5 Tips to Finding a Writing Coach Who’s Right for You

Do what you love may be the most overused advice in the career-improvement world.  A blogpost on the complexity of this directive went viral on Jacobin a year or so back, it was shared 57 thousand times on Facebook and riffed about in the New York Times Opinionator by Gordon Marino.

I know all this first hand. Once upon a time I turned my back on a half-finished MBA and a corporate job with its maddening pace and rigid hierarchy. The fact that my boss gave my job to her newly unemployed husband didn’t help. I escaped to do what I loved. In my case the passion was writing.

The act of quitting made me subversive. And that alone fueled creative expression. I mapped out chapters, the content. Figured I’d have the manuscript written in six months, employ an editor, find an agent, become a best seller, Oprah would call, the whole bit.

Four years later, I found myself gazing into my monitor not knowing whether to put a period at the end of the sentence or keep going with a comma. I’d lost my home in foreclosure, gone bankrupt, written 300,000 words, revised the body of work four times. And while I was slurping away at my second or maybe 87th Cosmo, I understood what I was really missing, a mentor. A guide. A coach. Someone who’d gone before, knew how to shape art into something saleable and would come along with a tribe of like-minded people with whom I could collaborate. I didn’t want to go back to school. What I was looking for was beyond the confines of academia. I needed someone to touch what the poet Mary Oliver called the “wild silky” part of myself and, finally, make it palatable to the world.

Mentors are necessary. Hemingway had Stein, Beethoven had Neefe. The true challenge once you know the secret lies in finding a mentor is how to find that coach who can make your passion work in the world. This is like how to find a raindrop in a rainstorm. There are thousands of coaches out there. They’re like doctors and lawyers. But here’s what I learned (the hard way): some coaches are competent, some are lousy, even soul crushers. I dropped coins in wishing well after wishing well. One wore a floral patterned dress that matched her bonnet and tried to make me into a mystery writer; another one was always throwing theories at me I couldn’t apply; one promised me the stars, took my money and then never contacted me again.

Suzanne, my mentor and writing coach.

How do you find your coach?

Here are five helpful hints for the girl or gal who wants to (or maybe has) dropped everything to do what she loves:

  1. Go with the gut. Have a bad feeling even though her website’s copy seems like a projection of everything lying dormant in your heart? That’s your intuit talking. Run. There are too many fantastic coaches out there who have integrity and know how to move you forward.
  2. She’s part of your tribe: if you see her write a post in a publication you love or show up in a group on social media with whom you share a vibe, chances are you have similar taste, so you might want to take a shot at it. I found my coach through my Reiki teacher. My coach had helped a fellow Reiki student get an agent and a book deal. She’s now distributed with Random House, has been on NPR, has speaking engagements, the whole nine yards.
  3. She has street cred and success: When I went on my coach’s website, she had testimonial after testimonial from people who had published books, made a career out of writing, had gotten bylines with top media outlets and had life changing experiences after being with her. She was also successful in her own right. An internationally-acclaimed author with lots of kudos to her name, she’s made her living writing, which is what I wanted to do and so I knew she could trail blaze a path.
  4. She gets you, every single part of you. The secret to my coach’s success is that she works in the Gateless writing method, a very specific method based on brain science, craft tools and community that moves creatives to places they’d only imagined. Through this method, she helps all of you rather than just the part of you working on your craft. That divorce you haven’t quite gotten over? Could be a barrier to next step on your career path. The trauma you suffered as a child might be the thing that needs to be coddled before you begin to really allow yourself to go big. Make sure your coach isn’t just about deliverables, numbers, list building, ideal clients and great gallery gigs.
  5. It doesn’t happen overnight: I know, this one sort of sucks. But anyone who promises you the world in thirty days or even six weeks isn’t really helping you make lasting change. It took most of us years to get here and the true unraveling and resetting can take a while to grab hold. Something magical did happen with my coach, everything my shaman has been teaching me about the process absolutely broke through, and while it felt like it happened overnight, it’s too deep and long lasting for that. Now I feel seasoned at this writing thing. But first I had to undo a lot of the conditioning I’d learned in my corporate gig.

Since working with my coach I’ve been shortlisted for prizes, published in the top online media outlets and have been picked up by prestigious lit journals, but more than that? I understand that often those who fail at doing what they loved just didn’t have the guidance they needed to learn how to soar.

What will you do today to obtain the guidance you need to succeed?

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This essay was picked up by Fiction Southeast and titled “This Writer’s Secret to Doing What She Loves,” August 10, 2017.

