The Picture Is Vague

Life feels like a 5,000-piece puzzle some days.  The full image is vague at best with only random sections partially filled in. We’ve never seen the full picture and we don’t know what it’s supposed to look like, but we have to put it together anyways. There are thousands of pieces still needing to be connected.  We can see there might be some likeness coming to fruition, maybe a tree, the sun, dark clouds – is that a house over there?  But nothing concrete, not just yet.

With both frustration and glee and every feeling in-between, we trudge along anyways, excited by the highs of figuring out a 218-piece part in the top-right-middle that finally looks like something solid.  We get easily saddened by the lows of realizing a piece we once thought fit perfectly, never actually fit at all.  We kick ourselves for having wasted so much time on that one part. How did we not see it was the wrong piece for so long?

But when all the pieces fit and a small portion of the picture emerges, the joy is almost unbearable.  When a baby is born, when you fall in love, when you accomplish a long fought after goal – in those moments, figuring out the puzzle pieces of life seem well worth the effort.

Maybe when we began this journey, if we were lucky, we started out with a corner piece handed to us by our parents and mentors. Then, for most of us, our daily adventure (or torture depending on your perspective) is to figure out where the rest of the pieces are and how they all fit – if they fit.  Maybe connecting all the puzzle pieces of our lives is exactly the journey we’re all on.

Is life just a matter of figuring out the full picture of a 5,000-piece puzzle?

Maybe.

Just something I was thinking about today.

 

A Million Dollar “Gift”

I was just on the phone with my good friend “John” (we’ll just call him that for this post). I was complaining, venting about how hard life can be at times and he asked me simply, without hesitation:  “If a million dollars landed on your doorstep, what would you do?”

We’ve all had this dream at one point or another, right?  The conversation is usually with one of my girlfriends as we finish off our typical weekly catch up call where they’ve complained about their husband or kids (or both) and I’ve complained about work, a date or my latest frustration, my neighbors. And as we finish off our chit-chat we remind each other to get our lotto tickets because “…you never know…” and “…hey, you can’t win if you don’t play.”  (That last one is my favorite).  But yeah, we’ve all had that dream, Am’I’Right?

bitmoji-20190119073735

But today was a different.  This friend of mine is actually wealthy.  He’s in a position to drop bank and not think twice about it. I’m not sure if he’s the “million dollar” kind of bank or not, but he has “bank dropping” abilities nonetheless.  So interestingly the question sounded different coming from him.  It felt like a real question. I hesitated. I had no quick witted funny-isms, no:  “Gurl, we’d be killing it on a sandy beach somewhere watching some half – naked man serving us drinks” – no:  “Gurl first stop, Rodeo!” (It’s a Pretty Women thing).  I had nothing. I was stunned. Into silence. Rare.

Truth is, no one “needs” a million dollars especially if they didn’t earn it.  I calculated that if I could make $200K a year for the next 50 years, I’d be tre cool with that “tiny” amount (she said sarcastically)!  Interestingly enough $200K for 50 years is only $10 Million dollars. I say “only” because those lottery grabs are always so much more than that.  Truly, no one needs that much unearned money EVER!  Even the ultra-wealthy like Warren Buffett and Bill Gates give their excess money away because at some point it just makes sense to share it.  Seriously, how many homes, cars and shoes does one person need?  No, for real?

I honestly don’t need a million dollars dropped on my doorstep. But when I heard Donald Trump say:

“…it has not been easy for me and you know I started off in Brooklyn. My father gave me a small loan of a million dollars. I came into Manhattan and I had to pay him back, I had to pay him back with interest…”.  

I lost my dang-on mind! Even as I write that quote I cringe. There’s an actual sensation in my chest that feels like somethings burrowing deep into my being as I hear it, read it, write it. It bothers me so much.  I know I’m not alone in this.  But, I have finally figured out why.

People think they want loads of money.  People think they need lots of money.  A lot of dumb people think money can buy them happiness (yeah, my apologies for using the word “dumb” here but it really is dumb to think money can buy you happiness).  Money can provide choices. But choices are abundant even when you’re poor.  So, having money can sometimes give you too many choices and become a burden and lead you down the wrong path (Uhem, “Elephant” man bones, Michael Jackson…Google it. An extreme example, but you get the point).

What people actually want in life is security.  That’s a very different thing than loads of money but people confuse it all the time. It’s why I hate that quote from Donald Trump so much.  He doesn’t understand the security he has….

Let me explain.

Money is a vehicle that allows for security, but make no mistake about it – security is a thing, and it hasn’t always been about about money for most of us.

I’ve wanted security my entire life.  And security comes in different forms throughout our lives.  You can see the joy in children who have parents – they may have very little money-wise or a lot of money, but if a young child has love, money is generally not even a thing.  It’s not even part of the conversation.  Think about it this way:  do you remember the first time when you realized you were poor?  Or, do you remember the first time you noticed you were rich? Do you remember whenever you found out that there was a status associated with how much money your family had or didn’t have?  Before that time, all you knew was (hopefully) the joy and happiness of being a child.

I remembered when I fully understood we didn’t have money. It was when my mama bought me boots.  I wanted to march in parades. I was part of an organization that marched in a lot of local events and I didn’t have the right real boots to wear. And one day she used the money that should have been used to pay for heat to buy me the boots I had wanted so badly and for so long.  She traded a utility bill payment to give her little girl a Christmas gift Santa had forgotten to give her.  We went without heat in the middle of winter.  And yet, despite our actual poverty, I always felt secure as a little kid. I knew even then, mama would take care of me, would take care of everything. But seeing her trade heat for a gift, was a realization I hadn’t comprehended fully till that moment. Yeah, we were poor.

