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When You Show Up in Communications, The Benefit is a Meaningful Connection

I have had more conversations in the last six weeks than I’ve had in the previous six months. On the phone, over text, in Zoom rooms and Google Hangouts, on Skype and WhatsApp, and casually from a safe distance of six feet with shop owners, grocery workers, friends, and strangers. I find the depth of these conversations to be fulfilling both on an intellectual level and an emotional one. And as someone who lives alone, they have become my life force. 

Seven weeks ago, when New York City ordered its residents to shelter-in-place, I complied. Joining the ranks of neighbors at Key Food and Whole Foods, I stocked my pantry shelves with staples and snacks and every conceivable variation of dried goods available. I tested my internet connection to ensure that it was working, and I consciously subscribed to streaming media apps, filling my library queue with books so that I would have something to do in my ‘downtime’ after work assignments.  

In that first week, it was business as usual, I had “working from home” down pat and after testing out a few video conferencing tools and their featured options, I felt confident that I would make it for the long haul. And then reality set in. Pre-pandemic I was a doer, a tourist in my own city, a 3-4x a week yogi, I was a subway warrior and road tripper, a budding hiker. I was an avid host entertaining folks with meals and libations and visiting my tribe, who mostly live out of state in California, Connecticut, Italy, Maryland, New Jersey, Rhode Island. Today, like so many others, I am a stay-at-home cat mama, cooking for a party of one, struggling to get on the mat, traipsing through the 500 square feet of my living space, and feeling the quarantine fifteen hard. 

Tech and discipline aside, I was most concerned about being isolated from my community. I knew that making real, genuine connections would take more effort, but it was necessary to maintain sanity and perspective. And so I dug in. Through my work with The Brooklyn Soloists, we’ve built a strong community of local entrepreneurs and small business owners, many of whom have become friends. At our first-ever Virtual Town Hall chapter meetings in March and April, twenty-five members joined the call to connect and support one another. A number that mirrors our in-person meetings.

At that moment, I discovered people were starting to show up. Not only at our group meetings but everywhere. Folks with whom I had lost touch reached out, inspiring me to do the same. Friends and family members previously hesitant about video conferencing took the initiative and set them up. Casual acquaintances checked in on Facebook and LinkedIn. My phone was buzzing and ringing off the hook with recognizable numbers (anyone else noticed the lack of robocalls, recently?). Even my (snail) mailbox got some love, as cards–the best practice of physical distancing IMHO–accompanied the bills and direct marketing. 

As a communications advocate, this phenomenon brings me more joy than I can articulate. Over the last few years, I had developed cynicism for anyone that casually threw around the word “busy” as an excuse for not being able to connect. I believed that we live in a time where communication has never been more accessible, and the real unspoken reason folks were disconnecting had more to do with a selfish prioritization of that time. This situation has provided me with a bit of hindsight that maybe it was the exhaustion of the life we were living that played with our perception of time. I’m hopeful that we are all beginning to realize that an overscheduled calendar or a night of binge-watching The Stranger Things is less important than say, a casual dinner or in today’s world, the virtual version of that dinner, with friends or family.

The change has already started. Maybe it’s because we no longer have to commute between meetings, or that we have a better handle on our schedule, or that folks are craving human connection as a respite from a very busy (aka homeschooling centered) family life. Whatever the reason, I am filled with gratitude for the content-rich conversations with friends, family, and colleagues alike as we adapt to this new strange world. 

I appreciate that you are lowering your guard to let people in, that you are engaging in real, meaningful conversations about life, health, work, and yes, how to make a sourdough starter

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About that sourdough starter, if you need 1:1 guidance through the process check out this course offered by Brooklyn Soloist, Laura Scheck, Teaching Table: Sourdough Bread Baking for Beginners – starting in May 2020. Hope to see you there!

UnSEE

object, 

to the 

infringement made upon

the civil rights of BLACK

LIVES that MATTER as much as my own.

