The Serendipity of September

The Serendipity of September


THE SERENDIPITY OF SEPTEMBER – 
GUEST POST BY TAMI KAMIN MEYER

When I think of September, I think yellow school busses, football and cooler weather. I throw open my screen porch door and house windows to allow the fresh, crisp air to waft through my house like a welcome friend. I also adore the renewed energy of Fall that seems to radiate everywhere, although admittedly, it is muted due to the pandemic.

Meanwhile, something happened to me recently that conjured up that same sense of excitement, although this occurrence relates to my life as a freelance writer.

With time on my hands during the quarantine, I often found myself perusing LinkedIn for something interesting to read. A few months back, I happened upon a post about a non-profit organization, headquartered in Johnstown, Ohio, just east of Columbus. The message’s author was John Mennell, the founder of the Ohio Literacy Bank (OLB). The mission of his non-profit is ending illiteracy by providing new and recycled magazines to at-risk readers in locations easily accessible to them, such as food banks.

I immediately invited John to connect with me, and he obliged. We exchanged several messages about his group and how I wanted to volunteer at some point. We share a love of magazines, and it was fun to discuss how the industry has evolved over the years. Thankfully for my professional endeavors, print magazines are not a dying breed, as evidenced by an article in Forbes. New titles, such as Joanna Gaines’ Magnolia, are replacing defunct hardcopy publications such as Marie Claire.

I feel an extra dose of pride when one of my pieces appears in a print publication

I am incredibly grateful for technology and the Internet, because they expose freelance writers to a large, diverse and information-hungry audience and online publications for whom to write. However, I must admit I feel an extra dose of pride when one of my pieces appears in a print publication versus online only. In my mind, there is something poetic, even romantic, about opening a magazine and flipping through its colorful pages. People carry magazines from room to room and keep them stacked on their bedside table. Some read magazines cover-to-cover and others, sadly, are left in the plastic in which they arrived until it’s time they are recycled. No matter their journey, magazines are ubiquitous and I am supremely thankful for that.

Back to John. After two aborted attempts to meet face-to-face to further discuss our professional commonalities, we recently met in-person for coffee and a chat.

John regaled me with interesting stories how his small-but-mighty non-profit is attacking illiteracy. To hear him discuss the various magazines the OLB has received and distributed as well as the numerous unselfish acts of volunteerism performed by supporters across the country that have ensured that publications get in the hands of those who would benefit is like listening to a well-tuned orchestra. As John’s zeal and pride about his organization’s mission grew, so did my interest in hearing more.

And that’s when my moment of serendipity hit.

I felt a surge of excitement as story ideas based on the OLB’s successes flooded my brain. Intuitively, I began brainstorming about which publications might be interested in those ideas and why John’s story might appeal to the demographics of particular outlets. John and his mission are compelling and I was thrilled to be learning more about him and his organization’s efforts. All of that and they’re right here in central Ohio, too.

I scribbled notes in my characteristically messy handwriting as he spoke, careful to understand the gravity of his non-profit’s efforts and achievements. I peppered him with questions, all of which he answered with positivity and specificity. Meeting in person, over a cup of coffee, just like I would have pre-COVID-19, was refreshing. It was also vaguely familiar as an activity I enjoyed immensely prior to COVID-19. Meeting face-to-face made the experience that much richer, and I realized how much I missed the social aspect of being a freelance writer.

My heart pumped with adrenaline while meeting with John because after so long of not interacting with people face-to-face, I was gifted with that experience again. Speaking with him at arm’s length rather than through a square box on my laptop monitor, ala Zoom, reminded me of one of my favorite aspects of being a freelancer that I truly missed: social interaction. That experience reignited my zeal for writing, which honestly had waned during the long, hot summer and the even longer and seemingly unending worldwide pandemic.

Thankfully, it’s back and so am I. Hope you enjoy a serendipitous September, too.


