Friday, August 31, 2018

When It's Time to Change

Change is good.

Change is good.

Change is GOOD, right?

That’s been my mantra through the past several years. Over the last couple of weeks though, I’ve frequently followed it with a whisper of, “This change is GOING to be good. Very, very soon, I’m almost certain.”

My recent move to a new house, in a different city from where I’ve lived for nearly 30 years, has involved some challenges—frustrating at times even for someone like me, who has based much of my midlife on welcoming new circumstances and pursuing new experiences.

Change may be good, but it’s not always easy.

Yet as I sit outside tonight, writing in my new back yard, I feel a sense of starting to settle in. 
A new environment, a new lifestyle, and a new journey. 
The orchestra of cicadas around me signals the ending of one season and start of a new one. It seems a fitting backdrop for my new life.
I’ll take several steps forward and possibly stumble once or twice back, along the way.

In the end, it’s all good, indeed. 

What change in your life awaits you? Are you facing it with a bit of apprehension or are you meeting it head-on?

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Still Opening New Doors

Tomorrow, Aug. 15, marks the one-year anniversary of the publication of Finding My Badass Self: A Year of Truths and Dares.

While the crazy journey that led to my writing the book changed my life, the past year has been equally filled with incredible new experiences.

Over the past year, I met hundreds of people and forged rewarding relationships at book signings and speaking engagements throughout several states.

Those book events have led to other speaking invitations, including an author panel at a national writers conference as well as motivational speaking engagements for a number of companies and organizations. As I often tell people, it’s dumbfounding that I’ve somehow become a motivational speaker—considering I’ve always been far more of a cautionary tale.

The year was filled with many surprises, including three international book awards. I also received an inquiry from a major production company in Los Angeles, wanting to know if the book’s film and TV rights were available. Sure, that inquiry hasn’t resulted in an actual purchase, but opening that email was a surreal moment I will never forget. (Shout-out to Will Arnett: The rights are still available! And I just might be convinced to have a cameo appearance!)

Yet the greatest highlights have been the reviews, Facebook posts and comments, and personal conversations with people who enjoyed the book. Nothing has been more rewarding than knowing I provided so many readers with a few laughs, a couple of cringes, and an occasional kick in the ass to shake up their own life.

None of this would have happened if I hadn’t taken that first hesitant step into The 52/52 Project, back in the summer of 2013. And then took another step… and yet another…

Did I truly find my badass self? Well, that’s possibly an overstatement. But I’ve surely grown beyond the person I was five years ago.

Tonight, after returning from closing on a new home, I am filled with a combination of anticipation and even a bit of apprehension. By opening this new door—figuratively and literally—who knows where this newest change in my life will take me?

Whether I face a series of unexpected challenges or else just pure serendipity, I’m ready to discover more truths in my life by embarking on many more years of continued dares.

I hope my ongoing journey inspires you, even a bit, to do the same. Thanks to all of you for following along.

Monday, July 30, 2018

Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Sailor

When did you decide what you wanted "to be" when you grew up?

I was in the third grade when I started writing short stories, poetry, and my very first book. (I'm sure you're all dying to read Shut Up, Cheryl. Sadly, it is not available in bookstores, and I possess the single faded and mildewed copy.)

I knew right then--at the age of eight--that I wanted to do this the rest of my life.

Although I took a long detour from creative writing--not seriously pursuing it until I was forty--I did follow a professional writing path in the fields of journalism and communications.

I realize now this is a bit unusual. Some of us don't decide on a career until after high school or college, when we are forced to make a choice. Others choose one path, only to decide later--perhaps even in midlife--that we have a different calling.

When did you decide on your current or future career? How did you come to this epiphany? Through a personal experience that resulted in a newfound passion? Through a new job that exposed you to different skills and responsibilities? By some fortuitous mistake?

I'd love to hear your story. Please share!

