I have written twelve novels. This is the space where I share my stories with the world. There is so much to say in this life, and so little time...

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Joy, Unfiltered

 

Far too often, I attach quantifiable terms to unquantifiable things.

“I’ve been a flight attendant for five years,” I say, followed by the hasty explanation (as though this topic needs an asterisk): “But within ten years, I hope to get my books published so I can fly less and write more.”

These statements reduce my life to a series of chronological achievements. Turns out I'm an expert at that! When recalling the diploma I received, I always state the year and the subject. These basic descriptors fail to acknowledge the friendships, global adventures and philanthropic endeavors that paved the way for that piece of paper.

As a writer, this bothers me. Immensely.

My appreciation for words and emotions should, theoretically, make me more sensitive to the fact that some things are timeless. Nameless.  Ubiquitous.

To those I have loved, and lost, and loved again: you were not just a moment in time, a gasp of air. Whether we spent two decades or merely two weeks together, you changed me for the better.

You were your own symphony.

I hear you at night, when I can’t sleep. You also slice through the silence during the day. You provide the perfect soundtrack as I navigate this crazy/beautiful world.

You inspire me to treat others well, and love myself, and choose good…even when the bad is so much more appealing and easily accessible.

There’s no erasing the footprint you’ve left on my heart.  There aren’t enough rulers or stopwatches in the world to measure the impact you've made.

I can’t hold you anymore, can’t lean into you. I can't weave my fingers through yours. Your arms don’t wrap around me as I’m drifting off to sleep.

Yet you’re still relevant. I promise you this: you’re as real as shivers that crawl down my spine on a chilly evening. You are everything. You’re my lifeline.

So, moving forward, I will make a concerted effort not to talk about you in terms of time. You’re so much more than the minutes we spent together. You’re a huge part of who I am...and who I hope to become. You are my joy, unfiltered.
 
Thank you for loving me. Thank you for defying the barriers of time and space. I’ll love you, in my own unique way, as long as there’s blood pumping through this silly heart of mine. 

Maybe even after that.

Love,
Lisa

Thursday, July 23, 2015

The Storm's Appeal


There may be a devastating drought in California, but you would not have known it that day.

I awakened to a pitch-black apartment, silent except for the rhythmic symphony of raindrops collapsing against my concrete porch. Gone were the homeless folks typically resting on park benches across the street; they'd vanished in search of shelter, of course.

Digital numbers on my once-functional microwave informed me that I had missed the bus to work. Which would've been no problem on a typical partly-cloudy NorCal day. Today, however, I was in a bind: I certainly couldn't afford to pay a taxi driver $40 to drive me to a restaurant where I may or may not earn that money back over the next nine hours, depending on the clientele awaiting me at the bar.

With a sigh, I began the trek on foot. My umbrella lasted two blocks before rebelliously flipping inside-out. I raised my hood in a sad attempt to protect my hair, and continued along with rainwater seeping up through the holes in my well-worn black boots.

By the time I reached Geary Street, I was drenched. By the time I reached Sutter Street, I was more water than human. By the time I reached Broadway, however, the clouds had rolled away in defeat. Out of nowhere, the sun appeared.


Standing there, on top of a hill which overlooked Fort Mason and the Golden Gate Bridge, I had to pause. It was too stunning of a view to ignore or bypass.

I arrived at work a few minutes late, apologized to the owner, and fixed drinks for half-soaked customers the remainder of the night.

Although nearly four years have passed since then, I remember every detail, down to the ripped tights I wore with my jean miniskirt.

I most clearly recall being mesmerized at the top of the hill, as sunlight lapped against my damp skin. An iconic bridge, inspiration for songs and books and countless romantic photos, stretched before me. Water shimmered and pulsed toward the shore. The hills of San Francisco were dotted with quaint little houses which looked like a tribute to a different era.

In that moment, I vowed to always be grateful.

I vowed to never, ever take this world for granted.

I made an oath to enjoy the violent rainstorms which often lead to dazzling, sunny views.

