The Ramblings of an Active Mind ………………………………..by: Elizabeth Tobolski Dudak

Shattered Faith

newtonFaith is a curious thing. Most of us have it – either in a religion, a God, a universe, a concept, a person, or all of above. Faith waxes and wanes. It can overtake us like a down pour on a hot summer day. Parents who hold their newborn child for the first time, or a person seeing another in the midst of a good deed, understand how quickly faith comes and the overwhelming feeling of it. Sometimes it deserts us when someone close to us dies or a want is never met. Then there are those times when a loss of faith rips everything out of you, leaving you feel empty, alone, betrayed and wondering why you had faith in anything in the first place….times like this past Friday…in Newton, CN.

I don’t really want to write a blog about Newton. There are so many great, well-written blogs out there about the tragedy, and I’m not sure if mine could do it the justice it deserves. I will write that I don’t know anyone who is not saddened to their core for those lives lost. And the pain and the anguish their families must feel, are tearing us all apart. I know this because I heard it in the sobs of those at church yesterday. I saw it in the words of Facebook posts since Friday. I felt in the desperate, confused words of “What did we do?” from my daughter, reflecting what we all feel. And the entire nation had to be touched to their core as our leader, President Obama, spoke on behalf our nation at the memorial for the victims…probably one of the most difficult speeches he ever had to give.

And I know, most of us agree that the killing of those innocents is a wake-up call for all of us in the United States. We need to get out of our violent-induced coma and address gun control and mental illness. Even my hunter friends know now is the time to enforce the strictest gun control laws this nation has ever imposed. And I understand people’s anger and frustration toward the Newton shooter. I truly get that. Unfortunately the fact remains, he was mentally ill. We, as a society, have to realize this and come to terms with the fact we have not placed enough attention on mental illness. We need to seriously look at it as a huge problem in our society because one way or another, it affects all of us, even the lives of innocents.

So how do we get back our faith in times like this? How do we continue to believe God is still with us during all of this? How do we start believing in the beauty of people when we saw the ugliest of warts? How do we trust the Universe still holds answers, if only a few? How are we to feel in the spirit of goodness again…especially in this season of believing and faith?

I know scholars and religious heads have some answers, some surely rehearsed or said without feeling or honest belief…perhaps patronizing. I am sure there are leaders who are faking their way through speeches because we look to them for answers and the pressure has to be daunting. And I am certain there are so many who have unshakeable faith, unwavering confidence in their responses to these questions. I think though, the most honest answer anyone can give is “I don’t know”. I suppose the best we can all do is hold onto our questions with the hope, the faith, that the answers may not be what propel us forward; rather, it will be the questions. Perhaps it’s through the questions, changes can be made and maybe, those changes will restore our faith again.

Peace, support and thoughts go out to Newton….to all of us…during this difficult time. May our questions turn into action and may our faith be restored.

Good-bye Jordan

jordan1104

He came up to me, his tail wagging, his eyes of different color digging into my heart, a ball hanging from his mouth and a pleading look of ‘pick me, pick me’. When I bent down to pet him, his body fell into mine and his one blue eye sparkled as his brown eye looked into my soul. I picked up the ball he dropped and threw it. He ran and bought it back to me. I did this two more times with him, but by the third he watched the ball fly across the yard, did a sigh and looked at me with a ‘really’ expression. I knew he was ours.

When we got him home, we needed to name him. He was a stray and his temporary, shelter-given name did not match his looks. My son, my daughter, my husband and I all wrote down a name and threw them in a hat. The name Jordan was pulled and from then on, he was our Jordan.

We had a dog before Jordan. A fine dog, yet he was more my husband’s dog and not necessarily our family dog. Jordan was going to be our family dog, grow up with the kids, staying home with this stay-at-home mom and still hike and wrestle with my husband.

The first few weeks were rough. Since Jordan was a stray, he had anxiety and was protective of his bones, food, water and space. He would let out a low growl to my son, Matthew, the lowest in our “pack” when he went near him. Once Jordan snapped when Matthew tried to grab his bone away, something he did with our previous dog. And Jordan ran. Every chance he got, he ran. When the front door opened, when a back gate did not close or when the kids tried to squeeze past him and a barrier, he ran. In those first months, we received a call almost daily of how Jordan came to visit someone in the neighborhood. Jordan was friendly, provided he was in charge.

After about a month with Jordan, I began to think I made a mistake in talking our family into him. I told a neighbor we were going to bring him back. He was too much and not adjusting to our kids, especially Matthew. The growls bothered me. The running was more than a nuisance. And his quest to be the alpha male in our house was driving me crazy.

