Tag Archive for: writing

Every so often, I am weighed down by my passions, or at least the things I choose to pay attention to more closely. And while I dearly love reading and listening to the radio, seeking out current information on topics that stoke that passion for me (food, reproductive rights, women’s civil liberties, education, healthcare, etc.), from time to time I become weary of the complexities.

Last night our book club had a fascinating discussion prompted by the book Hunger of Memory by Richard Rodriguez. We touched on race issues, assimilation, education, and affirmative action, among other things, and it was a lively, respectful exchange of ideas that I welcomed.  In addition to some other discussions I’ve attended this week (not the least of which was the one prompted by my Op-Ed in The Feminist Wire), I was reminded just how complicated so many of these issues are and what it will take to begin to unravel them.  My mind is filled with Seattle’s $15/hour minimum wage increase that is being hotly debated by the City Council and, it seems, every citizen and small business owner in the city and it seems that everywhere I look there are other, very complicated problems whose solutions will undoubtedly have unintended consequences.

Fortunately, I was reminded by two different things I read this week, that I can retreat in to simple beauty.  My friend Holly Goodman wrote a beautiful essay that appeared in Nailed Magazine this week that served to bring me back to my center.  Often, when I read glorious writing, it has the effect of reminding me that I am made more whole when I attempt to create, that my soul is served, no, soothed, by the simple act of creating something real and honest.

I just finished reading Peter Heller’s latest work, “The Painter,” which sparked similar feelings. The way he uses words, describes the natural world in exquisite terms, speaks in the honest heart-voice of his character, makes me want to write.  I remember that life is not all problems and solutions, that in order for it to be rich and immersive, we must create new, beautiful things.

What inspires you to create?

Spring Break. That’s why it’s been a while since I wrote anything.  It is this particular week that both strikes fear in to my heart for the coming summer (and having the girls around all day every day) and thrills me because I get to hang out with my girls and do things like walk the dog and read books in the sunshine and bake cookies.  This week has been a perfect window in to just that. And now that it’s Thursday, I’m ready for them to go back to school. And I have no idea how I’m going to survive summer.  None.  I will certainly have to be more diligent about carving out time to write (and read) if I am to preserve what little portion of sanity I have left.

One incredibly bright beacon this week came thanks to Kris Prochaska and her talents.  Kris is a counselor by training who has built a practice around helping people decipher what she calls their “human design,” in an effort to optimize the way they work and live in the world.  I wrote about one session with her last November where I had a multitude of “a-ha” moments and, following that, I became interested in seeing if she could help my girls navigate the treacherous waters of adolescence.  I pulled up our Human Design Charts (a mixture of information based on chakras and the zodiac and the I-Ching, among other things) and asked Kris to work with Lola first.  On Tuesday, she spent a little more than two hours with us helping Lola understand what Kris calls the blueprint of her personality in order to better understand how she can most effectively make good decisions that are in alignment with her design.  Kris explains it better on her site:

“In every case, when I am talking with my clients about miscommunication with their family, stress around money and marketing, and feeling overwhelmed around their calendar it boils down to the initial decision and commitment they made.  Invariably they say something like “how did I get in this AGAIN?” And we look at the energy and emotion behind the decision and realize they were making the decision and commitment from their little voices of fear, doubt, shame and lots of guilt.  Ugh.  No wonder stress and overwhelm is there.

Sometimes it’s not so much the little voices that are pulling us this way or that, but rather living out of alignment with how we are uniquely designed as individuals to manage our energy, communicate our message, or commit to the next business venture.All of your results stem from the moment you choose a course of action and how you approach that choice emotionally and energetically.  Wouldn’t it be prudent (and totally freakin’ powerful!) to know exactly what voices are making those choices, and how you best listen to the only voice that you need ever heed: your Inner Voice?”

We all have different ways of listening to (and finding) our inner authority and after talking with Kris, Lola has a much better shot at honoring hers. I am convinced that, armed with this information, she will be able to make her way through the challenges of teenagerhood with more clarity.  Eve is already bugging me to schedule her session with Kris, but my brain is so full from Lola’s I feel like I need to go sit in a dark cave for a week to process it all.

