The Questions with Chuck Walsh: writer

A_Splintered_Dream_sm A long time ago (late 2012) and far away (Arkansas), I worked for a publisher doing book editing. I got assigned a baseball book by this dude named Chuck Walsh. And, except for my childhood crush on the Braves, I didn’t know a thing about baseball. Which I’m sure drove Chuck nuts, as I was all the time asking him questions like, “What is this {weird baseball term I don’t know}?”

Except, lo and behold, I fell in love with this book. Seriously. Fell. In. LOVE.

Because this book, A Splintered Dream, is way more than “just” a baseball book. It’s a book about second chances. And heart. And soul. And sadness. And love. And death. And life. And family.

And lemme tell you, I did not let Chuck off easy on this edit. We did the edit in sections (three to four chapters at a time), and we had up to eight rounds per section, just to make it perfect. To make it sing.

And then: disaster. The publisher went out of business. And my heart was ever-so-broken.

And then: a joyous day – A Splintered Dream was picked up by another publisher, and today, May 13, 2015, is its official book birthday. I’m totally crying tears of joy. (Or I will, when my copy arrives into my hot little hands.)

And in honor of the launching of this wonderful book into the world, Chuck has gracefully (gratefully?) answered The Questions. Do note that although he fairly faithfully obeyed my commands whilst editing, he did not this time: instead of seven questions, he answered 23.

In any event, enjoy:

The Questions

1. Tell the good readers of this blog how we know each other.

I have known Debbie for over two years now. She was assigned as my editor for my novel, A Splintered Dream. Debbie is an excellent editor who wouldn’t let me ever use anything remotely resembling a cliché.

(dSavannah note: In truth, I let him use a couple. When he asked nicely.)

3. If you could trade places with anyone for a week, living or dead, who would it be and why?

I would trade places with Bruce Springsteen. I can’t carry a tune or play a note, but can only imagine the feeling Bruce must get to have 20,000 fans on their feet, singing at the top of their lungs.

(dSavannah note: My hubs would be one of the fans singing along.)

7. What was the name of your first pet and what was it?

My first pet was a Golden Retriever named Mandy. She was the smartest, sweetest dog. I got her when I was in college and she went everywhere with me. When she passed away, it ripped my heart.

8. Your favorite book growing up? Your favorite book now?

My favorite book growing up was the story of Babe Ruth. I must have read it a dozen times. My favorite book now is The Crossing by Cormac McCarthy. I must have read it a dozen times. ☺ A tremendous work.

9. What is a guilty pleasure?

Eating a second piece of my cousin’s pecan pie (with Cool Whip).

10. Who was the last person you texted? What did you say? Did they respond?

My last text was from my brother, who asked if we were still running this afternoon. He began running with me a few weeks back and the first time he went I lost him. Yes, lost a grown man. We were sprinting the last couple hundred yards on the trail and it is quite winding. When I got to the end and turned to see how close he was to finishing, he was gone. I panicked and thought maybe he’d had a heart attack or maybe twisted his ankle. So I sprinted back and still couldn’t find him. I’m calling his name, again running back to the finish line in a panic. And finally he comes walking up from the entrance to trails. He had gotten far behind me and lost sight of the trail and began wandering through the trees like some kind of squirrel, ending up way off the beaten path. I gave him such a hard time, that when he ran with me the next time, he brought a whistle in case I lost him again.

12. Where is your favorite place to create?

The trails of a state park near my house. I run three or four times a week there, and it is on those trails where my mind creates the next scene; the next chapter; the next book. The key is getting home quickly enough before those creations fade from my brain.

13. Are you a morning person or a night owl?

I used to be a night owl, but time seems to be converting me into a morning person.

(dSavannah note: I’m the night owl. Right, Chuck?)

15. What inspires you?

People inspire me more than anything. Family, friends, neighbors. It can be someone I just met, like an elderly man who is telling me about playing baseball when he was a boy; a woman who needed me to help find her cat, and she ends up telling me how she met and fell in love with her deceased husband sixty years ago. A close second to people providing inspiration is landscape, scenery. There is nothing quite like a misty mountain morning in the mountains of the Appalachians. There is nothing quite so awe-inspiring as the sun setting over the ocean. Settings and scenery infuse me with the desire to write deep in prose and setting. I want depth to my characters and depth to the setting. God created an incredible world, and I want it to be an integral part of my books.

(dSavannah note: As his editor, I can tell you in truth: he succeeds.)

