Word Number One – Prosperity

For those of you that haven’t read my last post, I have chosen five words to focus on this year instead of resolutions.  The first of those words is prosperity.  Sounds simple doesn’t it?  We all want prosperity don’t we?  We all see things in the world we want.  Why does it seem to come so much more naturally to some people?  My husband Chris is one of those people.  He dropped out of college after three years and went to work at a factory so he could build a race car.  He then went to work at an equipment rental company a couple of years before we got married.  He started out as what they called the “Wash boy.”  Within about three and a half years he had made outside salesman.  He makes about three times what I made at my highest paying accounting job.  I’m the one with the college degree.  I’m the one that always obsessed about grades, and yet Chris has always excelled far above me.  A fact that has often left me wondering why.

Despite Chris’s stellar income, It always feels like money is tight.  For years I attributed this to Chris’s love of man toys.  You know, cars, performance parts, expensive trucks despite having a company truck, a big house etc, etc. etc.  Chris’s attitude towards money has always been to just get what you want and if you need more money than you go make more.  I attribute this to his growing up in a financially comfortable environment.  His parents weren’t rich, but they were never lacking for anything.  They didn’t worry about tires going flat or furnaces going out.

I, did not grow up in such an environment.  When I was five we lived in a crude shelter that my father made out of plywood that I’m pretty sure he “borrowed” from the job-sites he worked on.  We had no running water and our only source of electricity was an extension cord running from my grandparents single-wide next door.  I was too young at the time to realize how poor we were, but by age nine, I had started worrying about money.  It’s no wonder that I have issues in this area.

I used to attribute our tight finances to the fact that Chris spends too much.  Lately, I’ve been wondering if I have it wrong.  I can’t believe I just put that in writing.  Thank God Chris doesn’t read my blog.  I can promise you I would never live that one down.  Seriously though, I’ve been questioning some of my beliefs and my belief that responsibility for our money issue belonged on Chris’s shoulders was a strong one.  But now I’m thinking it’s possible that it may be mine.  What if the fact that I always approach our finances from a lack mentality has something to do with it?  Every time we get a little extra, I tend to spend it on things the kids are going to need, but don’t necessarily need yet.  I’m afraid we won’t have the money when they do need it.  I always approach paying the bills from a place of fear.

When the twins started kindergarten last fall Chris wanted me to go back to work and yet I’m still home.  I want to make money doing what I love and I don’t love accounting.  Fear again.  There are other jobs out there that don’t require accounting, but I told myself I can’t have any of them because I lack the experience, the education etc.  The truth is I look at the world as if the possibility of failure lurks around every corner.  I spent months setting up a membership site and as of yet not one person has joined.  It’s not that it couldn’t be an awesome space for writers to come together.  I have trouble with the ask.  I have trouble feeling worthy of the ask.  It’s only fifteen dollars a month.  Most people spend more on Starbucks.  I definitely spend more on Starbucks.  After a week of being snowed in, a Cinnamon Almond Milk Macchiato would be really good right about now.  In spite of this fact, it’s still hard.  This is a big thing I’m going to have to defeat in order to bring the prosperity I desire.

Brooke Castillo talks about how people worry about money because they believe that it comes from outside of themselves when actually it comes from within.  The first time I heard her say it, it scared the shit out of me.  I knew that it meant actually going out and showing up in the world and putting myself out there.  I’m going to be honest.  Just the idea makes me want to curl up in the fetal position on my office floor and hide.

If you don’t have customers, it’s because you need to ask people to be your customers and not get discouraged when people say no.  That is the wisdom I am faced with.  Sounds terrible doesn’t it.  It’s really just a matter of math.  If you ask 100 people to be your customers, about 10% will say yes and 90% will say no.  I haven’t personally asked one person.  I’ve ran Facebook ads that didn’t work and then promptly gave up.  I know I’m not the only one.  Just a tiny taste of rejection is enough to send most people running.  The primal fears kick in.  If I do the math, I need about 150 people to say yes.  That means I would have to ask 1500 people.  Holy shit.  That sounds excruciating.  I’m going to have to do it anyway if I want this year to be different.

So here’s what I’ve been doing in January. I’m running a Kickstarter campaign and I’ve reached out to someone about ghostwriting a book.  I’m also in the process of re-branding my other book. I knew at the time I first put it out that the title wasn’t right for the book.  I had that feeling in the pit of my stomach, but I ignored it.  It’s almost like I wanted to fail.  My brain wanted to prove it to myself that my lack of worth was well founded.  I refuse to do it anymore.  I’m developing an actual marketing campaign and I’m going to reach out to influencers before I relaunch my book.  I’m going to do it right this time instead of the proverbial pissing in the wind that felt much safer last year.

If you too have been living in fear, it’s time to stop.  Otherwise we are going to wake up in a nursing home one day and wish we had done things differently.  I don’t want the regrets so I have to conquer the fears.  Don’t wait friends.  We only get this one chance.  I want to finish my book, Stealing The Amber Room this year.  I’d like to go to Europe to do research.  I’d like to write a bunch more books and go on trips doing research for those.  Doesn’t that sound awesome?  I’d like to ghostwrite books for people about topics that interest me and I’d like to make a bunch of awesome writer friends on my membership site.  That’s the goal.  That’s why I chose prosperity.

What do you want today and what’s holding you back?  What will you choose?

