Saturday, November 27, 2010

Well, hello Sydney!

It’s really difficult to type when I’m floating several feet off the ground, but I’ll give this my best shot.

I’m thrilled to announce that I’ll be attending the Aussie Bloggers Conference in Sydney, Australia in March, 2011, thanks to all of YOU who donated towards the trip, and to corporate sponsors Macleans and Ribena, who came through with the balance of money needed to fund the trip. I am so very, very grateful to everyone who put their time, energy and support behind helping me get to Sydney. You are quite simply amazing.

I am very honored to have been named a Voice of the Year and to have the opportunity to speak at the conference.  The thought of meeting so many women I love and admire in one place at one time is incredible, overwhelming actually.  I'm not sure how I will process it all.

For those of you who will be in Sydney for the conference, I’m excited to let you know that we are planning a special evening event for Friday, March 18th, and I hope to see as many of you there as possible. Details to follow!

Several people have asked how I got a corporate sponsor for an overseas conference and the honest answer is I didn’t. As much as I dearly wanted to attend, I was simply too overwhelmed with all that was going on in my life to try to coordinate such an effort. But I am blessed with the most amazing community of virtual friends who wouldn’t take no for an answer. I must have done some seriously good shit in a past life.

I owe a big thank you to Tina for walking me through the creation of a media kit. And to Brenda and Lucy and Lori and the incomparable Sawhole for their enthusiasm and brilliant ideas and the myriad ways they provided support. And thank you to the many women who wrote beautiful letters on my behalf—I think I will frame them.

But there is one woman who was the real force behind all of this. You know who I’m talking about, don’t you?

Mrs. Woog is just all kinds of incredible. What a powerhouse. Let me tell you, this is a woman you want on your side. Actually, you know what? I can’t do this. I know Mrs. Woog’s blog logo is snazzy and all, but I just feel like I need something more personal to put up if I’m going to sing her praises. I know she has a picture of herself somewhere on her blog. Let’s see…

Anyway. So, Woog was all over this project like David Hasselhoff on a cheeseburger on the floor. Hang on. This is no good. Let’s try this again.

Ah, much better! Anyway, Woog the powerhouse put up this post two days ago and it generated a lot of interest. God love her.

So thank you dear Mrs. Woog, you are legend. And thank you GlaxoSmithKline for your generous sponsorship. And thank you to the fifty bloggers and friends who opened their hearts and their pocketbooks and donated towards my trip. I'm really at a loss to express my appreciation.

This past six months has been a real exercise in trust for me. It feels as if so many things outside of my control have happened that have changed my life, for better or for worse. I’m used to holding the reins and it has been humbling to feel as if I’ve been tossed around by life’s storm. My fate determined by the actions of others – not how I would care to write my book, thank you muchly. In this instance, however, those waves have deposited me on the shores of Sydney, Australia, and for that I am exceptionally grateful.

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Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Broken and whole

When I was young I dreamed I stood on the backs of wild horses that ran through an untamed country of my very own creation. No obstacles in my path, just my future spread before me, an assumed celestial bounty. After all, are we all not gods incarnate?

In my youth I understood that to be whole meant never to be broken.

Love was mine to claim, it waited just beyond the bend, or maybe just a little further. And the days rolled into years but I’m not one to push the river, I have patience in spades, or perhaps I’m not that patient. No, apparently I’m not.

But in my lover’s mind I understood that to be whole I had to find another half.

We built a life together, a makeshift clapboard tower of a life, built it up and up and up without ever looking back. Well occasionally I glanced at the things I’d left behind, then got back about the building. Until one day I didn’t. One day I turned to go, and he just shook his head no.

But before I could protest my deliverance was offered, I felt the floor beneath me give, in fact the tower was collapsing, buckling, tumbling down around me, I was falling to the ground.

When I was young I dreamed that all the riches of the heart…well, I dreamed the most amazing things. Sometimes I catch their scent, I breathe deep and try to hold it in my lungs. Where have they gone, my dreams?

Eventually I gathered up the broken pieces of myself and headed down an empty road, except the road it was not empty. No the road was full of travelers, so many gentle travelers. Would you care to share a drink? I stopped to drink a cup of solace and then they filled my cup again from within the broken places in themselves.

