self improvement, work

NOT THIS WEEK

Though I have been writing for almost my entire life, for the past three years, I have been writing almost daily and putting it out for the world to see. The world I speak of consists of a few followers who kindly take the time to read my writings and others because they see the post from someone who forwards it to them. I am lucky because I get to write continually and people seem to enjoy what I write. The beauty of this exchange is that there is no monetary connector. I am not writing for livelihood and people do not have to take out their wallets to pay to read what I write. It takes the pressure off for sure.

This all started when my beautiful partner said, “Alayne have you seen this site?” He was referring to Medium and it was the first site that showed up in my radar where all of these writings could actually land in a home somewhere rather than a folder marked Alayne’s writings hidden in a closet for my son to find after I was long gone. I remember the first time I hit PUBLISH. It was exhilarating and since then I have published on Medium over 300 essays or as the world calls them now, blogs. I like the word, essays. It feels more elegant and literary, like something Sylvia Plath or E.B. White would have written. Blogs seem to cheapen the process, but I try to stay current and if this is the way people care to refer what I write, so be it. I’ll take what I can get as I am just so happy to wake up in the morning and open my laptop to begin my daily ritual of taking what woke me up and placing it somewhere instead of the drawer in my office.

I noticed as I was posting on Medium a box I could check that allowed my writings to be part of a collection that could actually earn money as people read them. I clicked the box, what the hell, no pressure, if I made a little money because someone clicked on a piece or organically liked what they read, then that would be pretty cool.  So each time I now post on Medium, I click the box and off it goes into cyber space where algorithms take over to determine if my writing is worthy of whatever measurement they deem as such. I am thankful that I don’t have to rely on writing as a means of income; I am not sure I would be a great writer if I did.

I received an email from Medium the other day letting me know that a payment would be getting transferred to the bank account I had connected with my account. No exaggeration here, my heart skipped a beat when I saw this email. I have no idea what they were paying me for, but the fact that some random algorithm in outer space deemed worthy a blog that I posted made my heart sing. Alright so it wasn’t a million dollars, in fact it was $1.88, but that $1.88 was seriously the most rewarding $1.88 that I had ever earned. I jumped up and down and felt such pride that all of this writing I have been doing was actually noticed somehow somewhere by someone. How fun.

Now for those of you writers out there who think I may be settling for meager scraps, I am not. I write because it feels good. When I don’t write, I don’t feel good. Writing is like exercising for me, I must do it or my health suffers and my mind gets all staticky. Exercise is not about muscle and tight abs, that is the gravy. Exercise is mind clarity. Writing is the same. The money is the gravy and the $1.88 may as well have been $1000 because I just felt so happy when I saw it, but not enough to have that be the reason. Just like tight abs, they don’t motivate me to go to the gym, but a clearer less crazy brain sure does.

This week was the first week in a long while I didn’t write. Not one sentence. Not because I needed a writing break because sometimes I do, but because I was at a business training that consumed every waking minute. I am not kidding. Up at five, review until 6, out by 6:45, prep from 7-8. Training from 8-5, then business dinner until 8, then homework until I couldn’t keep my eyes open for another minute, then repeat. For five days straight. This training was a business coaching certification so I can get certified to coach other businesses in a strategic way based on this company’s philosophy and best business practices. I have been working as the recipient of their knowledge since I opened in 2002 so their culture and belief system is what shaped mine. The easy part of this training was that I am a believer in their business culture like it is my own because it kind of is. That was the only easy part. I already drink their Koolaid, but being a student in a business setting was mind blowing. Here’s the thing though, I AM NOT FRIED. I should be, but I woke up at 3:30 am on my own ready to rock. My brain reverberating with ideas and tasks filled with the possibilities of excitement and a new path towards helping other businesses have success and happiness like I do.

So not this week of writing, but of learning and remembering what it feels like to be an employee, on the other side of the coin for a change. This was the part I enjoyed the most, having to impress an employer, thinking about how I show up, how I look, what I do when I get there knowing that they are watching everything I do because as much as I think I am a good fit, they too have to believe this. Since I will be representing their company and their values, they have to be sure they want to date me too. Of all the incredible learning I did, this was one of my favorite points. To feel what it feels like to be an employee. That everything matters in a new job. The first date is the easy part. I have watched employees shine and get shinier and they are the ones who succeed. I have also watched the shiny ones get duller by the day and their ability to succeed falters quickly. I was happily reminded of how easy it is to be an employee when you give it your all. Effort. Showing up. Being present and all in. Every day. Every time. This is success. So not writing this week was fine by me because what I just accomplished was worth every waking minute. I can’t wait for this next chapter in my life. I am never bored. Life is too short to be bored; it is a thrilling ride and I keep getting on that roller coaster rather than sitting on the sidelines where it is a safe bet.








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“Success is waking up in the morning and bounding out of bed because there’s something out there that you love to do, that you believe in, that you’re good at – something that’s bigger than you are, and you can hardly wait to get at it again.”
-Whit Hobbs

WRITING

Casual to Serious

If there’s a book that you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it. -Toni Morrison

“What do you write?” Jodie from What Cheer Writers Club asked me as she gave me a tour last week of their new writing space. I was in writing heaven. I had decided to take the “big drive” from the comfort of my warm fireplace in Newport to Providence for a 10:00 am writing group I had just joined. It was Superbowl Sunday and I hadn’t planned on leaving the comfort of the couch until my biological clock woke me up at five am, as it usually did. What else was I going to do for the day besides sit on the couch waiting for my beloved home team to appear on the television? I said goodbye to my man and drove to the city on a bright morning.

Every time I choose yes instead of no, I am rewarded. This was no exception. I walked up the beautiful old-fashioned marble staircase last Sunday to a place called WhatCheer. Unbeknownst to me, this space had just opened to support anyone who has anything to do with writing. I walked in and my mouth dropped open with joy. Lighting, furniture, beauty surrounded me at every turn. From the pink and orange chairs, to the electric tables that rose to meet just the perfect height of whomever was sitting at them, here was a space designed for perfect writing fitness. Like a boutique gym, I felt at home immediately and like I wanted to write. This was the magic of this space. I quickly signed up to be part of this club and went into my new group, The Providence Writers Group.

