  (WINNING!)  But believe me when I tell you this – it was NOT easy.  I had to take the losses before the win.  Sometimes that’s just how these things work.

I’m so very glad I didn’t give up.  Look at all the love I’d have missed.

Are you going through a loser phase right now?  Hang in there, my friend. I have a feeling a win may be just around the corner.  Just don’t give up before it gets here.

***

“Defeat doesn’t finish a man, quit does. A man is not finished when he’s defeated. He’s finished when he quits.”
– Richard M. Nixon

Curtsy

“Embarrassment is a villain to be crushed.”
– Robert B. Cialdini

So, have you heard about Stefanie Dolson?

Stefanie, bless her heart, had something happen to her earlier this week that would absolutely mortify most of us.  As a member of the UConn women’s basketball team who had made a trip to the white house to be honored by the President himself for their NCAA national championship, Stefanie had … um … well, let’s just call it a little mishap.  Oh heck, here, let me just let you see for yourself:

Yikes!

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(AP Photos/Susan Walsh)

And as if it happening weren’t bad enough…of course, it had to happen on national TV.  And, of course, newscasters everywhere had to run it on their news segments.  And you can see the reporters’ reactions in the lower left corner of the screen in the video – cameras clicking, flashes everywhere, etc.  Whew.  If Stefanie was going to embarrass herself, by golly she was going to do it right.  Get it, girl.

But you want to know my favorite part of this whole ordeal?  The reason why I’m blogging about the incident?  It’s what happens just after the above video clip ends – the part that most video clips I have found on the subject have managed to leave out.  After the initial embarrassment, after the nervous laughter, after being helped up by the friggin President of the United States for Heaven’s sakes, you know what Stefanie did?

She composed herself, looked right out at one of the cameras and…ready for this?…she curtsied.  Yep.  Curtsied.

Check her out.

AP OBAMA UCONN NCAA A S USA DC

(AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

After facing what was probably the most embarrassing thing to have happened to her thus far in her life, she got herself together, looked the embarrassment right in the face, and basically bowed to it.  That curtsy said, “Yep. There ya go. I’m human, and I just proved it. You’re welcome. Carry on.”

It’s pretty safe to say that Stefanie Dolson is one of my favorite people in the world right now.  What a lesson there is to learn from this awesome lady.  I don’t know about you, but I think I’m going to be thinking about that Dolson curtsy for many years to come.  The next time life knocks you down?  Hey, just get right back up, and give life the ol’ Dolson curtsy.  You know?  You can either be remembered for the embarrassment you felt while you were stumbling, or you can be remembered for the classy way you carried yourself after you regained your balance.  It’s that simple.

Really.  It’s just that simple.

(And another little secret – you’re actually probably the only one that’s really going to remember anyway. Unless of course you were on national TV… But isn’t what you remember about yourself the most important thing anyway?)

Remember the curtsy, people – not the stumble.

Got it?

***

“Relax; the world’s not watching that closely. It’s too busy contemplating itself in the mirror.”
– Richelle E. Goodrich

 

I Am Woman

“A woman is like a tea bag – you never know how strong she is until she gets in hot water.”
– Eleanor Roosevelt

I’m a woman. Through and through.

And here’s how I know.

I think I may have broken a bone in my hand. *sigh* (Ok, no, that’s not why I know I’m a woman. Men break their hands all the time. Just be patient…I’m getting to the point.) So, why do I think my hand is broken?  Well, I tripped and fell playing basketball in flip-flops. (Ok, that’s closer to being how I know I’m a woman, but that’s still not the point.)  In a last-minute, mindless motion, I put my hand out to break my fall.  A lot of weight fell on my tiny little wrist (my wrist is the only thing that’s tiny, mind you) and it didn’t feel too great, to put it mildly.

Now, this flip-flop basketball incident happened over two weeks ago, and I still haven’t been to the doctor. Why not? Well, a couple of reasons. One, money. (Money is the underlying factor to just about everything these days…can I get an Amen?)