As we get older that sense of security becomes our own responsibility. If you’re lucky, you’ve made some choices that maybe provided for some shared responsibility with a husband or wife – or maybe you’ve been able to get a great job with a 401K and good benefits. Maybe you’ve saved a bit, made good investments, and have a cushion of some sort. But see, security now becomes about how much money you have in the bank – and less about your mom or your dad providing that basic sense of safety.  But that oblivious sense of security – that blanket kind of comfort, that sense of well-being you had as a child that was all encompassing and about your safety, security and nurturing, is now all on you. And a lot of it is about how much money you have.  If you don’t have tons of money, then you do what you can to give your family and friends that sense of security and safety anyways.  And even if everyone else believes you’re doing okay, maybe the fact is, you live in that place where fulfilling your personal dreams and ambitions take a back seat to making money every day for your family or just to make ends meet. Taking care of your basic needs is priority numero uno.

Truth is, most people live paycheck to paycheck. There’s not a lot of time for being “creative” or “starting a business” when the fundamentals of living haven’t been met.  A lot of real honest hard-working people, who have done everything right don’t have much more than a couple of months or so savings to make it through if they lose their job (or, if they work for the government and there’s a shutdown – uhem).  It’s been estimated that 40% of people don’t have enough for a $400 emergency.  Rack it up to a $500 emergency and I bet it’s even more people! Fact is, you can make all the right choices in life and still lose everything because financial security is elusive to most regular folk.  It’s hard to dig yourself out of whatever hole you may be in trying to make a better life for yourself , your family (school loans, medical debt, etc.) and still save such an abundance of money (or credit) that you can live through any other financial emergency crisis that may occur AND fulfill some life long dream. I love that line about “pulling yourself up by your bootstraps”. I always counter with, “It’s much easier when you’re born with boots that have them bootstraps to pull on. I’m still walking around barefoot trying to find my way into the damn boot store.”

When someone like Donald Trump talks about it being so hard for him – maybe it was. I mean, everything is relative I do suppose so maybe for HIM it was difficult.  His world is so different from mine, so maybe it was hard for him to deal with receiving such a gift from his father. What angers me about the statement is his inability to understand how insulting it is to those of us who would give anything to have half the advantages he’s had in his life AND get an offer of any kind of loan or gift to make our dreams come true.

The security aspect is so important.  It’s the part that people of such wealth and privilege like Donald Trump don’t understand.  If I had the security of knowing my rent would be paid, my student loans would be paid, my taxes would be paid, my gas bill would be paid, my electricity bill would be paid, my health insurance would be paid, my car payment would be paid, my auto insurance would be paid, my phone bill would be paid, my AAA membership would be paid, my gym membership would be paid, my groceries would be paid, my dental bill – paid, my eye doctor – paid, contributions to a retirement plan or knowing that I would be taken care of in my old age… If I knew all those things – that all those basic necessities would be paid regularly and on time and I didn’t have to ever worry about them, then yes, I could see how being laden with a million-dollar loan might feel a little difficult.

You see, because if all those basic necessities were paid and I was given a ton of money on top of all of that, I’d actually have to use that money to do something amazing and brilliant and I’d have an enormous amount of pressure to succeed.  Maybe that’d be scary.  To have no excuses? To have no worries of how to pay the rent?  To not be able to bitch and moan about how hard life is to make ends meet?  Maybe, that’d be scary.   But hell, I’d take that challenge every day of the week and twice on Sundays. I’m pretty sure most of my friends reading this post, would too. Wow, how to succeed when all you have is a million dollars and your dream.  Talk about First World Problems.  It took me ten years to complete and publish my first book. You know why? It wasn’t because I write slow.  It wasn’t because it was a complicated idea or I didn’t have a plan – NO. I wrote the book fairly quickly.  But I had to worry about all the other priorities that came first. And no, I didn’t have extra money readily available for an editor, for a book cover “designer” and blah, blah, blah. Basically, it took me ten years to write my first book because I had to do things like pay the rent.

20181221_161046

I’m not saying it’d be easy, but yeah, go ahead Universe, bring it! I dare you.

I don’t “need” a million dollars to fall into my lap. But if it did, I’d pay all my bills for a year, and then go from there fulfilling the next steps of my dream. Because what I really want in life, what we all need in life, is a sense of security. A solid foundation to start from.  Then, on top of that, I’d take the opportunity to soar. That wouldn’t scare me at all. And I promise, at the very least, I’d  pay it back…with interest.

 

xo,

Carmen

 

Your Resolutions From Me

Yup, you read that right. I wrote a 2019 wish list for YOU! You’re welcome.  😉

  • May you listen to more music on a regular basis and stop texting, especially while driving.bitmoji-20190101063153
  • May you meet your friends in person, talk to them on the phone, enjoy the reality of life instead of this “cyber” version we’ve all become addicted too.
  • May you read more books and take a journey anywhere that doesn’t involve a computer screen. bitmoji-20190101065859
  • May you stop having your entire life and relationships revolve around politics and Trump in general. Stop it!bitmoji-20190101065032
  • May you stop being so obsessed with your looks, your weight, your “outer” God-given shell and learn how beautiful you really are. This is how I see YOU. bitmoji-20190101080924
  • May you realize that life is both hard and then some days even harder – for EVERYONE. You’re not the only one having a tough time – walk on through it. We’re all over here, waiting for you, needing you too. bitmoji-20190101065401
  • May you be more generous with your time, your money, your love. Being selfish, cheap and self-absorbed is easy (and so unattractive).
  • May you realize that it’s not always about forgiveness, but about acceptance. Sometimes things are just the way they are – and that’s okay.bitmoji-20190101080058
  • May you celebrate your birthday so brilliantly understanding that this is the day YOU were gifted to the world and YES, we should celebrate that ALL. DAY. LONG. You matter!bitmoji-20190101065455
  • May you be considerate of others – while driving, while walking, while at the grocery store…you know, everywhere! Kindness stems from being considerate.
  • May you dance a lot more often and stop being worried that you’re doing it right. (If you’re dancing at all, you’re doing it right!).bitmoji-20190101065543
  • May you take care of your health – mental and physical. No excuses! bitmoji-20190101075845
  • May you reach out to others instead of sitting at home wondering why no one is reaching out to you. bitmoji-20190101080015
  • May you stop swearing – it’s the easy way out (I’m talking to you Arianna Grande, Adam Levine, Cardi B. and others… uhem, and yes to myself). bitmoji-20190101063056
  • May you have more people in your life who are not like you!  Racially, religiously, culturally, sexual orientation, etc. Let’s broaden that circle people! We’re all better for knowing and accepting difference! bitmoji-20190101075909
  • May you go out of your way and hug someone you’d never imagine hugging before, just because they need it (and so don’t you!). bitmoji-20190101065623
  • May you find the time to create art in whatever way it manifests in the unique being that is YOU!bitmoji-20190101080601
  • May you find that part of you that is warm and fuzzy and let that shine instead of that yukky part that surfaces in all of us way too often.bitmoji-20190101063338
  • May you break out of your comfort zone and learn what it feels like to really BE!
  • May you understand what true beauty is and that it has nothing to do with looks. bitmoji-20190101063532
  • May you love fiercely, cry with joy and see all the good in the world. bitmoji-20190101065827
  • May your 2019 be a monumental and beautiful year!bitmoji-20190101062605

