Electric Skin (a 99-word short story)

Hot bubbles swirled around Dominic. Strong jets of water targeted sore muscles above his shoulder blades, along his spine, the backs of his calves. Dom shifted against them, letting new muscles get pounded back to health. Wrinkled fingertips skimmed the top of the water. A bell rang. Dom heaved himself out of the jacuzzi. He trudged over to a small circle in the floor. Bright light illuminated its still waters. Dom braced himself. He plunged into the icy depths. Every nerve sparked with life. Rainbows danced across his eyelids. Dom pulled himself out of the chilly water and grinned.

END

I’ve entered another 99-word flash fiction challenge at Carrot Ranch Literary Community. The challenge is to write a story about deep waters. Why don’t you join me? The deadline is this Tuesday, June 16. See you there!

Can You Breathe?

Eric Garner couldn’t breathe in 2014. George Floyd couldn’t breathe in 2020. Learn about how little has changed in six years here.

The Groveland Four were wrongfully accused of raping a white woman in 1949. In 2020, white woman Amy Cooper called NY police on a black man after he asked her to leash her dog in Central Park. Learn about how little has changed in 70 years here.

My mother taught me that it is wrong to not like someone for something they have no control over, like skin color or gender or sexual orientation or a disability. I’m not the only well-meaning white person who wants to help my fellow Americans and can finally see, plain as day, that meaning well means nothing.

For all of my generation’s luck to be born after the enactment of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. For our TV diet of Sesame Street, Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood and Schoolhouse Rock. For the rise of rap and hip-hop as legitimate music. For the first generation of black athletes paid their worth. Generation X has had very little impact on systemic racism in America.

Generation X is pessimistic about social transformation. Millennials are more likely to oppose racism, according to Data for Progress.

Last night I checked in with friends in San Francisco, which just enacted a city-wide curfew. We talked about how sad and helpless we felt. “Donate! That’s what I’ve been doing,” Marshall said. Marshall is one of the smartest, kindest, most gorgeous people I know. And yes, he’s a millennial. “Put your money where your heart is! You want to help but you don’t want to feel like you’re just sad and angry and powerless. But I think by doing the research, understanding why and how black Americans have always been discriminated against, and then taking some sort of action, you’re playing a role.” He immediately DM’d links to resources all over social media.

I’m a white middle-class American woman. I have a lot to learn. But I’m a dutiful student. After going through Marshall’s links I went to Black Lives Matter and started at the “About” tab. Next was donate. Money makes policies change. Check out this great resource for donating by The Cut.

Learn more about how to be an effective ally here.

Read the LA Times’ Op-Ed by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar: Don’t understand the protests? What you’re seeing is people pushed to the edge here.

What about you, how are you feeling? What actions are you taking? What else can well-meaning people do to help? Let me know in the comments below.

Karens for Good, a reddit thread

Alyssa’s Greatest Hits

IT HAPPENED! Freddie and Alyssa hosted the Zoom chat with the 3 winners – including me! It was a blast! Alyssa and Freddie are genuine, sweet people. We talked about DAYS of course, but also theater, public health, hometowns, pets…a wide range! It was so nice to have conversations with new people. Like we were strangers chatting each other up in line. I long for those pre-COVID moments, the chance encounters with strangers that could go either way – a friendly conversation that makes your night or a dude shouting at you to suck their d!ck. (Do I look like I’m into baby food? F*ck you!)

You know what’s weird? Now that I’ve met Freddie and Alyssa (and we are legit following each other on Instagram!) it feels like it’s time to end this chapter of my journey.

It’s like I see them at a distance and I’m not sure but they look familiar so I start towards them. As I get closer the anticipation builds because I know them! I finally reach them and HUGS! I release my embrace and we laugh and chat, but I’m headed somewhere and I’ve got to go. And we part. I leave happy, taking the warmth of their hugs with me.

I didn’t thank them during the chat like I’d planned. It felt weird with others on the Zoom – they were there just as DAYS fans, not The Pivot Principle. Instead, I sent a brief DM after:

Thank you Alyssa and Freddie! If you wondered if something good would come of posting The Pivot Principle on YouTube, IT DID. It gave me the push to change my life. From unused potential to being kinetic. From frozen with fear to giving-no-sh*ts if I fail because there is value in trying. From C activity to A activity – wow, it’s the best way to learn. From the bottom of my heart, thank you so much for writing it and sharing it!

So, as I pivot (see what I did there?) from effusively blogging about my millennial gurus, I give you a gift: Alyssa’s best quotes. May she upend your world like she did mine. Drop some knowledge, Alyssa!

