Professional Baby Steps, and New Websites

I’ve been terrible about posting anything here lately, but I’ve been spending a lot of time over at another blog that I’m just starting up! Yup, it’s true. I’ve decided to start a wordpress.org site that focuses on the adventuring and travel writing stuff that I love doing so that I have a legit site to market and give to people when I am attempting to score more writing gigs. It’s my first crack at completely developing a website and I’m not gonna lie — it’s been a lot of fun. In a different life I think I would’ve gone into programming or website design; it fascinates me. Not that you need any programming skills, really, with wordress.org. They really have it together and everything is streamlined to make it super user friendly. Anyhow, my site is completely brand new and I’m nervous to blast it out, but I would love any feedback from whoever is willing to give it! Drop on by, check it out and let me know what you think. It’s located over at www.fourspoke.com. I will be back here more this week, writing a little more personally. It’s tough for me to stay away from those weekly challeneges.

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Shifting the Tangent

I had the strangest thing happen to me today. As many of us do, I was perusing Facebook and came across an old friend from high school. I added him, of course, and he quickly accepted. Within a few minutes, he sent me a chat message to say hello. I reciprocated, as any well-mannered Facebookie would do, and what transpired after that kind of floored me. His next insta-message said, “Hey, this is so impersonal. I know I haven’t talked to you in, like, 15 years but do you have a minute? Give me a call – here’s my number.”

So, my initial inclination was to pretend that I had shut down facebook and didn’t get the message until later, at which point I could send him a message and say something like, “oh, sorry, didn’t work out maybe next time!” Instead, I went against my knee-jerk response and said ok. “You mean right now? Let me grab the phone…”

It was so uplifting to have a real conversation with an old friend on the other end of the line. We too often hide behind the guise of our cyber-personas and find excuses to avoid each other in real life. Technology is great at creating a disconnected falsity of connectedness among us, one that makes us feel as if we are more in touch than ever but really just allows us to pretend that it’s true. More often than not, I find myself dreading picking up the phone when it rings or meeting face to face with old friends. At first I blamed it on getting older and having kids, but I’m pretty sure this isn’t an affliction of age- it’s a symptom of society.

I fear a little bit for my golden age and the future that my kids will live in. I am unsure that we’ve done a fabulous job of handling the exponential cyber-growth we’ve gone through over the past 15 years. I fear a breakdown of friendships, of face-to-face conversation and real telephone calls. I hope my children and grandchildren learn the art of mingling with real people and experience the joy of hearing people laugh at their jokes. My kids and grand kids need to learn how to deal with confrontation face to face, to see peoples emotions in real life and to spill their heart to someone with words instead of text messages.

I am unsure how to shift this inevitable tangent we seem to be on, but I have faith that there is a way to tilt it just enough. We have to start now by picking up the phone instead of sending a text, of making that dinner date and opening our homes to old friends. Our future generations learn from us. It’s up to us to hold on to the value of interpersonal relationships and teach our kids how to navigate them, too. I’m not trying to persuade anyone to shutter their social media pages — by all means, keep using Facebook as a way to connect with old friends. Then, step outside of your box and pick up the phone.

See the weekly writing challenge on The Golden Years at: http://dailypost.wordpress.com/2014/03/10/weekly-writing-challenge-golden-years/

Random Ramblings

I got another article accepted today that was a total blind submission. YAY for that! It’s the little things in life that keep you moving forward sometimes. I’ve also been thinking a lot more on the direction I’d like to really take with my writing. I quite enjoy family travel adventure stuff, on a budget with kids, etc. I think this is what I am really going to focus on submitting to various places and see where it goes, along with reviews of certain things that pertain when they come up. I feel good about this, I think it suits me. I really ultimately want to write books, but bills must be paid over the course of however long it takes me to actually finish one.

My husband and I have this idea in our head that we are going to take our family on a crazy 30-day Amtrak adventure. We used to travel a lot when we were in college and kid-less. I think we always were sure that our children would be well traveled by the time they were 10, but of course we didn’t take into consideration the cost of actually buying 4 plane tickets anywhere. We’ve lowered out idealistic parenting expectations since they are now 8 and 10 and have barely been to Mexico (we live 10 miles away,) but we are really enjoying this age range and love taking them on low-key adventures around the city. While 4 plane tickets to anywhere seems prohibitive, Amtrak actually offers half price fares for kids and they have these cool US Rail deals. Essentially, you get 30 days of almost limitless travel with one ticket AND you can take bicycles on the trains for free. This is just the type of adventure our bohemian hearts are yearning for. Now, we just need to figure out how to save the cash to make it happen. Keeping my fingers crossed for a writing gig that actually pays decently! Hey, I’d even settle for consistently.

Following The Mantra

Write every day! We’ve heard this over and over again, and I am just attempting to fulfill this promise to myself. I’ve got a house full of kids and no room for solitude unless it’s in my head. All you parents know what I’m talking about. It’s impossible to buy a moment. I find myself agitated that my kids are disrupting the imaginary world in my head, then realize how out of order my priorities can get. I received an email yesterday from the studio I write for letting me know that all of us writers can expect no work for at least the next few weeks, at minimum. Another stark reminder that I need to find other outlets asap. I think I really enjoy writing articles on doing things that are fun and unconventional. Travel articles with kids, local travel, local restaurant stuff (kid-friendly, of course) and anything on-a-budget. Where is a good place to submit these? Can I just go in blind, or do I need to query, or is there a list of suggested article topics I can pull from? Is this just whaImaget happens when you are actually hired as staff somewhere? Am I delusional in thinking that maybe I can just waltz in and submit unsolicited articles like this somewhere? Throw me a bone here, people. Let me know if you have insight into any of this stuff. I know some of you write for a living.

