Archive | Heartfelt

The pod person cometh

Now that I’ve outed myself as a woman in love, let me let you in on another dirty little secret: I’m afraid of turning into one of those people who turn their backs on their friends as they retreat further and further into their relationship.

I’m afraid of becoming a pod person.

That’s what I call them, those people who share an e-mail account, don’t go anywhere without their partner, are rarely available for a planned evening out, heaven forbid something spontaneous. Nesters.

Now, on the other side of the relationship fence, I see that these people are happy, content. But I can’t shake the feeling that they are also hella-lame. My friends have been paramount in my life, inspiring, buoying, humoring me. I refuse to let that change or let those relationships erode.

But things have changed. While I am still in touch with friends and we regularly get together, I don’t have the same drive. I have become, at 47, that happy woman.

It’s so weird.

People admire my vast social circle, or circles as the Venn diagram may be, but those people who marvel at my busy schedule are usually coupled up. I had to have a lot of friends and a lot of happy hour and shopping and mani-pedi and writing and movie dates. I needed to go to networking events, if not for the business contacts, for the conversation. I got monthly massages for tendons that snapped loudly when manipulated but I also sought rubdowns just for the human touch. As a perpetually single gal, getting my flesh pressed was a rare-to-nonexistent occurrence unless I coughed up a Benjamin every now and again.

The alternative was sitting at home, cat and computer on my lap, even on a Friday night.

Then I met Carl and my social circle sort of wobbled as all my needs were met on the homefront. I’ve been keeping it going, don’t get me wrong, but seasons have passed before seeing pals that I was used to seeing on a monthly basis. There are friends who I haven’t actually seen in person since I met Carl on November 8. I’ve been throwing relationship Band-Aids at them in the form of texts, e-mails and the occasional phone call but I fear the friendships are suffering as I snuggle up in my cozy pod.

Sigh.

I’m human. I fell in love and in the process, fell into a warm, satisfied life. No one is more surprised about that than me. My friends, however, are a key piece of what fulfills me so I’m going to pick up the phone but this time to make plans for lunch and gabbing and pedicures. A woman in love needs to have a polished pedi, sure, but she absolutely must have her peeps.

Taking flight

I’m usually a content machine, but sometimes life gets in the way.

In other words, I fell in love.

Fell deliriously, deliciously, full-heartedly in love. I know! I can’t believe it, either. Me! A snarky middle-aged singleton whose hope was ebbing away a little with each passing year. Like the Grinch, when I met the guy, my heart grew three sizes that day.

As my heart and my life became full, my writing seemed less important. With a popular book and blog called Things I Want to Punch in the Face, I was suddenly at a loss. I couldn’t muster up more than tepid irritation over anything, and that’s saying something, seeing as Kim Kardashian and Donald Trump exist. I’ve been writing a memoir about my teenage years, which seemed farther and farther away as my lovely new life left less and less room for memories and musings.

Instead of writing, I spent time with my guy, finding ways to be brave off the page. We traveled to a remote island in the South Pacific, where I drove a scooter and snorkled for the first time, trading in my anxiety for wind in my hair and tropical fish before my eyes. When I got bit by a 200-pound trevalley, I gave Blackjack the finger. Our boat captain taped up my bleeding middle finger and put a work glove over it and I got back in the water. I wasn’t going to miss seeing a giant clam.

I generally feel alive, present and engaged on the page, as words unspool from my fingertips. Here, now, I was bruised and scraped and bleeding and I didn’t feel like writing about it. I felt like living through it.

Since then, I ziplined despite my decades-long fear of falling. I loved it. I know! I was shocked too. I was prepared to say, “I told you so! I told you I’d hate this!” but instead, with a toothy smile plastered across my face, I said, “Let’s do it again!”

Through all this, the biggest big-girl step isn’t strapping myself into a zipline and praying to sweet Jesus not to toss my cookies or fall to my death; it’s letting myself be completely, joyously smack dab in the middle of a relationship with the love of my life. I’m letting myself be loved, even if I deep down doubt I deserve it. I have no plan B, no safety net. I’m all in.

That is some scary shit.

