Today is #GivingTuesday and there are so many charities to give to.  How do you choose?

I think we all must give with our own heartstrings in mind.  What causes pull at you?

My personal top picks:

Someone Cares Soup Kitchen

My family knows from experience that the people who run and volunteer at this organization are making a difference for those who are homeless or living in poverty. http://www.someonecareskitchen.org/

BinderCon (Out of the Binders, Inc.)

This awesome non-profit helps women and gender non-conforming writers learn, network, and grow. They are working to balance the huge gender gap in the journalism and literary worlds. (I also work and volunteer for this organization.)

https://www.crowdrise.com/outofthebindersdecem/fundraiser/bindercon

1888

1888 is a local 501 (c) 3 literary and cultural organization, founded by my friend & colleague, Kevin Staniec. They develop educational programs, produce collaborative projects and publish literature from around the world.

http://1888.center/support

UNAIDS (Today is also World AIDS Day)

Fighting one of the worst diseases on our planet, UNAIDs is working to END AIDS in our generation.

https://donations.unaids.org/

The Global Fund for Women

This organization campaigns for  women’s right to live free from violence, slavery, and discrimination; to be educated; to own property; to vote; and to earn a fair and equal wage.

http://www.globalfundforwomen.org/

Arts Orange County

This organization supports and builds awareness for the arts in Orange County, CA

http://www.artsoc.org/

Orange County School of the Arts (OCSA)

This charter public school offers exceptional arts and academic education to children in varying arts disciplines, regardless of their economic status.

Donate through their Hearts for the Arts campaign >

And hey, if you aren’t in a position to donate today just help spread the word. Every voice matters and every dollar counts for these worthwhile organizations.

 

This is a piece I’ve been holding on to for years (since my kids were in elementary school). Today I was inspired by a fellow writer to post this. Hope you can relate. 😀 

fighting-dirtyPhyllis Diller once said, “Cleaning your house while your kids are still growing is like shoveling the sidewalk in a blizzard.”

Is it just me or have you ever felt like “Dirty” is actually conspiring against you? As if no matter how much you clean, you’ll never win? There is a war going on in my home. It’s not between me and my children, or even my boyfriend. No, this is between me and Dirty!

On any given day as I suit up with my all natural cleaning products, my vacuum, and an iron-willed determination to rid the house of squalor, the onslaught begins. Quietly at first, it materializes in the Little Stains on the carpet, whispering their disappointment.

“How you could you have missed us? Tsk, tsk!”

Then the Dirty Laundry taunts me, piling up in flaccid indifference. Like wallowing swine, it revels in repose.

The Dust leers at me, collecting itself on every prone surface. I dust away that which I know full well will return in only moments. In the shadows, it accumulates, waiting for me to falter, building its mite-ridden legion.

Every room of my home is a battlefield.

The kitchen burgeons with self-indulgent villains. As I step onto the Linoleum, it provokes me, flagrantly flaunting every splatter and crumb. The Dirty Dishes breed on the counter. Yet the clean ones hide, discreetly tucked away in cupboards. But not the Dirty Dishes, they simply wait by the ‘pool’ for me to massage the food off their porcelain skins. In the corner the Garbage Can, always protected by its liner, somehow still manages to attract the nastiest of odors. Mystery liquids collect inside it, inundating the house with toxic gases.

But the most maniacal of household hooligans is both devious and ubiquitous, manipulating the best of my intentions. The Clutter is everywhere. Often, it can be hard to tell if an item is part of the Clutter or if it is something more important: perhaps a bill, a coupon or a progress report. If I wait too long to decide they will multiply.

Worst of all I am betrayed by my own children’s unwitting allegiance to Dirty. Their loyalty is most apparent in their bedrooms. Items discovered and treasured–if only for a moment–are hoarded there. Their collections of random artifacts: paper clips, stones, crumpled leaves, wrappers, shells, dried-up snails and other knick-knacks have formed a bond of profane chaos. In the wee hours of the morning I imagine these baubles striking alliances with the Dust, becoming eager accomplices to Dirty’s work.

