About writinganovel101

I am a writer. I am a waitress. In between there is just me! I have a journalism degree and have written on a freelance basis for numerous publications. I want to finish my novel now and take off the apron and put down my waitress tray.

Found Writing

joan and rita     I was going through my jumbled mess of decades-old photos and I came across this one of my mother’s two coworkers taken in 1969 in front of the LuAl dress shop where my mom worked as a sales clerk in Hoffman Estates where we lived. I’d seen the photo before but never, in all these many years, saw what my mother wrote on back of the photo. I think she may have enjoyed writing, but she died at 51 so she never had the chance after raising four children, and working outside the home, to find the time to write.

    She died when I was 19, and I never had the chance to know her as an adult, how she thought, her feelings or opinions. There wasn’t a lot of time in my mother’s life for creative self expression, so her notes on the back of this old photo was her way of sharing herself, to herself, however small the space. 

writing about new years on back     I get great joy just seeing the familiar handwriting of a loved one. Don’t you? Who even writes with a pen anymore?  There is nothing profound about what she wrote, but reading this was special to me as it was an insight into my mother’s yearnings, those secret places within her that I never had a chance to know.  It’s not just because she died early. Sometimes we don’t truly know our loved ones even if they live long lives. 

She wrote: The gal in the white dress is my manager Joan. The other gal is my pal “Rita”. She is a real “Auntie Mame” Style–Always 8 rings on &  every outfit has matching jewelry. She works part time for something to do — money no problem. Her home is 3 levels & beautiful. This is taken in front of the Lual by me. 

letting goAt a used book store I bought this book because I always need help learning to let go whether it be clothes that don’t fit, relationships that I’ve outgrown, or my  misguided attempt to control the world according to my standards because of course I always know best. As if! Anyway, it wasn’t until I purchased the book did I see someone had written in the opening blank pages. I’m pretty sure it was a  woman. Either that or a man very in touch with his feelings.print in book .

      Dated 1992, the woman wrote about frustrations with her ex husband and her two grown daughters. It went on for several pages. I felt as if I was snooping into someone’s journal. I wondered why this woman donated this book, maybe she didn’t remember she’d poured out all her anger and angst about her family relationships and threw it in the donation box. Or she had died and it was just piled with other stuff. She was trying so hard to let go of negative feelings. I felt for her.

    There is enough dramatic material here for a novel.  I wondered if the two daughters she writes about would want to read what their mother wrote?  Would it show a side of her they hadn’t known? It’s not all nice, and would it be too hurtful? I would find it fascinating to get a glimpse of the inner workings of a loved one’s mind. But that’s me. I’m sorta snoopy. 

     I didn’t know my mother wanted a three level house. I know she loved jewelry. We keep so much of who we are hidden. Nowadays with technology, I wonder where people are jotting down their feelings and thoughts beside just snippets on Facebook or other social media. And how truthful is what we post on Facebook?  How tiring it can get to portray life as perfect. I’m guilty of it, too. 

chrissyMy long time friend, Chris Lewis, lost her husband in December. She was looking through his papers as she is preparing a dedication speech she will give when the emergency room in Boulder, Colorado is dedicated to Paul next month. He spent 32 years there as both a doctor and an administrator before his untimely passing. She found a short piece he had written about change many years ago for a management class which she showed me recently.

    He compared our journey in life to a captain navigating a ship on a sometimes bumpy sea. Boy oh boy.  Paul could have had a second career as a writer. I can’t do the piece justice through explanation.  Finding it brought Chris some comfort, or so I hope. He wrote how change in life is inevitable and yet we must still go forth on the seas of life, beneath the stars, and move forward, keeping sight of the shore, yet looking toward the open waters. Something like that. I was inspired by the words he left behind because what greater change is there than death.  

women working in shop

I so often hear people wishing their deceased relatives had written down stories about their lives. I wish that too. But, however small, I have these few words written by my mother and all those old photos to help keep her memory alive. I can’t let go of my old photos. Not yet. Someday. 

