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

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Pod Casting

I had my first podcast interview last week.  It was for a sight called Book Goodies.  The woman, Deborah Carney, was a very sweet and gracious interviewer.  it was odd talking about my writing.  It made it all so real and hit home the fact – I am a writer.   I know!  I as I do more of these interviews, I’m going have to come to grips with this fact.

The questions I answered concerning writing were about how I got started,  the classes I took and what advice I had about writing.  So I talked about my teenage angst years as a poet – or self-proclaimed one.  I spoke about the continuing education and online classes I squeezed in my busy life as a mother/working full-time/both.  And I detailed my advice on how you have to play to your strengths – mine being people – and to put yourself out there.   I think the latter works well in any type of pursuit.  Find out what you are good at and do it.   Yes, we may fail.  God, knows I did – multiple times.  But as I said in my interview, we fail more when we don’t try because then we live in regret.  Living in regret is life’s biggest failure.  Oh yeah, I was a regular Plato on this podcast.

I noticed I speak with a nasal twang and perhaps a good nose blowing might fix it.  Yes, I am vain enough, or perhaps hard on myself enough, to notice that slight detail.   I also heard my laugh on tape and it sounded odd…like the start of a high pitch squeal followed by a chortle that sound like a man’s.   So if you don’t really care what I’m saying, you could listen to how I sounded when I did speak.  It is kind of amusing in of itself.

Well, here’s the link to my podcast interview:  http://bookgoodies.com/elizabeth-dudak-author-interview-with-bookgoodies/.  Don’t be too hard on me.  I’m thinking I am hard enough for both of us.  Have a happy start to your week.

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Lay Off my Path

In a few weeks, for the second time in as many years, I am part of a school district layoff.   In a few weeks, for the second time in as many years, I will be jobless due to budget cuts.  In a few weeks, for the second time in as many years, I feel like Typhoid Mary – coming into a school district only to learn there was money lost thus so will my job.  In two weeks, for the second time in as many years, I am waiting for the Universe to open yet another “day job” door for me.

Don’t get me wrong!  First and foremost, I consider myself a writer.  The book, my book, I finished with my name in big, blue letter, reminds me of that fact.  The sequel I am struggling with tells me every day at 4:00 in the morning, this is your passion.  However, writers are only successful – and by success I mean taking care of the two lives I brought into this world –  if they work hard, make sacrifices, do so much marketing – more than I ever thought  – and pray for an Act of God.  Now I have the first two covered.  I do work hard at my craft and sacrifices I have made have been plentiful.  (Although are they really sacrifice if you love it?  Hmmm.  Perhaps this is a topic for another blog entry.) I am struggling with the marketing part  and I have forced myself out of my discomfort – I don’t like sales/marketing.  So, the only thing left is the Act of God.  As much as I believe in the Universe unfolding and everything has a reason, I pray every day the Lord grants me patience and, yes, that my book winds up in the right hands.  Until then, I HAVE to look for a day job.  My children’s futures do not afford me to look at the Universe and say “whatever”.   I think the Universe would be disappointed in that flippancy anyway.

So, in a few weeks, for the second time in as many years, I will wrap up my employment.  It wasn’t for naught because, really, nothing ever is.  I feel blessed.  The Universe opened these employment doors for me so that I may learn, love, laugh and live.  And now, I surrender myself, once again, to the wisdom of God, as She leads me on another path deemed my own with the label of  “Laid off”.

Happy Mother’s Day!

Yesterday, my kids and I went to see my mother for Mother’s Day.  We had great conversations about sex, pressure teens feel, bullying, gay marriages, the presidential election, family and books.   (Yup, my deep thoughts stems from the womb.)  My mother told me how proud she was of my book and accomplishing a dream.   (Selfishly, that was my favorite part.)   As we spoke, I was reminded how much I will miss my mom when she is gone.  As stimulating as our conversation was,  I held no illusions –  my mom is aging.  After 2 hours, she looked exhausted.  She was ready for us to leave.  Still, while her body is giving out, her amazing mind is as sharp as I always remembered.

