She Shed Dreams

One of the hardest things for me about living in an apartment is that I don’t have my own space. In Cleveland, I had a whole attic. True it was cold in the winter, space heaters required, but it was mine. I could go up there, close the door and be alone. Alone with my books. Alone with my thoughts. Alone to meditate. To write. Sometimes, if I could swing it, I’d even take a nap. We had an extra twin bed up there. That no-frills attic was heaven.

When I was growing up, there was no quiet, peaceful space for me in the house. The TV was on every waking hour. I shared a room with my sister. Our brother had to walk through our room to get to his. It was a small house.

But we had a dilapidated detached garage, kind of like a barn. It had barn type doors. The back of the garage had a little shed-like room. I made it mine. The windows were covered with years of grime. I wiped them as best I could. There were shelves, made of cheap panel. The floor was uneven concrete, with deep cracks running through it. It had the greasy feel of an old mechanic’s supply shed. Once I got it “fixed up” I referred to this back room of the garage as my fort. I had a cot. And a plaid wool blanket & a pillow. I would go out there with a good book, and a snack. A bologna & American cheese sandwich with mayo, on a Roma’s Italian bread roll, (and a glass of Coke, if I was lucky).

My own little space.

A notebook.

A book.

A snack.

A beverage.

That’s all I’ve ever needed.

In my shed, I could stare at the grimy window and notice the sun glinting through, and go somewhere else. I could follow single drops of rain on the window, watching them make their way down, over and over. I didn’t know it at the time, but I was meditating.

A visceral letting down of the angst of everyday life happens as soon as I am quietly alone. It’s like taking off a bra, or tight shoes at the end of a long work day. Nothing is needed from me, for a moment. Without some sort of quiet time, without meditation time, I am not my best. Too long without it and everything/everyone gets on my last nerve. I need to write. I need to meditate. I need some quiet. I used to feel kind of prissy to need these things. Not anymore. I accept it as part of who I am. I come back to my loved ones better for it.

I thought it would be okay living in an apartment, because there is a conference room I can go to, to get writing done. But the conference room has air fresheners that spout off every so often and they feel toxic to me. I get a headache sitting too long in that.

I thought I could go to the rooftop terrace, but (poor me) it is so sunny and bright here in Florida. Often, I can’t even see my computer screen if I want to write. And it is too windy some days, and too hot others.

Yesterday I snuck off to the library for solitude and procured a study room. Two doors down it was mommies and small kids, making a ruckus. No peace & quiet at the library.

My children are on winter break. Presently, my son is in his room, headphones on, “rapping” loudly, thinking no one can hear him. My daughter is singing her chorus songs in the bathroom as she prepares for her day.

Our bedroom is out, because HT needs it during the day.

Where there is a will there is a way, and I can’t entirely blame lack of my own space for not coming up with a plan for writing, but it isn’t easy. Right now I’m at the kitchen table. Kids and dogs are in and out, interruptions are constant.

When I hit “publish” on the first post I did recently, after not writing on my personal blog for two years, I felt a huge sigh of relief. That feeling of letting down, after being constricted.

It sounds kind of corny, but in my own head I actually heard the words, “There she is.”

We thought about buying a house this year, but realistically we are not there yet. (Thank you Big Banks for the housing crisis. It was swell selling at the bottom of the bubble in Cleveland).

If we do ever buy a house again, it will likely be a small one. But a space just for me is a must. Even if I have to get a she-shed. Actually, a she-shed would be a dream come true.

I guess you could say, I kind of invented it.

Uncle

There is a writing workshop I really, really want to go to coming up later this month. There are two people presenting I really, really want to meet in person. I admire their work and have received good support from them, and I would like to support them back,  and I just would love to immerse myself in their positive ju-ju for a day or two.

Plus there is another HUGE writer I would love to hear speak. Plus, there is another smaller panel and one of the writers on it I would just be thrilled to meet in person. I love her work and what she is about and she could be a very influential contact for my next book, a spiritual book on parenting children with special needs.

