Monday, May 18, 2015

A Day in the Life of a Writer

This post is not because I think my life is so super interesting, but rather because lately I've been wondering what other writers' days look like. And in my wonderings, I started looking at my own days.

My hope is that this post will spark others who blog to capture what An Ordinary Life of a _______ looks like. [Insert: plumber, ballerina, lawyer, landscape artist, et cetera.] There are always people who are interested in your lifestyle choices and how it works for you on a daily basis.

For instance, when I home-schooled my children, I poured over home-schooling/creativity blogs to gather ideas of what to do with my own kids at home.

Maybe it's because we are all voyeuristic and nosy, but the fly-on-the-wall-cam is one most people I know would sneak peeks at from time to time.

So, without further adieu, here's what last Friday looked like for me:

  • alarm rang at 6:10 a.m.; hit snooze twice
  • let dogs out; woke son for school
  • showered and dressed
  • fed dogs
  • made lunches for three people
  • checked the garden to see if it needed water
  • made myself tea and toast; checked emails
Okay, that was the boring part. Here's where it gets more writer-ly:
  • drove my son to school, then went to a coffee shop to meet a friend for chatting
  • read a couple blog posts and articles; re-posted them on my author social media sites
  • opened up Scrivener files and wrote on novel manuscript while I waited for my friend--1000 new words!
  • visited with my friend for an hour
  • went home and snacked; read a magazine article and Facebooked a teeny bit (Honest!)
  • worked on a manuscript review for a client for two hours
I tried working in the office, but the dogs stood and stared at me until I joined them on the couch.

That was my "work" part of the day. Here's the crazy mom part: (Please note that my work day is considerably shorter than the crazy mom part, which begs the question, "If the majority of my day is spent doing one thing, how can I call myself another thing? I don't think my business cards would be as accepted if they said Valerie Willman, crazy mom.)
  • picked up my son and his friend from school
my son, the plague doctor

  • stopped at the farmer's market on the way home and picked up my raw juice order
  • when home, called the vet because one of the dogs ate my vitamins and supplements that I'd set out to take that morning, and forgot
  • vacuumed all the floors in the house--except my children's. You just don't go in there.
  • took a ten minute break with wine
  • greeted oldest child fresh home from school and watched them perform a dance routine they are learning at school
  • lead son and his friend in a snack-finding mission
  • unloaded and reloaded the dishwasher and wiped down the counters
  • fed the dogs
  • started dinner
  • texted with a friend trying to get a group of us to go to the movies that night
  • watched oldest child again (different dance routine section)
  • aided oldest child in snack mission
  • checked on dinner
  • started baking bread in the bread machine
  • contemplated mopping the muddy dog prints off the solid surface floors but yearned for the hot tub long enough that the urge to clean was mostly passed
  • swept the carport instead, and took out all the trashes
  • wondered if I should clean off the dining room table, but--it being 6:00 p.m.--decided I was too tired for anything boring like that and yearned for Netflix and Hulu alternatives.
  • Remembered the hot tub...and then that I was taking my oldest to a play a student friend was performing in, and that I still intended to henna my hair that night. Nix on the hot tub.
  • Drank more wine in hopes of an evening plan forming.
  • Acknowledged the swiss chard still needed to be prepped for dinner and silently whined to myself. I took another sip of whine--I mean wine.
Here's where I deteriorate into madness--but in a jolly sort of way:
  • Craved chocolate; had a small can of peaches instead.
  • Craved chocolate and ate two handfuls of chocolate sprinkles out of the baking cupboard.
  • Noted that this was all because I wanted to get in the hot tub, but couldn't yet--hot tubbing requiring nudity, and nudity and driving my kid to the Wildish Theater didn't mix.
  • Checked the chicken and rice again.
  • Tried to find a game for the younger teens to play. They ignored me and listened to weird military cadences on their smart phones. They decided to give the Wii a try.
  • I pulled the chocolate sprinkles out of the cupboard, because I hadn't actually eaten them yet, just written about it because it seemed like something I'd so. Recognized that since I hadn't actually eaten them, I could still make the healthy choice to NOT eat them, but told myself that since I'd already written I had, I needed to be true to the original sentiment of the daily entry, and ate them. (That's impeccability of word for you. Isn't that one of the Four Agreements?)
  • One dog looked at me as if asking to go outside; I remembered about the chard again. I didn't want to make it. None of the kids would eat it, I was sure. Did I want to make it just for me?
  • I let the dogs out.
  • I went on a hunt for batteries so the boys could both play with the Wii.
This is what peace and quiet for crazy moms looks like.

