Growing Up Alzheimer’s 2: Blog to Book

This blog post is a series about my family’s history of Alzheimer’s through three generations of women. This history is as I have experienced it, and continue to experience it. No, I have not been diagnosed with this disease myself (fingers crossed), but the signs have crept up to my eldest sister, nine years older than I, and tapped her on the shoulder. So, this is the story I want to tell in these blog posts, as well as talking a little bit about the blog to book, blog to memoir process. I am going to switch to italics for the memoir post part and stick to regular text for the writing process part.
For my second post, what do I do? What do I do!? DON’T PANIC. Like the big, friendly letters on the front of the Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy say. And I don’t have to panic, and you won’t have to either. If you look at my previous post about writing Memoirs and family Alzheimer’s the answer is right there. Step three of my process is write a list. I may or may not use chronology of history as my guide. Mostly I review the list and see what scene or story or remembered dialogue or image is begging to be written. Then I go with it. Just go with it. It was on the list so it must be done. God, I love lists.

Writing lists is my #3 step in my memoir writing process:
3.) Then I write a list of scenes, events, stories, snatches of dialogue, images, thoughts, worries, interactions.
For this step I am going to focus only on brainstorming for my Mother’s journey with Alzheimer’s:
  • How she was a hermit and possibly Asperger’s and our Google before Google 
  • The stories she told me about post part-em before they knew it was post part-em
  • Her walking that everyone noticed
  • The first signs we knew: Story about giant raccoons and laser beams
  • The coins she compulsively stacked up
  • The car accident
  • The first time she got lost
  • Getting POA and a will
  • The struggle between the sisters and the aunts
  • The 600 nuns study
  • The sushi picnic and the wasabi (see Mystery of Mom blog post)
  • Taking her to Madame Butterfly
  • The research we did of support and how that support has changed
  • The change of her personality to sweet and compliant
  • The garage sale and the lie from the difficult sister
  • The uninvolved brother who missed telling me about the NM book
  • The first home she lived in “this is a really great person”
  • The second home, “stealing” and tripping out on the flowered shirt
  • The man who wanted to escape together
  • The years and sister tension
  • The decline
  • Dentistry, bladder infections, operation
  • The decision at the end
  • The end scene , cold hands, staring, my sister’s cold comment and my aunt did not want to see her body
  • The wake, the dream the amazing night before

I can see from this that this is a lot of material. In fact, I suspect that 1-3 of those bullet points could constitute one blog post of probably 1000 words each.  Just to make it easier on myself and to give you and actual story to read I will reprint a portion of a previous post where the story of the sushi picnic was told.  Here it is from the Mystery of Mom post:

She was still living independently at the time, but we soon had care workers in for her and had her on the long waiting list for a care home. At this time we would frequently ask my mother questions cautiously and her answers would always be: “I know that!” and she’d look at us like we were crazy, when in fact we rather suspected the truth was she had no idea what we were talking about. We were all testing the waters at the time, unsure of what she really knew and didn’t know.

It was at this time, my two sisters and I decided to take her up to Capilano Dam one day to the picnic area. We had each brought a little something for the picnic including some prepared sushi we had picked up. My sister carefully explained to my mother that this was sushi, and in this dish was soya sauce, and this was wasabi (very hot horse-radish), and this is how you put them together. This was something she would have known before she started telling us stories about raccoons as big as men and laser beams bouncing through her apartment.

Inevitably she said, “I knew that,” as she grabbed the chopsticks and expertly started picking up the sushi. Okay, we all thought, and relaxed until we looked over moments later and saw the entire blob of green wasabi on the end of her chopsticks rapidly heading into her open mouth. We simultaneously let out a cry of warning and lunged across the picnic blanket to stop the impending mouth-burning culinary disaster in progress. She was rescued just in the nick of time, to her dumb founded looks and our relief and laughter.

And so part of my journey of my book of Growing Up Alzheimer’s is already on the way. But, on the journey of writing any one of these posts from the list above, I know I will undoubtedly remember more.

Next post step #4 and #5 in the writing process for a memoir… the art of transitions is EVERYTHING. But that comes later in the game. Now, blogging now, is about generating material.

Blog to Memoir: Growing Up Alzheimer’s

Many people ask me if they can turn their blog posts into a book. Yes! I say, great idea.  Ultimately the book won’t and shouldn’t look like the blog post, but by God it can give you several chapters of raw to polished materials depending on how you like to write your blog posts. The great thing about blogs is you are often writing what is happening in the moment, so it is fresher, filled with details, feelings and passion that you may not get if you left it until later.  Certain parts of The Happy Hammock can be seen in past blog posts.

This blog post is going to be the first of a series that could be called learning by doing.  Ever since writing The Happy Hammockback which is really a memoir (although we called it a based on true story for a number of reasons), I have been helping others complete their memoirs more. Don’t think I don’t read other people’s teachings on how to write memoirs or go to their courses, I do. I am always researching. But, there is nothing like doing, as well as teaching, to make you feel like you can call yourself an expert.

