Monday, 28 May 2012

Write For The the tub

Steam fills the room carrying with it the sweet, uplifting scent of citrus. Sheer white curtains sway with the incoming breeze off of the lake. The shimmer and glitter coming from the reflection of the glass chandelier on the sea coloured tile makes it feel like we're under the sea. Instead I'm sitting here, in my bathtub with author Marni Mann. She has graciously accepted my invitation to visit my bathtub to have a chat about her recent writing contributions to the anthology Write for the Fight. The book, co-authored by Tess Thompson Hardwick and Tracey Hansen asks four questions that take the readers through the seasons of their life: to reminiscing on their youth to forecasting what they would want people to say about them on their 80th birthday. It is a celebration of life, love and laughter with all proceeds being donated to breast cancer research.

So everyone, please help me welcome Marni Mann!

CE: Hi Marni. Thanks for joining me in my bathtub. How's the temperature for you?

MM: Hi Christina! It’s such a pleasure to be here. Your bathroom is absolutely beautiful and the water is a perfect temperature. Oh! Is that a jet I feel behind my back? Forgive me, but I may never leave.

CE: As you know, I spend a lot of time here in my tub. In fact this is where I read Write for the Fight. Do you have a favourite spot where you like to read?

MM: I do most of my reading in my screened-in lanai, sitting at the table, and facing the pool. Since I’m originally from Maine, I like to take full advantage of Florida’s weather and spend as much time as I can outside. When Amazon invents a waterproof Kindle, I might actually read in the pool. For now, glancing at the setting sun and glistening water between pages is an absolute treasure.

CE: As writers we can sometimes express our true thoughts and feelings through our characters and in doing so be 'behind the curtains'.
What was it like to reflect on your own life for this anthology? To question your past, present and future and then publish it for all to read? Was there a worry of being exposed at all?

MM: One of my favorite things about fiction is the ability to sprinkle myself all over the pages without the reader knowing. This is the first time I’ve been this honest in print. It was nerve-wracking and extremely emotional. I wasn’t sure how much of myself I would be willing to reveal. Worry follows honesty. Readers were going to be supporting this cause, one that’s close to my heart, and they deserved to hear the truth. It was a gamble, but one that I was happy to make.

CE: Was the writing process different for you? How?

MM: For each of my novels, I worked off an outline. I knew the points I had to cover in each chapter and I let the creative juices connect the dots. When I wasn’t writing, I was thinking about what I was going to write.

For Write for the Fight, I didn’t have an outline. I didn’t think about the prompts at all. I opened the Word document, read the question three or four times, took a deep breath, and wrote. My thoughts were scattered and there was no flow. I purged on the page. The editing stage is when I concentrated on the mechanics, the quality of my writing, and the transitions between paragraphs.

CE: What did you learn about yourself through this writing process?

MM: The spring and summer essays (What do you miss about being 5 years old / what would you tell your 20-year-old self) were the easiest to write. I had a lot to cover and the words poured out of me. But those essays were also the most difficult, because it’s harder to reflect on the past than wish for the future. I learned that even though I’m now in my thirties, I still haven’t taken my own advice. I don’t practice what I preached in those essays.

CE: Based on what you learned, is there anything you would change about yourself or your life to prepare yourself more for how you see yourself at 80?

MM: I would start breathing. As odd as that sounds, I think I forget sometimes that we need air to survive. I do spend a lot of time outside, but I’m not sure how much of that fresh breeze I’m inhaling. I have a difficult time shutting my brain off, enjoying the moment without dwelling on the to-do list, and not multi-tasking during every minute I’m awake. I need to learn how to breathe again and appreciate each breath. You never know when it will be your last.

CE: Your drink getting kind of low. Can I top it up for you?

MM: Please, Christina, and thank you. You make an excellent margarita. You even remembered the extra salt--my favorite.

CE: Well, you know, this is a five-star bathtub! What drew you to becoming involved in this anthology?

