Incomplete Thoughts

I have three different blog posts floating through my head today.  I can’t seem to completely pull any of them together for a 500-1000 word post so I thought I’d just say a little about each.

The first thought is about privacy.  Facebook is such a freaky thing.  I’ll admit there was a time when I was really into celebrity blogs.  I visited Perez Hilton and Celebrity Baby Blog numerous times during the day.  Since I joined Facebook I rarely visit those sites.   Reading about people I know, knew, or hope to know seems to scratch that itch for me.  This week I’ve noticed a couple of cryptic status updates from folks.  They give away just enough information to make you go WAIT, WHAT?  They stir up a reaction.  Visiting the individual’s pages you see a line of people asking how they are and what’s going on.  I find myself wondering if it is better or worse that we have this public spotlight for our private matters.  On one hand you get lots of support, but is it real support?

Another issue on my mind is parent/child relationships.  In the novel I am currently writing the main character is 15 and very close with her father.  She talks to him and he listens, they respect each other, and sometimes they even act as if they are friends.    When I look around me at my husband, my friends, and the men in my church these are the kinds of fathers I see, ones who are generally interested in relating to their children.  But in response to my writing someone called the relationship weird.  So I’m wondering if I am just delusional.   Have we moved away from the “kids are to be seen and not heard” idea or not?  Is it possible for a girl to be friends with her dad or do I have some re-writing to do?

The last thought is how I’ve been a bit swallowed up.  I finally started writing this novel and it is all I can think about.  It sits in the back of my mind no matter what I am doing.  The Ray’s and White’s are demanding my attention.  I have a lot of mixed feelings on this.  On one hand it is fabulous because after a year of only writing blog posts and essays I am writing fiction again.  But it is also distracting me and I find myself losing track of my schedule, forgetting things, and neglecting healthy habits because my mind is elsewhere.  My vision of this project is exciting though.  I wonder if I can see it through.  Once it is complete I wonder what will become of it.  At writing group last night I was reminded of the work still left to do and the writing time I need but don’t have.  I have to admit, it’s frustrating and scary to think I may be traveling a path leading to a dead end, just one more book collecting cyber-dust on a shelf in my hard drive.

So that’s what’s on my mind today.  Just a few incomplete thoughts….

Jane R’s Click

I received a click story in my inbox the other day and at first felt terrible that I had not found it sooner, but as I read it I realized the timing was just right.  I wrote about marriage on Monday and when I published that post I wondered about any readers who might be thinking that they’d been looking at the big picture and were tired of living in a black cloud and desperately seeking that silver lining.  I know there are people who put all they can into their marriages and still find that the only way to achieve joy is to leave it behind.  So this amazing post about the end of a marriage and the awakening of a creative, thriving, beautiful woman is for you. You can read Jane’s blog here.

One of my biggest personal changes happened when I got divorced from my ex-husband.  We had been living in a renovated carriage house on his parent’s property for 10 years.  His parents were adamant that the kids and I should stay and he should move out.  I had my chance to get that UHaul and move but I passed on it due to my own fear and self imposed limitations.  I simply didn’t believe that I could ever make it on my own out there with two children.  On July 1, 2004 my husband moved out.  As the kids ran to the window and watched the moving van pull out of the driveway, I sat there in a half empty dismantled home feeling envious that he got off that property instead of me.  He had the freedom while I put down the scissors after clipping my own wings.  It would be four more years of living next door to the main house and a soured relationship with my ex-in laws before the tides changed and I got that UHaul.  But in the mean time, those four years were the biggest gift from God that I ever got.  In that period of time I unearthed so many wonderful things about myself that I thought were long dead.