I was looking forward to a few hours free today while the girls head to school for an exciting opportunity, but I’m afraid I won’t be able to stay away.  Their school was one of four in the nation chosen by The Clinton Foundation to engage in a Skype discussion about empowering girls to change the world.  I am fairly certain that neither Eve nor Lola truly understands the significance (I know I wouldn’t have when I was their age – hang out with a former Secretary of State on video? Who cares?), but I’m happy that the sun has gone away for today so they won’t be resenting me for intruding upon their Spring Break by making them participate. Of course, because I understand the significance of it, I will likely be sitting on my hands in the back of the room, clamping my lips together to force myself to stay quiet and let the girls speak, so my “few hours free” won’t be.

It will all definitely give me more to write about, although that isn’t a challenge right now. I have so many half-begun essays and poems, so many pieces sent out for submission to different publications (some hanging out there for weeks, waiting, and others simply rejected), that I hardly know how to tell them apart anymore. It would take the entire summer of writing in a vacuum to complete them all, and that’s only if nothing else occurred to me while I was writing.  There is a constant buzzing in my head from all the ideas and thoughts, both disparate and connected, and it’s all I can do to remember what Kris told me about my particular cycles of activity and how this happens every Spring.  I will wait for the bees to settle in and be still so that I can take the time I need with each one and it will all get done – or at least the stuff that needs to get done will get done. The rest can just buzz on away like so much background noise.

How do you survive Spring Break?

It’s been a crazy couple of weeks and with each day that got away from me it became harder and harder to imagine the long trek back to productive writing.

We have had some very unexpected events here at home that have required much project management by me (despite the fact that my insurance company appointed an agency to do just that — turns out the kid who got chosen was in over his head for weeks and couldn’t figure out how to cry, “Uncle!”) and I have felt foiled at every turn.  The phrase “comedy of errors” has bounced around in my brain more than once as I sidestepped a series of miscommunications by subcontractors, ironed out details in scheduling and logistics over and over again for everyone involved, navigated bureaucracies I never knew existed and forced myself not to cry when one more person didn’t show up to do their job when they were supposed to. I also managed to keep my cool when a very contrite 50-something plumber made his way to the kitchen the day before Thanksgiving to tell me he had accidentally put a sledgehammer through my shower wall into Lola’s bedroom, scattering sheetrock dust and tile bits all over her desk and knocking her art off of the walls.

When I awoke this morning to a house free of guests and the prospect of one more day of kids at home I was optimistic that I might somehow find my way back to writing today. Or at the very least, doing something I wanted to do, given that the last several weeks have consisted of me reacting to a series of events I had no control over.

By 2:30, I had had enough of plumbers, carpenters and the crew demolishing the sidewalk outside my house and decided to take the dog for a walk.  As we strolled the neighborhood on a crisp, gloriously sunny afternoon, I retreated in to my mind, intending to revisit the last few days’ worth of news and family holiday stories in order to find connections I might write about.  And while a few headlines whizzed by and I was able to recall some pretty cute moments from the past weekend, mostly I felt unable to access any sort of mojo at all.  It wasn’t for lack of desire, and while I am really terribly exhausted, I am rarely too tired to write. It was more like I was trapped in a long, dark hallway with beautiful doors on both sides of me and I couldn’t find the knobs. I simply don’t have access to the goods right now. I can’t get in.

The good news is I don’t feel desperate. I’m certain that it is only a matter of time before I can settle back in to my comfortable routine of finding things I’m passionate about to share.

The best news is that throughout this entire frustrating process with contractors and subcontractors and insurance companies, I have discovered that I no longer have a taste for anger. I used to love getting angry. As a teenager, I can remember wishing that someone would say something particularly ignorant to me so that I could unleash an indignant lecture on them, righteousness flashing in my eyes, and put them in their place.  I would invent entire conversations in my head, playing both sides, just so that I could say all of the things I had always wanted to. As a freshman in college, I had a roommate who watched soap operas in her down time and I recall thinking how fantastic it would be to play the role of the villain, spewing rage out at people who would never take it personally. I was a particularly mean driver, flipping people off and honking and riding their bumpers if they didn’t drive as fast or as deftly as I wanted them to. Anger felt good. It fueled me, and while I was never hateful or nasty to my friends or family, when I could yell at a stranger who screwed up or tell a story to a friend about how pissed off I was at so and so, I loved it.  Anger was warm and exciting.

