Category Archives: YeahWrite

reflection

You’re ugly.

I stared in the mirror. Unsure, insecure, second-guessing, I couldn’t fight the voice in my head. I sighed and turned away. It was time to go to school.

Later that week ugly was hissed at me in the hallway as I walked head down, to my class. It only happened once but it was enough to confirm what I already suspected. I wasn’t good enough.

Not good enough followed me through most of my childhood into young adulthood. Ugly waned and there was reprieve. I gained confidence, but the need for more grew. It was comparison’s turn to nag me. She has a great life. Why can’t you be more like her? What is wrong with you?

I smiled. I had friends, a job, a boyfriend. And I carried a secret. I served the facade of fine and together, hiding what I lacked. No one could know how emptiness gnawed and chewed me up, how I couldn’t fill the holes. I hurt and I didn’t know how to stop it, so I dressed carefully, arranged my face, and exposed vulnerability only if provoked.

As I got older the voices quieted, emptiness retreated, and edges softened. I got to know honesty and courage. No longer bound to a lie I was free, becoming more, joy and beauty found; unaware I would be tested in two years.

A nurse handed me a mirror. “Are you ready?” On my back, on my side, attached to machines I saw my body, raw and ravaged, every day. This was the first time I would see my face months after the fire. Angry, red scar around my chin. Bald head. Oh, my eyebrows need plucking! I met my 23 year old green eyes. Too wide in my hollow face. Too much. I handed my nurse the mirror. I’ll never be the same. But, each day there was enough strength to survive, to overcome.

At 37, a few days away from 38, I’m in front of the bathroom mirror blow-drying my hair hurrying, hurrying to finish. My face is splotchy, bumpy. I need a coffee. Hair-dryer in one hand I turn on my iPod with the other, find a song I like, turn up the volume. Doubt threatens, comparison teases. I glance at the foggy mirror.

You know who you are.

I curl my hair around the brush. Struggling with doing it all and not doing enough, I rest in the reminder. I know who I am. I’ve come a long way. There will always be change, noise, something I don’t like. Today I’m accepting. Today I’m human. Today I’m happy with my hair.

I’m joining the wonderful writing community that is yeah write today. If you’re new to writing or have done it forever there is a space for you, or if you just want to get cozy and curl up with some good writing, then come on over.

the truth

I’m in a funk. A bluesy, what-is-my-problem, watching Vampire Diaries (Don’t judge. The storytelling and hotness are a great distraction) reruns funk. One evening over wine and a lot of food (as these things go) a good friend told me, “It’s completely normal to feel depressed after finishing a book.” And the guilt that had begun to build a home on my shoulders sighed. When my friend finished her thesis a professor gave her that insight and as she imparted it, I felt relieved, an answer to my emptiness. I love pinpointing problems. It’s almost as good as my fall TV shows returning. Holla Fringe and Parks & Rec!

The book is all I’ve been doing for 2 years. Off and on. On and off. You know. You’ve heard me going on and on about it here. I’m worried you’re sick of it. Shut up already. We know you’re writing a book. Truthfully, I was tired of me too. Talking, writing, thinking about the book. The book, the book, the book.

It was/is my purpose, my dream, my job. It crept into everything. While playing a game of Uno with my kids, a teachable moment presented itself as Annie told me about something that happened at school. I can’t remember this valuable lesson, but my daughter looked up from her cards and said, “You should write a book about it,” delivered perfectly with sarcasm. That’s my girl.

I traveled back in time, exploring and defining everything I felt as the life I knew was ripped from me. So, it made sense that I crashed just a little after revising for the hundredth time and then finally, finally sending it to my publisher.

I needed a break after completing the manuscript, but I couldn’t understand the queasiness in my belly, the lack of logic. I thought I should feel good, satisfied. To celebrate I bought tequila, made margaritas, and indulged in a novel someone else wrote. Then, I disconnected. Much like after I gave birth to Annie. I waited for elation, for the rush that’s supposed to come when you have a baby. I loved her, but I felt responsible, anxious. Not happy, not matching the posters on the hospital walls of contented mothers breastfeeding their newborns. I realized I have the post-book blues.

After all these years I’m still learning how to own my feelings, therapy-speak for ‘be honest’. Hiding is easier than admitting I have a problem. Saying it out loud, acknowledging that vacant flashes bright and neon lessens the burden. I’m empty, I’m afraid, I’m lost. It feels good to tell the truth even if it isn’t the truth we want. Sometimes we don’t know the truth and until we shed light on it, hold it up, we’re stuck. (I didn’t know until a friend pointed it out.) The truth doesn’t always offer a way out, but it gives us a way through.

the worst job ever

For seven summers, from the age of seven, I picked raspberries with my mom and two brothers. My mom cleaned houses and offices from September to June, and in the summer, family in tow, picked raspberries. Rows and rows of bushes that needed to be plucked clean for farmers. I hated picking raspberries.

