From a Certain Point of View

There comes a point in every writer’s week where the print is overpowering, or the words lie insipid on the page like a wilting peony from yesterday’s luncheon. A time where you just can’t slog it alone anymore and fresh inspiration is welcome, even if it means leaving your padded cell desk for the company of other writerly souls in *gasp* public.

In addition to my classes and casual conversations in Point Loma, I’ve discovered a little writer’s meet-up group closer to home. They converge on a coffee shop every Thursday night, throw out a prompt, set a timer for 30 minutes, and off we all go into the sunset. When the bell rings, we take turns reading our bits aloud, enjoying the huge variety of styles, thoughts, and grammarly gymnastics that are spawned by the prompt. It’s just for fun.

Last week, the prompt was, “From a certain point of view”, originally pulled from Obi Wan’s explanation to Luke Skywalker about why he’d “lied” about Luke’s dad being dead. Yeah, rubbish. But we don’t have any rules about opinions, so our examples of perspective were interesting, as we took turns reading around the table.

There was a sad story told in a positive way. An ugly character turned out to be the protagonist. Mine, of course, was a play on the audience. You know I’ve been pulling the twist on you for the last two of blogs (lol). This exercise and it’s results turned out to be a surprising peek into what is lurking in our own assumptive subconscious.

Here is the piece I wrote for “From a certain point of view”. Read it out loud for full effect, because it’s a monologue.

“Maybe you want the soup?

Can you eat it yourself or do you want help?

Here’s a napkin for under your chin.

Let me lift the spoon with you…there, that’s tasty, isn’t it?

It’s one of my better recipes, nice and smooth.

So good for you too, lots of pureed veggies.

Uh oh, there’s the phone. I’ll just be a minute.

Sit right there and wait for me.

What, I can’t turn my back for a minute?

Where have you thrown the spoon?

Look at this mess. Here, I’ve got it. There we go.

How much have we got left? Not much. Here, eat this laaaast bit.

Well done.

Shall we get ready for a nap now? I know I could use one!

Up we go. I’ve got you. Aren’t you getting so strong!

Lift your arms, up and up and up…

Where’s that quilt?

Look how nicely it brings out the blues in your eyes.

So soft. Settle in now, there we go. Let me pull the shades.

Now sleep, my love, and I’ll be in to check on you in only a minute.

Rest tight!”

I read this aloud to the group in as neutral a tone as possible. Then, I asked them to tell me what point of view they, themselves, had chosen as an interpretation tool.

You see, this could have been me addressing my happy eight month old child. Or, this could have been me addressing my silent eighty year old mother who has dementia. Was I a nurse, working with a paraplegic teenager? Was I Annie Wilkes speaking to Paul Sheldon? Was I a doctor in Luxembourg assisting a suicide?

For all you know, without context, this is someone with schizophrenia speaking to herself. Hey, as a mom, I have those kinds of days where I have to talk myself into eating and taking a nap.

It was funny to hear the ideas and discover what a wide range of possibilities the group came up with, and perhaps you came up with your own. I’m also curious whether, as your own point of view colored in what you thought you were reading, your tone of voice changed to fit it?

It’s important to remember that, although writers can create a message – sometimes as clearly as they possibly can – everyone else reads it through the lens of their own colored glasses. A good writer will capitalize on the reader’s assumptions and take everyone for a ride.

Lamborghini or Chevy? Even then, you could be surprised.

So It Begins

Dear Forgetful Files Family,

If this little blog beauty landed in your inbox, you have just witnessed magic. After a GREAT many hours of wand-waving and occasional violently whispered secret words that only magicians use, the jolietunnell.com website was born. You will NOT have to re-subscribe because you are my peeps and where I roll, you roll.

If, however, these words of extreme optimism drifted your way on the breeze, please do join the party and subscribe. I have quite a line-up for this year’s blog posts, focussed on creating opportunities for families to hold conversations on the hard stuff. This is a safe, supportive space that explores different life challenges and big questions with courage, kindness, humor, and practicality. Please join the conversation.

Okay. Playtime.