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Holy Crap! Hidden Treasure in Your Kitchen (Reprise)

I'm sorting through all my stuff, as I anticipate my move next month. (Don't ask me where I'm going. It's still pending--but things are looking up!)

But my stuff. Good Lord, my STUFF!

It reminded me of the last time I moved, just five short years ago. Here's that story:


I’ve created a new game show I'm just itching to pitch to the Television Powers-That-Be.

Here’s the premise: Contestants receive big bucks for crap stashed away in their kitchen drawers and cabinets. It combines the purse-searching giddiness of "Let's Make a Deal" with the lip-curled disgust of "Hoarders."

I'm calling it, "Holy Crap! Hidden Treasure in Your Kitchen."

The pilot episode took place last weekend in my own kitchen. Sadly, host-of-choice Bob Barker was away for another eye-lift. Therefore, I was forced to play the roles of both contestant and host. The pilot went something like this:

Bob (played by me): "So, Sherry, let's start today's first round! Every kitchen contains a spatula or two. I'll give you $50 for each one you own."

Sherry (rummaging through three different drawers): "Oh, my! Wonder of all wonders, Bob! It appears I own twelve!"

Bob: "TWELVE spatulas? All right, here's $600. You might use it to pay for some therapy for your apparent obsession with the perfect burger-flipper.” (Bob rolls his stitched-up eyes toward camera.) “Let’s move on. So, any outdated medicine bottles in these kitchen cabinets of yours? I’ll give you $100 for each one you can find."

Sherry (pulling bottles and jars from cupboards): "Lookie here, Bob! I happen to have seven, including some vitamins expiring in 2001 and a half-finished vial of antibiotics from 2003! Guess that explains this nagging sinus infection I’ve had all these years."

Bob: "Uh-huh. OK, here's $700 plus an extra $50 to help treat the mutant bacteria festering in your body. Let's raise the stakes with this next one. I'm betting a cool $500 that you don't have a Mexican coin in your silverware drawer."

Sherry: "Oh, you'd lose that bet, Bob. Because right here it is! Funny, considering I've never once used Mexican currency while cooking, and I've never even been to Mexico."

Bob: "Hmm. Quite the well-equipped kitchen you have here. But what are the odds you can root around in that silverware drawer and happen upon a child's plastic toy?" (Bob winks at camera.) "Let's say a tidy sum of $200 for a Playskool Weeble?"

Sherry: "Yes, indeedy! Here's one rocking little Weeble, mixed in with all my mismatched forks and spoons. Still standing after all these years, even though my children are grown and gone. Weebles wobble but they don't fall down, you know. Haha."

Bob: "Fascinating, truly.” (He forks over two $100 bills.) “So you said your children are grown? And no grandchildren yet? Then surely you have no need for a sippy cup in your cupboards. I'll offer you $500 if you manage to produce a sippy cup right here today." (Bob folds his arms smugly.)

Sherry (frowning while tossing dozens of Cleveland Indians and Toledo Mud Hens plastic souvenir cups from shelves): "A sippy cup? Oh. I don't think... hmm... could it be, here at the back... Yes! Not only one but two sippy cups! Plus, a Sesame Street thermos, minus the lid, and oh my gosh, a baby bottle! A baby bottle, Bob, even though my youngest child has graduated from college. Do I get extra prize money for that?"

Bob: "No. You only get paid for the damn sippy cups. Here's your friggin' $1,000.” (He scowls, then turns and beams at the camera.) “And that, thankfully, concludes today's show."

Sherry: "That's it? We’re done? But my cupboards are still full. I have lots of stuff in here. Lots!" (Sherry peers into cabinets.) "How about beer koozies? Ask me about those, Bob!"

Bob: "No, beer koozies are not on the list."

Sherry (counting while piling beer koozies onto countertop): "Four, five, six... Maybe just $25 each? Twelve... thirteen... fourteen..."

The TV crew turns off their cameras and Bob walks away, shaking his head. Even as I comprehend that the game is over, I turn to the counter and study my pile.

