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Postcard from 29,000′

13 Jan

gold-status-expiring

Near the end of 2016, I started to get this email, which, as a frequent flier, sent me into a bit of a panic. See, I’d had Gold status on American for four years, and I rather liked it. Oh, I know what some of you might say–Gold doesn’t have a ton of perks and you can get most of those with a credit card that only has a $95/year annual fee–but why should I pay that if I’m doing the travel anyway? And if I’m traveling at least 25,000 miles a year, getting a free checked bag, early boarding, better seats and the possibility of upgrades is pretty nice (and I can usually snag an upgrade on a shuttle flight to or from Boston, which is sweet).

Extending my status wasn’t supposed to be a problem this year, but due to some family circumstances, I had to drop out of officiating a roller derby tournament in Vancouver–and that trip would have given me the mileage/segments to put me over the top for one more year.

Instead, I started getting the “extend your status now!” emails, and I did what anyone who has decent status in anything does: I worried. It’s not fun to lose perks, but it really wasn’t worth $399 to keep my status (nor was it worth opening up another credit card either).

However, with all problems, there is a solution, and for me, that was the mileage run. I quickly realized that I could fly to Dallas before the holiday travel season started, hang out in the airport for a couple of hours, and fly back to Boston for a fraction of the status renewal price.

This idea did not go over well at home. “You want to do what? Why?” asked the Boy. The Boy doesn’t like flying because he is very tall and doesn’t fit on airplanes very well. He doesn’t understand why people willingly fold themselves up into a tiny seat with Deep Vein Thrombosis-inducing amounts of legroom in the first place, let alone do it just to get miles.

I don’t bother to tell him that people will spend full weekends taking several segments through multiple countries in order to get Executive Platinum status. Even I think that’s a little extreme. I get it, but it’s extreme.

Needless to say, the Boy wasn’t thrilled about my plan, but I decided to spin it by calling it my very own writer-in-residence program. I’d have a quiet space and several hours for nothing but creative writing. It would be fine, great even!

And it was. I wrote about 3,500 words each way, banging out whatever came into my head. I have some short-short pieces and some beginnings to longer pieces–and likely a lot of garbage that was floating around my imagination. However, the goal was to write, and I did–I put my nose to the grindstone and cranked out some material, and that alone felt great.

I also wandered around DFW for a couple of hours–I actually had the faint idea that I could take the train downtown and get back in time, but I soon realized that where I needed to catch the train was too far away from my terminal to make that particular journey. Instead, I gave the Boy a status update while standing in the middle of a parking garage; I stumbled upon DFW’s chapel; and then went back through security. Then I decided it would be a good day for office holiday lunch, so I had a lovely sandwich and bubbly flight at Vino Volo before checking in with a client and getting back on the plane home.

Not that long after, I got this email:

gold-status-achieved

Achievement unlocked! But really, I had a fun, productive day that made me feel professional rejuvenated. Except now, I need to go back to that work, see what’s actually worth saving (Anne Lamott’s “Shitty First Drafts” comes to mind when I think of what gems this file of random writing might contain). Hopefully there’s work that’s worth exploring and expanding. But then I’m going to need more time for editing and sending out pieces, which I could do at home, but obviously, as I proved with this experience, when it comes to creative writing, I get more done when I’m on the move. Maybe it’s time to schedule some more writer-in-residence days. More air travel? Or should I see how well I work on the train next time?

Latest Travel Feature: Midwestern Fun in Valpo

6 Sep

I grew up about 45 minutes away from Valparaiso, so it was a real treat to get this assignment from AAA Midwest Traveler to write about the town and Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore during fall. It’s a great time of year to visit and see a beautiful part of the country–then get a great meal from one of the many choices in Valpo.

We Dig These Dunes

Summer might be over, but it’s still beach time in northern Indiana.

Summer doesn’t have to end when the sun sets on Labor Day. September is a great time to hit the beach and enjoy the last warm days of the year — without the crowds. Lake Michigan offers some of the country’s finest dune areas, including Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore and Indiana Dunes State Park. Between the two protected areas, beachgoers can enjoy 15 miles of beach nestled between Gary and Michigan City, Ind.

