It's all about the STORY!

Posts tagged ‘writing’

Discovering the Positvie Impact of Groups: Lifestyle Business Insider

I don’t do groups. In fact, as a child my mother decided one day that I should go to group counseling because my father was an alcoholic. Before anyone gets any ideas about this presumed tragedy, my parents divorced when I was three-years-old, I lived with my mother who had sole custody and was a working trust fund baby, plus I had an older brother who lived with us and lots of family friends creating a rich support system. It wasn’t a difficult life. As for my dad, he was very much around, involved in my life, and my parents remained good friends. Sure, he was absolutely an alcoholic, but the effect that had on my  life was practically nonexistent. He was a jovial drunk and no one had any illusion that he was a responsible adult, including me, whether he was sober or not. So, expectations were always quite low as far as “parenting,” but he was a fun playmate! He worked, too. He was a prolific professional artist, a muralist mostly, and revered well enough in all the right circles for most of my life. There really wasn’t much to complain about, honestly. So, picture me in group with a bunch of kids who were literally going through hell with their alcoholic parent(s)–many suffering abuse, financial hardships, neglect, embarrassment and shame… whereas my dad would drink way too much scotch and get up and sing with the band at the Yacht Club, and everyone thought he was the life of the party. He never tried to drive drunk with me, so safety wasn’t an issue. He might have a slight hangover in the morning that would delay our planned trip to the beach that day, but that was really the extent of my suffering.

Needless to say, I didn’t really participate in group. I just sat there quietly. It was all rather uncomfortable hearing the other kids’ stories–I felt like a fraud. I hated “group.”

That was my first experience with groups: negative, misfit, outsider, and self-conscious are words that come to mind. “Groups” meant other things to me later in life: group projects in school, where I tended to do most of the work; group assignments at work, which tended to follow the same patterns as school; team-building group exercises, team breakout sessions, and shared accountability management systems–please shoot me, it’s so awful!! My friends, colleagues and employers all would joke that “Daphne doesn’t play well with others.” Instead, they’d just give me impossible problems to solve and incredibly challenging tasks to figure out, and I’d hide away in a closed room eventually emerging with the impossible solved. Then, we’d all gather teams together to execute the strategies.

Then, one day I’d met my match. A woman far smarter than me! She was an absolute lunatic–impossible for most people to work with, mean, temperamental, petty and hands down BRILLIANT! She became my best friend and mentor for about 11 years. While everything I said about her is absolutely true, it’s also true that she was the most encouraging, generous and supportive mentor and teammate imaginable who gave me every opportunity to grow and learn and implement anything I wanted to do. Most importantly, she believed in me more than even I did, and I’m pretty cocky! She pushed me in every area of my professional life until I exceeded a standard I didn’t even realize I was capable of achieving. I can’t say that she taught me everything I know–instead she kept challenging me and held tireless faith in me until I learned and applied every professional skill I currently hold. Many of these skills she doesn’t have herself. For her, it wasn’t about her trying to turn me into a clone; it was about pushing me to become my best me. After more than a decade, I began achieving consistently at very high levels, and we both knew that I was now soaring on my own. What started as a brutal form of mentoring and coaching eventually shifted to just brutality, however. The pain crescendoed, and there came a time when there was nothing left to learn in that space, and the abuse was no longer followed by a reward. It was just painful and empty. It was time for me to move on–we agreed. And so it ended. And every day I’m grateful for the full experience. Was there an easier path to take to get me where I am today? Nope. I’d have been too hard-headed to come this far without all of that.

Yet, I still never learned to work well in groups, exactly, but I learned how to lead many groups of people and project manage like a champ! Mostly, I learned how to work exceptionally well with an equal or better-skilled partner. This was a huge breakthrough for this loner!