I have written often on this blog about my mother.  She has…had…a great influence in my life.  She taught me the meaning of feminism, sacrifice, unselfishness and calm amidst chaos.  Sure, there were moments in my life when I didn’t like my mom.  And, as a mom myself, I see some things she probably could have done differently.  I’m sure she believes it too.   Life doesn’t give you second changes most of the times.  Despite all of that, I have always loved her and respected her.  She was, is, my idol…my hero.

As a mother myself, I hope and pray I don’t make, or haven’t made, too many mistakes.  I know I have already.  Try as I might, I am human and mistakes remind me of that.  I am sure my kids will second guess or criticize some of my mothering skills one day.  I hope they learn and grow from them.   And, I hope one day, they hold the same respect and love for me as I have for my mom.  If so, I was successful.

On this Mother’s Day, I wish all my friends and family who hold the awesome role as mother, a great day. 

What the Heck, Dec?! — Live and in Person

Okay here it is… the first two chapters of my novel – What the Heck, Dec?!  (In the process of copying and pasting, I was unable to indent at every paragraph.  However, the paragraph start and finish is pretty obvious.  Whew!)

Chapter 1

 My father has forever lectured me about financial responsibility. Let me say right here, it is sadly ironic my father spews numerous homilies on responsibility. Daddy Dearest is so far from responsible that he would have to take a plane ride just to catch up with the r in that word. However, his words—his monotonous, redundant words—must have stuck with me when I applied for the teaching position at Noteah North Middle School because I did so without hesitation and even with full knowledge of the town’s reputation. (Hey, a girl’s got to pay her student loans off. It’s the financially responsible thing to do.)

Everyone in the teaching world knows Noteah pays their teachers well—very well, so well, in fact, that I pushed the reputation aside and forged ahead with filling out an application. What’s Noteah’s reputation? Noteah is known for its helicopter parents swooping down to talk above the noise of their child’s best interest. It is considered the Beverly Hills of Illinois, only with churches on every corner and Bible quotes spewing out of residents’ mouths like foam from a rabid animal. And the teachers’ turnover rate at the Noteah schools is higher than a coaching position with the Chicago Cubs.

Don’t get me wrong; I had dreamed of becoming a teacher since I began to capture the attention of my stuffed animals that lined up the stairs of my basement at the early age of eight. (My favorite game ever!) And, on Tuesday, April 28, at 9:15 AM (I’m not a numbers person, yet I am a bit of a savant when it comes to important dates), I was offered a teaching position for the following year.

I wish I could say it was totally dramatic getting my position at Noteah North Middle School, but really it was quite simple. I pulled up to the tan brick building with the pristine kept grounds in my twelve-year-old red Volkswagen Beetle, Red Beauty, which was the name I gave her the minute my Uncle Stan, my childless bachelor uncle, handed over the keys on high school graduation day. I fell instantly in love. Gear heads tell me she’s not considered a classic. What do they know? Red Beauty has hidden class. Okay, so I’m a bit over the top with my love for her. Oh, I know she’s a female. How else would you explain an interior resembling a woman’s purse—with tissues, receipts, and make-up strewn everywhere?

Anyway, the rain was coming down hard the day I went for the interview (April 28). The thunder started about a half hour after I woke up. The drops didn’t stop—not once—during my forty-mile drive from the Southside of Chicago northwest into Noteah. Red Beauty had a leak somewhere on her windshield that none of the eight mechanics I’d taken her to could seem to find (a small, minor wart on her otherwise beautiful self). Because of this tiny flaw, I had a pond on the floor of the passenger’s side. With every corner I took or quick stop I made, the pool of water splashed up on the sides like an ocean wave. In the winter, if the weather changes quickly enough, as it tends to do in Chicago, the water freezes, making a great ice rink for trolls. Classic, right?

