Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Creative Genius

Writers are an arrogant sort. There are many times I finished a book only to think I have more talent and could have written it better. I do not have sour grapes when I read author’s whose amateur drafts are printed. In fact these inspire me and make me continue to write. I tell myself, if some of these weaker works get published, certainly, I too can break through.  

However, when I read a masterpiece, I’m in awe and stalled.

There is no way I could have masterfully crafted anything so fine as Elizabeth Gilbert’s novel A Signature of All Things. http://www.elizabethgilbert.com/ I can’t even write a review that does the work justice. Her ease with language, her discipline to research, her patience to tell a story revealing its intricacies slowly without bogging down pace is admirable.

I was a fan of Gilbert’s memoir Eat, Pray, Love. (In my opinion, the movie fell apart, because Gilbert’s use of language was lost on screen and Julia Roberts was poorly cast.) I remember seeing a Ted Talk of Gilbert’s in 2012, where she spoke of the creative process and the freakish nature of success. See her talk on the creative genius here:  http://www.npr.org/2012/06/01/153700920/do-all-of-us-possess-genius. She was concerned that her biggest success was behind her. I am grateful it was in fact yet to come.

Today I shall leave you with a recommendation to watch the video and read the novel. Meanwhile, I will sign off and attempt to create genius.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Words, Crazy Words in Earnest

While writing a memoir, I thought can I really reveal that much of myself. It is easier now for me to talk about my own mental health, because it does not define me. I am not bipolar. I am a person living with the chronic condition. The stories I tell of the disease do not betray my privacy in its entirety. This condition of bipolar is no more defining of who I am, than the fact that I have brown hair. The difference is my hair color can be seen and the mental illness must be revealed.
Stress Fracture: A Memoir of Psychosis is an unpublished manuscript. I wrote it essentially stream of conscious style in a matter of four months in 2010. I spent the next two years, off and on, revising it and trying to make scenes that came alive through fiction writing techniques. The result was a pretty damn good story. With that in my mind, I started to query big literary agents with the naïve notion they would represent an unknown former journalist.

After a round of defeat, I accepted that I would simply be content having written it; I resolved to consider the process cathartic and that its value was to help in my healing process. I didn’t see it as commercial product that deserved space among bookseller’s shelves — physical and virtual. The manuscript, then 260 pages and 70,000 words, was stored in a two black binders out of sight. As much as I tried to place it out of my mind entirely, it continued to nag at me.

Nearly three years after my episode of psychosis, someone very close to me suffered a serious physical health event. The result was a life sentence of coping with a chronic illness, and I needed to learn how to be a support. The similarities of coming to terms with any chronic illness could not be denied. The isolation and confusion that comes when you are knocked off your pedestal of ignorant normal life is the same regardless of the category of ailment. Support and answers are hard to come by in an accessible way.  

The result of my psychiatric inpatient stay was a diagnosis of bipolar disorder, which can be treated, but not cured. The result of my loved one was a disease with a different name. We both were left with no choice but unending daily treatment to manage our health in the context of disease impairment. We are both healthy today, because of treatments. Yet the disease persists.

I see my story, not so much as about myself, but about the things that break us and how we heal. I anxiously set out on another round of agent seeking, again without satisfying results, this past spring.

This summer, I rewrote the memoir in its entirety with the reader in mind. The story was no longer part of me; I simply became the narrator to an event that happened. The result is something that is accessible to an audience. With a clearer understanding of the purpose of the work and its place, I sent it to better targeted agents and indie presses representing psychology memoir.  I am trying not to check my email excessively waiting for a response.

I am resurrecting my blog returning to its original goal. Words, Crazy Words was inspired as a place to talk about mental health. I chickened out and published other work. Regardless of the result of the publishing world to pick up Stress Fracture, I must find a way to contribute to the discussion of mental illness.