Don’t let me down people!  I promise to do my very best also!

bitmoji-20190101065732

Old List, New List

I kinda wish 2018 wasn’t over.  I feel like so much is unfinished…

Here’s the list I wrote at the end of 2017:

Michael Roud Photo Shoot 2018
  • Visit home (Boston) for a couple of weeks.
  • Finalize the Book Canela, get published before end of 2018.
  • Clean out my storage area / donate everything.
  • Meet 10 new people who are extraordinary.
  • Rid myself of the 5 toxic people – kindly.
  • Stop “facebooking”.
  • Connect with like-minded creative folk and be inspired.
  • Buy a new car.
  • Find a new apartment / quieter, still close to the beach.
  • See a movie a month at least.
  • Read a book a month at least.

Every year I write a list of at least 10 things I’d like to do, but no more than 20.  All of them tangible and possible.  Here’s how it all panned out:

Visit home

After my book was published in June, I visited most everyone in the book and spent a lot of alone time in my home town of Boston.  It was magical, emotional, inspiring!  I had only been “home” for brief moments over the past 20 years since I moved to Lost Angeles. I’d visit for a funeral or a wedding. Just quick weekend trips where I only saw the airport, freeway, and/or a church. But this past year, I was home for a while.  I got lost in my own neighborhood – that’s how long it’d been and that’s how much things had changed in the city I grew up in.  I saw old friends and fell in love with my childhood all over again.  I saw how far I’d come and I realized how much I loved Boston, but missed Los Angeles. It really was beautiful.  Maybe my favorite part of 2018.  

City of Boston at Night - Taken at the top of the Prudential Building in August 2018 on a clear evening. The glass and lights give it an eery feel.

My Book Canela

I’ve written so much about publishing this book – but let me say this again: if you have the want, the desire to write your story (because everyone has a story to tell) please, do it!  For me, it was cathartic and life learning at every level. The process of writing is one part, editing another – what I didn’t realize was that AFTER you publish it, well…. maybe it’s just me… but this part has been just as incredible and teaching as well. It has changed my life and the way I view it.  Creatively I’ve changed. How I view people’s importance in my life has changed.  And the book has become a very central part of my every-day life in ways I’m just starting to understand.  Tell your story. Preach your story. The world will be a better place because of it.    

Clean out Storage

Done and done.  We all have that STUFF we keep “just in case” we need it.  Uhm, I got rid of all of it.  Period. Just a housekeeping item that I had put off for too many years so… done. 

Meet New People

I met more than 10 extraordinary people in 2018. My point in writing this in my list (I write it every year by the way) is because I think when you meet new people, you have the opportunity to grow and learn and be “better than you used to be”. If you are constantly around the same people all the time, well…. that’s cool. But for me, it can become pretty stagnant.  Here’s the cool thing about the people I met this past year:  I met so many of them because of my book!!!   Yes!  I have done no publicity, no advertising, just giving it out to friends and yet, others have read it and reached out and it’s been amazing!   I ‘ve learned so much and am excited to get to know these people even more over the next years. 

Rid Toxic People

We all have people in our lives we wish we didn’t have to interact with.  And for most people I get this is a hard thing to do.  For me, eeeh, it’s pretty easy. I’m really great at walking away from people when they are toxic.  Even if I have to work with them or be around them for some reason (creatively). I have a pretty tough barrier that keeps them at distance.  It’s a skill I developed growing up the way I did.  You know “bad” people right away and learn to always keep them at arms-length, while still “dealing” with them as best you can.  This past year I had 3 people I definitely wanted OUT of my life, but there were 2 others I was hoping to also end the “pretend” friendships with. That happened earlier this year.  Wow.  Clearly a great thing!  Rid yourself of people who do NOT lift you up or make you a better person. Seriously, it’s the best thing you can do for your health! 

Stop “Facebooking”

Well, this I could have done better for sure. I do not have messenger and I am not on there often.  I also have Instagram and eeeh, use it sparingly.  I’m a huge fan of Twitter though so I’m not sure any of these are better than the other.  But all are a part of our daily lives now – whether we use them or not.  But the point is to get better at NOT being on social media so much and I’ve accomplished that.  I think social media is finding its equilibrium in our lives in that it’s not a constant way of “talking” to each other.  Many times this year I went out to dinner or was hanging with a friend at the beach and missed so many calls and texts. And it’s simply because I’ve learned to turn off that ring/sound and just enjoy my time with the person I’m with.  It seems like things are calming down for all of us on social media.  Maybe we’re all learning that there really is something to actually (physically), talking to each other and enjoying REAL time with one another.  Maybe.