They said, are we all not gods incarnate gifted with the power of creation, are we all not broken spirits searching, feeling our way home, treading on an unknown path towards our half-remembered dreams? Come and share a cup of friendship, come and share a cup of laughter. We are unrepentant dreamers, we are life’s discarded saints, shining fallen gods incarnate, we once stood on the backs of wild horses! Come and sit a spell beside us, come and have another drink.

I was overcome with sleep, I closed my eyes and it was then that I saw clearly how they understood the simplest of equations. That when we’re broken open we can give ourselves away and give and give and in the giving we’re replenished, and one day we finally know the joy of what it feels like to be whole.

# # #

Nov. 25th is White Ribbon Day
A day dedicated to the elimination of violence against women
This is the fall that followed
These are just a few of the many, many people who helped soften my fall
There are so many more
Thank you for helping me to my feet
Thank you for walking with me

If you are living with violence or in fear of violence
Please, please reach out for help
You are surrounded by people who will walk the dark parts with you
Even if you do not know it
When you are ready to start your journey
They will appear

Godspeed xx

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Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Sharing the love

Today I'm joining in with Veronica at Sleepless Nights and sharing one of my new favorite reads with you.  It's no secret that I love good, sharp wit.  While I appreciate all forms of good writing, humor is my drug of choice, my mana, my aphrodesiac, my unguilty pleasure. It's something that used to be found on the pages of Wanderlust and hopefully will again soon because even I'm getting depressed reading my posts.  But don't exhale just yet.  You're my cheap therapy.

Anyways, today we're heading over to London to prove to you that I can talk about something other than Australia. Actually, no, it's because you absolutely have to read London City Mum.  She is a brilliant and talented writer and she will make you aspirate popcorn. So put that bowl down before you click. She takes funny pictures, rocks a wetsuit, hangs out with cool people and likes to give Christian names to inanimate objects. Actually, a book group isn't an inantimate object, is it? Never mind. Just go read her. You won't regret it. I love her and so will you.

Look at me. Two posts in two days. Watch out world.

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Monday, November 22, 2010

A spontaneous feast

I remember when I used to post several times a week. Do you remember that?

That was back before I was a single parent. Ah well.

I spent the past week preparing the yard for winter, attempting to convince my children it’s too early to start decorating for Christmas, and trying not to read all the posts on the guidebook for pedophiles that Amazon is/is not selling. Because as much as I try to look at the issue dispassionately, I just can’t, because I’m looking at it from within the trenches. I know I haven't spoken much about the criminal investigation, but suffice it to say this hits close to home.  I can’t take the intellectual route and argue that publishing a handbook that gives advice on how to sexually enjoy a child (and avoid the corresponding jail sentence) is in any way a free speech issue when in my mind it’s quite simply aiding and abetting a crime. So I just don’t read the posts anymore.

# # #

The weather was beautiful over the weekend, perfect fall weather. We cooked, we cleaned, we played, we built a fire. The children were in good spirits up until Sunday evening when they fell apart a bit, and this was not completely unexpected. They had a counseling appointment that day and I’ve noticed that after counseling they are sometimes more emotionally raw, their tender spots exposed. Sometimes they regress and talk in baby voices or want to be held, which I’m happy to do. I wish I could protect them from all the disappointments in the world. I can love them and protect them to an extent, but I can’t always shield their hearts.

Here is what I’ve noticed lately. That while I have less time to myself, less time to write, less time for anything, I somehow have more patience for my children. While I used to only half-listen to my children as they chattered on while I attended to chores, I find more and more that I am fully present and engaged with them. Perhaps this is the gift of crisis.

We are spending Thanksgiving with a friend so I am not cooking this year, aside from a dessert. But as I stood at the grocery store on Saturday amidst the displays of cranberry sauce and dressing fixings, I was overcome with the desire to cook. So I decided right then and there I would make a spontaneous Thanksgiving meal for myself and the kids, four days early. And that’s just what we did.

The kids helped me make a pumpkin pie and it was fun. I didn’t care that my daughter didn’t measure the spices exactly. I didn’t care that my son spilled the sugar. We roasted a turkey breast, made stuffing, mashed potatoes, gravy, roasted asparagus, cranberry sauce and rolls. We made a right feast, just the three of us.

As we sat down at the table and my son grabbed the bowl of mashed potatoes, my daughter stopped him and said “Wait! We have to say what we’re thankful for!”

