Writing is like being able to put life into a snow globe. It takes the things that are too big and scary and reduces them into a form that I can put away when I want and look at from a distance. It also takes all that’s good in life and captures it into something I can take out when I want and look at close up and keep forever. It makes the bad things into something I can hold…and the good things into something I can hold onto. Both help so much that I need that little souvenir of life.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Not Too Much Independence, Please

Both of my children are going out of town for the 4th of July this year. This will be the first holiday I’ve spent completely without them since they were born.

Independence Day has special meaning to me because it was my mother’s birthday. She’s been gone almost 18 years now, but it still never ceases to feel like a family holiday to me. So I’m planning now so that I don’t get stuck with nothing to do.

Last year my friend Pam called, and neither of us was going to see fireworks. So we thought up these

Things for Losers to Do on 4th of July:

1. Stalk people with fireworks. Spray them with hoses and yell, “Some of us is tryin’ to sleep, dammit!”

2. Take your dog’s tranquilizers.

3. Go into your bathroom and sing, “We’re an American Band” into your hairbrush. Throw your hair a lot, a la ‘80s bands.

4. Paint yourself red, white and blue, then take a picture of yourself taking a picture of yourself in the mirror. Don’t forget the teeth!

5. Light a sparkler and sing Happy Birthday to You, only substitute United States of America for the “Dear________” part. For extra excitement, do that indoors, and then clap when the smoke detector goes off.

6. Light old birthday candles, matches, and votives. Turn out the lights, set them around you and make fireworks noises.

7. Make a “Miss America” style sash out of toilet paper and drape it around yourself. Sing the “Here She Comes” song while practicing the Princess Wave and weeping.

8. Tape Brendan Fraser’s face over an Uncle Sam poster. Practice winking while you whisper seductively, “I want you, too, Darlin’.”

9. Buy a family-sized order of curly fries and put them on a blue plate. Squirt on ketchup. Eat them all. (Pam’s)

10. Have a picnic in your living room. Tie a chair to one leg and have a three legged race all by yourself. Then win a game of Spider Solitaire on your computer, turn out the lights, and exclaim, “Oooh!” and “Ahhh!” when the little fireworks come on.

“Sell a country! Why not sell the air, the great sea, as well as the earth. Did not the Great Spirit make them all for the use of his children?” ~Tecumseh, Chief of the Shawnee

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Write On, Dude

A Cup of Comfort for Dog Lovers II is out today. I have several reasons to be jubilant about this.

My husband used to put me down. He made nasty little threats. Took my graduate school money. Wouldn’t let me take one day off. Wouldn’t let me take a vacation. Got mad when I had friends. Got mad when I painted or drew. Got mad when I distinguished myself in any way. Oddly, I never really thought of it as abusive because I laughed at him and did most of what I wanted, anyway. But I got what I always called “the punishments.”

And then one day I volunteered to write my subdivision’s newsletter. My husband was mad. Again.

It was only when he tried to punish me for writing that I really began to see him for what he was. I was living life with a human being who seemed only to know how to take--a parasite. Suddenly, I wanted to fling him off and feel free again. And the way I did that was by writing. It felt like I wrote myself back into existence. I felt paradoxically whole again.

He got mad when I used his computer...I used it anyway. Wouldn’t baby-sit the children so that I could take a computer class...I took it while the youngest was in preschool. He wouldn’t keep an eye on the children so I could write the newsletter...I locked myself in the bathroom and scribbled on scraps of paper while they lay on the floor outside and put their little fingers under the door.

When I tried to write creatively, the computer “crashed.” Twice. When people dropped off items for the newsletter, he literally pushed himself into the conversation. He had jealous fits when men brought articles for me to print. He tried distracting me every way he knew how. He even tried pretending to people that he’d been secretly doing the writing for me.

But I wrote and wrote and wrote. And I found myself again in those words. And finally, much, much later than I should have, I left him.

I left in spite of poverty, attacks, and struggles. I left in spite of the fact that most of my extended family is dead. I left in spite of a future that’s worse than uncertain; more poverty, attacks and struggles are certain. And I’m not a bit sorry.

Then last week, he shorted child support even though last I knew, he made 16 times what I do (although I do 100% of the parenting and pay 20% of college and medical expenses). So when I emailed him to ask where it was, I got this telling little email: “I would think that by now with all of your writing deals and book signings that you really wouldn't have time to mess with trying to extort yet more money from me.”

So right now, I am laughing….And I am writing. And those snarky little words are music to my ears.

Is it tacky of me to be telling this? Probably. But the truth is, if I had read this a few years ago, it would have helped me…so I will write. And it helps me now…so I will write. As long as this controlling person attacks me, I will write. As long as any controlling people attack anyone, I will write and write and write. And if they don’t attack, I will still write…about something else.

It's not bragging when I announce I have a story coming out. That’s not it at all. It's not about being a great writer. It's not even really about writing. It's not about being special or successful or making money. It's about refusing to give up or give in to a person who—for reasons I will probably never understand—thought love meant destroying me. It’s about celebrating. It’s about saying, you can take everything away from me, but you can’t take me. I am still here. And in spite of it all, I am happy.

The truth is that monetary poverty is nothing—nothing—compared to the starvation of the creative spirit.

“I dedicate this book to that part of myself that inched forward when a thousand winds blew and she had but one small pink birthday candle to hold up her wish….” ~Tama J. Kieves, This Time I Dance! Trusting the Journey of Creating the Work You Love

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Good Book

I just finished reading a good book called Controlling People: How to recognize, Understand, and Deal with People Who Try to Control You by Patricia Evans (©2002 by Adams Media Corporation). There are parts that so closely nail controlling personalities, it occasionally made me gasp aloud and require a break just to let it sink in.

A book is a garden, an orchard, a storehouse, a party, a company by the way, a counselor, a multitude of counselors. ~Charles Baudelaire