My mom woke us each morning just as the sky began its transformation from night to sunrise, awash in orange and pink. Yawning and shivering in the misty dawn, we made our way to the field of farmers I only knew by last name; buckets tied around our waists, coolers of food and blankets in hand. We found our rows by the numbers on the posts and claimed our spots. My mom at the beginning of the row, me at the end, my brothers in the middle. My mom was quick, her hands lined by hard work, she was a machine. She led and loved us with her efficiency, her preparedness. If it rained she brought garbage bags and cut out holes for heads and hands. We slipped them on over our clothes and continued picking. She laid out a blanket for us in the shade where we took refuge when it was too hot, too much. She doled out food and warnings. “Just for a little while and then back to work.” “Okay, mom.” If we were quiet we could stretch out our reprieve. My brothers and I drank apple juice, dug out worms, ate homemade cookies and smashed raspberries between crackers.

The sun hot on my neck, I lifted branches and leaves to pick-pick berries. Fingers stained red, juice running down my arms, I created a game to amuse me. This cluster of berries to the right is a family. The isolated berry nestled in the bush is lonely and it’s pleased to join the others. Low, low on the bush they didn’t see me coming… Gotcha! A few berries begged, “Please, eat me!” “No!” I shout. “You’re too mushy!” Some are sad to be taken, not wanting to leave home. They’ve never been anywhere else! They scream and cry as I send them to the bucket. Once my bucket was full, straining the thick twine at my waist, I emptied the berries into a plastic flat which would be lifted and stacked with many flats, then loaded onto a truck. Roaring to life, the truck rumbled as it drove the unaware and ill-informed raspberries to be sorted and squished, their destinies fulfilled as they became juice and jam.

When I shut my eyes at the end of each day to sleep, dark green leaves holding red berries were all I could see, like they were stitched to the backs of my eyelids. My hands smelled sickly sweet even in my dreams. While others kids played at home, in yards and playgrounds, we were in the fields working. There were moments of freedom; of picnic lunches, and jumping on trampolines slippery with water and soap and no safety nets. We earned money. I learned diligence and discipline. I learned how to work all those summers with my mom and when the season was over we put our money into bank accounts. She said, “You’ll do this with your kids one day.” In my head I was emphatic I will not.

As my kids and I drove up to a farm today, the tires crunching on the gravel road, acres of berries in front of us and people pick-picking, my kids asked, “Can we pick?” I laughed, “No way! You and your dad can do that.”

I parked the car, shuddered at the rows and rows of raspberries and strawberries, walked into the cool store and bought my berries in neat, tidy baskets.

After being on a brief blog hiatus, I’m hanging out with yeahwrite this week, lounging and eating my picked-by-someone-else berries.

14 years ago

On June 12, 1998 my life changed in an instant. I’d heard that statement in an instant many times – on the news, in the papers. I didn’t know it could reach me. In an instant is something that happens to someone else. One second found me. Calculated by engineers, they read the marks on the road, assessed the damage to the cars and the curb, determining how my life changed. This speed, the percentage, my life summed up or reduced by a number.

I looked both ways before crossing the street like I’d been taught. A lifetime of looking both ways and checking for danger and it didn’t matter this time. I crossed the street, the sun setting, not seeing anyone as I left the safety of the stop sign. And then. There it was. That instant. It slammed into Betty and I, pushed us off the road and into a ravine. On impact Betty died. I was trapped upside down as my car burned and I waited and waited, pleading for someone to rescue me.

As one life left this earth another began. One I didn’t see coming. We hear that, too. I didn’t see this coming. Nothing could prepare me for what I didn’t see coming and what came later. The after. The unraveling, the pain, the loss. My life ripped apart. That night, with a signature and the heartache of my family, a surgeon took my body apart to save me.

When the first anniversary loomed near, I dreaded it, hating a date which reminded me of that instant. Anniversaries were supposed to be special, celebratory. My best friend gone, 20 surgeries and 2 prosthetic legs later, how was I still here undone by one day, by one second?

