Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Perfectionism Stymies My Writing Yet Again

I've been compiling my poetry into a book. It might be more accurate to say I've been struggling to compile my poetry into a book. I thought I had it done. Then I started to read through it and realized it was overwhelming, too many poems and too many directions. At that point I decided to divide the poetry into three books. I thought this would be easy!! Really I did. I started working on it and kept trying to make it perfect as I tend to do. People who know me well know that I have a tendency to expect perfection from myself. I could go into all the childhood roots this belief grew from, but I know what they are. It doesn't change anything, and this isn't a therapy session. So, we'll skip that. Just suffice it to say, there are roots and they get fed regularly by my expectations and the expectations of certain other people in my life.

Then there are those people who don't expect me to be perfect, who remind me that perfection isn't all it's cracked up to be, and that perfection gets in the way of me being my best self. Odd isn't it to think that striving for perfection can actually stop us from being our best selves. When this thought occurred to me, I felt a gut wrenching denial that lasted for a very long time - like a day or two - before I could accept it as truth. Actually, in all honesty, I'm still struggling to accept it as true even though intellectually I get it.

Last week I offhandedly mentioned to a friend who asked how my day was going that I didn't know if I was struggling with the books of poetry because I was being indecisive or a perfectionist. My friend reminded me of my tendency to get in my own way by striving for perfection...

I sat down at the card table set up in my family room, looked at the poems spread all around and started working. Every time the word perfect popped in my head, I reminded myself of my friend's words. Simple words really and one's I'd heard before, but they worked. And, by Thursday night I had all the poems sorted into four piles - three books and one pile of rejects and two books were already organized. I thought it would take at least two weeks to get to this point even though little Miss Perfectionist demanded I get it done yesterday and that it be perfect and alternately demanded I work on it until it was perfect no matter how long that took. I stared in disbelief for a few minutes. I wanted to hug or kiss or at least thank my friend for those words that helped me free myself from the perfectionist thinking that kept tripping me. I think I may have danced around the room a bit. Seriously, I felt a little delirious. Friday I organized the last book. I felt great!!

Have I ever mentioned that I have fabulous friends?

I started assimilating the poems into "books" on my computer yesterday. So far so good. I'm still happy with the results. When this is done, I'll need a final read through to see if it's "great" not "perfect". If so, I'm one step closer.

Being freed from the twisted roots of perfectionism is incredibly liberating... Wonder how long it will last... Seems like those roots are always waiting to wrap around me and pull me back under...

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Appearance on Blog, Calling All Writers

Audrey Austin, author and blogger, liked my poem, Granny , so much she asked to post it on her blog, Calling All Writers, for her readers! Thanks so much, Audrey!! While you're there check out her information on the Elliot Lake Writers' Fall Festival!

Friday, August 26, 2011

Writers on the Move May Change My Opinion of Workout Groups

Confession: I hate workout groups. There I said it. I don't particularly like to work out in front of other people. I don't do classes. I don't go to the gym. I don't find groups of strangers to work out with. I guess I don't want other people to see me hot and sweaty and stumbling and messing up. I'm not athletic. Never have been. Working out with other people makes me keenly aware of this to the point of becoming self conscious. I don't like being accountable to other people for my workouts. I fear judgment if I slack off. I fear criticism that I'm not doing the "right" workout or the exercises the "right" way.

I've tried many different workouts.

I hate running. Let me make sure you understand. I despise running. You can't make me do it. Not today. Not tomorrow. Not ever. Don't even go there. Now, for those who enjoy running, more power to you. Keep at it and enjoy. I know many people who enjoy it. Don't try to convince me. I've heard all the arguments. Just push past this point and that point. Why? I don't like it. If I'm going to exercise, it's got to be something I enjoy.

I used to really enjoy walking. I've mentioned in other posts the late night walks I used to take with my friend, Sandy, when we were in college. I also used to take long walks around campus by myself during the day. These weren't necessarily "workouts", but they were movement. I have rarely taken walks as exercise on a regular basis since college and that was a while ago. I'm not sure why. I could probably come up with some reasons if I thought about it, but then again they might just be excuses...

Aerobic workouts can be fun especially those that involve dance steps or other nicely choreographed movements. I used to take aerobics classes which is where I realized I hate exercising in groups. I still own a couple of aerobic workouts and do them on occasion. I used to do a bellydancing routine that was incredibly fun, but it was on VHS. I got rid of it years ago. Maybe I'll buy a new one, a DVD this time. It was fun and might make for a nice change of pace now and then.

