What character trait do you value most highly in another person? Courage? Self-control? Compassion? For me, the answer is honesty. As a child of divorce, I recall being endlessly grilled by one parent or the other: Is your dad hiding money so he doesn’t have to pay child support? Is your mom leaving you home alone while she works?
My life was a balancing act–I had to keep my parents in balance so they wouldn’t destroy each other! Now don’t get all Department of Children and Family Services on me! I’m talking about the havoc one misspoken word can wreak, catapulting a parent into a hurricane funnel, while a child runs for cover!
Perhaps you’ve been there? Managing your parents, when they should be managing you? Trying so hard to be the perfect child that honesty summersaults out the window.
I was newly married and in my twenties when my mother passed away. I asked my father, “Was all that stuff you told me about mom true?” He shrugged. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
It was then that I decided to break the rules and tell the truth like my life depended on it. Wait, my life does depend on it. If you’ve got ADD, you better admit it so people will understand why you pose endless questions. If you sing, dance, write, and play piano, you better tell the truth so you can shine your soul instead of squeezing your talents into a Tupperware bowl because some people are jealous of your talents. And if you want to help the world thrive, you better be honest so you can connect with others who share your goals.
Dirty little secret about honesty? It takes commitment. Like phoning a friend back when you say you will. Like promptly responding to texts and emails when you’ve promised to do so. For those of you who mouth the words, then leave the sender hanging because it’s a bummer to respond, shame on you.
Honesty can be inconvenient, it requires commitment. I changed. So can you! From now on, let us each commit to one another, following through on our promises, no matter if it is only a text or email.
In this time of new beginnings, when Democracy has reclaimed its Mojo after wrestling with Goliath, when scientists, in the time it takes to grow a baby in its mother’s womb, delivered unto us a miraculous COVID-19 vaccine predicted to save the lives of hundreds of thousands, when President Joe Biden, a man whom Lindsay Graham called “as good a man as God ever created,” pledged to become America’s “Uniter in Chief” and Vice President Kamala Harris won the trifecta of becoming our nation’s first black Asian woman to assume that post, who am I, a mere writer, to ask for anything more?
Asking for more is human nature. Anyone who knows me will tell you I’m a pretty grateful gal. Every morning I spring out of bed and praise the Lord for allowing me to live another day. For granting me a clear bill of health; despite Osteoporosis, my fingers are still nimble enough to type my manuscripts, hour after hour, without uttering a single grimace of pain. Emotional pain from the wrong word or phrase doesn’t count!
These nimble fingers are rounding the track on completing the last pages of yet one more edit of Up Close & Personal. If you’ve been keeping up with my blog posts, you know that Up Close & Personal, a new series I’m writing about a retired Chicago news reporter who gets kidnapped by a young man claiming to be the son she put up for adoption thirty-four years ago, is in its seedling stage, awaiting a literary agent/publisher who will water that seedling with the utmost of care until one day it will blossom in all its glory!
I believe that my friend Austin is such a planter. Austin is both an author and a small publisher. So far, he’s told me Up Close & Personal is not yet ready for planting. He’s been kind enough to tell me what nutrients I need to feed my seedling so it grows big and strong. My gut tells me Austin really is interested in planting my seedling, he just wants to make sure it’s sturdy enough to withstand the weather. So I’m going to do all I can to position my ask so it receives the right answer! All I need to do is grow my seedling into a strong sapling that can be replanted.
Is this what we’ve come to? The last shards of American civility shattered as insurrectionists stormed into our House of Democracy with minimal capitol police presence to stop their assault?
My neighbor, a native from Brazil, mentioned she came home to see her husband holding a hand to his mouth as he watched the news. She glanced at the TV screen. “Oh! Another coup. Which country this time?” Then she saw the American flag.
I remember walking down an empty street the day after the 2016 election and spotting an 8 of Spades from a deck of playing cards. As it was a strange item to come upon, I Googled the card’s meaning: Temptation, misfortune, danger, upsets, chaos.
That prediction has come true over the last four years, with immigrant children wrung from their parents’ arms, half the nation calling the pandemic a scientist-sponsored hoax, Black Lives Matter protestors and rioters facing a massive military show of force, and most recently, the president of the United Stated refusing to accept the confirmed vote count that will soon boot him from office.
