Posts Tagged ‘Writing’

Want to Write?

If you have something to say, are a writer (or want to be) and need a prompt, let me be that prompt.

Nancy Slonim-Aronie has a website www.writingfromtheheart.wordpress.com and a belief that EVERYONE has a story to tell. She believes people thrive and grow when encouraged and will, with continued practice, hone the craft of writing.

Whether you believe a little constructive criticism helps as well is up to you. I know I felt safe with her approach when a fragile and scared new writer with heavy content to share.

 She gave me courage to speak my truth, with honesty and urgency, and told me to trust that it would product quality writing if not right away, in time.

Anyhow, her new prompt is, “The Ball Is In Your Court” and you can write, in free-write style without too much concentration and worry about plot and narrative arc. Write from your heart about what comes up and out when you think, “The Ball Is In Your Court” and then, if you want, send your piece in to: writingfromtheheart@gmail.com

It can be serious, playful or anything! It’s best if it 500 words or less. Happy Writing.

Catch of the Day: The people I have met and experiences I have had sharing the creative life with others and being guided by great teachers.


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Unearthed at the Ocean


This morning, with my eyes closed, the ocean sounds like the breath of the universe. She inhales a gulp of water, retracts, holds and releases again. It’s not all calm and centered though. The sand, rocks and even the cement base of the stairs leading to to the ocean’s dry and traversable areas are subject to her moods and have been cracked and swept away in large chunks.


Everything can be rearranged, the earth, friendships, the solid foundations once unquestioned. It is terrifying and awe-inspiring to see the ocean in her power. I’ve walked the same beach for over a year, regularly, and seen changes. There are deep crevices in the sand, pits and water paths where once there were only tiny pebbles. Huge rocks, once looking as solid as mountains have been dislodged, and turned into soccer balls rolling the ocean base.


What was once almost a Getty like structure is starting, near the end, to have a mutiny. Lone rocks once holding together as part of a team or a famous band are split by tides and independent explorers pursuing solo career paths.



The ocean is constant but how she weathers the sand, the beach line and the rocks are not. In my friendships, boundaries get changed and it’s not always clear if a protective wall is coming down to to allow that great honesty and intimacy or if a crack in the foundation not repaired let dirt, insects and mold find a haven. Humbled, over and over, by the knowing that good intentions aren’t always enough and also more optimistic than ever that even the shape of change is not always a scary shadow on the bedroom wall.



“There should be some good hunting today,” my husband said, “and it looks like the sky will clear.” What he means is it has been stormy. The storms, not the calm, deliver the new gems, shake loose stuck glass and bring dinner plates from decades ago to the shore no longer round or hard or good for eating off of but amazing and whole in new form.



I will walk the sand and some gifts I will find, others I will walk past, by or even step on top of without seeing they are under foot. So it goes. We only know what we know, see what we see and learn what we learn at our own pace.



Catch of the Day:  My life is enriched and not smashed when changed. Even the destruction of historic seeming landmarks can make way for new perspectives, observations and landscapes.

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The new topic is out on the Writingfromtheheart@wordpress.com blog and it is, “The Thing About This Body Is….” Lots of writers, including me, have submitted for this topic and are posted. So, I’ve been quiet here of late as I write for that blog and publish and post the writing of others as well.
Check it out if you’re so inclined.  The writing is honest. The focus is on the heart to heart sharing of life and story through writing. The woman who started the writing from the heart workshops believes WE ALL have stories to tell and we can ALL write. We don’t need criticism to get the words on paper but encouragement and the safety to speak the truth. I’m grateful to her for her style of teaching and for giving me more courage to tell all of my stories.

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Here’s the link to the Writing from the Heart Blog where memoir style pieces go up every three or so weeks. My latest is there now.

It’s a letter to my daughter’s birth mother in China who has been on my mind of late.



Now, off for a sea glass hunt on this sunny Sunday morning with said daughter!

Sea Glass Girl

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The following is a piece I wrote yesterday morning. The prompt, from Nancy Slonim-Aronie, is: My Father Never Told Me. In free-writing style, I wrote non-stop without the critical judging brain. I didn’t go back and edit either. I decided, for this piece anyhow, it came out as whole as I want it for now.