Connect with Creative People

I found a few groups on MeetUp.com and got inspired for sure.  WritersBlok was a great place to go and finish up the last edits of my book.  I’m really glad I found it.  I also had lunch with up and coming Directors this year, met with other writers, had dinner with a few musicians.  I met with dancers and graphic designers, actors…  being around creative people fuels me and I made an effort this past year to be around those people more often than not!  So glad I did. I’m a better person for it! 

Movies and Books

I did much better this year with Movies and Books but there’s still room for improvement. The movie that surprised me most was clearly Black Panther.  I’m a huge fan of all action movies (Marvel and DC) but Black Panther stunned me. It’s not what I expected at all and I loved it. I loved it when I saw it alone, then again with a few friends, but my favorite was watching it with my 10 year old God-Daughter who’s take on it was exactly how we all want the world to be! 

Black Panther viewing with Julie

Another favorite movie this year was definitely Mary Poppins Returns!  Loved it, loved everything about it. And can I just say, Lin-Manuel Miranda?  I think we’re in the midst of genius with this lovely talented man…I’d love to work with him.  Hmmm. 

As far as Books are concerned, I’m a slow reader and if a book doesn’t grab my attention or is too difficult, I just put it down. It bums me out. I didn’t finish four books this year to make my goal complete, but I did start them…that counts, right?  Ughh. *insert big cheesy half smile emoji here*

In 2019, I’d like to think I have a list as long as former President Barack Obama’s. I’m not sure I’m as interested in his entire list of books, but I’d like to think I’d read as much to even have such a list. #Goals.

Things I didn’t accomplish:

I didn’t buy a new car – and I guess I really don’t need one.  So, you know, there’s that.  I also didn’t move out of my current apartment.  That may still happen next year.  I love my apartment and it’s close enough to the beach (3 miles) but I hate my neighbor upstairs. She has a great kid but it’s just loud all the time. When I was a little girl and lived in an apartment with my mom, we were never allowed to run and jump in the house.  You just didn’t do it.  You were taught to have respect and consideration for the neighbors that lived next to you and below you. If you wanted to run, you went outside.  But not these people. It’s incredible. I don’t blame the little girl. It’s her parents. They are inconsiderate and…goodness, it’s a one bedroom.  They run up there, always have too many guests – every day.  And it’s just incredibly loud and not a great place to live if you like quiet and need to write, to work, to just be. So, it’s still a goal. But, seriously, I keep thinking:  First. World. Problems. Hmmm.   

More Time

Well, if I had more time I guess I’d finish the books I didn’t complete and maybe I’d… 

No, it’s all good. I had enough time for all the things that matter. 2018 is almost over and it’s been a good year personally after-all. There were some missteps along the way, but nothing too damaging or unfamiliar to move through. 

Actually 2018 started out with my sweet sister (Jo-ann) from Boston visiting me in January for my birthday.

The year ended with me hanging out at Christmas time with one of the guys – also from Boston— who helped me go to college (Scot in the book). 

And in-between it all I became an author, traveled, got inspired, did a GREAT photo shoot (with Michael Roud!), saw so many of my dear friends, met new people from all over the world (shout out to Jean-Claude in Luxembourg) and really accomplished so much more than I realized!

Okay 2018. Actually I’m ready to move on. Bring it! I’m starting my 2019 list right now.  🙂

Happy sweet New Year to all of you!  We got this! 

Carmen 

Ten Things That May Surprise You About Me

Ten things about me that may surprise you:

  1. I’m a stutterer. I have been since I was a kid. Most people don’t notice.  Only those that KNOW may see how I work around it.  I remember being so sad in grade school and then being told that “…even James Earl Jones stutters and he’s the voice of Darth Vader in Star Wars…”.  Well, that changed everything! I became okay with stuttering. Maybe even a little proud of it because you know, Darth Vader stuttered too. I worked hard to get through it with therapists and such, but knowing someone else stuttered and “made it” — that was everything!  How cool was it when I actually got to meet him on set and talk about our stuttering issues over a meal?  Yeah, priceless!
  1. I’ve never eaten Lobster in my life. I don’t eat shellfish, no sushi, rarely eat seafood at all.
  1. I’ve run three marathons. I’m not a fast runner by any means, and my last marathon was in 2004, but it was on my bucket list and it was GREAT to scratch that off the list for sure!
  1. I write in a journal every morning. I write – not type – with a pen and sketch book. I’ve done this since I can remember.  It’s as normal to me as brushing my teeth in the morning.  It’s my therapy/meditative time.
  1. I’ve gone Sky-Diving and would do it again in a heartbeat! I used to be afraid of heights and thought this would help. It did quite a bit, though I still have a little fear of it. It was quite the adventure for sure! (Check out the Video here!)
  1. I don’t like cut flowers. I love flowers, trees, plants – I don’t like that people cut flowers and put them in their home. I don’t like real Christmas trees for the same reason. Fake trees and flowers can be just as lovely and last forever!  One of my pet peeves is seeing Christmas trees lined in the alley way near the dumpsters discarded and dead a few days after the holiday.  Who knows how long those trees would have lived!  I feel the same way about flowers (sorry Oprah). I know, it seems a little crazy, but I said “..things that may surprise you…”. Side note: yeah, never bring me flowers – chocolate YES, flowers NO.
  1. I was born and raised in Boston, Massachusetts, but I do not have a Boston accent and never really have. Part of that is because I traveled the states so much as a kid, but get me around a Bostonian and I can, just as easily, drop a few “R’s” here and there.
  1. I have always been a Sci-Fi “aficionado”. STNG over the original. BSG. Scully over Mulder. Only the original Star Wars…Eureka, Stargate SG1, Atlantis…you get the point if you enjoy the world.  I’m also a fan of most fantasy – Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings…  Oh and don’t get me started on Marvel, DC Comics. Yes, I love all of it.
  1. For whatever reason, I cannot break eggs without a piece of shell landing in the mix. So, years ago I started breaking eggs in a separate bowl first so I can pick out any shells before adding it to any pan or recipe.  It really kills me that I can’t do it. Oh, and chefs who break eggs with one hand? I think are genius!  It’s a skill that secretly fascinates me! Ha!
  1. And this is NO secret to most, but just in case any newbies are visiting: I published my first book CANELA this past June and I’m now working on the beginnings of my second book. Wow. I’m now an “author”. I’m still getting used to that! 

