A 2020 Look Back at Y2K

The first weekend in the new year, my daughter and I opened the time capsule we had buried at the dawn of the new millenium.

It’s funny the stories we tell ourselves. In a previous post about the time capsule, I described going to the cabin to bury it on New Year’s Eve. When we opened the time capsule, taped to the cover was a baggie with the letters we had written ourselves and a four page cover spread from the San Luis Obispo Tribune dated January 1, 2000. Unless they published early, we hadn’t gone to the cabin until New Year’s Day.

So what else was inside? Just as we remembered it, an old Sony cell phone we used for emergencies only. Note the handy quick reference card tucked inside the zippered case. But why didn’t we include the charger?

In a little box marked “Open Me First” was a whole lot of nothing, insignificant trinkets.

“Mom, why did we pack all this junk?”

“I have no idea. What were we thinking?”

There were some old CDs, a cassette tape, a program from a middle school play my daughter stage managed, our custom goth Christmas card, keychains, and Gidget the stuffed dog who was the ‘Yo Quiero Taco Bell’ mascot back in the day.

Most interesting were the letters we each wrote to our future selves. The past two months I’ve struggled with the reality that 20 years have gone by in the blink of an eye. It’s hard to wrap my head around all the changes that have occurred in the span of those years. Changes we could never have guessed would happen to us.

Then, there were the two poems that were published in Unity Magazine in 1999, the first sales of my fledgling writing career. My letter talked about finally knowing what I want to do with my life…be a writer. Eight months later we would move from California to Michigan. Then life got in the way. Finally, 19 years after I wrote that letter, I reconnected with my writer self and last year I had my marathon story published.

It’s taken me over a month to write this post because the reality that I may not be here in another 20 years has rendered me mute. The mean spirit of our current reality makes me ponder whether that’s a bad thing. On the other hand, I’m not going down without a fight.

When writing about my life at age 25 for an English 101 class at Mira Costa College, I wrote, “I want to pass hot-dogging down a ski slope when I’m in my 90s.” I thought maybe I could will my body to ignore the inevitable decline of aging. My arthritic joints tell me I’ve not been so lucky.

My letter included the following poem I wrote to my future self about aging:

Yield to the seasons of life.
Gracefully embrace the wisdom
of passing years, while ignoring
disappointments and regrets
in the past.

Be thankful and grateful
for all that you have
and all that you are.
For in the end,
memories are all
you have left.

A memorable moment ~
a memorable millenium ~
a wonderful life.

Some words from my letter have never been more true. My letter ended with “I’ve always been a late bloomer and only now am I coming into my own…I hope this finds you happy, healthy, and living your dream.”

I am indeed.

Creatively Rebooted

img_1415A year ago today I traveled to Santa Fe, NM to attend Creative Reboot with my BFF Karil. We had cemented our friendship in 1992 by working through Julia Cameron’s new book “The Artist’s Way.” We worked our way through one chapter at a time separately, then we’d get together for lunch or a margarita dinner to discuss the chapter, what the exercises brought up for us, and our takeaways. Creative Reboot would be a wonderful opportunity to spend quality time together since we live in different states.

We both arrived in Santa Fe early to attend an intensive Friday session; I took Julia’s session and Karil chose an art session. It seemed surreal to be in Julia’s presence after all these years. She outlined what the session would cover and gave us this warning, “Sometime during this session, you’re going to think wow, this person really knows what she’s talking about it, and another time you’ll think this person doesn’t know what the heck she’s talking about.”

It was an intense day of exercises and sharing, but the one thing she kept hammering home was the need to do morning pages. I thought, “No way, I get up for work at 4:10 and no one’s got time for that!” Later when Karil and I shared notes from our respective sessions, I scoffed and said “Yeah I’m not really impressed anymore. Julia says morning pages are a necessity and there’s no way I can do them with my schedule. But since I’m on vacation, I’ll try doing them in the morning.”

Turns out she was right. I stuck with writing in the morning until it became a habit. I fast-drafted a memoir during National Novel Writing Month in November, I started this blog, my story Semper Fi, Sister was published in Chicken Soup for the Soul: Running for Good in June, and I’m continuing to make progress on my memoir.

This year’s event is called The Gathering of the Creatives and starts a week from today. I’m looking forward to thanking Julia Cameron for the kick in the pants, sharing a margarita dinner celebration with Karil, and seeing where this next year takes me. Cheers!

Writing Myself Home

I attended the Rochester, MI Writer’s Conference at the end of April and A Rally of Writers in Lansing, MI last weekend. The Rochester conference focused on self-publishing and isn’t something I need to worry about yet. At this point, I just need to edit my shitty first draft to get it into a working manuscript.

A Rally of Writers, on the other hand, offered multiple sessions in 3 different time slots throughout the day. With so many topics to choose from, there was something for everyone so my choices were memoir and poetry.

Will “The Poet” Langford opened the session and among the many poems he performed was “Pamoja”,  which was even more moving since that evening the Michigan State Spartans were playing in the NCAA Final Four. Will The Poet’s ability to weave poetic phrases around metaphors was brillant, beautiful to listen to, and brought tears to my eyes more than once. He inspires me to seek out safe spaces to learn to perform spoken word and I looked forward to his afternoon poetry session.