The second year I went for bigger, bolder. Let’s make this better! I decided to go hang-gliding. I wanted to be off the ground, in the blue sky. This will make it different. I was after a moment, an exhilarating moment. June 12 is the day I went hang-gliding! Except that I got sick. It was exciting climbing toward the sky until we reached it and my stomach began to turn. I shouted in the wind, to the instructor I was strapped to just inches below me, “I’m air-sick. I forget I get air-sick.” He said, “What? Why didn’t you take anything? Are you going to be okay?” “Um, no, I’m going to throw up if we don’t get back down.” I concentrated on not vomiting all over this guy until we landed and I could plant my feet on the ground. I threw up into a bush.

The first 2 anniversaries family and friends called, remembering with me. As every summer drew near, heat and invincibility making everyone drive faster, my heart raced. You don’t know how your lives can change. Careful, careful. As another and then another June 12th arrived, there were fewer calls and fuller lives. Distance grew between that day and I, too. There was less pull, less gravity as the day approached. Because I am here. Because I fought hard. Because I am living.

Today, June 12 is closer, somehow. I’ve been re-living my story as I write it over and over again. This is the year I swallowed my fear and pitched my story out loud. This is the year I signed a contract to have my story published, a signature marking a new beginning rather than an ending. It will be another kind of anniversary. The anniversary that something beautiful, something epic happened.

read to be read at yeahwrite.me

uptight

I’m a starfish on my bed. The fan hanging from my ceiling spins mercilessly. Music loud in my ears, it is all I hear, all I feel. I need to put my head down for a while. I get so stuck inside it. My thoughts match the fan. Round and round.

Reign it in. Reign it in. Reign it in.

Sometimes I forget who I am. I’m so immersed in schedule, in the day-to-day I can’t see I’m at war. Frustrated, I want to keep the bad at bay. To be calm and cool and collected. I picture a happy place – I hear this works. An uninterrupted shower. Sun. Rows and rows of clothes. Nope. Not working.

The fan spins. To be. To be. To be.

I used to not allow myself to feel. Poker-faced, I kept everything in check. You can’t let yourself run wild. You shouldn’t be this upset, this mad. I want to feel fine. But, I’ve learned in order to arrive at peace I have to get through.

I’m holding myself hostage with ‘shoulds’ and ‘ought to be’s’. Old habits die hard and perfectionism runs deep. I need to let my feelings in, let fear and angst swirl and mix until my insides are muddy. To be human. It’s okay. As much as I want to, and, oh, how I want to, I can’t control everything.

I’m tied up, too wrapped up in me. Even chasing perspective is too demanding. While I can’t always command my circumstances, I can choose how I’ll respond. There is power in choice. I could use a little power. And right now… Right now I don’t want to care for a while.

Robyn’s Dancing on my Own fills my head. Loud (which is the way you listen to this song). It makes me feel free. It makes me feel like dancing.

Let go. Let go. Let go.

Swept up
in Hometown Heroes Lottery
I was in our newspapers, the Vancouver Sun and the Vancouver Province this weekend, supporting burn survivors and the burn unit at Vancouver General Hospital where I spent 7 months. The prizes are amazing and tickets save lives. As promised to a few of you who couldn’t get the paper, this is the article on my story. Home Town Heroes Ad

Hanging out at the yeah write hangout grid today. It’s exactly where I need to be. No pressure and with friends.

be generous

If we want a platform we have one. Twitter, FB, our blogs give us the space and freedom to say what we want and mean it. Within the week I move from those platforms to the others – school, ballet, soccer, work where I find more words, many sides which must be shared. After my day is done I am full, brimming over with opinions and attitudes. And, the truth is, I’m exhausted.

Right now I am deep-down-on-the-floor-of-the-cave revising and all I can see are the cracks, the faults of my book. Sloppy sentences and holes. Commas misplaced and chapters deserving better endings. I can’t see a poignant moment or heartfelt dialogue because I’m busy seeking the bad. Is this what we do with life? Wanting more, we’re overwhelmed with obstacles. We are burdened by flaws, blind to beauty. Insecurity lurks behind lofty words, a flippant response.

I don’t use this space to rant, but it’s been a few weeks of things that make me shake and I want to yell enough! I’m an advocate of boat-rocking and using our voices. I was born opinionated.  I’ve just grown weary of the know-it-alls, the interrupters. When did we stop choosing our words wisely? Why do we care so much about what others think and then why don’t we care more? How did we get so big behind our small screens? What happened to listening and being responsible with what we’re given? And sometimes, sometimes it’s not the words spoken; it’s what is unspoken, that something ‘off’, a brittle smile disguising true feelings.

