“We trade the magic to learn how to create the illusion.” -Joe Clifford
As young readers, we found ourselves escaping into various worlds created by our favorite authors. Narnia. Camelot. Middle-earth. We walked through fantasy lands in search of nothing more than adventure and story.
As we discovered our own words, and began to believe that our stories were worth telling, we found ourselves reading the same books again, only this time we were searching for something more, something hidden between the lines that stained the page, the visions that bloomed in our minds. Instead of asking who,what,where or when, we toyed with why, and how.
We wanted to understand how the author got from point A to point B, and why he chose either point to begin with. We started to dissect the stories, stripping away the colorful layers of adjectives, exposing the veins with actions coursing through them, and studying the organs, both minor and major so that we could understand the anatomy of the story. And in doing so, we began to hone our craft, and create our own magic.
Perhaps the only magician we have is the artist. -Anais Nin
We are master magicians. Page performers. Word wizards. It’s who we are. It’s what we do.
I’m off to cast a spell on some unsuspecting characters now.
One of the first sessions was with Joe Clifford, author of December Boys, Junkie Love and Lamentation, to name a few. He focused on the importance of knowing the setting in order to create truth in your writing. The details will then give verisimilitude to your work.
He challenged us to create a piece using the setting of the ranch. Here’s mine:
Go Big or Go Home
I am sitting on the floor of a quaint Texas ranch house decorated in the finest Asia has to offer. Above Panasonic, the god of TV, sits an ornately carved statue of Buddha guarded by two Chinese dragons. Each wall offers an escape into another world. Hanging wooden masks seem to poke their heads through the veils of time and space merging two unlikely cultures. A bull’s filigreed skull hangs above the doors exiting to the front porch reminding me that I am in Texas.
Once outside the sound of a distant gunshot announces the symphony of late afternoon birds trilling alongside the chuffing of the resident horses, and the chirping of the crickets that lie hidden among the pines. A naked oak dips her moss covered limbs to me in the whispering breeze—an invitation to be here now. I feel an urgency take hold of me – an aching to let this peace soak into my pores—a repository for the days to come.
I close my eyes and I am nowhere and everywhere at the same time. This moment is a big piece of a small part of me that has been crying out for a place to belong. I am embraced by my tribe, both human and wooden.
If Texas is a place where everything is bigger, I must be colossal. The tree soaked landscape surrounds me and yet I tower above it all. I am a tall tale waiting to be told. I am big and I am home.
Stay tuned for more writing tips, and stories from the retreat.
There is a place I know that feels a little too much like home. It’s a house of mine I rent from time to time, but it isn’t home. I’ve visited it so many times that I know it well.
It could easily become my home – if I let it.
But that is something I won’t do.
Each time I visit I struggle to leave; there is a familiarity that is comfortable, like a warm hug. But that hug quickly becomes a smothering embrace, threatening to dissolve me.
I go to this place kicking and screaming, fighting against it, and yet, I continue to show up.
I don’t like this part of me – the part that visits this place. But the older I get the more I realize that it’s just who I am. I am a person who lives in two separate places at any given time. I am a person who puts on a smile while I am at my home (as much as I can), but who wears no masks at my other house.
The other house is a house of darkness where no masks are needed because there is no one else there to be bothered by my countenance.
The other house is desolate, lonely, and dark. Hardly a place that a person would choose to visit. Instead, it seems to choose me. In some kind of Amityville-esque way, it haunts me and consumes me.
Thankfully I have a home – a real home – filled with those I love who wait for me. I worry that one day they will choose to close the door and leave me stranded in the echoing hallways of my other house, having grown tired of my extended, and frequent vacant-tions.
Here’s what I want them to know.
I see you trying to figure me out and help me and “fix” me. And I am grateful that I mean that much to you, but there is nothing you can do. The darkness is in me, and I am the only one who can fix the broken switch.
And I. Am. Trying. This is not a place I want to be. Know that. Above all else, know that.
