It’s my birthday, and here’s what I really want

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Tomorrow, I turn 55. I can’t believe it’s been five years since I started my “50 thought on turning 50” blog post series, in which I noted that I might be 60 by the time I actually finish the list.  (My Ancestry DNA test came back and said I’m a hearty mix of Irish, Italian, and Procrastinator.)

I don’t mind aging. For me, the hardest part of having a birthday: the presents.

I’ve been told I’m a hard person to buy presents for because I don’t like to get presents. I’m swimming in stuff over here and despite a lot of effort to manage the clutter, it’s a never ending battle. Giving me gifts or knickknacks or books just adds to the stress. I change my mind a lot about where I shop, eat, or get my hair done, so people often spend money on gift certificates I’ll never use.

I know, I know. I sound ungrateful, but I’m really not. I appreciate that people care about me and want to show it on my birthday. And honestly, I’m not opposed to going out to dinner or receiving small gifts of things I really need or want (although right now, I don’t need or want much of anything).

So for those who can’t resist my “please don’t give me anything” plea, here is a list of ideas of things you can do for my birthday.

Continue reading

WXXI’s Connections with Evan Dawson

Quick note: I appeared today on Connections with Evan Dawson on WXXI radio. The topic: parking meters, and the City of Rochester’s plan to enforce paid parking. While the City reversed their decision yesterday, the guests – Heidi Zimmer-Meyer, president of the Rochester Downtown Development Corporation; Arian Horbovetz, creator of the Urban Phoenix blog; Jason Partyka, member of Reconnect Rochester; Bleu Cease, executive director of the Rochester Contemporary Art Center; and little old me – had a great conversation about exploring downtown, and ways to attract people and create a more vibrant experience for visitors. You can listen to the podcast of the hour here, on the WXXI website.

Rochester Post Magazine cover story

It’s been a while since I’ve written a feature profile, so when Rochester Post Magazine approached me this spring about writing a piece, I debated whether or not to take the assignment. But the interview subject – Natalie Rogers-Cropper, principal dancer for Garth Fagan Dance – was too intriguing to pass up. The summer issue of Rochester Post came out in July, and my story was the cover! Rogers-Cropper is fascinating, and I’m honored to have been able to tell her story. And the magazine is gorgeous! Alas, this is the last issue the Post will be publishing, so get our copy of the magazine now.

Insomnia (humor column)

(photo courtesy of Pixabay)

In yesterday’s blog post about the free writing exercises I did in a session with Kathy Kinney and Cindy Ratzlaff, authors of Queen of Your Own Life, at the Erma Bombeck Writers Workshop, I mentioned a column that had run in Refreshed Magazine that won a 2015 Evangelical Press Association Award. I’d been surprised to learn about the honor, because I didn’t even know the column had been submitted to the contest.

In fact, the column had originally run in the Christian Voice Magazine, I think, and was reprinted in my book, “What the Dog Said“. It was borne from a free writing exercise; I set a timer, wrote, and hoped something wonderful would come out. Success.

(Side note: I’m not really big on awards, but I will say that I am really proud of the fact that this column won an award from a religious organization, despite the fact that there is zero religious content. It’s just a general, humorous piece, and it got a perfect score from the judges, proving that humor doesn’t have to fit into a box to resonate with readers.)

I realized today that the link to the column reprint was no longer working, so here, here’s the column. This was pretty much what I wrote in the 10 minute writing sprint. See, you don’t have to be a genius to be a writer. You just have to write.

* * * * * * * * * * * *

INSOMNIA

It’s after midnight and I can’t sleep.

I have a column due in the morning and I have no idea what I’m going to write about, so I keep turning over thoughts in my head. The problem is that the column ideas are being pushed aside by weightier items demanding my attention.

Take the fortune cookie I ate today. Continue reading

Erma, Fiction, and Free Writing with the Queens

One of the sessions I attended at the Erma Bombeck Writers Workshop a few weeks ago was with Kathy Kinney and Cindy Ratzlaff, best friends and authors of the book Queen of Your Own Life.

My year started with the rug being pulled out from under me, and while the shock of betrayal definitely threw me off course, in the end I realize I’ve been given a gift: the chance to pursue the things I feel like I’m supposed to be pursuing, and learning to become the human I’m supposed to be.

This is a year of change, of healing, of forgiving and being forgiven, of saying “No” to others and saying “Yes” to myself, and to demanding that people who say they love me actually treat me with respect – and, I’m realizing, learning to respect myself.

In other words, I’ve been given permission to put myself first.

But enough blathering about me.

Erma. The workshop session. So…

Kathy and Cindy gave us all timers, and we did 10 minute burst of free writing using prompts. I always say that I don’t write fiction, that I don’t know how to write fiction, as if  you have to have been born with some magic talent for making sh*t up. What I got out of this session? I can do anything, if I just stop thinking about how much I don’t know how to do it.

A lesson for life, in this year of discovery and change.

Here are the three writing exercises, and what my brain banged out in each 10 minute burst. I actually love free writing, and have used it to create some great stuff. I won an award for a column I once wrote, which was basically a free writing exercise. (An award, I might add, for a contest someone else entered on my behalf. This fact will become relevant in a minute.)

Kathy and Cindy gave us four elements, and the only guide was that the elements should be in whatever we wrote. I’m posting what I wrote, with almost no editing (in fact, I didn’t even fix the places I’ve spelled the names wrong), but I can see nuggets of stories that could be explored, hints of how these fictional women are becoming the queens of their own lives.

So who knows. Maybe I do write fiction. Or maybe I’m learning fiction has a bit of fact nestled inside. Anyway, timers ready? And, write… Continue reading

Back To Work (No Kidding!)

photo courtesy of Pixabay

(This column originally appeared in Refreshed Magazine, February 2015)

People always tell me that I’m good with kids, usually after I’ve entertained their three-year-old by asking stupid questions like “I like your sparkly shoes. Do you think I could borrow them sometime?” and “I can’t seem to find my tail. Have you seen it anywhere?”

The ironic thing is that I’m not actually good with kids. I like kids, one or two at a time, in a supervised environment, for a limited period of time. Put a bunch of kids together in one room and my anxiety level quickly shoots into the red zone. Add in a few babies, and you’re guaranteed to hear screaming and crying.

And the babies aren’t usually very happy, either. Continue reading

Musings on political (un)affiliation

October 11 was National Coming Out Day, and while I didn’t have anything to share on that day other than support for friends and family in the LGBTQ community, I do have something to confess today, something that does, in a manner of speaking, redefine my identity.

I’m coming out of the political closet.

When I first registered to vote, way back in high school, I chose a political party based on….well, I can’t really give you any other reason than I’m fairly certain my father recommended I register with that party and I said okay. And, for the most part, I was quite content with that decision for many years. My political affiliation was a reflection of who I was and what I believed.

But then time passed, and the party changed, and I changed, and I went out searching for more. I stepped across party lines to get to know the other side and found that they weren’t the evil fiends they’d been made out to be.

It was eye opening, and educational, and I grew as a person as I explored these people and views that had been touted as “wrong”. But over time, I was dismayed to find that the other side held the same “us or them” mentality as the party I’d grown up with. Their views really weren’t really that different and the way they shared them wasn’t either.

Both sides exhibited generosity, compassion, and service to their fellow man.

Both sides exhibited bigotry, hatred, and hypocrisy.

Both sides were unwilling to budge, always insisting that they were right and the other side wrong, even when both sides were a little bit right and a little bit wrong, and everyone might be better served if they just met in the middle.

And so I’ve spent several years sitting on a fence, watching from the sidelines. Continue reading