Parking in “the D”

I recently ventured into the D (that would be Detroit) to check out a band called 21 Pilots.  Lest you’ve never heard of them and are simply assuming I am much cooler than you, rest assured, I am not.  I was invited to the concert by my teenaged, Chicago nieces when their favorite little band sold are in Chi-town.  I’m pretty much an un-hip pop/rock radio listener (yes, you read that correctly, I wrote “radio”) who has at least partially defended One Direction during some Facebook smackdown with my more musically inclined brother, and I may or may not have encouraged my daughter to purchase Taylor Swift CD’s.  I’ve seen Barenaked Ladies twice in concert (shut up; it was fun), and I at least have Rolling Stone and Entertainment Weekly agreeing with me that Katy Perry’s Roar is one of the best songs of 2013.  (Come on, if Ms. Perry’s roar-oar-oar’s can’t get people to finish the home stretch of their midlife crisis 10K, I don’t know what can.)  (Pretty much all other songs mentioned in their “Best of” lists are foreign to me…except Miley Cyrus…wonders never cease.)

I’ll perhaps give a review of what it’s like to be 40 at a hipster 20’s concert night in a later posting (hint: it will involve my neck hurting), but for now, here’s a little story about parking that embodies the spirit of Detroit.  It involves parking.

We drove downtown and found a lot (I believe the parking was $20; parking is much higher all over Chicago, and I’ve noticed that pretty much whatever the price of parking around here is, my sister-in-law will say “wow, that’s a good deal!”).  My sister-in-law Jenny (responsibly chaperoning her two daughters and a friend, all of whom were pulling off a semi-goth look acquired with last minute purchases at 5 below), was instructed to back into the parking space.

“I have to back in?  I’m awful at backing in.  Why?”

“I don’t know.  Probably so we can get out faster at the end,” I say.

“That makes sense.  But I still hate it.”  She rolled down her window.  “I’m awful at backing in,” she told the attendant.   He said he’d guide her in.  He did so.  Success!  Not without some parking stress, but the attendant was very helpful about it.

We stand in the cold among twenty-some’s who are all hip and ironic. (I guess.  Mostly there are a few belly baring girls who look really, really cold.  They do have very nice pre-baby stomachs, though.)  As we approach the doors, the door guy announces that we should have our ID’s ready at the door if we are 21 or over.

“That’s so we can get a drink quickly after that backwards parking,” I joke.

“No kidding.  I think I need one.”

We hand our ID’s the doorman, a larger man who looks like he can bounce twenty-some year olds if their sense of entitlement gets all out of hand.  Jenny mentions wanting a drink to calm her post-backing in nerves.

“The guy in the parking structure was having me back in.  I’m awful at backing in.”

The doorman’s two cents on this backing in business?

“You should’ve said, ‘Fuck you, I’m paying.'”

And that pretty much sums it up the D.

What sums up the D for you? (Or, alternately, feel free to share your 2 cents on One Direction.  My brother thinks they have the substance and artificiality of cotton candy.  I think my brother needs to try cotton candy once in a while.  It’s kind of yummy and magical, even if it shouldn’t be categorized as food.)

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It’s Beginning to Feel Like Post-Christmas Funk Time

Snow, snow, snow!  It’s so in for 2014.  Time for Katy to go, go, go!  Time to learn how to twist hay into burning sticks!

Yes, I’m holed away in the Midwest, where my facebook feed is junked up with snow observations (it’s snowmaggenden! We’re gonna’ have thundersnow!), and my house is junked up with new toys, random packaging, and a dried up, naked evergreen.  (Okay, since I started this post yesterday, that evergreen is cuddled in a snowdrift.  Garbage pick-up in snowed out.)   As the New Year starts, is it a wonder I’m not jumping for joy over my pending MasterCard bill, short days, and tax time?  (And, of course, snow snow snow!)

