Free videos on the biz of authoring

Keeping a promise I made to myself years ago, I’m nearing completion of Author Straight Talk, a book on the ins and outs of the business of authoring. In support of the book, I partnered up with the amazing Chuck Pryor, the exec producer and director of Joel Osteen’s SiriusXM stations, to shoot a series of videos that I’ve posted on YouTube. About 10 min each, each episode is a highlight of the associated chapters. The Intro Piece and the Episode One: The Money and Motivation behind authoring is up as well. Posts will appear every Tuesday, unless I can’t help myself and post Monday night.

Comment at will. I’ve never been much of a comment-responder (I just made that phrase up because it fits me), but I’m changing my evil ways. Yesterday, I couldn’t help myself and actually started answering questions on some other guy’s page on self-publishing. Since he wasn’t bothering to do it (that’s what happens when you get KK’s of views), I figured I’d help him out.

Subscribe to be notified for new posts and other such stuff, and check out the schedule below.

Post Date Video
Nov 21

Intro Video

Nov 28

Video 1- Money and motivation

Dec 1

Video 2- Inspiration & writer’s block

Dec 8

Video 3- Genres, trends, writing for yourself

Dec 15

Video 4-Copyrights, ownership, lawsuits

Dec 21

Video 5- Sales & social media

Dec 28

Video 6- Editing

Jan 12

Video 7- Getting an agent

Jan 19

Video 8- Overcoming insecurity, fears

Jan 26

Video 9- Tools & Time management

Feb 2

Video 10- Process, start to finish

Feb 16

Video 11-Getting the facts right

Feb 23

Video 12-anything goes- ask Sarah

 

Living Life without a Nose

Every so often, I meet or see a person that serves to remind me a) how good I got it, b) how we’ve all had crap happen in our lives and c) how the will and desire to overcome is present in some people and not in others.
***
“Let’s not do 12 days of Christmas,” Rog announced last Thursday night. “How about the 37 days of Christmas?” As I stare at him, completely mystified at his meaning. “I mean, why not put the tree tomorrow?” My jaw drops. Saliva drips from the corner of my mouth and he recants…a little. “This…weekend?” he suggests.

Seriously. Halloween just ended.

After wiping said drool from my mouth, I listened to Rog’s argument that we were hardly going to have a Christmas with all the travel and commitments.

“I’m also gone so much I don’t get to enjoy the decorations.” Nothing shows how truly-Christmas deprived he was as a child more than his plaintive wail. Of course I relented.

The next day, I find myself at my super-secret, cowboy ornament store that happens to have a killer sale going on. Standing a line 10 people deep, I take odds on what checker I’m going to get. When I see her, my stomach clenched and I felt a little queesy. Her, you see, is a woman with no nose.

It has only been in the last year that I’ve seen Her, a thin woman, mid-thirties, medium-height, five foot eight or so, thick, dark, shoulder-length, olive skin, and a graceful set of hands that move quickly from counter to terminal, referring to co-workings as “honey” and customers as “hon.”

The first time I’d seen her, I was a bit taken aback, and didn’t stare (thanks mom, you taught me right), and looked around her missing attribute– her forehead, her hair–easy to do when in the waiting line and looking at her from the side. But that Friday, I had a feeling it was going to be my turn in front of her.

Soon I was invited to her counter, called Hon and we started talking. That’s what I do: I get others talking. I’m genuinely curious and it’s helped by the fact others usually are more than happy to answer.

The conversation centered on our mutual love and appreciation of cowboy ornaments and she did her job and tried to sell me on an in-house charge card. When I declined, she went for the hard sell.

Let me tell you, she was good. She tried every angle, and I sparred with her like only a fellow sales-person would. It was becoming fun. As this went on, I noticed how gloriously green her emerald-colored eyes were, framed by long lashes and thick brows. Her lips were full, and her face a mask of flawless skin that actually moved, removing all doubt that she was in fact, a natural beauty, no botox or restilyn present. I didn’t even notice her nose, which was actually a reconstruction of two side-pieces of skin, folded together like a vertical seem.

“No in-house credit for me,” I was saying. “My twenties were for getting in debt. My thirties were for getting out of debt and my forties are for staying out.” She smiled. Then it was her turn.

“Tell me about it Hon,” she started, talking as rapidly as her hands moved my stack of cowboy ornaments across the beeping scanner. “I was flipping houses in my twenties, making eight thousand dollars a shot, had savings and a husband and credit with Lloyds of London. Then my husband left me with one hundred thousand dollars in debt and my identity got stolen. I had no money, no credit and no home.” She continued to ring and I was dead silent, captivated in one of those horrible yet fascinated ways.

