Wonder Women

wonder-womanThis year the United Nations celebrates Wonder Woman’s 75th birthday by making her an honorary ambassador for empowering women and girls. In 1998, Winnie the Pooh was an icon for the year of friendship.

Women need friendships like Pooh and Piglet’s. We need to rely on our superpowers — especially during this election season. There is so much vitriol from the Republican camp; it sickens my soul and my heart.

We need to uplift one another. We need to tell our stories. The writer Kelly Oxford launched the hashtag #notokay on Twitter for women to share their stories of inappropriate touch, harassment, abuse. Tens of millions of women are adding their stories. The flood of women’s reports shows that we are hungry to be heard. We have rights. And the women who tell their stories — especially those women who report having been assaulted by the Republican nominee — are courageous and exemplary women.

One of Wonder Woman’s driving force is her search for truth. We need Wonder Women like that.

We also need Pooh.

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As much as the message, I have always loved the artwork of the Pooh stories.

Your style may be slow, sweet, and gentle like Pooh or righteous, authentic, and athletic like Wonder Woman. But be you. Use your personal style for good. Know that you do not have to be passive about the political scene. Participate. Tell your story.

For my part, I have made some calls, attended some events, and donated some cash for Hillary. I am looking forward to celebrating my Wonder Women and Hillary after the election. I celebrate all who tell their true stories.

In my recent quest for happiness, I came upon a blog that said usefulness is intrinsic to happiness. Agreed. Be useful. It will make you happy.

Girl Power

It was 9 am and I was a little behind schedule. I had gotten up early to finish and submit two freelance stories, one a day late. Got them in. Then I hopped on my bike to rush to my art handling job. Wait. First. I had to stop at the private school where I’ve been substitute teaching to get my paycheck on track.

Having to talk about money and getting paid makes me uncomfortable.

Like with my freelance jobs — I worry that I accept too little. And then I worry that I charge too much. Whaaaa! Whatever I do, I want them to like me. I live to be liked!

When I got to the school, I dashed up the stairs, two at a time. Then, I slowed down. Wait. What’s this? Yup. A ton of cool signage in the stairwell about the Day of the Girl. (This is a United Nations movement on October 11, which aims to educate and end child marriage, stop sexualized media images of girls, and celebrate girls as athletes, students, artists! Check their link to find out about more.)

Seeing these signs made me drop my insecurity. I felt empowered. it’s important I’m paid well and fairly. I want to be a good model for the girls.

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Girl power!IMG_7004.JPGI started a Pinterest Board, Girls Can Be Anything, with images of girls doing fun girl stuff — climbing trees, playing superheroes, making art. I hate when the only option for a girl is princess. I prefer president. Girls can aspire to that. They can be anything.

In fact one of my daughters ran for student council today. I don’t even care if she wins. I’m just proud of her for writing a speech, delivering it, and throwing her hat in the ring.

On my bike ride from the school to the art job, the chain came off my bike. But I put it back on and kept riding. Got my hands dirty. But yup, girls can fix their bikes too. Girls can do anything. IMG_7003.JPG

Meeting the Coach

Before we embarked on this college tour, I pestered Hayden mercilessly to contact the swim coaches of the schools we were about to visit. He would say, “I’m not good enough for a swim scholarship.” I thought it was worth a shot. And his high school coach thought he could swim at division 3 schools, (which don’t give athletic scholarships).

But I’d back off from the pestering, knowing the more I pushed, the less he’d do. He’s an excellent student and a great swimmer. He places in the top few spots against all of the other small private NYC high schools. Next year, he’ll be captain. But he tells me he does not register on the nation’s or even the east coast’s list of top-notch swimmers. He’s good but not great.

So after an infraction last Saturday night, (which I won’t go into here – but use your imagination, he’s 17) one of his seven punishments or consequences was to write to three college swim coaches. The whole list of consequences he deemed to be more “productive” than punishing.

He set up one interview at one of the small Midwest liberal arts schools last week. The interview went really well. He was a little nervous. I thought I’d wait out in the hall. But I was with the coach and Hayden the whole time.

The coach, who looked like a college student himself, was impressed by Hayden’s height and potential. He told H. about the practice hours for the college swim — 6:30 to 8 am and then like 4 to 6 pm. Grueling. He showed us around the pool and the weight room. He seemed interested in having H. come back for a visit with the team.