Begin on the “Home” page. Take a long look around. Click on everything. Not only does The Forgetful Files blog live here, but so does my new freelance writing business, Gobsmacked! I have a page devoted to the writing and selling of future books, where you can sign up separately to receive my monthly progress newsletter. If you notice anything out of place or not working correctly please let me know. Send me a note in the Contact Form, play around on my Facebook Page  or visit my Pinterest Page. You know the drill.

And if you’ve always wanted to see your name and photo on a fabulous website, write me a Testimonial for the bottom slider!

Thank you for making magic with me. You guys rock.

Let’s get this party started.

“Gobsmacked” = utterly astonished, astounded. And also, it sounds like fun.

Under Construction

Good evening everyone!

Today’s installment was set carefully aside and I hope to post it next week with the attention it deserves.

I am birthing a new website, something with plenty of room to grow and full of possibilities of course, and having a lot of fun in the process. The Forgetful Files will migrate into a freshly decorated space and be joined by my freelance writing business, Gobsmacked! Samples of my latest writing projects are going in. (If you know someone who needs fresh copy to support their goals, please put them in touch). Then we’ll have to connect some social media, add a logo or two, bring in PayPal. There’s a place where my first book will go once I’ve, you know, written and published it…

Build it and they will come.

You are going to love this!

Meanwhile, have a fabulous week and stay tuned for the grand opening. I will send you a notification so that you can get into the new site and Subscribe all over again to the blog. Unless I can do magic. I watched a guy on TV last night and he won “America’s Got Talent” with a couple of magic card tricks. He won over the guy who shackled himself into a spinning wheel of death and had to escape crossbow arrows, a bear trap and a flame thrower.

Although my week looked a lot more like the spinning act, magic won. You may not have to re-Subscribe. No promises.

Click here to maintain your suspense for a few more days….

 

Spam I Am

There are some amazing perks that come with the blog life.

Staring out the window, swirling tea in a mug while begging inspiration to hit is one.

But also, there is fan mail.  So many world-wide celebrities attempt to hop aboard my blog-train that it’s hard to decide when to slam the door. Here is one of my top contenders; an athlete from Taiwan whose enthusiasm makes me – almost – want to pick up the phone and call.

____________________________________________________________

Dear Sir,

Truly passionate regarding cycling, I decided to devote myself in this business.

My inner world is pleasant and confident when I was sitting on the cycling.

My destination is not to make lots of wealth via the cycling; nevertheless, I want to influence the joy of everyone around me when riding the bike.

In my teenager, I was fascinated of the bicycles. So I disciplined myself to take challenges and training. From an amateur player to the professional player, by participating the countless downhill matches. Finally, I was being selected as the national representative of Taiwan to win honor for my country. 

You never stand on the podium just because GOOD LUCK.

Cause of fate, I quitted the industrial engineer and starting the sales job in my expert domain cycling. I could come up with the solutions for the customer in an extremely efficient way based on my working experience and my profession.

There’s one formula of success to obey which is never giving up and keeping hard-working. I realize the sportsman spirit thoroughly in my business, so there’s always room to improve. We never stand still; we never stay at our comfort zone! We are positive a trustworthy partner for you and also being your reliable consultant expert because we treat every customer by heart.

The consumer behavior changes rapidly day by day thanks to the Smart Phone and the Internet.

No matter how smaller your orders are, you are always our customer!

We are able to assist you to synthesize your driblet orders to achieve the best buy in price. Once our suppliers got out-of-season items to sale, we will notice you in the very same time. Due to the complexity and the numerousness of the products that we offer, we hardly to offer you every single piece quotation. So just send us the notice of your interest, we will come up with the quotation for you as soon as possible. You only need to contact us through a call or simply reply this email, we are eager to serve you already. If there’s further question, please let us know.

We are your long-term trustworthy partner now and forever.

___________________________________________________________________________

This level of writing is worth crashing your laptop for.

Spammer, you’re awesome. Your passion while sitting on the cycling is only matched by your eagerness to influence the joy of everyone around you.

You have inspired me to quitted my lucrative day job and starting the sales job in my expert domain writing. I expect you to synthesize my driblet orders because, frankly, I’m not quite on board with your formula for success, as fate is clearly calling me.

But as we are now in a long-term trustworthy relationship now and forever, I am eager to make demands already.

Move over Hubby, there’s finally someone willing to treat me by heart.

