Happy Birthday Dad.

Today is my dad's birthday.  In honor of you Dad, I intend to consume a slice of carrot cake and a tall glass of cold milk.  My brother Benj thought we should write you letters and mail them to you for your birthday but of course I did not get it done.  And I decided it would be better to post it publicly on my blog.  It is my first blog in over 7 months and I can think of no better way to get started again than to say "Thank You" to you Dad and wish you a very public "Happy Birthday"

Keith Urban sings a song, "Song For Dad", off his "Golden Road" album.  I heard it again a few weeks ago and it hit me.  One of the lines reads "he did the best he could".  As children I used to think you and mom were superheroes.  And of course, I know now that is not true.  But it takes a long time to recognize that as a child.

One of my very first memories with you was when we went to the fireworks in Seaside, probably with Grandma and Grandpa. I may have been anywhere from 2-3 years old, I am not entirely sure.  I hid in your chest and I remember feeling safe as you gathered me in your arms and shielded me from the loud and scary sounds and lights.  Now I love fireworks!  

I remember when you guys took me to get my first bike and Jason got his first Big Wheel and mine was a bright shiny red Schwinn.  I was so excited!  It took me forever to learn to ride, but I did.  We lived in Astoria and about the same time you had this old motorcycle that never worked but you would give us rides around the yard and try to get it started by running it down the big hill in our back yard of the house on Grand Avenue.  It never worked, of course.  You and mom and Uncle Pat and Aunt Linda would play Millebornes and one of my favorite Christmases ever was in that house.  Mom made candy and I got fashion plates.  

We had the real 8-track tapes and vinyl and you let me listen to classic rock bands like the Eagles, Fleetwood Mac and the Doobie Brothers.  You had this album of Cat Stevens and it fascinated me.  I would spend what seemed like hours looking at it mainly because there was some sort of spider on it.  We moved up to Forest Grove and then Banks after a series of logging accidents forced you to train for a new career.  You had been going to school during the week and then coming home on the weekends.  Honestly, I don't know how you did it. 

I started playing t-ball and softball and was so excited for my new cleats I ran back and forth outside Grandpa's apartment in Forest Grove the night I got them just to prove my cleats made me run faster.  We moved to Banks and I played softball and then volleyball and then we moved on to Portland because you had to move into the city because you started working for the city.  I really, really wanted to go to Grant High School because I had met some guys who went to Grant that came to wrestle at Banks Jr. High. One weekend, my parents blindfolded my brother Jason and I and drove us through the Portland to show us where our new house was.  2 blocks from Grant High School.

I could go on and on with memories and I think what I am trying to say is even through all the difficulties, and there are lots, I would not trade you for anyone else.  I can honestly say I love you with all my heart.  Last summer we had such a great time with you and I miss you!  I felt sad when you left and I can't tell you how many times when I'm driving I'm looking for places you could move to so you could be closer.  Benj and I have even talked about coming to visit you in Montana.  And if you ever do want to move, you know you already have a moving crew.  

I am proud of the way you have persevered, if I can say that, and I just want you to know that.  I have so many good memories and you taught me so many good things.  My love of music, the written word, teaching me to be independent, my quirky sense of humor, my heritage and I am proud to say I am your daughter.  So watch this video, and listen to this song, and though he talks about being a son or man,  you can insert daughter or woman in there.  Happy Birthday Dad, I love you so much!

American Gods and Neil Gaiman

I finished American Gods and penned this little review on Goodreads

"I thoroughly enjoyed this book. Loved it, for many reasons. The history, the mythology, the taking of something familiar and putting it on its' head and looking at it in a different way. There is a lot going on in this book, but not too much to keep up with. I was there, with Shadow, every step of the way. I didn't want to guess at the end, but, as with all well-done stories, the seeds were there early on. This book is satisfying to me, like a good, rich meal, taken in slowly, paired with the right wines for each course. Take your time with this one, it's a good one! Neil Gaiman, at present, remains my current favorite author."

Neil Gaiman.  I love his writing because he works across so many genres: film, graphic novels, comic books, tv, children's books, young adult books and probably some I'm missing.  He takes the notion of fantasy and sci-fi and horror and mashes them up and turns them on their heads and does it in a big way.  I saw "American Gods" first on Starz, then had to wait a loooonngggg time to get the book from the library.  Let me tell you, worth the wait.  So, check it out.  It is a bit of a longer book and so worth reading.  It has won many awards and I am looking forward to moving on to reading "Anansi Boys", I think.  

And, when things get tough, I remember this quote, always, and it gives me inspiration:

What Writing Means To Me

Tuesday, July 11th marked TWO milestones.  I turned 46 AND I completed the first draft of my first novel.  I gave myself a deadline of my birthday to finish because I figured it was the only one I would stick to.  And so I did.  The first draft is done, finished.  For now, I will let it rest or cool down, much like you would after baking something or cooking something. 

Creative works are like birthing something, or so I've been told because I don't know much about birthing, never having had a child.  I do know that it has taken me nearly four years to get it done.  But, better finished than never done.  Now I move into the first of more than one revision stage.  I will go through, make sure the story is consistent, delete things that don't make sense to me, add things to areas that need to be fleshed out.  The cool thing is it is my story, so I only answer to myself on this.  Once I read through my novel and make those changes, then I will look at passing it on to first readers or an editor or something like that.  I haven't decided any of those things yet, so I don't know how all that will play out.  What I do know is I can see the book finished in my mind, so it will be done. 