But the final affront to our nation occurred on January 6, 2021, a day to go down in infamy, as President Donald Trump stood in front of thousands of his followers, inciting them to storm the capitol and disrupt the electoral college vote. Terrorized members of Congress wearing medical masks and gas masks, barricading themselves in their offices.
Once inside the chambers, however, the mob looked more like tourists, taking pictures of papers scattered on the floor, broken desks. One guy making off with a lectern. Another plopping into House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s chair and grinning for a portrait. Others posed for pictures beneath a painting of the Civil War.
As we’ve seen during this administration, two polar opposite realities.
Even more shocking than what we already saw was watching insurrectionists being calmly escorted outside by the capitol police, one capitol police officer even taking selfies with the mob. Fifty arrests in total provided a stark contrast to the 316 Black Lives Matter predominantly peaceful demonstrators who were tear-gassed and thrown to the ground in Minneapolis on June 1, 2020 after police killed George Floyd.
Fortunately, Mitch McConnell, Nancy Pelosi, and Chuck Schumer, for perhaps the first time in this administration, came together to form a plan. Refusing to allow domestic terrorists to rule the day, Congress reconvened to count those electoral votes, and Joe Biden will duly be sworn in as president, Kamala Harris as vice president, of the United States on January 20, 2021.
I was talking with a friend about the aftermath of the attempted coup, re: many legislators and company CFOs calling for Trump’s impeachment. We grimaced at a Facebook post that said: Twitter has permanently removed President Trump’s account for incendiary posts, and that’s the guy you want to press the nuclear bomb button?”
My friend then posed a question that will funnel through my brain for a long time to come: “How can we deprogram half the nation who are just following their cult leader?” My response is this. We still live in America. No matter how abhorrent to us are the beliefs of others, America can not become another Communist China, throwing people into mass detention camps to reprogram them using forced ideological and behavioral re-education.
There must be a better way to dissolve people’s fears and distrust, creating a society where justice will reign. As Joe Biden has said, “We must restore the soul of America.” I pray that the incoming president of the United States of America will do just that.
…a New Beginning! One we deserve! One that should make you feel capable of beginning your own metamorphosis! After all, 2020 has forced us to tear apart and examine our personal and societal belief systems. We wrestled Democracy from the hands of those who would destroy it, fighting back against those who squash all dissent that contradicts their subjective perception.
We battled racism in our streets, people of all ages, genders, and colors of the rainbow coming together to protest for justice. We struggled through political divide, often causing discord in our very own families or circle of friends. We braved an ever-increasing number of natural disasters. All the while, we slogged through a pandemic in which 333,000 Americans perished.
We’ve spiraled down the drain hole of conspiracy theories, with scientists and their families being threatened for speaking the truth about the impact of the plague. Michigan Democratic Governor Gretchen Whitmer was almost killed, the state house overturned, because anti-government protestors disagreed with lock-down measures she’d imposed in an attempt to slow the spread of the coronavirus.
Since COVID-19 began, over 8 million workers have lost jobs with employer-sponsored health insurance, impacting over 7 million dependents. Eviction notices, thankfully, were put on hold. Through it all, healthcare staff, delivery folks, trash collectors, fire fighters, polices, teachers, and grocery store and pharmacy personnel put themselves in harm’s way by continuing to show up, day after day, on our behalf.
Then, on December 14, when life couldn’t get much worse, Pfeizer, BioNTech, and Moderna bestowed upon us the best Chanukah, Christmas, and Kwanza gifts of all! Not just one, but–count them–two vaccines to ward off the worst effects of COVID-19 by teaching our immune system to develop antibodies to the virus. A second stimulus bill has finally been signed into action, just days before the New Year begins.
Life is slowly peeking out from beneath the bed covers. It’s like we collectively crossed the Red Sea, scaled Mt. Everest, and built a space colony on Mars, all in one year! In the nine months since COVID-19, I personally feel like I’ve been reborn. Can you relate? Let’s greet each day as a new page in our respective journal of life. Know that if you’ve lived through the year that was, you are powerful enough to make justice and compassion your guide, not just for 2021 but for decades to come.