While I am writing the second book of The Happy Hammock memoir, there is another aspect of my life that only those close to me know about. I want to write about it, and even need to write about it in the hopes it will help others. This is my family’s history of Alzheimer’s through three generations of women, as I have experienced it and continue to experience it. No, I have not been diagnosed with this disease myself, yet, but the signs have crept up to my eldest sister, nine years older than I, and tapped her on the shoulder.  So, this is the story I want to tell in these blog posts, as well as talking a little bit about the blog to book, or blog to memoir process.memoir-writing-process-steps-1-638

I am going to switch to italics for the memoir post part and stick to regular text for the writing process part. So, I am going to share my process, as far as I know it. This is how I often start, and how I started this time:

  1. I had an idea of writing about all three generations of women, my grandmother, mother and now, my eldest sister. This is painful because she is the sibling I am closest to and I am currently seeing her gradual sinking into the abyss that is Alzheimer’s as if it is the slowest of quick sand.
  2. I come up with a working title. Often I keep it but not always, but it does help keep me on track. The title for this: Growing Up Alzheimer’s.
  3. Then I write a list of scenes, events, stories, snatches of dialogue, images, thoughts, worries, interactions.
  4. I try to order the above in chronological order not because that is necessarily the way it will end up in a book form, but I need to know what order things come in. A memoir writer needs to pay attention to transitions for different periods in this the family history, and different stages of the writer’ awareness, and not confuse the reader.  Most people don’t realize that for books, or long-form anything (I started as a playwright), the art of transitions is EVERYTHING. But that comes later in the game. Now, blogging now, is about generating material.
  5. I start a scene that may or may not be the beginning of the book but is the beginning of a blog post. And so it begins…

Growing Up Alzheimer’s –  Post 1

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“Granny Horner is having a bird again.”

My eldest sister, age 14, almost a decade older than I, announces to us. My brother, second oldest, two years behind her, and my other sister, five years after him, and me, the baby, the unexpected love child, two years later, all rapidly exit the small lakeside house on Osoyoos Lake to stay out of the line of fire.  We love coming up to visit the lake, but Granny Horner, Marjorie, my mother’s mother, is sometimes hard to take, and Ralph, my grandfather, mostly blends into the background.

“Having a bird” as my siblings called it meant she was on a bitching rampage of unhappiness and blame. She can be loud and to me, at five years old, scary as hell. She’s skinny and doesn’t smile a lot. She is the opposite of “Nice Granny,” my father’s mother who we adore. Nice Granny is chubby-curvy, loving, generous, creative and everything you could want in a grandmother. Marjorie is not. And, I didn’t know her well. I remember in her lake house I found a beautiful colored tin, empty, probably once held fancy cookies. It had bright blues, reds and gold geometric and decorative designs like an Easter egg. And, it was a cylindrical tin with a dome top. Beautiful. My five year old self was attracted enough to pick it up and she caught me with my hands on it.

I was terrified that I was in trouble when she caught me handling the tin, afraid she was going to “have a bird,” but that didn’t happen. Instead she saw I was enamored with it and offered it to me. I took it home and for years kept all my tiny, shiny treasures in it, from thimbles to plastic animals to rhinestones that Nice Granny gave me. That was one of the few moments I remember Granny Horner distinctly, and thankfully it was a nice moment. She was then on the verge of Alzheimer’s, though we didn’t know it. 

husky gas osoyoosIt started when Ralph was moved, at the recommendation of his doctor, to a full care home. Ralph complained of pain in his legs and he had trouble walking.  After his death I would find several medals he had won for his long distance running.  I didn’t know, no one had told me he had once been an accomplished runner. Marjorie went to visit him every day. The problem was she would get lost driving there pretty much every time. My parents found this out later because the man at the gas station had to give her directions to the care home every day. Often, he had to do it more than once on the same day. My dad liked to tell the story how the gas station guy would send her off having showed her on the map and told her the turns only to see her minutes later driving back to the station in her old Ford still confounded.

Back then, they simply said, “She is losing her memory.” And so she was. I never heard anyone say the word Alzheimer’s. It wasn’t a common parlance then and this loss of memory wasn’t intensely studied. They just tried things out. When it was clear Marjorie also needed full time care they “tried things” on her too, namely electric shock treatment. Yes. Horrors. They did this to my Granny and my mother knew. They told her that after shock treatment she seemed to get better for a time and then reverted back.  How long she “got better” was not really discussed. This “treatment” was eventually abandoned. 

electroshockThe lake house had been long since sold, Ralph had passed away, and Granny was located in another town, at another long term care home closer to my aunt’s summer home.  It was many years before me and my second oldest sister T and I saw her at that summer cottage. She was in a wheelchair, having been taken from her home for the day by my aunts. Her hair was completely white, she had glasses and I wouldn’t have recognized her. At the adults coaxing, T and I went up and greeted her. We said, “Hello Granny,” as the adults told her, “These are your grandchildren.” To which she answered, “I remember you, you were all against me! You plotted against me!” We were quite mortified. Even when she was having a bird, she had never been paranoid or crazy sounding. We stayed away until they took her back to the home. She had clearly entered the dementia delusional phase, beyond memory loss which I would later find out can manifest as ugly or sweet, angry or docile, funny or tragic. 

This is my post for today. Any thoughts, comments, personal stories or questions, please speak up, I’d love to hear.

My Kindle Scout Publishing Journey – Day 1 – What is Kindle Scout?

So what is Kindle Scout exactly and how are you, me and the proverbial lamppost supposed to use it to publish our books? Well I am going to show you in real time because my Kindle Scout Campaign was just approved to start, GULP, today!

 

YES, YOU COULD BE ONE OF THE FIRST TO NOMINATE MY BOOK

 

USING THE LINK HEREhttps://kindlescout.amazon.com/p/6RZV8XHY3K9H
But you may want to read this as well.

