Tuesday, October 30, 2012

How To Choose A Halloween Costume (in my house)

First, put something like this near the toilet.

Next, sort through the suggestions.

Decide suggestions are too complex. Settle on Sonny Crockett.

And throwing random accessories onto older son.

Prepare speech on 80s television for third graders. 
Attempt to defend using a mask from a deviant NYC play as your 
sixth grader's costume.

Call it good for another year.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Diary of A Rickety Adult

day 1
Goes to doctor. Hears "fraying," "fluid," and "rest." Learns should have rested elbow long time ago. Should not have flipped tires while injured. Hears "hand surgeon" and "splint." "Soon as possible."

Looks in the mirror. Waves. "Bye, bye, muscle."

day 2
Is heartened by idea of strengthening lower body while rehabbing elbow. Begins regimen.

day 3
Throws out knee.

day 4
Decides needs power over body in some fashion. Starts diet. Feels like skinny self of yore; is reassured that identity is not wrapped up in size of muscles.

Is introduced by young man to his young friend as "badass" for being his favorite spotter. Admits can't actually spot bench press today, nor tomorrow. Is sorry not to live up to "badass" description. Worries will never again be referred to as "badass." Makes bargain with God: Will give up boxing if healed up, will join convent right after dominating old people's division on the deadlift. Will stop saying "badass."

day 5
Rejoins water fitness class. Notices a return to class every fall. Wonders why injuries always occur in fall, when allergies have subsided and can actually breathe and do cardio if not injured.

Finds exercises that can be done with 2-pound dumbbells. Pretends is bodybuilder "cutting" weight.

day 6
Passes through stages of grief:
Anger: Is convinced everyone in gym is exercising out of spite. Reassures self does not need muscle, is smarter/better educated/does not have weak chin.
Acceptance: Realizes error of ways and feels urge to save all souls from same elbow fate. Preaches end-time warnings ("Woe to you who bend wrists during curls!").

day 7
Joins older ladies in pool again. Hears worse troubles of others; feels bad to despair over elbow. Trivial, meaningless elbow. Becomes all Buddhist about injuries. They were meant to be.

day 8
Crawls out of bed and can't put weight on knee. Spends day in stage of Despair. Wants chips. Reminds self self is "cutting." Decides to "cut" tomorrow.

day 9
Is convinced same condition is occurring in good elbow. Wonders why specialist has not called back. Is determined to be own physical therapist. With one hand, begins to google "pt certification."

Remembers is more artsy than science-minded. Writes on blog instead.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Wherever You Go, There You Be

While teaching the boxing demo, I
• mentioned the words "naked" and "beer" at least twice
• ridiculed participants in jest (sort of)
• broke out in a dance

While directing the former prisoners, I
• mentioned "booger" three times
• ridiculed participants in jest (sort of)
• broke out in a dance

Saturday, October 13, 2012

In The Desert

I read on my chiropractor's blog that he'll be riding 100 miles on his bike in Death Valley to raise funds for JDRF and diabetes research.

Conscious thought #1: Wow, how great that he's raising money for research.


Really hot there. Major commitment.

Subconsciously on the radar: Lots of fundraisers this week. I tend to give money to those that are more socially conscious, not science-based. More immediate impact, it feels like.

And to the forefront again: But obviously we've got a personal tie here.

Just as suddenly: Oh.

This is a fundraiser for my son
People are riding bikes in the desert for my son. 
My son needs people riding bikes for him. This research is for him.

The language used to convince people to give--this could be breast cancer, or heart disease, and one would nod their head in sympathy. But these complications they list, they're talking about--

A shutting down. Then, I should give money.

And finally,

What amount could possibly be enough?

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Identity Whiplash

So I'm driving to work really tired after the book-writing extravaganza of the previous week, and I hear a song. This song: it's perfect. For the play I'm writing. For former prisoners. I make a mental note to do something with it as I carry my boxing gear into the Y.

I teach a boxing demo. One guy hits a little hard, and of course there's no way I'm going to stop him, but now my ribs are a bit sore. There's a welt on my arm. Afterwards he asks me to teach him a few new exercises for his quads. I know he's a former wrestler, MMA enthusiast, and recent strongman competitor, so I tailor my suggestions accordingly. This is right up my alley.

We're doing what looks a lot like praying on our knees when another guy says, Hey, it's like that nun in the Saturday Night Live skit. You know, with your pigtails.

I'm like, Yeah, thanks a lot, and he says, No, it's a compliment: she's funny, like you.

Funny writing boxing girl. In pigtails. That's me.


I didn't want to get back on Facebook. Frankly, I did it just for my book--apparently, authors need "platforms," which is a fancy way of saying I have access to many people.

I didn't want access to many people. I was happy in my quiet. Now: "like" this, comment that, by people from all parts of my life, as well as some I barely know.

Who's my writing audience? My audience here, on this blog, I feel I know: I can tell you what's on my heart--maybe curse a little, too--and all's good.

