Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Where ya been? Oh, right, it's #NaNoWriMo

So it's National Novel Writing Month or #NaNoWriMo2017 and I've been under a rock. I haven't worked out since Nov 1 though I have been getting up early every day.

I've been writing. This year's project is a Neverland story which you can read more about here. And I might stick a little bit on the end here just for fun.

So this 41st Year post is about falling off the wagon. 

I'm a professional wagon-faller. Oh, sure, I euphemize it with words like "redirect" and "pivot" but the truth is, when the wagon doesn't seem to be making any progress, I topple right off.

Some of my most famous wagon-fallings include the six-week no-alcohol "tradition" I had for about five years. It stretched from New Year's Day until the Daytona 500. It was meant to give my liver a break after football season because September through December is rough. After 2008, though, I gave that giving-up up. Be sober for nine-ish months and you'll stop inflicting that shit on yourself, too.

Another great wagon-jumping happened when I decided to scrap book Hollie's baby book. I did two mini-books and have been collecting stuff for the rest ever since. She's nine. I'm never, ever going to catch up. Which is fine, I realized, when I learned no other moms are doing a week-by-week log of their kid's growing up except via Facebook (collective groan and eye roll).

I've started and stopped dozens of fitness programs from half marathon trainings to swim team to Beast Mode and even a personal trainer. I've started and stopped dozens of diets meant to offset the booze, lose the baby weight, make recovery easier, make my metabolism faster, and make me hotter for my 20th reunion.

In spite of my wagon-falling, I've also been faithful and steadfast in a number of pursuits. I've attended my South Carolina Writers Workshop (SCWA) group sessions two Mondays a month for about three years. I've been at the Tuesday Twitter chat #wschat for more than 5 years. And I've done NaNoWriMo for five years. 

Writing, it seems, is a wagon I'm glad to be on.

For the last 18 months I've been faithful to 1 Million Cups which meets weekly and I've volunteered to read in Hollie's classroom every November since kindergarten. I'm not afraid of commitment -- I'm framing an assembled 1000 piece puzzle this week -- I'm just easily persuaded to drop relationships that aren't working.

The 41st Year blog is about the things I wanted to do that I felt would give me evidence of a life well-lived. Live events, visits with my Papa, and meaningful time with friends. What I didn't account for in that planning was the downhill slope my work life would take from January until now. 

The 41st Year is turning out to be less about charting new territory and more about resilience, persistence, and steadfastness. 

Lest you mistake these as synonyms, let me explain.

Resilience is about recovery, a return to the original form. I've been working over Clemson Road Consulting for months. The original mission of the company was remote, asynchronous work in storytelling -- a writing studio. We're there. Again.

Persistence is about continuing, a constant effort in a single direction. I've been pushing into fiction writing for half a decade and broke through this year with some highly-regarded work, opportunities, and recognition. 

Steadfastness is about being firm in purpose, resolved to a specific direction. I have not abandoned my dream of being either a writer or an entrepreneur. It's tough but if it wasn't, everyone would do it. 

I have a vision for my life and I plan to achieve that vision. It's just taking a few setbacks to earn the breaks I need to leap forward.

My faith remains. 

Faith in the vision, faith in my partnerships, and faith in myself. It's funny how spending the entire month with a kid who discovers The Neverland is a lie has made me more resolved than ever to make the most of the real world in which we're living.

Now, as promised, a little hint of the #NaNoWriMo project:
The ship anchored off the coast of Neverland, its black sails visible like an ink blot on the horizon. A flag with a skull and crossed bones waved on the highest tip of the highest mast, above a crow’s nest where stood a man peering at the shore through a long, retractable telescope.
I peered back through my own lens and tried to make out the whiskers on his face, the set of his jaw, the evil in his eye.
“How many?” Peter asked.
On deck I’d counted twenty-one. Six pulling at ropes and raising sails, five turning cranks and wheels, four tying knots, three securing ballast, one in the crow’s nest, one studying a map, and one at the helm. The last one wore a wide-brimmed cap with a feather that fluttered in the wind, a long duster trimmed in gold, and tall black books that caught the morning sun and shone as though just polished.
“Looks as though they’re getting underway,” I said, watching the anchor emerge from the water and climb toward the rail.
“And go where?” Peter’s voice had mocking in it. He hovered just above me, legs akimbo, arms crossed. Did he see what I saw? How keen was his vision for such things?
“Let ‘em go,” Hickory said. “They may return with treasure.”
“Or chocolate,” one of the twins piped.
“Or down blankets and feather pillows,” Peter sneered and spat at the ground beneath him. We’d raided the ship before, stolen the materials they’d captured from wherever it was they’d gone. The luxury of those items hadn’t left our memories and the five of us, Hickory, twins, Rocky and me, could share the same fantasy of fresh peaches, warm silks, sparkling jewels, and crisp wafers.
“How long will they be gone?” Rocky asked.
Peter’s sneer turned to a glare that he threw carelessly at the bear-costumed boy beside me.
“No time,” I whispered. “There is no time.”
Rocky blinked, nodded, “Sorry, Peter,” he said quickly so that all the syllables merged into one sound of contrition.