Lisa has been publishing essays for five years on the writing life, sex and relationships, and her love for horses, dogs and cowboy country. One of her essays appeared in the IPPY-award-winning anthology Unmasked: Women Write About Sex and Intimacy After Fifty, published in 2017. She lives near Boston, where she rides horses and commutes by bike to her job writing and editing technology blogs for Dell Technologies. She is currently pitching her memoir Calamity Becomes Her to literary agents and is at work on the sequel. You can contact her at lisa dot demasi at gmail dot com.

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Bun-Bonding Sweetness: The 2-Minute Vid You Can’t Miss!

Video

Awww, was just going through some blog archives and discovered I never published this little video of bun-bonding sweetness! We miss fostering our rescued house rabbits!

Some Info on Bunny Bonding: “Love Is in the Air – Sorta”

Introducing two new rabbits and trying to get them to live happily together or “bond” them can be a problematic process. A “quick” bond is two weeks. Three months is not unusual. Don’t get discouraged. Remember, YOU are the primate with higher brain function and opposable thumbs. Most rabbits can be bonded, given enough patience and effort on your part.

You may be advised to take the rabbits on a drive in the car. The general idea is to stress the rabbits so that they turn to each other for comfort and forget their territorial and dominance disputes. Using a car for this purpose is falling out of vogue for two reasons. First, it’s dangerous as the rabbits are harder to mange in a moving vehicle. Second, it requires two people, one to drive and the other to handle the rabbits. Finally, there are easier ways to do the same thing at home. If you have a cloths washer, you can put the rabbits in a basket on top of the washer during the spin cycle. Keep a towel handy to throw over the rabbits if they start to panic, and keep a tight grip on the basket.

An even easier trick is to put them in a cold dryer.  No, you won’t be turning it on. You’ll just out them in the dryer, and if they start to make a fuss, turn rotate the drum slowly by hand. This will be enough to keep the rabbits on an uneven footing and will allow you significant control over the situation. As a bonus, the steel drum of the average dryer will be easy to clean in the event of territorial wetting or pelleting. Side loading washers are generally too damp for this purpose, and rabbit claws can catch, bend or break in the drainage holes that line a washer’s drum. Simply putting the rabbits in a clean, dry bathtub will also provide a slippery footing and neutral territory.

“Bunny Bonding, Love Is in the Air – Sorta” is sourced from House Rabbit Network’s blog.

Please visit House Rabbit Network’s blog or Facebook Page for more information on house rabbit adoption, fostering or rabbit care. You can tell ’em Lisa sent you!

The 50 Goats that Made My Heart Smile

If you’re feeling blue, get yourself a good dose of goat lovin’ at Big Picture Farm in Townshend, VT, 17 miles northwest of Brattleboro. BPF is an Animal-Welfare-Approved farm and it’s evident that the health and happiness of the animals is the center around which the farm and farm products revolve.

On Sundays afternoons, you can sign up for a 3:00 appointment to meet these beautiful girls and learn everything about them from BPF’s apprentice. We signed up this past Sunday with a $10 donation per person to support BPF’s retired goats, looking to visit a working farm on a mild and sunny day during the height of leaf-peeping season.

Kid “Meridian.”

The farm is well-maintained and expansive and includes an 9-bedroom farmhouse Airbnb. (I’m counting 8 people I can invite to stay there right now.) It is a gorgeous property, a mile up a dirt road and the sort of place I’ve been known to runaway to and pick up vocation for months at a time.

We were greeted by the Farm’s apprentice, Kathryn, a young, wholesome 20-something student (the kind a 50-something year old woman invariably envies) from Austin who was incredibly sweet and friendly. She invited us to enter the paddock as she greeted other guests and just as Dennis and I meandered a few feet in, Ginger and Luna approached me and gently rubbed their noses at my waist in an affable hello. I immediately sank down to one knee for closer contact.

Ginger and Luna officially welcoming me to the herd.

Kathryn informed us of a day-in-a-life of the goats, and interesting and fun facts. Like, you see in the picture how Ginger and Luna’s collars are different colors? The color signifies family members. Ginger’s collar is green – any goat wearing a green collar is either a mother or daughter or sister of that family.

Isn’t that cool? Why can’t I think of clever things like that?

American Cheese Society (ACS) award-winning scrumptious Haiku.

When we were able to tear ourselves away from the goats’ endearing demeanor (I could have easily planted my butt on a rock in the sun where I could have communed with them for another couple of hours – Dennis, on the other hand, was ready to move on), we were in for another treat. Haiku cheese, caramels and dark chocolates made from the goats’ milk!

To say I was “enraptured” by the taste of the cheese falls a galaxy short on the scale of its yummy goodness. It’s raw and unpasteurized and scrumptious. I’m saving the candy to share with the fam, but I couldn’t get enough of that cheese.