    On this one she wrote Christmas Lual shop. Aren’t they all so fashionable in the hot styles from 1970? Love that fringed vest. 

On the back she said the woman on the left was Joan. We remember her. Betty with the bouffant is in the middle. . And then her dear friend, Rita, on the right. About Rita she wrote: My girlfriend. In her 50s. She has 6 grown children. One son in Vietnam. She wears 1/2 glasses.

   In the corner of the photo she wrote: See the champagne bottle on the counter for Christmas Eve. I hope the gals enjoyed that bottle of champagne and made a toast to all the possibilities for 1970. And that Rita’s son returned home from Vietnam and that woman reconciled with her daughters and that Paul Lewis will always be remembered for his good works. 

     The stories of our lives matter. Keep sharing them. 

 

 

  

 

 

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Flower child

daffadols      I am a bit obsessed with buying flowers. If I had the money, I would like to fill my entire house with vases of flowers so that every where I looked I would see roses or irises or cheerful yellow daffodils like those pictured above on my dining room table which brighten my house and my mood. They are just so yellow and happy.

Flowers can get expensive and I blame my flower habit on James B. Conant High School where I spent four years of my teenage life both loving and hating the place at the same time. Some numb nuts in school administration, can you sense my unresolved bitterness,  thought of a brilliant idea where once or twice a year flowers would be delivered to the classrooms all at the same hour. This was in the 1970s and we were all pretending no one was gay, and women were just starting to take off bras and burn them and fight for rights, so it was an unsaid rule that only boys could buy the girls the flowers. What a set up for rejection. Apparently, the adult who devised this evil plot was thinking only of profit and not of the heartbreak afflicted upon the girls who didn’t get a flower.  Like me.  Not one flower. In four years. Do you need some tissue to dry your tears?

cafeteria

I know. Build a bridge and get over it as my writer friend Karen says. Decades have passed and why am I still remembering the disappointment?  The rejection. I should be done with this, but for some reason I can still see myself sitting in a classroom (of course I’m very precious and kind and sweet because after all this is my memory) waiting and hoping by some miracle one, just one, a flower would have been sent for me. Sigh.

Oh how I wanted a flower, just one flower, to lovingly carry all day long like the other girls. Of course I wasn’t the only girl not to get a flower but hey I was a teenager and it was ALL about me. I wanted to bring my flower into our cafeteria which I took a photo of when I visited there a few years ago. See dismal photo above. I don’t think they understood the concept of windows and high ceilings in those days. It looks like the Arizona prison I visited while covering a story on inmates when I worked on a small town newspaper.

girls from school Oh wait. Sorry about that. My high school wasn’t that bad. I went to school with these smart and beautiful women and had a lot of fun. A lot of laughs. Actually the women look like a bouquet. And I like them all even if they did get flowers.

I can still remember girls strolling through the halls carrying bouquets of flowers from class to class and then putting the flowers on their desks. I had only my books which actually was way more important than any guy liking me enough to send a flower, but tell that to my 16 year-old self.  How smug those girls looked as they sat with their colorful declarations that they were appreciated, accepted and,  here’s the bottom line, loved. I had no one who wanted to give me a flower and therefore I was a loser. Okay I am being dramatic. Who knows what problems my classmates were going through in their own lives that flowers couldn’t heal. And I could care less now about anyone, any man, buying  me flowers. Been there and done that. Flowers are easy to buy for myself and I can pick out exactly what I want.  Not a big fan of carnations.

And yet, it still bothers me. Go figure. This really has nothing to do with actual flowers. I realized that when last week an editor said a short story I wrote will be published in May in an on line journal from all places, Dublin. And I thought someone in Dublin likes me!  Someone even far away across the ocean in Ireland likes me. And once again I was a teenager sitting in high school except now I had my flower. An acceptance letter.

