The Road Less Rattled

Purple haired woman asleep at the wheel in car with green traffic light.I want to talk about something that is a serious problem on the streets of America.  Not pot holes or squirrel carcasses, but road rage.  It’s serious, so I’m going to break it down for you like a high school teacher.

Road rage comes from the words “road,” meaning a thoroughfare, or route on land between two places.  And “rage” which, according to Webster’s Dictionary, means: 1. “Insanity” and 2. A “dirty ragged person.”  Sorry, that’s “ragamuffin” I lost my place in the dictionary.  The second definition is actually “furious, uncontrolled anger, esp. a brief spell of raving fury.”

So, there you have it, “road rage” by definition, is a thoroughfare of raving insanity.  Which, I believe we can all agree on, peaks during rush hour.

The only way to avoid it is to stay off the roads during the summer, spring, winter and sometimes during the fall.  Although people tend to mellow out a little with cooler temperatures and changing leaves.

But not driving in the United States isn’t practical.  And I use the word united as the legal name for our country, not as an adjective describing Americans right now.  On the other hand, maybe if we got this road rage under control we could once again be a United States of America.  But how do we do it?  I have a few suggestions.

First of all, the next time you are driving and the person in front of you isn’t driving properly because they are doing karaoke, or investigating the inside of their nose, or more likely texting, (a personal trigger point of rage for me) just let it go.  I know, it sounds crazy.  But it’s a better option… she said with the hopefulness of a child that believes in Santa Claus.

You’ve probably done it from time to time.  You just have to channel that inner Good Samaritan that you use when you’re at a community gathering.   Like when you’re at your kid’s school events, at church, or a house party on a street with limited parking.   You hold your tongue and your horn, because you might actually know this moron driving.  Or want to know them even though they drive like a 90 year old.

And speaking of 90 year olds, imagine the person sitting at the green light, possibly asleep, is your Granny.  Who, let’s face it, shouldn’t be driving, but you’re not going to give up your precious time to drive her around, are you?

The point is, have a little heart.  Wait for them to see the light.  Maybe give a light toot on your horn, smile and say “Granny, dear, the light is green.”  Which, unfortunately could have a frightening affect as she suddenly wakes and bolts through the red light. (This may or may not have actually happened… OK it actually did, but it was Grandpa that bolted through the red light.  And everyone is fine. Thanks for asking.)

So, be patient.  Be friendly.  And if I let you in front of me, you better give me a thank you wave, or I might plow into your bumper!

 

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Kardashian Confession – Be Careful What You Ask For

A female hiker with a oversized upper lip in front of a mountain.While putting on lip balm, I mentioned to my daughter that I wished my upper lip was bigger.

“I look like Kermit the Frog.” I complained. “I wish I had lips like…”

“The Kardashians?” she offered.

I didn’t know who the Kardashians were.  I mean, I had heard the name, but I hadn’t seen anything they had been in.

“They aren’t actors.” She explained.

“Are they one of those famous for being famous people?” I asked her, then  pulled up a photo on my phone.  It turns out, I actually did recognize Kim Kardashian. “Wow, she’s beautiful.” I said.  “Yeah, I wish I had lips like that.”

That was a Friday. We were traveling to Estes Park, Colorado to go on a hike with my husband’s friend, Erik Weihenmayer and the outreach program “No Barriers” that Erik founded with Mark Wellman and Hugh Herr.  (If you haven’t heard of Erik or No Barriers, you should follow the links. Then you can say you actually learned something useful from my blog!)

My husband, our daughter Maggie, and I, started the adventure on Saturday, August 12th, at 9400 feet above sea level. My head began hurting the evening before from the elevation and I was chugging water like a lip gloss lathering Kardashian.

I don’t care how fit you are (not saying I am), elevation is its own beast and when you live in a low lying state, 9400 feet above seat level puts pressure on your brain. Like watering a flower, hydrating yourself, keeps you from withering.

I don’t know if it was the fresh air, the water, or the inspiration, but my headache was gone within the first fifteen minutes. More than likely it was the inspiration. We were hiking up this rocky terrain with soldiers suffering from PTSD. We couldn’t tell who they were, not because they weren’t wearing their camouflage, but because every person was jovial, enthusiastic and connected on a mission to reach the summit – whatever that was for each of us.

There were also several blind hikers, including Erik Weihenmayer, who, having climbed all Seven Summits (that’s the highest point on every continent, including Everest) traversed the mountain like it was a walk in the park. There were several amputees and four people in wheelchairs.  Which, if you’ve never seen a person in a wheelchair hike a mountain – you need to go on the next No Barriers hike and meet all the amazing people involved.

Our family didn’t know when we began the hike if we would continue from the first summit at Storm Pass, or if we would hike the final .7 mile up the rocks to Estes Cone. But once we got that close, we knew we would regret not continuing.  I still don’t regret it, despite what lay in store for me. (Foreshadowing…)

We reached the top, took photos and headed back down. I was happy as can be. Until, mid sentence of what I am sure was the most brilliant thing I’ve ever almost uttered, my foot caught under me and I went flying, head first, down the steep rocky terrain!

