Monday, December 27, 2010

Holidays and Gifting

As usual the busy-ness of the holidays have overcome my good intentions to write.  I think this year I attempted to buy a few gifts of meaning for all those I had on my list.  I think the days when the mountain of gifts under the tree are over.

Our women's writing group project is about gifts.  It gave me the opportunity to think back about gifts that I received as well as those I have given.  Of course the one's which I received I certainly remember more, but the stories I recall are all unhappy ones.  It made me begin to wonder if my mother wasn't correct when she told me I always see "the fly in the ointment".

I wonder if this tendency is nature or nurture.  I don't remember ever making the decision to see the glass as half empty, but at least in this reguard it is so.  I remember the negative over the positive.  I will have to stretch myself to try to understand this as it effects my world view. 

As far as this Christmas, I received the gift from my children which I had asked for.  My grandchildren got from me the things which they had asked for and they enjoyed them.  Their mother received the handmade gifts which I had kidnapped the grandkids to make for her.  It was pleasing to see her tears of joy over their artwork.  My girls recieved the yearly gifts of socks and their stocking stuffers.  It is fun to watch them open their stockings with mini bottles of liquor, scratch tickets, and chocolate. 

I didn't spend a lot on Christmas this year, but the pleasure they all seemed to get from simple well considered gifts was priceless.  Now if I could only remember those simple joys.  I wonder if they were ever present and if they were, where they have gone.

Friday, December 17, 2010

My Three Uncles

I grew a small white farm house. Every day, at lunch time, my parents and I were joined by my bachelor uncles who lived nearby in the same termite infested farm house where they had grown up.

My Uncle Harold was the oldest brother. He was a big man with a gap toothed smile. He always wore Oshkosh bib overalls and a bill cap to protect his bald head from the sun. Harold had quit school after my grandfather’s suicide. His whole life was spent on tractors, plowing, planting, harvesting and baling hay. When Harold came in from the fields for lunch, dirt and dust covered his face and clothes. He let me hold his callused hands and walk up his vast stomach, turning somersaults until my arms grew weary of the game.

Uncle Howard was the second oldest. He was a quiet, delicate man. He was the only blond. His front teeth bent backwards, the result of a run in with a milk can when he was a boy. Howard did the irrigating for the farm. At lunch time he kicked off his rubber boots by the front door and sat stocking footed on the high stool near the telephone. Howard’s shovel was never far from his side and he wore a pith helmet to protect his fair skin from the sun, a habit he took up during a brief tour of duty in North Africa. He spent most of the war eating cabbage soup and sawdust bread in a German POW camp. When he was released he returned home and took over the household duties for my mentally ill grandmother.

My dad’s younger brother, Uncle Dale, didn’t work the farm. He didn’t have to wear a hat so he lacked the pale bald head of his brothers. His dark fringe of hair was always neatly trimmed. Dale wore horn rimmed glasses and, except that he was taller and thinner, he and my father could have been twins. Dale was first person in the family to graduate college. He worked as an accountant at the local grain elevator and ate meals with us only on the weekends. Dale and I shared a love of books and education. He supported my desire to go to college.

When I was in high school, my family began to change. Uncle Harold suddenly married, produced two sons, and just as suddenly divorced. After that my childhood playmate experienced a long decline of mental and physical illness. Remembering their own parent’s battles with mental illness, the family turned away. I rarely saw him again.

I graduated college and got married. My father died eighteen months later. One night after the funeral, Uncle Dale called to say he had married his long time girlfriend and moved into her house. I would see him when I went home for visits. He seemed diminished by his wife’s hypochondria and the shadows of her former husband. Our visits were brief, punctuated by gaping silences. He now resides in a nursing home. I haven’t seen him in a decade.

Two years after my father’s death, my mother declared the farming over. My Uncle Howard was alone in the old farm house down the road. He had nowhere to go when the farm sale was over, so my mother moved him into the basement of her new home. Howard never abandoned his boots, shovel and pith helmet. He helped my mother with her garden and kept gas in her car. Howard took over the role of grandfather to my girls who called him “Unk”. He spent the remainder of his days silently perched on the high stool in the corner near the phone.

When I think of my uncles, I remember those happier times; turning somersaults on Harold’s stomach, driving tractor while Howard burned weeds, and playing pinochle with Dale and my parents. They provided love, companionship, and extended family to a lonely child. Somewhere within me Harold’s fun-loving spirit, Howard’s quiet perseverance, and Dale’s love of learning carry on, a living testament to my three bachelor uncles.

Sunday, November 14, 2010


I have a cold today. I don’t feel like writing. My nose is drippy and my head aches. My neck is hurting as well as my left hip. I feel feverish.

I have so much to do and no motivation to do anything. My cat is even worried. She is haunting me.

I had a party at my house last night. While it was nice I didn’t get to visit with everyone like I had planned. I made too much food and now it will sit in my refrigerator going to waste.

It makes me wonder why I have parties at all. Some people who said they would come didn’t. My older daughter called at the last minute to say she wasn’t coming. I don’t think she likes my company. All this party business brings up the worst of my feelings of rejection.

