Dear Anthony Bourdain


Dear Anthony Bourdain,

It's hard work convincing other people to open their minds. I don't envy the task of traveling to all the corners of the earth, depriving yourself of a regular schedule and creature comforts to (on purpose) spend time with people who are different from us. You and your crew sought out people in war-torn, poverty-stricken places to find out what they ate and celebrated.

I say "us" like we are similar, but, in truth, as with any celebrity, there are some dark currents of truth and understanding that flow in one direction. Your honed screen personality spoke volumes. Your tattoos, demeanor, word-choice, and raw openness made me look again.

Your quirky, thoughtful, dark attitude made me feel heard, enriched. Your work provoked deeper questions. That is the best kind of human interaction sometimes. I hope you gleaned some sense of pride and comfort from everything you shared, 


You Fantastic Soul.

I feel like you're in the next phase of existence with a cigarette hanging out of your mouth, making the most glorious omelet, or something more perfect than my mortal brain can comprehend.

Thank you for your magnificent, messy, gorgeous life, Anthony Bourdain.

Early Summer Photojournal 2018

While I'm immersed in writing fiction, I haven't taken the time to craft any new blog posts, but there's always time for photos.





















Latest fiction teasers

It takes a lot of enthusiasm to write novels, but it takes even more determination to edit them. While I learn that process, I'm sharing a peek into all the stories I'm building. 


While editing The Eye That Never Closes (a mystical YA novel), I've also been finishing the first draft of a sweet romance that takes place in a small town in the South ... and playing with the idea of a series about young witches finding their powers in the Ozarks. That's totally gonna happen. :) 


The more I create worlds, edit, and polish them, the more I hone my vision for both fiction and real life. The common thread running through each of the stories is a young woman who is struggling to reveal and accept her worth. The settings and details change, but the heart is the same.


Jessie, in The Eye that Never Closes, is mentally ill and will die at a young age like all the women in her family before her. She believes her fate is set in stone and that love, adventure, and risk aren't for people like her. All those things are thrust upon her when she meets Lucan and discovers the forbidden world of the Seers. In trying to save Lucan and his people, she discovers her weakness is actually her greatest strength.


Millie, in the sweet romance novel, has a plan for success. It does not include anything from her childhood- especially not her grandparents' homestead. She needs to fix up the old house and sell it before her first teaching job starts in the fall. When an accident forces her to stop rushing through the project to get back to the busy life she made for herself in the city, she finds love in the last place she wanted. She learns that sometimes you're already the person you want to be.


Sylvana is dirt poor and hopelessly trapped in Blue Holler. She's been raised by a strict, unforgiving aunt who warns her that all things secular, anyone who doesn't attend her church, and most of all their cooky neighbor Lilliana are "of the Devil." After learning of her own strange magical abilities and a powerful lineage of Blue Holler witches, Sylvana must choose to fully embrace the title of "conjurewoman" inviting all the wonderful and terrible things that brings, or renounce her powers forever to stay safe. Sylvana has to unlearn the stories she was told as a child to make her fearful and redefine goodness for herself.


The witchy series was entirely inspired by this quote from the non-fiction book Witch: Unleashed. Untamed. Unapologetic. by Lisa Lister: 

The witch is waking. The witch represents the part of each of us that has been censored, ignored, punished and demonized. And it’s a part that wants – no, needs – to be accessed and fully expressed. I regularly get asked, ‘Why do you think women are fearful to speak out, to be heard and to fully express themselves?’ My answer? It’s because we’re fearful of the witch inside each and every one of us. The witch is a woman fully in her power.



Here's a snippet from what will be Book One of Witches of Blue Holler:


For Sylvana, the keeper of magic, running through the woods on the night of a full moon was usually fun and light-hearted. This time she was running for her life. She cradled the bowl that had been passed from one conjurewoman to the next for generations in her family and willed her legs to move faster. When she heard a twig snap behind her, she pressed the round clay vessel into her abdomen and blinked quickly, calling her mystical power into the earthly realm. Tears threatened.

She stopped and kneeled behind the trunk of a large tree. Warm breath rushed from her lips into the crisp air around her swirling into heavy vapor meant to cloak her presence. She inhaled once more. Before the breath could be released from deep within her the glint of a long blade sliced through the spell and ran her through.

A gloved hand caught the bowl before it hit the leaves underfoot. As swiftly as it had come, the dark figure was gone, leaving Sylvana’s tears to dampen her brown fuzzy ringlets and mix with the blood soaking her velvet cape.
Having depleted her magic moments before, Sylvana turned her face to the moon glowing between the treetops and felt to the ground in a heap. She believed this was her end.

Bitterly shocked that she would die just nights before Samhain, heartbroken that she’d lost the bowl, she had just enough strength to squeeze her eyes shut and blink away tears. She wondered who would find her body. Would they curse her for failing to complete the spell? She was startled by another silent figure disturbing the air around her. “Whooo, Whooo, Whooo,” an owl called shrill and desperate.

Sylvana managed a weak smile.”Celestia,” she whispered. The loyal barred owl must have been nearby when she was attacked. Her familiar since girlhood, Celestia hopped closer. Not a moment later, Sylvana heard footsteps and felt hands pulling at her cold limbs as she shut her eyes.


Mental Health Check-in

Today is one of the days I dread. I'm both manic and depressed, which in my body feels like increasing waves of nervous energy, anger, and unexpected crying jags. I cried twice yesterday in public. Two and a half times actually, but I stifled the one in between just because.