How many times have you stood at the check out counter, short by 75 cents, yet reluctant to ask the next person in line if they can make up the difference? How many times have you stood behind that person in line and extended that bit of change before being asked?
Whether it be money or another “gift” to share, blessings are reciprocal. Both the receiver and the giver get a blessing in the bargain! Don’t believe me? Here’s what G-d taught me, in one week’s time, about blessings:
Exhibit A: Last week, I, shivering in my shoes, reached out to four renown authors, requesting that they peruse and provide feedback regarding my newest book manuscript. Miracle of miracles, two of them are now doing just that. To be sure, I am grateful for their “gift” of time and expertise, but whether or not they realize it, I have blessed them in return by requesting their help!
Exhibit B: It was my first time baking along with a You Tube teacher. It had been a jam-packed day, and when it came time to pull out the rolling pin and sifter, I realized I was left wanting! No time to shop! Even if I could, it’s the week before Christmas and the stores would be crowded. Was venturing out to buy two items a smart COVID-19 response? No way!
With just minutes to go before the You Tube video was to start, I sucked in my breath, blew out slowly, and texted three neighbors–none of whom were on more than “Hi” or “Bye” status. Seriously, I had no expectations they’d respond, especially not in the Speedy Gonzalez way I required. I hated that they’d think I was vulnerable.
To my surprise, two of the three neighbors I’d texted immediately shot me a reply. The first neighbor had the rolling pin and the sifter, the second only the sifter. I thanked them both and turned on You Tube.
The baker didn’t wind up using these tools to make his Israeli donuts, after all. I returned the items to the first neighbor with a note that said, “Thank you for coming to my aid. Not required after all.” I was surprised to receive a text that said, “Too bad! This rolling pin was handed down to me by my grandmother before she died. I don’t bake. It would have been the first time her rolling pin would be used to make Chanukah goodies.”
We made plans to have baking time one day when we can safely visit face-to-face. But I learned that, had I not been so cavalier about returning my neighbor’s gift, I might have blessed her in a way I would never have guessed!
Exhibit 3: It was the last night of Chanukah and I was two menorah candles shy–not a good sign when eight is the magic number! In sixty minutes, my husband and I were supposed to be lighting those candles on ZOOM, along with my adult kids and grandbaby!
I’d spent the last hour checking Target, Michael’s, and World Market for a last remaining box of candles, all to no avail. I sat in my car, the darkness of night descending, and wondered what to do? The last thing I wanted to do was return home to light my electric menorah. It just wouldn’t be the same.
I wracked my brain for an answer. The answer shot through my mind: Text a friend and ask them if they’ve got two extra candles. There was but one friend in my immediate area who might have a couple of candles to spare, but we were not bosom buddies. The two friends whom I saw more frequently lived twenty minutes away, and I’m not great driving at night. Still, I texted all three, hoping against hope that somebody would see my text and quickly respond.
My friend first to respond with a resounding “yes”–her response included several exclamation points–was the one who lived twenty minutes away. She even invited me to stop in and light candles with her and her husband. Just as I was about to reply, I received another text, this from my friend who lived seven minutes away! I thanked my first friend and sent a quick reply to my non-bosom friend. She was kind enough to run the two candles to my car, and I blessed her for her “gift” right then and there. She told me that I had blessed her for giving her the opportunity to give bestow this gift upon me. Will we, too, become bosom buddies? The odds are in our favor.
So next time you are the one in need of a favor, no need for remorse. Be gracious! You are blessing that person because you are allowing them to help you….
When I clicked on TCC Triad Coaching Connection’s ZOOM life coaching presentation on creativity, I never expected to be drawn in to a peaceful candle lit room with guitars hanging from the walls. Just as I was about to sink into a meditative trance, a guitarist with long hair and a soothing voice met my gaze. Marye Lobb then proceeded to share with me and the other ZOOM participants her SONG DETOX program on how life coaching can be enhanced through using rhythm and song writing with clients.