BUT

It is over eight hours away. And I am bone tired. We traveled six hours by car two weekends ago because Todd’s mom is sick and I’ve barely got my footing since getting back. And we will likely be doing it again soon.

AND

We are getting our house ready to sell. It is a TON of work. Clearing out. Painting. Hiring various contractors to do work we can’t do. Getting inspections taken care of. Meeting with realtors. Selling our stuff on Craigslist. Trying to get it “show” ready.

ALSO

Todd has been working like a demon. He’s been doing tons of shifts that start at 6AM, and he is tired too. We’ve barely had a moment together in weeks, and I miss him.

ANOTHER THING

I meet with some of my women writer friends here the weekend of the workshop, and this group is very important to me and I won’t be here in Cleveland much longer and I don’t want to miss it/them.

PLUS

I’d miss chorus. And I won’t be here in Cleveland much longer and I don’t want to miss it/them.

SO

I just have to cry uncle. I have to believe there is always another workshop. Always another ship coming in. Always Divine timing.

I could go to the workshop. But it would likely wipe me out. Writing workshops are great, but they are not relaxing. They are not retreats. They are often stressful, and emotionally draining, especially if you are doing real work. And why go if you’re not going to do the real work?

It’s all okay.

I can do everything I want in this life, just not all at the same time.

Damn it.

Cheryl Strayed on Dancing With the Stars?

The new season of Dancing With the Stars started this week. If you are new here, you might not know how much it means to us, so yes…I’m going to link to this post. I’ve linked to it a million times before and I don’t care who knows it. I love my Hot Toddy.

Anyway…our whole family loves DWTS. Ask us anything about the Rumba, the Cha-Cha, the Waltz, and now Contemporary. We’re experts, in our own minds. We’ll be walking through Target, and Riley will say of the music playing overhead, “This would be a good song for the Quick Step.” I’ll tilt my head, listen and nod. She’s right. She’s always right.

So at the dinner table last night we were talking about this first week of the new season. We all agreed the judges were too hard on Andy Dick. We all thought his dance was charming and entertaining. It was unexpected for me because I didn’t intend on liking him. I always unexpectedly like someone. Happens every season.

We discussed the other stars and the pros. No eye candy Maxim Chmerkovskiy this season. That’s okay, because his brother Val is there and he is not only dreamy…but sensitive. #iloveval

We discussed who we would want to see on the show in the future, and I said I would like to see a literary star. Wouldn’t that do great things for books? For literacy? Why are only athletes and actors and reality show people stars?

“Cheryl Strayed would be perfect,” I said.

And the kids wanted to know who Cheryl Strayed was. And so we had a nice discussion about Wild, and about The Pacific Crest Trail as we ate our tacos.

I don’t know Cheryl, but I have friends who know her. I’m wondering if she would be at all interested?

“I should start a Facebook page to campaign for Cheryl Strayed to be on Dancing With the Stars next year!” I say. “I want a writer to be a freaking star, and who’s hotter than Cheryl Strayed right now?”

Todd looks up from his plate, and says, “Of course, that might be borderline stalking.”

He can’t possibly get it.

He’s not that into books.

Healing Service with Dr. Nemeh

Last Sunday we attended a healing service with Dr. Issam Nemeh. They let the people with children go first and thank God. As we sat listening to his opening talk, Riley became very  agitated. She started to fidget in her seat and kind of stomp in her chair. I asked her to trade seats with Seth so she could be next to me and did what I could to calm her. I stroked her hair. I rubbed her arm. Two of the tools in my bag of tricks. Teary, she whispered, “I don’t know what’s wrong with me. I’m so tired.” She was up late the night before and daylight savings time had happened on top of that. Todd was working nights last week so he was very tired too.

I assured her, she was okay. Everything was okay. She calmed down, head on my shoulder.

“I’m sorry Mom.”

“You’re okay.”