Every illness needs stories. People with mental illness often walk silently afraid to appear crazy. I am more fearful of secrets and vowed to live my life out loud. With prose, I have found a whisper that reveals the tragedy of psychosis in the context of a bipolar illness and the hope that treatment offers. My voice is quiet and capable of telling just one story of a disorder that manifests itself uniquely in each person who is afflicted. I aspire to lucidly reflect on an illness which has crippled my mind and efforts to the point of insanity.


Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Thoughts on Book Clubs

Today guest blogger Elaine Drennon Little, author of A Southern Place, shares her thoughts on Book Clubs.  A Southern Place is work of fiction about Mary Jane Hatcher, who everyone calls Mojo. As the story of the Mullinax family unfolds, Mojo discovers a family's legacy can be many things: a piece of earth, a familiar dwelling, a shared bond. She likes to think we all have a fresh start. A Southern Place is available as a print and e- book at Amazon. http://www.amazon.com/Southern-Place-Elaine-Drennon-Little/dp/1937178390/?tag=wowwomenonwri-20

Thoughts on Book Clubs

When I hear the term “book club,” it sounds like a dream day in the life I was meant to have, but haven’t found yet. We meet in someone’s warm, cozy living room (not mine if it means cleaning it!) that smells of chocolate chip cookies and cinnamon potpourri. We’re all dressed in jeans and trendy tops with coordinated jewelry that makes us look a casual party in the Chico’s catalogue. None of us are overweight, tired, or filled with angry stories about our jobs, spouses, children, or life in general. We have no problems of our own, so we’ve gathered together to discuss the trials and tribulations of our grown-up imaginary friends, created by close associates who vary from Harper Lee and William Faulkner to John Grisham and Lee Smith. The wine flows freely and so do our tongues; we give equal time to the voices of wise Scout, simple Benjy, dreamy Ivy and a host of legal eagles. We read our favorite passages, we debate whose pain and suffering is greatest, we cry when they “kill our babies.” We relive bits and pieces of these lives we know as well as our own, and our love for one another grows stronger with each new book. Sounds wonderful, right?

I have never “belonged” to such a group, but my name has been on the list of several kinds of book clubs. In the 90s, there were several heated arguments between my husband and I over my “memberships” in the Book-of-the-Month club, the Doubleday Book Club, and some other book club that specialized in paperbacks. It seems that although I could always find “alternate” books to mark as my selection each month, the automatic picks looked good, too, and I too often hid them in the back of my closet instead of sending them back, causing some pretty astronomical bills by the time I got “caught.” There seem to be few books on Oprah’s Book Club list that I haven’t read, and I can honestly say I’ve never read anything with her endorsement that was less than impressive. I currently belong to a Goodreads off-shoot called “On the Southern Literary Trail.” I love reading the discussions and have added a few comments myself, yet I don’t seem to be “technologically savvy” enough to add the books I read or actually start a discussion on my own.

Though I still plan to start a book club, one day, hoping it will totally fulfill my dream described in the first paragraph, I like to believe that the “unofficial” book clubs I’ve continued through most of my life are probably better anyway. Never being an outdoorsy or sports enthusiast kind of kid, my first real friendships congealed over favorite books. A best of all weekends for my high school best friend and I involved a trip to the library, a bag of pretzels and a 2-liter soda. We’d gossip, then read, stopping to read to one another when a passage really intrigued us. (Our earliest knowledge of sex came not from other girls’ experiences but from Harold Robbins and Sidney Sheldon!)

Talking about books was always a comfortable way to make new friends in new places; to be honest, people who don’t like books probably won’t like me, so it’s a safe and easy way to find “my” people quickly. It’s also been an easy way to stay connect to those friends no matter where in the world our jobs and families might take us. With my friends in other states, usually one of our first questions is “what are you reading?” followed by the list of our own that we can’t wait to share. Books bring us together and keep us tied; characters we both love and hate create a kind of alternate universe of imaginary friends.