Then, something happened. As if Jordan could sense the beginning of his end in the Dudak household, he changed. It could have been the way my husband took care of him when the pads of Jordan’s feet tore from jumping out of a moving truck. It could have been a long talk I had with him informing him that I didn’t want to, but I was going to choose my son over him any day…every day. It could have been my daughter, Leah, starting to tell Jordan her problems in school. Or it could have been, despite the growls of warning, Matthew never gave up trying to bond with him. Whatever the reason, Jordan, with persistent warning and discipline on our part, relented and became our family dog.

As the years passed, he still would run from time to time and he chewed up a sofa out of anxiety, but he started to endear himself to us. Jordan jumped on my daughter’s bed waiting for Leah to tell him all her secrets and middle school woes. He would squirm under Matthew full tackle and take off running, with my son at his hind heals. Jordan barked and bared teeth at anyone with an uniform, male or a hat that came to our door in the middle of the day, until I called him off. He would also wag his entire body as I got my shoes on in hopes it was his walking time with me. He perked up his ears when I read him my latest installment of my novel in the quiet, empty house. And he became my husband’s best friend, going with him on hikes, bird watching, along with him outside no matter what my husband did – mow lawn, weed or take the garbage to the curb. When my husband would walk to a neighbor’s house for a Friday night beer, Jordan trailed. Those neighbors became Jordan’s ‘grandparents’ as they gave Jordan plenty of affection and treats.

The last six months, Jordan began to slow. He still went for walks and hikes with my husband and was forever at his side, still excited to visit his ‘grandparents’. Jordan still loved his walks with me yet now he lagged behind with a desperate look of trying. His hearing was going so the stories I read were normally not acknowledged now. He would get excited at the prospect of being fed by my son and sometimes, still had a good wrestling match left in him. When my daughter came home from college, Jordan ran to her as if he still remembered her secrets. He still greeted guests who came into our house with a wag of the body and a plead from his unique, two different color eyes to pet him. Everyone who saw him, gave into him.

Now there were fatty cysts covering Jordan’s body and anywhere you pet, they would intrude. He would limp from time to time as the arthritis began to takes its effect on his hind legs. His muzzle completely greyed and his eyes had the start of cataracts. We knew his time was coming to an end.

The end came quickly for Jordan. He was sick for two days, not being able to sleep, to keep anything down or to walk. When my husband took him in to the Vet, it was determined his heart was giving out -a heart that loved our family, our neighbors, life and food. A heart so full, in the end, there wasn’t any more room in it. A heart that needed to be stopped so Jordan could leave this world in peace and pain free. My husband held him as Jordan left this world. It was a fitting way to end.

My daughter, away at school, and me, away to write, could not say good-bye to Jordan. We both wanted to and it tears at us both that we couldn’t. If I had the chance, I would thank Jordan for all he gave my family. I would thank him for the lessons in listening, in keeping secrets, in following when you want to run, in unconditional love, and in being there when everyone else has left. I would tell him I would have chosen him over and over and over again….with his two color eyes that peered into my soul making me a better person for having known him. I would say, “Goodbye Jordan. You served us well and I hope, we you. Love you always. Now go and run.”

The Next Big Thing

It has been a long time since I posted on my blog.  I have been writing the  sequel  to What the Heck Dec?!, writing of 50,000 words of it  in the month of November.  Thank you Nano Writing Month.  I know I really should write my blogs more often.  Blogs are a great way of not only expressing myself, but hone my writing.  I really need to hone.   What better way to restart my blogging then with participating in a series of blog articles called “The Next Big Thing”?  My friend, Jill Richardson (www.theimperfectjourney.blogspot.com) asked me to participate in this series.  Jill has a wonderful way of looking at the world and I always finish her blogs with a smile on my face.  I would actually give her blogs 5 smiles.   Anyway, getting back to “The Next Big Thing”,  I suppose you can look at this as a “Blog Chain” with no penalty if you break it…I think…I hope.  I don’t know the history behind this, but it’s a great avenue for authors to promote and for readers to be hooked up with new authors.  Anyway, here are the series of questions to be answered.  And here it goes….

 What is the working title of your book?
For now, I have two working  titles –  Why Me, Mr. Reed? or Work With Me, Mr. Reed.   I’m not sold completely yet on either, but, as you can tell, I do like the “Me, Mr. Reed” part.

