Thursday, December 9, 2010

There's no running from the Gator Nation

Like Coach Urban Meyer, I've run away from the Gator Nation before. When I graduated the University of Florida with a Journalism degree in December of 1989 I jumped in my VW bug and zoomed as fast as I could south on I-75 away from Gainesville. I told myself I needed a break from the insanity that revolved around the college town - the broken hearts and dreams of my well-intentioned, yet naive youth. The years of working hard, yet being torn down creatively.

Of course, I wasn't the focus of intense pride or anger (or being paid $4 million), like football Coach Meyer, but the chaos that revolved around being part of the Blue and Orange brigade became overwhelming, to put it mildly.

Like Urban, though, my first abandonment of the Gator Nation was short lived. Coach returned after a brief hiatus involving his health and so did I. I had created a newspaper career, yet I made periodic visits to see my then boyfriend who was finishing up a nuclear engineering degree. When my beloved graduated, I vowed that would be it. We would make our way away from the Swamp and create a life of our own sans Albert and Alberta.

"We'll be back someday," my new husband claimed. "Maybe I'll even work there." The thought to me was humorous at best as my beloved had chosen a career in nuclear power. The nearest plant to Gainesville was Crystal River, FL. Destiny can be tricky, indeed and we ended up back in Gainesville two years ago for a job here at the University of Florida.

So, what does this have to do with Urban's latest abandonment as head coach? He says he needs time with family and to pursue other interests. This all sounds terribly rehearsed and not at all the real reason. As human beings we're always searching and striving for balance in our lives, yet not quitting on the things we love. But his reasons are his business, not mine.

My point is, no matter how much you quit the Gators one can never really leave the Gator Nation fold if you love it with your whole heart. Gators suck you back in with pride and an ability to cajole (just as my husband did oh so many years ago). The old ball coach, Steve Spurrier, said it right when he coined the phrase, "The Swamp -where only Gators come out alive."

We're all a little battered and bruised, but that's what being a REAL Gator is about. It's not easy. It's damn hard. If Coach Meyer is gone for good this time, well, that just shows he never truly bled orange and blue.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

My broken commitment to NaNoWriMo

It's only day nine of National Novel Writing Month and I am ready to throw in the towel. Truth be told I didn't even make it out of the gate. On day one I had a false start and wrote a mere 600 words. I lied to myself and said it was because I was sick and didn't feel inspired. Then I spent the next few days staring at a cold, blank computer screen wondering just where the hell my story had disappeared to and how I could find it and fast.

Oh, I've written words every day for the last nine in long hand - short stories and journaling and grocery and to do lists. There've been thousands of words jotted down, just nothing concrete that actually counted for this blasted contest I committed myself to for a freakin' month of my life. A month I will never get back!

It's laughable how much time I spent outlining and doing character sketches in preparation for this month. I'd determined this year would be my year of overcoming my phobia of commitment to one specific project. This time I'd see one great project to completion. I would fish and not cut bait. HA.

Then yesterday I spent the good part of an hour on the phone with a wonderful editor who'd been kind enough to read and evaluate a manuscript of mine. A manuscript, oddly enough, that I had initially penned a few years ago for NaNoWriMo.

We discussed the fact that it was probably my sixth attempt at a manuscript and that this one was still an early draft at best.

"You have a lot of imagination," my editor told me. "You can't teach imagination....There's a lot of good work here, but..."

Ah, the dreaded BUT. This but had to do with a need for revision. I had wanted to call the project done, yet it's still a long way from THE END.

Creation doesn't seem to be my problem. It's the follow through. It's a commitment to my craft. To create the best stories I can and then move on. Most of my stories are abandoned before they even really have the chance to see the light of day.

So, what to do? NaNoWriMo is a month for novels. So, why can't it be my National Novel Revision Month - NaNoReMo? I can make a commitment to craft at least for the next few weeks. Can't I?

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Time to Fish or Cut Bait

"It's time to fish or cut bait."

This was one of my wonderfully wise father's favorite phrases. The great fisherman, he used this line on my sister and I more times than I care to remember. From boyfriends to career changes, he said it simply to grab our attention. I never really enjoyed the words when they escaped his lips as the simplicity of them reels one in. Then, when one realizes they are indeed snagged by them, it's all a bit disconcerting.

But, I guess, that was the point. Life shouldn't be so difficult. You either want to do something, or you don't. You either fish, or cut bait. I miss his simple - yet oh too true - philosophies and the ease with which he sauntered through his own life. I tend to think too much about where I am going, what I am doing and why I am doing it, rather than just doing it because it's fun.

Such is the matter of my writing these days. I spend way too much time wondering which type of writing I should be creating, what avenues I should explore, rather than just doing it. Which leads me here at the end of October with only a few days left before I buckle down to be part of November's NaNoWriMo - National Novel Writing Month.

It's one month to get my crap together. To write only one thing and see if I can eek 50,000 words from it. Three years ago I came close with a young adult manuscript which I am just now putting the final touches on. The last couple years I've crashed and burned about half way through. Why? Because I thought about it too much, rather than just doing it. I cut bait and fast.

Not this time. I am fishing for the big one. There's this historical fiction piece I have wanted to claim as my own for nearly three years. The characters are all in my head. I have researched and researched and even have a cork board covered in the myriad of faces of my main character. She stares at me daily from the confines of my laundry room, waiting for me to make my move.

The stare has turned to a glare these days - "Fish or cut bait," she's saying. And it's true. She deserves to have her story told and I can tell it. Time to get the old cane pole and dough balls out. The big one is within reach.

Monday, October 18, 2010

My search for a single Guru comes up empty, for a reason

Just the name Guru offers me a sense of solace. In ancient Sanskrit, a guru is defined as a person with great knowledge, wisdom or authority.

In these days of confusion and uncertainty, just the mere mention of someone who knows more than I and who can offer answers to the unknown is quite appealing indeed.

Without even realizing it, I have searched my whole life for these gurus in some form or fashion - people who knew so much more than I and who could direct me, so I wouldn't make mistakes or at least make them less frequently. At first I sought out gurus for my writing - thinking if I found the perfect Master of Fine Arts program or the most knowledgeable writing coach, I would truly learn what it means to be a decent and productive writer.

Then the search continued in my practice of yoga. I beat every bush and researched every style from Ashtanga to Bikram and Kripalu wanting to find the training and the instructor who could bring me some sort of enlightenment. Someone to show me what I might be missing and how to find it.

Even in homeschooling my son, I wandered about on the Internet and within my community in search of someone to tell me what I was doing right and what I could improve upon when it came to educating a highly intelligent kid.

Each time I thought I had finally found a person to be that perfect Guru, I would be disappointed when I realized this person, or persons, was just that - a human being with frailties of his or her own. Each time I realized I didn't want or really even need to listen to anyone, anyone but myself.

Why does it take so long in life to figure out that there isn't just one person who can lead us toward enlightenment - whether it's spiritually or in the physical every day jobs we do? Why does it take so long to realize that the knowledge is within our own heart, we just have to listen to what it is saying and act upon it.

The only answer I can come up with is that it boils down to confidence in ourselves. Acquiring the confidence that we need to realize we alone can move forward and figure it all out, even if we hit a few pot holes now and again on this pathway of life.

Yes, gurus exist. I think they're all around us. They are not all knowing and all seeing people, though. They are simply other human beings on the same journey who offer up reminders that we're either a) on the right path or b) way off track. They are people like the bagger at the grocery store who tells you that your positive attitude and smile have made an impression on them. Or, the bookstore owner who says she can't believe how widely read your homeschooling son is, let alone how grown up he seems. Or the friend that sends a card for no reason at all, except to tell you she loves you and everything you are.

These are the gurus in my life. They are the daily reminders that I am doing something right, even if it seems all wrong every single day.

I think all we can do is follow our hearts and that will lead us to where we need to be. No one person has all the answers, thank goodness. But maybe, if we listen a little to a lot of people we will find the answers together.

Monday, October 4, 2010

A Magical Moment

No, it wasn't Harry Potter who showed me the magic this weekend when I visited Islands of Adventure in Orlando, it was a wand wielding kid wizard I've known since his grand entrance into this strange and mysterious muggle world almost nine years ago.

This special young man in my life never ceases to amaze me. He's not connected by blood, but the ties to my heart are such it would seem so. He believes with his whole heart and loves that way, too. His ability to cast a spell on others rivals only Harry's, truth be told.

He's a magical creature, this Charlie of mine. How is it this boy child I adore is so able to see life clearer than I? Charlie has the ability to make me stop and take notice of this or that. He ambles through life, never rushing unless it's to his favorite snack or to give someone he loves a hug. He doesn't miss a moment, he's observant of it all and he is a true and honest believer in the magical realm.