“I’ve here working to get back to where I was, and at least I have decent credit now, I’m single, and I’m getting ready to start flipping house again. Nothing as small as that is going to stop me from getting back to where I was.”

Whoa. As the horse ornament whizzed over the beeper and she folded up the catcus and peppers, I was struck not by what she said (I’ve heard lots of stories of men and women being taken for rides by their former spouses, yours truly included), but what she left out. Nothing about the nose, and I wasn’t going to ask. By that time, I didn’t even notice it.

Then she took out a card from behind the counter, swiped that as well, and I saw the register remove another 15% from the total price.

“You can do that?” I asked, pleased and amazed.

She winked. “Of course Hon. Happy Friday.”

I told her I’d see her again soon, and left the building. Tonight, I hung the ornaments, taking extra care with the cactus and peppers, my thoughts on what one has to go through to not let something as small as being left physically, and encumbered with $100K of debt not diminish one’s determination to have a  fulfilling life.

 

The Safe Friend

It was 1:30 in the morning.

“Can you talk?” My friend asks me. Well, I’d answered the phone I think to myself.

When someone calls at 1:30 a.m., they don’t want to hear me talk. They want to talk. They need to talk.

“Of course. What’s up?”

“You are never going to believe…” she starts, telling me about the trainwreck that has become her life. I put my hand to my mouth, close my eyes, ignore the wave of judgment that passes through me and think of the right words to say to the person who has said these things to me more than once.

“That must be have been hard,” I say.

Friendship is like the sun thawing an emotional chill.

“Yes!” my friend wails. I keep going, saying phrases designed to help my friend get her emotions out. It’s what my mom (a shrink) did with us around the dining room table after school. Of course, we had no idea we were being shrunk out. We just felt understood, heard and validated.

“Let it out,” I tell my friend, all the while thinking I was a safe environment, and that’s what friends need: a safe environment to emote. Friends aren’t always looking for advice. That’s what spouses are for (wanted or not). Friends want compassion. A listening, non-judgmental ear that is all for them and no one else. Taking sides isn’t even a question.

Here’s a few affirming statements I learned from mom. For a:

  • Breakup…..”It sounds like it really hurt you….” (“Yes!”)
  • Loss of a job…”That must have been discouraging…” (“It was!!”)
  • Rejection…. “It’s like it’s never going to get better…” …. (“That’s right!!”)

So my friend continued like a young child, until she finally got it all out, her energy spent. The dark fumes of hurt, anger, anxiety gone. She then cried again, but this time happy, relieved and able to sleep. The gift of a safe spot for a friend the only thing I could offer but precisely what she needed.

A fashion turnabout…what men really think of those boots

In between books I’m taking a completely unnecessary and full-on break of slovenly proportions to write this piece on boots. Well, it started with boots but quickly digressed into a full-on relevatory experience about thighs, ankles and what makes a woman attractive.

As the caveat, I will say I was so disturbed by this conversation which I had with my husband, I had to validate it with other men. Acquaintances, friends, you name it–short of the man at the grocery store. Well, actually I did that too, but it was Home Depot. Does that count?

It started like this. Over the summer, I start planting the seeds about buying new boots (you see, I must do this so I can later justify that I’d brought up the notion that I “need” new boots. When one has a closet full of boots, one must start early). I invariably point out that the boots are too pointy, too straight, too high, low, old, hurt my feet, out of style. Whatever. What really happened is that in July I saw the fashions in Europe where styles always precede the US by about 6 months. Thus, I’m all about fringe boots at the ankle height but also love the over-the-knee look.

Skip forward to September. The boots are out in full force (I didn’t buy any in Europe. That’s another story about a fight we had on the streets of St. Moritz, which I’ll save for the right time) and so I am on the scout. I start dropping hints that get less and less subtle, hoping he’ll pick me up a pair. You see, when he goes shopping, he always does a better job than me. He’s very metro that way.

Days, weeks go by, and he’s avoiding the task. Always some excuse. Subtle goes out the window. I show him pictures. I use my index finger to point out items in the window. Nothing works. October comes and goes and now we are at the tail end of November. The leaves have fallen, the temperature has dropped along with the first snowflakes and I’m irritated I am still lacking some new boots and worried I’ll miss out. Finally, I call him out.

“What is up with you and no boots?” He shakes his head, grimaces like he recognizes the sound of an inevitable fight and says this:

“The ones you want are so ugly!” I start to dispute this of course, because I like my taste. Then he pours a vat a salt in my wound by adding: “Knee high boots and over the knee boots make a woman look fat–even skinny women.” My mouth falls open, because in 18 years, I swear I have never heard this from him before. He continues to rapid-fire all the reasons why women of any size, shape or sense of style should avoid boots over the calf like the plague.

