Musings of a Slightly Maddened Mother

#tryalittletenderness

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February 05, 2018

Despite my best intentions to write this blog daily, life sometimes has other plans for me, and so I’ve missed a couple of days. But I’m going to try to forgive myself for that. At age 59, I figure it’s time I learned how.

This #tryalittletenderness endeavour is about being grateful, but it’s also about the ability to forgive. To forgive our friends when they do something that hurts us, whether intentional or not. To forgive our spouses when, after twenty nine years of marriage, they don’t act like characters from a romance novel. To forgive our poor beleaguered parents, for, well,  any and everything imaginable, because don’t we all think our present problems are a direct result of a childhood that wasn’t as perfect as we imagined it should be?

All will require our forgiveness at some point or another in our lives.

But, the person who needs forgiveness the most often, and the one who seldom receives it, is ourself.

Why are we so dang hard on ourselves?

It’s so easy to overlook flaws in others, to make allowances for their mistakes, but seems impossible to cut ourselves that same slack. Or at least in my case it is.

Well, my goal, before I hit the big 60, is to learn how to do just that.

In order to forgive all my flaws, all of which scream so loudly at me on a daily basis, I’ve had to make some changes.

I’m learning how to meditate, to be in the moment and be grateful for all the bounty in my life. I’m learning to listen to my body when it speaks, to give it the nutrition, exercise, and rest it’s asking for. I am learning how to say no to demands that are overwhelming me, but I am also learning how to say yes to possibilities.

I’m sad that it has taken me 59 year to reach this point, but also so grateful to be in a place where it’s finally possible for me to try.

 

#tryalittletenderness

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February 02, 2018

Well, the countdown clock for the NYC Midnight Short Story Challenge is ticking away. Just over 20 hours to go. And am I finished my story? Heck no. I have 20 hours left, right?

You might wonder why anyone would subject themselves to the stress of writing, editing, and polishing a 2500 word story in eight days. And having to write that story within the confines of three prompts.

I admit to wondering that same thing myself as this deadline approaches, and I’m trying to write this brand new story at the same time as I’m revising an existing novel, working on a new project, and doing this daily blog.

But, as strange as it might seem, I do it because this is fun.

I like writing within constraints. Instead of stiffing creativity as you might imagine, I find the exact opposite is true. Having constraints allows me to be more creative.

Imagine staring at a blank page and being told to write a 2500 word story. About anything.

A daunting task.

First, you have to think up a genre, then a character, a conflict, a setting, and on and on. The possibilities are endless, and it’s that very openness that terrifies me into doing nothing. I sit and stare at that paper, jumping from one idea to another, and ultimately ending up without a single word written.

But, hand me a genre, a character, an object, or a setting, and tell me to write a story within that framework, and it’s like a magical door to my creativity is blown wide open.

Of course, not every story I come up with in this manner is worth talking about, but at least I have words on a page, a substantial story seed that may one day turn into something more worthy.

This past summer I participated in the NYC Midnight Flash Challenge. My first attempt at this sort of thing.  In this challenge, participants had to write a 1000 word or less flash piece in 48 hours.

In the first round I just wrote a story. I didn’t bother to read the provided genre categories, or read past winners to get an idea of how this whole thing worked. As a result, I did okay in that round, but not great. I got 11 points. Only the top 15 out of the forty participants in each of 80 categories received points. 1st place received 15, 15th place 1 point, and so on.

For the next round I did my homework, and to my surprise, I won my category with a suspense story featuring a fishing tackle shop and a pina colada. lol

This gave me enough points to move on to the third round. Sadly, despite this story being my favourite of all three, I did not place. This round consisted of only the top 400 writers out of the original 3200, so much harder. Still, I’m pretty darned proud of my attempt.

So what did I end up with after all this effort, not to mention stress?  Three stories I would not have otherwise written, the opportunity to practice my craft, and a whole lot of fun.

Now, here I am again, putting myself through this all over again for the exact same reasons. And I’ll probably keep doing this, with absolutely no expectations of ever winning a single thing.

We writers are odd like that.

Oh, in case you’re interested, my constraints for this round are: a fairy tale, a coal miner, and a pay cut.

I’m so grateful to the NYC Flash and Short Story Challenge for giving me this fantastic opportunity to grow as a writer.