Instinctively, I threw my hands in front of me and arched my back, trying to keep my head from slamming into the rocks. Gravity was working against me and I flew downward, my knee slamming into a boulder, and as I hit a level rock I went sliding on my face. Blood gushed from my mouth and as I pulled my head up, my backpack gave one last bounce that caused my bared teeth to slam hard against the rock and I knew I had just lost two or three teeth.

My daughter just below the rock I landed on, helped me up.  In moments, a woman had a gauze bandage out of her pack and in my hand.  I poured water on the bandaged and mopped my bloody lip. Not wanting to frighten my daughter, or slow down the hike, I got my clown feet under me and moved along, holding the cool wet gauze on my rapidly swelling lip.

“Did you see how I tried to protect my brain by using my hands and stopping with my face?” I asked, trying to turn it into a teaching moment.

“Way to avoid a concussion, mom.” She said encouragingly.

My bloodied knee hurt, but I ignored it as I tried to safely get the rest of the way down the peak. My daughter insisted on carrying my backpack and hers the rest of the way. My husband far behind us helping others, wouldn’t hear about my encounter with the mountain until later.

Maggie and I paused further down the trail to assess the damage to my swollen mouth. I didn’t have my glasses or a mirror, so she took a photo and I studied it.  I was amazed that I hadn’t chipped my teeth and my lip wasn’t split open. In fact it was swollen in perfect proportion.

“Wook at how puffy my uppa wip is.” I said narcissistically. “It’s so pwetty. Isn’t it?”

My daughter looked unconvinced.

“I mean, if you ignore the bwuddy cut.” I explained.

“Yep, you look just like a Kardashian.” She agreed.

“Aw, yer tho thweet.” I said. Then got to wondering, “You think the Kardathians thwam their wips ev-wy day to get them to wook wike this?”

“Just keep the gauze on your mouth, mom. We’ll be down the mountain in a couple of hours and can get some ice on your whole head.” Maggie said, sounding like the parent.

Hikers climbing rocking mountain terrain.
Maggie on the way up Estes Cone.

Epilogue: Thanks to the grace of God, and the braces on my teeth that reinforced their strength, my teeth did not chip or fall out. One tooth was dangerously loose and I wouldn’t be able to bite or chew on the right side of my mouth for almost three weeks.  Five weeks later, my gums were still tender and I couldn’t kneel on my right knee. But, somewhere up on Estes Cone my DNA bears witness to reaching my own personal summit and a No Barriers experience I will remember for many reasons.

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Screenplays that sit in a drawer are like trees falling in the woods alone.

I read, and watch, a lot of motivation speakers. I like how they use analogies to explain things. Like, Stephen Covey using a clock and a compass to teach about the difference between time and direction. I guess that’s a metaphor, not an analogy, but it’s still good stuff.

Wait, I have an analogy example by Deepak Chopra:
If you’re a skillful surfer, every wave is an exhilarating adventure or at least an opportunity to learn something new. If you’ve never learned how to surf, on the other hand, every wave is a terrifying potential disaster.

A wedding flower girl tosses screenplay scripts instead of rose petals.
Flower girls are like screenwriters. The more petals you throw out there, the better you get at it. You just don’t want to hit someone in the face with them. They don’t like that.

For me, I sometimes I think of my screenwriting like a wedding. I’m usually invited to the wedding. (The top 10% of a screenwriting competition – also called a 2nd Rounder.) Sometimes I’m in the wedding party. (I make it to the quarter finals.) And I’ve gotten to be a bridesmaid. (That’s a finalist.) But I’m never actually the bride.

I don’t have to be the bride though. I mean it’s helpful. Especially if the groom is a big network studio, or even a big budget independent. Smaller independent grooms are okay, if you are planning a small wedding (low budget film). In writing competitions though, if you just make it in the wedding party, your script could still get read by the people you want to read it. They sometimes look at the whole wedding party (finalists). Well, not so much the mother-of-the-bride (honorable mentions), but it could happen.

So, I always want to be in the wedding party and not do anything embarrassing at the reception (like pitch to producers in the bathroom). It means making new friends (networking). Reading a lot of wedding magazines (screenwriting books).  And being ready for the next round of weddings (by rewriting).

To be honest, I have been married before (had an agent). I was just too young at the time and so we parted ways with an “I’ll always love you.” (“I’ll keep writing, and keep it in my drawer.”)

I’ve recently had a blind date (written a stage play). So, who knows, there may be a wedding of some sort in the near future. Until then, I’ll keep reading the wanted ads (industry news, screenwriting competitions) and hitting the gym (hitting the computer keyboard).

Of course, if it doesn’t pan out for me, being the parent of two amazingly talented kids, I know some day I will actually be mother-of-the bride/groom. And people will be nice and polite to me, but still won’t care that once I had a half dozen scripts that were in a wedding party!

Disclaimer: This is my own attempt at analogy and in no way represents my actual marriage. This may not be as powerful at Tony Robbins’ or Dan Thurmon’s analogies, but I’m not a professional speaker. I’m just a writer, trying to get a wedding invitation from a studio exec.