“It cuts a woman’s legs in two,” he explains. “It doesn’t matter if it’s in a skirt, which you want to see the leg by definition, or in jeans, which is worse because women tuck their pants in and then bulges come out.” I protest that a thin leg or even a woman with a pear-shaped curve can wear boots well.” Rog simply shakes his head. “No. It’s not good. Ever. Ask any guy that’s straight.”

Ok, I tell myself. I will, so I do. I ask church-going men, those in grocery stores when we are stuck in line, my dad. Sure enough, the comments start.

“I prefer low cut,” says one. “I can see the calve that way.”

A gym rat says: “Mid calf is as high as I like. Most calves bulge out and are gross.”

A professional in a suit offers: “Heels are the best. No boots at all.”

Lurking from under a cowboy had, a man at the local grange intones: “Unless it’s under jeans or in the mud, I don’t like boots on a girl. Too manly.”

And so it went on. What about over the knee? Isn’t that sexy?

“Not to me,” said a mid-twenties wearing skinny jeans and a leather jacket, the type I imagined at a dance club on a Saturday night. “A short skirt and low ankled boots. The kind with fringe, you know what I’m talking about?”

Uh, yeah, I do.

I decide it’s too early to tell Rog he’s right. I don’t want that vibe as I’m eating my turkey dinner. I’ll save that piece of information and pull it out just before I’m ready to go shopping for much needed calve-baring, ankle concealing, form-fitting leather shoes with a slight heal. I suggest you do that same. We’ll have a legion of women on black Friday descending on the stores with a singular mission, since now of course, we know what men really think of our boots!

Save the drama. Back up your data

It’s not sexy. It’s safe. I’m talking storage, not condoms.

Three days ago, my main computer goes blue screen. Even non-techies know that this is the sign of immediate death. 13 hours later (that means Rog was working through the night, giving up at 6 am), the blue screen was still blue, but the data was transferring off onto a back-up drive. That process had taken hours (for he had to tap into who-knows-what). Only a former Microsoft guy with mad, Jedi-skills could even make this happen.

Still, the computer was dead, the culprit a bug in the Microsoft OS software. As Rog mutters to himself, red-eyed and hair sticking up like a slee-stack from Planet of the Apes, I divine the computer is going back to the manufacturer (thank you extended warranty). Me, on the other hand…I silently slip out of the room, retrieve my external hard drive and create a new folder backing up everything on my computer. I recall the time 2 yrs back when my entire system went blue, and unlike my desktop, was unable to EVER get the files back. In a panic, I contacted every editor, friend etc. for the files I might have sent.

New Year’s Resolution for sanity…

First of all, use the cloud for documents if you feel comfortable doing so. I use Dropbox–or rather, my clients and companies I work with use dropbox and I access the information. Personally, I’m ultra paranoid about hacking and never put a thing in the cloud that I’m going to regret, from pictures to documents. If others want to do that, fine. Just not me. (Think Sony, Facebook and just about every other system that’s been penetrated).

If you don’t know what a cloud  is, fuggetaboutit. Go for an external drive, either in small or large form. I have both- a USB for my word documents that are tiny files by comparison to pics. I use my drive for a complete transfer of my desktop folder. It’s solid state (no moving parts), safe and sits in my safe that is fire proof. It’s not real expensive either, but obviously more than a $10 USB stick.

I used to do make a full back up once a month, but now do USB backups once a week and only have a full backup if I’ve had major file changes.

For my sanity, it’s worth the time and effort. In my latest case, it was worth at least 12 hours of my husband’s life.

My new method of being:

  1. backup drive. once a week. for primary files, after every major upgrade or version
  2. in the cloud. for non-sensitive documents that if hacked, or not going to bring me down in a critical way
  3. outlook. I will send my other computer (desktop) a final file and archive it. because I’m now terribly paranoid, I send major files to my husband’s computer as well, stick it in my file folder and archive it.
  4. a USB. just to be ultra safe, I have a wonderfully happy Minion USB that I have my word files on. It’s tiny and portable, which is ideal only for my most critical documents, but I have it nonetheless.

Is this all redundant? Absolutely. And that’s the point. I will never, ever, be caught without my information again.

As a side note, an associate I work with on a frequent basis (he’s an attorney at a land development firm and is always calling me for language and ideas on creative land, manufacturing and investment partnership strategies), recently suffered from a complete technology breakdown. Apparently, the company was hacked, the IT critically compromised. All. Data. Gone. Was the info supposed to be in the cloud? Yes. Was it compromised (e.g. wiped out). Yes. All bad.

So, when it comes to having a backup, it truly is the same principle as sexual safety. One can never be too safe.

