Resetting my title waves with a day at the beach

Overcast, unremarkable surf, in other words, the PERFECT day at the beach
Overcast, unremarkable surf, in other words, the PERFECT day at the beach

Writers need the beach.

When I posted a picture of the ocean from my beach chair on Facebook, nearly 100 people chimed in with their envy or witty comeback to my simple description: “Today’s office.”

The temperature was at least 20 degrees higher at home. We could have probably dined on a burger as tasty as the one we found at an old, established hangout just feet from the sand closer to home and I could have easily read magazines curled up in a chair in the air conditioning.

But I needed the ocean.

I didn’t even bring my bathing suit, content in my sundress, watching a handful of kids dragging boogie boards through the mild surf. Sitting in my Costco Tommy Bahama chair, I watched a man closer to my age try to go out a little further and ride his surfboard on the swells. I noted that the Shore Patrol boats were making regular back-and-forth trips just past the people in the water.

I didn’t want to know why.

Sometimes you have to be physically removed from the writing chair to get your priorities straight...
Sometimes you have to be physically removed from the writing chair to get your priorities straight…

Writers have pinball brains, which go along naturally with having the attention span of a grapefruit. Either there are one or a dozen stories tripping over each other in our heads to get out, or we’re desperately trying to make sense of the snippets of those peeking around our mental corners just to tease us and leave us empty-fingered at the keyboard.

If it seems we’re off to the Bahamas, we’re not ignoring you, we’re absorbing so much that the little black and yellow figures upstairs (yes, my childlike imagination can picture them) are scrambling to make sure all the things don’t fall off the desk in our brain before we have a chance to put them down in words. There’s not a lot of space upstairs because we’re notorious mental collectors, one magazine copy away from cerebral hoarders.

We’re in constant motion, even when it looks like we’re sitting still. Life changes – the biggest ones to the seemingly insignificant – affect us differently because we’re always looking for framing. When something happens, we bear that unseen yoke of being the message bearers, the people who put things in perspective or spinning them in a favorable or less-than-stellar direction for the rest of the world.

Writers are often excited, ebullient and exhausted, all at once.

Which is why we need the ocean.

I’d been trying to get to the beach for a long time, but life kept getting in the way. My greatest fantasy is to live there, not in a palatial glass-walled mansion, but a little house with shells on the porch, colorful flags and flowers, a couple of sitting chairs and a window or two to the constant coming and going of rhythms governed by a much larger force than silly humans.

To me, going to the beach is like going to the clockmaker to get my watch back into cadence, to hear and see and smell and feel the earth’s rhythm and allow my soul to relax and follow along gently.

I love to watch the way the water comes to shore, crashing, creeping, sweeping back with a rush or an amble, sometimes going back in rivulets, other times with strong undertow. When I’m feeling adventurous, I like to stand ankle-deep in the sand and feel a power much stronger than mine shake me up a bit, then smooth me out as the waters calm.

Grains of sand under the microscope and lend of Dr. Gary Greenberg
Grains of sand under the microscope and camera lens of Dr. Gary Greenberg

Standing on the sand grounds me, especially when I consider the composition of what’s beneath my toes – miniaturized bits and pieces of sea creatures, shells, sponges, rocks, sea glass and other detritus, all smashed together over and over and over, polished and reshaped endlessly by the tides and presenting themselves anew with every wave.

Would that my inner scribe could absorb their stories and blend them into mine.

Photo by Dr. Gary Greenberg from “A Grain of Sand: Nature’s Secret Wonder,” http://www.amazon.com/Grain-Sand-Natures-Secret-Wonder/dp/0760331987

Birthdays, blessings, beer and brothers

Blessings

Birthdays are a special kind of blessing. We get spoiled, over-desserted, hear from every friend we have on social media, are greeted by random cast members at Disneyland (best mood lifter EVER, thanks Disney!) and people give us a break because, well, we just made it one more trip around the sun and lived to tell.

beerandcakeIt was even National Beer Day on my birthday, which means asking your friends to pick up your first brew is completely reasonable.

