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Monday, February 24, 2014


The other day at our tax appointment, our accountant asked me what my long range plan was.  I think she was speaking in terms of my massage business but the only available answer I had was, "I want to write a book, have it become a best seller and get paid a lot to write."

I think she said, "Wow.  That wasn't exactly what I meant."  Or maybe it was, "Okaaaay."  Or perhaps she just mumbled, "CRAZY," under her breath.

Sandi and I have been talking lately about money, work hours, playing catch up after having almost no income for over 2 years.  We would love to build a house someday on the soonish side but to build the kind of house we would want to build would take, well, a sizable advance for, say, a book.  (Unless we want Sandi to work all hours under the sun which we, decidedly, do NOT.)

Now, I am only partly joking here.  Writing a book is something I have toyed with for a long time.  Writing feeds my soul like nothing else and writing a book feels like something I am destined to do.

I began writing my first book when I was eight.  I maybe wrote 30 pages. I started another one when Sandi and I were first together and I was sitting out on the rocks on Beals Island, writing longhand with a pen and notebook.  I worked on it sporadically, at times with more seriousness than others, and I got up to about 150 pages.

Which would have been awesome except it wasn't really awesome at all.

I have about 30 pages of another fiction story I started last year.  It has some potential.  Part of me loves writing fiction and part of me feels like a big faker when I do.  

I said I would write more when the kids were both in school. I said I would do it and not feel badly.  Everything I have read says you need to have a writing schedule.  But I feel like my time is needed cleaning out the house (which still feels like a mess) and doing stuff for the house, for the kids, for our family, tax prep, massage, grocery shopping, etc.   And guess what?  Just like time to care for yourself, there is no time "left over" if you don't carve it out.

There is an exercise I've heard about regarding time.  I think my physics teacher did this in a class once.  You take a big jar and put the most important things to you (symbolized as rocks) in first.  Depending on where you are in your life the rocks could represent school, family, work, self.  Then you put in pebbles to represent the second tier of important things to you.  Lastly you put in sand to represent the things that you care about, but not with as high a priority.  The idea here is that if you put the sand in first, there will be no room for the rocks or pebbles to be put in later.

I would say my rocks are my family, my partnership, being a mom and my own inner journey.  The pebbles are friendship, exercise and writing.  The sand is volunteering, social engagements, fun and having a clean house.

If I make writing is a pebble and I don't put it in before the sand, it will never fit.

We talked some more about getting serious about writing and Sandi encouraged me to find a way to devote 3 hours a day while the kids are at school to concentrated writing.  She also said maybe  I should consider writing more like I do here on the blog, about real things, rather than fiction and that might be the key to finding and sustaining a passion for it.  I think she is dead on.  When I sit to write here it is such a joy and I just write what is in my heart.  There are no rules, no one to impress, nothing to achieve. I just do it because I love it.  (And bless some of you actually read it....)

What would it be like to write a book this way?

I feel excited and relieved. I know how to write like this!  This is not the first time this idea has surfaced.  My mom has said it.  I know of many bloggers who publish books (mostly cook books but still) and that as a reader I gravitate toward real things.  I have also come to terms with the fact that I just may have some things in my own life worth writing about.  God love her,  Sandi even said that she sees me writing me like Elizabeth Gilbert does about her real life experiences and her journey.

(At this point it doesn't even matter if she is lying about that one.  It boosted me and made me feel like it was my duty to write.)

So I'm doing it.  I've sat down twice to write on this project and I have to say procrastination is beckoning me like never before.  Today as I thought about writing, I thought about running an extra mile, doing another set up push ups, cleaning the bathroom first, making a batch of granola bars, going to the school to volunteer at lunch to surprise Maya. I made myself sit down with a cup of tea in the chair and then I found myself checking Facebook and any new deals at Old Navy and finally I had to say out loud, "STOP!  Put it all down and WRITE!"

And I did. I wrote 2 pages.  Then I stopped to tell you about it.  Except I wrote it so I've now been writing for a straight hour.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

long lines and little people

Running errands this weekend I found myself in the uncomfortable parenting position I have expecting and dreading for some time - really ever since Maya began to speak and we realized just how uninhibited she is.

The four of us ran into the  L.L. Bean Outlet store.  I offered to wait in the very long line with our return while Sandi and the girls browsed.  I found myself standing in line behind a mom and her daughter.  Her daughter was a little person.