Weight training is okay. I enjoy light weights in combination with aerobics, but I don't have any desire to do heavy weights or develop huge muscles. I still have a couple of weight workout DVDs that I pull out from time to time.

Tai Chi bored me silly. I just couldn't get into it though I love to watch the fluid motions when other people do it.

Pilates is okay. I own a pilates DVD, but I haven't done it in over a year. Maybe I will next week just to see how I feel about it now. I didn't find it as challenging as yoga though a friend of mine finds the opposite. She thinks pilates in much more challenging than yoga... I guess every body is different.

Yoga is my go-to exercise. I love everything about it. I love the poses. I love the stretches. I love the breathing. I love the strength building that comes from holding the poses. I love doing the slow, easy workouts and the heart pumping ones. I love the flow between the poses and the hold of the poses. I love the way my body feels as I do yoga and when I'm finished. I love that when I do yoga my mind has to focus on the pose and not wander off in a million directions berating me for the things I'm not doing. It's just not possible for those thoughts to exist and hold the yoga poses. I love that I feel my body changing over time.

Okay, now that I've gushed about yoga, let me get back to my point...

A while back in an effort to get over my hatred of exercising in front of people, I started opening the blinds in the room where I exercise. Okay, I really started opening them so my cats could look out the window while I exercised, but then I realized it was a good step toward me becoming less self conscious. Oh, how I deceive myself... It's an upstairs window angled in a way that I'm unlikely to be seen as I go through my yoga poses, but it's a start.

I recently joined the Facebook group, Writers on the Move. Christina Katz started it a few months ago. At least I think Christina started it. I hesitated at first because of all the reasons I stated above mostly the accountability and fear of judgment thing because this isn't a group of people who are likely to ever exercise together since we're spread out all over the world. Okay, I didn't actually check to see if it's the whole world, but it's a good guess. I saw a few posts Christina made to the group and finally got curious. I checked it out. It looked more inspirational and supportive than anything. I decided to join and lurk for a while to see how the dynamics worked.

Remember I said lurk for awhile... Well, that didn't last long, maybe an hour or so. I started liking people's posts and commenting when I thought I could help. Next thing I knew I was posting what about my love of yoga. Within a day or two I started posting about my yoga routines... So much for lurking... To be honest, I'm not good at lurking. When I have something to say, I'm gonna say it. I rarely hold back.

I found that people were inspired by my little workout posts. Really? This surprised me. I don't know why. After all, I was inspired by their posts. People talk about their workouts and their obstacles to exercising. People offer tips and advice to one another. People ask for help and advice. The group is supportive and encouraging. There's a little goodnatured teasing now and then, but everything is kept upbeat and on topic. Often, it's just "likes" on exercise posts, but somehow that's enough.

One day earlier this week I fell behind schedule and considered skipping my yoga routine. Then I read a few posts on Writers on the Move and changed my mind even though I knew my schedule would be tighter and some things probably wouldn't get done on time. Once my routine was done, I felt better. I had more energy. My focus was better.

That's the thing about working out. It's not just a physical thing. It helps us in all aspects of our lives. For me that's why yoga works best. Other exercises don't give me the same balance in the rest of my life.

Has joining the group helped my writing? I think so, but it's hard to tell since I already did yoga on a regular basis. What I know it's done for me is remind me that as a writer I spend a lot of time sitting and to remind me that movement makes me healthier. Being healthier has to help my writing, right?

Writers on the Move just might change my attitude about workout groups. It just might... Still, I can't imagine I'll be signing up for group yoga any time soon. But this group works for me and it just might help you, too.I didn't even think I needed encouragement in my workouts since I already exercised regularly. It just proves we can all use a little encouragement now and then even if we think we don't need it!

So, move. And, come join us at Writers on the Move. We'll inspire and encourage you on your way to your fitness goals! Your body, your mind, and your spirit will all thank you for it!!

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Poem, Granny, Now Available

My poem, Granny, honoring my Grandma Cooper, who would've celebrated her 94th birthday today, is now available. Check it out!

Monday, August 22, 2011

Spreading Kindness

Kindness is always a good idea. Kindness without expecting anything in return is an even better idea. Kindness that spreads from one person to another is an even better idea. Kindness that is genuine is one of the most important riches we can share with one another.