Today on Days of Our Lives, the ladies of Salem engaged in a book club meeting that started out much like the one I described earlier. When the homemade doughnuts Jennifer shared turned out to be laced with her son’s marijuana, these well-dressed, educated women aged 30 to 70 began to eat like pigs, giggle like tweens, and tap into humor perhaps never before gleaned from reading Lewis Carroll.

Looking much like a colorized version of when Andy arrested Aunt Bee and her church ladies from over-medicating themselves with snake-oil-elixir, this example of a ladies’ book club meeting looked to be pretty FUN as well.

The book club I dream of is a little duller by comparison, yet its effects would last far beyond when the “high” wore off. I love seeing the current trend of adding “book club discussion questions” at the end of recent novels. Whether for an established and maintained group, or just two acquaintances talking across the frozen food aisle, book discussions can draw people together, bonding both readers and their interests. Though I dream of the commitment of regular meetings, I never intend to give up the friends-without-borders and come-as-you-are groups of social media that welcome all to share and comment. I guess what I’m saying is that to me, a book club can be as organized (or unorganized!) as you want it to be—and I pretty much like them ALL…

Which kind of book club do YOU fancy?

About the Author:
Adopted at birth, Elaine lived her first twenty years on her parents’ agricultural farm in rural southern Georgia.  She was a public school music teacher for twenty-seven years, and continued to dabble with sideline interests in spite of her paid profession.  Playing in her first band at age fourteen, she seemed to almost always be involved in at least one band or another.  Elaine’s writing began in high school, publishing in local newspapers, then educational journals, then later in online fiction journals.  In 2008 she enrolled in the MFA program at Spalding University in Louisville, where upon graduation finished her second novel manuscript. Recently retiring after eleven years as a high school chorus and drama director, Elaine now lives in north Georgia with her husband, an ever-growing library of used books, and many adopted animals.

Find out more about this author online:

Author blog: 

To enter to win a copy of A Southern Place, please leave a comment. 


Friday, August 2, 2013

Self Publishing Vs. Indie Press

Today guest blogger Donald Dempsey, author of Betty’s Child, shares his experience with publishing. He first self published his memoir and later published with an indie press. Following are his thoughts on each of those processes.

When I decided to write my book the thought of publishing it wasn't a consideration. I thought it would wind up like most of my other projects, either a pile of notes or a few chapters sitting in a folder gathering dust. Unlike previous attempts to put my thoughts or ideas into words, my memoir poured out of me. I've often said this story virtually wrote itself. Often, I reread something I’d written and found myself surprised by the content.
After I finished Betty’s Child, I had no idea what to do with it. My wife and some close friends urged me to try and get it published. I put together query letters and submitted them to agents and publishers, rarely hearing back from them. The closest I came to tradition publishing success was garnering some interest from an agent who was about to retire, but she couldn't get anyone else to take on the book due to a downsizing of publishers and agents. Eventually, I gave up.

I don’t remember who first suggested it or how self-publishing became an option, but somehow I became involved with a self publishing company. From the very beginning, it was a very unpleasant experience. I never worked with the same person, and there was always another fee to take the next unexpected step. Undisclosed charges were frequent. If I paid for this service, it would increase my chances of attracting a publisher. If I agreed to pay more money for certain packages or services, my book would be available to a wider market. There was always one reason or another to pay more money.

My frustration mounted. It wasn’t very long before I wished I had just left my book in the drawer where I’d tossed it. Nothing they promised me was ever delivered. Betty’s Child sold a few copies now and then, but not much else happened. Even though I felt the book was meaningful and had a message worth putting out, I soon gave up again. I stopped answering calls from the self publishing company. Months passed. I threw all the extra copies in a box in my office and forgot about the book altogether.

And then, out of the blue, Mike O’Mary from Dream of Things called me and asked to take a look at my book. He liked what some of the reviewers said. I sent him a copy and everything moved pretty quickly after that. Mike has been a publisher, editor, marketer, valuable source of information, and a friend. His belief in Betty’s Child rekindled my own. Mike’s knowledge of the ebook market opened up windows of opportunity I didn’t know existed. Without him, there wouldn’t be a Betty’s Child, so I find myself often saying the book is just as much his as mine.