Midlife Crisis

And now back to our regular programming…

Sorry guys. I took last week off, much against my will, and nearly did it again this week.

My writing has a roving eye and I was unfaithful to our blog.

Forgive me.

Judging from the heap of dirty tea mugs tossed in the sink, I’d say we have a problem.

This little blog is just shy of three years old. At approximately twice a week, we’re reaching 260 posts today, give or take, plus a Sister’s Retreat series I did last fall and two Ladies’ Sunday School series this year, a chick lit book, a historical fiction, and a Christian novel all in progress, (and I’m not counting emails from home or data entry at work…but I should) let’s just say I’ve made a LOT of words lately.

I have seven books spanning five genres in my “to read” pile.

I’m sure they’re all fantastic.

But I may never know.

Because at the back of everything I do, my blog is calling me.

“Write me!” it demands, “Make me brilliant and funny and heartfelt and famous!”

So, rather than sit down and write it, I moved heaven and earth and attended a local writer’s group yesterday, seeking inspiration. Of course it was fabulous to sit with other people who share my sense of pained procrastination.

I was the youngest in attendance by thirty years, but who’s counting?

“Just think,” I told myself as we shared our writing and our opinions and generally rolled around in the language of King James, “if I drag this out long enough, I can publish my first book when I’m 80!”

As usual, I’m the jack of all words and the master of none.

My blog is having a midlife crisis and I’m at my wit’s end for how to stop it.

Firstly, I sat down and scrutinized my writing and realized it was covered in commas. Covered. This is gonna take a lot of Botox. Where did all these commas come from?

Secondly, I went to coffee with a certain disciplinarian who reinforced the idea that I was fat with ideas. There are too many goodies on my plate and I want to eat them all even though I know it will hurt. I sat with an almond croissant in my mouth, nodding at his wisdom and wondering if I could market a book and magazine articles simultaneously.

Probably, yes.

Tick tock tick tock.

Nothing in my closet fits. I can’t button up my books, the blog needs regular ironing, and I can only wear the classes to church. I need to get a basic, classic, goes-with-everything project and go all Coco Chanel on the writing world.

I’m considering an Erma Bombeck transplant.

No one will know. It’ll be our little secret.

I’m ready to feel the Paris breeze beneath my laptop and walk among glamorous agents in sleek convention centers. I’m ready to jet across the country to sip champagne in New York publishing houses while rubbing elbows with famous authors.

I want to make a trophy book before I’m too old to read it.

In order to curb my imminent hysteria, I’ve taken up meditation.

You’ll find me in the library, eyes closed, inhaling the fragrance of aging paper.

Sitting somewhere between ‘Satire’ and ‘Tragedy’.

Bottomless Bookshelf Debut

It may just be the tea talking here, but I am having a FABulous morning.

You have to take ten minutes and sit with me, I want to show you something.

You guys, I built a thing. With my own ten fingers.

I know.

The Bottomless Bookshelf is up and running today and I only used a hammer a little bit, when the internet cut out…for three hours that I didn’t have time to waste. I want to paint it and we all know how that will turn out, so if you take a look in there and have an idea, drop it in this comment box.

I’m thinking “Bookworm Green” or maybe “Nerd Heaven”. Choose a color Shakespeare would approve.

It’s only got a handful of books in it at the present but I had so much fun remembering my old friends, that I will likely keep adding to it for years.

I really miss my book collection. The one that spilled all over the house until we had to move and then I was faced with sorting out only the best ones, because have you ever lifted a box of books? That’s some heavy reading, haha.

Calvin and Hobbes made the cut. I had to prioritize.

Please use this Bottomless Bookshelf to pieces. It follows the idea of the Little Free Library we were talking about earlier, “take a book, leave a book”, meaning help yourself to some new reading suggestions and leave some of your own in the comment box. I will take your recommendations and add them into the main bookshelf.

That also means that the list will hold books I’ve never read, so no coming after me later saying, “But Jolie this book stinks! It’s about a walrus and a pineapple wandering in Tibet and there’s even a naughty word in it!”

I love this kind of feedback.

But I will release the ferrets if you’re all up in my grill. I didn’t write it.

Meanwhile, I’m still adding shelves and categories. Many genres are blurry in my opinion so help me out if I stick one in the wrong spot. The librarian in me feels all fastidious about it.

