The Art of Waiting

Calves, Legs, Human, Standing On, Stand In Line, Wait

 

That inheritance finally goes through, and you have enough money to take the family to Disneyland. You and hubby take the day off, buy the tickets online, load up the kids in the SUV and head down to Anaheim. The long line for parking makes you growl because you’re all amped up to see Galaxy’s Edge.

When you and the family finally walk in, you hope you remember which Disney character is the level where you parked, since you went around in circles so many times you forgot to count. There’s a buzz of excitement as the crowd presses down Main Street. Then you hit the wall. Lines. Lines for everything. Rides, food, restrooms. Despite all your planning, you must wait.

Another day, you have to go to the DMV to renew your license because you lost the letter. The line wraps around the front door at 7:00 a.m. You were hoping to get this done before work, but that looks less likely by the minute.

At the grocery store, there are long lines at the checkout stands because only two of them are open. You look at your phone. You’re going to be late to pick up your son from practice. Again.

After a relaxing day at the beach, you pack up the family and head back on the 91 freeway. Three hours later, you finally get home from a one-hour drive after waiting in crawling traffic.

Instead of going to a sit-down restaurant where you have to wait to get your food, you opt for a fast food drive through. The line trails half a block down the street.

Why is this so maddening? Why do we hate to wait? In the old days (post dinosaurs, pre internet), people used to sit around and talk to each other. They used to visit neighbors, bake homemade cakes, and sit on their front porches. There was no rush.

Now we don’t have time for anything like that. Our time is eaten up with commuting to work, kids sports, necessary errands, watching T.V. In an age where any convenience is an app on our phones, we have less time to breathe.

That’s how we’ve forgotten how to wait. We can’t wait for football season, cooler weather, Christmas presents, graduation.

Waiting is an art. Those who master it live stress-free lives as they enjoy the pause. They meet new friends as they wait at the grocery store. They talk with their kids as they wait in traffic. They smile and give grace to those around them.

Next time you have to wait, look around. Spot one of the waiting masters and ask them to make you their apprentice. Don’t wait. It could change your life.

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The Space In-Between

Background, Bay, Beach, Beautiful, Blue, Calm

 

September in Southern California is the space in-between. It’s past summer, not yet fall. We still endure triple digit heat while the rest of the country cools down. No special holidays except Labor Day, and that’s just another excuse to have a BBQ by the pool. Teachers and students sweat through the inclement weather schedule, patiently waiting for relief. Even though I have a pool, this month I rarely dip in, cooler nights dropping pool temperature into the cold range.

In-between. Not yet Halloween or Thanksgiving. Already yearning for Christmas break.

When I lay down at night, I dream of sweaters and boots, grey stormy skies, and hot cocoa. I usually love summer, but when September comes, I am eager to pack away my swimsuit and sunscreen. My jeans whisper “Pick me,” in my closet, my umbrella calls my name. But not yet. Not when I have recess duty under a blazing sun.

Patiently we wait. Sweating through September days. Going to school and work, teased into wearing a jacket early in the morning, only to tear it off before 10:00 a.m.

Other places, the leaves turn colors and fall. But not here in the desert. We outlast the scorching heat while waiting for cooler days.

Sunny, pleasant days that make us forget that many other places will suffer the pangs of winter that will pass us by. Rainy days that wash away dust and smog.

But for now, we are in-between. Waiting.

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Today She Needs to Write

Homework, Girl, Education, Studying, Student, School

 

A short story about a short story.

When I announced to my third grade class that one of my Harley stories was going to be included in an anthology coming out next month, a serious-looking girl in the second row shot up her hand.

“Did you have a question?” I asked.

“How long did it take you to write the story?”

Hmm. I knew this student loved to write in her journal, and her quick write responses often filled the entire page. Adults who share my writing addiction know that years can pass before a story or book is exposed to the light of publication. Would my answer cause her to close her journal and pursue another dream?

How long did it take?

Last fall I went on the Harley overnighter that became the subject of my story. When I returned, it was back to my normal life as a teacher. (Often I have compared my life to Indiana Jones, especially the part where he has to go back to his job as a college history professor after outrunning the Nazis.) A few months passed before I found time to sit down and think about that adventure.

Actually writing it didn’t take more than an hour. I read through it, adding and deleting for another half hour. After I thought it was finished, I sent it out with my other submissions, the dark hole where you rarely find out your story’s fate. Meanwhile, some of my other short stories were accepted into online magazines. Nothing for that story. I took UCLA extension classes and worked on my YA novel.

Early in the summer, I heard that my California Writers Club branch was going to publish their first anthology. I took back out that Harley story, edited it again, and submitted.

That story was accepted into the book. The editor wanted some minor revisions. Five months later, the book is almost ready to come out.

So how did I answer? My smile reflected in her eager eyes, I replied, “Only about an hour.”

She’ll find out about the rest someday, but today she needs to write.