I haven’t felt that in years and it embarrasses me now to admit that I used to feel that way, but over the last few weeks, while I might have been justified in yelling at someone for making a giant mistake that cost me weeks of  my time (or for putting a sledgehammer through the wall that means we won’t have these people out of our house until nearly Christmas, now), I haven’t. I have composed pointed, detailed emails to people in authority outlining the series of errors that have been made. I have had phone conversations where I respectfully demanded that someone take some accountability and try to see my perspective.  I have made it clear that I will never again employ most of these people, nor will I recommend them to anyone. But I have not raised my voice, threatened, thrown anything or called anyone a name other than the one their parents gave them.  I have tried to facilitate progress and see this situation for what it is – a sad mixture of communication errors (systemic in at least one of the companies, and not something I can ever hope to effect) and lack of accountability.  And in the end, the majority of folks to whom I have spoken about my frustration are happy to bend over backwards to do what I ask them to do now. I still have no hope of having them all out of my house anytime soon, but even as many of my friends and family say I ought to be unleashing rage upon them all, I find that I can’t do it. Somewhere along the way, that warm feeling I got from being angry turned to mush and now it feels dirty and wrong to vilify someone else, no matter how incompetent they might be.  Maybe I’ve finally learned that holding on to anger and rage is harmful to myself more than anyone else. Maybe I know better now that everyone is human. Maybe this is the result of learning not to take anything personally (thanks, Eve, for beating me over the head with that lesson – nothing better than a teenage daughter to bring that one home).  I don’t know, but I will say it’s easier to have perspective from the clear sight of exhaustion than it is through the fog of rage.

The distractions of summer are more welcome than ever. While I publicly lament the loss of productivity thanks to shuttling girls to and from camps and friends’ houses, I am secretly glad of the lack of time to sit and write. The truth is, I am stuck, and the questions themselves are a painful thicket of barbs and dry stems through which I am loathe to travel just yet.

A few months ago, I had renewed interest in my manuscript from a publicist/agent. We spent several glorious hours on the phone discussing the nature of the project and its importance to me as well as, we agreed, the importance to everyone interested in women’s rights and reproductive issues.  She promised to review the most current draft and we scheduled a series of phone interviews between the two of us to solidify the content for the introduction to the book.  She has contacts at several publishing houses as well as a knowledge of self-publishing and I felt my excitement rise, envisioning a book in my hand as soon as winter. Finally.

The interviews were postponed. Changed at the last minute. Eventually, cancelled altogether. She cited serious health issues and I agreed to give her space to work them out and wait for her return.  But without her interest in the project, her enthusiasm and gentle guidance, I am floundering.  I have retreated to that place I have been in so many times before: me and the work.  I no longer have any rational perspective. At this point, I have been working on this book in some form or another for nine years, interviewing, writing, researching, re-writing, editing, submitting.  I know the subject is relevant, but I no longer have any sense of direction or understanding where I am in the scope of the Universe. I am sitting in the middle of a kayak in the ocean with no land in sight and no clue which way to go. I have an oar, but I am probably just setting out in ever-widening circles without some frame of reference.

Several times over the past month I have set out to re-write the introduction myself, send copies of the manuscript to fellow writers for their ‘blurb’ and attempt to re-submit to publishers. I have convinced myself that, if this agent was interested, others will find the redeeming qualities in it, too. It is just a matter of finding the right fit.  But the notion is truly exhausting. I have been down this road before and what I was looking for was a partner who knew the path to walk beside me.  Instead, she pulled me down the road with her in her enthusiasm and then left me, saying she would be back soon.  I would like to muster up the energy to continue on without her but, honestly, without another person who is as excited about this body of work as me, it’s tough.