“We the People of the United States of America” … establish Justice … 

Oh, really? Justice for who? Oh, you mean those Americans whose skin tone matches the parchment paper those words were written … 

Did you know it’s been two centuries since a fountain pen inked the U.S. Constitution into existence? And in that time, the document has only been amended 27 times, in seventy-three thousand days.

That’s approximately once every seven years, the same for the human body to change. I guess you could say we’re overdue for an amendment to update the U.S. Constitution, one that reflects the modern day and its current population including the 42 million humans of color residing on this United States of America land. 

This is not a rant, it’s an awakening. My fellow Americans, it’s a call to action to rise from your stupor, I mean slumber, to stand up from your couches, to reach for something 

Other than the remote. You can no longer avert your eyes from the zombie apocalypse, that is YOU in the mirror 

Not some character dressed up in a costume waiting for direction. Look closer: 

Beyond the skin and bones to your soul 

It feels a bit uncomfortable: 

Once you start, 

to see,  

You can’t 

Unsee. 

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How to live with your eyes wide open

Nine years ago I was on the verge of an awakening.  Metaphorically one might compare my existence prior to a deep catatonic state of consciousness. I’ve mentioned before that there are chunks of my life I honestly cannot remember as an all too active participant in the rat race of work hard play hard. I don’t know the exact moment when I ‘snapped out of it,’ I do remember that the jolt was so forceful it inspired a quest to reclaim the only holy grail that mattered: Me.

There is a special kind of adrenaline rush that comes from engaging in activities that are hella beyond your comfort zone. And I’m not talking about the Mayhem that is online dating, I am talking about stepping off the beaten path into the world that’s right in front of you. Consider that most people live in a perpetual time loop. They go from home to the gym to work, then home to do it all over again.  It’s only recently that people are starting to take note of how to live a better life.

It’s a work in progress but I am trying to live the best life I know. I’ve learned how to surf on water and volcanic ash. Well actually I chickened out on the volcano surfing, as it involved thunder, lightning and a metal toboggan. I tried my hand at samurai sword fighting, discovered a love for boas, cheerleading and the shimmy while performing burlesque, and fulfilled a life long dream of visiting India and experienced an ‘as good as it gets’ Bollywood-like wedding. Sadly, no livestock was in attendance. I’ve travelled through Southeast Asia, taken mermaid lessons (video available upon request), started my own business, uncovered killer street art, learned how to meditate in a monastery, and hiked the elusive Tiger’s Nest.

This summer I spent two weeks in Paris immersing myself in everyday life. One of my favorite moments was a picnic by the Seine watching the late night (10PM!) sunset over Ile de St Louis. I dashed away for the weekend to hike in the Swiss Alps. That experience alone was so freeing, the natural vista was absolutely stunning and confirmed that the Japanese phenomenon of Shinrin-yoku, or ‘forest bathing’ is real.

When I embarked on this journey to find myself—yes, I know its so cliché but it’s true!—I had no idea the benefits it would reap. I’ve learned how to extend my limits as if a multiverse lived inside of me, engaging and interacting with the world’s citizens, strangers now friends.

There is real joy in creating distance from the norm that is your life. If it sounds daunting, start with a few hours a day in your own neighborhood. Once you get into the rhythm, expand beyond the familiar into a new borough or city. Make your weekends count and go somewhere you’ve never been before. Soon enough you will realize how each and every experience can positively affect and influence your life. The more you engage in a practice of self-discovery, the more natural it will be to finally take those weeks of vacation you’ve been accumulating.

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the sacrificial carrot

This weekend came with an awakening, an awakening of spirit but also of sacrifice.

The gods have offered a semblance of spring for the Northeast, and it feels amazing. It should anyway, but instead it is a carrot that I can’t quite reach. I’m sitting at my desk with the windows wide open. I am typing story outlines and notes while texts ping in the next room. And I know what they say.

“Hey what are you doing today?” “How about a walk in the park?” “It’s a gorgeous day for a stroll by water, don’t you think?” “Early dinner at my place?”

But I can’t go. I have deadlines. Commitments to my clients, commitments to myself. I’m committed to getting myself published, to having a byline of my own this year, and not one that I’ve posted on this blog but at a reputable publication online or off.