I have written in various forms over the years, songs and poetry, short stories, papers for school, blogs, letters, notes, projects for work.  On and on it goes.  The one thing I never tire of or never have a lack of is things to write about and so I spend about 30 minutes every morning writing three pages.  If there is one non-negotiable in my life, those morning pages are it. If I don't do them, I feel off.  I learned this practice from Julia Cameron, author of "The Artist's Way".  If I had to name one book that changed my life, that would be the single one that comes to mind.  It set me on an artistic path I have not veered from to-date.  I have notebooks and notebooks filled with morning pages and I've been doing them consistently for about 3 and 1/2 years.  Each day represents about 500-600 handwritten words, so I'll let you do the math.

I love writing and I don't see that ever changing.  I completely believe we all have gifts to bring to this world.  For me, one of my strongest gifts is writing.  The seeds have been there all along.  I loved libraries as a child, I took Honors English in high school, loved mythology and fantasy always.  I was reading books like "Clan of the Cave Bear" at 10 and 11 years old.  Things I probably shouldn't have been reading but nevertheless did.  One of my greatest possessions is an autographed copy of "Plains of Passage" by Jean M. Auel that my dad got for me many, many years ago and I still treasure it to this day.  Turns out he is a writer too. 

I have no idea where my writing will take me, but I do know it is the work of my heart.  My brother paints pictures with brushes and I paint pictures with words.  The scenes unfold in my mind and my job is to write them down.  So simple, but so very hard.  If it was easy, everyone would have written that book they keep talking about.  Me, I hope I'm writing novels until I'm 89. 

 

 

The Untethered Soul

I've been reading this book, called "The Untethered Soul", by Michael A. Singer.  This book came to me by way of Marie Forleo (www.marieforleo.com).  She is one of my spiritual "teachers" though we have never met.  In a recent email, she recommended this book as one of her top three.  I had no idea who Michael Singer was, or thought I didn't.  But then, of course, as soon as I looked him up, I recognized having watched him on one of Oprah's Super Soul Sessions.  

Today also happens to be Mother's Day.  I lost my mom in December of 2004, the 21st to be exact.  I miss her terribly, of course.  But she was also an incredible gift to me.  After reading, Chapter 13 in this book, entitled "Far, Far Beyond", I understand better what I mean when I say she was a gift.  Not just in her life, but also in her death.  This is not an easy conclusion for me to come to, and it has taken me years of internal work to be able to step back and objectively see her life in this way.  

What my mother's death did for me was send me out in the beyond.  Everything I thought I knew simply fell apart and I knew nothing would or could ever be the same again.  If she had not left, I am not sure I would have become the person I am today because I had no choice.  All the things that used to work didn't anymore, and I had to reconfigure my entire life.  If she were still here, I am truly not sure that would have happened. 

Michael Singer says, "Going beyond means going beyond the borders of the cage.  There should be no cage.  The soul is infinite.  It is free to expand everywhere.  It is free to experience all of life. This can only happen when you are willing to face reality without mental boundaries.  If you still have barriers, and you know what they are because you hit them every day, you must be willing to go beyond them.  Otherwise you remain within your cage.  And remember, decorating your cage with beautiful experiences, fond memories and great dreams is not the same as going beyond.  A cage by any other name is still a cage."  

I had the good fortune to spend a month in Ireland in January of 2015.  One of my destinations was the Cliffs of Moher.  Absolutely breathtaking, hundreds of meters above a sheer drop to the Atlantic ocean.  I am not terribly fond of heights, but my desire to walk the path on the cliff overcame the need to be safe.  At one point, the path looked like it swung dangerously out over the ocean and I knew I would fall to certain death.  So I stopped and had a talk with myself.  I assured myself that we would be okay, that I would take one step at a time, and that if the path became too dangerous I would turn back.  And then I reminded myself that this was what I had come to Ireland for and I refused to let my own fear define my experience.  As I approached the point in the path, it was much wider than I had first believed and I proceeded to walk the entire southern length of the cliffs.  That little tower you see in the distance,  I walked all the way there and all the way back.  On my trek back I welcomed the incredible views of the ocean instead of being afraid of them because I went beyond my edges, in a very literal sense, and came face to face with a beauty I had only imagined and seen in picture.  Now I had actually lived one of my dreams!  To walk the Cliffs of Moher.

I don't know why it takes an event like that for some of us.  It forced me to come directly into contact with a whole lot of things I never expected to deal with.  I also became a person I don't ever think I would have without first the solid foundation of her love, and then her leaving.  The truth is I still feel her with me and still talk to her.  Even now, 13 years later, I still want to tell her things and then remember I have to do it in a different way.  It is a spiritual relationship now, rather than a physical one.  I often have dreams where I am looking for her and cannot find her.  But the truth is, she lives on, just in a different way.  

Michael Singer also says, "Eventually you will realize that it cannot actually hurt you to go beyond your psychological limits.  If you are willing to just stand at the edge and keep walking you will go beyond.  You used to pull back when it got uncomfortable.  Now you relax and go past that point.  That is all it takes to go beyond...you realize that you will always be fine.  Nothing can ever bother you except your edges, and now you know what to do with them.  You end up loving your edges because they point your way to freedom.  All you have to do is constantly relax and lean into them.  Then one day, when you least expect it, you fall through into the infinite.  That is what it means to go beyond."

His words touched something in my soul and it all came tumbling together and I teared up.  I understood, maybe for even the first time, how her death taught me as much as her life.  I was forced to confront my edges, pushed to the very limits and then beyond what I thought I could ever imagine.  And as I sit here, typing, with her pictures on my desk, I miss her and at the same time I am so, so grateful to her.  She gave me everything I would need to navigate this life.  I love you Mom.