For many years, I was successful; I made people laugh with my ever-present optimism. I exuded pure happiness. I was grateful for a job I adored, an opportunity to live in the tropics, and an amazing network of friends within a five-mile radius of my apartment.

A buddy once asked me it I ever wished I could "have it all." He was, of course, referring to a plush paycheck and the upscale clothes/cars/vacations which accompany that. I immediately responded that I did have it all. Money was irrelevant. I was content, peaceful, satisfied.

All of that changed last year.

Money became very relevant once I went into debt.

More importantly, I relocated for work...and the network I'd spent nearly a decade constructing began to disintegrate. I was alone. As a single 30-year-old, my friends were my family. My whole world. They always had been. Suddenly they felt so distant; I was in a new city...on my own...again.

In addition, work was more demanding than ever before. The fun was gone; I became a zombie, flying around the entire country without noticing or appreciating the ride.

The city with that spectacular view of the Golden Gate Bridge transformed into my enemy, my aggressor. In search of a comrade, I befriended a loneliness I'd never known before.

Several months ago, my best friend told me that we can either "get bitter or get better." That catch phrase caused something to shift inside of me. I had slipped into a state of despair...but I began to claw my way out.

My friends helped me rekindle some sort of hope for my future. Self-pity is dark enough to be oddly enticing to someone already at a low point. But once I allowed myself to enter that mournful space, escape became difficult.

Yet I managed to find the exit.

I credit those around me, who helped every step of the way...and I can't think of a better way to thank them than by spreading hope to others. Every day, any chance I get.

Things are still far from perfect. Sometimes I cry when remembering how life used to be. There was simplicity and balance before. My social circle was strong. I had a place.

I'm still unmarried, still finding my literary voice, still wondering if I'll ever discover my "forever home."

But I now hope to wade through all these uncertainties with grace and, yes, laughter.

The thankful girl on Fillmore Street is not dead, she just needed a moment to relocate and solidify her misplaced optimism.

So many of my friends have endured struggles far greater than mine. I would like to remind anyone dealing with loss, displacement, or failure that they are not alone. Strong arms carried me through my saddest days, and I'm steadily rebuilding my arm strength so I can do the same for others.

Love,

Lisa

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Cold Comfort


 
The snowflakes in Denver last night were not the fluffy, light, quick-dissolving type but rather heavy, clumpy ones. They accumulated quickly, coating my car, balcony, and eyelashes. Covered in snow, I darted inside a bowling alley. My neighbors and I laughed at the springtime blizzard while tossing 12-pound balls down our lane. I lost by a significant margin. Somehow, it still felt like a victory.

In terms of weather, Denver is the antithesis of everything I’ve ever wanted.

July 4th has always been my favorite holiday, mainly because it conjures memories of sparklers, backyard barbecues and fireworks culminating a brilliant sun-soaked day. I'm a summer baby; my happiness is directly linked to the climate. Heat is my love language.

Unsurprisingly, I spent twelve years of my life chasing the sun. From Florida to Trinidad to Phoenix, I sought one thing: warmth. I deliberately chose the path of radiance and balmy wonder. Every street was lined with palm trees. Sandals covered my feet…when I wore shoes, that is. Half the time I ran around barefoot, like a wide-eyed child determined to enjoy those fleeting months of searing summer temps.

Denver is the coldest climate I’ve lived in since high school.

I came here by accident. My California dream morphed into a California nightmare; after wading through hopelessness for several months, I decided to make a change. Denver fit oddly into my schedule. I started exploring the base and the city. In spite of the chilly climate, it appealed to me.

So I trusted my gut, loaded up my Mazda with all my earthly belongings, and quietly drove toward the wintry unknown.

It’s been nothing short of amazing.

In two months, Denver has provided me with countless opportunities to write, listen, sing, paint and basically pursue any artistic talent I want.  Friendships have been forged. Fried pickles have been devoured, then re-ordered, then comped because the bartender apparently adores my airline. Songs have been composed. City streets have been trekked at odd hours of the night and odder daytime hours.