When we got up in the prayer line, Riley was first. Dr. Nemeh put his hands on her and asked me if she’d been in an accident. He said there was a problem with her spine. I told him no. No accident. He prayed over her and rearranged her shoulders and felt her spine and asked me again, “Are you sure she’s not had an injury?” I said, “Perhaps a birth injury?” And he nodded confirmation. That could be it. Riley tried to get out for 26 hours, ramming her head into my pelvis the whole time, before a c-section was performed. I told him she has anxiety and he said it is from her spine being out place. He prayed and prayed and he smiled and he told me what Todd has always known and what I have tried to know, he said, this girl is going to be fine.

Next, he prayed over me. I had all these things I wanted to tell him but I let it go and just accepted the prayer, let the love wash over me, Thy will be done. Help me be what I came here to be. I felt blank, and felt total peace and quickly it was done.

Seth was next. He put his hands on Seth’s shoulders and suddenly smiled a huge grin, feeling Seth’s energy.  Seth tipped his head back and closed his eyes with a gentle smile of total surrender on his face. I meant to take off his hat, but I forgot, so there he was with his hat on.  Totally loose. With his hands on Seth’s shoulders, Dr. Nemeh looked at Todd and said, “This is a very good boy.” He got who he was, instantly. It is hugely validating when someone sees, truly sees your child. There is something beautiful and gentle in Seth, and when other people are beautiful and gentle, they recognize it. Seth just stood there, eyes closed, face up, smiling….accepting the prayer. Hit me doctor, I’m all yours.

Then it was Todd’s turn. Dr. Nemeh prayed over him. Riley and Seth and I prayed for Todd too. God bless this good man. Help him be what he came here to be.

And then it was over. We were free to leave and though I would have loved to hang out in that sacred vibe all day, Todd had not slept yet. We needed to get him home and to bed.

It feels good to be prayed for.

It felt familiar, like a very old memory. The priest at the Episcopal church I attended as a child used to bless all the children individually when they accompanied their parents to the altar for communion. He took his time, and was very reverent and you felt he really cared.

It felt like that.

One week later, Seth still has tics, but they are not acute right now. Riley has not had much anxiety. In fact writing this, I can’t think of a moment in the last week where she had a hard time. Todd is content and sweet as ever. It would be lying to say I have not had a big energetic shift over the last week. I hadn’t thought about it ’til now, hadn’t made any connection to being prayed for, but there it is. I have recommitted to my book and did the thing I’ve been so scared to do my entire life. I asked for help. If that’s not a miracle I don’t know what is.

And the people I asked said, “Yes. We will help you. We’d be happy to. Of course.”

Amen.

* If you are interested in learning more about Dr. Nemeh read Miracles Every Day by Maura Poston Zagrans. I did a short review on my BILK page. Book # 6 on the list.

 

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.

Wil of God

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Today is the day!

Carrie Wilson Link’s long awaited book, Wil of God, is released.

“Wil of God is the story of a tightly wound special needs mother who comes undone, puts herself back together, and falls in love with her imperfect life.”

That’s a blurb from someone in the know.

Good blurb, right?

Oh, okay…it’s my blurb. I admit it.

I met Carrie at a writing workshop years ago. We bonded over our special needs parent status. Our children are very different and require completely different parenting but there was an immediate respect between us about the sacredness of our unexpected vocations.

I’ve had the honor to bear witness to the unfolding of Carrie’s story (at least the last seven years of it), and I’ve read her book in many of its phases. It is delightful. I am so very deeply and profoundly happy for her as Wil of God launches. It is a story that will lift you up, and make you better for having read it.

Carrie is a beautiful writer. A steadfast and devoted mother. A spiritual seeker. A vital thread in her community. She is a teacher to her core.

To paraphrase her son Wil, she is, “the right kind of woman.”

She’s also the right kind of friend.

Congratulations Care!

May your book find it’s way into the hands of all who will appreciate it. May there be many, many, many who open to receive Wil of God.

 

*For more on Carrie and Wil of God, visit her blog, here.