Halloween treats- Witchy Fingers

One of my two, personal favorite bite-size treats. The other is the gruesome ripped ears. Both of these are divinely gross and absolutely delicious. They are also made from the same dough. The only difference is the witchy fingers are cooked longer while the ripped ears are slightly undercooked. I might also add that these take a bit of time (about an hour and a half) but are great to do with kids. They are also big attention getters, which I also like!

Promise- people get intimidated by the nails (the almonds) and creating the actual fingers. This is super easy. My motto is: if I can do it, so can you. I’ll give you step by step pictures on this. You can do it!

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Took a picture to show what “just incorporated means.”

Requirements
Food coloring. A box will give green, yellow, red and blue. You will use all but the yellow.
A knife, rolling pin, and small paintbrush (to color on the blood and moldy ear slice).
Parchment paper

Ingredients (first, the nails)
Food coloring – you will use this last
30 blanched almonds

Directions
In boiling pot of water, dump the almonds. You may want to do more than 30, just in case a few split.
After 1 minute (exactly) remove and strain. Immediately run cold water (from the tap) is fine. Only need to do this about one minute.
Dump on a paper towel. As you start to rub the almonds, the peels will come off. Not all though–perhaps not even half. Don’t worry. With your fingertips (thumb and forefinger) you can easily rub once or twice and the shell slips off.
Place the blanched almonds on the cookie sheet (this is where you will paint them once fully dry)
At this point, stop and make the cookie dough. The reason is you will need to refrigerate the cookie dough. As this happens (about 30-40 minutes or longer) you will paint return and paint the fingers.

Ingredients- Finger Dough
2 large eggs
1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract (bourbon or Madagascar are my preferred choices)
8 tablespoons (1 stick) salted/sweet butter (not unsalted. The taste is SO much better this way)- room temperature
1/2 cup confectioner’s sugar (powdered sugar)
5 tablespoons granulated sugar
Pinch of salt (I tend to use Himalayan pink salt as it gives the recipe a pop), and when it says “pinch” I use my grinder, and that means 3 turns of the grinder
1 2/3 cups of all-purpose flour

Directions
Separate 1 egg. set aside the white in a bowl.

In a small bowl, which together the yolk, remaining egg and vanilla. Set aside.

In a large bowl (like a KitchenAid), use the padded attachment and combine the butter, powered sugar, granulated sugar and salt. Beat on medium speed until well combined. Add the egg mixture and beat until smooth, about 2 minutes. Add the flour, mixing on low speed until just incorporated (over mixing makes the end result hard).

Wrap the dough first in parchment paper if you have it, the plastic. If you have neither, an airtight Ziploc bag will work. Chill until firm, 20-30 minutes.

Tip: For rolling out, divide in half. The reason is simple. It takes time to roll, parse (or separate) the individual dough pieces for fingers. then you must roll, detail and place the finger. The remaining dough will get too soft, and become gooey. So take out only as much as you can reasonably use before it gets warm, which is about half.

At this point, place the dough in the fridge and paint the fingers.

Painting the fingers
place red, green and or blue food coloring in separate bowls. holding the almond between fingers, paint both sides. Tip: I use a rubber glove so I don’t stain my fingers. It takes several days to come off and I hate that. Then again, it is Halloween so who cares? Let stand until you are ready to roll out the dough and make the fingers.

img_8677

this is the dough, already rolled out, then cut and formed into a 2-2.5 inch piece

Making the fingers
This fun. Don’t be worried. Just put on some good chill music and go for it.

Take half the dough and place the other half back in the fridge. Roll it out to @1 cm thick. Using a cutting utensil (I use a pastry spatula), cut the pieces into a manageable size (e.g. about the length of half a real finger. It will elongate as you roll it out.

Roll the dough out into @a 3-inch piece. Then using your forefinger and third finger, depress a little, which will raise the middle (to create the middle knuckle). Adjust the end tip, to resemble the end of the finger. Adjust as necessary– e.g. raise the center, depress the in-between parts (as they will raise slightly during baking).

img_8683

depress the center. this makes the knuckles. 3 simple lines will do it

Take one of the almonds and wedge it within the end. Don’t place on top, as this will ensure it falls off after baking (I’ve done this before and ruined the whole batch). Make sure you have a bit of dough above, below and on all sides.

Take a knife or other untensil and create the ridges for the knuckle. Walla! you have created your finger.

Tip: Create the entire batch of the fingers and then brush lightly with the egg white. If you do this too soon, you will depress the ridges on the knuckles and it won’t look that realistic.

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now you are ready place the almond as the fingertip

Tip: Err on the side of exaggeration. In other words, if the ridges and length of the fingers aren’t pronounced enough, the finger will come out basically smooth. So if you are worried, its better to have a finger that’s super bony rather than one that looks flat and normal. You don’t want normal!

For cooking
Heat the over to 350 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or Silpats (French non stick baking mats are my preference).