So much has changed since I started writing that book.  I am still as passionate, if not more, about women being able to tell their stories without shame. I still believe that we need to have open, honest discussions about the ways in which women and girls are subjected to an entirely different standard than men and boys are and how that affects us all.  What has changed is my writing, my confidence in telling my own stories, and my willingness to subject myself to the social media publicity machine.  I created a website for the book and started a Facebook page, but I am woefully unable to keep up the schedule of harnessing interesting news items and resources to populate them with. I am simply not interested in continually updating, reTweeting, and refreshing pages with information. I want to go back to the days where a writer wrote diligently and purposefully, threw his or her work out into the world, and then went back to write some more.  The idea that I could publish this book and then be sucked in to promoting it over and over again, going on a speaking circuit or showing up at virtual locations where the topic is salient, Tweeting and writing pithy Facebook blurbs that are related, and become branded the writer who writes about reproductive rights gives me hives.  I love this subject. I am invested in it. But I love to write about other things, too. I love to write.

So while I sit and puzzle this all out – wondering whether or not I have the wherewithal to push yet again to complete another draft of this manuscript and go through the motions of marketing it – there are days where I find myself sitting quietly at the computer wishing that Eve and Lola would come beg me to go for a walk or a picnic with them.  I am dreading the start of school because it will force me to sit down and write, or decide to finally let this project sit where it is forever.  I can’t imagine doing either of those things, frankly, but I’m not sure where the middle road is.

I have been on a bit of an activist rampage lately in my own head.  Last week, Eve’s social studies teacher assigned them the 14-page “Letter from a Birmingham Jail” written by Martin Luther King, Jr. and she encouraged parents to read it as well so they could discuss it with their children.  Despite the fact that I figured the chances of Eve wanting to hang out and have a philosophical discussion with me about her homework were about 1/infinity, I printed out all 14 pages and sat down with a highlighter.

By the time I was done reading, I had three pages of notes and I felt like the top of my head was afire.  I could nearly hear the synapses in my brain shooting across from one cell to the next, making connections between what King was writing about and so many other unjust laws that exist today.  Regardless of Eve’s decision to talk with me about it or not, I vowed to put my thoughts into a coherent essay soon and try to submit it for publication somewhere.

Fresh from the revelations of this amazing piece of writing by MLK, Jr. I went to the premiere of the documentary Girl Rising with a friend.  Eve and Lola are going to see it next week with their classmates and I was curious to see whether it would prove relevant to them.  I was impressed.  The film tells the stories of nine girls around the world who face incredible difficulties accessing education but persevere and manage to find a way to make it happen.  Woven between the narratives of their lives are astonishing statistics about the way education impacts the lives of women and girls (and thus, the entire human race and perhaps the planet) and I walked out of that theater on fire again, wanting to find a way to keep the momentum of this amazing story going.

This morning after dropping the girls at school, I sat and meditated the best I could with all the noise inside my own brain, forced myself to take the dog on a long walk to compose a writing plan for the day, and finally sat down to start working.

The first thing I did was check my Facebook feed which is, unsurprisingly, filled with information from organizations like Everyday FeminismThe International Planned Parenthood FoundationA Mighty Girl, etc.  Miss Representation had a link to an article in Time Magazine where Sheryl Sandberg was defending Melissa Mayer’s new maternity leave policies and the discontinuation of telecommuting at Yahoo.  The quote they shared was this,

The more women stick up for one another, the better. Sadly this doesn’t always happen. And it seems to happen even less when women voice a position that involves a gender related issue. The attacks on Marissa for her maternity leave plans came almost entirely from other women. This has certainly been my experience too. Everyone loves a fight–and they really love a cat fight.” Sheryl Sandberg

I clicked through the link to the story, read it, and went back to read the comments on the Facebook page.  After the third comment, I realized I could feel subtle changes in my body – quickening pulse, tightening muscles in my shoulders and hands, shallower breaths – and I moved my hands to the keyboard of my laptop in preparation for response.