But as I told him yesterday, there’s a beautiful giddiness that constantly runs through my body because of him. My toes curl, my stomach flutters with butterflies taking flight. To paraphrase a card I gave him, “he makes me feel as if kittens are exploding out of my head.” But I also feel calm, grounded, certain.

Ben Affleck said in the screen gem Bounce, “It’s not brave if you’re not afraid.” Well, I’m going to continue being brave in my life and as I turn my attention back to my computer screen, I’m going to bring that attitude into my writing. Stay tuned for the next installment of my glorious adventure.

Channeling my inner Frenchwoman

My first trip to Paris was really before the age of blogs and smart phones took hold. I know; hard to imagine. It was 2003 and it was my very first trip outside of North America. I went with my friend Fil, a seasoned traveler, who gamely let me drag her all over the city. In a week, we hooved it to the top of the Eiffel Tower and L’Arc de Triomphe. We sped through the Louvre and lingered in the Musée d’Orsay. We ventured into a far-flung arrondissement to hit a flea market that snaked along a neighborhood street for a mile.

Then were there the churches. Notre Dame, Saint-Chapelle, Sacré Coeur. We ate pretty crappy meals because we didn’t prepare or research. We shopped, we sat in cafés for café au laits and pain au chocolats. We rode in a bateau mouche down the Seine, passing under one famous bridge after another in the soft dusky light. I took lots of photos with black-and-white film. Yes, film.

I was manic.

I had to see everything for fear that it might be my only time there, or anywhere for that matter. I was sightseeing out of fear. It was only when I stepped into the dark recesses of Saint-Germain-des-Pres, dotting my forehead with holy water, that I calmed the fuck down. I was in the oldest church in Paris, established in 542 with the present church dating to the 11th century.

“Perspective, Jen,” I told myself. “This moment, right now, here, in this holy place, is what matters.”

I left there altered, and walked to nearby Les Deux Magots for another frothy mug of café and started really breathing in Paris. I stopped feeling on the clock and started feeling in the world.

I hope I can set that intention here, now, at my layover at Schiphol Airport, so that I can savor every last morsel of ma belle vie.

After weeks of stress and preparation, I can feel anxiety ebbing away, being replaced with a lovely sort of “come what may.” Maybe my American energy is surrendering to the charm of French puttering, of a lingering pace and pulse of life.

All that’s left to do is to cue some Edith Piaf and peace out.

Hear a piece from my memoir during Family Matters: Works-in-Progress

I’ve written about the challenges of writing my memoir before. I’ve been knee deep in writing the manuscript and have made significant progress. But with paying gigs taking front and center, it’s not always easy to stay the course and keep things moving forward. You know, life gets in the way and all that. One of the most effective tools I’ve found to keep me motivated is to bring my work into the world through public readings. I participated in two last year and felt terrified before and high after each event. So I’m doing it again. Here are the deets:

Family Matters: Works-in-Progress
May 1, 7-9pm
The Rendezvous, 2322 2nd Ave., Seattle, WA 98121

It’s a family affair! Well, sort of. Join 5 local writers—Allison Ellis, Jennifer Haupt, Jane Hodges, Kristine Lloyd & me—as we read brand-spanking-new creative nonfiction, all centering around our various ideas of family. Be the first to hear memoirs as they develop and take shape. If that’s not enough of a draw, it’s all going down in the Grotto, the groovy downstairs space at the Rendezvous in Belltown (there will be a cash bar and our own bartender). We aim to put the “fun” in dysfunctional during this lively, moving evening! Please feel free to spread the word.

Here’s the lineup of amazing writers:
ALLISON ELLIS writes about fashion, travel, home décor, overpriced coffee, “hot parenting controversies” and other lifestyle topics of great importance. Her essays and articles have appeared in Redbook, Working Mother, Fodor’s Travel Guides, ParentMap, and the Seattle Times. She is currently working on a memoir about her yearlong journey as a young widow in hot pursuit of a new husband.