Using a non-stick brush, brush lightly with egg white.

img_8674

this is what it looks like before its cooked. you can add as much dough around the edge as you want. for fun, I sometimes go back and make them scraggly, but it tends to gross people out then they won’t eat them!

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This is a row PRE- covered with egg whites. I forgot to take a picture of that, but they slightly glisten when covered with the egg white

img_8690

this is a pic of just the green-tipped ones. This year I made red, green and then black.

For the presentation, my favorite way to display for eating is sticking out from within a cauldron. That way they are reaching out to you, saying EAT ME!

 

 

 

Blissful blindness

Last night, elevenish. I should be in bed, enjoying the raptures that come with a nearly two-decade long marriage (or is that an oxymoron). Instead, I’m sitting on the couch, playing ’80’s Fun Factory (those clubbers of you know what I’m talking about), and Rog has one arm around my shoulders, the other on my waist. I feel a disturbance in the force. Something’s awry. I look down. I have a sliver of white belly fat poking out between my shirt and pants. Well, really, it’s more like an albino hotdog lying on its side, making an unscheduled appearance.

I subtly take the material between my thumb and forefinger, covering the kosher meat product. He notices. “If I can’t see it, it doesn’t exist,” I say with a laugh.

Rog roars. Full body-shaking, shoulder-collapsing movement that shows just how mortifying a horizontal hot-dog on one’s stomach can be. The moment passes, I make a mental note to do more sit-ups the following morning and that program-from-Dante’s 7th ring of hell on the elyptical and forget it.

This morning, I’m at the kitchen counter writing. I’ve finished making breakfast for a legion of girls, cleaned the counters and shunted the bodies downstairs to play for two hours so I can write. Rog mosies out from his office/den, searching around like a puppy sniffing hydrants.

His random motions distract, then disturbs me. I can’t concentrate. I sense he’s nearing the sink, going to do the dishes.

“No,” I tell him. You will make noise. I’ve just gotten the kids occupied. You must leave.” He scowls.

if you don't see me being a) mad and b) freezing, it doesn't exist

this image makes my point. I’m a) mad at Rog because he wouldn’t take me to the restaurant I wanted in St. Moritz, Switzerland (we’ve come all that way, and really, I can’t eat on the lake?!) and b) I’m mad because he then made fun of me for being a spoiled brat and making me take pics while it’s freezing. I grimace, this image forever capturing the notion that if you can’t see it (my fury) it never existed.

 

“I can’t take stuff in the sink,” he replies, the grumpiness associated with me not doing my job.

I lift my fingers from the keypad, debating my response. I could fight irritation with irritation, but I am supposed to be writing something akin to romance, not reality. The next option is a reasonable conversation about the timing of acts, such as writing during the precious and the ever-elusive quiet I seek as an author, but I set that aside. I don’t have that kind of time in my life. I go for the third, most reasonable choice.

“It’s like my belly fat. If I don’t see it, it doesn’t exist.” He pauses, on the edge of laughing and being irate. “Or, if you don’t like that option, you can just build me a bigger house where you don’t emerge from the office and see the dishes.”

Eyes narrow. Hands twitch with a frustration born of 18 yrs together, knowing that a little tiff like this will have negative consequences in the bedroom when he least wants it.

“I’ll take option number one,” he says with a painful smile. As he turns, he casts me a backward glance. “I’m not angry, because if you don’t see it, it doesn’t exist.”

My thoughts exactly.

New skin overnight

When one finds a solution that is transformative to the skin- especially the face- one is obligated by the moral compass of the universe to share. As it’s Saturday night, the loneliest night of the week (name the movie) Little did I know this is a well-known fact among 2 groups in my circle that to this point, haven’t seen fit to share: movie studio make-up people and plastic surgeons.

Auqafor. One word that is the nearest thing to a miracle cure for less than $10 US in jug and less than $5 in a tube. I also now have small vials that I carry in my purse.

give your skin some love

give your skin some love

Plastic surgeons swear by this after any treatments involving lasers, as do estheticians who use it for healing of many types of skin damage. At the movie studio, the lead makeup artists give it as take-home ointments for celebs who have dry or damaged skin.

Me? I discovered it for my face after using it for two years on my feet. During an appointment for a pedicure, when the pedicurist politely suggested I apply a thick coating on my heels, slip on socks and let it sit for several hours. I did it, and was thrilled to see the thick lines start to mend and the small cracks go nearly invisible. I took it one step further, and started applying it before workouts, and then at night-leaving it on all night long. The result is my forty-something feet look like my 10-year old daughters, for which I, and my husband are very grateful.