I realize that I bring a lot of my isolation on myself. I am afraid to invite people because they might not show. I am afraid that if they come they will be bored. So to avoid all the painful feelings, I just stay home alone.

I wonder if I can ever overcome this. I am quiet and reserved by nature. I work all day with the public and get easily burned out by too many people. Perhaps I should embrace my solitary nature and revel in it. Maybe smaller get-togethers are more my thing. My counselor would say I should keep trying.

I know I tend to keep people at arm’s length. It takes a lot for me to trust. Once that trust is broken, then I am done. I suppose it is better to know, but it is something I am not proud of.

This week I get my dining room table. I am having company for Thanksgiving and at least part of my family will gather then. My older daughter has promised to be here for Christmas Eve. My office staff wants to have a girl’s evening of movies and snacks. Maybe smaller get-togethers are more my thing.

Today I will care for my cold. I will read something that makes me laugh. I will not worry about my writing.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

The Unusual House

The house on Fourteenth Southwest was curious. It was painted battle ship grey and there was a brass ship’s railing around the front deck. Inside the front door, where the carpet was worn, there was a sheet of brass nailed to the floor. An old ship’s lantern hung in the dining room.  The oddest thing was the two large grey pallets which hung down below the regular siding on the south side of the house. Neither our real estate agent nor my engineer husband could explain the house’s unusual traits, but we had imagination, so we purchased it without these mysteries being solved.

Several days after we moved in, I went down to the daylight basement to do a load of wash. When I opened the door at the bottom of the stairs, it was pitch black. I peered through the gloom, wondering where the light had gone. When the solution revealed itself to me, I marched to the garage, grabbed a weapon and headed outside. With crowbar in hand, I began pulling those weird extra pieces of siding off. Tom heard the commotion and yelled out the back door, “What are you doing?”

“Letting in the light,” I yelled back, as a chunk of siding fell off at my feet, revealing the hidden window. The house was curious.

I never imagined when we bought the curious grey house that it would become a home. It was filled with powerful memories.

I opened the front door one day to find the red haired woman I had seen walking with her children. Mary Lou was a stay at home mom like me. Her twins were a year older than Sarah. She invited me over for coffee. We discovered a mutual love of books, nature and motherhood. Two doors down on the other side lived the Broomfield’s. They could be counted on for spontaneous trips for frozen yoghurt or Mrs. Fields’ Cookies, and many games of pinochle were played around our dining room table.

One summer day when I turned my back, two year old Sarah disappeared from the living room. I looked out the large picture window and there she was, walking the balance beam on the front deck railing. She was oblivious that the ground was twelve feet below. I signed her up for gymnastics.

Over the years, Tom and I did a number of projects to fix up the curious house. We painted the outside blue. We tore up the carpeting and the brass sheet from the living room floor. We swapped the ship’s lantern with a proper chandelier. The brass railing was replaced with the sturdy wood one which Sarah had walked that summer day. I day I went into labor with Robin, we replaced an outdated cast iron laundry sink.

Personal remodeling occurred there as well. Surrounded by love and friends, I battled the darkness of depression and, like removing the pallets from the boarded up windows, I became enlightened. I set my feet on the path to my career. I could never have imagined when we purchased the grey house it would become our home. A place of love and growth built with sweat and tears. It was indeed a curious house.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010


The definition of home is an abstract concept.  Many people have tried to describe it.
'There is no place like home.''
"Home is where the heart is."
"You can never go home again."

The one I like best is: "It takes hands to build a house, but hearts to build a home."

I have lived in many houses.  The ramshakle farm house where I grew up.  The 900 sq ft house my husband and I bought in West Seattle because we were tired of paying rent.  The beautiful dream home in Idaho surrounded by wheat fields and so far from where I really wanted to be.  The Nevada house where I just existed for the seven years of medical school.

I just left an unhappy house, the one I didn't want, where my children became beligerant, balky teenagers and my dreams of growing old with my husband came to an end.  I have moved to a new abode.  I have only been here a few months.  I love the view of the lake.  The furnishings and the wall color are of my choosing.  My cat has a favorite place to sleep.  But it is not yet a home.  I hope someday it will become one.  A place where I can slow down and meet my neighbors.  A comfortable living space where friends can come and drink wine and listen to music.  A place where, at last, I can be at home.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

The Queen of Denial

My favorite photo of my mother is in black and white. Mom is sitting on the maroon sofa of my aunt’s floral living room. I know it is Sunday because she is wearing a skirt. Her long thin legs are crossed at the knee. She is holding a cigarette in one hand and a drink in the other. She is smiling and having the time of her life. I hear her trademark laugh.

In our tiny rural town my mother was hard to miss. She was five foot eight and rail thin with olive skin and curly black hair. She had flashing brown eyes and always wore bright red lipstick. Mom talked loud and loved a dirty joke. She could swear like a construction worker.