As toddlers, my children brought two of the most unholy warriors into the fray. The most depraved warlords of house: the Pee-Pee and the Poo-Poo. Walking by my son’s room, the Pee-Pee or the Poo-Poo (or both, as they often travel together) would waft evil tendrils at my nose. The hunt would begin. Of course they would not be in a diaper or the toilet. Oh no! Following their vapor trail, I would find these two consorting in the Lego box, taking a cat nap on the carpet, or crouched for attack in the closet. These days though, these foul foes are confined to one room: the most dangerous of all battlefields.

The most active frontline of our home is the Bathroom. Here the little black hairs taunt me, spending their last moments curled in defiance on the tiles. The dribbles from misaligned toilet adventures whirl up their pungent, yellow reek. The mirror languishes behind water spots and toothpaste splashes, as the toilet revels in its ring-around-the-collar.

In cacophony, the legion of Dirty calls out to me:

“Go ahead and clean, we’ll just infiltrate again soon. You shall never defeat us!”

Deep down I know it’s true. Here and there I win small victories. They are short-lived, but divine: a freshly vacuumed carpet, a pristine bathroom mirror. Sometimes in the still moments, when the house has just been cleaned I relax, kick my feet up and sip some tea. These are the moments I must remember during the dark times, when I’m dug in, in a swirl of dust, scouring away.

Yet no matter how many battles I win, it comes to this: I will never defeat Dirty for good. So if you ever visit, please know Dirty and I have reached a truce. The battles are fewer now. And as much as it may irk me, I know someday when I’m old, I will not regret my decision to fill my hours with those I love, rather than constantly battling an enemy whom I can never truly defeat.

 

On March 6th, two years ago, I started this here blog thang. But truly what I did was commit to my dream of becoming a writer. And this March 6th I totally forgot to post something to celebrate. Doh!

To those of you who have read my posts I thank you from the deepest part of my soul. One of my greatest joys in life is to connect with other people. I hope that you’ve been entertained and inspired by some of the things in this blog.

My purpose in this project was and is to be honest about the process of pursuing one’s dreams. Too often we see the successful folks put on a pedestal and we think perhaps we just don’t have what it takes to get there. And while, yes, I’m still not a best-selling author (yet), I am on my way. (And I’ve had some great victories this year [rec’d the UCLA X Writers’ Program Scholarship & I’m nearly done with my UCLA X certificate program]).

This post is pretty unpolished and unedited. But if you can look past that, what I want you to know is this: If you commit to your dreams, it may push you harder than you’ve ever been challenged before. You will feel like giving up, like you’ll never be any good. You will feel the pressures of money and family, friends and obligations threatening to overtake your dream. But even if you can just whittle out ten minutes a day for your dream, do it. It is insanely fulfilling to know you’re actively working on your dream.

Our goals can often seem enormous and unattainable. But take some time (and this is a reminder for me too) to block out all the noise and just imagine where you want to be. Be like a child, if only for a few moments every day. Notice the beauty, wonder and possibility that exists when we don’t put our dirty human hands all over it.

I haven’t been published in a literary journal yet, but I’m working on it. 😉 In the meantime I wanted to give you a present.

A Thank You for being among my first readers:

This is a flash fiction piece I did for a contest that I did not win. I still think it’s worthy of a read, even if perhaps it isn’t perfect. I hope you enjoy it.

{  “Iris” (click here to read)  }

original photo by Vivian Maier

original photo by Vivian Maier

The impropriety, Bill sniffed, that guy needs to get his woman under control. He glanced at Iris as they made their evening stroll down Michigan Avenue to the L. To him it appeared that she barely registered the couple arguing outside the bank. She hadn’t even turned her head. He figured that was good, that she was probably thinking about the bed-skirt she had just ordered from Sears. Why a bed needed a skirt though, he did not know.
Bill’s wingtips crunched on the wet sidewalk, in rhythm with the dull slap of Iris’ flats. He liked the sound of synchrony.

At least she’s speaking up, thought Iris as they approached the arguing couple. She didn’t think it would do much good, but she felt for the woman. For an instant, she admired the woman’s baby-blue raincoat and noticed how it complimented her copper hair and angry eyes. Given the man’s suit, she assumed he had probably squandered the couple’s money. Iris thought of the jar of cash hidden under her own marital bed. Bill would never look there. He would never make the bed. She let out a snicker, quickly covering it with her hand. Bill didn’t notice.