16. Who inspires you? 

As noted above, it’s people who inspire me. More specifically, it’s my family, and that includes uncles, aunts, cousins. I was blessed to come from a lineage built on family closeness, built on hard work, but also built on a quirky sense of humor that has helped get through even the hardest of times. As far as inspiration from a writer, there is no question that that person is Cormac McCarthy. In my opinion, he is the greatest writer of our generation. I like to read some of McCarthy’s works before I begin writing, as he inspires me to be the best writer I can be.

20. When did you know you wanted to be a writer?

When my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer ten years ago. I wanted to write something for her to show how much she meant to me. And that is how my first book, A Passage Back, was born. It’s about a man who has an accident after the death of his mother, and he finds himself in the past when he was twelve years old.

(dSavannah note: A Passage Back will be released in August 2015.)

24. If you could go back and give your 13-year-old self a piece of advice, what would it be?

Pay closer attention to the affections of girls who like you.

24a. What about your 20-year-old self?

Participate more in college activities.

24b. Your 30-year-old self?

Don’t take for granted the simple things such as eating dinner with the family, reading bedtime stories to your children, or playing baseball.

24c. 40?

Spend as much time with your parents as possible, and never take them for granted; never assume they will live forever.

29. You have 24 hours left to live. How will you spend it?

I’d spend it telling my family members how much I love them.

29a. Turns out you heard the doctor wrong: you actually have 24 years left. How will you spend it?

I will try and make the most of every day, to be thankful for each sunrise, to spend time with those I love. To go places I’ve never been. To walk more along the ocean; walk along the crooked streams of Tennessee.

32. Given the uphill climb to get recognition and sales why do you keep coming back?

I truly want to be the best writer I can be, and I want millions of people to think I am just that.

(dSavannah note: He’s not as full of himself as that last statement sounds. ;) )

33. Why do you create in your medium/genre? What about it speaks to you?

It speaks that I am passionate about my work, and I believe the characters in my books are ones readers should get to know, get to learn about what is in their hearts. That love can overcome even the greatest of flaws.

35. Tell me one random fact about you that not a lot of people know.

I was fortunate to work under Coach Lou Holtz and Coach Steve Spurrier, two of the greatest college football coaches of all time.

(dSavannah note: derp.)

43. If you could snap your fingers and be transported to anywhere in the universe, real or imaginary, where would you want to end up?

I would go to Tennessee, probably in the 1930s, so I could meet my maternal grandparents, more specifically, my grandfather. They passed away before I was born. Based on the stories I’ve heard about my grandfather, and based on how incredible my mother and her brothers and sisters are/were, he must have been a very special man.

47. What’s your favorite holiday?

Labor Day. It signals the beginning of college football, you get the day off, and you don’t have to buy anyone a present.

48. What’s the scariest movie you’ve ever seen? When was it?

The Exorcist (the original one). I was only 13 and it scared the crud out of me. I had nightmares for months. Just hearing the music would make me sweat.

About A Splintered Dream:

“I felt God had set me up for a life of misery. Like He held some grudge, standing on the mound on a baseball field in heaven, throwing a cosmic fastball at my head, smiling as I lay sprawled on the ground.”

Cape Jeffers has wanted to play for the New York Yankees ever since he tossed a baseball with his dad on the Little League field in the tiny town of Santee, S.C. He chases a dream that begins between dusty lines of chalk, on fields with crumbled fences, with bases dry and brittle, with endless summer skies of blue beyond the center field fence.

At nineteen years old, the top pick of the Major League draft, Cape carries the hopes of an entire town on his broad shoulders. And it seems nothing can stop the Cape Train on his journey to stardom.

The Santee Stallion meets and marries Kasey, an artistic southern belle, learning that life is more than just baseball. But when he looks into the eyes of his newborn daughter, he has no idea that his magical ride is about to crash.

The best-selling author of A Month of Tomorrows takes you on a journey full of heart and humor, family and faith, one that celebrates the fragility of life and the strength of the human spirit. More than just a baseball story, A Splintered Dream lovingly commemorates the bumps, bruises, laughter, and delight shared along the way.

About Chuck:

chuckChuck Walsh is a fiction writer from Columbia, South Carolina. He is the author of A Month of Tomorrows, Shadows on Iron Mountain, and Backwoods Justice. His fourth book, A Splintered Dream, was released today, May 13, 2015. And his fifth book, A Passage Back, will be released in August 2015.

His books cover a broad spectrum of story lines. Whether it’s time travel in A Passage Back, historical fiction in A Month of Tomorrows, or killers roaming the backwoods of Appalachia in Shadows on Iron Mountain and Backwoods Justice, Walsh’s books are stories deep in prose and character development. His novels strike all emotions, from the pensive reflections of a dying man, to the inner workings of a madman terrorizing women in the backwoods of East Tennessee. His writing is fueled by his love for family and settings, and most each and every character in his books are based on blood relatives. Walsh was blessed to have come from a long line of wonderful, charismatic, and oddly eclectic family members. And in each book he pays homage to those he loves.