(c)Tami Kamin Meyer, 2021, all rights reserved



This essay first appeared in the September 2021 issue of Write Now ColumbusSubscribe here.

Write Now Columbus – September 2020

Write Now Columbus – September 2020

How’s everyone holding up?

Ed and I have reached the pandemic stage many people hit a few months back: Quarantine Crazy. For the most part, we’re self-isolating and wish we could safely do things we did without thought before.

Since he and I spent the first few months of the pandemic dealing with his health crisis, we experienced a lag. Only now do we feel the pandemic grief. The pandemic stress has just begun to catch us. Ed’s grieving in-person classes at Ohio State, volunteering at the Upper Arlington Senior Center’s Cafe UA, and attending face-to-face meetings.

I’m grieving writing in cafes.

I’ve written about my love of walking into a coffeehouse nearly anywhere in the country and sitting down to an empty table and a cup of coffee. Before the pandemic, I haunted Colin’s Coffee or Kingsdale Market District here in Upper Arlington where we live. The pandemic closed both to indoor seating.

I can still walk to Colin’s for a sleepy mudshot and a McRoy, and visit Market District for groceries and a quick chat with the staff. But the pandemic ended my days of spending five uninterrupted hours in either place. I try to adapt, but I’m exhausted and frustrated.

If, like me, you’re thinking, “Shouldn’t I be used to this by now?” check out Tara Haelle’s article “Your ‘Surge Capacity’ Is Depleted — It’s Why You Feel Awful.”  She offers explanations (grief/stress) and suggestions including “Expect less from yourself” which has been my mantra since Ed’s first hospitalization in February.

Haelle talks about “both-and” thinking. Life plods along. Despite the grief and stress, in many ways, it’s lovely. We grieve the losses while enjoying the wins.

Here are a few of my recent wins:

On Twitter, I’m a stone’s throw from 5,000 followers. If you Tweet, I’d love a follow and will follow back. Ditto for all the social channels.

The fabulous Ohioana Book Festival which went virtual for the first time in its fourteen year history, wrapped up August 30th. The replays will be on youtube soon. I hope you’ll check out our “Living Your Best Life” panel. Pia Fitzgerald, Conlee Ricketts, Diana Bosse, moderator Yolanda Tonette Sanders, and I had a blast. I closed my laptop so inspired by their stories.

Legendary blog goddess Nina Amir invited me to co-teach “Blogging for Authors” for the Women’s National Book Association of San Francisco on September 30th. Like pretty much everything else, it’s virtual.

My blog, Bum Glue, was selected as one of the Top 100 Blogs for Writers by feedspot.

And finally, due to COVID19, the Columbus Bar Association postponed my continuing legal education program originally scheduled for May to October 8th. It too has gone virtual.

Ohio State’s own Pulitzer Prize Finalist Lee Martin often cites Isak Dinesen. Dinesen said, “Write a little every day, without hope, without despair.” If only for our sanity, may we each keep our writing near the top of our list.

As always, I would love to hear what each of you are up to, how you’re thriving in place, and what keeps you going.

What Does “Self-Care” Look Like?

What Does “Self-Care” Look Like?

 

Self-care has gotten a bad rap. Bubble baths. Pedicures. Massages. But what does self-care really look like? Recently, here’s what it means for me.

My Current Experience of Self-Care

When Ed was in the hospital, self-care to me meant going home every night to sleep in our bed. The alternative was a hard, too short, not quite wide enough pull out sofa under the air conditioner ceiling duct by Ed’s hospital window. It meant buying a small, green salad from the hospital cafeteria and trying to make the salad portion larger than the macaroni and cheese portion. Self-care meant finding a long, almost empty hallway, and walking back and forth. The nurses forbade me from doing laps on the cardiac ICU ward. I needed to burn anxious energy and didn’t have time to run.

Once Ed was home, self-care meant going into the basement for 10 minutes without my phone. I only did that once. I returned upstairs to liquid food all over the floor because the feeding tube line had come unhooked while Ed was napping and Scarlet was lapping the spillage off the floor. We had to clean the recliner, Ed, Ed’s clothes, the floor, and the dog. But that ten minutes alone in the basement was nearly worth it.