I’m not better or less than anyone else – I’ve been guilty, an offender of doing both. I worry I’m too much and I worry I’m not enough. (I wasn’t going to get into specifics on my list of maddening, but I’ll allow myself one. When I’m playing the part of peacemaker to a disgruntled mother, I miss out on the wonder of my little girl. I’ll admit when that light turned on, it made me heartsick.) I admire honesty. I try to be honest. I am one of its biggest fans. But when it hurts people, isn’t it time to step back, to examine, to be quiet.

Sometimes we need to climb off our platforms, our high horses, and plant our feet on the ground. Cast off judgment, untangle from another thread of presumption and connect to what’s good. Notice the stars, the pink of blooming flowers. Cheer loudly. Laugh hard. Behold a beautiful story. Love your friend. Seek a soft heart.

Be generous.

In the spirit of generosity, I want to share a few posts that brought me perspective this week. To these writers, thank you, I really needed your words and your heart. Behold these beautiful stories.

Memories Captured by Galit Breen from her blog These Little Waves
On plates, my village, and hula hoops by Tara Pohlkotte from Pohlkotte Press
Monday Catch Up by Anna See from An Inch of Gray
Adventures with Cancer-Part 2
by Jennifer Liberts Weinberg from Kvetch Mom

I could go on and on linking more incredible posts, but I’ll end here. For now. And link up with Yeah Write on the Hangout Grid, where it’s cool, laid-back, and just the inspiration I need as I finish revising.

small celebrations

Annie shouts, “I’m a pony!” She prances through a field, zig-zagging through the tall grass. Benjamin skips along the path ahead of me, hands in his pockets. The sun is high, warming my shoulders, my face. I smile, basking in the day.

In their play, in their freedom, happiness comes easily. Between consuming schedules and registration for next year’s activities and when did my car become a living room and people who exhaust me, I lose perspective. Worry gets in the way of joy, busy overshadows delight.

Annie crouches on the path, her pony left behind, and scratches letters in the dirt. Ben is nearing the bend and soon he’ll be out of sight. He doesn’t stop to look over his shoulder, knowing I’m there, mere steps away. I cup my hands around my mouth, calling, “Ben, stop! You need to wait for us to catch up!”

He halts, kicking up dust. Annie joins me, slipping her hand in mine. My heart hitches. This, all of this, is life-giving. Something to celebrate. We walk along the river, and talk and talk and talk. Blooming trees. Is someone barbecuing? Look at the canoes! Picking dandelions. Inventing wishes. And there is quiet, too, just our footfalls and breaths between us.

I don’t have to do one more thing right now. We don’t have to be anywhere. I’m not yelling, “Stop fighting! Get your shoes on! We’ve got to go!” And tomorrow, tomorrow I’ll carve out rest, some time for myself. The hurry and rush of the week falls off my shoulders.

Near home Annie lifts my hand to her face, so my palm rests against her cheek. She sighs, “I love my life.” Ben turns around, “Me too!”

In their presence, I gain clarity. I need to be in the moment. “I love my life, too.”

Swept up

In a morning spent in White Rock

There is a great community full of gorgeous, fun and funny writing over at Yeah Write, and I am joining up with them again this week.

stuck

Sighing, squirming, brewing coffee, clicking on site after site I’m avoiding what’s in front of me. Notes line the margins of my manuscript and questions fill my mind as I tap, tap the keys attempting to ‘say what I mean’ and develop this story.

I write about the sounds and sighs of summer – how it became a season of scars. I write about losing Betty. What did she say just a couple of weeks before she passed away? And I write about my reaction to the doctor delivering the news. “I’m sorry, Heidi. We have to amputate.”

When I began this memoir I knew it would take a toll. I cried, drove on winding back roads, wrung my hands, and got it out. Almost three years later I have the incredible fortune of a book deal. I’m grateful. This is a rare opportunity and it’s a dream come true. And now, right now, I’m a little stuck.

I delve into my story, tugging on a history I worked hard to overcome. I realize this is the point of the book. To know one can be devastated and survive. It is possible to get to the other side. I just hope I can write to the other side. I want to finish well. While I have supportive, loving people in my life, writing can be lonely. I am my very own annoying exhausted cheerleader. You.Can.Do.This. Keep.Going. And I don’t know about you, but I am easily distracted.

There is a life to participate in and pursue. It wasn’t my intention to let life get this busy and I wish I could be all Little House on the Prairie running in the meadow and splitting wood with Pa. But, that is not my reality. I have a family, a house and a DVR to look after! This week my job is to temper my daughter’s dream of becoming a ballerina, work on my son’s listening skills, fold the laundry this time, wrestle with guilt, watch Parks & Rec, and nosedive into recovery.

