Monday, November 24, 2008

A World of Difference

This morning as I drank my coffee I saw on a morning news show that a farming couple in Colorado decided to allow the locals to gather what onions and potatoes were left after they harvested their crops. The couple thought, possibly, thousand people would show up. Forty-three thousand was the end result. As I watched this spot, I was moved. What could I do?. I mean if I lived in Colorado instead of Georgia, I would have been in line for the free veggies. Times are tough for many families this year. What is tough? I asked this question of myself? I looked around my home. I had everything I needed. NO, I don't have a flat screen TV. I don't even have dish or cable. I made a choice two years ago to follow my dream of writing full time. This required an adjusted budget. No more eating out two and three times a week. Not as many raids on the bookstore :). But, what have I gained in this endeavor?

Ah, I have a completed novel that is now sitting with my agent. I have a slower more productive lifestyle. I take the time to listen to others. I've published many short stories and personal essays. I'm no longer beating my head against a glass ceiling that will never break. Instead, my worth is measured by something much bigger than mere money. I'm living a life of art, creativity, and peace. Gees, what kind of price tag can one put on this?

What has this change done for my family? Have they been hurt from the lack of material things flowing through our door? I'm here everyday when my nine year old comes home from school. She gets my attention and help with homework. My husband comes home in the evening to conversation about writing, family, and such. In my previous life, any given night was a blur of conflict and aggravation. Just this summer my granddaughter was born nine weeks early. She now spends her days here with me as I write each morning, so her mommy can go back to being a chef.

In Christine Baldwin's book, Storycatcher, she says: "Every person is born into life as a blank page--and every person leaves life a full book." We are the writers of our lives.

The farming couple in Colorado chose to write a new chapter when they allowed others to come into their fields to gather what would otherwise have rotted. I chose to give up what the world thought of me for a more inspiring life. In these choices people are changed. No, I haven't touched forty-three thousand people, but I seek to make a difference. We leave our mark on every day with our choices. I'm glad I'm awake and aware of the designs I'm leaving behind.

What chapter of your life is waiting to be written?

Friday, November 14, 2008

Babies, Grandmas, And Writing

I forgot what it's like to have a baby in the house, the different smells and sounds. My granddaughter, the one who was a preemie, has come to live with us for a while. Yes, at the age of fifty, my husband and I seem to be starting over. Of course the difference this time is my daughter, granddaughter's mommy, has moved in too. So, not only did we gain a baby, but weacquired an extra grownup. Thank goodness we never downsized our home.

As I write, this the wonderful bundle is sound to sleep in her chair. The rhythm of her breathing is enough to put me under. Yes, I agreed to watch her during the day while mommy goes back to work. Yes, I do work out of my house. Writing is work, even though many don't view it as that. But how could I say no? How could I allow someone else, someone that doesn't even know us, take care of a child I have such a huge investment in? Now there's a question.

I listen for changes in her breathing just like I did when my others were babies. I hold my breath when she wiggles, praying she doesn't wake until I finish my thought on in a coherent sentence. Today she did not sleep from seven in the morning until one-thirty in the afternoon. She's not even three months old and only weighs ten pounds. But she'salseep right now and all is straight and proper in the world.

The art of writing with one hand while balancing a baby on your shoulder does come back to you. Don't let anyone tell you it doesn't. Her little head bobs around and once in a while she leans enough to get a good view of my face. Then, she breaks into a smile. Baby smiles stop me dead in my tracks every time. I can walk away from a novel scene or an important point I was about to write.

One of my children was raised on my lap as I wrote. She's now nine and loves to read, write, and draw. I take complete credit for that. I can give you one reason why she is a math whiz with scores that goes through the roof. She listened to many of my story drafts and slept nearby just as this little one does.

All week I've slowly taken my writing room apart so Mommy and Granddaughter will have a private space. I thought I would mourn this. I wanted this space for so long, but I found I write just as well tucked away in my bedroom that seems to sit high in the trees. I've found I am a writer and that means I fall into writing no matter where I am. So, I believe when VirginiaWoolfe wrote of a room of one's own, she spoke metaphorically about that part of our soul that must be closed away so we can create. I believe women can create anywhere. I think of my own grandmother, who never had any true space that wasn't invaded by usgrand kids. She made the most intricately designed baby dresses. What she call handwork was art.