Snow-capped mountains (and cars) are now a very real part of my life. Weirdly enough, I’m ok with that.


Love,
Lisa

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Wings




She calls me from inside a closet. Only within the confines of this dark, hidden space is she able to truly open up. Let loose. Express her feelings.

Which, at the moment, are a toxic blend of exhaustion and devastation. With some regret thrown in the mix.

I collapse onto my leopard-print bedspread and listen. Eventually, my eyes fill with tears. I'd hoped to avoid this type of unwanted waterfall, yet I can't stop it any more than the lady on the other end of the phone can stop her life from unraveling.

"Thirty-three years..." she murmurs.

I exhale slowly.

Lyrics flash across my mind: take these broken wings and learn to fly. Sometimes the music playing in my head is random, but other times it's eerily appropriate.

Tonight, the soundtrack and the featured film align perfectly.

"You are strong," I assure her. Although her wings are bent, she was born to fly.  That much is clear.

She sighs, then tells me I am an angel.

This makes me laugh. I misplaced my halo several years ago. In my younger days, all major decisions were made with care and concern. Now, I sometimes choose the path of greatest destruction...almost without remorse.

Almost.

"Hardly!" I respond. "I'm just a girl who cares about you and refuses to let you go through this alone."

She continues talking, her sweet Southern accent pouring through the phone. I roll over on my bed, wondering why life is so cruel to those who don't deserve it.

When we hang up an hour later, "Blackbird" is still floating through my mind. I want to take a paintbrush and splash the words across my wall. Or a nearby basketball court. Or perhaps the brick facade of this apartment building.

I promise myself I will call her tomorrow. And the next day, and the one after that.

I'll keep calling until she learns to navigate the skies with a new set of wings. And a singing voice loud enough, lovely enough to be heard even as she soars toward the sun.

Love,
Lisa


Wednesday, March 18, 2015

The Soundtrack of Stardust

 

It’s May of 2010, and I’ve been at flight attendant training here in Atlanta for a few weeks.

But I’ve reached my breaking point.

See, jet-setting was never my dream; my true dream lies several hundred miles West. I feel as though I am giving up on the very thing that defines me, the thing that’s sustained me during my 25 years on this big blue planet.

So I'm planning to leave Atlanta and drive straight through the night. I won't stop until I reach Nashville.

I dart through the hotel’s massive double doors, mascara blurring my vision. Clouds swirl overhead, dancing with each other as the moon watches from a distance. Wind whips past me. It lifts my wild curls, wiping some of the tears away. But many remain.

I spot my Saturn in the fourth row of the parking lot.

Please return my car keys, I text Emma as I approach the vehicle. Please.

Oh honey, Emma responds instantly. Don’t hate me. I’m keeping the keys until you’ve calmed down.

I crumble against the side of the car. Tears fall faster now, smacking the pavement rhythmically.

Just think it through, she continues. Give yourself a moment

By morning, I realize that driving straight to Nashville isn’t what I truly desire. While I yearn for a life in the spotlight, belting my songs out to a listening audience, I also want to fly. I want freedom from geographical boundaries and societal pressure. I want stories with a thousand different endings.

I want melodies and harmonies and emotionally-charged lyrics, for sure. But I want them to be the soundtrack of my stardust-infused life. Not my life itself.

Five years later, I believe I made the right choice that evening.

Since then, I’ve soaked up every moment of this avian lifestyle. I have danced in the late-summer Kansas City rain, attended NCAA track meets in Oregon, and sipped coffee during an Austin sunrise. I’ve made new friends, reunited with old buddies, and followed my heart more often than a girl ought to.

Yet I haven’t tabled my musical aspirations.

Sure, the details have changed. Drastically. But I still use music as an outlet and a means of connecting with others. I still write every single day.

Over the years, I’ve composed thousands of songs. Some have been played in dimly-lit bars downtown. Some have never left the confines of my apartment. However, they all hold sentimental value. There are songs I wrote while walking back from work, hauling all my suitcases, in the early morning hours. Others were penned on an airplane. Some were written in my living room, with rush-hour traffic serving as the drumline.

