Musings and Personal

It’s all Uphill from Here

February 12, 2015

I raced around the hotel with manic jitters the first day of the San Francisco Writers Conference.  Honestly, I wasn’t nervous about the conference itself (yet).  My misgivings centered around navigating the BART (Bay Area Regional Transit).  Directionally-challenged and anxiety-prone when traveling unfamiliar roads alone, adrenaline coursed through my veins.

Problem #1:  I was not coordinated enough to slip the ticket in the BART machine and pull it out at the same time I walked through the briefly open barrier.  (See Pitching Forward in A Pitch to read how this seemingly easy movement is a challenge for me.)

Problem #2:  I was going to walk the half mile to the Mark Hopkins Hotel.  I had been there only once prior, and my husband drove.

  • I reserved a shuttle to the BART station and got there in plenty of time.  Success #1.
  • I found the ticket area and paid.  Success #2.
  • I didn’t make it through the turnstile and had to ask the attendant for a wave through the handicap pass.  Fail #1.
  • With the help of a girl 15 years younger, I found the correct BART line to take into the city.  Success #3.
  • Note:  This young woman was a 21st century version of myself.  She wore ear buds and read an article on her phone.  Her backpack was slung casually over her shoulders and she wore a hip San Francisco outfit.  She had a piercing hanging from her lip.  (Mine was a more modest belly button.)
  • I accessed the GPS on my phone before I left the station.  Success #4.
  • I followed the cheerful GPS voice.  Success #5.
    • Note:  My internal navigation system is so horrible I even get lost with GPS.  My phone routinely tells me “proceed to the route.” I swear her calm computer voice has a tinge of frustration at times.

If only I had known this whole time that the uncertainty I focused on was nothing compared to what lay ahead.  I knew the Mark Hopkins was at the top of a hill but I had NO idea how much of an understatement that was!

  • The first block had a gradual incline.  My heart pounded but I made it up and through the traffic light without pause.
  • The next block was significantly steeper.  I slowed down a bit.  My breath became more labored as I felt the effects of the incline.  I hoped the approaching traffic light was red.  I needed to catch my breath but didn’t want to look like the out-of-shape mother I am.  No such luck.
  • Next block and I swore I was walking vertical.  I decided to stop at the next traffic light even if it wasn’t red.  I desperately needed to catch my breath, which escaped from my open lips at an alarming rate.  I lucked out – the light was red.
  • I continued when the light turned green.  The incline of the sidewalk seemed even steeper and I wondered how that was possible.  In slow motion I pulled myself upward and onward, passed on the left by San Francisco natives.  (Ever notice there are no obese people in San Francisco?)  I was sluggish and afraid my legs would give out.  I stopped in the middle of the block.  I didn’t care if everyone thought I was pathetic. Sweat trickled down my back.  I repeatedly thanked God for the deodorant in my bag. I forced myself to begin again.
  • At the next block I got excited.  I could not see any more hills!  Did this block end at the Mark Hopkins?!  Am I almost there?!!  It looked like a hotel building on the right side where the road leveled off.  I got a second wind and picked up my pace.  I eagerly anticipated the hotel’s air conditioning.  I approached the stoplight and saw I was woefully wrong.  It was an illusion because of the sidewalk’s nearly ladder-like position.  Depressed, I leaned against the nearest building.  I rested through two red lights then begrudgingly went on.
  • Perhaps this one was the last.  Nope.  The hills of San Francisco mocked me and I wanted to give them the middle finger.  This time I stopped two times on my trek to the top.  I prayed my pacemaker battery would hold out until I reached the hotel and collapsed.
  • I started the next block.  I could not look up anymore.  I focused on putting one foot in front of the other.  I approached the top and looked up.  I saw a small set of stairs with a railing.  Could this be?  No, I won’t get my hopes up… YES, YES IT WAS THE HOTEL!

I quickly slipped into the hotel’s restroom.  I went into a stall and freshened my pits.

Praise God, I made it!

Musings and Personal

A Package for Audrey

Wednesday, February 11, 2015:

I left Sacramento and drove to San Leandro.  There, I checked into the Marina Inn.

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Best Hotel EVER!

Before I started the two-hour drive, I stopped by my in-laws’ house.  My father-in-law asked me to deliver a package for Audrey, the hotel’s supervisor.

The package was fairly light.  The things inside bumped around.  It was sealed in a box with the Zulily logo.  I thought it strange my father-in-law was passing on a package of clothing.  Once in the car, however, I didn’t give it another thought.

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I drove through the sprawling Altamont Pass.  Anorexic windmills stood tall and proud, interspersed in the foothills.  My ears popped only slightly, for which I was grateful.  I’d forgotten to get out gum for my altitude-sensitive ears.

Pulling into the parking lot at the Marina Inn is like pulling up to Gull Lake, a resort (a term I use loosely) where we stayed for a week each summer.  As a child, Gull Lake was a vacation spot that felt like home.  And so it goes with the Marina Inn on our semi-routine visits.

After check-in, I loaded up the baggage cart.  I brought two suitcases, a Tinkerbell tote bag full of snacks, a lunch cooler full of perishable snacks and my dairy-free, coconut creamer.  I also had an over-stuffed computer bag, light wool jacket for possible cold, and my purse.

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Before suitcase explosion.
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Yes, those are tampons and polka dot socks

I ran into the housekeeping staff on the way to my room.  She thoughtfully held my room door open as I maneuvered the cart into my room.

“Are you staying a while?” she asked, eyeballing my mountain of things.

I NEVER pack this much, not even for a week-long vacation.

Sheepishly I told her “No.” Embarrassed, I went on “I’m attending a writers conference and wasn’t sure what to pack.”

Then she pointed to the business-sized envelope sitting on the dresser.  “I just dropped that off,” she smiled.  Then she left me to the tedious job of unpacking.