That very next day I got a rejection letter from another publication. Someone didn’t like me. I have to get over this I thought. No matter how much publishing success I get, and I have had quite a bit, it is never enough. It will never be if I’m always hoping to be told by someone else that I’m a writer. I would need to carry around a big bouquet of acceptance letters with me every day. How the world views us is never as important as what we think about ourselves. Of course my teenage self hadn’t yet learned that. But my adult self needs to remember that truth.

Flowers,  acceptance letters, or whatever we might wrongly believe validates our existence on this planet, is never as important as knowing our own self worth and, cliche as it sounds, loving ourselves.

deb in kitchen

Finally, I must end with this photo I took of my friend Debbie Kraft when we visited Conant High School a few years ago for our reunion. We had Home Economics together where we learned how to prepare food for the families we would one day never have. I get teased all the time about how I never like to cook,  and I have to thank Debbie for saving me from the rigors of the kitchen.

Once during class I was taking a pan of hot chicken out of the oven and she said, “You can see your underwear when you bend over.” And I dropped the chicken and grease splattered all over and our teacher got mad as I  stood to adjust my mini skirt.  Never wanted to cook again in my life.  Another memory. So many, they pile up as time passes, and just like flowers best to pick and choose the one that brings the most joy.

 

 

The Joy of Food

happy book 2     At my writer’s group last week the prompt was to write five things that make each of us happy. Each person’s list included at least one mention of food or drink she enjoyed. I was the only one who didn’t mention food likely because five nights a week I feed people in my work as a server.  It would be like a person who works eight hours a day sewing pants in a garment factory wanting to think about seams,  needles and thread on her day off.  Enough is enough. 

     I once had a therapist who said the work I do as a server was so very important because people need food to survive. Hmmm… Was working as a waitress more important than when I was an ESL teacher or a newspaper reporter or spent a few summers while in college in a Denver park watering the flowers and grass? (I loved that job) Maybe.  People of all ages and sizes and nationalities and income levels come into the restaurant where I work with one thing in common — hunger.   Perhaps tips would be higher if people looked at servers as sustaining life.  Seriously, I understand food can do more than sustain life. It creates  joy. And who doesn’t like the taste of joy?

date nut bread    Date nut bread. That would make me happy. My mother would bake date nut bread once or twice a year.  Just the smell made me swoon with anticipation. And I didn’t even like dates that much. But I loved her and her bread and  it’s sweet crunchy taste, and I would give the world to eat some of her bread again. I’m sure the last time I ate her date nut bread, all those years ago, I appreciated it even though I didn’t know it would be the final time she baked the bread. That is why it’s important to cherish the food our loved ones prepare. It could be the last time we get to munch on their edible creations.

In truth, I’m not a foodie,  a person who derives great joy from preparing and sampling a variety of food, but I do find humor in some of the people I serve.

ice berg lettuceThe other night a woman I waited on said she was allergic to iceberg lettuce. I had to control myself from laughing. I respect people’s allergies. Truly I do. One out of three tables I wait on has some problem with food allergies, but iceberg lettuce?  Just in case I might sound heartless to this woman’s plight, let me add she proceeded to order a salad. With everything, all sorts of greens, but iceberg lettuce. Which comes to why I still like being a server. I laugh every day at work. Every day. People are fascinating and funny and even when they can annoy me with their demands and even cruelty, I still find the human race to be both perplexing, worthy of love and  never boring. chicagoI waited on a young couple the other night who were visiting from Chicago. Sweet couple. Also, I love this photo of my hometown’s skyline. Anyway, the man wanted ketchup on his pizza. He was from Poland originally and he said in Poland everyone puts ketchup on their pizza. Who knew! With sex and food I make no judgments on likes or dislikes. However, the man said when he last requested ketchup on his pizza at an Italian restaurant the server got so insulted he brought the ketchup but never returned to the table.  I brought him as much ketchup as he wanted. We all find our happy in different ways.

candy storeOne more thing I would put food-related on my happy list. I’d like to go back in time and visit my grandparents at the candy store they owned. I bet they would let me have all the candy I wanted without having to spend a penny. Oh that candy would taste so sweet! I would want one of those candy necklaces and bubble gum.  I don’t care how sticky my neck would get, either. They sold the store before I was born. Talk about missed opportunity. 

women happyFinally, I think this should be required reading for all men.  I’m sure there has got to be at least one chapter about food. At the very least, it’s a good place to start. 