Of course, the irony here is that Dream of Things never would have noticed Betty’s Child if I hadn’t put myself through the torture of self publishing. And I’ve heard of some very successful authors getting their start after first working with companies like the one I did. For me, self publishing was a very stressful experience. I tend to like things straightforward and forthright. So I’d hate to dissuade someone from chasing their dream of publication. My personal experiences may not reflect the norm.   

About the Author:

Don Dempsey experienced childhood abuse and neglect first hand, but went on to have a fulfilling family life as an adult and to own his own business. "If you're lucky, you make it to adulthood in one piece," says Don. "But there's no guarantee the rest of your life is going to be any better. Abused kids are often plagued by fear and insecurity. They battle depression and have trouble with relationships. In the worst cases, abused children perpetuate the cycle." But Don is living proof that you can overcome a childhood of abuse and neglect. "You start by letting go of as much of the guilt (yes, abused kids feel guilty) and as many of the bad memories as possible. At the same time, you hold on to the things that helped you survive. For me, it was the belief that you can make life better by working at it and earning it. It helps to have a sense of humor, too."

Find out more about the author by visiting him online:

Betty’s Child website:

Donald Dempsey Facebook:

To enter to win a copy of Betty's Child, please leave a comment. 

Wednesday, July 31, 2013


A boy with dreams more than a few 
Worked so hard 'til they all came true.

Yet, he held a penny
To cast among many.

He wished for more fortune to brew.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

The Companions We Keep

Grandma Suzanne always said, “I take my happy with me wherever I go.”

I always thought happy was grandpa’s name.

When grandpa retired, I was just learning to read. The banner said Congratulations Mark! Best Wishes.

“Who is Mark?” I asked my mom.

“That’s Grandpa,” she said.

“I thought his name was Happy, because grandma always says she is taking her happy with her.”

My mom’s sister overheard this and she laughed as my mom did the best she could to keep her face straight.

“Oh, Elliot, honey. That’s just an old saying Grandma likes,” she said.

“That’s right,” know-it-all Aunt Bee said. “The entire saying is ‘happiness is not a destination. It is a companion we can choose to accompany us on our journey.’”

I exhaled through a clenched jaw. My welling, deep black eyes squinted to slits. I turned and stomped away. I heard oh my and snickers following me. I hid beneath a row of coats in the hallway leading to the restrooms. I situated myself in the corner, well concealed among the bunched coats.

That is what I took with me — memories of teasing, laughter, and gut-twisting embarrassment. I carried my thoughts of my own stupidity.

I watched ankles and legs. From my vantage point I could only make out cropped people as they walked in the hallway.  
Mom came out and called a hushed, “Elliot.” A half-heartedly attempt to reach me, I thought. Dad stepped behind her and convinced her that the concern she held was unfounded.

“He will be fine. He’s just a little embarrassed,” I overheard Dad say. “He’s just a boy who needs time alone to get himself together.”

I should muscle through and be a tough guy like my father, I thought. My dad never did anything embarrassing. He played hockey with the guys from the health network where he practiced orthopedic medicine.  

“Are you sure he’s okay?” mom asked.

“I’m sure,” Dad said.

“You are probably right,” she conceded.

I watched ankles, shins and shoes parade back and forth. I’m not sure how long I sat there. As time passed, voices got louder, steps got quicker. The party was building momentum. Laughter was populating. Inhibitions were vanishing. Happy was a promiscuous companion of all the party guests.

Well nearly all. I only had shame to carry with me. Grandma Suzanne came to me then. At an age when her peers walked with orthopedic shoes, she wore a beige, wedge sandal. Her slender legs hadn’t lost their tone, thanks to her regular practice of yoga and Zumba.

She often said, “inactivity was akin to playing dead, and she had far too much living yet to do.”

Grandma Suzanne described herself as young, which she justified because she could still sit on the floor.

“Children sit on the floor,” she always said.

