Writer Stuns World by Maintaining a Regular Blogging Schedule

BoxAre you dumbfounded yet? June is only half over and I’ve managed not one but two posts.

Turns out I had more to say about elder-care, specifically how it relates to writing. If you’re interested, please head to A Call to Pens–Writer as Social Activist, and be sure to scroll down to the comment section. I think your heart’s cockle will be warmed by the caring world we inhabit, not to mention your brain cells tickled by Donald Maass’ amplification and deepening of the message.

Also, if you haven’t seen it yet, there’s an ironic-but-funny post on Buzzfeed describing best-selling books in their typical over-hyped language. It’s pretty damn funny. 14 Classic Novels Rewritten with Clickbait Titles 

 

 

 

 

Two Drivers, Two Hip Fractures, One Perplexed Jan (+Writer Unboxed Redirect)

elder

I tried, Zesties, I did. I went to a nearby filling station, purchased me an extra-large decaf, and while sipping it from the comfort of my car, I did my level best to prove a writing truism–that if you will have the eyes to see, you can find writing inspiration most anywhere.

I was certainly motivated. Each week I’ve walked through the streets of this blog, where it’s been so quiet that I freaked myself out when my foot inadvertently struck a tin can. I’ve stared at the boarded windows, at the brick walls where graffiti and Virginia creeper vie for dominance. I’ve ached for human contact, almost rang a few door bells in hopes of hearing more than the chimes echoing back at me.

What’s prevented me from actually posting? The search for a topic which was not all me-me-me. Hence my efforts at the filling station, which generated not one, not two, but three blog post ideas:

  • Men in overalls–sexy fashion statement or redneck irritant?
  • Car roof racks–the merits thereof
  • Demise of the public payphone as told in interpretive dance

Yeah. In my defense, I was drinking decaf coffee and likely sniffing subliminal gas fumes.

Given the lousy ideas and the persisting, unfulfilled yearning, it seems I have no choice but to go the authentic route. That means we’re talking sandwich generations today, and I don’t mean the turkey-on-rye variety, but the caregiver-caught-between-two-generations type.

Since my last post, the three elders in my immediate family have experienced a few challenges, chief among them, two hip fractures. As a result, we’ve had conversations and made practical arrangements concerning things like meal preparation, safe residency, and end-of-life decisions, like whether to resuscitate.

These issues can be emotionally challenging in and of themselves, but if you’ve been through this, you might understand the complexities involved when dealing with a large extended family. Especially if you’re a person who aims to build consensus. Especially if various parties are dealing with grief, the stages of denial and anger being the hardest to work with. Especially if the elders in question have provided zero or limited eldercare to their own parents, making their expectations a tad unrealistic because they are uninformed by personal experience.

To add to this, we are still launching the two O’Hara offspring–a circumstance which adds degrees of irony and difficulty to the situation.

For example, when it comes to driving adults, my default position can’t be For God’s sake, take the car and go.  Nope. All of a sudden, I have to think about whether to encourage behaviors traditionally associates with adult independence, like banking, or driving. Worse, I have to think about whether it’s my responsibility to alter them or have them cease altogether.

Needless to say, as a person who does best with stability and order, my wig has been routinely askew these past months. Just when I think we’ve achieved a new-normal–I might be writing an intriguing and informative blog post on scissors, say–things shift again. I’m no longer feeling creative or lighthearted but become obsessed with questions such as these:

  • Where do you draw the line between helping versus enabling?
  • What are my responsibilities to society? To the affected individual? To my spouse? To self?
  • How long do you let people struggle before you decide they’re not building resiliency and meaning in a new stage of life, but are suffering unnecessary despair?

Now, I hope this isn’t coming across as (completely) self-indulgent complaining. I’d like to emphasize that while we’ve been challenged through the process, by virtue of life circumstances–largely unearned–we are part of an extended family blessed with abundant resources.  Though we might quarrel about the practicalities, we have a uniform desire to do right by our parents. We’ve done a decent job to date and see the journey as one of great privilege and meaning.

That said, it is a time- and energy-consuming process, which is why I want to say two things to you.

