November, 2012

Keep Calm and Ninja On

Editing a book is a roller coaster of love.  Some days are lofty and divine, each word floating into place with a satisfying series of keyboard clicks.  Some days there is a plunging feeling, sotto-voce screaming, and tossing bombastic words overboard like ballast.

My mantra?  Keep Calm and Ninja On.

Writing The Ninja Network is an HONOR I take to heart, because it is from my heart.  Thanks for hanging in there with me, while I get it good enough for Mighty & Awesome YOU!

Here is a bit from the most recent text:

Ninjas are the result of in-person collisions I call “nuclear proaction”:  
the sparks of life that ensue when you throw yourself wholeheartedly into the midst of community, making connection points and transitioning to new ways of being.

Proactive Proof of Nuclear Ninja Kapow!
Image capture, Ryan Haro.

Who Loves Ya, Baby?

“Here. Hold HappyBug. This won’t take long.”

HappyBug is happy. I try not to squeeze all the stuffing out of HappyBug. Try to be stalwart. Strong. HappyBug is still happy, considering I’m squeezing pretty darn hard.

HappyBug is Happy

HappyBug is happy.
(psst – click photo to find “The Basket of Happy”)

“HappyBug is happy,” I mutter to myself through gritted teeth while I breathe deeply and suck it up, “because HappyBug doesn’t have to get a SHOT.”

I am disinclined to be inoculated.

The nurse guffaws, pattern-interrupting my bad attitude. I glance down at HappyBug’s smiling gaze as she dabs my arm with a bit of gauze and gives me a cartoon band-aid. My grimace turns to a grin. I loosen up. I remember I am loved.

This year, I didn’t want a shot. Didn’t want to wait in line. Didn’t want to pay $35 or pretend to be brave. Didn’t care a whit or a fiddle whether or not I catch the flu.

I got a shot. Because my mom loves me, and it made her happy.

In my book, Mom is NinjaNumberOne. She made me, and takes great care to keep me safely moving on a trajectory of success. NinjaNumberOne says:

1. Always wear your seatbelt.
2. Don’t lay out in the sun.
3. Never ever ever eat donuts.
4. Get a flu shot.

Mom taught me early on – always wear your seatbelt.
(psst – click photo for the beautiful Embrace Life video.)

Last year, I was compelled, against my will and at the last possible minute, to suffer a flu shot. I got shanghaied, strapped in the car, and exactly what I deserved for dawdling. The prehistoric pharmacist intent on administering the dose hovered over me, wheezing like an interrogation droid on the Death Star. I glowered in the corner, chin stubbornly set, a resolute and resistant rebel princess. It took an eternity for him to cross the examination room and painstakingly plunge what felt like a pike into my arm.

I actually had to put a shout out to my Star Wars fan friends:
“What is the name of float-y round thing with the shots that Darth Vader used to threaten / interrogate Princess Leia?”
Apparently it is an IT-O interrogation droid. Eeek!
(psst – click photo for dancing Stormtroopers and Weird Al.)


It wasn’t that bad.  My mom was happy, and bought me an iced cream.

HONOR is bringing it full circle, respecting the investment of affection our Ninjas have made in our wellbeing, and taking care of ourselves so we can be of service to others.

Who loves ya, baby?

Firefighters Fan the Flame of Enthusiasm

I climbed two firefighters. For charity. Fundraising. Really. Is it hot in here, or is it just…?

Truth be told, I didn’t climb them. They hoisted me. Like a giggling sack of potatoes, or an unmanageable battering ram. I guarantee I was more than unwieldy. The whole thing made me giddy. Apparently they do this regularly. I’m in good company.

St. Paul Firefighters Calendar 2013

Bob and Nate train a bunch.
It’s a big job!

I’m happy to blame the bulk of it on my buddy Peggy. Peggy is a planner, always prepared. She mentioned she needed a calendar for next year. I instantly thought of the St. Paul Firefighters Calendar, and (with the most altruistic intention, of course) volunteered nonchalantly to secure a signed copy for her at a local “Grand Opening” shindig. Oh how I suffer for Peggy.

Paging through my calendar (ya sure you betcha I bought one for myself) to see what the fellas inscribed – which, if you must know, was very nice and included the phrases “rescue me” and “smokin’ hot” – I found the list of initiatives and charities the St. Paul Firefighters Calendar supports. The real reason the men and women of fire departments – not only in St. Paul but across the country – are “smokin’ hot” has very little to do with celebrity appearances or images on calendar pages. It’s what they do for their community. Relentlessly. Every single day.

The next afternoon I pulled into my neighborhood gas station for a fill-up and witnessed what looked like the aftermath of an attack. Of what kind, I know not, but I watched several Samaritans guide a disoriented person gently from the middle of the street to the curb to settle and wait. Within sixty seconds sirens sounded and a fire engine full of ardent firefighters pulled around the corner. Moments later, an ambulance of paramedics. Proof that a helping hand is near, when we reach for it. That someone will run in, even if they don’t know us, to get us.