Kindle Scout is for fiction writers to possibly get a publishing contract with Amazon Publishing for ebook and audible book rights only (guidelines link here). You retain the print rights to your book. Since my book, The Happy Hammock, is based on my life and real estate foibles in Mexico, but it is fictionalized, it counts in the general literature and fiction category and a few other genres like romantic comedy as well.

In essence a Kindle Scout campaign gives you 30 days to accumulate NOMINATIONS (votes) from readers on the Kindle Scout website in order to win that publishing contract.

For readers, they will get a FREE kindle copy of a book they nominate when/if it is successful, yes, including mine. To be a reader who can nominate, FAQs are here, but essential things to know:

  1.  You will have to have an Amazon account or sign up for one
  2.  You only have three votes to use on different books per cycle – so do look at my page today or before Sept. 29 before casting all your votes – you have a 5000 word preview.

My campaign is from August 30th to September 29th, 2017 (my birthday is on Sept. 30th so going to be a tense birthday waiting for a yes or no email that day)


My goal: try to get as many daily nominations- consistently- over the course of 30 days and stay in the hot and trending category for as many hours as possible.

That means different people click the blue, nominate me button on my page everyday. The goal is not only to get a lot of votes as it is to get a consistent flow of votes daily as the mysterious algorithm that Amazon uses to make choices is based on your ability to promote yourself consistently. One big spike of voters is not going to do it. And voting isn’t the only thing. Kindle Scout Editors will be reviewing my entire manuscript and deciding if it is ready enough (before they ask for edits). Oh yes. This is an actual publishing contract with a $1500 advance, some work you do to polish and some guarantees of modest income (that can go much higher with your royalty being 50%).

I will check in and blog regularly and show you my stats in screenshots from my campaign dashboard that normally I am only privy to. A little scary. What are the kind of things I have to do to be successful? This is what I have done and am planning:

1) Have a kick-ass cover – I always pay a pro to do this! Looks good doesn’t it. Don’t think I haven’t checked out who wins these contracts and noticed that those with awesome covers often win, because they do.

2) Also important your 500 character max book description and 45 character tag line.


This is what mine is now and frankly I could have tweaked it even further. Two days ago I begged them to let me change my tag line before launch (see the old one in the first picture and the new here) thanks to a late night review with Martin Crosbie’s help (thanks again Martin). About half the people voting very likely will be strangers who regularly go to Kindle Scout and they will use my description, tag and then the sample pages of the first 5000 words of my manuscript to nominate. So this is a great way to broaden or build a readership.

3) Have my social media contacts primed:
Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc.

4) Plan Blogging…
My Blog – my link
Guest blogging – link to VSW blog – and I am open for more invites form bloggers, hint hint – after all I have been cultivating my fascinating stories for just such invites.
Ask others to interview me on their blog – again open for invites BLOGGERS. Some good questions you might ask me:

  •  When and why did you decide to do a Kindle Scout after publishing so many other books independently?
  •  What happens if you don’t get the Kindle Scout deal?
  •  How did writing this book happen?
  •  Do you really have  a Mecca for writers in Mexico?
  •  Your campaign page says The Happy Hammock is book one, what’s in book two and how soon will that be coming out?

5) Order some cards made up, bus. card sized, to hand out with the link to campaign page.

6) Facebook Book promo groups – there are dozens of them out there but only some of them let you join and start promoting yourself so be careful, better to tip toe into it and read the rules and descriptions.

7) Joint ventures as with people like Gary Bizzo of Biz Publishing and a twitter influencer who is doing this experiment with me and we will be launching promoting his new book soon (but not using Kindle Scout as it is non-fiction book) but when it is published and launched as it hits Amazon soon. @garybizzo,

8) Networking online and off – friends and friends of friends, the word has to get out there BUT over 30 days not all at once. Remember, consistency is key!

9) Emailing – always good to build an email list.

10) Students and public speaking – since I teach writing and publishing and am out there I will mention it at those events in Vancouver and give our cards over the next 30 days.

Okay, that’s all I got for now. I hope this enlightened you and I am sure I will be learning as I go along, so look for my regular posts from today, Day 1, to Day 30 and beyond. Phew! No turning back. Feel free to ask me any questions here and I will try to answer them or find the answers.

If you want the link again to check out KS and my campaign page and nominate me if you like what you see Here It Is again: https://kindlescout.amazon.com/p/6RZV8XHY3K9H

 Thanks! Kathrin

Blog for Blog’s Sake or The 99% Decade

I haven’t blogged here since last year. I have two unfinished  blog ideas in my drafts folder that no longer inspire me. My blogger friend Lorraine (aka Raincoaster) would be ashamed of me. Every three days to a week is more her schedule. At very least every three weeks. But what is up with me?

potential mock-up cover for my new book

On the weekend I was at a party and the weird subject of disposing of a cremated loved ones ashes came up -only at a good party can such subjects come up- and I told the whole hilarious and profound story of disposing of my mother’s ashes that had everyone engaged. I realized I could not have done that if I had not written a blog post about it a number of years ago called, The Mystery of Mom. That’s when it hit me that I had not blogged for a very long time. I went from about once a month to every three months to every six months and now once a year.

On the upside I have a new book I have finished a first draft of, The Happy Hammock (I am still seeking beta readers if you are interested in reading the first draft – please contact me). However, some of the chapters of the book-which is about our misadventures and wacky community in our small Mexican town-are taken from some of my blogs, albeit expanded and sweetened. So how could I stop doing this important exercise? On the one hand, I am still writing, perhaps more than ever, but on the other hand I am not sharing enough. My last blog statistics were horrendous. This is not good for my marketing efforts which let’s face it are more haphazard than I care to admit.