 

 

 

 

Family Histories

 Storyteller

    Writers are storytellers. Plain and simple.  Call us authors, poets, essayists, but at the core is a story.  We are all storytellers whether we write them down or not. People tell stories of what they have seen, experienced, who they met and, ultimately, what matters to them. Whether making figures on a cave wall to show animals hunted as the ancient peoples once did, or a novel written using the last technological advancements, stories form the basis of our lives.

     Many of our stories start right within the walls of our childhood homes. My friend Laura got me the storyteller necklace for my recent birthday. She reminded me why I write. I always did love a good story. My parents would sit with my Grandma Elickson at her kitchen table in Chicago and talk for hours, sharing stories of the past, of family member long dead, of how the city once was with its street cars and less people.  While I didn’t sit there and listen as I was a kid wanted to go play grocery store in my grandma’s cupboard, I sensed the need they had to gather together as family, share food and stories. It was important to them and provided nourishment for the body and soul. They spoke of what they had loved. 

    Writers use family stories in their writing. Some decide to fictionalize the stories, changing names and other identifying details. This can be safer and ensure you are still invited to Thanksgiving dinner at your aunt’s house. Other writers want the story to be a memoir, the truth of what happened as best  as can be recalled. In other words, telling it like it was. Naming names. 

   Getting together with family or dear friends can provide a treasure trove of information  though I’ve found people remember the past differently.  That’s fine. Duplicate stories would be boring.  We all have our own story. That’s the beauty of writing a memoir. It’s the truth as we remember.

    Photos are often a wealth of memory triggers. Recently a family member I had never met contacted me on Facebook. It’s always nice when someone contacts you that you actually want to find you. 

grandma with the manThat is my Grandma Elickson, my mother’s mom, in the middle, and David Le Clare, the relative who contacted me.  His grandfather was my grandma’s brother.  He and his family visited my grandmother  in Chicago a few years before she died. It’s always odd to see a new photo of a close relative who died so many years ago. I’ve seen the same family photos of my grandma again and again.  She was an important part of my childhood. She looked different in this photo. 

My grandma’s hair had more poof and her glass frames are bigger than I ever recalled.  It’s her but different. This was the 1980s and I had  moved to Colorado.  I didn’t see my grandma much after that. Seeing the photo felt strange. As if she wasn’t the grandma I remembered.  I had never met David and here she was with strangers.  I recognized the bright yellow walls of her living room, but it wasn’t until I saw the painting tucked above everyone’s heads. In the left corner. And then I felt as if it was my grandma. 

dashing through the snowI have that painting in my office today. It was painted by my older sister Marilee. When I visited my grandma I would always admire the painting. On the back it says, in either my grandma’s or my mother’s writing — Painted by Marilee Brent when she was a little girl.

I always liked looking at that painting while sitting at my grandma’s kitchen table eating her chicken soup with noodles and fat carrots, or smelling the coffee she  made when we visited or staring at the red glass candy jar hoping I might actually take more than one piece without her noticing. She was particular about that candy.

Most of all, I wanted to be in that sleigh.  Dashing through the snow beneath warm blankets, with sleigh bells jingling, traveling to a cozy house beyond the blue mountains.  I have no idea how I ended up with the painting. I don’t remember telling my sister, or anyone, I wanted it. Which is why if you have older relatives alive and are interested in writing family history make sure questions are asked before it is too late. I will make a point to ask my sister in between sharing details of our latest ailments. 