So well trained in what they do, that they can help you. That’s why firefighters, EMTs, and paramedics are smokin’ hot.

They train for this; the eventuality we don’t want to consider. They look for ways to help us avoid an emergency or recover from catastrophe. They are calm in calamity. In my book, they are Ninjas.

Needless to say, I’ve got firefighters on the brain. I took a poll.

Poll: I love firefighters. Do you? Why?
• They are tough. They are courageous.
• They use those powers for good.
• The willingness to put themselves in harms way for the greater safety of others.
• They going into danger knowing they may not come out.
• They have PERSPECTIVE, an excellent bunch of praise-demurring superheroes.
• Because we run inside to save someone we may not even know.

The last phrase arrested my eye. “We”.  I read it again. “We run inside”.  That’s Joe. Joe is a guy I know who has been building a career as a firefighter with dignity and quiet intensity since…well…

Joe D'Amico Firefighter

Joe never wanted to be anything but a firefighter.
Thanks to Joe’s dad, for fanning the flame of enthusiasm!

I asked him to tell me more. When Joe was a kid…

“…my dad, on a whim, told my mom and grandma that he was going to apply for the volunteer fire department. I spent time at the station with my dad and played in the trucks and did everything a little kid at a fire station would do. As I got older, my dad shared stories with me about calls he went on, how things happened, and it just got me really interested. He eventually was promoted to Lieutenant, then Captain, and is now the Assistant Chief of the Town of Brookfield Fire Department where he started 19 years ago.

After 9/11, I grew a lot closer to my dad. I began talking to him and expressing interest in becoming a firefighter. To this day he has been a major part in helping me succeed in reaching my goals. And after 9/11, I felt like I needed to do something to help people. Granted, I was in 4th grade when 9/11 happened, but that feeling of wanting to help people lead me to becoming a firefighter.

I know this is a long-winded response to simply say “I do it because I want to help people.” But I never would have been interested if it wasn’t for my dad. I’m a firefighter because I want to help people on their worst day. I’m a firefighter because I want to pay my respects to the 343 firefighters that gave their lives trying to save a stranger. And most importantly, I’m a firefighter because I love my dad, and I want to thank him for everything he has done for me, and the community he serves.”  ~ Joe D’Amico of the Lisbon, WI Fire Department

D'Amico Firefighters Like Father Like Son

Like Father, Like Son.
The D’Amicos fight for community
and bring HONOR full circle.

Community. Honor. Smokin’ hot.

Proceeds from 2013 St. Paul Firefighters Calendar go to training and education, health and wellness, community safety, professional firefighter attire, and to the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation.
Of course I bought two. Wouldn’t you? (Here’s where to go when you do.)


Flexing our Lexicon – The NaNoNinjas

My boss is one of my besties. Attendant with that territory is her right to be occasionally bossy, which she is in the nicest possible way. Frankly, someone had to put a foot down. Folks had been after me for ages to put the pedal to the metal and get words on pages.

Text message. Late. 11:58:
“I signed you up for this. You have 30 days to write a book. Starting tomorrow. Go.”

I jolted awake and clicked the link. Uh oh. NaNo.

NaNoWriMo to be clear. National Novel Writing Month. That once-a-year get wound up and write it all down free-for-all. 30 days. 50,000 words. 300,000 writers. That’s a lot of words.

The Alot help us smooth the rough edges
we get gritting our teeth over grammar errors.

Kudos to Kris.  Due to her I discovered the wonders of writing with abandon in 2007. I lost track of time, lost interest in the laundry, lost taste for food except – inexplicably – popcorn and Gummi Bears. Most importantly I lost my ruthless and unforgiving internal editor, the muttering curmudgeon who whispers “not good enough” in the ears of aspiring authors.

NaNoWriMo is the gateway to unabashed imperfection and the truth that our ceaseless spiel of self-correction is sometimes better left unsaid. Write all the words. Be brilliant and boldly inclined to make great sweeping grammatical errors while purging onto the page what just might be a bestselling novel.

What I think I look like when I write.

I didn’t finish my first novel in 2007. Or my second in 2008. In the end, 50,000 words weren’t enough to tell either story. A bit heartbroken, I set them aside, wondering what would happen to my characters. Still, I found myself drawn to writing. New words crept into my regular vernacular. I discovered an abiding affection for annoying my friends with arcane definitions. In 2009 I started hammering out a business book. In 2010 I became hypnotized by the dizzying pace of 30-minute literature. In 2011 I admitted – I’m a sprinter – a storyteller in bite-sized bits. The Ninja Network took shape, one story at a time, and I time-stamped a completed first draft a few months ago.

What I really look like when I write.

Late in October, at the cusp of NaNoWriMo 2012, I was good to go. Not to write a novel, or something from scratch, but to edit and tie up the loose ends of my manuscript prior to publication. I registered, made a donation, and waited.

And waited.