And then I sat back.  I took a deep breath and wondered how it would feel to simply be an observer in this case.  I wondered what would happen if I made a conscious choice not to add my comments to a dialogue with people I didn’t know.  Having commented on issues similar to this in this way before, I know that what I end up with is unsatisfying.  Rarely does anyone respond directly to my opinion (and if they do, I only know because I take the time to go back and check the FB page every once in a while), and I have no way of knowing how many people have actually read my comment.  I know that when I see a polarizing conversation on Facebook that has hundreds (or even dozens) of comments, I tend to skim through a few and then get bored unless the commenters are people I know personally.  I have already made up my mind on most of the issues and it does me no good to read what everyone else thinks, especially if it is only inflaming my need to respond.

This one time I experimented with reading each and every comment, noting the opinions of the responders and taking a moment to think about them all.  Without the intent to add my own two cents.  It was strangely freeing.  It was a much-needed reminder that I don’t have to react to every conversation that occurs around me, even if it is within the context of something that I truly care about.  My voice was not likely to make a damn bit of difference and to get sucked in to that issue would only have taken time away from other things I find more compelling and important.  It is so easy to think that just because I can comment easily, I ought to, that this is somehow a test of wills and adding my voice might tip the balance.  When I sat back and thought about what it would look like for me to type up a comment and hit enter, it felt more like throwing a pebble into a black hole than adding a brick to a much-needed wall.  I wonder how much time I have devoted to engaging in social media wars of words that are ultimately inconsequential. I suspect a lot.  Perhaps I can turn my attention to communities with whom I can have actual conversations that exchange ideas and may lead to something real as opposed to driving traffic to a particular site or filling some web advertiser’s pocket.

When it first came out, I wrote about my friend Carrie’s book “Wil of God.”  I have since had the distinct pleasure of devouring this lovely, luminous story of Carrie’s parenting journey and wanted to follow up with her in more depth about writing and her life as Wil’s mom.

The official description of the book on Amazon reads:

“Structured around the Four Noble Truths, WIL OF GOD takes you on the spiritual journey of a mother who has one idea for her life, and is handed the exact opposite. Wil comes into the world crying and doesn’t stop for eighteen months, forcing her to abandon her plans for the perfect life. She must embrace the one she is handed: The mother of a boy with relentless needs, and his perfect, endless ability to love.”

 Here goes:

When and why
did you start writing? 
I started playing
around with writing, sort of pre-blog stuff, eight years ago. I took my first
memoir writing class seven years ago, and started my blog at that time.
Why publish
I felt compelled to
write this story and share it. While writing it, my prayer was always that it
would fall into the hands of those that needed to read it – for whatever
reasons. I assumed it would fall into the hands of special needs moms, mostly,
but you know what they say about assuming!
That being said,
there are probably 1000 pages “on the cutting room floor.” A lot of what I
wrote I just needed to write, but
didn’t need to publish.
 Does Wil know
what the book is about? How does he feel?
Wil knows all about
the book and is proud of it. He calls it “our” book. He asked his Grandma
recently, “Did you read our book?” He’s helped me deliver it places and in a
few cases, people have wanted him to sign it for them. That tickles him. By the
same token, he’s pretty nonplussed by the whole thing. One day my friend said,
“Your mom is writing a book about you, Wil, and it’s going to be published
soon!” His response was, “Well, I’ve got news, too! Wednesday is a Thursday
schedule, and Thursday is a Wednesday schedule!”
What was the
hardest part of writing this book? Any major revelations in the process?
The hardest part of
writing it was making myself write it. I fought with myself throughout. I was
full of doubt but knew I had to persist. Some parts of it wrote themselves,
other parts I just had to force myself through. It was brutal going through old
journals to get the facts, especially those early years. It triggered many a
PTSD episode!
What triggers
or reminds you to tap into your intuition?
Oh, good question!
Sometimes I literally am just gifted with a downloaded “piece” or “scene.” I
know I have to go to the keyboard immediately and just let it out. I LOVE when
that happens, and those places in the book remain my favorite. They never were
edited, they remain first draft. I guess to answer your question, history
reminds me to tap into my intuition, I’ve always been rewarded by doing so.
Has the
acknowledgment of Wil’s gifts prompted you to see other people differently? Did
it allow you to see your daughter’s gifts more clearly? Did it change your
perspective on the talented and gifted kids you used to teach?
Absolutely! I see
everyone and every thing differently! I am so grateful I’m not as judgmental as
I used to be, and much more patient. It has allowed me to see my daughter’s
gifts more clearly, and now that she’s in college and almost nineteen, I see
her gifts not just as a girl, but as the woman she’s becoming. I see her wisdom
and depth that she may have always had, but which has certainly grown as a
result of being Wil’s sister.
At first I thought
it terribly ironic that I ever taught Talented and Gifted. Now, I see that it
was great training ground for advocating for kids that are beyond the norm –
whatever that is. Having taught TAG and now all my years in special ed, I’ve
thrown out definitions and uses for “intelligence.” We all have gifts, we all
have talents. Period.
What’s next
for you?