A Writer’s Guilt

I’m up in my office fretting that I should be downstairs. Feeling guilty about holing out in my room. I’ve not done much writing today. The family pull, the feeling of obligation is strong. I’m half downstairs anyway, even when I’m up here.

I give in. Downstairs, Seth is happily playing Wii. Riley is watching him. Todd is playing solitaire on his computer.

I walk over to him.

“I feel guilty.”

“Why?” he asks.

“For being upstairs,” I say.

He looks around at the peaceful scene behind us. Riley on the couch with a blanket. Chihuahua curled up on her lap. Seth happy with Wii remote in hand.

He says the nicest thing anyone could possibly say, “No one misses you.”

Relief washes over me and I laugh, “Thank God.”

I head back upstairs.

We’ll all be dead soon

About my recent presentation. I lived. I did my best to get centered beforehand, reading uplifting spiritual material in the AM and listening to soothing music on the way to the conference, but I don’t know how much that helped once it was actually my time to talk. I felt out of my element, stepping out from behind the computer screen (I’m so much cooler on line, LOL).

I do not pass myself off as a a teacher, but offered some tips I’ve picked up along the way at various writing workshops I’ve attended. Things that really helped me, and mattered to me, and things I believe made my writing stronger. It was hard to gauge where people were in their writing processes and I hoped I wasn’t repeating what they already knew. At the end, I miscalculated the time and thought I had 15 more minutes and thank God one of them told me I was going over. Whoopsie! 

I can’t say the audience was riveted by me. One person was nodding off (mine was the last presentation of the day and came an hour or so after lunch) and a couple of people couldn’t leave their phones alone, but most in the room were attentive and seemed sincere. I hope I gave them some things to think about and a nugget or two that will help them in their writing endeavors. A couple of kind souls thanked me afterward and I got some nice feedback from evaluations. I wasn’t told of any bad feedback, and I’m too scared to ask if there was any, though I probably should find out so I can learn.

I did sell some books and a couple of people shared their personal stories with me, which is a privilege and attests to the fact that when you air your own shame, you give others permission to do the same. 

After the conference I came home and unloaded the whole thing on HT, and he hugged me and decreed the person who was nodding off to have overdosed on tryptophan at lunch, and made me laugh and hugged me profusely and told me he was proud of me for being brave. I emailed a couple of dear friends, who sent their love and encouragement, and later I snuggled my kids and later still, talked a friend (who was having her own crises) off a ledge and the whole thing got further away.

Whatever we are worried about is so transient. I can’t even remember what I was worried about last week or last month, but I’m sure it was something.

My sister and I jokingly use the phrase, “We’ll all be dead soon,” whenever one of us is in pain. Morbid? Yes, but also a reminder not to make such a big deal of things and to know it’s all impermanent. This too shall pass.

So I’m not the world’s greatest public speaker. I guess it’s still okay to be me, right now, neurotic exactly as I am. There’s really no alternative.

Samsara

So, I’m turning 44 next week and to celebrate I am thinking about cutting my hair all off and starting over. I’ve colored it forever and am curious about it’s natural state. I’ve got a chunky grey streak happening on the front hair line (that I’ve been coloring) and I think it might be cool to let it be free.

Riley asks, “Like….Michelle Williams short?”

And I’m all….. “Maaaaaybe.”

We’ll see if I do it, or if I chicken out. I reserve the right to chicken.

Speaking of being a chicken:

Tomorrow I’m speaking at The Western Reserve Writers Conference. Public speaking is not my most favorite thing to do. When I was first starting out in radio, I hated to talk. I got annoyed with DJ’s who just yammered on and on to hear their own voice. If there was an option to throw on a public service announcement, or read one myself, I always used the pre-taped version rather than blather on. But anyway, it was nice to be asked to talk at this conference and I know I’ll be fine once I get there. I’m talking about writing, which is what I love, so why not?

The last time I taught formally was at a community college many years ago, the one I attended in upstate NY. They needed a last minute fill-in to teach a broadcast communications course and I did it for a semester, but I’d made a career change and was already taking pre-requisites to go back to school for nursing and didn’t agree to continue after getting them out of the pinch. I thought my writing days were over. What would have been the point? Ha, ha.

This conference is at a community college here in Ohio. I have an affinity for community colleges. Mine gave me such a good solid start.

I snuck out to a matinee this afternoon (by myself, which I love) and saw Samsara. Holy, Holy, Holy. The entire world in 99 minutes. I can’t even explain it, other than to say everything is interconnected. Everything is impermanent. The world is beautiful and ugly. We have so much and take so much for granted. Such a vast, rich, glorious, complex, world we live in. This gorgeous film makes you more conscious of everything. There were parts so disturbing, I had to turn away. And I feel no shame in that. I talked myself through saying, “You are under no obligation to watch this part.” And I didn’t. I couldn’t. I’m not there yet. Other parts were so beautiful and tender, they made me cry. Did I mention there was not one word uttered throughout the whole film?

I came home more present and more in love with my family and more appreciative of my life and more aware of my world (and less worried about my presentation tomorrow). They’re all so quick, these lives we’re living. Why do we torture ourselves so?

Happy weekend everyone.

Lovingly yours,

MO’N

Hammock Weather

The weather today is perfect. If I were going to be all, “God…I’d like to order the perfect weather, and this is what I want,” it’d be today. Sunny. Breezy. 80 degrees. It’s the kind of weather that wouldn’t cause you to break a sweat unless you are doing physical labor. Blue sky with puffy white clouds floating slow. It’s reading weather. Reading in a hammock. Then falling asleep. And when you wake up you read a little more. Then maybe have a snack, and then read again. The sound is the occasional rustle of leaves when the breeze hits the trees just right. That and the neighbor’s koi pond. 

I’ve spent most of today cleaning and cooking. Changing bedding. Went to the Farmer’s Market this morning for produce and eggs and meat, and went to Target where I splurged on new sheets. And of course you have to wash them. And what’s the point of putting new sheets on the bed, if you have have not cleaned under the bed? So I vacuumed under the beds, and dusted the dressers too. Because what’s the point of vacuuming if you havn’t dusted first? But I did sneak out to the deck with my Kindle for a break.

I’m reading Ernest Hemingway on Writing. It’s bits and pieces he said on the subject of writing,  in letters and interviews, all compiled into a book.

One thing he said was, “Remember to get the weather in your god damned book.”

That’s why I thought to mention it.

I’ve got to get me a hammock.

Burrowing

Yesterday, I bumped into a friend who suggested we get together for lunch while the kids are at camp. I adore this friend and would love to see her, but in my body it felt like she was asking to put a pillow over my face in an effort to kill me.

Today is the fourth day of camp. The first day I had appointments. The second day was chock full of things I wanted to do. Coffee with friends. Yoga. Writing group. Library for adult, not kid books.

The third day was full of phone conversations and errands. Little bits of writing but not enough. By afternoon when this sweet friend suggested we get together for lunch, I started to twitch.

It is time to write. I don’t want to have lunch. I don’t want to talk on the phone. I don’t want to do anything but write (I do want to have wine at porch night, but that is after writing).

After dropping the children off this morning, I pulled into our driveway. A neighbor friend was out front with a cup of tea, surveying her garden. I waved politely then looked to the ground, making a bee line into the house thinking, “Don’t talk to me, please don’t talk to me.”

It wasn’t ’til I sat down and began to type that I realized I’d not been breathing. Breathing and writing. One in the same.

Fingers flying I was filled with relief.

I’d written 1697 words before noon.

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.

Take Nine

My friend Cindy Washabaugh is part of a poetry group here in Cleveland. They call themselves Take Nine. They have been together for over a dozen years. There are nine members, thus the name. All of them are seriously talented.

When I go to one of their readings, I feel filled up. Inspired. More. Glad to live where I do. There is such a creative wellspring here in Cleveland. It’s the same feeling I get following an afternoon at an art museum (without kids). It’s the same feeling I get when I see Sweet Honey in the Rock, live. Something sacred is going on there. Women gathering, sharing, honing their gifts and generously delivering them back to the world.