I love reading about people’s “isms”.  We all got’em. It’s what makes us all unique.  Sometimes, it takes a long while to realize that.  But once you do and embrace all that you are, it can be helpful, liberating and kinda cool!  Being unique, or different, can be a GREAT thing! Sure, it can be challenging at times, but hopefully, always fulfilling – in the most positive ways ever!

Sweet day to you!

Carmen

My Creative Process – What’s Yours?

My Creative Process  (Enjoy the podcast or the transcription below)

 

*

I was asked this question the other day when I was speaking to a group of women.  The question was:  What is your creative process?

I don’t know why I was so taken aback by the question.  It’s a valid question,  but I guess I hadn’t really thought about it as a creative process.

I think one of the most important things that you can do as an artist, in any way shape or form that doesn’t get enough credit, is daydream.

I go running in the morning down to the beach and I have a bench that I sit at that I absolutely love – and there are times when I’ll drive down to the beach even after I’ve gone for a workout or whatever and I’ll just sit on that bench and I daydream.  The process of being able to sit quietly and just think things through — this is probably the most important thing that I do as an artist especially when it comes to writing and especially when it comes to writing my book.  Those stories are pretty much real true stories that happened to me, but I had to decide how to tell the story.

So one of the things  I would do, is kind of see that story in my head and imagine myself back there. And sometimes that’s a really good thing, and sometimes it’s a hard thing, but that’s the first part of my process.  And I think sometimes we’re really mean to ourselves about daydreaming and about just having time to imagine, imagination and story-telling.  In our own heads we kind of think we’re being lazy or you know that we should be automatically writing everything right now…  that’s not how it works for me.

I spend a lot more time thinking about what it is I’m going to write — and then I am someone who writes in journals.  And I prefer that texture of actual paper to pen — pen to paper —  so I will write out those stories and I write every morning and it is long hand and sometimes it’s cursive sometimes it’s printing sometimes I’m just doodling, sometimes I’m writing just the name over and over and over again – Like you did in high school or whatever.  Some people who follow my blog have seen some of my Journal entries.  The reason why I don’t do them all the time is because I’m not always “journaling” about one subject and you know sometimes I’m venting or trying to process things because it is a Journal.

But I do enjoy that long-hand part, so once I write down that story or that part of the imagination or day dream that I had,  then I go and I put it on the computer.  I just basically try to put it into some type of form on Word and then I leave it alone.  I leave it alone for a long time. And then I come back to it.  It could be a month later, or it can be 2 days later, but I come back to it and make a decision on whether or not I’m gonna keep that or not.  Then once I keep it, it is sent to an editor.

I tell people when I first wrote my book it was 664 pages. Now it’s not that at all, I think it’s like 160 pages now — but I wrote everything and then I went through the process of having three different people — that I will call editors – they were people who know me and who don’t know me – and I wanted them to just look at it for clarity.  And then I had an actual editor work on it before it got published of course.

That’s the process of how I went about doing my book and that is the process that I’m going through right now with the second book that I’m writing as well.  And in everything I’ve ever done, dancing, acting, any of these things —  I do kind of the same thing: I daydream.  I imagine, I dream and I try to conceptualize it in my head.  And I honor that process — I honor the process of being able to sit quietly.  And sometimes I think about nothing! Because sometimes, that’s when something pops and something makes sense, and something comes together is when you take the time to just BE.

So I wanted to share that. I thought it was kind of a cool question and maybe it’s odd, but maybe there’s a lot more people out there that do the same thing I did.

Thanks for stopping by. Have a sweet day and I’ll be back again real soon.

Carmen

 

*Music – “Prelude No. 23” by Chris Zabriskie

Choices and A Thank You

Listen to the Podcast on “Choices” or read the light transcription below.  

*

I have never had a problem making a choice and it’s because making a choice isn’t actually the difficult part.  I know it that sounds a little weird but when I explain it, it will make a little bit more sense.

There’s an incident in the book where I’m a little girl and I’m in the grocery store with my mom.  She gets a little ahead of me and she tells me that I can’t have any candy.  I steal a gumball anyway and plop it in my mouth. And as luck would have it, I start choking on that gumball and end up on the floor choking really hard.  People are starting to gather — I can still see my mother’s face even today.   It’s seared in my head – there is this moment where she turns around and realizes that I’m choking and she doesn’t come running over,  she doesn’t rush or whatever,  but she looks at me with that face of disappointment.  In what may have been a few seconds, I can tell by the way she’s looking at me that this was a consequence of a choice I made.

It was probably the first time I understood what consequences were.  And over time I started to realize that making a choice was never really the problem.   You know if you had a choice “A” versus choice “B” and you’re really conflicted as to which one to choose, you will make whatever choice you need to make depending on how you’re feeling that day, what’s going on in your life – things can change the reasons why we make certain choices. Right?  But the one thing that doesn’t change is your ability to understand what the consequences are for either one of those choices.

And so, that’s what I do on a regular basis.  I did that as a kid —  I did that when I was young —  I would see that there would be choice “A” and choice “B” and I would write down in my head or on paper – I would break down what the consequences were for each.  And even if the consequences were more wrong or cons or bad –  but I wanted to make that choice anyway for whatever reason —  I was never surprised by what happened after I made that choice.