No idea! I can’t
wait to find out, though, and am surprised and pleased that I’m feeling okay
about not knowing, and excited to see! I am letting it be “organic.” I don’t
want to push anything nor force anything, but am open to all the signs and
nudges from beyond!
and now some
fun questions from James Lipton’s “Inside the Actor’s Studio:”
What is your
favorite word?
What is your
least favorite word?
The R-word.
What is your
favorite sound?
The sound of
What is your
least favorite sound?
god-awful throaty, guttural, humming sound Wil makes when he’s un-medicated.

Thanks so much, Carrie!  

“Wil of God” is available on Amazon in paperback and electronic versions. Click through to get your copy today!  

I received a call for submissions in my email from a fellow writer a week ago and thought, “Cha-ching! I could totally fit that bill!”  I followed the link to the submission guidelines and tucked them away for another day when I could get my thoughts together and write a proper query.

The topic (mental illness) has been kicking around in my brain a lot for the last week and I felt confident that just as soon as I got some time I would sit down and crank out a quick query, link it to past work and hit ‘send.’ Easy as pie.

And then I sat down to write the query and felt stiff and stilted.
I kept writing like Anne Lamott says to do even if it’s crap, hoping that I would eventually find some gem to pluck out and polish off.
I abandoned it at one point to my “drafts” folder and walked away.

That afternoon I scribbled notes on scratch paper as they occurred to me; ideas for a general direction to take the essay in, going down a few mole holes chasing research ideas and interviewees before abandoning that tack as well.

Yesterday I finally admitted to myself that I am unsure about heading in any of the original directions because I don’t feel like an expert in those areas. I don’t feel like I know enough about the specifics and I am not sure I could interview enough people or do enough research to make it credible before the deadline.

And yet, I am familiar with the topic. Intimately familiar.


I decided to leave it alone for a while.

I took Lola to bouldering practice after school yesterday and decided to stay and watch.  She is a little tentative about it for reasons neither of us can figure out, and I wanted to see if I could get a little insight.  I saw fear and uncertainty on her face.  I saw the way the coach interacted with her which was supportive, but not meaningful for Lola because of who she is and how she processes things.  The support was cursory and well-intentioned but not authentic.


It wasn’t a brick to the forehead; more like a soft, slow settling of Truth.  A clearing of the waters.

Write what you know.  Write from a place of authenticity. Admit your own fears and uncertainty as you write and you will reach the reader.  This is what I know.

And so this morning, I will go back to the “drafts” folder and begin again. This time I will be writing as an expert, as someone who knows enough about how mental illness instills fear in family members on so many levels and how that fear creates stigma and secrecy and stops us from seeking help.

And I am again reminded that getting real is the way to get it done.

I love the drive to Portland.  Maybe it is because it is a trip I made hundreds of times when Bubba and I were dating and he lived in Seattle and then a hundred more when we both lived in Seattle and were planning our wedding in Oregon.  I recognize the crazy names of some of the towns, the roadside diners and the landscape.  I let my car sink into the ruts I probably had some part in creating and smile as Mt. St. Helens comes into view, its top shorn off from the eruption I still recall vividly from my youth.

I don’t often get to make the drive by myself so yesterday I reveled in listening to NPR as long as I could before the static caused me to squint as though it would help me discern Warren Olney’s voice a little better.  After stopping to pee, I switched over to my iPod and set it to shuffle. Chick music.  Brandi Carlile, Marie Digby, Ingrid Michaelson.