I confess I don't believe I have ever met a child with dwarfism.  To be entirely honest, in our very homogenous area of Maine, I may not have I've ever met a little person at all.

I'm not even sure how to write about this without it sounding wrong or politically incorrect.  Please forgive any transgressions I make in sensitivity; they are born out of my own ignorance and not from any malice, I can assure you.

I often find myself in a similar position out in the world where I don't know if the right thing to do is to ignore a person's condition, difference or disability or to do what my heart wants to do: to reach out, to connect.   When I see a mom with a very disabled child in a wheelchair, for instance, ignoring her and her child feels wrong on every level, but making too obvious an attempt at contact seems odd and could be perceived by the mom as pitying.  I mean, how well does: "Cool wheelchair!" come off?

I have seen moms with kids that have significant mental or physical disabilities out in public and I have observed how other parents will actually turn their back or look right through them.  I go out of my way to hold the door, offer assistance or say something if it feels natural.  If nothing else I offer a warm smile.  

Because, let's be honest, who doesn't benefit from a warm smile that says, hey I'm out here slogging around trying to keep it all together too?

So back at L.L. Bean, my warm smile was quickly followed by easy "mom" talk.   It was a very long and slow moving line and we covered a lot of ground in the small talk range.   Her daughter told me she was nine.  I told her I had a nine-year-old.  I asked her what music she liked and if she was in third or fourth grade.  I commented on the sparkles on her purse.  I learned that her name was Sara*.  The mom told me they were visiting from out of state.

It was what I would want if I were a mother out at a store with a child with a genetic abnormality: to be treated like everyone else.   I wouldn't want to be pitied or ignored.  I would, essentially, not want the difference to become a barrier to living.   

And then the girls came along. 

Maya was doing some heavy staring.  So was Ella for that matter.  In order to make things less awkward and obvious, I said, "These are my girls, Ella and Maya.  This is Sara.  Ella, she is your age."  

I was proud of Ella.  She was trying hard not to stare, trying to take it in.  

Maya, on the other hand, whipped her finger out, pointed it at Sara and said, "WHAT?!  SHE is nine years old?"

Sandi and I worked quickly. I pushed Maya's arm with the accusing finger down and Sandi swooped her away.  I apologized to them.  I told Sara that Maya has a hearing loss and that she wears hearing aids. I explained that Maya often teaches other kids about hearing aids because they don't know anything about them.  This was the first time I was grateful for Maya's hearing loss.  I felt it somehow made the offense of her insensitivity slightly less grievous.  

Sara went over to check out some of the impulse buys and I quietly asked her mother, "I am so sorry. Does that bother her?"  

This opened the whole conversation up and in the next few minutes (I tell you, it was a very slow line) we connected as moms, as moms with kids that need some special consideration in the world and in general as human beings.  She told me that it doesn't bother her daughter too much when kids are curious or insensitive but it does when it comes from adults.   She told me about how Sara did a presentation at her school for Dwarfism awareness month recently.  She does well with her peers.  (This made me feel immensely better knowing just how mean kids can be.)

I felt this indescribable pride for this mother and her daughter to be such brave souls in the world where people do stare and point (people such as my children) and to just go on being who they are.  I was grateful for her openness with a complete stranger because in those minutes of waiting we got to the have the experience of connecting instead of being isolated which is how so many people function in this world now.

I can't help but think that this is always a good thing.

We had a long conversation with our kids about it, of course.  We especially focused on the aspect of people being born into whatever body they are born into, that it matters who people are on the inside and that you cannot know someone by assessing their physical body.  We also covered empathy and how it might feel to be born with a condition that was so obvious to people and that you could not change.

We also had the experience with our girls of watching the Canadian mogul skier, Alexandre Bilodeau and his brother,  Frederic, who lives with cerebral palsy.  If you have not heard of this story please Google it now.  It is the most touching story of a brother's devotion.  It was truly life altering for our children to understand that this man has a perfectly functioning mind but cannot use his body in a normal way due to his CP.    It moved us to tears.

Thank you L.L. Bean for your slow line last weekend.  Thank you Sara and your mom for helping to teach our children an immensely important lesson and thank you for helping me continue to believe that being open and loving is the way to change the world.  You may be small in stature but you have a heart as big as the ocean.

*Just in case it would matter, I changed her name.  
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