There are days I think there is no magic left in the world and I am a fool for ever believing in fairytales or happy endings. Then some magical something happens and reminds me I AM a fool and that's ok. It's the foolish belief in 'the land of make believe' that keeps the child within alive and in awe. It is what fuels my enthusiasm for life. And that's what Charlie and his beautiful older sister did for me this past weekend.

As it just so happens, Charlie was picked from a room of onlookers to take part in a performance at Olivander's (the wand maker in the Harry Potter books and movies) shop. He stood front and center as Universal's version of Olivander sized up his wizarding abilities and searched for a wand that might serve Charlie's gifts well - one with a phoenix feather at its root.

Never did Charlie believe it wasn't real. Olivander had chosen him to give a special wand to. A wand that actually had chosen Charlie (as the wand chooses the wizard, not the other way around, you know).

The moment was magical indeed, but Charlie kept the magic alive. He was careful not to let others touch his wand. He wanted to be a good wizard and use his powers wisely. He marched around the theme park with his wand box tucked tightly under his arm, as proud as Harry Potter when he first received his. He even created a few new 'spells' to try out.

I teared up when the realization hit me. There's magic everywhere we look, if only we choose to see it and embrace such marvels with our hearts - like Charlie does each and every day. But if we ignore it - poof, the magical moment is gone.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

This Quitter is Gonna be a Winner

Quitters Never Win. Winners Never Quit.

These two phrases have been swimming around in my Beached Mermaid's head over the last few weeks. As Summer has morphed into Fall (even if the Gainesville heat index won't budge), I found I'd FALLEN back into old habits. Ones like: spending way too much time doing anything but WRITING. I was even cleaning the bathroom instead of putting pen to paper. So, as that light dawned on this marble head I did what any intelligent and well adjusted woman would do - I became a quitter.

Now, to say I quit everything I do in my life would be an exaggeration. I didn't quit my volunteer gig that I love with the butterflies. I didn't quit what I call my "real job" - homeschooling my son or anything that needs to be done for survival in the Real World. I did, however, quit a bunch of small gigs I'd accumulated. All of which I enjoyed in some form or fashion, but realized they had become a smoke screen of sorts to excuse my lack of writing.

This epiphany came with a jolt. Actually, to be fair and honest, it came when my husband said, "You'll do anything to avoid writing."

Ok, so maybe it wasn't that harsh. Close enough. He's a very direct man. Lovable, but painfully direct. I contemplated his sharp, yet wise words while alone on the bathroom floor cleaning the tile with a magic eraser (rather than writing). It was at that moment I realized I'd gone too far. (Yes, I was PMS-ing, but still). Just who the hell cares if my grout is sparkling white or not?

I vowed then and there to become a quitter. It's so freeing. Considering I have a hard time saying no, I have a lot of perplexed people in my life right now. They're wondering what I'm doing. What I am up to. Why I don't go so many places or involve myself with lots of people.

Quitting is what I finally had to do to remind myself of what I really want - to write stories that people will enjoy. It's as plain as that. That's my number one goal and if it truly is what I desire I need to give it the time it deserves and that my future readers deserve, for that matter.

I keep wondering, though, can quitters ever win? I hope so. Otherwise, I'm gonna have to quit being a quitter, I guess.

Oh, and for the record, the grout cleaning was a once in a lifetime event. I quit that wretched job first time out as I am not Cinderella, but the Beached Mermaid...

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Two women - one wise and one half naked - save the day

I have a new friend. She's propped on my newly acquired desk and she's half naked. She's a pretty little thing wearing a pair of baby sea turtles as a makeshift bikini top and smiling down upon the turtles' mama as if she's saying,

"Listen lady, I lost my seashells a while back and your little ones were kind enough to help me out in a pinch."

If you haven't guessed by now, my new friend is a small, resin, mermaid statue. She reminds me of everything I adore about the sea - the astounding beauty, the sense of freedom I always feel, and the peace of mind that guarantees my swift return to her shores.

I don't usually purchase such nick knacks. Items like this mermaid are mostly gifts. But my dearest friend recently told me I needed to surround myself with things that I love (particularly in my writing workspace). Things that reminded me of who I am and who I want to be. So, I have been busy framing pictures of loved ones and drawings from special people in my life to make my work area happy and inviting.

It's the latest move in my quest for creativity and it seems to be working as I peck out more words and have even uttered an oath to complete the latest of my seemingly endless writing projects.

How did my friend get so smart? Well, she's a talented artist (the one whose watercolor graces this blog) and has always had an innate ability to hone in on what keeps her grounded. She passes her sage advice out so simply, never realizing how wise she truly is. She's an old soul who is not only wise but insanely fun to be around.

I am so lucky to have found her (my friend, not my mermaid). Of course, I think it's serendipitous that I also found Sedna. That's what I am going to call my mermaid who is now beached like myself. I have decided to name her after the Inuit Goddess of the Ocean to remind myself to be strong in the roughest of seas and as playful as any fantastical creature can be.

Sedna and A.G. have helped me find my muse again. Now it's time I help my dear bf find hers among the dozens of boxes that grace her brand new home way too far away from me, the Beached Mermaid.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Navigating the strange new world of high school

I still have ridiculous dreams about high school. Or, maybe they should be considered nightmares (ones that I am sure a psychologist would have a field day with, but that's not the point here).

There's one dream I am in pink fuzzy slippers and told to go home and come back properly dressed. There's another where I can't remember my locker combination and I sit for hours missing every class just so I can open the blasted black metal compartment which in the end has nothing inside except a note from an old boyfriend. (Don't ask me what the note says, it's folded into a tiny, unmanageable triangle). Then there's the silliest dream of all, which is based on an actual student who stole my literature paper. In order to protect the innocent, suffice to say that the culprit ends up with a bunch of colored crepe paper wrapped about her body and mouth and is paraded about the school as punishment for her indiscretions.

One would think being a fairly sane woman, I would get over such pettiness. After all, it's been a quarter of a century since I left the hallowed halls of high school with a diploma in hand, extremely grateful to be moving on to the wonderfully wild college years. But my memories of being the 'queen of the geeks' die hard. And when your kid is now the same age you were when you got pigeon holed as 'Miss Goody Two Shoes' ala Adam Ant's song, it all comes back in a flooded mess.

As of Sept. 1, my Sam is technically a ninth grader. He's a high schooler in every sense of the word. He rolls his eyes when I ask for a hug. He pretends not to hear me when I call his name (until the third time when his name becomes a screechy -SAAAAAAMUUUUUEL!) He's not quite to the point where he thinks he knows more than I, but we're ONLY beginning high school.

And I use the plural WE because Sam and I are embarking on this thing called high school together. (No, I am not enrolling myself. That would be ANOTHER nightmare). We are homeschooling the high school years through an eclectic use of virtual school, other online courses and some really good books. I know what you're thinking, those dreams about high school have clouded my judgement. And maybe they have. But when your kid asks you point blank if he can stay home and focus on his studies for the next four years the choice to me is pretty evident.

What I love about my kid is he doesn't give a darn what other people think. (He's like his Daddy in that way). He wears what he wants (no stripes, logos or bright colors for him). He listens to the music he wants (1970s disco music ala KC and the Sunshine Band). He runs around the house like a banshee acting out his latest and greatest movie screenplay. He is his own man (if I dare say that).

His decision to stay home for high school has been a tough pill to swallow for all those involved. Friends and family have questioned the motives. Even my husband and I have wondered if it will stand the test of time, concerned we've let our child railroad us into what could end up regret.

As he sits across the room from me working on an economics course geared toward juniors and seniors in high school, I realize we're doing the right thing. We're letting him become the man he wants to be. The man he's meant to be.

And yes, he will have nightmares in the future of his high school years. They will probably entail his mother throwing a fit because he hasn't finished his geometry or left his 10-page paper on the intricacies of the supply/demand curve to the last minute.

Right now, though, I am smiling. I am thinking of this time together a gift. Watching him navigate his way into adulthood, choosing the courses, making a portfolio for his dream film school and giving him the time to do what he wants to try is intriguing.

It's going to be a bumpy path, as this is uncharted territory. It's a strange new world, this thing called high school. In the end, though, I know it will be quite an adventure. And this time around maybe I will actually enjoy the ride.

Monday, August 16, 2010

The last tree standing

The good news: I didn't get arrested. The bad news: I nearly got myself plowed down along with the lot of trees next to my home.

I am not particularly proud of my antics the last 48 hours, but I couldn't just twiddle my thumbs and watch helplessly as every tree, bush and weed were casually mowed over to make room for mankind's latest and greatest residential monstrosity.

It's a nauseating mess, the street I call home these days. From dawn to dusk, the floorboards of my Gainesville domicile shake and the windows shimmy. It's for the greater good, I am told. People want to build new homes and make a life for themselves as my own dear family wants to do. And I understand, really I do.