Writing groups are a terrific way to take writing from casual hobby to serious focus. Every writing group is different, some have facilitators who lead the group with prompts, some are groups designed for critiquing, and some like this new group offer a blank silent space to just write among other writers. It may seem to someone reading this that this is something just as easily done in the comfort of your own home, but sometimes homes can be distracting, phones buzzing, laundry spinning, gardening calling. Some people don’t have the quiet space to be able to write, kids, roommates, televisions from partners, who knows? This is not my issue at all, if anything I could turn my space into a writing club, it is such a perfect setting, but there is something about writing on purpose surrounded by other peers tasked with the same driving force. I have learned that I write differently in a writing group.

This particular group on this day did not offer anything except a chance to sit together and write, no reading our pieces to each other for either positive or constructive feedback, no prompts, no line leading, just pure focused writing. I have never been in a group like this and it was interesting. The lack of conversing after didn’t give us a chance to bond with each other, but I really enjoyed the energy of simply being in each other’s company quietly sharing our love of writing. Tapping of our fingers on laptops, pencils scratching across lined paper, pens gliding in journals, some even writing on their phones, we all approached our writing tools with a sense of purpose making us all feel like real writers instead of casual ones.

When Jodie asked me, “What do you write?” I paused for a moment. She was asking me a serious question that catapulted me into this world of writers in an actual writing club. I briefly felt like an imposter on the precipice of being found out. But that only lasted about one second. I am a writer. I wake up every day at sometimes four am so I can write.  I have just made significant changes to my entire life so that I can, in fact, write. I have stepped aside from the day to day operations of running my business and created a new position for someone to take the helm not to work out more, not to go out to lunch with more women, but to write. Not just to write, but to edit what I have already written, to research and make time to discover facts and details for a historical fiction novel I am serious about.

Serious writing is hard work and in order to be a serious writer I must take writing seriously. Up until now, I have been practicing and playing. Writing first drafts and blasting them up on my website with barely a second glance, not so much as giving them a second look to repair, or rewrite is only the infancy of the beginning. “You should write a book,” comments come my way daily and this has fed my need to write more as well as my ego, but now if this is really true and I have decided that it is, the real work has begun. Being part of a focused critique group to gain insight from writing peers and then taking what I need from this and making the necessary changes is more work than I could have imagined and I have only just begun. Every writing minute I spend, I am in awe of the books that have not only been written, but actually published, not only published, but read and not only read, but admired. I have my work cut out for me, but I cannot imagine doing anything else right now.

From submitting, repairing, reading the critiques, deciphering four individuals’ comments and making the changes on just two chapters has taken me well over ten hours of work. And this is only the first round. But this does not feel like “work.” It feels like joy. I am in the midst of pure delicious joy. It is thrilling to appreciate how sloppy I was in my writing and how cleaning it up respects my work in a way I hadn’t considered when I was just casually playing.

What do I write? “I am writing a mastectomy memoir and am dipping my toe into historical fiction for the first time.” Jodie looked at me and said with kind eyes and a seriousness that made me feel like I was not an imposter here, someone whose feet belonged on the floor of this new club, “Ooh that’s brave, I haven’t tried fiction before.” I am sure Jodie does not know how much that beautiful simple sentence sent a wave of confidence into my body that helped change my paradigm from casual blogger to serious writer.

For any person who has read my writings and offered pearls of compliments along the way, it is because of this, I have found a writing voice and marched forth. By all means, keep reading and I am forever grateful to anyone who has shared publicly or privately a kind word my way. Thank you. See you on the page.

life lessons

Making a List

 

Yesterday’s assignment generated from Day 2 of WordPress University that I have embarked on since deciding this past weekend that Yes, I can build my own website. Here is the writing prompt below.

“Today, let’s write a list. Compiling a list is a way to let loose, unlock ideas, and free your mind. Today, write your own list on one of these topics:

  • Things I Like
  • Things I’ve Learned
  • Things I Wish
  • Things You’re Good At

There are no rules, though you can create some boundaries for yourself by deciding in advance how many items you’d like to include, or by settting a timer — try a list of 15 items, set a timer for 45 minutes.”

The goal seems to be getting thoughts to run freely and wildly, but to contain them somehow in the confines of list making. List making is something I do not struggle with. I am a list maker. I am also a vision board addict. I have them in my office which is out in the open off of my living room forcing me to never forget the major projects I am working on. I just found out about a program called Creately that I almost bought until I realized that I already have organizational charts done that I created myself in excel that work perfectly fine.

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My brain never stops. You could say I have the entrepeneurial spirit, like my father, like my grandfather and if I didn’t make lists and storyboards and visionboards, I am certain my head would fly off the top of my shoulders like a spinning top. This intensity of mine, of the creative ideas that move through me as if a spicket was turned on full throttle and being stuck in the on position is part of my writing energy, though. List making, outlines and order to the electricity that is my head helps move it up and out. I am grateful for the ability to know myself well enough to know that all of these ideas must take up a residence outside of this very full brain. Usually the lists are To Do lists, sometimes the lists are dreams and desires, but the theme is always a call to action. 

Organize the basement, put the dishes away, clean the closet in the bedroom, call my grandfather, move the doctor’s appointment from this week to next week, sign up for the art class, even when I am hoping to add areas of spirtuality into a list, as I consider this list making, even that is active. Deepen meditation practice, take more yoga classes, go to Synagogue once a month.