Spreading kindness is not a new idea. The movie Pay It Forward was built around the premise of spreading kindness to create a better world. Several years ago, Oprah had a show about spreading kindness. I believe the show topic was "Random Acts of Kindness" and the idea was to combat "Random Acts of Violence" with positives in an attempt to change the world one "Random Act of Kindness" at a time. At least that's how I remember it.

Books have been written about the idea of spreading kindness. Some promise if you spread kindness without expecting anything in return, good things will come your way. I happen to believe this.

I also believe that anonymous acts of kindness are much better than recognition-seeking acts of kindness. As a general rule, if you feel the need to tell others you've performed a random act of kindness, then your motivation is about you, not about being kind to someone else.

Recently, I pulled up to the Starbucks window to pay for my latte and scone only to learn the strangers in the car in front of me had already paid my bill because, as the barrista said "someone had done the same for them and they wanted to do it for someone else." I was incredibly touched by this simple act of kindness. I know nothing about these people. I don't know what religion they practice if any, what color their skin is, what job they hold, how much money they earn, what their political beliefs are, whether they're gay or straight, or anything else about them. But, none of that matters. It just doesn't. They were kind. That's all that matters.

Pay it Forward, the "Random Acts of Kindness" episode of the Oprah show, and recently my own experience receiving a "random act of kindness" have all influenced me to perform my own random acts of kindness. I never even think about getting anything in return or telling anyone else I've performed them, but what I've discovered is that when one lives with an attitude of giving rather than taking, one receives. Of course, one must also be open to accepting kindness when it comes one's way.

I don't believe kindness is the work of any one religion, faith, or belief. I can't believe that. The evidence doesn't support it. Some of the kindest and least self-aggrandizing people I know are atheist or agnostic. I also know many very kind people who are Muslim, Jewish, Buddhist, Christian, and so on.

I applaud Plant A Simple Seed for wanting to spread kindness and for coming up with a way to do it that actively engages people in the process. The blog encourages those wishing to participate to contact the blog owner to receive cards to leave when they plant a seed. The idea being that the card receiver should then do something kind for another person again leaving the card and so on and so on. The person receiving the kindness is also asked to go on the blog and leave a comment about the kindness they received. When I read it, it struck me how many people were reporting the seed they planted rather than a kindness received. Even though most of the posts were anonymous, I wondered if they were seeking recognition for their kindness... I didn't think that was how it was supposed to work.

It's just, and I have to say this, being kind isn't the Christian thing to do, it's the human thing to do. Treating one another with kindness transcends any religious belief and is taught by all religions and even by nonreligious people.

I encourage you to check out Plant a Simple Seed for yourself and decide whether or not you wish to participate.

Whether or not you opt to get the cards from Plant a Simple Seed, I encourage you to seek out opportunities in your life to be kind to others.

Kindness is its own reward!!

Thursday, August 18, 2011

My poem, Caffeine

Check out my poem, Caffeine. You might like it! :-)

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Human Beings First, Forget the Labels

I write about the human condition for one main reason, we are humans. We live in this world together. We all have that in common every single one of us. Regardless of skin color, religion, political persuasion, sexual orientation, gender, class, or any other labelling apparatus we use to create division between us. In the end, we are all human beings.

The first time I had coffee with my friend and fellow author, Ray Ellis, I told him that my novel, All She Ever Wanted, dealt with racism. He looked at me for a minute then calmly and without judgment informed me, without having read a word of it, that it didn't deal with racism because there is only one race, the human race. It was a turning point in my life. I've never thought about racism the same since that conversation. That change in thought helped me find an even stronger conviction and desire to explore and understand the human condition.

As human beings we hurt, we dream, we work, we play, we laugh, we cry, we love, we hate, we fail, we succeed, and so on. Our feelings get hurt. Our bodies get hurt. Our relationships suffer obstacles. Our lives face challenges. This doesn't change because we happen to fall into any of those "labels" we use to divide.

As part of writing about the human condition, I research, examine, study, and analyze the human condition. I blog about my struggles to become the best me I can because I'm fairly certain others can relate. We all struggle to be our best selves. Some may think these posts are self indulgent, and I suppose some are to a degree; however, if I share my struggle with something and that happens to help someone else, then it's worth it. And, sometimes what seems to be about me is really about my observations of someone else's situation. Sometimes they are the things I wish I could say one-on-one, but I know won't be heard. Whether saying them in a more generic way reaches the person I wish I could say them to or not, maybe they'll help someone else in a similar situation.