But when I'm trying to teach my teen aged homeschooler the importance of respecting Mother Earth and the gifts she has to offer, the wretched wailing of an old chainsaw and simultaneous revving of a bulldozer sets me off on a tear (as in I want to tear someone apart) and that's not good when you're a practicing yogini.

"I've got to say something," I told my son through gritted teeth (and forgetting all the patience I have learned through my daily yoga practice). He sat stoically in the front seat of the car hoping (no, probably praying) I would, for once, keep my big mouth shut. I do this a lot these days - embarrass him. I really don't mean to. I am just a passionate person and well, sometimes the passion gets the best of me.

And that is what happened day before yesterday. I threw the car in park and told my son to stay put. My flip flopped self nearly toppled face first into the dirt as I flagged down one of two gentleman mowing down the lot next to my house. The first worker (we'll call him Tractor Man), was kind and gentle and called me "ma'am." He said he wasn't working with the other guy. The grouchy looking guy on the bulldozer, that is. A guy I've seen many times before and one who sometimes likes to play a strange game of bulldozer 'chicken' with me when I'm coming or going in my own vehicle.

As soon as Bulldozer Man saw me he jumped from his machine in one giant leap. Kind of like hopping off a strange yellow, metal horse. This modern day cowboy stood at my side within seconds and scowled.

"I know you're just doing your job," I said, trying not to blurt out something mean in my anger. "But please, there are a couple of Live Oaks straddling the property line of my house...Are you taking those out? Or can they be spared?"

He wouldn't make eye contact. Bulldozer Man just pointed toward my backyard. "Them, there? I'll leave a bit and THEY'LL decide what THEY want."

I nodded and thanked him for whatever he could do. I hoped Bulldozer Man could find some kindness in his heart like the other guy. The one on the tractor. And I made a silent wish that whoever THEY were, THEY liked shade trees, too. I turned and left.

As soon as I buckled myself back in the car I started to sniffle. I felt like such an idiot. I knew nothing would be left when I returned home. I'd read the building permits and checked the codes. These people followed the rules and did their job as best they could. Still, I secretly crossed my fingers in hopes that my plea was heard.

Two hours later they were gone. The trees, that is. All, but one. My favorite. The great Oak under which my husband and I set up a blow-up baby pool mere weeks ago, in order to escape the stifling heat of summer, stood unscathed.

I'd like to believe Bulldozer Man heard my plea and respected my words. Maybe he realized we need to stop playing 'chicken' and remember we're all in this game called 'Life' together. Maybe he figured we each have personal battles and demons to face every day. And maybe he even thought that sometimes we need to make concessions for crazy women in flip flops who plead for the lives of trees. Or maybe the tree really is just on our lot.

As an eternal optimist, I am going to choose to believe Bulldozer Man and I made a peaceful pact and that maybe, just maybe, our mutual respect made a difference in each other's lives (even for a brief moment).

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Goldilocks Gets a Desk

My Muse has been dying a slow death. Yes, I am dramatic. I feel like a little girl having a temper tantrum. But, months of trying to poke and prod my Muse into producing something coherent have proven futile. I've bought books and subscribed to emails and blogs, but nothing and no one can get Muse to come out for more than a minute or more before she goes back into hiding and leaving me alone and idea-less.

Yes, it's like the book "The Art of War for Writers" says, I am bloodied on the battlefield. But I must soldier on, if I am to conquer my Muse and make her mind me. So, on Saturday, I attended a three-hour writer gig in Orlando, hoping to spur on my Muse and jump start my next writing project (since my latest has crashed and burned several times). The event, "Show, Don't Tell" revolved around a discussion on how to make writing come alive.

The poet who facilitated the event, Emily Carr, was (and is) an incredibly centered writer. Just receiving her doctorate in her field of expertise, she seemed to instinctively know exactly what direction she was going with her writing, even if she wasn't sure where she would land. A refreshingly positive sort who made me wonder where my own 'playfulness' with my writing had up and disappeared to.

During the program, Emily had us writers do an exercise where each shared a tidbit of curious information. Then the simple question of "Where do you write?" came about. I nonchalantly mentioned that I had been in flux. That I had a big, wooden table set up in a front room next to my piano, but I didn't have a chair that fit. I didn't say much more, only that it would be changing soon...In time....When the Muse struck. Emily jumped on my comment like the jet black kitty cat of hers that leaped from place to place in the room we writers had converged upon.

"You need a space of your own."

The writing space comment gnawed at me all through the event and the entire car ride from Orlando, back to Gainesville. I became obsessed. I needed a chair, as simple as that. That would arouse my Muse. So, my dear husband (in an attempt to make his crazy, non-creative feeling wife happy) escorted me around Gainesville in search of the perfect writing chair.

Poor guy. He really had no idea what he'd signed up for. I felt like Goldilocks - "This one is too soft....This one is too hard..." But, of course, none were "Just right." My beloved simply nodded and moved on.

Then I saw a desk. A piece of crap - made of cheapo particle board - desk. It struck me hard, like a two-by-four to the forehead. I wanted a desk with drawers to stash all my stuff. A neat-o writing place just for me. One just like all the awesome grownup authors have. Instead of becoming exasperated (which I would not blame him for being), my husband shrugged his shoulders.

"Why don't you check Craig's List and local second hand stores?" (Did I mention that my husband is brilliant? And good looking, too? But, I digress....)

I practically ran all the way home and did exactly what my spouse suggested. (Shhhh. Don't tell. He'll get a big head realizing I am listening to him... Or, anyone else for that matter.)

I started pecking away at Craig's List and whittled away at the possibilities. In a college town, finding a desk is easy. Discovering one that's got all its digits is another thing entirely. The supposed "teak" desk was hideous, in a word. The "move out curb special" should've stayed at the curb, awaiting the garbage man; and the word "vintage" took on a whole new meaning.

Then I found it. A beautiful cherry stained antique desk with braided edges. A little battered and bruised, but it had character. It was "just right" for this Goldilocks. Of course, the desk was an hour away in Keystone Heights at a second hand store. Plus, it was Sunday and the store didn't open until Tuesday.

Less than 48 hours later I walked through the doors at Our Timeless Treasures and the small but tasteful desk spoke to me. I ignored the voice. Two 1920 leatherbound volumes of Kipling sat on the edge of the desk mocking me. "You know you want to take me home," it seemed to say. And I did (after 40 minutes of trying to talk myself out of it).

It's a miniature sort of piece and sitting behind it makes me feel like a kid playing grown up. What my sister, cousin and I used to spend hours doing when we were little girls wanting to be big, important people.

This is my first piece of writing at my sweet, little girl's desk. I am hoping it makes me childlike and free, like the days I played at being a grown up with my sister and favorite cousin. A time when I thought we three would always be the Trios Club and anything was possible.

Oh, yes. Goldilocks feels "just right" now. Are you listening, Muse?

Monday, August 2, 2010

Back on the mat in front of a class

I gave up teaching yoga nearly two years ago. The ego made me do it. Actually, it was a lack of confidence, truth be told. I wondered then just what knowledge I had to share with students. Would it be enough to keep them coming back week after week? Could I communicate my joy for yoga to them simply through my teaching?

As my classes swelled and shrank, I took it personally. On 'big' class days I would rejoice and on 'little' class days I'd question my methods and connection to students and their needs. I stressed myself out so much it made me crazy. The night before class I'd go over each and every pose in my head perfecting each minute of the hour-and-fifteen-minute class. I wanted each student to get the most out of their time with me.

The only class I could teach without such a personal lashing was my kid class. The hour was pure joy. I'd come up with a theme and just wing it most of the time. Sometimes I'd weave a story and other times we'd draw animals and then pose like them. I saw an incredible amount of gratitude in the eyes of these tiny students. No judgement. No expectations (besides to have fun). And they gave me such happiness. More than I ever imagined. I vowed then I would only teach children.

Ah, but the universe can be sneaky. And sometimes what you push away in fear is exactly what you need in order to continue forward on your life path. That's exactly what happened to me.

I've be laying low since moving to Gainesville and away from the yoga studio in which I was trained and taught. I've attended different studios here to get a feel for what students want in this town and what classes are offered. I've seen a few great teachers, some mediocre teachers and a couple that I ran away screaming from. Through it all, though, the teeny weeny voice in my head kept saying -

"You're judging instructors just they way you judged yourself. That's not what yoga's about."

I started thinking about my yoga differently. I practiced at home daily and when I took a class I focused on one thing I gleaned from the teacher no matter if he/she performed a style that rang true for me or not. It was an 'aha' moment for me. I realized once again I had to let go and just be happy with the way things played out. I needed to let go of control even in my yoga!

I knew in my heart it was time to get off the bench and stop being a side liner with my yoga. It was time to face my fear on the mat. Time to get in front of an adult class and share my love of yoga, no matter if I fell flat on my face.