I’m going back now to play with it some more. If it doesn’t pop right up when you click on it, I may be in there rearranging books and kicking up some dust. Count to ten and try again.

Go see it by clicking these pretty red words: Bottomless Bookshelf direct deposit.

Yay!

I can’t wait to lose myself in another book.

Cheers, my dears.

What Do Writers Read?

“The First 20 Hours, How to Learn Anything…Fast” by Josh Kaufman.

It should be titled, “The First 20 Hours, How to Discover if You Have Discipline”.

It may or may not have played into last Friday’s blog.

I love to read and I’m sad to report that I haven’t read a fiction novel in a very long time for fear of sailing off into the sunset with it, returning to reality only when I smell dinner burning and I’ve forgotten a child at school.

Because, discipline.

Instead, I find books at random and read them in tiny snatches like magazines, hoping something sticks. I have a book-stack that never seems to shrink.

My girlfriends have been trying for months to hook me up with podcasts and audiobooks and websites but that involves sitting down and holding still and, um, remembering there are such things in the world.

I finally finished Mr Kaufman’s book. He acquired six new skills over a year, devoting 20 hours to working each one out and when he reached his goal, he moved on.

The only thing I devoted 20 hours to was reading the book, looking for his secret. It was well hidden on the very last page: “If you want to acquire a new skill, you have to practice. There is no other way.”

Consistent, focused, deliberate practice. Well, why didn’t he say so in the first place?

I should have grabbed the book next to it by Gretchen Reynolds, “The First 20 Minutes”.

I’m out.

Let’s read the next book in the pile: “Rising Strong” by Brene Brown.

I enjoyed her “Daring Greatly” because it encouraged me to be braver with my blog. Her new one seems to be about the process of getting back up when you fall on your face.

Huzzah! I face plant all the time, thanks to discipline!

I’m halfway through the chapters and she blows the old “victim mentality” right out of the water with compassion and some common sense healthy attitudes.

I’m suspicious that practice and discipline are in there somewhere, but it will be messy and thoughtful with neither straight lines nor deadlines, and a lot of telling stories on herself. I love it.

Earlier this year, before I read about yoga and tellifin and websites and comedy and a curry recipe, I read Jen Hatmaker’s “For the Love”.

Her front porch philosophy and her thoughts on five kids and the way she sees all kinds of sides on a coin had me laughing hysterically now and then and staring thoughtfully into space now and then, and this one has the honor of sitting on my shelf permanently for long-term use.

I read “Big Magic” by Elizabeth Gilbert and it was so-so and then I read Twyla Tharp’s “The Creative Habit” which was pretty solid, and Gary Klein’s “Seeing What Others Don’t” about the world of insight, and something that wraps up the nuts on my family tree in gold foil, “Furiously Happy” by Jenny Lawson.

Obviously, I’m a big fan of literacy.

Today, we celebrate it with a website and a bookshelf, and probably a little Kipling on the side.

I found a website called goodreads.com that looks like fun.

So far as I can figure out, you tell it what you’ve already read and rate how much you liked it, and it recommends new books to you, from zombies to zinnias.

And then you take the list down to the library and check them out with a good old fashioned library card, right? To each her own, girlfriend, I have to fondle the pages.

Therefore, I’ve always been intrigued by something called “Little Free Library” which puts book-stacks curbside for the express purpose of book swapping. It’s a take a book/leave a book honor system that promotes reading and community. What a great idea.

As I have no carpentry skills, this weekend I’ll be building a little bookshelf right here on the blog; a place to leave your favorites for others to find…all over the world.

I’m painting it many shades of green.

What have you read this year that you really enjoyed, and why?

What was worth burning dinner for? Staying up until 2am for? Making three pots of tea for?

Stack your good reads down in the comment box.

You might want to set a timer on the oven.

Olympics in the Bouncy Castle

Olympic athletes are showing the world what it takes to put on big girl panties and bring home the gold. They are excellent examples of dedication, determination, sportsmanship, and deception.

Feel free to pull your inspiration where you find it.

I sit in the LazyBoy with a fist full of nachos and I’m almost inspired to run some hurdles right here over the brand new sofa. And then lie about it.

