Category Archives: Inspirational

Sand holes and my head

Speak truth, even if your voice shakes.

I actually wear two rings that say “Speak” and “Truth”.

Because sometimes I need the reminder. And sometimes it’s hard.

But as I get older, the easier it gets and recently I’ve found my voice.  It’s not the voice I used to have writing stories with intricate details and interwoven plots.  I’m not writing about characters through psychological motivations. It’s been a long time since I’ve engaged in the kind of voice that often moved me to tears.

Partly due to my education, as I’m in the homestretch of earning my masters in Applied Behavior Analysis. (I didn’t even have a my bachelors the last time I wrote on this site.  Go me!).  So much of my time has been dedicated to writing scholarly papers.

But in the current times, I’ve found a different need for my voice.  I’ve spent almost every night for the past week writing letters to my representatives expressing my concerns on a variety of issues.  There are so many that most nights I can’t keep up.

After the election, I wanted to bury my head in the sand for the next four years.  The hatred and anger and irrational fears that have no factual basis were just…too…much.

Until the Saturday I returned home from work to my typically quite street packed with cars.  Cops in neon yellow vests swarmed.  I was afraid. Genuinely afraid because my son was home and, being a parent, the worst thought came to mind.  Until I saw the crowd of people with signs and heard the loudspeakers.

And I smiled.

I wasn’t convinced to join the protesters.  Not right away.  Mind you, my head was still buried in the safety of its sand hole.

But I did.  We walked out of the park and down the street, while cars honked and waved and shouted approval from their windows.  In that moment, I realized that I wasn’t alone.

In that moment, I realized that I have to speak my truth.

I took a class my sophomore year in high school called IRITH.  Independent Reading in the Humanities.  I was the only sophomore ever to take the senior only class, which made me feel pretty special.  The students picked one topic to study and present over the course of the semester.  My chosen topic was Germany in World War II, due to a morbid obsession I’d had of the Holocaust since visiting Dachau at the age of 12.

I remember talking during one presentation about Hitler’s rise to power.  I explained it as two factions that allowed it to happen.  One faction bought into the fear that Hitler told them they should feel.  The other faction never spoke up.

The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing. ~Edmund Burke.

I used this quote in many of my high school speeches during my forensics career.  I still believe it’s true.

Imagine the disappointment I felt in myself when I realized that I was that good man.  Instead of speaking up, I chose the sand hole where I buried my head.

I’m not comparing the current political climate to Hitler, although I see some striking similarities.  But that isn’t for this blog or this post.  I am saying that I don’t want to belong to the faction that let it happen because I didn’t speak my truth.  In forty years, when my grandchildren are learning about this period of time, I don’t want to be ashamed of my answer if they asked, “What did you do?” or “Didn’t you see what was happening?”.

So…I’m speaking my truth.  Even if my voice shakes.

(By the way, I’ve missed you.)

quote-america-cannot-be-an-ostrich-with-its-head-in-the-sand-woodrow-wilson-278635

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Cliff Huxtable and Other Critics

I’ve written my whole life.  Instead of doodling during math, I wrote phrases and played with combinations of words.  I started writing novels ten yeas ago when my son was one.  We were so broke that, at times, I had to choose between feeding myself or my son.  He won and I shrunk to 100 pounds.  Cable was disconnected and all we owned an ancient, hand-me-down computer that had word processing.  While my son slept, and my then-husband ran about town, I returned to writing.

Yes, I have been writing for ten yeas.  What have I published?  Nothing.  I know that look.    I know the questions.  No reason to say it out loud.  I have my own inner bully that points out the facts. 

You haven’t been published yet, so you mustn’t be very good.  Why don’t you just give up?  Leave it to the professionals who are good enough to publish. 

Yup!  I know the thoughts.  Nothing new.

Truth is…I like my inner critic.  He used to bother me with his nagging and negativity while he hovered over my shoulder.  Sometimes, he made me furious.  Sometimes, he won.  I gave up for a year.  Every time I glanced at my keyboard, he reminded me that I had quit.  So, I’d go back to the business of living in the real world. 

When I returned, he stood behind me and stroked his chin.  I held my head high and tried not to look at him for fear of losing my resolve.  When I did look back, ready to say, “See!”, I saw something I didn’t expect.  I saw him smile.

That was when I made peace with him, my inner bully.  And named him Cliff.  Cliff  Huxtable.  He even has goofy sweaters.  Sometimes, we have serious heart-to-heart talks.   Sometimes, we dork dance down the stairs.  Those are my favorite times, when I let go of all concern and just have fun.

