Oh Dear or Is It Oh Deer?

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Morning greetings from my hillside as we left for the commute to JJ’s school today. I’m almost embarrassed to say this but I need to be accountable – I was sitting in my car checking for Pokémon, waiting for JJ, and didn’t even notice the deer. He pointed them out as he jumped in the car. It shows how preoccupied I am being with things not so productive. Ignoring nature in search of the virtual. Pokémon has to vanish.

I promised I’d have the first draft of my memoir finished by the end of summer. Then I changed to goal to when my writers group gathers again on Sept 16th. If I’m going to make that goal, I’ll need to keep my butt in chair and write 739 words a day, make sense of  the entire 90,000 words, and edit out about 10,000 words. Maybe that seems doable but the rate I’ve been writing the past month leaves me not so optimistic.  Heck, I haven’t even kept up this blog.

Meanwhile, tomorrow night I will attend a writing workshop. Some of my writing group will probably be there. My memoir teacher might ask how mine is coming along. Maybe it’s the push I need to get on with it. Or, maybe it’s another excuse to not spend the evening at the keyboard.

Accountability for August: Zero – stagnant at 73,000 words.

 

As The Shoe Drops

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I always say never get too comfortable when things are going well. It’s a recipe for disaster. With that kind of intro you might suspect that I’m going to tell a tale of woe but I’ll spare that for now. Let’s just say I got comfortable. My expectations went into overdrive. I should know better.

Face it, “sheep happens” says a dear friend. I’m not even sure where I am going with all of this. Another chapter in my memoir perhaps? A way to keep everyone guessing what comes next? A ploy to keep my readers asking? A plot to sell the book?

Whatever the motive is, life goes on. I seem to have a higher power who thinks I haven’t learned my lesson yet. Just one more adversity, and maybe she’ll get it?

The point is, I am still writing, I still plan to have my first draft done by September, and I probably have a new chapter. But wait – at some point we need to decide when the project is complete. Now I know why many people write more than one memoir. Another shoe drops and another story is born.

How many times have you re-written your story? How do you decide when it’s done?

Accountability: memoir word count is now 71312

 

 

 

#RecyclingLivesMatter

Recycling Lives Matter

Tired of embarrassing advertisements for Depends, cat stalking videos, internet scam clicks and hacked friend requests? Try a bit of Talking Soup. I selfishly recommend it because my article happens to be featured today. But, dig a little deeper beyond “My Son is Homeless” and find a treasure trove of stories on this free online magazine website, everything from health and love to weird and wild. All without ads!

Eight years ago Amir Soltani and Chihiro Wimbush began their crusade to document the lives of several homeless recyclers in West Oakland. If you have been following my blog, and especially my FaceBook page, you may be tired of seeing my posts begging you to watch the documentary, Dogtown Redemption. Just in case you haven’t seen it yet, the PBS broadcast will be online for only a couple more weeks. After that you can purchase a copy of it from the Dogtown Redemption website.

We can thank Amir for his dedicated and compassionate work with the homeless and Alliance Recycling. I owe much to Amir for giving me the courage to share my story and his encouragement to take it one step further with a memoir. It’s off to a good start but I’ll  admit I’m currently muddling around with a muse who seems to have vanished. So for now I practice the habit inspired by my recent online writing class – 20 minutes a day – just get something down. Anything. The muse will return.

Meanwhile…

TOMORROW: Join the conversation on Alliance Metals, poverty and housing in Oakland — Stop Oakland’s War on Recycling Protest on TUES 7/19 at 4PM at Oakland City Hall.

Kudos to Jill

wp-1467997845333.jpgThe local morning paper held a surprise today. Right there on the front page was a familiar face. Not the people and pets photo – the “Moving forward by looking to the past” article on the right hand side. I was so excited to see this article that I almost choked on my coffee.

Jill Morris teaches memoir classes. I am pleased to be a part of her advanced writer’s group which will resume this fall. She’s a fantastic teacher but for quite some time we wondered if she was ever going to get her memoir on the market. “It’s coming out soon,” she’d say. We waited patiently. Finally the release announcement came to my inbox.