Where did the idea/inspiration come from for the book?
It’s a sequel to my current book, What the Heck, Dec?! (sold on www.amazon.com, www.barnesandnoble.com or www.orangehatpublishing.com.)  This book has been receiving great reviews and ratings.  It needed a sequel as  two of the characters in that book would not leave my head.  I had to write an entire book on them or else my head would eventually explode.  I couldn’t do that to my family.  Not just the medical cost of a brain explosion, but the mess.  It kind of causes me to shiver with the thought of it.

What genre does your book fall under?
I think of most of my writing as mixture of romance, humor and chick lit.  Like What the Heck, Dec?! – and Dec is a rhyme to Heck, not abbreviation of December – it’s hard to peg one genre.  Maybe I don’t like labels.  Maybe I have genre ADD.   Or maybe I am a genre mutt.  In any case,  my books are easy, fun, silly and full of observations most people really do think about.

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
Really?  One sentence?  After I just explained how it’s a mixture of three genres?  Okay.  Let me try this in three sentences – one for every genre.  Single mother, Harper McReynolds has a dead-beat ex-husband, two daughters, money problems and a lapsed auto insurance. The last thing she needs is a cocky, womanizing ex-rocker in her life.  When her van veers into Brody Reed’s custom-made motorcycle, putting a scratch along its entire side, Harper uproots her life to work off her debt and gets exactly what she doesn’t need.

I have to work more on the synopsis, but you get the idea.

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
If the stars align correctly, everyone is on board and everything goes well, I am hoping to go the Indie route again with Orangehat Publishing.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?
Ooo, boy.  I’m not done quite yet, so I think with the answer of forever and a day?  Even with completing NaNoWriMo – National Novel Writing Month – I have a way to go, but almost there.  I can see the finish ribbon ahead of me.  I just have to keep running towards it and not stop so often trying to over perfect it.  Easier said than done.

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
I would hope my books would read as a bit of Janet Evanovich, with a touch of Cathie Lintz, a pinch of Jennifer Cruise, maybe some Susan Elizabeth Phillips thrown in and for flavor,  a handful of Lori Foster to spice it up.

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?
I think, because it is a mix of three genres, it can be a fun and easy read, appealing to many different types of readers.  I never take my characters or my storyline… or life really…too seriously.  I mean, if you do, what fun is there?  So, I hope the humor I have in it – and let me tell you, I am a sassy pants – will provide some escapism if a life that just happens to get too serious.  I’m here to entertain, not unlock any secrets to life.  I will leave that to others.

 I will be notating other people’s blogs soon.  I have messages and emails out there asking  for permission and so far, I have not received responses.  Alright.  Alright.   I’ll admit it.  I was late in sending out the messages to these people.  My  bad.  (Never been good with these chain things.)  Since I don’t want to hold up an already delayed blog, I have decided to notate them in a different post, perhaps by the end of this week, but I will notate them.  Promise!!!!! Got that God of Blog chains?  Please don’t bestow any bad luck on me…or else, I might just have to write about it. 

5 Star Review…Oh My!

Wow!  I am so happy Marie found happiness with my words.  Thank you Marie!  You are too kind.

http://mariereadsandreviews.blogspot.com/2012/09/marie-reviews-what-heck-dec-by.html

Ten Days of Self-Discovery

These past ten days I was afforded a Staycation…all by myself.    My daughter left for college and my husband and son went on a camping trip on the east coast.  It was just me, my mutt and the assortment of other critters living under my roof.  I knew this time was coming for a few months and I understood I had to spend it wisely.  This doesn’t happen too often so I wanted to do some self-reflection, some inner perspective of who I am, where I am going, what I wanted to do… without interruption.  I am unemployed, which granted me even more time to figure out what I needed, no wanted, my next move to be in life.  Maybe I would get my sequel to my novel done or at least make a dent.  Maybe I would finally have ‘oh-yeah’ moments as what it was I really want to do for a day job until the money came in from my writing and I wouldn’t need a day job.  Yes, I had high expectations.  Yes, I put pressure upon myself.  Yes, I was a little nuts…or nuttier.

The first day of my Staycation for one, I did some dancing, some cranking of the music, some shouting of “woo-hoo”s and some eating of stuff nobody else liked.  The first day was a great day and without reflection, just plain fun and okay, maybe gluttony.   After that, I settled into a routine – – a boring, dull, I-miss-my-family routine.  I cleaned the house.  I took care of the garden.  I fed the mutt and the critters. I filed unemployment and searched for jobs (you have to do one to get the other).  I washed windows.  I went on walks (which I love, don’t get me wrong, but it wasn’t different enough for my Self-discovery Staycation.)  I was in a big-deal-I-have-these-days type of mood.  The only way I was going to exit this mood was by putting more of myself into my Staycation.  And so, on the fourth day, I decided to do something crazy…okay, different.

