Tag Archives: writing

From 55 to 65!

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Today is my half-birthday. I cannot believe that in 6 months I will turn 65! It seems to me, I just turned 55! Well, we all know that time gets away from us all. I am going to review what the last 10 years have been like for me. Bear with me, I hope it isn’t boring!

When I turned 55, I celebrated with friends and family in a trendy café in one of our malls. We were enjoying laughter and good food and I was feeling especially happy and young. To be honest, I don’t feel a day older. It was 2010. We took lots of pictures with whatever camera was available at the time, and when I reviewed the pictures, I felt as if they had been taken in a studio where I was a talk show host. It filled me with such delight that I decided I would revisit the idea I have always had about being an entertainer. The camera seemed to love me. I looked poised, relaxed and ready to interview a guest.

At the time, I was just ending my presidency in our local Chamber of Tourism. I was feeling elated about having more time to devote to the things I really wanted to do without so much responsibility. I was also heavily involved in writing articles for our local expat magazine. Although I had no idea what the future held, I was very optimistic. I officially left my position on the Chamber of Tourism but unofficially I was still quite attached to everything that involved it. I loved my community and although I could see that a Chamber of Commerce was more appropriate, I continued to work in the sector as tirelessly as I always had been. Later that same year, the editor of the local expat magazine told me he and his wife were going back to the U.S. and begged me to take over the magazine. It was quite an undertaking that I wasn’t sure I wanted but I have always been unable to say NO when I feel no one else could do the job. I kept working for the Chamber until 2013. I edited and wrote articles for the expat magazine until I decided to end publication in March 2017. It seemed like a good time and the right thing to do.

In 2014 I challenged myself to become a radio host (the next best thing) and I had two weekly spots for 6 months. I also decided to take up playing the guitar. I don’t know what I was thinking. By that time, my mother was in the last (long) stage of Alzheimers and it took its toll on me and the rest of our family. She passed away in January 2018, followed by my older sister 9 months later. It was all so bizarre.

After my mother passed away, I decided to take a step back to breathe and I began to explore the idea of writing her biography. It has been more than two years and I have not done a very good job. Every day I sit and ponder but I rarely sit and write. Yesterday, I had sudden inspiration and wrote a lengthy post about her cooking. I am hoping that it will spark other equally motivating stories that I can compile for my children and their cousins.

I have stopped all volunteering except one which will conclude in June 2021 unless I can find someone to replace me this June. I continue to take guitar lessons, interrupted when I travel but advancing nicely. I no longer have my radio shows but I am as committed as ever to explore the talk show host idea.

So there in a nutshell is the last decade. There is more, so much more but that will have to wait until another time. In the meantime, let us all continue to take care of ourselves, be present for those who need us and remember that time flies whether you do something with it or not.

 

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How Many Chow Chow’s Do I Really Need To Follow on Social Media?

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The outcries on opinions from some of our media icons (think Oprah’s nod to American Dirt) has actually prompted me to unfollow the handful of celebrities whose Instagram and Twitter feeds I enjoy(ed). Martha Stewart was one of my favorites back in the 1990’s when I became a happy stay-at-home mom.  I was eager to make my home welcoming; my food tasty; and my creations unique. I enjoyed every one of her tips and even her stint in prison didn’t change the fact that the woman had a good product. In recent weeks, I have noticed that her posts are no longer making me happy. I think it’s great that she finds passion in everything she does, but honestly, how many times can I see her dogs, her turkeys, her many homes and other possessions before I begin to think there is something wrong with me for (1) not having them and (2) not really caring? I unfollowed her too, something I have been thinking of doing for weeks. Does she care? Probably as much as my next door neighbor who has never heard of her or me!

My point? I think I need to get back to the life that is mine. I say I am a writer. If two or three hours of my day are consumed by my social platform viewing, I think my manuscript will never come to pass.

Am I off social media forever? No, I still follow relevant things but I am now curtailing my time with the phone screen and changing it for the computer and my book. I am working on 2020 being the year I lose those 20 pounds and finish writing, editing and publishing that book. Who’s with me? There is so much negativity in social media anyway, who needs that?

 

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Wills and Trusts…

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When I was a little girl, my mother talked to me often as if I were an adult. I didn’t always understand what she was talking about – adult subjects and language being so sophisticated and all – but I enjoyed having her focus on me so I just didn’t do anything to make her think I wasn’t interested. In the years that followed, I continued to be her confidante, sometimes a confusing and double-edged sword which I tried to diplomatically cover as best I could to spare everyone pain.