 

A New Way to do The New Year

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We’ve all done it.  You know what it I’m going to say, don’t cha?  Yep, I’m talking about resolutions.  How many of you have made resolutions and then promptly forgot ’em?  Or worse, you make a serious attempt, only to lose your mojo around mid-February.  At least, that’s when I notice the parking lots at the gym start to thin down.  Not that my ass is in one mind you.  It’s cold out.

Most of you, by the time you get to be my age stop making resolutions altogether because you just make yourself feel bad when you aren’t able to change the things you want to change.  That would be me.  I started to rethink resolutions a few years ago.

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I didn’t want to give up doing the New Year’s thang altogether.  There is a part of me that loves the idea of a fresh new year.  It’s like a pretty new piece of blank stationary.  Writers love pretty stationary.  And pens.  I have a very nice pen that my husband won for hitting a sales goal.  I promptly stole it while he was celebrating.  He was so drunk, he didn’t notice.  True story.

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Okay, I got sidetracked by pretty paper and perfect ink pens with just the right weight.  Sorry, they’re like catnip for writers.  Where was I?  Oh yes, the new year.  First, I quit making resolutions and set goals for myself instead.  This worked better.  I hit a few goals and felt invigorated, but I still wasn’t quite there yet.  Then, the other day, I was Reading “Awaken the Giant Within” by Tony Robbins.  For those of you that don’t know me, I am an avid reader of self-help books.  And books on writing. And fiction, of course.  Who doesn’t love fiction?   I have about 55 books in my Kindle and I set my new goal on Goodreads for 52 books this year.  If you are ever trying to find a good book to read, you can find plenty of suggestions on my blog or friend me on Goodreads.

Anyway, in this awesome book, Tony mentions a discovery he made about words.  Apparently the words you use in everyday conversation when referring to your life have an effect on how you feel about your life.  If you want to change your life, you just have to change your words.  I don’t know about you, but this idea blew my mind.  Could it really be that simple?  If I start peppering my conversations with the word fabulous, will I feel fabulous?

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I’m feeling fabulous already.  I decided that not only did I need to test out this idea, but I needed to do it on a grand scale.  Why?  That’s just who I am baby.  Amber likes to go overboard.  That’s how I roll.  I decided to choose five words.  I could have chosen like a hundred, but my life coach Brooke Castillo talks about constraining your focus.  That’s a hard one for me obviously.  I have twins for crying out loud.  I couldn’t even have babies one at a time.

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Yep.  Those are really my twins.  Are they cute or what?  Even without the bangs that their big sister cut off like a week before picture day. I tease my son that he is going to be an underwear model one day.

As I was saying, I chose five words that I wanted to epitomize 2018.  Not the year I think I will have based on past experience.  No.  I’m talking about the year I want to have.  The kind of year I dream about in those rare dreams when you wake up smiling because you were so happy.  You know, like I’m a size six and I’m wearing a stunning designer evening gown and Steven Spielberg is hounding me about movie rights while a hot English actor is dragging me onto the dance floor.  That kind of dream.  Don’t tell Chris.  Shhh.  Our secret.

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So what are the words/phrases I have chosen?  Drum roll please.  They are as follows:

Prosperity

Adventure

Legacy

Willingness to Fail

Fun

 

There they are.  That is the year I want to have.  What kind of year do you want?

Why I Write

So you dream of being a writer? At least, I assume that you do or else you wouldn’t be reading this blog posting. Perhaps, like me, you dreamed of getting a degree in creative writing, but chickened out and trekked down the safer path. In my case, I got an accounting degree instead.

I’m going to share something with you here. Most subjects in school came naturally to me, except one. It was math. I struggled to break a B, starting in the fourth grade. At times, I got a C, which for any of you other perfectionist first-borns out there, you know that missing the honor roll by a small margin is enough to chap your ass. For years, my self-esteem was marred by this one cursed subject. Stupid, I know. This is my teenage self we are talking about. I wanted acceptance. I wanted to feel worthy and being smart was my ticket to getting what I longed for deep inside. Because of arithmetic, it alluded me. I didn’t feel smart because I wasn’t good at everything and I deeply believed that I should excel in everything. Other girls wanted to be cheerleaders or make a sports team. I dreamed of being Valedictorian. Yes, I am a nerd. You probably already figured that out, but I’m a straight shooter, so there it is. Anyway, we had seven valedictorians the year I graduated. I won’t tell you what year it was, but I will tell you that I wasn’t one of them.

So why in God’s name, did I then turn around and choose a major that focused on my Achilles heel. I discovered it yesterday in a book by Martha Beck called Finding Your Own North Star: Claiming the Life You Were Meant to Have. It’s because my social-self was resisting my essential self. My essential self (a.k.a. my true self) wanted to be a writer or a history teacher or a social worker, but my social-self wanted the acceptance of the people closest to me. My then-boyfriend, now-husband Chris didn’t like the sound of any of my career choices. We’ve all heard of the starving artist and teachers, and social workers aren’t known for making the big bucks. Chris wanted me to make a good living. Actually, he wanted me to make an exceptional living. The kicker is that without the elusive sense of worth the money was never going to come. Especially as an accountant. I always felt like an imposter when I was doing accounting. It’s a struggle to be something you’re not. It takes away all of your energy. Doing other people’s taxes makes me feel like I am slowly dying. I guess, if you think about it, we are all slowly marching towards death, but I don’t notice the gradual crawl towards being worm grub until I’m staring at a 1040.