Check it out, you might surprise yourself with the stories you can come up in such a short period of time.

http://www.nycmidnight.com/Competitions/SSC/Challenge.htm

 

#tryalittletenderness

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Photo by Dreamstime.com

February 01, 2018

I’ve made it through an entire month of blog posts. Well, almost. Sadly, I did miss a few days, but a valiant attempt none-the-less.

I’ll try to do better this month, although I’m away on holidays for ten days, with questionable service. I may have to post several at a time.

Today. Well, today I’m going to make this post do double duty.

First, I am going to eat a tremendous amount of crow. And if I can survive a mouthful of feathers, I will tell you about another amazing woman. Sara Ohlin.

Okay, let’s just get this out of the way. Yesterday I told you that it was because of my friend, Michelle Riddell that I got to know the lovely Lisa Lesaw. Today I realized my mistake. It was actually Sara, another writer I’ve come to know from our mutual association with MOTHERS ALWAYS WRITE, (MAW) who introduced us.

I’m so sorry, Sara. Please forgive my error.

Which brings me to the second part of this post. I’d love to tell you about Sara. I brilliant writer of words, amazing cook, photographer, and phenomenal mother to two adorable children. Recently she left the west coast to move to Maine. Which is a sad thing for me, because me might actually have had the chance to meet in person if she hadn’t’

I’m not giving up hope, though. I’m dreaming of a MAW writing retreat, where all these amazing women will gather to share our common love for our families, our writing, and that wonderful organization that brought us all together.

How amazing would that be?

You can find Sara’s writing, recipes, and photographs at her lovely blog: Lemons and Roses.

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Do yourself a favour and check it out.

Sara, I’m so grateful to have met you, virtually at least. And we really must work on that retreat.

 

 

 

#tryalittletenderness

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January 31, 2018

I’m a very lucky person. Somehow I’ve managed to find a collection of incredibly strong, compassionate, brilliant, and positive people to add to my life. Most through the connections I’ve made because of my writing.

Social media has allowed these connections to grow and flourish, expanding my world at the same time that it as made it smaller.

These individuals are from all over North America, and indeed, all over the world. The friendships that have formed would never have been possible twenty years ago.

Today I want to tell you about a woman who is such positive force, a vibrant, caring, encouraging woman who I came to know kind of by accident.

The very first narrative non-fiction piece I had published was in a wonderful online literary magazine called MOTHER’S ALWAYS WRITE. I’ve submitted several pieces to them over the past few years (and I need to get my butt in gear and submit more) and through this process, I became friends with the amazing woman who is responsible for this #tryalittletenderness endeavour, Michelle Riddell.

And through Michelle, I made the acquaintance of another amazing woman, Lisa Leshaw. I had a story published in CHICKEN SOUP FOR THE SOUL’S The Dog Really Did That, and Lisa had a story published in this same edition.

Michelle was friends with Lisa, both contribute to another great site called, HER VIEW FROM HOME. Lisa commented that she loved my story, and I told her that hers made me cry.

Since that day, I’ve had the privilege to listen to her inspirational videos and read her beautiful words, if not daily, then usually weekly.

When I need a pick me up after being bombarded with rejections, or just hit by the unpleasantries of life, I scroll through my feed to find one of Lisa’s uplifting “pep talks.” It doesn’t take long for the blues to fade away.

So, thank you Lisa, I am so grateful for your unending enthusiasm and positivity.

I hope you are all as lucky as me, and are able to surround yourselves with love, beauty, and positive energy.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

#tryalittletenderness

http://www.nycmidnight.com/Competitions/SSC/Challenge.htm

January 30, 2018

I must apologize for being behind on my posts. I’d hoped to post something everyday. But, as much as that might be a bad thing, it’s also an awesome one. Because it means something else has been demanding my attention.

After putting my second manuscript aside while I worked on several new projects, it has decided to call to me again.

And this is so dang exciting.

I pulled my story from submission this fall, knowing that it required major revisions.  But for so long, I just couldn’t bring myself to tackle these. I wasn’t sure how to  approach these required changes, so I pushed it to the back burner.

In the past few weeks, I’ve had a bit of an epiphany, and I now know just what I need to do.

I’ve been so obsessed with getting these changes down on the page, my other projects have fallen by the wayside.

I signed up for the New York City Short Story contest, which began this Friday, and ends on Saturday. I had 8 days to come up with a 2500 word short story that features my assigned prompts: a fairytale, a coal miner, and a pay cut.

I haven’t written a word.

Instead of focusing my attention on this new project, I’ve been working on my YA story.