My older sister and my mother didn’t often spend time “chewing the fat” because my sister had her own agenda and rarely had the patience to sit and listen to story after story for hours. It didn’t really occur to me that by virtue of being a good listener and taking time to listen to my mother, I was unwittingly becoming a kind of chronicler for the family archives. After my mother passed away in 2018, I honestly believed I would be able to write her biography. I have not been able to put myself in the right frame of mind to begin doing so.

My parents were typical, hard-working, middle class people who came from very little but amassed a modest fortune and property that they intended on leaving their four children. For some reason (perhaps a fear that making a will would make them die that much sooner) my parents never made a formal will. Their properties in another country were “donated” to us years ago so that is not an issue, but they have one house that has not been willed to anyone. One of my siblings died last year and now three of us are left. Because of my attachment to my parents and their certainty in my integrity, I am the one that was authorized to help with their banking. It was also a matter of practicality: I was the one geographically close to them, I have never been estranged from them – taking a 6 month absence while I underwent therapy doesn’t count – and I have always been very, very responsible. They knew what they were doing and I have done my job honestly, efficiently and well.

The death of my eldest sibling did not affect me as it should have. I had no idea that she was ill but her lifestyle choices had never been optimal and her death did not surprise me. She and I were not on speaking terms when she died and although I feel some guilt about that, I have not been able to conjure more than passing grief that she left us just months after our mother died. Our father, though frail, continues to enjoy pretty good health and at 90 can still get around and manage his daily routines. This will not last forever.

My passion in life has been to entertain. I originally wanted to do it from a stage, as a comic, or a singer, or a storyteller. I have also always wanted to write and in fact, write every single day either in my blogs, on paper or in my head. My recent attendance at a Writers Digest Conference opened my eyes to the fact that I have never taken the time to figure out what it is I want to do with my writing. This is something that I need to address so I can get going. I am currently working on two novels but all the workshops and conferences emphasized the importance of being clear on what it is your intended purpose is in order to get going. It seems there are many different ways of attaining success but one thing is very clear, personal participation in the process from writing to publishing to marketing is dependent on the single creator: me! It is at once an overwhelming sensation and also a very comforting one since it means I am in control of the situation, if you will.

But back to my parents and wills…mental health issues abound in my family. I believe myself to be pretty healthy (is that a sign of mental health or a delusion?). My younger sister is paranoid. There is no way to rose color that. We don’t see each other very often. When we do see each other, I am often on the defensive, not knowing what word or subject will trigger her paranoia. Fortunately, I am getting older and less willing to be spoken to in any old way. I asked her today to meet me so I could show her a document I need to present on her behalf to the Municipal authorities in that other country for tax purposes. My idea was that I could present it for her because I live in said foreign country. Her immediate (and not surprising) response was that she would not be bringing her identification, that she wanted to talk about what she was signing and that she would rather fly and sign the documentation herself. I have no stake in the thing, that is fine. In the past, I might have been hurt or felt like she was accusing me of something. Now I just remember who she is, who I am and that mental health issues are often not as evident from the outside. It is sad and worrisome but I can handle it.

I would love to hear your thoughts.

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Time is personal

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Time is Personal

I’m currently reading a mainstream NYTimes best seller. It is very enjoyable and the author is or has recently been on a tour to promote her two books and working on her third. I can’t really remember how I happened to catch the title, really, and when I went on Amazon, it was a bit costly so I didn’t buy it. Then I remembered that through my library I am able to “borrow” books electronically. I searched for the title and reserved it for at least two months. When the library informed me last week that the title was available, I promptly downloaded it into my app and began reading. I am finding it entertaining but I do notice that I am reading with an editor’s eye, rather than just enjoying the book for what it offers. It is a terrible thing.

My ambition is to write a mainstream novel this year. Whether or not it gets published is not really important to me. Getting it down on paper (well, in my case in Scrivener!) is what I really want to do. I spent the month of November 2018 participating in NaNoWriMo and got about 90 pages done, or more or less 30%. I did not “win” because I did not complete 50,000 words in that month, but I did write almost every single day. I have not written very much on the novel since December 1st. I find it hard to believe how the days and weeks just fly by.