Walsh lives with his wife, Sandy, in Columbia. Together they have three adult children and four grandchildren.

Find Chuck:

Posted in author, book launch, community, dreams, editing, family, fiction, giving to others, hard work, kindle, making a difference, passion, perseverance, publishing, The Questions, writershelpingwriters, writing | 4 Comments

My first #IWSG post

InsecureWritersSupportGroupWhat the heck is #IWSG, you might ask…. well, it stands for Insecure Writer’s Support Group, and I discovered them last month while doing the #AtoZChallenge.

#IWSG is posted by a various group of bloggers the the first Wednesday of every month. As the site says: “Time to release our fears to the world – or offer encouragement to those who are feeling neurotic.”

Today, as I am tired (darn insomnia last night), I shall offer a bit of funny and a wee bit of encouragement.  I have long thought of writing a series of posts on “So You Want to Be a Writer”, so this will fit right in. And, it’ll (hopefully) get to me to publish something at least once a month. :)  (Tho of course, I plan on doing more: I’ve got several editions of The Questions lined up, and I have the Reflections post to write for #AtoZChallenge, and lots more swimming in my head.)


I absolutely *adore* Calvin & Hobbes, and this is probably my favorite cartoon of all:

C&H-block

 

As writers, we often have many many many reasons why we aren’t writing. We’re often the creators of our very own BLOCK, and we put it on our very own desks (or writing space), and walk around it, and look at it, but don’t remove it. The BLOCK can be anything from doing laundry to paying bills to doing anything and everything but writing.

And yes, I am guilty of this, far more often than I want to admit.

That’s partially why I participated in #AtoZ… to get my brain back on writing. And it has, and I hope to continue the trend. And I hope my fellow writers will simply pick up the block, move it, and get back to slinging words.

Posted in #IWSG, inspiration, writershelpingwriters, writing | 5 Comments

Z is for…

…Zee End

ZYeah, I know it’s kinda cheating to say that, but I did it last year too, and I didn’t get smacked by the Blogging from A to Z people, so since I’m completely gobsmacked exhausted, I’m sticking with it.

Because, yeah, here we are at “Z” end of the April blogging challenge. There were times I didn’t think I’d make it. Times I’d wrack my brain and worry I wouldn’t have a single thing to write about, and even tho I was late some days (which made my deadline-loving self twitch), I still wrote something for every letter. Maybe not anything good, but still. Wrote. Something.

For the Z topic, Kyle suggested I write about “Zingiberaceous”, but since I can’t pronounce it and don’t really care about it (sorry, Kyle), I suggest that you go read the first three pages of a free preview on Scribd. (By the way, it has to do with medicinal plants, if you just can’t bother to click the link.)

Kyle also suggested “Zanzibar” which is one of my very favorite words to say. (If you say it with enough vim and vigor, it sounds like a curse word. But it’s not! Ha!)

I am thinking (but may not be remembering correctly; after all, I’m working on fumes of fumes, as I said in my “Y” post, which I just now finished writing and published) that Brandi suggested these topics: “Zoos. Zydeco. Zebras. Zithromax.”  Andrew suggested I write about how English stupid, but I think we all know that. (And again, tired.)

I don’t know if it was suggested or not, but I will mention one more great Z word: Zoolander, my very favorite-of-all-time stupid-funny movie. The original movie came out in 2001 (ohmygarshIamOld), but this March, the stars of the movie, Ben Stiller and Owen Wilson, crashed Paris Fashion Week to announce a sequel. It will be released next February.

So, there you have it. Zee End.

A-to-Z-Challenge-SURVIVOR

 


But of course, not really, cuz I’m gonna keep blogging. I’m sure y’all want to learn more about what goes on in the crazy brain of mine, yes? (Just say yes.)

Posted in #AtoZchallenge2015, movies, writing | 4 Comments

Y is for…

…Yearning

YAll of us have these things we want desperately, that we yearn for. And of course, those yearnings change as we get older. Or not.

For instance, a yearning I have had since high school was to own a 1965 Fire Engine Red Mustang Convertible with White Top. I even had a chance to own one, but I passed it up. (A decision I totally regret.)

Yearnings that stay the same throughout our lives include the desire for love, warmth, food and comfort – tho we may not call some of them ‘yearnings’ until we don’t get them.

The yearning for love of course gets super-great when our hormones start rushing around in puberty, and we tend to think we’re worthless if we don’t have a million boyfriends. (And by ‘we’, of course I mean ‘me’. Ahem.) (Which I now know is silly. I mean, the couple of boyfriends I had back then weren’t even worth my time of day.)