But mostly, the real reason is just that I figured I had just bruised something somewhere and it would get better with time.

Well, it hasn’t.

In fact, it’s getting worse. And being the Google Doctor that I am, it looks like I may have done a little more damage than I originally had thought.  So, today, I’m off to the doctor to find out.

And here’s the thing.  I really DON’T want to have a broken hand.  Having a broken hand would suck. I do so much crap with my hand. For one thing, I’m typing this blog right now. (It’s actually a little painful to type, but I’m willing to suffer for you guys. That’s just the kind of gal I am…) But seriously, I do an awful lot of typing – both with my extracurricular writing, and with my business writing. I’m a legal assistant. I spend all day typing on the computer.  I kinda need my hand.

meselfBut even more important than that?  Helllllo…how am I going to straighten my hair?  No kidding, I spent extra time straightening my hair this morning and making sure it looked decent (no matter how much it hurt to grip the straightener) because I had a feeling that today might be my last cast-less day for a while. How shallow am I, people?  (But hey, doesn’t my hair look great?…)

And you know what else I did last night on what may be my last cast-less 24 hours?  I cleaned the bathroom.  Yep.  I looked down at the floor and at the toothpaste-speckled mirror and decided that it would be pretty dang hard to scrub anything with a cast on my hand.  So, I got to work. Yep, it hurt, but at least it got done.  I also knocked out a few loads of laundry while I was at it.

Now, see why I know I’m a woman? Pardon my French here, but we women? Oh, we’re badasses. I’m here to tell ya. We know our worth, we know our value, and we know that when it’s time for crap to get done, we’re the ones to do it. Now, I’m not trying to down men or anything. And not trying to be stereotypical (there are always exceptions to every rule), but isn’t that a pretty cool thing about us chicks? We’re planners. We take charge. We see to it that things get done, no matter the sacrifice.

I think that’s kinda cool myself.

So, here’s to the women out there. Celebrate your awesomeness.  Right now – do it.  Pat yourself on the back (Lord knows no one else is going to do it), and remind yourself that you are a rock star. Get it, girl!

(I’d high-five all of you if I could, but I guess that would hurt….)

Ok.  Time to go find out if Dr. Google is right.  (This is one of those rare few times that I’d be happy to be wrong about something.) So…my hand and I are off to the doctor.  I’ll keep ya posted.

(P.S. Anyone want to volunteer to come straighten my hair for six weeks if my hand is broken?…)

***

“Strong women need not declare they can carry all the burdens in life. They just quietly do it and survive with a smile.”
– Princess Maleiha Bajunaid Candao

 

Slippery Muse

“I feel like I am allowed to share with the world what I see.”
– Joel Robison, photographer

A while back, I saw the above quote when I was reading an article about Joel Robison, a photographer whose career had taken off practically overnight because of his photos that were noticed and purchased by the Coca-Cola company. While I’m not a photographer, that quote spoken by Joel with regard to his new booming career struck a chord with me. I knew exactly what he meant.  That’s how I feel about my writing – that beautiful feeling of seeing something and knowing that there is a story in it.  And then having the freedom and means to share that story with others.  I was excited to see someone put so simply into words exactly what I feel so often.  So, I quickly copied and pasted the quote into a new blog entry and saved it to my drafts to write about later.

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“Stuck Inside” by Joel Robison

And there it sat.

And sat.

*sigh*

And sat some more.

The quote was phenomenal and I knew I wanted to expand on it and blog about it, but I’ve just been kind of stuck.  Not only stuck on knowing what to write about regarding this particular quote, but just stuck in general.  I briefly mentioned my case of writer’s block in my last blog, but I sort of blamed it on how busy I’ve been lately.  (Which, mind you, I’m not saying doesn’t play a big role in it.)  But honestly, I don’t think that’s the only thing.  Once in a while, I just can’t quite grab on to that muse, you know?  I know she’s there.  She’s always there.  She sits there waiting patiently for me…whistling, twiddling her thumbs, trying not to be a nuisance.  But yet, for some unknown reason, my hands just can’t get the grip I need on that slippery little booger.  I try to reach for her, even think I’ve got a good hold every now and then, but lo and behold, she manages to slither right out of my hands. Oh, it’s not her fault. She hasn’t done anything wrong – hasn’t changed.