Someone told me recently that “time” was personal…whatever that meant. Today I kind of got his message: I spend at least one hour every day on personal grooming. I try to make it go faster but by the time I shower, apply body lotion everywhere, comb and style my long, curly hair, find appropriate clothing that is clean, pressed and fits for the day, and then put on my makeup, an hour has gone by. Then I try to spend at least 40 minutes practicing my guitar, another 20 minutes watering or tending to my plants…right there are two hours that my friends who have short hair and wear t-shirts and jeans and no makeup, have no musical hobby or plants save…so I guess he is right.

My weight loss journey continues. I am pleased to say that I have been following the Whole-30 pretty closely although I have given myself a couple of “cheat” days and then begin anew. I am in a different space, at +60 it is no longer appropriate to be wondering if anyone is going to scold me for being overweight! I feel really good though and have lots of energy despite not eating any bread or added sugar. My problem has and will always be portion control! Each meal is an opportunity to practice, that part is fun, watching myself as if I were a stranger!

 

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Where do the days go?

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I find it hard to believe that my last post on this blog is almost a month old.
Every day, I write at least in one of my blogs (I have five, not sure why except that I feel like every one of my passions needs its own space where I can express things about it). So I have a blog about dogs, a blog about optimism and gratitude, a blog about senior citizens, this blog which is mostly about weight and life issues and then a final one which is a collaborative effort with a few other friends who are also writers.

One of my frustrations has been not to be able (or willing) to take the time to get to my as yet unpublished (because it´s not finished) work of fiction.. Or should I say, works of fiction, since like blogging, I find that I have too many ideas for just one book. Anyway, right now I am working away on a mini iPad that I have not been very nice to…complaining always that it is too small, when in reality, all it takes is a little getting used to. I purchased it about two or three years ago, it was really reasonable. Then I bought a nice keyboard for it, and a case and it is actually working very nicely. So maybe the problem is me, and not it.

Not sure why I went off on a tangent like that except that I felt guitly about not writing in this blog for my faithful followers. I agree that blogging in each site every day is excessive, but once a month is really not cutting it either. Either we put the time in and honor our followers, or we simply go away.

I hope all this rambling hasn´t turned you off. In closing, I would just like to say that although I haven´t been writing here, I have been writing generally, reading also. My weight watchers journey is going strong although I admit that the weight loss is very slow because I don´t feel desperately about it. Of the 50 lbs. I would like to have lost by the end of this year, I have lost 26, so there we are.

The world is angry!

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I live in a small town. You know what they say about small towns: Big Hell!
Until recently, I was very content in my small town, living my life, enjoying
the odd social gathering and essentially knowing how my days would begin
and end. The last several months have been increasing my discomfort level
as I hear and see many acquaintances really get into the misery the rest of the
world seems intent on living.

My writing has always been a need for me. I cannot agree with people who say
they “love” to write, for that has never been my feeling. I need to write, I want
to write and get paid for it, but even though I don’t get paid for it, I still need
to do it every single day. Some days it is just a sentence in my head. Some
days I actually draft things out in a notebook the old-fashioned way, with pen
and paper and then I forget how important the particular prose felt in the
moment and I lose the paper, or the notebook until I am clearing off a particular
space and come upon it again.

The social media rants that I voluntarily read increasingly rob me of time and
energy and deplete whatever optimism lives in me; yet I find myself having to
really exercise discipline to sign off or at the very least, put my phone aside to
do other things. It is amazing, I rarely respond to posts even though many of
them stir deep feelings. I get a kick out of those who do because they often end
up saying things I am sure they regret. Not to mention getting “blocked” by the
administrators for offensive and crude language. I can’t entertain the idea of
ever being blocked so I simply do what many others do, read and move on.

I live in a small town that has a large quantity of expats. Although I lived in a
different country and learned its culture well, I am now living in my birth land
and identify more with it. I find that the typical expat (whether originating in
U.S., Canada, Europe, Asia or Africa) believes their new country is somehow
lacking and wants things to be just the way they were “back home”. This attitude
irks me but I remain silent because silence is the path to peace and understanding.

There are so many things that can be said about learning a new language, about
preparing mentally to make a huge move, especially when the one certain is that
wherever you go, there YOU are. I lived in Puerto Rico once. I do remember that
the absence of family and friends was a bit lonely, but it was also tremendously
liberating. I found that I developed some new (positive) traits by not being labeled
or thought of the way family and old friends can see and pigeonhole one. Rather
than wanting things the way they were in my past, I was thrilled to be living in a
completely different culture and learned to love it just the way it was.