And guess what happened? Out of the blue there was a new class starting locally that had no teacher. I let it slip that I had been teaching a beginner class in my old town. That's all it took. Three days later I was on the mat in front of three students. I was scared to death. I took a deep breath, didn't look at the clock (except once) and felt my way through.

After I finished, a student came up to me and requested a copy of the Chinese proverb I had read at the conclusion of our practice. It read:

"A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step."

Ah, the universe is sneaky indeed. I had meant the quotation to be inspiring to those taking the class, but it was more for myself. This student reminded me to get back on the path of my yoga teaching. Take that one step, no matter how scary it may seem.

Friday, July 30, 2010

An Ode to Friendship

There are a few people in our lives who are there for the long haul. They are people with whom we have a shared history (whether we like it or not). Some of these people are familial - brothers or sisters, special aunts or uncles - but there are a select few who can be dubbed Friends for Life.

Some of you may be quite blessed and say you have a huge group of these incredible people surrounding you. A group that has and always will support each and every one of your ups and downs. My husband and I have but a handful of these treasures between us. I am not complaining. I am grateful for each one of these precious gems who've made my life richer. There have been countless friends who've bowed in and out of my life and I've tried to think of them as pieces of a giant puzzle - ones which no matter how jagged - have taught me to love and be a better person.

I am thinking of friendship this morning as my husband and I were lucky enough this week to have one such family grace us with their presence. It's a family with whom we have a shared past, one that brings a smile to my face every time I think of it.

Actually, it's a friendship I am lucky enough to have married into. In a nutshell, my husband befriended another young engineering student while in college here in Gainesville. My beloved's polar opposite, to be honest. Where my spouse is somewhat reserved and introverted, this character was (and is) full of life. A jovial sort who never meets a stranger and when he does he buys him a beer (or a crown and coke, if he really likes him).

When I watch the two of them together I laugh (or cry, thinking I may end up having to bail them both out of jail). They are two sides of the same coin and to me I don't think one could ever survive without the other. They share a bond now more than two decades old. One that was sealed early on when my beloved and I witnessed the birth of his first child the same weekend we were engaged. In a word, this man and his family are special.

That friend's baby is now starting her second year of college and my husband and I love her and her brother as our own. And their mom? Well, let's just say we don't even need words to communicate the love and respect we have. They are FAMILY. They are our heart.

We watched their babies grow up. We tailgated at Gator football games. We celebrated anniversaries and milestones in each other's lives. We even moved to the same town and for a few short months were part of eachother's daily lives. But destiny can be cruel and my husband's college buddy had to move his brood to Nebraska and we were meant to come full circle back to where it all started, in Gainesville.

Our world changed. No more tailgating. No more parties for no reason. We were at a loss. But, that loss reminds us what we have - Friends for Life. And no matter where they are, or where we are, we are one and always will be.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Looks can be deceiving

There's a piece of my heart that belongs to a sandy seashore along the Florida Panhandle. It's nothing overtly special, this plot of beach just west of Panama City and east of Destin. Yes, it's sugary white. Yes, the water is an emerald shade only captured by the finest of semi precious stones. But, it's not infamous, like Miami's South Beach, or a playground for the rich and famous, like the French Riviera. In fact, there are many who spitefully claim this slice of heaven is 'The Redneck Riviera.'

To me, labels do not matter. This sacred spot, where the sea meets the sand, is where I found myself. My true self. The one who was battered and bruised after years of slaving in a professional fog, at a loss of what to do and where to go next. It's the shoreline I paced many early mornings with my beloved father at my side discussing the future and what great things I would write, what fine projects I would complete.

It's been more than five years since my dearest Daddy passed on, and this slice of shoreline is all I have left - besides memories of an incredibly centered man in a floppy straw hat with a quick, easy smile.

My sacred space by the sea had supposedly be 'spared' thus far of the wrath of BP's Deepwater Horizon oil spill. Despite the excessively positive news updates cajoling visitors to pristine beaches, I prepared myself for the worst when I visited my mom last week.

At first, all seemed normal. Visitors dotted the beach with colorful umbrellas, sailed freely along the shoreline and even took to the crystal clear sky by parasail. But something was wrong, dreadfully wrong. Every few minutes a helicopter would buzz the beach, or a jeep took to the sand, rushing this way and that. Then there were the men in mirrored sunglasses donning blue plastic gloves and picking up tiny objects off the shoreline, carefully placing them in ziploc baggies. But it was the couple of cammo clad military men that made me shiver, though. It felt like a war zone, plain and simple.

My son wouldn't swim. Not one time. He stood on the shore with his hands on his hips surveying the damage. What damage? There were no balls of oil. No dead sealife to prove what we've done to the Gulf. It was eerily devoid of damage.

In some ways it was worse, the not knowing what's out there. The not knowing when we will pay the price here in the Panhandle for our sins to Mother Nature.

My mom's been waiting since April for heaven to fall. For the Gulf she so loves to be swallowed up by darkness. And she'll wait some more. We know what's ahead as we watch the black muck run its course via satellite tv.

My beloved Gulf will continue to suffer, but I will return to her sacred shores. For she has saved me more than once in my life and it will be my turn to do for her the same.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Laughter (+ Phil Collins) Cures What Ails

There are days I am bone dry creatively. It's an emptiness I can't explain. One where I just walk around in a daze from one task to another as if doing the mundane will somehow spark something extraordinary.

Yes, I complain about it. Wondering when the feeling will pass (as it always does). I sigh a lot during these times as if doing some sort of yogic breathing will free my body of the lethargy (it does help, I swear).

Then something happens. Someone does something or says something absolutely crazy and I lose it. I laugh so hard the tears stream down my cheeks. It's a release for me and then I am FREE. Free to be creatively crazy and silly and ready to try anything new and exciting.

Most of the time the source of the hilarity is either my spouse or my son. Both have unparalleled senses of humor, an oddball combination of slapstick and the Sahara dry.

The latest incident culminated yesterday. My teen aged, home schooled son had locked himself in his bedroom - of his own accord - for days (he did come out to eat, of course). At first I thought my less than stellar frame of mind had him running to the sanctuary of his boudoir. He was in there hours and hours and all I could hear was the crash of Legos being poured from their containers and angry mutterings about the cat eating yet another mini fig (Lego man/figure for those of you non-Lego people).

Finally, said son re-appeared with a huge grin on his face. (Again, for those of you without teenagers, this in itself is an unusual incident). No, he wasn't making a bomb, he had been working on his latest film - a stop motion masterpiece. He wants to be the next Alfred Hitchcock, but that's yet another blog...

Four hundred and twenty photos later here's what he came up with - a silly Lego music video of Genesis' classic Misunderstanding. The kid's a freak for 1970-80s music, with Phil Collins in the top five of all time. So, without further adieu, I will present his final cut of Lego Misunderstanding. It's crazy and weird with Legos dying and dropping like flies. But I laughed so hard my stomach hurt. Hope it will make you smile, too.
PS- Phil's the bald one and Peter Gabriel is ID'd as he had hair then...

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Do what brings you joy

"When I turned 50 I decided not to do anything I didn't want to do."
This is the mantra my mother and dearest auntie live by. I'll be honest, when these two ladies - whom I adore more than anything - first announced this personal plan it took me aback. Frankly, it sounded selfish and self centered. How could anyone actually proclaim such a thing?

At the time of their pronouncement I spent my life running around like an idiot carting a kid 30 minutes north to school, turning around and spending another hour driving south to my work at the local newspaper. I was up at 5:30 a.m. and not in bed before 11 p.m. Sound familiar? Anyway, the mere audacity of saying I would not do ANYTHING I didn't want to do seemed silly at best. Nothing in my life would get done if I thought so simply. And the finely tuned machine of my life (ha ha) would com bust.

Ah, but sometimes it's the simplicity that makes an idea so intriguing. I started to think about the words and how they applied to myself. I started shedding events and commitments from my life that didn't work. I made a promise to myself to make room for the things I love to do at the top of the list and the things I hated pushed down to the bottom. Suddenly, my days were happier. I had a less clean house and a few disgruntled employers, committees and groups, but I started to feel more in control of my destiny.

It's amazing how my life started to change when I told the universe what I wanted at the top of my 'to do' list. Ah, but lessons are hard learned, aren't they? And unless one stands one's ground on a continuous basis, it all unravels again. Such was my life last week when a dear friend of mine put it a different way, "Only commit to those things that bring you joy."

It was the same mantra my mother and aunt use. Only it had a different spin. It was a gentle reminder. No matter if it's the business of my writing, homeschooling my kid, volunteering at a local museum, working at a yoga studio - I need to be doing it because I WANT to, not because I feel I HAVE to. There are many ways to make a buck and live a life. There are always choices to make.

So, do what brings you joy. Keep it simple. Not that you don't have to clean the potty anymore or take the trash out, or attend a stupid meeting with stupid people. You have a choice in how to do it. If it's really that bad, skip it. Do something fun. Take a walk. Or, attend a yoga or tai chi class. The crap will be waiting when you return.

