Saturday, May 24, 2014

Dissecting Generosity

Ten o'clock at night is not an optimal time for me to start writing. But since I'm only hammering out an update, I thought I would give it a go. There's a good chance I'll end up falling asleep and drowning in a drool puddle before I'm done. Thankfully, the only one here to marvel at that horrific site is the little invalid Corgi mix laying beside me looking like she's picking up Dish TV signals from her largely-coned head. 

She won't mind.

As you might guess, I'm currently house and dog sitting for a couple of days for friends who have left me their Queen size bed, bottles of wine, really excellent guacamole, Apple TV, and their washer and dryer (which might be my favorite part of this whole deal) to use to my heart's content. I had planned on writing a general update from here this weekend to fill people in on the latest fundraising efforts, etc. I'm trying to make a final push so I can take down my GoFundMe page, send off my thank yous, and just use PayPal to host any possible future contributions that might come in. This post was originally intended to talk a bit about that and the various tasks I'm tackling to prepare for the trip ahead.

Instead, I want to write a bit about what happened to me this morning and simply send out more thanks.

This morning, I woke too early to what my friend Shari so perfectly coined as "jerk birds" who were loudly announcing the sun's terrible attempt to rise. I checked in on the furry patient, hid a few pills in some prosciutto for her to secretly snarf and then flirted with my other favorite amenity--the handsome, capable Keurig.  I grabbed my phone to check my messages and right on the heels of my Daily Love email was a notification that someone had made a $1000.00 donation to my PayPal account. 

I really thought this was a mistake. I squinted. I looked again at all those zeros and thought my tired old eyes must have been foolishly adding another zero to the amount. I swiped at my phone screen to enlarge the amount and there they were. Three zeros parading behind the number one. The only thing missing was a marching band.

I've said it before, but as many of you know, that's never stopped my from repeating myself to make a point. I would not be able to participate in the Writer's Mastermind retreat without the help of others. It just couldn't and wouldn't happen. Every single donation has helped to make this possible. From the four crumpled, sweaty one dollar bills from one of Jackson's 6th grade friends, to my incredible cousin who generously donated last month's tuition payment. Every single donation has pushed me forward financially, but each and every one has truly throttled me emotionally. 

Before I fall asleep on my Dell, I want to try and make this point, even if poorly. Every single word of encouragement shared with me still echos in my ears. I have made a gorgeous visual shrine from all the cards you've sent with your generosity tucked inside. I have printed out your emails and all of the comments from my GoFundMe page and I'm bringing them all to Bali with me to share with Mastin and to inspire me to work my ass off. They have become rather necessary.

As I said to my very generous donor this morning, I am aware there are many great people and causes that could have used his incredible donation. I am beyond amazed that he chose me and completely gobsmacked by the words used to deliver his donation.

Especially in light of the fact we've never officially met (which is a story for another day, perhaps.)

I continue to be quite beside myself when I re-read the beautifully-articulated reasoning behind this donation. And all of the others for that matter. I wouldn't dare place a value on the incredible emotional impact these will have when I'm half way around the planet and homesick as hell. I'll be curling up with your words as I'm writing my own.

And I'll be forever thankful.

OK. It's 12:49 and I have to try and sleep a bit before my hour+ morning drive to watch the girlie and her pals kick around the soccer ball. I'm not even going to reread this tonight for editing before posting, so please forgive me grammar gods and punctuation princes.

And hey. Jerk birds. I'll take that 6:00 wake up call.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Since you asked...

A barely sun-kissed Saturday morning and I already have one kid's hoop win on the books, taken in from the top row behind an extra large pumpkin coffee, cream only. The other kid rainbow-loomed her way through four quarters and into another bracelet to tourniquet her wrist while I cheered (embarrassed the daughter) and thumb-wrestled with a few dreadlocks that showed up on my head sometime in the middle of the night, defeating all attempts to brush them out before game time.

After finger combing them out into a rage, I look like Questlove.

Anyway, I'm overdue to tap out an update and since I've got this tiny window between the girlie's sleepover and afternoon all-star practice, I thought I would use the time to answer a few questions I've been asked since I was offered the chance to participate in The Daily Love's Writers Mastermind retreat in November. I've had some of the most interesting, odd, heart-wrenching, mind-blowing, pass-the-Kleenex conversations since being selected for this opportunity just a few weeks before Thanksgiving. I look forward to these conversations because no matter which side of the fence y'all sit on (and trust me, there are plenty of people who have expressed dismay, concern and eyebrow-raised wise-assery about this opportunity), I am supreme-priced fueled by both my supporters and my naysayers alike. Continue to ask away.