Thanks to this never before seen, by me at least, photo,  I began to remember all sorts of details about my grandma. She played the piano, she had a luxurious red Oriental rug in her immaculate living room and a cupboard full of canned goods where I liked to pretend I was a grocery store clerk. Which is ironic because when I go to the grocery store now I always think I could never do that job. I don’t even like grocery shopping. Now that I remember each week! Most of all I remembered how much I loved my grandma. I sorta forgot. 

There are many books  and classes for those wanting to tell stories about family. Here’s a great quote for this book show below. “Remember that there is nothing higher, stronger, more wholesome and more useful in life than some good memory, especially when it goes back to the days of your own childhood, to the days of your life at home. You are told a lot about your education, but some beautiful sacred memory, preserved since childhood, is perhaps the best education of all.” 

–Alyosha, in Fyodor Dostoevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov

memory writingWhether just for personal reasons, or to share with children, or to publish and become world famous, the act of telling and our writing our family stories is powerful. I am convinced of that. I recently went to a family history class where African-American women stood and told stories of their grandmothers and their stories remain with me and broaden my perspective of life.  

von RathsDavid was kind enough to send me this photo, too, of my grandma’s brother’s band.  My grandma’s maiden name was Von Rath.  I wish I had been alive to go listen to his band which had quite a variety of musical instruments and some pretty snazzy sweaters, too. Too bad there is no video recordings, but in those days no one carried with them devices to record each minute of life. Which actually is rather precious. People just experienced rather than chronicled life. But we do have this photo.  Researching family history can bring forth a host of stories about the past, both surprising and wonderful and maybe even a bit shocking. It’s your history. Embrace it. Fit the puzzle pieces together if for nothing else to make you understand you better. 

birdFinally here is another painting I have in my office that my sister painted. Her favorite thing to paint is birds.  Because I live in Arizona, she painted me a cactus wren. Quite a hearty little bird to survive desert summers.  Marilee has never visited the desert, but I have a little piece of her right here with me each time I look at her paintings. It’s my history with her. 

 

 

 

Saying Yes to Life

peru      Last week on a flight to Denver where I was traveling to attend a memorial service for a  friend’s husband, Paul, who died suddenly, I met a woman going to Peru. She was nervous as she hadn’t been out of the country since a child, and now she was going to stay for a month in Peru where her son was studying medicine. I was on my way to a ceremony honoring a doctor who had died after spending many years saving lives in an emergency room in Boulder, Colorado. She was on her way to an adventure.  Which was fitting as Paul loved adventure. He skied, he biked, he hiked, he surfed, raised a family and he loved deeply which is the greatest risk of all. In fact, before he died he had planned in his retirement to drive with his wife to the tip of Argentina. It seemed fitting I met a woman who was on her way to South America.

Though we’d just met, and because tight airline seating fosters closeness, we talked about the importance of living life to the fullest. What we want, after all, lies on the other side of fear.  After I arrived in Colorado, things got hectic and I forgot about the woman until she sent me the photo of the condo she was staying for a grand total of $300 per month.  I posted it above. She said yes to life. I look forward to hearing about her Peruvian experiences to inspire me to say yes, too. 

skyThis is how the sky looked when doves were released into the air following Paul’s  memorial service. (They were homing doves so they were trained to return lest you worry that that the beautiful white birds might be harmed.) The Rocky Mountains in the distance provided the backdrop as we all sang a song with repeated lyrics “fly away.” Next was  food and dancing, drink, talking, laughing and, of course, tears.  Paul will never get to be there to watch his recently born granddaughter grow up. We all flew in from different places, traveling many miles by plane or car, to be together for the purpose of honoring Paul who his son said lived, and died, with “no regrets and no grudges.” A life well lived. 