The magic you’re looking for is in the work you’re avoiding.
Introduction

Any time you catch yourself about to say, “I don’t have the time for _____,” stop and say, “_____ is not a priority.”
Ch. 5, Pivot on Purpose

To reach new heights, you have to get comfortable with being uncomfortable.
Ch. 1, Pivot from Fear

Only use positive words when speaking, especially to yourself.
Ch. 3, Pivot your Mindset

If all you do is try and speak your life into existence without action, you will see zero progress. But the moment you align your actions with your beliefs, and make your intentions clear to the world, you will be pleasantly surprised. If you don’t believe in yourself, who will? Positive reinforcement not only to yourself but to the world will leave you ready to rock it. Revive your sparkle, manifest your dreams, realize your worth.
Ch. 7, Pivot your Routine

There is no perfect moment. “Being ready” is an excuse.
-Ch. 1, Pivot from Fear

The Zoom chat!
OF COURSE I ADDED IT TO MY STORY

Comfort Food (a 99-word short story)

One pound of lean ground turkey, one pound of 80-20 ground sirloin, one packet of McCormick meatloaf seasoning, one egg, one generous handful of Progresso Plain Breadcrumbs, half of a medium diced onion, one squirt of ketchup. It’s important to mix everything into the ground meat by hand, but don’t overdo it. Your grandfather and I added a twist: divide the mixture into twelve muffin cups. Bake at 350F for 30 minutes. Your grandmother always tried to sneak a half a meatloaf muffin without us noticing. She was so silly! I see both of them in you, my child…

END

I’ve entered another 99-word flash fiction challenge at Carrot Ranch Literary Community. Why not mosey over there and give them a look-see?

Long Distance Longing (a 99-word short story)

1989. If I mail my letter priority mail, it’ll take, let’s see, 8 days to get to Adelaide. Then he’s got to read it and write back. Let’s say that takes him 4 days the earliest, then another 8 days back to me in New York. That’s 20 days. Almost three. Whole. Weeks! I am totally going to DIE! When are they inventing video phones so we can, like, see each other? Or those transporters in Star Trek so we can visit? It’s so unfair! I’m totally moving to Australia when I’m 18. My life is the. Worst. Ever!

END

I’m entering another Flash Fiction Challenge at the Carrot Ranch! The challenge: write a story about distance dating. This is right up my alley. In high school, I was completely besotted with an Australian exchange student. He was only at our school for a month so we became pen pals. Then the longing set in. Torture! We finally dated during my senior year of college. We remain friends to this day. This is for him!

Sprinkling Fairy Dust

I won a Zoom chat with Alyssa and Freddie! I’m thrilled for the chance to thank them for their audiobook, which I’ve blogged about quite a bitmaybe too much. My newfound social media bad-assery paid off!

Being grateful and thankful is an important part of positivity. What a wonderful exercise to think of three things you’re thankful for each morning. It opens your heart and mind to good things that come your way. But it seems the act of actually thanking people gets a bit lost.

When I worked at a law firm in Atlanta, a second-year associate hid in my office. He’d submitted a document to the Delaware Secretary of State, but found a calculation error after it was posted. He was miserable because the last time he’d worked for this client, he made a similar error and had to submit a Certificate of Correction, which wasn’t good. “I can’t go back to them with the same mistake a second time,” he groaned.

“Let me see what I can do.” I picked up the phone and called DSOS. After speaking with a few people, it turned out that they could do a page swap within 12 hours of filing! We quickly submitted the corrected page and the document was fixed. What a relief!

At the end of the day, I called DSOS again. I left a voice message profusely thanking the rep who’d helped us, hung up and moved on to the next thing.

The next morning I had a message from DSOS. Uh-oh.

“Nothing’s wrong,” the rep’s message began. “I just had to tell you that we never, ever get thanked. All of the overnight voice mails are complaints. I forwarded your message to my supervisor, who forwarded it to the Secretary himself, and he sent it to the whole office. You don’t know what it means to us to hear we actually helped.”

Ever since, I make sure I thank and compliment people who help, or try to help as best as they can, especially in crummy situations like when a flight gets canceled. “Can you transfer me to your supervisor? I’d love to give them a compliment about you.” It’s so easy. You could help someone get a bump in pay at their annual review just by giving a compliment about them to their boss. My husband and I call it “sprinkling fairy dust.”