I entered into the building wearing a raindrop-dotted black suit that I borrowed from my sister, Helen. Helen is about two sizes smaller than me. Not only is she shorter, but her body allows her to shop in the junior section of stores, even after birthing two kids. My body, since the age of fifteen, has not strayed from the misses section. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not heavy. In fact, I’m pretty normal with my weight around one-hundred-and-fifty pounds, depending on the time of the month or how much chocolate I eat during the week. Therefore, at five-feet-eleven inches tall, I may be even considered on the slim side (let me stress MAY and BE). Much of my weight is distributed between my boobs and hips, thus making it difficult to fit into clothes designed for a middle school girl’s body. So, while I inherited my grandmother’s womanly body (yes, I’m sticking with that description), Helen has my mom’s petite build. Needless to say, the suit was snug on me . . . awkwardly snug. I wore it anyway. I had to wear something other than my college uniform of faded jeans and hoodies. Helen insisted I looked nice, and maybe she was right. I do tend to be hard on myself, but for the record, Helen and Mother Theresa could have been best friends.

When I entered the front office, a bleached-blonde woman sat at her desk behind the main counter. She was talking to a woman in the next desk over with the hair color of burgundy. Do women really think they’re fooling anyone with a color so unnatural? Like someone would say, Hey, your ancestors must come from Burgundy, France. How do I know? Well, look at your hair!  

 As I went closer to the counter, Bleached-Blonde and Burgundy were so engrossed in a conversation about a reality television show that a gunman couldn’t have distracted them. You have to know the show. It’s the one where people call in their votes for their favorite singer. I tried grabbing the attention of one of these two women. First I let out a soft “excuse me,” followed by a dry cough. Their chat continued . . . oblivious to me. Next I put my large key ring on the counter, hoping the clunk would draw them out of their conversation, but to no avail. Finally, I said in my excited, you-just-won-the-lottery voice, “Excuse me!”

Blonde looked at me, openly annoyed probably because I interrupted her talk with Burgundy. I mean, I get it. The show was exciting, but I was there for an interview, damn it.

“Yeah?” Blonde asked with a look void of any expression other than annoyance.

“Hi. I’m here to see Dr. Morgan.”

Burgundy interrupted, “Dawn, I’ll go tell her.”

“Thanks, Dawn,” Blonde answered.

I did one of those cartoonish whips of the head in a double take. Two Dawns? Later I found out that they both had the same initial for their last names—S. Everyone just called them the Dawns. Clever, I know.

Burgundy Dawn lifted her tall body out of her desk chair. She was about the same height as me, but much thinner. When she came around the counter and began to walk down a short hallway, I glanced and then stared. Burgundy’s legs were small—stubby might have fit their description. All of her height was in her torso, causing her to waddle rather than to walk, and it was fascinating. Only Blonde Dawn’s tsk sound brought me out of my gawk. I looked down at my hands, embarrassed of my stare (but I still stole side glances).

“Are you Martina Karnawski?” Burgundy Dawn asked when she toddled back into the front office.

“Yes. Yes, I am.” I smiled, trying to make an impression. I got nothing.

“Dr. Morgan’s secretary will be right out.”

That was it. No, Take a seat. Would you like anything? That suit is too tight despite what your sister, the saint, might have told you. Or even a Yes, my body could be an attraction at a circus . . . nothing. I nodded with my feet glued by intimidation to the blue-and-gold-speckled carpet. Burgundy sat back down and continued her conversation about the reality show without even a glance my way. Eventually I found the courage to gather up my massive key ring and sit down on one of the chairs across from the counter.

As I continued to eavesdrop on their conversation, the office door opened and the most incredible looking man—no, make that an Adonis—walked in. He stood in the doorway, shaking off the rain that drenched his grey suit. The wetness made the suit cling to his body, including the sculpted muscles of his arms, his legs, and, well, even his crotch. Yes, my eyes went there from the habit I developed of peeking at men’s crotches. It’s not perverse; rather, it’s payback for all the glances my boobs get from men. And it didn’t take much staring. I saw his jewels in one fleeting look.

Gel held down his black hair in an attempt to tame a wild, punk-like haircut. It went with the piercings in his crooked Roman nose and the two in his left ear. All three were devoid of jewelry. His blue eyes were like dark crystals. He was a gorgeous specimen of man.

Adonis went up to the counter. Blonde Dawn had her back to him, talking to Burgundy. As soon as his velvety voice threw out, “Excuse me, ladies,” Blonde jerked her head away from Burgundy, leaving her in her cougar dust. Immediately a smile lit up her face.