After a couple more years, I stumbled into the life and work of yet another extraordinary person–just as dynamic and brilliant as the one before, but minus the mean streak and abusiveness and who was also far more successful. Up until now, I’ve always had a mentor in my life, and this other extraordinary person normally would have become my next–wickedly smart, extremely successful businesswoman and entrepreneur… She’s everything I’d want to learn from next! But, we never allowed a mentoring relationship to form. Instead, we entered into our relationship as a partnership of equals, each bringing different skills and expertise to the game, and every challenge, frustration or dispute we’d have within our working process was always approached with this incredible level of mutual respect and love. Occasionally, we’d even openly discuss this wonderful phenomenon. Four years we worked together, almost inseparable though she travels often, without one real argument. There was one enormous problem, however. After four years of creating exceptional work, only two out of 10 large projects were fully completed and launched (though many smaller ones were wildly successful). Everything else was abandoned for one reason or another after getting 60% or even 75% complete. I always blamed her for either stalling projects (sometimes due to legitimate conflicts of interest that would arise) or just never scheduling ample dedicated time to sit down and finalize them with me. I could only get so far on my own–using her ideas and vision–because this is her brand and life. I actually need her to help me polish and complete. I’d voice concerns from time to time, even get a little annoyed and frustrated. She always avoided discussing it… So, I of course assumed she understood and agreed with my point of view, hence the avoidance. Right? Wrong! It appears she’d been blaming me for these unfinished projects this whole time, and two huge arguments erupted as a result. We’re working through this, I’m very relieved to report, but not without some difficulty and a few hard blows along the way.

Believe me, I no longer blame my partner solely for these unfinished projects. What I am doing is gathering up all I know about her and infusing it in the works on my own to reach a finalized stage. That’s not to say that she won’t join with me to polish it pre-release, but I’m going rogue to get to the finish line, because I’ve learned that this is what these projects actually needed all along. I needed to be bold enough, and have enough faith in all I know about this person, to dive in and create the final works. That takes a big set of brass ones to do–to make grand assumptions about someone’s life and opinions, but the bolder I am about doing this, and the more committed I become to this vanguard process, the more confident I become in knowing that this was the missing link all along. This was absolutely the role I was meant to take, but was too timid to shoulder up the responsibility previously. And, yes, I have her blessing. We never had an issue with trust–she knows I know her stories, her heart and intentions–we just struggled furiously with each other until I chose to take a wildly ambitious path. As unusual as this is, it’s gorgeous how it’s all working out!

Still, without launching any of these large projects I’d created, my cash flow is not what I had originally anticipated, to say the least. So, I picked up other freelance clients and maintained others I had planned to phase out, helping me get by as I still work towards finalizing then launching all of this work I’d started. I’ve been frustrated, lost, overwhelmed, feeling isolated and abandoned, and even a little despondent at times, but I never gave up–I knew not to do that. And, here enters the theme of the “group” once more…

Stephanie Frank, an esteemed business coach whom I became acquainted when I first decided to work on my freelance career full time about 5 years ago, started a Facebook group called “Lifestyle Business Insider.” Look, I’m a big fan of Facebook–I socialize on it, debate on it, spread ideas there, tell stories there… instead of being a substitution for real-life, it’s been a brilliant extension of real life for me, and has had a wonderful positive impact on my business. I am also a member of several “professional groups.” Most are fine, but the one Stephanie developed is extraordinary! While I continue to grit my teeth and plow through the completion of these projects, most importantly a specific book project with two additional co-authors, I have been able to share some of my professional struggles, successes, stories and goals with other pros. There’s an eclectic mix of people from varied backgrounds, expertise and levels of achievement on their journey, and though this group is rather new, the feedback, support, sharing and resources presented have been incredibly beneficial! I think I’ve fund a “group” where I actually fit in–I’m not the smartest person in the room here (and I never want to be), instead there’s a beautiful, equitable level of give and take that I believe is creating a synergy far greater than the sum of its parts.

I’m still holding my beloved beast (this big book project) dear to my heart and nearing the end, finalizing the first complete draft of the manuscript next month. Though it’s been an incredibly difficult time, there’s never been a doubt that it’s an absolutely worthwhile journey with an astoundingly worthwhile colleague, partner and dear friend.  And this group, just being able to share with the group, ask questions and give feedback and process in this space has helped me to plow through some really tough barriers. I’m so grateful for each member, and of course Stephanie.

I’ve gone from being a complete misfit in awkward Ala-teen groups and bulldozing my fellow students throughout high school and college group projects, to finally being able to lead teams and work with a partner… and now I’m fully embracing a group of dedicated peers and professionals who join together in a virtual space to support one another, share resources and experience growth. I’m blessed, and I think I’m starting to like this whole “group” concept!

streetmedia logo FINAL

Beachside Motel

By Daphne Taylor Street

Copyright © March 8, 2014

The moment you think that you have the words to describe everything, you hear music. The sound of a trumpet off in the distance filled the air as if painting it with brilliant colors, bouncing off of the waves, splashing onto the shore. Veronica stood motionless. Her evening gown dusted in sand and salt sprayed on by the wind and the Gulf, and the translucent fabric clung to her—a violet second skin, shimmering under the moonlight.