This morning I stumbled across a song I wrote a few years ago. It captures the essence of that emotional Atlanta night. This song accurately conveys the doubts and fears I faced while choosing between a life chasing dreams and an actual Dreamlife.

I’d like to think I chose option B.  Although option A can certainly weave itself into that, and I wouldn’t mind one bit.

 
Love,
Lisa

 
Fistful of Right Now

Seems like the easy road
The one that everyone said would lead me straight home
Was never enough for me
See where’s the beauty in that, I’m dying to know

If I wanted something simple
Would’ve given up years ago, years ago…

I’ve got plans for where I’m going
Though the details are unclear
Took a chance, then took a flight
Somehow I ended up right here
No one promised us tomorrow
Just a fistful of right now
And if there’s time to flip the ending,
I refuse to turn around…



Wednesday, February 4, 2015

City Kids


In a transient city like San Francisco, goodbyes are frequent.

This isn't suburbia, where people are locked into 30-year-mortgages. No, this is arguably the most dynamic urban hub in America. For every hopeful young adult who thrives in the city, there are hundreds who fail. And give up. And eventually leave.

My current novel, "Cocoa or Nothing," addresses this issue.

During Callie Schneider's five-year stint in SF, she watched countless friends come and go. Her own presence in the city seemed immutable, however...until certain circumstances forced her to relocate to the East Coast.

What followed was a flood of emotion she couldn't stop, slow, or ignore. No matter how badly she wanted to do so.

The excerpt below captures Callie in one of her goodbyes. It's more sentimental than Callie would like, and far more difficult as well.

Love,
Lisa





My stomach rumbles. A small Asian waitress floats gracefully between the tables, pouring water and sliding through nearly-invisible gaps between seats. She looks like she weighs about eighty pounds. Dripping wet.

                “I’m starving,” Giovanna groans.

                “Ditto,” I agree. When I shift my weight, I accidentally knock over my shopping bag. I reach down to pick up the secondhand clothing that’s spilled out of the bag. Giovanna and I managed to find the craziest, most obscene tourist attire; my party outfit is officially complete. After only thirty minutes’ worth of rummaging through thrift store shelves.

                We order quickly, without even looking at the menu. Giovanna reaches across the table and grabs my hand. She’s always been the sentimental kind, but this time her grip feels different.

                “Ok I have to say something. We’ve had the best afternoon, and I can’t hold it in anymore. I hate this, Cal. I absolutely hate it,” she tells me, her voice soft.

                “Me too, Giovanna,” I say. I know exactly what she’s referring to.

                “Your apartment rocks. Seriously. I can’t wait to move in…but, to be honest, I would rather you stay. Please just stay,” she whispers.

                The lights overhead grow dim, as though on a timer. Behind us, someone opens the door, jingling a bell at the top of the doorframe. Even amid all the background noise and chatter in this clustered space, the bell echoes loudly.

                “I’m scared,” I finally admit. The entire restaurant grows fuzzy, until all I see is Giovanna’s wide eyes. They latch onto mine, steady and unwavering. She doesn’t even blink.

                “Are you really coming back at the end of the year?”

                “I don’t know. Maybe? I think so? That’s the plan, anyway.”

                “Then why bother leaving for a year? It doesn’t make any sense,” she reflects. “Just stay, Cal. Stay here.”

                “I have to do this,” I tell her. “It’s a great opportunity. In terms of my career, I need to be in the Orlando base. Trust me, Giovanna. This is the right thing to do. I need to be smart about this. For once in my life.”

“The city won’t be the same without you,” she says. “Who will be my comic relief? Who will say the wacky things that we are all thinking but don’t have the balls to actually say aloud? You’re the token jokester around here, Cal. You’re the free spirit and the one with no cares. We are all secretly jealous of you.”

                “Because I’m broke and lonely?” I chuckle.