I think all writers, especially fiction writers and poets, write about the human condition in one way or another. I tend to do it from the perspective of character growth while many write about it by wrapping the storyline around a social cause. Murder, rape, domestic violence, love, hate, romance, civil rights, and the list goes on and on are all part of the human condition. Even the criminal is human though in fiction it often seems like they're not. I've talked to and read authors who prefer to keep their criminals two dimensional, after all who cares what's going on in the criminal's head? There are readers who prefer the criminal not be humanized at all. I struggle with that. I can see their point... kind of. On the other hand, I have a real need to understand "why" even in a book. Even the bad guy had to come from somewhere. That's my need to understand the human condition.

When I write, I'm very interested in examining what makes the characters tick - every character. I want my characters to make people stop and think. Maybe to consider something in a new way. So I spend countless hours inside my characters' heads interrogating them, conjoling them, charming them, and listening to them. Sometimes I do this for days or even months before they make it to paper. Other times only for hours.

I think it would be safe to say I wrap my plot around my characters and the growth they will experience in the book. That's what excites me about writing. The idea of figuring out something new regarding the human condition and sharing it with others gives me a sense of fulfillment or at least purpose. Or even reminding people of something that has been lost in the stereotypes people tend to accept so easily. Or encouraging people to feel a little compassion and connection with a human being they might otherwise turn away from. I sure hope that my readers find my examinations of the human condition, whether in a novel, short story, poem, or blog entry, entertaining, interesting and enlightning.

Mostly though I hope my writing about the human condition helps people see that we really are all human beings inhabiting the same planet. We all have that much in common in spite of all the labels assigned us...

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Could You Change Just This One Little Thing, Oh, and That One, and While You're At It...

We've all been there. We're in love. The person we love makes a little request. You know, the first time he or she says "I really don't like it when you..." We shrug and think, okay, no big deal, I won't do that again. After all it's a little thing. The next time the person says "You really shouldn't..." We nod and say okay I won't do that again. All seems well. Then one day the person says "I wish you would stop..." This time it doesn't seem like the thing we did was such a bad thing, so our nod is a little slower but we still agree. Then one day the person says "Damn it. Do you have to...?" and this time it feels like an assault on our personality, but we're not sure. Maybe we really do need fixed. After all no one is perfect... Things go along and the person is happy, we smile but begin to feel ourselves dissolving. But, hey, the person is happy, and that's what matters. After all, this is love. He or she only wants what's best for us. Right? Then one day the person who loves us strikes out with cruel words or even worse, and when we ask the person to not treat us like that, he or she tells us it's our fault. That if we'd only..., then he or she wouldn't react like that. And, we believe it. After all, this is love and we want to keep love...

Maybe we even venture a little request for some changes ourselves here and there, so we tell ourselves it's only fair. We say "I wish you wouldn't..." or "It hurts my feelings when you..." or "Please don't do that..." And, maybe the person agrees and maybe he or she doesn't.

After all, we get to choose which changes we make and which we don't. Right? Just like he or she does.

Eventually, one day, perhaps even years after this begins, we look in the mirror and the eyes staring back at us ask only one question "Who the hell are you?"

When we reach that point, we know we've turned ourselves into a shell in order to fit the image the person desired, and that that person has no resemblance to us. Then we have to decide whether to remain the image or embrace our true selves. If we choose to embrace the image, we lose ourselves. If we choose to embrace our true selves, we risk losing love. Although at this point we might also venture to ask ourselves if the person loves us or the image we've created to please him or her. On the other hand, if the relationship is strong, it might survive us embracing our true selves. No one can make this decision for us.

So the next time someone says you need to change something about yourself in order to be attractive or loved or desired or needed or to otherwise meet his or her expectations (click here for my earlier examination of expectations), ask yourself if it's what you want. If it's not, feel free to say "No, I like me just as I am. If you don't, sorry but that's just the way things have to be."