You might be feeling a bit of outrage right now. You may be thinking that I should have told Chris to kiss my ass. I can’t say that I disagree, but you have to understand that he had the best of intentions. He wanted me to do something stable and being a writer doesn’t sound like a safe option. Most of us have family members like this. They mean well. They want to protect us. They think they are saving us from the fall. After all, the reality isn’t kind. The world is a cold, hard place and the sooner you accept it, the better. To this day, I cringe when people ask me how my hobby is going.

Okay, so the amount of money that I have earned so far is technically within the hobby range, but I refuse to give up. Why? You know what my relatives are thinking. That’s a lot of work to put into something to make a mere pittance in return.

I’ve had to fight my inner critic just to get words on the page. I’ve had to face fears of persecution by society at large when I hit the publish button. Fears I didn’t expect to feel until they were right there in my face staring back at me.  My book has swear words in it, I thought. What is my mother-in-law going to say?  In case you are wondering, she said, “She was disappointed in me.”  It kind of stung, but Fuck it.  It’s my life after all.  It was a long hard road just to publish one book, and now, I am working on another. I’m getting ready to send it to the editor and spend a decent chunk of change that I might never see in return, and yet I persist.

Here is why. I write because I feel cranky and out of balance if I don’t. I write because it’s my air. It’s my North Star, and I have to follow it even if I never receive the critical acclaim of Stephen King or manage to eke out a living. I spent years waiting for the people close to permit me to do what I love, and it never came, so I had to stand firm and give myself permission. If you long to write, then write. Doing anything, for the sheer love of doing it, is worth it.  Don’t worry about what your parents will say or your spouse or your kids or your mother-in-law. Know your why and follow your North Star. If you still need permission, then I give it to you now. Go chase your star. Seriously, like now. Right now. What are you waiting for?

The First Chapter of Stealing The Amber Room

History is full of lies. Washington chopped down the cherry tree. Columbus discovered America. The Amber Room disappeared, all fabrications woven into the tapestry of time.

 

A constant knocking startled him awake from his mid-morning nap, and he struggled out of his chair with an arthritic groan.

“I am comink, that’s enough already,” he choked out in a still-hoarse, sleepy voice, but the mystery visitor didn’t hear. The knocking thus continued until he opened the front door, squinting into the sunlight. It was Tim, the scrawny teenager that lived next door and mowed his grass every Saturday.

“I paiden you already.”

“Vat is not why I am here,” Tim said, mocking his accent.

“You sound like Dracula. I am not from Romania.”

“I vant to suck your blood,” Tim said with a smile. This kid is such zee smart ass.

“What is it you vant… I mean want?” He corrected himself and shot Tim a look that said Don’t even.

“I’m supposed to interview an old person for school. Remember?”

“Of course I remember,” he lied. “And we prefer zee term, senior citizen.” In spite of all the teasing, he liked the kid. He was a good boy. Kept his nose clean. Good with his studies. Never missed a Saturday as long as the yard was dry. “And What’s with the constant knockink? You’re not five anymore.”

“I was afraid you were sleeping again.”

“I am older than dirt. Of course, I was napping. I’m practicink for when I’m dead.”

“Geez. What’s with you today?”

“Nothing. Come in. Come in.” He moved out of the way, and Tim breezed in like he owned the place, just like he’d been doing since Tim was ten and moved in next door with his mother. Tim went into the kitchen and opened the fridge.

“You want a soda?” Tim called to him.

“No. I want to go back to my nap,” the old man grumbled, but secretly he was glad for the company. Tim ignored his standard grouchy old man response and walked in carrying two cans of Dr. Pepper.

“You’re going to need this to keep you awake.” The old man took the can and set it down on a coaster next to his favorite chair without argument.

“Let’s get zis over,” the old man said, taking a sip. It burned. Truth be told he had never acquired a taste for American soft drinks. He only bought them for the kid because his mother wouldn’t let him have them.

Tim plopped down on the couch next to old man’s chair.

“I hope you have an interesting story to tell. This paper is a big part of my grade. I need something good. Jackson Parks is interviewing a retired CEO from some big software company. His senior citizen used to date a supermodel.”

“Bah, supermodels. That’s not so interesting. My story is much better.” Tim raised an eyebrow at him like he always did when he suspected the old man of fibbing.

“I tell zee truth. My life has been more interesting than most.”

“How much of this interesting life can you remember?” Tim smirked. The old man mocked offense.

“I am going to be as you say, straight with you,” the old man said. Tim rolled his eyes and sat back. “A person’s memory is a funny thing. I forget a lot these days. I admit it to you. I can not remember names, and I lose things: keys, wallet, car.” At this, Tim shot him a look of shocked concern and the old man put up a hand to silence him. “You think I should be in a retirement home?”

“I think you should get a cell phone and give me your number,” Tim said, taking a big swig of Dr. Pepper.

“Perhaps,” the old man said with a shrug. “Anyway, I may not remember much these days, but zee early days of the war are still vivid in my mind.” He took a long, bony finger and tapped his temple.

“Wait,” Tim said. “You were in a war? Which one? Was it World War I or World War II?”