Mom was never idle. She moved from sink to stove to refrigerator, working all day long to feed my Dad, my three bachelor uncles and me. Mom rarely ate. She survived on coffee, cigarettes and chicken backs. “I like the backs,” she would say as she stripped the nonexistent flesh from the bones.

Mom had a daily ritual of sweeping, mopping, dusting, and laundry. I remember her hanging sheets on the line in the hot summer breeze. I loved the way they billowed and blew, but Mom had no time for such sentiments. “Don’t you get dirt on those clean sheets,” she would call through the open kitchen window. “Go cut some asparagus for lunch. And stay out of the ditch.”

When fall came the kitchen was abuzz with the work of canning pickles and jams. I slowed her down so Mom said, “Take these peach pits out to the garden and plant them.” When the acrid odor of burning leaves drew me to jump into her neatly raked piles, I was told to “go play in traffic”, as if there were any on our lonely dirt road.

Winter brought snow to shovel and family affairs. All of Mom’s large Italian family gathered at our home for Christmas Eve. The drinking and loud conversations scared me so I hung back and watched. I hid under the tree with the thousands of gifts she had painstakingly wrapped, none of which I wanted or asked for.

In the spring, as Mom was bustling to put together elaborate bouquets for the cemetery, I would gather a small bunch of wildflowers to put on my sister’s grave. I sat watching my mother hack away at the invading grass around the headstone, imagining what life would have been if my sister had lived and I was the one who had died. My sister would have been an olive skinned beauty with a big laugh and an outgoing personality. She would have been loved and pampered, and I would have been brought beautiful flowers on a warm spring morning.

I look again at that old photo of my mother. I can see what the camera could not. The gorgeous smile and frenetic energy were camouflage used to displace the pain in her life. The loss of her first husband in The War. The death of my sister. The shame of my adoption. The discontent with her life on the farm. But for that one moment on film my mother was queen. The Queen of Denial.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010


I have noticed as I get older time seems to shoot by without me really noticing.  For instance the last time I posted here was three weeks ago, although I could swear it was just last week.  When I was a child time passed quite slowly.  I have decided that as we age there is less to learn so more stuff just passes by without our notice.

I have made an effort over the last month to take more time for myself.  My younger daughter is quite needy and even though we see each other every day at work, she would have me spend every day doing something with her.  To be able to find time to write and enjoy my home, I have been telling her no more often.  Today I know she was disappointed, but I have an essay to finish for my women's story circle group and since I mailed out my memior query to some agents, I really need to get it finished.  And to do that I can't spend the whole day with her.

I hate putting pressure on myself.  I think in some ways it leads to bad writing and writer's block.  Setting a deadline for myself is the only way I am going to get this project done, and I need to get it done, so I can move on to something else.  Over the years I have writen many essays on my life on the farm.  The women's circle is helping me with that.  I would like to tie them together some how.  My novel is going nowhere but I would love to start working on another one.  I have several good ideas, but I have to give myself permission to take the time to write.

Time is flowing by far too quickly.  I need to take the time.  I need to say no to those who would waste it.  And most of all I need to give myself permission to be selfish with my time.  So off to write.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010


I have never been very good at making friends.  Part of the problem is my natural shyness and a difficulty warming up in new situations.  I don't have old friends my hometown or college.  My oldest friend is my ex-neighbor Mary Lou.

Mary Lou and I lived on the same street in West Seattle.  We met when she came collecting for the Red Cross with her tow-headed twins.  Her daughters are a year older than my oldest daughter.  She and I struck up a conversation and have been talking ever since.  Numberous cups of coffee have been drank together while we watched the children grow.  We took ESL and guitar lessons together.  We have gone to parks and plays.  We even played volleyball on a church league together.  It was a total fiasco and our name, Luther's Losers, was very appropriate.

I moved away when the twins were nine, but we have kept in touch.  Some years it has only been a Christmas card, but whenever I came back to Seattle I made a date with Mary Lou.  Since I have moved back I try to see her several times a year.  She lives in the same house as when our children were small.  I have moved five times since then.  She is married to the same man for nearly forty years and I am recently divorced.  Her life is always so serene and upbeat.  Mine is always frenetic and stress filled, but she puts up with me for reasons I don't fully understand. Our lives are very different but the friendship remains. The connection is always there.

Mary Lou and I had dinner together last night.  Two of our daughters are now mothers and we get to share pictures of the grandchildren.  We discuss what a wonderful world this would be if we were in charge.  We share a love of books and our travel stories.  We ate Chinese and laughed.  We were the last people to leave the resturant.

Many years ago after I had moved from our little neighborhood, I had a dream.  In the dream I was lost and so alone.  I dispaired of finding anyone in that dark and lonely place.  I rounded a corner and found Mary Lou.  She was dressed in white and she was surrounded by a radiant glow.  She is a large, soft woman and as she took me in her arms I was enveloped in her love. 

Mary Lou is a true friend.  We don't share a lot in life except for that love of books, motherhood, and now grandmotherhood, but there is always that connection.  I feel as warmed by her now as I felt when I woke from that marvelous dream.

