Sunday, December 30, 2012

Lessons learned from a trash-talking mother

My mother has an outer shell so tough that for a long time I didn’t realize there was anything soft inside. She will often find humor in situations that you’d never think have a lighter side. She will make comments so wry that you might question whether her emotional heart is actually functioning. Her perspective can be so tough that her words have  made me cringe. I see this side of her most clearly when someone has been foolish, or whose lousy judgment has led them to some misfortune that one wouldn’t wish on a dog.

God help me, but I sometimes hear my mother’s voice and sentiments coming from my own mouth.  I happen to have a kind tone of voice, so people are often surprised when I cut through the sentimental and get straight to the core of a matter. I like to get to the place where you either fish or cut bait. Over time I’ve pissed off and lost a couple of friends. But life teaches you after a while that bosses can be mean and unfair,  a short-tempered moody lover probably won’t be much fun for long, a married lover is a married lover, money can be tight for very long periods of time, and so on. No amount of complaining, wishing, and hoping will make it otherwise. So when faced with such dilemmas, my mother’s voice fills my mind loud and clear.

Looking back, I realize that I, too, have sometimes been a fool and fallen into a mishap that I should have seen coming. But while it was happening, I managed to keep it moving, keep my chin up, do whatever the heck was in front of me to do. And this is where I see the value of my mother’s biting perspective. When life gets hard,  we do something that makes sense.

So even when a person is neck deep in crap, it’s the belief in oneself that moves her step-by-step out of the muck to the other side. My mother’s view of the world has taught me it's our attitude about situations that make us tougher than the circumstances that life will bring. At the end of the day, it’s about whether we see ourselves as victors or victims in our lives. And God bless her, my clear-thinking, cigarette-smoking, junk-talking mother has never seen herself as a victim. And she is almost always a happy woman who can find something to laugh about.

As we start a new year (beyond 2012!!!!) ask yourself, are you a victim or a victor?

Heads Up Readers!
My novella, Salt in the Sugar Bowl is now available for preorder from Main Street Rag Publishing Company! Preorder on

It's now $6.50 plus S/H (compared to $12 plus S/H after April 9th)


Sunday, December 23, 2012

Good advice if you're striving to reach a goal

Louise Erdrich has always been one of my favorite authors. I always read her fiction, but the other day I came across this poem, and now I love her even more. She captured just what I need to remember every time life gets in the way of my personal goals-- the big ones. When we work, take care of families and homes, and get bogged down with the hundred little tasks that make up a day, we can get sidetracked. So often, I wind up cleaning the scum from my fridge when I should be writing. So I post this for all of you who have a passion and a goal that keeps falling behind the mundane chores of our lives.
Advice to Myself by Louise Erdrich

Leave the dishes.
Let the celery rot in the bottom drawer of the refrigerator
and an earthen scum harden on the kitchen floor.
Leave the black crumbs in the bottom of the toaster.
Throw the cracked bowl out and don't patch the cup.
Don't patch anything. Don't mend. Buy safety pins.
Don't even sew on a button.
Let the wind have its way, then the earth
that invades as dust and then the dead
foaming up in gray rolls underneath the couch.
Talk to them. Tell them they are welcome.
Don't keep all the pieces of the puzzles
or the doll's tiny shoes in pairs, don't worry
who uses whose toothbrush or if anything
matches, at all.
Except one word to another. Or a thought.
Pursue the authentic-decide first
what is authentic,
then go after it with all your heart.
Your heart, that place
you don't even think of cleaning out.
That closet stuffed with savage mementos.
Don't sort the paper clips from screws from saved baby teeth
or worry if we're all eating cereal for dinner
again. Don't answer the telephone, ever,
or weep over anything at all that breaks.
Pink molds will grow within those sealed cartons
in the refrigerator. Accept new forms of life
and talk to the dead
who drift in though the screened windows, who collect
patiently on the tops of food jars and books.
Recycle the mail, don't read it, don't read anything
except what destroys
the insulation between yourself and your experience
or what pulls down or what strikes at or what shatters
this ruse you call necessity.
Is this just what you needed to hear?

Sunday, December 16, 2012

A personal truth realized about love and relationships

My husband and I entertained last night. We had family and a few old and new friends over to celebrate the season. A few couples that we've known for years were here, and I was reminded of how relationships can grow stronger in an understated and timeless fashion. Over the years I have seen couples go through some things. At times, relationships seem as up in the air as a pair of dice-- with bystanders wondering where it will land. But over time, I am aware of the ebb and flow of couplings-- sometimes they are closer than others, sometimes more or less patient with each other.  And sometimes monkey wrenches are thrown in that upset some crucial parts. But some couplings seem destined to survive the long haul.

More than a decade ago, Rev. Dr. William Barber II (President of the NAACP), married my cousins. I was in the wedding, and I listened to every word because I was about to get married myself. He made the congregation vow to support the couple. It was a specific direction to do what was necessary to lift them up and help sustain their relationship instead of tearing it down, or causing it stress. I now realize how important that is, because when I was a young person, I paid no attention to any such values. And drama could have been my middle name for quite some years. Now I realize how important it is, karma wise, to respect the relationships around us. If we want strong relationships, I believe we have to acknowledge and value the relationships of others.