Right now, I’m yearning, desperately, for sleep, and to get well. (Not getting enough sleep makes you crazy. Trust me on this. I’m running on the fumes of fumes right now, so if this post makes zero sense, that’s why.)

Other than following doctor’s orders, I’m torn: do I give up and trust the universe, or do I keep fighting?  I’m not sure.

Only I discern—
Infinite passion, and the pain
Of finite hearts that yearn.
~ Robert Browning


I launched my gofundme campaign, “Help me find *health* again“, two days ago, and I am ever so grateful for everyone who has donated and shared my story. I am blessed by your generosity. (Even if the vast majority of y’all have donated “anonymously”, as if you don’t want people to know ya love me. Ha!)

Posted in #AtoZchallenge2015, age, dreams, wishes | Leave a comment

X is for…

…X-Rays

XWe all know what x-rays are, right? Sure we do, just like we know what electricity is. (We really don’t.)

As (probably) mentioned, I had to get x-rays of my back recently because it’s hurting me so {bad word} {bad word} much, so I decided that x-rays should be my topic for X. Cuz, why not? I mean, they are really quite cool, if you think about it! They can see right through our skin to our bones underneath.

For funsies, I consulted my 1921 edition of Collier’s New Encyclopedia, and under “X-Ray”, it directed me to see “Roentgen Rays”. So I returned book 10 to the shelf and pulled out book 8 (“Resp to Soviet”), and winding my way to page 90, found that x-rays were discovered by German scientist William Conrad Von Roentgen in November of 1895.

The encyclopedia doesn’t say much about Roentgen, except that he was born in 1845, was a professor, and received the Noble Prize for physics in 1901. A quick google search tells me he died in 1923 at age 77, and that he did not patent his discovery, as he wanted mankind as as whole to benefit. (Isn’t that nice?!?!?)

My encyclopedia says a lot more about his discovery, including the fact that he is the one who dubbed them “x-rays”.  The entry also explains: “it was possible by means of … cathode rays … to obtain ‘shadows’ of objects … and to produce an impress of these ‘shadows’ on photographic plates.”

It adds: “Besides obtaining radiographs of the bones of the living human hand, Professor Roentgen radiographed a compass card completely inclosed in a metallic box. … The Roentgen rays pass very freely through the various tissues and fluids of the body, but are obstructed by the bones; hence it is possible to take a perfect shadow-picture … of the bones of a living person.”

The best quote, tho is: “The full physiological effects of the X-rays are not yet clearly understood. Experiments show that long exposure to the rays causes acute maladies of the skin and also baldness.”

Of course, now we know a lot more about what x-rays do to our tissues, but they remain an invaluable tool in the diagnoses of various diseases.

For instance, I told you about my pal Andrew F. Butters, whose daughter was diagnosed with idiopathic scoliosis in March 2014, and whose journey they detail on the family blog. The most amazing thing is this x-ray (the ‘shadows’) of her back, before and after:

AveryBeforeAfter

I mean, without x-rays, they’d never have known the extent of the curve in her back!

In comparison, here’s the x-ray of my back, which is (obviously) not as severe, but which (apparently) shows scoliosis and arthritis:

dsback

No wonder I feel like I’m shrinking!

And finally, for a bit of x-ray humor, here is one of my grandmother’s hip. The surgeon was surprised to see her extra “growth”. :)

grandmother's hip

FYI, if you’re really a geek/ nerd, you can actually visit Roentgen’s lab in in Würzburg, Germany, which contains an exhibition of historical instruments, machines and documents.

Posted in #AtoZchallenge2015, health, history | Leave a comment

W is for…

…Widdershins

WWhat in the heck is “widdershins”, you’re probably asking? Well, according to the book of the same name by Charles de Lint (my other Very Favorite Author), “to walk ‘widdershins’ is to walk counterclockwise or backward around something. It’s a classic pathway into the fairy realm. It’s also the way people often back slowly into the relationships that matter, the real ones that make for a life.

So why did I pick widdershins as my topic for W? Because, although the other topics suggested to me were all good possibilities (“writing, whimpering, whines, worries, Wondering. Wandering. Wonderful. Willful. Water. Waste. Waffle House.”), this one struck me when I came in my studio just now to lay on the floor and stretch my back (because, ow, it’s hurting. again/still).

I looked up, and the book Widdershins was looking back at me.