Mid-pandemic, mid-revolution, mid-book launch, and now that Ed is on the mend, self-care looks like longer, slower runs, and walks with the dog after dark when the humidity and temperature have dropped enough that Scarlet can go more than half a mile. I also reach out to others even if I prefer not to talk to anyone and listen instead of giving advice. Holding space for others who are hurting helps me as much as it does them. Self-care also means blogging more often, doing more writing practice, and reading deeply.

What Does Self-Care Look Like for Others?

A friend whose mother is in a nursing home finds solace by sitting outdoors in a lawn chair outside her mother’s window where her mother can see. Her mother has dementia but smiles at the nice lady who visits her. My friend takes a long nap when she gets home.

A runner friend has embraced hard training. The long miles and intense workouts reduce her anxiety.

Some writers have started new books, while others are back to basics, filling blank notebooks with ink.

Thousands of people are taking care of themselves by protesting and pushing the edges of society in an effort to break hundreds of years of racism to smithereens. For others it’s choosing to buy books by authors of color and supporting black-owned businesses because the person is immunocompromised or lives with someone at-risk. I support them by buying from black-owned businesses and listening to any of my friends who are in a marginalized group. It’s a way to care for my heart.

And what about the people on the front lines? How does a doctor or a nurse or a restaurant worker or a janitor or a teacher or a bus driver take care right now? And how about the people with children, especially the single parents, who are trying to work while school and daycare and summer camps and vacation are all essentially cancelled? I’d bet their self-care looks a lot like that ten minute break I stole in the basement, ten minutes that resulted in more work than if I hadn’t taken it.

Internal Self-Care

But let’s not forget internal self-care: Meditation. Therapy. Mindfulness. Mantras. Affirmations.

For my inner self-care, I joined a 28-day meditation challenge. It’s free to essential workers and activists, and is offered on a sliding scale to everyone else.

And you?

What does self-care look like for you? I would love to hear from each of you.

Guilt in the Time of COVID-19

Guilt in the Time of COVID-19

 

Guilt in the Time of COVID19 – Write Now Columbus – April 2020

A friend recently admitted to feeling guilty that she wasn’t writing during what is, for her, a sudden slow time. I could relate.

The second week my husband was in the hospital, after they closed the doors to visitors and implemented social distancing across the country, I thought I might use the suddenly empty days to tidy my office, you know, the one that looks like a bomb went off in it.

But there’s this thing behind my ears. Silent, distracting, like a computer program hogging all the RAM. I can’t see it or hear it, but it’s there, draining my focus. I’d wager many of you feel it too.

Instead of sorting stacks of paper, I moved my laptop into the living room and surfed social media, waiting for his calls and texts. I went into my office to get my sunglasses so I could walk the pupperina, closed the door, and barely opened it for seven days.

I shared this with my friend and told her I refused to feel guilty for not learning a new language or writing a book during this time.

Guilt serves no one.

Instead of trying to write, I’m gathering the sensory details I will forget when I once again have the energy to write. The green rubber gloves with the little nibs on the fingers which, now that Ed is home, I wear to apply Lidocaine cream to his aching back. The whir of the nutrition pump and the slightly sickening vanilla protein shake smell of the liquid food. Stuffed bears or bear cutouts in some of the neighbors’ windows, including our own, so the children can go on a “bear hunt.” Feeling surprised at how much I miss hugs.

I admire people who can work under these conditions and worship the medical professionals and other essential workers out on the front lines. I urge everyone else to just keep their kids alive and try not to scream at that zoom call coworker who turns off his video, but fails to mute his microphone so the entire team hears his toilet flush.

We are all doing our best.

And now, repeat after me:

Wash your hands.

Don’t touch your face.

Stay home.

Set the guilt aside and do your part to save someone’s life.

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