                Giovanna releases her firm grip on my fingers. She places her hands on her lap, moving the tablecloth half an inch by accident. “Because you’re an adventurer. Plus, you don’t get your heart ripped apart like the rest of us. You’re independent, wild, free.”

                “Independence isn’t always a good thing,” I argue. “And my wild side has gotten me into trouble lately.”

                The waitress appears instantly; we never even noticed her approaching our table. She sets two steaming plates in front of us. Giovanna and I dive in greedily, as though we haven’t eaten in a week. In the midst of our frenzied feasting session, my phone buzzes from the center of the table. It’s a text from Ray.

                Thinking of you...since I just got to your city, he writes. How’s your night, so far?

                Bittersweet, I write back with a mouth full of Pad Thai.

Friday, January 30, 2015

Light the Match


In January 2013, my childhood dream died a quiet, unexciting death.

A single e-mail ripped my aspirations to shreds. Five short sentences affirmed my biggest fear: I didn't have the talent to compete with the greats.

Shortly after my 30th birthday, something shifted inside of me. I decided, with unwavering faith and firm resolve, to reignite the fire.

What's the worst that can happen? I asked myself, fully aware that I'd already experienced the most debilitating rejection of my literary career. I couldn't possibly be more disappointed than I'd been in early 2013. Therefore, I had nothing to lose.

I recently began my 13th novel.

This new novel differs from the others in many ways. For starters, this one appeals to an older audience. Additionally, there are no supernatural elements. In fact, it's surprisingly realistic. Although the storyline is pure fiction, many of the characters are real. They are modeled after people I've worked with, befriended, and even loved.

Below is an excerpt from the second chapter. Callie is nothing if not strong-willed. But when she sets aside her pride, she allows miracles to rise up around (and within) her.

Love,
Lisa

Cocoa or Nothing
Chapter 2

I stand up, pulling my jacket from the coat rack. “I have to go.”

“Callie, can I pray for you? Would that be ok?”

“Not now, Mackie. Sorry. I gotta go home, think this over. Clear my head.”
She hops to her feet. “I’ll call you an Uber! You shouldn’t walk home this late.”

“I’m fine,” I say with a wave of my hand. “I need the fresh air. I’ll text you when I’m home safe. Deal?”

Mackenzie places a hand on her hip. She stares at me for a second, concern radiating from her hazel eyes. “Ok. But you better text me, or I’m calling the cops.”

“Cross my heart,” I say as I open the door. “Mack, I’m so sorry this happened on your special day. You should be planning your cute little announcement shit that people always post on Facebook. You should not be worrying about my crazy life. I’m sorry, love.”

She throws her arms around my neck. “Don’t apologize! Don’t you dare! You’re my best friend and whatever we get into, we get into together. I’m by your side. No matter what.”
“Thank you,” I say softly. Then I pry myself from her embrace. “Love ya. I’ll text later.”

I step through the door and into the chilly night.

***
My apartment is one block away. I can see the “One-Stop Travel” sign that rests directly below my window, can hear the creaking of our gate as the wind whips through it. I walk past the apartment building and toward Van Ness Street.

I’m home safe, I text Mackenzie. Goodnight, love.

The lights on Polk Street beckon me. Restaurants, bars and clubs line the street on both sides.  This section of town is always busy, and tonight is no exception. Music blares from Lush, while several people linger outside of FlyBar. The distinct smell of whisky hangs in the air. I can also smell roasted chicken and curry sauce.

A line has formed in front of The Pour House. I weave around well-dressed men and women, careful not to look anyone in the eye.

I can’t stay here, I reflect as I pass these strangers. Not anymore.

My phone rings from inside my pocket. It’s my dad, calling from Chicago.
“Sorry,” I murmur aloud. “Can’t talk now.”

I tuck the phone back into my coat pocket and continue toward Sacramento Street. A homeless man staggers past me, nearly knocking me over. I step aside just as he nearly grazes my arm. The man reeks of dried-up booze and weed.

This is no city for children, I reflect. My throat closes up. I know what has to be done.