“You match the surf!” a voice called out from behind her. “Look at you. Your dress sparkles like the waves,” and the voice waschet getting closer, but there was no image of him in the dark. Veronica looked down at her arms, and it was true, the violet shimmer of the fabric on her dress was a perfect match to the moonbeams dancing on the waves.

“Are you real or a part of the water?” the voice said softly, now coming from directly over her shoulder. Veronica could feel his breath on her neck.

Though startled by the stranger, Veronica didn’t turn to look at him this time. She felt enchanted by mystery, praying that maybe this stranger was from her dream. Maybe he’s the trumpeter, handsome, strong, kind with soft eyes and made of mystery. A mystery she longed to keep secret for as long as possible.

After a few moments of silence, she turned, and no one was there. The buildings in the background were blacked out. It was three a.m. and not a soul seemed to be awake but her. Except, yards away was a beachside motel with a neon vacancy sign lit up out front, blinking in the dimly lit window of an office. The trumpet’s songs resumed in muted tones.

The reality of the buildings, the structures and solid features framing the other side of the beach transported her back to reality with a vengeance. She felt like crying, but the tears wouldn’t come. She felt nauseous, angry, humiliated, defeated, and a wave of despondence overwhelmed her. The three bottles of wine she consumed on her own a mere hour ago seemed to lose all effect. The intoxication was no use in dulling the pain any longer, and Veronica fell into the sand, dry-eyed and silenced as if her emotions have strangled her. She sat alone gasping for air, clutching the sugary white sand that poured out through her fingers.

Just then, something broke. Inside of her, a sharp pain crescendoed as if a glass had shattered and scratched the inside of her skin and began shooting outward, tearing her flesh, just under the surface—she became cold. The beads of sweat all around her body formed from the Florida August heat felt as cool droplets of rain while memories bombarded her brain, and her own breath betrayed her. All she could do was exhale.

Her mind played out the night’s events in vivid frames beginning wither husband, Jason, backstage, waiting for her after the opera. She was a stunning Carmen, with Bizet’s notes carved carefully in her voice—every tone embodied an intense characterization—that emanated a reality, transporting the audience into another world.

After the last curtain call, and the roars of the crowds died down, Veronica was beaming with joy. Seeing Jason backstage, she melted into his arms, snuggling intimately against his neck, then suddenly realized that his arms weren’t even around her, and his head was stiff and fixed forward. She felt as if she was embracing a concrete wall. She was. She grew cold and silent, gathered her things and left quickly behind him, sitting in the car with a knot in her stomach, not knowing why, but she felt immensely fearful just the same.

The next frame was of Jason uttering his only words, which followed a long stretch of silence in the car ride back to the hotel. “Oh, by the way, I’ve filed for divorce. And I’ve moved our money. You won’t find it, so there’s no need for you to contest it. I think you have $4,000 in your checking account. I’ve left you with that. Thanks for agreeing to selling the house so quickly. This way, it’s all neat and clean. We don’t even need to talk past this point. Our attorneys will handle everything. See? It’s clean. You should be happy—I’ve made this pretty easy on you. Okay, here we are,” he pulled up to an old beachside motel and stopped the car.

Veronica sat there staring at Jason, then whispered sheepishly, stuttering a little, “What?”

Next frame—Jason twisted his neck around with his chiseled jaw clenched, eyes stern and black, glaring into hers filled with tears, and he said simply, “Get out.” She did as he sped off. Veronica gathered herself up, and she walked to the motel office. No one seemed to be there; the door was locked, and no one answered as she pounded, just needing a place to rest.

She remembered seeing a hammock near one of the motel windows, and she figured that would do until dawn, which was still several hours away.

A sense of dead exhaustion overcame her, and she clung tightly to the old sea grass woven hammock and climbed into it, drifting off to a shallow sleep. The sound of the waves crashing over and over again against the surf took her mind to a place of uncommon stillness—a soft quietness within. A peace she hadn’t known since childhood. And she dreamed in soft colors.

About an hour lapsed, and consciousness swept in, waking her to a sharp pain in her thigh. Her plump flesh pressed uncomfortably against the strong ropes, she shifted her weight over to the left to relieve the pressure, but her foot got stuck. Trying to shake it free, her hand fell through another opening in the hammock, and she found herself twisted and tangled like a dolphin caught in an unforgiving net.