MM: My aunt is a breast cancer survivor. I’ll never forget the day when she told my parents and me her diagnosis. She’s such a strong woman. She was much stronger than I was during that time. I was an emotional wreck while I watched the side effects of the chemotherapy. I’ll also never forget when the doctor said she was in remission. My hope is that more, if not all, women can have the same outcome as my aunt. My words could help that cause. I was honored and humbled to Write for the Fight.

CE: Your passion, love and insightfulness certainly came through the pages.

MM: Thank you for the wonderful compliment, Christina.

CE: Thank you so much for stopping by, Marni! You’re the first person I’ve have in my bathtub and I have to say it was a pleasure. Feel free to come back anytime!

MM: Thank you for having me! You've been such a gracious host and I've enjoyed every minute of my time with you.

Write For The Fight  is available for the Amazon Kindle and on paperback.

It is also available on paperback at Barnes&Noble.

Remember all proceeds are being donated to breast cancer research.

About Marni Mann

A New Englander at heart, Marni Mann, now a Floridian is inspired by the sandy beaches and hot pink sunsets of Sarasota. A writer of literary fiction, she taps a mainstream appeal and shakes worldwide taboos, taking her readers on a dark, harrowing, and gritty journey. When she's not nose deep in her laptop, she's scouring for chocolate, traveling, reading, or walking her four-legged children. Memoirs Aren't Fairytales is her first novel. The sequel, Scars from a Memoir, will be released soon.

Friday, 11 May 2012

A Tribute to my Grandmother on Mother's Day

As Mother's Day approaches I'm reminded of the wonderful, influential female figures I have in my life, including my own mother.

Lately though, I have been thinking a lot about my maternal grandmother. She passed away when I was 8 years old due to complications from cancer. She was 72. Even though I was young, I understood the magnitude of this loss. I understood that I lost my grandmother, a playmate, a dancing partner, and a friend. My mother, at 33, lost her own mom, her confidante and her best friend. My father lost a surrogate mother, and a friend. We were all lost without her and not sure how to go about life after her death.

Even now, over 20 years later, my heart still aches for my grandma. I wish that I had more time to bask in her light and witness her unconditional love for others. I yearn for one more day to put The Pointer Sisters on in her tape deck and dance in her living room with her. One more girls’ lunch out, driving in her boat of a car.

My grandma and I made the best team. Before I learned to walk, my grandma was getting a bit too old to carry me up the stairs to bed, so I learned to crawl up with her climbing the stairs behind me, using the rail to support her stiff body and brittle bones. When I was older and my grandmother had a harder time getting around, I would make her coffee. Instant coffee, with just the right amount of Coffee-Mate. And of course we would play games. I would get out my Fisher-Price telephone, the one that had the google eyes that rolled around when you pulled it, and we would watch The Shopping Channel together. If we saw an item we liked, one of us would "call" into the show and the other would take the order. We put in many "orders" for pretty dolls, jewellery, and cordless vacuums.

From what I learned from my mom, grandma was quite an inspirational woman. Even when my grandma was out of her comfort zone, she rose to the occasion and made the best of the situation. For example, my grandma didn't like camping very much. Still, she got her three kids ready and she, along with her husband would spend the whole summer camping. And the camp sites, weren't your modern day "hi-tech" sites with electricity, running water and wi-fi. Nope. These camp sites were reserved for Man and Mother Nature only. Regardless of the number of mosquito bites my grandma endured, she still had a smile on her face in pictures with her wide-brimmed hat sitting near the shade keeping a watchful eye on her family as they frolicked and played in the water.

When her husband passed away well before his time, my grandma decided that she needed to learn how to drive a car so that she could get a job to support herself and her two children who were still at home. At this time, my grandma was no spring chicken. She would have been in her 50's. Can you imagine what it would have been like in the 1970's for an older woman learning to drive a big boat of a car without power steering and without automatic transmission? But she did it. She did it while still grieving for her husband. She did it while raising a 15-year-old (my mom) and a 10-year-old. She lived life with strength and grace that I can only aspire to possess.

My grandma worked as a receptionist in a medical office until she was in her late 60’s, until the cancer made her not able to work. Still I remember her working at the doctor’s office.  She would be trading recipes and offering sage advice to patients while they were waiting for their appointment. I would get to come back to her office and write messages for her on index cards and then she would send me with some money to get some Reese’s Pieces at the corner store.