While this kind of relationship dynamic may make for nice drama in fiction, it is definitely not a good life. When we see this in fiction, we tend to root for the person being told to change to break free and take charge of his or her own life. Usually, in fiction, it is the woman in this situation, but there are stories about men changing when they finally meet the right woman - the one who breaks through his defenses and makes him capable of opening his heart again. In those situations, the reader is almost always put in a position to root for the woman to reach the man because he just needs love. But, sorry, folks, that's why it's called fiction. No amount of love fixes those things in real life. Love may open a window and let a little fresh air in, but if the individual doesn't want to change, it ain't happenin'. It just ain't.

Now, don't misunderstand this post. I'm not saying change is bad. We are all growing and therefore changing all the time, but when we try to mold ourselves into the image someone else has of us, we lose who we are. And, that's not love. Control, desperation, neediness, and insecurity, you bet, but love, no way.

When someone loves you, they should love you for who you are, who you were, and who you are becoming. And, again, I'm not saying we don't have the right to set boundaries because we most certainly do and should. I'm talking about when someone asked us to change in order to fit some shifting idealized image in his or head that can never truly be met or when we ask it of someone else.

At the heart of it, you are who you are. Embrace that and don't substitute an image for the real thing ever. The people who truly love you will love the real you including both your positive and negative traits. They will always want the best for you even if that best isn't what they envision for you.

After all, in fiction, the main character almost always learns this lesson at the end of the story. So just jump ahead in your own story, and love yourself enough to be yourself now before it's too late.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Poem, Grandma, Now Available

Grandma, a poem honoring my Grandma, is available for your reading pleasure.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Time is No Enemy of True Friendship

Three friends. Three meals. Three seperate groups of memories. Three consecutive years of my college life respresented. Three times the excitement.

I'm a woman who values friendship to a very high degree - maybe not more than anything but it's definitely way up there on my list of things important to me. Friendship means so much to me that I find it hard to define. Yes, I know how to look it up in the dictionary, but that's not what I mean. In my opinion, the dictionary definition of friendship doesn't even come close to defining what true friendship is.

As I was working on an earlier draft of this post, Keira Kroft posted "Who is your best friend?" as her daily get to know you question. I responded that I don't do best friends. I have way too many awesome friends to even go there. My friends are all special to me for who they are. There are certain things I value in friendship that create common threads, but each friend I have brings something a little different to my life than the others. The roles they play vary meaning my love for each is unique but equal which brings me back to Cathy, Sandy, and Lori; the three friends I saw while in Florida.

While making plans to see each of them, I began to consider their common traits and what made them different from one another. As I thought about it, I also began to see the individual roles they played in my life.

I thought I would be nervous, but I was too excited to feel nervous. All week as I practiced going with the flow and enjoying being in the moment, there was a little part of me that just couldn't wait until I saw my friends on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.

Within seconds Sandy and I were chatting away, talking about life, reminiscing, and catching each other up. Now, I do wonder if my husband's presence kept us from broaching a few topics that we probably would've if we'd been alone. One of the things Sandy and I enjoyed doing together was taking late night walks around the EKU campus. The campus seemed to peaceful at night. The stars were visible yet the streets of campus were well lit. There were areas where we felt we could talk in total privacy. Those late night walks became a cornerstone of my existence even when we were joined by other people. We both smiled as we talked about those walks, so I'm sure Sandy enjoyed them as much as I did. And, I have to be honest, as the time came for Sandy to head home, I wanted nothing more than to find a place and take a late night walk just like old times... Maybe next time...

Cathy and I talked nonstop once we got started which was pretty much as soon as we said hello. Introductions of our husbands out of the way, we blabbered about life and left them to talk about whatever. We reminisced about silly things we did in college and briefly discussed some people we both knew. From time to time, we joined in the guys conversation or pulled them into ours for a few minutes. Then we were back to our girl talk. It seemed liked no time had passed at all as we talked, picked up conversations in what anyone else would've considered the middle, and shared a secret or two. Well, that's what friends do... They confide in one another. We discovered that even though life had taken us in different directions and even surprised one another with one or two of those directions, we still enjoyed chatting with each other face to face.

Somehow, Lori and I went from hello and hugs to laughter in less than a second. We talked and talked and talked. Conversation was easy. We talked about shared memories and the moments we'd missed. Everything seemed relevant and important. We talked about current affairs, religion, people, and social issues. Lori and my husband chatted for a while while I chatted with Lori's Mom who joined us. Then Lori and I chatted while her Mom and my husband chatted. Again from time to time, we all joined in the same conversation. Before we knew it we had been in the restaurant from lunch time to dinner time, and so it was time for my husband and me to head back to Orlando.