It’s me who can’t get a grip.

Well, a few weeks ago, I was honored to be a speaker at a local event called Night of the Spoken Word.  Eleven local writers were introduced individually and asked to read a 5-minute portion of one of their works. While I was excited to participate, I was also looking forward to the inspiration that I knew the night would bring.  For a writer stuck in a rut, there would be nothing better than to be surrounded by fellow writers – hearing their magical words flow through the room and feel them seep into my soul. I just knew this would be what would jumpstart my writing and get me back on track.

Well, guess what?  It didn’t.

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“Bookworm” by Joel Robison

Oh, I was inspired of course. I was in awe and full of admiration at all the talent that surrounded me, and beyond honored to be included among them.  But I got home and sat down at the computer and still…

Nothing.

Well, except maybe this one thing.

Something I had heard that night kept playing over and over in my mind. A fellow writer got up to read a poem he had written about a trip that he and his daughter had taken together when she was younger. As he gave the introduction to his poem – describing why he had written what he had – he said he had just had such a wonderful time with his daughter on the trip that when he got home, he sat down with pen and paper to write about it.  Specifically, the phrase he used was this:

I wanted to remember what that felt like.”
– Scot Pope

If it wouldn’t have been massively rude to whip out my cell phone during his reading, I would have done just that.  I would have went to my “notes” app on my phone and typed in what he said to remind me to go back and read it again later. (Oh, how many blogs I have written based on short, practically unintelligible “notes” from my phone…).  But, as luck would have it, I didn’t need to be rude and type it into my phone after all. I remembered it. I remembered it as I was leaving, I remembered it when I got home, and here I was remembering it almost two weeks later. I didn’t know why that meant so much to me, but it just wouldn’t leave my mind.

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“Short Stories” by Joel Robinson

And then, suddenly, seemingly out of nowhere, one day it hit me.

Inspiration.

I hurried to my blog site and dug out that dusty old draft with the Joel Robison quote in it.  Looking at his quote, and comparing it with Scot Pope’s quote, I realized why I write. And realizing it made me appreciate it.  And appreciating it made me want to do it again. I hope these two remarkable, talented men won’t mind my combining their quotes by saying that writing, for me, is not only a way to remember what I felt when I saw something in this big, awesome world, but to also be able to tell people about it.  I feel something, and I no longer have to hold it inside.  I pour it out onto the computer screen, hit that little “publish” button, and suddenly, I’ve shared a piece of myself with you.  I’ve invited you into my memories.  Into my life lessons.

Into my heart.

Writing is who I am.  It just is.  When it’s missing, a piece of me is missing. And sometimes that does happen…sometimes I lose touch temporarily with who I am.  (As I’m sure we all are prone to do.)  But then, inevitably, Inspiration comes slipping in that door I left ajar yet again.  And quietly, without any noise or fanfare to speak of, she plants her little seed once more- whether through the eloquent words of a fellow writer, the majestic beauty of a talented photographer, or the kind words from a blog reader who lets me know that my words meant something to them – and I once again find myself back on the path towards home.

In closing, and as a thank you to each and every one of you, my vast array of seed-planters, I’d like to once again quote Joel Robison:

“So with that, I’d like to thank YOU for being a part of this big and small world. For looking at, enjoying, commenting and appreciating my work and what I do and for helping me find the path that I’ve found.”
– Joel Robison

Thank you all for your part in helping me to reach out and grasp that elusive muse with both hands, and hold her tight to me where she belongs. Thank you for helping me to find my way back to where I belong.  Thank you for helping me to remember who I am.

Ahhh.

All is well.

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“Wordly Balance” by Joel Robison