Instead, I spent the last couple of weeks rolling around in self-doubt, apprehension, and vacillation, waging a war against procrastination that greater genius’ than I have succumbed to. I needed to blog, and every atom of my being was refusing to do it.

Wallowing in pity for my motivationally challenged self, I took a long hard look at Rio and found the missing link to my success.

Discipline.

Disciplined athletes will be on the ice with a puck between their teeth at 4am every day for years to get the job done. Some authors couldn’t sit down to write until after 10pm and typed during the graveyard shift.

They just choose a time and show up. How hard can it be?

So three weeks ago, I dusted off my alarm clock. I’ve been waking up every day at 6am, trying to find a routine that will put me in my writing place and let me tell you, it’s an utter failure.

Discipline at 6am looked like this: me, drinking mug after mug of hot tea trying to wake up until it was suddenly time to go to my day job. Making tea takes hours if I wake up at 6am, and three and one half minutes if I wake up at 8am.

Do the math.

So I tried sitting up at 11pm the night before a deadline. My entire body screamed for my memory foam mattress while waiting for brilliance to appear on the page. Nope. Brain dead.

I tossed the alarm clock and made dream boards, surrounding myself with success stories.

They taunt me as I stare at the empty page.

Janet E. looks down her nose and says, “I have discipline and the books to prove it. Just what are you frittering away at, there?”

“Don’t quit your day job,” she suggests, before fading into the wall.

Maybe I need some real live writers in my life instead. At least I can’t make up their commentary.

There is a guy I’m thinking of. A retired police detective lieutenant ex-Marine, to be exact.

He’s published his second crime novel and submitted a third, working full time and getting up at 4am every day to write. I met him briefly at an author interview and the man is just oozing with discipline.

I almost reached out and contacted him, but trepidation saved the day.

I can just see it.

You meet for coffee and automatically sit up straight and chew with your mouth closed. Black coffee. Gluten free bran muffins. Hard metal chair.

Next to his writing that drips with murder, mystery and intrigue, my blog looks like little pink dandelion fluffs.

His protagonists are sharp, driven and living on the edge of danger and my subjects skip down the yellow brick road wondering why the sky is blue, and not really concerned about it either way. For all she knows, the sky is purple and wouldn’t that be fabulous?

“What is your genre?” he’ll ask, and his eyes imply that you are not only under oath, but attached to a lie detector machine.

“Okay, well, my blog is mostly humor,” I begin, but his face hasn’t cracked a smile since….so I continue, “but it goes into family and homemaking a little, too, and travel. And relationships occasionally.” It occurs to me that even my genre has no discipline.

I’m screwed.

“I’m writing a book too,” I mention, in an effort to validate myself as a writer, “it’s a Christian novel.” Should I throw in some dark angst and a little violent goat discrimination so he’ll take it seriously?

“And another one, that is a chick flick-type comedy.” The man waits, sniper calm, for the mist to clear and reveal some bedrock.

“And there’s one I’ve worked on for years but includes family members that have to actually die before I can publish it, so it’s on the shelf so to speak.” Ugh.

I’m jumping between projects like my closet is one big bouncy castle at a birthday party that I ate way too much sugar at.

When I signed up to join the gym all those years ago, I told the trainer, “I’m not here for the discipline, the final results, the number on the scale, or the competition. I’m here for the fun of it. When I stop having fun, I’ll stop coming.”

I bounced around that gym and ate cake and had a grand time.

Like Mr. Olympics trainer, Mr. Crime Novel is going to throw up his hands and walk away.

Frankly, the only way I’m going to get discipline is accidentally.

I will sit down when I feel like it and have a grand time playing with words and maybe, some day, I will have writer friends who want to join me in the bouncy castle.

 

Bond Beneficiary

Money doesn’t grow on trees, but it can sprout up through the humus of old piles of stuff, and when it’s ripe, you pick it.

My daughter, alone, found enough loose change under her bed to buy Christmas presents last year.

My son finally cleaned up a teetering pile of paperwork stashed in a corner and a crisp $20 bill fell out of an old birthday card.

I hope he thanked whoever it was at the time, because he did the Happy Dance for a solid half hour before it burned a hole through his pocket.