I don’t really remember where I was going with this blog, but there it is. I guess
the lesson for today is that if you want to make a smooth transition into a place,
it is best to go gently and quietly into its spaces to first absorb and understand
and then to pitch changes if they are necessary or even wanted.

 

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A fuzzy brain

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A few years ago, suffering from constant clutter, I came across
the Fly Lady, the woman who would change my life from CHAOS
to serene! Well, it was good while it lasted until I started to receive
so many emails per day from her that I had to release her. Email
clutter is just as bad as physical clutter. I found eventually that I
had subscribed to a lot of sites just because I didn’t want to have
nothing to read on a daily basis. Then I figured out that the
amount of time I was wasting on the computer was taking its toll
on my home and family (even though they didn’t realize it).

I can say that I made very good use of lots of the Fly Lady’s advice
and to this day (although it was a habit of mine already), my kitchen
sink (where it all begins) is shining (well, as much as possible since
the material it’s made from doesn’t really shine, but you get the point).

These days, I feel like I am having a constant battle with brain fog. You
know, you start doing an activity, or looking something up, or gathering
materials for a project and suddenly, you freeze because you can’t recall
exactly what you were going to do. I feel that maybe it is because I have
way too many things on my mind…not able to prioritize so that at the
end of each day I feel like I got nothing done.

Take today for an example: my cleaning lady is here. I find that her (very
much needed) presence is an intrusion. I love the fact that the house is
dusted and the floors are mopped and things look lovely but I dislike the
fact that I have to prepare for her arrival which cuts into the time that I
would ordinarily use to draft an essay or at least devote some time to it.
In the end, though, I know that it is really just an excuse, that in fact, I have
nothing thought out or outlined and perhaps for the very first time in my
life, I feel like I am flying by the seat of my pants. I have never been this way
but then again, I have never had the life I have today.

I find myself a little lost. Every day since my mother’s passing on January 1st
has reminded me of the temporary nature of things. Granted my mother lived
almost 89 years, an almost permanent presence in my life but I wonder now if
my brain fog is my way of grieving. Since I was expecting my mother to die, I
didn’t get hysterical in the moment. So many things needed to be done. I had
joined Weight Watchers just a month before and I was so determined to lose
the weight this time, that except for one night where I had an excessive
amount of Johnny Walker Black label Whiskey (and no hangover!), I did not
grieve by eating myself through it. I know she would be proud of me for not
overeating.

I think of my mother every single day,  I guess I always did; she was an6
incredibly strong influence in my life; of both what to do and what NOT
to do when faced with life’s adversities. I was always very proud of her
and I hope she knew it because I don’t remember every saying it to her in
quite that way.

So Weight Watchers has been pretty good to me. I find that I can “connect”
with others who, like me, struggle to get back to a good weight and know
that it will be a lifetime commitment. My husband and I celebrated our
anniversary yesterday. Our daughter posted a picture of us taken one year
ago, and although we both look very happy, it is obvious we are both in the
category of “American overweight couples”! It isn’t funny and while I have
lost about 20 lbs. since the picture was taken, I feel a bit embarrassed that I
allowed the weight to creep up like that. But onward…getting menus for the
week done is a good way to clear up some of that brain fog today. I think I
will get to it.

 

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Behind the spyglass…

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Understanding the motivation behind a person’s behavior is something that has always
been of interest to me. Rather than just accepting that so and so did this and that and
is now facing the consequences of the action, I spend some time reflecting on what made
them do it. I used to ponder these things out loud but realized that many people in my
circle were impatient and really not interested so I have become a “closet” thinker. I
believe that in order for me to invent a character (protagonist) that is multidimensional,
I need to invest energy in finding out just exactly what makes him/her tick. It has not
been easy or perhaps I should just say I have not had the discipline or courage to let my
mind simply focus on a subject long enough to grasp their very essence and then turn it
into narratives that will work in a novel.

I live in a really small town. It is in a developing country where recent years have found
it attracting all sorts of people who come here to do tourism and go back home, or those
who find it so laid back and beautiful that they actually commit to living here despite all
the obstacles. Some people are wonderful, bringing with them the enthusiasm they feel
for nature and living in peace. They contribute their time, their ideas, their resources so
that the community can benefit. Other people come with the intention of establishing
communities that they would not be able to have in their country of origin.