“I’m not old enough for zee Great War, and even I’m not old enough to have fought in World War II. Those people are all dead, but I lived it. I was a child in zee war.”

“Well,” said Tim looking a little crestfallen. “I suppose that’s something.”

“That’s somethink, says Mr. Smartypants.” Tim crossed his arms ready for a lecture. “Shouldn’t you be taking notes or somethink.”

“I’ve got it all right up here,” said Tim, tapping his temple with mock exaggeration.

The old man threw his hands in the air and took a deep breath.

“Ugh. You are hopeless. I will just begin. Zee day my father left is vibrant in my memory. Like your face in front of me now. He looked handsome in his crisp new Red Army uniform. It was tan with a red collar and black piping. I felt so much pride.” The old man balled his wrinkled hands and patted his chest with all the bravado he could muster. “My father seemed such a man to me, but he was only twenty-four. In my simple understanding, I thought he would return in few days after shooting at some hill or other in a kind of grown-up game. How could Hitler’s army win against a country so vast and full of brave young men?”

“Wait. Who was the Red Army? What country are we talking about?”

“Ugh, zis is going to take forever if you keep with the interrupting. I was born in Russia.”

“Then how is your last name Meyer. And isn’t that a German accent?”

“Yes.”

“How does a Russian end up with a German name?”

“Shuten up and listen and I will tell you.”

“Sorry, geez. Why are old people so cranky?”

“On that day,” the old man continued, “I didn’t hug my father at zee train station because I wanted to be more like a man. I saluted him instead, and he smiled at me and winked the way he always did when I had done something to make him proud. Then his smile faded, and he dropped down on his knees and kissed both my cheeks and squeezed me so tight I think my breath would leaven me and I was so surprised I forgot all about being a man and put my arms around him and buried my head on his chest like a tiny boy. I can still remember the smell his uniform and the sound of his voice saying, Take care of your mother, and I can see him waving from the train until it blurred into zee distance. It was the last time I saw him. I don’t know where he died. I just know he did.”

The old man heard Tim suck in his breath and he thought he saw Tim’s lower lip quiver for a split second.

“I thought your dad was an antique dealer from Albuquerque.”

“That was zee man who raised me, and he wasn’t originally from Albuquerque,” the old man said with a conspiratorial wink. “Now, you could say my mother died of a broken heart, a mere six months later, but starvation played its part. She gave me everything we had and lay dying as people evacuated zee city, too weak to move. She urged me, begged for me to go and follow zee crowd in the hope that someone would bestow kindness on an orphan and take me to safety, but I lingered all day by her side and found myself left behind.” A tear burned the old man’s cheek. He could still picture her lying on that thin mattress on the floor of their old brick krushchyovka so long ago. Tim didn’t say a word.

“I walked out into zee street. The Bakeries were empty, zee hat shops, and even zee butchers. As I walked on, I found so many places burnt. I felt hopeless, and I think to myself I am going to die. I wanted to go back to my mother, but I was afraid to upset her if she was still alive, and I feared to see her if she was not. So I tell myself, let her think I lived. Let her be happy in this, and I sat down in the snow and started to cry. As I sat there with my head on my knees, a dog walked up and licked me on the ear. I looked up into his soft brown eyes, and I swear they were almost human in their intelligence. He appeared healthy despite the starvation everywhere. The dog’s tail wagged with delight at finding a friend, and I say to myself, maybe this is a good sign. He nudged my face, and behind him, I could see the Catherine Palace standing like a beacon in zee distance. Sometimes, I think God himself sent the dog to me. I named him Dozor. In Russian, that means to watch over, and he lived up to zee name many times.” The old man gently patted his chest with his hand.

“You believe God sent you a dog?”

“God has done much bigger things than zis. Why not send me a dog? Why won’t you believe in God?”

Tim looked down at his shoes like he was still ten instead of seventeen. “I dunno. If he’s up there, why didn’t he save my dad?” The old man reached out and patted Tim’s arm.

“I do not pretend to know the will of God, but if you listen to my story, by zee end maybe it will be easier to believe.”

“Why does it matter to you so much for me to believe?”

“Because I can’t go to my grave in peace knowing that the obnoxious boy next door will not get to see me again one day to disrupt my death as much as he did mine life.”

Tim smiled a wry smile.

“Anyway, back to my story, my heart felt full at having such happy company, and I decided zee Palace was the safest place. I set my mind to going there. I do not know why looking back. It seems an odd thing to do. I just had this intuition I needed to go there. I’d spent my whole childhood living in zee shadow of this place and yet I had never seen the inside, so I stood up and marched through the snow with determination. It didn’t look like so far to go, but it took me at least an hour to get there. When I reached zee gate, it stood wide open almost as if to invite me inside, so Dozor and I walked right onto the grounds. It was beautiful. I could scarcely take it all in. It reminded me of stories my Granddad Zharkov used to tell about the summer he spent as a guard there.”

“I opened zee front door and then, Dozor and I slipped inside. A few embers still burned in zee grand fireplace. Beauty was everywhere. The furniture was like nothing I’d ever seen. We’d found an oasis, so Dozor and I made it our home. We found some old forgotten jars in an abandoned fruit cellar, and that sustained us until the Nazis invaded and pillaged the land like locusts: it was on this day that zee famed Amber Room was dismantled and taken away.”

“Amber Room? How do you steal a room,” Tim interjected.

