Tuesday, January 1, 2019

Getting My Brave On

As 2018 came to a close, a post appeared on one of my social media feeds that invited readers to come up with a one-word mantra for the new year. Replies in the comments included:
  • Kind
  • Fit
  • Sober
  • ...and (my personal favorite) Organized
Empowering words, sure, but they left me wondering what mine should be. 

In my last post, I filled you in on what a rotten year 2018 had been for me. This wasn't very platespinner-y of me, so I'm sorry for that, but last year sucked my wit dry. And it's been killing me. Writing this blog, and my books, had been a life-line during some very difficult times. As one friend put it, "It's your therapy."

Smart girl.

The more I wrote, the more I realized that, little by little, I had lost sight of who I used to be and who I wanted to be. Sure, I was holding down a full-time job while raising five stupendous boys (if I don't say so myself), and had managed to write five romantic comedies that were good enough to get published. So why was I feeling so diminished

Platespinners are super heroes, for God's sake! I've been saying so for years.

But I knew why. I just didn't want to admit it.

It wasn't until that same friend asked me that very same question over lunch one day that I was forced to open my eyes. Embarrassed and ashamed, my knee-jerk reaction was to take full responsibility for my terminally low self-esteem. It was, after all, what I had been programmed to do - take the blame for everything, whether I'd caused it or not.

The sorry truth was that I was allowing the person closest to me, in the most subtle of ways, plant seeds of fear and doubt, convincing me that I wasn't who I thought I was, wanted to be...or could be. If you never been in this situation, and I truly hope you haven't, it's rather like having someone hold your head under water while being told it's for your own good. After awhile, you get tired of flailing.

But my friend would have none of it. Instead, she reminded me of everything I'd done right, all of the things I had accomplished and was capable of achieving. In that big "aha," liberating but most uncomfortable, life-changing moment, remnants of my old self started pushing their way to the surface. 

That was over three years ago. From that day on, I managed to see things more clearly, as if I'd gotten a new pair of glasses. From that day on, I was going to hold the person I had trusted with my heart and my dreams accountable. It's been the hardest thing I've ever done.

Like aftershocks after a major earthquake, the "aha" moments kept coming, each bringing a new revelation to light, painful as they were liberating. Which leads me to today. No longer flailing underwater, so to speak. I've burst out of the pool a la Esther Williams (minus the polka dot bathing cap). Mind the drops of water on your keyboard.

All that being said, how can I possibly capture what I want this year to be in just one word?

I've narrowed it down to these three:
  • Thrive
  • Strength
  • ...and (my personal favorite) Brave
What are your words for 2019?

Saturday, December 29, 2018

2018: The Big Ouch

Let's cut to the chase. 2018 has been one painful year and I can't wait to see it shrink to nothingness in my rearview mirror.

Just to be clear, I'm not referring to the current political landscape, devastating natural disasters or the sad fact that my local Walgreen's has stopped carrying Ghirardelli Cherry Tango dark chocolate bars. I'm referring to what's been going on in my own little world - some of it self-induced, some not.

First, my dad died. It wasn't wholly unexpected. He was 87 years old and had end-stage emphysema. Still, somehow, that didn't lessen the pain of loosing him. He and I always had a sort of shared vibe, like we were on the same page, cut of the same cloth, silently agreeing that we'd love each other no matter what stupid things the other ever said or did. We had each others backs...and could always make each other laugh.
Not long after my dad passed, I did the hardest, bravest, awfullest thing I've ever had to do - finally own up to the fact that my marriage was never going to be what I had hoped or wished, or fooled myself into believing, it could be. As extraordinarily painful, inconvenient and distressing as it has been moving out of that familiar, comfortable, albeit destructive, environment, the time has come to move on. And, in the words of Forrest Gump, "That's all I have to say about that."
As often as I've wished I could wrap myself in a giant life-sized bandaid and hide until I felt all better, I didn't. I couldn't. Life kept pulsing on whether I was ready for it or not. Groceries had to be bought, dishes cleaned, lunches packed, flowers planted, laundry done, jobs fulfilled, obligations met, settlements reached.
What I was able to do was wrap myself in the warmth of my family and friends' love and support. Each and every one of them stepped up to assure me everything would be all right and that things would be better on "the other side." I'm not sure where that is or what it will look like, but I expect to arrive there in 2019. And I'm not bringing bandaids.

Monday, June 11, 2018

Breaking Hot

School's out. For two of my five kids, that still means something. For my other three whose lives no longer revolve around an academic calendar, not so much - the exception being my recent college grad who has yet to experience the impending arrival of fall without the hassle of moving back onto campus. I'm sure he'll adjust.

