writing

The Difference a Year Makes 


A few days ago WordPress (my blogging platform), notified me that it had been a year since I started my blog. Yesterday I got a nice little check from my regular writing gig that should cover Christmas gifts for all of my loved ones. 

Last year I was brainstorming, trying to figure out how to work from home after having a health crisis and with Benjamin needing more care again than he had since he finished cancer treatment. 

I looked at a few options, considered pursuing fitness training, but when all was said and done I knew that everything else had to take a back seat to my kids and my health. 

I had enjoyed blogging as a Fifth Third River Bank Run Road Warrior, and have been told time and time again that I should write a book about Ben, so that was my jumping off point.  I had previously started a book about Ben, but writing from that perspective felt wrong and I shoved my manuscript away and scrapped the book idea. 

But what if I wrote about being Ben’s mom?  From my perspective, parenting a child whose life has been a juxtaposition of devastating and miraculous, would that make a book?  

I decided to try. 

I didn’t have a working computer, so between my tablet and phone I typed almost 60,000 words. The task exhausted me, so after completing a draft of just the events, I set the book aside and pursued writing for more immediate results. 

My first yes was HuffPost, and one of my first articles there was a post that circulated the internet for months, the highlight of which was getting attention from George Takei. 

I then sent work into some other writing venues, and got a paid yes from Her View From Home. I became a Her View Writing Team member, and have enjoyed the challenge of writing for them, often from a different perspective than my own personal blog. (Go check them out and like the page, there’s some wonderful women writing there). 

Shortly after that my dear mother in law saw my plight, and decided to purchase a computer to make me a legit writer. Let’s just say that proofreading is a bit easier on a laptop screen than a tablet screen. The laptop has been a lifesaver!

Then, in September, out of the blue, a woman contacted me saying that she represented Shield Health Care and that she would like to pay me to be a regular writer for their blog about parenting kids with special needs.  The offer seemed too good to be true, but after investing the company, I found it legit and jumped in. This writing outlet has provided me with a steady stream of income from my own couch, and is the source of the previously mentioned check which will make Christmas shopping fun instead of stressful. 

This weekend I finally sat back down with the book, adding layers of story and details to the skeleton I had created. In the meantime I briefly had a publisher interested, but due to personal complications on their end (the company is new, and the founder had several personal crises in a row and wasn’t able to give the manuscript attention), we agreed to reconsider at a later date. As I write thus, I’m wondering if that date has arrived. 

What a difference a year makes. Writing was a twinkle in my eye last December, and now is a part time job with excellent potential. I’m generally skeptical about new years because it seems that every fresh start quickly becomes the next complicated and challenging chapter in our complex lives, but I truly am eager to see what 2017 holds for this pursuit. I don’t rightly know what to expect, after all, much of what has occurred has been entirely unexpected, but that’s just part of the fun if you ask me. 

At the end of the day, I give enormous credit to my upbringing. Growing up in a family that loves books and language and that sharpened my mind by reading and discussing great works is truly the origin of this story.  The written word is a beautiful creation, the appreciation of which was instilled in me from infancy. For that I can only credit my mom. Thanks mom. 

kindness

Does Kindness Really Matter?

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I was checking out at Target a couple of weeks ago, distracted, flustered and worried about getting my $10 gift card for purchasing $60 in diapers and getting home in time to get the boys off the bus. I wasn’t paying any attention to the woman checking me out until she said, “Are you Lee?”.

I paused, looked at her, and to my surprise, she was one of my many friends that I have never met.

*Brief digression* I have long participated in online communities for members of the adoption community, parents whose children have special needs, and more recently, writers. I have added many friends to my Facebook profile that I have never met in real life. People who don’t have this type of connection on the internet often fail to understand the depth and breadth of these friendships, but I’m here to tell you, they are entirely real and wonderful; especially for a socially anxious introvert.

Back to the story.

Knowing that I had been distracted by minor details, I panicked. Had I been treating this person the way I would want to treat her, now that I knew it was someone I had considered a friend for years? I mentally reviewed my demeanor, and though I fully admit that I wasn’t on my A game, I hadn’t mistakenly been a jerk to my friend.