So as this call to action from WordPress University asks me to consider a different way to look at list making and I write today with this in mind. I never use a timer for my morning writing, I let my writing class leaders do that. When I wake up and write, it is my morning peace. This is why I wake up at five am and jump out of bed, so I have the time to write. The prompts are a different way to think. This is what writing prompts do, they open possibilities and creativity in a way that five minutes before would have not thought of. So here I go. This is just a quick list otherwise this writing would be over one hundred pages

Things I Like

  • early rising
  • conversations with interesting people
  • learning
  • writing writing writing
  • going to the library, taking out a book, finishing the book and returning it before the due date
  • collecting typewriters
  • being introduced to new ideas and considering them
  • nature and gardening
  • seeing a cardinal when I am deep in thought about something I am planning
  • watching my son grow up and develop his own identity
  • wearing my grandmother’s lighthouse jacket
  • cooking, walking, going to the beach
  • going to the movies and to museums
  • travel
  • expressive arts
  • being home
  • organizing 
  • leading my team and developing leaders
  • hanging out with my partner
  • being with my close tribe of women
  • organizing fun

     

  • working out
  • a good stretch
  • remembering my dreams
  • silence

Things I’ve Learned

  • To let shit go
  • To let shit go
  • to not take things personal at every waking moment
  • that when someone leaves your life say thank you with grace not malice
  • living in the present moment is all that is important
  • I am good enough
  • boobs aren’t as important as I thought they were
  • food is thy medicine or poison
  • drinking alcohol is not good for spiritual clarity (but it tastes so good)

Things I Wish

  • I had been better with money management earlier in my life
  • I could see my brother one more time6d33b-1ndLRbRVhNrgu9pHv_-lsMQ@2x
  • my mother and I had a really good relationship
  • I had a condo on Siesta Key for two months a year
  • I had the time and money to finish my degree and get a masters in writing
  • To really make time to research my historical fiction book idea 
  • i was better at growing vegetables

Things You’re Good At

  • Life
  • being a mother
  • friendship and being a strong partner in my Living Apart Together relationship
  • being an exwife
  • developing relationships
  • connecting people
  • owning a business
  • writing
  • creative thoughts
  • kindness and charitability
  • hosting parties
  • dreaming new ideas
  • cooking and baking
  • growing herbs
  • Love 

I am not sure if I have ever done this before, but I must say it was a nice way to start my day. Thank you WordPress. Again.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

WRITING

Why I Write.

I was recently asked, “Why do I write?” I just started my adventure with WordPress, the way out of my comfort zone attempt at designing my own missalayneous.com website. Deciding to jump into WordPress University, I immediately found a writing class that I clicked YES on promptly. The first prompt came to my inbox like magic. Why do you write?

This is a question I can easily answer.

I write because I have to. Because if I don’t, I am in spiritual agony. Because not writing is simply not an option for my health, my soul, my mind. When I write, I feel good. When I don’t, I get jammed, and clogged like a kitchen sink drain that has backed up because a chicken bone from dinner the night before found its way in. Writing helps me move ideas, feelings, thoughts and musings up and out. Writing creates open space in my heart so my creative brain can have the room it needs to get shit done. Writing is a force to be reckoned with and it shows up every day like a loyal friend.

Since my first journal in third grade pen to page, fingers to keyboard have never let me down. I feel calm and on purpose when I write. Just like a good workout, there is a steadiness and a purpose to my mornings giving me a fresh perspective on the day before.

I used to only write in a unlined notebook, with a sharpie, then a smooth uniball pen, then that changed to a lined notebook with a pencil. I soon realized that in order for all of this writing to become something, it needed to be saved on a computer so I started to type on my laptop and organize my writings more formally. Then I started typing occasionally on a typewriter. This led to becoming an avid and manic collector of portable typewriters. Each mode of writing makes me write with a different personality. I love the various themes I come up with depending on what I am writing on.

Writing feels like what I imagine photographers feel when they see an image. Instead though, while they have the need to capture the actual image with a camera, my image is a story that unfolds with a sense of urgency that I must sit down to write about it. Words to paper, adjectives, adverbs, nouns, run on sentences, verbs, pronouns and prepositions all come spinning at me as I sit there with my influencers of yesteryear.

Miss Foley, my mean first grade teacher who created writers block until I set her free and now she has become my friend who sits nearby when I am about to make a grammatical error. Mr. Chase, my seventh grade teacher who was of great encouragement to this hormonal twelve year old girl he recognized as a talent for writing. I before e except after c and Neck-eccary to remember that the word only had one C in the beginning. Mrs.Nixon, my freshman teacher who taught us Tess of the D’Urbervilles and turned us on to the human injustices in books like The Invisible Man, The Jungle, and female power imbalances that permeated our lives in 1980 we had never considered until she brought it up.

When I write, I am joined by my past teachers and am also joined by great women who have shown up in my adult writing life screaming from the sidelines WRITE WRITE AND WRITE! Hannah Goodman at her first writing class as a young teacher who brought meditation to my writing party and planted the seed about actually thinking I could not only write, but maybe even write a book.

Why do I write? This is why. Because I can, i must, I need to, I want to, I have to. Lucky to be alive and I don’t take this privilege and gift lightly.

Uncategorized

TAKING A BREAK

TAKING A BREAK

If vacation does one thing for me, it is the reminder to slow down and take stock of my daily life when I return. From what and how I eat, and where I shop for the food I have to have once I return, ( Azorean butter for example) to how I exercise and go through my day to contemplating the busy-ness and the friends I surround myself with, getting away makes coming back have a different outlook. Vacations in new countries adds one more layer to this and as I have returned from my three week venture away from almost all things alayne, I have found myself calmer, more relaxed and more humbled and way less digitized.

What I noticed also is that there is so much to read online, everywhere I turn, from Pinterest to Medium and all of the news sites blasting their stories, I have started to feel a bit inundated. Why does anyone even want to read what I write? There is so much out there now. “Three ways to feel better,!” “Ten things you can do now to change your day!” Five steps to get healthy, NOW!” Non fiction after non fiction piece, blog after blog, story after story. I feel almost a little burnt out from all of this digitizing of writing and need to get back to the basics. Like reading real books and writing on real paper.