The memoir session was taught by Mardi Jo Link, a journalist  and self described “accidental memoirist”. Link summarized her session by saying memoir needs truth, a timeline and logic the reader can follow, an invitation to experience a life the reader will never know, and a change in the narrator the reader can relate to. I’m working on incorporating all these elements in my memoir, but an off-handed comment about her sons generated a light bulb moment for me. We just never know where know where our next source of inspiration will come from.

In the “Writing Home” afternoon session, Will The Poet talked about his journey to Africa and the need for a home to carry with him in his travels. Church, communities, events, schools, neighborhoods, and work can all be places where we feel a sense of being at home, so he told us to write down five. Then using one of our choices, he brought us to the page to write our own sensory based poem. This is how I feel every time I fly to San Diego and see the Marine Corps Recruit Depot adjacent the airfield as we’re landing:

Lindberg Field

We touch down on the runway…home.
Outside I hear the silent cadence of Marine recruits marching.
I taste the bitterness of regret, but catch a whiff
of promise in the person I became when I marched with them.
With the opening of the hatch, I’m transported back to the present
until the next time I connect with my Marine sisters.

I’m headed to the Michigan Writing Workshop in Livonia on May 4th to round out my Spring writing conference circuit. I’ve had the pleasure of meeting like-minded writers, picking up gold nuggets to incorporate in my own writing, and communing with the writers over lunch. Now I’ve found a new home in the writing community.

I’ll Never Be Yo-Yo Ma

As I prepared to see Yo-Yo Ma at the University of Michigan last evening, I reflected on my own cello journey.

A year and a half ago, I attended a high school music reunion, 40+ years after graduating. The weekend was a magical mix of joyful music making, renewing old friendships, and creating new memories.

I’ve always loved the deep, resonant tone of the cello but having never played a stringed instrument, I’d thought my cello ship had sailed. During the weekend I met a classmate who had taken up the cello later in life. I was intrigued. Could I do it? Could I live in my beginner brain being the recovering perfectionist that I am? She said I absolutely could and encouraged me to rent a cello and find the best teacher I could afford.

Two months later, after pestering a highly recommended teacher, there I was, rental cello in hand starting lessons. He had agreed to take me on a trial basis, which worked for me because I wasn’t sure I live up to the commitment of daily practice or even whether I’d be able to play anything resembling a recognizable tune. After two weeks, we were all in.

Playing the cello is kind of like rubbing your stomach with one hand, patting your head with the other while you’re running and singing. There is so much is going on all at once, not the least of which was reading the Bass clef, my biggest challenge. I found myself dedicated and committed, slowly and patiently working my way out of Twinkle, Twinkle hell through Suzuki Book 2.

My cello adventure culminated by playing in a studio recital, in front of his students (18 and under), their parents, and grandparents (who were my age). It was both nerve wracking and exhilarating. I heard from more than one attendee that they were inspired by my performance, which was the icing on the cake.

Hearing Yo-Yo Ma last night made me a little sad that I gave up my cello lessons when I became a newly committed writer in November. With a day job and a long commute, there just weren’t enough hours in the day.

No, I’ll never be Yo-Yo Ma or as good as any second year student, but I’m grateful my cello teacher took a chance on me. I will forever treasure my very own cello journey.

Dreaming Bigger Dreams

intentionsHere I am, a month and a half into the new year, and I’m ready to dream bigger dreams.

While I’m still working on my memoir, I’ve connected with two writer’s groups, am trying to establish weekly group to write at a local coffeehouse, and I’m signed up for two local Writer’s Conferences.

It never occurred to me to submit any stories for publication until I read a delightful blog post by Nancy Julien Kopp about having been published in a Chicken Soup for the Soul book and being featured on the cover of her local newspaper. I hadn’t even considered that possibility.

As luck would have it, I had two stories in mind for an upcoming book and submitted them last Friday. Whether or not they are accepted, I feel a great sense of accomplishment in having written and submitted them.

Writing is a solitary gig so I truly appreciate writers who willingly share insights, resources, and wisdom. Thank you Nancy!

Podcast Parade: Super Soul Conversations with Cheryl Strayed

Before I cut the cable cord, one of my go to programs was Super Soul Sunday on OWN. I’ve been thrilled to discover some of my favorite shows are now also podcasts, including 60 Minutes and CBS Sunday Morning.

supersoulWhile searching for Super Soul on my podcast app, I came across a follow-up episode of Super Soul Conversations with author Cheryl Strayed. Cheryl had appeared on Super Soul Sunday in 2012, a year after the release of her bestselling memoir “Wild”. During her 2017 update, Cheryl admitted to Oprah that prior to the interview she had gone to GoodWill to purchase something to wear for $5, and earlier that week her husband called asking her why their rent check had bounced. Wait, what?!

It’s easy to look back in retrospect given all the bestselling success of Wild and the subsequent movie, and believe she was an ‘overnight’ success. Far from it. Like many other writers, Cheryl struggled to make ends meet working, raising her family, and fighting to find time to write. Being a newly committed writer, Cheryl’s story encouraged and inspired me.

Every time I listen to a Super Soul Conversation, I get something from it regardless of the guest. I’m grateful my commute gives me the time to enjoy different podcasts, and Super Soul Conversations is one of my favorites.