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One of my core values is kindness. I am convinced that if everyone committed to being as kind as possible to everyone that the world would be a better place. In that brief moment that I checked myself, I resolved to re-commit myself to acting out kindness to the best of my ability to my fellow travelers.

Kindness matters.

Everyone has burdens on their back. Some have a few, light burdens, most of us have a moderate load, with times of heaviness, and some carry a constant, enormous load. With every interaction, we possess the ability to either add to the load of others by rude, unkind or blunt words; or take from the load with kindness, smiles and encouragement. Either way it costs nothing to give.

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Your own kindness benefits you as well, treating those you encounter with decency is one of life’s truly win/win scenarios. Just like smiling improves your mood, so does kindness. There is incredible power in giving tiny bits of yourself in acts of goodness.

With the holiday season afoot, it is certainly a time to spread goodwill and cheer. Yet many are struggling and stressed, making your simple act of kindness a profound contribution to their lives. Don’t take it lightly.

writing

A Sappy Post Celebrating Awesome Women (and Being Baffled at Bitches)


Idealist Lee here again.  As a sensitive person who was raised by a mother who imbued in me a respect for the feelings of others, I’m not very good at being mean.  I have my moments, to be sure, but when I’m mean, I wallow in regret for days, and it eats at me.  It can literally make me sense.

I will never forget one of my neighbors trolling me in real life.  It was over garage sale nonsense, and it happened to be mere days before Ben had his first Hirschsprung’s surgery.  I was fit to be tied in the first place, but wanted to follow through on the garage sale, and later found out that she was being bitchy because she gets a kick out of being a mean girl, and called me thin-skinned.  She happened to mention something to that effect to my husband, days later when I was up at the hospital with Ben, and let’s just say that he isn’t sensitive, thin skinned, naive, and she was the one who ended up butt hurt in the end.

So, yes, I’m naive, sensitive, and nice well past the point of fault.  All that to say, just like I fail to understand my neighbor who happens to love watching other women cower when she plays mean girl, I don’t get people being mean on the internet.

My Gilmore Girls post was pretty popular in my social media, so I threw it up on my HuffPost blog to see how it would do there.  Unsurprisingly, HuffPost put it up in their Women’s section, and on their social media.

Holy macaroly can women be mean.

I know it’s not great writing, it’s not supposed to be, it was for fun.  For grins.  From the woman who only ever makes fun of her own ridiculous self.  It was a little shout out to the others, who, like me, just don’t partake in pop culture.  I cannot for the life of me figure out why so many women would take the time to read something just to make a snotty, nasty comment.

Thankfully, I had to face some nastiness before when my Open Letter To The Guy At Target got went viral, but there’s something extra special about bitchy women.  They seriously go miles out of their way to be belittle another woman, when it would be far easier to simply go about their merry way and do nothing.

But I am choosing to turn this around.  A moment like this demonstrates the impeccable women who surround me daily.  My mother, mother-in-law, my sisters, my daughter and my friends.  Women who demonstrate the strength build each other up, standing by one another, and holding space.  Women who have full, rich, beautiful lives, and who don’t need the false high of putting someone down to feel good about themselves.  Women who compliment and support each other.

I have great women in my life.  Rather than sulking because some people feel happy finding the snippiest comment they can write, I celebrate the strong, lovely women who have an invaluable place in my life.  Thank you, each and every one.

 

writing

How Can I Write an Outstanding Book With A Blind Mind?

Picture this:  You’re writing a memoir.  In order to bring the reader along with you as you ride your roller coaster down memory lane, it’s crucial to use vivid descriptions of the numerous events you describe.  But you have pretty much zero visual memory.

Try to describe what the hospital room looked like…nada.

Try to describe your how your child looked…you draw a blank.

Your honeymoon?  Yep, nothing.

I have Aphantasia.  I lack the ability to visualize.  I read a book, and no movie plays in my head.  In fact, when an author spends a paragraph or two describing a setting or a character’s appearance, I skim because it’s just words to me.

Here I am, writing my heart out about some of the most poignant memories of my life, and I completely lack the ability to give the reader a mental picture.  I try to remember, I try to describe, and it feels contrived and artificial.  I’m preparing to edit my book into a second draft, and for the first time since deciding to do this project, I’m second guessing.  I’m concerned that my “blind mind’s eye” is too big of a hinderance to story telling, I’m worried that I can’t overcome this barrier, that I won’t be able to give my readers the story they deserve.