  • Closed the back door. Remembered my propensity for locking dogs outside and checked the house to make sure all three were inside.
  • I marveled at the teens all talking and hanging out together without freaking out and smiled at my 14-year-old's deep voice, then worried that he said "bitch" to his video games too much.
  • Checked the dinner again. It was done.
  • Decided it was too late to make the chard. Felt lowly and guilty for not eating my healthy greens and hoped that my healthier partner wouldn't find out I ditched my veggies out of laziness again.
  • Informed the kids that dinner was ready and convinced myself that my parenting duties were fulfilled for the day and I could be done. WooHoo!
  • Closed the back door, because somehow it was open again.
  • Checked the house for all three dogs again. One was missing. I let him in. He was looking in the window of the living room for me. <3
  • Ate dinner while watching the last half of a West Wing episode I'd already started.
  • Dropped off my oldest at the play.
  • Knew that this would be a perfect time to henna my hair, but wanted to watch another episode first.
  • Craved chocolate again, so I shifted from wine to hot chocolate with marshmallows. 
  • Watched two episodes of West Wing waiting for my kid to text me they were done with the play.
  • Washed dinner dishes and wiped counters again.
  • Changed t.p. roll in the bathroom and took recycling out.
  • Henna'ed hair.
  • Picked up oldest from the theater.
  • Sat in hot tub.
  • Showered to wash the henna out.
  • Went to pick up partner at airport at midnight.
  • We visited a little, then brushed our teeth and went to sleep.
Imagine this, only at 1 a.m.

I was pleased with the day. It really was one of my favorites. I think this was because it was so well balanced. It was long, and I didn't sit down much--except for the West Wing part--but most of the aspects of my life were lovingly attended to. 

I was creative and worked on my book. I socialized. I worked on client work. I hung out with my awesome kids. I cleaned and cooked, looked after my dogs and garden, and still had time for personal grooming and relaxing. It was great! Here's hoping to re-creating that type of balance in future days. [sound of wine glass clinking with a hot chocolate mug]

What do your days look like?

Monday, May 11, 2015

Grief Story #7: Kath Ellen

Losing My Mother's Love
by Kath Ellen

My mother loved me, and I loved her. What we had was special. I didnʼt want to lose my mother. I didnʼt want to lose my motherʼs love. I depended on her love.

Of course, she had an angry side, too. The one that yelled and reached for the
yardstick and spanked me, the oldest, the girl who must be punished for any
ruckus. Mom did nice things for me, took care of me in so many ways: she
cooked and baked, washed, ironed, helped me with my homework, and gave
me practice tests so Iʼd be a success in school. 

She monitored and judged my communications.

“Donʼt give any information.”
“Don’t say anything.”
“Don’t talk about what happens at home. It’s private.”
“People always value a good listener, so be a good listener.”

I believed that she was giving me training in good manners so people would like me. Every day of my life I heard her say a dozen times, in warning, “What will people think?” What others think of me and of us held great importance. There
was no one to play with. My sisters were too much younger. Mom found the
neighbor kids unsuitable for me. I could sometimes play at a classmate’s house,
but then Mom stopped the connection before she would have to reciprocate as
hostess. She didnʼt want any kids coming over. She didnʼt want noise or mess.

It was a lonely childhood for me, but at least Mom loved me. At the end of each day, Mom sat on the edge of my bed,
asked me to tell about my day, and had me say my prayers. “I love you, Honey,” she said, before she turned out the light.