This has changed my daily writing habit to a daily reading habit because the fact is there is only so much time in the day to get everything in that I love and something has to give. I have found since I have bought my typewriters that I love typing on them and I have taken a dive into almost daily typing. With that comes added time to my already jam packed mornings. The interesting surprise about typing on a manual typewriter, besides the frequency of errors, is the different way I have been writing. What I have noticed mostly are my limitations, especially when it comes to the fiction I have been attempting.I have a lot to learn and this excites me. I realize I need coaching or a creative writing class or writing group that challenges my vocabulary and I have found myself at a bit of a standstill.

Any great writing book I have bought has said a few basic tips. The top two repeated over and over again are write every day, (check) and read a lot. Reading definitely helps my writing and I realized that this was something I definitely needed to add to my daily list. Typical of my personality I have read five books in three weeks and am on number six as I type this early am. So I have decided to read and read and read rather than write and post and write and post for a bit. I am still writing every day, but just typing on Old Bess and giving my one page stories away instead, old school on vellum paper mistakes and all. Reading with the intensity I have allowed myself is showing me how much I have to learn and what better way than a book at a time at the library around the corner.

Vacations and time away brings me to awakenings and awarenesses, challenges and hunger for learning in a way that staying put doesn’t. I love being home armed with this new outlook and at the same time, I can’t wait for my next trip. I’ll be writing and posting again, I am sure, sooner than later, but for now I am taking a break to get caught up on all of the books I need to catch up on. Perhaps this short hiatus is in the good time with my one year anniversary of my final surgery coming in September, maybe I have poured out all of the non fiction in my body as it is reaching its one year of final healing. Who knows if the timing is as perfect as it seems, but for now I lean in to what my mind and soul command. Vacations, especially solo ones, do this for me, reminding me that this one life is a fragile one and there is so much to do, to see, to read and all of it that lies ahead is my oyster to do what I want with.

As September approaches at a rate that seems to accelerate as I get older, what I appreciate is the ability of choice and how I want to direct my life is totally up to me and me alone. This is what vacation is about and this is what life is ultimately. As Wayne Dyer said perfectly, “When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.” Yep.


Uncategorized

IN A WORD

IN A WORD

44.00, the Ebay auction item said as I perused my watch list. No bidders until the last four or five hours. She was a standard run of the mill simple but sturdy looking beauty with little or no wear as I could see by the eight pictures provided. The description was pretty simple as most of them are and this draws me for some reason.

“Very nice original vintage royal quiet deluxe typewriter. Appears to be in great condition. I do not know much about typewriters. i would assume it needs serviced before using it. Some letters don’t go back down instantly so it probably needs oil/grease. Were going to be selling this as is do to our lack of knowledge of typewriters. Please bid accordingly. If we look learn any new info it will be added to the description.”

At first, I turned my head away. There was no flash, no shiny newness. There was no story of some young woman getting this as a gift for her graduation from Katherine Gibbs Secretarial School in the 1950’s as she entered a career in office life. It wasn’t bubble gum pink, or bright turquoise or Corvette red. Just a sturdy old grayish greenish gal, in a barely worn case with a few scuffs and scrapes….waiting. In Ebay’s brilliance, by some algorithm a nerdy tech person set who probably has never even used a typewriter, I received the reminder that the bidding would soon come to an end and that one person had placed a bid for a meager 45.00. I put a max bid in of fifty dollars and saw my bid entered at 46.00. I couldn’t help myself; something made me just want to save her. I have become an addict and we should all be concerned.

Typewriters, the manual kind, are heavy, inconvenient, noisy, frustrating old machines for those not familiar with them. You can’t throw one into your purse and head off to a coffee shop with barely an extra pound or two over your shoulder. You can’t change font sizes or have spell check automatically correct words or change your small letter ‘i’ automatically to a capital ‘I’. In the old models at least, there are no italics , no bold, no number ‘1’ (small ‘l’ instead) and no exclamation mark ‘!’ because frankly your vocabulary should be better than a single symbol.

You need ‘things’ for typewriters- paper, for one, ink, for two and a big vat of PATIENCE, for three. If you haven’t used or ever used a typewriter, a manual one, you probably and ironically need to be great with YouTube (I am not) or find yourself a typewriter repair person. In my case, I am going old school here, typewriter repairman, (my apologies to the superchick typewriter repair women out there). Marr Office Supply in Pawtucket, RI is my new best friend and so are Ray and Michael who as a father and son team have lived through the rise and fall and rise again of the lowly typewriter.

What you don’t need, though, is a power cord, an electric socket, a back up hard drive or a save button. A manual typewriter is a machine of great engineering. Everything is connected to something else and when you come down off of tech brain and just dig in to its workings, each button and lever is pretty obvious in its use. I cheated with my first one, Royal circa 1947 standard weighing in at probably forty pounds and hard to move. Old Bess, as I call her, is a stationary model firmly planted on my kitchen desk with a slight view of my gardens. My grandmother would approve of her placement. I had to take her to Ray because YouTube videos are too cumbersome for my hands and visual brain and honestly this feels like cheating. I had to see and feel how to put the ink in, and quickly learned that the ink could be reused by moving a lever one way or the other to reverse the spools and back again! Can’t do this with our fancy printer cartridges. After a few desperate shakes of the cartridge, you may as well buy a new printer since the replacements often cost as much.

What pray tell (is this even a word combination?) is alayne going to be doing with the six typewriters she has purchased in less than three weeks? I know you are asking this question to yourselves as you read my essay today. There are a few thoughts to my new love. First off let me clarify, in case this is your first reading, and if not you probably are well aware, that I get on what my aunt and I fondly call ‘Jags.’ When something speaks to me, it is full throttle, when it leaves me, it is like it never was. I have accepted this about myself and though I wouldn’t label myself as manic, I do fully understand there is a manic quality to this part of my personality. A little mania is what makes the world go round so here I am. Unapologetic and joyful jag girl. I have learned to like this part of myself rather than think there is something wrong with me so I lean in whole heartedly. From a chocolate babka making obsession, to drinking bio dynamic wine every single night, then not drinking a drop, the list goes on and thankfully the people in my life who love me don’t roll their eyes as much as they likely could. This is love.