I hear children giggling behind closed doors. I wonder if I intervene too much or not enough. I wonder if it’s always a parent’s nature to question if they are doing this right. We only get one chance. It’s so strange, this transition between milestones. It happens regularly; I remember distinctly different times, like when I couldn’t figure out why C kept crying in her car seat when she was a baby. I realized, finally, that she was squished in there with that stupid little infant pillow and she couldn’t turn her head. One day it just occurred to me to take it out, and she was so happy. She was growing from infant to something bigger and I wasn’t realizing it. As soon as I did and modified my end, she was fine and able to be happy in the skin she had grown into. It’s like, you find balance together as a family and then your kid decides to jump onto that next rung and family life is thrown into upheaval for a moment until we can find our equilibrium again. I think we are hitting that phase right now, fast and hard. We can figure out how to grow and climb to that next precarious step together, parents balancing kids, or we parents can refuse to move and throw the entire thing of kilter. I guess it’s time to figure out the best way to step up and take that next pillow off.

On Deaf Grandmothers

Daily Prompt: Talking in Your Sleep

Have you ever eavesdropped on a conversation you weren’t supposed to? Tell us about a time when it was impossible not to overhear a conversation between people who didn’t know you were there. What was the conversation about? How did it make you feel?

The back pew of the tiny old church smelled like lemon furniture polish. Everyone in my grandmother’s neighborhood congregated here for mass, and as we waited for the rows to fill I couldn’t help fidgeting over the sickly green layer of dirt and wax that coated the antiqued wood. My grandmother hardly ever came out for services anymore; her hearing was failing and she was too proud to purchase the hearing aids recommended by her physician, but today was Palm Sunday so an exception had been made.

The church seated maybe a hundred people, just big enough for the small town she lived in when all the folks turned out. Everyone here knew each other. They had grown up together, married each others brothers or cousins and watched each other’s children grow. I always looked forward to the end of the service when the kids would play “tag” and hide under skirts and the adults would mingle and reminisce. Inevitably someone would comment on how big my siblings and I were growing, how wonderful it was to see us, and then they’d continue a brisk conversation in Spanish that I couldn’t keep up with. I was sure they were talking about us, my siblings and I — we were the only half guerros around who couldn’t follow the conversation.

As the last few people filtered in, the priest began his prominent march down the aisle, the traditional cue that the service was starting. Silent anticipation descended the entire congregation. Inevitably, my tactless, timing-inept grandmother took this moment to lean over and whisper too loudly in her hearing-impaired voice, “Did you see Mercy? That lady in the green? Boy, she hasn’t aged well,” or “Did you see Adrian? The red head over there? She has really put on weight!”

I love my dear grandmother so much. Her timing and her tact are impeccable. I don’t care if we are at a restaurant, a clothing store, or a church service, this scenario is the story of my life with her. I will forever fondly remember her awkward, impolite “whispered” remarks that everyone in a 20 yard radius can’t help but eavesdrop on.

Daily Prompt: Our House

I vividly remember short bits and pieces of my first home. It was on Bermuda Drive, and it was blue. There was a massive oak tree in the front yard that dropped more acorns and leaves than aught to be possible for a single tree. My dad would rake the leaves into mountains, then we would dive into them and bury ourselves deeply into the scratchy mounds. Afterwards, we’d be left digging leathery leaf bits and acorns out of our netherparts for quite some time. One year he decided the tree needed to go. He and my uncles rented a chainsaw and took that sucker down while my siblings and I cried, lamenting future leafless autumns.

A swing set with candy cane stripes sat prominently in the postage stamp back yard. The cherry red fence was trellised with vibrant moss colored grapevines that grew the sourest grapes you’ve ever eaten, and a shaggy white dog named Schnapps was always at our heals. Our fence was low and I remember peaking between the peeling planks to spy on the old woman who lived in the house behind us. In hindsight she was probably in her 40’s, but to me she was old.

My brother and I would use the doggy door to go in and out of the backyard — who needed doorknobs, right? One day, soon after I crawled into the kitchen through that doggy door, I was playing at the kitchen table. The wall adjacent was made out of mirrored tiles and I was hanging upside down on one of the chairs, looking at my reflection and contemplating my hair that hung all the way down to the ground. This, I remember vividly. In the mirror next to my reflection sat another little girl, and I was talking to her. She wasn’t anyone I knew; in fact, I wasn’t quite sure what she was doing in my house. She was close to my age. My mom heard me talking to her and came in to see what was going on.

“I’m talking to the little girl, mama, the one that’s right here under the table with me,” I said, but when I turned to look she was no longer there. My mom’s eyes grew wide as she sat me down and asked more questions. I didn’t really know what the big deal was, I think I just knew that she was from some other life. My mom called my dad in a panic, then they spent the next hour going through the house looking for her. They never found anything, but I’ve always remembered that little girl.

http://dailypost.wordpress.com/2014/03/03/prompt-our-house/