She lowered her voice, trying to make it sound husky, “Can I help you?” She sounded more like she was talking into an empty soup can.

“I hope so,” Adonis-man said. “I am a little late for an interview with Dr. Morgan. Can you please tell her I’m here?”

While he talked, I was treated to his back side, and let me tell you, it was mmmm, mmmm, good. He had two apple cheeks tucked nicely under his narrow hips.

“Sure. Your name?” Blonde asked.

“Declan. Declan Reed.”

 

Chapter 2

 

His delivery was very James Bond-like. He casually draped his arm on the counter and did a half-turn. He looked over at me and smiled. His smile called out two dimples that dug deep within his sculpted cheeks.

 Flustered, I threw out, “Martina. Martina Karnawski.”

Okay, first off, I know he didn’t ask me my name. Second, Martina Karnawski just didn’t roll off your tongue like Declan. Declan Reed did. Still, he must have liked it a little bit, because he winked and said to me, “Nice to meet you, Martina. Martina Karnawski.” Either that or he was patronizing me, but I didn’t care. Any attention was attention.

The two Dawns fought each other out the swinging door of the front office, conversation of any reality show long gone. I finally got a full look at Blonde Dawn. She was as short as Burgundy Dawn was tall and was as petite as petite comes. They made an odd-looking pair, and my eyes (as hard as I might try) could not leave them.

Burgundy Dawn won the swinging door fight—or lost, I wasn’t sure—and scurried down the hall to what I presumed was Dr. Morgan’s office.

Blonde Dawn lit up and approached Declan. “Why don’t you have a seat?”

It sounded a bit too Marilyn Monroeish (if Marilyn ever spoke into empty soup cans) and it so didn’t fit her little girl body.

“Thank you, ma’am,” Declan replied and sat down next to me.

All hope drained from Blonde Dawn—along with her color, causing her skin to compete with her bleached-blonde hair. I think the ma’am part was her reality check. With her head hung down, Blonde Dawn returned to her seat as Burgundy Dawn came waddling back. Declan rose to greet her, making me believe chivalry never really died or that it was being reincarnated in one Declan Reed.

“I’m sorry, Declan. Dr. Morgan will not be able to see you now, but her secretary will be with you shortly.” Burgundy Dawn gave off a high-pitched giggle in a nervous, flirtatious sort of way. I checked the windows to make sure she didn’t crack them.

“Thank you, ma’am.”

Burgundy Dawn’s face, much like her counterpart Dawn, showed disappointment. She, too, slunk back to her seat.

Sitting back down, Declan looked over at me. “So, why are you here?”

“I have an interview with Dr. Morgan,” I replied.

Declan smiled, revealing those dimples again. “Yeah? Well, isn’t that interesting? I’m here to interview with Dr. Morgan, but I’m late.”

“So I heard you say.” Way to give away my voyeur hand. “Not that I was listening. I mean, I was, but not because I’m interested. Oh, not that you aren’t interesting . . .”

Yeah, at this point I wished a gunman would come through the door and stop my endless rambling. Thank God Declan rescued me from myself.

“Are you a teacher?” He chuckled.

“Almost. I have a week left of graduate school. How about you?”

“Was a teacher . . . or still am, I suppose. But I’m now a social worker.”

“Oh.” This was my opportunity to dig more out of him and all I came up with was oh?  First my rambling and then my non-response. I was turning into an idiot right before Adonis Reed’s—Declan Reed’s—beautiful eyes.

Undaunted by my lack of conversation, Declan continued, “What teaching position are you applying for?”

“Sixth grade.” While I answered, a strand of hair escaped the back of my ear and fell across my face. I tucked it back.

“Is that right?” Declan’s smile grew deeper.

I think he thought I was flirting, and maybe I was, just a bit. But, really, my hair is thick and curly. When it rains, especially when it rains, no ears, not even ones the size of Dumbo’s, can hold back my hair.

Silence filled the space between us. All I could hear was the cackling of the two Dawns. To break the silence I asked, “You’re here for a social worker position, then?”