Sunday, September 26, 2010


Yesterday I received an email from a friend.  I had posted 100 pages of my memior to several friends in an attempt to see if I was writing something of value or it was just self-serving schlock better saved for my kids to read when I am no longer here.

I had received one back from my friend Chassily Wakefield who pointed out my typos and grammatical errors.  She always likes what I write and other than my choppy first page she seems to like what I am doing.  An old friend from medical school said it brought back a lot of memories of our time together there.  She criticized my use of explatives but when I read some of it through they are appropriate.  I was very angry at those points in the story. 

Other people I sent it to have not responded.  I don't know if that is because they didn't like it, or they are just too busy in their lives to sit down and read anything.  I hope it is the latter.

But when I got Jen's note it gave me a warm feeling.  Jen is a graduate student in library science in Boston.  She reads a lot!  I value her opinion. This is what she said:

"I just had to let you know that I hadn't had a chance to start reading your manuscript, but then today at work, while waiting for a report to run, I thought it would be a good time to take a few minutes and read a few pages. Well, I got so pulled into it that I completely forgot that I was at work and before I knew it, I was on page 46! When I realized how long I'd spent not doing a single bit of work, I forced myself to close the document and refocus, but wow! I did spot some little things here and there - typos and such - that I'll make note of and send back to you, but I just had to let you know that overall, you've really got a gripping story here. I know you've mentioned bits and pieces of it to us before, but I just had no idea of the extent of what you went through. It makes me want to come give you a big hug (which I intend to do at LeakyCon!) and tell you how amazing you are and how proud I am to see where you are today and how far you've come from the incidents you're describing in this book. I cannot wait to finish reading it - I intend to use that as my motivation and bribery to myself to finish my school reading as quickly as possible so I can get back to it."

Thank you Jen for restoring my faith in this project.  I am going to work on that choppy first page and a query letter today and get it sent off. 

Wednesday, September 22, 2010


I haven't given much thought to money in the past decade or so.  My ex-husband and I were resonably well off.  We had a two income household, a modest housepayment and the cars were paid off.  We were frugal and didn't buy a thing unless we had the money in our pocket to pay for it.

Somewhere along the line, money got out of hand.  I don't know whether it was the recession or that my income has stayed static for the past ten years while inflation has zoomed out of control.  I think our divorce had something to do with it but I can't imagine what since my ex had not shared in the household expenses for a long time. I think a major culprit is an adult daughter and her family who always seem to need something and never have the money to buy it, inspite of their expensive cell phones and big screen TVs.

Irregardless of the the cause, I find myself waking up at night worrying about money.  Twelve years ago when I became a doctor I was making good money.  When I left that office four years ago to set up my own, I took a paycut to get the practice started and it was enough for just the ex and I and everything was fine.  But this year, the bottom fell out.  Income is down 15% from last year.  I have given myself yet another paycut to make ends meet at the office, but now my household is cut to the bare bones.

I am back to when I was first married, counting every penny and hoping I will have enough to buy lunch tomorrow, while still carrying the burden of my daughter and her three children.  I have a lot of money in savings, but I am afraid to dip into it because that is there for when I retire.  And my novel is nowhere near to being sold for that big six figure advance. 

So what to do?  I suppose I could sell my practice to a big box medical group, but then I would be forced to march to the tune of someone else's drummer, something I am very bad at doing.  I suppose I could let my daughter go from her receptionist posisition but that would only backfire on me even more because then I would be picking up more of their expenses.  I suppose I can tighten my belt even further and forgo my lunches out and make my ten year old car run for another thirty thousand miles.  Or I could get a weekend job at Walmart or McDonalds to supplement my income.

It really made me angry yesterday when it was reported that the recession is over.  For whom?  The Wall Street bigwigs that created this problem or the CEO's of insurance companies who keep raising premeiums but haven't increased reimbursement for services in ten years. I don't get it, but I can't waste the energy trying to change that which I have no control over.

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.

I will go back to square one and start by changing myself.  Goodbye lunch out and Hello sack lunches.  Goodbye theater and concerts and Hello Red Box.  Sorry Ky cat, but it is little Friskies for you.  And daughter and grandkids, no, just no.

Sunday, September 19, 2010


The new project for my story circle group has to do with beginnings.  This is a difficult assignment for me.  I don't remember the first day of school or getting my first paycheck.  Even my birthdays are just non-events.

I remember my wedding and the birth of my children.  I remember a fall I took on the family farm which changed the way I look at life and death.  I remember the phone call telling me I was accepted to medical school, but the first day is a blur.

Some images of my life are so painfully acute that they are difficult to unbandage and take a good look at.
Other aspects of my life are clouded in mystery.  My own birth is clouded in speculation. I remember things which my mother always told me didn't happen or that I could not have remembered.  And since memories are always tainted by the experiences of the rememberer, it is impossible to know what is truth.

I found a quote in a book yesterday.  It summed up how I felt when I left the group with this new project looming.  It is from The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield and is attributed to her character Vida Winter.