I dedicate this post to my very own Cliff Huxtable.  And now, time to dance…


Returning to Fantasy

As far as childhood’s, I think mine was average.  I played with friends, ran lemonade stands, biked beneath the blistering sun, and attempted to build the perfect snowman.  At night, once my mother shut off the lights and said goodnight, I lived in a different world.  One of fantasy.  I built dream houses that I someday wanted to live in with 6 windows in the living room and a clawfoot bathtub.  I fell in love with dashing men and planned weddings.  I could hear the applause when I not only mastered my dance recital, but awed the crowd with my brilliance after which, I was swept away to a prestigious dance school where I would be trained as the next Prima Donna. 

Overall, pretty average fantasies for a little girl.  Except for the one when I was ordained the benevolent dictator of Russia.

When it came to fantasizing about careers, I had only one fantasy. 

Nope.  Not writing.  I fantasized about becoming a Special Education teacher starting at the age of 8.  I grew up with two brothers with Down Syndrome and my life was immersed in the Special Needs life.  I knew what I was doing and I could make a difference.  That fantasy stayed throughout my early life, except for one forray into the dream of singing on Broadway.  That dream was dashed when my High School Choir director laughed at me in front of the class after a brief stupid moment when I mentioned it.  He taught me to keep my fantasies to myself.

After that, I returned to Special Education because it was what I knew and the only success I allowed myself to dream of.  There were other areas that interested me.  Ones I’d learned about in High School Debate.  But I wasn’t the best debater and couldn’t succeed like my peers.  So Special Education it was for me. There was only one problem.  After three years in the Special Education Program at a State University, I realized that I hated teaching.  Not that I hated kids, but I certainly didn’t want to spend my days with them. 

The only fantasy I’d allowed myself was crushed. I quit and settled for a blue-collar life resigned that there was nothing else for me in the world.

It’s not uncommon.  I see women abandoning the world of fantasy as they struggle through the dating world.  When young, they dream of a man who will hold them through the night and listen to all their dreams.  After a few heart breaks, they reduce their fantasies to a man might watch a movie with them on occasion.  After too many disappointments there, they settle for the first man who will take them home for an evening.  Until finally, they can’t allow themselves another fantasy of love. Sometimes, hope hurts too much. Even just a nice hello makes her weary. 

Life took over.  I lost my ability to fantasize.  Bills to pay, cars to fix, laundry to fold, dishes to wash, meals to cook, eight hours of work, and occasionally something big happening.  Like a broken furnace or leaky water heater. I didn’t have time for fantasies, or the strength to survive the failure they were sure to bring. 

Until a year ago.  One snuck up on me when I didn’t expect it.  Nothing fancy, just a simple fantasy of a walk through a dense forest, like the ones I played in as a child in Kaiserslautern, Germany.  The smell of musty, rotting leaves rising from the ground.  The snapping of branches overhead.  The way bark feels against your hand as you grab the lowest branch and prepare to ascend into the trees, one step closer to heaven.  (The last time I climbed a tree, my son watched from the ground and yelled at me to come down.  “You’re going to fall.”) 

What does any of this have to do with writing “Dolly”?  Part of writing is discovering what motivates your character.  As I try to write the ending, I need to understand where Lisa’s brain is at. She’s given up fantasies, the ones she clung to until she was free from the Plaza Trailer Park. 

Maybe fantasies are our hearts way of telling us what we want.  When we stop allowing ourself to fantasize, because of failures and let downs, we stop listening to the voice and live in the silence of mediocrity.  Because it’s easier. Because it’s safer.  Because the silence becomes a sanctuary.  Fantasies are a component of hope, which is essential to change.  And nobody said change was easy.

Well, I’m out of practice, but here goes…I fantasize about holding a college degree in my hand.

That was easy.  Let’s try again.  I fantasize about seeing my book on the shelves at Barnes and Nobles.  That’s not really a fantasy, is it?  A dream, but not a fantasy.  I fantasize of people lined down the block waiting for me to sign their book.  (And all the while, I’m telling myself…That’s not realistic.)  I find that there are two classes of writers.  Those who fantasize without realistic views of their ability.  And those who can’t allow themselves to fantasize because their words don’t look as good as the Heminway or Anita Shreve.  Make that three classes to include those who belong to both groups.  No one said writers were rational.

Perhaps the key is to allow yourself to fantasize so that you can hear what your heart wants and not allow unfulfilled fantasies to define you as a person.  Some balance, like all things in life, is essential. 

Here’s an interesting interview with Dr. Ethel S. Person, Author of ”By Force of Fantasy: How We Make Our Lives”.

http://www.nytimes.com/1996/07/28/nyregion/the-good-and-bad-of-indulging-in-fantasy-and-daydreaming.html


Piranha’s on a Goldfish

I took my son out of town this weekend which gave me a perfect excuse to visit Barnes and Nobles.  I stopped myself from skipping through the doors.  Our town has a small independent bookstore, decorated in homey blue and metal.  Not somewhere I want to browse books.  I guess I’m shallow like that.  The browsing experience means as much as the books.  I discovered this about myself during a discussion about the rise of the nook and Kindle.  I am one of those stalwarts that can’t imagine cuddling up with a computer, especially since my favorite place to read is in the bathtub.  There’s far too much room for disaster.

It’s also about the feel of books.  I am a Taurus, after all, and our sense of touch runs our lives.  I take the slip covers off hardbacks because I prefer the feel of pressed cardboard.  My favorite?  The covers with a grainy texture, reminiscent of older books. And smooth pages in between.  It’s almost religious.

There is much discussion about the eventual phase out of physical books.  I think I’ll become a book hoarder so that I’m ready. 

With that bit of opinion off my chest, I discovered two things today.

1. I no longer have an interest in reading books on the craft of writing.  I browsed the entire section and picked out seven that I hadn’t already purchased.  While sipping on bitter coffee (the bitterer the better), I read pages from each chapter and put them aside.  Not that I don’t appreciate and respect the authors willing to give their advice.  I owe many of them gratitude.  But I’ve read the advice.  And read the advice.  And read the advice. 

But it’s time to settle in and use it.  I know the skills of writing a scene, making description real, choosing the right words, bringing characters to life, and so on, and so on.   It’s time to stop reading advice and start listening to myself.  I call that progress.

2.  I love Paulo Coelho.  Of the 4 books I purchased, I started reading “11 minutes” tonight and couldn’t put it down.  His style reads a little discordant from flowing verse I’m used to, and he doesn’t attempt description, which I miss.  What I love about Paulo Coelho is his honesty.  “11 minutes” is an analogy for women in the dating world.  I admire his bravery for tackling women’s prostitution of themselves for a chance at love.  I am in awe of his ability to see the world through a woman’s eyes and keen to his take on love.  (I have my own opinions on love, but that’s not what this blog is about.)  While the whole book is a metaphor, from what I’ve gathered thus far, he states opinions with straight-forward honesty throughout, instead of trying to disguise them with symbols and hints.

Exactly what all the writing books tell you not to do, I might add.

For many years I’ve picked up this book, read the back cover, and put it back down.  It just wasn’t where my head was at.  Today, I felt the need to buy it, as if it’s soul spoke to me because it had a lesson. Lesson?  Don’t afraid to be honest in your writing.  Don’t be afraid to lay your opinions on the page in a straightforward manner because maybe, someone browsing through the shelves at Barnes and Nobles will pick it up, read the back cover, and need a lesson.

There were many books I put back today.  I’d have to resort to a life of crime to pay for each one that caught my eye.  Like “The Uses of Enchantment: The Meaning and Importance of Fairy Tales” by Bruno Bettelheim.  (I wish my name were as cool as his.)  I almost regret not buying it.  But that’s not where my brain is at.

Where is my brain these days?  I’ll be honest.  I don’t know.  Thoughts have been moving faster than piranhas’ on a goldfish.  Sometimes they bite, sometimes they don”t.  Things are changing and I’ve given up trying to keep pace.  I’ll wait until the waters calm and try to make sense of the bones.


Better than freedom?

lib·er·ty

 

 /‘lɪbərti/  Spelled [lib-er-tee] freedom from external or foreign rule; independence.

freedom from control, interference, obligation, restriction, hampering conditions, etc.; power or right of doing, thinking, speaking, etc., according to choice.

I was going to write about fantasies tonight, but that’s not where my mind wandered.  Instead, I thought about liberty today.  It was a good topic considering Liberty is one of the main theme’s of “Dolly”.  Liberty is the single greatest right we, as humans, possess.  It’s the also the most disregarded right. 
 
Lisa longs for freedom from the under-achieving, unsupportive, and depressing trailer park where she grew up.  College is more than just a dream of success.  College means freedom. 
 
But freedom and liberty are two different things.  A slave can be released from slavery, but do they exercise their right to liberty?  Can one living in slavery excercise liberty?  Can one choose to be free from the restraints of the world, even when shackled in chains of expectations and responsibilities? 
 
If Lisa breaks away from the darkness that is her life, will she learn to exercise liberty?  Or will her past keep her chained to a life of disappointment?
 
I’m not sure yet.  I suppose that’s why I’m struggling with the ending.  There are still questions that I need to answer.  So, I will conclude this post with this question? Do you exercise your liberty?  Do you consciously make choices, or do you let the winds of fate drag you around?
 
I value my Liberty.  So much, that I tattooed it on my foot.  (Excuse the bruises and ink smears.  This was taken right after we finished.)

 

I think I’ll write more about this later.  I have a novel to write.


Big, Bouncing Cliche

Ever been there?  The time when your sharing the joys and struggles of new-mother-hood with other mom’s.  You share a story and they laugh because they totally understand.  A time of camaraderie and pride because your experiences are normal.  Until one mother begins to brag that her month-old bundle of joy is…get this…sleeping through the night. 

Camaraderie killed.  And you begin to fret and worry.  Thoughts of insufficiency and unworthiness  flood your mind.  You are, as you’ve always feared, the worst parent ever! 

That night, as you lay your precious off-spring in her crib, you are determined.  Tonight is the night.  You might even rub her back and whisper, “Come on, Angel. You can do it.  Sleep one night for Mommy.”

Instead, you’re doing the late night shuffle while singing, “The Wheels on the Bus” for the hundredth time.  It’s then, you have to admit it.  You’re baby is not perfect.

Not really.  My son was, is, and always will be perfect.

But “Dolly”…not so.  I realized as I did the late night shuffle last night.

Ah, the old cliché that writers use. Their work is their baby.  I like cliché’s.  Apparently,  too much as I realized that my first chapter fit the girl-going-home cliché.  Instead, I decided to go with the lineal-timeline cliché. 

“Why’d you do it, Amber?  Whyyyyy?”

Because I can.  That’s the fun part of writing.  Everything is infinitely adjustable. It wasn’t an easy decision, mind you.  I cut and pasted more than once, doubting each decision.  In the end, I have a new chapter one and I’m at peace with that decision. It’ll take a few more nights of frustration and pacing the floor, trying to get her to sleep.  But I have full confidence that, when all is said and done, she’s going to turn out just fine. 

Have a look-see and tell me what you think…aforkinthestory.wordpress.com


Magic, Crystal, 8-ball with a side of palm-reading, please?

You communicate what is important to you.

Horoscopes are funny, little things.  I have four that come to my email every day.  I’m waiting for the day one says, “The stars have aligned and you will receive a publishing contract with the editor of your dreams today!  Get ready…”

Why not?  I’m supposed to meet the man of my dreams about once a week. 

I register for horoscopes not for a glimpse into my unknown future, but because I’m a writer.  I like the little nuggets of words that settle into my  subconscious.  Like today…” You communicate what is important to you.” 

Another one said, “The plans you carefully crafted may come to nothing, and because of this you realize they weren’t what you wanted anyway. You will begin to listen more closely to your heart’s desire. Where do you really want to go? What do you really want to do? Only you know what you feel deep inside. Listen!”

Welcome to my New Years Resolution.  To figure out what I want… while raising my son,  working full-time, paying bills, cleaning, cooking, laundry,  coaching a Destination Imagination team.  For fun, I just threw in a college algebra class and am planning to remodel my bathroom.

What I really want… is to write.  To lock myself in my house and really have the time to concentrate on my puzzles. Can you imagine how great I could be?  But life continues.  There’s snow to shovel, floors to scrub, appointments to make, texts to answer, social meetings to attend.  How does one figure out what they want?

I can’t even figure out what my character wants at the end of “Dolly”. It’s fiction.  I could pick anything.  I could send her to Africa in a hot air balloon and it wouldn’t matter because it’s not real.  I spend hours pouring over the end in my head.  The end just isn’t coming to me. Not yet.

I speak only for myself when I say this.  But here’s a thought…

Writers block is a personal block. I can’t figure out what Lisa wants, because I don’t know what I want. 

Crap.

Guess I’d better go meditate on what I want because the only thing I know is that I want to finish “Dolly”. See the conundrum?  Let the cycle begin again.


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