Being who I am I feel too much. I think too much. I bruise too much.
Sometimes life is just too much, and I feel like I’m suffocating.
That doesn’t mean I want to die.
In fact, it’s just the opposite. I want to live. God how I want to live.
I want to be the free spirit I am. To explore and dream and create and shine.
But there are moments in my life that break me. And these are the moments that send me to my house to be still. To retreat. To repair.
This year Christmas will be very different in our family. For the first time in almost 19 years I don’t have to do as much sneaking around. Before your mind wanders to a wonderland that is clearly not G-rated, it has nothing to do with another man. Well, it kind of does – another man and an elf.
The magic began 18 years ago in a flurry of glitter and, well, more glitter, when we celebrated Jake’s very first Christmas. And from the very first sprinkle of those silvery star pieces, I was hooked because you can’t have magic if you don’t have glitter.
The build-up to Christmas was always epic, and, quite frankly, stressful. Did I spread enough glitter? Did I read all the stories I should have? Have I imbued my son with enough Christmas cheer to last through all the year?
It seemed that each year a new tradition was added on to the growing list. And as stressful as it all was making sure that we didn’t leave anything out, seeing the look of wonder on Jake’s face made it all worthwhile every single time.
And then his little Einstein brain started to question things. He was eight. I had a brief period of mourning, and then I got pregnant with a new believer to take his place. Just for the record, that’s not why I got pregnant, it just happened to work out that way.
Unfortunately, now my youngest, Nick, age 10, no longer believes. And since I no longer have my baby pocket, all I can do is accept the fact. So this year, Mario, the house elf, is no longer magic. Nick is fully aware that we would place him in his positions before we went to bed. However, now that he knows our trickery he says it makes more sense. There were several times that Mario failed to move during the night. Maybe because Mom had a glass or three of wine and forgot…who knows. Now Mario moves when any of us remember that he’s even around. The lack of magic and sneakery has robbed Mario of his fun. And believe me, that is a suck.
The Christmas Eve tradition of reading The Polar Express and listening for the bells is no longer the same. Yes, we will read the book. And yes, we will ring the bells, but the magic has diminished. For the past 9 years about an hour or so before time to read the story, Jake would begin to complain of a stomach ache. Oddly enough, when it came time for the family to gather and read the story building up to the finale of going to the deck to listen for the bells, Jake would excuse himself to the “restroom” downstairs, slip out back and wait for the cue – listen…can you hear the bells? And then in the quiet of the night we would hear a faraway jingle. Nick would gasp and look at me, and I would fight back tears as we both acknowledged that the magic was still there. Not once did Nick question the fact that Jake wasn’t around. We were very good at playing it off.
But this year we will read the book. And we will all walk out on the deck. And one of us will shake the bells just like every other year. Why continue with the tradition if no one believes? Well, our belief still exists, it has just shifted. And this year, since Nick’s belief has shifted, we will welcome him into the fold of those who are Keepers of the Magic.
There is so much in this world that is anything but magical. So those things that have the potential for magic, the potential to make someone smile and believe, we must continue to recognize. As I see it this is one of the single most important jobs there is. Magic slips away so easily in this world of fear and hatred. But as Keepers of the Magic we take every opportunity to remind others that magic still exists, and we go out of our way to create that magic for others.
So, Nicholas, this one’s for you. Welcome to the club!
And, just for the record, my side job is still Glitter Fairy.
I promised myself with this site that I wouldn’t commit to a certain schedule of postings. Instead, I write when the muse hits. And I write about whatever I’m compelled to write about.
Tonight I feel like writing about high school. Or at least a certain aspect, for me, about high school.
I went to an all girl Catholic high school. My husband thinks that sounds very Britney Spears-Baby-One-More-Time-plaid-skirt-knee-socks and all that.
Thank God he didn’t know me then. I was more Mary Katherine Gallagher from SNL.
Yeah, I know. I didn’t smell my hands after shoving them in my armpits or anything like that, but I wasn’t exactly oozing sexiness either.