Twenty-three beer koozies.

Hot damn—I totally mastered my own game! My hoarding has paid off. At least in my television dreams.

So, I'm planning a huge party when my game show gets picked up by a major TV network. I'll splurge on lobster and filet mignon and, of course, an open bar. You're all invited.

I do hope plenty of you are beer drinkers. It seems I have a few beer koozies to put to good use.

And if you’re a sloppy drunk, I've got you covered. You're getting a sippy cup.

Sunday, June 17, 2018

I Get by with a Little Help from My Friends

In December, I was told he would probably live another three months but was unlikely to make it through six.

Six months later, my buddy is still enjoying walks along the river, rides in the car, and summer evenings outside.

If he continues to defy odds, Ringo the Wonder Retriever will celebrate his twelfth birthday in August.

We'll appreciate every single day.

Have any furry friends enriched your life? Photos are welcomed!

Saturday, April 14, 2018

I'm Accepting This Award on Behalf of the Rhinoceros I Bathed


I'm pleased to announce that Finding My Badass Self: A Year of Truths and Dares won a silver medal "IPPY Award" in the humor category of the Independent Publisher Book Awards 2018 international competition.

It's amazing what can happen when you push yourself outside your comfort zone--and learn to laugh at yourself.

Just a wild guess that only one of these award-winning writers destroyed a Segway shop in Italy and also gave a rhinoceros an erection... 

So I have that going for me. Which is nice.

What's the best award you've ever received? And--shameless opportunist here--have you bought this book yet? If you read it and enjoyed it, care to be my BFF and leave me an Amazon or Goodreads review? Please and thank you!

Monday, April 9, 2018

How to Go Outside Your Comfort Zone in Ten Short Days

If I've been called dizzy or unbalanced, now I know why.
Writing tonight in response to a reader who asked why I haven't posted lately.
Here is how to go outside your comfort zone in just ten short days:
  • Attend the three-day Erma Bombeck Writers Workshop on the Dayton Riviera with many of the funniest writers and comics in the world--which will inspire you yet also prompt you to question if you're not better suited for working at Walmart. 
  • Plan this trip far enough ahead so you don't know it will coincide with impending deadlines at your day job--the one that pays your heating bill when it's still snowing in April.
  • Plow through nearly 100 scholarship applications and then try to schedule interviews with 18 college students, who are academic stars yet can't comprehend the concept of checking email or listening to voice mail.
  • Realize you scheduled yourself for FIVE speaking engagements this week within a FIVE-DAY period. Ponder the idea that you should probably decide what to talk about.
  • Attempt to tackle your accountant's last-minute tax questions, which sadly require an algebraic equation to answer. And you flunked high school algebra.
  • Impulsively contact a realtor about putting your house on the market, and then realize this may require doing something about the towering piles of items you've been hoarding in the basement.
  • Spend a week on the phone, trying to schedule an appointment with an evasive specialist for a fairly minor--yet nagging--health issue, which is likely to result in surgery. Your last surgery resulted in four months of an anesthesia-induced brain fog. Make a note to plug four totally useless months into your schedule.
  • Attempt all of the above--which seems dizzying enough--while enduring your third straight month of vertigo. If you've been called dizzy and unbalanced, now you understand.
So, if you don't hear from me for a while, I'll see you on the other side. I'll be posting from my basement.

Thursday, March 8, 2018

Stay Tuned--While I Attempt to Stay in Tune

So, those of you who have followed this blog for a while or who have read my book, "Finding My Badass Self," may recall my singing lesson fiasco. My singing career didn't end on the fabulous note I always dreamed about. My instructor's evaluation: "Well, you're very LOUD."

I've often regretted not giving singing another shot. So--why wait any longer?

I just had a conversation with the music director from my high school. I never took a single music class or participated in choir, but she remembered me mostly because I dated her stepson--and she just finished reading my book.