Here are some answers to the more frequent, entertaining things I've been asked so far. Please feel free to add any additional questions and thought via email, Facebook, or in the comments below. I'm eager to ponder, answer, or get into the ring with you Lucha Libre-style.

1. "Crowdsourcing? Why?"

This question often has an additional question or comment attached:

"Don't you have a credit card?"
A shrunken apple-faced "I'm not a fan of crowdsourcing campaigns."
"Can you take out a loan?"
"What is the timeline for your campaign?"
"Do you have to earn all of your goal to keep the money you've already raised?"
"How much is GoFundMe making off your campaign?"

The quick answers, in order, are:

...because I need financial help and I want to keep it organized and legal., I don't own a credit card. Collateral damage from the divorce.
...I'm sorry you don't like crowdsourcing campaigns. It's OK. You can unpinch your face now. In the words of the late, great Leslie Nielson, "Move along. Nothing to see here."
...I am looking into loans, but right now, the outlook isn't as favorable as I would like it to be. (Please see divorce collateral damage comment above for details.) campaign doesn't have an *official* timeline, but I need to raise almost $1,800.00 a month to make my room/board/tuition payments from now until May (my last payment's due date.), I don't have to raise my entire goal in order to keep my donations. GoFundMe allows me to set a goal, but I get to keep everything raised since I didn't choose to do an "all-or-nothing" campaign.
...the GoFundMe folks (and their payment platform people) make a combined 7% of my earnings.

The short answer? I'm crowdsourcing because my financial circumstances humbly require it.

2. "How did you get selected for this opportunity?"

It really all started with my daily read of The Daily Love and an overpour of Malbec.

I had been half-eyeballing the application link in my peripheral vision while I was reading one night. Half ignoring it. I was certainly struck by the lofty idea of actually finishing my book, which sat in bits and chunks on a Mozy cloud somewhere because my computer pulled off Fred Sanford's threat and suffered the big one, Elizabeth. The Virgo in me hates unfinished business. The INFJ in me deeply desires to create things designed to help others. One thing was certain in my mind that night. If I was ever going to finish this thing, I would need specific help dealing with the messy, emotional stuff that was preventing me from getting this project done. More than Cadbury Eggs and lingering kisses where my neck and shoulder join, I craved an opportunity like this.

So I poured more wine, clicked and typed. I submitted the initial application, made it through that and the following that came along after, and ended the process with a very exciting final phone interview frantically tucked into a work lunch break where I also unknowingly chewed off both thumbnails.  I didn't think I stood a chance.

But then again, what the hell do I know?

3. "Does the world really need another memoir about divorce?"

Hell if I know. I just know that I need to write one.

I've been trying to write this thing for years without an ounce of decent discipline, a proper editor, and with a head quite complete with reasons why I shouldn't be writing this.Yet, I also have been troubled with ticking Tourette's thoughts about this; thoughts regularly reinforced by a variety of people and situations in my life.

Thankfully my muse isn't afraid to elbow her way through my resistance once in awhile. She has shown up on baseball sidelines as an acquaintance who commented on my co-parenting approach, asking for advice. Sometimes she'll show up as a friend or client wanting me to speak with someone who is struggling with divorce, an affair, or parenting. My favorite is when she arrives fisted into a beautiful compliment punching fast into my always tightly-wound chest.

"You should write a book."

So guess what? I'm writing one.

3. "Is this a scam? I'm worried this is a scam. Who is running this thing, anyway?"

At ease, skeptics. It's O.K. I'll be working with Kelly Notaras, who did editing and publishing with Harper/Collins/William Morrow, Penguin USA, and Hyperion for the past 15 years before opening her own full service book studio. I'll also be working with Patricia Verducci, who wrote and directed "True Crime" and has written screenplays for Touchstone, FX, and Disney/Pixar. Her documentaries have been on HBO and Showtime and she teaches screenwriting at UCLA's Creative Writing Program.

I will be writing and workshoping every day with these women and 29 other writers. Most importantly, I get to work directly, daily with The Daily Love's Mastin Kipp to deal with my baggage and resistance issues, which might be the biggest lure of all for my insecure, shy self.