At Casa de Plate Spinner, the official summer kickoff usually takes place on Memorial Day with the hurried hassle of parade prep: digging out our camp chairs (crammed in the crawl space next to the Christmas decorations), slathering everyone with sunscreen, doling out water bottles, dropping one car off somewhere close to the end of the parade route so the boys could drive home after marching, then scurrying into town, dodging police barricades to drop them off in the town center where the rest of their scout troop was busy getting into position. That  done, my husband and I, and those not marching that year, would race to find a parking spot, grab our gear and hustle to find an unoccupied spot along the parade route (preferably shaded). Phew!  If we were lucky, we'd get settled just in time to see our guys march by, flags in hand.

This year, though, we had none of that. Our youngest, the only active scout left in my brood, chose not to participate. As if that in itself wasn't enough to make it feel like summer hadn't officially started, the weather has been unseasonably cool. And I'm completely OK with that.

My crockpot probably isn't. I'm sure it was looking forward to catching a break once I switched from slow-cooking soups and stews to grilling sausages and steaks. Also not cool with the chilly temps, I imagine, would be the proud possessors of season passes to the park district pool. And air conditioner repair guys (and gals).

Me, I'm already humming Christmas carols and addressing cards. If this keeps up, I might even start stringing lights outside.

I know I'm probably jinxing myself by even writing this post, but I just can't control myself. Cooler weather means no bugs, the grass is still green, I can still wear sweaters, and outdoor workouts don't leave me parched and panting. Best of all, I don't feel guilty cloistering myself indoors to get some writing done.

Because if the weather was warmer, I'd feel all sorts of pressure to, oh, I don't know - toil in the yard or go for a swim in the aforementioned park district pool. But that would mean I'd have to drag my camp chair out of the crawl space and, if memory served, it was right next to the bin of Christmas decorations...

Saturday, June 9, 2018

Destination: Happiness

Hi! Welcome back. I've missed you!

Three years is a long time to be away from a beloved blog. The journey on which I embarked when I left has been rife with road blocks, wipeouts, detours and tolls. Heavy on the tolls.

When I first started this blog, I had just seen the movie Julie and Julia (you know, the one in which a young woman decides to cook every recipe in Julia Child's cookbook, blogging her experience...? And who can forget the ending...when her answering machine emits one urgent message after another from editors and literary agents, all wanting to strike a book deal?!? Yeah. That one.).

Anyway, I remember leaving the theater that night starry eyed, certain that my little local Chicago Tribune parenting column would turn into something big. Really, really big.

Then I'd be able to quit my day job, write full-time, maybe re-do the kitchen. Then, and only then, would I arrive at that place called "Happy."

Well, something big did happen. Sort of. In 2014, I became a published author! Then came my second book, and third. I immersed myself in learning all about the craft, connecting with like-minded writers, building my fan base, discovering all there is to know about self-promotion and marketing. I was on a frickin' roll.

By the time I finished my fourth book, though, I pulled my gaze away from my laptop screen and let it roam over my kitchen's dated, somewhat dilapidated decor. Despite my best effort, the room was exactly the same.

Everything, as a matter of fact, was exactly the same. I was still holding down my day job to support my family. All I had done was add another full-time job. So what if I was pursuing my dream? And don't even get me started on the kitchen.

My next royalty payment, like those that had preceded it, was painfully reminiscent of my first part-time job's paychecks (read: abysmal). Just for kicks, I estimated the amount of hours I had spent since typing "Chapter One" in my very first novel and divided that by my royalties earned to date.

Big mistake. Huge.

My heart sank as I stared at the minuscule hourly figure. Self-doubt seeped into my bones like an icy ache on a cold, rainy day. I knew the time had come to step back and take stock.

  • Why was I still having to work a day job? 
  • Was I not a good enough writer?
  • What was I doing wrong?
  • Should I quit?

Then I did. I gave myself permission to take a week-long break. That week turned into a month.

After three more, my publisher sent me an email asking when she could expect my next book.

If I had received that inquiry two years earlier, I would have been over the moon. A publisher wants to know when she can expect my next book! Huzzah! Only this time, I was annoyed. With what, I wasn't sure.

Still, the question lingered. Why was I still having to work a day job? 

Maybe I was a very good writer.
Maybe I wasn't the one doing anything wrong.
Maybe writing wasn't what I should be taking a break from.

Should I quit writing? Never.

Until the next time, peace out.