And I can’t do that with out a little sacrifrice to my free time, the idle time previously allotted for daydreaming, binge watching, online dating and reading. And, yes, even walking.

I moved my computer out to the terrace, the sun feels good on my face. The comings and goings of the neighborhood white noise. The wind and the cat are my only companions. I try not to think about the carrot and concentrate on the words.

listening to my muse

I honestly cannot remember the last time I woke up this early to do anything except feed the cat.

Eyes wide open, the sky still dark. It’s 5AM and my mind is on fire. In a good way. I reach for the bedside journal, the one that used to be within arms distance, filled with chicken scratch pencil markings, the hieroglyphics of a writer with big-ish ideas. It used to be right here, I mutter into the pillow, fingers grazing the stack of must-read books searching for its creased cover.

Wait, wait, ah dang no, not a textured book but Finn’s snout nudging to be let out. The book is nothing special. An unlined black book with faux leather bindng, something I bought at Barnes and Noble who knows when. The sketch book pages an ideal canvas for freefrom mindmapping at midnight.

My eye focus in the dark. The kitchen table! I jump out of bed, over the litter box to dim on the light, squinting and grabbing for the book at the same time.

Oh crap, I need a pencil. And I have plenty of them, Palomino Blackwings limited editions. I grab one from the mason jar and pray that it’s sharpened. I head back to bed where it’s warm (remember, it’s 5AM).

I feel like my mind has cracked open to reveal a million shards of light. I know I have to record all these thoughts immediately, to make the regeneration last. Writing longhand has always been a stimulant. I take a deep breath and begin. My hand moves across the page ambiently louder than a vintage polygraph machine.

I’m in the flow of a new dawn, and it feels good.

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Image by cromaconceptovisual from Pixabay

the secret of self-sabotage and how to avoid it

Last night I watched Brittany Runs a Marathon. I wasn’t sure how much or if I would appreciate the gut-wrenching story of a woman who overcame personal insecurity through exercise. I have experienced the benefits of exercise as a way to defuse a variety of health issues, and I am overwhelmingly surprised by the emotional impact of Brittany’s crossing the finish line.

I’ve spent the entire weekend nursing a sinus infection, and unfortunately, the triggered migraine it came with. It’s been months since my last and in its absence, I’d forgotten how debilitating they can be. The pressure-induced headache, its intensity on my neck, the inability to do much of anything except sleep. I‌ had my fill of rest and relaxation over Christmas break, or so I thought.

The irony, of course, is that I was boasting the day before my flight about how I‌ had nipped the migraine cycle with acupuncture. This weekend it knocked me off my feet and I had to rely on infrared sauna, CBD and essential oils to manage the pain. I‌ opted for Eastern medicine practices rather than over-the-counter medication mostly because I‌ couldn’t stand to be outside absorbing the smells and the sounds of the city; the closest pharmacy was too far away. It may seem odd to the able-minded but when you’re in a migraine fugue, the prospect of ambient sounds, and yes even voices, elicit a different kind of torture worse than an earworm.

The mental entrapment, for as long as it lasts is unforgiving. When it reaches its peak, the best release is in a wave of burning tears. Sometimes a good cry is what you need to reset, and Brittany’s achievement and reconciliation of self turned out to be just that. It was also a reminder of sorts.

During my week away I indulged my cravings for sweet and savory, for sleeping in and laying about watching movies and playing board games. I‌ cast my 3-5x weekly yoga schedule aside, and in doing so tripped myself up physically and mentally. The red-eye flight may have been the final straw but my laziness was self-sabotage at its worst.  

This morning I could feel my energy slowly replenishing, the headache retreating and with it the aches and pain. My hunger returned as well and with it a resolve to take better care of myself no matter where I might lay my weary head.

Subtext & Dialogue: Hidden Emotion

A work-in-progressthe following piece is a writing assignment produced for The Center of Fiction’s Active Storytelling course taught by Judy Sternlight.