"All children mythologize their birth.  It is a universal trait.  You want to know someone?  Heart, mind and soul?  Ask him to tell you about when he was born.  What you get won't be the truth; it will be a story.  And nothing is more telling than a story."

So I will chose to do a portait of my mother, as I remember her.  Because in telling that story, I will tell you the mythology of mine.


Saturday, September 18, 2010

Life Hiking

At twenty years old I stood at a crossroads. I was attending a college in Southern Idaho, a place I did not want to be. In the past year I had changed my major three times. I had just ended a two year romance which I was glad to see finished, although I was lonely and unsure of when another would come my way. To my right was a verdant path lined with ferns which twisted into a canopy of ancient cedar forest. To my left, a steep, slippery shale slope, virtually impassable without the proper climbing equipment.

I stood at the base of that cliff armed with a rucksack and a couple of tattered maps. I wanted to take the path which scaled that rocky crag, but my mother barred the way up. That dream was too lofty for her imagination. She believed that women could only travel gentle trails and then only with a male companion. I looked down the undemanding the needle-soft wooded path she preferred and then craned my neck up in an attempt to imagine what I might find at the top of the precipice. I knew I could only climb that incline with help, but I was alone.

Grieving for what was lost, I shouldered my rucksack and started down the easier path. After a couple of turns I could no longer see the peak. I found a man sitting by the side of the trail. He asked me to join him on his quest. I gave up on my maps and followed his. Soon, the once friendly, welcoming trail became steeper. The bed of needles gave way to ruts. Sharp rocks jutted out catching the toes of my well worn boots. I wore a blister on my heel. I reached for my husband’s hand, but he batted it away, and scolded me. “Keep up,” he said and I soldiered on trying to emulate his steps.

Years passed and I stumbled more. The weight of the two children I now carried in my pack bent my shoulders. My head ached with the effort to stay on the trail. I trudged, eyes down, not watching where I was headed until, horrified, I realized the once friendly path was now carrying me toward the edge of an abyss.

I clambered back from the edge. “I thought this was the easy path,” I cried and feeling lost, I pulled out my maps. I found the place where I sat trembling and followed a dotted line back to where I had really wanted to go. Now it didn’t really seem that far. I stood up and squared my shoulders. I felt stronger now. My climbing skills had improved. I realized I had picked up some ropes and climbing tools along my hike. I had to try.

I turned back toward that shale slope, my husband running behind me. “I will climb this slope and you will help,” I called out to him. I placed my foot on the first slippery step, and slowly, I began to ascend. Over the next few years, there were tumbles and more than a few skinned knees, but I kept the top of the peak in my sights. I didn’t let ill weather or rock falls deter me. I moved upward, one difficult step at a time.

When at last I crested the summit, I stood amazed at the new vistas which presented themselves. I looked down into the verdant valley where I had started. And at forty years old I stood at a crossroads.


I wrote this for my women's story circle group.  The topic was what you were like at a certain decade of life.  While I was thinking about this I realized I couldn't address myself at 10.  Thirty was an age of discovery about my true roots.  And now at 50 I am still making choices about my future.  Life is full of crossroads and how we navigate them depends on the experiences of the past.

Monday, September 6, 2010


One of the things I never learned in my family of origin was how to have a disagreement.  I have some ideas about why that was.  Possibly it had something to do with being an only child and not having those exasperating sibling rivalry things which I truly believe hone one's skills at disagreement.  The other I believe has to do with my parents, Silent Bob and The Queen of Denial.  Dad never had much to say about anything and my mother's point of view was the only one which mattered so there wasn't much conflict in our household.

I think it also stems from my personality.  I am slow to warm up, and when people do or say things with which I disagree, it takes me a while to process that.  So when someone is rude, I don't have a quick comeback.  I stand there flatfooted wondering what is the right thing to say.  In fact I had a recurring experience with a patient who left me so dumbfounded with her negative pronouncements, that I finally put a notecard in her chart so that the next time it happened I would be prepared with a snappy come back.  I did a simular thing with my ex-mother-in-law whose backhanded "compliments" left me baffled for nearly 25 years.

The reason I am even talking about this is because last night a good friend of mine hurt my feelings.  I was so shocked that he would do such a thing.  Especially since he had asked me for the information I was trying to give him. I shut my mouth and gave him back monosyllables for the rest of our conversation.  I don't think he even noticed.  I fumed about it all evening and this morning sent him off an email about it.  Even then I couldn't put into words how hurt, embarrassed, and bewildered I was at his actions.

This morning someone had shared on Facebook this video of Dane Cook talking about relationships.
I remember the first time I saw it how much I laughed.  I wish I could be that "brain ninja" that he talks about.  I do the foot plant. I start to agree with everything that is said. I do the thing with the hand and then ... nothing.  No timebomb set to go off in my opponent's mind.

I wonder if this is a skill which can be learned.  Snappy Comebacks 101.  I would sign up immediately.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Sharing my writing

Yesterday I took a very brave step.  While I have sent pages from my novel to a number of agents, each time shaking as I slipped them into the mail slot, I have not shared my writing with friends or relatives.