If you want to try the topic, just pick up a pen and start writing on this topic. You can’t do it wrong! You can’t go in any wrong direction. Just follow any thread or many threads. If you find yourself stuck just keep starting the sentence, “My father never told me….” and go. Over the next three weeks you can see what others have had to say on this topic on the Writing from the Heart website at www.writingfromtheheart.wordpress.com

My Father Never Told Me, Cissy




My father never told me if he drinks coffee or tea when he wakes, if he favors early morning hours or the late of night. Francis Michael White never did say how he got the nickname Whitie. It could have been the name alone or his white bright blond locks. He never said how it felt when he found out that the man he was named for was not his father after all, that the name, white was a lie but not a white one.




I carry that lie too, the name White and the myth that a name makes us belong to anyone. I share my name with him but what we have in common is our status as fatherless children and the genes of sister. I know her but not him, not in the way I know a memory I can call up and lean on.




White is the name on my birth certificate, the tan paper with the orange seal that my Aunt Worry and I went into to Boston to get when I was in my twenties. It says he is my father but I have no memory of a Dad or a Daddy, of a man holding me on his shoulders so I can see if only briefly his view.






I know I was a child. There are pictures and I have proof. I don’t recall being on anyone’s lap, getting a running start and jumping while someone steadies them for my landing. I don’t remember flailing arms or legs left dangling as though the adults in my life were never bigger than me.




My daughter screams when her father arrives home, leaps from a chair or the floor and goes into his arms, runs around his legs and yells “Daddy!” He acts as though they have been apart for months or years. He screams back her name. It is loud, their love, palpable and glorious.




I don’t remember the felt sense of a father’s love. I don’t recall my father pulling a long wisp of hair out of my eye or saying, “hop in the car, we’re going for a ride.” I don’t remember learning to change a tire or him telling boyfriends, “be careful with my girl.”




He wasn’t the kind of father who hung around the borders of my life. He didn’t plant trees to give me shade, edge borders to make the path clear but he was a seed and I am evidence.




Blossoming now, a perennial wildflower covering new ground, I am less angry. My father never told me why he didn’t stay for my first birthday or return for my fortieth. I have stopped waiting for him to return and rescue me from my own scorched earth or strangling overgrowth. I am grateful at least for the gardener, my mother, though only a teen who did remain to feed and fertilize.




What I got from my father, I hear, is poor vision. But I see my daughter riding her father’s back through the common and she is as comfortable there as she is in my lap each morning. My father never told me why he left and stayed away. I would have told him he was missed. But I can’t know, from what I know of him, if I missed out on anything other than the myth.




Anyhow, it’s a rainy stretch. The earth gets moist from the gift of sky. Plants can grow even in lousy soil and without proper tending. They need only to be dropped on dirt or planted.

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Our family had a perfect day in Boston this week. It was as perfect as a movie montage scene. Ice cream melting down cones, getting sprayed by water at the play ground, eating out and taking the boat to and from Boston and of course people watching and the Swan Boats.

But what lingers and is unsettling grabs my writing mind. Writing is a slice of life but not a whole picture. Photo albums rarely capture illness and sadness. Journal entries are not often needed when one is calm and at peace. So, after a perfect family day in Boston, this scene lingers with me and captures a part of me.

It was still a perfect day. Ideal. Wonderful. Best ever birthday for my man. And yet, this hangs around my the borders of my being too.

Sharing the Same Umbrella




“I swear to God I’ll end you if you move from the table one more time.”




“Just put a piece of paper under it,” he said, it being the wobbly metal table.




“I can’t get out of my chair,” the boy says, he skinny legs sticking both sticking out from one side as he leans up. He is eight. Maybe he is nine.




“You can do the DVD, the Game boy, the VCR and the computer but you can’t figure out how to get yourself out of a chair?” his father says, his voice raising.




The mother is red-faced, sweating on this hot day.





The younger boy, maybe four, says, “I love Mommy.”





The older son is also red-faced from crying.





We are all sharing one blue umbrella, sitting outside at the Salty Dog, in Fanuel Hall. We are celebrating my husband’s birthday.





“This is supposed to be a relaxing day and if you can’t get it together, I swear to God we’ll leave here,” she says to her oldest, “we’ll go home and I’ll take out your little brother.”





“I just want to change my seat,” he says.





“I’ll switch seats,” his younger brother says.





“No,” the father says, “I can see you are trying to be helpful but no.” The father stands, and I think maybe he will change seats with his son. Instead, he lifts his son’s chair up and then shoves it back down and closer to the table.”



”I just want to move,” the boy says.



