About RStar's Common Grounds

wanderlust filled, silver-lining finder, seeking common ground...

Baby baby it’s a wild world…

My baby has “babies” who are almost 18 & 16, and yet, when I close my eyes, in my mind’s eye, I still see ME at 17 with my whole life ahead of me…it’s wild. Through a series of not so smart decisions my world as a 17 year-old, with her whole life ahead of her, came to a screeching halt…BUT, but, B U T…when I break down these last decades, into their smallest increments of time and moments, what has been this life these last 38 years but wonderful?? 38 years of memories that are, for the most part, amazing far more than they are awful…it’s wild. When I think of life in the “big picture” view, rather than dissecting it into tiny fragments of times and moments some of which were in fact terrible, in the sum of it all, I have had so much joy and love and laughter, that it sometimes feels and seems rather unfair to those who have had unhappiness and sorrow and angst...it’s wild.

My memories of motherhood are many…I can close my eyes and see very clearly the pink round face of this human in the crook of my left arm where she spent the first few weeks of her life with me on my purple sofa in my cold ugly rental house where the rent was not getting paid and the electric was getting turned off but where I was learning who I was going to be and why…it’s wild. I can still hear her little 3-year old voice every time we drove north on Route 9 as she excitedly would say “oh here comes the Flower Plant” every time we drove by the nuclear power plant. I can still hear her little 6-year old voice when she was old enough to get the mail herself as she would walk into the house and say “your Mazageene is here” when she would hand me my copy of Allure or Mademoiselle. I can still see her smile the first time she saw her own face when her braces were removed after nearly 5 long years of orthodontic care. I can still hear her anger in her voice when she told me she was getting married and I said “over my dead body” and she said, “well I guess you will have to die” …OUCH that was harsh, but she was 18 and finished with school and wanted to get married and move to North Carolina, so that is exactly what she did…it’s wild.

…AND I didn’t die…I sold my house and moved in with a friend while I made some decisions and tried to navigate my own life as a woman who was not even 40 and had finished mothering, motherhood…I have friends who are 40 & 43 and who have toddlers…I had an empty nest at 36…it’s wild.

Motherhood is a different experience for every woman. Women who have partners who they love and with whom they wish to create a family are not the same kind of mothers who decide to mother alone, and are not the same kind of mothers who are forced to mother alone by a series of unfortunate events. There are also women who become mothers who probably, no, absolutely should not have, and then there are women who never get to become mothers who definitely should have...it’s wild.

Like that fantastic scene at the beginning of Forrest Gump, his mother’s words…life is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you’re going to get…Motherhood can be planned or unplanned and you still don’t know what you are going to get or how it’s going to be…you can do all the “right” things and still have complications and not-wished-for results…you can do all of the wrong things and have the easiest pregnancy and birth and the biggest baby in the nursery as I did…I did not even see a doctor until the end of October and my baby was born in January…life happens and unfolds and sometimes is fabulous and sometimes is frightful…it’s wild.

If there was ever an occupation where you are required to do the work, for 18 years at the minimum, and for which you get no pay, and very little recognition for all that you do, it’s motherhood, and nobody in their right mind would apply for a job where you are on-call 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, for, well, to be honest, 37 years now in my case, and yet day after day, women make the choice to become mothers. When my adult daughter has called me or texted me in a time of need or emergency, or, in these last 14 years walked over here, I have stopped whatever else I was doing, for her, or for her girls, every time. Never have I ever said, sorry, I’m too busy to help you. To be clear, MY mother too, never has she ever said, sorry, can’t help…never, not once ever…That is a sentence that no good mother ever really utters, ever… it’s wild.

Reveling in Irrelevance

I have become a person on the outskirts of their lives…we still live about 300 feet apart and I still see their house every time I go down the shared driveway to my own house, but I don’t see them, any of them, much at all these last months. The person who walked them to the bus stop every morning for over a decade now just sees the taillights of the Jeep going out to the street as two teenage sisters drive off to school together…

Text messages that used to say, Nana go look at the moon, or Nana how was your day, or Nana have sweet dreams, have long since ceased. They no longer need me in any measurable way, unless it’s to place an Amazon order or Venmo some money…Their mother who used to wander over to chat, or have a glass of wine or talk about the day or the weather, or them, no longer finds herself wanting to be much in my orbit anymore either…she has a very stressful job and is now dating a nice man who makes her laugh, after the last two soul-crushing years as her marriage imploded and then ended, so she is still healing and finding her own way and has her own schedule, and time-line, and I am not much in it…

That NOT being needed so much has its perks, don’t get me wrong…I hardly ever miss a yoga or fitness class anymore, ever, and if I want to go somewhere or do something, I don’t really have to check in with anybody as to whether or not I am needed elsewhere at that time… I have real freedom that many women my age don’t have. I don’t have to have a calendar tacked on my pantry with three different schedules of who-what-where. It’s not that I am sad, I expected this time would come, where the lives of these three females no longer revolves around me as their center…I was the one who got called or texted about any and all calamities over the last 14 years…falls down stairs, cuts from kitchen slips, arguments, mice, bugs, birds…Nana please come fast, Mom there is a mouse in my kitchen, Mom there is a bird in Shay’s room, Nana Shay fell on a shampoo bottle and is bleeding, Mom-Nana-Mom-Nana…and ran over I did. For almost 14 years now when they said “jump” I jumped. That was my other job.

I am only 55 years old and I have essentially completed the raising of two generations. It’s no small task, to raise a child without a husband or a partner or a second income or any of the benefits a woman gets from having a spouse, and it’s no small task to then help that adult raise her own children…but the eldest is about to go on her senior trip, and then will have her senior prom, and then will graduate from high school, and then will turn 18…in the next 11 weeks all of this will happen, and that chapter will be officially over. The child who turned my entire world upside down and opened my heart in the most inexplicable ways, will be an adult…she will vote, she will make her own decisions about her own life and future…she will not need me at all, and so I will revel in the fact that the little blonde wonder, who I might add is now the tallest of all of us, will need a ride to school for all of next year…for another year I will be needed, and for another whole year I will get to say, “do good work and be kind” as she gets out of my truck, just like I said, every single day of her life as she got on the bus…the clock is ticking in every way and I will savor what I can, when I can, in any way that I can continue to be IN some sort of relevant way, part of their world…