It was unsaid that old people sit in Barcalounger or arm chairs with ottomans to put their heavy feet up. She gave her chair up at gatherings to people half her age.  

Grandma knew where to find me, and magically she knew just the right time to seek me out. She crawled right under those coats across from me. She didn’t say anything. She just sat there in her pantsuit and waited for me to acknowledge her. I couldn’t wait long. I looked up at Grandma and didn’t feel a need to explain what I was doing or why I was sitting there. She didn’t need me to express how angry I felt when Aunt Bee laughed or how lonely I felt after leaving the party.

I sensed her calm. I felt peace just being near here.

She stretched her arms and said, “Won’t you please join me? Happy is inside watching the band. She’s waiting for you.”

I returned her smile. I nodded. I placed my hands in hers with age spots that wouldn’t lie. I loved that woman.

We danced and laughed. I noticed Mom, well into her swaying stupor, color her face with relief when she saw me with Grandma.   

I was with Happy then. Grouchy was too heavy a companion, I decided.


Thursday, July 18, 2013


Napping softly, sweat upon his brow
A pillow’s winkles impress his cheek.
Tuesday morning awakening to -
Breakfast in bed, sweet maple syrup.
His sunken eyes slowly un-lid
Only to find empty, white walls.
A cheerful good morning from the nurse’s lips:
Whose husband has a luxury car;
Whose children live in isolated bliss;
Who certainly has  an accomplished life.
Crazy one. Lying in bed. Traveling the mind.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Meet the Author - Intro

There are two secrets to good writing.

The first is write often and other is read widely.

In the spirit of community, I am starting a Meet the Author Series. I've asked some recently published authors to write about some aspect of life or publishing that is interesting to me. Hopefully, you will enjoy it as well. And there are giveaways!

Please watch for these authors in the upcoming weeks.
August 2nd

Donald Dempsey, author of the memoir Betty’s Child, is writing about “Self-Publishing vs. Indie Press.”

August 20th  
Elaine Drennon Little, author of Southern Place, is writing about “Book Clubs.”

September 2nd

Susan Tive, co editor of the anthology Beyond Belief; The Secret Lives of Women in Extreme Religions, is writing about “Feminism and Religion.”  