Preservationists fought for decades to protect the area, succeeding with the development of the state park in 1925. In 1966, Congress created the national lakeshore along with the Port of Indiana. The two parks today have more than 15,000 acres of protected lands covering a variety of habitats, including marshes, prairies, bogs, and beaches.

Read more here.

Jazzing You Up

13 Apr

Freelancing is always interesting because you don’t know who you’ll end up working for and what you’ll end up writing. That’s the fun of the game though. When people ask me what I write about, I start going through a laundry list: credit cards, bridal, home, travel, corporate writing, etc.

Now I’m adding LinkedIn profiles to that list.

One of my roller derby officiating colleagues told me about an opportunity to write profiles for LinkedIn Makeover, so I went through a trial. I liked the work; they liked my work, and now I’m working with people from around the world who are trying to make better use of their space on this professional networking tool.

There are companies who do this? Well, sure. Just like there are companies that will help you write a good resume, there are companies who can help you maximize your professional presence online tool. LinkedIn Makeover’s founder Donna Serdula is really on to something, I think, as she recently described in Money Magazine’s online 30-Day Challenge: LinkedIn isn’t just a regurgitation of your resume, it’s a place where recruiters and other professionals can get to know you and hear about your expertise and accomplishments in a conversational way, much like an initial interview.

So far, it’s been really interesting work. I’ve met people from around the world who have some pretty amazing professional accomplishments under their belts. Seriously–I’m not one for cruises, but I worked with a cruise director who knew the clientele and planned such interesting events that I kind of wanted to book a cruise right then and there.

I’m also learning how to improve my own LinkedIn skills–it’s gotten me freelance work before, and I’m hoping that with a beefed up profile and more involvement on the site, it’ll help me get more work down the road.

At the very least, I’m being exposed to all sorts of careers, companies, industries and leadership levels. I’ve always been fascinated by how people do their jobs, and this gig helps me satisfy that itch, and I can help them show off their best side to help them network or find the next step in their career.

If you’re thinking, LinkedIn. Huh, I hear you. But the way business and social media work together today is really interesting, and if it’s important to you, it’s worth having a good LinkedIn profile. LinkedIn Makeover has a lot of good free tips and powerful profile examples to get you started on optimizing your own profile. Of course, we can help you do it faster for a price, but if you don’t have time or writing isn’t necessarily your strong suit, it might be worth it to pay a professional.

 

 

New Story Published!

5 Mar

Today I’ve got a fun announcement: Today Flash Fiction Magazine has published my story “Reflections on my Journey.” I’m really thrilled to be included on FFM–each day they post a great, quick read. It’s a great place to get a quick hit of literature. I’d go on, but really, a long piece about flash fiction doesn’t seem quite appropriate. Please check out the site though–you won’t regret it.

Report on National Readathon (and/or Cleanathon) Day

29 Jan

I apologize for the Blizzard of 2015 getting in the way of letting you know whether or not Future Jill’s predictions on National Readathon Day were accurate. You can get off your pins and needles today, though, because here’s the full story:

National Readathon Day was supposed to take place on Saturday. Noon to 4, me and the couch and some reading material. A tortilla chip thwarted those plans.

Saturday morning, I was in the kitchen, and I noticed a tortilla chip on the floor, so I bent over to pick it up and noticed some other floor junk by a corner of the stove. I’d been cooking and baking a fair amount recently, so maybe some other piece of food had fallen and needed to be picked up.

Or maybe it was a dead mouse.

A dead mouse in the kitchen causes a chain of events:

I say, “There’s a mouse!”

The Boy, who’s sitting at the kitchen table, quickly lifts up his feet and cries, “Where?!”

“It’s dead. It’s here by the stove.”

The Boy comes over to the stove to assess the situation, pronounces that the mouse is indeed dead (because it’s certainly not still sleeping on its side during all this commotion, unless it is one mellow mouse) and proceeds to dispose of it. This involves sweeping it into a dustpan, which [GORE ALERT] leaves a tiny trail of mouse guts and blood on our kitchen floor, and throwing it away.