I was committed to this trip, regardless of the fact that every nerve ending in my body lit up like a strand of Christmas lights when I thought about it. That said, it wasn’t until I reached Battle Ground that it hit me why the book launch for Get Out of My Crotch had to be in Portland.

Portland is the city where I went to my first-ever pro-choice rally.  My friend S, the woman responsible for introducing me to the concept of “feminism” and “women’s rights,” came up on a gloriously sunny Saturday, picked me up at my dorm, and drove me to the city to mingle with hundreds and hundreds of other women rallying in support of reproductive rights.  I was stunned by the feeling of power and solidarity in that square. I had never experienced anything like it.  And then, the Indigo Girls showed up. Seems they were playing a concert in town that night and decided to stop by and lend their support.  They stood up on stage and sang their newest hit single, “Hammer and a Nail.”  It was the beginning of an era for me.  The notion that I could be considered an activist. That I could stand up publicly, loudly, for something I believed in.

It seemed to make sense. Especially since S had decided to attend the book launch and would be my “face in the crowd.” Her support of me over the years has been bedrock.

As I exited the freeway and headed toward the hotel I had chosen online for its proximity to Powell’s Books, I just barely missed the light.  My bladder was bursting and I hit the steering wheel with the palm of my hand in frustration just as my iPod shuffled to the next song.  (I’m guessing Carrie is a step or two ahead of everyone else and she probably knows that the song that came on was “Hammer and a Nail.”  Yup. No lie. You can’t make this shit up.)

The reading was tremendous.  I wasn’t officially on the program since I committed so late, but everyone was so welcoming and eager to find a way to fit me in. Especially when we noticed that the local Planned Parenthood buttons they were handing out in honor of the 40th anniversary of Roe v. Wade read “I am not in your shoes.”  The title of my essay in the book? “A Mile in Their Shoes.” They found a spot for me.

I read first.

I spent a few frantic moments marking sections to read before heading onstage and I was surprised to note that I wasn’t really nervous.  Well, except for the 80-something lady who came in and refused to purchase a copy of the book because she didn’t want to support Planned Parenthood.

“They kill babies,” she announced to the editor and me as we stood there stunned.  The young woman who brought her refused eye contact and did her best to look bored as she shrugged, “She’s pro-life.”

This odd couple then made their way over to the far side of the room and the elderly woman stated her intention to “just sit and listen.”

Before I began reading, I stole a quick look in their direction to see if she had her arm cocked back to chuck something at my head.  A few times throughout my reading I did whatever the mental equivalent of wincing is as I wondered when she would start to heckle me.  I sincerely hoped she had fallen asleep in the dark back room of the bar.  She didn’t. And she didn’t make a peep the entire evening.  I still wonder why she came.

The other writers were terrific.  The range of topics and stories presented by the five of us who read last night was vast. There was Camille Hayes who talked about policy and the Violence Against Women Act that was NOT reauthorized by the Republican controlled House of Representatives this year. There was Lydia Yuknavitch who stood up and bared her soul and left us all breathless. Kevin Sampsell wrote about the rape of a friend, and Sarah Mirk recounted her undercover efforts in a local Crisis Pregnancy Center.  I signed a few books (! – thrill of a lifetime), felt lifted up above the stars when a few people commented positively about my reading (and, thus, my writing), and fairly floated back to the hotel where I am certain I fell asleep with a smile on my face.

I like to say that I love roller coasters.  There is some truth to that statement, but it isn’t that simple in all reality.  I love the idea of roller coasters. I love that they exist and I love remembering the times I have ridden roller coasters.  But I don’t like to look at them too closely. Especially the wooden roller coasters that go two stories high. I don’t want to see any peeling paint or splintering wood and I don’t particularly want to examine the construction.  Maybe that’s why Space Mountain is my all-time favorite roller coaster, because I can ride it entirely in the dark.  I can’t anticipate whether the next thing coming is a dip or a turn or an enormous drop, I can just sit back in the saturated darkness and ride.  I can’t see if there is a loose bolt or an inexperienced-looking ride operator.

