Wednesday, June 29, 2011

iPhones and Margaritas

The first iPhone came out four years ago.
Hard to believe it's only been four years.
And I, a proud iPhone owner, ever since.
A gift from my parents for my 35th birthday.

Since then, I've replaced it once (after it took a swim in the toilet) and upgraded it once (to the 3GS). I've been holding onto this one until the new 5 comes out, and don't mind saying that I've done a swell job of keeping it away from water (especially after ingesting multiple margaritas) and in it's protective case.

The case is something, isn't it? The new iPhones are so much slimmer than the first ones were four years ago. Artistic and futuristic in design - slim, shiny, with rounded corners. Fits into the back pocket of your jeans just perfectly (hence the drop into the toilet). Then you go and put a clunky, plastic cover on it to keep it pristine. To protect it from falls on the concrete, scratches from the car keys in your purse (mind you, they have not come out with a fully waterproof option. Yet. ). But I digress...

The iPhone/Toilet Fiasco, as I affectionately refer to it, went something like this:

I have had a few (3) margaritas. I'm free to admit that, as a card-carrying member of the 21+ set. It's a Saturday night. I'm not driving. Anyway, my new iPhone is resting comfortably in the back pocket of my Lucky brand jeans. I run to the bathroom to, well, to return some of the margaritas, and..."Ker-Plunk" - my phone drops into the toilet before I even have a chance to sit down.

I scream.

Being a brand new device, I was not yet aware that kitty litter might be my saving grace (and even if I'd had this tidbit of knowledge, I don't own a cat...). Fast forward to the following morning...

Head down, tail between my legs, I sulk into the Apple store and, surrounded by co-eds, wait my turn. My Genius comes over and asks me how he can help me. I hold out my phone, and as he is about to take it from me, I mumble something about dropping it into the toilet. He withdraws his hand like it has just been lit on fire.

"Umm..okay," he says to me, "Was the toilet? When you, uhh...dropped it?

"NO." This very enthusiastically. Proud, almost. Whew! I think.

The throng of college students turns and looks, horrifically, in my direction. Genius takes the phone gingerly between his thumb and forefinger, holding it out in front of him like a piece of moldy cheese (I did say, "no" there was nothing in the toilet, didn't I?)

He asks me to have a seat on the stool and wait just a moment while he tests the phone.

A few moments later he is back. Takes the stool next to mine, scoots it closer. Takes my hands in his. "It doesn't look good."

I am reminded of a scene from E.R. We lost the patient (in this case, my iPhone), and had it quickly replaced (as is possible with electronic devices).

But I digress...

It's been four years since the first iPhone. Much has changed since then. Not just for Apple, but for me, as well. (But I will not digress again.) I'm still loyal to the brand. Without my iPhone I would be lost (quite literally sometimes, without mapquest). More than a phone, it's my address book, my connection to my friends, and most importantly, my kids. It's my photo album, music player, video maker and player, my social media touchpoint (I post and tweet almost exclusively from it), my calorie counter, my shopping list keeper...I could go on (I won't).

If it would only clean the house. But maybe there's an app for that.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Tiny Hypocrisies .... Big Truths has a call out for essays on the topic: Tiny Hypocrisies.

Got one?

I certainly do. The "tiny" part, I'm not so sure of...but the Hypocrisy's true enough. One in particular. But damn, do I struggle with the truth. Only as a writer, mind you.

I pride myself on being a very honest person. Maybe that's because I don't lie well (not since I was sixteen, anyway...I had a knack for it back then). My hands get clammy, my face turns red, I stutter...If I could lie well, I have to admit that I wouldn't be so honest. See? There I go again!

But I digress. Truth is the crux of a writer's world. Truth is what makes the words come alive, the emotions jump off the's what gives our essays and stories soul.

And here is my struggle: as a writer, how much do I reveal? Some writers are just so good at it (Chris Cleave comes to mind). Some writers can throw down the deepest, darkest secrets with such...confidence (Jean Whatley comes to mind) that it can not be denied. You don't read writing like that and think, "Can you believe that? Where are that woman's morals for God's sake!"