Muddy Waters

We all have been through some muck, right?? I mean, if you are reading this, it’s highly unlikely that you have gotten to this point in your life on this earth unscathed by upsets, disappointments, break-ups, bad habits, bad people or bad luck…I feel like even the people who seem perpetually blessed have at some time suffered in one way or another. At yoga we talk about suffering a lot, and from what I am learning, basically suffering is just all about how we look at circumstances. From a yogic perspective it seems that even in the worst of it, it is how we think about stuff more than the stuff itself. I know, I know, some stuff is very bad and very sad and very muddy, but maybe it’s possible to think of it differently, or not at all to free our minds for space to think about the present, or what is good and happy and all things NOT muddy…Getting out of muddy waters, no matter how we look at it, is not easy because sometimes it’s really more like quicksand and you are quite terrified that you actually are going to get sucked under very fast and be stuck forever. Sometimes muddy waters are really just like a puddle that ruins your shoes, not a big deal but the shoes are ruined. Other times muddy waters are like the worst drowning nightmare you could possibly have and when you rise you are shocked that you made it through. Lots of levels of mud make a life, AND it is how we think of it that makes our minds…

There is a lotus mudra we sometimes do in yoga class that is supposed to open your heart, and inevitably the teacher will make a comment about the lotus; how it manages to survive in muck and yet manages to unfurl into the sun as full and as beautiful as any flower could…we all can be like a lotus, if we want to, right?? I mean, honestly who would want to stay stuck in the mud?? BUT lots of people do, don’t they?? They let themselves get sucked back into negative self-talk, addiction, bad habits, bad characters, bad memories, bad mud. With an open mind and open heart we can fill our space with other “cleaner” things…cleaner is always better and mucky or muddy seldom, if ever, makes me happy!

Mud pies were a HUGE party of my childhood…we had a play house that my dad built just like a real house, and we “cooked” in it a lot, & mud puddles were a huge part of my teens, as we grew up at the shore and in between the ocean and the woods and everybody had big lifted trucks and we spent lots of hours in huge puddles of mud, & mud masks were a huge part of my twenties and thirties, constantly doing what I thought I could to make my face stay as wrinkle free and clear as possible, so to be honest mud has been in my life in some way for all of my life…but I am finding mid-life-mud is different…I am working, and WORKING HARD to keep space for good thoughts and push the muddy ones out when they come. By this time of life we have lived many variations of who we are and some chapters are much muckier than others and I find when I keep thinking about the muddy mucky ones they start to grow and take up too much mind space and too many minutes; mind space and minutes that would be better off thinking about spring and sunshine and flowers and finishing painting my house!!!

I know that it is nearly impossible to think happy thoughts all the time and I know that it is nearly impossible to BE PRESENT at present all the time…it’s only natural to have our minds wander and for some inexplicable reason, actually it has a name and can be explained, cognitive negativity bias is a real thing and it has to do with how adverse thoughts and experiences tend to have a more profound impact on our psychological state…meaning pretty much, even if your present tense is pretty great, your mind will keep finding its way back to when things were mucky or muddy. WHY?? Why does our mind want to keep making more space for the negative?? It is a mystery but I don’t want to dwell there. I want to give a big middle-finger “F!You” to the cognitive negativity bias and continue my efforts to keep my mind out of the mud and out of the muck and strive to focus on what is happy and joyful and fulfilling. It takes work. If we don’t do the hard work, the suffering, the way the brain pulls us back in, wins. It also takes work, SO MUCH WORK, to not absorb other people’s mud.

So many have had more mud and more muck and if you are around those people it can sometimes ooze out of them and onto you. This is sometimes the hardest part of the work. We have our own mud to contend with and don’t need yours overflowing into ours. It’s not a quick fix and saying, “just focus on the present,” is only sometimes helpful because you still have to do the job of letting the mud and the muck just flow right back out, not letting it puddle is a task in itself! Just like brushing my teeth and making my bed, I am working to make being present and being grateful for all that is good my go-to habit, giving my mind the hard truth that thinking about the muddy bits is not how it wants to waste time…I for one don’t want the mud to win…I do however still think a mud mask is always a good idea!

Love Stories

Full disclosure; there were many of years of my life (decades if I’m honest) where my greatest loves were my daughter, TaB, and Camel Lights…usually in that order, sometimes not…if you have ever raised a little girl into an adult woman you will understand how this can be true. Quitting smoking was not too hard for me, I honestly hated how my hair and fingers stunk and really found everything about it revolting, and quitting TaB was brutal but Coca Cola discontinued it & so I had no choice! I recently read a book called DRINKING; A Love Story, a memoir of a woman who comes to terms with her alcoholism and gets sober and it got me thinking about what some of my loves and habits are, or were, and how well, or not, they worked out for me. My current affairs at this moment are with exercise, crocheting, and reading, three things that I don’t think I will ever have to quit, so I guess there’s that!!!

I have enjoyed exquisite bottles of wine and high-end beverages at many different times of my life but it’s never been a “problem” in my life…by this I mean, I can take it or leave it. Here though is a fact about me that I’m not shy to share; when I was on vacation in Mexico, three years in a row, at three different adults-only all-inclusive resorts, when the bars opened at 10 in the morning, I was in fact in the pool at the bar and ready to go! It was a vacation behavior that is not part of my daily life, and never was, but it’s funny how vacation behaviors can start to ooze into daily life for many people…like after you get home and the next Saturday morning includes a bloody Mary, or a mimosa, or maybe four on the following Sunday and suddenly you takes notice, “gee, I am having morning beverages as if I’m still on vacation in Mexico, this can’t be good for me” and so it can begin, or end…fun, like a new love affair, all exciting and fresh and full of joy in the beginning, until it’s not exciting and not new and you have a splitting headache nearly every day! This author describes in great detail this kind of love story that turns bad, when she notices that a bad day of work leads to a stop at the liquor store or a bar and before she realizes it that becomes daily behavior and she starts to think about it before noon and she explains, that anyone can see that what was one day “just to relax” grows into a habit that grows into a problem, for many MANY people. Some of the A.A. stories she shares in this book are truly heartbreaking, and sad in every way, love stories gone bad…very bad.