As a writing teacher/coach my students have heard me said that after teaching writing for about ten years I figured out that I wasn’t really teaching people to write. Sure I gave them the technical tools in story structure and dialogue and all of that, but what I figured out I was really doing was empowering them to share their writing. That is the scary part. That is the part that holds people back. So, my friends, under that wisdom I can’t argue with because it is my own, I say today I am blogging for blog’s sake. I am not even doing it on a separate Word doc first. I am putting it direct into WordPress as I think it. I am live.

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I know I am not all that crazy and carefree an artist however because I noticed that I am hitting the “save draft” button fairly regularly. The point is I haven’t been inspired to blog (remember the two unfinished draft ideas) but I am doing it anyway. Hoping something good will come of this pondering.

Pondering is great for the ponderer but can be boring to read, you maybe have to switch it up. So here goes. A scene between two writers talking:

A: “Do you remember that part in the book Eat, Pray, Love, where she and her Italian friends are figuring out the one word that sums up each city? Rome is sex, Naples is fight, Stockholm is conform…”

B: “Sure. That’s a great part.”

A: “What do you think our city’s word is?”

B: “Hmm. I have a feeling you already know, so are you going to tell me?”

A: “Well I am torn. The first idea is technically two words and it is Real Estate.”

B: “Yeah, our city is obsessed with that.”

A: “Even I’m obsessed with that.”

B: “What’s the other word?”emily_-carr-in-studio

A: “Airbnb”

They start laughing.

B: “Yup, that’s about it these days.”

A: “I am coining this The 99% Decade – where most of us are battling depression, trying not to think about Donald Trump and are madly trying to make ends meet. We are not the 1% and we don’t know any other way to fight it than Airbnb.”

B: “But this is everywhere, not just our city.”

A:”True. And for writers and artists and women it has always been thus.”

B: “What do you mean?”

A: “I keep thinking of Emily Carr who took in boarders to make ends meet so she could keep painting. She had a little studio in her house and hung chairs and various things up on the rafters with ropes and pulleys to bring them down when she needed so she could have enough room for her canvases.”

B: “You mean there have always been people struggling and we have always been pragmatists.”

A: “I guess so.”

B: “And there have always been the very rich too.” She pauses. “So what’s the outcome of this?”

A: “I guess, just keep blogging, painting, dancing, doing whatever you do however best you can. And if you need to airbnb, you airbnb.”

B: “Right.”

A comfortable silence is broken.

B: “Should we just accept the 99%dom then?”

A: “I don’t think anyone wants to emulate the 1%, do they? What does it say about you if you want to be mega rich? That you are selfish? We should hang on to our values when we struggle and be proud, 99% proud. They are 1% rich but they can be 99% as miserable as anyone else.” Another pause. “One thing I know for sure is no one is friends with us for our money.”

They laugh again.

B: “You are an optimist.”

A: “No, I just create characters who are optimists.”

B: “Still, it’s a good thing you blogged today.”

And so ends my blog for blog’s sake with a neat little snapshot of this corner of history right now. Maybe it is good I blogged today.

075a0286Kathrin Lake helps writers write all over North America but particularly in Mexico where she holds writing retreats every January.

Contact at kathrinlake4@gmail.com

2nd Place at the Vancouver Story Slam

Tuesday night, April 12th, I went to The Vancouver Story Slam group which meets every second Tuesday of every month. Sometimes I watch but this time I was a participant.  For those of you who don’t know, this is story telling competition. I came in a humble second as well as receiving the line of the night award which if you listen, starts with “Every siesta time we are  now having…”.  This is from the book I am currently completing called The Happy Hammock about our hilarious and profound adventures in Mexico.

 

The Vancouver Story Slam Info

Where: The Cottage Bistro, 4468 Main St, Vancouver, BC V5V 3R2

When: Every 2nd Tuesday of the month, get there by 7:30 if you want to get a good seat, starts at 8pm – 10 pm.

What: 10 storytellers tell 4 – 6 minute stories that you get to vote on, plus warm up story and awards of $75 for first prize, $50 for second prize, $25 for third prize. and various other prizes

Cost: $5 (and patronage at the Bistro of food and/or drinks)

Sign up to be a teller, rules and other info:  https://www.facebook.com/VancouverStorySlam/

 

Thanks to JP LORENCE for giving me the video AND WHO WON the competition that night by the way, for his story about the birth and the death of a story, and its possible resurrection.

Third place went to a first timer, Devon More, for her story of how language barriers in a movie theatre can result in something being lost (or added!) in translation.

 

Bonus picture:

HH Sex gasoline

The Human Dance in the Void

This Saturday, I am down at my local Starbuck’s at English Bay cashing in on a gift card and doing what people do there. People watch.

This is the scene I see happening before my eyes. Two young men are sitting outside at a table and I am sitting inside. Along comes an elderly woman with the look of a poverty line statistic, who, without a word, pulls up the chair across from them, shakily sits down, and lights up a cigarette. It is obvious they don’t know her. It goes without saying she is not carrying a Starbuck’s product (which I secretly admire her for). She just wants a place to sit, rest and smoke. With my front row seat through the glass I feel the young men squirm. One looks into his phone the other keeps checking out the summer babes crowding the sidewalks.  The old woman draws on her cigarette, her hand shakes all the way from hand to mouth for that precious drag. What will happen?