When he comes back into the house, the proclamation is made: We have to clean up this kitchen.

Now.

And suddenly National Readathon Day becomes National Cleanathon Day.

We scrubbed everything–cabinets, windows, oven, garbage cans, refrigerator, and our personal nemesis, the floor. Now, we have a very nice white tile floor that’s got a little off-white pattern on it that hides the dirt a little bit. We discovered that this pattern does an amazingly good job because it was hiding a lot of dirt. A lot. Of dirt. We’d been cleaning with Mop & Glo, which apparently puts glow on the floor but doesn’t do a heck of a lot of mopping, because we both spent a couple of hours on our hands and knees scrubbing the floor with sponges and Mr. Clean, marveling at how dirty the water had gotten in our scrub bucket.

One we were done, the floor–and kitchen–looked fantastic, but man, did my shoulder hurt. Plus, I was too zonked to put in another four hours of conscious living, let alone reading. The readathon would be postponed.

On Sunday, it happened. Me, couch, book, a four-hour block of afternoon. I finished reading Can I Get an Amen? by Sarah Healy, which was an entertaining read–not earth shattering, but as someone who went to Christian schools, I could relate to the environment of a church-centered life and all of the characters that went with it.

When I finished the story, I still had about an hour to go in the readathon, so I thought I’d peruse the readers’ guide that went along with the book, then find something else to read. But the first question turned out to be a slap-in-the-face for me, and I stopped the readathon cold.

I don’t know why, but I still have a lot of hang-ups as a writer, and I know that constant practice, constant putting pieces together and constantly submitting those pieces for publication is really the only way to get to where I’d like to be. Why I won’t let myself do that is something I don’t quite understand, but this year I’ve decided I’m through wallowing. It’s not cute anymore, and it’s been going on so long that people shouldn’t still be sympathetic to my imagined plight. It’s time to make something happen, particularly in terms of finishing up creative writing, submitting it and resubmitting the rejected pieces (I’ve gotten some rejections lately, which is a step, but I need to keep searching for a home for those stories). It doesn’t have to be great or earth-shattering; it just has to be done.

So when I read the first question, which is about how the author got into writing, and the response is, “I never expected to be a writer. That I have managed to become one comes as the most pleasant shock,” followed by a lengthy description of someone who figured out what they wanted to do and then slowly and realistically made it happen, I got pretty disappointed in myself, and I wanted to do something about it, rather than continue consuming other people’s work. Not that reading isn’t important or that I shouldn’t make a more conscious effort to sit down for a longer period of time to enjoy doing it, but that I also need to get to work.

Future Jill got it partly right. I finished the book I’d intended to. I’m curious as to what Future Jill has to say about the result of that experience. I might ask her at some point, but I think already know what she’s going to say.

Looking Back, Looking Ahead

2 Jan

Happy New Year!

Are you excited about 2015? After 2014, I certainly am. Not that 2014 was awful–I certainly had a lot of great adventures and good times, including:

  • Going to New Zealand for the second time and Australia for the third (both locations I’d hoped to visit once in my life, let alone multiple times)
  • Skydiving over the Australian coast (also something I hadn’t planned on doing)
  • Soaking in mineral springs
  • Having a hotel with its own trampoline
  • Teaching at five roller derby officiating clinics, one of which was at a funeral museum
  • Getting to be a Crew Head Non-Skating Official at a new major roller derby tournament
  • Getting selected to NSO one WFTDA Division 2, one WFTDA Division 1 and the WFTDA Championship tournaments
  • Crossing off West Virginia, which means I only need to visit 11 more states to hit all 50
  • Refereeing my first two roller derby games
  • Road tripping to Saugatuck for a beautiful wedding
  • Visiting about 20 microbreweries in Massachusetts
  • Long road trip to Florida, which included stops in Washington, DC and Savannah
  • Moving to a more modern apartment
  • Building a very cool outdoor table out of an old World Cup sign that had been stashed in a closet for about four years