There is no history of addiction in my family but my mother’s sweet-tooth is the only “problem” that she passed down to us and it’s a dragon my sister and I have to slay regularly. I often think that if you are an alcoholic you have to make an effort to go to a store that sells liquor, and if you are a drug addict you have to go to people and sources who provide you with drugs, both of which take effort, whereas when I go to Target for shampoo for example, right there in the check-out line, even if I ONLY WANT SHAMPOO, there are boxes and boxes and rows of rows of candy from which I can choose and without much thought and no effort whatsoever, toss a TWIX bar onto the scanner…which is sometimes pretty frustrating AND at times in my life has become a habit! The temptation is in your face everywhere you go when sugar is your demon, your “drug of choice,” whereas alcohol or drugs are not really part of a person’s daily errands unless they specifically are out looking for them. I suppose a psychiatrist would surmise that an addiction to sugar or candy is just as bad as an addiction to drugs or alcohol. Decades ago I read an article that explained that the exact same parts of the brain that get excited by cocaine are the exact same parts of the brain that get excited by plain old white sugar, so it is in fact a problem for me. When I listen to podcasts about gut health or food behaviors, the conversations about sugar and sweets are not unlike conversations about drug addiction. It’s no joke.

I know several people who used to have drinking or drug addictions and have gotten sober and completely kicked those habits and they celebrate their sobriety fully…they share details of their failures and successes, they don’t hide their past behaviors & they don’t shy away from the stories. I have learned how hard it is to be an alcoholic and a drug addict and I am not in any way diminishing their struggles by comparing it to sugar and sweets because to be honest, if you lie in bed sometimes thinking about it, it’s a problem, no matter what the “fix” is. I hate to admit it but I suspect that fighting this battle with sugar is as difficult as a “real” addiction and it’s not a competition…kicking a habit that is bad for you is hard, period, whether it’s illegal or not. I used to wonder how it was that people would get out of rehab and then be dead in days from an overdose, BUT I do now, now that I am older, and have fought my own kind of demons, I absolutely understand it…for example I bought a box of dark chocolate salted caramel Easter eggs the other day and thought, well I’ll have one-a-night as my “treat” but before the day was over, before dinner actually, they were gone…they were not very big but they were more than one bite each, and I ate all six. SOooo I DO UNDERSTAND how an alcoholic can get out of a treatment center and have a DUI the next day, or a junkie can get out of rehab and then be dead in days because, much like the lyrics from Guns N’ Roses, I used to do a little but a little wouldn’t do So the little got more and more, sugar is not really any different!

Sometimes when you really like how somebody makes you feel, you want to be with them all the time…and I guess that is how addictions start…the whole behavior/reward cycle is common knowledge is it not??!! Love stories are great when all the feelings are rewarding, but when you are irritable and uneasy all the time, there is no reward in that…breaking up with things you love is not easy and just like when you break up with someone, it’s easier to forget about them when you don’t have to see them all the time and you block their number in your cell phone…well, for me, I feel like it might come to that with sugar. If I have to order my groceries online and have them brought to my car to keep myself from going inside a store, that sounds really pathetic frankly, and weak, but if that is what I must do then so be it! When I eat clean whole food I feel better in my body and my mind in every measurable way! When I jump back on the sweet-train-o’sugar I feel restless at bed time and my sore arthritic finger hurts and my bad leg feels worse…the minutes of bliss when sugar is on my tongue is truly heavenly but the problems that come from that linger.

When I quit smoking I said, I just won’t ever buy them again, and I also said out loud one day, sitting in my truck, “today is the day I smoke my last cigarette” and it was…I guess I might have to have a “today is the day I eat my last candy bar” moment…I never think about cigarettes or alcohol…neither one of these things is a love of mine and I guess what was once a love affair for me with sugar really just simply has to end, fully…there can’t be just a bite because that becomes the whole, much like I assume an alcoholic can’t have just a sip. If there was candy in my house I would eat it, even if I knew it was bad for me and made me feel bad. That is a real problem, a real addiction. I understand that I need to modify my thoughts and my behavior if I am ever going to BEAT this thing…However, if Coca Cola EVER starts to produce TaB again, I am jumping back into that addiction with every ounce of love in me…that is, still, one of the saddest break-ups I’ve ever had and truly a love story that never let me down!

Fix Yo’ Self

I would describe myself as a peaceful and content person and mostly pleased about life in general. I guess I’m a happy person. I have had many MANY failures in this life and I suppose I have always used them to inspire changes as I am forever fond of seeking the silver linings. I used to be mad, a lot, about a lot of things. It’s only natural that once and a while I still find myself an angry woman but as I have grown into the person I am still in the process of becoming, I have found myself filled with compassion more than anger, empathy more than annoyance, understanding more than conflict…to write that I believe, TRULY BELIEVE that I am a perpetual work in progress is no joke…I am in the process of working on myself every single day…what can I do that is better than the day before?? Day after day…My list is long, like, really long…the number of things about me and my life that I am working on changing is in itself constantly changing, but I suppose being a work in progress definitely keeps one from ever feeling bored!

I can’t think when the last time was that I felt really angry or super mad. I am annoyed a lot, but that isn’t at all the same thing, that sort of rage/fury/elevated heart-rate kind of mad is just something that I don’t feel like I’ve got time for anymore. It might sound silly but it sometimes comes down to simply a quote that says something like ‘being angry at somebody is like holding a hot coal and wanting the other person’s hand to burn‘…the only person getting hurt is me, and so I have really been working on this for what feels like a really long time. I have been VERY ANGRY MANY TIMES over my decades of adulthood but to be perfectly honest, this last “event” that happened to me, happened to my life, or “The-Summer-That Must-Not-Be-Named” as I sometimes now put it, completely wore me out, and even though it’s been almost two years since the ball of anger inside of me was so intense I thought it might kill me, I have learned that holding on to all of that does me no good…it exhausted the very last of my energy, and I came out on the other side a person who feels so much more calm, more at peace with what is, accepting that I can’t make people do what I want them to do, or think like I want them to think, or change like I want them to change…no, no I cannot, BUT I CAN CHANGE MYSELF and I can change how I respond, or not, to what other people do and say.

At this stage of the game, when I feel angry, if I pause long enough to evaluate the anger, it is most of the time (other than when it is because of terrible drivers) nothing to do really with ME at all but how I am thinking about somebody else, or some situation, or some series of events or circumstances…when I try to narrow down the feelings or rate the intensity, most of the time it’s simply because of the way I am thinking about the thing, not because of the thing…it’s me, it’s always me…You see, I have come to the realization that all of us can be, would be, better off, if we just worried about the words that were going back-&-forth in between our ears. I am not writing here about ignoring things that make us furious, like the wage gap or income stagnation, or the shrinking of the ice shelf and the warming of the planet, or the mites that are decimating the bee hives, or the loopholes and laws that make corporate greed so prevalent… THESE upsetting anger inducing issues are absolutely worthy of our action and attention, but I am mostly thinking about the day-to day-moments where we find ourselves wishing for things to be other than they are, and getting annoyed by it, and I am hypothesizing that if we only worried about fixing our own selves, our own minds and habits, or bodies and our choices, cleaning up our own messes so to speak, that how we deal with ALL OF THE OTHER stuff will become remarkably easier, and I feel like we could tackle the big things better…ch-ch-ch changing the world by first working on ourselves…I used the cumulative “we” here but as always, I am pretty much thinking about myself…if I clean up my own messes by starting with how I think about stuff, I think I will be onto something!!! Some real changes and some real growth that sticks! oh boy!!