1_social disconnection

2_social disconnection

4_social disconnection

Not a word is spoken. Is this tolerance, apathy, social disconnection, generation gap? I am glad no one chases her away. Even though if it were me sitting outside, that cigarette would make me a little zoodles. How long will this social contract to ignore each other go on?  Will anyone break it? Will anyone acknowledge the void? I am waiting for the men to leave… or maybe the woman. Care to hazard a guess?

 

5_social disconnection

One young man leaves without saying a word to the other. I had assumed the two men were friends and clearly they were strangers sharing a table and nothing more. Does my assumption reflect the story I want to see? Then the woman leaves, unsteady and plodding. Then the other young man with the phone moves off.

7_social disconnection

The dance is over. I present it here to make of it what you will but consider that there are millions more dances like these happening everywhere all the time.

Magic 8 Ball: My Relationship with the Future

2KathrinAsFortunetellerI have an uneasy relationship with the future. I am not the only one. If I were, there would be no such thing as divination in the form of astrology, tarot cards, chicken bones and of course the Magic 8 Ball.

tarot20-20220tarot20cards20image

Last week, I bought a Magic 8 Ball. Why? Because I never had one before and it held for me mystery and nostalgia. Everyone else around me seemed to have had one at some point. Can anyone ever forget the episode of Friends where Ross repeatedly consults his Magic 8 Ball in regards to Rachel?

The Magic 8 Ball has been around since the fifties thanks to Mattel, but I don’t recall it being in vogue in my ‘hood until the late 70s (we were still lost in our Ouija boards).

So, I wanted a Magic 8 Ball, but not urgently just curiously.  I even asked for one for my birthday to my sensible husband, who promptly ignored the request and got me a pedicure, a meal out and flowers. I didn’t miss the Magic 8 Ball. But, suddenly I was invited to a grand opening party of my friend Gary’s newest toy store, The Toy Box (Toy Jungle chain) and the opportunity presented itself.

The way the Magic 8 Ball is packaged you can use it in the store and test it before you buy it. So, I decide to ask a stupid test question: will it still be raining when I leave the store? Its answer: all indications pointed to yes. I realized right there that this was a stupid question because since I was at a party I wasn’t sure when I was going to be leaving, so it was not a question I could verify a correct answer to right away. It also meant I would have to buy the Magic 8 Ball in order to see if the question was correct or be caught for shoplifting. So I buy it. I leave the store an hour later and it is still raining. All things look good, except for the fact that it really is raining hard and I have no umbrella. However, I do live in Vancouver and the weather forecast is probably about as accurate as a Magic 8 Ball and rain is always a good bet. A better bet is to carry an umbrella.???????????????????????????????

As I took my treasure home, the quintessential adult kid with a new toy to play with, I start to ruminate on my first, big, important question. My first thought was I’d ask: will my screenplay be bought? It is currently under option so it’s important to me to go to the next step and sell it and see it produced. My next thought is, what if the answer is negative and the answer influences me negatively and I give up on trying to sell the screenplay. Better not ask that question. I should ask questions where I have little influence over the subject.

So I went down that path, trying to find a question that was important to me but I have very little control over the outcome so if the answer is negative I won’t be influenced to change my ways, possibly in a self-fulfilling prophesy kind of way.  If you are following this, I salute you. Now, I suddenly realize how many things I actually have influence over.
Will my book sell well?
Will I have a good meeting next week?
Will I be able to help my family with their present problems?
All of these kinds of questions I have a lot of influence over and I wanted to think positively about them and keep that power. I did not want the Magic 8 BaMagic8Ballll to come out with an answer that may affect  my thoughts or actions in a detrimental way. Clearly these questions were off the table.

So I moved to questions where I had absolutely no control over. At least I was thinking I did. If you ask, for example, will I win the lottery, the very minimum you have to do is buy a lottery ticket. And, don’t you have to buy the ticket first to ask a question? You again have influence, or an active role at least in the outcome. Was I going to rush out and buy a lottery ticket just to ask the Magic 8 Ball if I was going to win it? No. Truth be told I don’t even think I want to win a lottery. That is not my idea of fulfillment.

Other things that were both important to me and I thought I might not have influence over the outcomes, were for other people. Will my friend, who has the big “C,” ‘s health return? Do I really want to ask that question? Would the answer influence how I talk to them, or even if I wanted to talk to them? Would they know on the phone by the tone in my voice that I had a psychic indication positive or negative? Was I supposed to put my friends health in the frivolity of the Magic 8 Ball?

Pretty soon after going through all the questions that really make a difference to me, but I have no control over, I came back to one. The one I started with. The weather. Anything considered an act of God. Once again, I was pretty sure we had weather forecasts for this exact reason. And even if forecasts weren’t always correct, they weren’t vague either. That’s right, I went all the way from desiring the Magic 8 Ball, to finally getting one and realizing I could not use it.

The silver lining was seeing, not into the future, but seeing that I do have an influence in life, however great or subtle it is, over, many, many things and I use it everyday without even thinking. And you do too.

Maybe I always knew the Magic 8 Ball was going to be too good to be true, because I never took it out of its package. I will not take it back to the store. It is not defective. But perhaps I will give it to someone who needs to learn that the future is at their feet more than they realized.

cropped-a556288-r2-023-10.jpgKathrin Lake is the author of Writing with Cold Feet, and leads Writing Retreats in Mexico every January and February through the Vancouver School of Writing http://vancouverschoolofwriting.com/events/writing-retreats/. She also teaches Yoga for Writers at her retreats. See http://kathrinlake.com for more information.