And came to terms with the condition that had left me flat in previous years: writing alone can be lonely business.

So this year I’ve set about the business of kicking that bad habit. This year I’m a NaNoNinja.

NaNoNinjas enthuse while I write,
will meet for coffee,
and remind me that I need to take a shower
at least twice a week during NaNoWriMo.

We are the NaNoNinjas and we are devoted.  Some will abandon ourselves to NaNoWriMo “the good old fashioned way”, by carving out an average of 1667 words a day. Some will tell our story verbally, speaking our minds, dictating as we commute and then translating to the printed page. Some will build the tower of our tale with poetical phrase, others as a picture with pigmented layers; a tale in tincture. Some will sprint 30 short stories. Some will edit and expound upon existing text. Some will cheer from a distance. Together we will create in community.

We gathered, each with our unique prose or poetical peculiarity. While NaNoWriMo is primarily pointed at provoking the novelist, I’m here for the literary nudge and because I RELY on community. It makes me a better woman, a smarter writer, a kinder editor, and a lot less lonely when I’m wordsmithing in the middle of the night. Because I’m not the only one burning the midnight oil.

P.S. If you’re a writer, up in the middle of the night and wigged out over word count or discombobulated by writer’s block consider this:

Inspiration is everywhere. Now… pick up your pen and MOVE IT!

O say, can you soothsay? The Ninjascope.

Predicting the future feels a bit like predicting the weather. Without the sagacity of a professional, it’s dicey. Weatherman is not a job for me…everyone is watching…that’s a high-pressure system.

Brick Tamland from "Anchorman" as portrayed by Steve Carell.

Brick Tamland from “Anchorman” as portrayed by Steve Carell.

For the last several days, we’ve been stuck to the live stream of Hurricane Sandy and its aftermath, waiting to see how the storm would play out on the Eastern Seaboard. Occasionally friends conserving their batteries power up and post, to keep us posted:

“hunkered down and hoping for the best.”
“candelabras and victrolas in the west village. weathering the storm in style.”

From a distance, we didn’t get much more. A few words. Then the power went out. Powerless, the world felt bigger when we lost connection.

Hurricane Sandy

Hurricane Sandy kept the world watching and waiting. October 2012.

Often, to the irritation of our anticipation, we have to wait until something is over to find out what happened. I get it. That’s time passing and how history is made.

And still I get anxious, jump the gun, lose my patience, page forward to sneak a peek at the last paragraph in the book. And work myself into hysterics about horoscopes. In not-so-subtle ways I become like a ship adrift on a stormy sea, bobbing directionless in the face of an unproven prediction.

I should not read my horoscope before the month is over. I infer. I worry. I sit up nights like a ninny. At the end of October I know I shouldn’t have gazed into the predictive crystal ball of November, but I did. My November horoscope was simultaneously murky and manic to the effect of “TIE UP ALL THE LOOSE ENDS!”, which of course made me a nervous nit. I have a LOT of loose ends!

Flummoxed and  fussing, I posted my frustrations online to my Ninja Network.

Then NinjaOohLaLa posited, “How about having one of your ninjas write your horoscope from now on?”

Brilliant. Let the folks I KNOW help illuminate the path.

And LogicNinja opined: “Your future has nothing proximate to do with the locations of the stars and planets (unless you’re about to get clobbered by a heretofore undiscovered meteorite). Rather, your future is determined by more proximate causes, primarily, your own mind and its desires. You’ll work towards a goal to the extent you desire the goal, and to the extent you desire to engage in the work needed to reach that goal. Your unique goals and desires are probably not fully known to you, though you might be able to infer what they are from your past performance.”

Precisely. RELY on collaborators in community to help set my compass star.

So… I will ask my Ninjas. Shall we change from horoscope to Ninjascope? Yes, we decided. Let’s do that. Here’s my interpretation:

noun ˈnɪndʒə-ˌskōp

Definition of NINJASCOPE
: a discovery of the fascinating qualities of friends and the events in their lives for use in predicting what mighty and awesome adventures might occur next (aka taking active interest in your Ninja Network)
: a ninjalogical forecast (aka the kind of inspiring note you’d write if you were charged with crafting a prediction of the future or “best next steps” for your Ninja)

The Ninjascope

A Ninjascope is a course charted with the assistance of NINJAS!

Your assignment, should you chose to accept it, is to post below an interesting Ninjascope that someone might adopt. Bright and hopeful futures welcome.

You get it. You got it. Go get ’em.

P.S. This update just in from optimistic voices on the east coast:
“Power back on this morning just before 6…enjoying ability to shower, eat, and check Facebook! Hoping everyone else is doing okay….”

You’re out of the woods, you’re out of the dark, you’re out of the night.
Step into the sun, step into the light.
Keep straight ahead for the most glorious place on the face of the earth or the sky.
Hold onto your breath, hold onto your heart, hold onto your hope.
March up to the gate and bid it open.
~Lyrics from “Optimistic Voices”, The Wizard of Oz