Now, for the face. After moving to a high-desert area known as Coeur d’Alene, I have struggled with this back and forth dry, mostly dry, very dry then cracking phenomenon. It’s not pretty. It’s been depressing. My particular areas of affliction is the area on crease areas on either side of my lips. I’ve been told this skin is particularly thin and sensitive.

I found this to be true. I’d be going along with my normal routine and then wake up one day with my left side completely dry and cracking. This would last for two to four days, ensuring any type of make-up impossible- including the moistest of foundations. After months of trying everything (more moisturizer, then less) I said screw it- I’m going to apply Aquafor to my face even if I clog my pores (which hasn’t happened since high school).

As an aside, one of the eternal no-no’s youthful teens are told is to never, EVER, put Vaseline-like ointment on the face, because it will clog the pores spawning a strawberry patch worth of red bumps. Perhaps. But as an adult, I can tell you, I am well beyond the zit-growing stage and into the ‘let’s preserve my youthful appearance stage.’

Back to the Aquafor. When I woke the following morning, the skin was still rough, but the red and the dry were reduced by 50%. That day, I put on yet another coat of the stuff, applied my foundation and it stayed without peeling, flaking or cracking (bonus!). That night and the following morning, I did the same thing. What happened was this: the dry skin started sloughing offe- and it was easily removed with my finger. I then used my soft luffa pad (made for the face) and it just washed off. Then—perfect skin!

It’s a miracle, seriously. After this little experiment, I thought- huh. What if I applied it to me entire face–another no-no. For three days, I put it everywhere except my eyelids, because I don’t want stickiness. I even put it on my jaw and neck. The proof was when I went to my 20-year young hairdresser who isn’t known for holding her tongue. First she said I lost weight (which I had, thank you very much) but then she commented on my skin. She’d noticed the dry skin previously (but had not said a word) and proclaimed my skin looks five years younger. Rog agrees.

So there it is. You can get it almost anywhere- Walgreens, RiteAid, you name it. But I will say once again, the Vaseline doesn’t have the same effect- because I tried. For some reason, known only to the chemists in white coats, Aquafor is the bomb. Needless to say, I have a case in my garage, because if the zombie apocalypse breaks out, I’m going to go down with great skin.

 

 

 

Gym’s, Gerry’s and the petri dish of life

Going to my gym is like experiencing a cornucopia of life. A mixture of people, sizes and persuasions along with contradictions and for me, curiosity.

kroc center

Who gets a gym that looks like it belongs in Aspen? Me and 14,000 other people, that’s who

Maybe it’s because this place is a multi-purpose center as opposed to a strictly iron and class oriented gym. This place is rock climbing and swimming, theatre and basketball courts. I’m sure there is more, but my curiosity taps out where the day care center stops. It starts back up as I approach mile three on thick rubber bottom-treadmill and the sweat is dripping in my, blurring the letters on my Kindle. My mind starts to wander and I look around. Out of my left eye, I spy an older man two treadmills down about 5’7 who has a crunched right hand. At first I only sense this, because he’s having extraordinary difficulty pushing the buttons. In front of me is a younger couple that are engaged in the type of back and forth that only occurs in the dating phase. Married couples, FYI, go separate directions, or if they stay together, move with military-style precision. They are here to get things done, not flirt.

I move on from the young couple. They are boring me and honestly, if I have to watch people flirt on the treadmill, my only recourse is to give myself more pain as a distraction.

Downstairs, over the railing, I see a late-twenties man rolling his wheelchair. He works here. Once I overhead him talking to a group of elderly patrons. He said a snowboarding accident left him in his present state. He wheels everywhere with vigor, being much more helpful to the senior citizens who occupy this place than I would normally expect a late-twenties employee to be. (Nothing against late twenties, mind you. It’s just that a person who is half the height of a granny tends to be a) non-threatening, b) interested in what life’s lessons are all about and c) funny. If you have lost the use of your legs, along the path, I believe a decision is made whether or not to become bitter. And if that’s not the choice, happiness usually is. Have you ever noticed how happy disabled people are? It’s like it was a blessing. But I digress.)

Then comes the group of big, bald and…(no, not bloaty, I know you thought I was going there), but hard. How can that be? You ask. I can answer because in my alter life, I am the quizat haderachk. These men are mostly forties to sixties, and own their bigness and baldness. As I ramp up my treadmill to 7% and then 11%, I’m in awe of how these men own it. Actually, I have to give credit to my friend from LA, Mark S., a snowboarding, surfing CEO of not one but two companies (he’s single, but has attachment issues, sorry ladies). In any case, he will look at you when you completely err (e.g. fart in a closed-windowed car) and say “Claim it, bro.”