JENNIFER HAUPT has been interviewing women who nurture the world for more than fifteen years, telling their stories in magazines and books. She’ll be reading from her new e-book, Will You Be My Mother? My quest to answer yes, which includes three stories from her own journey from daughter to mother. Author profits from this mini-memoir (available on Amazon.com) through May 2014 will be donated to mothers2mothers*, a non-profit organization that educates, employs, and empowers mothers living with HIV in sub-Sahara Africa.

JANE HODGES is the West Seattle-based author of Rent Vs. Own: A Real Estate Reality Check for Navigating Booms, Busts, and Bad Advice (Chronicle, 2012). She’s currently working on a memoir about money, eldercare, and the South. Her fiction has appeared in The Brooklyn Review and her essays have appeared in two Seal Press anthologies, The Seattle Weekly, and The Magazine.

Librarian by day, writer by night, native Alabamian KRISTINE LLOYD loves to tell stories about her family. Kristine earned her MFA at the Inland Northwest Center for Writers at Eastern Washington University in 2000. She has written for local blogs and Seattle Bride, and she is currently working on a memoir about the fact that her parents get laid more than she does.

JENNIFER WORICK writes about things that blow her skirt up. Named one of the four funniest bloggers in America by Reader’s Digest, she is the New York Times-bestselling author of more than 25 books, including the recent “Things I Want to Punch in the Face.” She has written for everything under the sun, including the Huffington Post, Salon, and Allure. She is currently writing There Must Be Some Misunderstanding: A True Story of Double Ds, Straight As & a Whole Lot of BS, a coming-of-age memoir.

* Since it was founded in 2001, mothers2mothers has reached more than 1.2 million HIV-positive mothers with essential health education and psychosocial support in nine African countries, putting mothers at the center of the solution of ending pediatric AIDS and keeping mothers alive. For more information visit: www.m2m.org

It’s going to be a fun, potentially rowdy, and moving evening. It’s always scary to bring such personal material into the light and it’s helped me more than you know to have friends be witness to my process and provide feedback. I’d love to see you there.

Paying the bills and providing shelter

If you’re a fan of Things I Want to Punch in the Face, you may have noticed that I haven’t blogged in quite some time. I haven’t been ill or in the witness protection program.

My heart has been elsewhere.

Specifically, I’ve been writing my memoir. I’ve talked about writing a coming-of-age memoir for years and years, working on it on and off. But I committed myself at the beginning of 2013 to make this manuscript a priority.

And believe me, it has been no easy task.

While I’ve always been able to find time to write a funny blog post here and there, it’s a whole ‘nother enchilada to write a deeply personal long-form narrative. I had to have help. I set up a small support group to help me stay accountable. We were to send each other new chunks of writing each week. I have taken one-day and ongoing workshops to give me more tools around structure, dialogue, and characters. A few friends and I have even set up public “works-in-progress” events, where we read new pieces from our memoirs.

Even with all this, I continue to need accountability. It is far too easy to let life—travel, crisis, health issues, and paying gigs—get in the way. When I have a deadline for a freelance article or need to show up for my part-time job, my memoir gets the boot.

I work around all of this, writing at night or on weekends. And I also push through the emotions that arise when writing honestly about difficult events from my past, a past that includes people who I love and hope to not hurt or offend in the process. But one of my writing instructors, a celebrated memoirist in her own right, said that the feeling of discomfort that we get while writing tells us that we are doing the right thing, we are providing shelter to others.

That is part of what drives me. Yes, I want to create a work that has value and is beautifully written. But I want to give the gift of my story to others, who can be entertained (particularly when they read about the tragicomedy that was my prom), but who can also recognize themselves in my own painful adolescence.

So I persevere, even if sometimes I have to write corporate marketing copy first. I’m bringing the same determination that saw me through my teenage years to completing a draft of my memoir by next year. I’ll keep you posted.

Blogversation: How will you support your local businesses during the holidays?

Throughout this year, several bloggers will engage in a conversation on Newvine Growing—asking questions of each other and responding. Others are absolutely welcome to join the conversation, as well. Learn more about the Blogversation 2012. I wrote the following post around Black Friday.

You Get What You Pay For.

Writing my humor blog and then book, Things I Want to Punch in the Face, healed me when I was grieving, and made me not only face my dark side, but get comfortable with it.

