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6 years

Six years ago.  It’s a little overwhelming to think about it.  Six years ago.

My son was having a rough time…six years ago.  Troubles in school, troubles with friends.  Just plain troubles.  One of his struggles came in the form of soccer.  He had started at the beginning when the game is just little kids running back and forth in a herd chasing the ball.  In the beginning, my son had his famous pterodactyl moves while waiting for the ball. He made an excellent pterodactyl, by the way.

But sixth grade soccer was different.  The kids were competitive.  The coaches were jerks.  He overheard them more than once making belittling comments about himself and his team mates, particularly the ones that weren’t “good”.  He didn’t enjoy it.  In fact, he hated it and would moan and groan, and sometimes cry, when it was time to go to practice or a game.

You can’t quit once you’ve made a commitment.  

That’s what people say.  Every week, it was the same fight, the same begging, the same angry looks when I wouldn’t give in.  Because I listened to the wisdom of the ages.  You must finish what you start.

I didn’t listen for long.  Because over that really hard year, I learned a valuable lesson.  I learned that life is too short to be anything but happy.  So, I let him quit the team.  In the middle of the season. And I have no regrets.  It slightly inconvenienced his team, but not much.  His coaches called and left me messages, using “Mom-guilt” to attempt to persuade me (the use of mom-guilt to diminish women is a post for another day).

Life is too short to spend your days convincing yourself to remain in an unhappy situation.  Any unhappy situation.  And you are doing yourself no favors justifying your misery to make life more convenient or easier for others. Nor are you under any obligation to do so.  Because they aren’t the ones who will mourn the time wasted being miserable.

I’ve recently found myself in the same situation.  I wasn’t happy.  And many days, I was downright miserable.  I wasn’t living, I was just trying to get through every day.  I was merely surviving. And I lost time.  Until the day I had a brilliant thought.

I don’t have to do this. 

And that started something that’s going on yet.  I’m not sure if my new adventure will bring me happiness. I’m not sure of anything.  Oh, but I have so much hope, which is a good start.

Your happiness is your only obligation.  Don’t settle for anything less.  


The Paradox of Imperfection

I am imperfect.  In so many ways.  I am clumsy to a fault, hurt myself in my sleep, become overwhelmed by emotions, and bring social awkwardness to every engagement I attend.  I have bad habits that I keep trying to overcome, say things I shouldn’t, and regularly get lost in my thoughts at inopportune times.  I don’t everything that I should and I worry about things that I shouldn’t.  I never walk out of the house with a complete outfit fit for a for a fashion magazine.  In fact, I probably would only grace the pages on a “what not to wear” page.  My eating habits are strange, at best, and I have no motivation to exercise, even though I know I should. I can come off as arrogant, but harbor deep self-doubt.  And more times than not, the only thing I want to do is to lock myself in my house and disappear with deep prayers that the world will let me.

But I keep going.

We live in a society that tells us perfection is the expectation.  In jobs, on dates, at the grocery store at 9 a.m. on a Saturday morning.  Society tells us to play the part and keep going.  Every new person you meet is going to be perfect and beautiful and everything that you aren’t.  We expect that of each other upon first meetings.  Pack on the makeup, create a perfect curl, pick your outfit accordingly down to the last detail.

And somehow, we are always disappointed.

But I am not perfect.  I will continue to stub my toe on doorways.  I will be taken hostage by emotions at the worst times.  I will have too much too drink and share too much about my thoughts.  I will giggle inappropriately because I don’t know what else to do.  I will be silent when I should talk because I don’t know what to say.  I will scratch myself in my sleep.

For all of my imperfections, I will cherish them because they are what makes me the glorious being that I am.  And people will laugh, or scoff, or hate, or just plain avoid me.  But I will still be me.  Because their rejection is based on an unreasonable expectation.  Their rejection has nothing to do with me.  Because reasonable people don’t expect perfection.  Reasonable people laugh with you about your flaws and appreciate you despite them.

Society has created the imperfection paradox that we constantly strive to overcome, while making it impossible.  So, I reject the expectations and accept that I will never be perfect.  And the truth is, I never want to be.  Because reaching perfection leaves nothing left to learn, nothing left to strive for.  How boring would that life be?



What Matters


This is not the painting I had intended to create when I began it a year ago.  The truth is, I don’t really like it.  But yet, a part of me loves it for taking a life of it’s own.  For becoming what it became despite what I wanted.

And that’s something I have to respect.

Because that’s life.  I’m not the person I expected to be.  I’m not even the person I thought I was five weeks ago, if I were completely honest.  But who I am turned out to be…right now…is exactly who I need to be.

Just like my painting.

I used to care about being what others expected of me.  I used to want so much to fit in and be accepted.  It’s a natural part of human existence that lingers from our caveman ancestors.  To not be accepted into the tribe meant certain death as you were caste into the dangers of saber tooth tigers and the elements.  It’s a biologically driven need that we battle with, despite living in a completely different society.

I still battle with acceptance.  But recently, I’ve begun to question the people from who I seek acceptance.  I find myself questioning why I seek their acceptance.  Whether it be in relationships, work, or friendships, I find…more often than not…that many people are willing to offer acceptance.

With conditions.

Conditions that rely on being the person they thought I would be.

But I’m not the person I used to be.  I’ve grown and changed into the person I am.

This comes with many dangers.  Because seeking acceptance from those who don’t support your growth can lead to abuses as they try to shove you back into the person they expectf.  Your change is a threat.

It’s important to realize that it has nothing to do with who you are becoming.  Rather, it has everything to do with who they refuse to be.  It’s so much easier to keep everyone around you the same, to keep everything exactly as it has been, than to change.

It’s time to question the people from whom I seek acceptance.  People who accept me for my ability to learn and grow and change.  Because those are the people who accept me for who I am, not for what purpose I can serve them in maintaining stagnation.

Speak your truth.  Even if those around you don’t want to hear it.  Become you.  Even if other’s don’t understand or would rather you stay quiet.  Never allow yourself to be bullied into submission for someone else’s comfort.  Even if it means loss.  Even if it means isolation.  Because it’s better to be alone with your truth than to live a lie.

It takes courage to become who you are when the world tries so hard to tell you who to be.

I’m not proud of this painting.  It’s not one I consider my best.  But it just might be the painting that taught me the most.  It didn’t turn out as I expected.  But then again, neither have I.

And it’s okay.

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.)


You’ve got to sell your heart

Getting Dirty in a Rainbow

I’m not an artist, by any means. I’d more likely consider myself a child. A child who likes to play and get dirty in a rainbow. Who wouldn’t love playing in a rainbow. Sadly, so many people have dismissed that inner child who likes to play. Yet, I’ve learned, through my wanton splashes in color, about life and, ironically, writing. Let me explain in bullet points.

1) Art is subjective. As is writing. As is life.

There is no such thing as black and white, wrong and right. No art piece is perfect or horrible. Not story will appeal to all people. And no ones life is easily explained in a stereotype.

2) Nothing is right on the first try. Ever!

I usually start my paintings and hate what I see. Then, I set the canvas aside to let it stare at me for a while with evil taunting. When I’m ready to sit down to work on it again, it gets a little better. Several sitting later, I find a finish.

It’s this tip that I struggle to remember when writing. First drafts are ugly. The current short story I’m writing, Specimen, read as two short stories that never really fit together. I’m at a second sitting right now. We’ll see how many sittings it takes.

And it’s safe to say that I’m consistently getting life wrong, even after three or four, five or six, one hundred million and twenty two trials. I’m not sure I’ll ever get it right.

3) It’s always more fun to play.

In painting. In writing. And in life. Especially in life. The best things come out of play.

I’m sure there are more, but I feel these three cover the most important lessons in art, writing, and life. I believe if we all took more time to play in the rainbows and allow ourselves room to make mistakes, we’d find more joy in our every day experiences. So, splash in the rainbows, scatter words carelessly, and take a little time to play today!


Hanging Expectations

“Of course, in fairness, I must remind you of this: that we writers are the most lily-livered of all craftsmen. We expect more, for the most peewee efforts, than any other people.”
― Brenda Ueland, If You Want to Write: A Book about Art, Independence and Spirit

I’m writing this post tonight because I simply can’t write anything else. Stumped. Blocked. Broken. Whatever adjective you want to ascribe to it. That’s where I am.

Don’t get me wrong. I have story ideas. Or had story ideas. I drive seven hours a week for my job and ideas flood me as I drive. But apparently, it’s not safe to drive and write, so by the time I return home and sit down to write. Nothing. Secretly, I’m hoping that it’s simply because my son has been gone for a month. Something about that wonderful, stinky teenager grounds me and forces me to want for my dreams. Aside from him being gone, I’ve had a lot going on. My mom visited. I spent a week in La Crosse, WI getting my Autism Certification. I went back to South Dakota, and returned with all the internal conflict that usually accompanies those trips.

When I find myself in these slumps, which seems to be often as of lately, I become so angry at myself. Angry that I don’t. Angry that I can’t. Just plain angry.

And that’s where this post comes from. There are more than enough quotes out there about writing being work. Perhaps that’s why I’m not successful. Because I can’t see writing as work. That takes all the fun out of it.

A friend and I were talking about our time in theatre once and she said, “I’d love to be a professional actress.” I had no shame when I disagreed. That doesn’t mean that I don’t love and long for the stage or that the applause after a great show doesn’t thrill me. Quite the opposite. But being on stage for a job? That is a branch where expectation hangs.

Anyone who knows me will attest. I hate when expectation is hung on the branches of my life. Expectation bears a weight I can’t withhold. Yet, somehow, I hang unbearably heavy expectations on myself. And I continually let myself down. I can’t bear the thought of letting others down.

In my stories, expectations don’t matter. It’s a chance for me play and just enjoy the idea of creating. But when I’m unable to write, as in time like these, I become angry at myself because of my own expectations of “being a writer”, which I’m currently failing. The branch is getting heavy and ready to snap.

And then, I think about the industry within which I’d love to publish. We now have an instant publishing industry, where only the blockbuster will do. It’s about making money, not so much about making great literature. Did you know, Ernest Hemmingway wrote A Farewell to Arms thirty-nine times? Somehow, I don’t feel as if the industry would allow for that kind of intense work because it’s all about getting it done and out to the public before the moment passes. I find few books that I think will be called classics to future generations. That saddens me.

So, tonight, I’ll cut myself a little slack and see where it leads. Because, regardless of the future, I will write. The good, the bad, and the non-sensical. I will write without expectations because the branches are too heavy for me to bear.

Because writing should be fun.


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