Day 2 [Late]: Writing Retreat Tweet

While my Sunday was was derailed by baseball, sunshine and house hunting, I did still write (a little). See below for my NPR poetry submission:

//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

Day 1: Writing Retreat

I came to San Diego this week for a writing retreat. One of my goals while I’m here is to write something every day. Ultimately, I’d like to (at least) get started on a novel. Today, this will have to suffice for my writing – lame, I know. But it’s closing in on 1 a.m. Chicago time (11 p.m. local) and I’ve got a busy day planned for tomorrow!

I’ll be soliciting the assistance of a number of resources on my quest, including:

  • Content and exercises from “The Writer” magazine
  • Poetry and fiction writing packet from a college course with Professor Peter Ramos
  • “The Paris Review” – a dive into the art of the short story
  • “The Ode Less Travelled” by Stephen Fry – a sort of how to to “unlocking” your inner poet
  • “Thunder and Lightning” by Natalie Goldberg – a guide to turning inspiration into a product
  • “Ready. Set. Novel!” – a writer’s workbook

There are a number of online resources I have on a list to investigate, but those might just have to wait until next time. Like I read in an article on the flight today, you don’t know the direction of your story until you finish the first draft. So, there will be plenty of time to improve.

When was the last time you did something for the first time?

It has been a long time since I read a book I enjoyed as much as “Wild,” by Cheryl Strayed. For the last year or so, I’ve been on a non-fiction kick, reading about economics, exploring the science of food and diving into the senses of a dog. But even before that, I really don’t recall the last time I connected to a novel as much as I did “Wild”—maybe in high school when I read Megan McCafferty’s series following my sweet Jessica Darling through her teenage trials and triumphs.

wild

Not only is “Wild” well written, but I found many points of connection with Cheryl (the novel’s author and main character). That’s not to say we’ve shared all the same experiences:

  • She struggled with drug addiction
  • She lost her mother at the young age of 23
  • She divorced her sweetheart and best friend
  • She hiked the Pacific Crest Trail, solo no less

But, then there are the similarities:

  • We’re both writers
  • We both grew up without a fathers
  • We were both raised by a magnificent mother
  • We’ve both accomplished things we’d never thought ourselves possible of

But beyond the obvious, easy-to-point-out aspects of our lives that make us similar, there’s just something about Cheryl that makes me feel a connection to her. Maybe that’s what makes her such a talented writer, being able to invoke such an overwhelming emotional connection as I absorb the pages of her writing.

There’s no doubt that Cheryl’s and my life are far from parallel. Our struggles that led us to similar places differ greatly: Physical versus emotional. However, I think we’ve both fought with the other’s struggle. But I’ve found that pain, no matter how inflicted, tends to evoke similar responses in people. There’s the fight or flight response, both on impact and after the pain has struck, once it’s time to actually deal with it.

So, let me get to the point of all this. The reason why I’m bothering to draw all of these comparisons. For the last two-and-a-half years, I’ve been embarking on physical feats I never thought possible of myself. And along the way, I’ve had many people ask me why. A lot of friends and family have given me quizzical looks when I explained to them what my next obstacle to overcome would be. And I’ve come to the realization that most don’t understand. Well, there’s one section in “Wild” that, for me, perfectly explained what I’d been wanting to say:

This—the hardest thing I’d ever done.

I stopped in my tracks when that thought came into my mind, that hiking the PCT was the hardest thing I’d ever done. Immediately, I amended the thought. Watching my mother die and having to live without her, that was the hardest thing I’d ever done. Leaving Paul and destroying our marriage and life as I knew it for the simple and inexplicable reason that I felt I had to—that had been hard as well. But hiking the PCT was hard in a different way. In a way that made the other hardest things the tiniest bit less hard. It was strange but true. And perhaps I’d known it in some way from the very beginning. Perhaps the impulse to purchase the PCT guidebook months before had been a primal grab for a cure, for the thread of my life that had been severed.

I could feel it unspooling behind me—the old thread I’d lost, the new one I was spinning—while I hiked that morning, the snowy peaks of the High Sierras coming into occasional view.