In the beginning of our divorce there were some adjustments to be made.  If you’re a woman who’s been through a divorce you know that no matter how happy you are to be free of a bad marriage there is a period of grieving that goes with it too.  For so long I was tied in to the identity of being someone’s wife.  Even though I was in a bad marriage, it still gave me a sense of feeling complete just knowing that I had a husband.  With the new title of “single mother” I really started looking closer at what it meant to be a woman.  Sometimes as a single mother I felt like I had scarlet letter on my forehead.  Other times women would approach me privately and tell me that they envied the freedom I had gotten because they had been in horrible marriages for years but were too afraid to leave for financial reasons.  It was then that I realized I would rather be single and struggling a bit than to stay in a loveless marriage for the next twenty years just so that I could hold on to the big house and tennis lessons.

It didn’t take too long after my ex husband moved out to realize that a huge mountain of weight had been lifted.  Granted, I was still living on his parent’s property and terrified about how I would make it as a single woman with no real career but I was still amazed at the sense of freedom for just having that weight taken off me.  I suddenly had a sense that if I could feel so much lighter despite those restrictions, imagine the real sense of freedom once I cut my ties to my in-law’s property entirely.

The greatest thing about my new found freedom was watching all the goodness in me resurface again.  The creativity that had no pulse was suddenly bursting out of me.   I replaced every piece of store bought art with my own original work.  My house was like a little art gallery.  I replaced white walls with vibrant yellows and reds.  I took up kayaking and entered in to the MS 150 bike ride from City to Shore.  For a woman who was constantly criticized for her bad cooking, I was suddenly finding myself devoting Saturday mornings to making Linzer Torte and homemade spinach pasta.  No longer fearful of being condemned for a messy house, I was elated to put my infamous little stacks of books and papers wherever I wanted.  I was creating a space and life that was uniquely mine and for the first time in my life I didn’t mind being without a partner.  During my first marriage I rarely went anywhere.  I isolated myself in our bedroom for hours.  Now I was taking every chance I had to go out and throw myself in to social situations that would allow me to talk and connect to everyone.  It was marvelous.  It truly was.  But the turning point that started me on a long path of self-discovery happened when a co-worker challenged me to pick up my camera and get involved in a Flickr project which involved taking and posting one self-portrait a day for a year.  The first time I picked up the camera and turned it on myself I cried.  It was actually joyous because what I saw staring back at me was a beautiful woman who had locked herself away for years.  It’s true that the eyes are the window to our souls.  Once I took that first snap shot I was hooked and it wasn’t because of some vain ego thing at all; it was because each photo revealed more of who I was on the inside.  I needed to take those pictures to continue to evolve.  Of course the posting on line lead to connecting with other people globally.  Now a whole new world of endless possibilities to connect was at my finger tips.  I started a blog and realized that I could actually write.  Five years later, I’m still blogging and continuing to build and connect in ways I never could have imagined if you asked me six years ago.  I’ve since remarried to an amazing man and life is so good.  I feel like I’ve been given a second chance at living.  I’ve been rebuilding my life slowly.  Writing, I’ve discovered, has a voice inside of me that needs to come out and share itself with others on their journeys.

Thoughts on Marriage

This weekend we are going to a wedding.  It has me thinking about marriage.  Two nights ago we watched Revolutionary Road which was really a movie about marriage.  It was a very depressing movie about marriage actually.  The very last scene of the movie summed up the dark view perfectly.  In that scene an older couple is sitting in their living room.  The wife is talking away and the husband with the most miserable look on his face covertly turns off his hearing aid so he can’t hear a word she is saying.  The movie was set in the 50’s (I think) and the couples all just seem to have settled into lives without joy.  And the main characters certainly seem to blame each other for killing dreams and leading one another to a dull existence.  For a brief moment you think they are going to come together and turn things around, but in the end only one of them is willing to change and that change is actually quite tragic.

So that led me to even further think of marriage.  Of course I have come to believe that everything in your life is a reflection of your deepest beliefs about yourself and desires for your life.  Your ultimate partnership might be the biggest reflection of this.  Perhaps we truly chose people who “complete us,” people who have qualities that we would like to strengthen within ourselves or provide us with opportunities to fulfill roles we desire at a deep level.  I know that for me when I was younger I was very impulsive and struggled with this.  I often made decisions without thinking through the consequences.  I wanted to move past this.  It does not surprise me that in Mark I found one of the most thoughtful, careful people I’d ever met.   Over the years we have truly balanced one another out and I don’t even want to know where I’d be without him.

Marriage takes work and care though.  Sometimes, when challenges arise, we get so stubborn that we forget (or possibly aren’t even aware) it was us, ourselves that attracted these “teachers” into our lives.  In those moments we have a decision to make, we either become teachable or we remain “right.”  And that doesn’t even mean that we let our spouse give us a lecture or teach us a lesson, it means that we ask ourselves what we need to learn from the situation.  It may be that we need to learn to let go of the small things or love ourselves in the way we long to be loved by others.

I have a friend who says that there are three stages of marriage.  You may experience them with 3 different people, or they may all be with one.  However it looks, you get to phases in your life where you grow and change.  At that point you make a decision to grow together or apart.  I believe your attitude has more to do with this than anything.  I think stepping back and viewing the partnership through a wider lens can help.  From that viewpoint you can see the positives instead of honing in on the challenges.  You can also begin to question yourself about what you need to learn in order to be joy-filled!

My wish for my friends is that as they embark on this journey and experience the ebb and flow of their lives together that they will not lose sight of the big picture.  I hope they always see the silver lining in every challenge and the best in one another.  I hope they will choose happiness over being right and try to maintain an attitude of gratitude.

Happy Birthday Amy…

Dear Amy,

So today is your birthday.  I still can’t believe you’re not here.  It’s been years since I’ve celebrated your birthday with you.  The last time I remember was your 21st.  I’m sure I was around for the 22nd and 23rd, but after that I moved away.  This has been a tough week for me and in a way I’m surprised because like I mentioned it’s been years since I celebrated one of them with you.   Those people who’ve been with you for most of them are having a spaghetti dinner for you tonight.  I wish I could be there.  Actually what I really wish is that I could call you up and say “ha, ha, now you’re 35 too, we’re so old.”  But you’ll never be old, just plastered in my memory forever as a 34-year-old expectant mom.  If I try real hard I can still see you waddling in the bedroom with that piece of cake for me.  Why is it again that you were supposed to be on bedrest but were serving me cake?  I’m sure a few people would have scolded me for letting you do that.

You know I really believe that you are still with me.  A few weeks ago as I was falling asleep I thought of you.  I thought about how I was on vacation and too busy to call you after the babies were born.  I had two days that I could have said congratulations and I loved you but I chose to wait until I got home.  By the time I got home it was too late.  I don’t really have any regrets about our friendship except for that one.  I went to sleep that night thinking about it and then you came to me in a dream.  It had been a long time since I’d dreamed about you and I don’t believe it was coincidental that I saw you on that particular night.

I wonder what you are experiencing these days.  Your mom talks about Heaven a lot.  I try to think of what Heaven is.  I like the way Sylvia Browne describes the other side.  Basically, if I’m remembering correctly, she says it is just layered on top of this side.  That we are totally intertwined and us humans are just too “closed” and stuck in our life drama to see it.  So I’d say that you are floating around seeing and feeling the underlying love in everything.  I’ve also wondered if you’re working some sort of magic out there too.  So many of your friends have gotten pregnant since you left, including friends who had struggled for years (like you did).  Not that you are the stork or anything, but maybe you’re just helping people get the timing right.

I know some people will read this and think I’m crazy.  I’m sure there is a logical explanation for so much of what I experience as you still being here.  On this one I don’t want to be logical, I want to be hopeful and faithful.  I’ll cling to the idea that no one really knows for sure.  I’ll count my frogs, my dreams, and the latest baby epidemic as gifts and messages from my favorite angel.  So keep them coming and let me hold you tightly in my heart until we meet again!!

I love and miss you.  Happy 35th Birthday, Little Mama (maybe that would have been my nickname for you)!

Les

PS:  I just reread this and have to say I soo wouldn’t have nicknamed you Little Mama…it’s pretty dorky. (And quite frankly it’s probably you who brought the dorkiness of that to my attention anyway!)

Cheerleaders

This is a topic I scribbled in a notebook before I even started the blog.  It was a fall-back topic if I needed something to write about.  Today I’m writing about it because it is genuinely on my mind.

Back in the Spring, after church one day, I stopped for a quick chat with our minister.  “Your spiritual mommies are so proud of you.”  She said to me.  Spiritual mommies? My mom had been in for a visit the week before, was that what she was talking about?  I can’t remember if I asked or the look on my face asked for me, but she announced the names of two women in church that I had been in book group with and had a strong connection to.  I thought of the encouragement they give me nearly every time I am in their presence.  I have to admit that sometimes when they compliment me I think to myself that surely they are confusing me with someone else.  I’m not sure that I’ve even met this person they describe.

So Rev. Jean got me thinking about the spiritual mommy concept and I actually think that within my church I now have four.  I sat with one of them on Sunday.  When the service was over she hugged me and said “I love being in your essence.”  Wow.  This wise, beautiful, loving, strong, spirit-filled woman loves my essence?

Aside from my “spiritual mommies,”  I have other cheerleaders.  I have a partner who quietly watches my success and then announces that he always knew I could do it.  I have my writing fairy godmother who sends me emails after our Wednesday meetings and cheers on my work, reminding me to keep going.  There is the occasional awesome soul who gets goose bumps when I share an idea I have or a project I’m working on.  There are those who read what I’ve written and express how moved they are.  There are those who hold a vision for my “career” that even I can’t conjure up.

I don’t know if in the past I really recognized my cheerleaders.  I think we often choose people in our lives that we want to support us and get disappointed when they don’t.   I’ve been there too, sharing my dreams and goals to no avail.  I’ve learned that I haven’t completely let go of a desire for approval from certain people in my life, but I have let go enough to see the loving support all around me.

My cheerleaders are wonderful!  They give me confidence when I am lacking in that department.  They hold the high watch of my dreams when I am feeling frustrated and rejected.  They see glimpses of the best in me and aren’t afraid to tell me so.  I am so very grateful for all of them!

Slow Down

My message for today was “Slow Down.”  I went to the mindfulness meditation meeting at church this morning with my mind going 100 miles per hour.  It’s hard to be mindful of your breath and body and sensations in the present moment when you are very busy thinking and planning.  I haven’t said anything on the blog about it, but I am working on that novel.  Not the novel I posted here, but the one that I’d intended to start writing when I began posting “click stories.”

The “clicks” took on a life of their own though and I didn’t really find myself with a lot of extra time to write.  In fact I spent just as much time writing introductions, tweeking the font sizes, and requesting author photos.  I love the click stories though and even wrote a book proposal for a book that would compile all those wonderful stories.  (With the permission from the authors of course.)   I queried about 10 literary agents without getting any requests to see or learn more about the project.  That’s when I originally felt my message was to slow down.

I put that project on the back burner just as the guest posts stopped rolling in.  That is also when I changed my posting schedule to 3 times a week.  When I did this I had more time to just be.  As things quieted down I started to get inspired.  I’ve had the idea for a Young Adult book series for over a year now.   I know the major themes and plot points for 3 of 4 books.  I know the main character and her sidekick.  I’ve been trying and failing to force myself to think about it and to write it.  But finally after so many months I’ve started seeing it again.  When I’m not glued to my computer screen the characters pop into my head.  I can hear their conversations and feel their frustrations.  I’ve actually been writing it.  I set the same goal that worked for me before…3 pages a day.  It has been going very well….

Until….

I found out a friend of a friend is interning for a great New York literary agent from now until September.  They are seeking YA authors to represent.   Suddenly I felt this push to move faster.  I started planning how many pages a day I needed to write to finish the book in August.  I decided 6 would work.  Last night was the first night I tried to write 6 pages.  I successfully completed 1 page.  That’s it.  I didn’t even get my normal 3 finished.  I was frustrated to say the least, but decided it was OK, I’d only lost one day.  I could make up for it over the long haul.

Then I got to church today and was reminded to be mindful and slow down.  I’d started answering those questions on my own again.  The how was this connection to the New York agent and the when was September.  In just 30 minutes, Spirit reminded me that I’m not in charge of those questions.  I only need to remember the power to do it is within me.  Take action in the moment and have faith in the results.  Based on the current political climate and the research I’ve been doing on one of the major events I’m including in the 1st novel, I think this book will be an important and entertaining resource for young people right now.    I don’t want to rush this.   I want to do it right so that it will find it’s way to their hands (or kindles, Ipads, and laptops).

The Bear

I remember some months ago I was reading a blog post about The Cove and was utterly irritated by a comment the author received on that post.  I can’t remember the whole comment but the part that jumped out at me was “well animals were put here for our entertainment.”

I have not always had the attitude I currently have about animals.  The idea of being a vegetarian was once an absolutely absurd thought to me.  But…I don’t think I ever thought that animals were put on this earth to entertain us humans.  But with that comment I learned that some people do think that.

Zoos, Sea Parks, and Circus type animal shows are good business.  People are amused by looking at animals in captivity and watching them do tricks.  Even my family has a membership and donates regularly to The Tallahassee Museum, which is, in essence, our local Zoo.    The Animal Kingdom at Disney World is one of our favorite places to visit.  Watching The Cove made me doubt my love and support of those two places.  What I can say for both of them though is that at least the animals in their care have room to roam.  Although they have the space for many more exhibits, The Tallahassee museum instead offers large areas holding native animals so they are at least somewhat “at home.”  They nurture sick animals back to health and offer educational resources to the public.

While in Maryland we visited the Salisbury Zoo.  This Zoo was about the same size as ours here in town, but housed some very exotic animals.  One of these animals was the Spectacled Bear.  This bear is native to South America.  Salisbury Maryland is not it’s natural habitat (although I did learn this particular bear was born in captivity).  When we stood before this exhibit, my heart broke.  I couldn’t believe the sight.  I think the bear had a small fenced in “yard” over to the side, but the area it was in as we watched it was a walled in area with a small “pool” and lots of concrete.  As we watched for 5 to 10 minutes the bear simply paced back and forth.  Even more disturbing was the pattern at which she moved her head.  At each end she swooped her head down and then back up.  I couldn’t figure out exactly why but there was a shadowy outline behind her on the wall and she literally traced it with her nose.  It was so apparent that she was suffering.  As we stood there, people walked through.  “Look at the bear.”  Then they continued on their way.  This animal was obviously in such great pain.  There was even a sign next to her exhibit that said something like “Please do not be disturbed by this bear’s behavior, we are doing all we can to help her.”  Yes, folks, please don’t bother to feel empathy for this animal…she was merely put on this earth for your entertainment.

I came home gung-ho to save this bear.  I contacted a friend who used to work for ASPCA.  I asked her if there was a way to find an animal sanctuary and initiate a rescue of some sort.  Sadly, she said that conditions are like this in nearly every zoo animals display this kind of OCD behavior in nearly every zoo and there is really little anyone can do to help the animals.  The best we can do is have some compassion for these creatures and take time to see them as more than our source for food and entertainment.  And maybe, perhaps, speak up when we witness their suffering.

**Renee’s comments are the best!  She always makes me think about whether what I wrote is truly accurate or skewed by my bad memory.  I went back to the message exchange with my friend and made the change above.  Basically animals in most places despite how good or bad the conditions are just react to not being where they are meant to be.  This bear’s conditions, in my opinion, were bad.