Church had a high priority with Mom. We went every Sunday and every Wednesday. We read the Bible every day, knew all the stories, memorized verses. The church told us what was right and what was wrong. Mom added to the list. Mom considered herself perfect, and continually reprimanded and corrected me, so I could become perfect, like her. I was her project, and she was determined to turn me out as an excellent student and a lovely little lady.

I cooperated.

I studied hard, nervous before every test, nervous about facing the repercussions at home if I didn’t uphold the family honor by getting all As. I did get all As. I brought honor to my family. Her religious beliefs did not allow Mom to feel proud of me, so she thanked God that I got all As, thanked God that I was bringing honor to His name.

It didn’t pay to disagree with Mom or argue with her. She held all the power. Her word was law. What would she do to me if I disobeyed? Well, she spanked me, of course. That stopped when I was ten and the stick broke during a spanking. 

Later something worse happened. It was two years later, when I was in eighth grade. In those days I usually walked home from school with Carolyn. At home after supper Mom and I would be washing and drying the dishes together and talking, and occasionally Iʼd say, “But Mom, Carolyn…”

One evening Mom exploded: “Carolyn, Carolyn, Carolyn. I want you to stop talking with Carolyn. You are not to talk
with her any more. Do you hear me? I forbid it.”

Did I mention I was a lonely kid?

Carolyn was the best part of my life. There was no way I was going to stop walking home with her. Mom ostracized me. She wouldnʼt talk to me, look at me, or interact with me in any way. Ow. That hurt so much. Remember, I wasnʼt allowed to talk to others out in the world, so I was pretty much invisible to most people. And now at home I was invisible to the person I loved most. And she was not loving me.

I was starving without her love. For two weeks the silent treatment lasted. And who gave in at last? You can
bet it wasnʼt Mom. I was so heartbroken and tortured that my beloved Mom wouldn’t speak to me. Of course I gave

During all my years of being a teacher, I organized lessons, taught with joy and creativity, and educated and nurtured my
young students, plus shared professional knowledge and skills by giving training workshops for other teachers. And I still
went home for family Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Easter dinners, family birthday parties and celebrations. I still
loved my Mom.

She still corrected me: “Honey, why don’t you just xxx xxx xx?” So I tried to be perfect, like her. She was my role model. And she told me, “I love you.”

My first years teaching, I shared an apartment with Anne and Fay. We had so much fun! I loved our life together as
independent young teachers. But after the second summer vacation, Anne didnʼt come back from her trip home to
see her mother. Anne wrote me a letter saying sheʼd gotten married. I was stunned, and then grief-stricken. Fay
had a boyfriend and moved out, too. I was left alone. Lonely all over again.

So I went home to Mom. I lived at Momʼs again, under her roof, under her rules. When my younger sister E became
a teacher, the two of us got an apartment together. Again, I was so happy we were on our own. Of course we called Mom to ask for recipes and advice. We went to our family church on Sundays and then to Momʼs for Sunday lunch. I couldnʼt
have imagined my life without my sister E or my Mom.

Then my sister E married and moved away. A huge loss for me. A huge grief that no one wanted to hear about or
acknowledge. “You should be happy for your sister!” I couldnʼt get past my own devastating loss and aloneness. Bereft.
And shouldering my sorrow all alone.

I was lonely my whole life. I was lonely in girlhood, lonely as a teen, lonely as a young professional, lonely as an older
professional. But at least Mom loved me. At least I could always go home for holidays. I followed the family rules and the church rules, and I was accepted by my family and my church.

Cloistered in a narrow belief system with strict policies and self-contained social events, it took me decades to find out
that there are lesbians in the world and always have been. After I first read about lesbians in a news article, I began
to read everything I could find about them, about us, for I found all the descriptions described me. 

I love women. The people I feel closest to and want to spend time with are women. The people I fall in love with are women.