Mrs. Mackey has offered to give me singing lessons. Against her better judgment--and surely against mine--I agreed.* We start next week.

Dear Lord. What have I gotten myself into?

Thursday, March 1, 2018

Living On

While a day doesn’t go by that I don’t think about my father, he is foremost in my thoughts during the month of March. It’s a month filled with many meaningful dates.

March 1 marks my parents’ wedding anniversary: They would have been married 60 years today.

March 2 is my dad’s birthday: He would have turned 81. An inconceivable concept.

And, he passed away on March 13, 1990, at the far too young age of 53. It’s been 28 years since cancer robbed Denny—and the rest of us—of what could have and should have been.

While we didn't get to live out his golden years with him, I'd like to believe my father lives on, forever, somewhere. I envision him doing his crossword puzzles, drinking wine, and playing some amazing golf on a perpetually green and golden course.

Tonight, I raise my glass and wink at him.

How do you choose to remember loved ones whom you've lost? Any memories you'd like to share to carry on their legacy?

Monday, February 12, 2018

A Long-Overdue Thank You

Over the past six months, I've enjoyed doing lots of speaking gigs and meeting with several small book groups. But the group of women I visited yesterday was particularly special: It included Miss Elizabeth Papps, my A.P. English teacher when I was a senior at Bowsher High School in Toledo.

A woman named Mary Dedes, mother of several Bowsher graduates, visits the Sunset House every Sunday to read to a group of the center's residents. The women are currently reading "Finding My Badass Self," and after they learned I was a Bowsher graduate and that Miss Papps remembered me, Mary invited me to join them for the afternoon.

It was such a joy to talk with these ladies, most of whom are in their eighties. Their many questions and fabulous insights proved, once again, that it's never too late to enjoy what life has to offer.

In addition, it also gave me a long-overdue opportunity to personally thank Miss Papps for introducing me to so many amazing works of classic literature. Her enthusiasm and her love of books has remained with me--nearly 40 years later.

And a special note to any fellow Bowsher graduates: If you remember Miss Papps as fondly as I do, I'm sure she'd be thrilled to hear from you. I hope you'll consider writing her to say thank you or to just say hello. Her address is: Miss Elizabeth Papps, Sunset House, 4020 Indian Rd, Toledo, OH 43606.

Nearly all of us have had a couple wonderful teachers who have influenced our life forever. Having the chance to thank them is a terrific feeling.

I'm pretty certain it's not a half-bad experience for them, either.

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Of Kindness and Compassion

Sammy (on the left) and his brother, Snoopy, in the early days
I lost another member of my fur family this week. Those of you who have loved and lost a pet understand how difficult it always is.

A few years ago, a friend referred me to her coworker, Katie, a teacher who pet-sits on the side. Katie's amazing care of my menagerie has enabled me to enjoy all of the traveling I've done for adventure, research, and book promotion.

After my other cat, Cubby, and Ringo the Wonder Retriever were both diagnosed with terminal illnesses in the past month, I told Katie I was putting the rest of my book tour on hold. Because this past weekend's events were pre-planned and all the animals seemed stable, I told her I felt confident taking this one last weekend trip.

But Katie called me on Sunday, when I was two hours from home, to tell me Sammy had unexpectedly gone into distress. She offered to take him to the emergency vet. Based on his condition, we both knew how that would likely end--yet, if necessary, she was willing to handle this surely agonizing appointment. When she reassured me that she didn't think he was in much pain, we decided to wait until I got home so I could take him myself. (The vet later told me confidently that the lapsed time would not have made a difference in the final outcome.)

When I got home, I found Katie sitting next to Sammy on my living room floor. She had covered him with a blanket to keep him warm and comfortable. She had been sitting there, soothing him and talking to him, for two hours.

Kindness takes many forms in life. Sometimes it's a consoling comment from a Facebook acquaintance. Other times, it's a friend who goes above and beyond--as difficult as it may be in an emotionally challenging situation--because she is loving and giving and compassionate.