So the thing about understanding consequences is it does a few things:  1) it prepares you for the possibility that whatever choice you make, it may become a huge failure.  But in knowing what the possible outcomes may be, you are also not surprised.  Here’s another kind of a side benefit to being able to understand what your consequences are for whatever choices you make:  it takes out a lot of fear.  People always ask me, “Carmen how did you move to California not knowing anybody and on your own and not having any connection…”.  People always ask these questions and I really don’t do anything haphazardly. I’m pretty much a control freak.   Part of having that control is understanding what the consequences are to any choices I make.  And when I have those consequences, and I understand what the possibilities may be on the downside, I can fly!  I can leap with both feet because I will land — I will land regardless and I will pick up the pieces if it fails.  Nine times out of ten it doesn’t fail and it doesn’t fail because I have taken control of the situation by understanding consequences.

I hope that makes some sense.

I wanted to share that because it’s come up a lot and it’s going to be part of my talk and conversation I’m having at a speaking event in 2019.  But I hope that helps.  I hope it gives people something to think about.  Again, if you have any questions or you want to leave comments, thank you so much…

I wanted to say something else now that I’m back podcasting. I wanted to say thank you to everyone who has bought my book, CANELA.  I have not done any publicity whatsoever except to share it with my friends on facebook and a couple of posts I’ve put here on my blog.  I am shocked by how many people have read the book and how many people have sent me emails and questions and praise… I’m so grateful for that.  It really kind of touches me, everyone’s perspective and everyone’s ideas.  It’s been a little bit overwhelming.  I was surprised by how much people are understanding this book and are connecting to it. And as much as I write down all my consequences, I wasn’t prepared for, well, all the love. That’s what I’ll say. It’s been a beautiful thing.

If you have an idea for a book, or you always wanted to write a book or you’re thinking of writing a book, I really encourage you to do it.  It really has been life changing for me. Now that it’s done and it’s out there, it’s probably one of the best things I’ve ever done.

Please, keep writing, keep creating.

Thanks for stopping by. I appreciate it always.

I’ll be back again soon. Have a sweet day.

Carmen

*

Music – “Prelude No. 23” by Chris Zabriskie

 

Photo Shoot Fun Day

I had a photo shoot today and generally, I expect the worst — it’s just not my favorite thing to do as a performer. But I got hair and make-up done today professionally and just LOVED IT! The make-up artist, Penelope Vazquez (@penelopevazquezmua) worked her magic and just made me feel sooooooo goooooooood! It’s such a collaborative thing, the kind of ART that I do, that when it all works, it’s FABULOUS! As soon as I get the pics, I’ll upload, but for now — here’s “me” enjoying my damn-self, a little too much with a few selfies and vid!

Sorry. Not Sorry! 🙂

 

 

WHO AM I?

 

Who Am I?

 

Without force I am everything I ever wanted to be and nothing of what I truly am.

I am wisdom working.

 

 

 

With My Morning Coffee

If you look at your social media feed when you first wake, please make sure you start your day with the possibility of joy.  I follow this beautiful soul on Twitter — and seriously, every morning, with my coffee, I find myself starting the day with a smile.  

 

If you don’t know who Lin-Manuel Miranda is… trust me, you should!

Hamilton.

(I only follow the beautiful ones….)

Please start your day with the possibility of joy.  It changes everything when you do.

Carmen

 

 

 

 

My Symphony

Saturday 9:23am

I just feel like writing. I’m dressed to go for a run. My bed is made, I’ve had my coffee, it’s way past my “writing time” – yes, I have a “writing time” – it’s usually early in the morning between 5am and 6am.  It was never a scheduled thing, it just happens that way.  It’s the quietest time of the day for me. My mind is free, clear and fresh.  And yet, things pop in and out like a symphony.  Musicians chiming in on cue – that’s what it feels like when I write early in the morning.

But now it’s much later. My day has already begun, and this, this workout – this run – is what’s next. But I can’t. Something has pulled me back.  And I never type when I write. No. I’m old school. I’m that person that has to write long-hand and then transfer it to the computer if I dare (that “symphony” of writing isn’t always a masterpiece, or even close, by the way).

Hmm.  So what’s so important that I half tied the laces on my sneakers and have sat back down in front of my computer to write? Honestly I have no idea. I don’t know what’s about to come next, but I’m typing nonetheless.

Lots of things have plagued my brain lately. I refuse to let politics crowd my thinking too much so I’ve limited my time around it — but I can’t dismiss what happened yesterday.  What a refreshing moment to hear President Barack Obama speak in Chicago. I turned on the TV and like a dried-up sponge needing for just a drop of water, I was quenched instantaneously.  The complete feeling of security as an American came back to me – I hadn’t realized it had ever left. But yes, that stunned me a bit yesterday — the need to hear a leader of my country speak… in a rhythm. In a cadence. With elegance and intelligence.  It was music to my ears, to my soul…

In lieu of dealing with the daily politics of the current foolish administration, I’ve been reading Jon Meacham’s book, The Soul of America.  A reminder that we’ve been through similar moments before and prevailed.  But still.   I wish we weren’t here again.  I wish Obama’s voice didn’t settle my soul so much – it just reminded me of how bad things really are – and although I have faith that we’ll be fine and find our way back, it’s is daunting…maddening and surreal.

But my brain has also been plagued by my recent trip back to the east coast.  I got lost in my own home town of Boston – that’s how long it’d been since I’d been home – I can’t lie, I miss that beautiful town so much more than I realized.  I actually missed the sky scrapers, the city lights, the hum…  it’s not like New York at all, but when New Yorkers talk about New York, I get what they mean.  For me, Boston has never left me.  My heart.  It’s part of who I am and although I never negated that, and I’ve always been a proud Bostonian, I hadn’t been home FOR REAL in a long time.  Just me, visiting the city.  Me, walking around – people watching.  City loving.  Don’t get me wrong, I’d been back in the past 24 years, but just for weddings, funerals, graduations – and only for a minute. A weekend at most – but this time, I was THERE. Away from the chores of “family” and instead with just the city. And my friends. And I miss it. I ache for my friends.  And I’m a little sad to be back in Los Angeles…

I went to Vermont too – actually I was there first. I don’t miss Vermont so much (I went to school there) but I do miss sitting on Alden’s back porch for hours overlooking Lake Champlain in the distance and laughing, talking, reminiscing… That was everything. And it settled my heart.  I miss the simplicity of quiet.  The prettiness of tranquility.  The crickets at night nearly killed me though – but I could get used to that hum again, I think, not sure – but the quiet during the day, the calm hum of life…. It really was beautiful.  And yeah, I miss that now too.