It was time for me to stop agreeing to pretend to be someone Iʼm not, to stop being so polite, to stop trying to please the church and my mom. It was time for me to find out more about “my people,” lesbians, by reading, and then by meeting some. I found they are intelligent, fun, witty, brave, independent, loving people, and they accepted me without any requirements, no rules and regulations, in fact, imperfections.

How would my mom take it, hearing my news? She sat with a frozen stone face when I told her Iʼm lesbian and asked,
“Are you sure?” She was polite for some years. All the family members were polite. She pretended it wasnʼt true. They all
pretended it wasnʼt true. I went home for holidays. We cooked together and cleaned up together. We talked about the
food, not about our lives. But of course, we had never talked about our lives. It wasnʼt allowed. Polite listening but no
honest sharing was the policy.

Do I miss them? Itʼs the biggest grief of my life. Five years now. No communication. I always knew, instinctively, in my gut, it would be like this, even as a little girl. If you donʼt follow the rules, you canʼt be in the family. Donʼt upset Mom. Donʼt cross her. The silent treatment I had endured in eighth grade let me know that there are consequences for disobedience and for non-conformity.

I feel sorry for people when they tell me their moms are dying or have died. I do. That is a very big loss and leaves a
gaping hole. An important source of love is gone. My mom is still alive. My sisters, too. And they canʼt love me as I am. They donʼt like lesbians just as a general principle. Not that they even associate with any. They havenʼt ever
actually talked to a lesbian. Because they wouldn’t. They couldn’t. They vehemently don’t want anyone to be
lesbian. Itʼs just wrong to be lesbian.

See? Sigh.

So they donʼt love me. It hurts me that I have lost their love. When I think about them, aching for a love that is dead and
gone, my insides sob and wail. Itʼs a huge loss of love. Thatʼs my past. And I am not there. Every day I have to
remember to choose to live in the present.

Actually, I have a great present. I am having the life of my dreams. Iʼm retired. I live in a gorgeous place. I have
a circle of friends. I read, study, travel, garden, sing, make art, make noise, make messes, and then clean them up. I
make myself happy doing what I love and being with those whom I love.

There are many people who used to be in my life and arenʼt any more, and I miss them. But the hardest loss of all was
when my mom stopped loving me. Sheʼs still alive at 95, holding fiercely to her beliefs and her perfection. I wish I could say, “Donʼt worry about me. Iʼll find another special love.” But sometimes I wonder. I falter. Then I take a deep breath and try again. I give friendly greetings to people I see. I see how nature shows me that beauty is all around. 

What makes me happy every day is that at last I am free to be myself, just as I am, maybe not perfect, but authentic and very, very brave.

Kath Ellen is enjoying an active retirement in Eugene, Oregon

Monday, May 4, 2015

Grief Story #6: Trish Butcher

My Grief Story
By Trish Butcher

There once was a girl,
Born to a mermaid and a hero,
She was well loved by all and the sun
shone on her birth.
Another child was born in time,
And love rained down from the girl to
her sister.

The mermaid and the hero were from
different worlds,
And strife began to tear them apart,
One day the hero flew away, leaving the
child broken hearted.
Of this the mermaid said nothing.

The child felt a deep emptiness without
her hero,
And the mermaid was often away
Providing food and shelter for the
And the child was often lonely.

As the young girl grew into a young
Caring for her sister while the mermaid
was away,
She began to hide her loneliness
In the company of those who dreamed
only of themselves.

The young girl and the mermaid began
to quarrel
For the girl believed the mermaid to be
the fault of her sadness.

Finally the young girl found the hero
And begged him to care for her once
The mermaid was hurt
But sent the children away with the hero.
He knew nothing of girls and caring for
And the young girl saw that he was not a
hero after all.

In early maidenhood, the young girl met
a boy.
He invited her to a festive gathering,
But the boy disappeared and she was left
Surrounded by young men, careless and

They tricked the girl into a deep sleep
And in the night took her innocence.
The fallen hero shunned her
And so the girl never spoke of the trick
that was played.