I graduated in 1985 – the year of “We Are the World”, New Coke, and Back to the Future. I had my group of friends that I hung out with – a mixture of my BFF’s from school and my theater friends.
An interesting side note – in my school we were segregated from the get-go by our “intelligence”, which was determined by a test we took in 8th grade. We were divided into A1 and A2, B, C, and D groups. Yes, those letters represented our grades. Looking back I realize how horrible this system was.
I was in the A1 group and spent most of my time worrying about getting “demoted” to A2 or worse. And being put into preselected groups like that allowed certain assumptions to be made. People in A1 were supposed to be super smart. People in D group were the party girls. Now I’m not saying I had any specific thoughts one way or the other, but any type of separation tends to promote stereotypical thinking.
High school is cliquey enough on its own. I think most of the cliques just happen naturally, as a result of interests and bonds made pre-high school. Whatever the case may be, I remember making assumptions about people based on outward appearance, the way they handled themselves, where they lived etc. All unfair, but natural for most.
The cheerleaders had it all. Confidence? Check. Good looks? Check. Boyfriend? Check. Life was perfect for them. Or so it seemed to me. No one was dealing with problems like me. I lived in a bubble filled with low self-esteem, an eating disorder, a parent who was dying, and ongoing financial problems (I drove a Gremlin for God’s sake!).
I remember going to our 20 year class reunion and talking with everyone. Of course by this time we were all older, and I remember thinking how cool it was that people from the “popular” group were talking with me. Then I had a good laugh at myself.
In talking with the girls, however, I began to realize that I had more in common with them than I thought. Most of the girls that I saw as perfect because they were pretty and popular, had just about as much self-esteem as I did back then. They were just a lot better at faking it than I was. And many had some pretty heavy things going on that I was completely oblivious to.
Sometimes I wish I could go back and get to know the ones that seemed “out of my league”. I think of all the friendships I missed out on because of the high school mentality we must all find our way through.
I’ve gotten to know several of these girls from high school through social media, and I am very grateful for that.Now, more than ever, I am aware of the fact that all of the drama is a part of growing up and finding your way to the truth that we aren’t really all that different from each other. We are all cut from the same cloth. And I truly believe that the sooner we recognize that as a race, the sooner we can make this planet the beautiful home it is meant to be.
This post is dedicated to all my Saint Vincent Academy sisters, especially to those I never got to know.
In the midst of my own personal revelations, I’m still struggling to deal with the pain of someone very close to me. My oldest son was diagnosed with Tourette’s at age six and OCD, anxiety, and depression at the age of eight. Over the years he has faced many challenges, all of which he has overcome. But when he is in the middle of a particularly bad one it seems that there is no light, only tunnel. And that’s where he is today.
My heart breaks for him because, although I know I can encourage him, I can’t “fix” his issues, only he can. As a parent, this is the worst feeling. I’ve always been able to fix the outside hurts, or find someone who can. It’s the inside hurts that prove to be the true problems.
Lately, it’s the social anxiety that is slowly killing his spirit. Warner and I were sitting on the deck talking the other day, amidst the wisdom of the whispering Georgia pines, and something he said stuck with me.
The night before, he and Jake had done some serious talking it out. Mostly Jake listening while Warner talked. I thank God that we are a close family, that at least Jake has that. So as they talked Warner told him he needed to “be where the people are”.
Of course, there is no way we could understand Jake’s social anxiety, but what we do know as adults who have been in the world a bit longer, is that most things are temporary. So we continue to encourage him, to suggest things that seem impossible to him right now. Things that he wants so badly.
So when Warner told me what he said, “be where the people are”, all I could hear was Ariel, The Little Mermaid, singing so sadly about her desire to, yep, you guessed it “be where the people are”, and I nearly lost it.
I wanna be where the people are
I wanna see, wanna see them dancin’
Walking around on those – what do you call ’em?
Oh – feet!