So what is my big plan for these beauties who have now entered my life at almost a box delivery a day pace? In a word, fiction. I have never written fiction and I have quickly learned that I am awful at it. I have been writing non fiction personal essays my whole life and almost daily for a solid year and a half and have gotten pretty good at this, but I need a new challenge, a new task. Fiction. In a word. I have been prompted by the idea of flash poetry, where you give someone a word and they type you on a real typewriter a poem in less than ten minutes. This is incredible and my experience of this was fun and fulfilling, but I am not a poet. So I thought it would be fun and super challenging to write flash fiction, one word, one page short stories. Someone gives me a word and I write an entire fictional story using the word on one page of paper. My self imposed rules are as follows:

No date, no reference to my name, no title except who the story is for (To Michael, for example) at the top, no whiteout or erasing (like erasing is even possible), no copying, no posting, publishing or looking for the addictive behavior modifying likes and only one page, one side. It can be single, single in a half or double spaced and handed in its original form to the person who gave me the word. I am sparingly allowing myself a little google to get a date or a peron’s name correct if I am making a reference to it. This is it. And it is way harder than I thought. I have written eight so far and all but one have been typed on the front porch outside in the fresh air. Written on my new Royal portable bought from someone’s son or daughter in West Roxbury, Mass given to their mother by their grandmother in the fifties. This is a practice I am hoping will improve my writing skills because as I am learning, my vocabulary and rhythm of fictional attempt is pretty pathetic. But I am ok with this. There were many famous fiction writers who started late. http://mentalfloss.com/article/63112/11-writers-who-started-late.

I am not looking for fame, just intellectual curiosity and stimulation and an excuse to step away from all things wireless, blue tooth and screen filled. I am looking to engage the people who walk by in eye to eye conversation and starry eyed talk of yesteryear. I am looking for a more creative life and a less technological one.

So throw out a word and I’ll write you a story, stop by and type with me if you see me on the front porch or if you visit my business. There will be a few typewriters soon for you to throw your thoughts on. But trust me when I tell you, you may become hooked as fast as I have become. I take no prisoners or responsibility for anything that happens after your first glorious pound of the key. For the “AArrggg” sound you make when you realize the backspace key does not delete or erase and the thrill of the bell ding when you have completed your first sentence.

In a word. I am waiting.


this is not the Royal I have fallen head over heels for, but a Swiss Hermes I bought before the Royal arrived. Trying it out on my luscious front porch before I wrote my first in a word fiction for Michael, both of them. And Cat and Dave and Gary and Alicia and Ashley and Peg. Aurelie is next, are you?
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THE AGREEMENT BOX


THE AGREEMENT BOX

Updates ready to install, my computer said to me like it does every single day in the upper right hand corner of my tiny screen on my laptop. Later, I choose, like I do every single day. Then in its infinite wisdom, a few choices are given, try in an hour, try tonight, turn on automatic updates. Once again I choose try tonight, but I have chosen all of them over time. Then the next message follows, your computer must be connected to a power source. It is not at this time, but it is every single night where I am thinking that the updates are automatically happening. They are not. My computer is not hooked up to a power source when I write because my power source for writing is outside, in the fresh air with the birds and the morning sounds of the beginning of the day. So is it too much to ask my fancy thousand dollar mac laptop to remember the choice I continue to make every single day so when I plug my said laptop in, the updates can happen then? When I am sleeping?

I went to my phone yesterday while I was doing my paperwork to turn on my stereo, (is it still called a stereo?), to turn on Sonos, which is another fancy word for another thousand dollar piece of equipment that has made me a slave to technology. Updates ready to install, my Sonos app said to me. Didn’t I just do this update last week? How many updates are necessary to make the On button Play and make a song or two come belt out songs while I whittle away at my paperwork?

Then there are the perpetual privacy statements now coming in to all of the apps and through the old school mail from my credit card statements. Yesterday I went to pay my American Express bill and I noticed that the bill was eight pages. I perused past the first two pages listing all of the charges and when I got to page three and beyond, it was all about their new privacy rules and regs. Six pages. Do they actually think people will take the time to read this? When we check off the I agree box in the unending parade, (or rather charade), of agreements we are asked to sign in order for any app, or website to work for us, what are we really agreeing to? And why are do we so easily check off the box with barely a scan of the documents we are asked to sign?

Trust is one reason. For some God forsaken reason, we or at least I trust that the agreement is not selling my soul to the devil. Trust is what makes me live peacefully in my world. Trust. It is a big golden beautiful word founded on the notion that there is an unwritten exchange between parties and people that we are not going to screw each other. It is the proverbial handshake, a look in the eye that makes my world go round. But the fact of the matter is that when I check off the box I am endlessly asked to check off OR ELSE I CAN’T USE THE APP or proceed with my form of payment, there is no handshake or a look in the eye.

I was struck the other day by the BITMOJI app which I am now humorously addicted to. Bitmoji cleverly (or rather sinnerstly if that is a word) asks for control of your keyboard on your phone. It even gives instructions to go to Settings and make the switch to BITMOJI keyboard. I eagerly forged ahead as I am sure every single friend and their children have likely done because every text now must include my new supercute looks just like me Bitmoji, like a dress up Barbie, I am transported back in time to my childhood with my wardrobe box of Barbie clothes and shoes. I go through the motions required to ensure my new keyboard will indeed make it easier to blast off an endless variety of Bitmojis dressed in splashy quotes and attire. Then just when I am ready to hit the Yes button, I notice a short two sentence easy to overlook.

“THIRD PARTY KEYBOARDS

When using one of these keyboards, (Google included here), the keyboard can access all the data you type.”