And, as I am wont to do, I looked up the word origin on dictionary.com, and it is thus:

1510s, chiefly Scottish, originally “contrary to the course of the sun or a clock” (movement in this direction considered unlucky), probably from Middle Low German weddersinnes, literally “against the way” (i.e. “in the opposite direction”), from widersinnen “to go against,” from wider “against” (see with ) + sinnen “to travel, go,” from Old High German sinnen, related to sind “journey”.

And as I read the etymology and re-read the meaning per de Lint (and said it a few times, because it’s a really fun word to say), it occurred to me that, well, I myself am in a time of widdershins. All my life, as long as I can remember, I’ve been and wanted to be a writer. Yet, I spent 20 years in a marketing career which sucked my soul dry (sometimes. not always) and silenced my muse (because I was too tired to pay her any mind), and now, my illnesses are bringing me low and I can’t do that work full time. Even tho I am very good at it, and I do want to work, I literally cannot.

But despite the pain and the insomnia and the suffering I’ve been going through lately, I took on this writing challenge (though I was still debating, right up to the last minute), to write every day for the month of April. I may have gotten behind on some days I just didn’t have the energy, and I may not have written the best posts ever written in the history of blogs, but by golly, I wrote.

I guess the universe is sending me backwards into a relationship that matters to me, more than anything: my relationship with words and stories and sharing and helping. I guess I’m widdershinning.  #AMWRITING

 

(PS: I’m part Scottish and part German. Coincidence?)

Posted in #AtoZchallenge2015, author, books, dreams, fear, illness, inspiration, learning, making a difference, the universe, writing | 2 Comments

V is for…

…Vision

VMy dear Brandi suggested “Vision” for my “V” word (along with “Value. Vibrance. Vagabond. Vivid.”; “Volcano” and “Vengeance” were also suggested, but I forget by who. Sorry, dear readers!).

And vision just seemed perfect, because, well, I’ve had vision problems, which I’m sure comes as a shock </sarcasm> to my readers.

It also seemed like the perfect topic because I wrote a note about it on my Facebook page a while ago, and I figured I could just grab it and tweak it a little and be done, and move on to “W”. Also, Brandi herself has had vision problems all her life with misaligned eyes, which were corrected this January via surgery… and I figured I could grab a few quotes off the blog she and her husband had written, and again, move on to “W”.

Unfortunately, my note is hot mess of horrid writing (and woefully out of date), and Brandi’s blog page has disappeared into the ether… But thankfully, I can tell you that her surgery worked and she has straight eyes now! Woo-hoo!

As for me, I had pretty good vision until I was about 12 years old. Then it went all to crap. (And not in a pretty handbasket, either.) So I wore those hideous huge glasses until high school (hey! It was the style in the 80s!) (and NO I’m not sharing a picture!) until I got contacts. And… unfortunately, I have a very rare condition in my eyeballs, whose name I can never remember, but essentially, I am allergic to protein in my eyes. That caused my contacts to cover up with a film that sorta looked like what cataracts look like, which made my eyes water so it looked like I was crying all the time. Thanks to that, I had to get gas permeable contacts. Which worked fine until…. they didn’t. My poor eye doctor tried everything to get that darn condition under control, but never could.

In 2002, I was lucky enough to be able to afford LASIK surgery. (Woolfson Eye Institute is totally the BEST.) And lawdamercy I would pay for it a thousand times over. My eyes were so bad (-6.75) that I couldn’t see my hand in front of my face. And Dr. Woolfson told me the surgery might not work. But it did! – right after the surgery I could see! ‘Twas amazing!

My right eye was – and has remained – good, but my left eye has been a bit of a pain. I had two additional LASIK surgeries on it to correct astigmatism that was causing horrible headaches (not good when you’re already prone to migraines).

By 2009, my left eye had degenerated due to the normal aging process and the fact that it is weak. Unfortunately they couldn’t do lasik again because my cornea was too thin. They did a bunch of tests, including a pretty severe type of dilation (cycloplegic), which meant my eyes stayed dilated for about 48 hours. (Very attractive, I assure you.)

But everything was stable, so that January 09 they did the surgery known as Photorefractive Keratectomy (PRK). Which I do not, in any way, shape or form, ever recommend. Cuz it hurt. A LOT. Recovery time was weeks and months. AND I got a fun side-effect that is essentially double-vision in my left eye (but it’s got a fancy scientific name, which of course I can’t remember that either). (I think they called it “ghosting”, i.e., seeing two of the same thing.) (And yes, I still have this, but since my right eye is dominant, and I’ve had years to get used to it, I never really notice anymore.)

That October, I went to the surgeon’s, and my eye had healed properly; there were no medical issues; my prescription had improved and was better than before the surgery, but I hadn’t really noticed because it had been incremental improvements.