Being around both youngish and older seasoned couples last night reminded me that love is a courageous act. Love makes a person vulnerable and doubtful.  Committing to love is not for the faint-hearted, or the mindless. It's for those who are strong enough to see beyond the superficial TV love. Because there is always the possibility of pain and sadness, that things can go awry and end up badly. Because each person is still an individual-- even as they are part of a couple. Many would love to remove a loved one's feet, so he or she could not have the mobility to walk his or her own path. But the freedom to be one's own person is part of the joy of living. And it's also part of the joy of love. Because if we respect the relationships of others, and do their love no harm, we become more secure in our own relationships-- meaning we can live and love with more confidence.
Life truly is a mirror. We see ourselves in others. If we are able to see the good and the positive, we are more apt to experience it in our own lives-- because what we notice is often what we expect. I decided today, that I will try to embrace only kind and loving thoughts about the couples that I encounter. I will wish them a peaceful and loving journey. I hate to be all cryptic, but I believe that what I wish for others, I claim for myself.

Heads Up Readers!
My novella, Salt in the Sugar Bowl is now available for preorder from Main Street Rag Publishing Company! Preorder on
It's now $6.50 plus S/H (compared to $12 plus S/H after April 9th)

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Living beyond the phases of our lives

When I was younger, I was wild as weeds. Truth be told, there were times I partied so hard that I would awaken not knowing if it was dawn or dusk, without a clue what day it was. After I became a parent, I reeled it in quite a bit. Then most of my play  was done with other parents-- and we had kid-friendly environments where the children entertained themselves, while we grown ups did our thing in other parts of the house. When I was self employed, I learned even more about balance. I had to work sooooo hard for long stretches, and I was bleary-eyed for weeks and sometimes months at a time-- going through life like a machine. When I finally had some down time,  I played pretty hard (but not nearly as hard as the "what day is this?" years).

Now I'm in the I've got to work and I've got to write phase of my life. Which pretty much means, I am involved in some form of work for a majority of my waking hours. Even my entertainment involves work-- going to open mics and reading my fiction. Going to writing venues and learning and sharing with other writers. My world has narrowed, and I absolutely LOVE the box of work as play as work cycle I'm in.


So last night at the community party, I told my friend how rigid I'm starting to feel. That I have to make myself get into the mood for a lot of things that, quite often,  don't seem worth the effort. I have a hard time drumming up excitement about the stuff of  life in general-- if it doesn't have anything to do with my work as play phase.

So I mused about it. And this is what I think: Life is a series of phases. As we go through each phase, be aware that we won't always be whomever we are at the moment. The world is HUGE, and our choices are infinite. So I think it's important that we stay flexible enough to be all right with the whole world as we encounter it at any given moment (as long as nobody's getting hurt). We need to let our minds sort of loosen up and be-- without thinking, judging, or interpreting how everything sits with us in relation to the phase we're in. Because all kinds of people, holidays, professions, opinions, celebrations, experiences, and occasions are the ingredients of a rich life.

Last night, at the party, there was a woman of my mother's generation,  while most were  a couple of decades younger than she. She was relaxed and natural, conversed with the guests, and really seemed to enjoy herself. She, I believe, is a model for me and how I want to approach life. We must do what we must within our boxes, but being a happy human means appreciating and participating in the world as it happens. Otherwise we paint ourselves into tiny little corners that are hard to move out of. And as we age, it will be harder and harder to experience the spontaneous joy available to us. If we get too attached to judging and nitpicking about what we want and don't want to do, believe in or don't believe in,  are comfortable or uncomfortable with, we may create a habit of counting ourselves out of the many games of life.

This picture is entitled "Lonely." As we go through our phases, embrace more of life-at-large, so we are always living  beyond our narrow margins.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Thank God for the rescue squad!

For a long time I worried about other people all the time. I worried about myself too, but I had the worries of others lodged deeply in my spirit. I began to worry that if I died, pictures of other people's lives would flash before my eyes. Whenever I left a lover, I worried about how he'd fare without me, so I would leave behind the things I loved-- things I thought would help him make it through. That sounds pretty arrogant, but life taught me early that I have what I need to handle whatever life brings. I always know I will  be okay-- even if I have to part with some things along the way. That's how I know I'm a warrior.  I have started my life all the way over four times.

This all crossed my mind this morning, and it dovetailed with a thought I had yesterday while driving down the street and a firetruck whizzed by me.

People are stronger than I have given them credit for being. The same resources I have in my spirit reside in them; they just have to decide to use them. Their lives are not made better by my concern. They are made better by choices they make. No matter how much we love and care about another person, we will never control their minds, and therefore we will never control their lives. So when you're troubled and frazzled because you are worried about friends, lovers, husbands, wives, even children and parents, remember, you will never live their lives for them. And being a martyr will never make your life any better.

So my tip on this chilly Saturday morning, is to live your life. Be the (peaceful) warrior you need to be to make a good life for yourself. And do what you can for your loved ones within reason, because things can definitely get out of control for people. And when they do, know that you can't save them. Just thank God for the rescue squad!