Or, maybe it won't.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Lessons of the Three Graces

Three naked women have perplexed me for over a week now. They stand strong - arm and arm, seemingly oblivious to the rest of the world as they whisper secrets and silly sentiments amongst themselves. They seem to care not what anyone thinks of their nakedness, nor the fact that they are by no means perfect in form nor fashion. They are the Three Graces - three stark white, stark naked statues which grace the entrance to St. Armand's Key in Sarasota.

They are flawlessly beautiful despite their lack of perfection. They seem to nod and speak right to my heart every time I pass by on my way to and from my son's film seminar at Ringling College.

This is the second summer in a row I've witnessed first hand these lovely ladies who represent a few of Zeus' daughters in Greek Mythology. It's so fitting that these lovelies represent Charm, Beauty and Creativity (or joy, depending what publication or historical reference one believes). I say it's fitting as it's these three graces who continue to elude me along my life path. It is Charm who easily sways me and I am hoodwinked and hurt when I find her sentiment false. It is Beauty I tend to easily overlook in my push to complete my daily tasks unencumbered. Ah, but it's Creativity who's the most difficult of all. She's the one I spend my days trying to harness. Yet, when I trap her, or trick her, or simply trip her up, it is Creativity who's a major thorn in my side.

It's so funny to see these ladies together, conspiring. At first I thought they were laughing at me - at the sheer audacity of trying to overpower them all. But, as each day passed I realized they were each giving me a message. Charm told me to be kind no matter how much I feel I have been wronged. Beauty told me to open my eyes every waking moment, or I would miss the simple beauty each possesses. And Creativity, well, she told me to shut the hell up and write. Stop whining and making excuses. She'll come over and visit when she feels I am good and ready.

Never figured I'd find such deep meaning in three bare, naked ladies.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Battle for the backyard birdfeeder

There's this squirrel and he is my nemesis. Actually, to borrow a phrase from my favorite 8-year-old, "He is my mortal enemy and I must defeat him." I know, the words sound quite harsh as I profess to be a tree hugging nature lover (when nature's not making me sneeze and wheeze). But it's true. This little, brown, furry creature who looks all innocent and sweet is the devil. And he hates me. Actually, it's more of a loathing, if I really think about it. And the feeling, I dare say, is mutual.

I know this all sounds rather nutty (and maybe even more than a bit trivial) but it's become an obsession of sorts. This squirrel is the leader of a Gainesville gardening terrorist group who must be taken down. There are eight in all - eight of the most incredibly creative little bandits who have ever taken over a backyard birdfeeder.

Here's the story in a proverbial nutshell: I set up a feeder in my yard so I could commune with nature (even though the construction workers are trying to pound it all away, but that's another blog). For the moment, I live on the edge of wooded bliss where birds of every kind flock to the feeder. They're so pretty. They bring me joy as I go about my day clicking out the words on my computer and keeping my homeschooled kid on task.

We co-habitated in harmony for weeks, if not several months. It was all so poetic. My husband would even come home at the end of the day and jokingly call me the blond-headed Snow White. (Hey, I've got the fair skin, so work with me here). Anyway, at first I thought the squirrels were absolutely adorable, all munching away on the yummy birdseed I purchased, enjoying what their feathered friends discarded onto the ground.

Then the critters got greedy. Actually, it was only one. Let's call him Sergeant Squirrel - Serg for short. So, Serg here decides he wants to get in on the action. He starts shinnying up the wrought iron feeder pole, hanging upside down and tossing out food for all his friends. Then they all get in on it until there's not one crumb of food or bird that will fight them for it.

I start getting defensive of my feathered friends. They can't fight for themselves, so I must fight for them. I buy what is called a "Squirrel be Gone" feeder. It works! I am so proud. Every time the grabby guy sits on the feeder it clamps closed. It doesn't hurt him, I assure you. Just pisses him off. I laugh. It's all so funny. Then Serg gets mad, real mad. He looks me straight in the eye as he hangs upside down bouncing on the feeder so long he springs it. Food flies everywhere. It's as if he's saying, "HA! What else ya got, lady?"

I will not be out done, so I buy ANOTHER Squirrel be Gone. Serg springs that one in less than 24 hours. Blasted bandit. Then, I have this epiphany. I'll grease up the pole. That'll fix Serg. I take my can of Crisco out there to the backyard and lube the feeder pole up good. Tee hee. I have a good laugh watching them slide down the pole like firefighters and my teen aged son shakes his head thinking his mother's lost her mind for good this time.

Serg accepts the challenge. He's going to find a way, I just know it. He has the will of a great warrior. Yesterday Serg even went so far as to waltz up to my backdoor, stare me down and taunt my cat Teddy.

Oh Serg, you're gonna be the death of me.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Good fortune and cookies

A little known fact about myself: I pay really close attention to fortune cookies. You know, the ones you get when you order Chinese take-out. I know, it's ridiculous. It's not like they're made by hand with my life and times in mind. As my Beloved continually tells me, there are only so many fortunes printed out on these tiny little pieces of paper and then they're slipped inside these nasty tasting (mostly stale) cookies while on an assembly line and later packaged up for suckers like me to read and wonder... (The word sucker is mine, not my Beloved's. He calls me gullible).

Still, I think there's something to these tasty treats. Each time I pick mine with care and precision as if there's something I can and will take from it. Like last week:

"Willingness opens the doors to knowledge, direction and achievement." So true. And at this moment in my life I find this fortune cookie quite fitting. I push way too hard. Especially when I decide I want something really badly. I am like a blond headed pit bull with a bone, growling and not letting go when I get a hold good and tight. Needless to say, that makes me UN-willing to see the options right in front of my face. I only see one way and it's the ONLY way.

Yes, I know, this is so very UN-Yoga like of me. As I am told by some great masters (and a couple really good friends) our greatest strength is also our biggest weakness. I spend much of my time being positive and upbeat, telling friends and family that "it's all good" and all they have to do is relax and believe, yet I (the pit bull) keep gnawing on that same damn bone until I am sick to death of it.

So, I say to the universe full of fortune cookies, I am now declaring (on this blog no less) that I am open and willing. Just like the fortune is telling me to be. Whether it's homeschooling my son, seeking more yogic knowledge, or finding outlets for my written musings, I am open to anything good that comes my way.

The pit bull is being put down (metaphorically, of course. I am an animal activist of sorts, you know).

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Rules were meant to be broken

I like to think of myself as a rule follower. Don't laugh. I really do. I guess I should re-phrase. I like to follow the rules when I feel they are fair and appropriate. Otherwise, I toss the rules out the window as far as I can and make my own. Of course, the way I see it, most rules are ridiculous and therefore meant to be broken. So why not make my own rules in the first place? That's a fine solution, indeed.

I am contemplating rules today as it seems these pesky, thorny things are constantly getting in my way on the path to publication. And I must continually find a way to either a) get around them or b) just ignore them as if they didn't exist. A lot of the time I choose answer b as I find mostly it's easier to ask for forgiveness than permission. (I got that bit of sage wisdom from my adoring Mother.)

Today's irksome rule has to do with agents and multiple submissions. Here's the first rule as I see it: First-time writers of fiction length work either a) find a small publishing house interested in your work (which I did with book number one) or b) find an agent to schlep your work all over creation to get it published with a bigger house.

Now, I have been a diligent submitter the last few years, writing perky letters and sending partial manuscripts to potential agents. I've done my homework. There have been a few nibbles, but no all out bites for my fiction written wares.

This leads me to the next rule on multiple submissions. This is a no no to many agents. Many would like what they call 'exclusive' submissions and be given time to look over the work and make a fair decision. Okay, I get that. So, like the good girl that I am I have waited (somewhat) patiently up to eight weeks for ONE agent to tell me whether or not he/she even wants to see more than the query, synopsis and 10-30 pages I have sent.

I've done this 'one at a time' thing for more years than I can count. Let me put it this way, I've been chatting up agents since my teenager was a toddler. That's a lot of wasted time (or shall I say contemplative time?) But, as I said, I am a rule follower and I want to do the right thing.

Lately, though, the answer c keeps popping up in my head. You know, NONE OF THE ABOVE. Maybe I don't want a small publisher. Maybe I don't need an agent (shhhhh, my perfect one might be listening). Maybe I can do this thing called publishing all by myself with no rules or regs.

My wonderfully supportive spouse sent me an article from the Wall Street Journal recently which discussed such a thing. Rule breakers from all over the country are flocking to places like to upload their stories for all to read. Gadgets like the Kindle and the iPad are making it possible to bypass publishers and agents all together.