These men, I watch them and then claim it. Claim their bigness that is so big, their tummies is one, enormous round entity that stretches the t-shirt like a balloon ready to go into the stratosphere. They strut. They laugh. They do the man-bro hug and pat each other’s back twice with a bap-bap. I must say, I applaud it. They are so full of confidence it almost makes them appealing. Almost.

Then we have another group of Gerries (what I call older women, Gerries—with a j–) is short for geriatric. Rog thinks it’s insulting but in my posse of grandmas who I hang with (thing church and service-based activities), a Gerry is really an affectionate term, one of endearment. (e.g. oh that Gerry si so cute driving her scooter, oh, that’s a hot Gerry, she’s working that lace skirt).

In any case, these place has the female equivalent of the balding, big men. They are the not-so-well preserved women who are trying really, REALLY, hard. (yes, I shouted, but more of a nice emphasis cuz I like these women). This area, in Northern Idaho, isn’t about pretense, plastic surgery or make-up. When I’m talking try hard, I’m referring to a completely different try, one that requires my complete respect and more than a little bit of awe.

To wit (invoking my high school English lit class), one woman in her late sixties, her face an unfolded piece of parchment paper that attests to her a lifetime in the northern Idaho sun, has poured her skinny self into a pair of stretchy leggings and a skin tight halter top. Rock climbing shoes without sock are the only other piece of clothing she puts on before scrambling her little superhero butt into the harness. She shimmies up the rock wall, putting the out of shape fourteen year-old male’s to shame.

That girl has claimed it. Dang. I look around wanting to claim something of my own.

As I get off the stationary walking apparatus of pain, I head directly to the weight section. There I run into a wall of Gerries who have commandeered the machines, many with their personal trainer (compliments of the center). They have their small white pieces of paper, attached to a clipboard and their minder. (I’m borrowing that from the Scientologists. I like it. It fits. I hope I don’t get sued. If the government of the US doesn’t have the funds or gumption to sue the Scientologists, I’m pretty sure I don’t). In any case, the minder keeps tabs on very push and press, pull and dip. Nary a sweat drop in sight, but I tell you what I do see. A lot of looking around. Gazing—at the opposite sex!

I ponder this as I continue into the free weight section where I’m in the company of only one other woman (who is definitely not a Gerry) and a whole lot of maleness under thirty. I’m okay with this, but as I mention to my husband later than evening, I’m confused as to what to do and how to be. My natural, nice, talkative self creates the impression that I want to talk, instead of working out, and that my talking is a forward to getting into bed. So after realizing I was creating a legion of potential stalkers who would follow me around from bench to pole, I tried the other approach. I stared straight ahead, barely making eye contact, and only doing so when I needed to verify bench or item was available. I’m terribly conflicted about this, because I think avoiding someone’s gaze is rude and I run this risk of thinking I’m all that (which, if you saw me at the gym, would know I’m very little of all that).

I’m reminded of what Rog told me earlier in the week. “Who cares if they look or talk to you? Why are you even thinking about this? Enjoy a younger man talking to you. It’s not going to last forever.”

What the…? Laughing while foreseeing my old-age Gerry-ness coming into play, I continue working out, trying to find a balance between being focused and polite but distant and not-b—chy. The good news is I have better things to focus on, like the man who has been burned on half of his body, and the woman plastered with so many tattoos I can barely see the skin. She doesn’t look very happy but has an amazing body. This then makes me wonder if I have to be grumpy and focused to have a great body.

Closing the locker on my things, I wipe some sweat off and head out. The meanderings of my time at the gym. I came. I exercised. I pondered. I realized I don’t know half of what I need to be wise, but if the Gerry’s around me are any example, I’m going to have a lot of time to figure it out.

Enlightenment & fasting

S teve Jobs has been on my mind; not for his fame, fortune or black mock turtlenecks, but for his use of fasting for the goal of enlightenment.

Let’s think about this for a minute. Fasting has been used for thousands of years for a whole multitude of reasons. Inspiration (think the original Buddha), mental and physical strength (athletes) enlightenment (yogi’s, Jesus) rendering the mind & heart humble and pure (Saint Augustine)  cleansing of the body and soul (millions of unnamed people). The length inspirational quoteand means are as varied as the people and the times. Jobs tended to use the fasting that skipped everything but juices (not to be confused with a cleanse, which is about losing weight but not enlightenment). A fast is generally considered eliminating all food and living on water, although I know people modify this to address dietary and health requirements and/or restrictions.

Whatever the form and function, a “fast” has a purpose, and end-goal if you will, that is ever-present and top-of-mind throughout. Then, when the goal is achieved—vis a vis the sought after enlightenment has occurred, then the fast ends.

