Sunday, July 31, 2011

OMG I have to come up with an Aha Moment... STAT

Weeks ago, I was approached via email by a woman claiming to be from Mutual of Omaha. She said she had stumbled across my blog and thought I would be a good candidate to participate in their campaign, "Aha Moments", which would be coming to Peoria this week.

I was intrigued, of course, but thought it was a scam.

Apparently it's not. Here's the link:
Mutual of Omaha Aha Moment

What she asked was if I would come to their mobile studio and record a short segment on what my Aha Moment was with regards to writing. It would then be posted on their website and YouTube channel. She wanted to know: when did it hit me that I should be a writer? What was that turning point in my life? And could I say it in 60 seconds or less?

So I've been pondering this question. I was hoping to have one defining moment that would jump into the forefront of my brain, like, "I had this near-death experience and an angel who looked amazingly like Maya Angelou told me that my work on earth was not done yet, so I sat down and wrote a series of novels called Harry Potter."

No such luck.

I probably did have an Aha Moment that caused me to take the path that I did. But my personality is such that I literally have to be hit over the head by a billboard that says "AHA MOMENT" in neon letters - repeatedly. I'm a bit slow on the uptake.

So as I prepare for my little 60 seconds of fame, I'm going to jot down the series of Aha Moments that led me to do what I do today.

Flashback: 6th grade. My mom enrolls me in a creative writing class at Milliken University. While other 6th graders are on the soccer team or cheerleading or taking gymnastics, I spent my after school time on the university campus, learning to write. And I loved it.

Also 6th grade. My teacher's name is Mrs. Polite. She has curly, unruly hair like mine and she's way cool compared to the series of nuns I had had up to that point. During the year, she made us write essay after essay after essay on a variety of topics. I was on it like white on rice. Sometimes I would get "A++'s" - if that's possible. Quite an ego-boost for this gangly girl with buck teeth and eyeglasses as big as my face.

One essay in particular, "Nicholas, the Blue Pansy, and Me" was a story of how I befriended an old man sitting on a park bench. It was winter, and I would sit with him and talk day after day. Under the bench grew a blue pansy. We marveled at how it could stay alive through the cold and snow. One day, I went to the park bench and he wasn't there. I asked another gentleman where he was and he said, "He passed away." I sat down on the bench and noticed the pansy, wilted in the snow. The End.

Fast forward 35 years or so, and I happen upon an old man in a wheelchair on my daily walks (see Man on the Corner). We become friends and talk often. I drop tins of cookies on his porch at Christmas time, and baskets at Easter. The last time I saw him was shortly before I moved. He had had another stroke and was not doing well. I thought of that story. As of right now, I do not know if that pansy still blooms.

Now I don't know if that's an Aha Moment, but it's certainly a Godwink.

Professionally, I didn't really have a job as a writer, per se. I was in "marketing and media", "communications", and "advertising". It wasn't until after my divorce that I literally woke up one morning and said, "I'm going to look for a job as a copywriter." I emailed my resume to a number of agencies, and received a reply late that night from a small marketing firm in town. They had just been discussing their need for a copywriter when my resume came across their desk. The hired me several days later. Aha? Perhaps. When someone asked, "What do you do?" I could say proudly for the first time, "I'm a writer."

The last Aha Moment I can think of was the devastating day when I lost that job. I didn't know what I was going to do. But within 24 hours, I had contacted everyone I knew, started my website (Kennard Communications) and began this blog as a way of "showcasing" my writing to potential employers.

I have never felt so empowered. I began to have followers. People read me. They commented. They praised. They criticized. I didn't care. They READ me. Every once in awhile, I would interject a more personal blog in between the marketing and copywriting business posts. It was then that I began to hear the same comment over and over: "You write what I think." And I thought, "That's pretty cool."

I've been criticized for being too personal in my blogs; I mean, anyone can read them. I draw the line at naming names or badmouthing anyone, but what I say I find that others can relate to, and that gives me immense satisfaction. And I think they sense a kind of camaraderie when I write that my kids are driving me crazy or that I am going through a rough time. We all go through it. In fact, one of my posts said, "Hey, we're all in this together, right? So why not talk about it?"

I don't know if that can be classified as an Aha Moment, but I think that may be the closest thing to one. After knowing for decades that I wanted to be a writer, it took me a long time to find my writing niche. Now I find great joy in regurgitating what's in my head onto the web for others to read. Again, I don't do it for accolades. I'll never win an award. My satisfaction comes when someone writes, "Hey, what you said really helped me" or "I can relate to that and I feel the same way" or my favorite, "You write what I think."

As much as I may put it out there on paper, I'm not a fan of being in the spotlight, especially on camera. So say a little prayer for me that I don't make a fool out of myself, and that I can somehow translate what I've written above into some profound 60-seconds of something that doesn't totally suck.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Out of sync

I've taken a bit of a vacation from blogging of late. Part of it is time; part of it is that what I have going on presently is not - even on my terms - bloggable. Which sucks, because that's where I seem to get my support and my advice.

On the other hand, I have discovered who my true friends are. They're the ones that have put hours of their lives on hold to listen to me talk ad nauseum. They're the ones who take me out for beers even though they have to work the next day. The ones who watch kids for me when I don't have the energy to parent. The ones who don't tell me what I WANT to hear; the ones who tell me what I NEED to hear.

My kids asked me how I was going to pay my friends back for what they've done for me. I told them I didn't think I could; but that one thing it taught me is how to be if they or someone else was ever in a similar situation. I would "pay it forward", and be the friend that I've so desperately needed in these past few weeks. That's all I can do.