 

Life’s Not Just About The Number Of Breaths You Take, But The Awkward Moments That Make You Gasp

Woman sits at a bar alone. A bartender offers to put her food in a doggie bag.
“Can I put that in a doggie bag for you?”

Remember those awkward teenage years of thinking you’re a freak and everyone secretly knows it?  Years of saying the wrong thing to a cute guy like, “I’m fourteen and three quarters.” Or “Bless you.” when he coughed.  Or trying to contribute at the popular table by saying “Rick Springfield is so hot.” Only to realize he was no longer in vogue.

Apparently, you go through it again later in life too.  Or maybe it’s just me.  For example, there was this one day that was particularly full of awkward moments. Which is when I noticed there was a pattern of embarrassing behavior.

I didn’t think the first one was that weird until my daughter pointed it out. Apparently, I saw the mom of these two sisters in her class and said “How are the twins?”

“Do you realize how disrespectful that is?” my daughter asked me later.

“It is?” I said dumbfounded.

“You wouldn’t say ‘How is the boy?’ Or ‘How is the parent?’ They’re not a the.” She explained. “Besides, they’re not twins.”

Which, for my part, if you’re not twins you shouldn’t dress alike. Just saying.

The next awkward moment, was definitely on me.  I was talking with tech support about software for a game I bought when the internet was first invented and they needed my password.  I considered faking a dropped call, but I was going through solitaire withdrawal and needed to play.

“Uh,  mybuttyourface.” I said as none offensively as I could.

“Ma’am?” he responded. I swear he sounded like he was nine.

“My, uh, my password.  It’s the punchline to that old joke ‘Got a match?’” I tried to explain.

“A match?”

“Yeah, a match. Like, to light a cigarette.”

“I don’t smoke.” He said, like a mature twelve year old scolding me.

“No, I don’t either.  It’s a joke. ‘Got a match? Yeah my-” I tried again to explain.

“I just need your password, ma’am.” He advised with definite disapproval.

It was supposed to be a private joke just for me, that no one would ever know about. But how do you explain it to a kid that doesn’t even know what matches are?  I spelled it instead. “B-U, then there’s a T and a second T.” I said, hoping it didn’t sound like words.

Note to self, change all juvenile passwords.

Next up, I was at a networking lunch at a restaurant.  There was a TV in the corner with a commercial of fresh off the grill BBQ ribs.  And I said, “Those look tasty.” Of course, by the time everyone turned to look, it switched to a commercial for abused animals and there was a pitiful looking dog in a cage with part of his ear missing.  Yeah, awkward.

And no matter how legit your excuse is, it always comes out worse than what they originally thought you meant.

“No! It was barbecue ribs!” More close ups of emaciated dogs, their ribs filling the screen.  “Not dog ribs. Cow ribs.  Or pigs. Or whatever BBQ ribs are made of.” What are they made of anyway?

I didn’t know what else to do, so I just ordered a vegan burger.  At the bar. In a different restaurant.  I don’t know what vegan burgers are made out of either.  But it still seemed wrong to eat it, so I took it home to my dog.

The moral of the story is, awkwardness happens.  That’s life.  It happens to everyone.  Probably.  Get over it and get something to eat.  (Although I don’t recommend vegan burgers.)  And enjoy a little chocolate.  It works for me.

 

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Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff – Or the smelly stuff.

Laundry basket piled with clothes as tall as woman holding spray bottle and shirt.
Like you’ve never Febrezed dirty laundry.

You ever have one of those days where you’re like, I really need to get to that overflowing laundry basket?  Then your kid says they need you to get some poster board at the store for their school project. And you’re like, well that’s more important than laundry. I should go do that.

Then you get a text from someone at work that desperately needs something you were supposed to have sent them last week so everything is waiting on you.  And you think, I better do that first.

But before you can get to work on the document you haven’t actually started, a friend calls and tells you her car broke down and her daughter is stranded at a friend’s house.  The family is leaving, so she’ll  have to wait outside of their house until she can get someone to pick her up.  And you’re like, I definitely have to do that first – the poor kid.

Then in walks your husband and says “What’s for dinner?” and you lay into him like he’s just asked you to straighten the Leaning Tower of Pisa. An impossible task but you’re still expected to do it!

You rush to the address your friend texted you only to find out that her daughter got a ride home from a friend, but didn’t think to let you know.

Then you swing by three stores until you find the white poster board for your kid’s school project. And right after you’ve paid for it you get a text saying it should be blue!

When you finally get home with the blue poster board, that took you three hours to get, you find your husband has ordered pizza for the third time this week.  Which means you’ve got to do 27 hours of cardio to work off the fat calories from the four slices you consumed.

By the time you’ve cleaned up the kitchen, (which by the way always ends up taking just as much time to clean as it does when you’ve actually cooked dinner)  you’re so exhausted you can’t even think about starting laundry.

Instead, you pull out a few of the top pieces  from the dirty clothes hamper, douse them with Febreze and toss them in the dryer so they will have pseudo-clean clothing for the next day.

When you crawl into bed you remember you didn’t finish the document you haven’t started.  You have to then decide on a restless night’s sleep worrying about it, or stay up and do it.

Yeah, I have one of those days about once a week.