My right eye was perfectly symmetrical all the way around, giving me 20/15 vision.

My left eye – not so much. Basically, I had an astigmatism of .75. Most astigmatisms are straight up and down vertically, or straight side to side horizontally. Mine is diagonal, which is what is causing the double vision/ghosting. And it’s not true double vision – I just see a lighter ghost behind the actual thing. (Most noticeable while reading).

In July 2010, I went back for another checkup, and my right eye was still 20/15, but I had developed a slight astigmatism, while the left eye was 20/25, worse astigmatism, still diagonal. My eye had passed the threshold where I could do the surgery again, but no guarantee of any better results, so I decided not to bother.

In September 2012, I went back to the surgeon for another check up, and guess what? There’d been very little change. My right eye was developing a bit of far-sightedness, but my left eye was EXACTLY THE SAME as two years ago. Same exact numbers. The doctor said that’s pretty much unheard of.

And now, in 2015, I have glasses… cuz well, I’m 43, and that’s around the age the eyeballs start to degenerate. Luckily, I don’t need to wear them all the time, or that often.

So, that’s my vision. Probably not the story you were expecting to read, but there ya go. And aren’t my eyeball terrain pics cool? So colorful and fun!


And a final note: I’m swallowing my pride and my tears, and I’ve created a gofundme account to help pay for my medical expenses as I detailed in my D is for Damaged post. If you are so inclined, you can donate via the green widget on the right, or go directly to the page. (FYI, anonymous donations are accepted, if you don’t want the world to know.) If you can’t donate, sharing the page is very welcome too. In any event, thank you to everyone who has supported me with your kind words and those who have donated thus far.

Posted in #AtoZchallenge2015, age, childhood, learning, memory | 2 Comments

U is for…

…Ugly

“Ugly”

If you’re ugly, I am ugly too
In your eyes the sky’s a different blue
If you could see yourself like others do
You’d wish you were as beautiful as you
And I wish I was a camera sometimes
So I could take your picture with my mind
Put it in a frame for you to see
How beautiful you really are to me
Ugly, ugly
All of us just feel like that some days
Ain’t no rainbow in the sky, when you feel U.G.L.Y.
And that’s ugly, yeah yeah yeah
Ugly, ugly
All of us just feel like that some days
Ain’t no rainbow in the sky, when you feel U.G.L.Y.
And that’s ugly, ugly
All of us just feel like that some days
Ain’t no cure that you can buy
When you feel U.G.L.Y.
And that’s ugly
So if you’re ugly, I’m ugly too
If you’re a nut, then I must be a screw
If you could see yourself the way I do
You’d wish you were as beautiful as you, yeah
I wish I was as beautiful as you
Writer(s): Elton John, Bernie Taupin, Jon Bon Jovi, Eric M. Bazilian
Destination Anywhere” (1997)
Copyright: Bon Jovi Publishing, Polygram Int. Publishing Inc., Human Boy Music, Hst Publishing Ltd., Rouge Booze Inc.

U

I was joking around with Gareth Young about what my “U” topic should be, and he gave me a list. The very first word on it was “Ugly”. And it made me immediately think of this song by Jon Bon Jovi, from the album “Destination Anywhere“, which I played over and over and over and over (so of course I know all the words). (Which, I should note: song lyrics are just poems set to music.)

Of course what resonated with me – then and now – is how many of us think we are ugly, when we are anything but. We compare ourselves to the ‘highlight reel’ of others – their best side as shown on social media and in person – and to completely falsified and ‘perfect’ images of people in the media. When probably, without makeup and lighting and photoshop and hairdressers and probably a whole bunch of other people, those supposedly “perfect” people look worse than you do on your worst day.

And the word itself, is, well, ugly. The hard ‘guh’ sound doesn’t help anything, for sure. Yet, it seems to have more power than, say, the words ‘pretty’ or ‘beautiful’. We believe “ugly” over “pretty”, any day.

For instance, my very first boyfriend (using the term extremely l o s e l y) broke up with me because he said I was ugly. Or that his friends said I was ugly. Or something like that. The word “ugly” was definitely used in relation to yours truly.

And in another instance, a good friend of mine remembers her aunt snapping at her “go wash your ugly face”. And even tho this friend is quite beautiful, the word “ugly” stuck to her, so that she can’t quite ever believe she’s pretty (and sadly, neither can I).  And chances are, that aunt just meant her face was dirty and needed to be washed, not that she looked ugly.

The dictionary.com definition of the word is pretty heart-wrenching, too:

  1. very unattractive or unpleasant to look at; offensive to the sense of beauty; displeasing in appearance
  2. disagreeable; unpleasant; objectionable
  3. morally revolting

No wonder my friend and I were both so affected by being told that!