I know, I know. In retrospect, that was an obvious question and did nothing to stop my idiot morphing, but I was desperate to keep gorgeous Declan Bond—I mean Reed—talking to me.

“Yup, that would be me.” He smiled and it caught in his eyes. “You’ve been waiting long?”

I heard a snigger come from one of the Dawns behind the desk. We both looked in their direction. Burgundy turned her back. Blonde’s eyes were on Burgundy and then shot at me and back to Burgundy again. They both erupted in laughter. Maybe it was the karma god paying it back to me for staring at Burgundy’s piano-like legs. Whatever it was, it made me uncomfortable.

“Okay.” I lifted my chin at them and looked over to Declan. “Now, I know I’m in a middle school and I should expect this behavior, but really? Did I miss something?”

“What do you mean?”

“The laughing from Boris and Natasha.”

“Now who’s being mean?” There was seriousness in Declan’s words, but his eyes held laughter.

“You’re right. Do you know why they’re laughing?”

“No.” Declan’s response was slow as he put his tongue to his front teeth.

“Really? Because the way they are going on—”

“Ms. Karnawski, you have something in your teeth.” Declan let out a breath. “Sorry. But you probably would want to know before you went into the interview.”

“Oh, God, yes! Thanks!” I reflected back on the broccoli-egg-white omelet I ate that morning. Protein is always good to get me going in the morning. Well, that and caffeine. “I’m embarrassed.”

“Don’t be. It happens.”

Probably not to you, Adonis, I wanted to say. Horrified, I ran my tongue along the front of my teeth, first the top and then the bottom. I smiled at him. “Is it gone?”

“No.” He lifted his hand and then pulled it back. “You may want to use your fingernail.”

I had no choice but to pick it out. Once I did, I didn’t have a clue what to do with a chunk of broccoli. I looked at it like somehow it would disappear with one mere look from me. Declan took out a handkerchief and handed it over to me.

“Thank you.” I wiped the broccoli off, folded it neatly, and offered it back to him.

“Why don’t you keep it?” He winked at me. “Think of it as a souvenir.”

“Thanks . . . again.” I placed my hand on his forearm and held it there. He felt so strong.

“You’re welcome.” He looked down at his forearm and smiled. I pulled my hand back and placed it on my neck. I’m not so sure if I was embarrassed because I grabbed him, or because I got caught. I put his handkerchief into my purse. I took a deep breath and let it out slowly through my nose.

“You okay . . . Martina Karnawski?” Declan leaned into me. I got a wonderful whiff of his scent. It was not a cologne smell, but rather a mixture of deodorant soap, toothpaste, and rain. It was intoxicating. Heat rose to my cheeks. Declan winked, which probably caused my color to turn crimson.

“Besides being mortified, I’m peachy.”

“Ah, don’t be. I actually was more interested in other things. I hardly noticed.”

As he spoke, his eyes traveled up and down my body, making a port of call at my breasts. Fire scorched my face and I believed I invented a darker shade of crimson right there and then. Declan Reed’s laugh—deep, rich laugh—filled the room and convinced me I did.

The Dawns’ heads snapped back up to us at the sound of his chortle. They giggled in an attempt to get in on our joke. Rude, right? I mean, couldn’t they just let me have this moment? Hadn’t they laughed enough . . . especially at my expense?

An elegant-looking lady appeared at the desk to ease my frustration. She had a soft beauty about her. Her brown hair was cut short in a professional way. Her brown eyes showed kindness and were framed by smile wrinkles. My mother once told me that wrinkles around the eyes were proof of a happy life. If that was the case, this woman was probably ecstatic about hers.

Approaching us, she said, “Hi, my name is Brooke Diamond. I’m Dr. Morgan’s secretary. Dr. Morgan has been detained. Mr. Reed?”

 “Declan, please, Ms. Diamond.” Declan stood, allowing the charm to ease out of him like honey out of a pot.

“Mr. Reed, Dr. Morgan won’t be able to see you. Mr. Fintch, our vice-principal, will see you now.”

“Thanks, Ms. Diamond. Lead the way.”

Brooke Diamond smiled, and not in a flirtatious way (the way every other woman in that room had reacted). Her smile was kind and professional. She turned her attention to me.