It’s to die for!

I remarked to Louisa that the farm’s website and their product packaging is creatively fresh and super-duper. She responded that she and her husband collaborate on the design and that they love that part of their jobs.

Elvis, one of three guard dogs, who keeps the coyotes at bay, was irresistible too.

And, I’m not kidding about this great opportunity BPF’s apprentice told us about. In the spring, the farm hosts “Kidding Weekends.” Hey, it’s not comedy relief! It’s an experience where guests can come and stay on the farm in the height of the goats’ birthing season.

Holy Delicious Goaturtles, I was so excited about hearing this that once back in the car and having secured my precious foodstuffs from dog-Sabrina, I emailed Louisa, one half of the wife/husband “goat dairy and farmstead confectionery and creamery” team, asking if I could sign up immediately.

Hi Louisa, OMG, OMG, OMG! I want to come up to stay for the birthing season!!! Can I arrange for that now??? I would love, love, love that!! Can I? Huh? Can I?

“June Bug” leaning in to smooch Kitty.

Louisa patiently responded some time later telling me to subscribe to the Farm’s newsletter where the Kidding Weekend would be eventually announced. She did not react to my over-the-top reaction (well, I wasn’t there to actually see her reaction) nor did she address my dire need to sign up well before the event has been planned.

Looks like I’m gonna have to wait it out, no kidding.

What’s stopping you from heading up to southern Vermont on a Sunday afternoon to meet the herd? Or booking a family reunion at the Airbnb, which to date has received thirty-five 5-star reviews?

Contact Louisa here for more information. You can tell her Lisa sent you (if you paraphrase the email I sent to her, I’m sure she’ll remember me).

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Lisa has been publishing essays for five years on the writing life, sex and relationships, and her love for horses, dogs and cowboy country. One of her essays appeared in the IPPY-award-winning anthology Unmasked: Women Write About Sex and Intimacy After Fifty, published in 2017. She lives near Boston, where she rides horses and commutes by bike to her job writing and editing technology blogs for Dell Technologies. She is currently pitching her memoir Calamity Becomes Her to literary agents and is at work on the sequel. You can contact Lisa at lisa dot demasi at gmail dot com.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Breakthrough I Witnessed in the Healing Power of Horses

I’m all in for “anything horse.” Riding, grooming, sharing a horse’s space, stroking a muzzle emanating every fiber of love of my being for the creature, whispering sweet nothings into his or her ear.

This weekend, however, I ventured something hands-off—I audited a fundraiser for Wild Hearts Horses for Heroes, a therapeutic equestrian program for veterans. On a gorgeous autumn morning, nearly forty people came together at Indian Creek Stables in Carver, MA—veterans of the Program, participants with unreconciled childhood trauma, and horsey people with their own therapeutic equestrian programs for youth-at risk as far from home as Florida.

Twenty “auditors” assumed seats in chairs that stretched unilaterally across one side of the arena and within three sessions over a six-hour period, we observed Tim Hayes, renown equine therapeutic clinician and author of Riding Homeask twelve individuals to perform groundwork tasks with their horse-partner to attain increased self-awareness and healing over a past traumatic event.

The most moving interaction occurred when Tim asked a former combat veteran (I’ll call her “Sheila”) to pet her horse and lift each of her horse’s feet. This exercise, Tim told us, tends to “bring stuff up.”

“Sheila,” Tim said, “pick up each of your horse’s feet.”

“No,” she replied, adamantly.

The feel-good bubble infiltrating the arena burst. Tim remained close to where Sheila stood, unaffected and relaxed, standing with his hands loosely clasped across his front. His patience was a mile long. Some moments later, he began to probe Sheila for the reasons why she refused.

“I’m nervous and anxious,” she said.

“Weren’t expecting to be in front of all these people, were you?” Tim reasoned.

Sheila began to cry. The two other veterans enrolled in the Wild Hearts program looked on, their hands resting on some part of their horses’ body—neck, withers; identifying with Sheila’s emotions. My heart was breaking.

Tim nudged, “Why are you crying, Sheila?”

“I get overwhelmed when I’m faced with doing something new,” she replied. “It’s too much at once. No one understands.”

“Well,” Tim said, “We can take it slow. We’ll tackle it one foot at a time.”

Sheila stood unresponsive and still for several moments. Then, she wiped the tears from her face and reached for one of her horse’s front hooves and pulled at it. The horse lowered his head, nudged her thigh with his muzzle and lifted his foot. I exhaled the deep breath I was holding.

Tim encouraged her. “You’re doing it, Sheila.”