So, what is a rule follower to do? Do I continue on my present path to publication? No. I think it's time for some soul searching and good old fashioned research. I'm gonna get my work out there one way or another - even if it is one download at a time.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Hard to just believe

I started this blog as a way to publish my weekly musings and then the nasty critic in my head stopped me mid sentence. That bratty little voice (which sounds like my very first real life editor) told me I was somehow being ego maniacal thinking that throngs of readers would flock to my musings. (She's a real meanie, that Naysayer in my mind).

But that's not what this is about. That's not the point of writing this blog. What I was/am trying to do is somehow put into words how I feel each and every day - as a writer, a homeschooling mom and struggling yogini. I have a lot of questions about life in general as I am sure everyone else around me does. WHY, WHY, WHY, has always been the essence of my questioning soul. It's just easier to toss the words out there into the cyber universe, rather than having them roll around in my head like some sort of lucky dice waiting to be rolled in my game of life.

This morning's cup-o-joe lead me back to my Beached Mermaid blog. Actually, it was reading an email called "The Daily OM." It's an inspirational message that usually brings a smile to my face, or at least an understanding nod. Today's focused on the fact that we can manifest whatever it is we want in life. The key is to believe we already have everything we need, not wanting desperately something that we have convinced ourselves is somehow unattainable. In other words, just believing that everything is ok can make it so.

Now, blind faith has never been my strong suit. I'm a "seeing is believing" kind of girl most of the time, despite my usual sunny disposition. But as I ponder this thought it seems spot on. Every time I feel desperate about something, such as "Why can't an editor pick up my work and want to publish it?" I realize I am putting a negative spin on the things that are the most important to me. I need to believe that the perfect editor and agent are out there. And when it's time they will jump for joy that they found me. Same thing goes for my yoga. I keep tossing negatives out there like, "I will never be able to afford additional yoga teacher training. It's just too expensive." Of course, with that frame of mind why would the universe provide me with anything else?

My job is to keep believing all the good that's possible even on the days that it seems too remote to do so. It's a simple word, yet so hard to execute. BELIEVE and it will happen. Maybe not today, but with some hard work and positive vibes it will when it's meant to.

Take that, you nasty Naysayer critic in my head!

Thursday, May 6, 2010

The end is only the beginning

I'm better at hello. It's the goodbyes that lodge like a piece of moussaka (as in Disney's Hercules) in my throat leaving me voiceless. Or worse yet, teary-eyed as well as tongue tied.

Oh, those beginnings. They are but a dream. A time of joy and excitement when nearly anything is possible. And then, the bottom falls out and it is no longer the blossoming beginning, but somewhere in the murky middle sucking the life out of me with every wheezing breath taken.

I am speaking of writing, yet it is quite fitting for many facets of my life. Endings have always been difficult. But aren't they for everyone? Anyone who knows me can see a pattern here, though. Instead of goodbye, I've been known to walk away without a word, mute and unable to cope, rather than experience the pain and torture that go into actually letting go. Which leads me to my current status - ending a relationship with my latest manuscript.

How many unfinished masterpieces do I have in a drawer which have the first 50-100 pages done? So bright and full of life. The characters seem to leap off the page. Oh how I love them. They are strong and virile and beautiful and unique. They are the loves of my life. All of them. But that's before the saggy, flawed, angry, middle rears its head. The part that doesn't even seem to have any heart, much less soul. This is the scary part. The part that separates the short timers from the distance runners.

I read an essay the other day from Amy Tan called 'Angst and the Second Book' in which she said she started six books after the success of The Joy Luck Club. Nearly 1,000 pages churned out and tossed all because she was worried how people would react to her SECOND book. Now, I do not have a bestseller I am trying to say goodbye to, but I am trying to improve my craft with this next endeavor. So I enter into each day over analyzing each word that's placed on the page. Yet, somehow I'm plowing through, slowly but surely.

So, here I am with the words THE END looming yet I can't seem to take the leap and just be done with it. There's tweaking that still needs to be done. There's the life that I still need to breathe into my main character.

Walking away is never easy. Just one more draft and it might be the perfect piece of literary genius. HA!

Goodbyes are certainly not my forte. But to move on, I must...

Monday, May 3, 2010

What goes around comes around

What goes around comes around. This is and always has been my Mother's mantra. Actually, even at this moment I hear her voice in my head saying these five words. Only she's laughing this time, gleeful that I am finally dealing with what she had to decades ago during my youth.

What goes around comes around. It was a phrase my Mom used particularly when my sister and I were being difficult teenagers. At the time I thought she meant it as some sort of hopeful prayer to keep her sanity. Now I know it was more of a hex, one that would someday stick.

I do not deny I was periodically problematic during those awkward teen years. Not verbally defiant (that was my sister's department). Mine came in the form of being the Queen of NO. Not coming out and actually saying I hated something, but not willing to try it or give reasons why. And I admit shopping excursions were a mite tense. Especially those involving the purchase of specific types of under garments. Ok, bra shopping.

But you have to understand, that was a long time ago. I didn't like the colors that were offered. Some were too tight, too loose, too constricting, too whatever. It was frustrating for me. But I wasn't to blame. Really. Still, it got to the point where neither my sister nor my mother would shop with me, deeming me "difficult."

I never saw it that way, though. Discerning. That's it. I have discerning tastes. But, I have found, rarely do we see those 'special' traits that annoy our beloved familia. That is, until our own children toss it back in our faces and it's hard to miss. When our own children act as a mirror image to our youth.

What goes around comes around. And here we arrive in the present day and I offer up a slice of department store discussion (or lack there of) with my son:

Me: "You said you needed a few new golf shirts. Is that right?"

Teenage son: "Yuh huh."

Me: "What color would you like? There's a ton here."

Teenage son: "I dunno."

Me: "How about this?" I hold up a striped shirt.

Teenage son: "No."

Me: "Ok. How about this one? It would look nice with your eyes."

Teenage son: "Uh, no."

Me: "Ooooh. How about this one? It's really soft and..."

Teenage son: No comment, just a pursing of the lips and shaking of the head.

Me (getting really angry): "How about I just buy three white ones and call it done?"

Teenage son
: "Can we do that?"

Me: "No! Can't you just tell me what you want? What you like?"

Teenage son: "I dunno."

What goes around comes around. And so goes the vicious cycle that has become shopping with my own beloved child. It's painful. Poking your eyes out painful. Still, I hopped back on that roller coaster ride of non-committal again because we had to buy a nice pair of slacks and shirt for the First Communion of a family friend.

I prepared for the worst. Ready for the 'no' train. But this time he was a different person. My teenager listened to the salesman and smiled when he offered ideas. The child of my loins pointed to which shirts he liked with which pants. He even trotted to the dressing room without snarling one little bit.

I think my chin almost hit the ground in surprise. Who was this kid and what did he do with my "I dunno" guy?

Then I realized. What goes around comes around. That's it! He coming around! Or is it going around? Damn. I think I'll just call and ask my mom.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Taking a stand

Taking a stand has never been easy for me. I admit it. I am wishy washy by nature. One of my Mother's nicknames for me is even "the peace maker." Not always the case, mind you. More logically I'd call it the case of the proverbial fence sitter. I believe that's why I ended up becoming a newspaper journalist (that and being paid to write). I could stay neutral (like Switzerland) and watch all the fireworks explode around me. And then I got to write a great, juicy story about it.

But the last few months it seems that world and local issues are starting to irk me. Like an itchy, awful rash that won't go away. A rash of issues I would've written stories about if I were still in a newsroom.

My heart is aching as workers are dead and 42,000 gallons of oil are leaking daily from an oil rig that caught fire and sank off the coast of Louisiana. It is the state where my beloved child was born and still holds a sacred space in my heart. And the thought that coastlines and waterways from LA to FLA and beyond will be affected by irreparable damage just pours salt into the wound.

And then there are the recent rumblings and rantings I've endured of those preaching the gospel of hate - toward soldiers, gays and anyone else who's not of 'right' mind. It's all like a freight train running wild through my head. Where do I place my allegiance? Where will I draw the line?

All I know is I need to make a difference. That's what I have been truly missing. I was under the illusion for 15 years that I was making a difference just by being a watch dog for the media. Maybe all it was was a farce, a smoke screen of caring. Or, maybe it was part of my path that has led me to this moment. A moment when I know it's time to draw a line in the sand and take a stand.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Duped again by the evil Plastic Bag

Ye old Plastic Bag will be the death of me. To put it bluntly he is my nemesis. So much so that my life has become a showdown of sorts - me against the dreaded Bag made of ingredients that can't be broken down, not for a hundred years or so.

Yes, he is strong. He even took me hostage for a while (that mean old bag of wind that he can be), cajoling and making me think he would create an easier and more productive life for myself. He's a liar, though, that piece of cheap plastic, and I am trying to free myself yet again.

He has been everywhere in my life for as long as I can remember, taking different forms - sandwich bag, storage bag, garbage bag, grocery bag and even the dreaded poopy bag. He's a wily devil, that Plastic Bag. And sometimes, when I least expect it, he pops up no matter how hard I try to stay far away from his evil ways.