“Ms. Karnawski, Dr. Morgan will see you in a few minutes.”

“Thank you, Ms. Diamond.”

She answered with a kind smile and nod. Turning to Declan, she said, “Please follow me, Mr. Reed.”

I wasn’t sure what they say in interview situations. I mean, would “break a leg” work like it does in the theater? So, I threw out a feeble “Good luck, Declan” after him.

“Good luck to you as well.” Declan turned and smiled one last time and then continued to follow Brooke down the hallway.

While I watched his gorgeous ass disappear, I hoped with every lustful part of me that Declan Reed and I would be hired to work at Noteah North Middle School. When I heard the Dawns’ cackles echo in the office, I knew I should be careful what I wished for.

Over Doing It

The other day, I was sitting chit chatting with some girlfriends.  They asked me about the new old car sitting in my driveway.  One of my girlfriends asked “How does your daughter like her new car?”  I found myself getting very defensive about that question, even denying it was my daughter’s.   I said, a few times, “It’s not hers yet.  It’ll be hers next semester at college.”  Even as I said it, I wanted to rein in my denial and my tone.  My voice was a few octaves below agitation.  I didn’t fully understand why I felt the way I did.  I mean, the purpose of buying the car was so my daughter had something to drive at college.  Why was I attempting to even cover up that fact?

Flash forward a few days later and driving in the car with one of the girlfriends who was part of that conversation.  The new/old car was brought up again.   I had to hold in another burst of overreaction.  I took a deep breath and said, “You know, I feel kind of guilty about the whole car thing.  My parents never brought me a car.”    There!  That was it!  I finally admitted to guilt over my over-indulgence with my daughter.  The car represented everything I wanted to fight into today’s society. 

Today’s excessiveness for our children isn’t just in the cars we buy them, or the fast food they eat or their must-have electronics.  It’s in the designer Coach purses eleven-year olds carry,  the trophies their teams receive when coming in last place, the flowers given to three-year-olds at ballet recital (which always leads me to ask what would these same ballerinas get when they reach thirteen – an orchard?) and then there are the grades – oh boy the grades.  There is an increase in grade inflation over the past years – a subject that would make an entirely new and interesting blog.  For the purpose of this blog, let’s just say it does exist and lends itself to my theory we live in an excessive society.   

We are the parents of excessiveness.   Oh sure, our intentions are pure…in our minds anyway.  We want our children to fit in.  We want them to feel worthy and productive.  We want to help them deal with the stresses added into a society so much bigger than ours growing up.  We want them to feel good about themselves as though somehow a negative thought is a reflection on us.   Yes us.  Don’t kid ourselves.  We are trying to make our children feel good so we feel good.  We are a society of insecure parents and money, possessions and grades are way to ease our anxieties.  And perhaps, we are a generation too involved in our children.  Somehow we morphed into friends instead of parents, and like friendships, we want to share with our children.  Instead of having them pay their dues like we did, we want instantaneous equality, but they are not our equals.  Not that they are better than or less than, just not equal.  They do not have the life experiences to be at our level yet and if we give them too much too soon, or protect them too much – from feelings or failure – they may never develop their own skills to become a productive generation.

Despite my girlfriend defending my action of buying my daughter a car – yeah, she is the best – I look at the new 2003 Pontiac Vibe in my driveway and think perhaps my husband and I have contributed to the excessiveness of our children.   We have tried to keep our kids humble.  Who am I kidding?  Financially, we were forced to keep them humbled.  Yet I do cringe when I think about this upcoming generation at the hands of our parenting.  I wonder if we have gone too far.  While we may have done better with our children than our parents in so many aspect, over indulgence is not one of them.

My Family’s Language

Yesterday was my mother’s 84th birthday celebration.   It was held in a restaurant and most of her seven children and thirteen grandchildren were in attendance.  Because of the mere amount of people in our family, commitments do not always allow us to all get together.  Even yesterday, there were people missing because of being away at college, moving into their first house and even minor surgeries.  But for the ones that did show, it was a wonderful celebration and I knew my mom enjoy it.  I saw it in her eyes as they burned bright looking down the table at all she created.  I heard it in her laughter that was filled with the humor handed down to all of us.  Appropriately, she sat at the head of the table and even joined us in our singing of “Happy Birthday”.  Heck, at 84, she could do a solo if she chose.