As a life-long singer and writer, I assumed the 5-minute writing task she gave us: Describe a problem you’ve not yet been able to fix would be a cinch! You know what the first three letters of assume spell. I wracked my brain for one current problem–if you’re like me, you know focusing on only one is the dilemma–but came up empty-handed. Only a few more seconds to go. Then, as the buzzer was about to ring, these words floated into mind:
Always feeling less than
make me feel deadpan.
Afraid to show emotion,
Zipping through the countryside without a single word,
reminding myself that I am really nothing but a bird.
Keep in mind that I write fiction and non-fiction, certainly not poetry. Yet these words floated into my consciousness; alien words as my demeanor is the very opposite of that depicted.
Next, Marye strummed chords on her guitar and asked us, muted though we were, to speak or sing our words along with the rhythm. This time, her request was an easier one to fulfill. Fun, too!
Later, as we all came together through ZOOM to read aloud and discuss our previously unearthed moments, I learned that, no matter how experienced and brilliant the practitioner might be, we all had shards of glass that needed to be plucked from our emotions. With that knowledge, it dawned on me how much more productive we might be with clients and loved ones, alike, if we venture into Marye Lobb’s SONG DETOX program! See if you agree! http://www.maryelobb.com
Last Wednesday, I fell on my literary sword and emailed seven “high on the book chain” authors, requesting their opinion on why Up Close & Personal, the first in my new domestic suspense series, continues to flounder in a sea of literary agents. The next day, a few hours shy of Chanukah, I revisited my computer to find that four of these illustrious authors had agreed to take time from their busy lives to read a portion/the entirety of my newest manuscript!
It was crazy hard for me to silence my judgmental self, clear my mind, and work my query plan. I reminded myself I am not in physical danger; the worst thing these authors can say is no, it’s not good enough. If you’re like me, you’ve heard that phrase flung in your direction more than once in your lifetime, yet are still alive to tell your story!
You might ask how I could be so bold as to have requested the help of these authors. Even more astonishing, why they would have agreed to offer their help in the first place. Prior to COVID-19, I attended/ facilitated/presented on author panels held at writers conferences throughout the country. Over the years, I saved the business cards of authors whom I heard speak at these conferences. Thus, in the first paragraph of my query, I mentioned where and when we’d met. Perhaps this re-introduction motivated them to read further.
After the introduction paragraph, I took a deep breath, cast my fears and doubts aside, and dove in:
It is anathema for me to ask for a boot up, but given that 286,000 Americans to-date have died from COVID-19, fear of rejection shouldn’t be a stumbling block, right? So I ask you: Could you read a portion/the entirety of my newest manuscript Up Close & Personal, then share with me your “big ideas” feedback on how I can catapult the first of my new domestic suspense series into a literary agent’s lap?
(In the next paragraph, I inserted my two-sentence elevator pitch that described my story-line.)
My humility was authentic. These authors meet hundreds of people at writers conferences; odds are they wouldn’t remember little old me. I thought about what I could offer them in return, should they respond in the affirmative. Here’s what I wrote:
Should you accept, all I have to barter is a) acknowledging you when my book comes out, b) choosing one of your books to discuss at my monthly ZOOM book club, c) interviewing you during my ZOOM book club, and d) enabling you to experience a warm, fuzzy feeling that during these sicko times–and I don’t mean physical–you helped a fellow author overcome her feelings of vulnerability.
I finished my query by listing a deadline for feedback, no matter how little or how much they’d read by that time. The rest, as they say, is history. While I know not what the future hold is regarding Up Close & Personal, what I have learned about myself is that I possess the inner strength to work through my fear of rejection.
I hope that you, too, will brave the winds of self-judgment and fear of rejection, and just do it! Go for your goal, no matter what others may say. Sure, the person you’re reaching out to can shut you down, but you’ll never know unless you try. Trust me. It’s worth the effort….
A diverse collage of paramedics stream into the house, through the living room, and into the bedroom to attend to my husband. Although partially clothed, with blood still oozing from his leg, my husband is attempting to joke with the EMTS about his stupid accident.
My brain in a dither, I can’t be in that room right now. I ask if it’s okay for me to walk the dog, who hasn’t been let outside for a pee in six hours, and they give me the go ahead.
