Tag Archives: Southern California

Writing about hard events and life challenges can be FUN – PART 2

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IMG_7242  Writing about hard events and life challenges can be FUN-Part 2.  A Story of Change can be fun; we decide how to accept and view the change.  I choose to move forward with an open heart and eyes.  I had my eyes wide open at The Los Angeles Times Festival of BooksThis place offers a different time, and a unique reality for writers; think about it, they are coming together with their own kind!  A massive group of open and active minds bunched together, all waiting for the chance to share their most prized possession – words.

It was interesting to me, this new way of socializing among writers. A Taste of Eternity is, after all, my first book. People just plop right down next to a total stranger and ask things like, “What are you working on?” “What seminar are you going to?” “What is your view on (name the subject)?” Amazing!

I’m new to this. It’s far more than the usual blanket socializing of the weather, a sport team, or clothing. Because of that, I watched more from a spectator’s viewpoint.  Have you ever watched dogs at a dog park, and seen how they run across the grass and head up to a dog they’ve never seen before. Their tails wag in the air, they crouch down on their front paws, stick their back haunches in the air, and start swaying their head from right to left, teasing the other dog. It’s like they’re saying, “C’mon. Let’s play. I like you. What ya got?” Then, a few minutes later, they are off sniffing flowers and flipping over in the grass, rubbing their backsides, squirming back and forth and looking as if they are making snow angels in the grass.

This describes the unabashed glee and friendliness that the folks at the Festival share with each other.IMG_7228

I have been in settings like this, together with my own kind before. I am a former tennis player, basketball, and volleyball player. I am also a female; hence, shopping is in my nature. However, random tennis players don’t walk up and ask me which backhand I’m working on, and ladies at Nordstrom’s semi-annual sale don’t ask what style I’m developing. They actually want strangers out of the store, and certainly out of the line.  So I’m sure you understand how new these friendly and honestly interested greetings were to me.

IMG_7258We did a walkthrough to assess the books we wanted to buy.  The idea? To trim the selection, knowing whatever we wanted, we had to carry. For the rest of the day. Then of course, we needed to make the vital connection (via the cell phone, what would we do without those?) with my literary agent, Dana Newman.  Determining the location among a crowd of 60,000 to 75,000 people is critical. Tommy the Trojan statue it is! He sure stuck out, and we had no trouble finding her.  During a quick chat, she assured me she would be pitching my book at the festival. No rest from work for her!

I found the Los Angeles Times stage, all set up for a reading with its shade tarp. On this hot day, its shade was inviting.  I noticed with a pleasant surprise that the guest speaker was non other than Prettyfestival of books4   In Pink, The Breakfast Club, and Sixteen Candles star Molly Ringwald.  Molly has written several books, but this time, she read from her latest, When it Happens to You. At first, I just  noticed how great she looks, clean, pure, sweet, not Hollywood at all.  I know she’s an actress and I expect her to be able to read the lines ok, but then, she starts to exhibit her story.

She shares it through her voice projection; I’m completely engrossed.  When she finishes her one-chapter teaser, I’m like a little girl at the library story time, never wanting the reading to end.  Her reading felt like a movie trailer… a tease of what’s to come.

My goal is for my book to be the same, to engross every reader.

After Molly’s reading, I found a spot to kick back. A guy plopped down next to me, and began to eat his lunch. Within a few minutes, he asked more questions about what I was writing and what I IMG_7217thought than most of my friends have asked in over a year.  He told me about his years as a Los Angeles Times reporter, the books he’s edited, and his current ghostwriting projects. I told him he reminded me of my honey Bob, and that they should meet sometime; I think they would really hit it off.  Then I headed off to the seminar on memoir.

I took in the panel of memoirists, four women who have all published their memoirs.  I glean a few great tidbits from their information. The room was packed, almost all the 300 or so seats full. I noticed my newfound friend sitting a few rows in front of me.  Afterwards, I saw Bob waiting for me outside the conference hall. I introduced him to my new friend. Just like those dogs at a doggy park, they were pleased as punch to find someone else who spoke their lingo, who totally got it, who had so many similar experiences writing and editing.

Finally, the day ended, with my mind in sensory overload.  I felt so happy, my belly deliciously full like I’d just eaten the perfect meal. I was satiated, filled by The Festival.

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IMG_1293            In life (my whopping 54 years), I’ve noticed that every step, every experience, every encounter, and basically everything in life happens in order to prepare us for the next step to come.  There are no accidents in life.

            Often, the things that happen to us, or the stories we choose to tell, may not be occurring so we can learn from, but actually for others to learn. Something might happen that makes us wonder what am I supposed to learn from this?.  Have you ever had that thought of Why am I saying this right now?  Why is this the story I’m sharing? I sure hope no one hears me!  I believe that often, our actions or words are there for someone else who needs them — either to help, encourage, or serve as an eye opener for life’s learning.  I like to call this the trickle down effect

Think of the trickle down effect as a waterfall: each drop cascades into a pond of shimmering water that provides a fuller life.  I can also see my life in the same way; each step or action I take prepares me for the next step.