What? All of the data I type? This is significant. Beyond the obvious that it can be accessed, what is it being used for? Who is reading it? Where is it going? I felt like I was being watched by a stalker for a brief moment and then I considered how many of our kids young and grown just change their keyboards because Bitmoji said to because we are all so damn trusting.

No. I choose NO. I am not an alarmist and I appreciate them letting me know in a simple two line statement, but I must draw a line somewhere in the digital pavement. We all must. As I sit here writing this morning, I am concerned more than ever about how many boxes I have agreed to and what did I actually agree to? What have our children who now all have a cell phone as a body part agreed to? How is it possible to monitor all of this and where have we headed? I love my new Bitmoji, I love my Sonos, my iphone and my laptop and the ease of digital everything, but, well just but.

Who knows who is reading what I am writing and saying these days and likely no one really cares. But I do. I think. This is why I am kind of into old school typewriters now, no digital. Just me and the machine. A really peaceful, (well not really peaceful, those old gal keys are noisy, but in an old fashioned vintage black and white movie sort of way) and trusting relationship because there are no agreement buttons to check. Just a roll of a paper turn and a few punches of keys and I am off to the old world of yesteryear with a real manuscript. So if a real cup of coffee spills on it, it has to be retyped, not reprinted. The only thing missing besides the superfluous agreement box is an exclamation mark symbol, and of course my new Bitmoji.



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WRITING CLASS

I am taking a six week writing class with the theme of Memoir Writing. There are about twelve incredible writers in the class and we are all feeding off of each other’s stories as writing classes often do. They propel thoughts from others making all of our writings better. The first three assignments listed below are in the order I wrote them. The task was to isolate a word or a phrase from each story and write another story from that jumping off point. I have highlighted the phrase both in each assignment and at the beginning of the following one. The first one was written right after I had learned that my friend Lesa had died and I have highlighted the phrases chosen in each of the two that follows. The third one’s task was to write about a role model and I decided to continue the exercise including a phrase from the previous. I am including the first three from the first three weeks, the remaining will follow in the next few days and weeks as the conclusion of the class is fast approaching. Sigh.

If writing is your addiction like it is mine, this is a great exercise and I attribute it to one of my writing mentors, Hannah Goodman, who introduced the idea to me in a random writing class well over fifteen years ago. As you read these, if any other words or phrases speak to you, please send them along to me as I love the challenge of writing pieces from phrases and words; it is a great discipline that helps me improve my skills.

MEMOIR CLASS WRITINGS

June 6, 2018

1. YOU DIED

You died. It didn’t really strike me in my heart until I spoke with your dad and heard his words, the words of the pain of your death, that the pain of your death caused.

And its relief. At first it was the What? She died? Kathy, you read about it on Facebook?

When Kathy called to let me know I called your father right away to find out the whats, the whys, the whens.

Yes. He confirmed. But, Alayne, she really died, really, twenty years ago, when she started on the wrong path taking the turn to the left in the fork instead of the one on the right. The turn not beckoning with love and light, but with darkness and sadness and empty promises.

Now it is the weight of the conversations, the memories being dredged up the way the beach shoreline looks after a nor’easter- fragments of chips and wood and trash and weird oddities scattered like a flea market gone terribly wrong. Reflections like it was just yesterday you were three and I was sixteen and I was trying to help you understand that it wasn’t normal to smell like pee when your dad would pick you up from your mother’s without actually saying it aloud. That is was actually a joy to read to you, not a chore like you had been taught. That baking you a cheesecake that you loved and homemade lunches to take to school was a normal expectation of a childhood. That asking for school meetings with the teachers and therapists when I was only twenty one to help you feel anything but dumb. Teaching you to put your napkin on your lap and basic table manners to help you along your way in your little shaky life. That none of it really made a difference in the end because in the end it was the end because in the end it was the addiction that took place of everyone else’s help. That in the end it was the addiction that took up the real estate in your heart. Because you chose to take the fork on the left instead of the one on the right.

June 13, 2018

2. The memories being dredged up the way the beach shoreline looks after a nor’easter- fragments of chips and wood and trash and weird oddities scattered like a flea market gone terribly wrong.

Memories have a way, don’t they? The good ones bring smiles and happy sparkly bright white teeth as we think about them, our hearts opening wide like an extra large tin can of sweetly condensed milk getting ready to be poured into a recipe for your grandmother’s dessert. Pictures of the beach, family picnics, sunscreenless kids dressed in their bathing suits covered in sand, wrapped in terry cloth towels, Dr. Scholls sandals on the moms, cigarette in one hand, glass of Chablis in the other, tans that only summers of bain de soleil and foil blankets can produce, tans of the past before we knew about the sun and the downside of its beautiful yet dangerous light.

Light is like this. It has its moments of bright and happy, but too much can cause a ruckus, sleeplessness, sunburns, dehydration to name a few. Memories too are like this. It is always an interesting trip down memory lane reflecting on history and moments in time. Bam. They confront with the most vivid of recollection and Ahhh, that too. And ahhhh and bam mushed together. Not sure if the memory is truth or filled with artistic liberties because it is so much easier to make them kinder and sweeter in reflection.

Memories have a way of being dredged up the way a beach shoreline looks after a noreaster loaded with fragments of wood and trash and weird oddities like a flea market gone terribly wrong. Whole families can take part in lively discussions about the same memory and all have a different perspective because of course memories get mixed with our own editorializing to make them fit into the box we want to open with glee rather than seal up and bury in the back yard.

We don’t get to pick and choose though. Memories. The past sits and waits. For maybe a dream to wake up a dormant thought from the old days, the past days. Or maybe a smell of something or a mannerism that reminds you of a person you haven’t thought of for sometime. Or a song, those blasted songs, Freebird. When the lights go down in the city…. Journey bellows and I am sent back in time to the sweeter days of my youth. The simpler days of a hot cup of coffee when I used to drink it with cream, smoking a joint, and playing a game of backgammon on the back deck on an early morning joint with a childhood friend before she stopped.