Moolit_Beach_Veronica then thrust all of her weight—a solid180 lbs.—onto one side, spinning her body, leaving her hovering over the sand, face down, still caught in the ropes. The hammock seemed to have won the battle, and as far as she knew, it might have won the war.

No longer feeling too peaceful, and the scorching Florida heat returned with a vengeance, she hung there, sweat leaking from every pour, her evening gown shrunk onto her flesh like plastic wrap. Not a soul seemed to be awake; even moonstruck lovers had found their way indoors for the night. There wasn’t much hope for a rescue, and her handbag was yards away with her cell phone tucked safely inside. Veronica tried to fight back tears of frustration and discomfort, and she failed.

As she tried to wipe her now slimy nose, she managed to finally free her hand from the ropes, and it fell to the sand below onto something that felt rubbery and cold. Curious, she dusted off the sand covering the object, revealing a hand—a dead hand, gray and shriveled, with a gold Rolex strapped to the lifeless wrist, still ticking away.

Veronica screamed.

Proposal winning strategies – 7 tips

DaphnesGrant

[Pictured at left is an actual grant application Daphne wrote and submitted, directing a small team of clinicians and support staff. Daunting, no?]

 

Background: Daphne Street is a multi-million dollar award-winning grant and proposal writer, with more than a decade of experience in winning proposals spanning myriad fields within the nonprofit and for profit industries. From the fine and performing arts to substance abuse and mental health services and from technology developers  to transportation services, Daphne has helped transform businesses through establishing new revenue streams and fostering profitable partnerships. Far too often, Daphne says, companies are content on submitting proposals without doing the work needed to truly be competitive and win the game. Here are 7 winning tips from Daphne:

7 Tips for Winning Proposals

  1. Do what you’re told. Read, follow directions and gather appropriate content. Never skim an application. Completing award applications and proposals are not the time to get creative, decide certain questions are superfluous or bluff your way through. You must be exacting in every minute detail: from composition and submission instructions, to addressing every detail in the scope of services and search every section to discover additional areas you need to address.
  2. Points matter. If an RFP assigns points to certain sections or questions, calculate those compared to the word count. The more points assigned to a question or section should get a higher percentage of your word count dedicated to it. It is formulaic and expected.
  3. Information gathering. Do not attempt to do this on your own unless you solely have ownership of the vault that holds all of your company’s data and are its universal content expert. More likely, you have accountants, program/department heads, specialists and industry experts on your team that can provide invaluable content to strengthen your proposal. Take the time to engage them and be specific about the type of information you need from them.
  4. Money. Your financials and budget are often the strongest and most highly weighted sections of your application. Your financials tell a complete story of your company’s financial health and whether your company is a good investment for funding. This includes tax returns, independent audits, etc. Your budget is usually what really sets you apart from the competition, and there is no shortcut for developing a winning budget: analyze ALL of your costs associated with a project and pitch a budget that is as tight as you can get it while still making a profit. In terms of for profit government proposals, you tend to make your money on volume over ticket price, so consider that when you calculate your estimated profits.
  5. Interpretation. Reading between the lines is critical in winning applications. This requires skill and experience to know exactly what questions mean and the data, details, interpretations and focus points to include within proposal responses along with the best ways to present that information, using graphics, logic models, flow charts and time tables, etc. to drive key messages.
  6. Value-added. This is where proposals are won. What additional, extraordinary benefits and features are you bringing to the table? What is unique about your offering that sets you above the competition? Skilled proposal writers know how to sniff out these details and highlight them in writing in compelling ways. From your narrative to your budget, value-added wins every time.
  7. Hire an expert. Especially when you are dealing with high stakes, it’s worth the investment to use the expertise of a pro. They often don’t come cheap, and it’s important to vet them properly, but they know the tricks of the trade that can augment your chances of winning exponentially. While there is never a guarantee that your application will win, the outstanding news is that your investment in an expert proposal writer never goes to waist unless you fully scrap your project. The application they pull together often can be repurposed to submit for various funding opportunities. It’s never a “one size fits all” job—there will be significant time spent rewriting sections and addressing varied specifications and scopes of services, but you will often find subsequent applications written to support the same project far less cumbersome.

The Little Person and the Diva

It was a listening silence. Not like the silence you hear when someone is withholding a thought or waiting their turn to speak or being polite, because that is what you do. The amphitheater had 4,000 people generating electrical waves of openness, of anticipation for the next, a silence set to receive.