Thursday, July 11, 2013

Flowers for Rodger

The petunias were stored in the back hallway. Last year, at this time, they hung beautifully in an odd row of three at the front of the wrap-around porch. Nancy hadn’t bothered to buy the other five baskets for the west side of the porch.
Mother Nature paid no attention to the calendar. She confused and swirled the Wisconsin seasons together. The sun seldom made its appearance between the endless, overcast days. Nancy sat in her dim sunroom — her feet propped on an ivory ottoman with a shag blanket tugged to her armpits.
Nancy read. She distracted herself with pop psychology in attempt to drive her blues away. Blues is such a disrespectful euphemism for the depression, which came each winter uninvited. This noun identifying a disease was misunderstood as a characterization of a feeling, a controllable emotion.
In truth it was an intermittent interruption of a productive life. It interfered with the most basic tasks — showering and eating. And, certainly, it killed manicures & haircuts, shopping & socializing, and work & school for the young.
Blah was the rain for which Nancy had no umbrella, no shield or armor. Comfortable misery enveloped her as did the sweaters, thick and soft. She longed to bounce into well-being, snap out of it as the cliché goes.
A passage she read said to do something, anything, just move, find any activity to take your mind off your feelings. Nancy thought about those empty hooks around the white house. She thought about the baskets of petunias that she could not hang. She thought about the rope in the garage. An idea came to mind.
Nancy went outside without a coat, but she kept that blanket for a shawl. She grabbed the rope from the garage and walked to the back of the house. She could see the koi pond in the northeast corner of the city lot. She was enclosed in the privacy of the cedar perimeter. Nancy dragged a heavy, iron chair away from its table and pair. Looking up, Nancy saw the hooks secure enough to hold a two-pound basket. What about a two hundred pound blob of a woman wearing sweatpants and slippers? She looked like the grandmother she wasn’t; her children — one gay and the other selfish — had grown to move away and find happiness without kids. She had no family nearby, no child’s colorings on her fridge. Her green, lush gardens were the only life she tended.
Nancy heard footsteps on the porch, delicate footsteps.
“Hello? Nancy? Hello? Are you here?” a sweet voice called from the front of the house.
Nancy recognized her neighbor Grace who considered herself a social butterfly, but Nancy considered her more of a busy body bee buzzing around without invitation.
“Yes, I’m in the back,” Nancy called and kicked the rope to the side of the house.
“Oh, thank goodness you’re home! I wanted to bring you these marigolds for Rodger. I remember they were his favorite and I couldn’t help but notice your window boxes have been empty the past two summers,” Grace gushed.
Nancy hadn’t had the heart to fill those boxes. She a tended the grounds, her hostas, hydrangeas, lilacs, bleeding hearts, corn flowers, daisies, and ferns; her garden beds were the envy of the neighborhood. The annuals were Rodgers job.
“Why thank you. How thoughtful of you,” Nancy said.
The curt nature of her response was meant to thwart any attempt Grace would make to worm her way into a glass of tea or conversation of phony pleasantries.
“Well, I just wanted to drop off the flowers. I was at the garden shop and thought of you, well Rodger, when I noticed the bright orange blooms and sturdy stems,” Grace said. “I think you could plant now and they will survive this lingering winter. It is mid-May after all.”
“Yes this winter is a bugger,” Nancy agreed. “I’ll bring these in the garage and watch the weather report to make sure we don’t have a repeat of last night’s frost.”
“Okay. Well, I’ll be going. Spring should stick around now. They lady at the garden center said seventies by the weekend,” Grace said.
Nancy smiled, really smiled, and allowed hope to plant inside her.
She wasn’t planning to fill those window boxes. No, they would remain empty. What she did plan to do was bring the marigolds where they belonged: to Rodger. She’d plant them in the half moon plot in front of his headstone. Nancy pictured herself visiting those annuals throughout the summer to deadhead the dying making way for new blooms.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013


Fake it till
you make it
just try it
on for size
if at last
it doesn’t fit
don’t mistake
it as a prize

Friday, July 5, 2013

Summer Days

Cool swimming pool
Icy lemonade
Reading in the shade
Retreat to central air

Ornery friends
Sweaty hair and face  
Suffocating car space
Trapped in pollen air

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Writing Memoir

Memories are like wet beads on a shower wall.

             One slides into another.

Streaming from the subconscious into the current,

             They amass with purpose.

Collecting from each other, they become a stream.

              Now gathered in unity.

Saturday, June 22, 2013


Floats carry color —

flags, puppets, kids, candy, fun —

as the bands whirl past.

The Journey of a Dream

The well-timed exit:

Dark Horse
No Chance in Hell
Moving On
Throwing in the Towel
Hanging up the Shoes
Cheering “Go For It!” and purchasing high end shoes, equipments, camps, and lessons to help the child pursue their dream of a NFL starring role, may not change the outcome. Encouraging him to try harder, do push ups, run track, visualize his dream coming true isn’t going to change circumstance. Let him try anyway, but then let him learn the tough lesson.
Look at the kid who is five feet tall his freshman year and weighs under a hundred pounds. Is this kid even making the high school team? A positive attitude and a display of hard work may earn his spot on the team, but is he ever getting off the bench?  Sure he can make every practice, may even get the second string line-up, but he isn’t going to outrun, out muscle the kid twice his size. He can wear the team t-shirt and travel on the team bus. He can pretend it doesn’t hurt that he doesn’t touch the game ball. No amount of mental aerobics and positive thinking is going to change his circumstance. No amount of mantras or feel good posters or bumper stickers or key rings is going to make it possible for him to play pro football. And that’s okay. Disappointment is okay.