Why is it that I am always checking this moral compass of mine? If it's not pointing due North, if I've told even the tiniest of white lies, I can't so much as look in the mirror. What the hell is that?



But again, I digress. One of my college writing instructors (Steve Lattimore) once told me that the best stories are ones where the writer puts the protagonist up in a tree, throws rocks at him, and then gets him down. Well, in this "tiny hypocrisy" I am the protagonist. I certainly found myself up in a tree. And the rocks? They hurt.

But what Prof. Lattimore didn't tell me, was what happens to the protagonist once he climbs down from that tree. Do all the other people in all the other trees look down on him for having gotten himself up there in the first place? Should I care? As my grandmother used to say (I imagine she still might, if the situation called for it), "Pobody's Nerfect."

Pobody's Nerfect. There ya go.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Happy Father's Day...In Honor of My Dad

This Father’s Day, I’m posting my first published essay, “True Measure of a Man,” in honor of my dad (that's him in the picture, teaching me how to sail). This was published in the June 2007 issue of Hot Psychology (a now-defunct, online magazine). It was a really proud moment for me during a very difficult time in my life.
Thanks Dad. For providing the inspiration that started it all, and giving me a very bright moment during a mostly otherwise dark time.
I’ve been writing (and occasionally publishing) essays and articles since this one back in 2007, so I’ve learned a thing or two. The editor in me wants desperately to take a red sharpie to this piece, to cut, refine and polish. But I will resist that urge. Because even with the extra words, and sometimes too-long sentences, the emotion is there. And that, I think, is what’s important. So I ask you, reader, to forgive me my grammatical errors, long-windedness and journalistic faux pas and just…enjoy the read.

In “Measure of a Man,” Sidney Poitier describes a man who is aware of his heritage, connected to his roots, hungry for what lies ahead, disciplined, struggling, never taking short cuts, stubborn, defensive and proud, with deeply-seated morals that he will under no circumstances forgo. Not once does he say that you can measure a man by the broadness of his shoulders, the fierceness in his tone, the words he chooses to cut others to the quick. A man cannot be measured by his bank account, or by the size of his house. His power does not lie in the number of cylinders in the car he drives, or in the number of people who will concede to his wishes.
So what is a man? And how can I raise my sons, nine and seven, to be the kind of man Sidney describes so very simply, yet with such conviction in his latest book. I am a woman and a mom, but I know a man of immense measure.
My father is tall and thin. He never lifted weights, doesn’t drive a Hemi. Works with computers, loves math, savors a good book and would choose a glass of port the size of a thimble over a 12oz Budweiser. But I can guarantee you that he is as much a man – more maybe - as any tough guy in a tank top or hot rod. How do I know this? It is not in the set of his shoulders or in the strength of his arms. It is not in the firm discipline of my youth.
The measure of this man – my father – is as deep as the love reflected in his clear, brown eyes. I know it just as I know that if I close my eyes I can see his hands, peppered with freckles. Feel the strength and warmth of his fingers, strong and kind, closing over mine. His measure is in his actions. It is in his quiet understanding of my need to make mistakes and learn from them, and his constant belief in my dreams. It is in the almost imperceptible nod of his head when he hears of a job well done.
It is in each memory made between us – father and daughter.
I am four years old. The first notes of ‘My Girl’ flow from the radio and I dash across the room to Daddy, step onto his polished shoes and he twirls me around the room singing the words. “What can make me feel this way? My Girl,” he sings to me. I am his dance partner – His girl.
I am a seven year old beauty operator, my favorite customer in the chair before me. Dad sits tall and quiet while I ‘cut’ and style his hair. “What color would you like today, sir?” I ask him. “Hmmm,” he says in a serious tone, “I think I’ll try green this time.” I erupt in a fit of giggles and proceed to ‘wash and color’ his locks.
I am an eleven year old pre-teen, angry and confused. I have skipped school and am now at my father’s apartment, facing my sentence. He sits on the floor, a partly-finished puzzle laid out on the coffee table before him. He does not scold or discipline, but explains gently, as we fit the pieces in, one by one, why sometimes moms and dads just can’t live together.
I am a fourteen year old, struggling student kneeling on the floor next to my math tutor who explains the same algebra problem for the sixth time. When I finally, finally understand it, Dad leans back in his chair with pride in his eyes. “Now you’ve got it,” he says with a grin.
Dad has a reputation to uphold, a legacy to pass on to my children now. I observe him quietly and watch with pleasure each time my daughter pats the floor next to her, and invites Papa to join her in play. I measure his greatness as he grants her wish and folds himself into the space beside her.
I watch as he sits across from my oldest son, deep in concentration, waiting to make his next move on the chess board, and then smiles widely as his grandson proclaims “Check Mate!”
My heart swells as I watch my seven year old climb into my father’s lap just as he did when he was a toddler, to read his favorite book. “This time I’LL read, Papa,” my son says. “NO WAY,” my dad proclaims in awe and holds him just a little tighter as he listens.
This is the measure of a man. These are the lessons I will pass to my sons, who will someday, God willing, be good, humble, kind, loving men of quiet strength and strong conviction. Men like my dad.
He has already begun to leave an impression on my boys.
When my nine-year old lifts his baby sister up into his bed to snuggle and read her a book, I see my father.
When my seven year old rushes to her side after she takes a tumble in the grass, I see my father.
Without so much as a lecture he is teaching them what it means to be a man. He knows the value of actions and just how trite spoken words can be, especially when those words contradict the actions. I watch him cover their small hands with his big, freckled ones and know that those are the hands of a man who is not afraid. Not afraid to love, to be himself, to stand up when it’s needed, and back down when it’s not.
Kindness, understanding, patience, gentleness - these are the measures of a true man.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