I want to reestablished some sense of order, peace, and functionality; I’m just torn over how to go about doing this.  Do I attempt to “trick” myself, by creating a deadline–such as inviting neighbors over for morning coffee–which would “force” me to organize the house, re-establish some community, and decide whether or not I should spend some Christmas gift money on a Kuerig coffeemaker?  Or do I buck-up and simply get all good house-wifey, perhaps dangling my own reward system (an afternoon at the movies; a brunch with friends) for when I “accomplish” this?

Or, do I say f— it, step over and around messes that will re-create themselves anyway, get quickly uninspired about making dinner or growing professionally in any way, and think, “If Starbucks ain’t doing the trick, there are always Amaretto Sours”?  (With the kids’ vacation time ready to roll into a two day extension due to weather, that second option is gonna start lookin’ real good soon.)

Indeed, the initial pristine beauty of freshly fallen snow will corrode away to its cousins, slush and cold.  What say you?  Winter’s the best because you get to spend time at your chalet after hitting the slopes, and then when that gets old, you take a vacation to Cancun?  Yes, winter is also a dangerous time to start thinking about what you don’t have (a shelter-magazine worthy home, a personal trainer to get you back in shape), and I of all people should know and appreciate the blessings I have…it’s simply that this time of the year can be my Achilles heel, and I suspect I’m not alone.

So with that, let’s raise a glass–of champagne, of latte, of chai-tea kale smoothie, of whatever rocks your boat–and pledge to find the beauty and hope of this stripped down season.

After all, if the people who put together tax software can make taxes look almost sexy, I’m sure the rest of us can rustle something from this season, too.

Happy New Year (I am snow excited for 2014!)

(Okay, I couldn’t resist a dumb snow pun.)

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As the New Year Approaches

I’m updating my blog here from a new venue: my city library.  Ever feel like your typically spot for writing is getting a bit stale?  I guess I feel that way today.  If I’m writing from my regular spot–otherwise known as home, although if I’m feeling more lucrative I’d call it a home office–the temptation to do other things is strong.  Sure, a lot of those other things are surfin’ the ol’ web, which I could do here, but I’m hoping that sitting in a cube among other computer-ing folk contributes to a more focused “I’m at work” attitude.

In a separate spot–in Word on my home computer–I have a list of things I’d like to try out to grow this year as a writer.  Actually, I’m lying; they are more like a list of things I’d like to do to market and network myself as a writer.  They include, among other things, using Twitter, making this a real domain (which I’ve done), and just plain ol’ showing up different spots: workshops, any community business mingling gatherings (it would appear our local Chamber of Commerce has them, as well as other professional groups), and maybe even volunteering.

On that last note–the volunteering one–well, I’ve checked my LinkedIn group discussions enough to know there is often a big hub-bub about volunteering, mostly in terms of giving away writing for free.  But I may–I hope–be in a position where I can pay-it-forward.

I haven’t, either on this blog or my older blog What (a) Debbie Does written much about my involvement with children’s cancer.  I haven’t done this for many reasons.  One is sheer irrational paranoia.  I have personal involvement with children’s cancer because my son was diagnosed with lymphoma in 2011.  He has completed chemotherapy and seems to be doing well.  Time, God willing, will tell if he’ll remain cancer free; I believe the 5 year cancer free marker is a key one, and we’re not yet particularly close to that one.  So I fear giving back, or getting too involved, in the cancer community least I get hurt by it again (or my son does.)  I also fear getting “kudos” for any contribution I could make, that I’m somehow capitalizing off of a bad situation.  I also vaguely know this is irrational; cancer will either stay the fuck away from my son or not, regardless of how involved I get in the cause.  I even know, vaguely and rationally, that children’s cancer still needs awareness and support; I’d be burying my head in the sand to think otherwise.

(As an aside, for anyone unimpressed as to my use of the word “fuck,” I believe after watching my son go through everything he has endured, I’m entitled to use it.  End of.)