Grandma was a stay-at-home mom, who always hugged her husband when he got home from work and then made sure his work clothes were clean for the next day. Little did she know that these acts of affection and devotion would eventually take her life. My grandpa worked as a welder and back in the day often used asbestos in his work. He died in 1970 of asbestos-related lung cancer. It’s quite likely that asbestos fibers transferred from grandpa’s work clothes to my grandma’s clothes and contributed to the cancer that ate away at her body years later.

When I think of my grandma, I think of her smile, her Chanel No. 5 perfume and the love she had for life. I remember her by planting tiger lilies in my garden and always getting gladiolas to arrange in the house when they are in bloom. I see her now as a gentle soul who had a quiet strength. I don’t see her as someone who was frail, or sick, or cancer ridden.

I see the joyous light that poured out of her and I hope that she continues to share that with me through my heart.

I was reminded of my grandma most recently when I was reading Write for the Fight: A Collection of Seasonal Essays co-authored by Tess Hardwick and Tracey Hansen. A mosaic of authors answered four seemingly simple questions: What do you miss about being 5 years old? What would you tell your 20-year-old self? What, at this point in your life, do you want, wish and dream of for your life going forward? What would you want said about you on your 80th birthday?

Like all other books, I read this one in my bathtub. I found myself wrapped up in everyone’s stories, following their life lessons, laughing with the authors’ follies, and sharing in their their sadness. It is not often that I catch myself laughing and crying out loud while reading a book, but I did lots of it while reading this book!

The proceeds from this book go toward breast cancer research, but the book itself is not about cancer. Yet, in a way it is about cancer. The book is a celebration of all life’s seasons: the young and inhibited to the older and more reflective and everything else in between. 

After reading the book I reflected on the questions posed. I remembered being 5 and playing baseball in the house with my grandmother. Of dancing in front of the TV to American Bandstand. Even though she died when I was eight, memories of my grandmother - of her kindness, her laughter and her generosity of spirit - resonate with me to this day. All it took was a little reminder from all of the talented authors who contributed to Write for the Fight.

Write for the Fight by Tess Hardwick and Tracey Hansen is available for purchase through Barnes & Noble and Amazon. They have both hard copy and ebook versions available. All proceeds go toward breast cancer research.

Saturday, 14 April 2012

Bathtub Brain

Hey folks!
I can't stop talking about my bathtub! Erica Lucke Dean invited me to guest post on her blog and guess what I wrote about??? My tub.
My post on her blog talked more about the lengthy process of finally getting my dream bathroom.
Plus there's a rousing rendition of a popular TV theme song that you won't be able to get out of your head once you read it (trust me)!
I hope you take the time to pop over there and read about it. While you're there, have a read of Erica's posts. They're humorous and oh so relatable.
Thanks again Erica for having me on your blog. You were an excellent hostess!
Until next time,

Monday, 9 April 2012

Rub-a-dub-dub, I have a tub!

Hi friends!

What do YOU do in the bath?

It's been a long long time since I've posted anything. I've been in all sorts of trouble lately, none of which has anything to do with writing. Though everything I experience is inspiration for future writing, right? So in actual fact I'm always writing in some way or another. You may call that fact, or just flat out denial, but either way it makes me feel good.

One of the things I've been involved in since December has been a major bathroom renovation. I purchased my house back in the fall and decided to extend the second floor bathroom five feet so that there was more room for a bigger bathtub and a separate shower. I met with the contractor in October and he assured me that it would only take 'three weeks'.

Well, three months later and I FINALLY have a bathroom complete with bathtub, shower and all the fixings! Since December I have been showering at the gym, at the office, or anywhere else people would let me.

I have to say the wait was worth it. There are still a few things left to do, but I am in love with my bathroom. I'm so in love with it that I want to conduct all of my business out of the bathtub. I never want to have to leave. I mean, I've had to wait for three months to bathe and shower in absolute privacy! I can bathe or shower WHENEVER I WANT!! Confession: I came home in the middle of the day last week from work just to have a shower. Just because I could!