It's legit.

4. "How much is this going to cost you in the end? Why does it cost so much? Why don't you go to (the Cape, Vermont, a cabin, some secluded hotel [Shining, anyone?], your locked bedroom, The Pavilion) and just finish this on your own?"

In my estimation, this thing will likely run me $15,000 total, with the Mastermind portion costing about $10,000 of that. This cost takes care of my room for the entire month as well as all of my meals and 28 days of individual and group mentoring. It's all-inclusive in that aspect. The rest of the associated costs will come from renewing my passport, plane fare, and the costs to run my household while I'm away on this unpaid sabbatical. It's not cheap to spend a month studying with mentors half way around the world. Once in a lifetime opportunities can be pricey. This is obviously one of those cases.

The location has been chosen for creating perfect immersion in a highly creative, healthy, spiritual cocoon. Biorhythms beware. The time zone and structure will eliminate distractions from social media and family--although withdrawals from both could easily kill me in the first 48 hours and this could be all for not. This will be very intense, accelerated, life-altering, mental shackle-breaking stuff. Stuff that I certainly can't do on my own in a week on the Cape or a cabin in Conway.

There is no doubt I will be delivered a wilting bouquet of long-stemmed regrets if I do not pursue this opportunity. So suck it, FTD florist. I'm going.

5. "How else can I help?"

I am still trying to sort through kindhearted offers for fundraisers in the form of music house parties (fun right?), a night of local music where proceeds will be donated, a Family Fun Night Out hosted by my kids and their adorable friends that will likely include some sort of auction. I'm trying to be as creative and non-annoying as possible while rallying enough inner courage and funds to make this happen without losing my mind somewhere along the way.

If you have a thought, suggestion, raffle donation, a friend with frequent flier miles to spare, a positive comment, a lottery win, a certain paranoia about online donations and you want to donate via snail mail, or should you happen upon an IRS return windfall and you believe in this opportunity and care to share? Well then. Paula Abdul and I are forever your (deeply grateful) girls.

6. "Are you scared?"

Some of the time, yes.

The last year plus has rolled out it's share of half-assed Spooky World moments including pending cancer testing results, 10 months of unemployment where I somehow made ends "sort of" meet, and varietal breakdowns of vehicles, conversations, belief systems and love. Just last week, I had a verbally secured and committed entire March Bali payment pulled out from under me. Poof. Gone. That scared me a bit. Right now the notion of leaving my kids and paycheck to fly solo half way around the world for 28 days to gut myself open for others to see and criticize makes me want to launch my feta and spinach omelet all over this keyboard.

I try not to look back too much at things that frighten me. I try. Thankfully, the rear view mirror is small and my eyesight blows. I am more forward in my fear facing. I try and look at fear with the same sociopath's stare recently demoed to me in my personal life. On occasion, I'll even flip out and "Marcus Smart" fear back into his second row seat. Sorry, you might have to Google that if you're not a SportsCenter fan.

It's also been scary to ask for help in such a public way. I've been feeling, however, that it would be a bit hypocritical not to ask--especially since I have learned that when I'm able to help others, it truly sets fire to my insides. It's why I do the work I do. It feels so good to be able to pull someone out of poverty's swamp, to walk with them through the horrible shit they're facing, and help them to GPS possible paths out. For some of my participants, it's the first time they've been given permission to dream. It's a remarkable feeling to make that kind of difference. So in theory, I guess it makes sense to be brave enough to ask for help and offer others the chance to make that kind of impact in my life and buy a share of my dream.

Finally, to the folks who have asked the question "so, what's in it for me?" I guess that's ultimately for you to decide. I mean sure, I've built in some small incentives for donations. But I can't really say what's in it for you. I know why I have personally GoFunded and KickStarted others' projects squarely in the ass. Like my welfare-to-work clients, I want others to know I believe in their artistic vision, in second chances, and in their daredevil dreams. If I had more cash, I would do it every day, all day long. If you don't happen to feel that way, especially about my particular gig, no harm, no foul.

Regardless of how you feel about this, I hope you find or participate in something that lights you up brighter than a firework barge, gives you a sense of community and belonging, and allows your heart, mind or belief system to expand in some way. I hope you submit that application, take that risk, say those words, endorse that dream. I truly hope you choose to invest in something that allows you, and perhaps another, to be a little bit more.

You can help here: