He won't be nine much longer, this boy of mine who almost wasn't. And nine is pretty terrific, and tough, all at the same time.
The past couple weeks have brought us to a crossroads with school work, in this, his first year of real grades. This semester isn't going to look good. But today? Today was great!
He burst into my arms the moment he reached the car. I knew it was an exceptionally good day, because I'd received an email from his teacher. "Mom! I got to get off addition for Math Center and do multiplication and I PASSED!" Yes, my fourth grader was stuck on the same (still) addition sheet for WEEKS, unable to finish the last three problems in the arbitrary two minutes. My boy who has a little hitch in his brain body connection and who lets stuff get to him, like timed tests, like boys who are bullies, like girls who are "over" him because sometimes he gets stuck and he just "can't" get it.
This is the same boy who is teaching others in his class to do long division, because that he gets. Long division, he loves. Multiplication, today, he loves. Addition, not so much. Ever.
This is the same boy I reminded today how his teacher last year believed in him, and genuinely liked him, and who thought he was an amazing kid. His teacher this year believes in him, genuinely likes him, and thinks he is an amazing kid. I reminded my boy today that he has an amazing brain that is going to do amazing things someday; a brain that is already doing amazing things like long division.
He looked away, and swiped at his eyes. He swiped at his eyes again, and then rubbed them vigorously.
"Buddy? What's the matter?"
"Sometimes I'm just so happy I have tears."
I swiped at my own eyes, so I could see the road before us, "You make me so happy that I have tears, too."
Oh, boy!! Remember a few weeks ago, when I told y'all that I RECORDED a SONG for my friend, Dave Carlock's UNEXPOSED TALENT competition...well, HERE IT IS!!! And here are the rules (besides voting for ME!):
Tell your friends, tell your family, tell your co-workers, tell everyone!
The January round of DAVE CARLOCK'S UNEXPOSED TALENT is open for voting and ANYONE can vote for you!
1) GO TO THIS WEBSITE and review ALL the entries labeled "JAN 2013":
2) THEN EMAIL ME to cast your vote IN ALL FOUR CATEGORIES at: email@example.com
3) VOTERS MUST VOTE IN ALL FOUR CATEGORIES or the vote will be discarded. Be sure to tell them to set aside 15-20 minutes to review the 11 entries.
*BEST FEMALE (over 18)
(Brenda D, Whitney S, Kim J-Gane)
*BEST MALE (over 18)
(Loren M, Tommy C)
(Taylor W, Patrick H, Heather A, Gavin C)
(Jay O, Tyler R)
4) Voting closes at 11:59pm MONDAY JANUARY 14th.
The winners will be mentioned in an upcoming installment of my weekly autobiographical music column, 'A Day In The Life' in Michiana's print-published Arts & Entertainment weekly, "Off The Water".
OK voters, Let's Hear YOUR Voice! DaveCarlocks UnexposedTalentyoutube.com
I'd have to say that 2012 has been one of my best years, and I know without a doubt that it's due to something that changed within me.
You've heard it before, and I'm going to say it again: ATTITUDE. Yes, it turns out, Attitude is
Everything, and we ALL have the power to get there. Now don’t stop reading because you think you’ve heard it before…give me a chance to explain:
When life gave me lemons (ie: living so far away from the place and the people I love), I Made Lemonade. I Decided. I Took Control. I Took Action. I Took Risks. I DID SOMETHING. I started to blog and I took creative writing classes, and I started my website, West Coast Posse
, and I submitted an essay that was accepted and will be included in a BOOK
this year! Not only that, I'm writing my own book
, and if I must, I will self-publish it this year. I started this book YEARS ago. It sat on my computer, it moved from computer to computer, but suddenly something switched inside of me, and I began actively pursuing ways to make it happen. And. It. Will. I will complete and publish, Bluebirds
, the novel I know I was always meant to write, in 2013.
Now I'm a pretty determined chick, and I've done this before. When I couldn't get pregnant, I Took Control. I Took Action. I DID SOMETHING. When modern medicine failed me, I doggedly pursued and researched ways of improving my chances. I questioned. I changed. I adapted. I kept my goals of having a baby in my mind every waking moment, and I doggedly pursued my chosen path
. The path that spoke to me in whispers. I was quiet, and I listened. I didn't allow anything to shake me. I kept at it, and kept at it, until I met success. After six long years and one miscarriage, GlutenNaziMom was born, and so was GlutenNaziKid. He'll turn ten years old in 2013. And in 2013, GlutenNaziMom
, the website that I started four years ago, will actually become something.
I wanted to be a stay at home mom. It felt like the right thing to do, and I have loved it. Not every moment. But overall, there’s nothing better I could have possibly done with the last 9.75 years than to see two daughters through adolescence and to see each of them, in her own way, get married (both in the last quarter of) this past year, and to see one spectacular little boy successfully navigate fourth grade.
Being a SAHM has put a lot of pressure on my husband. It’s cost us financially, but so did me working and being unhappy in one unfulfilling job after another. I couldn’t see how to do both, but I’ve felt this niggling at the back of my mind that I was the key
. I was the key to my family’s financial freedom; to my own sense of purpose and fulfillment. I’ve written my entire life, and it’s something I’ve gone back to again and again. But I lacked the confidence to test the waters before. They remain largely untested, but instead of ignoring the niggling, I’m listening. I’m listening to that little voice inside of me, who’s been telling me for years that this was something I needed to do. I’m not standing outside the fence, watching the merry-go-round of life happen to everyone else. I’m not being a victim of circumstances that brought us back home and unemployed, I’m USING everything that’s happened before, everything that I know, every person I’ve met along the way, and I’m putting all the pieces together to make something happen in 2013.
And I couldn’t have done it without each one of you. Without every positive comment that gave me wings, and every negative comment that made me try harder, I could never have kept striving, kept believing, kept writing. DOING SOMETHING
, whether it elicits positive response or negative, is so very much better than living in a void
, than doing absolutely nothing but waking up every morning and taking up space—than sucking the Light
out of the Universe.
So I’m giving back. You bet your sweet bippy, I’m USING what I know and who I know, but at the same time, I’m promoting others. I’m sharing the love and the knowledge and the insight and the LIGHT
and the belief that what I’ve learned in my forty-six years on this earth, and what you’ve learned in yours, can help others; can make life better and the future brighter for those who choose to Listen and to Take Action and to Start Something in their own little corner of the globe. What’s Your Calling?
I now know that for each of us, We Are the Key. Inside every one of us lies the power to stop complaining and stop sniveling and stop spreading doom and destruction and misery; to stop passing blame, but rather, to use everything we know to share and to inspire and to make THIS the year everything turns around. Fiscal Cliff, be damned! I’m not holding my breath and waiting for the government
to fix my existence. I’m going out there and making it happen for myself, for my family, and for anyone who wants to Decide—who wants to Choose
—who wants to Take Action and come along. If we each look inside and make it Our Responsibility and Our Purpose, and spread that Attitude and Intention to our neighbors and around our blocks and around our towns and around Our Nation
and maybe even the WORLD—we Each Have the Power to Make 2013 The Best Year We’ve Ever Known!
I lack the sufficient number of fingers and toes to count how many times I’ve heard my dad say those words: Change is Permanent. Meaning, nothing ever stays the same, so you might as well stop fighting, stop trying to control
and embrace it. Neither embracing change nor giving up control, however, has EVER been easy for me.
Take moving to California, for instance. In September of 2010, we left my quaint little lakeside hometown and our home of 12 years in Michigan, still full of all our stuff, and spent two weeks camping our way across country to the destination of temporary housing and a new job for my husband, in San Diego, California. We were towing a 30 foot travel trailer; me, husband, then seven-year-old son, dog, and a lizard experiencing Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride
back in the trailer, his tank precariously and I’m sure mortifyingly bungeed to the dinette. Every time we stopped to make camp, the Boy and I had to rearrange his tank and refill the water that had sloshed everywhere. He was downright twitchy and clearly not a happy desert-dwelling leopard gecko.
I knew the feeling.
There wasn’t a whole lot of conversation happening in our vehicle as the more than 2000 miles rolled beneath our rig. I spent many hours on Facebook; trying desperately to maintain the connection to friends, family back home and the nearly grown daughters we were leaving behind. Our middle daughter was already living and going to school in Florida and everyone and everything I loved was growing only farther and farther away, as we moved closer and closer to the unknown bustling vastness of San Diego and the west coast. The thought of building a life so far removed from the one I’d known, grew only more daunting.
There’s a theory in psychology called tabula rasa, or blank slate. Meaning that every child is born with a clean slate and that they grow and become the people they will become because of their experiences, the environment in which they grow, how they are nurtured and, perhaps most importantly, because of the people they meet along the way. I think I was a bit of a blank slate for much of my life--floundering, questioning where my place might be in the Universe, and what my purpose could possibly be. I didn’t so much make choices and decisions for myself, as I allowed them to be made by others, or procrastinated to the point where they were made for me. In many cases, I failed to actively participate in choosing my path, and often blamed others when I didn’t like the outcome; my poor husband being the frequent place for my blame to land.
Even as I blamed others, I always felt a niggling, deep down, that I was the key; that I had the power to give my family the freedom to build our lives, thrive and contribute something truly special to wherever we chose to live, but I had no idea how to get there.
At first, San Diego was no different. After an initial period of mourning (OK, more like wallowing), and making exactly one truly wonderful friend, to whom I will be eternally grateful for recognizing how pathetic I was and reaching out to me anyway in the park, I ultimately decided that for however long we might be in California, I was going to grow and take advantage of opportunities that weren't as readily available in my small hometown. I decided.
I began to follow local San Diego authors, novelist, Margaret Dilloway, and self-help guru, Debbie Ford, and I read a debut memoir by an author from my hometown, Patricia Gibson. I liked her first book so much, How to be an American Housewife
, that I e-mailed Margaret Dilloway. She kindly replied and suggested I seek out classes at UCSD Extension, join a writers group, and attend a writers’ conference. I took my first Creative Writing class in the fall of 2011, and magic began to happen. I was blessed to study under Don and Nancy Kaye Matson, and under their patient tutelage and encouragement, I have experienced a dramatic life change and have positively bloomed. Nancy Kaye has a website, Define Your Destiny
, and I swear that I did just that, purely by osmosis and her proximity in class.
I remember when we first arrived, as we drove over the last big mountain in Arizona into California, I saw a rainbow. I wondered if our pot of gold could possibly be waiting at the end of it. I even posted a picture of it to Facebook, and asked that very question. Well, financially? Not yet. But personally? I’d have to say that California has taught me much about myself, and if my own pot of gold is the light inside and the confidence that I now recognize and seek to share with the world? Then yes, California has contained that pot of gold I’d hoped for.
I turned 46 years old in July. But it wasn’t until I spent my 45th year in California that I finally figured out that I want to be a writer when I grow up. Not even that I want to be, but more that I always was, and I’d suppressed it all these years. I’d always used the excuse that because I lack a college degree, no one would care what I thought or what I had to say; that my words couldn’t possibly be profound enough.
Being willing to stick my neck out and try it, and realizing otherwise, I suppose, means that over these many months in California, I did actually grow up.
I did grow up and amid all the crowds and all the rush and the competition to spend more, lookmore'beautiful'earnmorehavemoredriveabettercar, I discovered something pretty amazing.
I discovered that I have the power to bring people together and to be a light, even in this huge place.
I came to this vast land that is San Diego, and I didn't disappear. I didn't crumble, though I was cracked for awhile. When I decided
finally to stop wallowing and take control of my San Diego experience, I discovered I was no longer invisible, and in fact I bloomed. I became someone I could be proud of, besides just my kids' mom, which of course isn't 'just' at all. But because society seems to tell us so at every opportunity, as stay at home moms with the dreaded holes in our resumes, it’s easy to forget that what we share, manage and grow in our families, translates into an ability to share, manage and grow other things as well. Women aren't merely capable of building homes, communities, governments; we build people--little human beings, for goodness sakes. That isn’t ‘just’—we’re not ‘just’ moms.
Remember the movie, City Slickers
, with Billy Chrystal and Jack Palance? Billy Chrystal plays Mitch, an angst-ridden suburban husband, and Palance won an academy award for his portrayal of a trail-hardened, Curly Washburn. Curly turns out to be more than a simple cowboy, but a wise mystic who advises Mitch to focus on the “One Thing,” that is most important in his life to solve all his problems. I didn’t really get it, and I always wondered what that “One Thing” was.
I’ve come to learn that the “One Thing,” for me, is in that sharing. The secret is in supporting one another and in our innate humanity toward one another; in caring enough to discover the beauty and special something that lives in every one of us. It’s in being willing to open up and share the pieces of ourselves that are special, even if we or our families and friends are the only ones who think so, or even if no one does…yet.
With only a genuine smile and a look in the eye, I have found the power to disarm a cranky clerk and maybe change their bad day for the better. And I now know that within each of us exists the power to make all our wishes come true; we need only to decide it, believe it, reach for it, and trust that the Universe will put us right where we need to be in order grow.
As much as I thank California and the wonderful people I’ve met here for helping make me the person I am today, and the person I will continue to grow to become, however, it is time for us to return home to Michigan and the responsibilities we left behind. My husband will go back to consulting, which is what landed him the job opportunity in the first place, and I will continue to write. And we will pool the many resources we both possess and make life work there.
We're going back, but we're not going backwards. As the lizard survives to make another terrifying trip across the country, so do I, and the person I'm bringing home with me is better than the one who left. She believes in herself. She believes she has something to offer her community; that she can make a positive impact on herself, her daughters, her nieces; her Posse on both West Coasts
and all points in between and beyond, and even to her husband, father, brothers & son. She is more confident and more willing to share the lessons of life that no college could have taught her, and she is more open to the lessons others have to teach. She is an author.
I am an AUTHOR! A dream that will be realized when the book in which I will have an essay published, 51%: Women and the Future of Politics
, is released in the fall, before the elections. I never would have stretched, never would have reached for such a lofty goal, had I not been so desperately lonely and sick of myself that I had no other choice than to begin writing the thoughts and the stories that had wrestled for years in my mind. I even sleep more peacefully now, and I am excited to bring the best that I have to offer back to my hometown and to have a positive impact there.
Even so, after almost two years, it turns out that saying good-bye to new friends is just as painful as saying good-bye to old ones. I dearly wish I wasn't breaking a heart in order to heal my own; to return to my hometown, our families, old friends, to help raise our nephew and to be closer to our daughters and the support system we left behind, and to my beloved lake. I am leaving California, but I thank her for all she has taught me, and for the wonderful friends here who have found a place in my own broken heart forever.
Perhaps in order to find our true selves we need to step away for a time from that which defined who we were. We must stretch our wings and venture off in order to find who we hope to become and to find the true potential we all possess and the selves we can be proud to share with the world. I’m not sure what it is that makes it so hard for some of us to love ourselves and recognize our worth as young women, but I hope that I can share the self-esteem and the light I’ve found, and teach other women and young girls to be open to the Universe, to see it in themselves, and to recognize their own power and their own true potential. To realize that change isn’t just permanent, it’s positive. If only we can recognize it and accept it for what it is and for what it might be, and for what it might possibly define in us…our destiny.
In order to gain insight and a belief in my ability and intent to write, I have sought out the work of local authors to make it feel more human to me and thus more possible. Here in San Diego, novelist Margaret Dilloway
and non-fiction, self-help author Debbie Ford
have both been of interest, and I recently read "The Red Skirt Memoirs of an Ex Nun," by Patricia O'Donnell-Gibson
, from whom we bought our house in Michigan, although I never met her personally. Through Facebook, I've also renewed friendships with those from high school who have successfully made writing their career. My friends Kitty Broihier
and Sondra Dee Garrison
actually spent time honing their craft in college, whereas I have little more than an excellent high school English department to bank on (thank you, SJHS and Mrs. Nealer, much as I may have despised it at the time, and Mr. Hop, who inspired and encouraged me and so many others, including my step-daughter the year he retired), and I have always operated at my own speed, especially when it comes to believing in myself.
There's a saying by Dr. Seuss, "Why fit in when you were born to stand out?" Well, I've spent my entire life trying and feeling as though I failed to fit in, fighting that fact and vacillating between being proud and feeling bad that I'm just different. I have always enjoyed the spotlight, while others may shy away from it and look at me as though I'm an alien. I was a single mom before all the celebrities were doing it. I certainly didn't fit the mold of the corporate employee when I worked at Whirlpool. I have enjoyed having standard poodles because of the attention they attract since people don't see them every day (and the no slobbering and no shedding parts, which kinda rock). And I've had to relearn practically everything about parenting that was successful with our daughters, because our son is a different creature with unique needs. And it only took me six years to make that boy; later in life when anybody my age with any sense was finished building their families. Let's face it; times they have a'changed very much so from when we raised our girls. Did I say I have always operated at my own speed? There was a reason I was dubbed The Poky Puppy in Kindergarten, and I’m stubborn, too.
It isn't as though people have told me my whole life that I'm not
worthy; quite the opposite, in fact. The spotlight I enjoyed so much when I was younger came from my singing, for which I received a lot of appreciation, support and encouragement. But it's almost as if singing was too easy. My words were different. They were personal, and they were my (crazy?) thoughts and feelings...things I was afraid to put out there for the world to see. I did have teachers who encouraged me about writing, from as far back as grade school. I can vividly remember Mrs. Schroeder telling me in fifth grade how descriptive my writing was. And during one of the most difficult times in my life, working in corporate America and so not fitting in, a communications consultant I'd befriended told me that I had the ability to impact people someday. College just never happened, but motherhood did, and years of keeping my words to myself made any confidence I may have once had falter. I occasionally showed my daughters bits of my writing and they liked it, but what else could they say? What if everybody my whole life was just humoring me?
I mean, watch American Idol auditions for five minutes and you realize there are plenty of people whose families delude them into thinking they’re great.
Well this is me. Operating at my own speed. In my forties, I'm finally coming to accept that maybe I don't have to be Special, I just have to be Willing. Everything I write doesn't have to be Brilliant, it just has to be Good, and it's OK to do it just for myself. Writing daily does seem to be having a positive effect on quieting my mind, and that's a good thing. At some point, however, I have to be willing to risk rejection, to risk people rolling their eyes and thinking, "Who does she think she is?" (Probably my worst fear and what has paralyzed me more than anything else over the years.) In the meantime, if you get something from what I write, GREAT! If not, as my very encouraging friend and “writing colleague,” Sondra Dee Garrison said, "There's plenty to go around." There exists something out there that will resonate with you, and in turn, what I write will surely resonate with someone. Anyone? Hello?
I thought Spring Fever was a phenomena belonging only to those living in Northern or Midwestern states, but my girlfriend here in sunny SoCal said her son was feeling it this morning, and my son has mentioned it in the last couple of days, too. I guess March 1 is March 1 whether you live in Michigan where we hail from, or Southern California where we live now.
Of course, the weather in Michigan this year hasn't been nearly as extreme as in years past. My friends in the southwest corner enjoyed a 65 degree Leap Year bonus, and there were celebrations all over Facebook...and then it snowed that evening. They've only had a few good sledding days, and at times their high temperature has just about matched ours in San Diego. Yesterday, in fact, it was higher.
I find myself feeling nostalgic for spring, but for springs past; for the crocuses poking up through crusty snow; for the fresh smell of loamy soil; for the annual laugh among neighbors at the one couple who shoveled their slowly dwindling snow piles ONTO their driveway about this time each year. Of course I'm nostalgic for anything at all to do with Michigan, except perhaps for that one set of crazy inhabitants of the old neighborhood.
I didn't come willingly to San Diego. It wasn't a choice on my part, except to keep my children's parents together, which is of course the worthiest of choices. Were it not for San Diego, however, I don't think I would be taking the steps I am to follow the dream I've had since middle school of being a writer. I would have likely remained complacent with my Michigan life, and done nothing but continue to dwell on an empty dream.
Here I am faced with so much time alone, that I have no choice but to look inside and ask what I hope to be. Here there are a bevy of choices in what classes to attend, workshops, writers groups, and it seems more accepted, even expected of someone to want more for herself. Whether it's near obsessive exercising, botoxing or shopping, many of the moms here seem to make no apologies about focusing on themselves during their children's school day, and I'm beginning to admire it and even strive for it.
Maybe it should be our time; my time. After sacrificing clothes, a social life, income, job advancement, and risking the dreaded hole in our resumes, isn't it about time we think about what we want to be when we grow up? I've been a mom for twenty-five years, for nearly all of my adult life, and of course I wouldn't trade it for anything. But I have my last child at home, and if I don't work on myself now, if I don't take the opportunities that are available to me and use this time being on the complete opposite side of the country from both of my girls; the very essence of who I have been only so much more, then I'm not only cheating myself, I'm cheating them when they become mothers and must struggle with some of the same challenges.
But why is it so hard for me? It's hard to believe in myself and my dreams, it's hard to justify sitting at my computer all day spending the time writing. It's really tough to spend the money on classes that may or may not pay off one day. And most of all, it feels damn near insurmountable to even imagine submitting anything I've written and risk certain rejection, let alone actually do it.
I'm afraid I don't have the answers. Maybe I just have to accept that doubting myself is a battle I will continue to fight every day, and make myself do it anyway. After all, I did take that creative writing class last fall, and it went very well. I'm currently taking an online class on Internet writing markets, and I'm signing up for Creative Writing II, with the same instructors I adored from the first session. I'm friends on Facebook with Margaret Dilloway, a local San Diego author who wrote the delightful, "How to be an American Housewife," and who frequently posts great pieces about writing that I'm finding inspirational and informative. In fact it was she who lead me to seek out the classes I'm taking.
Perhaps I haven't come very far from The Poky Little Puppy I was dubbed by Mrs. Wisebrook in kindergarten, but slowly and surely, I'm fighting my way to becoming a local San Diego author, too.