Yesterday I emailed the first 100 pages of my memior to trusted relatives and friends.  I wanted to know from them if they felt it was ready to share with an agent who showed some interest in my project.

In the past have been reluctant to share my writing.  It was away to put feelings in a safe place.  Hidden away from prying eyes.  My feelings were not respected when I was growing up.  I was told not to believe my own senses and experiences, so writing became a way to make them solid and real.  Writing for me became so personal that it is difficult to share it with others. 

As I was writing the female protagonist for my novel, so many of Rhiannon's thoughts and experiences are my own (with the exception of the great love affair).  Even writing this fictional character was cathartic for me.  It helped me see the inadequacies of my own life, and helped me move forward toward resolving those issues.

I am finding the composing of this memior to be less healing.  I have lived that part of my life.  The stories within its pages I have told many times.  The conflicts are resolved and the goal has been reached.  I think this memior's purpose is to instuct and hopefully inspire. But to do that, others will have to read it.

I took that first step yesterday and I will be doing more of it with my women's writing group.  I am a storyteller.  So the stories must move from my head to the page.  So off to write!    

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Day hikes

I have been thinking since yesterday about hiking.  When one sets off on a day hike they take with them their day pack with some snacks and water.  I always pack my binoculars and my field guide hoping to run across some unique species of bird for my life list.  I suppose one should pack the first aid kit and some supplies in case of an emergency, but I never think that far ahead.  I tend to walk on well traveled paths with good signage and I never travel too far from civilization.  I suppose that provides me with a false sense of security.

The last hike I took was to Sol Duc falls with friends.  The path is a mile long and well traveled although uneven in places and slick with dampness from the falls.  On that occasssion I didn't even take food and water. We were close to our cabin at the resort.  We would be back very soon.

However, even that short walk was filled with possibilities of danger.  One could turn an ankle on the slippery rocks.  One could go left when the others went right and be seperated and lost from the safety of the group.  Someone could lean too far over the edge and fall into the water or worse yet over the falls.  I planned for none of these emergencies.

Life is often like that.  I have often set out unprepared on life's journeys. I didn't have the proper equipment or the map I was given was faulty.  I have blindly followed the directions of others, only to find myself stuck at the edge of an abyss or trapped in a box canyon.  I have planned for a day hike only to be trapped out overnight, without fire and food, and forced to face the elements alone.  I have been afraid and dispaired of anyone finding me.

In the past I have repeated this pattern time and again, but those experiences have shaped who I am.  I have made magic with a couple of sticks rubbed together and I have eaten the fruits which Nature has provided.  I have learned what I need to carry with me for safety and whose advice I will listen to when planning a trip.  But mostly I have learned to trust myself and my instincts.  I will stay away from slippery precipices.  I will avoid fellow travelers who take too many chances.

I have become my own best guide.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Writing and Women's Stories

This morning I attended a Women's Story Circle group which is organizing near my home.  I have to say that I was apprehensive.  I have never considered myself the most outgoing person and I tend to avoid meeting new people, but the energy and support which emanated from this group from the first few moments were remarkable.

This group of smart literate women joined by the passion for writing and the telling of stories was so uplifting.  I was able to tell my story in a non-judgemental group was something I have been lacking for a long time.  I think I have been so tied up by the rejection of agents that I am on some level afraid to put fingers to keys and get busy.

I have a writing assignment for the group which is buzzing inside my head.  We are to write about ourselves at different ages.  I am thinking about age 20 and how the choices I made then affected the outcomes of my life now.  Always keeping to the positive.

I have also toyed with the idea of trying to get a newspaper column started as a platform for my other writing.  Two of the younger women in the group were already doing that so now I am empowered to go forward with that.  I think I would like to write a medical column which not only addresses physical wellness but the effects of psychological and sociological pressures on health.  And I would like to do it in a upbeat, friendly kind of way.

Thank you to Linda for organizing the group.  I hope you are the "Butt Glue" I need to settle down and get to writing again.  And as we were talking about this morning...

"It isn't easy for any of to transcend the past, or pain we might have suffered.  Yet, there are gifts in those pains, and we can choose to let light into the dark places"

Sunday, August 22, 2010

The Claddagh Ring


Michael Richmond placed his left palm against the familiar front door. He listened for some sign of life on the other side. His hand trembled as he slipped the key into the slot. The door swung open.

The condo was altered from the last time he was here. The comfy furniture was pushed back against the walls. I was replaced by a stainless steel hospital bed. An unfamiliar, medicinal smell made the back of his neck prickle.

He crept to the rail of the bed. The occupant’s ice blue eyes were wide open, but they were focused on a specter Michael couldn’t see. A guttural groan issued from her dried, cracked lips. Michael stood transfixed with horror. What was happening here?

He jumped as the kitchen door banged open. A woman entered. He thought for an instant this was his beautiful Rhiannon, but the scowl and the flash of green eyes told him this was her daughter, Beth, instead.