Sheila smiled so broadly at Tim people in the next county could see it. She proceeded to move around the horse and lift his three other hooves. Us auditors did everything we could to refrain from cheering and clapping. Just didn’t feel right doing something like that.

For the duration of her session, Sheila’s smile remained pasted on her face. It was, indeed, a beautiful thing. She said when new and overwhelming things come at her in the future, she’d remember picking up the horse’s hooves one at a time and replicate the process.

The night before I attended the fundraiser, I started a chapter in Riding Home called “The Walking Wounded—Horses for Heroes.” Let me share with you the initial two paragraphs to place these combat veteran’s experiences in context:

Blood and pieces of flesh were everywhere, impossible to avoid, so she walked right through them. Her job was repairing radios in medevac helicopters that brought back the dead and wounded. She had witnessed the unthinkable for months. Each time, she felt herself mentally pushing back against the horror that fought to enter her mind.

She forced it out long enough so she could do her job, but the images always returned: eyes hanging from blood-oozing sockets, severed arms resting on the chests of men who prayed they could be reattached, while their buddies held their good arms and kept screaming, “Stay with me, you’re going to be okay!”

Tim and yours truly.

There is Bad and Good in this world and the Good attempts to take care of those who’ve experienced the Bad. This is what Wild Hearts Horses for Heroes do. They’re Good people armed with the healing power of their horses who administer to those who have experienced the Bad.

Horses, Humans and Healing—what a profound combination.

Follow Wild Hearts Therapeutic Equestrian Program on Twitter or Julie on LinkedIn to learn how you can participate or audit an equestrian therapy clinic, just like I did, to behold the amazing healing transformation that can transpire between horses and humans.

I also invite you to learn more about Julie Lovely, Executive Director of Wild Hearts Horses for Heroes program and her horses who are bringing peace to veterans at no cost. There are number of ways, too, you can support or sponsor the Program. Julie can be contacted directly at (508) 857-1737 or jlovely@wildheartstherapeutic.org.

Lisa has been publishing essays for five years on the writing life, sex and relationships, and her love for horses, dogs and cowboy country. One of her essays appeared in the IPPY-award-winning anthology Unmasked: Women Write About Sex and Intimacy After Fifty, published in 2017. She lives near Boston, where she rides horses and commutes by bike to her job writing and editing technology blogs for Dell Technologies. She is currently pitching her memoir Calamity Becomes Her to literary agents and is at work on the sequel. You can contact Lisa at lisa dot demasi at gmail dot com.

How My Writing Was Nastily Rejected Then Got Picked Up Elsewhere

How many times have you heard an editor’s rejection of your work is subjective? Especially from prominent, published writers? You know, the really really big ones?

Receiving rejection, especially over a piece we hold near and dear, is most difficult. Some editor’s feedback is simply cruel and it’s difficult to push through it, their words forming a dark cloud in the writer’s already self-deprecating mind.

There is truly only one super-negative rejection I have received and whenever submitting that piece thereafter (yes, the one near and dear to my heart) I hear that particular editor’s indelibly negative words as I hit the send button, dooming any future hope of publication.

Employ Constructive Feedback

I am here to tell you writers to hold fast – an editor in receipt of that 100-times-rejected piece may someday take the time to shed some constructive feedback that doesn’t shoot a hole in your heart. And Kendra, the editor of The Fiddlehead, did that for me concerning my essay Saboteur. Her feedback triumphed over the not-so-great feedback I had previously received from the editor at The Tishman Review, which read:

Hi Lisa-

We publish prose at The Tishman Review that we feel speaks with emotional depth and substance and that sheds light on the human condition. When I saw your email, to be quite honest, I could not even remember your essay and had to glance over it to remind myself of it.

There is no sense of conflict or tension that has a true stake for the narrator. I could not find a hook to draw me in. The essay is primarily about lusting after someone, and it is a play by play of how this works out. The hotel scene in particular is not very engaging.

For the reader, the friend’s behavior did not seem a betrayal but predictable. Maybe something is missing from the essay to show the friend felt the same way about the essayist or maybe I did not understand this from what is present in the essay.

However, the writing at the sentence-level is strong.

This essay is just did not a good fit for TTR but may well be somewhere else.

Stephen King was told, “We are not interested in science fiction which deals with negative utopias. They do not sell.”

I’m sorry to disappoint you.

Best, Jennifer

Now, Kendra’s feedback which renewed my hope:

Dear Lisa,

Thank you kindly for offering “Saboteur” to us here at The Fiddlehead. I found your handle on word choice made the piece (while already intriguing at its plot) extremely gripping and rich in description. I’m afraid, however, we’re not able to accept it for publication, mostly due to the overwhelming amount of submissions we receive regularly. With that said, I think it has really strong features: the characterization of Lexi, the chemistry she and the narrator have seemingly immediately, the interwoven themes of statistics and its practice. As well, its narrative is very vivid, has great word choice, and is fluid in its movement from one space and time to another. My only suggestion would be to pare back on descriptions of space, namely near the middle to end of the piece (around pages 11-12 particularly) to keep the momentum the piece gains in the first few pages. You’ve got a very strong handle on your craft, so I wish you the very best in finding this and other pieces of your work a good home.

Sincerely,
Kendra Guidolin

Don’t Give Up on Submitting Your Work

Writers, I beg you, keep the faith. Push through the criticism; incorporate meaningful feedback into your work. And don’t kill your darlings! Just rework them!

BTW, Saboteur, has recently been picked up by a new literary journal. The editor advised cutting the last paragraph and I agreed, it read much better!

And take a glimpse at “JK Rowling Posts Letter of Rejection on Twitter to Help Budding Authors” here.

Lisa has been publishing essays for five years on the writing life, sex and relationships, and her love for horses, dogs and cowboy country. One of her essays appeared in the IPPY-award-winning anthology Unmasked: Women Write About Sex and Intimacy After Fifty, published in 2017. She lives near Boston, where she rides horses and commutes by bike to her job writing and editing technology blogs for Dell Technologies. She is currently pitching her memoir Calamity Becomes Her to literary agents and is at work on the sequel. You can contact Lisa at lisa dot demasi at gmail dot com.

Heart-on for Horse

I first mounted you with fear and nervousness, knowing several others had come before me. Would you read me as just another careless rider? I wanted to bond with you and erase any absence of love for the horse. You are not a slave, but a beautiful beast. Sadly, it took me four days to acclimate upon your back, gain confidence and come across a situation that allowed us some freedom—the cattle drive.

Dear Stetson, I love you. I came by the corral after lunch when our riding was done for good, called out to you. Gazed into your left eye, exposed from the others – you did not come forth. And I wish I could hear you – your thoughts of not liking your job, anticipating your next life. Oh, how I wished you pushed your way through those horses, close enough to let me to stroke your muzzle, whisper to you how much I relished the sound of your hooves clashing with the stones along the trail, steadying the reins as you nodded, swatting the flies.

Remember how we trotted toward the three scattered cows and encouraged them back into the herd? Oh, how I loved being on your back, watching them, feeling a genuine part of the wildflowers and mountains and big sky! I turned to the young wrangler named Frog and said, ‘hey, I moved three cows’ and the youth thing answered, ‘you moved 500 of ‘em.’

Stetson, I know your home is with your herd. But please know for a short while, my home was with you. You have made me fly.

I shall talk to you, send you my love when my head hits the pillow tonight and tomorrow when I leave this country in which I’ve longed to return for twenty-three years. [END]

This itty bitty essay was picked up by Wanderlust Journal on 10/15/18.

To see all of Lisa’s published work, click here.

Lisa has been publishing essays for five years on the writing life, sex and relationships, and her love for horses, dogs and cowboy country. One of her essays appeared in the IPPY-award-winning anthology Unmasked: Women Write About Sex and Intimacy After Fifty, published in 2017. She lives near Boston, where she rides horses and commutes by bike to her job writing and editing technology blogs for Dell Technologies. She is currently pitching her memoir Calamity Becomes Her to literary agents and is at work on the sequel. You can contact Lisa at lisa dot demasi at gmail dot com.

Why I Love Bike Commuting in Boston

Commuting to work on my bike has brought my competitive spirit back—a quality I thought I left behind on the softball field my senior year in high school. My heart pounds in excitement as I gear up to ride, just like it did when I stepped up to the plate. The ride into Harvard Square means exertion and potential hostile territory as I move in and out of the flow of traffic through the Boston neighborhoods.

I savor the challenge of the road, the required vigilance. I’m one of the only girls out there except for college students on foo-foo bikes, wearing flip-flops. For them, a bike is a frugal means to get from point A to B. Not me. I savor the ride, like to get down and dirty.

Commuting during the summer is a piece a cake, the best of times. I have free reign over the construction-laden bridge into the Square and Bert’s Electric isn’t squeezing me into the orange barrels vying for command of the lane. The driver will have longed passed this way before me, eager to get a jump on his schedule so he could suck down beers and fish in the Charles come three o’clock.

When Labor Day gets behind us, the worst of times, tradesmen aren’t reporting to work early and city bus drivers are laying claim to the asphalt. I’m a part of this, a cog amid congested traffic, obeying the rules of the road and thanking those drivers who are courteous. Courtesy is an act tradesmen do not extend to bike commuters.

And city bus drivers?

I’ve lost count how many times I’ve played chicken with ‘em and won.

One morning on North Harvard Bridge I lay claim to my share of the asphalt by scaling my way in between a Jersey barrier and Stan’s Heating and Cooling. That’s one foot plodding along the van and the other along the barrier, when the driver catches sight of me in the passenger side mirror. He goes wide-eyed as I slap my hand down on the front fender with a “You’re-seriously-blocking-my-right-of-way” expression playing across my face.

It is dangerous out there. Risk is 360. But because I behave on the road—I expect respect. As with the tradesmen that squeeze me off the bridge, when someone moves in on my turf, I feel compelled to take it back. Think of Kathy Bate’s character in Fried Green Tomatoes when she rams the car of the young girls who rob her of a parking space: “Face it girls, I’m older and have more insurance.”

It’s a competition and that’s why I love cycling in the city rather than the country. Who wants to pedal by meadows, breathe clean air, and listen to the calming effect of birdsong? Give me the congestion and pollution of the city streets. Taking risks enable me to handle the challenges that life brings.

Yesterday I encountered bad sportsmanship. At Watertown Yard, I break off the river path and onto the road. I’m up out of the saddle pedaling like hell in the middle of the right lane to catch the green to make a left. But time runs out and the light turns red.

I’m closing in behind a Ford truck when a VW passes me and zips in behind it. This infuriates me, but damn, it’s too bad he leaves a five feet of space between his front end and the truck’s bumper.

Now, what do I have to do?

Exercise my right to asphalt again. I ride past him. The 30-something driver has his window closed and stares straight ahead like he just didn’t pull a fast one.

“Am I invisible?” I huff, and wedge what I can of my bike and person between the two vehicles.

My focus steadies on the red light. The guy is seething, staring at yours truly donning an orange jacket so bright you can see it from outer space. The effin nerve of this smartass.

Perspiration slips into my mouth. It’s a matter of principal as well as law in the Commonwealth. I’m just after fair play, and willing to fight for it. Sure, there’s an obvious disadvantage. I’m on a two-wheeled 18-pound carbon frame and this guy’s driving a ton of steel.

I’m ready. Got one foot flat on the ground, the other poised on the pedal. I take getting out of people’s way seriously, although its plain I’m not going to come out of this showdown with the least amount of respect.

My foot plunges the pedal down at the green. I’m standing up on the bike, pumping hard. The air moves in and out of my body in breathy bursts. The VW and my bike continue to advance, accelerating. The driver forces me to shadow his car on the inside, squeezing me to the median. I grunt; want to pound my fist on his door, but my brain warns me that my jacket could get caught on his side mirror. What’s even more upsetting is I’m incapable of conveying my disgust; he’s still eluding eye contact.

“You bastard!” I yell over my shoulder. It’s a novelty this outburst. Why I don’t call him an asshole is beyond me, it’s usually there handy in my on-the-road arsenal of expletives.

Hell, I’m not even afraid.

Should I be?

Reality is too much for him to bear; the witnesses are screaming lawsuit. He breaks away, swerving his VW to the far-right lane. I straighten out in the left; wave a clenched fist and pump to the right side of the road knowing the traffic behind me is minding my back. Competition over.

Once I’m seated on my bike navigating Boston’s streets, I can’t know the challenges I’ll meet on a given day. I’m risking life and limb for a spirited thrill, vying for space, powering my way through a sea of cars. I’m that fearless girl swinging the softball bat on my high school field; invigorated and ready for action.

Styling kit from women-owed Machines for Freedom. Photo by Juliana DiLuca Photography.

This post was published in Machines for Freedom blog with a title of “We Are Not Blocking Traffic. We Are Traffic“, June 13, 2018.

Lisa has been publishing essays for five years on the writing life, sex and relationships, and her love for horses, dogs and cowboy country. One of her essays appeared in the IPPY-award-winning anthology Unmasked: Women Write About Sex and Intimacy After Fifty, published in 2017. She lives near Boston, where she rides horses and commutes by bike to her job writing and editing technology blogs for Dell Technologies. She is currently pitching her memoir Calamity Becomes Her to literary agents and is at work on the sequel. You can contact Lisa at lisa dot demasi at gmail dot com.

How Dell Technologies’ Advocacy for Fitness Makes Me Future-Ready

Can a fifty-something woman be as hungry to lose 70 pounds as she is compelled to continually improve her skills in a world that’s constantly evolving?

