A Year of Writing

When I was a little girl, the humid, bitter cold of Lake Erie winters rattled in my lungs. Every year, I wheezed, gasped, and fevered my way through bouts of colds, flus, chicken pox, or some other childhood rite-of-passage illness. Once, flu and pneumonia compounded into a three-week hiatus from school. I was six years old. At its onset, I negated the cold outside with a fever so hot that I felt like I could toast bread by placing it on the skin above my ribs. Of course, I would have been unable to eat the toast. Nausea kept me from eating for weeks, and the ever-present thermometer hanging from my mouth obstructed the way.

When my mother came to read the lines where the mercury fell, I moaned, aching for comfort. “Why me,” I  asked.

These simple words were loaded. I fought my willingness to tackle the predicament not by wishing it onto someone else, but by wondering what I had done to deserve it, hoping for its course to run faster, doubting my strength to persevere. These concepts and my six-year old vocabulary didn’t align. I was, as we all are in youth, muted by age.

Forty years later, I can look back on the event and see its beauty. In the space between thought and words, a world of unknowns transpired. How did my mother feel? Why did I choose to say these words? Was I really aching for comfort, or was there something else, bigger, less immediate, that I needed? And it begs the question: Why do I choose to write about it?

If you want to burrow inside my brain, these types of questions circulate on an incessant track, day and night. I am plagued by curiosities, motivations intrigue me, and I am no longer mute. To uncover the possibilities of why I do what I do, I must write.


Christmas Nest
Christmas Tree with Nest


This past year of writing has brought me closer to my goal of finishing my childhood memoir, although it is nowhere close to where I would like it to be. Each scene, each description, is like one tiny line on the thermometer. A book-length work is comprised of these dashes, settling into place only after the fever burns. For my truth to manifest, I must get comfortable being uncomfortable, enduring each moment with hope that my words will truly express me, not my intentions, but my humanity.

I am persevering by letting go of doubt, the judge, the critic, that sits on the balcony of our life-stage and haggles us with inane commentary. The way I see it, the world is our critic. My only job is to continue the show, which I plan on doing when I send my messy manuscript to an editor in January. I trust her to take its temperature, read between the tiny lines, tell me where it runs hot or cold.

In the meantime, I can look back on the year’s progress with a sense of accomplishment. I’ve made some dashes, increased the mercurial importance of my story, settled into its heat. Despite the vast world of unknowns, I wrote. It’s warm in there. I think I’ll stay.




On Writing: Memoir Update

I am how many years into writing my memoir? Three? Four? I bet you’re wondering when it will be done. I can’t say. As in, I have no idea.

It sounds tireless, but in these three or four years I have gained more than 130 pages of text. I have participated in conferences, attended workshops, taken numerous classes, and have read everything I can get my hands on, about, or in the form of memoir. It is a drive for understanding.

Because I began in confusion.

I was confused about my anxiety, my worth, my purpose. So I wrote. And wrote. And wrote.

And now people tell me they like my writing which is like putting a soft, fluffy pillow on the hard chair I sit on. It makes it easier to come back to, allows me to stay a bit longer.

This is crucial for memoir. I have found that self-knowledge by introspection sinks deeper than I had originally imagined. Sitting alone, I have burrowed into calcified memories and pried them apart to have a good look at their meaning, usually one that files me under the category of, well, mortal.

In other terms that means horrendously flawed.


I’ve learned to be objective. The classes didn’t teach me this. The books didn’t teach me this. It’s just a little wrap of kindness I realized was there all along. Sometimes we put it around the shoulders of someone else, and other times we clutch its corners like oncoming death.

Because that’s what the world requires from us.

In the past several years, I have received more than my fair share of kindness after sharing my story. It erupted from a state of vulnerability into a full blown shower of appreciation and gratitude from strangers, friends, classmates, editors, and authors. Because they believe my story matters.

Everyone has a story that matters.

The hours, days, years suddenly don’t mean anything because what I’ve found along the way has impact. It has scoured away my original doubt and confusion and gives me purpose. Wrapped in the beauty of kind words, I’m grounded here. With you.

I am grateful.