An Innocent Banter

“I forgot.”
Silence.
“It’s not that big of a deal, really …”
“Yeah, right.”
“So, what now?”
“Uhm, I’m not sure.”

Subtext Version 1

Clutching the calendar with today’s date circled in bright blue and highlighted in yellow marker, Mallory felt her stomach drop. 

“Oh God, I forgot,” she mumbled. He’s going to hate me, she thought as she dialed Jack on her phone. The phone rang three times before going to voicemail.  

“Hey Jack, it’s Mallory. I’m so sorry about this afternoon. I’ve had a lot on my mind lately with work, and …” She paused then, trying to collect her thoughts when prompted for a call waiting on the other line. Mallory clicked through. 

“Hello, this is Mallory.”

“Hey, Mallomar, it’s me,” said Jack. His voice sounded jovial despite the echo on the line. “Don’t stress, it’s not that big of a deal, and everything actually worked out for the best. My flight landed an hour early and I was able to make it to Dan’s graduation after all.” 

“Oh Jack, that’s such great news,” Mallory heaved a sigh of relief, she hadn’t missed him at all.

“Yeah, right, I know how that goes,” Jack said with a chuckle. He was notorious for being late but since his divorce it seemed he had turned over a new leaf.

“So, what will you do now?” Mallory asked. 

“Hmm, I’m not sure,” Jack replied, “Do you have time to grab a drink with your kid brother?”

Subtext Version 2

I forgot,” Mallory retorted. “What’s the big deal?”

“Mallory Michaels, we’ve gone over this before. You cannot walk out in the middle of group therapy without asking for permission,” Dr. Jack Lyons replied.

His words were met with a stone cold silence and a roll of the eyes. This was the second time Mallory had been reprimanded for breaking the rules, one more time and she good kiss her scholarship good-bye.  

Mallory surveilled Dr. Lyons from the corner of her eye and with a dramatic sigh replied. “Lyons, I’m sorry, really I am but I’ve got a lot on my mind lately, what with tests and applying for college and being here, without my family.” 

“Yes, yes, well of course, and about that,” the doctor’s voice trailed off.

Mallory’s parents had filed emancipation papers this morning. This was the first time he and his team of therapists had ever witnessed such a thing; everyone was scrambling for what to do next. 

“Oh man,” Mallory grumbled, pushing herself to stand up and face the sandy-haired administrator. “What now? Did something happen to my brother?”

“No, nothing like that, Marcus is okay. But Mallory I have something to tell you, and I’m not sure how you’re going to take it exactly. Your family, all of them, including your brother, have filed separation papers against you.”

Word Count: 472

The Backstory on Eloise Frump

A work-in-progressthe following piece is a writing assignment produced for The Center of Fiction’s Active Storytelling course taught by Judy Sternlight.

Summary Character Development

Eloise Frump, a 27-year-old socialite from Water Mill, NY. She lives with her fraternal twin, Marcus at a condo development in Bushwick, one of her father’s pet projects. Marcus manages the sales office in the building, interfacing with new owners.  Eloise works in the back office fielding concierge requests from residents and coordinating moves in and out of the building. 

One of Eloise’s guilty pleasures is watching The McMasters, an elderly wealthy Scottish couple’s movements from the closed-circuit webcam in their private elevator bank. Shy and quiet on the outside, her brother and parents are completely unaware of her hidden talent for hacking into security cameras. And more importantly, her side-hustle working with local gangsters to pull off jewelry heists at buildings in developments nearby. 

The twins take after their mom with their sallow complexion and sparkling green eyes. Eloise is the younger of the two by 10 minutes. One of her most discerning features is a tattoo of her name written in Hindu on the inside of her left bicep. In the crime world, she’s known as Lucky-mi a play on the name of Lakshmi the Hindu goddess of wealth, love, prosperity. 

Where in the timeline would I start the story?

Eighteen months earlier, with her first encounter with Trevor a new resident at her dad’s building, an admitted con artist and jewel thief. 

The following excerpt was written during class on 9/19/19.

A chill hung in the air. 

Goosebumps appeared on her skin even before the phone rang. 