I return less that ten minutes later, only to see the ambulance zooming off into the night, my husband on board. Thankfully they’d left the front door wide open, so we were able to get back inside.
Was it weird that I didn’t freak out about rushing after the ambulance? That, instead, I focused on spraying hydrogen peroxide over the garage “crime scene” blood until white, cloudlike masses consumed the lead-smelling rust?
Not so much. The EMTs had left a note that they were taking my husband to the nearby med center, not the hospital. I phoned instead. I’ve endured many a late night hospital trip with hubby, and I sensed this wasn’t that. Besides, I knew he was in good hands. At this moment, the only thing I COULD control was removing the blood so everything would be NORMAL when I brought him back home.
A couple hours later, stitches sewn, and antibiotics administered, we pulled into the driveway.
“Pull into the garage,” he said.
“Yeah, not gonna happen,” I said.
Although I’d managed to erase, in record time, all blood from carpet, utility room, and garage, my heart knew the emotional fall-out would take much longer to disappear.
My husband has pre-existing health conditions, so I’m super cautious to make dinner reservations after confirming that restaurant follows COVID-19 guidelines, re: masks, sanitizer, and social distancing. We’ve just returned home from one such dinner and are exiting the car, when our Bichon starts his shivery welcome home strut around my husband’s feet. Focused on making it to the bathroom, hubby manages to skirt the dog, instead gashing his leg along the sharp end of the car door
All at once, the garage floor is seeped in blood–the same blood flowing from my husband’s leg!
“I’m calling 911!” I say, attempting to modulate my voice (for his sake) as I sludge through the crime scene.
“I’m fine,” he says calmly. “Just get the bandage, hydrogen peroxide, and gauze from the linen closet.
He’s obviously forgotten that he donated a plethora of wound care products to the in-home health care nurse during their final visit. I’d urged him to hoard some of the Medicare stash they’d sent him for free “just in case!”
My husband had pooh-poohed the suggestion, despite his razor-thin skin recovering from one wound after another. De-ni-al!
I barrel through the living room, finally making it to the bathroom. I grab a thin roll of gauze, sanitizer, and three wound pads from the linen closet. Then I beat it back to the utility room and commence wrapping the wound.
Just when I think the bandage is secure, I notice droplets of blood seeping from miniscule holes in the gauze. At this rate, I’m sure hubby is going to bleed out and I won’t have enough bandage and gauze to re-wrap the wound!
Moments later, I’m on the phone with the 911 dispatcher when hubby taps me on the shoulder. “Sorry to interrupt, but I really need to get to the bathroom. Can you bring me my house slippers?”
I glance down to see his toes and feet dripping in blood. Crap! Although I’ve penned five crime novels, I’ve never seen this much blood in one place at one time. I wrack my brain for answers and come up with nada.
Just then, I hear the sirens. Paramedics burst through the front door.
During Month 1 of the COVID-19 Lockdown, my writing dripped off me like I was Teflon. At first, I had so much to say. My thoughts and article ideas competed for space in my brain, which was already overloaded by the Pandemic. I researched and sent out quarantine-related articles to on-line magazines and newspapers I’d never even heard of. Busy work, my kids called it. Maybe they were right. I’ve been writing books for so long, I’ve lost touch with my inner- freelance writer.
Month 2, I refocused on researching and sending out queries/sample chapters/synopses to literary agents in the psychological suspense genre, regarding Up Close & Personal, my sixth novel.
When you get a zillion form rejection letters, you feel like you’re going nowhere. Up Close & Personal has been developmentally and copy edited, so I knew the story and text was good to go. What, then, was the problemo??
Instead of attempting to balance on this pinnacle any longer, I registered with ITWA International Thriller Writers Association for their July 2020 on-line Thriller Fest. This is the first time the Organization has hosted a virtual fest, and I am thrilled (ha, ha); no airline, hotel, and restaurant costs to attend! Given the Pandemic, that fits my safety and price point just fine. I registered to pitch Up Close & Personal via ZOOM to four literary agents, four minutes per agent.
Now all I need to do is come up with a great elevator pitch! Wish me luck!