And I was asked before I went on if I was nervous. Nervous for what? What was there to be nervous about? Well, you know, hejessyenorman1 stammered this and that, there are all these people, millions more viewing on television, an international commemorative event… one would be nervous. But why, and what good would it do, and wouldn’t it ruin it? I’m excited, practiced, prepared and mindful—fully in the moment to give—to claim the stage and fill the listening silence with a full expression of my breath. To sing.

And so it was… I walked upon the stage, with my body taller than I ever remember it being before, as if my head were being lifted high above, into the atmosphere, by the history of all the brilliant ghosts haunting this place. I was standing on the very steps where Socrates stood, and I was as humbled and humanized as I was embodying grandeur and magnificence—a perfect balance formed from this sublime paradox. I sang.

O beautiful for spacious skies,

For amber waves of grain,

For purple mountain majesties

Above the fruited plain!

America! America! God shed His grace on thee,

And crown thy good with brotherhood

From sea to shining sea!

O beautiful for pilgrim feet,

Whose stern impassion’d stress

A thoroughfare for freedom beat

Across the wilderness!

America! America! God mend thine ev’ry flaw,

Confirm thy soul in self-control,

Thy liberty in law!

O beautiful for heroes proved In liberating strife,

Who more than self their country loved,

And mercy more than life!

America! America! May God thy gold refine

Till all success be nobleness,

And ev’ry gain divine!

O Beautiful for patriot dream

That sees beyond the years

Thine alabaster cities gleam,

Undimmed by human tears!

America! America! God shed His grace on thee,

And crown thy good with brotherhood

From sea to shining sea!

 

So, you asked me what was it like to sing like that, to perform for thousands—millions, and to stand on the very slab of marble where Socrates stood and taught? Imagine being a lightning bolt. Imagine the energy you would give forth, the force and power you would have to summon to create a show as spectacular in the sky as lightening, knowing that your performance is restricted only to one part in a single storm. That is what it was like.

So you asked me about my career as a singer? Imagine having to be a lightning bolt countless times, practicing the art of being the best lightning bolt you can be every day of your life, always preparing for a fresh performance, to be prepared for the next storm when you’re called upon, and the storm may be brief or it may last hours, and you may have a small role, or you may be the entire show, and you must be as prepared for each role with the same level of excellence no matter the scale of your appearance. That’s the job of a singer.

You want me to sing? Sing with me:

He´s got the whole world in His hands,

He´s got the whole world in His hands,

He´s got the whole world in His hands.

He´s got the wind and the rain in His hands,

He´s got the wind and the rain in His hands,

He´s got the whole world in His hands.

He´s got the tiny little baby in His hands,

He´s got the tiny little baby in His hands,

He´s got the whole world in His hands.

He´s got you and me, sister, in His hands,

He´s got you and me, brother, in His hands,

He´s got the whole world in His hands.

He’s got ev’rybody here in His hands.

He’s got ev’rybody here in His hands.

He’s got the whole world in His hands.

 

So, you want to know what I think matters most of all? That humans care about how they treat one another. I am so tired of hearing about how people need to pull themselves up from their bootstraps, when there are too many people who have no boots. As a society we have a responsibility to our sisters and brothers, a responsibility to be compassionate and to lend a hand up, to reach around to your neighbor and ask, “How can I help?” and lend a hand up—no one needs a hand out—they need opportunities, second chances and others believing in them. If only we would learn that it matters most how we treat one another. In fact, it might be the only thing that does matter.

Now, I think it’s time for a little person to go to bed. Oh, one more song? Well, alright. You start singing your favorite, and I’ll join in…

Silent night, holy night!

All is calm, all is bright.

Round yon Virgin, Mother and Child.

Holy infant so tender and mild,

Sleep in heavenly peace,

Sleep in heavenly peace

Silent night, holy night!

Shepherds quake at the sight.

Glories stream from heaven afar

Heavenly hosts sing Alleluia,

Christ the Savior is born!

Christ the Savior is born

Silent night, holy night!

Son of God love’s pure light.

Radiant beams from Thy holy face

With dawn of redeeming grace,

Jesus Lord, at Thy birth

Jesus Lord, at Thy birth

 

Book writing process: strengthened the book and me

magic-book

I’m squaring up the loose ends of setting the content for a nearly 200 pg research-based book. Sounds daunting? Well, after editing, it won’t be that long. I suspect I’ll have it cut back to about 150-125 by Monday. The experience is the point of this post, though. It has been nothing short of mind-blowing and life-altering. It all began with an idea and a fifteen minute interview, followed by another ten minute interview. Between that and some research, it all began taking shape, and I suspect, so did I.