The Versatile Blogger

A few days ago, my good friend (and very talented writer), Linda (Please check out her blog, here)
awarded me with the Versatile Blogger Award. So it goes, that I am tasked with revealing seven things about myself, link back to her and pass on to seven others.

Doesn't sound too difficult, right? But every time I sat down to write this blog, I got stuck. Seven things. True things (that makes it harder). You'd think I could handle this. The problem is that nothing about me is that interesting. Really. And those of you who know me already know these things. Those of you who don't know me...well, do you really care about these things? Nevertheless, an Award is an Award...and I accepted! So, here goes...

#1 I have owned 17 different cars in the past 22 years

#2 My first semester of college at UMSL, I earned a .25 GPA (yes, the decimal is in the right place). I finally went back and earned my BA when I was 32 (and pregnant with my third child).
I graduated with Honors and a 3.6.

#3 I have an affinity for antique typewriters, and started collecting when I found my first
last year.

#4 I love theater, and saw my first
Broadway show (Jersey Boys) last year.

#5 At the top of my Bucket List, is a trip to
Paris (I daydreamed about it here).

#6 When I transferred to Webster U from the community college, I had thought I wanted to be
a teacher. A meeting with the Dean of the Education Dept. proved to me that this was not,
in fact, my calling. 30 years old and lost, I met with an Advisor who asked me, "What
is it you like to do?" My Answer: "Well, I
love to write, but you can't major in Writing."
She answered simply, "Yes you can!" I
signed up on the spot and walked out of the
building smiling and crying. One of the
best days of my life.

#7 I do not like coming up with seven facts about myself. This was hard!

Friday, June 10, 2011

Oh yeah? Well, when I was your age...

My 11 year old son is bored.

"There's nothing to do", he wails, drawing out the "o" until he's completely out of breath, stretching and kvetching simultaneously. It's 8pm on a warm, summer night. He returned just a few hours ago from four days at our lake house, riding horses, kayaking, swimming, and fishing. Now he's bored.

I can't help it. It frustrates me. "Jack," I say, ordering myself to speak in a conversational tone, "we've got a basketball hoop, ping pong, PS3, a computer..." "I know mom!" he sounds as exasperated as I feel, "I don't feel like any of those things. I want to do something!" (How is it that these things don't constitute doing?) He proceeds to use the family room couch as a gymnastics mat, a trampoline, a...anything other than a device for sitting.

And then it happens. My mouth opens, and before I can stop myself, I become my mother.

