DILIGAF?

(Apologies to those of you who don’t handle strong words… this post has them.)

Anyone who remembers the acronym in my title might be able to relate to what I’m about to discuss. Seems like, at this particular point in my life, I’m being pulled in so many different directions, being asked to “do this” or “donate my time and money to that” or “consider joining x, y, or z organization”, that I’m in serious need of prioritizing what deserves my time, attention, blood, sweat, tears…and money.

Sitting in my office during a lunch break a few months ago, I was going “into the wormhole” of YouTube and found a TED talk by a woman who seems to understand my predicament. Thing is, she knows how to handle these dilemmas much better than I do.

In a nutshell, she says when you look at all the things you’re being pulled to do, there are some you “give a f*ck” about and others you “don’t give a f*ck” about. Think of your “f*cks” as currency — either you are willing to spend them on something that is pig-896747_960_720meaningful to you (for me, that would be taking time to write or making a trip to a family graveyard for some genealogical research), or you are NOT willing to spend them on something (like going to a Pampered Chef party – I don’t cook like that!). Of course, there are some things you have to give some “f*cks” about – family obligations, etc., but for the most part, you have the choice on how you set up your “f*ck budget.”

Sounds intriguing, doesn’t it? Tonight, I’m going to watch her video again and re-do my “f*ck budget” because I’m almost broke. Need to reallocate my f*cks, stop spending them on the things that aren’t priority in my life, and maybe save a few for something really cool down the road.

DILIGAF? I’ll let you decide that a little later…

Here’s the TED talk by Sarah Knight, bestselling author of “The Life-Changing Magic of Not Giving a F*ck” and “Get Your Sh*t Together”. Good stuff!

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Better Late Than Never

A few months ago, I found my childhood journals. According to one of the entries, when I was a freshman in high school, it appears my dream was to be a journalist and go to UNC Chapel Hill to learn to become one.

Well, maybe there was one more dream – that the older boy up the street with the most beautiful smile full of braces who recently broke his writing arm while skateboarding would pay attention to me just the slightest bit.

But I digress.

I have no idea how or when the desire to become a journalist originated nor an explanation how, as a mere thirteen-year-old, I knew that UNC Chapel Hill was the place to go. Throughout childhood, writing and drawing were comforting things. Helped me to remember and to forget. Helped me to deal with the traumas of being a young girl with little to no confidence, whatsoever.

That's me, third in line, waiting to read my essay... and about to throw up.

(Millis Road Elementary – 6th grade graduation, 1978. That’s me, third in line, waiting to read my essay… and about to throw up.)

Throughout high school, the journal entries were peppered with adolescent angst. Weekends spent on major school projects, the hopeless crush on “unattainable popular boy ‘X’” who passed in the hall with his head cheerleader girlfriend, and the ever-present pressure of feeling that I was always in competition with the other kids in the senior class for that spot at Carolina.

I was an “A” student in English classes and loved any opportunity for creative expression. While teachers saw potential, and my report cards reflected the same, the thing that weighed against me the most was my lack of ability to recognize – and believe in – that potential as well. As classmates filed in the guidance office to meet with the counselor to discuss admission applications and essays, something in me resisted the effort. For weeks, the UNC application sat in my desk drawer at home, and while I would take it out from time to time, answer a few more questions, and mull over what I would write for the personal essay, it never made it to the guidance office for review. My SAT scores sucked (at least I thought they did), and I didn’t feel I measured up to all the other classmates who had submitted the same application and whose scores were obviously much better. So it went in the trash.

And thus ended my dream… or so I thought.

Thirty-two years later, that love of writing hasn’t faded. Not one bit. In fact, it has deepened. In those three decades, college happened – although not quite the same way or in the same location as I had dreamed it would back then. And a tremendous amount of trial and error, rejection and acceptance, tears and joy. “Life education,” as it’s referred to in the stories I write these days.

As I approach fifty and the possibility of retiring soon, I find myself back in that senior class, pondering the future – life after graduating from career. What is it that I want to do now that I’ve “paid my dues” and am ready to explore all the world has to offer?

Thanks to the influence of a few good teachers and fellow writers/mentors, some who are now among my closest of friends, again I find myself sitting in front of that UNC Chapel Hill admission application. This time, though, it’s online – the application to the graduate program in the School of Journalism and Mass Communication. As I prepare to write the personal essay, life rewinds back to 1983, where I stare blankly at the space and wonder what I could possibly write there that would make me so special that the people making the decisions would grant my admission without any question.

And so I write from the heart. From life. Sharing that, not only do I feel the program would benefit me in the work I presently do to earn a paycheck, it would offer the opportunity to grow personally and artistically in the work I actually enjoy doing outside the 8 to 5 day and in retirement. It would also push me even closer to the goal of writing my first book. And yes, maybe it might even help me to feel a little more confident in general.

I stared at the essay for what seemed like days and eventually mustered the courage to hit “send.” Even if I received a rejection letter, at least I had made the attempt, right? Leaning back in the chair, I took a deep breath and patted myself on the shoulder. Thirty-two years – better late than never.