I share my birthday with my Brother from Another Mother, John Boston, along with other stars in my life; former co-workers, fellow volunteers and actors, even a musician who helped me and millions of other adolescent girls through those difficult years around 17.

April 7 is pretty darn phenomenal.

What birthdays do is give you an excuse to check yourself off the work schedule shortly to have some moments of zen with those who know you best. That’s a better gift than any tchotchke that you will have to dust.

What’s even better is the validation that comes from these self-realization conversations. We often have them with people who know our back story, our please-don’t-mention-this moments and can see our invisible backpacks that grow or diminish over time.

In other words, there are no secrets. If you’re lucky, the balance of blackmail material between the two of you is somewhat even. If you’re on the short end, thank your friends for their grace.

I’d also say that Facebook has changed birthdays significantly. People who try and fly under the radar don’t have a chance. My phone died when I went to breakfast and by the time I got home two hours later to plug it in, it sounded like a slot machine on steroids in my office. Way to make a girl feel loved….

I started out by talking about blessings and if nothing else, birthdays give us a chance to count them. I try to make it a practice to do some counting every few days, but the pinging and desserting and drinking were in-my-face reminders – literally.

There’s no question in my mind that my life is blessed. Outside of a few more beans on the family tambourine, I want for nothing. Consolation, career advice, encouragement, enlightenment, love and laughter are there when I need it and I get to offer the same. I have freedom and opportunity, food on my table and a roof over my head. I’m married to my best friend, my children are happy and my dogs get along. Life is very good.

Two award winning writers at the local diner.
Two award winning writers at the local diner.

Back to my BFAM, John. He’s gonna hate this label, but he is kind of a life coach. Not the loopy kind that prey on neurotics, but one with a twisted sense of humor and a heart of gold. He’s led some innocent interns right to the edge of the bear trap and snatched them from the jaws of death before anyone found out. Lucky for me, my early life lessons were in pranksterism, shenanigans and writing edgy copy.

Today, we talked about valuing ourselves, an apt topic for old journos like us who not too long ago stepped over the threshold of 60. We talked less McDonald’s and more Medicare. Our conversation blended religion and politics and the state of our industry. Best of all, we did a lot of validating. At our ages, we can no longer afford to hope that someone will notice when we’re jumping at the fence like the last puppy in the litter. We’ve learned to tie knots in the blankets to find our own way over the chain link.

Nope, these seniors lunching over bowls of oatmeal and chili browns reinforced that we have worth and talent and our billable hours are worth every penny. We write differently, but with the same amount of passion and sincerity. I am truly blessed to have this coach in my life. What a perfect birthday gift.

Something about that magical April 7, I suspect.

Shameless plug: JB’s latest book, Adam Henry, is an interesting read. It’s also VERY thought-provoking, with a disturbing, yet gripping ending. I read it while traveling through snowy mountains and slushy plains enroute from Denver to LA (someone else was driving, no worries). I spent at least an hour after reading the last page a dozen times staring out the window in deep contemplation. It still haunts me. You should buy it and read it too; it’s available on Amazon here: http://www.amazon.com/Adam-Henry-John-Boston-ebook/dp/B00N85YI6G

 

Third time’s the charm, right?

February 11, 2015

Beginning again.

It’s like getting back on the bike or the horse or behind the wheel after a disastrous crash in which you were the casualty. But the muse within can only stay inside so long.

I am a writer. Not just because I have this uncanny ability to make fingers match keys that make things found in dictionaries and more often than not, fall into an AP style cadence.

Not because I made a living (kind of) as a working journalist and news director for 20 years.

Not because I embrace sayings like “punctuation, then quotations” or “people who, things that” as my mantras.

No, it has something to do with my love affair with words. They express. They embellish. They soften. They comfort. They confront.

“Comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable” is another literary tattoo. That and “If your mother says she loves you, check it out.”

Yeah, I’ve always been a skeptic, long before my English teacher in high school said that I was a pretty good wordsmith. That character trait helped me when I embarked on a non-writing career arc of trying to be a cop. I studied law enforcement when I started college in 1971. Worked for LAPD for a while as a police cadet (the first female to do so, btw). Added pre-law to my studies when the physical part of trying to be a cop challenged me. Stopped chasing sirens and dead bodies for several years as an academic and instead pursued them with a reporter’s notebook. Decided to finish the college thing after a 32-year hiatus and got a degrees with a focus on writing.

Yup. Took that long to come to my senses.

This isn’t my first blog. I used to despise bloggers because I was a newspaper columnist, which I thought held me to a pretty high standard. I had followers. Some have become close friends. To me, bloggers had no accountability and I was responsible for my media outlet’s credibility. Captain America wasn’t the only one with a big shield and superpowers.

I softened my stance when my daughter became engaged the first time, launching a blog named “MOB Mentality” – as in Mother of the Bride. It was a way for me to wax poetic about a special time in our lives and hopefully let others know that if I could laugh at my experience, so could they. You might think that it was a freeing experience and in many aspects, it was, but it was also confining. In difficult situations, I refrained from expressing my true feelings so as to spare those people creating the problem. I found that to be more confining than enjoyable, so when the nuptials took place, I closed down the blog.

The kids divorced a year and a half later. Thankfully, the blog had nothing to do with it.

I stayed out of the blogging game with two subsequent engagements – that of my son and my daughter’s second engagement. Both of them are now married to people who make them blissfully happy and that’s how I want it to be.

During my degree pursuit, I had to blog for a class (a limited audience). Being fond of attention, I didn’t get nearly enough to make it worth my while, so that one was abandoned too. What can I say, sometimes I can be like the people I used to cover.

That’s not what I have planned for this blog. Bring on the world.

Thankfully, blogs today have evolved into credible and helpful sources. As newspapers, radio and television resources consolidate, thanks to America’s corporate greed, blogs have risen to fill the void. I find myself reading many of them daily, taking bits and pieces of knowledge, humor and life.

The title, Rockbottomreminders, is homage to my former newspaper column, which was entitled Rock Bottom. The reminder part is another attempt to let people know that my observations aren’t too far off from what they might be thinking or believing. It’s also close to the name of a defunct musical group, the Rock Bottom Remainders, whose musicians have included amazing writers Stephen King, Amy Tan, Dave Barry and Matt Groening, among others. They played their last gig in 2012. Their rock and roll lives forever on YouTube.

That said, I hope this gives me a little more discipline, something freelance writers struggle with constantly. At least I do. It will give me a chance to poke the bear with the proverbial stick while letting the muse pour forth her thoughts, opening the common jugular vein that pounds life into every writer. Hopefully people will comment. I promise not to use bad language if they don’t.

To this table, I bring the perspective of a baby boomer; raised in the ‘50s and ‘60s, I am AARPs favorite target. I am poised at the corner of Reinvention and Renaissance and know now how my mother’s perspective changed when she reached her 60s. You tend not to care quite as much about being careful, filters don’t work as well as they had to in the past and your audience learns more about the real you.

I’m going to cover politics, arts, consumerism, lifestyle and, one of my favorite phrases from junior high civics, “man’s inhumanity to man.” Sadly that’s still a daily dilemma.

I may make peace with the Oxford comma.

I might touch on religion (disclosure: lapsed Catholic with some great stories), will definitely mention Disney and I am an unabashedly proud pittie mama.

I abhor breed-specific legislation, discrimination and lima beans.

I believe we should have a reasonable expectation that our elected officials will do what we ask them to and be held to the consequence of being removed from office if they don’t.

And I can’t wait to hear what interests you.

Let’s make this a mutual learning experience, shall we?

Here we go……