The realization that we do not have super powers to overcome whatever obstacles exist is a healthy conclusion that allows us to be kind to ourselves.  Not being able to achieve whatever we want is not a sign of weakness, or a resolve to fail, quit, or give up. Dreams are something imagined and supposed. Moving on is liberating.

Dead end

Travel down a dead-end street
to see the end of the line.
Remember then to turn ‘round
to find what is most divine.

Sunday, June 9, 2013


Sanity reclaimed!
After walls of self crumbled,
grace replaced chaos.

Sunday, June 2, 2013


I sleep in pajamas, a white pair of cotton Capri’s with pastel polka dots and a pink tank top. The nightmares are sure to come. Toddlers will scamper down the hallway past the nightlight’s glow from the bathroom. Either one of the blond boys will charge into my master suite, an oversized room with a his-and-her dresser set in cherry wood. The child will scream “da da” and crawl over me to the free side of the king-size bed bedecked with chocolate and turquoise comforter and sheets.  

I used to sleep in cotton panties, which he softly slid down my thighs and past my ankles before they were tossed free by willing feet. Our tongues would find each other. Then, his would explore my neck and breasts while I’d caress his strong back and glide petite hands farther to his soft bottom. My hands would then guide his face back next to mine. Gently, he would rock me to a place of completeness until we’d collapse into each other. Other nights, I’d rest my nearly naked self onto him fetal-like in an embrace until sleep would come.

Husband, father, friend, no more, just a memory, empty space, void in my heart, and air in my arms. Our twins reach for a daddy vanished from us. I turn to them, swallow my pain, and quiet their fears whispering promises of security I cannot keep. I curse Doug for building a life he couldn’t sustain leaving a family without its head.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Happiness and Love (and power)

New Years Eve was five months ago. Yet, I somehow have managed to keep up to date with my resolutions. Before 2013, I started each year trying to quit smoking, lose weight, or write more. This year I took a different approach and gave myself three things:

                1) A goal

                2) A mantra

                3) A trio of words to appreciate

First, the goal is to publish or perish. Most of my adult life, I held delusions that I would have a book picked up by a power publishing house and maybe even change the world with my words. Ha! So rather than dreaming this little dream, I decided to set a tangible goal: I will move the heaps of words stored on my terabyte, in copy paper boxes, in notebooks and legal pads, and collected in desk and file drawers. The new location for these will be in front of an audience. In taking advice from Seth Godin, I am hoping just one person reads it. Maybe that one person will recommend some of it to another person and so on until a crescendo of readers could occur — maybe not. Either way, the goal remains. If I do not publish, the work will perish and therefore my voice will remain absent despite the time I spent developing it. I’ll end this thought with another respected authority’s perspective on creativity, “Don’t think about making art, just get it done. Let everyone else decide if it’s good or bad, whether they love it or hate it. While they are deciding, make even more art,” Andy Warhol.

Second my mantra for the year is, “If you don’t change directions, you will get where you are going.” This is pretty silly and straightforward. Yet it reminds me to not be tempted or lured to other worthy pursuits, but rather stay the course! It also reminds me of something my middle son said to me on a walk around the block. The then 3-year-old boy kept sitting down on ant piles or picking dandelions from the terrace while I rushed him ahead. He said, “Mom, I don’t ever quit. I just take lots of breaks.” So I may take a break now and then, but I’m not quitting and I’m not adjusting the sails.

Third, my three words: Love, Happiness, and Power. A friend put a word search on FB late in December and the task was to pick out the first three words that came to you. These were my words. Again silly, but I journal each day what in my life gives me love, happiness, and power. This is usually just a word or two and occasionally a phrase. Generally, the variation is that I garner love from my family and friends, happiness from my writing and hobbies, and power from stomping out doubt and making measurable progress.

So far these three things work for me; I am living with more peace and optimism than before I set up this system. It takes away the anxiety and calms me into a sense of purpose.  