I asked her what she was thankful for and she thought about it and said, “My family and all this food.” I looked at my son and asked him the same thing. “Mashed potatoes!” he said.

I was thankful for that moment, right then, and the gift of these two beautiful souls who bring color to my world and remind me, daily, that I still have a thing or two to learn yet.

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Monday, November 15, 2010

97 years

First, some ground rules. This can be ignored by 99% of you, who are thoughtful and lovely.

The other day I disabled the ability to comment anonymously. I liked having the option because I have some friends who are not bloggers who liked to comment from time to time but didn’t have a log in, so they would choose the anonymous option and then type their name at the bottom of their comment. This had worked well until recently when a few people have seen fit to abuse the privilege (see my last post as an example).

A couple of days ago someone left a comment, now deleted, on my post about domestic violence which was notable in that it (a) was aggressively rude, (b) was anonymous with no linkback, (c) referenced events during the assault that never actually happened, but which minimized my husband’s culpability and increased my own and (d) came from a local IP address. Curious that.

Look, I welcome open discussion and debate. But if you’re going to divebomb me or my readers with nasty comments like someone throwing rocks from an overpass at unsuspecting cars, I won’t publish them. I post my first and last name and my picture on my blog. I write honestly and from the heart. If you want to enter into a challenging dialogue with me, come out into the light and show yourself. Post with your name and give me a linkback. You don’t have the option of participating anonymously in real life and you no longer do on my blog either.

(Steps off soap box.)

Now, on to more pleasant things.

I spent the last several days visiting with family out of state. My grandmother just celebrated her 97th birthday. She is an amazing woman. She earned a triple degree in college at a time when few women dreamed of higher education, even traveling to Mexico to study Spanish. She has survived polio and the Great Depression, and has seen the loss of her husband, one daughter and most of her friends. In her eighties she volunteered at the senior center, visited patients at the local Alzheimer’s ward, got a computer and learned how to use email so she could keep in touch with her family and friends.

I’ve always been close with my grandmother, but we grew even closer 18 years ago when my mother (her daughter) died. I was in college at the time and used to talk to her on the phone almost every week. We were able to understand the acuteness of each other’s loss in a way that no one else could. Lately though, I had fallen out of touch. I had called less and less. I didn’t know how to tell her about what was happening in my life. My grandmother’s health was failing. Her mind was strong, but her eyesight and hearing were almost gone. I wasn’t sure how much I should share with her and a conversation over the phone just didn’t seem right.

When I got there, I sat down with her in the garden of the retirement community where she lived. While the kids gathered acorns, I broke the news to her as gently as I could. She was sad, she was concerned, she was understanding, but she was not shocked.

I think we carry the misconception that our parents and grandparents lived in simpler times and were somewhat na├»ve, but this just isn’t so. They lived with the same struggles and hopes and quiet disappointments as us, they just bore them silently. Our bodies are old and young. Our hearts are the same.

It was an unseasonably warm day for late autumn and it felt good to sit in the sun and talk with my grandmother. I didn’t realize how much I had missed her. The children regaled us with tiny purple flowers and miniature acorn tops that looked like elf hats, then spun off into the garden to find more treasures.

When we left the last day I hugged her for a long time. I felt her tears on my cheek. I don’t know if she cried because she was sad for what I was going through; or perhaps, with her fragile health, she thought this might be the last time we held each other. Or maybe it was simply because I was hers and she was mine.

Happy birthday Grandmother. I love you.

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Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Love and war in the blogging world

I’ve been mulling over the issue of how to deal with hostility in the blogging world because of recent experiences encountered by two of my favorite bloggers, Steve at Bloggertropolis and Veronica at Sleepless Nights. In Steve’s case someone took offense to a joking comment he left on a post and in Veronica’s case someone was angered over the fact that she copied a conversation from Twitter to illustrate a point she was making. Instead of just shaking it off or engaging the other in conversation, they reacted with incredible venom. In both cases the offended party made unfounded accusations and threatened legal action, and in Veronica’s case reported her to her host and left a negative review on StumbleUpon.

I’m not going to link to the post at Bloggertropolis that discusses the furor because it’s died down now and been smoothed over and I don’t want to ruffle any feathers. If you’re really curious I’m sure you can dig through his archives and find it. While you’re there, read some of his other most excellent posts – he’s a comic genius. Comments have been closed on the post at Sleepless Nights, so I can safely link.