I've always been told I'm part fish for the amount of time I would always spend in bodies of water, so I guess that makes me a mermaid who can withstand living in the tub. Just like Darryl Hannah did in Splash! Pruney skin, be damned! Mermaids do not have to worry about such things (now, getting long curly hair stuck in the drain is a whole other matter).

"Don't mind me. I'm just a mermaid having a little break on the steps here before I got back to frolicking in the ocean."
With this in mind I started to answer e-mails in the tub. This then led to tweeting in the tub. This is not as perverted as it seems, so get your mind out of the gutter! I made the hashtag #tubtweets for when I am in the tub. Then I did what almost everyone loves to do when they're alone in the tub with soft music in the background and candles flickering in glass holders....I opened a book and read!

Right now I'm reading Al Boudreau's book In Memory of Greed. In the tub. Only in the tub. Once I have finished reading it I'll tell you all about it from my perspective. In the tub. I shall call it TubReads and it will be a feature here on this blog. I'm about 1/3 through the book, so stay tuned!

Now that I am conjuring up more ideas in my bubble-bath world I had to make sure I had a place to record them, so I am using my iPhone for all notes and social media connection, but have purchased a water proof  case for it. The only thing worse than dropping the soap is dropping your cell phone in water without a life jacket!

 So I'm all set. I've got my music. My books. Bubbles. Hot water. My iPhone. What else could I possibly need to live in the tub? I'll get out to eat. The ecosystem in the tub does not lend to having fresh seaweed available for snacking. If you need me, you know where I'll be...

As a reward for reading this whole post, here's a before and after of the bathroom renovation. Unfortunately I got too excited about the demolition of the bathroom that I forgot to take a 'real' before picture. If I find one from the previous owners (aka my parents), I'll post it.
Before: Organized chaos. The end of the floorboards marks the original size of the bathroom. Everything beyond that is new.
After: This was taken a couple of weeks ago so since then the trim on the window has been installed and I also put on a toilet seat (Tangent: Who knew that toilet seats don't come with toilets. They're separate!! Seriously? Who's genius idea was that?!). Oh and the light fixtures are also installed.

After: The calm after the storm. Pure bliss. I splurged on the wall tile and drove 3 hours to the 'Big City' to get them. So worth it I love sitting in the tub and watching the water and light reflect the tiles. It looks like a waterfall trickling down beside me.


Twinkle twinkle little light...

Wednesday, 8 February 2012

You Like Me! You Really Like Me!! ... or do you?

Yes friends, it's true. I have been nominated for 'The Versatile Blogger Award'!! *curtseys* *waits for applause to subside*

This is so unexpected! I would first like to thank *gets out folded piece of paper from cleavage* Alex Diakonis for nominating me, and of course I'd like to thank my mom and dad, and my agent (oh wait, I don't have one of those...oh WAIT! I haven't even published a book yet! Oh dear.).

So I don't get accused of 'false advertising' or 'treason' (why I would get accused of treason, I don't know...maybe there's some pirates out there reading my blog), The 'Versatile Blogger Award' is a 'glorified chain letter'. But I choose to see past that and display my award proudly on my blog, and maybe on my fridge!
As with anything, this 'award' comes with strings attached. Here are the strings:
  1. Nominate 15 fellow bloggers for The Versatile Blogger Award.
  2. Add the Versatile Blogger Award (see picture above)
  3. Thank the blogger who nominated you in the post with a link back to their blog.
  4. Share 7 completely random (and hopefully true) pieces of information about yourself.
  5. Include this set of rules.
  6. Inform each nominated blogger of their nomination by posting a comment on each of their blogs, or tweeting them, or sending smoke signals. Whatever floats your pirate boat.

Okay, so all the technical stuff is out of the way. Are you ready for 7 random facts about yours truly?

Are you sitting on the edge of your seat with anticipation? Getting lightheaded from excitement?

Are you okay? Would you like a glass of water? A cold towel? A paper bag in which to breathe?

I'll sit here and wait for the frenzy to settle a bit. *checks e-mail* *gets a glass of water*

So here I am, folks. In 7 little nutshells.