I know it will sound very hippie-dippy to some but I have to be honest with myself here at the end; learning how to breathe in yoga class over these last years has SO MUCH to do with how I now handle negative feelings, negative people, negative emotions, negative situations, and negative events…finding the magic in the breath has been life changing…the silliness in scenes of movies where a woman is in labor and some doofus is yelling, “BREATHE BREATHE” is annoying, but here’s the thing, learning how to breathe though unease or pain or discomfort or anger is empowering. There are so many techniques and forms of breathwork that make your body and your mind feel better that to not do them, to not employ them as a tool when you feel your blood start to boil, would be silly. The way that I breathe now when something annoys me is like medicine…it’s like a soothing tonic for my spirit!! Let’s hear it for the hippie-dippy breathing!! The-Summer-That Must-Not-Be-Named, terrible events of my younger years, things I wish I had said, or stopped myself from saying, oh too many things I wish I had not done… there are too many angry times to count and it turns out that none of them really matter now at all to me, the past is the past and what is over is over and what’s been done has been done…it’s just the frequency of being annoyed with drivers that I guess I have to work on now, this me that is ever improving, this updated version of this mind and this human vessel. How could I have been so angry about ____ or how did I let ____ make me so mad??? These are questions for which there are no answers. Changing can be really painful, repair and growth can be so difficult that you might find yourself thinking, “why bother?”…you hurt your shoulder painting a ceiling or you hurt your back cutting down a tree or you hurt your brain by being mad at your ____ (fill in the blank here for any person of interest that fits) the fact of the matter is that fixes can cause unease, but it’s only temporary and the improvement can last forever! Fix yourself and the whole world feels like it’s fixed might seem too easy and simplified, but I am trying it out and liking it so far, a lot.

Womb to Tomb

Patti Smith, inarguably one of the coolest rock chicks of all time, recently lost a beloved friend and wrote; grief is not an affliction, it is a privilegeand I found it so moving and timely…this was just days before my father was turning 81 and I had been thinking, too much probably, about the future, and more specifically the depth of grief I will be suffering, sometime… It seems I have been dealing with something called Anticipatory Grief. It’s real, and basically means being sad about something that has not even happened, yet, but that I know is going to happen, eventually, and it makes me feel sad, and frankly overwhelmed, and I get upset and sometimes even will cry, as if I were suffering literal grief, but am actually just thinking about it! It’s terrible, and a waste of energy but it exists and I am experiencing it, often, these last months.

I am WELL aware that many people my age don’t even have parents anymore but I am struggling, if I think too often about it, with how I will go on living in a world without my dad and mom in it…I guess that is why keeping oneself immersed in the present tense is the best way to have a peaceful life!! Don’t worry about what will eventually happen, and don’t dwell on what has already happened, right??!! Also, it’s time to note that our family motto is “tomorrow you could be run over by a pie wagon” so it is also possible, because ANYTHING is possible, that I could very well die before my parents do! That would be easier on my suffering, but I feel pretty sure that it would make my granddaughters suffer mightily, so I shall not wish for one way or the other, because all of it will happen, but has not happened yet

It seems so silly, I mean if we are alive we all die, eventually, we all know this, but I suppose because I have had so little experience with death I am now scared because it is coming. I am not at all afraid of death or dying, I am afraid of losing people I love, & they are not at all the same emotions or feelings. It started in November when my beloved aunt took a terrible fall and cracked her head and was lucky that it did not kill her…but seeing how hard her recovery has been, from an unexpected fall, really threw me for a loop. I have always said she was like or second mom, so losing her is in my mix of future worry too, and then last month an older gentleman who I really liked, a lot, the dear companion to one of my clients, took a fall and died from complications a week later, and it all happened so fast and I suppose made my thoughts about losing my family the front and center of my musings…perhaps if it were sunny and 87 degrees I would not be having such dark and gray thoughts these last weeks!!! That’s it, I will blame the weather!!!

…But back to my point…I was thinking a lot this last week about how lucky I have been to have family like I do…if you follow my blog or have ever read other essays, you will know that we are a family that does not agree on very much, at all, BUT the things we do agree on are sufficient to keep us having good and friendly relationships and frequent interactions. I talk to my mom and my sister and my aunt almost every single day and I see my family at least once a week or more, we are all fully IN each other’s lives. We don’t talk about that which divides us, period. I have two degrees in feminist theory/women’s history and criminal justice, I am the single blue M&M in a bag of only red candy if you get my drift, but there is no yelling or arguing like in some families or like in the movies…I do me and they do them, and we just find a way to get along. We do not listen to the same talk radio station and we do not watch the same news channels, and we are of opposite opinions about most subjects, but we find a way to have common ground and that really is a privilege isn’t it??!! I love my family very much and they provided me with one of the best childhoods of pretty much most all the people I know, and continue to be good to me, to my daughter, to my granddaughters…it is undeniably hard sometimes, to know that what they think is so different from what I think, and how completely and utterly impossible it is for me to comprehend, but then I remind myself that they probably feel EXACTLY the same way about me!!! “How could we have raised someone who thinks like she does??!!” is probably EXACTLY what goes on in their minds!!! My dad, my mom, and my aunt & sister all probably think this every day! Tit for Tat!!!