Amazingly, there is a woman who has embraced the moniker and hasn’t let it get her down (at least, not permanently). Lizzie Velasquez “weighs just around 60 pounds and is blind in one eye due to a rare and unnamed syndrome that doesn’t allow her to gain weight” (yahoo.com). As a teen, she was called the “World’s Ugliest Woman” on a YouTube video, and bullied incessantly. Instead of curling in a ball and crying herself to death, she “used that video to become an anti-bullying activist and motivational speaker”, and is the subject of a documentary, A Brave Heart. And I just love the tagline: “Bullying Stories are Famous for Having Victims, Not Heroes.”

So banish the word “ugly” from your vocabulary. You may feel like it some days, as Jon sings so eloquently, but you ain’t. You’re beautiful. And so am I.

Posted in #AtoZchallenge2015, childhood, depression, inspiration, music, the dark places, writing | 2 Comments

T is for…

…the

TThat’s right: the word the. And not because I couldn’t think of another topic. Of course not. (Ha ha ha) But actually because it occurred to me that ‘the’ is an incredibly useful – and terribly under-appreciated word.

Think about it: how many books have ‘The’ in the title? Would The Fault in Our Stars (a best-seller on numerous lists in 2014) be as striking as just Fault in Our Stars? What about The Goldfinch as just Goldfinch. Would it have won the Pulitzer Prize without the ‘The’?

Imagine me writing an entire blog post without using the word ‘the’. Pretty difficult, huh?

Even Dr. Seuss, when challenged by his publisher to write a book with only 50 words, was allowed to use ‘the’. (The book was Green Eggs and Ham, if you’re wondering.)

So, what is ‘the’? According to dictionary.com, it’s a definite article, which means it specifies something, such as a proper noun, a title, or a specific chair in the living room, for instance.

Did you know that ‘the’ can also be used as an adverb? It sure can!

As for the word origin of, erm, ‘the’ – it is far more complex than you might have guessed, but mainly comes from Old English, as well as Sanskrit, Greek, Irish, and Gaelic. And, get this: “Old English used 10 different words for ‘the’, but did not distinguish ‘the’ from ‘that’” (sez dictionary.com).

Just for fun, I checked out ‘the’ in the quotes side of dictionary.com, and it only came back with 200 results, none of which are actually about ‘the’. Interesting.

My long-awaited (by me anyway) novel (see “E” post for an Excerpt) has ‘The’ in the title. I can’t imagine it any other way. (And no, I’m not sharing what it is. Call me superstitious, but I wouldn’t want my title to get stolen.)

So, there you have, erm, ‘the’ (not it).


T is also thank you for everyone who has cheered me on during this challenge (and oh, what a challenge it has been for me), and read my ramblings, and shared them, and provided nice feedback. All three of you are THE BEST.

Posted in #AtoZchallenge2015, books, humor, writing | 4 Comments

S is for…

…Stigma Fighters

SAt about eight years old, a little girl starts being sexually molested by her older brother. Her parents don’t notice that the formerly happy, vibrant child turns sullen, quiet.

Another little girl is sexually molested for over two years by a neighbor, a well-respected man in the community.

A roommate’s boyfriend repeatedly rapes a girl in her room, and when confronted, the roommate kicks the victim out, making her essentially homeless.

A little boy is thrown out of the house by his father. Into the snow. In the dead of winter. Hours pass before he is let back inside.

A teenager repeatedly runs away from home, but is brought back by the police. They never ask why she runs away, never ask about the abuse that perpetuates it.

A three-year old child is sexually molested by her 15-year-old female babysitter.

A man pulls a gun on his wife and infant daughter. Another time, he throws his wife outside in the yard. She’s only wearing a thin nightgown. Later, when she finally is able to leave him, he won’t let her retrieve their daughter’s clothing or toys. For three years. Not until she gets a judge’s order.

A mom and her two daughters always live in fear of angering daddy. And there’s no telling what will set him off. When he’s angry, he breaks things. Beats his small children and their mother. The one daughter learns to hide. She tries to become invisible. She tries to forget.


I wish I could tell you that all of these stories are made up. That they didn’t really happen. But they did. To people I know.

The first girl finally forgive her brother, and he died. She suffers from a variety of mental illnesses and is under constant psychiatric care. She never told her parents, not wanting to hurt them. Today, she holds a director position in a well-known company.

The second girl finally told her mother, and the man was put in jail. The mother started a non-profit to fight against child abuse, and that girl today tells her story as a way to shine a light on what can happen.