I ordered “Eating the Walls Breaking free from the ghosts of the past” on Amazon, expedited delivery since I couldn’t wait another day – plus I was leaving on vacation and definitely needed to take it with me. If it were on Kindle, I would have read it that night. I am woefully addicted to instant gratification. Jill assures me it will be available on Kindle later. Meanwhile, I packed the paperback edition in my carryon and devoured it between beach visits. You know how people go to Kauai and come back with golden tans? Could I blame my lily white tones on this memoir?

The book is all that I expected from Jill. It’s a powerful and inspirational story of moving forward after the tragedy of her husband’s suicide. Her narrative is a fascinating portrayal of this journey with her two small children. Grief and humor cross the seas. I’ll be looking forward to her next memoir.

Now back to those classes Jill teaches. Her book is out. You know her style. Her encouragement and gentle critique will entice you to finish yours.

Circle Way

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Years ago, sometime in the 1990s, I had the privilege to attend the Women’s Dream Quest at Grace Cathedral. It was during this time of much strife and uncertainty that I discovered the labyrinth in this cavernous gothic cathedral. Not knowing what to expect I entered this sacred space nervous and scared but hopeful of finding a sense of spiritual peace. Sleeping bags, pillows and overnight bags lined up against one wall, eighty women gathered around the labyrinth for the opening ceremony.

I took my place in the circle, skepticism growing as we began with chants, songs and dance. Not being gifted with a pleasant singing voice or rhythm to dance I followed in awkward evolution hoping no one would notice I wasn’t verbalizing the words. When the time came to draw cards for smaller group assignments, I was relieved and yet worried knowing I would have to participate. I was assigned to the turtle group. My first thought was at least I can stay hidden within the shell.

We tossed the talking ball back and forth as each woman volunteered to reveal her purpose for being there. I waited to be last whereupon I blurted out, “I just want to sleep overnight in the cathedral.” It wasn’t exactly the truth but I wasn’t willing to share with these people I had met only a few minutes before. I’d have to sleep on it. That was okay.

After changing into our night clothes and having a light snack, we returned to the cathedral for the nighttime activities – pretty much whatever you chose to do – some art projects, meditation, blessings, journaling, walking the labyrinth. Not blessed with much artistic capability, the doll I made was simply a head with a purple robe. I still have her tucked away in my nightstand. As I snuggled into my sleeping bag on the hard concrete floor, the building was abuzz with action. Women walked, danced and crawled the labyrinth. I waited, wanting to walk the labyrinth in the dark peace of night. Soon the lights dimmed.

I slept for a bit, waking up to loud husky snores echoing from a cot on the other side of the pews. I wondered if the woman would be embarrassed if she knew. It was dark except for the candles around the labyrinth and only a few women were still wandering around. I picked up a small green rock that I had brought with me and headed to the labyrinth. Slowly I made the circuits into the center, dropped to my knees in meditation and made the journey out of the maze. I placed the rock on the altar.

At daybreak as the sun shone through the beautiful stained glass windows, Judith Tripp (our leader) strolled through the cathedral with her guitar singing Morning Has Broken. Soon she had a parade of women behind her. My sleeping bag was warm and I chose to stay cuddled up as I watched the procession in awe. When the call came for our first group, I stopped by the altar and picked up the green rock, surprised by its warmth in the chilly environment.

By noon we had finished up our small groups, had breakfast, and performed skits related to our animal cards. I felt blessed, at peace, and at ease – ready to make the journey to the hospital where my son lay deathly sick. I placed the healing rock in his hand praying that good health would return. He still has the rock.

I bring this up over two decades after the experience because I was checking the Grace Cathedral calendar for the labyrinth walk schedule. I was surprised to find that Judith Tripp has a Women’s Dream Quest this coming October. It might just be the nudge I need back into spirituality.

For more information see CircleWay and Grace Cathedral websites.