 

 

 

 

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Back to School in the Fiery Furnace

 

Desert, Sand, Sand Dunes, Sahara, Gobi

A million years ago, when I was in elementary school, we didn’t start school until after Labor Day. My hot, muggy Iowa summer days were spent at the community pool, riding bikes, watching “Dark Shadows” and staying out until the streetlights came on.

Fast forward to the present. Now I’m teacher instead of student, and we go back to work the second week in August. What? I have to put real clothes on instead of my swimwear and go to work when it’s over 100 degrees outside?

Whine, whine, whine. You have air-conditioning, what’s the big deal?

True, but this isn’t Iowa anymore. Back there, we had closed hallways between classrooms and a gymnasium due to inclement weather. In California, we have to cross the frying-pan-hot playground several times a day to get to the cafeteria, teachers’ lounge, library, and bathroom. Not to mention the air-conditioning unit in my portable sounded like a Harley when it started up this year. (Gratefully, it has been fixed. Thank you again to that kind M&O guy in the white truck- you’re my hero!)

Summer isn’t over. You can still jump into your pool when you get home from school.

True, except for the part where you don’t get to go home when your contract hours are over at 4. It’s the beginning of the year, and there are so many BOY things that are due at the same time. You’re lucky if you lock up and go home by 5:30.

But teachers are so lucky. They get summers off.

Seriously, if we didn’t have summers off, we couldn’t do this job and keep smiling. You had your kids all summer. Are you still smiling?

Anyway, there’s nothing to be done for it. High schools want early summer starts so they can finish finals before Christmas break. You notice they don’t have recess duty in August the way elementary teachers do.

And I guess it’s nice to be out of school for the summer right after Memorial Day. June in Southern California is a much kinder month than August. And I guess it’s not that bad to have your makeup melt down your face as you lead your students up to the front gate after school.

So here we are, back to school, and made it through August. By Halloween we’ll get down to two digit high temperatures before it starts raining.

Rain. Something to look forward to.

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In Pursuit of Trolls

Trolls

 

The past is a sidewalk chalk painting destroyed by a thundershower. Our lives storm with responsibilities, and urgent demands wash away our pleasant memories. To find ourselves again, we need to remember.

One of my joys as a kid in the seventies was playing with trolls. I was an anti-Barbie tomboy, especially traumatized by Growing Up Skipper. Trolls, with their wide-open eyes, pushed up noses, and squat bodies, were the perfect dolls to play with. They stood up on their own, unlike Barbie with her ballerina toes. It was easy to make clothes for them—cut out some felt and sew on a few snaps and you were done.

You didn’t need a Barbie Dream House to play with trolls. A few shoeboxes lined up, doors cut with scissors, empty thread spools and small jewelry boxes made perfect furniture. My best friend and I played trolls for hours as we created stories, the seeds of my writing passion.

One day we became teenagers and boys replaced trolls. We packed them away, boxes in the attic.

Now I’m a grandmother and my granddaughters play with Barbies. There are new versions of trolls, but they’re not the same. Looking at them sent me on a quest to find the original trolls. A phone call with my mom revealed she tossed my box years ago. How sad that I had not anticipated wanting to see them again. It was time to hit the thrift stores.

Years passed. No trolls in the thrift or antique stores. I found a few of the newer versions, but not my Wishniks with the horseshoes on the bottom of their feet. My stepdaughter sent me a large ceramic troll with pink hair and a tie-dye tee shirt. Awesome, but still not exactly like my trolls.

Then Modesto. While my husband and I were visiting my daughter in Northern California, we decided to hit some yard sales. We pulled up to an older ranch style home with a yard covered with boxes and tables. A large table covered with Halloween decorations caught my eye. Then I noticed Harry Potter collectibles on the next table. My daughter asked the homeowner if she had trolls.

“That big box by the garage.”

That’s where I found them. She didn’t have any of the two-headed ones, but it was a respectable collection. Older trolls, most 1980s versions, but stuffed into a plastic strawberry container, I found one of the originals. Smaller than my hand, wearing a cowboy hat, bandana, and holding a rope (no pants of course) was a Wishnik troll.

It’s smiling face made me smile. The hours of creating characters, worlds, and stories. Looking back across the decades, I can barely hear the echoes of my childhood.

I remembered.

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Why Rejection Makes You a Better Writer

Death ValleyJodi

After a few weeks querying agents for my YA book, I needed to take a break and consider my progress. One agent, who I met and worked with in a critique group, sent me a personal rejection the same day I emailed her. Another agent, who loved the book at a retreat, sent me back her regrets. In prior years, with prior books, I would get no rejection letter at all. Only silence. Compared to no response, my recent rejections have led me to be more optimistic.

So I decided to make a list of how agent (and magazine editor) rejections have improved my writing:

  1. Book rejections make you realize that you need feedback on your writing before you send it out to agents.

 When I began my writer’s journey, I finished my rough draft and thought I had a masterpiece. I read a little of it to my friends, but I was sure that it was finished. Now I enlist the aid of critique groups, professional editors (not as expensive as you would think), writing retreats, and college extension classes before I send anything out.