Over the last seven or so years I know so many friends who have lost friends, and family members who have stopped seeing or speaking to one another because they have such different opinions about so many things. It’s true that the orange president we got for those four years was one I never wanted and certainly did not vote for, but he was one my family did want and did vote for…not begrudgingly, like they actually liked him and supported him, AND still do (I know) which was actually very hard for me to deal with, in too many ways to mention…that he was such a gruesomely terrible public speaker was only one of the countless things that I loathed about him, and when it became abundantly clear to me that what I read, and heard, and watched was completely different from what my family read and heard and watched, I had to make a choice, and my choice was to find common ground and stick with that. I used bold lettering here because it is part of my past, my present, and my future. I will stick with common ground for as long as I live. I literally chose love; the love I had for my family was bigger than any issue or circumstances or period of time…I was not going to let their flags and bumper stickers and autographed postcards and hats (seriously, yes it’s true) ruin the otherwise good relationship I had with all of them. I cared too much about how much I loved them and how much they loved me to let anything divide us…from womb to tomb they are my family and I have never once, not even for a day, felt unloved, in my entire life…what a privilege to have ALWAYS KNOWN I WAS LOVED…I could have been born to some real loser/out of work-abusive-angry-in debt-alcoholic family, but I wasn’t, and for that I am lucky, and I know I am lucky, and continue to feel grateful for all they have done, and continue to do, for me…The older I get the fewer friends I have who have any family at all & I don’t take it for granted. They can tell me the sky is green, and that purple is the worst color in the world, and that my silver roof is stupid, and that my house and daughter are ugly, and that my job is meaningless, and I would still love them and want to have a relationship with them…what I mean is that I made a choice to NOT LET ANYTHING ruin what I had with them. Womb to Tomb commitment to love.

I went to see my dad on his birthday and to deliver the homemade macaroons I make for him. He looked like he always looks, in his work clothes (11 years after retirement) happy with a smile, and busy in his garage working on some sort of project, build, repair, or tinkering. On this particular morning he was rebuilding the pump on his log splitter and also working on the design for a head and foot-board modification on pieces that I got for free from a friend’s storage unit and that we want to make fit with my current bed (which he made for me in 1999) He is one of the happiest and most content men you will ever meet and I have never, not once EVER, gone to my mom and dad’s house and found my father sitting in front of a television! He stays busy from the moment he wakes up until it is time to sit and watch some news after dinner…surely this is where I get my work ethic and energy from!!! My mom too, always cheerful and chipper and running errands or reading a book or working at her desk…When I arrived with the cookies they were their usual smiling selves and greeted me warmly and while I am sure they have ZERO interest in my sculpt and strength workout that morning, they let me blabber on about how much I love that class, and while I am sure they have ZERO interest in, well, probably most of the stuff I say when I am with them, they act like they are interested in my life and that is one of the biggest ways that they love me. It is a privilege to be their daughter and the grief that I will eventually feel might very well kill me, but it’s not today, it was not yesterday, and so that is it I guess…I just “press on” as my mom says and keep “making plenty of deposits in my karmic bank” as my dad says…I guess it’s just the circle of life that none of us can do anything about, womb to tomb in a big round circle and some circles last a few years and some last a century…time will tell…they are my people and I am part of their world, no matter what kind of flags they fly.

Outside, Inside, and UpSideDown

A few Saturdays ago I came home from a hot-power-yoga class and felt stronger than I had felt in decades. I was literally tingling from my head to my toes. The way that my brain chemicals delight me in and after that class is something that I do not have the vocabulary to describe; it could be the endorphins are so powerful that I lose the ability to think about words, but the description that people often use about a “runner’s high” seems perfect to describe the hot-power-yoga class thrill. That my Saturday morning yoga teacher is the same age as my daughter, and yet she thinks I’m pretty cool (at least she tells me so) and doesn’t make me feel like an old-lady-middle-aged-just somebody’s mom taking up mat space in her very popular class, makes me feel pretty fabulous every Saturday in and of itself, that I am mostly able to keep up with the younger or mad-fit folks who attend is like icing on cake! My granddaughter one day said to me, “Nana there are women your age who can’t even touch their toes” when I was talking about this particular class and how it makes me feel, and I thought, well, I have a long way to go but she’s not wrong!!! …and so the point of my story is that I walked into my house after class that Saturday and decided to get over (no pun intended) right that second, my fear of going upside down.

You see, years ago, shortly after I started taking yoga classes, I bought a “feet up trainer” which is basically a short chair with a hole in the seat and a wide leg base and it is designed to help strengthen the abs and the core and to assist your practice by going upside down into any sort of inversion but gives you the stability of not putting pressure on your neck and having your shoulders supported. I guess it is basically made so that you are less likely to fall over, or fall down, into a back bend or, worse, a back break, and the gist of this is that one is less likely to be injured when one is using this trainer to go into headstands. However, despite watching many instructional videos over many years I had not yet tried it!!! I had been, since its arrival to my door, too chicken! For people who fly right up into headstands or handstands or who with incredible strength and control slowly lift into them, they might think I am ridiculous, but chicken I was!! Both of my granddaughters went right upside down the day I showed it to them, but for some reason, as noted above, I was scared…so the long story short, which you might know is hard for me, to make a story short, is that I had been too frightened of getting injured to use my bench, but THAT Saturday I felt so strong and so capable and so awesome that I went right upstairs into my loft and got out my bench and went right into a headstand!!! The joy that I felt, upside down, was indescribable!! It made me feel like a kid!! AND it made me decide right at that moment, that every single day I was going to practice going upside down to get my core stronger and my heart stronger and, if the hype has any truth in it, my face looking younger over time from extra blood flow! Every single day since that Saturday afternoon I have gone into a headstand and every single time I am finished with being inverted I feel stronger and am no longer scared at all.

Feelings of being strong, both in my mind and my body, are EXTREMELY important to me at this time. On August 24th, 37 years after one of the saddest days of my life, I said to myself, “I have had 37 years since the worst time of my life and I don’t likely have 37 years left of life, so whatever I want to change I need to change now” Making my inside and my outside stronger, in ALL ways and better in ALL ways, and more in line with who I feel I am in EVERY way at this stage of my life has become a priority and so for the last five months it has been my focus and some days, if I’m being honest, all I think about…I just want to keep this momentum going and the only way to get to where I want to be is to make small efforts every day to get there…there is no other way. Deliberately changing-up or breaking-up with old habits that no longer serve me well, or will help me to achieve my goals, is real work. Like the old tv commercial “saying it and doing it are two different things” which I think was for a learning center offering tutoring for teenagers, and it turns out that the words are applicable for middle aged ladies too! I can’t rub a lamp to conjure a genie, I don’t have the means to hire a chef or a trainer, I can’t wiggle my nose like BeWitched, and I can’t wave a magic wand to “POOF!” make myself and my life the way I want it to be…all that I have is the desire to make better choices and change myself in small but measurable ways, day after day after day…

Where I wanted to “be” at this stage of life, and where I found myself, as I reflected upon all of this at the end of the summer, was not the same, and so changing my thoughts and actions is the only way to get THERE from WHERE I was, and it has at times been a really difficult challenge…my progress is slow, but it is progress nevertheless. It is not only how I look or how I feel or if I think I’ve accomplished some goal. It is, to sum it all up, my NEED to have alignment of my thoughts, my actions, my inside and my outside. I still struggle with a sugar addiction from time to time, and I still ate too many (WAY too many) of my family favorite orange rolls at Thanksgiving and Christmas, but giving up alcohol has proven to be very easy for me, and eating cleaner has been expensive but not at all difficult, and kicking my excessive shopping for things I don’t actually need and really can’t afford has been easier than I expected as I simply don’t go to Target and when I am on Amazon I put things in my cart and then turn off my computer!!! Changing a little bit every day is still change!