I’m going to give it a shot.  I’m going back in to revise my story and add in some of the details.  I’m not sure how it will turn out, but I’m thinking that if Beethoven composed masterpieces while deaf then I suppose it’s possible that I can maybe find ways to describe things that I cannot visualize.  My hope is that by being cognizant of this obstacle I will be able to work through it.  I might have to dig through old pictures or possibly even make up some of the visual details.  I mean, how hospital rooms look largely the same, right?

We’ll see.  I’m not giving up just yet.

 

 

parenting · writing

What is Your True Genius, and How Will It Be Revealed?

I was reading a book of quotes today and this one caught my attention. I redacted the word hosts, because I believe it applies nearly universally.

While I guess navigating complex medical and developmental issues isn’t a mishap, it has unveiled my true genius. I’ve gotta tell you, I’m a freaking rockstar when the chips are down.

I’m prone to laziness and half-assery, except when a fire is lit under me, and it takes either pressure or passion to light that fire. What could induce more pressure than a child you love in need?

I suppose you could even say I’m a superhero. You know, Clark Kent, just hanging around in my dopey glasses. Unnoticeable and more than a bit awkward and backwards.

But Lord help me, when that fire ignites nothing short of Kryptonite will slow me down.

I sometimes wonder what would have happened if I’d had 2.3 typical children. Would I ever have found my cape?

As Neville in the Harry Potter series, I was always plagued with self doubt. What am I made of?  Will I be able to stand when life falls apart?  I long suspected that when trials arose it would go down like that gym class baseball game where I finally managed to connect with the ball and make a base hit (after striking out dozens of times) just to have that cute, popular guy behind me hit a home run and lap me before I rounded third base.  (I still relive that day in my nightmares).

I hate that we’ve had to endure godawful trials, but standing here, looking at the stalwart confidence that resulted when life’s mishaps demanded my genius, I can pause and acknowledge that it was the valleys, not the peaks that sparked my evolution.

running · writing

When the Words Suddenly Run Out 

This is the fourth post I’ve started this morning, all of which resulted in no more than a paragraph or so before I felt stymied. 

I’m drawing a blank. My ideas aren’t even compelling to me, and that’s saying something. 

It feels like I have run out of words. 

Ironically I’m also in the midst of a running slump. Related?  Possibly. My best ideas are hashed out on my feet. 

So, I guess you get a break. 

I’m toying with jumping into “Hope Deferred” version 2.0 and giving the book a hefty revision after letting it age since spring. We’ll see. 

special needs parenting · writing

Standing up and Speaking out

I discovered it in middle school speech class, my love for speaking out about things that matter. I pursued my passion by taking every possible speech related class. One of my highest aspirations was becoming a motivational speaker. 


This aspiration became my job when I became and advocate for children in foster care who were lingering, waiting for families. I loved nothing more than stepping up in front of a congregation on a Sunday morning and moving the whole crowd with my words of passion on behalf of the waiting children.  Then my role changed, and I left the job, dissatisfied. 

Since then I’ve bounced around and been unsatisfied. Until I started writing. 

I have found my voice again, but in the written word. I never considered becoming a writer until a podcast I listened to challenged me to think of what my ultimate dream of success would be. When I outlined my dream, I realized that it was twofold. First would be encouraging other parents who were on similar paths to mine, and second was to be a voice about the disabilities that impact us and our resilience. 

It’s been almost a year since I made that first step, and decided to write a book. Since then I started blogging and have turned writing into somewhat of a vocation. I’m just beginning to make a little money on it here and there, but in other ways I’m gaining traction. 

Every time a parent contacts me after reading something I’ve written, my soul soars!  Indeed, the fact that my words have impacted people walking similar paths brings me incredible delight. Not only that but little by little opportunities arise for me to do more and more in my newly chosen vocation. 

I was recently told by someone I greatly admire that I’m too hard on myself and to hold space for myself in the same way I do for others. It came as part of a pep talk with a small side of scolding.  So I’m here to say that in my own little corner of the world I’m making a difference.  I say this not to brag, but as a deeply satisfied person whose life purpose is expanding.