Here's what I know (or was reminded of) because of these three visits (and guess what writers? These things might prove helpful in character development.):

I am lucky to have had a whole host of wonderful friends in my life many of whom still love me and whom I still love. (Yep, I said it. Love.)

Not every friendship I've had has lasted and even the ones here have had their trials. Cathy and I fell out of touch shortly after she left college and didn't reconnect until a year ago. Sandy and I exchanged letters regularly for a long time, but our contact has become more sporadic over the years. Lori and I quit speaking for several years at one point in time. But, none of that mattered when we reconnected. I've found that to be true with so many of the people in my life where the connection has been genuine and truly caring.

Friends don't care about perfection. They only care about how well you connect and whether or not you accept them as they are. They may want understanding for their mistakes, and they are willing to give you theirs for yours. They mainly just want to know you really care what is happening in their lives.

Friends instinctively know the topics that shouldn't be brought up with other people present. That's just how it is. It's not about secrets. Well, sometimes it is. But, it's more about not opening topics or events that could be misunderstood or that maybe might be given more weight than they deserve.

My heart is big enough for all my friends, and the reason my heart is big enough for all my friends is because of all my friends. They give me the room to love and to grow. They provide me the roots to stay grounded and the leaves to reach toward my dreams. They choose to love me, and I choose to love them.

Friendship isn't marred by distance unless we allow it to be, especially not in today's world of technology.

Time is no enemy of true friendship.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Shuttle Launch Day - A True Lesson in Going with the Flow

We finally arrive at Shuttle Launch Day which was actually July 8th... Just what you've been waiting for, right?

We're not going to talk much about going with the flow in relationship to this day mainly because the flow for this day was completely beyond my control. And, that is in and of itself a lesson in going with the flow.

The plan was to grab a few hours sleep because we had to be at the Astronaut's Hall of Fame by 6am according to the paperwork we received. Sleep wouldn't come. Try as I might I couldn't fall asleep. So, finally, after hearing on the late news that people were already arriving to watch the launch and debating the pros and cons of making the fifty or so minute drive and the wait, we left the hotel room at around 2:30 in the morning.

We made a few wrong turns and ended up taking the long way around, but we arrived before 4:00am and parked. Sleep deprivation? Mostly but also because we'd been instructed to take a different route than the one we'd scouted earlier in the week.

When we arrived there were already a significant number of people there. I was really glad it was warm out because we were to be outside for the entire thing. Okay, the building was open for bathrooms, the exhibits, and the gift shop, so I didn't have to be outside the whole time. The gift shop lured me in hopes of finding a t-shirt I'd seen on Monday and not bought. They had it as well as a sweatshirt with the same design on the front - all the shuttles pointing up with one in the middle. Yay me! I got one of each!

My husband napped a little, but I couldn't fall asleep. I have a thing about sleeping in crowds. I don't like to do it. I really find it nearly impossible to do. I'm sure I could analyze why, but we'll save that for another time - or maybe never...

So all morning we watched the weather and waited for word. Would the launch take place or not? The clouds would drift away and then back teasing and taunting us. The announcers stayed cautiously optimistic. Surprise! Surprise! The crowd seemed to pay little attention to the announcers, but I guess it often feels that way in large crowds. Two astronauts, Bruce Melnick and John McBride, spoke to the crowd about their previous missions and the shuttle itself. They took questions and posed for pictures with people.

Orange glow beside the
Vehicle Assembly Building is the launch pad.
 Since we couldn't see the launch pad - well, there was a small orange glow visible from where we sat that we were told was the launch pad - the launch pad and the launch preparations were played on a large screen. Photographing that seemed odd, but, hey, you do what you gotta do.

Launch pad on the big screen
The talks and presentations were structured around the idea that children were in the audience, but it remained interesting. Most of the questions were asked by children, but it was quite obvious a few of the parents put their children up to asking. Note to parents, it's always a dead giveaway when your child turns to you and asks you what they're supposed to ask with the mic in their hands.