  1. Agents have their own agendas.

They actually have to sell your book to publishers, who are even more jaded than they are. Agents have categories of books that they represent. If they already have enough magic books, they won’t be interested in your fantasy project. The lesson here is keep querying. You just haven’t met your agent yet.

  1. Being rejected by agents can lead to personal growth in your writing.

After getting several rejections on a book, I looked at all the comments that accompanied the passes. Agents are busy people, and if they take the time to tell me what they didn’t like about my work, I need to pay attention. This has led me to take writing classes at UCLA Extension, which I highly recommend. I also began submitting short stories to magazines so I could beef up my publishing credits.

  1. I appreciate all the hard work that goes into the books I read.

I read all the acknowledgments at the back of the novels I read, and count the number of people the author thanks. Have I exposed my WIP to that many people? Also, I was encouraged by an writer that had the courage to admit she had 17 novels rejected before she was published. Therefore, I need to stop my whining.

  1. Rejection makes me recommit to writing.

As the years pass, it would be easy to turn off the laptop and do something else with tangible results, like knitting. Writing is easy, revision is hard, traditional publishing seems nearly impossible. However, I’ve overcome many impossibilities in my life, and I’m not ready to die to my dreams yet. Rejection shows me that I haven’t reached that mountain peak— I’m still in the foothills. I need to keep walking.

  1. Rejection initiates me into the writing community.

All writers experience rejection at some time, and they can be a great source of encouragement to other writers. Joining Twitter and following other writers allows me to share in their joy and pain along the publishing path. Thanks, guys.

 

As you can see, rejection is not as negative as the gut punch you feel at first when you open that agent’s email reply. You get mad, cry a little, eat chocolate, drink a large glass of wine, and get back to work. And hopefully, after a lot more work, someday we’ll be sitting by the pool reading each other’s novels instead of this blog.

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Before the Thunder

WCT7

West Coast Thunder is a motorcycle event sponsored by Riverside Harley-Davidson held each Memorial Day to assist The Riverside National Cemetery. Around 6,000 motorcycles parade through Riverside, CA, past the National Cemetery, and end up at a venue for a concert. 

It’s actually colder at dawn than in the waning night hours. And your Harley can get soaking wet sitting outside without rain falling on it. Two things I learned at this year’s West Coast Thunder.

Frank and I joined crazy HOG members that met at 3:30 a.m. the morning of the parade. After setting up behind the barricades (already at least 50 bikes ahead of us), some hiked over to Denny’s a few blocks away. Monika, Jeff, Frank, and I opted for the pancake breakfast at the dealership. (The bacon was surprisingly perfect.)

All was quiet, except the golf carts rushing around. (Watch out for Mitch!) As the sky grew light, the rain-threatening clouds pulled back, and it got colder that when we first arrived. Monika and I shivered in our leather jackets, chaps, and gloves. Frank, as usual, was barely cold. After what seemed a very long time, riders started to walk up to the dealership.

Sitting at the First Aid booth inside Riverside Harley-Davidson’s parking lot gave me a front row seat to observe the variety of riders that participate in West Coast Thunder. Ladies dressed alike in white and purple. Grey-haired men in patch-covered vests. Grandfathers with their excited granddaughters. Young men sucking down their cans of Monster. Couples dressed in leather, holding hands.

Riders stopped by to visit. I met the director of the Pomona HOG chapter. One of my relatives rides with them. He reminded me that they came to one of our activity meetings to see how our chapter got so many rides on the calendar. So many things about IE HOG I take for granted, and yet other groups aspire to our success. Which wouldn’t even happen if not for our great members who love to ride and hang out.

And just in case you wondered, Monika and Steve (the only member of our team who was qualified) gave out two band aids, so we earned our positions. Frank and I passed out small water bottles.

Hours passed, and I grew drowsy at the edge of the crowd’s hum. Then the speakers came on, and it was time for the opening speeches and flag ceremony. The people surrounding the color guard were ten deep so I knew I would not catch a glimpse from our booth. Last year, Frank and I had staked ourselves a spot watching it. The solemn pageantry was unforgettable.

To wake myself up, I walked out to our bike to grab snacks. Imagine my surprise when I discovered our bike soaking wet from the morning dew. Some more intelligent riders had covers, but I stood there looking at yesterday’s wash and polish literally drip away. Oh well, two hours of my life I’ll never get back. (Add it to that one time I had to go into the DMV.)

Finally, finally, it was time for Kick Stands Up. Our fellow HOGs and I strapped on our helmets and got ready to go. The beginning of the line, with the color guard, leaves at 9:11 a.m. We sat on our bikes and waited, looking for movement in the line ahead of us. Then suddenly, we were off and riding under the huge flag that swung over the middle of the street. West Coast Thunder was on.

 

 

 

 

Posted in Harley-Davidson, Ladies of Harley, Memorial Day, motorcycle, West Coast Thunder, writer | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment