Play

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I stopped at the beach for 30 minutes and watched this man play yesterday morning, while drinking my tea, (before teaching my Soulful Sunday yoga class). Since living here in Florida, I’ve seen the kite surfers, and always wanted to try. But it’s a pricey hobby, and our priorities are on other things right now. At this point, I’m not sure my neck could handle it anyway, with the injuries from the car accident. My neck did not like a recent NIA dance class I was enjoying.

What do you do for fun? When was the last time you played?

Once, years ago, my friend and I returned home to find HT and our kids, and her kid, playing a card game. We didn’t discuss in front of the kids, but later, we talked about it. My friend and I both had childhoods that got too serious too soon. We didn’t play games. We couldn’t fathom how anyone could just sit around playing a game. What IS that? Who DOES that? WHY do that? Wouldn’t our energy be better spent reading a book, learning, achieving something, etc.? (orphaned at a young age, she went to Harvard, and is a kick-ass beautiful and successful human, btw). Intellectually, we knew it was a good thing, for children to be playing, we were appreciative that they were playing cards, but we didn’t exactly “get it.” Not really.  Not in our bones. Incidentally, some of HT’s favorite childhood memories are of playing Yahtzee with his family. He’s always been willing to play games with the kids.

When I think about having fun, about playing, my chorus in Cleveland comes to mind. It was work, but it felt like play. It was serious at times, but being there was playful. It was fun. I miss it. Walking on the beach is a blessing, it’s contemplative, it feeds the soul, but it isn’t play. When I used to practice martial arts, in my twenties, sparring was play. I often found myself giggling with joy during sparring. Taking swing dance lessons with HT was play. A lot of laughter went on with that, as our 4′ 10,”  80+  year old teacher whipped us into shape.

Now, I’m sitting here contemplating not playing. I seriously can’t think of anything that I currently do that is just for fun. (Watch me use the quest for play to stress myself out). And frankly any time I feel playful lately, I feel guilty about it. The world is going to hell in a hand-basket; who am I to be lighthearted? Who am I to have fun?

But my spiritual teachers assure me, you can’t get sick enough to make a sick person well. My sinking, does not help the collective. It’s okay to have fun once in a while. It doesn’t mean you’re burying your head in the sand. It doesn’t mean you don’t care.

~

I left this post at this, and went off to teach this morning. As I drove home, I was still thinking about it, about play.

You know what is fun for me?

Blogging.

Maybe I’m right where I need to be.

Thinking About Daughter of the Drunk at the Bar

A brilliant writer/Ph.D/published author/professional editor called me yesterday. One I deeply respect. She told me she’d just read Daughter of the Drunk at the Bar, and wanted to know why I was not promoting it. She loved it (to put it mildly, it’s almost embarrassing the gushing things she said about it). She thinks I should be getting it out there, trying to sell it more. She said she hated the back cover, it’s all caps and looks unprofessional, and she said there are five typos, but she loved it anyway. She’s the type of super detailed, super editor and writerly writer I feel most intimidated by. I’m still absorbing the things she said and am flabbergasted she took time out of her busy day to call me.

I don’t know what to do with this information. I’d kind of given up on my book. I was convinced it was amateur, and that maybe I wasn’t a real writer.

Initial reactions to the book from many people in my life were curious. Some were plain afraid to read it and didn’t. Some of the people closest to me read it and then didn’t mention it. So of course I took that to mean it sucked. Others who did read it said things like, “Oh it was so difficult to read,” or “Oh it was so painful to read,” or “I don’t usually read that kind of book,” and it filled me with shame. I felt guilty to have burdened them with my story.

The woman I spoke with yesterday said just because something might be difficult to read, doesn’t mean people shouldn’t read it. She said she wants everyone to read it. She thinks it has the potential to help a lot of people, particularly kids growing up in alcoholic homes. She freaking compared it to Angela’s Ashes. And then I fainted.

In Janurary 2012 I wrote a guest post for Lisa Romeo’s blog (which I regretted one second after submitting to her…because it was whiney and cowardly and passive aggressive). In it I discussed how disappointed I was that many writers I know didn’t take up the cause for my book.  I wondered if it was a bias against self-publishing.

My gramma used to say, “When you point your finger at someone else you have three pointing back at yourself.”

The true thing is I didn’t take up the cause for my book. IT WAS ME. I was fearful of asking for help. I was afraid of being rejected.

And I as much as I said the book was about releasing shame, I had a long way to go, because I was still ashamed, still scared of burdening people with my story.

We talked for an hour. She gave me so much to think about.

What a generous gift.

Daughter of the Drunk at the Bar Goes on Vacation?

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My friend Betsy went to France and during her trip she read my book. She thoughtfully decided to leave it in the library of the boutique hotel she stayed at, knowing it would find its way to just the person who would benefit from reading its message.

What’s its message you ask? Its message is: kids in your life may be going through all kinds of struggles you don’t know about and they could really use some understanding and compassion. Its message is: don’t write off a kid, or think you know what’s inside of them, based on what might be happening in their family. Its message is: one seemingly small action on your part could change the trajectory of a child’s life forever. Its message is: be kind. There is a story you don’t know behind each person you meet. Its message is: kids are way more resilient than you think.

I like the idea of someone in France picking up Daughter of the Drunk at the Bar and finding a connection with a little girl doing her best to grow up under trying circumstances in upstate NY, U. S. of A.

I like it a lot.

I have this idea of following Betsy’s lead and asking you, if you are going on vacation, to leave a copy of Daughter of the Drunk at the Bar in the perfect place, for the perfect person to happen upon it. I like the idea of “Janie,” traveling the world.

If you’re in, I’ll send you a copy for free, (until I run out). I’d love it if you’d take a picture and send it to me, wherever the book lands.

Email me. Lifeorileyo @ gmail. com

Have a great vacation, and happy travels!

Taboo Topics

*(image from Women on Writing).

I’ve had the honor of being featured at Women on Writing today.

I have not been writing about Daughter of the Drunk at the Bar much, because I’d been grappling with a lot of emotions around it since my first reading. I guess I still had some guilt about publishing it, seeing my father as having an illness. I had some angst about forgiveness. Was I a bad person for writing it? Was I trying to punish him? Every time I think I’ve put those questions to rest they circle around again.

Enter Bill Macy as Frank Gallagher in Showtime’s Shameless series.

Watching the series has been helpful for me. Frank is over the top, to be sure. He’s very different from my father in some ways (my dad held a job and did very hard physical labor, Frank is a “disability” junkie, looking for any way to scam the system) but there is enough of my father in him.  The part of every active addict that cares more about the substance, than about anyone he loves. The part where people are only useful for you if they feed your addiction or your ego. If not, to hell with them. Even your own children.

Thinking about my previous post on Project Forgive, I had a revelation. The man whose family was killed by a drunk driver? The one who forgave the guy who did it? He was never asked to act like it didn’t happen. He was never asked to sweep the violation under the rug. No one questions his true “forgiveness.”

I can hold deep compassion and forgiveness for my father AND I can talk about my own experience and write about it. One does not cancel out the other.

Some statistics report that one in every 12 adults in the U.S. is an alcoholic. Others show that one in three girls is sexually abused and one in 5-7 boys is sexually abused.

And you know why it continues?

Because it’s taboo. Because people are too ashamed to talk about it. Because society makes people like me feel guilty for even mentioning it.

But you know what? I am a good person. I am a loving person. I am a compassionate person. I am a forgiving person.

I am also the Daughter of the Drunk at the Bar.

And there are millions of me.

IT’S READ AN EBOOK WEEK!

Do you read books in ebook form yet? I have to admit, I didn’t until I was putting my own book up on Smashwords. I was a book-in-hand kind of girl. I didn’t want to change. But I had to see what my own book was looking like, so I ordered the ebook and read it on-line on my computer screen.

Then, in November we went to Mexico and HT got me a Kindle for the occasion. I fell in love hard and fast. No sore shoulder from carrying a bag of books during my travels. I got the cheapo Kindle, and I love it. It’s all I need. It’s a miracle. You can want a book, then “one-click” and twenty seconds later, you are reading it.

I’ve since read lots of ebooks on my Kindle. I have a nice little library building.

Anyway, in honor of READ AN EBOOK WEEK, the ebook version of Daughter of the Drunk at the Bar is on sale on Smashwords for just $1.50. Coupon code is YA74A.

Also, I want to tell you about another ebook I’ve been enjoying. It’s Awesome Your Life, by Carolyn Elliott and it is along the lines of Julia Cameron’s “The Artist’s Way.” I have not finished it yet, so far I am finding it to be filled with lots of inspiring exercises. One is called “Joy Gifting” where you take three people in your life. One you are ambivalent about, one you love, and one you can’t stand. What you do is envision each of these people living at their very highest and happiest. It’s a very powerful visualization.

The everyday price for Awesome Your Life is just $0.99 but it looks like the author is offering it for free here. I say, throw her the buck and buy it on Amazon, but that’s just me.

If you have not dabbled in ebooks yet, maybe try it once on your computer and see what you think. It’s really easy. Think about all the trees you’ll save. But don’t forget about your local Indie book stores. They need love too.

*Belcastro Agency

Wishing you many, many books!

Whitney’s Dead. I’m assuming it was drug related…

During the twenty-fifth and final season of her epic talk show, Oprah interviewed Whitney Houston. For Whitney, it was a “comeback” type of thing. For the Oprah show, it was a “big get.”

During the interview, Whitney sat there, pretending to be “clean.” And she was so obviously not. I could smell it all the way through my TV screen. Whitney’s ego was running the show. She made fun of Oprah for not knowing “drug-lingo” and as she explained all about “drugs” to Oprah, she almost appeared wistful. Oprah held Whitney’s hand and told her how sad she was that Whitney’d been mistreated by her ex-husband Bobby Brown. They had a moment, and got all teary together.

And then Whitney mentioned that while she was off “drugs” she still has a few drinks at the hotel bar.

There it was.

That was the moment.

And Oprah, expert at calling people out on their shit, said nothing.

Oprah, who does not need Whitney’s approval, or money, or connections or anything but the “big get,” did not need to coddle the addict Whitney Houston. It made me sick. I thought, Oprah, …why are you letting her get away with that? So, Whitney might storm out of the room. The interview might be lost. So what? I could not believe Oprah Winfrey was afraid of confronting her. An addict cannot just casually go have a few drinks.

No.

They continued, and they had Whitney’s teenage daughter stand up and talk about how proud she was of her mom. Puh-lease. That girl had to know her mom was still a mess.

And yes, I don’t know what goes into making an Oprah Winfery show. I don’t know if there was a clause or something where Oprah wasn’t allowed to ask certain questions or go certain places. And I know Oprah didn’t have a thing to do with causing Whitney’s addiction. Knowing Oprah’s benevolence, she’d probably done plenty behind the scenes to try and help her. I have no idea. I love Oprah and think what she has done to uplift the planet is beyond what can be measured.

But from my limited view, she dropped the ball here.

Because when no one calls an addict on their shit, they die.

If everyone, including someone as powerful as Oprah Winfrey was afraid of speaking up to Whitney Houston, what prayer did she have, really? Whitney needed a Gayle.

At a young age, I estranged myself from my father. I said no. I will not have you in my life with your dysfunction. Knowing addiction is an illness, I have often felt guilty for putting up such a severe wall. I had to make a choice, him or me, and I picked me. I’ve often felt like if I were more spiritual, more loving, more forgiving, better somehow, I could swing it…but I couldn’t.

No more thinking like that. Enabling an addict is an act of cowardice, not an act of love. You can forgive someone and understand someone and even love them and tell them NO. I’ll have no part of this.

For every addict out there, there are people enabling them. Perhaps if more people stood up to the addicts in their lives, called them out on their unacceptable behavior, they’d be forced to look at themselves.

So a million reasons went into Whitney Houston’s death. I don’t really blame Oprah, (the person) for what happened to Whitney. But that interview represents for me, all the other times when someone was afraid to speak the truth to an addict. That interview to me, represents how addicts get away with continuing to use, and why they die.

The Reading

There is a scene in my book, where I bought this really sexy dress to impress my boyfriend on New Year’s Eve. I was 17. It seemed like a good idea at the time. Then, on the big day,  I was so uncomfortable with the attention the sexy dress garnered, I wore a coat all night to cover it up, and wound up leaving the party early.