Peter turned his gaze back to the horizon.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Live Event: Counting Crows and Matchbox 20

The last time we went to PNC Bank Arena in Charlotte, Charlie and I misbehaved. We were there to see Kelly Clarkson and Maroon 5 and Kristen (my sister) ended up babysitting us.

Since then, we’ve done Red Rocks twice and basically gotten our shit together. So the concert before the eclipse was not such a disaster. In fact, we did several things I’ve never done at a concert:

We arrived late.

Our friends Mike and Melanie live in Charlotte and we spent the afternoon pre-gaming on their back patio. Craft beers, snacks, shade, and comfy chairs are all better than sweating it out in the parking lot. Plus, Melanie is an old friend and Mike a new one so it was good to spend time getting to know them.

After we checked into the hotel, we wandered next door to TGI Friday’s for another pre-game beer and snack. Again, no hurry to get to the arena.

When we finally got parked and started walking in, we had missed the first two songs of Counting Crows’ set. Fortunately, our section was basically empty so finding our seats and settling in wasn’t too tough.

We sat down.

I only typically stand if the people in front of me are blocking my view. But that’s pretty much always the case. Except not this time. Our section was the first part of the outdoor half of the amphitheater, so a wide sidewalk separated us from the inside folks who all stood. We could see over them just fine. And we were only two rows back and no one sat in front of us.

So we sat. When it is so crazy hot, sitting or standing doesn’t really matter.

During our favorite Counting Crows songs we stood and danced, and the people behind us urged us to stand for Matchbox 20 and we did for the encore. Mostly, though, we just sat and enjoyed the live music and the light show and seeing Rob Thomas, who looks rather old by the way, on the big screens that flanked the stage.

We left early.

Apparently sitting and being hot is boring because by mid-way through Matchbox 20’s set we were kind of done with the whole thing.

It may have also been that our buzz was wearing off and the beers were $25 for two tall Budweisers and water was $5.

“You know it’s just water, right?” I said to the girl at the concessions. “And that $5 is way too much to charge?”

“Yes,” she replied.

When you can buy a case for $5 and that’s the retail markup you know you’re being gouged. Five dollars per bottle is $120 per case, or $115 worth of additional profit. What the hell? Price gouging always makes me angry but at concerts when it’s 100 degrees and it’s water-for-fuck’s-sake, I can’t hold my tongue.

“That’s ridiculous,” I told her.

“I agree,” she said. Then handed me my change and turned her attention to the woman behind me.

Anyway, we left early. We pretty much never leave early. I told Charlie I only cared about one song and as soon as Rob-looks-too-old-to-be-him-Thomas sang it, we could go. It was the first song in the encore.

So, we left.

Maybe it was that the tickets were Groupon and only cost me $17 each. Or maybe it’s that Charlie had to work on Monday so we needed to get up early. Maybe it was us trying to save money and therefore not drinking $25 beers or paying for an Uber.

Whatever the cause, we did this concert like grown-ups.

Counting Crows did not play as long as we would have liked but we did find that Matchbox 20 was better than we expected. We are now renewed Matchbox 20 fans. So, there’s that.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Live Event: The Great American Solar Eclipse

Is it possible for something to be amazing and kind of a let down at the same time? 

The word that comes to mind for yesterday’s eclipse experience is “confusing.” 