You bet she can.

In the midst of completing a 6-month role assisting in a Documentum migration for Dell EMC’s Online Support Services in 2016, my father was diagnosed with stage-4 kidney cancer. He had called, laid the news on me, disconnected, and left me uncontrollably sobbing in my cube.

Difficult news to deliver; difficult news to fathom.

He responded well to chemo despite the inoperable and ample tumor lodged on his kidney. He kept going about much of his daily routine, tenacious and brave, and I on the other hand in a mix of empathy and envisioning life without him, packed on the pounds.

When I began working in Dell EMC’s Services and IT Marketing in 2017, more than six months beyond the time the doctors surmised my father would last, I assumed my father’s gumption for life and dismissed the tenuous notion of his leaving us. I delved into my new role, ingesting bits and pieces of Big Data technology, and began riding the 12.3-mile commute to and from work on my bike. (Hopkinton, as I like to say, has a few of its own Heartbreak Hills.)

The physical effort afforded me what my dad had: endurance. Braving the traffic and heat? His courage. Being drawn to this new technology at my fingertips? His curiosity and passion to gain knowledge.

When the weather turned cold and my fiance hoisted my bike up to the rafters in the garage, I had dropped 40 pounds and enrolled in a number of lunchtime exercise classes at work, ranging from yoga to step to body conditioning. Yoga! I had always wanted to try it but was intimidated by those sinewy, lithe bodies. The instructor, Nancy Galiardi, readily allayed my insecurity. And all through my first step class, I kept shouting ‘wow, this is great! I haven’t done Step since the 80’s!”

The benefits, too, of working out goes beyond my 70-pound weight loss. The endorphin-residual and feeling of well-being empowers my work, my knowledge, my abilities and my demeanor. It puts me in a position of ‘future-ready’– fit to assimilate new technology, new perspectives, new responsibilities.

I may not be invincible like my father was with his cancer, but he made me a survivor before he was even gone. Being fit is empowering. Taking advantage of the fitness amenities Dell offers continue to be a 360-something I can’t afford to leave behind.

What’s keeping you from getting fit and empowering yourself with the fortitude to survive 2020 and beyond?

Lisa Mae DeMasi is a Technology Blog Editor and Writer and Social Media Communications Specialist within Services and IT Marketing at Dell EMC. This article is reprinted from Direct2Dell, a Product & Technology Blog.

To see all of Lisa’s published work, click here.

You can contact Lisa at lisa dot demasi at gmail dot com.

Women Write About Sex and Intimacy After Fifty Anthology Book Launch

Unmasked: Women Write about Sex and Intimacy After Fifty is out and my work’s in it.

The editors and a number of the writers will be in Santa Barbara on Wednesday for the Anthology launch at Carr Vineyards and Winery. I’m one of the lucky ones who’s been chosen to read my essay to a crowd of women hungry for advice on rediscovering their sex drive.

My signing pen is ready!

Here’s the book description:

Women over fifty are “the invisible woman” in American culture. In a society that reveres youth – and particularly young, sexy women – women over fifty fade into the shadows. Yet, for many women at mid-life, this is a time of flowering and coming into one’s own, sexually and otherwise. Many older women love sex and crave the intimacy it provides. For every story of a harried mother who turns her husband away at night, or the older woman who long ago lost her libido, there are legions of others whose sex drives match those of men.

A recent study found that sixty percent of women fifty to fifty-nine were sexually active, that almost fifty percent of women in their sixties were sexually active, and nearly thirty percent of those over seventy were sexually active. So, why is so little attention paid to sex and intimacy among women in later life? Other than a smattering of magazine articles and some academic books, very little has been written about women, sex and intimacy. Oh, there are plenty of how-tos: advice on vaginal dryness and pain during sex and erectile dysfunction. But there is a dearth of work written by women about their sexual experiences after fifty.

This collection of essays and poetry is meant to bring sex after fifty for women into the open, to proclaim that it is important, it is natural and healthy and, for some women, it is absolutely necessary. Unmasked will surprise, inform, and–it is hoped–encourage all women of a certain age to (re)discover their sexuality.

I am so proud to be a contributor to this Anthology. Join me and some other randy women in Santa Barbara for a signed copy of the book and a celebratory glass of wine!

Lisa has been publishing essays for five years on the writing life, sex and relationships, and her love for horses, dogs and cowboy country. One of her essays appeared in the IPPY-award-winning anthology Unmasked: Women Write About Sex and Intimacy After Fifty, published in 2017. She lives near Boston, where she rides horses and commutes by bike to her job writing and editing technology blogs for Dell Technologies. She is currently pitching her memoir Calamity Becomes Her to literary agents and is at work on the sequel. Contact her at lisa dot demasi at gmail dot com.