However, 2014 was also pretty blah, considering that

  • Moving involved moving three times (twice to fix the electricity in our old apartment, once to move out). Moving is never very fun. Multiply that by three
  • The certification tests I wrote as part of my roller derby committee work took way longer than anticipated, which was more than frustrating
  • I’ve gained some weight
  • Some performers who really touched my life in different ways died–Philip Seymour Hoffmann, Robin Williams, Joan Rivers. That’s created much more melancholy for me than I thought it could
  • Said World Cup table needs to be fixed because it suffered some water damage
  • My writing was rejected more than usual this year, particularly creative pieces

That said, I’m happy to be turning the page onto a new year that’s full of possibility. However, possibility only becomes actually if one puts in the effort. For me, that means a little more focus on writing–whatever form that may take. And to make sure I stick to it, I’m going to write more here. I’m hoping to post multiple times per week, and I’m going to focus those posts around things I do as an inherently curious person:

  • I travel
  • I make
  • I eat
  • I drink
  • I read
  • I move
  • I explore
  • I write

I’m excited about the possibilities. I’m excited to explore and share with you. I’m pleased that you’ll indulge me–and put up with some experiments I intend to do. More so though, I want to drive 2015 into being a much better year than 2014 was. The whole carpe diem thing? Yeah. But let’s not put so much pressure on the day. The mundane still needs to be done. But the year? It has much more potential.

 

 

Event Alert: Story Club Boston – Jan. 9

7 Jan

I’ll be one of the featured performers in Story Club Boston’s January show, which is happening this Thursday, Jan. 9 at ImprovBoston (40 Prospect St., Cambridge). The theme of this month’s show is “Let’s Try This Again,” about do-overs and reprieves. I’ll be sharing one of my roller derby officiating stories, in which I tell about one of my worst officiating mistakes.

If you’re in the area, please come! Tickets are $12.

What Happened in the Last Year?

13 Feb

Whoa, Nellie! How did more than a year go by since I’ve last posted? I can tell you how:

Craziness.

My work picked up a bit in the last year (thank you, clients!), but I also invested a lot of time into my hobby, officiating roller derby.

Thanks mostly to roller derby, last year I traveled to 7 countries and was on 3 continents. I got Gold status on American. I got a few new cute outfits. I helped start a new committee. I wrote a lot of e-mails. And I did a lot of paperwork.

It’s been a blast, but this year I’m hoping to refocus on some creative endeavors that I started in 2011 and set aside for a while. This blog is one of them.

Over the next few weeks, I’d like to include some of the highlights from last year just to share how amazing it was, but I’d also like to keep moving forward and get back to what I like to do best: Entertain you with the written word.

An Awesome Acceptance

13 Jul

It’s been a busy summer here in my little office (now declared a socks-free work zone for the summer). I’ve become a contributing editor at Avisian Publications, a trade publishing group that focuses on identity and authentication. I’ve been writing more fun pieces for HowStuffWorks.com. I’ve got a couple of other things in the pipeline. And I still don’t seem to have enough time to work on some ideas that are brewing in my head.

However, I wanted to share one specific story that published today. Ideally, I’d be writing a lot more humor, fiction, and essays, and I’m definitely trying to–it’s just that those markets are extremely competitive. Still, I’m pleased to announce that my humor piece “Business Plan for Slutty Dresses” was picked up by McSweeney’s Internet Tendency.

I wrote that piece in an attempt to capture how I felt walking down the Las Vegas Strip during a recent trip. I didn’t want to write a straight travelogue, so I came up with the idea of the ultimate business for that part of the world. I had a lot of fun writing it, and I hope you take a minute to read and enjoy it!

Finishing Is Just the Beginning

3 Dec

Wheeeee!!!!  I finished a first draft of a novel, but that’s probably the easy part.  Now, it’s time to start editing and shaping it so that it’s in decent enough condition to send off to agents/publishers.  Even though I’ve taken a few days off to get some distance from it, I’m really looking forward to jumping back in and working on it.  And that is a very, very nice feeling.

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