Facebook: Who am I speaking with, please? How do I post a thought that is relevant to my friends, my neighbor, the guys at my boxing gym and my mother?

No need to overthink it, you say. It's just for fun.

My mind doesn't work that way. I need to know who YOU are before I can write to you.

Speaking of which...who are you? Who's out there?

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Weird Stuff I Said To My Kids This Week

I won't even bother giving the context. Or a defense. Here goes...

1. "Please make a sign for the laundry basket that says, 'Wear pants more than once.'"

2. "Remember our conversation about the communists?"


3. "I'm not actually an alcoholic."

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Up Close And Personal, Part 2

Maybe because I myself was asking for money this week, I noticed a lot of other folks were, too. All good causes. I try, generally, to help causes I have a connection to; as I tell the leukemia society when they call, there are many great and worthy organizations out there, but I can't give to all of them. I try to carefully allot our limited funds where they may make the greatest, or at least most personal, impact.

(The fraternal order of police is an exception. No personal connection there, but I give to them. It's hard not to hand over money when a cop asks you.)

The sister of a female boxer I met at Gleason's was gunned down and killed last week. They need money for the funeral; you can donate here.

BuildABridge International, who hires me in the summers to teach at their arts institute in Philly, is holding a fundraiser. I know exactly where the money will go; I've seen and experienced firsthand how any money given to BAB is truly paying it forward--here, in Haiti, and in many other tough places around the world.

Over the past couple of weeks, I, too, asked friends and family to support a cause. I participated in a fundraiser for 826michigan, a nonprofit that provides free tutoring and writing workshops to kids in the Ann Arbor area. My part was writing for three days last week, which I did. By the end of Friday you could find me exhausted, but with a book in hand. And a finished proposal. And--this is news to some of you--an industry contact. It was a good handful of days.

More important to me, however, was that personal contact. Here I've been working on a book alone in my house for five years and now that word has spread, particularly to those who knew the people involved in this true story, I see that the community is much wider than the circle around my laptop. People who knew Marilyn before she died, people who know Kevin and Kelly, are related to them, were writing to me to support the making of this book. And even though the money was going to 826, the encouragement was all mine. I felt very honored and privileged.

The process begins a new phase now as I look for a publisher; I have no qualms, as I'm confident it's a great book. I cry every time I pick it up. I have met some of the people in the story, so there is a personal connection for me, but the book moves even those who don't know the Jansmas. Through the story, the reader can be drawn into community, just as I was writing it.

Speaking of connections, I recently joined Facebook. Look for Amy Scheer of Grand Rapids.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Up Close And Personal

In the middle of day 2 of The Great Write-Off, I once again find myself dazzled by the up close and personal look I'm allowed into my subjects' lives.

I explore the journals of a thoughtful, prolific young woman, now deceased. When she ponders why bad things happen to good people--and concludes "Why shouldn't they? Bad things happen to everyone"--my heart is heavy.

For the play I just wrote for the ex-prisoners, I find myself emailing questions like, "So did you finish the fifth of gin before you stabbed him?"

And this is how I prefer life to be, by the way. We should, all of us, enter into each others' lives as we can and see fit.

(Only one day left to donate to the cause. If I secure a couple hundred more dollars by tomorrow afternoon, I win a private meeting with one of my favorite authors, Dave Eggers. On my husband's birthday weekend. He's cool with it, though, so please help if you can.)

Monday, October 1, 2012

The Power of a Not-So-Happy Ending

My two current writing projects deal in real people and their grief--both, even, in crimes committed and what happens next. And though I allow my characters in both instances to speak for themselves, how and where I put the words makes all the difference.

It's how you tell a story that counts. It's all in how the story is told.

For my book, which you know about because you've donated here, or read this nice write-up, I've settled on a quiet story as an ending, one whose power belies its simple telling. While not the happiest detail of the book nor the highest point of redemption, it shows the transformational possibilities that one man's act of forgiveness can germinate. We're left in the quiet calm after grief's storm, and we see that the soil is drinking in the rain; the afterword is where the reader will learn of new babies born, new joys.

My latest play for the former prisoners has much the same tone. Hopeful, positive, but a lament nonetheless.

While working with the men to gather material for the script, I've increasingly become aware that I can't leave them after the telling of their crimes; for some, just saying the words out loud is clearly troubling, especially as these are men who have worked hard at turning their lives around.

I try to end these times with them speaking something hopeful, whether it be an example of how different they've become, or an affirmation of their gifts.

The play, however, needs to stay a lament. These are men whose past will always follow them, no matter how much they change.

We read through the script for the first time yesterday, and I found I was uncomfortable with such vulnerability. I'm not a big fan of happy endings, but this one--that I wrote--was quite down.

They liked it. It works. I knew that, but my conscience was kicking in as it should, probably as representative of what the audience will feel, which will hopefully move them to act.

Sometimes we need to sit in the sad.