Now, publicizing the book has changed me again. It’s made me rethink my purchasing habits and the kind of person I want to be. After a month of throwing Punch Parties at local bookstores and meeting independent booksellers at various conferences, I see the magic that exists within this community. Magic that I—we—can’t take for granted.

I emceed the author’s luncheon at the Southern California Independent Booksellers Association conference a few weeks ago and warmed up the crowd of bookstore owners and staff with a few Things They Might Want to Punch in the Face. First up: customers who regard their store as an Amazon showroom, coming in and snapping photos or making a note on their smartphone so they can order the book later online. This is an all-too-familiar scenario. I know, because I’m guilty as charged. At least I was. I’ve wised up because I’ve learned something.

You get what you pay for.

And what I get at my local bookshop is an experience. When you pay full price at your local bookstore, you get customer service, a wealth of knowledge, the continuing resource of a neighborhood gathering place, a full-on community.When you buy a book on amazon or another discounted retail site, you get the book. That’s it. The 30-40 percent you are “saving” is the cost of having a storefront, a knowledgeable and lovely staff, and books you can thumb through at your leisure. When you choose to “save,” you sacrifice your experience and your community.

You get what you pay for. And often, you lose what you don’t pay for.

Queen Anne Books, one of many local bookstores I’ve frequented over the years, hosted my last Punch Party in Seattle. Five days later, it closed its doors. This is deeply saddening, but not unique. It’s happening everywhere—bookstores, yarn shops, record stores are all going the way of the dinosaur.

I get it. I’m practical and lord knows, I love a good deal. As an author and a consumer, I like that amazon exists, that people can find my books no matter where they live, that I can easily ship out gifts to friends and family across the country.

But this comes at a price, and I’m not talking about free shipping.

Amazon is the hot dog of retailers: we know it’s bad for us but we want it anyway…with relish.

I’m not trying to slap anyone’s wrist as they reach for their mouse to click the BUY button. I’m just suggesting that we make more informed choices, value all that our local businesses provide to us, and as we dive into another holiday season, choose quality over quantity and save our local businesses instead of saving 40 percent off a copy of Where’d You Go, Bernadette (which, by the way, is terrific. I have Suzanne at Secret Garden Books to thank for the recommendation).

You get what you pay for.

Blogversation 2012: What have you done when some life-altering event has happened to you?

Throughout this year, several bloggers will engage in a conversation here and on their blogs — asking questions of each other and responding. Others are absolutely welcome to join the conversation, as well. Learn more about the ladies of Blogversation 2012.

Today’s question comes from Kay Hoffman Goluska, who blogs at Pen on Pointe.  She’s @PenOnPointe on Twitter.

While I have many life-altering events under my belt—really, isn’t every moment in your life an opportunity for change?—the one that immediately springs to mind is the bad January I had back in 2009. It wasn’t just one event but four—a breakup, death of a pet, book cancellation, and surgery—that happened over an eight-day span that set me off on a different path.

I was seriously grieving, realizing that we no longer have a culture or ritual around grief. We don’t know how to talk about it. So we internalize our pain, at least I did. I felt like I was going to fucking explode. I was on edge, annoyed at every little thing. So one night, alternately crying and channel surfing, I decided to create Things I Want to Punch in the Face, a humor blog to smack down all the various and sundry things in life that chap my hide. Now, it’s a book and getting great buzz. Even as my grief subsided, I continued with the blog because it made me so darn happy. And following that bliss in an authentic voice has led to new opportunities.

On a more personal level, that bad January broke me. And it allowed me to rebuild myself in new, healthier ways. I work with an amazing leadership coach, I have an incredible support network, and I’m continuing to do work on myself. I see patterns in my behavior that I’m working to shift. For example, that unexpected breakup in 2009 made me realize I was dating the same time of guy over and over, a guy who wasn’t a good or healthy fit for me. So now, I can see that more clearly from the get-go and make different choices (i.e. RUN AWAY!). Certain events can be devastating, certainly, but after working through the initial pain, there is always an opportunity for profound, toe-curling, goosebumpy change.

And that makes me want to fucking explode…in a good way.