1. Speaking of nuts, my mom always said I was a nut so one day I asked her, 'what type of nut'? She took some time to answer, but told me I was a walnut because it has different 'compartments' and so do I. She said I have a balls-to-the-wall part (I'm paraphrasing here), a silly part, a compassionate part and a lumberjack part (of all things...). She even wrote me a story about how I'm like a walnut.

2. While we're on the topic of nuts, I LOVE nuts. I must be part chipmunk. Almonds, walnuts, pecans, pistachios...doesn't matter. I'm not picky. I just love them. But sometimes you need to have some distance from the things you love, so for the month of February I'm going nut-free. Except that I'm going slightly nuts without my nuts.

3. I'm an only child. This admission always leads to two questions, so let me answer them for you. Yes, I was spoiled...with love. And no, I don't ever miss having brothers and sisters. Though when I was  younger I wanted an older brother so that he could protect me and so that he could bring his cute guy friends over. A bodyguard and a network of cute boys is a reasonable request for an older brother, I think. :)

4. I play the piano. I was quite good (in my parents eyes anyway) when I was in my teens. I even recorded a CD! Family and friends got it as a Christmas gift. To this day I haven't listened to it.

5. I can touch my tongue to my nose.

6. My return flight home from a trip to Italy was delayed almost 2 hours because they were waiting for actor Kevin Kline to board the plane.

7. I'm getting my first tattoo on Saturday. I am both scared and excited. I'm thrilled with the design and just hope that it doesn't hurt too much, though I'll be lying down so if I pass out at least I'll already be horizontal! Plus, if I'm passed out I won't feel the pain!

Well, how are you doing now? Have these 7 nuggets whetted your appetite about me, or have I left you wanting more?

I have another post that will be coming up soon, so I guess you'll just have to wait. In the meantime, why don't you check out the following posts by some fantastic bloggers? Because, my friends, I am now paying it forward and nominating the next round of 'Versatile Bloggers' (for some reason I equate versatile to flexible and picture these people sitting with both legs over their head *shrug*). These talented people may have been nominated before without my knowing, but in my opinion multiple nominations just mean they're just that much more talented and...versatile (they can rub their belly AND pat their head with their leg behind their back??).

1. Ken Hoss
2. Renee Willis
3. Jeannie Moon
4. Julie Glover
5. Melody With Words
6. Rachel Lyndhurst
7. Tess Hardwick
8. Michael R. Hicks
9. Robert Pruneda
10. Jennifer Gracen
11. Christy Tarner
12. Judy Mayhew
13. Thomas A. Knight
14. Marie Borthwick
15. Susi Nonnemacher

Okay folks, homework has been scoot!

Susi Nonnemacher

OkSusi Nonnemacher

Saturday, 28 January 2012

Stripping for your Soul

Do you ever just feel the urge to strip? To just peel off all the layers and toss them aside? Perhaps whip those layers overhead and swing them around like a lasso?

I do! In fact I have declared this year, 2012, the year to strip.

Now before your breathing gets all hot and heavy, let me explain. I am not planning on making a career change into 'exotic dancing' anytime soon. Nor am I planning to go 'streaking across the quad into the gymnasium' like Will Ferrell in Old School. I would traumatize a lot of people if I did that, and probably end up with frostbite this time of year!

I'm talking about the kind of stripping for your soul. Getting rid of all the barriers that keeps you from living your dreams. Stripping off the layers of fear and other uninvited guests so that you can be you.

So this year I've been trying to be more authentic, to not let fear hold me back as much and to dare myself to be out there be more exposed.

Standing in front of people as You: Unplugged, your soul exposed and naked, your red, beating heart sitting right out there on your shoulder, isn't easy. In fact a lot of times it downright sucks.

As I write this, I'm chuckling at the irony: some fiction writer (read: writes made up and pretend things) from some blog who's real name isn't Christina Esdon (close, but no cigar) is writing about being real? *pause for eye rolling* Wait! Don't go yet. Stick with me for another paragraph or two.