As we moved into a new year I still felt that I needed to do more or try more things and so I had my first acupuncture session last week. I didn’t know what to expect and didn’t google it either because I didn’t want to see the needles or see any sort of video of how the needles go in. I have no pain, I have no chronic illness, I take no medicines, I have no disease, but what I do have is a desire to be a better version of THIS, this vessel that is my current human body and all its parts. From what I read, acupuncture is an ancient tool for moving energy through the human body or to address needs of certain parts of the body, and in my thought process, if I have felt “off” or stuck (well, I guess to be brutally honest with myself, for 37 years) moving some energy more efficiently through my body seemed like a reasonable thing to try. One of my yoga teachers calls it “stuckness” when we hold onto feelings or memories or anger or regret or sorrow or well ANYTHING I suppose that we are holding onto inside, when we could just release the stuckness and move on…I told the needle lady about this, that I wanted to get rid of any blockages inside of me that were jamming up my changes…I said to her, “like if I was on I95 trying to get from Florida to Maine and I want to just blow right on through.” She totally “got me” and said that I was in the right place. She covered my eyes with a lavender pillow, she warmed up a blanket under me and started…I did not count but the needles started in my left ear and went down my left arm to my left foot and up my right side and then she told me to just relax and that the energy do its thing. I just let the feelings wash over me, of strength and change and openness and repeated to myself that I wanted what was stuck to get out…I think I must have fallen asleep but I don’t know for sure. Frankly after it was over I felt just fine but no better and no different, but I also know that stuckness does not flow after one hour when it has been in me for 37 years, so I know it might take time and I am okay with that. At least I made the effort…

I find myself sitting here at my desk ready this morning noticing that I will be turning my calendar to the next page in a couple of days and will start another month. Another month of trying to do better and trying to be better. Another month of making choices that support my wellness and my stability. Another month of thinking before I act, before I eat, before I speak. Another month of modifying behaviors that get me nearer to my goals. I already have a strong work ethic and I already exercise at least six times a week and I have a physical job, so there is not much to change there, only to improve, and I suppose if you are already accomplished at clean eating, diligent at meditating, maintain a non-negotiable fitness regimen, have no unease about your financial stability, and your relationship is solid, all this is just jibber-jabber about nothing to you, but to me, it’s pretty much everything right now! AND regardless of how long it takes me to get to the point where clean eating is common place and not something I have to think about, and meditating is daily rather than occasionally, and miraculously my finances and relationships become more stable, rather than the most worrisome aspects of my life, the fact of the matter is that I now can contemplate these inside and outside things while UpSideDown, with my feet over my head, and with visions of stuck-ness flying right out of the tips of my toes! (which, in case you wondered, in my mind’s eye, I visualize as stars…shiny, glittery, stars...)

Burning Love

I have been thinking of Priscilla Presley too much these last couple of days. Lifestyles of the rich and famous really can be far more traumatic than any kind of ordinary financially-struggling-working person. Sure, I often think that if I had more money everything would be easier, but thinking this weekend about ELVIS and his family, I think it’s not true at all. I feel like my level of contentment with my life and the wellness of my loved ones at this moment is such that Priscilla would trade with me in a flash if it could rid her of her anguish. It’s a big burning love, motherhood. It’s often messy, and sometimes angry and uncomfortable, and occasionally overwhelmingly disappointing…the flip side is that it is sometimes perfection, and pure unimaginable joy, and like everything else about being alive, it has its ups and downs.

22 hours or so from now, my “baby” is another year closer to 40 than 30…and I was thinking this morning, whether you are 37 weeks pregnant and patiently waiting for your whole life to change with this birth, or your toddler is 37 weeks old and you are waiting patiently for the terrible twos to finally be over because nobody told you about the terrible threes, or you are the mother of a 37 year-old elementary school teacher and patiently waiting for her life to get easier after her recent divorce, the FEELING is the same…the burning love is imprinted on your heart once you find out you are pregnant and you commit to the choice to carry a pregnancy and decide that you are going to become a mother. From that moment on, the moment you make that choice, there is a before and an after of every single part of your life…

Whether you birth a baby, adopt a child, or have a surrogate carry and grow one for you, once you are a mother, however you have come to the title, you can’t go back to being anything else. Even if you want to put yourself first, it’s impossible, because this other person, or these other people are now the most important people in the world, and every one of their needs is more important than yours…at least this has been my experience of life. Once I heard my sister quietly say “it’s a girl” I knew that the girl I once was was forever to be put on the back burner while I took care of this pink hatted bundle the nurse handed to me…how it has been 37 years seems impossible, but it is so…

When my daughter was four-years old, and my life was very hard, and not very happy, I was at work one day and a very wealthy and well known local restaurant owner came in to the gallery. My boss and I nodded to each other and we greeted her warmly as we had not seen her in many months. She used to be a “regular,” but had recently suffered the death from brain cancer of her little girl, who was the exact same age as my little girl. I had written this woman a note of sympathy and mailed it when I had heard the news but this was the first time I had seen her since the child had died, and I was teary and uncertain if I would accidentally say the wrong thing, so instead I walked up to her and reached for her hand and looked her in the eye and told her how very sad I was for her sadness…At that moment, looking into her eyes…she was beautiful and blonde and rich and “famous” on the little island where I worked, and she had EVERYTHING a 22 year-old struggling, single working-mom, college student could want to be very happy…BUT one thing…it was a moment of such clarity for me, the realization that at that moment, I had a healthy vibrant four-year old little girl and pretty much nothing else, and she had everything but not a healthy little girl…

I want to say that I was forever changed that day, and in many ways I was…I still suffered from envy (my worst character flaw, but we won’t talk about that today) over the years; girlfriends who got married to successful men who provided them with a bigger and better life than I had, women who were able to achieve their dream jobs that I was unable to attain, vacations people got to go on, silly stuff I guess, looking back on it all …but the one thing that always was in the back of my mind, and is to this day, was that that woman, all those years ago, in her fine clothes, with her flawless and huge diamond ring, and her expensive European car, and her handsome husband, and upscale restaurant, would have gladly given up ALL of what she had, to have the one thing that I did…

It’s a burning love, the love for a child, whether it’s a wee one or an adult, and the desire to protect and nurture and cheer-on never wanes…this daughter of mine, the woman next door, this mother of my granddaughters, is a big love that I have always felt so deeply, and yet never could put into words, even now, as I suppose is the case with all mothers; we feel it, but we can’t explain it…On this morning, the day before my daughter’s birthday, I can’t help but think about the restaurant lady, and Priscilla, and these women who had the riches and the luxury and all the goods for a good life, and yet today, with my daughter as my next door neighbor and my friend, with her good health and good looks and good job, and healthy beautiful children of her own, I can’t help but feel like I’m the richest woman in the world.