The rape victim finally told her story to the world. She’s a writer, jewelry maker, all-around great gal. Who still, sometimes, blames herself for what happened. The rapist was never punished.

The little boy? My father. At 54 years old, he was finally diagnosed with bi-polar, went through electroshock therapy, and is currently in a home, a broken, broken man.

The teenager is now in her 60s and is a wonderful artist and person. But she still struggles with depression and anger. A few years ago, she was suicidal, but thankfully checked herself into a hospital and got help.

The three-year old immediately told her dad. Because of what I’ve been through, I was able to talk to the dad and listen and give ideas. Thanks to my encouragement, he and his wife put their daughter and her sister on a witness stand, and, thanks to their testimony, the babysitter was charged with a crime. Both children are growing up to be giving, wonderful girls.

The woman who lost all her belongings? Well, she’s recovered – in a way. She and her daughter have a lovely home and have replaced all the lost and retrieved things with even better things. But she suffers from depression and anxiety. She cries all the time, but hides it, to protect her daughter, who thankfully doesn’t suffer as her mother does. She’s a well-adjusted teenager. And the man who abused them? He continues to make their lives hell, as best he can. And he’s never been charged with a crime.

The last story? That’s mine.


If you’ve read my blog for any length of time (specifically “D” for this year’s #AtoZChallenge2015), or if you know me personally, you know that I suffer from a variety of ailments, both physical and mental. But I’m no longer invisible. And I tell my story, by golly. I tell it. To shine a light on the darkness. To maybe stop it happening to anyone else.

The mental issues are sometimes the hardest for me to handle. After all, they don’t make a lick of sense. Why am I depressed when I have what is, by all accounts, a wonderful life? Why am I crying when I literally have nothing to cry about, but I do anyway? I’m an accomplished, talented person with a master’s degree and 20 years of marketing experience and five years of teaching experience at the college level, yet I mentally hurt. Most of the time. And there’s always that nagging voice in my head that tells me I’m worthless. That I don’t deserve to live. That I don’t deserve my friends or my husband or my house or my talent or… anything at all.

Because I suffer from depression and anxiety and PTSD and occasional panic attacks and a little bit of OCD. All invisible illnesses, all pretty much misunderstood… because if you’ve never suffered from any of them, they make absolutely no sense to you. They literally do not exist.

And that’s where Stigma Fighters comes in, an organization dedicated to spreading awareness about mental health issues in high schools and colleges around the United States.

In February 2014, Sarah Fader wrote an article for The Huffington Post about living with panic disorder and depression, then started the site and serves as CEO. On the about page of StigmaFighters.com, she states “I wrote it because I wanted to show the world that there are people living with mental illness who are not just homeless or institutionalized. There are those of us who are living within the confines of society. … I’m using my forum to raise awareness for people (like me) who are seemingly ‘normal’ but actually fighting hard to survive.”

Allie Burke, Executive Board Director, is a paranoid (schizophrenic) who is also an author, editor, and mental health advocate who writes for Psychology Today.

Part of spreading awareness about mental health issues is the stories that are told on the StigmaFighters.com blog, with topics covering:

  • Anorexia
  • Anxiety
  • Bipolar
  • Brave People
  • Delusions
  • Depression
  • Eating
  • Generalized Anxiety Disorder
  • Hallucinations
  • Manic
  • Mood
  • Nightmares
  • OCD
  • Panic
  • Phobia
  • Psychotic
  • PTSD
  • Schizoaffective
  • Schizophrenia
  • Suicide
  • Trauma
  • Weight

These are all clearly very very difficult topics to read about. There’s a STIGMA attached to mental illness in our country. It’s like you have a moral failing if you can’t get out of bed for three days because you just… can’t. (And yes, that was me. Right before I finally got help.) And there’s a stigma to asking for help. Although many insurance companies do cover mental health, many of them do not. And many providers no longer accept insurance because of the stringent requirements of the insurance companies (and often, lack of payment for services).

Not only are these topics difficult to read, they were likely incredibly difficult to write about. (Note, my story isn’t on there. Yet. I’ve started a piece, and stopped. And looked at it again, and stopped. Someday, I’ll conquer my fear and write it and submit it.)

So, I urge you, as a fellow human being, to read some of these stories. READ AND BEAR WITNESS to these very human, very true, very raw stories. And applaud the bravery of the people who were willing to bare their souls and their pain and the possible backlash for telling their truth, their stories.

Bear witness, and remember:

bekind

 

Posted in #AtoZchallenge2015, abuse, artist, author, childhood, community, dancing, depression, dreams, family, fear, giving to others, health, history, illness, inspiration, learning, making a difference, mental illness, shining a light, the dark places, writershelpingwriters | 4 Comments