Beth carried a loaded syringe between her teeth as she pulled on rubber gloves. She slipped the needle from the plastic cap and inserted it into the IV in the woman’s hand. Beth watched her patient’s face a line of concentration between her eyebrows.

When the syringe was empty and the moaning stilled, Beth acknowledged Michael. “What are you doing here?”

“Why didn’t she call me?”

Beth removed the syringe from the tubing, recapped it and looked up from the IV line. “Look, Michael, not everything is about you, okay. Mamma said you were busy, and she would call you when she could.” She glared at him. The heat of her hatred penetrated him.

“Beth, I don’t want to fight with you. I came because you said on the phone your mother was ill. I need to be here. I want to help.”

“Kate and I don’t want your help,” she spat and strode out of the room.

He was alone except for the click of the IV pump. Rhiannon lie quiet and still. She looked so old. When had that happened? She was always alive, willing to go anywhere and do anything. Had he gotten too busy for her: taken her for granted? Then he realized that she had never depended on him. Loved him, yes, but never needed him.

He heard a crash against the kitchen wall.
Lately my life seems to be speeding by and I have no idea where it is going.  Two weeks ago I was poised to begin anew.  Then a special friend came for the weekend and I got off track again.

So here we are where I was two weeks ago.  I did make some changes to this blog this morning.  I decided to drop my Claddagh Ring domain name at Yahoo.  I had only gotten one email in 18 months and it was expensive so I dropped it.  I also removed my Twilight updates from the bottom.  I will be researching more interesting and appropriate gadgets in the future.

Later today I will post the prologue to The Claddagh Ring.  I will post the announcement to my Facebook and Twitter accounts and see how many comments I get.  If you want me to continue, please post.  Your comments will help me decide if the time is right to make an attempt to epublish or not.  I WILL take all comments seriously.  Please stay tuned. 

Saturday, August 7, 2010

The Claddagh Ring

I have been doing a lot of thinking this week about my novel and what would be the best way to get some reader impressions.  I thought about going to a small publisher and getting 100 copies made to send to all my friends.  I also thought about sending it as an attachment to everyone I know.

I had considered sending it out to an epublisher and seeing if I could get a following,  But after much consideration, I have decided to use all the formus which I belong to instead.  With that goal in mind, I am going to work on serializing The Claddagh Ring to this site, and see what reader comments I can generate.  If I get a favorable response then I will probably approach an epublisher and see what I can rustle up!  LOL

I also found a writing challange in Stephan King's book that I am going to work on.  It consists of writing a short story for which he has laid out the scenario.  I am intrigued by the idea, so will set to work on it soon.  He even says if you email it to him he will read it an critque it.  Very interesting!

My good friend Chassily Wakefield will be home from the RWA convention this week.  We are having lunch on Wed.  I am going to ask her to edit the first fifty of my memior so that I can send it off to the agent and editor who expressed an interest.  I finally got up my nerve and read the critiques I had gotten.  I got a 67/100.  They wanted the story tightened up a bit but they liked the concept. 

Anyway, I will be working on a couple of minor changes I want to make to TCR this weekend.  So look for the first installment sometime this week.  I look forward to your input.  Thanks.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Busy ness

I can not believe it has been nearly six months since I was last here.  Since I checked in last my new grandson has been born.  My condominium closed, been remodeled and I have moved in.  I have taken a trip to Holland with my cousins and attended a writing conference.

That writing conference is the reason I am back.  I forgot in the busy-ness of life that I have a goal and to achieve it I have to find a quiet peaceful place for my muse to find me.  Today has been one of those days.  And for that I am grateful.

I started the morning with the newspaper and coffee.  I read a bit of Stephen King's On Writing. He inspired me to get off my hamster wheel, put on some Butt Glue and start writing again.  I spent four hours revising my memior.  It was brilliant.  I was cutting out unnecessary words and killing adverbs left and right.

I got a couple of bites on my memior at the writer's conference so I need to get it ready to send it out.

Alas no one seems to be interested in my novel.  However there is a local outfit called Long Tale Press.  They publish the first few chapters of your book and see the reader response.  I am thinking about using them to get a feel for the market.  I have also considered serializing it here ala Stephanie Meyer.  I am going to give it a bit of thought before I do anything rash.  However I feel compeled  to do something.  I think the right answer will come to me very soon.

Anyway, it is good to be feeling the muse.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

My cold is worse.  I am coughing and if it keeps up, I will lose my voice entirely.  I have a list of things to accomplish today.  My day off never is.  I have to do all the little things that keep my practice running like buying copy paper and staples.  I have to do my banking and grocery shopping.  There never seems to be enough hours in the day.

I realize however that I am wasting a lot of life surfing the web.  I have several sites that I am kind of addicted to.  I have beaches to comb and farms to tend at Facebook.  I have to keep up on my fav celebrities at Twitter.  I have my three Harry Potter sites to keep track of and my emial at AOL.  It is quite overwhelming at times and a total waste of my time.