Something else occurred during this particularly difficult time: In the past few weeks I've also discovered that two of my friends have breast cancer. Not "it's just a lump and we're gonna remove it" breast cancer, but "we're removing your breasts and you're gonna have chemo" breast cancer. These are amazing, wonderful, beautiful women who don't deserve to have this kind of hardship in their lives. And I read the reactions of their family and friends - one on a CaringBridge website and the other on her husband's blog about their journey - and I think, this is important. This wasn't brought on by anyone doing the wrong thing or saying the wrong thing. This was out of nowhere, and it will change both of their lives and the lives of their families forever.

Here's an excerpt from my friend's husband's blog that put things into perspective for me. He writes this from his wife's hospital room as she recovers from her surgery:

"One thing that I am really looking forward to is taking long walks with my beautiful bride again. It should only be about 4 weeks, but when you are used to walking nearly every day together for over 20 years, a month feels like an eternity.

There is an interesting phenomenon that both of us have noticed when we walk. We have an amazing cadence. Without trying, we have the same steps, the same stride, the same pace...even our arms are in sync. We could march in the army we are so in sync! What's even cooler is that when we get out of sync - we don't have to work at getting back into a perfect cadence. It just, happens."

I think we all need to be in sync with something in our lives. Maybe that's what my problem was. I felt out of sync with everything. These women going through the devil that is breast cancer have had their whole world go out of sync, yet family and friends rally around them and suddenly there is a rhythm. A rhythm of caring, of supporting, of loving that helps bring back the balance and the sync that they need.

To my stricken friends going through this personal hell right now, I am with you. I pray for you every day and keep up to date on your progress. You are both such strong women that I am confident that cancer has picked the wrong bodies to mess with. You will defeat this, and we will rejoice together someday.

And for my friends who helped me through my struggles - which now pale in comparison? Know that words or deeds can never sufficiently thank or repay you. I am eternally grateful for you. I truly think that God brings people together for a reason, and if this was it, I'm a damn lucky girl no matter what the outcome. And please know that you have taught me how to be a friend - a true friend - and I will either reciprocate to you - or to someone else - someday.

There's a quote that I've been keeping close to my heart these past few weeks, and ironically I saw it posted on my friend's CaringBridge site:

"Faith is being sure of what you hope for, and certain of what you do not see."

Keep the faith, my friends, as I will as well. We are sure of what we hope for, we just need to be certain of what we do not see.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

I know how to solve the world's problems.

I have to admit - I watched the Casey Anthony verdict. I got sucked in. And I feel horrible about it.

Not that I didn't care. I wanted to see justice done for this innocent little girl who had obviously had her sweet life cut short at the hands of some selfish ingrate. But I do regret the precious time I allotted to Casey Anthony and her story and the media, when I could have been doing something much more constructive.

Seeing this endless coverage everywhere and having it be the topic of conversation on nearly everyone's lips made me think - gee, if we all rallied around something that could really CHANGE THE WORLD, how cool would that be?

What if - just WHAT IF - we got all up in the grill of world hunger like we did with Tiger Wood's affair? And what about if we jumped all over homelessness like we jumped on Senator Weiner for sending lewd cell phone pictures? What if we spent some quality time thinking of ways of solving the national debt instead of wondering how Maria Shriver went for so many years without knowing her housekeeper's son was fathered by her husband?

I saw a photo of Arnold Schwarzenneger recently where he was smiling and giving the "thumbs up". The caption read, "Thanks, Weiner!" Obviously, being the story of the week sucks - until someone else does something even more lewd and lascivious - then you're old news.

Just like Japan. Remember when that was all we talked about? How we were glued to the TV, watching every latest development at the nuclear power plant, mourning the dead who never had a chance and cheering for every survivor? Remember all the outlets that were raising money for the Red Cross to help these poor people who had been devastated beyond human belief? Well, do you think they're all OK now? Nope. Probably not. But we haven't heard hide nor hair of them via the media in recent months. Why? Because our own train wreck of a society has taken over once again.

I really don't give a shit about Lady Gaga. Nor do I care to read an article on how the hot dog eating champ recovers from eating 20,000 calories. And I can't believe we actually give press to Beyonce's bad hair day.

Shame on us.

Honestly, I don't fault the media for reporting the news. It is, in fact, the news, whether it be informative, devastating, entertaining or cautionary. But have you ever heard the expression "beating a dead horse"? Between all the media analysts and political (and otherwise) talk show hosts and "continuous live coverage", we're being sucked in to media no man's land like a Hoover vacuum on crack.

I wish we could somehow turn the tide - somehow divert all these news reporters and tabloid writers and talk show hosts to set their sights on solving problems rather than completely bleaching every story about a human vice, or foible or abhorrent behavior like that of the Casey Anthony trial. Let's not pretend that we were the Casey Anthony jurors, because we weren't. We all have our opinions based on how the media portrayed the event and how much television coverage we watched. At the end of the day, are we any wiser? Did we help anyone? Nope. Did you get that warm fuzzy of satisfaction after you read that latest news report on Arnie and his bastard baby? Probably not. And suffice it to say that the wedding of William and Kate didn't up your IQ too many points, no matter how much you listened to the fancy accents.

So let's say we tally up all that worthless time we spend gawking at the uppities and downfalls of the human race and spend that much time serving meals at a homeless shelter. Or trade in our Googling for visiting a shut-in. Or instead of poisoning our minds with tabloids and reality shows, let's pick up litter in our neighborhoods. Or teach our kids to throw a baseball instead of work a remote.

I'm going to try it. I'm guilty as charged for getting wrapped up in the silly drama of individuals who aren't contributing jack squat to society but somehow receive hours of my time. What we all have to realize that at some point, our attention given to this worthless crap is taking away from the real problems in our society - some of which are solvable if we get off the couch, put down the Enquirer and lend a hand somewhere where it will make a difference.

Who's with me?