Journey to the Center of My Heart: Trusting My Inner Voice

The year after my mother died, my father packed up all of my belongings in trash bags and sent me to live with my maternal grandmother. I was seventeen. One day after I’d gotten settled, I confided a feeling I’d had.

“I’m going to write a book,” I said with a smile.

“Oh yeah?” She asked. “About what?”

“About my mother’s death.”

“You think you’re the only whose mother’s died?” She replied.

feedback_opinionI want to share this with you, not to bash my grandmother. Twenty-seven years later, I know that people’s conversations and comments have little to do with me. I’m sharing this with you because I never wrote about my mother. Her response led me to believe that not only was my topic one in a million, but that no one else would want to read it.

So I didn’t write it. In fact, I didn’t write much of anything for the next 25 years.

I became a high-school English teacher, got two more degrees, and became an education professor.

The urge to write crept back around 2014. I asked my little sister friend to create this very WordPress site for me. She did. I took it from there and learned the ins and outs of blogging. I continued to follow my intuition. Blogging gave me more writing confidence. Blogging 101 and 201 gave me more tools and knowledge. Following people like Janice Wald gave me more tips.

2015 rolled around. My dad died. I felt a flurry of emotions and another urge of intuition: Write about it. This time I didn’t tell anyone, not one soul. I sat in my stepmother’s guest bedroom and wrote the entire story of our failed relationship from 1989 to his death in 2015. I included all of the murky, emotional details that people rarely want to discuss or feel. By the last keystroke, I felt satisfied. But it was too long for a blog post (that’s something Janice Wald taught me).

I broke it up into five separate posts and called it a series; that’s something I learned in Blogging 101 or 201. The response was positive and endearing. Once again, this validated a choice I’d made to follow my heart.

A few months later, I had another stroke of intuition: Find a local writers group. I sought out the Florida Writers Association and considered entering their annual writing contest. Mek, a blogging friend I’d written with had been taking writing courses. She read The Transition and offered genuine suggestions.

I entered the contest and won first place for Creative Nonfiction of an unpublished piece. Did I need to win to prove I should follow my heart? Not really. I’d already felt good by simply writing it. But there’s no doubt my choice to write was again validated.

Now I had an “award-winning” piece of literature. It came in handy when the Still I Rise Grant required three writing samples. And although I didn’t win, as some of you remember, Alternating Current/The Coil published that piece during Father’s Day weekend.

Furthermore, Alternating Current then nominated The Transition for Best of the Net.

meditating_1This is just one example of why I’m adamant about listening to your inner voice and tuning others’ out. This is why I almost beg people to follow their hearts. Those feelings, voices, visions, or whatever come to you, they’re not accidental. They are specific nuances sent to guide you towards what you and only you should be doing.

Furthermore, I finally realize my grandmother was right. I’m not the only person whose mother (and father) have died. However, I’ve also recognized my ability to string words together that convey relatable feelings for people who’ve been through similar experiences. Today, I’m glad sharing about my life through writing has not only helped others, but also shaped a clear path for me as I continue to follow my heart.

Drumroll Please…✍🏾️📖🏆

img_2274Remember that contest I told you all about? Well, I won! Initially, I was nervous sitting there listening to all the rules and stipulations about rubrics. When Chris Coward, the president of the Florida Writers Association read my name, I couldn’t believe I’d actually won first place for creative nonfiction.

“The Transition” is the story of how I shifted from bitterness to compassion for my father, while he shifted from life to death due to his cancer diagnosis.

I want to share it here, but cannot because I’ve submitted it for The Binge-Watching Cure, a paid book publication.

Instead of posting it, I want to tell you something I find odd.

In 1983, my mother had a kidney transplant. Consequently, at ten years old, I wrote a book called On the Farm. It was the story of a little boy whose dad had died. The boy had to learn how to take care of the farm and his family. My fifth grade teacher, Mrs. Patterson submitted it for a citywide competition, sponsored by Gwendolyn Brooks. Remember, I grew up in Chicago so this was a huge deal. My grandmother and I dressed up in church attire and attended. My mother was still in Madison, Wisconsin recovering from her transplant. I didn’t win. But 33 years later, I find it quite strange that I won a competition for a story I wrote about losing my own father.

Today, everything is still surreal. However, if I can say anything to all of you who read my words, it is this: Carpe Diem! That was the 2016 Florida Writers Association’s theme. Seize the Day! Do what you want! Live life and experience it however you see fit. And have faith that everything is working out for your highest good.

All Summer ’16

My summer was fabulous.

It started with this new job and how they function. Typically ten-month employees are only paid until May, but not this one. This institution gives you no choice; they spread your salary over 12 months. Initially, I was bothered because 12-month pay meant fewer dollars in my check. And my salary was already at an all-time low.