Last  Monday I woke up and found myself standing in line. It was my turn next, to sit down, strap in, and take off and, true to form, I was both excited and a little bit nauseous, wondering what I had been thinking when I got in line for this upcoming week.  Fraught with anxiety and excitement and the entire spectrum of emotions in between, for several days I was unable to do much more than watch the passing scenery and confront each emotion and situation as it hurtled toward me.  In the end, I know I will walk away with shaky knees and a sense of accomplishment and a smile a mile wide.

I am glad that I wasn’t given any opportunity to stop the ride and step off because I am not sure I would have opted to get back on after a brief time-out. The expectation that I will simply see this all through to the end is a rather comforting one. Somehow, it doesn’t require anything of me other than my presence and that is enough.

The highlights have come in a big way. Katy Hutchison came to speak to the students and staff at Eve and Lola’s school on Thursday, delivering a presentation that left us all breathless after an hour. She talked about synergy (positive and negative) and personal responsibility, group dynamics and tragedy, forgiveness and restorative justice and provided a jumping off point for our community to begin having conversations about the way we interact with each other when things get hard.  She is an incredibly generous, dynamic, authentic person for whom I am incredibly grateful.

Lola is embarking on a courageous adventure this weekend with many of her schoolmates that will be a test of her resilience in many ways.  It helps that Eve will be along for the trip, and I am excited to hear about the weekend when I pick them up on Monday. That said, in the quiet moments, I wonder if she is homesick or sad and I fervently hope that she is too busy to be either. The neighborhood has been shrouded in fog for going on three solid days now and the oppressive grey mist has set the trees to dripping. I can’t help but feel that when I pick the girls up on Monday it will magically lift.

I am headed to Portland on Tuesday for the book launch of “Get Out of My Crotch,” the book for which I wrote a chapter about reproductive rights.  I am thrilled to be an actual published writer and so looking forward to meeting some of the other people who share this passion with me.  I also get an entire night in a hotel to myself in one of my favorite cities on the planet, which is pretty cool. But I’m nervous about meeting the other writers, all of whom are more accomplished than I, and I’m sad about leaving the girls less than 24 hours after their return home.

CB, the injured dog, is feeling a lot better on his cocktail of anti-inflammatories, pain killers and antibiotics and is driving me insane with his pleading for walks every couple of hours.  Unfortunately, the specialist who read his x-rays believes that a spot on his bone is either cancer or a deep bone infection – neither of which are an easy fix.  Sorting out the options and trying to understand the ramifications has been difficult even as I am nudged by his wet nose and reminded that, for now, he is here and he wants attention.

Somehow I knew, when I stood facing this week that it would be a wild ride. Even Monday I saw this roller coaster looming as I stood in line to get on it feeling slightly ill and wondering why I chose all of this.  Despite that, I also knew somewhere in the recesses of my brain that it would be worth it to get on and strap in. I will do my best to experience and cherish every moment, but I would be lying if I didn’t say I was looking forward to getting home next Wednesday, stepping off for a bit, and taking a nice quiet seat on a bench in this vast amusement park.

To be a published author.  On paper. And now, a mere five days before the day itself, I have proof that I am!

Several months ago the lovely, wise Michelle alerted me to a call for submissions she thought would be ‘right up my alley.’ It was.  Cherry Bomb Books was putting together an anthology in response to what the media was calling the “War on Women” in the United States.  I submitted an idea, the editor decided to run with it, and the last few months have been a whirlwind of writing, re-writing, editing, more re-writing, and more editing.  Kim Wyatt has my undying gratitude for her masterful ideas and the way she pulled more out of my words than I ever could have alone, and I can’t wait for people to read this book.  Follow the link to Cherry Bomb’s site to learn more and preorder the book.  It will be released on the 40th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, January 22, 2013, and I am so proud to be included in this list of magnificent writers.

Eve and Lola saw the cover art and raised their eyebrows, read the title and promptly said, “We can’t talk about this to Grandpa!” and giggled.  I agree it’s provocative, but that’s the point, isn’t it?  More to the point, however, is the myriad of perspectives from a terrific group of women 40 years after Roe v. Wade became the law of the land, despite the battles that have been fought over it.