Up where they walk, up where they run
Up where they stay all day in the sun
Wanderin’ free – wish I could be
Part of that world
When’s it my turn?
Wouldn’t I love, love to explore that shore up above?
Out of the sea
Wish I could be
Part of that world
Because, for my Jake, he wants so much to be a part of a world that you and I live in every day without giving it much of a second thought. We go to the store, interact with the cashier, walk among a crowd, and we hardly even notice.
But it’s a struggle for Jake. He feels like he is being watched, and judged. Even going through a drive-thru is difficult because it requires interaction. Think about all of the little interactions you have experience on a daily basis. Now, imagine doing those things and feeling like you are being evaluated on each and every move you make, every word you say, all the while knowing you are inadequate – so really, what’s the point?
Imagine wanting to meet people, to have friends, to socialize, but being too afraid to talk because you don’t want to be criticized, so you remain alone…and miserable. It’s not a choice. It’s a prison.
And watching a person that you love, that you respect, and that you see so much awesomeness in go through this is heartbreaking.
All I can do is love him. All I can do is be there for him, and believe in him. The rest is in his hands. But I will be holding those hands, and helping him every step of the way no matter how long it takes. Even though he may feel lonely, I can promise him this, he will never be alone as long as I’m around.
Lately there have been several posts on suicide awareness. I found this post from last March and felt it appropriate to reshare.
Previously Posted on March 26, 2016
You know how you hear a song and it’s just the right song for that moment? The lyrics speak to you on a soul level as if the singer is in your head and giving life to your deepest thoughts. That happened to me today.
I’m a huge fan of Spotify and their weekly Discovery playlist. I was having a bad day and decided that I needed some new music, so I decided to listen to Spotify’s suggestions while I was driving. The first song to play was “that” song. I nearly pulled over to the side of the road just so I could let the lyrics wash over me completely. Instead, I grabbed the pen I keep handy and scribbled the name of the song and artist so I could explore them later. So far today I have listened to the song at least 20 times. Each time I get lost in the experience.
How is it that a song can reach a part of you that nothing, and no one else can? It’s the perfect healer – music and words. I have relied on songs to save me for much of my life. On any given day a song will rescue me from despair, or give wings to my joy. I feel weightless when the right song comes along. I close my eyes and fly, each note lifting me higher and higher to a place that is beyond whatever emotion I’m feeling. The song somehow takes me further into the feeling. And for that I am forever grateful. Music has always saved me.
Ever since I can remember I’ve chosen the music I listen to as a soundtrack to my life. Maybe we all do that subconsciously, but I do it very deliberately. Always have. I find a connection in the perfect pairing of words and music that transcends the limits of my own mind. I soar.
I’m not a religious person, although I was raised and schooled in Catholicism. I am, however, very spiritual and have very strong beliefs that are, no doubt, influenced by my upbringing in the church. In my opinion, religion is manmade and spirituality is innate. But that’s not to say that I do not have a connection with the tenets I was raised to believe. I’ve just chosen a different, less regimented, path – a path that is not tied to any one particular religion, or belief system.
That said, the song that touched me so deeply today happened on the day known as Good Friday. The song is “Flight” by Lifehouse, a band that is often considered a Christian band. For me, today, the words hit home in a very spiritual way.
I’ve been struggling with severe bouts of depression lately. On any given day I am nearly crippled by the waves of sadness that wash over me.
I’ve been under water/this storm has been raging/These nights are not sleeping/My dreams are now strangers to me/And I need you now/There’s too many miles on my bones/I can’t carry the weight of the world/No, not on my own.
So when I heard these words, and connected the dots, I felt like it meant something. Something big. And it does.
No matter if you’re religious, spiritual, or other this song is one you should hear. In this world today, we all have so much weight to carry, so much baggage. It’s a good reminder that, whatever your belief system, you don’t have to shoulder the burden alone. It’s too much. Reach out to the Universe, to God, to someone or something. Just don’t be alone.
Find your place to be. No more falling. No more fear. No more hurt.