”Don’t move,” his father says.





“I swear I’m gonna kill him. He’s driving me crazy,” the man says to his wife.





She switches seats with her younger son to share the wobbly table. She leans over to her older son and says, “You are making a scene Do you know what a scene is?”





“I don’t care,” he says.





“You’ll care when we get home she says. You’ll care when something gets taken away.”





She goes on, “Do you see anyone else in here acting like you?”





And I want to jump in, “Do you? Do you?” to each parent and I want to say, “It is not him who is making the scene.” We are so close I could reach their cups and drink from them, so close we are sharing the same umbrella to get shade, so close we can hear every word.





“It’s hot,” my daughter says, but even as she says it she’s staring at the boy as I have been doing since we’ve been seated.





I am, until she speaks, not her a mama bear but a deer in the headlights. If they are like this in public I fear how they are at home. If they are like this when supposedly enjoying themselves I am imagining them unhappy.





S and I exchange glances and he takes action, pulling out paper and a pen and saying, “Let’s make a picture book of our day so far.”





They draw the boat we came in on. They draw the buildings around us. “And don’t forget Daddy opening his presents,” I say.





“Did you notice the paper?” I ask S, “The wrapping paper K picked up?”





“No,” S says.





“It was of Ariel,” I say, “because K knows how much you love her.”





I smile, “I know how you feel about red-heads.”





“You might have to worry,” he says if we were mermaids.





K is busy drawing. We are laughing.





Near us are two acrobats in tight red pants and black t-shirts, men They are getting the crowd’s attention, juggling balls and then swords. One of the men puts what is the size of a steak-size pillow on his head.





“Don’t try this at home,” he says, “Try it at school where they have nurses.”





He puts the pillow on his head and then his partner approaches. They are head to head for a moment, bulls locking horns, and then the partner elevates so that he is doing a headstand on his partners head. I see his legs up in the air, his light ballet shoes in soft contrast to all of his sharp muscles. His hands and the hands of his partner intertwined until he lets go. I can see his head wobbling a bit, his neck muscles alone holding him in a delicate balance. He is all limbs and spine and upside down.





This boy, at the next table is not being beaten or burned or slapped. But the words are cutting and the anger is making me hot and uncomfortable and he is also unsupported as he dangles in mid air sitting at a shaky table.





His father does eventually trade seats with him and softens. “Who wants to try my crab cakes” he asks. “Who likes these better?” he says than some restaurant they go to often, maybe Jake’s or something. No one likes them better than at that place.





“New rule,” he says, “We only get them there from now on.”





“What does Mom make the best?” the father asks.



”Ice cream,” the little boy says.





What does Dad make the best?”





Fear I want to say. Loathing.





But I say nothing and who am I to judge. I don’t know their lives, the details and history, the moments that led up to this lunch, the morning they had or the years that will come.





The mother implies the son was just hungry. The father says something about never leaving the house until they are all well fed. The boys are slow to recover though the father is trying. I failed to cover my daughter’s ear, to act quickly, move her seat or ask for another table. I didn’t know how to help the boy either and I wanted to.





The only thing I did is say to my daughter, without lowering my voice, “It’s scary to hear parents talk like that to their kids, isn’t it?”





She nodded her head yes but her fingers up to my lips to silence me as though she was afraid the father would hear me as though she were protecting me.





Later, I say, “Lunch would have been better without those people talking to their son that way, huh?”





“Yes,” she says adding, “He said he’d kill him. He (the boy) didn’t even understand what his father wanted.”





“We all get angry and lose our patience,” I say, “But that was unacceptable behavior,” S adds. We want her to understand we are never going to turn on her like that, that we understand the power dynamics, how much smaller she is, how dependent. We don’t want to go on forever and elaborate but also don’t want to fail to reassure her either.





Parents can, in frustration and exhaustion and anger tip over. I, if I had more than one child, might have crossed my tipping point. Will my daughter someday say, “I would have wanted a sibling,” and not known that for me, to make sure I had reserve enough to count on my own patience could not parent more than one.





Smug as I might like to be, it serves no purpose and is a trap. Smug won’t help K, that boy or even me. Instead, I will take the warning, the reminder, and think, “Don’t get that high strung, on empty, at blow up. Don’t ever treat a child as an enemy. Don’t forget the size and power imbalance.” I read somewhere once, maybe it was in Parenting from the Inside Out, that any time a child’s fight or flight response is activated by a parent’s behavior and not by an actual threat, the child is being treated unfairly, the parent is abusing his or her power. Any time the flight or fight response is activated in absence of real danger…. That concept has stayed with me.





Later at night at home I see a taped show. It’s Oprah talking to the host of a program I have never seen called, “What would you do?” There is a series of set-ups where people in parks are being threatened. The cameras are to see if anyone stop to offer help or intervene. In another, a woman, of Middle Eastern descent is refusing to be served in a restaurant. Most people did nothing. Most were neutral. Rarely did someone step in, speak up and rally on behalf of the person being threatened in a public setting.





Oprah quotes Ellie Wiesel who has said it isn’t hatred that kills but indifference. Smug?




What good would smug do? I did nothing. Nothing. Until writing. Until now.  

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Beverly Beckham at Buttonwoods

Beverly Beckham, columnist for the Boston Globe and writer and advisory board member for Grandparents.com spoke at Buttonwoods tonight.

She is as warm, sincere and funny in person as she is in her columns. Her humility, generosity and vulnerability show. She is engaging and interested in the thoughts of others. She was the guest speaker but eager to share not only how she became a writer but a column she’s finishing up, showing how she struggles with some pieces, and literally letting the audience witness part of her process.

She welcomed feedback and ideas from the group not needing to know if people were “real” writers, wanting to know how what she had written was received.  She showed she is a real writer, and each piece is new and tender, and we could witness her working her craft and see that even a successful well-known columnist still revises, reworks, struggled with tone and word choice and closure.

She is warm and real and while I share a few gems she shared with the audience I was most wowed by the huge personality packed into her petite frame. Huge as in a strong and distinct presence, a one-of-a-kind human being rather than huge as in loud or arrogant or know-it-all.

She told us she was thirty before she started writing seriously and at the time was a mother with three children and a daughter with an ailing mother. She talked about getting up at 5am and at one time writing three columns a week plus opinion pieces. She said she worked from 5am until noon.

She talked about her first break into newspapers when she wrote about the joy of racquetball. She said she handed in a seven-page piece. She had spent tons of time researching the piece and was told to cut it down. It was informative and also she wanted others to know, “If I can do this anyone can,” feeling about the sport.

She talked about her elation after the column was published. She joked how everyone at the Herald thought she was an athlete and everyone at the gym thought she was a writer. She said it was perfect.

She talked about a trans-formative moment when she had read a passage in a magazine from a book entitled, A New Kind of Country by Dorothy Gillman. It was about a woman in her 50’s who bought a place in Nova Scotia and was discovering who she was. There was a passage (and I’m paraphrasing her paraphrasing) where God asked, “What have you done with the talents I gave you?”

“I was cooking for my husband and sons,” the woman answered (again paraphrasing).”

God’s response was, “When I gave you those gifts you didn’t have a husband and sons.”

She said it was Catholic guilt that got her writing – guilt about not using her gift.  She talked about how much she loves her job but that writing was never an easy profession.  She said she spends hours sometimes laboring over the correct word.

She talked about her husband’s encouragement and how he pushed her and said things like, “You can’t get worse at something you keep doing.”  When she complained about the quality of anther’s column he encouraged her to write her own and submit it to the boss of the writer she was underwhelmed by and how that eventually led her to regular columns.

She also spoke highly of a woman at the Patriot Ledger (wish I had caught her name so I could pay tribute) who didn’t reject her writing but said, “Let me tell you what you did wrong,” and then published the revised piece.

One interesting thing she said she has learned about writing is that the pieces she thinks are best, often aren’t as good as she thinks and the pieces she thinks are bad often aren’t as bad as she thinks. She said that gives her some comfort.

She said the columns she likes to write most are the ones that hit upon universal themes. She said, as a writer, nothing (experience wise) is wasted. She’s not afraid to share her opinions, point of view or worried about being too self-revelatory.  She quoted C.S. Lewis saying, “We write to know that we are not alone.”

It’s hard for me, in my own words to capture her charm. She’s funny and self-deprecating and tells wonderful stories. I’ll continue to be a fan of her writing and insights and columns.

The last Boston Globe column of hers can be read at:


A brief bio of her is on the grandparents.com site. Here’s the link: http://www.grandparents.com/gp/corp/advisoryboard.html

The home page for grandparents.com is:


She really is as good, and I don’t just mean a writer but a person, as she seems to be in her writing.

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