On the fourth day, I devoted the entire day to writing…after my walk, of course.  I spent nine hours writing and rewriting.  I did nothing else.  I mean, literally for nine hours – – nothing but my fingertips pounding on my laptop’s keyboard.  I’m telling you, I think I found the key to dieting because I didn’t eat nor did I care.  I know!   It was my Nirvana.  I was in this zone…this world outside myself that I wanted to stay in.  I only stopped after nine hours for two reasons.  One, to feed the mutt (can’t let him suffer from my all consuming passion) and two, I promised a friend I would go to her get-together.   After I fed the dog, I went back to writing until I realized I was almost two hours late for my friend’s soiree.  I hopped into the shower, did what I had to do to get ready and went.  I was in a daze for a while at my friend’s house.  My mind was still writing the sequel.   In the end, I had a great time and when I left, some three hours later and I left happy.

In the days that followed, I met friends for one thing or another – breakfast, wine, lunch, hors d’ouevres, iced tea.  I spent some time just staring out my front window, much to the annoyance of my mutt, who I knew wanted my attention by his constant yawns.  I read.  I did a bit more writing.  And, I watched documentaries on cable.  (Hey, the life of an ex-model really is interesting.)   I had one eureka moment after another.  (Okay, maybe the model documentary didn’t offer me too much.) I learned about myself, about my friends – old, new and in between friends – and about my family.

And so my boys – as I like to call them – are coming home today.   I think I will have accomplished much of what I set out to accomplish.  Even though you didn’t ask I will present to you …  

Ten things that I learned in ten days of my Self-Discovery Staycation.

  1. Being a mother and a wife are two things I will never take for granted. It is a gift and one to reopen with new awe every moment given.
  2. The definition of passion is being swallowed up by time.
  3. Food actually tastes better when eaten with family…around a table…talking.
  4. A friend, a true one, will find the positives in you, even the slightest ones, because they are looking for it when you need it the most.
  5. Laughter is truly the best feeling in the world and it is good to do it often…even if you are alone…or with a mutt.
  6. Everything really does come down to you and you’d be surprised how much you can handle.
  7. If you listen, answers will come, lessons will be learned, new questions will arise and growth will happen within.
  8. It is never a good idea to give into a twelve and a half year old dog’s excitement about going for a walk.  Yes, the chasing of the tail in circles to express joy at the prospect is very cute, BUT the many, many, many stops made out of fear he won’t make it home are cumbersome and stretches a forty minute walk into an hour.
  9. Never really figuring out what your day job should be is okay because learning to trust it will happen in time is better.
  10. Feeling like your single again, if just for 10 days, is great.  Knowing the family will be home soon is even greater.

Christi Craig’s Blog

I was asked to be a guest blogger on Christi Craig’s wonderful blog.  What an honor!  I wrote about , what else, writing.  I hope you enjoy.  (And take a peak around Christi’s blog.  I love it and you may too.)  Oh, click below.  Thanks!

http://christicraig.com/2012/07/25/elizabeth-dudak-on-saying-the-words-i-am-a-writer/

Warning:  I may be giving away parts of The Fifty Shades series in this blog.  Continue on at your own risk.

Last night I stayed up until 1:30 in the morning finishing the third book of the Fifty Shades trilogy.  Let me just say – – I don’t get it.  I don’t get the draw of these books.  I don’t get why women, mostly in their twenties and thirties, are fanatical about these books.   I don’t get why there is an attraction to this man, Christian Grey, who is obsessive, domineering, degrading, abusive and demeaning.

There is a common thread that runs throughout these books and it sickens me.  The male lead, Christian Grey demoralizes the female lead, Ana Steele.  Ana gets mad…until she looks into his grey eyes and melts.  She forgives her “Fifty Shades” and moves on.  It does matter that he tortured her or stalked her or used sex as his weapon.  His grey eyes are soooo dreamy.  Christian is so messed up and Ana is there to ‘fix him’.  I know the trilogy is fiction, but really, the fixing theme has been women’s desires since Eve tried to fatten Adam up with the apple.  And you know what?  It doesn’t work.  Even if I allow myself to escape into the fantasy that a good women can fix a messed up man, I would still have to ask should a woman be abused in the process?  Um, no.

