Crystal from The Unhappy Wife book

unhappy-wifeCrystal was the fourth woman that I’d interviewed. By the time I wrote her story, I had to admit that something metaphysical was happening whenever I began typing. I say this because I knew bits and pieces of her life with a drug-addicted husband, so I kind of already had a set beginning, middle and end for what I was going to write.  I assumed she was going to express regret for staying with him so long. Her interview was a technicality.

But she didn’t. Listening to Crystal, I realized that she saw her role as the person who never gave up on him. I had to write a love story about forgiveness and hope with unhappiness along the way.

How was I going to do that??? Were readers going to think I was condoning abuse and drug addiction? I decided it didn’t matter. I wrote the story she told me and allowed the narrative to unfold with metaphysical guidance.

Concept: The first thing I wanted to show was the pattern of drug addiction over the years, hence the episodes. The next thing that was important was to develop a sense of how drugs rule people’s lives. For Crytstal, each episode yielded a different phase in life: having a kidney transplant, delivering a baby, and going to college. But for 20 years, Tré focused on one thing, getting high.

The third part of the relationship I wanted to present is by episode five Crystal had decided there was nothing she could do about Tré’s habit. She realized the only person she could control and save was herself. She finished her undergraduate degree and secured a great position. She also raised her daughter. But she did these things all while remaining married.

Commentary: What’s the point? What is the point of being married to someone if you’re going to live separate lives? I thought marriage was a union, a coming together of two people because of love. Can you love someone and remain married to him, while watching him destroy his life? My husband says all the time, “You have to decide do I love this person exactly as he or she is, or do I love certain parts about him or her?”

There is a happy ending for Crystal and Tré. Crystal waited 20 years for it, but deliverance did occur. How many of us would be wiling to wait two decades for someone to get their life together and be the spouse we always wanted?

I’m not ignoring one important part to this story. Crystal’s mother kind of guilt tripped her when she first committed to Tré. She reminded her of all the other hobbies she’d given up on and basically told her that being married wasn’t a pastime.

I agree. But I think if Crystal’s mother would’ve known that Tré was an abusive drug addict, she might’ve given her different advice. Maybe.

unhappy-wifeWhat did you all think about Crystal and Tré? One of the Amazon reviewers said the she couldn’t understand why she stayed. Do you agree? Should she have left? Are concepts like forgiveness and grace just for religious books and spiritual leaders? Let me know what you think?

We’re coming to the end of this journey. Next week, we’ll discuss Veda, the last woman in the book and the Committed Wife section. Again, it’s never too late to order a copy of The Unhappy Wife. You can catch up on all of the commentary and add your thoughts whenever you can.

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Inspiring Image(s) #73: Smile…please?

Okay, this will be the last time I mention that trip to Memphis, TN. One thing I learned is many people really don’t like how they look in pictures. I mean some Memphians were angered that I would even ask…until they posed and I showed them how beautiful they looked when they spread their mouths a little bit. Here are a few examples:

ashanti_friendThis one is called, “You wanna take a picture of me???”

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This one is called, “Just let me take the picture, so I can show you…”

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This is called, “Is this how you wanted your picture to look?” (He really surprised me).

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This is called, “Best friends since kindergarten.”

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This is called, “Beale Street after 5AM.”

 

 

 

 

Monday Notes: 5 Ways to Become a Writer

img_3443Sometimes I jot down a note and it’s very negative. When that happens, I re-focus and make it a positive post, like this one.

***

I’ve written since I was in elementary school, fifth grade to be exact. However, I didn’t consider myself a writer until six years ago. Once I accepted this part of my identity, I started observing and listening to writers and “aspiring” writers. I’ve determined if you want to be a writer, then this is what you’ll have to do:

Start Writing Now that my writing is public knowledge, people confide in me. Cousins, the man at the Florida Writers Association conference, and the woman who asked me to ghostwrite her novel each want to write. But when I ask them what they’ve written so far, the answer is nothing. I advise each of them the same. Start writing. Whether it’s a public blog or a private diary, the first step is to begin.

Make Time to Write I often thought my job was getting in the way of writing. That wasn’t the truth. And because no one was going to offer me more time in the day, I had to shift my priorities. Instead of watching the Today Show every morning, I wrote for two hours. Then, I began my regular day. Where could you shift your priorities so that you can make time to write?

Take Time to Edit After you’ve written something, consider that your first draft. All writers have first drafts, and second, and thirds, and…you get the picture. As a former English teacher, rarely have I seen a masterpiece written in one fell swoop. When you take time to write, that means you might find yourself pondering over the use of the word stroll, saunter, or walk because you know each one of those words will change the connotation and flow of your sentence. So take the time to think about the words you’ve written in a meaningful way.

You Think Your Stories Have Already Been Heard Probably. I mean an infinite number of books have been written and read. But not yours and not the way you can write it. Comments about The Unhappy Wife have validated this concept. Recently, Story Teller Alley approved me to sell my book on their site. One of the reasons it was accepted is because of originality. A reviewer said,

Although stories of unhappy marriages have been told before, because these are all true stories and each person is different, the stories are all different.”

I’m glad the innovation shone through. Sometimes people read the title and assume they know what’s inside. But it’s a false assumption. Likewise, if I would’ve thought these were trite narratives, then I might not have written the book. So my advice? Don’t worry about it. Somebody wants to read it the way you’ve written it.