Cold and Abrupt.

Without Warning.

Our daily conversations forty years later.

June 20, 2018

3. Without Warning

Anna Quindlen wrote a piece about motherhood that had this quote in it,

“I wish I had not been in such a hurry to get on to the next thing: dinner, bath, book, bed. I wish I had treasured the doing a little more and the getting it done a little less.”

Somehow I remembered the quote being more about wishing she knew the last time her child would be wanting a hug and a kiss as the last time so she could have kissed and hugged just a few moments more, but maybe this was in a different piece. Regardless though, the essence of the essay is the looking back and reflecting on our child rearing years if we are the lucky moms who get to have the rear view mirror to look back in. Some mothers don’t get that chance. I did and I don’t have the same feeling she did that has just a slight tinge of regret. But I get her commentary as it is so easy to get stuck in the vortex of laundry and dishes and working instead of the fantasy world of setting up lemonade stands and forts using all of the living room pillows.

I’ll never forget the night my son didn’t want that nighttime hug. I didn’t know it would come that soon. I think he was in fifth grade. I am sure I must have written about the moment. If I didn’t, it doesn’t really matter because the memory is etched upon my heart until many years later. Now though, college age, he allows me a little more freedom in the hugging. Probably because of the breast cancer more than anything else. And maturity. And he loves me. And I love him with a feeling in my heart I never thought was part of the map that would be the road to parenting an almost twenty one year old soon to be junior in college.

My son is my role model. There is nothing like being the recipient of shitty parenting to teach you how to be a better parent. Or a worse one. But in my case, I am confident in my parenting but it is also because I have a son who was born to be a nice person. He has character and strength and a deep sense of calmness. He is self assured but not cocky or narcissistic. He’s the type of kid my aunt says, “He’s going to go places.”

He has shown a deep sense of maturity and growth since his dad, Dave and I separated six months before his Bar Mitzvah back in 2011 and I have watched him teach David and me how to be the best divorced parents. Michael was the one who came up with a more efficient visiting schedule. “Mom, why don’t I do one full week at Dad’s, one full week with you. This three day/ four day schedule is annoying.” He suggested this in seventh or eighth grade and Dave and I went with it. This taught Dave how to parent fully and me how to parent fully, each alone. At the same time we each developed our own new relationship with our son that was different if we had stayed as a couple. I suggest this to all parents who are getting divorced. It was a perfect balance and it also helped the two of us to heal our own wounds separately and together. I don’t know how he instinctively knew, but his honesty coupled with his directness has opened my eyes to what happens when a parent actually can release their know it all attitude realizing our children teach us as much if not more than we teach them.

He’s the type of young man who let’s me know without ever having to ask when he’s going somewhere, when he’s home with a simple text knowing that if I wake up at one in the morning I will check my phone and this alleviates the fear factor. “Going to Lane’s,” the short and to the point text message says when he decided at ten pm to head out knowing I have been asleep for two hours likely already. “Home,” the even shorter message says when he arrives back knowing I will be relieved when I check my phone later after the second or third bathroom run.

As Michael gets closer to the age of my brother’s age when my brother’s age was the age of his own cancer diagnosis, I am finding myself a little more anxious. I am trying to stay conscious and present to it and not allow it to take over my energy field, but it is not easy. My brother was twenty three. My son is going to be twenty one this year and I have been trying to just stay in the moment instead of projector head swirling into the what if’s. My cancer diagnosis, unlike my brother’s cancer diagnosis came without warning. My brother’s came as the result of his excruciating leg pain that was misdiagnosed for a month before we got the news. Why would anyone think that a healthy strong twenty three year old strapping young man would have advanced lung cancer? My son also named Michael for obvious reasons is my go to rockstar for not worrying. I am not sure if he ever worries. Life just happens and he just enjoys life, whatever it seems to bring towards him, around him, he doesn’t seem at least on the outside to fret or let things vex him.

I never thought during my starry eyed pregnancy that almost twenty one years later, I would be writing from the seat as the student of parenting rather than the teacher. Parenting my son, Michael has been humbling and joyful because the lessons he has taught me have far exceeded any expectations I surely had when I was belly full, waiting for my due date to roll in. December 27th the day when my future role model was actually born. Right on time, just like he has always been since.

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COULD NOT RESIST

COULD NOT RESIST

As soon as my eyes landed on the worn glass counter top at one of my favorite shopping joints, Second Time Around, a feeling from the bottom of my gut came over me that I couldn’t explain. Warmth, familiarity, depth. I instinctively brought my left index finger up to the round black key and tapped firmly. Click. A virtual symphony of the past reminding me of something I couldn’t, no pun intended, put my finger on.

“Grandma had the same exact one,” my Aunt Kiley said, and like the perfect fit of Cinderella’s glass slipper, I was transported to my grandmother’s desk in her bedroom realizing of course, this was the typewriter she used to type her letters, her recipes and her school work for the classes she taught special ed reading to for her entire career.

No spell check, no backspace erase, no wires, no wifi, no printer hookups, this black beautiful beast weighing enough to cause me to have to get a cart to wheel it out to my car because I just had to have it. I know. I have made many proclamations of reducing my crap, not shopping and creating an almost zen minimalist fantasy in my homelife, but I just could not resist this blast from the past. The sound of the keys, the winding of the paper and the clicking of the clips to hold it in its place. The zing of the carriage going from right to left and left to right and back again, the glory of watching the key embed a letter onto the white paper like an episode of Murder She Wrote or Rose Marie and Morey Amsterdam in the Dick Van Dyke Show creating episodes and comedy skits.

As I directed my son to put the typewriter on the kitchen table he sat down and took a good look at it, pushing the levers, moving the cartridge, analyzing its mechanisms, he said, “This is so mechanical.” A machine with no electric. A work of ingenuity yet simple in its form when we really looked at each part making up its entirety. I couldn’t figure out how to open to the front to change the ribbon. I didn’t want to force anything, breaking it right out of the gate, so I just left it on the table like a museum artifact and ordered ribbon from Amazon.