You see why I’m super excited to thank Alyssa and Freddie. They helped me so much and they have no idea! If it were me who put something out into the world like The Pivot Principle, I’d be so happy to hear I helped someone. But we are strangers so I don’t know how Alyssa and Freddie might feel. I will think carefully about what to say and a succinct way to say it. I’d die if their reaction was, “Anywaaaayyy…”

Road to Nowhere

“I wanted to write a song that presented a resigned, even joyful look at doom.” –David Byrne

Could there *be* anything more Generation X than that quote? (she asked in her best Chandler Bing voice.)

I’ve been home for 42 days. The hustle and bustle of NYC is gone, replaced with birdsong and ambulance wails. There are days I feel positive and hopeful. There are days filled with anxiety and sadness.

“Get out of the way” is the best thing most of us can do to keep the medical professionals and essential workers safe and healthy. There is so much about this pandemic that is out of our control. I feel helpless on many fronts.

I’m sad for my nephew who is a senior in high school. I worry for my friends who are juggling working remotely with home schooling and caring for elderly parents. I’m anxious for our friends who work in hospitals. The serious symptoms of coronavirus scare me, especially “difficulty breathing.”

It’s selfish, I know, but I miss being out in the city. I miss our friends and family. I miss live theater. Will Broadway recover? I worry about our actor friends, who not only lost their show but their side gigs as waiters/bartenders. Will I lose my job too? I’ve only been at my job for 3 months. I understand the desperation to revive the economy, and that staying at home is critical to stop the spread. Nothing about the pandemic is clear or straightforward.

When will it be safe to visit my parents?

I’ve tried to make good use of this stillness by working on myself. Maybe it’ll have a positive ripple effect, the way I’ve been inspired by others. Maybe it’s all for nothing.

Can we beat COVID-19, or are we on a road to nowhere?

Pivoting My Mindset

Chapter 3 of The Pivot Principle, Pivot Your Mindset, is about the aftermath of the car accident. Alyssa takes us through the extent of her injuries and her depression during her long road of recovery. After playing with the hospital’s therapy dogs one afternoon, the pure joy they gave her made her realize it was up to her to reclaim her life in her “new normal.” She and Freddie decided to surround themselves with positive thoughts, words and actions. She credits this approach with being able to walk again in 3 months instead of 8, regaining close to 100% use of her injured eye, and running long distances again after 18 months of recovery.

Alyssa and Freddie certainly aren’t the first to tout the power of positivity. The Mayo Clinic, psychologists and scientists have proven that positive thinking reduces stress, build skills and improves your health. It’s nice to say you want to be more positive, but how do you gain, and keep, a positive mindset? Alyssa and Freddie built a strategy:

  1. Only use positive words when speaking, especially to yourself. For example, instead of saying, “I can’t,” say, “Of course I can!”
  2. Create your dream environment. Build your personal space with podcasts, music, articles and clips that have positive, uplifting messages.
  3. Gratitude. Every day, acknowledge three things you are thankful for.
  4. Visualize your life as if you’ve already achieved your dreams and goals. What does it look like? Use your imagination. What will it take to achieve those goals? Write it out, step by step, and see yourself conquering each one.

Does this seem hokey to you? Make you uncomfortable? As Alyssa said in Chapter 1, to reach new heights, you have to get comfortable with being uncomfortable. Pivoting your mindset isn’t easy. You don’t just decide to be a positive person and BAM! you’re positive. If you’re like me, you’re undoing a lot of deeply embedded mental habits.

As for their strategy, I’ll say right off the bat that only using positive words when speaking is the hardest, especially when talking to myself. But, I’ve been practicing it for a few months and it makes a difference. I used to apologize for anything and everything – I’m not the only one – and I do it much, much less since I started speaking to myself with kindness.

The biggest shift I made to create my dream environment was to stop working for a news organization. This was incredibly difficult because I loved it there – my team, the work, and the mission: To Inform the World. But, being in an environment of relentless Breaking News took its toll on me last year. I was joyless, disillusioned, depressed. I felt myself slipping away. Yet the positive talk started to work even then. I was worth leaving News. I was worth waiting for the right opportunity. It took several months but I found it.

I have a gratitude journal. I write in it most mornings. I list three things I’m thankful for. When I started it, one goal was to be a successful enough writer so I could quit my day job. But now, I don’t resent having to have a day job at all. I pivoted my mindset. My day job is the patron of my art. Writing is a pleasure, a hobby. I can write whatever I want, whenever I want. I don’t depend on writing for a living. I’m thankful for my day job because it gives me the freedom to explore who I am as a writer. If someday I actually sell something, it’s a bonus.

Willing to give it a try? Or are you still skeptical? Leave me a comment, or get in touch!