I don’t know why I needed to write right now, but isn’t that the beauty of creativity? You never know when it’s going to hit – and sometimes I swear I have the best thoughts in the most inopportune moments – for me, IN THE SHOWER is a big one!  I hate that!  It also happens when I’m in my stride.  Running so fast (for me) that I’m in that imaginary zone people talk about – if I think of it, I turn on my recorder on my cell and try to grasp that ever “clever” thought – but the moment I do all of that, I’ve stopped the creativity and most likely lost the initial “thought” anyways!!!  I’m sure I’ve solved the world’s problems ten times over during those moments – I just haven’t been able to record it fast enough without losing the momentary thought!  😉

James Baldwin said, “Love does not begin and end the way we seem to think it does.  Love is a battle; love is a war; love is a growing up.”  Seriously, it’s just in my head. I have no idea why, but I wanted to mention that too.  It’s part of the symphony – it all makes sense and sounds so beautiful in my head.  And I’m not sure Mr. Baldwin was right. But I can’t argue it yet either – so it’s there, in the melody…

There’s a lot going on in my head – I feel blessed to be consumed by so much.  Whenever I write (long hand) I tend to end with how I’m feeling.  I feel good.  Right now, I feel empowered and in a space of intrigue.  Everything seems tangible even though I can’t really grasp it.  Yes, I get how ridiculous that sounds, and yet, it’s still true. I am reevaluating everything. I’m dreaming every dream and not discounting its real life applications. Everything is in sync. It sounds beautiful. Rhythmic. In tune. I love that actually. I love that a lot.

Okay, my typing has slowed, my brain feels purged. I think the orchestra has finished. For now.

Time to lace up my sneakers, put on my headset and go for a run.

Carmen

My Slice Of Pie

My Slice of Pie

As many people know, I recently traveled to Vermont and Boston to visit friends – it was an amazing trip.  And even though it was just to the East Coast and a place very familiar to me, it was one of the best “vacations” I’ve had in long while. I’m so glad I went.

Along my travels, I had dinner with Patty (well, Alden and Andy were there as well – but this is a story about my friend “Pie”, aka Patty).  She’s retired from working at the University of Vermont.  It’s where we first met.  She shared with me all the gifts she received at her retirement party.  They presented her with a book that included letters from students talking about why Patty Corcoran was special to them.  I had no idea and hadn’t been contacted to write anything – in all fairness to UVM, I took my name off their mailing and calling lists years ago… but still.  I should have written something for her book.  I was one of her students.

In her usual understanding and lovingly-filled way, as she flipped through the book casually, she asked me to write a little something and send it to her so she could “include it in the book” after-all.

Well, following is that little something — a note of thanks for Pie:

 

Why is Patty Corcoran special to me?  Well, that could easily fill an entire book.

I was never supposed to go to college. It wasn’t that no one mentioned the word “college” growing up, it just wasn’t tangible or realistic for most in my neighborhood.  So, imagine my surprise when I found myself signing in for orientation at the University of Vermont.

Now, I can’t find the right words to describe the amount of fear I had in going to college in the first place, but once I was there it was palpable.  Everything and anything was a reason for me to quit.  From my point of view, I wasn’t supposed to be there anyways.  Patty clearly had a different vision about my college career and from day one her support and commitment to me as a student was…remarkable.

My first experience in dorm life was a horrible one.  I was an older “non-traditional” student who had been assigned to live in Davis Hall with a roommate who was fresh out of high school and ready to explore her new-found freedom in college life. We clashed. We clashed on so many levels.  After many attempts to resolve the problem myself, I was ready to pack my bags and make my way back to Boston.  I was intimidated by my surroundings and not being able to get along with my roommate seemed to be my cue.  But Patty Corcoran intervened with the Director of Residential Life and got me moved immediately. That was the first time we met – officially anyways. She made it clear then and she would reiterate over the next four years, that any problem, any issue I needed help with, I was to contact her first before boarding a bus back to Boston.  That was my saving Grace.

The ability to comprehend someone’s fear and dissolve its power instantaneously is one of Patty’s notable qualities.  There was never an issue too difficult that she wouldn’t tackle and find some way to walk you through.  If there was a problem, she’d fix it. Period.

A better example of Patty’s importance to me came in another moment at UVM that was devastating for me personally.  I struggled with my grades. I couldn’t understand why exactly – I studied and studied and studied and I still failed tests or barely got a passing grade.  I was generally a “B” student in high school, most days without even trying – so again, I reasoned that college just wasn’t for the likes of me. True to form, Patty didn’t buy into that at all. She was convinced that I had what it took to get my bachelor’s degree and proposed that I get tested to see if I had a learning disability that we could work around.

Well, I wasn’t diagnosed with a learning disability, but it was determined that I didn’t have the necessary basic skills that most college students have when entering their first year.  I had been a stutterer as a kid, so this was yet another hurdle I didn’t think I could bare. The tests revealed other information: that I was a visual learner and did best verbally explaining things instead of writing them out on timed exams or taking lengthy multiple choice kind of tests.  Clearly, again, in my mind, this was more evidence that I wasn’t fit to be in this place.  That’s what I understood from the “diagnosis”. Combined with being Black, Latina, older, growing up poor…I was sure THIS was it, I’d be heading home soon enough.

But that’s not what Patty heard. 