“It was a series of wall panels made of Amber. They filled the room with mirrors and chandeliers, and zee result was breathtaking. I still remember its magnificience and the flood upon the senses the first time that I lay eyes on it. Men hailed it as zee eighth wonder of the world. It had a mystical element, the kind you attribute to unicorns and fairies if such things existed.”

“If it was the eighth wonder of the world, how come I’ve never heard of it?” Tim asked leaning in with interest.

“Because the schools these days don’t teach you about zee really significant things,” the old man said. Tim nodded in agreement.

“The world is still a scary place my friend. The Nazis have been replaced with Isis and terrorism. The world needs all zee beauty one can find, so I will tell you a story I have never told another living soul. It is a story I intended to take to my grave, but I will share it with you because you need to hear it, and it will be a much better story than any CEO dating zee supermodels.” Tim cracked a smile.

“For it all to make sense, I need to go back to zee beginning. It all started in the winter of 1938, what would later be termed “That Fateful Year.” It’s the story of a great treasure, yes, but it’s also the story of love and sacrifice in the face of incredible odds.”

 

Ten Things I Never Thought I’d Hear Myself Say Until I Had Children.


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Children say the darndest things, but guess what?  So do parents.  I have on many occasions now caught myself saying things I would never have dreamed I would say.  What follows is a list of a few of my personal favorites.

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  1.  Keep your magic wand out of the dog’s behind.  Cookie doesn’t appreciate it.
  2. Keep your fingers out of your sister’s nose.
  3. I can’t put Daddy in time out.  I’ve tried, and it doesn’t work.
  4. I didn’t know that baby poop could shoot out like easy cheese.
  5. If you feel like you are going to have an accident, at least try to make it to the tile so I don’t have to scrub it out of the carpet.

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6.  That’s a litter box not a sandbox.

7.  We do not eat toilet paper.

8.  Don’t tell the neighbor that he is old.  He already knows.

9.  Quit squirming and let me have the booger.

and finally….

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10.  Don’t drink the bath water.  You never know if someone peed in it.  (Words to live by my friends)

If you have your own Thing I never thought I’d hear myself say until I had children, then e-mail it to me at thewritedestination@gmail.com.  I like to know that I’m not alone.  If I get enough of them, I will post them in a future blog posting for everyone to see.

If you would like to see the complete list of 33 things, pick up a copy of my book Puppy Love: Life Lessons In Disobedience.  Happy Thanksgiving!

Stay-at-home mom’s walk of shame.

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Taking my children to the dentist usually gives me mixed feelings.  On the one hand, I feel kind of elated because I know I’m about to enjoy twenty-three minutes of quiet me-time.  Score!  As an added bonus, I know that they can’t fight from their adjoining dental chairs because their mouths are going to be cranked open as far as a small child’s mouth can go in a sort of socially acceptable torture.  Stretch your mouth out to capacity right now and try to say “Jerk!”  Just try it.  I tested it just to be sure.  Can’t be done.  Double score!  That is where the good times end though my friend because after my time in introverted fun land I’m going to be graded.

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My children’s dentist office clearly prides themselves on perfection and seem to think that oral hygiene is the ONLY THING in life that matters.  Granted, it’s important.  I’m not saying it’s not, but they have a grading system for crying out loud.  They would tell you it’s so that you can measure your child’s needs.  The truth is that your parental abilities are what is really being graded.  As a compliant first-born/ people-pleaser by nature, I want to do well.  I was always a good student.  I want the A.  I want three A’s as a matter of fact.

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I have never gotten the three A’s.  I’m the mom all of the hygienists talk about at the oral hygiene convention.  I picture them huddled together with sugar-free, tooth friendly cocktails with cute little toothbrushes instead of umbrellas and their talking in hushed tones.  Today I got my gently worded, semi-annual lecture and promised that my children would do better and prepared to sulk out of the office with my head hung low after purchasing forty-five dollars in high-octane, super fluoridated (I pray miracle working) toothpaste.  I think the worst is over and then notice that two of my three future denture wearers are missing.

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I feel a hint of panic in my throat and make my way for the restrooms which is the only logical place they could be and call there names from outside the single restroom.  My nine-year old daughter opens the door and I can see my son standing behind her with his hands over his manhood and his pants around his ankles.

“Jackson needs help wiping,” she says as she flees the restroom while rolling her eyes as big sisters do.  I breathe a sigh of relief and then turn around and to find Jackson has already assumed the position (Bent over as far as he can for easy access). This is not his first rodeo.  Goodbye momentary sense of relief.  I go to lock the door so that no one else has to endure this shit show.  Guess what.  No lock.  Fabulous.  I race to get this done in mock speed.  I can just see someone walking in and getting an awkward eye full.  I proceed to fight the toilet paper dispenser because the cheap paper wants to break at every perforation and this isn’t a two square job.  I break out into a cold sweat.  Pull gently.  Pull gently.  I have him almost clean when I look down and find that his underwear are soiled.

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The voice in my head is saying “What the F—!  Why me?  Why?  Expletive.  Expletive.  Expletive.  Did he get the poop sweats in the dental chair.  WTF.  WTF.  WTF.

My outside voice says, “Son, Why?”

Jackson starts singing while wiggling his butt,” Because I’m a man.  Because I’m a man. Because I’m a big ‘ol man.”