My bundle is still asleep. I look at her and see the future. One day she'll look at me and see an old woman with white hair and a pink scalp. She remember that closeness even though she might not be able to remember exactly when the bond began. We are the essence of our own lives. Live up guys. Each moment is a hoot.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Vote 2008 It's Your Power

I received a call from my middle daughter this morning. She was standing in a two hour line to vote. I praised her for making the effort. She said, "You're the one that taught me, Mom. You said it didn't matter who I voted for as long as I vote. I have to vote."

I was struck silent. Yes, I was hearing what my father told me over and over as a child. He believed in our right to vote. He always said it is the only real power we have and he never, ever missed voting.

My father actually gave more than most of us so others could vote. In World War II, he fought during D-Day. In Korea, he saw combat. By the time he went to Vietnam, he was a mechanic for the fighter jet engines and did not see action. But in all cases he served his country.

Today I took my nine year old daughter and we walked a mile to the voting place. She was allowed to come in and watch me cast my ballot. When we were finished, she was given a voting sticker too. I looked at her and knew I had passed on the message that was given to me.

What have we taught our children? They are watching us.

So my message today is to vote. I'm not here to tell you who to vote for. I don't care; just exercise your right. You owe it to men and women like my father, who have put in an effort to preserve our freedom. Voting is the one power we truly have, even when we feel like we're not making a difference.

Brave the lines and vote.

Monday, November 3, 2008

A Woman of Consequence

Here's another personal essay.

My husband asked me after the birth of our fourth daughter in 1999, how I could stand the pain? How did I endure it without screaming? I just laughed it off with some joke about women being stronger than men, but inside I knew the truth. The beatings I survived as a child were much worse. I learned the art of taking my mind and soul to another place so as to stay alive.

At the age of fifteen, Mother burst into my room one night, informing me I had a doctor's appointment the next day. She had noticed my ongoing sickness each day.

Now, I'm not going to insult the reader here. I was fully aware of my condition or suspected anyway.

The exam room was cold. The paper sheet was the only barrier between the doctor and his diagnoses. He stripped his rubber gloves off and threw them on the metal table.

"Go get the mother." His disgust was evident.

The year was 1973 and the country was not accepting of teen pregnancies. Mother entered the exam room.

"Your daughter is pregnant. I would guess she is eight or nine weeks." He stared at me over half glasses that sat on his nose. I could see he had daughters and never, ever would they act like me. "You could take her to New York City. It's the only place in the country where the procedure is legal."

"How much does it cost?" Mother looked at me as if she held the leather belt in her hand.

"A thousand dollars."

"I guess it's the only way to save our name. Give me the information."

Two adults were deciding my baby's future. Neither held one ounce of compassion. Somewhere deep inside my chest a voice stirred, screaming at me to fight.

"No." My voice was quiet.

Mother looked at me.

"I don't care if you beat me to death, Mother. You can't make me have an abortion."

A flicker of sorrow passed through the doctor's eyes. "You have until she is twelve weeks." He clicked his pen down and handed Mother the information.

"You will do what I say!" Mother stared at me.

I held her gaze without pulling away.

On September 20, 1973, after seven hours of labor, my oldest daughter was born. She was the first beautiful thing to come into my life, my first ray of hope. Full of youthful determination and dreams, I planned our lives. Mother predicted my failure with glee, and I'd be a liar if I said I didn't fail many times. But each time I was knocked to my knees, I struggled back onto my feet, brushed myself off and moved forward. At the age of eighteen I escaped my mother for good after I gained my high school diploma and decent employment.

Twenty-two years and two weeks after the birth of my oldest daughter, I looked into the eyes of Morgan Leigh, my first granddaughter. She stared at me with big eyes, and my world converged. In that moment, with that little bundle in my arms, I knew all my struggles, the beatings, the heart-breaking attacks, brought her to me. I was part of a new legacy; one that taught the women in our family to be strong, to go for what they wanted. Morgan's birth allowed me to believe wholeheartedly in my efforts. At thirty-five, I found myself, held her in my arms, and gave her a pure compassionate love that she deserved.

I came back into my mother's life when I turned forty-five. She had lost her power, shriveled in a wheelchair, struggling with kidney disease. My successes were never acknowledged. But I knew she saw the woman I had become, the woman of consequence.