I had heard an interview on Jim Braude and Marjorie Egan about some people writing instant poetry for people walking by. Then as “coincidence” would have it, I ran into this very concept in Providence one day as I came across a young hipster type guy sitting at a real typewriter like the one I bought. For a small donation you gave him a word or phrase and he wrote a quick poem to give to you. I gave him the word “beach” and he crafted a beautiful poem in less than five minutes a virtual lifetime these days for the short attention span Google generation, I am sure I have it somewhere in my piles because it was eloquent and captured my sentiment without us ever crossing paths prior. I really enjoyed the creativity and spontaneity of the experience.

As I affectionately stared at the typewriter in my kitchen I had the idea that rather than poetry, I could sit outside on my sidewalk and do the same with a super short story. How fun it would be to raise money for a literacy program or something and a grown up alternative to a lemonade stand. If I practice enough so that the entire piece does not need whiteout, (do they still even make that?) I know this could be a blast. It would certainly be a great exercise in fast thinking, faster typing and better writing. If a typewriter, old school, brings that out, then the forty four dollars I spent yesterday was worth every penny.


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TRYING OUT POETRY


TRYING OUT POETRY

Never reading a lot of poetry, I am surely no expert in writing it. Like writing though, reading great authors and their books helps me write more fluidly and I read books now like an actress or a director probably watches a movie, like a hungry student eager for the next lesson.

Mary Oliver, ee Cummings, Nayyriah Waheed, Rumi, Emily Dickinson, Robert Frost, Dr. Seuss even, are poets I have enjoyed who immediately come to mind. As I struggled to come up with naming at least ten poets I am familiar with in more than their names, I quickly realized that I have a lot to learn. This is what excites me the most, having a lot to learn. I am sure I have read more of the well known poets in school, but well that was then, This is now. I have a much deeper longing for nurturing my brain with my heart instead of thinking the two are separate.

I listened this past week to an interview with Mary Oliver by Krista Tippett that my dear friend and glorious Doctor W. sent to me and this book was mentioned, A Poetry Handbook, A Prose Guide To Understanding and Writing Poetry. I broke my self imposed rule of no shopping and bought it promptly and began my newest brain challenge. One of my favorite paragraphs is this:

But to write well it is entirely necessary to read widely and deeply. Good poems are the best teachers. Perhaps they are the only teachers. I would go so far as to say that, if one must make a choice between reading or taking part in a workshop, one should read.

So I entered into my pact with this new book, feeling incompetent but in a good way, knowing that I have a lot to learn and am open and willing to march forth. Like trying to learn grammar before speaking a new language, poetry has all of the mechanical parts that a novice like myself understands is out there in every poem, but to deliberately apply the rules and regs is a fresh discipline to this amateur. So where to start? Of course Mary Oliver leads me to believe, Yes I Can, and just when I start to feel completely lost, I thumb through her small book and land on this poem by Ezra Pound. It grabs my attention as I humbly read not only what, but how and why. The placement of the words, the punctuation, the rhythm that makes the content shine. So much to learn. My thinking is provoked in a way I hadn’t considered just five minutes before.

the word I accidentally cut off is ‘sun’, “picnicking in the sun”

Of all the morning rituals I have stuck with for well over a year, it has been the morning ritual of writing that completes my day. It doesn’t just call gently for me, it screams out for me. Pungently. Forcefully. If I miss the call, I am more than slightly off. I heard an interview with a writer once who said she was often asked how to get started writing. Her answer was, “Write.” I understand this now more than ever because I have the wisdom of retrospect when I used to think more about writing than actually writing. Physical exercise is like this. How many times have I thought about going for a run the night before, visualizing myself getting out of bed in the early hours and putting on my running shoes only to find myself waking up and coming up with an alternative like paperwork, or getting sucked into the abyss of terrible morning news. Proving that no matter how much I think about running unless I actually run, I am not running. So simple.

So simple in fact that Mary Oliver puts it this way:

Say you promise to be at your desk in the evenings, from seven to nine. It waits, it watches. If you are reliably there, it begins to show itself — soon it begins to arrive when you do. But if you are only there sometimes and are frequently late or inattentive, it will appear fleetingly, or it will not appear at all.

Why should it? It can wait. It can stay silent a lifetime. Who knows anyway what it is, that wild, silky part of ourselves without which no poem can live?

I feel this way. I must write now. I can’t imagine my life or my mornings without its presence. Not just poetry as this is a new idea, but all writing.

Medium has been a gift to a former closet writer like myself because it has created location to land my words. This has given me the prompt to flow and I have not really reworked my writings as I have tried to use the vehicle of Medium to just write without the rules and regs. There has been a lot of freedom in consciously allowing myself permission to write and flow leaving Miss Foley (my negative muse from second grade) back in the classroom. As I have gained more confidence in my writing abilities, Miss Foley doesn’t seem as much of a hindrance to me anymore. I can’t believe I am writing this, but I am beginning to appreciate her old crotchety influence on my grammar and spelling and her insistence on discipline. I find myself calling her back into the next phase of my writing, which will need the exercise of discipline as I delve into fiction and poetry.

This is the glory of reading and writing. It never is finished. Always something to look forward to. Never bored. Never tired of its call. Just as I write this Van Morrison comes on singing Brand New Day. Divinely appropriate.

As I approach the one year anniversary of my double mastectomy, April 7th, I am struck by all the changes in me this past year. Physical obviously, but the unveiling, the stripping of the literal cape I, in the past, called the symbolism of my breasts, was so much deeper for me in my overall growth. It took the appointment with the surgeon to get me to write. This has been the convergence that set the storm on its perfect course. Irony almost feels cliché. I have set sail and there is no destination other than the breeze at my back and the pen in my hand. Can’t wait to see where the wind takes me this year.

be easy.

take your time.

you are coming

home.

to yourself.

– the becoming | wing

Nayyriah Waheed