What do you value?

This is perhaps the most important question that has been facing me since I started on this journey, and the shifting answers to this seemingly simple question have been shaping my life through this writing process. No, this question does not appear in the book anywhere, and it has very little to do with the content of the book on the surface. However, I promise you that this question became the driving force behind the book’s construct, and it literally changed my life as well.

What do you value? For me the answers shifted between many things until they whittled down to just two. No, it’s no coincidence that this question is strikingly similar to another question: What do you want? (for those of you who know the co-author of this book well 😉 ). What were these shifting values? They were all over the map from good physical health to strong financial health and from stability to freedom with adventure, notoriety, “success” – whatever the hell that means, and fun all tangled up together in one confusing mass. And frankly, the couple of false starts I had on this book were the tangled mess that my values were, too. Don’t get me wrong, the  content was strong, and the organization was okay, but it wasn’t great. The whole project lacked greatness, because it lacked focus. Guess what? So did I.

Driving home one day from a job that was paying me well but was eating away at the rest of my values, it became clear to me. Everything became clear to me. I discovered the real focus of the book and its values along with the real focus on my life and my values. The core of this book is heart-centered. It’s about relationships, one relationship in particular, and holistic health–health of mind, body and spirit and finding and maintaining that balance. I realized that if I used these values as the frame of the book–its skeleton–the rest would fall into place. I pitched the idea to the co-author, whom this book is about, and she loved it! It’s all been falling into place ever since.

My personal values came into focus, also. During that same car ride home, I found myself miserable again–living once more in a perpetual state of ennui–a horrible, foggy feeling that I shook a couple of years ago when I resigned from a long-term career as a grant writer and communications director and turned freelance full time. I swore that I would never return to that state of mind, where I was an owned employee, ever again, and here I was, trapped in a cubicle-littered, florescent-lighted hell. I shuddered, and I knew instantly that I needed to make drastic changes to align myself with my values. But what the hell were my values? Too many to count–too out of focus. A mess. A couple of minutes later it struck me–all of those thing that I thought mattered to me came in the form of two things: freedom and creation. <– Those were my values!

I abruptly quit my job.

Daring? Not really. This last horrible job at least taught me what I was worth monetarily–I had been undercharging like mad until I landed some private clients through new-found professional contacts. I also learned how invaluable my work truly is to a business–I’m arrogant enough to have thought this all along, but to see it in action and have it proven to me was something else. So, I took the leap, without a net, and here I am falling off of the proverbial cliff. It’s okay, though. I pieced enough small projects to pay most of my major bills immediately, and I’m still scrambling to figure out how to pay the rest–with no help coming from the United States Postal Service, which has decided that it will take more than a week to deliver one of my client’s checks to me… but, I digress. This decision allowed me to do three critically important things: 1) Return to being authentically me and happy without compromising my values; 2) Open up opportunities exponentially so that I can resume the work I was meant to do to realize my dreams; and 3) Complete this book!

Oh, wait, this book development process also had other unintended consequences… I’m getting healthier physically by eating better and exercising more while also linking like-minded people together, which is manifesting into a small grass-roots movement. Imagine a network of planet-loving, holistic wellness-minded small business owners banding together to share their resources, cross promote and support one another for the greater health and success of their community. Yep. It’s pretty cool, and I’m in the middle of it all.

Thank you, book. And thank you, Forbes Riley, who planted the seed for all of this to grow.

Beachside Motel – Chapter 1 (edited version)

The moment you think that you have the words to describe everything, you hear music.

The sound of a trumpet off in the distance filled the air as if painting it with brilliant colors, bouncing off of the waves, splashing onto the shore. Veronica stood motionless. Her evening gown dusted in sand and salt sprayed on by the wind and the Gulf, and the translucent fabric clung to her—a violet second skin, shimmering under the moonlight.

“You match the surf!” a voice called out from behind her. “Look at you. Your dress sparkles like the waves,” and the voice was chetgetting closer, but there was no image of him in the dark. Veronica looked down at her arms, and it was true, the violet shimmer of the fabric on her dress was a perfect match to the moonbeams dancing on the waves. “Are you real or a part of the water?” the voice said softly, now coming from directly over her shoulder. Veronica could feel his breath on her neck.