Pushing her pain down, the young girl
returned home to the mermaid,
But the mermaid had left their home
with no word.

So the girl roamed the village on her
Seeking safety but finding only hardship
and despair.

Finally the girl went to a temple for help
For she was too sick to go on.
The priest helped to find the mermaid,
And they were reunited.

The mermaid had found a new love
And the girl lived with them for a while.
But the trick had left a deep aching in
And she sought to soothe through

One night someone gave her a deadly
And she fell into a deep sleep.
She journeyed through the white tunnel
to heaven
And the physicians pronounced her

During the sleep, the girl saw great
And was given the answer to all
questions in life.
She awakened as they prepared her dead
And spoke of God to those attending her.

But no one believed her words
And instead they thought her insane.
The mermaid was ashamed
And turned her back on the young girl.

The girl was saddened and confused
And desperately wished for the
mermaid’s love,
And so she joined the most perilous of
all armies
To prove her worth and redeem her soul.

In this army she did not fight wars with
other tribes
But instead fought a war with herself,
For the soldiers were like the boys at the
And much harm was done.

Time went by, and the woman sought
She would do anything for it,
Even for those unworthy.
And the young woman was lonely.

Then a plague came upon the land and
took the woman’s sister.
In her grief the woman blamed the hero,
And in so doing the hero flew away once

To mask her grief, the woman worked
very hard
Believing coin and success would save
But the gods would have none of it
And after a time, the woman fell into a
deep and sudden sickness.

The sickness took the woman’s work,
The sickness took the woman’s home,
The sickness took the woman’s lover,
And the woman entered the land of

Seeking solace and a new life,
The woman traveled to land in the north,
The land was dark and cold
And the woman was sick and lonely.

After a time, the woman wandered into a
Full of people she recognized
But not in the usual way.
She found solace and comfort there.

One day on her way to the temple
The woman was drawn to a great love.
There was a great spark between them,
And they laughed and frolicked together.

For a time, there was perfection
And the woman enjoyed a great, great
Even though the tricks played still
plagued her
The woman was sometimes now not so

After a time, the darkness again
And a deadly sickness entered her
lover’s body.
She prayed for her lover’s healing
But her prayers were answered with
deadly silence.

Her lover was taken by the sickness
And darkness entered the woman’s
No one understood her pain
And the woman was lonely once more.

The cold and darkness enveloped her
And her sadness knew no bounds.
She turned to wine and solitude
And in nothing was there comfort.

The years went by and the woman
And hoped for love again.
But none could reach her as her sweet
lover had,
And the woman was still so lonely.

The hero, hearing of her sickness and
Returned and offered his heart.
Their joy of reuniting was great
And they marveled at their oneness,
Which had grown even in their

The woman felt a sense of completion
And was grateful for the hero’s return
But the time was short lived, for the hero
had grown old.
And his time on earth was done.

Sadness enveloped her once again.
She grieved for the lost years between
And grieved for the years they shared.
Her heart knew no comfort.

Even the people of the temple could
offer no comfort,
And for a time the woman turned away.
In darkness and solitude she longed for
But it did not come.

The woman wondered at the sadness of
her life.
Why she had come to this land
Far, far away from her beloved mermaid.
Time stretched and pulled and lingered,
And the woman lived her days,
One upon another
Drifting into sameness.

After a time around the sun
The woman returned to the temple.
At first she could not bear the glances of
For she felt shame in her grief.
And the woman felt lonely even in the
crowd of the temple.

The woman prayed as she often did
And this time, support rained down upon
She began to be gentle with herself
And allowed the help to come.
Her pains had taught her to know herself
And sometimes she was not so lonely.

Time went on, and the woman grew
She began to believe in the goodness of
Nourishing her faith in a garden of trust,
And even the tricks played on her began
to lose their power.

The woman now knew herself well,
In joyful times and in sorrow.
She began to do for others,
Cultivated the earth of her soul,
And was true to herself in spite of her
She now knows that all feel lonely at
And sometimes now, the loneliness is gone.