And you know what? I’m so blinking grateful.  How amazing to feel my muse at work again, inspiring me to fix this story; the story of my heart, and one I’m 100 percent committed to perfecting.

And, besides, I’ve still got four days left until that short story is due.

Lots of time, right?

 

#tryalittletenderness

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January 27, 2018

This is a little long, but in this world filled with doom and gloom, I figured it’s nice to read about something positive for a a change.

I’d like to give a shout to the most impressive staff at what is now my new favourite store, SIMONS.

The company has it’s origins in a dry goods store opened by Mr. John Simons, in 1840, in Old Quebec. The store imported products from England and Scotland. The business was a success because of the wide variety of products they offered their clientele, and their tireless dedication to outstanding customer service.

It’s nice to see things haven’t changed.

The store provides its customers with a variety of unique items not typically available in other stores. All of excellent quality, although prices are not cheap. After all, you get what you pay for, but their sales are fantastic.

After years of conservative blues, greys and whites, I few years back I decided to expand my husband’s wardrobe by giving him a interesting shirt for Christmas. He wasn’t particularly keen on that shirt, a burgundy button up with small white polka dots, but after a few compliments at work, he decided it wasn’t so bad after all.

This year his Christmas wish list included another interesting shirt. (I win.)

Because I knew Simons had great selection of shirts that branched outside the conservative realm, I convinced a few friends to go on a field trip with me.

I found the perfect shirt, but was somewhat confused by the sizing. My husband had requested a medium with a 15.5 inch neck. The only size I could find on the shirt was the neck size. A sales associate assure me that was all I needed. So I bought it.

Long story short, the neck fit, the rest of the shirt did not. But unfortunately, because I’d never before run amiss in the size of something I’d purchased for Tim, I didn’t keep the receipt

My friends told me not to worry, because I had a Simon’s loyalty card, they could just look up my number and find the receipt.

Today we headed back to Park Royal, to return the shirt, and hopefully find a bigger size.

Problem. They could not locate the purchase on the card. “Did you use your card?” they asked. “No, I gave them my phone number,” (an acceptable alternative.)

“Sorry, I can’t find it.”

My friend who was with me at the time, said, “I know you gave them your number.”

“Well, it’s not here,” the clerk stated. “And this shirt is now on sale for $9.99. (I paid over $50.00 for it.)

Disappointed, I told them I would just keep the shirt and give it to someone slimmer than my husband. (Or put him on a diet, lol.) I assumed this would be the end of their efforts.

Instead, this young woman said, “Just a sec, I’ll go get my manager.” Another young woman appeared, (a high schooler, I swear!) and said, “Give me a moment.” Then she asked, “Do you remember what day you were here?” I didn’t, but said perhaps my friend here did.

My friend didn’t remember, but the manager asked her, “Did you buy anything that day?” And when my friend said, yes, she looked up her card and found the date. Then she went back to the computer, and searched through all the purchases in that department that were made on that date. Incredible. And she found my purchase. And she refunded ALL of my money.

This process took over twenty minutes, of both the clerk’s time, and the manager’s. And they both smiled the entire time.

Now that, my friend, is what customer service is all about.

If you’re lucky enough to have a SIMON’s store in your city, do yourself a favour and go check them out, you won’t be disappointed.

I’m so grateful for this company and their over 100 years of exemplary customer service.

 

 

 

 

 

#tryalittletenderness

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January 26, 2018

Today my mom received some sad news. A good friend of hers passed away, very suddenly.

This woman was physiologically younger and more vivacious than most people my age, despite being about to turn 90. She wore skinny jeans, gorgeous boots, and funky sweaters. Her silver hair was styled in a asymmetrical bob, she had a fabulous sense of humour, and she regularly drove her SUV to Squamish from her home in North Vancouver, to babysit her grandkids.

Her death was sudden, so unexpected, but, as I told my mom, this was the way she would’ve wanted to go. Boom. No fuss, no dwindling health, no suffering, either on her part, or her family’s.

When I think of how my father slowly disappeared into his illness, becoming less and less the man he’d been on a daily basis, I can’t help but think, “Yep. This is how I want to go.” Preferably in bed, reading a good book, or at my computer, writing a good book.

So as much as I am sad for my mom, and for Vi’s family, I’m so grateful that Vi was able to make her exit in such a timely fashion. I know she’s up there, organizing everything, and planning lunches for all her friends and her husband.

Be at peace, Vi. We will miss you.