The scene kept coming to me as my reading drew closer. There is the idea of “attention” and it’s great, and then the reality of it is really uncomfortable. I felt sick with nervous energy prior to the reading. It’s one thing to write behind the safety of your computer screen. It’s another to be vulnerable sharing your work face to face.

But then people started coming and there were so many friendly faces. If you are an author and you want people to come to your readings, join a women’s chorus. They will come. My Windsong sisters were there in large numbers to support me. Many who could not make it sent emails of congratulations and encouragement. Thank you Windsong!

 

So many friends from so many different areas of my life were there. People from our public school days, lots of homeschool friends. Neighbors. Friends I have not seen in months and didn’t think would be able to make it showed up. My heart was very full of appreciation and I do think it is time to give up the tired old belief that I do not have a support system, because it sure felt like I had a community there.

The woman who read with me is a poet named Terre Maher. She went first and the audience listened raptly as she read a prose piece about a family dinner she and her siblings experienced with her hostile father, all while her mother lay dying of cancer in an upstairs bedroom. It was very moving, the way her child-self disassociated from the drama at the table, and then the tenderness between she and her mother as she answered her mom’s call bell, her escape from the dinner table.

I mentioned in an earlier post how Terre and I had a lot in common. One in particular of course is we grew up with severely wounded fathers. What we found out in our phone conversation earlier in the week is we are from the same hometown! Her family is from Binghamton, NY. They moved when she was little but returned every summer to visit her vast extended family. Of all the people in all the world who would be reading together, what are the odds? I wish I had thought to get a picture of us together, but I didn’t have on my thinking cap for such details at that point in the night! (Most of the pics in this post are from after the reading).

Next, it was my turn. One of my favorite parts of the evening was when I just flat out admitted I was nervous and said I was going to take a breath, and the whole audience spontaneously took a deep breath with me. It immediately put me at ease. Deliberate breathers are good people.

My neighbor Heidi gave me a reassuring wink. I felt a hug from Lidi halfway back to my left. Kirsten was in the front. Meg smiled. HT met my eyes. Cindy nodded.

Once I got rolling, I felt okay. Sure, in my head earlier in the day, I’d had all of these pithy little things I was going to interject (and they all went out the window), but I didn’t faint. I read three pieces, one about a huge fight I had with my father when I was about ten years old, over the TV show Laverne & Shirley, one on a transcendent moment I had as a child while on an inner tube on a lake, and a final piece about how I got to college against all odds, due to the generosity of a boyfriend’s parents.

Many people said I didn’t appear nervous. It seems I have a good poker face.

A whole bunch of us went out for dinner after.

HT worked ’til 11PM Friday, then got up and went to work at 6AM Saturday so he could have the evening off and come to the reading. He then worked at 6AM Sunday after going out the night before. Looking at this picture just fills me with love and gratitude for him. For being there, for dealing with all my neurosis leading up to the reading, and also in the aftermath of it Sunday. Because there was fallout. I seriously had a hard time with all the vulnerability the event drummed up in me and felt like crawling into a hole to hide on Sunday.

I wanted nothing more than to put a big thick coat over my sexy dress.

My ego got hold of me. I questioned myself. I wished I had not used certain words during the reading, (“balls,” I was quoting someone, “assholes,” all mine). I watched a few minutes of video HT took and noted my mouth looks strange when I talk. I questioned whether I am just damaged and starved for attention and is that why I felt compelled to write this book? Is it why I blog?  Am I mean or vindictive writing about my father when I know he is so very wounded and ill? I felt ripped open and raw and was so very hard on myself. And I had this strange feeling all day of needing my mom.

I have not allowed myself to “need” my mom in over twenty years.

Around 8PM, I called her.

She reassured me of the value of my writing. Even if it is painful for her or my father. She reassured me it is good for me to write and to share our experience. She said I have no idea who it might help. She reassured me I am good.

She mothered me.

I let her.

She shared more of her story than I had known. She shared her regrets.

She said to give all my worry and self-doubt to God.

It’s okay for me to write my truth. It’s okay for me to share it. I don’t even have to understand the whole picture.

It’s okay for me to shine.

Reading at Mac’s Backs

Daughter of the Drunk at the Bar

This Saturday at Mac’s Backs, I have my first reading ever. I’m trying not to over-think it. I’m trying not to under-think it. I want to be prepared. I sort of feel like I’ve gotten on a roller coaster ride and it’s edging up the mountain and I’m all… on second thought….can we stop this thing? I’m not so sure about this. But it will all be okay.

It will be fine. Fine.

I know plenty of writers who do readings all the time and act like it’s no big deal, but they must have had a first time. And I bet they were at least a little scared. And my book is really personal.

I’ll be reading with another writer, Terre Maher. We spoke on the phone the other day and she seems lovely. That helps. We discovered in our conversation that we have much in common. Weird Stuff. No accidents stuff. I’ll tell you about it after the reading, unless you live in Cleveland and want to come. Then you’ll find out on Saturday.

Wish me luck. Wish that my lip or eye doesn’t start to twitch. Wish that I don’t read too fast. Wish that people show up. Wish that I wasn’t such a nervous Nelly.

You know, it’s strange. I used to work in radio. I had a White House press pass. I interviewed “important” people and my pieces were played on radio stations all over the country. Outwardly, I was intimidated by no one. I was once chastised by my boss for “not being awestruck enough” about covering the President’s State of the Union address. My reply to him was,

“These Congressional Reps and Senators sit down on the can like everyone else.”

One of my young colleagues almost did a spit-take over that one. The kahunas of my younger self astound me. But the bravado I used to carry around in my twenties has long since burned off. That’s a good thing. Bravado is just masked insecurity afterall.

Now it’s just me, being more real, which means sometimes being afraid.

Reading aloud from my memoir in public is a little scary but so what?

It will be fine. Fine.

It totally will.

Mac’s Backs
7PM Jan. 28th
1820 Coventry Rd.
Cleveland Heights

Daughter of the Drunk at the Bar Video Trailer

When I think about my main audience for Daughter of the Drunk at the Bar it is, obviously, adult children of alcoholics. We’re everywhere. It is with this group in mind I made a video trailer for my book. (All the cool authors have video trailers). I did it by myself, with just a little emotional support from HT during moments of frustration as I learned how to use my trusty iMovie capabilities.

Please try not to let my fancy permed orange 80’s hair distract you from the poignancy of the video.

Please forward said video to anyone and everyone you know.

Please let it find the people who would benefit from reading my book.

Please know my blonde ponytails were once used as paint brushes, when a little neighbor boy and I happened upon a gallon of pink paint in the garage and painted everything within reach, including the Toyota. There was only one brush. What could I do?

Please know my sister got a real xylophone, and I got stuck with a “baby” Fischer Price piece of crap. Santa? I was not fooled, nor was I impressed.

Please know my little brothers are as handsome now, as they were cute back then.

Okay, enough dilly-dallying. Ready set go. I hope you like it.

Love.

Bumper Stickers/Indie Publishing/Daughter of the Drunk at the Bar

One of the most challenging parts of publishing your book independently is self-promotion. You have to walk the fine line between getting it out there, and not tooting your own horn too much. Using social media to your advantage, but not annoying people.

I’m also fighting a different issue.

I went ahead and made these bumper stickers. I love them. I think they came out just perfect. They are intriguing. As an avid reader I’d look up the book for sure, if I saw the bumper sticker on the back of someone’s car.

The problem is actually putting it on my car. Now, we’re not generally bumper sticker people. Too worried about our cars’ finishes (which is funny because we don’t have fancy cars), but anyway…I bought some magnetic paper to stick to the back so that isn’t the issue.

The problem is the title. DAUGHTER OF THE DRUNK AT THE BAR.

There is still shame.

But what exactly do I have to be ashamed about?

My father spent more time in a bar, than he did at home. He didn’t take care of us. Little kids think it is their fault. If they were somehow more lovable, they could change it. In their minds, DAUGHTER OF THE DRUNK AT THE BAR = Not good enough. Not worth it.

The adult me knows this isn’t true. She knows it’s good business sense to advertise her book in any way she can.

The little kid me fears the person behind me at the traffic light will scoff.

So the grown up me takes the little girl’s hand, and together, for all the daughters, they slap that baby on both cars.

No shame little one. No shame.

* If you by any chance, would like to help me promote by slapping one on your own car, e-mail me your address and I’ll get one to you. Thanks so much for your support.

lifeorileyo @ gmail.com