The Great Escape

I don’t remember being read to and I don’t remember learning to read but I do remember, vividly, the moment that reading grabbed me…I was in my big brass bed, with the purple bed spread (of course) with a mound of pillows propped and stuffed under my head and neck (still my position of choice) and I think I was about 8 years old, and I was reading a hardcover book called The Secret Garden. It was my first “big girl book” with chapters…I got to the lines about the “mysterious moaning in the night” AND I WAS HOOKED. I can’t remember what I thought, but I absolutely remember what I felt…my heart rate was up and my fingers were tense as I held that book to my nose and I would not want to stop reading until I found out what the sound was and from where it was coming…AND later, the moment when Mary is out in the yard and feels through the vines and flowers and realizes that she is standing at a door, not a wall, and turns the knob to discover the garden!!! I still get goosebumps when I think about it (and I read it again in college and the excitement was still there) maybe it was my first realization that magic did exist and that I had found it in a book. I discovered at a young age (maybe I was 7? maybe my mom will know?) that READING IS THE GREAT ESCAPE!

The total number of nights of my life that I have not read before bed could probably easily be counted by a toddler learning to count. It is a very VERY rare occurrence for me to not read at night. Reading at bed time is the best form of sleep-aid that could ever be invented, in my ever so humble opinion, but there is a method to it; the moment the sensation of sleep hits you, you must put the book down and turn off the light, for if you try to push through it, because you want to keep reading, your sleep will neither be restorative nor deep. I know this to be true and have plenty of data to support this theory! When you are reading you can’t think about the snarky comment your boss made to you at work yesterday, when you are reading you can’t think about the jerky lady in line Sunday at Target who turned out to be parked right next to you, crookedly no less, and then did not put her cart back, when you are reading you can’t think about the fact that your property taxes, homeowner’s insurance, and car insurance are all due in February which is your poorest month of the year, and when you are reading you can’t think about your marriage, your aging parents, your kids, your finances, or ANYTHING AT ALL…your eyes look at the letters and your brain joins the letters into words and those words make sentences and tell you a story, a tale, and weave a web of wonderment right in front of your face, in real time. It’s absolutely a form of magic. If fiction is not appealing to you, there are plenty of books where the words make sentences that tell you about a person, a place, an event, or a thing.

There is a quote by James Michener that I adore, “I love the swirl and swing of words as they tangle with human emotions” and I sometimes wonder, how people can LIVE if they don’t read??!! I don’t mean the great tragedy of illiteracy, but I mean people who do not like to read but can, and I feel like they probably think of me “well how can she not like to water ski?!” the way that I wonder how can they not enjoy the pleasure of reading! I know, I know, everybody is different, some people like Wonder Bread and Breyers vanilla, and some people have their sourdough rounds shipped from Boudin Bakery in San Francisco and only eat Jeni’s small batch ice cream…we all have tastes, desires, and habits that are different from each other, but here is part of what makes reading magically universal…when a story is extraordinary and you are talking to somebody who has also read the same book, the excitement of discussing the events that took place feel like YOU EXPERIENCED all of it…reading brings you into a world, a place, a time period, and a sensation of being not where you are in your life, if that makes sense??!!

In the winter of 1992 I read a book that was the greatest escape of my life and remains one of my favorite books I have ever read. Outlander by Diana Gabaldon took me away from my life for three days…I was a single working mom and a college student. I had a charming little cedar house to rent and a charming little crooked toothed daughter to raise and was going to community college at nights after work so I could transfer to a four-year-school, and I worked at a fantastic gallery filled with beautiful objects and I had a wonderful life, but it was not an easy life…that winter my boss decided to close for a few weeks and I had an unexpected paid vacation so to speak…six weeks where I could be a stay at home mom/get her off the bus mom/make her dinner and eat with her at the dining room table every night mom/a joyfully cleaned all day mom/a do something fun on the weekend mom because I was able to collect unemployment for those six weeks that winter when the gallery closed…and Outlander by Diana Gabaldon arrived for me at the library and I started it, and then I read and read and read until it was finished…I found myself NOT in my little cedar house and I found myself NOT in the throes of new semester assignments and I found myself NOT a single mom hoping to finally someday, somehow, meet a handsome and interesting man to color my world…this story sucked me into one of the greatest escapes of my life…I could see the highlands of Scotland and I could feel the cold damp wind on my skin and I could see Jamie as clear as day…in my mind’s eye I imagined every inch of him and his voice and his skin and his hands and I could feel the wool on my fingers if I closed my eyes…I have since told every person I ever talked reading with about those glorious hours of reading, and that glorious magical love story of fiction, and an author who completely invited me to escape my life, for many hours over three days…

In the winter, or during times of unease, there is nothing wrong with escaping your life, and unlike alcohol or drugs, THIS kind of behavior is good for your brain. I’ll leave you with this message on this cold January morning; if seasonal blues have got you feeling bluer than usual, if after Christmas finances have you more worried than usual, if sickness and diagnoses or infirmity of any sort has got you feeling bewildered or empty or uneasy, I promise you, pick up a book tonight at bedtime and start reading…you will escape from your disquiet and discontent, whatever vexes you, just sort of disappears when you have your nose in a book and you let yourself GO IN…I believe that it’s better than any sleep medication or anti-depressant ever invented through science…I promise, you’ll thank me and then once you experience the magic, you’ll thank yourself…Once Upon A Time