So, as 2014 approaches, I may find myself somehow volunteering someplace that has something to do with children’s cancer.  Meanwhile, I had my first personal essay that mentions my son published in Metro Parent.  Other than a response from the ever-on-top-of-communications Cindy from Kids Kicking Cancer, no one has said “Gee, Deb, I read your piece on kids getting sick.”  Shocking to find out the world doesn’t revolve around me!  (I actually did get two parents text or comment on my relatively shallow essay on moms and Facebook, though, so hey, I figured feedback was a possibility.)  Since I have an essay circulating someplace mentioning children’s cancer, I figure cats out of the bag: I’ll mention it here, too.

Well, the little bar at the bottom of the library computer that keeps track of time is telling me to get going!  (Not exactly, but kinda.)  So I guess I will.

Best wishes of health and prosperity as the New Year approaches!


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Advice and Learnings From a Pro

I attended a workshop recently on Memoir Writing, hosted by Detroit Working Writers.  I haven’t attended any sort of workshop for a while.  I could claim I’m super interested in memoir writing, and I am, sort of, although writing a memoir screams “full length book!” to me, and I’m better these days with the shorter essay.  It probably has something to do with having a shortening attention span due to our media rich, text-tweet-post society, something the workshop facilitator, writer Cindy LaFerle, pointed out early in the class.

Also–perhaps more importantly–my writing pal Pam has been hyping the whole “it’s all about building relationships!” thing recently, so I figured this was my opportunity to thrown myself into that whole network-y thing.  More on that, later, as I compile the “things I learned and advice I got” today.

On Writing (Memoir, Personal Essay…and writing in general)

1.  Just do it.  Don’t let your inner critic get you down, man!

2.  Be aware, if you are going the memoir/personal essay route, that others are going to read it (assuming it gets off your computer/word processor/typewriter.)  So consider the spirit of your writing: to leave a legacy, to share an experience and what you’ve gleaned from it, to honor the human spirit, etc.  Save all your mean spirited attacks and messy issues for…I don’t know, she didn’t say…maybe therapy or the Thanksgiving dinner table?

3.  In apparent contradiction to point 1, understand the basics of writing, have a point, don’t babble endlessly, and be precise.  Re-work you first draft.  And your second.  And perhaps your third.  LaFerle did briefly wander into the topic of blogging, pointing out that so many of the blogs she reads wander on and on and on and just ramble and seem to have no point and sure, they’re mildly entertaining and having a rambling diary feel is sort of the point of blogs but for crying out loud that’s not what people like editors are looking for in writers so maybe we should all pay attention to what we write on our blogs and….Oh.  I see her point.

4.  If you’re crying while you write, you’re probably onto something.  Or, alternately, you’re on something.  Like a bunch of antihistamines.  Stupid allergies.

On Marketing (Memoirs, Personal Essays, and other things…)

5.  The internet has been great for writing: everyone can do it now!  The internet has ruined it for writers: everyone can do it now.  In other words: competition is tighter than ever.  LaFerle mentioned that she works three times harder than she used to for the same work.  Bummer.  I was kind of hoping she’d pull eager editors out of her pocket.  I believe she still tried to inject some “rah rah, keep at it” spirit at this point.

6.  Meanwhile, when I (boldly, I thought) asked about pitching essays to national pubs (’cause I know these littler ones sometimes disappear…or I know who my competition is, which is weird), she gave the big green light, saying that she’s often found bigger pubs to be more gracious and better at responding (even if it was with a rejection) than smaller, local pubs.  So I suppose I should get off my proverbial ass here.

7.  And then there’s this attitude: forget about getting in print all together.  Sometimes, the most important and satisfying part of writing a personal piece is just getting it down.  I get this.  I have pieces that I’m just not ready to share.  (Stupid things like uncertainty, risk, and vulnerability.)