I was on the opposite end of the table from my mother, near my four nephews, my husband and my son.   I gave up on eavesdropping on the conversations held at my mother’s end and concentrated on the ones near me.   Our conversations were filled with discussions on literature and music, two important component of my upbringing, and it would seem that importance…that love…has reached the next generation.  Involved in the conversation was a nephew who builds his own base guitars as a hobby, a nephew who plays and sings for self-enjoyment, a nephew who reads at insatiable pace, a nephew who plays the base and draws well enough…great enough…to have a successful business, and a son knows so much about so much.     For almost three hours  names like Roy Clark, Jimi Hendrix, Les Paul, Kurt Vonnegut, Stephen King and Scott Fitzgerald were batted around as casually as names of athletes – – which were touched on as well.   These discussions connected a 15-year-old teenager to a 32-year-old man and connected a tattoo artist to an engineer.   It was my proof that the arts are a connecting language…at least in my family.

Towards the end of the afternoon, after we sang happy birthday, my mother hesitated to blow out her candles.  She concentrated long and hard on her wish before she blew.  I don’t know exactly what she wished for or why she spent the time to think about it.  Perhaps she wanted to choose between World Peace or that the day would never end.  Or perhaps she wished for more celebrations that could bring her prodigies together again.    I know that is what I would wish for … and then we can speak our family’s universal language once again.

Aside

I have a friend…

I have a friend – and I am blessed to call her that –  who is a truly wise woman.  So many times when we talk, I walk away  a more insightful person because of her wisdom which always challenges me.  She showed me her wisdom again last night.  After embracing me in a congratulatory hug for my new book – – okay, my only book – – I told her how different I feel now that I am on this road of my dream.   While excited with the knowledge I was going where my heart led me, I told her I keep continuing to press past my comfort level, something foreign to this anxious-ridden, love-to-stay-in-life’s-pajamas kind of gal.  This led to a discussion about  comfort zones and fears that prevent us from moving forward.  My friend told me she now forges ahead in life, facing her apprehensions head-on by asking herself “what is it that I am afraid of?”.   Once she determines what that is, she begins to take steps  to tackle it with the hopes of eventually stepping over these fears to move on. The ability to bring down a fear is admirable for sure, but what really is impressive and that has me in awe, is her willingness to find an honest answer to that question.   I can be fine with avoiding the answer itself because it means facing the reasons behind my most deepest fears.  Those reasons can be my demons in life and who wants those pesky things around?

Let’s face it.  We all have fears that keep us from taking steps in life. If not now, we did have them.  It’s part of being in our human bodies.  We fear being lonely, unsettled, going against the norm or making fools of ourselves.   My two biggest fears which cause me to stand completely still are failure and rejection.   Both loom over all of me like an unwanted steel beam ready to fall.  Sometimes, they are an inch above my head, and sometimes they are ten feet above me depending on the task.  Fears are probably the crux in most of us that prevents our propulsion forward.   But, like my friend, we have to ask ourselves, I have to ask myself, what is reason that holds us back…holds me back?    

Another wise person in my life, my husband, has played devil’s advocate to my anxiety of stepping forward for most of our marriage.  (Hey, we do other things too! )  I have a million ‘what ifs’ packed into this already over-crowded brain of mine.   My husband advised me once me to counter each one of them with ‘what if not’.  For example, with the thought of ‘what if I don’t get this job’, he would suggested counter that thought with  ‘ but what if I do’.    And he’s right.   I will never truly be prepared for what comes my way.  I don’t know the outcome before the outcome and I will never know it until I try. 

 If we ask ourselves what is it that keeps us stagnant in life, and counter every fear with the ‘but what if not’, perhaps we can lift our glued legs up and become freer individuals.   With our new found freedom, we can begin to live our lives instead of just existing in them.  And no, I didn’t come up with this wisdom, I have started to learn it.

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