My Secret Passion is …the Movies

I have some good news to crow about that goes along with my secret passion. Okay, maybe it’s not so secret but it is real. It’s the Movies.

If you are one of those people who have been practicing their Oscar award-winning speech for years (secretly of course), you will relate to this dream.

Many of you don’t know that my degree is in Film and then later, Theatre. I love the Theatre; it’s where I really learned about dialogue and character development, and improved my writing in leaps and bounds. But, as with most people, I haven’t seen near as many plays as I have movies.

My Dad gave me a super 8 film camera when I was about 14.  At that time, my less than secret passion was still horses. Yes, it had not switched to boys completely, and it was fueled by my best friend, Tracy, who had a horse. A black horse. Her friend, had a white horse, or mostly white. And thus, my first short film was born. A Western, entitled, “Good Guy, Bad Guy”

shootoutIt had a less than subtle moral theme, and used the iconic music from Clint Eastwood’s spaghetti Westerns.  The story line is two gunslingers (played by Tracy and her friend, with their horses), who meet for a shoot out.  The gunslinger all in white on the white horse rides down into the valley. Then the gunslinger all in black rides down the opposite side of the valley at high noon. They meet and dismount for the classic shootout quick draw. They fire! For several seconds you don’t know who has been killed until the gunslinger in black falls over. Now, the moral resolution to the film: the gunslinger in white, having killed, goes over to the dead gunslinger in black, takes his black hat and gets on the black horse and rides off.

Well maybe a filmmaker was not born but I did get two films out of it. It seems when you put a camera in front of experienced horsewomen, suddenly they don’t know how to get on and off their horses. The horses themselves also added some clever and hysterical moves and we had enough out-takes to have a second film that got much more interest than the first.  Since then, it seems all my plays, screenplays and films were imbued with a sense of humor.

I did have some humble successes in plays, small screen, large screen attempts, including co-writing with others, but I had to pay the bills too, so I put a hold to that pursuit to do the happy day job while on the side, I wrote articles, edited and contributed to newspapers, and taught writing in night schools. Eventually, I left the day job to write non-fiction books, give writing coaching and workshops, and run the Vancouver School of Writing (VSW). But, those plots for movies kept running in my head and so earlier this year I wrote a screenplay for the first time in many years and started to immerse myself in that craft, and find the online communities for screenwriters.  My friend and author, Eileen Cook, who read it, suggested Praxis and I remembered that several years ago me and my writing partner at the time, the very funny, late, great Irwin Barker ( who passed away 3 years ago RIP Irwin), had been shortlisted in the annual Praxis competition. I looked online and realized the deadline for this year’s competition was a week away. Eileen gave me some fast notes, but there was no time to get beta readers and, as the screenwriters call it, “coverage” (notes from readers), so I registered it with the WGA and tossed it in on the last day of the deadline.

Recently it was announced that my screenplay, The Princess and the Thief, was a semi-finalist and ranked in the top 8% of entrants.

aPrincessBride

Some feedback was:

“Witty dialogue, charming story, classic fairy tale characters. A script that leaves you

feeling like you’ve just been read a beautiful bedtime story. Magical realism raises it to
the level of The Princess Bride. Caveats: Feels a bit long at times.

 “Completely charming and whimsical. Fun set ups, good interweaving of stories.
Clever problems and solutions along the journey.”

Gee, what if I had had more time before putting it in?!  Although I missed the big prizes, one of the anonymous judges asked if they could contact me. That judge was very complimentary and may be helpful for the next steps, a redraft and on to selling, and I may have a great new relationship or even a collaborator, so I am thrilled. It seems I am back into my passion again and coming out of the closet.  I have since gotten a great deal of constructive feedback from some excellent readers to whom I am most thankful, so I have to schedule some writing redraft time, and start making some serious Hollywood connections. The truth is, I am already working on another screenplay that I like a lot, but as usual, will probably not get to it in any depth until the Writing Retreat in Mexico in January (where do you think I did the bulk of my writing on the Princess screenplay?)

PS – When I started this post, I noticed this WP report that I had been hanging onto since New Year’s that WordPress.com gives you about your blog in the past year, and thought, Wow, that’s an awesome and prophetic parallel! Was this an omen that I missed? Or perhaps it is still an omen of things to come? My advice, as always, is… just keep writing.

Here’s an excerpt from the WordPress report:

4,329 films were submitted to the 2012 Cannes Film Festival. This blog had 21,000 views in 2012. If each view were a film, this blog would power 5 Film Festivals

Click here to see and read a sample of Kathrin’s newest book Writing with Cold Feet or click on the cover below. Read Kathrin’s writing blog here. Or the Blog for VSW here.

WWCFkindlecopycover

Why I Got Married at 50

If you want some fun, laughs and new thoughts on marriage you will love this. After this introduction you should watch this video of the speech I gave at my own wedding on September 8, 2012. It is a humourous and personal account, but I glossed over some important points in this speech in making the decision to get married (at 50), so if you want even more insight on Why I Got Married at 50, you can read below and see the other photos as well, but speech first; if nothing else it gives you a little sample of personal speech writing by moi. Let me know your own thoughts. Enjoy!