The latest breach has to do with my pet waste bags. I've been using the same ones for about 18 months now. So proud was I that I'd found a "biodegradable" poopy bag. I took my dog for a walk knowing deep in my heart that I was helping Mother Earth because the picture on the front of my baggy container said so! Ah, but as I said before, the Plastic Bag will say things that are not true, just to get you into his grips.

Last week I realized he had pinned me again. I went to purchase my special bags at my special store and guess what? The wording on my box of wonderful poopy bags changed. Where it once said '100 percent biodegradable' now said '100 percent easy to open.' My response, "What the BLEEP does that mean?!"

I abandoned the package on the shelf and rushed home to begin my research (something I should've done 18 months ago), but as I said, Plastic Bag can be a lying sack of, well, some sort of polyethylene.

There was nothing I found online to say why the wording on the poopy bags had changed or how, but I did realize that unless there's a BPI (Biodegradable Products Institute, from the U.S. Composting Council) certification on the box, it's not what you think it is. Great, just like years ago when I was buying something that said 'Organic' and it wasn't actually certified. Now I was getting mad. I'd been duped again by the mean old Bag.

So, once and for all I am taking him down. The ONLY poopy bags I am going to use are those I found made from starch, a corn starch. They're called Bio Bags and actually have a compostable sticker on them. Even has a 10 second plastic bag lesson on the back - a lesson I should've learned a long time ago, but let Plastic Bag fool me instead.

I use cloth bags for shopping, bio bags for poopy and am researching realistic alternative garbage bags. It's not easy, but I figure Plastic Bag will be lurking around every corner trying to lure me back to his way of thinking. No way. Not ever again.

Now, about those plastic storage containers....

Friday, April 23, 2010

Progress vs. Poetry

I've been thinking about Thoreau lately. Rather odd, as I don't live my life by poetry. My life is more of a limerick, truth be told.

Maybe it's because Earth Day just came and went, or maybe it's simply the banging hammer of "progress" outside my window with new homes coming to be and old trees being tossed away, but one quote of Henry David Thoreau's keeps swimming through my thoughts as I go about my day.

"I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived."

I don't live in the woods per se, but they are mere steps from my home. Mostly I love it here amongst the trees, besides the pollen that rears its ugly head about twice a year. I've discovered the joy of peacefulness in the evening, listening for the owls and (I could swear) a lone whippoorwill as the majestic moon rises. By day I watch blue birds flutter along the fences and a hawk who keeps an eye on us all from the clear skies above. There are a even a pair of tiny downy woodpeckers of whom have danced before me each morning for a week during my daily sojourns.

All of us seem confused of late by the pounding and drilling and mowing going on, though. Each in our own way seem to be asking for answers and I am at a loss for words. At first I was angry. How dare my life be mowed under by more people. Then I realized that I am part of that progress that is attacking the wild's way of life. I moved here. I take up space. I am not free of blame. It saddens me and makes me wonder how hypocritical am I to claim to love Mother Earth and want to help conserve when I too am part of the problem and not the solution.

I could tie myself to a tree. But what good would that do as all the laws have been abided by and the building legal and just? I could scream and yell, but who would hear or care?

What I can do is simply be more aware. What I buy. How I live. Not just talk a good game, but play like I mean it. Learn from my surroundings and live with no regrets. I am hoping that's what Thoreau meant.

Maybe I should just get back to the limericks, they are way more upbeat than I..."There once was a woman named Bright, whose speed was much faster than light...."

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Taking a mental health day cures what ails

The first time I heard the phrase "Take a mental health day," I thought it was crazy. The words came from one of my newspaper mentors, a woman who'd been in the journalism game when it was run mainly by men. I idolized this woman. She was everything I wanted to be, strong minded, strong willed, with a strong sense of what made a good story tick. But when she mentioned to me that I needed to give myself a break and take a "mental health day" I thought she'd lost her mind.

At the time I was working a lot of 12-hour days as a newspaper section editor with a small child who spent a lot of time curled up under my desk (after day care hours). My day started a 5:30 a.m. and ended later than I would rather admit. I had everything planned, every moment of every day. I even made a special time grid (talk about crazy). And to have this woman I admired telling me I needed a mental health day (when I didn't even have time to breath without scheduling it) pretty much pissed me off.

She was right, of course. And by the end of that week I had an asthma attack and was stuck in bed missing deadlines and awaiting the "I told you so" from my editor mentor upon my return.

You'd think I'd have learned from that experience. But sometimes, you have to learn the same lessons over and over and over again. I've spent a lifetime learning this one. My personality is such that even working from home I only sit down when I am writing. I don't think about recharging my batteries or taking a time out. I go and go because, well, stopping seems so wrong.

But it's the taking a breath time that reminds me what I want. And yesterday is a perfect example. I was overtaken by a 24-hour bug that wasn't bad, but it kept me laid up on the couch. It turned into a wonderfully unproductive day. I finished a book. I watched "The Three Faces of Eve" with my movie buff son. I thought about the next step in my quest to get my latest stories published. I breathed.

I know it's easy for me to say that we all need to take a mental health day once in a while. I'm at home now with the dog, cat and kid. But I still have that drive we all have to make the most of the day and get as much done on the 'to do' list as I can.

All it takes is one day to cure what ails you, though. Turn off the cell. Don't rev up the laptop. Sit around and be a couch potato for once. I dare you.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Another rejection for the bathroom wall

I have stopped counting the rejections. It's too depressing. If I kept track of the number I'd probably give up writing all together. I think somewhere in the back of my mind I am worried that I only get so many rejections and that's it. Kind of like a batter who gets three strikes and he's out. My thought is, for writers, we get a lot more than three strikes, though. (We're not quite as quick learners, so we get a few dozen more to smarten up).

Some writers, like Stephen King, have used rejection as a badge of honor of sorts. In his book, On Writing (which I highly recommend), he mentions early in his writing career he collected rejection slips on a nail on the wall of his workspace as a reminder of how far he'd come. Of course the king of the horror genre would do such a thing. Me, well, I am not so brave. I either rip them up into a million pieces or have myself a good cry. Or both, on a given day.

My first rejection for writing came oh so long ago from my high school newspaper advisor. She didn't give me a rejection letter per se, but instead stifled a smirk at the mere thought of this rather timid young girl becoming a newspaper journalist. "You? You're seriously considering becoming a writer?" Needless to say, I harbored a huge grudge and promised myself someday she'd know how wrong she really was.

And for a while, I thought I was succeeding. I had my share of accolades for writing. I won contests as a newspaper editor, as a feature writer and even a couple for fiction writing. But somehow, in this elusive gig called writing fiction, you're only as good as your last publication. The sting of rejection is considerably stronger than any accolade can ever be.

I thought I'd amassed a pretty tough skin over the years as the rejections continued to mount to so many I could wallpaper the bathroom with them (if I'd only kept them rather than shred them).

The latest came Friday evening via email. It wasn't one of those generic "It's not right for us, but we wish you success in finding placement elsewhere." This was a personal critique. It's the first big house to ever comment on my work and not either A)Toss it in the circular file (aka trash can) or B) Send it back via SASE with nary a pen mark. I held my breath, hoping upon hope this editor wanted my young adult novel that I felt was possibly one of the best things I've ever written.

Nope. Yet another blow to the already bruised ego. Bottom line, she said I had a great voice and it was a fresh idea for a genre saturated with vampires, werewolves and anything else that can rip you apart limb by limb. But again, it wasn't what they wanted or needed. I had failed.

I truly had thought this was it, my golden ticket of sorts. My chance at sharing my stories with the world. But, alas, there are no golden tickets in publishing. I just have to keep plugging at it and hope that at some point something will hit.

I figure this batter has a few more strikes left in her. My home run will come. In the meantime, maybe I should start collecting those rejections and wallpaper my bathroom for free.

Friday, April 16, 2010

To School or not to School

I am in charge of educating my son. Of course, that's the job of every parent, is it not? But two years ago I took the leap into homeschooling my middle-school aged son.

When I tell people I homeschool an eighth grade boy, I get one of two responses: a) "You're a saint!" or b)"You really think you can do a better job than a certified teacher?"

Now these responses aren't always verbal, mind you. Sometimes it's a facial expression - you know, the one where someone's face is all scrunched up like they have just devoured a sour lemon. But the scrunchiness always fades and then the next question comes along: "Aren't you worried about socialization?"

The answers to the above questions are as follows: No, No and well, sometimes. I honestly never dreamed I would homeschool my child. I was a maladjusted newspaper journalist for 15 years chasing the story of the day who finally woke up to what she really wanted: to write fiction where the stories (mostly) ended happily ever after.