Eventually, I struck up a conversation with the lady sitting next to me, or she struck up one with me. I'm not sure. All I know is we started talking. Her name was Sarah Jane, and she was there with one of her sons, Brian (I didn't ask for the spelling, so we're going with the i versus y because that's what I want to do. Besides he didn't strike me as a y Brian. I don't know why.) Anyway, she's a retired educator who got bored and went back to work travelling around Florida helping special needs programs update their teaching credentials, but she told me she was resigning from that position soon. She lives in Orlando and said that she could actually see the launches from her house once they reached a certain elevation. She was interesting and friendly if a bit motherly. She was quite concerned about whether or not I had applied sunscreen when the sun finally began to peek through the clouds. Oddly, I thought she was asking me for sunscreen when she inquired and offered her mine to put some on!!

The launch was on, maybe off, definitely on, just waiting on the weather for hours. I started to feel like I was on a roller coaster as we waited to find out if all this waiting was going to result in a climax or a fizzle.

The Astronaut's Hall of Fame
 People amused themselves with conversation, watching the traffic slowly inch toward the Kennedy Center Complex, and watching for things in the sky.

Funny how excited people get seeing a fighter plane overhead keeping the airspace clear. Okay, I admit, it made my heart flutter a bit, too, but it was funny to listen to all the chatter about it while we were waiting on a shuttle launch!!!! I mean, seriously, it's like getting excited over the pool at a waterslide park! Okay, I actually would because I'm not a big waterslide fan, but you get the picture.

So finally there we were listening to the "go, no go" countdown. A collective and audible gasp occurred when there was a "no go" on the emergency abort re-entry site. Then a bunch of people mumbling "Did they say "no go?" Then the change to "go" status followed by an audible out breath and a few mumbles of "That's more like it." and variations thereof.

So finally it was all a go. The crowd went back to talking to one another, taking pictures, filming things, eating, and any number of other things. Well, some had never stopped, but it didn't matter.

Then at the thirty-one second mark, they stopped the clock. Oh, crap! I almost cried. We couldn't possibly get that close, and then nothing happen. Oh, no. A fizzle simply was not acceptable. A sensor wasn't showing that an arm retracted as it should have. Once it was checked and verified there was no danger, the clock was restarted. (Okay, are we living in a friggin' movie? Drama city!!)

At launch I was mesmerized by the streak through the air. Then I blinked and it seemed like it was over. I wanted to scream. "Do it again! Do it again!" I got instant replay though on the camera because my husband filmed it! Cool!! Now I can watch it whenever I want!

So we arrived around 4am and waited until 11 something to watch seconds worth of a launch that was quickly obscured by clouds... Wanna know if it was worth it? Absolutely! I got to be there for the very last shuttle launch ever even if my viewing area was twelve miles away and I stayed up all night the night before to make sure I'd be there on time. Even if it was a day in which the events were completely under someone else's control. Even though it meant hours in traffic on the way back to Orlando. Did I mention I slept most of that? Good thing I didn't have to drive. Even the coffee we bought before heading back couldn't keep me awake.

What did I learn? Sometimes life presents an opportunity and you choose to either take it or not. When you do, you just may potentially enrich your life just a little bit... And, not everything has to be perfectly planned... Or even if it is perfectly planned, nothing is certain until it is executed. Nothing is beyond changing at any given moment in time. And, that's what the true meaning of going with the flow is all about - at least I think that's what it's all about. Maybe I'll change my mind in five minutes...

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Going with the Flow is Hard Work - Florida Day Four