The driver watched Eloise intensely motioning for her to pick up the phone. Eloise hesitated. One ring, two rings. 

“Now,” he growled. 

Startled, she reached for the clunky receiver, her body shaking. The receiver slipped from her clammy hands and clattered to the floor, she gasped. 

The driver eyed her from the rearview mirror, with a raised brow. 

Eloise pulled the blue receiver to her lips and whispered, “Daddy?”

Word Count: 315

Plover of the Gods, A Sense of Place

A work-in-progress, the following piece is a writing assignment produced for The Center of Fiction’s Active Storytelling course taught by Judy Sternlight.

A Sense of Place: Plover of the Gods
prepared by Andrea Preziotti

Note I’ve purposely used Roman and Greek names for each god, interchangeably.  (Triton, Ceres/Demeter, Neptune/Poseidon, etc.) 

“Triton, come sit by me,” Ceres said as she lay down on the wet sand.

“Now? We’ve only just arrived. The others will be here soon,” the demigod responded. “We must prepare for their arrival.”

He was restless, thrashing his tail on the shoreline, crushing everything in his wake. The seashells turned to dust, and the seabirds knew better than to fly overhead. Deep in thought, Triton waded further out into the ocean, a storm cloud hovering. His brow furrowed. Lightning flashed in the sky unmasking the emotion on his face.

Ceres watched him sail from wave to wave. 

“Triton, please calm down, and come sit by me,” Ceres repeated louder. The kelp awakened with her words and unfurled its long, leathery laminae. 

The message from Poseidon had been clear: release the merfolk into all waterways of Earth. Triton nearly balked at the request. All of his 6000 children dispatched beyond the sea into unchartered waters oversaw by humans.  

Ceres understood the bleakness of his task. Her daughter Persephone had been forced to live with Pluto in the underworld. 

“Ceres, what am I to do? I cannot go against Father, and yet, I cannot watch all my children perish,” bemoaned Triton. The world saw him as a tyrant of the sea, Poseidon’s herald but Ceres knew her nephew was none of those things. He was more compassionate than any demigod worth their weight in salt as long as he was not pushed.

She had meant to ease his pain with news from the natural world but still, his quiet rage simmered. The nearby plovers, blended into the scenery preoccupied with worm hunting.  

Ceres dug her hands into the sand and listened to the surf before answering. 

“Triton what if you could join your children on their journey, guide them through the waterways? It has been done before, the act of taking human form, I could help you.” 

He raised his eyes then, a film lifting as he cocked his head to the left. 

“I am immortal,” Triton said in a low, guttural murmur. The kelp sensed his intention, weaving its vines around his torso. Triton’s scales turned into human skin, the closer he got to the sandy shores, his fins took the shape of feet. He extended his hand to Ceres, pulling her into an embrace. 

Word Count: 384

A New Point-of-View of The Giving Tree

A work-in-progress, the following piece is a writing assignment produced for The Center of Fiction’s Active Storytelling course taught by Judy Sternlight.

A New Point-of-View of The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein
prepared by Andrea Preziotti

Boy, please tread softly, as your feet dance wildly across our bodies. You may be young but we are aging faster than you can breathe. Your story will continue for years while ours are individually short and finite.

Where shall we begin? In your innocence, you embraced Tree with all your heart. And how could you not, she loved you freely without expectation and enveloped you in her branches. My favorite days were those when you played hide-and-seek, your body hiding between the rocks, her leaves grazing the forest floor, rustling our blades. 

To feel her love unconditionally, if only once in a lifetime, is the thing of legends. We’ve pondered days away wondering if it was the same for her, with you. There was never the right time to ask, not that she would have noticed us at all, of course, especially once you carved letters on her bark. 

Tree may have lived alone in the forest but green grass is everywhere, and we have a network. We knew what was coming, all the warnings about humans were passed down from one genus to another. And even as the eight hundred and twenty-one generations of our family witnessed the hundred years of love notes shared between you and Tree, we hoped for the best all the while knowing the inevitability of Man. 

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