Why I Got Married at 50

So, I read about it, thought about it, and in my personal journals wrote about it. I’ll start with the reading. Articles of all kinds, too numerous to mention, were perused but one of my favourites was in the NY Times and about a couple whose families were living in India, though they settled in the USA, who had an arranged marriage. Looking at their North American counterparts struggling with marriages and relationships, they came to the conclusion that our expectations of marriage were very romantic and unreal. Having started with very little getting-to-know-each-other time themselves, they felt it kept their expectations realistic and had taught this couple that they just had to work things out, there was no magic formula, they were already committed to highs and lows, committed to finding some differences, but they felt that they, and their family, had already chosen a partner with basic common grounds: religion, proximity of families, education, similar upbringing. It is enough. All that was required was willingness and committment.  The article struck a chord with me as I too was feeling like the expectations of people for relationships were often out of whack and just as likely, if not more likely to throw the relationship off as any character flaws each individual had. So that was where I had evolved to regarding monogamy and long-term relationships, but why marriage?

I once read an astrological chart that said my sign was never quite comfortable until in a marriage. I remember having an immediate gut response to this that I would never admit to my cool feminist friends. The response was yes, this was true of me. Underneath I like traditions, I like structure, I believe in spelling things out. I believe in community recognition. So, again I went looking for more in-depth reading and found it in Elizabeth Gilbert‘s Committed.

You could not get a more reluctant bride than Gilbert who was forced to wed, or her life partner, Felipe, would never be allowed into her country (U.S.). I

 
Yes the cake went down the aisle too… the top anyway.

could also not ask for a person more articulate, intelligent and relatable for me than Gilbert. Though I had never had a “failed” marriage before, unlike herself and Felipe, who both suffered from traumatic divorces, I did listen to Gilbert’s struggle in interviews, articles and finally her book and it was a fascinating journey. It also gave me the new take on the often quoted over 50% divorce rate statistic. The real evidence is that those that get married at 45 or older have an extremely low rate of divorce. Logical. But there were many other things in Gilbert’s book that made me think a great deal. I usually think by writing in my journal. Figuring things out on paper has always worked for me. That’s when I really made the decision that I did in fact want to be married, and I now knew who I wanted to be married to. That took a long time to happen as you heard in my speech about unconditional and conditional love.

After trying to get on the same expectations page with my intended groom, I really appreciated more and more the person who was so willing to go through that process with me, my now husband, Jim (aside–my first book, From Survival to Thrival, was dedicated to Jim as my dancing partner and my life partner).  Now we only had to decide together, after much talk, how we wanted to be married, and find our own way with our own reasons.  In my next blog post I may reveal, if they let me, either Jim’s speech, and no it is not traditional for the Bride or Groom to give speeches to one another, or my best friend and maid of honor, Elektra’s speech.  This wedding put a twist on old traditions all over the place, and we can truly say we did this wedding our way, with our communities.

SHOULD PEOPLE STILL GET MARRIED?

What do you think? How do we thrive in love? I’d love to hear your feedback, so…

PLEASE LEAVE COMMENTS!

Want my Best Guide on Writing a Great Speech?

CLICK on links below to get your version of: The A to Zen of Speech Writing:

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Kathrin is looking forward to her retreat in Mexico in February (every February 15),  where she will be guiding others in their writing. Please contact her for more information about the retreat and other programs through the Vancouver School of Writing.

Granny Yoga Heals Frozen Shoulder…

A year and a half ago I was afflicted with the mysterious condition known as frozen shoulder.  It does exactly what it sounds like. It freezes a shoulder to the degree you can’t raise your arm over your head. It is painful.  This condition is commonly (but not always), found in women who are entering menopause, however replacing their hormonal loss doesn’t seem to help. Once it’s got you, it’s got you.

My doctor sadly shakes her head and says to me, “I know this is hard to take, but its going to take two years to recover.”

What! I don’t believe her. I go online and see some places where it takes three years. I also meet someone who had it for three years. Some others were quicker, a few had it in one shoulder and then once they finished that shoulder it went to the other, another common occurrence. The whole time I am thinking, wait a second here, I am no wimp, I dance swing and tango every week. This isn’t going to be me.

Then I start the process. The process that becomes familiar to every person who gets this. You start the therapies, one by one, with hope, and optimism, slowly melting to absolute pessimism. I go through physiotherapists, acupunturists, massage therapists, Bowen Therapy experts, naturopathics, craniosacral people, ostepathy, infra red therapy, on and on. I thank the lord that Jim has a great benefits plan, but nothing is working and I have spent $1000 dollars of my own money beyond the benefits plan. And these therapies cost me more than money, they take a great deal of time. Time I don’t want to give up.

I interject all these therapies with both prescribed exercises at home and with my own exercises. Some days I think it’s working and other days nada. I am thankful it is my left shoulder and not my right, being right-handed. I know I am completely at risk with my profession as a writer by being on the confounding computer so much. I have to slow down and take long rests from the computer. I get some help from volunteers I can delegate to, and I waste more time and money trying both voice-to-text software and handwriting recognition software. Nothing suffices. I have to slow down and listen to the body. It wants a break. It wants gentle unrepetitive, un computer-like movement.

Some people start to say swimming works, others say yoga. Of course, the health plan doesn’t cover these (which I have always thought of as very short-sighted towards health). Though I love swimming, I can no longer stand getting into cold pools, especially in a cold climate (they say they are heated but it’s never enough). The only swimming I ever do now is in Mexico.  Having done yoga on and off for years I know that there is a variety to choose from but with the shoulder, my downward facing dog is going to look like a downward falling three-legged dog.