 

The Dog Difference: How We’ve Made One Another Whole Again

At two years old, Lady’s ribs protruded from her coat and her belly was swollen with milk.

Like the other thirteen Labs that had arrived at a rest stop in Union, CT after the straight 12½-hour drive from Muncie, IN, she was presented to us on a crisp autumn day amid the chaos of respective adopters.

My fiance Dennis had never experienced the warmth and companionship of having a dog and well, I surprised him with Lady, who we quickly renamed to Sabrina. The very afternoon we picked her up, we raced to the park, wanting her to feel the joy of freedom and play. Dennis’s face lit up and while I was thrilled at the opportunity to befriend and care for Sabrina; it meant closing the 20-year gap since our beloved German Shepard from my childhood passed away.

Until laying my eyes on Sabrina’s profile, my heart couldn’t entertain loving another dog.

And what canine isn’t after the same love?

In Sabrina’s case, she couldn’t know of the family members that awaited to embrace her presence. Within days of the initial hair-raising excitement, the cat sought out occasions to groom her ears. Our pet rat was free to waddle the kitchen floor un-bothered, and the pair of bonded bunnies in want of company stretched out beside her on the living room floor.

Dog, cat, rat, rabbit?

You bet.

And Dennis and me?

Like kids again.

Sabrina settled into the folds of our lives, well-nourished and exercised in Boston’s epic snowfall in the winter of 2009-2010, taking careful watch over all of us. The fear expressed in her eyes pre-adoption disappeared.

Nine years later, she watches over me in particular. Thirty years ago, I was struck and thrown from the passenger side of a car until my abdomen collided with the steering wheel—blunt force that called for iterative repair to my digestive system and caused IBD and permanent damage to the nerves that signal my bladder is full.

Today when I’m busy working away, Sabrina will alert me to get up every couple of hours to make a trip to the restroom by gently placing her head in my lap.

When I suffer acute intestinal cramping, Crohns-like symptoms, she’ll sit at my side and lean her body against mine. Her calm and steady source of nurturing, helps me to relax and mitigates the cramps.

In 2008, the Department of Justice amended the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) to include digestive, bowel and bladder impairments that limit major life activities as the disabled, calling for employers to make reasonable accommodations and if the individual elects, to allow task-oriented service animals [dog or miniature horse] to accompany them on the job.

Sabrina, serving in the capacity of a sensory/medical assist – alerting me to get up and take care of myself – qualifies.

Three winters ago, the HR Director, Debra Susler of Reputation Institute in Cambridge, MA would not allow Sabrina to accompany me on-the-job. I sent her an elaborate email explaining my condition and Sabrina’s service dog certification. She replied “no,” not to me, but to my supervisor.

My response?

I walked out of the place.

Sabrina: rescue dog to helper dog.

Respectively, Sabrina’s competencies and understanding of language never cease to astound us and her behavior on-the-job at Dell Technologies is so well-mannered, coworkers never run out of compliments.

And bystanders in public? The grocery store, pharmacy, gym, dentist, doctor?

Gazes from cell phones are broken, conversations fall short.

Then, come the smiles. A question. Praise. The feel-good moment.

Sabrina brings people together.

I recently read a distressing post from a woman who said every time she looks into a service dog’s eyes, she sees sadness. Even Ingrid Newkirk, CEO and Co-Founder of PETA, has told me, “the life of a typical service dog is a terrible one.”

It’s true. Any canine enslaved to servitude is doomed a dog’s life unlived.

Service animals are working animals, not pets.

The ADA confirms it.

But that’s not the relationship Sabrina and I share [and I understand it can’t be the same with other handlers and service dogs].

And what have I learned something from Sabrina?

She shows me how to exist in the moment — just like she does. To enjoy the sight of the sun shimmering through the trees, the call of the birds, the fragrance of wildflowers, the feel of the soft soil I tread a few yards behind her when we’re on our hikes.

What more could a dog do for a girl? 

Sabrina Is Just Like Heaven.

To see all of Lisa’s published work, click here.

Lisa has been publishing essays for five years on the writing life, sex and relationships, and her love for horses, dogs and cowboy country. One of her essays appeared in the IPPY-award-winning anthology Unmasked: Women Write About Sex and Intimacy After Fifty, published in 2017. She lives near Boston, where she rides horses and commutes by bike to her job writing and editing technology blogs for Dell Technologies. She is currently pitching her memoir Calamity Becomes Her to literary agents and is at work on the sequel. Contact her at lisa dot demasi at gmail dot com.