I can trace this episode back perfectly. 

I had several nights of disrupted sleep. Red flag # 1. 

I'm already done with 2018. We'll survive, but there has been a pile-up of challenges all at once. Red Flag #2. 

One of our kids has been struggling in a big way with anxiety and ADHD for over a year. His world has become increasingly smaller and I have watched him hating his own brain. Red Flag #3.

This morning, while I had a gloved hand shoved into the toilet cavity trying to unclog it, I could hear our puppy tearing apart the flimsy cardboard barrier on the stairs. My son and I had already tried unsuccessfully to complete a homeschool lesson. We were in the bathroom to start his shower, which can be a helpful reset for us both. It was only 9 am and I had already looked into the future and seen my son struggling forever with academic work, the toilet flooding for days on end, the dog tumbling down the stairs because of my inadequacy.

My fear thoughts were attempting to take over.

I cried again.

I cried once yesterday because our son's psychiatrist is moving. He's an awesome doctor and he has helped us understand so many things. He has guided us through multiple medication attempts, blood work, nutrition changes, facial tics, finding a therapist, communication with the school, and has been a safe place. 

I cried the second time because the latest round of medication we'll be trying for our son was only $15. Twice we couldn't even try the meds because the generic was over $400 a month. So I was waiting at the pharmacy drive-thru, holding my breath when the pharmacist said, "$15." I squeaked out an "Okay," before I peeled out of there and started crying happy tears in a parking space. A few months ago, she gave me a much larger number, and I didn't even make eye contact with her. I raced away from the drive-thru and crumbled. I was the mess of a person trying to make it home in her minivan before she lost her ever-loving mind.

Here's what I really want to say.

I'm grateful for my mental health struggles because I am uniquely equipped to guide my kids. 

I also hate my mental health struggles because I am acutely aware of hard things are for my kids. 

Despite my feelings about it, I must resist projecting my fears onto them. They are starting out with a lot more knowledge about themselves. They have two parents with the vocabulary and the understanding not to punish them for things they can't control. We support them the best way we know how.

All of our kids deal with anxiety to varying degrees, but since mood disorders run in the family, there are some medications that are not even safe for them to try, for fear of triggering any number of problems. We are also a houseful of empathetic people, so when one person has a bad day, it can quickly become a shockwave of negativity ping-ponging back and forth between siblings and parents. 

Until now, I have been silent about my kids' mental health, but it is such a large part of my everyday existence, that I thought it was time to start sharing how I'm coping. I cried today because I am still grieving the loss of control and free time in my life. I am beholden to homeschooling, doctor's appointments, and managing side effects. (I started homeschooling our youngest in the middle of the year because life was unbearable for him in a traditional school setting.) 

Every parent must slowly and continuously grieve their lost freedom to clogged toilets, science fair projects, and orthodontia costs. I'm referring more to the kind of grief that washes over a parent when her child falls in precisely the same mental traps she fell in. But I read Little House on the Prairie out loud to him and fed him organic carrots! she reminds the universe. She/I must accept that the trap had been set anyway.

My job is to use the skills I have to keep myself healthy while teaching our kids to find their own ways of coping. As our wonderful therapist says, "What smart thought can you tell yourself to replace that fear thought?" The smart thought for me today is that we will get through this and come out of it with even better strategies. 


Update: This post has been sitting in the queue for quite some time, as most posts do. I impose a rule on my writing. I don't share it until I've slept on it a while. I revisit and ask, "Is it truly helpful and worth sharing?" 

I didn't want to publish this without an additional ray of hope. The latest round of medication for my son is helping him. I know that can change again, but I'm grateful right now for the chance to see him function more fully for the first time. It's as if he was in a dizzying fog and it is lifting.

The moral of the story is to keep communicating with health professionals until you find the right combination of treatments. It has been 18 months since our son's diagnosis of Anxiety and ADHD. Each time we ruled out a treatment or medication, it was frustrating. Our options narrowed and we felt more desperate.

This morning my son said, "I feel like my brain is changing." He was upbeat, talking, writing lyrics, and just himself. 

Perfection


I have been deep in anxiety and depression for the last couple of weeks. It was a combination of difficult things and springtime. It might sound strange, but spring depresses me. I think it has something to do with the idea that everyone is "supposed" to be happy. I've been so deep that I nearly shut down a few times. I've been using all my trusted coping strategies and my newest one, too - art.

I'm not necessarily interested in the finished product. I'm simply trying to breathe in and out again. Picking up a pen to doodle, or a brush to swirl around in rich purple and blue mixes make my shoulders sink down to their natural happy place. 


Intricate patterns remind me that everything happens one small step at a time - even healing. 



Glorious expanses of blended color remind me of my place in the vast universe.




The second photo is to show the shimmer. As in daily life, it can be difficult to find the light, but if I look from the right perspective, I can see the light bouncing off the mica granules.



I have been sharing some photos of my art here and there on Instagram and Facebook to keep me connected to the world outside my house. That's another important coping mechanism: continuing to reach out, communicate, and participate in larger discussions. 

In the process of sharing my beginner's art, I discovered a nugget of truth. 

The only kind of perfection I seek is perfect acceptance.

Perfection of any other kind is boring, egotistical, and sets me up for certain disappointment. It keeps me running in circles when the finish line is just two feet away.


This one is my favorite because as I added more water to the paint mixture, the dots became lighter and so did I. It was unintentional symbolism or synchronicity. I call it Disappearing Anxiety.



It might also be called Acceptance.