For several months, Columbia has prepared and planned for the event. Parties and performances and precautions have abounded since early Spring. The entire region was aware of our direct path status and the likelihood we would experience an influx of visitors. It was a tourism boon and one Columbia and its surrounding hamlets took full advantage of. Most impressively, the events of Eclipse Weekend were all very well publicized, rather inexpensive, and included free eclipse glasses. The only real price gouging I witnessed was the City of Columbia’s parking deck rates bumped up to a $10 event fee from their usual $1.25 per hour. But this was going to be a big deal, right? 

So we should make it one or at least participate in the well-organized suchness that others had orchestrated. We settled on the Blythewood Total Eclipse of the Park event at Doko Meadows which was both nearby and small enough that I was confident we would have a good experience. We packed coolers (against the rules) and took our own chairs and glasses with us. We listened to the live music performances and joined in the countdown. 

As the sky darkened and totality occurred, we whooped and wailed with the rest of the crowd. 

And then it was over. 

My friend Melanie’s kid said it first, “Can we go now?” 

Then HB chimed in, “It’s so HOT!” 

We had been sweating for over an hour, our hair stuck to our faces, ice cream melting before we could use the spoon on it, backs of thighs soaking the canvas tailgate chairs. We had eschewed the shade for a space in full sun and were paying for it. 

Then the moon began to assert itself and the eerie light of lunar shadow cooled the park. Not quite twilight, but a greyish flattening of shadow and light. There hung the strange stillness of celestial motion and the curtain of a black and white movie descended. The crowd turned glasses-covered faces skyward, mouths gaping in awe. 

I said to Melanie, “There’s a strange vulnerability here, like in a horror movie. As if this is the moment when, distracted by the sky, all humans are annihilated by invading aliens.” 

I cannot have experienced the Total Solar Eclipse without writing about it. There’s so much magic and mystery in it as to be completely surreal. During Totality when we removed our glasses and looked at one another, while the cicadas’ sound surged and the midday felt like late twilight, my writer’s brain was cataloguing details. 

Then it was over and we went back to day drinking, live music, exit traffic, and the Monday-ness of the day. 

It’s in the dichotomy of “rare celestial event on Monday” that my discomfort exists. 

The eclipse was everything I expected it to be. The park event and live music and visiting friends and open-air boozing were all I would have wanted. Yet, somehow, I feel let down. Like maybe I should I have also expected some cosmic insight, some spiritual revelation, or some life-altering change. Except eclipses are a predictable pattern, a scientific reality of a steady and persistent relationship between the Earth, Moon, and Sun. Which is comforting. 

And rather boring.

Where were you for the Solar Eclipse? 

Friday, July 28, 2017

Live Event: The Girls Rock! Showcase at The Music Farm Columbia

Last week I sent Hollie to a Social Justice summer camp that uses music as their medium to discuss issues related to gender, race, and bullying. The first thing she said when she got in the car Monday afternoon was, “Can I come back next year?”

I said, “Let’s see how the week goes.”

She informed her MaMa later that night that at Girls Rock camp there was absolutely no room for ugliness of any kind. No mean girls. Period.

How refreshing.

All week she and her buddies learned about great female rock stars, played around on lots of instruments, formed bands, wrote songs, and performed. They danced and sang. They supported one another, encouraged one another, and felt good about being themselves.

I know no one sends their kid to mean girl boot camp. It’s an insidious competition for attention and validation that creates mean girls.

But getting a chance to go to Compassionate-Loving-Rocker-NonConforming-Brave Girl Camp is so totally amazing that Hollie and I were both blown away by the experience.

On Saturday, the camp hosted its showcase, a chance for the fledgling bands to perform their brand new songs, strut their self-made t-shirts, and be one in solidarity for all the values the camp promotes: Inclusiveness, Acceptance, Compassion, Freedom, Individuality, Love, and so much more.

The parents who gathered to watch the showcase all looked like me: concert t-shirts, tattoos, beer-in-hand-at-3-pm. It was my Unapologetically X Women’s March #Resist brothers and sisters and it felt awesome.

I know I’m doing this mom thing a little different than my neighbors and my Facebook friends, my college friends and my high school classmates, my PTO peers and business colleagues. But I’m doing it a lot like my Girls Rock Tattooed Music Fan Day Drinking Tribe.

And that makes me think it's probably an okay approach.

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