 

Why I Love ‘Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt’ And You Should Too

If you’ve started watching Season 2 of “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” on Netflix too there’s a good chance you can’t get that catchy-as-hell theme song out of your head. But do you know where this viral little ditty came from?

Unbreakable!

They alive, dammit!

It’s a miracle.

Unbreakable!

They alive, dammit!

Females are strong as Hell.

As a word nerd, I had to find out what it was he was saying. So today, I Googled it and dove further into my obsession with the show.

Simply finding the lyrics proved tougher than I expected, as I stumbled across multiple pieces discussing the origins of the song. Turns out, not surprisingly, the theme song is the product of a monologue written by producers Tina Fey and Robert Carlock, according to Vanity Fair. See a clip of character Walter Bankston’s full monologue below, from Netflix’s YouTube page:

While I found it surprising that some viewers thought the above was a legit newscast, there was another point in the article that stood out to me. Vanity Fair refers to Ellie Kemper’s character as being not “just a survivor of a horrific experience, but a very famous one[.]” That got me dwelling on how the silly and sometimes dumb Kimmy Schmidt was so much more than just another unrealistic comedic character to watch.

Turns out, Fey and Carlock were asked by NBC if they’d want to write a show for Kemper. As the two (mainly Fey) go on to explain to E! in an interview, they recognized that Kemper has “this kind of sunniness, but also this strength.” And it was with these two traits and the crazy-horrific backstory that Kimmy’s character was born to create a twist on the standard starting over story.

For me, I think that’s what makes this goofy girl and sitcom so lovable – it is relatable and inspiring. Unlike most of us, Kimmy is able to keep a sunny disposition despite tragically losing out on her childhood. So we get to follow her around NYC as she makes her way, and laugh about it with her. Because there seems to be one thing that Kimmy did learn while living inside that bunker: Bad things happen.

And, as Kemper points out in an interview with E!, Kimmy has the ability to overcome her bad things and not let those experiences define her. Which is what makes this comedy so worth watching. Let yourself be inspired by the pure optimism and strength of a character who may just seem simple at first glance.

Dear [Baby],

I originally wrote this post about six months ago, but decided to hold off on posting it at this time.


You are precious. Your life has just begun and you have a lifetime of moments ahead of you. And my wish for you is that you get to experience every single one of those seconds. The joyous, the painful, the thrilling, the terrifying, the precious, the bittersweet – all of the good and all of the bad. Take in and savor each and every emotion. Hold on to those memories. Because the adventure ahead is just beginning and you’ll need all that you know, all that you’ve learned to make your journey your own.

When you’re young, the years fly past. Summers seem endless until the snow falls, and before you know it you forget to remember the last browned leave hanging from a tree. And they say that as you get older time seems to move faster with each passing year, but I disagree. I think we stop savoring the moments and truly living each experience that passes us by.

No longer do we whiff the scent of a fresh cut blade of grass as the spring’s rains subside. The first flakes of winter loose their glittery charm. Instead, we’re always ready and waiting for the next big thing – even if it’s happening, right then.

So do grow up, do grow old. But while you do: Live. Experience life.

Today was a Sad Day

I’m not sure just why, but today was a sad day. It loomed over me on my morning walk. The air was crisp, not as humid as it had been. The sky was fresh blue, but there was something lurking in the distance.

As the day went on, these suspicions were confirmed. A reminder of a court hearing appeared on my Newsfeed – I wished them well (this has been left intentionally vague). Later, the follow up for that hearing’s sentencing was delivered to me via text, and my eyes welled. I was left with so many questions. But there was one thing that mattered the most:

I feel more at peace.

In this life, we are touched by so many. Those who are close to us, related by blood. Those who we pick up along the way, the ones who feel like they were meant to be in your bloodline. But then there are the ones we never meet, the ones whose stories we read, the ones whose lives never directly cross our paths. And yet, somehow, our lives can still be touched by theirs.

To the family who lost their sister, their mother, their daughter too soon: You are in my thoughts.

Dear Dad

When my fiance and I got engaged, he reluctantly called his dad … and I was so jealous. While this may sound a bit strange, let me explain.