Bill noticed the redhead’s crimson lips and long stems. Never make a pretty woman your wife, he thought. But guilt pricked him. He had to admit Iris was pretty, but in a more sensible way, with her long chestnut hair and modest makeup. She was the kind of woman who makes a good wife.

The man loomed over the redhead; his arms on either side of her against the stone wall of the bank. The redhead’s face contorted, as if she were yelling at him, but her voice was barely audible.

“How could you?” she said, like air from a punctured tire.

Iris’ foot slipped on the wet cement. She lurched. Bill reached for her, but she recovered her own footing.

“Thank you dear.”

Iris wondered what the man had done to the redhead. It seemed to be something so bad that the woman couldn’t wait for the privacy of home. She wondered if perhaps it had just been the last in a series of unkindnesses. Or perhaps the woman had just reached her breaking point. Iris knew she would soon reach hers. But she told herself, not until the day her degree was finished and her cash jar was full. She would not yell at Bill on the street. She would handle Bill differently.

Leaving the arguing couple behind, Bill’s thoughts turned to supper.

“Are we having your famous meatloaf tonight, dear?”

Iris nodded as a crooked smile crept across her sensible face.

 

(This piece was created from a prompt. The goal was to tell a story based on the exquisite Vivian Maier photo that appears above).

Another Rejection. The third that week. It came with a one liner of feedback (a rarity):

“Your work is stronger when relaying experience and specifics as opposed to relying too heavily at times on bromides.”

I paused. I was being rejected by a word I had to look up. Some writer I was.

You probably know the word, but just in case:
Bromidenoun
a trite and unoriginal idea or remark, typically intended to soothe or placate.
“feel-good bromides create the illusion of problem solving”
or
a statement that is intended to make people feel happier or calmer but that is not original or effective

Ouch. Of course my first inclination was self-flagellation, both for apparently having lackluster ideas AND for having to look the damn word up.

The bitter pill of Rejection is a common subject in the writing world. I used to find it boring. That is, until I started swallowing those pills wholesale.  I’ve tried my best to steel myself, but sometimes it just gets to me. When I thought of the hours I had put in to applying for and submitting my work, over and over, to publications and fellowships, I wondered if I would ever hear a “yes!”

Then I thought about my work, the pieces I submitted.  Maybe the feedback is true, or maybe it isn’t. It sure didn’t feel good to have something I’ve spent a lot of time on, laboring over, crying over and bleeding on the page–equated to trite platitudes. As a new(ish) writer I’ve struggled with a lot of self-doubt, a little of which is warranted.  It can be hard to know which criticism to listen to and which to ignore.

In those moments, after I freak out,  I have a few go-to moves:

  1. I ask the opinion of someone I trust and respect, someone who will be honest with me, and “gets” me too.
  2. I take a moment to pay attention to my gut–is there a grain of truth to the criticism, or not? How much of it will I own?
  3. I remind myself that no matter how compelled I am to be perfect, my work doesn’t have to be 100% perfect to be valuable. Just because my work is rejected doesn’t mean I’m a reject. Nearly every successful person’s path was paved in failures. It actually means I’m on the right track.
  4. Take a time out. Sometimes it’s best to just get some time from the piece. There’s a magic that happens off the page, in your mind.
  5. There’s always a lesson to learn: whether it’s improving on my own work, or learning when to brush off unwarranted criticism and trust my own judgment.
  6. Ask myself what I can be grateful for. Even if my work is being rejected, it’s being read. And that’s miles ahead of where I was years ago when I was only playing at becoming a legit writer.

I know a lot more rejection may come. Some likely to be more harsh. But that doesn’t mean I’m going to stop, or even slow down. It means I’ll keep going, improving, clinging tighter to what rings true and finding my own footing.

There will be moments in writing, and in life, where some don’t pick up what I’m laying down. That’s okay.  I know there are others like me–people who will get something out of my writing. Ultimately that’s what it’s really about anyway–not recognition, money or status, but connecting with other human beings, making something of this life.