If Hayden’s swim ability gives him an edge when considered for admission into a fantastic school, bring it on. He could contribute well to a team. It would give him a ready group of friends. He is already a hard worker. Discipline and practice would make him even better.

The experience of visiting colleges with Hayden has vaulted me into my own college memories. How hard my classes were! How I learned the knack for sitting in the front row of my classes, knowing then, as now, I am prone to distraction. And I loved getting to know my teachers. You are more memorable when you sit in the front row.

Beyond evaluating my own college experience, taking Hayden on this college tour has reminded me that parenting is a dance of push me/pull you/back off/stay on it.

After the interview with the swim coach, Hayden told me, “Mom, I should have been interviewing with swim coaches this whole time.” I bit my tongue. I did not tell him, “I told you so.” Though I felt like it (and I’m telling you!)

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Campus at Colgate University
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Another amazing guide. Tour of Hamilton College (we thought this looked like Harry Potter-land).

Getting to Why

Writers working on their stories at the first writing weekend at Skenewood.
Writers working on their stories at the first writing weekend at Skenewood.

When Kelly and I started boot camp for writers almost two years ago (wow!), Felicity Fields, web developer and marketing guru, told us to watch this Start with Why, Ted Talk by Simon Sinek.

Sinek’s point was that you need to frame your business so that the why, or purpose, is clear to your customers. The purpose of Apple is not just to offer great computers, but to challenge the status quo. People dig that.

“People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.”

What is the ‘why’ of boot camp for writers, our writers’ collective?

  • to build a writing community
  • to disrupt your life
  • to tell difficult stories
  • to make the story of your life a hero’s journey.

Since starting this biz, tbh, (to be honest), I’ve hardly made any money. Maybe because I’ve been offering free Meet Ups or the cost of the space sinks me or maybe it’s just that I’ve valued building creativity over building capital. They say it takes three years to be profitable in a new business venture. Most of my income’s come from my freelance writing, teaching and videography work since I left my day job,

I still believe in my biz. When I come home from offering a writing weekend or an evening workshop, I think, wow, that was great, this business is much-needed. I have a why.

So here’s your why — join boot camp for wrtiers: be a part of a community; disrupt your life; tell your story; and give your narrative a purpose. Know that you are the hero of your journey, not the victim of your circumstances.

We can talk more about this over coffee on an Adirondack chair in the morning watching the sun rise over Lake Champlain. Or over a glass of wine as the sun sets off of the patio. Come to the beautiful Adirondacks mountains. May 29 to June 1. There are still a few private rooms left in this 10-bedroom manor house.

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The Adirondack retreat is held in this beautiful 100+ year old house in Westport on Lake Champlain, NY.

Full weekend including private room: $530, all meals, lodging and pick up from the Westport, NY Amtrak train station. Register at: Adirondack Writing Weekend.

Here’s a video from the first fall writing retreat for writers: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HYKWfbgd6nU And here are pictures of the historic manor house where we will write and dine. Visit: http://www.vrbo.com/382611.

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A Little More

Last night we saw A Little More Than You Wanted To Spend, a funny, sad one-man show with and by Chris Clavelli about the death of his 6-year old son Jess.

clavelliThis sucks. I mean the play is awesome, but the show reminds you that life sucks.

Life is a total crap shoot. You get shit. You get joy. You live. You die. Other people live and die too.

You have to talk about it. You have to write about it. You have to tell about it. You have to live it. You have to make something, maybe theater, out of it.

The sucky part, sometimes, is living on and getting up when you feel like curling up in bed and not getting up.

***

Taking the garbage out last night with my daughter Charlotte, one of our neighbors, a former Hollywood starlet from the 1950s (and this is not even giving her away because we have several senior actresses in our building), asked me, “How’s your boyfriend?” or something like that.

Charlotte looked at me quizzically.

“He’s doing good,” I said, about my husband. “He’s got a great creative spirit. Is directing a show upstate this summer.

The former starlet said, “He’s wonderful. He’s got a twinkle in his eye and great artistry despite the tragedy of his life.”

We said good bye at the recycling bin.

“What did she say?” Charlotte asked. “The what of his life?”

