Thursday, April 21, 2011

Looking for beauty, finding it in the last place I expected.

Looking at this little girl with my grown up eyes, I see the freckles and ragged bangs and gappy teeth, but I also see the smile.  That year was the last year before glasses added to the look.

What I don't see is the sadness and the frightened child who was slowly becoming convinced that all the kids in Sunset Elementary could not be wrong. There must be something truly stinky and flea ridden about ME.

Gradually, I was losing the confidence that being raised in a family full of Grandparents, great-grandmothers, Great-Aunts and great-Uncles
had instilled in me.

The little girl who always had a willing audience among family, did not even know what it meant when her mother told her to go out and "Play," and had no idea that the average 5 year old would not want to spend hours listening to me brag about how well I could read, or watch me.  Soon my lack of social skills with my peers made me an easy target for the cruelty that is, unfortunately, found on every playground.
 There were kids I liked and admired, but I didn't know how to tell them, and soon one of them told me, "I can't be your friend, or no-one else will play with me."

I learned to long for invisibility, and even to keep silent if someone else was being harassed, because, at least that day, it wouldn't be me.  I tried to seek help from adults, but my Mom had also been a victim, and a poor, only child, who's mom made her wear knee high socks and long braids when bobby socks and bobbed pony-tails were everywhere.  She compensated by dressing me the way she had longed to be dressed and my bobbed hair and anklets were the only ones in sight.  She also told me, "The boys always pick on the girls they like."  I knew the difference between being picked on, and being threatened and bullied but couldn't explain it to anyone.

Through public school, I shrank inside, learning to feel disgust every time I caught my own face in a mirror, avoiding looking at pictures of me, never making eye contact for fear of the snide, rejection which always came.  Then in 8th and 9th grade, I made a few friends, but I never was brave enough to trust that they really liked me.  In fact I saw it as proof that they must not like themselves very much.  If they could have gotten a better class of friend, surely they would have, or so I thought, and for that I am so sorry.  Years have proven the true, loyal friends that they are.

Art and writing in college finally turned me outside of my own pain to dazzle me with the beauty that exists in this world, all tangled up with the ugliness, so that the chance that you might see beauty or ugliness is dependent upon the eyes that you use to look for it.

As I started to smile at the flowers or lights around me, people would smile back at me.  At first I did not believe it.  I looked around to see who was behind me, receiving a greeting, and when no-one else was in sight, I waited for the attack, that kept failing to come.

 Two people really made me start to believe in myself.  There was Lance, my brother with Down's syndrome and a passion for life.  Then there was a music and Drama student who started car-pooling with me after I answered his ad in the college, "Hot-Line."  Granted, my insecurity added greatly to the drama in his life as he tried to convince me that I was worth loving, but thankfully he never gave up.
Now we live together, and have shared nearly 30 years of marriage, in a world so beautiful that it catches my breath and makes me cry.  We have raised two wonderfully confident children, taught thousands of students, travelled to Asia and Europe and I keep writing and painting and taking pictures.

 Amazingly i can look at my old pictures and smile at who that little girl has become.  I may never be the most beautiful person you will ever see, but I am beautiful, I'm a great Mom, a loving friend and not a bad writer, and most of all, I can help other people see the beauty inside and outside of them.

If this isn't a welcoming place for you, I can Promise that there is one waiting somewhere. It is a big, wonderful world, and when you step out into it expecting to make friends and find beauty, that is often what happens.  And when that is not what happens, remember, things move on, the days change, and the path you take will be largely determined by the baggage you carry with you.

So let go of the fear, leave the self-doubt and loathing behind, and look at first, for just one beautiful thing and one person to flash a smile to.  It does get better.

 The sun will rise again, and last years dead flowers will have left seeds behind.

I wish you all the best in your journey through this world.  When you set forth, take a smile with you, and give one to the small child that you used to be.

Thanks for Reading,



Josh Billings, said,

"If we had no winter, the spring would not be so pleasant: if we did not sometimes taste of adversity, prosperity would not be so welcome."

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Writing, Selling Your Writing, and Living

Just in case you ended up here, hoping to find answers to the dilemma of how to raise a family, work full time, write when you can, and then somehow have time to find an audience for what you have written - let me assure you from the get-go, that while I share the frustration, I don't have the cure.