I try a course given by Kyra, a woman who teaches what she calls Yoga Therapy. The participants in this class have their own afflictions which make my frozen shoulder look like Tai Chi in the park.  Comparatively speaking, I can consider myself lucky.  There are many people struggling through many kinds of physical challenges and recoveries and my heart goes out to them. I am tickled with Yoga Therapy but after the four sessions I get in on, Kyra is going away for several months. Now what?

With little progress, less money, and less energy, I feel like a shut in and get into a mental funk that yo-yos until I spot an ad in the Spring Guide for our local rec centre. Yoga Over 50. It promises gentle yoga two days a week in the a.m. and the drop-in cost is $1… wait, am I seeing that right. One dollar!  As it turns out, it is $1 for over 60 and $2.50 for over 50. Didn’t I just turn 50?  Well then I guess I can just squeak in. I try it.

Thus starts my dedication to a very unexpected and amazing group that I have come to call Granny Yoga.  I call it this because the women (although a few men come and go), are twenty years my senior.  The one who leads the exercises is Nan. She is 86. We can’t properly call her a leader since she is not trained in Yoga, she just took over for Lilo, the original teacher, who is now well into her 90’s and no longer able to come to class, though a number of the grannies still visit her at home. I get the idea it is her mind more than her body that took Lilo out of the picture. However, you perhaps get what I’m thinking here. Is this a fountain of youth class or what. Well, perhaps, though true Yoga aficionados have been saying this for years haven’t they.

Nan, who has a wonderfully loud Scottish brogue, is also a little deaf and that’s why she talks loudly and everyone can hear her directions clearly. And I’m thinking how wonderful a world is it when you can take Yoga instructions in a Scottish accent from a feisty octogenarian.

The Yoga is perfectly gentle for my injured shoulder. Enough to stretch it but not too much, meanwhile the rest of the body is really enjoying getting its fair share of movement, and I realize that I used to do this a lot, and got out of it somehow. My favourite exercises are for the areas we forget, like the eyes (I later find out Paul McCartney is all over Yoga eye exercises See here). Your whole body needs movement and benefits from a regime. After all, all of it is going to have to get you through this life. All around the room I have a testament to this. But these grannies dish up Yoga class their style. There is a walk and sing segment and they stop in the middle for “comments” better known as yack.

During the comment time, we hear from Rebel Granny who is making us aware of the evils of the new proposal to let more oil tankers into our harbour that destroy the Indian Arm and the bay area (see petition here).  There is Canucks Granny who reminds us to cheer on our boys on the ice trying fo the Stanley Cup (sorry boys). There is the Singing Grannies who lead us in a chorus of “When the Saints Come Marching In.” There is Nature Granny who tells us about the birds and flowers to watch for, “Doesn’t our parks board do a great job!”

There is also Eastern European Granny who talks about her grandkids and all the Easter eggs they painted, over 100. And of course there was the Easter egg hunt itself. “They found one from last year,” she tells us.  She is always the one to know the holidays and bring in treats. To instill on me the importance of coming regularly to Yoga she tells me, “If I miss one day, I am stiff.”

Then a familiar male face comes in, a man I know. It is Micheal who I met years ago at Toastmasters and we had bonded as fellow writers.  Michael had written a fabulous memoir of his time in India he spent working with Mother Theresa.

“Did you practice Yoga in India?” I ask him.

“Heavens, no,” he says, “I could never do that.” I’m not sure if that was because they were too good or it was too authentic, but I do know that Michael likes to come to yoga to socialize with the gals.

I am starting to become self-conscious in this class. They start to call me the purple lady because I continually come in my favourite purple exercise suit, but that’s not why.  I know they are all wondering why “the kid” (I’m only 50), is coming to this class during the day.  So I take a chance and on the next comment time and decide to pipe up. I try to explain that I am in menopause and experiencing the phenomenon of a frozen shoulder and ask if any of them have had it. I get interrupted early with, “Speak up dear, we can’t hear you.”

“What’s she saying?”

“She says she’s going through menopause!” Nan’s buddy yells loudly into her ear and across the room and down the hall. “She says she has a frozen shoulder!”

“Oooh.”

During this comment session none of them seem familiar with my condition, but afterward a few of them, including Nan, comes up to me with stories of others and what they did.

Four weeks after I have told them why I am there, my arm starts to unlock by itself, so after a year and a half I can raise my arm over my head. You can’t imagine how nice that feels.  It’s not perfectly okay yet, but it is really a relief to see great progress

I start to believe that I owe a lot of it to Granny Yoga, and perhaps some diet shifts I made as well, but mostly Yoga. I am now a Yoga believer in a way I never have been before. Yoga will keep me young.  I decide to drop into another yoga class on the weekend where I can actually practice a downward facing dog. So I do and it’s nice and certainly more challenging, but they don’t give me eye exercises. And, even if they did, there ain’t no way I am giving up my Granny Yoga classes.

For more writing and teaching by Kathrin Lake go to kathrinlake.com or Vancouver School of Writing.com

Try this Video for further Yoga inspiration.  Thanks to Matt:

YOGA HELPS 47  YEAR OLD MAN WALK UNASSISTED AGAIN – CLICK PHOTO FOR VIDEO LINK

 

FINALLY, FINALLY I have the VIDEO of Lilo Pederman – the original instructor –  showing her Yoga routine!

(Sorry for the poor quality)

avideoofliloperderman