I am so grateful, and it has inspired me to try to be that kind of person.

Kindness and compassion may not solve all of the world's problems--but surely they are at least a major part of the equation.

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Facing Fear: Reprise

I just came across this piece I wrote, just a few months into The 52/52 Project--the journey that would eventually become my book, Finding My Badass Self: A Year of Truths and Dares.

The message was something I made sure to emphasize in my book. But I believe this says it well:

My second voice lesson was scheduled for this evening. Unlike last week’s lesson, which focused on breathing techniques and scales, tonight I would actually have to sing. An entire song or two. By myself. In front of a near stranger.

Early this afternoon I got a call from my instructor. I felt a huge rush of relief when I heard her voice, certain she was calling to cancel. Instead, she said she had another commitment and wondered if I could come just a bit earlier. Rather than postponing or indefinitely cancelling this experience that I so dreaded, I’d be facing it a half-hour sooner. My stomach literally churned.

I relayed this story to a friend in my office.

“You should mention that on your blog and Facebook page,” she said.

I shrugged. “Hmm. OK, maybe.”

“No, I mean it. I think sometimes with your humor and your nonchalant quips, people don’t realize you’re actually afraid of some of these things you are doing.”

Really? Was this possible? In the snippets I've posted online, have I somehow come across far more carefree and courageous than I am? In the name of humor or a poignant story, have I minimized or even omitted the fears and anxiety that have accompanied several of these experiences?

As I’ve mentioned before, The 52/52 Project is about venturing outside my comfort zone. And with that, my friends, has come more than a bit of fear.

Sometimes it’s been manifested in small twinges of trepidation. Other times, I’ve felt a heaving sense of anxiety. Fear takes many forms, depending on its source and the particular situation.

Some of my experiences have entailed the fear of fear. Strange how you can talk yourself into being more afraid by focusing on how horrifying something is likely to be. Case in point: A Brazilian wax.

I’ve been terrified of the resulting repercussions. How could I protect myself on a police raid, if I suddenly found an escaping suspect’s gun aimed at me? As the SWAT team and vice squad stormed the front porch, it hardly seemed far-fetched. My blood pressure has never hiked so high.

I’ve feared failure, especially when an experience has involved my talents or skills—or lack thereof. My belly-dancing class was a hoot, in retrospect. But in the days leading up to the class, and in the midst of stepping right when everyone else was pivoting left, my frustration mounted. The fear of proving inept—and of being judged as inept by someone else—may be the primary factor that holds most of us back from trying anything new. I know it was the underlying reason behind my volatile stomach before tonight’s voice lesson.

Most of all, I’ve been afraid of not being able to follow through. When it finally comes down to it, will I truly be able to stand up on a stage and entertain a hundred people? I’ve gone over this scenario countless times: If my heart palpitations don’t kill me first, surely the stone-faced silence of the audience will. And what of the fear of not seeing this project through to the very end? Of not finishing the book I’m writing? Of not seeing it published?

Yet, with each new experience these past four months, I have grown braver. Just a touch. I shrug things off more easily now. I’ve learned I can endure some things I never before would have dreamed of facing. I doubt anyone ever becomes desensitized to the anxiety of going outside their comfort zone, but each success—and even each failure—has taught me I just might be capable of facing the next.

Any challenge is filled with ups and downs: a full array of emotions. Those include fear. If we never feel afraid in life, we probably haven’t pushed ourselves far enough.

The fear of facing new life experiences, if we're fortunate, is ultimately replaced by a sense of self-satisfaction and joy. And even if we fail, maybe we succeed simply by trying.

I have doubted myself and felt afraid through many steps along this journey..

But I’m afraid I also have never, ever had so much damn fun.

What are you most fearful of? Have you ever talked yourself into being afraid? What was the most frightening experience of your life that turned out far better than you anticipated?