I love to write, and after finally self-publishing my first novel with CreateSpace, I was delighted to feel like a real writer.  People started buying my book and I spent time on-line and pounding the pavement to the area bookstores and libraries to make sure that the audience continued to grow.  I kept writing and also tried to post on a few social sites like facebook and twitter and redgage as well as making a few entries each month on my two blogs at blogspot
Playtime with my teenagers takes top priority as the time they actually want to spend with Mom gets smaller.
 Then life, as it has a habit of doing, became more complicated.  My teenagers needed more attention, even as they struggled to prove that they needed less.  Then I was offered a chance to substitute full time, for the rest of the school year, in a middle school classroom for severely handicapped students, instead of the two or three days a week I had been working.  Four days later, the Tsunami hit and two days later, in a freak windstorm two large trees in my yard, crashed down on the road and all over the neighbors yard.

My adopted son's birth father showed back up in his life and his birth sister went missing and their Mother bought a ticket to come visit.  The sister was found 6 days later, the Mom is wonderful and even the Dad was a good thing, but it was still, stress that kept me away from book and blog and marketing.
getting a chance to refresh by "Stopping to smell the flowers" does help
 As spring arrived, the storms and stress keep rolling in.  I feel sick, and even though it is simply a head cold and laryngitis, it is one more thing.  Then I look at the children I work with.  Beautiful, energetic souls, but so very exhausting, and I look at the parents who are always there for them, and the hits on their life that the economy has brought.  I feel guilty for complaining of dirty dishes, when I have food; of exhaustion, when I have a paycheck; of  my teenagers, when they are healthy, strong and alive.  Yet, guilt aside, I look at the book I wrote but ignore, the sequel that has gone unworked on for weeks now, and the untouched blogs and I feel the pain of leaving a vital part of myself unfulfilled.  Then I do get to the keyboard, and I'm just too tired to write or edit.  I click on fancast and pull up a TV episode and let my brain rest.  No, I don't have the answer.
When trees fall in the yard, we mourn them, but then get to work instead of buying more wood for our only source of heat.

The fallen redwood crown had one last message for us.

morning fog in the neighborhood mimics the state of my exhausted mind

Storms and non-stop rain left the drive a swamp until my son brought some gravel.

a tiny grape hyacinth says spring is here

Another answer I do not have is how to make a self published book, however well written, as error free as it should be. I read some books, by other self-published authors and I love the story, but I get bogged down in the mistakes at times, and I know I have the same thing in my book.  You can tell the best story, but without time and money for editing, you will not find the type of mistake which lies in your blind spot.

Joanna Penn wrote Pentecost, and I loved the thriller pacing of the story, and her characters were compelling, but I found that over and over again, I was distracted by the fact that she did not set the comment apart from who it was being addressed to in using direct address.  One small mistake, but obviously her blind spot, and it confused the issues for the audience, when, "No, it's not Morgan" did not mean it wasn't Morgan, it meant something else wasn't what it appeared to be and someone was talking to Morgan.

After publishing my own, Duffy Barkley is Not a Dog, I had someone point out times when scanning the typed pages into my computer had done things like turn "Came" into "Carne," which I had spent days fixing but I had not found them all.  Worse, I had some characters leave the group, and without coming back together, still participate in the conversation at the climax of the novel.  I also had written the book over a long enough span of time that I had spelling inconsistencies with "Bell or Belle Island" and "Turtles Bow" Vs. "Turle's Bay" referring to the same place.

I wish there were a Wiki site where you could work on your novel and well meaning friends could come make suggestions and edit before you said yes and hit the "Publish" button.
The 90 foot spruce tore out of the ground and brought down the top third of the redwood growing close by.

neighbors helping clear the road

son tackling the task of turning tree into firewood

A nearby area that soothes my stress and lets the tangled thoughts unwind.

Crane on a barge come to hoist tsunami sunken ships from the Crescent City boat basin.
Crescent City Harbor with sunken fishing fleet

The animals return but the boats cannot yet.

After the Tsunami wiped out the commercial Boats and harbor, Crescent City began pulling together to clean up, yet again.  There have been fun times as well as tears, and there will be more of both.  It gives me hope that this too will pass, and my books will once again beckon to me.