The other day, I received a letter from the School of Journalism and Mass Communication.

My acceptance letter.

Tears crept into the corners of my eyes as I read the first sentence over and over, aloud. The seventeen-year-old who never took a chance to pursue her dream finally had it.

So did I.

Learning never ends. Better late than never.
Apply yourself
, regardless of the outcome. You’ll be glad you did. — Me

“Coughing up” My Latest Post…

Hi, all.  I’m back from the depths (again).

mucus-rules
This little fella has been giving me a hard time for the past month or so. Living in North Carolina during the spring sure is pretty, but it SUCKS for those of us with highly-reactive sinuses and lungs.

When I can’t type because I drip all over the keyboard, or the ink from my pen starts to mix with post nasal drip to create “art on paper,” I know I need to surrender for a while…

But this week, I loaded the “big guns” and am fighting back with more meds than I’d really like to have in my system, but hey – it’s starting to do the trick.

So, the oxygen level’s starting to climb, the snot’s less-snotty, and the drips are less-drippy. And I’m feeling like writing again. Yay!

So, please stay tuned for some interesting stories.

There’s the one about a desk named Flossie…

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and fishing in the cemetery pond.
180s

 

See ya soon!

On Approaching Forty-Eight

Forty eight.

Age sixteen… for the third time.

The seventeenth anniversary of being 21.

 

Four dozen years, all packaged up in stretch denim,

Over-sized sweater, and warm fuzzy socks.

The day’s sensible shoes, taking rest in the corner.

At this point, comfort over fashion is key.

At least it is in her world.

 

Sitting at the keyboard,

Remembering her past,

Dreaming of her future.

Interrupted by the present…

Reality, asking if she’s going to do the laundry.

 

The spin cycle begins.

What have I accomplished?

Have I made the right decisions?

Will I ever be able to retire?

Should I throw in the towel?

Who the hell am I, and what do I want?

 

Stop.

Take a deep breath.

Remember what the chiropractor said.

And the counselors – all three of them.

Time to strengthen. Time to heal.

 

Forty-eight years.

Age is nothing but a number.

Time to start living your life.

Lots of questions to be answered,

So put on those stretchy pants and get to it.

Blue_candles_on_birthday_cake

Back from the Depths…

First off, I want to apologize for not having posted here in a very long while.

Truth is, I’ve been busy — this writing thing is starting to take off now, and I’m really excited about the direction in which it’s headed.  Over the summer, I submitted two stories for inclusion in anthologies and am honored to say that both of them were accepted for publication!

The first one — Letters for My Little Sister — is a marvelous book about menopause.  It’s filled with stories from women of all ages and walks of life from all over the world.  I’m one of those gals who never learned from my mother about these things because, quite frankly, she passed away when she was only 35.  My grandmother never shared anything, either, because I wasn’t experiencing (or even thinking about) symptoms when she was still here with us.  So when I opened this book and started reading, it felt as if I had settled in among a circle of kindreds — I poured myself a cup of favorite tea, pulled up the blanket, and started reading.  Couldn’t put it down. Several times I felt myself chuckling in acknowledgement at some of the experiences – of course, my husband wondered what I could possibly be laughing at, but he DARED not ask, for fear of what might happen (I’m pre-menopausal, you know?).

The second book — Women Awakening: Discovering Our Personal Truths — is an anthology of I Am Subject Stories that focus on women sharing how the influences of family history, body and mind, internal/external roles, and life-altering moments have helped shape their lives… and their stories.  The stories are raw, honest, risky.  I would like to meet several of these women in person some day.  Diane DeBella, the book’s editor and the creator of the I Am Subject project, has become a friend via the wonders of technology (she lives in Colorado and I’m in North Carolina), and I hope to get together with her very soon to explore some opportunities to expand on this project.

I encourage you to consider these books and their creators.  Here are links to their webpages and book information:

Cecelia Gunther — Letters for My Little Sister Book Order Page
http://thekitchensgarden.com/book-orders/

Diane DeBella — The I Am Subject Project Page
http://iamsubject.com
For Women Awakening Book Orders
http://www.iamsubject.com/diane-debella-books/women-awakening/

Here’s me… as proud as punch!
My Books Sept 2014

 

 

 

 

 

The Writer Doesn’t Fall Far from the Tree…

Tonight was one of those nights where I needed a little “perking up” and some inspiration for writing, so while rummaging through the boxes of old photographs acquired over the years (and yet to be properly archived), I came across something so very unexpected – a “confirmation” of sorts.  It was a little booklet that my aunt had made and shared with the family shortly after Granny (my mother’s mother) had passed in 2004.  It contained poems she had written in 1937, when she was 22 years old and not yet married to Pa-Paw.  Even more exciting was the fact that a poem written by my great-grandmother in 1940 was included. She was 62 years old when she wrote it.

Not only was this a wonderful surprise, I also found it quite interesting that my great-grandmother’s poem was about a bird – now, the mystery of my strange attraction to them may have finally been explained.  Apparently, bird lovers run in the family.