So with that in mind I am going to close this down and maybe get a couple of hours of real writing done.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Well so much for good intentions.  I use the excuse that I was really busy this weekend. 

I went to a medical conference on Sat.  Tell me why they always talk about sleep disorders after lunch.  It was all I could do to keep awake.  I was so afraid my head was going to hit the desk.  I did manage to find a sunbeam at the break and take a ten minute power nap.  It revived me enough to pay attention for the rest of the program.

On Sunday I went with a realtor friend to look at condos.  There are tons of them in the area where I live, unfortunately I am being picky.  I really want something with a view of the Puget Sound.  Many of them you had to stand on one foot and peer around the corner of the deck to see it.  Even my friend thought some of the realtors were imagining things.  I also didn't want a lot of stairs.  I am getting old and the idea of schlepping groceries up two flights of stairs is getting more and more unattractive.  I saw a couple I might be interested in, but nothing I am going to be broken hearted over.  Now I am kind of rethinking my plan.

Yesterday again I did nothing.  I blame the Olympics.  I got intrigued with the ice dancing and didn't do too much else.  I wrote my writer friend Chassily.  We both seem to be in some kind of writing doldrums.  Maybe it is the weather.  I think I need to find another weekend symposium to get my juices flowing.  Or maybe I just need another project.  I will think on that one.

I have a much needed appointment with my counselor for tomorrow. Hopefully we can discuss this quagmire I find myself in and devise a way to escape from it.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

I got some writing done this morning.  I am working on a memior of my medical school experience.  I have just finished up with my three weeks in the NICU and am considering if there is enough material from my weeks in the peds ER or if I should just move on to family medicine.  I will let that thought percolate as I go about the rest of my day.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

My Long Absence

I can't believe that an entire month has pasted without me posting something here.  I have been getting two submissions together for the local literary contest, but that couldn't have taken up so much of my time.  I seem to have a lot of things spinning through my head, and time moves too fast when you get older.

My daughter has been ill and while she is getting better, the stress of not knowling if she was going to have to be hospitalized again was taking its toll.

A good friend, who had become a big part of my life, had some set backs.  It was hard for me to let him deal with these things.  I am a rescuer and it is so difficult for me to do nothing when a friend is in need.  I am still dealing with the emotional fallout from that.

And I have been worried about finances.  The economy down turn had a serious negative effect on my business.  And while I was worried about that, I also am trying to make plans for my future, which of course, only takes money.

So I have three Feb 15th resolutions. 
1) I am going to write everyday with the goal of 500 words and at least a short post here.
2) I am going to get back on my diet and start walking everyday
3) I am going to think about ways to fill up my weekends, otherwise I am wasting time sitting and stewing.

So I will be here tomorrow.  I promise myself.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

I really got into the writing this morning.  It felt good to get some words on paper.  Time to run some errands and do some household chores, but then will hit it again this afternoon. 

Friday, January 8, 2010

Here it is Friday night.  I have had a very busy week.  The cold and the rain have seeped into my joints.  I have a few moments for reflection.

I have a ton of free time this weekend which I plan to put to good use.  The Christmas decorations need to come down and some household chores, but I will write this weekend.  Things have settled down with the family issues.  The holidays are over.  I feel more in control of my finances.  It is time to get to work.

I am picking up my story with my obsterics rotation and moving on to the neonatal ICU.  This is followed by an emotionally difficult set of scenes dealing with my marriage and depression.  A few notes about family medicine and a couple of psychiatry stories.  I think I can accomplish this in the next few weeks.  I will use this forum to get my head pointed in the right direction. And hopefully this time I won't be betrayed by "the pinky finger."

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Happy New Year

I recently returned from a visit with a friend.  It was cold and damp and we spent quit a bit of time indoors.  I found time to contemplate all the events of the last year and consider the beginning of a new one.  I have set some goals and resolve to make them happen.  I realized I am spending too much time "surfing the web", and I need to start writing, start exercising and get out and meet people.  This isolationism isn't good for me.

As far as my book goes, I received a kind rejection letter from an agent I met last summer.  I think I will keep it.  She gave me hope and I value her opinion.  I will do the edits sometime this weekend and send out a couple of queies and get it ready to submit to the PWNA writing contest.  I am starting to look at self-publishing. 

I will be spending more time writing.  I will make time on my days off to write.  I want to have the memior ready for the contest as well, so I am going to use my time more wisely.

I want to be able to hike the Lake Ozette trail by June 21st.  It is six miles round trip.  I can do three now, but I do need to get back at the end of the day.

I need to think about my business.  Expenses are up and patient visits have been down.  I have been worried about money and that has been sapping my energies.  Some of my worries are going away this week, but I need to work on living more frugally, so that I can do the things which bring me pleasure instead of denying myself.

It seems like a big list but it is do-able.  I will have to push myself out of this funk.  It is a new year with new possibilities.  The biggest thing I have learned this last year is that I am content to be alone.  I don't need someone in my life to make me happy.  I have interests and goals, and I need to put them before anything else.