I think I was around the age of 2 when my parents got divorced, so needless to say I don’t remember that part of their relationship. The thought of them promising each other happily ever after has always just been something I searched for in old photos. But still, I look to find what’s now long gone.

In the years of my childhood that followed, I literally have no fond memories of my dad. Mostly it’s just anger over events that were missed or his selfishness. And, I’m not going to lie, I’m often jealous of other women who are close with their fathers. Oddly enough, I still consider myself a “daddy’s girl.” However, I chalk that up to always wanting what we can’t have.

I have a lot of respect for my fiance, because despite a poor relationship, he still respects his father. The fact that his dad was one of the first people we called to announce our excitement was something that spoke volumes to me. I didn’t even want to text my dad the happy news – this celebration was about us after all.

To tell the truth, now that I’m planning my own wedding, I think I’m just upset that my dad won’t get to walk me down the aisle. I realize that this is ultimately my choice, but why would I choose someone who rarely remembers my birthday to “give me away”?

Instead, I’ll have my Papa stand by my side. While I’m not sure he’ll ever understand or that I could fully explain, my Papa’s love for me has given me the strength to be the person I am today. It is my dream to be the rock that he is for my own family. And, as such, there’s no one else I can imagine asking to help me join in beginning my lifelong adventure with Mike.

Looking for Something to Say

It’s been more than a year since my last post; and I’m truly ashamed of that. It says on my wrist, “I’d rather write than speak,” but I haven’t been putting pen to paper much that often. However, here I am just more than a year later in flight to Phoenix writing to you again. I never take the time to do what I love.

Growing up, I wrote before I could. I made up stories on paper, retold my dreams and jotted down memories. All my life I’ve leaned on the power of the word to get me through. Whether times have been happy or sad, I’ve found comfort in the genuine attachment to the written word.

I don’t do it much now, but I prefer writing in pencil. It’s something about the feel of graphite on paper. But pencil smears, it smudges and disappears over time. And now, it’s so much easier to open a laptop than track down my notebook. Still, I wish I wrote in it more.


It seems kind of worthless, doesn’t it – writing for the first time in more than 365 days about the idea of writing. Is it that I have nothing to say? No, we all know that’s not true. I do think there’s something to be said about the accessibility to writing online. I’ve never written for others, only myself.

Better to write for yourself and no have no public, thank to write for the public and have no self. – Cyril Connolly

So while I want to write and share my thoughts, opinions, emotions and feelings with the World Wide Web, I’m also terrified to do so. Scared to be judged, worried I’ll be misunderstood. Yet still I don’t put pencil to paper and write for myself.


As scary as it may be, I do like to share my writing with others. In college, we had writing workshops where we’d share our stories, poetry and samples with others. The feedback was thoughtful, never hurtful and inspiring. I took to creative assignments without fear, and often surprised even myself with the end result.

Maybe it’s just that I had more to say at 20, or maybe it’s time to open those old workshop assignments to get the words flowing again.

In Flight Entertainment

En route from Philly back to Chicago, I got up to use the bathroom – something I hate doing, peeing on airplanes. While walking back down the aisle of the fully-loaded plane, I realized that about 90 percent of the travelers were using some type of electronic device. Most were on tablets of some sort, a lot on their smart phones and few from the stone age (like myself, now) were on laptops. One thing that I did see, and was (sadly) surprised by, there were a couple reading books! And no, I’m not just talking from Kindles, Nooks and iPads, I mean real paperback novels. Some were even flipping their way through magazines.

This brings me to something my aunt said last (Saturday) night: Autism is survival of the fittest. Actually, I shouldn’t quote her on that, I think she said that one of her co-workers made the comment – forgive me, I don’t remember specifically. Anyways, as I did when I first heard the statement, you may be wondering where this assumption/belief/thinking comes from. My aunt explained that as we get more wrapped up and involved with electronics, there becomes less of a need for face-to-face communication. Funny how things all tie together, as the (paperback) book I was reading pre-bathroom trip discussed how those who are autistic are not able to look others in the eye, which leads to difficulties communicating.