 

Beauty in joy. Beauty in sorrow. They get it all in.

Cindy read a gorgeous poem (which had me in tears),  about a poignant moment she had during a phone conversation with her aging father. She somehow kept it together reading it. It’s about love, and memory and slowing down to appreciate him.

Here she is reading another poem, on aging:


Another amazing poet in Take Nine is Katie Daley. In the following poem, she speaks of finding love, finally.

The other seven are every bit as talented, but I didn’t get permission to record them so you won’t see them here. I met Cindy and Katie at a writing workshop I hosted here a few years back. Cindy’s life was very full. Almost too full. She didn’t need any more friends at the time, but she couldn’t resist me, so she kept me. LOL.

I’m so glad she did.

Have you read poetry lately? Gone to any readings? Where do you get inspiration?

*Take Nine members include Gail Bellamy, Meredith Holmes, Bonnie Jacobson, Cindy Washabaugh, Kathleen Cerveney, Darlene Montonaro, Linda Robiner, Rita Grabowski, & Katie Daley

Girls Who Read

This video was brought to my attention by Laura E. Goodin, Cafe Poet at Yours and Owls a hip little coffee shop in Wollongong. Laura is the coolest. She does cool stuff. She’s a great writer and a great teacher. She rides horses. She’s a martial artist. She’s a smarty mc smarty pants. She’s a mom and a wife. She fences. God only knows what else she does when she’s not doing all those things. Yours and Owls is lucky to have her.

And Mark Grist? The poet in the video above? Well. His dance card is full, for sure.

‘Cause girls who read like guys who like girls who read.

Reading follow up

This evening, I had the most wonderful follow up phone chat with Terre (my fellow reader the other night). She’s done lots of readings before and said she’s never seen one with as much warmth as the folks that turned out for us on Saturday showed.

She said I was held by that warmth during the reading (and after at the restaurant), and it made sense that when the tide went out, and I was alone, for me to feel super exposed and vulnerable. I’m doing much better tonight. I made brownies and watched a movie with my family this evening. Bit by bit I’m feeling less wigged out.

The good news is the warmth. What amazing people I know here in Cleveland.  I am left feeling truly, so blessed.

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

Sunburned Faces, Part 1

Some of you who read this blog, probably read Jeneil Russell’s blog too. She writes beautifully of family life, autism, and faith, always faith. And she has this way of making you fall in love with whomever she loves. Her daughters Rhema and Hope. Her twin sister. Her husband. God.

Recently, Jeneil’s husband Brandon hi-jacked her blog and told her readers about a little booky she wrote a few years back called Sunburned Faces. Jeneil had never mentioned it on her blog! It is about a stint she served in Ethiopia, working as a volunteer in a medical clinic when she was barely twenty.

Jeneil is the rare writer who can whole heartedly, and steadfastly proclaim her faith, while never making anyone else feel wrong or threatened. She just knows what she knows. I subscribe to the now cliche’ “spiritual but not religious” notion, and I never feel judged or cast aside by Jeneil for not believing exactly as she does.

Sunburned Faces is amazing. First of all, she was twenty when she was writing it, and it is so well written! Secondly, she’s seen things most of us will never, ever see. I learned so much about that part of the world, just by Jeneil’s tiny peek into it. Also, because Jeneil wrote it, I fell in love with the characters in her book. One of them will be with me forever. I just know it. I do not say that lightly.

I read Sunburned Faces just before Christmas, and it was powerful to do so at that time. We have so much. We do. Many people in the world have so little. It was good to be reminded, to be mindful of our blessings. In the holiday rush, I’d have a little thought, “I wonder if we should have gotten the kids….this or that, or whatever,” and remember they lack for nothing. Absolutely nothing.

I’ll be doing a Q & A with Jeneil one day soon here.

If you are not familiar with her already, do check out her beautiful blog. And if you want a good read that will make you appreciate your own life more, order a copy of Sunburned Faces.