I took the leap into freelance and fiction writing and for two years joyously wrote and wrote and wrote some more. Then the bottom fell out. My husband was laid off and my freelance money started drying up. Not so different from the rest of the country, our odyssey of job changes began. It's a long, ridiculous story of four moves in less than two years, schools that didn't quite fit and a son who cried every morning before school and clammed up every day after. I saw the future before me - a scary smart kid who hated school - and it scared the hell out of me.

It was my beloved sister who told me I could do it. I never taught anyone anything (except yoga). Then she reminded me that my husband and I taught our son to walk and talk and pee in the potty. We taught him right from wrong and how to be a kind and generous person.

Which brings me to the question of sainthood on my part. NOT even close! I take it day by day (and do a lot of yoga). We've discovered a cool place called Florida Virtual School. We pick classes that sound fun and I outsource the rest. We use a combination of books and online learning, always revamping when something doesn't work. It's like all the years of using journalism research has paid off!

My son's finishing up his second year of a high school foreign language and as an eighth grader already has other high school credits. He's doing so well he was even accepted to a rigorous program here in Alachua County to continue his education at a brick and mortar high school.

That's been the dilemma of the day this spring. Which also brings us to ah, socialization. Is it holding him back to keep him at home learning? Will he be scarred for life if he doesn't attend prom, let alone his alma mater's football games?

The odd thing is, my son actually asked to stay homeschooled. Begged is more the word. He plays Upward flag football, Y basketball, takes art lessons and golf lessons. He makes movies in his spare time and volunteers weekly at a local museum.

The greatest compliment I have received was from someone who said "Your son can speak to anyone of any age, can't he?" Yep. And that's what it's all about, isn't it? Preparing our children for life in the real world where their co-workers and friends will be all different ages, cultures and backgrounds.

So, I guess we'll keep plugging along on this homeschool path. Maybe I'll be sainted after all....

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

A Fall from Grace

I fell flat on my face....Again. I am speaking literally, although I have fallen many times metaphorically along my rocky and sometimes rutted life path. Most of the time I have popped back up like some sort of crazed jack-in-the-box, dusted myself off and started all over again. Today I don't think it's possible for me to pop back anything (except maybe the cap to the bottle of ibuprofen).

It's Yoga's fault. Just after class last night (as I nursed a bruised nose and ego) I wanted to blame my well-intentioned teacher. But I now realize she's the innocent bystander here. The fault lies purely in the ancient practice of Yoga - the bringing together of mind, body and spirit. A practice that has included handstands, of all things, within its asana.

Within an hour of ranting (to myself) about the insanity of throwing feet over head at age 43 and vowing to never again put myself in such a position ever again, I took a deep breath and attempted to put it in perspective. That was a no go. All I could see during my hour and a half alignment class was a blissfully happy group of 20-somethings gleefully tossing their bodies into the air and flowing from pose to pose as I grunted and growled hoping it would end sooner than later.

I pushed. (There's not supposed to be any pushing in yoga). That realization hit me this morning at 3 a.m. along with the shooting pain in my shoulder. I thought, "What the (bleep) am I supposed to be learning here?" Then the light dawned - I'd broken the rules. All of them. And it was my own dad gum fault.

Basically yoga's teachings are pretty simple:
1) Breathe.
2) Follow what your body is telling you.
3) Rest between poses.
4) Don't compete with anyone (even yourself).
5) Never give up, just give in when you need to.

I broke every one of those rules. I made all the beginner mistakes and I've been practicing seriously for a while now. I held my breath hoping it would end. I didn't listen to my body when it cried out to give myself a break. I berated myself between poses, compared myself to college co-eds and decided at the end I would NEVER EVER try handstands again.

The little voice in my head is laughing now. Telling me not to take it all so seriously. It's a practice, not a perfect. It's when we encounter the unknown (or seemingly un do-able) that we close ourselves off to the possibilities.

So, what am I going to do? During my home practice today I am going to prop myself up against the wall and try a handstand again. I am going to keep trying one every day until I can do it. Patience will be my mantra. And knowing there's an ibuprofen waiting if I fall....

Monday, April 12, 2010

Passion vs. Insanity

There are days I feel completely bonkers. Days in which I feel as if I should be locked up in a room wearing a straight jacket and my family told, "There's just no hope for her." Those are usually the days I am dry creatively. I mean bone dry. Sahara Desert dry. They are the days I think that not one remotely interesting word will ever again flow from my heart and I should throw in the towel once and for all and forget about being a writer.

Well, that's how this past weekend started for me. Not a particularly positive way to head to a day-long writer's conference in which I would find out (after months of waiting) whether or not my contest winning entry would be requested by a "big" publishing house.

Preparations seemed futile as every time I tried to print my work my computer would glitch and spit out weird black boxes on the page, rather than words. So what did I do? I fell to the floor and started to sob. Wracking sobs in which my dearly beloved husband raced in to the room and wondered what could possibly be that bad.

"It's a waste of time. All of it," I responded between sobs which turned to a fit of hyperventilation. "I have no idea why I even try. None of it matters."

I know, a little melodramatic, even for me. I admit it, passion is my problem. As a wise friend continually tells me, my greatest strength is also my greatest weakness. And she's right. (Or, should I say WRITE?) As a writer, my passion has always made my writing more colorful. But in real life, that passion can get downright crazy. Even insane on a given day.

So I ran to the bathroom, cried it out of my system, blew my nose and returned to the room where my calm and mild mannered beloved reprinted my work. He said nothing. Not a peep. Didn't even ask what came over me. I guess he's used to it.

I've been writing a long time. It's been 18 years since I attended my very first writer's conference. "I should just give up." I've said this so many times I've lost count.

Once again, no response. My husband shakes his head as he always does. He knows I don't mean it. I can't stop. It's an addiction, a need I have deep in my soul. So, I will keep writing even if no one ever reads a word. Because I can't NOT write.

Oh, and the conference? Still waiting to see if the "big" house is going to call me up. But even if they don't I know I won't stop trying. EVER.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Changes in Latitude Changed my Attitude

Ok, I lied. I have not posted since Monday. So much for my daily blogging. But I have a really good reason, really I do. My attitude sucked. It always does this time of year as the weather warms and I feel as if I am awakening from a long hibernation. I've been trapped indoors too long and this caged animal is antsy.

That's when my dearest friend in all the world pops up (as she always does when I am feeling pissy and cranky) and makes one more plea for me to join her family on a camp out. In a matter of moments I decide to toss my kid and gear in my car and head south down I-75.

Cayo Costa State Park is nine miles of beautiful beaches, located north and west of Fort Myers and smack dab in the middle of the most incredible islands Southwest Florida has to offer. You're probably familiar with high brow Sanibel and Captiva and maybe even Useppa. Well, Cayo Costa is nothing like them (except for the white sand and emerald surf). It's only accessible by boat and it's primitive, cave man primitive. Public showers, no a/c, sleeping in tents or rustic cabins. And when it gets dark, all that lights up are the stars.

Did I tell you it was heavenly? For 24 hours I journaled, shelled and watched my bff's husband reel in four gigantor trout (well, they were pretty big anyway). Daily performances from dancing dolphin had our group clapping as if we were watching a Sea World show.

And the best part? I came home recharged and ready to take on the world.

Maybe this Beached Mermaid needs a monthly dose of real and wild Florida to keep her head on straight. Or maybe it's just to dip the old tail in and remind herself to shake off the small stuff....

Monday, April 5, 2010

First musing from this fish out of water

I am not a mermaid. I just thought I would get that out of the way right off, just in case any of you were indeed looking for a genuine mermaid - tail and all. I'd like to be a mermaid. Really, I would. I've even been told I am much like a mermaid with my somewhat high pitched screeching voice (when I attempt to sing or get upset) and of course, there's that extreme love of the sea. Alas, that does not make me a mermaid.

What I am is a fish out of water. Always have been. I've spent my entire life not quite fitting in. Ah, I know there are many of us who like to believe we are unique. It's what gets us through the day. And who wants to be told she is just like everyone else? Certainly not me.

So, what will this blog be about? Simply put, the musings of myself, the beached mermaid - a woman who ditched a perfectly good career as a newspaper journalist to create a creative life of balance. It's even hard to type that without laughing hysterically. But that's what I thought five years ago when I walked into my editor's office and told him, well, never mind all that...

The dream revolved around writing the great American novel. Living an authentic life. Raising a well adjusted kid. It's evolved into writing readable fiction and staying sane while currently homeschooling my teenaged son. Insert yoga here.

Seriously, I figure I am not as different as I think I am. I am sure there are others out there who are insane enough to continue writing through the rejections, homeschool (upcoming) high school despite the shaking heads of practical peers and balance it all with a huge dose of downward dogs.

This blog is my way of continuing to write every single day, keep my homeschooled son on task and, oh yeah, remembering it's all about the journey, not the destination.

Come along and swim with me, the Beached Mermaid, daily (or close to it).