I can’t help, but laugh a little because sometimes you have to laugh or cry and this was one of those times.

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“What are we going to do Jackson?” I said.

His response, “Don’t worry Mommy.  I’m wearing two pairs of underpants.”

Sure enough his underwear were layered.

“Why are you wearing two pairs of underwear?”

“Grandma told me to put on clean underwear this morning.”

Of course.  Why didn’t I think of that.  The answer should have been obvious.  He then prided himself on his preparedness for the situation.  He brought it to my attention as if he should be rewarded for shitting his pants and having clean underwear on standby.  Kind of like the one time in sixteen years of marriage that his father did the dishes.  Chris made sure to get his pat on the back.  Do I get a pat on the back for doing dishes twice a day, every day.  No, but I digress.  I took a deep breath and crammed the forty-five dollars worth of toothpaste and free toothbrushes and floss into one of those tiny bags they give you and put the Pikachu boxer briefs that will never be the same in the other.  I got him dressed in the clean extra pair and calmly walked out the door and back into the lobby.  Nothing happening here folks.  Just keep looking at your phones. I’m half way to the front door with a minuscule level of my dignity still intact when Jackson grabs the bag with the soiled underpants and tries to rip it out of my hand because he wants his bag of treasures.  Not the underwear.  His five cent prize for holding his mouth open compliance.

I blurt out, “No Jackson!  That’s the dirty underwear.”

Ooops.  (My brain – Expletive.  Expletive.  Expletive.)  Every parent in the crowded waiting room turns to stare at the crazy woman with dirty underwear in a toothbrush bag.

I took a deep breath and did the walk of shame all the way the minivan.  It took a Starbucks and a tooth decaying cake pop to help me shake it off.

“Can we have a cake pop too Mommy,” they said.

“Sure.  Why not?”

If you enjoyed reading this considerably more than I enjoyed living it, then you want to check out my book Puppy Love: Life Lessons In Disobedience.

How to outline a novel or can you teach an old dog new tricks part 2?

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Update on my wiener dog Buddy: He refuses to Shih Tzu in the litter box.  He seems to think it’s quicksand and that I’m some sort of evil villain hell bent on sending him to his doom.  Insert maniacal laughter here…  I’m giving up.  Perhaps the guy I saw on shark tank the other night that invented the automatic pad-roller thingy will have his invention at Wal-Mart soon and I can buy it.  That brings us to our next order of business, outlining a novel.  In my last installment, I covered the first three steps.  Now I’m going to give you the next one and it’s a biggie.  Drum roll please.  Characterization.

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You should have a general idea of what your story is about and who your characters are.  It’s time to refine and add detail.  It’s time to do character sketches on all of your main characters – Who is this person? Think very carefully because this is going to be very important. What your character wants should be the driving force behind the story.  It makes the the difference between writing a page turner people can’t put down and gee I wonder what’s on Netflix. What are their circumstances? What kind of conditions do they live in? What obstacles are they facing?  Don’t just focus on generalizations.  Dig deep.  Based on your macro outline, what kind of person would be the most fun to transplant into these circumstances.  You don’t want them to be a perfect fit to their surroundings.  Give them something to struggle against.  For example: If their parents are difficult then don’t make your character strong and unaffected.  Make him timid and weak or better yet, kill the parents.  Hey, Disney does it in every movie.  In Big Hero 6, they killed the parents and the brother.  I’m amazed the poor aunt survived, but hey, it pulled you in didn’t it.  It worked on me.  Not that I cried or anything.  Okay, okay, maybe just a little.  Animated films get to me.  I admit it.  Back to the point of characterization, though.  There is some very good information on how to accomplish kick ass characters in 90 Days to Your Novel.  No, Sarah Domet doesn’t say kick ass.  That’s just me being colorful.  If you are interested, there should be a link to Amazon at the bottom of this page.  If not, it’s not a requirement.  If you are like me, then you probably have a shelf full of books on writing.  Pull out one on characterization and go to town.  Let me know how you are progressing at thewritedestination@gmail.com.

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If your really stuck, turn on the t.v. and see what jumps out at you.  Borrow bits and pieces from historic figures.  Expedition Unknown is great for that.  Okay, I just really love this show.  When I grow up, I’m totally getting a job on Josh’s crew.  Why?  Because it looks awesome.  But then, I love history.  I’m a nerd that way.  Shhhhh.  Don’t tell anyone.

 

My New Critique Forum – Creatives Academy

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I am so excited to introduce you to my brand new forum.  I call it Creatives Academy.  I have been in the writing game for a few years now and finding a critique group that really works has been difficult, so I decided to create my own.  I want to foster an environment of creativity as well as collaboration.  I want it to be part critique group, part mastermind and part support group for the difficult times, before you hit it big. Think of it as an online cocktail party for introverts.  Did anyone else just shiver at the mention of a cocktail party?  This will be different though.  This will be ours.  I want to put you in groups by genre so that you only get critiqued by people who know and like the genre you write in.  It just makes sense.  If your into sci-fi or dystopian or steampunk then you don’t want to critique romance.  Am I right?  There are a few things you should know before signing up though.

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  1. I have a humming bird brain! 

My mind likes to flit around from one beautiful thought to another.  Sometimes it gets off track, but eventually it comes back around.  A certain amount of tolerance is necessary.

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2.  I swear.