On Networking

8.  Okay, LaFerle didn’t go into this.  But I’d be lying to say that wasn’t part of the reason I was at this workshop.  I wanted to meet the well established LaFerle, who I’ve stalked on her blog.  I’m pretty sure I’d created some unrealistic scenario where we’d all introduce ourselves, and she’d be somehow instantly smitten by me, adopt me as a protégé, and conjure up cozy meetings at independent tea shops or the like.  Instead, I went up to her afterwards, said my name, and starting babbling about Pam.  Like some sort of sorority rush, the woman next to her claimed knowing Pam, and furthermore stated I look like Pam.  “It must be our rockin’ hot bodies,” I said.  (No, I didn’t.)

I realized after the fact that I didn’t further suck-up buy LaFerle’s book.  I would have had to follow her out to the parking lot if I’d wanted one–she’s sold her other copies of Writing Homewhich seems a little police blotter-y.

So there you go: a couple points on memoir writing, marketing, and an unsolicited story on the awkward art of networking.  I believe DWW has my email, so I look forward to future workshops, where I can glean more information on my craft, and perhaps get to know my local writers.

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This Personal Brand S*#% is Killin’ Me

My hair says I am uber-successful.

My hair says I am uber-successful.

I feel I’ve been rather substandard or negligent about blogging here.  Oh, it’s not like I’m crankin’ it out over at WaDD, but when I do “blog in my head” (really just a form of not blogging or writing at all, but I’d like points for thinking), I keep thinking it’s stuff that would be better suited over at WaDD.  Why?  Well, maybe without realizing it, I have more of a “voice” or “identity” over there.  When I started cobbling together this site, it was with the intention of looking all “professional.”

And that’s where I’m stuck.

I have an image of what “professional” (and it’s cousin, “successful”) is supposed to look like.  It’s supposed to look polished and flawless and slightly intimidating.  You’re supposed to read it and think/feel, Wow, this woman is more pulled together than I’ve ever been.  I bet she eats chainsaws for breakfast and her hair always falls, miraculously, into a perfect bob.  Or she doesn’t hesitate to keep standing appointments for blow-outs because, hey, what’s 30-bucks* for professional blow-drying to someone who clearly pulls in $500/hour for doing things like “integrating streamlined systems among cross-disciplined departments for improved ROI and logistical savings.”

I don’t feel like I’m close to being this hypothetical woman, but I kind of want to be.  Sort of.  Maybe.  Except that it feels really awkward and unlike me and unattainable.  Or to snag a word that is quickly becoming way over-used: inauthentic.

Maybe this is partly a delayed response to reading Brene Brown’s mindworm (I made up that word, but I think “earworm” exists, so why not mindworm?) Daring Greatly.  The one that claims I feel pressured to feel/look perfect, infallible, but that actually appearing inperfect–ie: human–makes me vulnerable and more courageous, awesome, etc.

But I also can’t forget this piece of advice someone once gave me: Never show your belly to the bear.  (Or something like that.)

It’s possible this was lousy advice.  But recently I was clued into a possible freelancing opportunity (not yet materialized, but I’ll wait; hope I haven’t cursed anything with this mention), and I wrote what was probably a rather unconventional cover letter to the bearer-of-opportunity.  I included this site, which contains my perhaps unorthodox “bio” of myself as a writer.

Now, I rather liked my own bio when I wrote in my safe, insular world of I-bet-no-one-even-reads-this.  But when portions of this bio–and my perhaps unconventional cover letter–ended up on the site for this possible-freelancing-opportunity, I thought: Shit!  I look like a total, unprofessional flake!  Where’s the fancy parade of ambiguous yet difficult sounding accomplishments?  Where’s the lofty sounding list of job-titles?  And perhaps most important: where’s that perfect bob?

Oh, Brene Brown and your silly book, you’ve nailed it: I’m not sure I’m feeling like enough!  But I’ll hang in there and stand by my current bio, at least for now.  And here are the reasons:

1.  It’s what I’ve got for now; hoping and working for more growth, of course.

2.  If the bearer-of-said-possibility liked my unconventional bio and letter, then maybe it actually is okay to be somewhat unconventional.