Then it was over. Just like that. Life goes on. I think, though, that for those of the many who attended the memorial such a sudden loss  creates revaluation of one’s own life. There is a deadline for each of us and it gets tighter as we get older. Not to be too much of a downer but, hey, this ain’t no dress rehearsal. 

vision board

The weekend before the memorial service, I made a vision board as I do each year. I created it in a group setting and afterwards each woman talked about her vision board.  (Guys never come to these things. I think that’s a shame.) I kept thinking about the people who have passed away, and what a precious privilege to be alive, to have the opportunity to cut and paste (and eat potato salad and cookies) with a group of women who all have dreams and goals they hope to achieve in 2018. 

I won’t go into specifics, but when I look back on past year’s vision boards I am amazed that somehow my subconscious was able to predict future events. Just saying! Give it a try. It can’t hurt. Visions boards give one permission to think big and say yes to dreams.  I chose HEALTH as my word of the year because health is our greatest wealth. Better even than that silver car I oh so badly want. 

tea leaf pictureWhile I was in Colorado, I was asked to do some tea leaf readings. There I am  pouring tea. Fooled you! This a picture that was in our room in Bruges, Belgium. I wished I could have slipped it into my suitcase! The darling goat, old -fashioned record player (the proper name escapes me) the women’s long dresses, and of course the spotted dog all made me wish I could jump into the old photo. But most of all the photo appealed to me because it symbolized the importance of  connection. I like to think these women were all good friends, perhaps even sisters. (Maybe the guys were in the background somewhere having whiskey!)

Last week, though sad, was also for me filled with  sweet and special moments reconnecting with friends from both my lifetimes in Chicago and Colorado.  Paul was blessed with so many friends, and I realized how blessed I have been with friends, too. Here is me and Debbie Kraft, who I have known since we were both pom-pom girls  in high school, and our friend Sandy at the memorial service.  Paul was married to Debbie’s younger sister, Chris.  

jewish center

In the end all that matters is love. I think that was in a Beatles song. True but overdone…So how about a quote from the guru Ram Dass taken from a sacred Hindu Text:

    Human existence begins with the belief that we are separate, then moves on to trying to find our way back to the One of which we are not just a part, but who, in fact, we are. 

Or if that quote doesn’t resonate with you here’s another by Ram Dass: 

When you are already in Detroit, you don’t have to take a bus to get there.

We have everything we need. Now go for it! Happy New Year! 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Belgium –the good, the bad, the quirky

bruge apartment     Adorable, right? One of the many cunningly charming old building in Bruges that have been made into a bed and breakfast. Ah — but wait. See that open window on the very top floor? That was the room where my friend and I stayed. What you can’t see are the winding, teeny-tiny, dark stairs that one must climb to reach that attic apartment.  

The first time I made it to the top with my knees still intact,  I decided I would just have to live in Bruges the rest of my life for fear of the climb down.  What you also don’t see in the photo is the downstairs room, narrow chairs and thin tables, where breakfast was served each day. I felt like Goldilocks, as if I’d break the too little chair any moment. The owners, a stern couple that likely moonlighted as detention officers,  watched every morsel of food one might take from the small buffet as if money was being taken from their pockets with each  piece of toast or dab of jam.  Still, the view from that attic room was lovely especially after a glass of wine.

roof top  I could regal you with dozens of picture-postcard like photos showing Belgium such as this one I took from on top of a castle in Ghent. (Requiring an even steeper climb on twisty stairs. I started when the sun was out and it was setting by the time I reached the top.) But I won’t because I recall  one dreadful afternoon many years ago at a family gathering. This was  in the days when people filmed and then watched home movies on a projector. The stone age.   I was forced to sit and watch a relative’s trip to Yellowstone. After an hour, I hoped an avalanche would bury the car, or a bear eat the tent, or someone might slip and fall into a bubbling hot spring. One more photo of an idyllic mountain setting, and I thought I’d cry for mercy. Boring with a capital B.  