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Curious, I approached the envelope.  I had no idea what it could be or who it could be from.  A smile touched my lips when I saw my husband’s handwriting on the front.

Inside I found a card and two stones:  The larger one said luck and the smaller success.

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Inside the card was this thoughtful note:

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And so went the first day of my trip to the Bay Area for the San Francisco Writers Conference.

It was a wonderful start.

Musings and Personal

Reflections on the Balcony of the Marina Inn

It’s going to take awhile to absorb all the information from the San Francisco Writers Conference.  My mind is a dry sponge not quite ready to plunge into the waters of conference notes.

So I will enjoy the crisp view of the bay, mountains gently cupping her water and the boats floating on top.

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I will relax with a cup of coffee and breakfast.  The cool air rests on my shoulders and whispers in my ears.  The coffee offsets the cold.  As I sip the required caffeine, it warms me from the inside.

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The convention was priceless.  I will immerse myself in my notes and share them once my brain is rehydrated.

I made a lot of connections at the conference; however, the friends I made were the most important.  I know these people will be lifetime friends.  A flavorful collection of words lay the foundation for writers’ friendships.  I know we will support and celebrate the journey our words take on the page and to publication.

A last cup of coffee and then pack up. The car will be filled with songs sung by a tone-deaf, wanna-be Katy Perry.  And two hours later, I will pull into the driveway.  A quiet smile will fall on my lips when I walk inside and greet the hugs that await me.

Musings and Personal

Pitching Forward in A Pitch?

I’m attending the San Francisco Writers Conference this week. I am pitching my story* at Speed Dating with an Agent.

First Problem:  I am a stay-at-home mom and before that worked as a medical transcriptionist from home.  I haven’t done business-casual in at least seven years.

Second Problem:  I am a complete klutz.  I have a couple pairs of heels from my younger years.  The heels are less than two inches.  I will still fall flat on my face.

I bump into doorknobs, table corners, our bed post… you get the picture.  This happens so often that I am rarely without a bruise.

On the first date with my husband, Andrew, I launched a knife in the air.

He took me to a fancy restaurant.  I ordered duck.  (I didn’t like anything else on the menu.)  First date jitters prevented me from thoroughly reading the menu’s description…

The server brought the duck out.  It was on the bone.  It was covered in what looked like BBQ sauce.  (Actually, it didn’t taste like much more than overpriced BBQ sauce.)  I did my best to consume that duck gracefully.  I used a knife and fork to split small pieces of duck off the bone.

In one of my high-class attempts to dismantle meat and bone, the knife slipped from my hands.  Coated with the glorified BBQ sauce, the knife flew through the air.  I caught it before it clattered onto the floor or somewhere else unseemly.  A bus boy walking by said “nice catch.”  I wanted to crawl under the table… especially when I found my future hubby wiping sauce off the arm of his white shirt.

But I digress…

Back to my original point; I am a klutz.  I will wear heels for the four days of the writers conference.  Yes, my feet will ache at the end of the day.  Yes, my knees will be stiff the next morning.  But what I am concerned about is literally tripping over my own two feet.

Or going to sit down at the table 1:1 with the agent I most want to represent my book, and falling flat on my face.  Or ass-up in the air with my unmentionables hanging out… (I’ve decided to torture myself further by wearing dresses.)

But then I ask myself:  Would that really be the worst thing that could happen? My brother and sister-in-law asked how the agents would remember me.  I told them I had a business card I’d pass on, and a copy of the first chapter or two of my story upon request.  But then again, maybe pitching forward during my pitch, landing on their lap (or my butt or flat on my face) will help them remember me too.

Because whether or not they are interested in my story, they WILL remember me.  Whether they forgive this fall from grace and appreciate its humor remains to be seen.

But, really, would I want to work with someone who crossed me off their list just because I made a complete fool or myself?  I think I’d rather have an agent whose funny bone was tickled.  Who didn’t take him/herself so seriously.  Who appreciated my tripping didn’t trip up my pitch.

P.S.  It could be a great story…

* See my previous blog post, Born in My Heart: A Bittersweet Adoption Blessing

Musings and Personal

My Inspiration

Hands down, my mom is my biggest fan.  She has supported me through both difficult and happy times.  She has encouraged my independence which has led me to where I am today.

Don’t get me wrong, we’ve had our ups and downs… and not just in high school when my teenage hormones clashed with her menopausal ones!  But it wouldn’t be a mother-daughter relationship without this sometimes intense dynamic.

About three years ago my mom said she felt bad because her Christmas gifts for me weren’t that great.

Note:  My mom is a German Catholic and guilt runs in her blood.

Second Note:  She and my dad flew out of below-zero weather in Wisconsin to be with us in California during the holidays.  I told her that present was the best present she could get me!

Aside from their visit, there is only one gift that stands out in my memory from that Christmas.  It was a puzzle painted by a local artist; not someone who “made it big,” but regardless had her picture published, so to speak.

Inside the puzzle’s cover, the artist wrote:

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It was this simple inscription that gave me the courage to make my dream of writing a book come true.

Two months after I received this gift, I quit my job and began to write my story, a memoir of helping a drug addict during childbirth, then adopting her two daughters.

Fast forward two years and…

  • I edited it four times… then got burned out and threw it at a professional editor.*
  • I have entered two writing contests, with a third around the corner.
  • I am attending the San Francisco Writers Conference, complete with Speed Dating with an Agent, in less than three weeks.
  • I am constantly researching agents and publishers who will be at the conference, creating different pitches targeted for each one.

And then in the mail on Friday I received this:

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Thanks, Mom, for supporting all my endeavors!

* My editor is wonderful and I highly recommend her:  Laura Garwood Meehan, Editor