3.  I’m 40: old enough to know what it feels like to be a circle trying to bang herself into a square opening.  If I haven’t nailed that other image of “successful” by now, maybe it’s because it ain’t the right one for me. You know, not authentic.

Feel free to make a drinking game out of the use of the word “authentic”.  It’s noon somewhere.

*Adjust accordingly for the price of a good blow-out in your area; ie: if you live in Manhattan, my guess is they cost around $250.  Also, if you don’t know what a blow-out is, it’s when a professional hairstylist uses nothing more than a brush, a blowdryer, some goop, and a few hairclips to make your hair look amazing and perfect.  They actually are a total confidence booster.  You know, until you wash your hair again and reality sets in.

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Things I Sometimes Remember About Writing


I often do better “in writing” than “in person,” or speaking.  Or at least I believe that’s the case.  Sometimes.  Except when it’s not the case.  But no matter.  Back to that writing bit.

I’ve had the opportunity to do some writing beyond my writer’s group–which, when I’m lucky and actually submit things, sometimes results in an essay or two.  But this new opportunity has been along the lines of PR-ish type business profiles for a local magazine.  (MY magazine…feel free to pick it up, then say Debbie sent you when you get a massage or some teeth whitening.  It’s all about the advertising, baby!)  Among other things, it’s served as a reminder that writing actually involves, well, work, and not just sitting at a computer tappity-tapping things about and periodically checking Facebook or a funny blog or something.

Here are some things that I’ve been re-reminded about writing, especially when the writing is for an assignment (work, school, or otherwise):

1.  You typically have to read something first.  The advent of blogging, and my fondness for the personal essay has kind of made me forget this one.  Unless you are a super-duper expert at something, like, say, regression analysis, painting, or running during pregnancy (and that second one is really just a plug for my sister), you probably need to read something first.  You probably need to read somebody’s website, books, articles, marketing material, etc.  You might have to go to some old school, dusty library someplace and figure out how to use microfiche.  (Umm…are these done away with now?  Have I totally dated myself?  Should I throw in cave reading and hieroglyphics?)

2.  You might have to talk to someone first.  Maybe in person.  Maybe over the phone.  You should probably do your homework first on this one (again, read a website or so.)  You might have to craft some interviewing questions.  This is all fine and dandy, and a certain amount of work.  But as with everything in life…

3.  You’ll probably not get through to this person when you want.  Yeah, we all have our phones imbedded into our brains now (Wait? We don’t yet? Phew!  That seems freaky), but that doesn’t mean you won’t go to voicemail or play phone-tag or feel like a stalker for a while.  And this is fine, as long as the number you called isn’t 9-1-1.  But it does mess with one’s sense of time-being-spent.

4.  Even when you’re ready to write, you might end up with some writer’s block.  Enough said.

5.  Or writer’s “crappy flow”.  You’re actually writing stuff, but boy, is that little critic in your head saying “This sounds like crap!”

6.  You probably have to write to someone’s specs or needs.  This one might take a while to figure out; hence things like rewrites (as if that critic in your head wasn’t enough!), or re-researching (hope not), or just a learning curve.

By the way, yes, this is just my second post on this blog/website combo.  And so, yes, I’m feeling that this-is-new-and-feels-funny thing.  But please feel free to comment, or look around.  I’ll even take criticism at this point, although please be nice and constructive about it.  I know I still have work to do!

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Blogging over at WordPress

Good day!  While I currently have a blog over on the blogger platform, entitled “What (a) Debbie Does,” today I’m tooling around over here on the WordPress platform for blogging.  Do I have a masterplan?  Some days, I think I do.  Most days, I’m just doing some crazy improv.  Maybe I plan to, somehow, bring over my blogger posts and magically transform them to the WordPress platform.

Are you lost yet?  Are you freaking out when I write things like “blogger” and “WordPress” and “platform”.

Yeah, me too.  At least a little bit.

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