I was an athlete early in life. As the baby of five kids with three older brothers, I had to be athletic, just to be allowed to hang out with them.  If you want to run with the Big Dogs, you can’t pee like a puppy, right?

If I hadn’t been so athletic, I probably would not be walking now.  After my accident and taste of eternity, I was told I would not walk again. My family was also told that, more than likely, I would be a mental vegetable living in a wheelchair. To deal with this challenge, I needed the dedication that my high school and college athletic years trained me to have.  I had the focus to draw down into my gut and ache my way through to the next goal line.  Believe me, ache is a state of being after lying stiff in a coma for two months, and you suddenly tell your body it’s time to get up and get going again!

My athletic background got me ready for the focus I needed to put out my best efforts in rehabilitation.  After the rehabilitation, I loved to walk, simply because I could.   A grateful viewpoint can change your perspective when the only parking space available is the farthest away. 

Then came the next seemingly impossible challenge: I found in my lap (or P.O. box) an opportunity to fulfill a life long dream – doing a marathon.  I still wonder how I received the invitation to fund raise for diabetes, in a marathon, in the third anniversary month of my accident. On top of that, I’d talked about it the day before with my girlfriend Cathey Anderson (a fund-raising marathoner).  The VERY next day! Odd.  I had six months to train, and needed to increase from five-mile walks every day to 26.2 miles on race day. Thank goodness I could combine the athletic focus and grateful viewpoint.

While walking my miles, I share with girlfriends Judy Anibaldi and Lisa  my plan to fundraise via the marathon.  Sure enough, the trickle down effect kicked in. They shared my goal with their book club; one member of the group, Cheryl Walker, wrote for the San Diego Union-Tribune.  The article she ended up writing on me reached so many people that the donations poured in. Not only was I able to compete in a dream race, the Dublin (Ireland) Marathon, but I was one of the top fundraisers in the U.S.  I learned so much more along the way in terms of fundraising, and I’m now able to speak openly about my accident, and most importantly, my angel and Heaven.

My motto for the marathon was Yard by yard it’s hard, but inch by inch it’s a cinch.  During all of this, I raised more money than needed, and then met a 21-year-old girl with diabetes who was training for the marathon. She was having difficulty raising the funds needed to compete.  One day, while we walked together, she said, “When you’re meant to do something, the whole universe works together to make it happen.”

That really made an impact on me. I transfer my extra funds to her account, and we walked over the starting line in Dublin together.  Score another one for the trickle down effect.

images-11     The pond made by the trickle down effect continued to grow. An official at the hospital that first treated me, Palomar Pomerado Hospital, contacted me. They asked me to do fundraising in my area for a hospital expansion. I was elated to help; after all, their doctors and nurses saved my life. We had a helicopter presentation in my neighborhood to raise funds Second; I spoke at an evening event to a larger crowd,  and shared my hope: “We need to be a village and be able to take care of our village. Now please open your wallets and write a big check to the hospital.” That’s me – I tend to be direct!

People happily donated, knowing it could well be themselves who would someday need the hospital’s help.

Then my past modeling experience was called into play. The hospital asked me to shoot T.V. public service commercials to promote their larger vision. I find I became one of four advocates for a $496 million bond measure, vital for the expansion of all the Palomar Pomerado community of hospitals.  I was so grateful to give back. The ensuing article and commercials were fantastic – and an old classmate from my elementary and high school years wrote a letter to the editor in support of me. One of my girlfriends told me about it and identified him as “your boyfriend.” No boyfriend for me at the time; I was then married! I had no idea who he was.

In 2010, I was watching a friend’s band, and in walked the old classmate. My girlfriend was right – he became my boyfriend … ten years after he wrote that letter to the editor.

When I was in Heaven, I promised God that if I came back to this life, I would tell everyone how loving and great he is through sharing my story. I spent ten years after the accident trying to figure out how I would reach a larger audience beyond my smaller North San Diego County community.  It turned out this new love of mine was a long-time journalist and book author … hum.  Unfortunately, all my time was taken up working, just to keep my head above water in the expensive Southern California lifestyle. How was I ever going to write about this?

Suddenly, in 2011, I lost my job. That caused me to lose my home. Consequently, thirty years after last sitting in a classroom, I found myself back in college, taking those writing classes I desperately need to be able to write this book, lovingly and legibly.

Wow, who’d of thunk it … losing my job and home would be such a great thing, an open opportunity to move forward?

Often, when we lose hope and think it’s the end, God smiles from above and says, “Relax, it’s just a bend, not the end!”

I feel the trickle down effect still filling my life. I have been so deeply touched by the vast, happy and pleasant responses to my blogs and my effort in writing A Taste of Eternity.