You’re Worried about What Other People Think If you follow my blog, then you know I write about many things that have happened in my life. Stories include family, friends, and people I barely know. I couldn’t write half of what you read here if I stopped to worry about someone’s hurt feelings and reinvention of history. Initially, an Anne Lamott quote helped me forge ahead with authentic writing, “If people wanted you to write warmly about them, they should have behaved better.” That quote changed my entire creative nonfiction writing life. The other part that has helped me write the truth is to separate fact from emotion. For example, it’s a fact that my dad packed up my belongings in the middle of the night while I slept. Consequently, I felt abandoned and pushed aside because of what occurred. Stick to the facts and make clear when you’re describing an emotion.

I hope one of these sparks the writer in you. Trust me. Someone, somewhere is waiting to hear your voice, even if the someone is you.

12 Ways to Maintain the Christmas Spirit AFTER Christmas (6)

Over the holiday season, a few bloggers and I discussed how easily people slip into the “giving” spirit when mid-November rolls around. And then *poof* Just like that, people tend to slip right out of it when January appears. It got me thinking. How can we maintain this energy year-round?

Initially, I’d planned to “experiment” with different ways and then write this at the end of the year. But I figured some people might want to try with me, so instead, I’ll update and re-blog the post every four weeks.

no_6Soooo…one day I looked up at it was July 25th aaannnd I hadn’t maintained the Christmas Spirit for that month! Turns out the summer is the time when I’m most forgetful about these things cause I’m out frolicking and stuff.

Anywho, check back in September for an update on my August activities. Have you been maintaining the Christmas spirit AFTER Christmas? If so, let me know how. I might be able to participate in an idea for one of the remaining months.

Check out ways 1-5 here.

Monday Notes: Men

img_2774I have a lot of thoughts. Conversations occur. People ask for advice. People share things about their lives. I overthink the conversation, advice, or experience, and voila! A thought occurs. So, I jot it down in my notes section in hopes of writing about it on a future date. I have 221 notes on my phone. I figured the future is now lol. Here’s my first one:

I’ve listened to how my male friends talk about women and how they interact with them. I also listen to and observe how women interact with men. Sometimes it’s different.

Men don’t treat every woman like she’s their future wife. They don’t treat every relationship like there’s an impending wedding. Men seem to know which women are so-called “wife material” and which ones are not ready to commit. Consequently, they seem to treat each “type” of woman accordingly. Now, I’m not saying this is right or wrong. Please don’t confuse this with a feminist post. I’m just saying some men seem to know.

Women, on the other hand, seem to meet a man, and immediately begin checking off their “Are you my husband list?” Having standards is an integral part of being in a relationship, but every man, date, and even relationship is not a potential husband or lifelong situation. However, even if a woman notices the man doesn’t fit something on the proverbial list, I’ve noticed that she will then make provisions. Maybe he’ll change and go to church. Maybe I can change him and he’ll stop wearing jeans. Maybe this relationship will change once we’ve dated for a while.

What does this mean? Men seem much quicker to say, “I don’t think I can deal with this woman.” Whereas, women are much quicker to say, “I can work with this man.”

What do you all think? Am I overgeneralizing here? Remember, these aren’t fleshed out thoughts, so I’m not committed to one perspective. Plus, you know I really want to hear what your experiences and opinions are out there.

Darlene from The Unhappy Wife book

unhappy-wifeDarlene, Darlene, Darlene…where do I begin with this story? First, I was happy to include this woman’s narrative because she was a preacher’s wife and I know that sometimes, we still place people like preachers and their families on pedestals. The reality is that preachers and their wives are people just like you and I. Part of my purpose was to show this through their experience.

Also, Darlene is another woman with whom I had a lengthy conversation. She told me about learning how to be a woman from Kain’s mother, fooling around with Kain’s brother, and ultimately marrying Kain. Similar to Miss Sharlene, I wasn’t sure if I needed to include all of these details, but ultimately I did to show her background and how she came to marry someone like Kain.

Concept: I didn’t know much about the Pentecostal church before writing this story, so Google was my best friend as I researched. The introduction where I describe Mother Williams showing Darlene how to be a woman in this type of church is the result. What I found out is Darlene’s experience is common. There is a lot of focus on women being mindful of how they represent themselves because, you know, men can’t control themselves if they see legs and cleavage. There is a lot of focus on women maintaining sexual purity and there are bible verses to support reasons why.

Quite honestly, I was in awe of these teachings. But I included them to show the reader how a woman could construct an idea about herself and what type of wife she’s supposed to be, no matter what.

The other aspect of this story I felt was important was Darlene’s gullibility. She admitted after going through this ordeal that she had no idea about what was cheap and what wasn’t. I fictionalized her examples for the book, but the way Kain dated her was similar. He had no money, but he passed it off as “frugal.” I’m not saying a man has to take you to an expensive restaurant; however, Kain’s financial traits transferred to the marriage and Darlene ended up assuming much of the costs.

The last part of this story that I wanted to drive home was how much we rely on other people to tell us what to do, even in a marriage. Darlene just wanted to be a faithful wife, who submitted to her husband, no matter what. Mother Williams encouraged her to do that. Her apostle friend encouraged her to continue by wearing a mask of happiness. Darlene honestly didn’t know what to do, unless someone gave her steps.

My commentary for this one is brief because I’m running out of words for my own count and also because the message is the same. Women have to learn to not only hear their inner voice, but also listen to it. Can you ask for advice from someone? Sure. But if your husband brings you an STD, works, but asks you for money every month, has sex with you four times a year, and doesn’t speak to you, unless it’s to save face in front of others, then you might want to consider that a sign.

unhappy-wifeWhat did you think about Darlene’s story? Did you catch my not-so subtle naming of her husband, Kain? What did you take from this story that I didn’t mention?

It’s never too late to order The Unhappy Wife and start reading because these blog posts will be up for a while. Next month I’ll provide a few insights about Crystal and how she chose to deal with her drug-addicted husband.