Some of the dialogue, okay most of the dialogue, in these books is  ridiculous.  I was forever hoping there would be fewer “I love you”, “You’re my world”, “I need you”,  “You are mine” etc. etc, as the books went on.  I mean, if you want a character to grow, I think the dialogue should as well, but no.  In the third book Christian tells Ana over and over and over again that she’s everything to him.  Getting old there Christian.  We get it. Ana gets it.  The more you say it, the less it means anything.  And he is still pleading with her never to leave him…even after they are married, he pleads.  I know he’s insecure and his life’s experiences made him that way, but come on now.   He has a therapist!   The most throw-up-in-my-mouth-a-bit moment is when he confesses his undying love for her – over and over and over again – and then a few pages later tells her he wants to “beat the shit” out of her.  Romantic words if I ever heard them…NOT!   Wanting to beat someone up is not a profession of love.  And I’m sorry, but that would not keep me in a relationship.  And yet, Ana forgives him.  I suppose he does have dreamy eyes.

Let’s look at what Christian does to Ana…and no, I don’t mean sexually.  Besides, buying her clothes so she can look a certain way, even down to the underwear – and not just sexy lingerie or two – he buys the company she works at so he can keep tabs on her.  Ah, Christian you are an obsessive love, aren’t you?  Christian even makes Ana the head of the company…despite her inexperience…okay, her nonexperience. To top it off, Ana doesn’t want that responsibility.  Ana tells us how much she would rather stay in her current position.   She even conveys this to Christian.  I was hoping this would be a starting point of Ana gaining back control. I was wrong.  In the end, she stays as the company’s head and I never really know if she’s happy with that decision.  So, I suppose Christian does know best and as women, we really should trust in our men’s decisions for us….I write sarcastically.

Okay, let’s look at the sex in the book.  I am not a prude.  I don’t care what people do in their bedroom and the voyeur in me did like the details of their sex lives, except when I be gan to hate them.  It was not the S&M aspect of it, nor was it E L James’ details of it.  I felt sickened to my core by the way Christian used sex as a tool.  When Ana starts to purge her negative feelings, Christian deflects them swith a great romp in the bed…or elevator…or wherever.  What’s worse is ANA LETS HIM!  Then of course there are the two times he completely and utterly demoralizes her by using sex as a tool. The last time he does this, Ana knows it, is hurt by it, and  yet she still cuddles up to him and feels sympathy for him!  Okay, I thought Christian was insecure, but Ana is way worse.

This brings me to my second to last point – throughout the trilogy there is this peeling back of layers to Christian’s character.  There’s an attempt – kind of feeble if you ask me – to explain all the nastiness of Christian.  He had a messed up early life and later a victim of pedophilia.  Christian’s life is sad and tragic.  What is never addressed in the trilogy however, is how Ana became so messed up.  Something in her past had to explain her willingness to take all the crap from Christian.  I asked  friends who read the book ahead of me, if this is ever addressed.  They told me no, yet I held onto to hope.  But, they were right, damn it.

Finally, it saddens me, to my deepest feminist core,  that women in their twenties and thirties are so drawn to this book.  It saddens me in the same way I am sadden to see middle schoolers drawn to the Twilight series.  (E L James took her inspiration from the Twilight series and it shows. Both are about weak women characters who are drawn to abuse and obsession…as though these are the definitions of love.)   I really, REALLY hope the women that are so into the Fifty Shades trilogy are not looking for a Christian Grey.  I hope that the women of my generation and the generation before have taught them well enough to realize demoralization and stalking are not okay, even if there are reasons for it.  I hope they know women are NOT to be dominated rather they are be treated  as equals.  I pray they understand women can become higher-ups in companies without sleeping with the boss.   And I hope they really get that messed up is not attractive, despite  dreamy eyes.  The sales of this trilogy, and all the giggly talk about it,  has me wondering though…and I am sad.

I read the first book because it was a choice for my book club and I did want to see what all the brew-ha-ha was about.  I did like the first book.  It was different.  I liked the character studies.  I liked the fact they went their separate ways in the end of the first book.  I still was uncomfortable with the abuse and the obsessiveness, but not enough to stop from diving into the other two books.  I wanted to finish what I started and to make comments based on what I read, not others opinions or what they read.  And yes, I was also hoping things would change …get better.  Maybe James could show parallel lives – Ana involved with a more normal guy and Christian, well he could still be messed up, but not messing up women in the process.  In the end, that didn’t happen.  In the end, at 1:31 last night, I closed the last book in the trilogy and thought, well those were hours I will never get back.

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