Though startled by the stranger, Veronica didn’t turn to look at him this time. She felt enchanted by mystery, praying that maybe this stranger was from her dream. Maybe he’s the trumpeter, handsome, strong, kind with soft eyes and made of mystery. A mystery she longed to keep secret for as long as possible.

After a few moments of silence, she turned, and no one was there. The buildings in the background were blacked out. It was three a.m. and not a soul seemed to be awake but her. Except, yards away was a beachside motel with a neon vacancy sign lit up out front, blinking in the dimly lit window of an office. The trumpet’s songs resumed in muted tones.

The reality of the buildings, the structures and solid features framing the other side of the beach transported her back to reality with a vengeance. She felt like crying, but the tears wouldn’t come. She felt nauseous, angry, humiliated, defeated, and a wave of despondence overwhelmed her. The three bottles of wine she consumed on her own a mere hour ago seemed to lose all effect. The intoxication was no use in dulling the pain any longer, and Veronica fell into the sand, dry-eyed and silenced as if her emotions have strangled her. She sat alone gasping for air, clutching the sugary white sand that poured out through her fingers.

Just then, something broke. Inside of her, a sharp pain crescendoed as if a glass had shattered and scratched the inside of her skin and began shooting outward, tearing her flesh, just under the surface—she became cold. The beads of sweat all around her body formed from the Florida August heat felt as cool droplets of rain while memories bombarded her brain, and her own breath betrayed her. All she could do was exhale.

Her mind played out the night’s events in vivid frames beginning wither husband, Jason, backstage, waiting for her after the opera. She was a stunning Carmen, with Bizet’s notes carved carefully in her voice—every tone embodied an intense characterization—that emanated a reality, transporting the audience into another world.

After the last curtain call, and the roars of the crowds died down, Veronica was beaming with joy. Seeing Jason backstage, she melted into his arms, snuggling intimately against his neck, then suddenly realized that his arms weren’t even around her, and his head was stiff and fixed forward. She felt as if she was embracing a concrete wall. She was. She grew cold and silent, gathered her things and left quickly behind him, sitting in the car with a knot in her stomach, not knowing why, but she felt immensely fearful just the same.

The next frame was of Jason uttering his only words, which followed a long stretch of silence in the car ride back to the hotel. “Oh, by the way, I’ve filed for divorce. And I’ve moved our money. You won’t find it, so there’s no need for you to contest it. I think you have $4,000 in your checking account. I’ve left you with that. Thanks for agreeing to selling the house so quickly. It would have been uncomfortable if we needed to deal with an arson investigation and insurance settlements. This way, it’s all neat and clean. We don’t even need to talk past this point. Our attorneys will handle everything. See? It’s clean. You should be happy—I’ve made this pretty easy on you. Okay, here we are,” he finished pulling up to the hotel as the valet opened her door.

Veronica sat there staring at Jason, then whispered sheepishly, stuttering a little, “What?”

Next frame—Jason twisted his neck around with his chiseled jaw clenched, eyes stern and black, glaring into hers filled with tears, and he said simply, “Get out.” She did.

Veronica gathered herself up, and she walked to the motel office. No one seemed to be there; the door was locked, and no one answered as she pounded, just needing a place to rest.

She remembered seeing a hammock near one of the motel windows, and she figured that would do until dawn, which was still several hours away.

A sense of dead exhaustion overcame her, and she clung tightly to the old sea grass woven hammock and climbed into it, drifting off to a shallow sleep. The sound of the waves crashing over and over again against the surf took her mind to a place of uncommon stillness—a soft quietness within. A peace she hadn’t known since childhood. And she dreamed in soft colors.

About an hour lapsed, and consciousness swept in, waking her to a sharp pain in her thigh. Her plump flesh pressed uncomfortably against the strong ropes, she shifted her weight over to the left to relieve the pressure, but her foot got stuck. Trying to shake it free, her hand fell through another opening in the hammock, and she found herself twisted and tangled like a dolphin caught in an unforgiving net.

Veronica then thrust all of her weight—a solid180 lbs.—onto one side, spinning her body, leaving her hovering over the sand, face down, still caught in the ropes. The hammock seemed to have won the battle, and as far as she knew, it might have won the war.