I sit behind the computer staring at my screen. Start, stop, start, stop. Stand up, sit down. So. This is writer’s block.

What do you do when you can’t write?

lost and found

We’re in the car, windows rolled down, words measured and aired. My family holds some of our best conversations strapped into our seats driving toward various destinations.

My eight-year-old daughter Annie, who has expressed a steady stream of thoughts and opinions, interrupts herself, “Are we always learning?”

I say, “Yes, we are. We’re taking in the world around us. That’s one of the best things about life. We always get to learn.”

“Why do people do bad things if they know it isn’t good for them?”

I wonder why all the philosophizing, but I’m going with it. “I don’t know. We have choices, but sometimes we don’t make the right choices. Or we want to try something out, so we do, and then find out it’s a mistake. Everyone makes mistakes,” I catch her eyes in the rear-view mirror, eyes like mine, “I do know it’s important to think for yourself.”

She asks, “Is it important to like yourself?”

“Yes, it is. To know and respect and like you is very important.”

In my girlhood I often felt hesitant and cautious, searching for something just out of reach. I had trouble identifying my emotions at the age of eight, but I knew I was lost. I silenced my confusion, who could understand me? Instead, I played to my strengths. I was the loyal sidekick, a friend to the popular girl. What I couldn’t do for me, I did for the girl in charge. I made her feel good about herself.

From lost and uncomfortable to insecure and loathing, I could not like myself. I wanted to, but didn’t know how. Years later I peeled myself from the wall, abandoned friendships that harmed, and stopped hiding in the shadows. It was okay to want more. It was okay to like me. It wasn’t arrogance. It was necessary.

When I get to observe Annie in her ballet class, I can see from fingertips to toes she is armed with confidence. Concentrating on a drawing, giggling with her best friend, bounding across the yard, she is fearless.

I once lost Annie at the school playground.

I can’t see her anywhere. “Annie! Annie!” I’m frantic. My fingers graze a friend’s shoulder as I dart by, “Have you seen her?” My eyes are everywhere at once. And I remember. I walk over to the tallest tree, the best tree to climb.

“Hi, Mommy! I’m up here!” she chirps. High, high in the tree is my girl. I gulp air, consoled by the realization that I know her, I found her.

In the car I listen to her chatter, her curiosity and I breathe, please, please keep this. This knowledge of who you are. Always, always be yourself. The wind finds me through the open window and carries my wish for both of us, discerning I need this grace as much as she does.

I’m linking up with the fabulousness that is Yeah Write this week. Come check out great writing!

Swept up
in Old Mare

These guys are friends and they know music. Their album You Deserve More came out a little while ago and it’s on high rotation in our car. We love it, not just because they’re good friends, but they’re good friends who make good music.

resting place

Over coffee we squeezed in conversation before our kids woke up to begin the day. I asked Scott, “Do you think we’re meant to be? Because I don’t know if I believe in that.”

Steeped in reality, soul mates and destiny weren’t ideas I indulged. It was great fodder for novels, but not for me.

Scott said, “I don’t know if I believe in it either, but.”

I finished, “But sometimes it feels that way.”

Before the car crash we had been together for only 6 weeks, new to love. We fell hard, fast. After the crash we loved each other in the hospital, during rehabilitation, through vows and the birth of our babies.

I didn’t know what to expect when I got married. I knew it wouldn’t be a fairy tale. We had already experienced life in all its reckless glory. So, what now? What would a life together hold, bound by contract and rings? I discovered marriage is: belly laughing, sobbing on his shoulder, being tempted to walk out the door, throwing salt on icy stairs so I don’t fall, a place of contention and calm. It wasn’t what I was expecting. It is more and less, imperfect and perfect. Scott is my resting place, a sanctuary.

‘Meant to be’ can be dangerous, as if I have no control over my life.  I’m hurtling toward a destination and my decisions don’t matter. There are no forks in the road. Soul mates are sewn together, not to be torn apart. But, what if things don’t work out? What if we just can’t be together anymore? It happens.

I believe in mystery and the unexplainable, in magic and God. And I believe in choices. I choose commitment, marriage, love. Scott and I choose each other every day. We are meant for each other because we’ve made each other our destinies, our soul mates.

I wrote this in response to the writing prompt ‘It wasn’t what I was expecting’ at Studio30 Plus. They have a new site which you should check out and then you’ll totally want to join. It’s a community of writers and bloggers for those of us 30 and up. I’m fairly new over there and it’s been a great, rewarding experience.

I’m also with YeahWrite this week because they’re awesome, another fabulous community of supportive writers.