I have a bit of a potty mouth.  I actually enjoy swearing.  I love the color and punch that the occasional swear word adds like shit or damn.  Occasionally I drop the f-bomb, but I usually refer to it as the f, dash, dash, dash word or some such abbreviation.  It’s my own personal brand of panache.  If you do not like swearing, that’s okay.  My mother-in-law recently lectured me because my book has swear words and she said she was very disappointed.  I love her anyway.  Not as much as I did before, but I still love her somewhat, which brings me to number three.

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3.  My wickedly dry sense of humor.

How does this photo depict dry humor?  It doesn’t really, but I thought it was super cute.  I get distracted by cute puppies (See, hummingbird brain.  Don’t say I didn’t warn you.)  Anyway, my sense of humor is dryer than stale, sourdough bread.  If you’re not into that or swearing or my meandering brain, then this probably isn’t the forum for you.  If you are looking for a community of like-minded, mildly swearing introverts that are out to take the publishing world and succeed no matter what, then get in on the ground floor of something awesome.  I may have a hummingbird brain, but it has flitted around so much that I am well versed on a lot of writing topics to help out my fellow creatives.  I have a wealth of knowledge on creative topics and quotes from The Princess Bride.  I’ve learned to use it to my advantage.  Seriously, join today.  What are you waiting for?  I want to help you.  Help me, help you.  Did I just careen off into Jerry McGuire.  Possibly, but don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Join the cocktail party for introverts!

 

How to Outline a Novel or Can You Teach an Old Dog New Tricks? Part 1

Do you ever fall into bed at the end of a long day, and wonder where all the excitement in life has gone? You had dreams. Big dreams. Remember that girl. Remember the size jeans you were wearing? I remember what size I was wearing. Not the same size I’m wearing now, but that’s not really important. The point is, we tend to give up on those dreams. The moment we graduate college, they go up in smoke along with that awesome metabolism that allowed you to eat whatever you wanted.  Boy, do I miss that metabolism. Some call it growing up. I call it fear.

If you are reading this right now, you have decided to tackle that fear. That is why you’re here right? You’ve decided you can dismiss your husband’s suggestions that you are having a mid-life crisis. You’ve decided you can ignore the gentle nudging of friends that miss you because you now stay home to slave on your manuscript. You’ve decided that you can miss the last season of Game of Thrones, if that’s what it takes. Okay, maybe let’s not go quite that far. Kit Harrington’s abs. That’s all I’m saying.  What?  You didn’t know fear was involved?

Well, let me tell you now, this path is not for the weak at heart. It’s going to require bravery. It’s going to require dusting off skills that haven’t been used in a while. It’s going to require that you stretch out of your comfort zone, learn something new and conquer your primitive fear’s ass. Yes. I said primitive fear.  What is that?  Well, we all have it. That’s why mingling at dinner parties makes some of us feel kind of like we are going to die. I suppose you could put an eye out with one of those little plastic swords in the finger foods, but death is highly unlikely.  I just feels like death to an introvert.

I have the perfect example.  I have a wiener dog named Buddy. He is the cutest, smartest, most awesome dog in the entire world. Problem is, I didn’t realize he was a miniature until we were pulling out of the breeder’s driveway and I looked down at the card.

My immediate thought was, “Shit, this dog is going to fit through the fence. Forever.” Poor planning on my part? Possibly. There were three children and a dog crazy husband involved. This was not solely my fault. I swear.

 

Baby, I’m Worth It.

My husband won’t let me so much as take him outside on a leash. You see where I worry about him getting out of the yard and being hit by a car, my husband is afraid that a large bird-of-prey will try to pack him off. No, I’m not kidding. Sigh. Chris is really that high strung. So, for the last year, I have had puppy training pads all over my house. I do not like having pee pads all over my house. I hate it. I really, really, really hate it, but yesterday I had this brilliant idea that I would train Buddy to use a litter box. I was feeling pretty proud of this brainchild of mine.

I told Chris, “I’m a trailblazer baby.”

His response, while rolling his eyes, “You teach that dog to shit in a cat box and I’ll call you a trailblazer alright.”

Undeterred I went to Target and purchased a litter box. I couldn’t wait to introduce Buddy to a new way of doing his business. I put it in the bathroom right next to the toilet so he could feel just like a person. We treat him like one anyway. I gently sat him down inside and…drum roll please, he took off in a fit of terror and threw litter everywhere. Seriously, like he was being killed. Was it rational? No. Did that make him any less afraid? Nope. Still terrified. That’s the fear I’m talking about. Don’t let that fear take over. Don’t be afraid of the litter box! Okay, bad analogy but you get what I’m saying. You are going to start writing that book, right now.

Here is what I want you to do. I’m going to break my process down for you and give it to you in small pieces so you don’t feel like there’s a lion in the corner waiting to eat you.

Step 1:
Color in an adult coloring book for fifteen minutes. If you don’t have one, then pull out your kids. I know, it sounds a little crazy, but this will recalibrate your brain. There is real neuroscience behind it. If that’s just really not what you’re into, then try meditating or just close your eyes and listen to music. Go for a short walk. Do something to help your mind relax and get out of the state of stress that most of us live in.

Step 2:
Take a blank sheet of paper and write down every nugget of an idea that you have about this book. Do not self-edit! I repeat, do not self-edit. Pretend that your brain is like a child on a playground. Let it play. This is the fun part. Go crazy. Think you might kill of a character. Insert evil laughter here. Write it down. There is no right or wrong idea. Just put them on paper.