First, if you’ve been through this thorny thicket and come out the other side, maintaining grace and dignity for all affected family members, my hat is off to you. Seriously. You’ve done important work. It might be unpaid and often unrecognized, but work it remains.

Secondly, while you’re going through this, if you’ve maintained good self-care and work productivity, I am in awe. Seriously, what do you consume for breakfast and where can I get me that?

Now over to you, Zesties. If you’ve been involved in eldercare or simply witnessed a family which handles it brilliantly, what tips can you share?

PS: I don’t want to forget to draw your attention to three Writer Unboxed articles I have yet to mention on this blog:

 

 

 

 

 

Jan, Blithe Library Destroyer (+ Writer Unboxed Redirect)

It’s a terrible feeling to believe you’ve damaged something beautiful and sacred, especially when that something is brand new.

A few weeks ago, my city opened a new library about two miles from my house. It’s in a recreational center which houses a swimming pool, two hockey rinks, and a gym. (A coffee shop will open in another month.) Add in the soaring ceilings, the cozy armchairs clustered around a circular fireplace, a quiet study room and modern furnishings, and you can understand why it’s become my go-to place to write when I need to escape the house. Also, why I think of that space with particular reverence, and why I’d be embarrassed and appalled to put a metaphoric chip in its windshield.

Unfortunately, that’s precisely what I did on the weekend.

library3

I’d started off so well, too. If you caught last month’s blog post on Writer Unboxed, you’ll know I’m currently fascinated by the concept of Minimalism, or mindful consumption. (Always have been, but I’m experiencing a Renaissance.) One manifestation of my commitment? A reduction in the “treats” which had stealthily migrated to a near-daily expectation: coffee or tea purchased when I’m out doing errands.

So I’d unearthed a double-walled tea jar from a cupboard. I’d filled it with my favorite peppermint tea and taken it to the library. I was scoping out a place to sit, smiling with contentment and the self-respect which comes from living my values, when I managed to tilt my backpack and send the container flying.

One nano-second later, there were jagged glass shards a few feet from playing toddlers. The tea? A portion disappeared into the carpet, but most poured into one of those subterranean wells which house electrical outlets.

Scarlet cheeks aside, it was a valuable learning experience packed mostly with good news, because:

It affirmed how much the Minimalist mindset has seized hold of my thinking.

In the midst of assessing the safety and aesthetic issues, I had the thought, “Damn, my beautiful tea jar.” Within seconds, however, that was followed by, “Yay! One less thing to store.” (For more on Minimalism, resources, and how the philosophy might benefit your writing, please check out Minimalism When Writing Fiction.)

I’m now prepared for best-sellerdom.

Did Stephanie Meyer or E.L. James have to do research on how it feels to be a klutzy, every-woman heroine who manages to attract the attention of a powerful, wounded male? If so, at least with respect to the clumsiness, I am super-prepared, Zesties. (Since the library is adjacent to a rec center, when designing a hero, I’m thinking a hockey superstar would be the way to go. Either that or the sexy custodian who is summoned to mop up my  mess. Naturally, he’s the son of a local mob boss. He’s performing community service for the crimes committed during his initiation and is deeply conflicted over his pending inheritance.)

This is not your mother’s library!

It probably helped that my tea didn’t discolor the carpet, and that we didn’t see a cascading effect of sparks and power outages throughout the library, but boy, in the last ten years librarians have evolved their approach to customer service. They were understanding. They spoke in audible voices. They smiled. They forbade me from picking up the smallest pieces of glass lest I cut myself. To be fair, that might have less about protecting my health and more about preventing a paperwork-generating bleed-out, or  rust-colored carpet stains, but still.

You know another industry which is rethinking how it treats its customers in the maturing age of social media? The publishing one. Yup. If you’d like to read more about it, and how three authors seem to defy readers’ expectations, all while growing their reputations, here’s my latest article on Writer Unboxed: Should You Set Limits with Your Readers?

What about you, Zesties? Do you have any recent, embarrassing stories to tell which can put my peppermint-scented faux pas to shame? What about an alternate hero to my every-woman klutz heroine? Who’d be a natural in this setting?