I was thinking about the idea of stripping a lot today as I spontaneously decided to rip off the wallpaper in my bathroom. My other bathroom has literally been stripped back to the studs for weeks and it kinda sucks. Although I've been going to the gym more often. Might as well workout since I'm going to be showering there anyway! Back to my point - sometimes you need to strip something back to the studs, to get to where we want to go. I could paint over top of the wallpaper in my one bathroom, but it would look horrible and it wouldn't be what I wanted.  Same goes for my life. If I want to get writing, then I need to peel back all the layers (in a seductive way, of course ;)) that are keeping me from writing and move forward with just my own words to cover me. Until I do that, wanting to be a writer will continue to be a fleeting dream. My characters will keep having conversations in my head and continually wonder when they're going to get onto the page.

So, here I stand in front of you, my trench coat on (and a hat of course - it is winter, you know), cheesy music playing in the background. I'm ready to strip. Off with the stuff that holds me back and on with more unabashed fun with writing (and who knows what else?!).

Get all of the kids and anyone with a pacemaker out of the room, I'm about to unbutton my coat.

Monday, 19 September 2011

The Case of the Missing Mayonnaise

It was a dark and stormy night....Too cliche? That's how Snoopy begins all of his novels.

Snoopy - Best-selling author, friend to birds and epic dancer. My hero.

But it's true.

It WAS a dark and stormy night. I was all cozied up in my apartment ready to settle down for a night of reading and self-reflection, when all of a sudden I was taken over by the need to go grocery shopping. Mother Hubbard's cupboard was bare. I figured if I wanted to eat tomorrow, I best go out and do something about it. I don't know about you, but I don't have grocery fairies at my place, nor do I have a personal chef. Both would be fantastic to have, especially the grocery fairies!! I wonder what they'd look like. They would definitely have their own reusable grocery bags. And bigger wings than your average fairy for hauling heavier jars of mayonnaise!

See folks, this is why I am writing to you. I am in desperate need of your expert sleuthing skills. Get out your Sherlock hat, your Columbo cigar and your Agatha Christie glasses (Agatha Christie teeth optional), we've got a mystery to solve!!

Operation: Saturated Fats

Your Mission: To solve the mystery of the missing mayonnaise

The facts: I left my house at 6:45 pm EST for the grocery store to get, well, groceries. I stopped into the LCBO (liquor store) to pick up the latest issue of Food&Drink magazine. Then I meandered over to the health food store to get some cold remedies. Then I headed over to the grocery store. I picked up the usuals: veggies, mixed nuts, tuna, and went to the check out. As I was standing there I realized...I needed mayonnaise! I left my groceries on the belt and let the guy behind me go ahead. I dashed over to the condiment aisle, chuckling as I dashed over. 'Condiment' - hehehe. Gets me every time. When I got to the mayonnaise shelf I saw that it was on sale! If I bought two, I saved more AND I got extra AirMiles. Naturally, I picked up two jars. Because, who doesn't need two jars of mayo? Apparently Canadians eat a lot of mayonnaise. Then again the people who made that up, probably learned about Canadians from these guys:

Anyway fellow sleuthers, back to the case at hand! I went back to the check out, paid for my groceries, put them in my reusable bag and headed to my car. My drive back from the grocery store was uneventful, but the action started once I got out of the car. I opened the passenger side door and BAM! Half of my groceries tumbled onto the tarmac and rolled under my car. I managed to save the tuna, the nuts, the veggies and one jar of mayonnaise (it was behind the back driver's side tire).

But where did the other jar of mayo go?

It was raining outside in a mist you couldn't escape. People were walking by wondering why there was a woman doing downward facing dog beside her car. I was wondering why I was doing downward facing dog beside my car trying to find the missing mayo.

Here's what I know. It wasn't under the car. It wasn't around the car. It wasn't in the car. It wasn't in my grocery bag. It wasn't anywhere. I gave up. Head hanging and shoulders slouched, I went inside out of the rain, bringing with me a pang of regret that I was leaving something behind in the rain.

If you're still out there mayonnaise, stay strong. I have a team of peeps out to look for you! If anyone approaches you, the code word is: Saturated Fats.

So my mystery mavens, can you solve the mystery of the missing mayonnaise?
Would love to hear your thoughts on 'Whodunnit'!