Step 3:
Use your brain dump from step 2 to sketch in a macro outline. We are going to borrow Shawn Coyne’s Foolscap Global Story Grid Method. If you haven’t discovered his website, thestorygrid.com or his podcast, then consider that homework as well. Nothing is set in stone at this point. Kind of like in Pirates of the Caribbean when Geoffrey Rushes character talks about the rules. “Arrrr, they’re really just guidelines.” Sorry, I couldn’t resist.

Anyway, it goes something like this:

Beginning Hook
Inciting Incident:
Complication:
Crisis:
Climax:
Resolution:

Middle Build
Inciting Incident:
Complication:
Crisis:
Climax:
Resolution

Ending Payoff
Inciting Incident:
Complication:
Crisis:
Climax:
Resolution:

Those are the three steps that I want you to start with. Let me know how that works for you and I will let you know if Buddy ever gets over his fear of the litter box. Feel free to ask questions in my Ask Amber Forum. No fear.

Extra Homework:

thestorygrid.com

and The Story Grid Podcast

Why?  Because they’re awesome.

Vote for Reader’s Choice Award

Hello fellow creatives!  My short story Falling In Love is published in short fiction break and I need your help to win the reader’s choice award. There are a lot of stories with similar titles as the contest theme was falling in love so please be sure to choose the one by Amber Meyer. Big thanks and happy writing.

Click to vote

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Excerpt Falling In Love

Thomas looked around at the sage green walls. The soothing color did little to ease his nerves. There was a piece of framed art on the east wall. A piano with a vase full of flowers on top. He’d stared at it a million times, dissecting every inch. No good. His eyes drifted back to Rhonda. Her veins so purple and swollen from over use of an IV that the shock of seeing them never wore off. Two long years she’d been lying there. The doctors rarely came. If they did, it was at night after he’d gone home. Of course, he’d heard of cases where people just woke up. Helpful friends were always sharing the story of someone, who knew someone, who knew someone, who’d heard of a miracle. Some such bullshit. It was clear to him that it was over. Clear to everyone, but Rhonda’s mother Alvera. The woman had hope, and she was washed in the blood of the spirit. She led weekly prayer vigils at church, and each day seemed more certain that her only child would be returned to her. Thomas admired her faith, but his hopes of having Rhonda back had receded as quickly as the tide. He wanted to believe. He envied her hope.
Mostly these days, he came to the hospital out of obligation. Obligation or guilt or a mixture of the two. A sudden chipper voice snapped him out of his somber thoughts. It contradicted his emotions with such intensity, it felt like trying to look at the sun. He turned with the intention of scowling at the new nurse, but thought different when he saw the flowing red hair cascading down her shoulders. He blinked twice to make sure his eyes weren’t deceiving him. She was beautiful. Really beautiful. A stunning kind of sexuality sizzled in every movement she made.
The beautiful nurse walked up to Rhonda’s bedside and took her pulse with a frown. Thomas studied her face. His gaze slid slowly down. She turned to meet his eyes with a pouty-lipped expression. Kind of like a child with a broken toy.
“How long?” She said.
“Two years,” he said.
“Oh dear. You poor thing,” she said as she walked around the bed and gave him a big hug. Her hair smelled like fresh peaches. He didn’t want her to let go. It had been so long. She walked back around and picked up the chart.
“This is my last round of the day,” she said. “No harm in taking a few extra minutes.” Her hair fell gently on the chart in front of her as she studied it with her stunning blue eyes. “Tsk. Tsk. So sad. A car accident.”
“Yeah,” Thomas said with a shrug. “On her way to meet her mother at church.”
“Oh,” she said. “Was she a good Christian?”
“Devout,” said Thomas. “A much better person than I.” He added giving her a hungry look.
“I see,” she said walking to the door and peeking out. “My shift is up. How about I buy you a drink? You’ve been through a tough time.”
“Really?” He said, not believing his luck.
“Sure,” she whispered. “Meet me at Smitty’s, across the street, in twenty minutes.”
“Twenty minutes,” he repeated, still in disbelief. “Wait about ten minutes and then leave,” she said. “Technically I could get in trouble for seeing a patient’s husband after hours.” She smiled and waved as she walked out the door.
His heart pounded and his ears buzzed with excitement as did other parts of him that hadn’t been awakened in a long time. Long before Rhonda’s accident. Rhonda had always had very definite ideas about how their bedroom activities should be conducted. Come to think of it, she’d had definite ideas about how he should do everything. What few things Rhonda didn’t have an opinion on, Alvera did and no qualms about letting them be known. He stared at the clock. Nine more minutes. He got up and walked to the window. He longed to open the window and let in some fresh air, but it was an old hospital and there were bars on the windows. Rumor had it there used to be an asylum on this floor and they did it to keep the patients from jumping. It was probably good in a way. More than once he stared out window and felt like taking the plunge. But today was not one of those days. Six more minutes passed and he could see her cross the street. She’d changed into a little black dress, but he was certain it was her. He started to pace like a panther in a cage. The minutes dragged. Finally, it was time. He walked to the door and flicked out the light.
“Thomas,” said a voice from behind….

Read the rest at Short Fiction Break.

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