Moolit_Beach_No longer feeling too peaceful, and the scorching Florida heat returned with a vengeance, she hung there, sweat leaking from every pour, her evening gown shrunk onto her flesh like plastic wrap. Not a soul seemed to be awake; even moonstruck lovers had found their way indoors for the night. There wasn’t much hope for a rescue, and her handbag was yards away with her cell phone tucked safely inside. Veronica tried to fight back tears of frustration and discomfort, and she failed.

As she tried to wipe her now slimy nose, she managed to finally free her hand from the ropes, and it fell to the sand below onto something that felt rubbery and cold. Curious, she dusted off the sand covering the object, revealing a hand—a dead hand, gray and shriveled, with a gold Rolex strapped to the lifeless wrist, still ticking away.

Veronica screamed.

Stress Buster Series Part 2 — CREATE — 7 strategies to reduce stress

Here are 7 CREATIVE ways to effectively deactivate stress…

There’s no joking around about the seriousness of stress. At the very least it eats away at us, preventing us from enjoying life fully. At its worse, it is deadly—a major contributor in obesity, high blood pressure and other critical health conditions and diseases as well as mental illnesses, including problems with alcohol and other drugs, anxiety disorders and depression. It even has been linked to many instances of suicide. Tame the beast—take action to help manage stress.

  1. Daydream—you may often hear advice about meditation, and that certainly has its place, but… daydreaming has become a lost art by far too many. Stare at the clouds, gaze into the water or just simply stare off into space. Let your mind wander and imagine yourself in dream lands, surrounded by people you enjoy or off on your own to explore and revel in creative bliss… all inside your own skull.
  2. Write—oh stop worrying; no one said you need to publish this, but you just might want to once you’ve done it long enough. Just get the stuff stuck inside your head and your heart outside and take a look at it. Go ahead and write about what’s scaring you, or not. You may choose to write a better story; one where you are empowered and actively achieving all you desire. Or, even still you may choose to channel your inner voice, and give it a platform to express spirit, wonder, gratitude and grace. Or… all of the above.
  3. Draw—I don’t care if your version of a Renoir looks exactly like blotchy, lumpy diseased stick figures. Draw something—groupings of circles, an abstract of the horizon at dusk, a blade of grass or leaves, clouds… anything. The point is to explore expressing yourself non-verbally. We relay far too much on words and give them far too much power in our lives. Here is an opportunity to explore the connections between your eyes and your hands in a creative fashion. Use a pencil, your favorite pen or go wild with pastels, colored pencils or even crayons. Have fun and explore
  4. Sing—whether you’re a nightingale or more closely resemble a quacking duck, put your favorite tune in your head (or go ahead and queue it up on your Mp3), and sing that song! Fill up your body with air and let sounds reverberate through every atom that makes you… you. Don’t be shy and activate your whole self in song. Throw all of your energy into making music—the very expression of your own breath.
  5. Dance—that’s right, get down and get jiggy with it! Or slip into some Ravel and go on point if that’s your pleasure. Experience music as an expression of your whole body. Oh come on no one’s looking. And so what if they are? Make them envy your joy! They should feel so free.
  6. Create—just start and go! Have you ever wanted to sculpt? Play the piano? Paint a mural? Write a story? Compose a song? Choreograph a dance? Just start. You may not like where it takes you at first, but you started! That’s more than most people ever do. Great work! Now, keep doing it, and by accident, if you keep doing it enough and work on doing it a little better each time, you’ll find at some point—you’re actually kinda good. Maybe ever great! But that will never, ever, ever happen… unless you begin.
  7. Pretend—pretend you’re somebody else. If you could be a different type of person… you might walk differently, speak differently, behave differently… dress, attitude, habits, preferences… all different. Even how you choose to spend your day might be different. For one morning, afternoon, or one evening, go somewhere where no one knows you, and go BE that different person. Keep your name, and please do try to keep your sanity and return to reality once you’re done with your “trip,” but also do take note of all being that alter ego taught you. How were you treated? How did you feel? Did you see things differently, value different things and take notice of different things than you normally would? Were your interactions with people different? Overall, how did your experiences differ, and what lessons from this experience can you incorporate into your real life and real personality to be an even more authentic, happier and empowered you?

Activating your creativity helps to deactivate stress by opening a portal for that negative energy, and with you and your creative spirit serving as the conduit, you have the power to turn the negative energy—STRESS—into a very positive energy—ART.

kandinsky - transverse line (copy)

kandinsky – transverse line (copy)

Tag Cloud