Apparently, so does the love of writing as well.  Not only did Great Grandma Archy enjoy writing the occasional poem, I learned from my aunt that she also wrote for the Charlotte Observer sometime in the 1920s and 1930s under the pen name, “Ichabod.”  During that time, I suppose women weren’t strongly encouraged to write for the paper, so she found a way to get around that barrier.  (Way to go, Great-Grandma!) I am currently in the process of contacting the archives division in Charlotte to see if they can help me find more information…and hopefully some of her articles.

At the back of the booklet were some loose pages.  Brown and ragged at the edges – I discovered they were the original handwritten poems.  There was something about holding those pieces of paper in my hand and lightly running fingers across the words that made me feel as if, for a moment, I was right there when they were being crafted over 70 years ago.

Gr Grandma Archy's Poem 1940
Granny's Poem 1937

Digging deeper into the box, two yellowed envelopes also appeared.  They were typewritten – addressed to my Granny from my Momma.  They had been returned to me after her death, and I never realized exactly what they contained – until opening and reading them tonight.

Mom's Letter 1974

Before me was three generations of writing – and I couldn’t help but see a similarity in my grandmother’s and great-grandmother’s style.  But what touched me the most was the letter from Momma to my Granny – 40 years ago, just after Pa-Paw had suffered a heart attack.  Momma had graduated from a business college and worked for a while as a secretary for J.P. Stevens Company in Greensboro when I was young.  I vaguely remember us having a typewriter, and I also think I remember her allowing me to use some of her onion skin typing paper and “practice” now and then.

But I digress.  Momma’s letter was dated 1974 – less than four years before she died.  As the years go by, it’s growing more and more difficult to remember little things about her.  But this letter brought all the memories flooding back when I saw how her writing reflected the deeply caring nature I still remembered and how she expressed specific concern over making sure that a close eye was kept on Pa-Paw because “he was used to doing what he wants to.” She mentioned me in the letter and that I was excited about going to see Elvis (yes, I saw him!) and that she regretted not buying a ticket for herself.  When I read that sentence, I couldn’t help but feel a pang of deep regret also – had she bought another ticket to the concert and joined my neighborhood friend, his mother, and me, that would have made for just one more fond memory to add to the small handful I was able to gather in her short time here with me on this earth.

Great Grandmother Archy’s poem was written about a Mockingbird, but it reflected a mother’s sense of loss after her last child left the “nest.” She needed to “keep on singing” after her children left home, as did the Mockingbird, despite losing her own “nestlings.”

Granny’s poem was an ode to her mother – the one who was her best friend and her “lighthouse.”

Momma’s letter to her mother was one of deep caring, compassion, and encouragement in a time of difficulty — and a precious, unexpected and much-needed gift of memories for her daughter 40 years later.

Three generations of mothers expressing themselves through writing – and confirmation to me that what they say about apples… well…

 To My Mockingbirdby Archy Harris Morrison (1940)

Oh, little bird, come sing your sweet song;
With your notes full of cheer the whole day long.
You sit on your bough and sing to me;
As if you are happy, as happy can be.

And, oh, mockingbird, sing on your sweet song;
Put pep in my step and cheer up the throng.
Who chance to pass and hear your sweet song;
Sing your sweet song, sing on, sing on.

Sometimes the cruel cat your nestlings take;
And you are left to mourn your sad fate.
But you sing your song from early morn;
Oh, who could guess you were left so forlorn.

May the sweet melody that you make;
Cause us some joy and courage to take.
That when our home ties are broken may we;
Still scatter sunshine where ’ere we be.

 

Mother – by Willie Morrison Taylor (1937)

You, mother are the dearest
Of all my friends to me.
You’ve been the inspiration
Of all my childest glee.

Tho’ all the years have passed
Since I was but a child
You have been my lighthouse –
Even your bright smile.

You’ve cheered me when I’m lonely
And helped me when I’m blue,
You’ve made the burdens lighter
And skies of brighter hue.

I hope when life is over
And our days here are done
You’ll have a crown victorious
With every battle won.

 

Come on out… the air’s just fine…

A story I wrote has been accepted for publication in the book, I Am Subject: Sharing Our Truths to Reclaim Our Selves.

I’m extremely excited about this. I believe there are over 70 stories from women – all over the world – that will be included in this anthology. It’s amazing and quite humbling to know that my story has been heard… and acknowledged.

I-AM-Subject-cover_Capture_15Nov2013-199x300

And it couldn’t have come at a better time in my life — a time when “the change” has my body going haywire, the mind following suit most of the time, and my spirit jumping up and down, waving its hand in the air, frantically screaming, “Hey!  Remember me?  Can I please come out and play now?”

Through this project, the box lid on my comfortable, safe, secure little world has been ripped open and exposed to the elements, and I’m finding that the air outside is safe to breathe. Actually, it’s quite refreshing.

 

So go on, spirit. Climb out now. Inhale deeply… and play ’til your heart’s content.

For more information on Diane DeBella and her wonderful project, visit her website: http://www.iamsubject.com/