Seriously, travel is glorious and life changing, and Belgium is a fascinating place  with breathtaking churches, chocolate shops and picture-perfect cafes. We have all seen enough photos of Europe to understand that. Just Google Europe. As much as I enjoyed gazing upon swans floating serenely in stone canals, it’s the quirky stuff that I found memorable. 

cigarette machineA cigarette machine. An icy rain was chilling us to the bone in Bruges, so we escaped inside one of the many small cafes.  I had a glass of red wine to warm up, and  we sat beside this European-decorated  cigarette machine.  I felt transported back in time to 1977.  I was working as a bartender at the Back Woods Inn in Denver. I would buy the Marlboro Lights I smoked then from the restaurant’s cigarette machine. I don’t smoke anymore, but if I did I would have had to buy a pack just because I could.

swap meetNo this wasn’t taken at the Phoenix Swap meet. One of the most fun times I had in Brussels was going to the swap meet.  I know. I could do that in the United States, but this was European stuff! Junk and treasures, everything from ratty fur coats to furniture to, as you can see, china tea sets.  See that painting smack in the middle, the one with the blue sky and white puffy clouds?  I really wanted to take that home with me.  It depicted a small village that looked like Belgium except everyone in the painting looked as if they were dressed for a Shakespearean play. Alas, there was no way I could get it on the airplane.  Instead I bought some duty free chocolate at the airport. I know. Boring. Well at least I can look at this painting in the photo. Sort of. 

Then there was this skeleton of a whale I happened upon in the back of a big church in Ghent. I looked for some explanation, a placard, a brochure, about this skeleton  just dangling from the high ceiling. Nothing. There was one elderly man sitting at the front of this giant, almost spooky, dark church. He was the greeter, but he didn’t smile. 

whale

Apparently it is suppose to signify the connection between  science and religion. And the people of Ghent are very proud of it for we met a young woman later who gushed about the whale. One thing is certain. I’ve never seen a whale skeleton in a church before. I felt as if I was in the Museum of National History of Chicago. Except in a church. I used to love to go to the museum on school field trips. Once me and my best friend, Gloria, wore identical outfits for a field trip there. But I digress. 

I wanted to post a photo of the cobblestone streets. Except I didn’t take one as I was too busy  dragging a roller suitcase across rocks of all shapes and sizes. Those who dislike walking on uneven surfaces,  might want to stick to cities that were built after cement and asphalt was invented. Whenever that was. Cobblestones might look sweet, but can be brutal on the legs. 

One of the best benefits of travel as a writer is how certain images stay with us and we can pluck them from our memory and use them some day in our work.  Taking photos help the memories stay alive.  On yet another rainy, grey day, we went to yet another ancient, big church. In one room off to the side, I saw an interesting sculpture. It had a bearded naked man with wings, a skeleton flying, and a big coin. Who could pass that up? The room was empty, cold and silent. A bit spooky. 

Then I saw a man.   If you look in the far left corner on the bottom you can see the back of his head. I paused just a moment, snapping a quick photo. The room was at least three times this big but I didn’t want to disturb him with  more photos.  As I left I couldn’t help wonder about the man. He didn’t turn when I entered.  His head never moved.  He just sat there looking straight ahead at the altar. I wondered why he was there in the middle of the afternoon on a work day. All alone in that big room with sorta creepy statues looking at him. 

man staring at the altear

I made up all sorts of scenarios. Travel does that to you, experiences are heightened. Later, I saw the man leaving the church. I recognized him from his profile and coat. He was fairly handsome with a serious, thin face, and dressed well, a red scarf wrapped carefully around his neck. Someday he might show up in a story I write where I will answer the questions I had about the stranger with my imagination. 

boatI have to end with a photo of a restaurant in Ghent. We didn’t eat there because we were just floating by on a tour boat, but if I ever move to Belgium I would like to work at this resturant just because it looks completely different from where I work now. Not a cactus in sight.

And, maybe, this is the patio where that whale washed up. As much as travel can be a lot of work, it is also priceless fodder for the writer’s imagination. 