"Do you know when I was your age we weren't even allowed to sit inside on a summer day? We spent the whole day outside! From morning until the street lamps came on at night!" Do I stop there? Oh no, I have to make my point! "The only kids' shows on tv were a couple of cartoons (albeit really great cartoons), and they were only on Saturday mornings! Between 8 and 10am! You have got it good, my friend. I wish I'd had what you've got!"

Jack's eyes roll to the back of his head. He gives me the look I used to give my mom when she'd tell me how hard her childhood had been. How they didn't have toys, and they had to play dolls with plastic soap bottles, or some such nonsense.

"Hey Jack," his older brother calls from across the room, "wanna play basketball?" Jack jumps off the couch and races to the garage door. Not nearly as much from an immediate desire for the game, I realize, as an immediate desire to end our one-sided conversation.

My mom was a teacher. So not only did this mean that she always (except for once, when I was in the fourth grade) took the teacher's side, but she was also off during the summers. I have great memories of trips to the public library, reading lists, lounging at the pool. But I'm sure, she thought of this as not only my summer break, but hers, too. And she would probably have liked a day or two to herself. Because as wonderful as my memories might be, I'm quite sure I belted out a few "I'm bored!"'s myself (wait till she reads this, I can just hear the comments!).

But I son wore himself out playing basketball and slept soundly until about 8 o'clock this morning when I heard "Mom?" (here it comes), "what are we doing today?"

There remain nine, long weeks of summer. What are your kids doing to beat the boredom?

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Pain In the...Back?

The last two call outs for stories from Chicken Soup didn't suit me very well. One was for a book about weddings; planning your wedding, wedding days, etc.

I've been divorced for three years.

The next one was looking for stories from people who are caregivers to elderly family members. A great idea for a book, I think. Just not a topic (fortunately) I have experience with.

But I digress, another call-out showed up in my inbox yesterday. This one is for a new title they will be publishing in May 2012. The book will be focused on how to handle back pain, whether occasional or chronic. They've teamed up with a Havard Med School doctor who will provide medical facts for the book. They're looking for stories from those of us who have suffered or continue to suffer from back pain. Now THIS (unfortunately) is something I do know a great deal about. I'd tell you more, but I think I'll save it for my submission.

Some suggested topics for the book (these came straight from my email):
  • How your back problems started
  • How you felt/feel physically and emotionally; what were/are your symptoms
  • What you have done to reclaim your daily life despite the back pain
  • What treatments you have pursued, both successful and unsuccessful
  • What advice would you give to fellow back pain sufferers
  • How you have used your mind to help you with your back
  • How you have adjusted your life to accommodate your back
  • Silver linings
  • And any other topic you think would be helpful to someone else in your position
Hey, if you've had to deal with the pain, you might as well get something good out of it!

Select the Submit Your Story link on the left tool bar and follow the directions.

Submission deadline is July 31, 2011.

Good luck...and happy writing!

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Do you hear that racket?

There is as cacophony in my head. Drums pounding to the rhythm of my heart, stress pumping through my veins to the beat of the blinking cursor on my blank page. With each thuh-thump, a new series of words courses: tuition payments, gas prices, career success, summer schedules, editors' deadlines, essay topics, tweets, blog posts...the list goes on and on. I am feeling a sense of overload. How can I feel so...busy...when it seems as though nothing's getting done?

I was driving between my office and the park for boot camp yesterday when suddenly the racket got so loud it distracted me from my own thoughts. What the...? Then a fat, brown, winged bug hit my windshield and bounced off. Half a dozen more were zooming past the row of traffic ahead of me.

Then I realized that buzzing cadence in my head had gone external - the cicadas in the county are louder than my own humming stress.

I was cutting the lawn last weekend when I felt a hundred pairs of eyes on me. Bug eyes. They were all over my cedar fence. I don't know if they are always this brown color, or if they camouflage themselves, but I couldn't see them at all until I was pushing the lawn mower right up against the fence. It was like a cheap horror flick!

But I digress, at least those damn bugs'll be gone in another two weeks. Then I'll be left with the pulsing rhythm of my own deadlines. And maybe that's a good thing. It drives me to get things done, and to sit up and take notice when things aren't getting accomplished.

Time to focus on finishing up those three essays in my "WIP" (work in progress) folder...