Best Friends, Leading Ladies, Main Characters, and Extras…

I have been a best friend, I have been a nobody, an extra really, on the periphery of excitement or celebrations that other people experience, I have been the leading lady in big events and situations, and I have been a main character in somebody else’s tale…I have been, and am, a variety of versions of myself. I am likely to write about the whole “New Year New Me” mindset as I have just hung my new wall calendar (so old fashioned, I know) I know it might sound juvenile, but I do truly live one life inside of my own head and one life outside, amongst others, in the real world, and both are equally important to me. By this I mean that I have a non-stop narrative going on in my head all the time as hours roll into days and days into months and months into decades…like a movie that always plays in the background while I go about the business of being alive, and sometimes the “in my brain” world jives with my “in the flesh” world. Does everybody do this? Does everybody have an entire reality in their minds that is different than the experiences they are living in real time?? I was sort of hesitant to discuss this, for a mild fear, concern perhaps, that maybe I am insane and have managed to hide it significantly enough over the years to stay under the radar of padded-room attendants! I suppose what I am wondering is if it is “normal?” …and to be clear I don’t know that I even care if I am normal, which seems like it would be rather ordinary and I feel pretty much like that could be terribly boring…but still I ask, is it normal to have life that goes on day-after-day in real time with real people, and have an EQUALLY IMPORTANT LIFE that goes on, at the same time, but only in my head?? …AND truth be told, I do, more often than not, prefer the one in my head to the real one…

I am not fond of making “resolutions” as such for a new year because as we all know, and have read and heard, they generally motivate behavior for a few weeks at most and then people, most people, go right back to their easy and normal and regular way of life or habits. Change is not easy. Change that makes us uncomfortable is even harder. Getting rid of bad habits is a habit in and of itself because you have to be diligent in your efforts to modify your behavior, and your way of thinking about it, consistently and continuously or there is no success. You have to, if you want to change ANYTHING, essentially rewrite your character. Whether your character is the extra, the leading lady, the friend, the hero, or even the villain, the role HAS TO BE REWRITTEN if the character is going to change. The leading lady and the main character of your story is not a smoker. The hero of your story is not a dead-beat-dad. The extra in your story does not secretly go through the drive-thru and then throw out all the wrappers in the public garbage can. The main character of your story does not cheat on his wife, the main character does not gamble away her social security, the main character is not a couch potato…WHATEVER role you want to change, however the behavior needs to be modified to make the part more appealing to you, or more in keeping with how you imagine the rest of the story is going to unfold, can only be created by you, for you. This is where my head is on this day, as one year ends and another starts.

In August I made many changes and decisions, and decisions to change, as my November birthday was nearing and much like I pay my property taxes every quarter, I also try to check-in with my body and mind and life every quarter as well. I have concluded that the intentions that I created as summer was ending are good, and they feel right, and I am going to keep them, and add more, for the new year. This is not a resolution necessarily but it is acknowledging that I have resolved some conflicts in my life and will move forward in ways that keep the momentum. I suppose that is the best way I can start a new year; taking what DID work, and rolling it into the year ahead while recognizing what did NOT work and leaving it behind. Changing, changing, changing, and growing, growing, growing, seems, to me at least, the best way to be the best role of me I can perform.

I know a lot of people who do not change and do not want to change and even if they say, repeatedly that they will change or things will change, nothing does. There is nothing I can do about the roles that other people play or how they choose to modify or solidify their character’s traits in their own stories. I have been terribly disappointed by some of the extras in my life and have also been surprisingly delighted by how some events unfolded but all of these experiences, the good and the bad, were the experiences of other people and I was just an extra in their story too…it goes both ways. I have accepted that I can’t fix anything about other people AND can’t keep thinking about it…if it has nothing to actually do with me; if my main character is neither directly damaged by, nor personally inconvenienced by it, then the main character does not need to waste another minute thinking about it…what the extras are doing has nothing to do with me…If that is not a good “resolution” then I don’t know what is!!!

Turning 55 turned something on in me that I was not expecting, a fire, a drive, a desire to rewrite some portions of this role and so far I am loving the editing process. My dad’s parents both lived to be nearly 100 and my mom’s parents lived into their 80’s so I feel like I am genetically lucky and likely to have at least two decades, and probably more, of life to live and I can do so much, and change so much, and experience so much still!!! I know people my age who had parents die in their late fifties and early sixties, so for them, it’s possible that The End is near and so maybe they lack the desire to change anything and are in the “why bother” mode of their story. I can’t know what they are thinking and not to sound harsh, but I no longer care. I spent a lot of time with a lot of people over my life, trying to write my part into THEIR story and that benefits me in ZERO ways.

I am at an age now where my part is the only role that I need to worry about and everybody else has to worry about their own parts…where they are on the stage of their own play…does their character have lots of flaws or only a few, is their character likable or deplorable…does their character have traits of a heroine or a victim, will the character save the day…will the character save their self…so many parts being played in so many different stories. Life is a little like reading a book or watching a play, we are IN it and OUT of it depending on how deeply we are paying attention. For the time that is left of my life, I want to focus on my role, my character’s dreams yet to be fulfilled or regrets that she is going to leave behind her, and how she is going to be better able to mingle and mix and match with all of the other characters in her story. I suppose for my “resolution” if I get to a part or a scene that feels off, or my character finds herself in a situation that I would never have written for her, I want to have the confidence to re-write…CUT!! change some stage direction and dialogue!!!

‘Tis true, life does not come with a delete or backspace key. There is no giant pink eraser…like on an elementary school essay, erasing sentences when you realize you can write something in a completely different way and your paragraph will be better! The story of what has been our lives can’t be wiped off like some ridiculous brainstorming ideas in a conference on a giant white board…BUT every single minute the way the story, your story, will end, can be changed. “You’re supposed to be the Leading Lady of your own life for god’s sake!!!” is a line from a beloved holiday movie, called The Holiday, that I watch at least once every December, and that scene always gets to me rewind, and this month got to me in a bigger way than usual…it made me feel like I wanted to put a little more zhuzh in my world, and in any way that I saw fit, and so I will. This is my invitation to you too, gentle reader, dear friend, curious stranger…if your character feels like it’s wanting, something is missing, there is some sort of misfire going on, well, maybe your story also needs some zhuzh!!! Go ahead, start a fresh chapter in this new year for yourself…see how it goes and edit where needed…Next act, Scene I…it is dark (we hear a rooster crow and the rain drizzling) she is sitting at her desk with a look of contemplation on her face (perplexed) as she works at her computer, she takes a pause (breathes deep in through her nose, out through her nose) she looks to her right and slowly smiles as she sees the tiny sliver of sun begin to rise behind the cedar trees…ACTION!