In the recent past, I have encountered people whose communities can only be described
as “cultish”, and this is scary. The leaders look pretty “normal”; their message is anything
but. It boggles my mind to see how many reasonably intelligent people are taken in by
these reckless individuals whose motivation can only be financial gain or fame. In the past
I would have exposed them at once but that was not beneficial to me so after turning 60 a
couple of years ago, I turned to the pen as my collaborator in unmasking these creatures.

They make interesting subjects for my narratives and provide much entertainment to me,
and I am hoping to capture their essence to develop my villains. Life is often so much more
satisfactory from the point of view of the observer, sitting a distance away in a comfortable
recliner.

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Writing…

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only gets done by sitting down and writing! How true it is. Yesterday I was incredibly prolific,
not sure any of my writing made sense or would be worthy of a pulitzer prize but it was plentiful
and by day’s end, I felt that I had found a nice rhythm. For this week, I would like to challenge
myself to just sit and write without worrying too much about grammar, topic, misspellings,
using words incorrectly, etc. Indeed, it is better to just sit, write and then go back and edit
than to spend a lot of time thinking about a good topic.

In my country, elections are coming up in another 5 weeks (second round). I am nervous
about the outcome, it seems to me that people are focusing more on the personality of the
candidates (neither of which got to this point by being particularly popular with anyone)
rather than their plans to get us out of debt and back on track to celebrating our 200th
anniversary with our Carbon Neutrality in place.

Yesterday I wrote a little bit about our small writers group and how one member suggested
we invite others along. Although I am fine with the status quo, I guess it is not entirely up to
me to decide for everyone else.

I have been reading and watching movies that I would not normally watch. I think getting away
from my “Pollyana-like” choices has opened my eyes to a lot of things. Some of the dark humor
contained in the recent movies I’ve watched (plus the fact that they are foreign) has allowed me
to tap into my imagination the way I used to when I was a child. Hopefully this will translate into
some kind of motivation to write more and to write different and to add those necessary traits
that will allow my protagonist to have some depth.

Another weekend …

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They come so quickly, the weekends! On Sunday afternoons, I usually feel the blahs that so
many of us are prone to as we start to make the switch from two days of (mostly) relaxing
to the upcoming obligations of work, school and general parenting.

When I was a young, single gal in “like” with a co-worker, I used to hate weekends and love
Monday mornings! Naturally, it was because my quasi SO would be there to greet me. I am
happy that I have those memories because sometimes I can remember what it felt like to be
excited about Mondays and try to “fool” my brain into thinking all those things that made me
feel giddy will be mine again.

I have not been writing in this blog, although I have been quite busy writing everywhere else.
Ever since I was a child, I have placed many responsibilities on my shoulders, something that
I can’t explain and maybe I shouldn’t try. The reality is that while my siblings were out there
enjoying their allotted 1/3 of the day of “their” time, I was busy doing whatever it took to keep
the home fires burning and the household running smoothly. It was not my job, and in fact
try as I may, I cannot place any blame on my parents for this self-imposed mandate. My
mother worried sometimes that I was not social enough. I never thought of myself as a wall-
flower but I can look back and see that indeed when all my friends were out having fun, I could
be found listening to music in the background while I vacuumed, loaded or emptied the dish-
washer, did the laundry, started dinner, etc. I guess I felt needed in a way and then it just
became a habit so ingrained in me that to this day, I feel I am wasting time if I am not doing
something I consider “productive”.

My life is very different right now. At this moment, my children are grown and living in another
country. We have a wonderful relationship and communicate almost on a daily basis. My husband
in away for the next 12 days or so. We have a dog who is about to turn 8 and of course, I have my
dad who is 89. These are my very strong connections and I love them all. Today, after the cleaning
lady left (my house is spotless for one day!), I realized that I have a very blessed existence. I can
do or not do anything I want after I meet my obligations. I have fed my dog, turned off the water
that is making the lawn a lovely green in this dry weather and am eating a comforting lentil soup
that I made earlier this week. My kitchen is spotless, just the way I like it, no dishes in the sink.
My food plan has been successful this week and for that I am also very glad.

I look forward to this particular weekend because I get to indulge in a massage tomorrow. It has
become a necessity rather than a luxury and I am blessed to be living in a country where household
help and massages are affordable. My writing is coming along and hopefully this weekend will have
me taking out my latest attempt at a novel and begin again to work on it. My protagonist needs to
get some attention, he is so superficial I can’t even fall in love with him, how do I expect my readers
to do so.

Let’s all have a great weekend, and us writers especially!

 

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