I lied. I said I would end with the resturant photo but I have to include a photo of me with my blue umbrella. My friend, Kay, gave me this umbrella after we got caught in a rainstorm in Denver. I don’t get a chance to use it much in Phoenix, basically  never, but I take it on  my travels and I always send her a photo of when I use it to my friend Kay. It rained a lot in Belgium. It’s my own Umbrella Diaries. And so here I am in front of a Brussels church pretending I am Mary Poppins. 

me with umbrella

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Liking Rejection

       I’m convinced that any writer who says they like rejection is lying.  Let me clarify.  I admire the writer who puts on the brave face and says they accept rejection. I just they think are fibbing to make themselves feel better. Some writers justify rejection by saying each time their  work is stamped NO that means a YES is that much closer.  Maybe. Or not. 

rejection letterA writer friend recently emailed me saying she had received the nicest rejection letter she had ever received. She sent it to me.  It’s not the one pictured above, but it was similar with kind words and encouragement.  Still, it was a rejection letter. To me it’s like being stung by a bee and saying, “that was the best bee sting I ever received.”  Imagine if you really wanted to date someone, some sexy intelligent someone, (such as George Clooney when he was still single) and he or she said you have favorable qualities but, well, not good enough for me. Not ever in this lifetime. 

I have no rejection letters to post here because I have destroyed all of them I have ever received. I read Stephen King saved his and papered his office with rejection, but my ego is not as strong, and I’m not as confident. We have all read stories of writers suffering multiple rejections, J.K. Rowling to name one, and then hitting the big time. Sorry. I  don’t find hope in those stories because I think of all the writers I met who had talent and who never got published and gave up.  Rejection is like an arrow to the writer’s fingers. Or can be.

rejection letterI saved an acceptance letter I received way back in 2005. I even made notes on it which of course mean nothing to me now, but I can’t bring myself to throw out this old letter accepting a  short story I wrote.  One can’t live on prior success forever.  Yet I don’t toss it into the trash as I have all my rejection letters. Perhaps it’s because I don’t have enough acceptance letters. 

pom pom girlsHigh school was one big lesson in rejection. And some success. I remember my junior year oh too well. I tried out for the pom pom squad and didn’t make it. I was devastated when I read the list of names and saw mine missing. Oh there must be a mistake! Nope.  The agony of defeat. I made the squad the next year, along with my friends Debbie and Gloria,  but that junior year I was rejected haunted me. There were many more rejections in high school, from snubs from girls I wanted to be friends with to boys that didn’t ask me out, to teacher’s disapproval. High school should have made most of us a pro in rejection. 

Many years have passed, and yet  when my writing gets rejected I feel as if I’m 16 again and told I’m not “good enough” to shake my pom poms.    That I am not worthy enough to wear a blue and white uniform and saddle shoes. (I did love those saddle shoes. They were fun to polish.) Why haven’t I learned to brush off rejection?  Not everyone likes me. I don’t like everyone. And yet why in the world do I think everyone should like my writing?

I might not enjoy rejection, but I need to understand that it exists. That it is real. It will not go away. Ever. For any of us. Not until we die. Especially not if we are striving to achieve a goal, whatever it might be. 

I turned to my Treasury of Women’s Quotations for help from successful women. Girl Power!  My idol Dolly Parton helped me. She said “the way I see it, if you want the rainbow you gotta put up with the rain.” I adore Dolly. 

And wouldn’t you know it today on my way to the park to walk my dog, Darla, it rained and in the sky lo and behold —  a rainbow. Which in dry Phoenix,  where it hadn’t rained in several weeks, is a miracle in of itself.  Then I sat down to write and found a quote by Abigail Van Buren, also known as Dear Abby. I used to always read her column in the Chicago Sun Times when I was in high school. 

Abby  said, “if you want a place in the sun, you have to put up with a few blisters.”

Rejection might blister our beliefs in our dreams, but if we can believe Dolly’s rainbow is just around the corner, even in the driest of places in our lives, we will be too busy striving for our pot of gold to let rejection stop us. I still don’t plan on saving my rejection letters. I’m not that grown up yet.