Whether or not there’s any truth in the statement above, I have no idea. I do not know enough about autism or the true effects that electronics have on communication skills. However, I do have my own perspective of the issue of electronics, which I think take away from real conversation. In fact, it takes away from a lot of other interaction as well, at least in my opinion. Take for example when you first discovered the Internet. If you are around my age, it was when you were in your preteens. My friends and I used AIM to chat with each other, so we were still communicating. Now, that somehow seems less.

With the birth of social media, it seems as though the actual conversations have slowed. This may seem to counter today’s teens who spend their hours staring at tiny smartphone screens texting their friends, checking their Twitter feeds and the like – often simply reposting a “friend’s” post. But when I was just getting to explore the world wide web, it was something I used when at home with nothing else to do. It was something that I did when I couldn’t be hanging out with my friends. From what I’ve seen, kids today are more interested in what’s on their electronics than what’s happening right in front of them. And to be completely honest, they aren’t the only ones. I’ve been guilty of it myself, as have a number of my friends, colleagues and family members.

Not having a child, I could be wrong with my perceptions. But the use of electronics is changing the way we operate in more than just the realm of communication. I’ve seen video clips of small children unable to flip the pages of a magazine, because they are more familiar with their parents’ tablets. My brother and I have discussed children’s inabilities to write well, because they no longer have to put pen to paper. At some point, won’t they even be unable to spell correctly, as speak to type and other applications become more commonplace? Well, that’s a frightening thought.

I do think that there are a number of benefits for going electronic, especially in the classroom. Isn’t it easier for children to carry around their iPads with all of the books they’ll need for every class in one light-weight place, rather than on their shoulders in backpacks that are too heavy? The Internet is a wonderful outlet for researching, especially when writing papers. So, yes it is a good thing that kids these days have access to all of these things – but what’s the limit?

I, for one, will find it a sad day in the future if we are no longer talking with one another face-to-face. As will I be disappointed if my children aren’t taught to write the alphabet – in both print and cursive! While I recognize the fading age of the paperback novel, I mourn its death. I propose that kids are encouraged to continue passing hand-written notes in class. I hope little girls keep writing in their journals, hiding the keys to these locked dreams away from their big brothers. Electronics are great, but there’s something to be said for the written word and face-to-face communication.

Body Image

Over the last year, I have struggled with my weight more than ever.

Growing up, I was never thin, but I was also never fat. I know plenty of girls who suffered eating disorders throughout their childhood and teen years, but I guess I always just accepted my chubby cheeks, thick thighs and belly. Fore the most part though, I was fine.

In high school, college and after graduation, my weight fluctuated. A boyfriend led to extra pounds, and the following break up shed what I’d added plus some. Biking and hiking around the city always kept me fit, and I owe something to that. Still, I was never skinny.

But after a three-month recovery, I was finally thin. I joked: Great weight loss trick, get hit by a truck. But at that point, I was unhealthy looking and the doctors urged me to eat, eat, eat – even if it was ice cream and potato chips. So, I did. And I got healthy. Then, I got fat.

I don’t weigh myself, to me it’s more about how I look and less about my actual size. Because of that, I think my body image issues have worsened. On top of the pounds, I have a hideous scar. Fake it as I might, never will I feel confident laying out at the beach in a bikini – no matter my size. I’m hesitant to even let a peak of my mid-drift slip into view.

(For those of you who are unaware, I have about a 12-inch scar running down the center of my abdomen – the result of emergency surgery.)

Some people say it’s beautiful, and I want nothing more than to wear my skin with pride. But it’s not. Either side of the scar is off-balance, as the left will always remain a little bit swollen. And more than anything, that scar serves me as a daily reminder. No, it’s not something everyone can see, but I always know it’s there. It greets me in the morning when I shower, and kisses me good night when change for bed.

If you follow me on social media, you know well that I’ll be participating in Mudderella Chicago this May. Not only have I found this training as an outlet for aggression and stress, but of course I’m also getting stronger. However, over the last six weeks, my visible body has not changed. Tonight, that hit me as a frustrating and disgusting fact. What do I have to do to be happy with my body’s image?

Still, I can feel myself getting stronger, and for that I am infinitely proud.