As a writer, each day I pick up my journal and see a blank page. I write the day of the date and time just to start the ink and remove the intimidation of the pristine sheet of paper. From here I write something new every time. My two real jobs in life have been as a journalist and as a waitress. These both have something in common — made fresh daily. This mentality of making/creating something new daily is a good metaphor for setting goals and resolutions. There is no need to wait for Jan. 1, your next birthday, or the beginning of swimsuit season. Today is open. Start, take breaks, resume the pace.    

Friday, May 24, 2013


It’s tempting to stop in Minnesota.
      Among the abundant lakes,
      Lies treasure to be certain.
Soon forgetting the West’s appeal — dusty flakes.  

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

A Lizard's Tale

“The Gecko has no tail,”
Child calls from its cage.
Mom rushes to see the fail. 
Lid displaced and child’s guilty face.
When threatened, the gecko will drop its tail.
A quick reflexive trait maintains its face.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

The Last Resort

A light in the rain
Stays open for the weary
A respite from pain

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

One Day at a Time

Good morning! I wrote this reflection in 2011 about a year after experiencing a psychotic break, which is commonly referred to as a nervous breakdown. I kept in the present tense, because it was written that way and I like the flow of it. Today, in 2103, I am better than okay. I have experienced just a few break-through symptoms of bipolar, which have been well managed with treatment. Yet, I choose to remember those dark days when one day at a time was all I could manage. I did complete a memoir, titled Stress Fracture: A Memoir of Psychosis, which details the year of recovery. I am not sure if the manuscript will see publication, yet I am shopping it to agents and considering self publishing.

Today, I am okay. And really that is all anyone can have or request.
Someday, I may kill myself. It happens to people like me: people who share my diagnosis. But as for today, I am okay. The symptoms do not infiltrate with devastation.

People like me make up an approximate 2.6 percent of the population. People like me sit in prisons. People like me destroy families. People like me are feared. But, today I am okay.
I have a mental illness. It’s not just a case of the blues or an episode of extravagance. It’s something rooted with a firm grasp attempting to rob sanity.

Bipolar is what they call it today. They used to say Manic-Depressive. They think the word Bipolar offers a better description of the teeter totter of symptoms. It is classified in the mood-disorder family residing with Unipolar Depression. With Bipolar Disorder, the pendulum swings from this hopeless pole to mania: a welcome reprise from the other. Back and forth seems more accurate that up and down, but it’s a mixed bag of extremes that are often swirled together.
This companion of mine, a steady uninvited guest, is less straightforward than what is written in a text or reference book. Trumping the predictable highs and lows, have been episodes polluted with hallucinations and delusions. I have seen things that are not there. I have believed distortion. The truth was hard to recognize. They tweaked my diagnosis: Bipolar Disorder with Psychotic Features.

The researchers work. They believe. They try to find a way to understand. They seek wisdom, validity, and solution. They break this illness farther into categories I and II, which describe variations of the disorder. The outcomes of bipolar manifest uniquely in each person afflicted.  
Without a measuring stick the doctors probe and jab and question. They find commonalities to their lists, they make educated assumptions. Believing their assessment is the way to hope. The alternative hurts too much.

Denial, a cousin to the disorder, tempts logic. It casts Doubt’s shadows. Denial’s attraction is to believe instead this category of sickness is hogwash. It classifies the previous description as weakness. It serves to forego a scientific treatment and rather prescribes to dress with gumption and arm with willpower making a way without treatment.
I put my faith in the doctors. I believe the research. I owe it to myself to have a majority of days where I am okay. I owe it to society to be productive. The hope they give is balance. With this, I can navigate life with promise.

I keep a belief in a higher power. I ask the creator for grace as I carry a burden. Hurdles do not make us special: we all come across one or another. I call mine bipolar. You may have a different obstacle. Call it a cross to bear if that resonates with your education. Mine is real. It comes, it stays, and it’s chronic. I treat the symptoms; I walk with optimism waiting with anticipation for the advancement that cures this monster.
I keep hope. I trust those who love me, when I know not to trust myself. Today, however, I am okay.

Thank you for reading.