We all make flippant or sarcastic comments now and then. We all have days when we inspire and days when we vent. We’re human. We trust that our readers will extend us some understanding as we write across this broad spectrum. If someone judges us, we trust they will judge us based on this sum total and not an isolated comment that is misconstrued. Because that is what people do who are well-intentioned.  I've had the benefit of reading enough of both Steve and Veronica's writings to know them as genuine, kind-hearted people of integrity. So they can flip off snarky comments to me until the cows come home and I'll only love them all the more.

I’ve had the good fortune to encounter almost no hostility in the blogworld (knock wood). I’ve had the misfortune of having to deal with quite a bit of it in my personal life. What I’ve learned is this. You will inevitably, in life, encounter people who will be hurt or offended by something you do. Sometimes their hurt will seem wildly out of proportion to whatever the perceived offence was. This generally will have very little to do with you and quite a lot to do with the other person’s skewed reality. They may try to engage you in long and drawn out arguments in an effort to prove their point. My advice? (So glad you asked.) Don’t engage. Because trying to rationally explain your position to someone who is invested in being right at all costs is like walking into a never-ending labyrinth.

How do I know this? I spent a lot of years lost in that labyrinth and going quietly bonkers, wondering why my perfectly reasonable and oft-repeated explanations were falling on deaf ears.

Explain your position. Back away slowly. Disengage.

Much easier said than done. I particularly have trouble with this when it’s a friend of mine that comes under attack (or if it’s my children, all bets are off). I go into mama lion mode.

The internet is a big, wide, crazy world. Eventually, we will bump into all kinds. But it’s good to know that the majority of us are only crazy in a good way.

If you’re like me and you think Sleepless Nights is the cat’s meow, and you’re a member of StumbleUpon, why not head there right now and give her a thumbs up and a positive review. And while you’re at it give Bloggertropolis a thumbs up too. Because in my world, good always triumphs over animus.

*** ADDENDUM ***

Comments have been closed on this post.

Please know that a few readers who have commented on this post as well as many who have commented on several of Veronica's posts are now having angry comments left on their blogs by the person commenting below as "anon".  You can see Veronica's latest post on internet bullying for more details.

If you feel you are being harassed in this way, I suggest you take screen shots of the IP address (if you have tracking software) and the comment with the matching time stamp, then delete the comment without responding.

Very sad, very disturbing. xx

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Tuesday, November 2, 2010

One Year

It occurred to me this past week that my blog turned one year old. I started it on Halloween of last year. I had anticipated marking the anniversary with a giveaway or some other kind of celebration, but given the chaos in my personal life that didn’t happen. But I didn’t want to let it slip away without mention.

It’s really hard to imagine all that has happened over the course of one year. I could relate the obvious events, such as my divorce and the subsequent violence, none of which I foresaw a year ago. But I think those are just external results of internal changes that occurred largely as a result of finding my voice, which is the true gift of this past year.

When I started writing a year ago, I came alive again. And when I came alive again, I realized my life needed to change. When I sought to make those changes in my life, my husband reacted with violence. And thus the wheel of destruction began to turn.

The result of this is that the external structure of my world has completely crumbled. But it needed to. It was the proverbial house built on sand, even if I didn’t realize it.

So while I am now dealing with the legal, financial and emotional fallout of all that has happened in a very short time, there is this. What was once hidden, is now out in the open. While I am in pain, I am alive and I am wide awake.

The other gift of this past year has been you. I have had the honor of meeting so many incredible men and women throughout the blogging community. I never imagined the joy and satisfaction that would come from making so many connections, many of which have blossomed into friendship. Thank you for coming back again and again and finding interest in what I have to say. Thank you for your encouragement and support. Thank you for sponsoring my trip to Sydney. Thank you for sharing something of yourself and your own lives with me. I am incredibly grateful.

I know many of my recent posts have been hard to read. Sometimes it feels as if I am drowning beneath the enormity of recent events and each time I am able to voice the truth of these events it’s like lifting a stone off my chest and I feel as if I can breathe again.

One day I will get to the other side of this mountain and I will find my joy and humor again, and I hope you will stick with me through it. In the meantime, I have some humor-on-loan lined up for you from a lovely and talented friend. And if that’s not enough for you, there is always this:

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