And once in a while, I find five dollar bills in the pocket of my jeans. Usually it’s only a couple of bucks though, because, debit cards.

And also, kids.

Last week’s search for a photo turned into this week’s discovery that I had a few prisoners left in the Jumanji box.

There actually was an old savings bond in that stack of memory mulch and it had secretly ripened four years ago.

I won it in 1982 in a county-wide writing contest with an essay titled “How the Declaration of Independence Affects Me Now”.

In 1982, the Declaration of Independence affected my grades.

In 2016, it’s gonna be my national treasure…all the way to the bank.

Stop everything you’re doing right now and pay attention.

If you have ever acquired a savings bond and stashed it away to “mature”, go dig it out and take a look at it.

Like wine, they have a time limit. You can only stash it away for so long, and then you’ve got vinegar. Mine is a series EE and after 30 years, it has all the interest on it that it will ever get.

I looked it up, and so can you: there are millions of dollars of savings bonds going UNCLAIMED because everyone stashed them, forgot about them, or don’t realize that they are as good as they’re gonna get.

Dare I say it?

It’s time to scythe through the jungles of your house and find your own ancient relics.

Face value is $50.

The contest people paid $25 for it at the time.

Today, I cash that puppy in for $146.00.

This is pretty great stuff *Happy Dance*.

Of course, it was made out to Miss Jolie Maiden Name at her original teensy house in the hood.

But Mr Roosevelt himself is next to it, and he’ll vouch for me.

He was there and witnessed it all.

And he took it seriously, watching me open and close the lid for over thirty years, playing his part in the game.

Hmm.

Unlike a certain award-winning writer, he hasn’t antiqued a bit.

What Every Blogger Wished You Knew

  1. Writing anything is a process. Whether I am writing out a grocery list or a novel, I require a plan and expect a conclusion. And so, my children, if you interrupt this process at the beginning, you will go hungry and I will type nothing but a title page. If you interrupt this process in the middle, I will forget the eggs and the plot twists. But if you stay the heck out of my closet where I’m desperately trying to focus and stop interrupting me asking for loose change, I will get to post my blog for tomorrow, all finished, and still have time to make your dinner. Go. Away.
  2. My blog is a child, and it’s entering the “terrible twos”. Yours, oh girlfriends of mine, have diapers – some have a leash and kibble bowl – but this child glows in the dark. It requires a regular feeding of sarcasm, wit and reality and it will spit it all back into my face when I least expect it. And laugh at me. It will only make into a fun story when it’s good and ready, and I can sit up all night attempting to coerce it into literary obedience. But this one has a mind of it’s own. I had five kids already. I should have seen it coming.
  3. Subscribers and commenters cannot be underestimated. They are the bread and butter of a blog. It doesn’t matter how unique or wonderful the writing is, no one cares if Facebook likes it or if you’ve got a really lovely business card. If people aren’t feeling compelled to push a button and respond to a blog, this work will never be published. Money is about numbers, and numbers are the only thing they count. If you’re a Subscriber, thank you, you get to be the bread, you crazy croissant, you. If you want to be the butterer-upper, though, you have to leave a comment in the box down there….
  4. However, what counts the most to a blogger is her ♥audience♥. That’s a different perspective altogether. We want to make a difference. A small one to a single person is enough. Enough to feel that a love affair with language can be used to touch someone else’s heart or produce a smile.
  5. And who doesn’t need a smile in their day?
  6. Blogging is not great literature. I can start sentences with “And”, “But”, and any foolish sentence fragment I prefer because The Blogging Fairy said I could. Bloggers prefer to write the way they chat and daughters earning degrees in Communications should not fall all to pieces when a sentence begins with “Because” and ends with “I said so”.
  7. Bloggers do, occasionally, leave their laptops with a babysitter and go off on wild tangents in order to acquire new “zest” for writing. Some people call it writer’s block. I prefer the term, “procrastination fascination”. If you see me deep cleaning the basement because I wanted to find a photo from 1983 that was in an album in a box behind the Christmas decorations and the discarded nightstands that need to go to Goodwill (even if I stood on one to reach the rafters where some old flowerpots were housing seashells) it’s safe to assume that I won’t be resurfacing for a while. And your blog is going to be late this week. Sorry.