So I’ll keep writing and pitching my work and one of these days it will find its place. Things will fall in as they are meant to. In the meantime, its my job to keep doing the work of it.
Keep on going friends!
Swallow those bitter pills of rejection and shit ’em out, taking only what you choose from it.

I am reading Amy Poehler’s Yes, Please right now [love]. I especially enjoyed the preface, entitled “Writing is Hard: a Preface.”

amy-poehler-yespleaseThis year more than others I’m intimately aware of that statement. Writing a book is a bitch, but one that is worth it.  The thing is it’s not about the result–it’s about the work. There is beauty, bloody guts and somehow magic in it. And when you are doing something you love, even when it’s hard, it fulfills like nothing else.

Here are some words, better than what I have for you, from Amy Poehler’s preface:

“So what do I do? What do we do? How do we move forward when we are tired and afraid? What do we do when the voice in our head is yelling that WE ARE NEVER GONNA MAKE IT? How do we drag ourselves through the muck when our brain is telling us youaredumbandyouwillneverfinishandnoonecaresanditistimeyoustop?

Well, the first thing we do is take our brain out and put it in a drawer. Stick it somewhere and let it tantrum until it wears itself out. You may still hear the brain and all the shitty things it is saying to you, but it will be muffled, and just the fact that it is not in your head anymore will make things seem clearer. And then you just do it. You just dig in and write it. You use your body. You lean over the computer and stretch and pace. You write and then cook something and write some more. You put your hand on your heart and feel it beating and decide if what you wrote feels true. You do it because the doing of it is the thing. The doing is the thing. The talking and worrying and thinking is not the thing. That is what I know. Writing the book is about writing the book.

So here we go, you and me. Because what else are we going to do? Say no? Say no to an opportunity that may be slightly out of our comfort zone? Quiet our voice because we are worried it is not perfect? I believe great people do things before they are ready…”

Keep it up my friends! Find that thing you believe in doing and do the hell out of it! Happy New Year.  Here’s to many wonderful years to all of us!

A friend posted this on Facebook today and I had to share it with you. Jim Carrey is one of my favorite comedians, but he is also profound.

Go ahead, ask the Universe for what you really want. Work toward it, let go of how it comes to pass. Have faith.

Do what you were meant to do.

If you want to see the speech from which these excerpts came, check it out here:

Mariah Carey’s self-titled album (her debut album actually) was the first CD I owned.  I can still remember sitting on our back deck one summer, at dusk. Our brand new black boombox that had a–wait for it–CD player, was set near the steps.  I peeled the cellophane wrapper of the CD and in a rare moment of secular-music-listening-pleasure, I heard Mariah’s stunning voice, clearer than any radio broadcast.

I still love me some Mimi (even though she ditched her curly hair) and when this song popped up on my Pandora feed today I just had to share with you.  It is one of my faves from that era.  A time in my life when I felt small, but had big dreams.

So keep going y’all!  I know I am.  I am making this happen. And for the first time in my life, I feel like I am living to my potential.  I hope you are too!

“If you believe in yourself enough

And know what you want
You’re gonna make it happen
Make it happen”

“There’s a secret that real writers know that wannabe writers don’t, and the secret is this:  It’s not the writing part that’s hard. What’s hard is sitting down to write.  What keeps us from sitting down is Resistance.”

I’ve just dipped my toe into the great book, The War of Art, by Steven Pressfield.  This quote is from the book.  More on Resistance later.

Incidentally, this applies to all arts and acts of creating something worthwhile.  So insert your chosen craft into this quote and feel the words sink in to your soul.

 

For those of us who are struggling to produce something worthwhile, striving to make our art, perhaps even our magnum opus, it can sometimes seem like we’re just treading water. Like we are barely keeping our heads above the waves, let alone being able to swim to shore.

We want our work to be great – earth-shatteringly so. But we know it’s not quite there yet. We know we’ve got a ways to go. (ooh, that rhymes)

This video defines that ‘gap’ (& what to do about it) through the art of Ira Glass and David Shiyang Liu and Frohlocke.

Sit back and enjoy this little nugget of inspiration:

Ok. Now, back to work!