“The tragedy. I suppose, she meant the tragedy of his Parkinson’s diagnosis,” I told my daughter.

I don’t think of my husband Chris’s life as a tragedy.

This is not the first time a neighbor has used stark terms to refer to my husband’s disease in front of my kids. I guess, in the dailiness of life, the reality of Chris’s illness is not a tragedy, it’s normal.

It is not always a comedy, but tragedy? I don’t know.  Chris feels he is lucky. He feels there are worse diagnoses.

***

This is the second time I’ve seen Clavelli’s play. It’s blown me away. Made me laugh and cry.

I am friends with Clavelli, and his girlfriend Leonisa, who funnily enough, was my work out buddy at my former workplace, before she and Clavelli got together.

The play reminded me to hug my darlings, to love the people in my life, to laugh and cry with them, to talk about truths, to listen to other people’s truths, to make art.

When someone tells their truth, I can’t argue or judge. Hearing someone’s truth makes me want to tell my truth. Because, I know, making art is a way of healing.

Life is a tragic-comedy.

***

Any way, go see Clavelli’s show. It’s really good. It’s only running in June in NYC.

Related stories

Chris Clavelli

A Little More Than You Wanted To Spend

Beauty in Tragedy, The Poem (writingsofamrs.wordpress.com)

History Repeats Itself

Everything is fine. But I am having a slightly depressing day. I don’t want to go into any of the details, but suffice it to say, I have been here before. (My Kids Can Be Mean to Me.)

There are legit reasons why I feel unhappy and unsatisfied in my home life. I remind myself that I am feeling this way today, not every day. Just today.

I think that when I worked full time, I could submerge my difficulties at home into successes at work. I got good at compartmentalizing. That was one of my keys to success.

And, in a way, I’ve had part-time work this week — going to the movies. I have seen three movies and one play in five days. Last night, at the Public, I saw Sorry by Richard Nelson. The story was about four adult siblings on Election Day putting their demented uncle in a home. Really good.

Today, I saw Cloud Atlas. It was a trip. Set in six different time periods, the characters return as descendants from an earlier time or, maybe, as reincarnated souls. They are marked with a shooting star tattoo.

Cloud Atlas, based on the book by David Mitchell, reminded me that our lives are interwoven, past hurts are revisited. The people in power corrupt and exploit those in their care. When consumerism and greed is the value upon which a society is based, take heed. Yet kindness in the extreme can heal the wounded souls and societies.

So going to the movies this week has left me with lofty thoughts. I put my grievances aside. For today. Just today.

I probably should go to therapy instead of the movies. Yet I find my way of coping entertaining.

I heart unemployment!

NaNoWriMo

All my online friends are doing it. Here it is November and that means National Novel Writing Month. I have won NaNoWriMo in two out of the last three years. That is, I’ve written 50,000 words and completed a novel in 30 days.

I am NOT joining the writing frenzy this year. Even though I feel a tug to start. When a crowd takes off running near you, you feel like taking off too. My problem is I love to start stuff.

As Beth in writing class said the other night, “You’re a sprinter, not a marathon runner.” (That’s a bad analogy since there are no NYC marathoners this year. And that’s a lot of disappointment from my fitness friends here in NYC!)

I love starting stuff so much more than I love finishing stuff. I love creating new characters in NaNoWriMo. I love running out of words and then writing up crazy, surreal dreams for my characters. I love weaving their dreams into plot points.

As Chris Baty, the founder of NaNoWrMo, said, “No Plot? No Problem!”

I am using the NaNoWriMo’s Young Writers Program curriculum for teaching my middle school creative writers. Kids love conflict. They love creative characters. They need to know the arc, or plot, of a story.

The national novel writing month curriculum for my middle schoolers is fun and gets kids talking about the best way to tell stories. I feel so lucky to have this resource (for free, no less)!

No, I am not running the marathon known as NaNoWriMo this year, but I plan to start it and win it every other year for the rest of my life! I am cheering those nano marathon runners from the sidelines.

Wait! I feel lonely and eager to join from the sidelines. So I plan to join another online competition or campaign. I am going to join NaBloPoMo. (National Blog Post Month).

So far, I’m on track. I have posted on this blog every day of November. And the theme is: blogging for blogging sake.

Now, team, get out there and write!