We awoke to clouds and pouring rain on our fourth day in Miami. My husband was incredibly amused by this. A big part of my desire to go to Florida was to enjoy the sun, and it appeared the rain followed me there. As we left the hotel, we decided that given the rain, we might as well just go ahead and head back to Orlando since our only plan for the day had been a walk on the beach in the sun! We found a restaurant north of Miami and plugged it into the GPS. I reminded myself to just go with the flow as we left Miami. I wanted to drive along the coast, but the route to the restaurant wasn't going that direction. Deep breath. As my husband pointed out, there was plenty of coast to enjoy after we had breakfast.
Of course, the first place we tried to go to was... well, if it existed it was behind a gate in a gated community, so I'm not sure how we would've gotten to it or at least that's where the GPS took us. After several attempts to argue with the GPS (yeah, now that's going with the flow in action there.), I searched for a new restaurant.
Something called The Pelican Cafe popped up. It was in North Palm Beach which the GPS assured me wasn't far away. So we decided to go there. As soon as we pulled into this cute restaurant with the beautiful floral scent - jasmine, I think - wafting through the air, we were glad we hadn't been able to find the other restaurant. Sometimes going with the flow leads one to something better anyway. The restaurant looked like someone's home. We were greeted with a smile and quickly realized this was a locals' haunt as locals wandered in and conversed with the staff. As we were leaving, we were invited back. I couldn't help but smile. It was Southern hospitality at its best. (Okay, you're going to read some of that in the review of the restaurant, too, so be prepared.)
After we left the restaurant, we continued on our drive North toward Orlando. We were on the A1 highway and quickly realized it wasn't as coastal as we wanted, so I started looking for a way to get us to the A1A. We set out knowing this drive was going to take most of the day and were okay with that. The idea was to enjoy the views with a lesiurely drive. Now, in all honesty, I hoped for the sun to come out and a beach to materialize at the same time, but driving worked since it was raining pretty much all the time.
We arrived to Vero Beach and decided coffee was necessary. Not wanted but needed. We never found the first three places we put into the GPS and finally backtracked to the fourth, Cravings, even though it was off the main highway making it a little out of the way. It was close enough to the beach to take a walk!! At first my uptight side protested. If we stopped for a walk, it would make us late arriving to Orlando. Late for what? I have no idea. Just later than I planned. And, besides, it was still cloudy. What if it started raining again? Then we'd have to ride in the car wet. Never mind there were at least four stores we passed as I was saying this not to mention the suitcases full of clothes in the trunk. I bit my lip as soon as these objections passed my lips. This going with the flow thing was harder than I thought!! And, I actually wanted to go for a walk on the beach, so what the hell was I doing protesting the idea? Geez!
So we parked and headed down to a beautiful beach. We didn't take the camera, so this was really just a walk. Coffee in hand, cookies waiting in the car, we walked. Just walked. I loved feeling the sand beneath my toes and the water washing over my feet and ankles every few steps. Drinking the hot coffee at the same time was refreshing as the cloud cover kept the day from being too hot yet the water splasing my feet and legs was warm enough to not cause cold chills. Still, those clouds threatened to spill their contents with each step we took.
Shortly after we turned to walk back to the car, a wave splashed high enough to soak my shorts. I squealed then laughed. Okay, how funny was that? I mean seriously. I'd been all worried about gettting wet if it started to rain, and the ocean decides to give me what for!! At least it didn't get in my coffee...
Okay, now in all honesty, a few choice words did cross my lips as I contemplated riding the rest of the wayto Orlando in wet shorts. I could've changed but opted not to. So, I did. I wore my wet shorts - after all we were in Florida, so what if the ocean splashed my shorts. Who cared?
A quick note about Vero Beach. I think it might be a nice place to spend a week or so. We even researched staying at one particular hotel that looked really nice from the outside, but, well, that's not likely to happen unless I sell a whole bunch of books - and I do mean a whole bunch...
We continued on our drive. The A1A provides some beautiful scenery and some that is a little dull as well, but it was a nice drive.
We drove through small town after small town. I lost track of which town was which and where one began and the next ended. We passed Patrick AFB, where I saw a helicopter hovering - landing, I think - in the parking lot. I know, too exciting, huh? By that point, it actually kind of was.
Finally, we turned inland at Cape Canaveral.
The drive back to Orlando from there had already become familiar, so my mind wandered - daydreaming - I mean thinking up story ideas.
I wanted to go back to the room and change, but my husband suggested we go eat dinner first. I resisted (see, my first instinct is never to go with the flow.) My shorts were still a little damp. Okay, that was the only argument I could think of. The sad thing is that as soon as my husband said he understood that I was uncomfortable and we could go change first, I changed my mind!! Now, I wanted to go eat first and the shorts were no big deal. Yes, I see how that might seem like I was just being argumentative, but I swear I wasn't. I just thought about it in the few minutes before he expressed his understanding and I decided it really didn't matter if my shorts were still a bit damp. We were in Florida and on vacation. It was about relaxing not making an impression. So we went to eat at Cedars, a Middle Eastern restaurant. If anyone noticed the dampness on my shorts, they wisely kept the knowledge to themselves.
I swear I'm going to master this whole going with the flow someday. I really am going to learn to enjoy the moment I'm standing in and stop worrying about the next one, what I just said or did, or about what people think.
But, my mind right now is making it's argument. What if people use your new "going with the flow" attitude to manipulate you and take advantage of you? What if you never, ever get what you want again because you're so busy going with the flow?
Sighs... This going with the flow thing is hard work...