Back East

July 2015 7:45 am: You fly with your sister Katie, brother in law David and 3 year old niece Khloe on the same Alaska Air flight direct from Portland to Boston. They sit in row altogether clad in headphones glued to technology two rows back. You’re alone with your Willy Vlautin book next to a woman with a giant horse hoof for a foot who keeps impeading on your foot space. You take a picture of her foot with your iphone. You want to kick her foot out of the way.

8:45 am: You pull out your phone from your bag that you are constantly adjusting underneath the space in front of you and write on the notepad. The horse hoof foot is still there but you try to ignore it. 

You think about your maternal grandparents, Milton and Ruth, who are gone and lived in Maine. You think about the two trip out east in 2009: one in January when the ground was thick with snow drifts around Mercy Hospital in downtown Portland and you had that stupid boot on your foot because you sprained your ankle. You tried to get away from the two of them in the hospital together: Milton had pneumonia and Ruth a stroke. Milton was hooked up to so many machines it made you weepy every time you saw him. Ruth’s face was a fucked up mess. Half her body was paralyzed from the stroke. She tried to talk but all she could do was stare at you and blow air. The look will never go away: it said I’m dying but I love you. Ruth built a shrine to me, Mom and Katie in her bedroom: the Olan Mills family photo of my sister, mom and I from 1984, my sixth grade school picture with the bad perm, my black and white high school graduation photo with my hair down my back.

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Work has been 

super busy and so has my writing. I’m about to finish up the fourth complete draft of The Yellow Blanket and hand back to my editor. I’ve added another 65 pages that she’ll probably trim away at. We’ll see.  This draft has taken me most of August, September and October. 

I bought tickets to Japan and Korea for next spring. I’ll hit Japan for two weeks and Korea for two more. All in all I’ll be gone for a month and I’m super excited to see Japan for the first time and parts of Southern Korea, like the town of Busan that I have never seen. 

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Busy with this one and life…


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Getting robbed sucks

Two nights ago someone broke in through my open bedroom window and stole my eight year old Toshiba laptop. It had all of my writing for the past five years, a bunch of stuff related to Dinnergrrls, vacation photos, and stuff about my friend Michael who killed himself in 2006. 

All of my writing is backed up so no big whoop. All the other stuff is heartbreaking. 

Due to the age of the laptop it is literally only worth $10. If that. The fucker that broke in didn’t take anything else and quite honestly I don’t have anything of value in my house. 

I buy cheap clothes and furniture. I don’t really wear jewelry. 

The police came and took a report and fingerprints. I installed a home security system. I now lock all of my windows whenever I leave the house. 

To say I’m pissed off is an understatement.  I’ve never lived in any fear and this isn’t going to stop me.  

Getting robbed is expensive: the home security system and new laptop were not cheap. I’ve spent a lot of time going back and re-creating a bunch of computer files and files. The stuff that was backed up wasn’t really well organized. 

I’m really glad it’s there. 

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A little of this and that

I’ve been in the middle of a big re-write of the fourth draft of Yellow Blanket since early August. I’ve been super busy diving back in and re-living a lot of traumatic shit: the trial, the relationship with the boyfriend/non-boyfriend, my maternal grandparents deaths and a lot of stuff. 

I’ve had to go slowly even though I want to just plow through and be done with it. I always want to be done: my workaholic/anxious mind just wants to go, go, go. 

Pinewood Table started back up a few weeks ago and I’ve had to balance writing pages and editing for my weekly critique group with the massive re-write. Even though I’ve been quiet on the blog there’s been a lot of writing going on behind the scenes. 

I’ve also gotten involved with renters rights and housing in Portland. It’s a huge issue right now because artists are being priced out of the city with crazy out of control rents and a mayor with ties to the housing industry. Things are at a tipping point. Even though I’m a homeowner I was a renter for 13 years and I understand the struggle and want to help. 

I applied for a two week writing residency in southern Oregon and should find out soonish whether or not I got it. 

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Currently reading


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I’ve been thinking about the intersection of my disability, learning and writing lately.  I’m continuing to work on a fourth complete full edit of the manuscript and all of these issues have come up.  AGAIN.

Backstory: In kindergarten I had an IEP (individualized education plan) for anxiety.  An IEP is a support plan for anyone with a disability.  It’s usually 10-25 pages  in length and is literally a plan to help written someone with a disability be successful in school.  It outlines specific steps to help that person: therapy in school (or outside), special education, medication, specific learning styles, etc.

I was a walking (and mostly not talking) anxiety case.  I was carrying the weight of the world on my five year old shoulders feeling like I was the cause of everything: read the cause of my parents divorce when the news came out shortly thereafter that our family was breaking up.

I felt like if I acted or talked differently they would get back together.  Little did I know I was not the cause of their divorce.  My IEP went away after Kindergarten but I was still a hot mess of anxiety.

When I disclosed my own sexual abuse at the hands of my paternal grandfather in 1984 and went to trial a year later I was also carrying the weight of the outcome of that trial on my shoulders.

He won.

I again thought if there was something I could have said or done to the court things would have turned out differently.  It turns out, according to sexual assault researcher (and survivor) David Lisak, that only 1.5 to 3% of all child sexual abuse cases are ever won.  The deck was hugely stacked against me.

There was very little I could have done to change that ruling.  I do know, as an adult, I had a very strong memory of what happened, according to my childhood therapist (and expert on childhood sexual abuse), Pam Crow.  Our attorney, Ken Hadley, also echoed what Pam said when I talked to him a few years ago for research on the Yellow Blanket.

Flash forward a year and I’m 9. My mom is going back to school to get a masters in special education.  In a research lab she diagnoses me with another disability: a reading disability that makes it difficult for me to retain information in the short term.  Essentially, you could give me a passage, tell me to read it and ask me a few minutes later what was said, what the plot was, etc. but I probably couldn’t tell you.  My short term reading comprehension was shot to shit.

My mom graduated with her masters in special education and started advocating for me by writing a letter to each teacher explaining my learning and what was helpful and what was not.  Every year from 4-12 grades (and even in college) she wrote a letter on my behalf to explain my disability.

I went to one special ed class in fifth grade but felt like it didn’t really benefit me. I was better in the mainstream classroom.  These two disabilities compounded with multiple choice test taking in elementary, middle and high school set me up for mediocrity.  I was shy, didn’t ask questions when I needed to, and with constant test taking it’s kind of a miracle I got into any college my grades were so  meh.

Flash forward to adulthood and I have the insight to know I’m not carrying the weight of the world on my shoulders.  My anxiety still lingers but I talk it through with talk therapy.  I’ve had years of off and on therapy because of anxiety starting at age 7.5.  I don’t take medications because my anxiety hasn’t pushed me to the level of anxiety or panic attacks.

I’ve been in therapy regularly since 2008 seeing the same person (save for 2014 when I decided to take a year off).  My work with people with disabilities and the example that was laid for me for strong advocacy (i.e. all those letters my mom wrote to my teachers) is why I do the work I do.

Having two disabilities allows me to connect with my clients helping them find jobs and coach them through difficult times.  I’ve been able to get creative with salvaging jobs that could have gone bad by communicating with clients managers/co-workers and developing tools to help them learn, communicate, etc.

I don’t want my clients to fail and my anxiety pushes me to go to the mat for them, advocate and in some instances get sick because I have this ability to just push myself soooooo hard.

The manuscript I started five years ago has completely transformed and looks nothing like the first version.  I really enjoy seeing how the intersection of my own disabilities and the work I do on a daily basis is forming another layer of reflection for my fourth draft.

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