What Patty heard was I needed to be able to take tests that were un-timed. That I needed to be able to verbally prove I knew the material.  That I needed to be able to write out answers to any questions without the pressure of a clock.  Patty made all that happen.  We sat and looked at my class schedule, she spoke to the professors who would allow for this adjustment and we changed my classes for those who would not.  Patty empowered me and taught me to work around any “disability” – and she reminded me, never to let anything deter me from my goals. But here’s the true brilliance of these moment if you haven’t figured it out yet:  Patty believing in me, having faith in me, is what made all of my studies and test taking after that so much easier.  Professors accommodating my needs was helpful, but Patty having the certainty that I was worthy…that was everything. When someone believes in you?  That’s a game-changer.

I could go on and on. As I’ve mentioned, I could write a book about Patty Corcoran’s importance to me during my days at UVM. Her ability to nonchalantly take any problem you have and turn it into a learning moment is priceless.  Her casual skill of reminding you how important you are to the world and how much you matter to her is remarkable.  And Patty does it all with a sense of joy and positivity —  and it’s always personal.  You are the most important person in the room when Patty is talking to you.  You are all that matters.  For the longest time I thought I was the only student she cared this much about – I was special.  When I realized Patty did this for many students at UVM, I can’t lie, I was a little jealous.  Okay, maybe a lot jealous!

But I understood in my senior year that Patty Corcoran was not just a gift to me, but a gift to UVM. A gift to anyone who had the privilege of knowing this wonderful woman.  She was a light, an inspiration, even during the tumultuous times of my four years at UVM. She was always positive and uplifting.  And like so many people I admire and aspire to be like, Patty makes you feel like a better person just by being her authentically cool self. She makes it all seem so easy.

When you’re with Pie, you will smile. You will feel joy.  And you will feel loved.  There’s a power in that and a strength in who Patty Corcoran is, that makes her the kind of woman I aspire to be every single day.

So yes, Patty Corcoran, is still very special to me.  My Pie.  I would have never made it through college without her.  Of this I have no doubt.  I am a better person for knowing her and grateful to still be able to call her my friend.

Thank you, Patty…for everything and congratulations on your retirement!

With love and gratitude always,

Carmen Suarez, Class of 1994

 

 

 

 

 

 

Support

Like many things in our lives, it’s so much easier when you have the right support to walk you through.

Today, I ran to the beach and back – in total it’s about a 6 mile run.  I ran fiercely today – it wasn’t a struggle at all.  I took no breaks. I felt like the music carried me easily through to finish back home in fairly record time. This may seem silly to those athletic friends of mine who do a 6 mile run at lunch on a regular basis, but for me, this was finally finding my stride.  My comfort zone.

It’s taken me a long time to get back here.

I met a great work-out group via MeetUp a couple of years ago —  Sabertooth Fitness —  and I continue to participate in those classes regularly.  I train with Pete Neumann privately, once a week and I’ve started taking a yoga class at Goorus.  Yoga is something I’ve NEVER been interested in at all, since I’m NOT a fan of the practice.  But I found this YIN class that works for me and it has added a whole other level of mind and body care that I hadn’t even considered.

One of the best things I joined,  which is free, was Kasey’s Walking Group which is just a facebook page of people committed to walking or running every day during the summer months and posting a picture or any update of your “moving” that day.  You go for a walk or a run, post a selfie, and watch others post their pics as well. It’s like a great big support group across the country motivating you to just go for a 10 minute walk if it’s all you can do that day.

This morning, on my way back from my run I stopped and while taking my selfie to post, I realized all this support, all this encouraging, has walked me through a very difficult time in my life. Since February 2018 life has pretty much been a bitch!  It really has!  So many things have happened – some real good: like my book being published — but mostly a lot of bad stuff.  Truth be told, all of them stressful, anxiety driven and very disappointing.

And yet, I’ve stayed on point working out, walking, running and have found myself dealing with each situation with calm and even joy (I know, it sounds weird, but I swear it!).  Today it hit me:  all these groups and “new” friends I’ve met where our common goals have been to stay fit – all that support and encouragement – has helped me get through so many obstacles these past few months unscathed. It’s been incredible.  And today I realized it – lightbulb moment!

For some people I think it may be hard to ask for help.  But for me, I didn’t even realize I needed help.  All this time, as I walked through some minefields these past months, I’d been supported by the camaraderie of friends in a class, or getting to a work-out, or meeting my trainer or just having to post on the group page.  All of these interactions motivated me to get out of the “minefield” situation I was in – take a break, maybe talk about it or not, but return with a fresh new perspective. And today, that just all came together and made so much sense, I had to share it!

My point is we should find ways to put the right people around us so we’re always in a nurturing supportive environment.  I know that sounds easy.  And yes, it seems logical.  But when we’re “in” a bad situation, the last thing we want to do is join a work-out group or post something on a page.  But, if you can push yourself  to join a group on Facebook or Meetup —  to just get out of your head for a bit – it really could help you get through things easier.  If only to give you a break from dealing with whatever “IT” is.  You may also be helping others by possibly being that “support” for someone else, even if you don’t realize it.  And yes, depending on the support environment you choose to create, you could also enjoy the side benefit of having that bikini beach body you’ve always wanted!  🙂

Clearly, today, was a good day for me.

 

 

Perfecting that Selfie

Caught in-between perfecting that selfie.

I was trying to fix the camera to take the “perfect” shot. Instead I got the…

in-between shot.

The un-fixed shot.

The un-posed shot.

Funny.

No matter how long I tried to pose for the right pic, nothing ever matched the “realness” of this moment.  The in-between shot.

I could point out every flaw – and I want too – but, it’s pointless. And honestly, who cares?  I have a good life – in this moment…. “life is pretty spectacular”.  The perfect selfie?  Irrelevant! 

It’s become cliché but wow…  First. World. Problems.

A bad selfie.

Moral? 

Catch the moments in-between.  It may be the sweet spot.