Let’s go back to Jobs. Carrot juice being his fasting method of choice, if he had a problem to solve, he’d go on a juice fast until he received the answer (or enlightenment) he sought. (As a side-note, I’ve read and experienced that those who don’t believe in a God tend to use the word enlightenment versus received an answer- which denotes an answer from ‘someone.’ Perhaps this is why fasting itself is so universal—because a universal response is being given at the individual level, and thereby the promise of the fast is achieved).

I love the yoga teachers that throughout my twenty-year study have often gone full-on fasting—not even water—which of course means it has very physical limitations. So too have the martial arts instructors I’ve worked with over the years. The parallel experiences and stories have mirrored those who have removed certain foods from their diets-the difference, I might emphasize, was speed and clarity.

The voice of clarity

Now, I made this promise not to get too personal with this blog, but I have no issue telling the world what I have personally fasted about, because it’s pretty much anything important. For inspiration before a business meeting, college exam, plot ideas, who to date and/or marry, whether or not I should move, accept a client or job, to have or not have a baby. Those are personal. I’ve fasted for others, parents, siblings, even strangers, like those suffering from miscarriages of justice, the survivors or victims of attacks or accidents.

Why, you might ask. It’s because as a person who believes in the power of fasting for others and self, I also believe in the power of positive energy. At the subatomic level, our bodies are composed of energy (as identified in 1951). We can send out this to others regardless of distance. At the simple level, our heart pushes out an energy field 12 feet from our bodies.

It goes like this

  1. Start with the intention. Every self-help guru, yoga instructor, pastor, sales executive and even Oprah, will tell you it starts with the verbalization and visualization of the intent or goal. What is it? What do you desire? What do you need? This is what you are putting out there to the universe if you will, and if you believe in Deity, it’s that entity. Visualize and verbalize. State it and be clear.
  2. Prepare to fast and make the commitment to a timeframe. This is the optimal way to do it…as in, three meals, a dinner, overnight and then breakfast and lunch the following day. Twenty-four hours is a good starting point and there is a methodology. As said by one of my martial arts instructors (an 8th degree who was as agile as a mountain lion but as peaceful as a cool breeze), the goal is to bring the body to submission of the mind, and the mind itself to a place where it stops making noise. Depriving the body of food physically weakens it. Only when this occurs does the mind become quiet. Once the mind is quiet, then inspiration can occur.Now, that said, sometimes it takes some of us (ahem) more time to physically and mentally settle down than others. Honestly, I’ve witnessed that vegans who refrain from caffeine are simply a lot more chill than the average adrenaline junkie (self include). So, when I say that one sometimes needs to prepare for a fast, I’m being serious. If I’ve had a lot of chocolate lately (which has caffeine) I have to ease off so I won’t go through withdrawals. Then I have to clean out my body (by further eliminating bad stuff like sugar) and then I’m ready to be clean physically.For those that live a cleaner diet than I do, fasting is probably easier and produces quicker or stronger efforts.
  3. Constantly reiterate and repeat the intention throughout the fast. Think about it. Consider it. Roll it over and over in your mind. The more you think about the problem you are wanting to solve or outcome you desire, the greater the expansion of your thoughts. This is where the ideas suddenly come from—or the enlightenment. Many have referred to this as a sudden burst of light. For writers, many times this comes in dreams. Others have the ‘a-ha’ moment that seemingly comes from nowhere.

 

Does it last forever?

What if you fast for a day, even two, are weak and weary, and have received nothing. Nada. No answer. No inspiration. You are frustrated and think the whole notion is bunk.

Actually, a phrase exists for this condition, and it’s called a stupor of thought. That, in fact, is the answer. The answer “no” comes in many forms, and this “blackness” as it’s sometimes called, is the clearest form of answer possible. Should I go out with this person—stupor of thought—is a no. If it were a yes, then it would be a warm, peaceful feeling.

A yoga instructor told me about sending her child to a school that had been recommended, but she wasn’t feeling good about it. She fasted for a day or so and spent concentrated time in meditation (for additional clarity). While she didn’t receive an answer of what school to go to (she hadn’t asked that), she received a strong feeling—described as a sickness in her stomach—every time she thought about sending her child to that school. The longer she fasted and meditated, and thought about this option, the more acute her feelings became. Once she visualized not sending her child to this school, she felt peace she described as a complete calm. That was a validation of her prior answer.

As with anything—exercise or a new job, fasting becomes easier with practice, to the point of becoming second nature. Many people I know fast on a regular basis, either once a month, once a week (usually on a particular day where they can plan a day free from a business meeting luncheon or skipping a workout).

I’d like to end this with a flippant line, such as–the worst case is you have freed your body of toxins, but the reality is that flippancy reduces the power of the fast and the answers that come along with it. We have been put here to learn and grow, and that requires us to push, achieve and fully live to our potential. Fasting is one tool for us to reach the heights awaiting us. All we have to do is take the initiative and jump.

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