But then something happened.

My director asked me if I wanted to teach summer classes. During past years, at former universities, my answer would’ve been a healthy, “Yes.” In fact, I was always the one begging higher-ups for summer classes to teach or busting my butt to write grants to supplement three months of income.

But not this year.

Nope. This year, I was getting paid my regular salary during the entire summer! This might sound like a small thing to some of you who work and get paid annually, but trust me. This is HUGE (in my Donald Trump voice).

So my answer was, “No.” And that’s where my summer planning began. I was going to do nothing and anything.

1470948563407Summer vacay began as it always does, with my birthday shenanigans. This time, Dwight planned a fun party on a casino boat that left from Port Canaveral. Twenty-two people came out to celebrate with me. It was pretty amazing because none of the guests lived in the area. Everyone either flew or drove in. I was surrounded by love and water.

Once that was over, my youngest daughter, Desi finished the eighth grade. Now she’s headed to her high school’s IB program.

All along, I kept taking cool photos of people, and you know what happened? Two people purchased the one called, “Chillin.’” I could’ve never imagined that someone thought my photography was good enough to buy.

1470948854382Because I was off this summer with free time, I vowed to visit a different beach every week. Sometimes I just walked on the shore. A few times, the girls and I set up chairs and hung out. I even convinced a few other people to join me. This summer, I visited Jacksonville Beach, Neptune Beach, Hanna Park, St. Augustine Beach, Flagler Beach, Ormond Beach, and Smathers Beach!

Around June, my best friend made her bi-annual visit from overseas. Traditionally, we tube down the Itchetucknee River when she comes. But this time was a little different. In addition to my family and I, Kesi brought a friend; my goddaughter came; and another friend and her family arrived. We tied those blue rafts together, and floated down the cool river for 45 relaxing minutes.

Because I didn’t have any teaching duties, I created a schedule to self-publish and market The Unhappy Wife, which I’ve deemed successful. When I wasn’t publishing the book, my bestie and I drove eight hours to Key West. We hung out at Margaritaville’s, the Butterfly Museum and Ernest Hemingway’s house. Visitor’s tip for you all, Key West is not the best place for beaches.

1470949099634A couple of unexpected events occurred. Around July, I learned I was finalist for a creative nonfiction piece I’d submitted. Dwight and I will be driving to Orlando in October to see if I won. Send me some positive energy please! The second thing that happened is a friend of mine nominated me for an award. I was one of 30 women named as a Leading Lady of Jacksonville. So I ended the summer the same way I began it: celebrating!

Well, that was summer 2016! To say that I lived every moment would be an understatement. Now, I’m back at work, sitting in a meeting as you read this. But I can truly say that I’m refreshed and ready to teach.

What about you? You might not have had as much time off as I did, but what did you do during these summer months? Have you been to any of the places I’ve named?

Sisterhood of the World Blogger Award

sisterhood-of-the-world-bloggers-awardThanks so much to Lisa W. Tetting for this nomination! As a successful author and a fellow blogger, she is quite inspirational as she represents where I hope to some day be. Go check out her blog (and buy her book)! I’m sure you’ll enjoy it.

Here are the five rules: (1) Thank the blogger who nominated you and link back to her site; (2) Put the award logo on your blog; (3) Answer the ten questions sent to you; (4) Make up ten new questions for your nominees to answer; and (5) Nominate ten blogs.

Here are the ten questions that I must answer as part of this nomination:

My questions from Lisa:

  1. Name your favorite character from a book? Janie from Their Eyes were Watching God is one of my favorite characters. I identify with her non-conformist attitude and her life story, which is also quite similar to Zora Neale Hurston’s.
  2. Do you prefer cds or vinyl? Eek! I prefer streaming and downloading now. This just happened around 2012…and now I’m all in.
  3. Coffee or tea? Coffee – only one cup per day, right in the morning after I’ve worked out and while I’m doing work.
  4. Where is your favorite place to write? I really don’t have a preference. In fact, I’ve recently written a draft while riding the Japanese rail system. I’ve found that words kinda come to me and usually I have to stop what I’m doing (if I can) and get it down.
  5. Name 5 places you want to visit, but haven’t had the chance?
  6. When did you fall in love for the first time? My senior year of high school I met the first person that I actually felt as if I really loved. His name was Jeffrey and we spent a lot of time together. Our relationship was a great lesson in what the actual cycle of love can be.
  7. Do you prefer the beach or the mountains? Beach! I love the beach and the water. In fact, I have a few beach pics on my blog.
  8. Who is your favorite member of the Jackson 5? MJ – circa 1983
  9. What is your favorite holiday? Thanksgiving because it’s not about gifts or anything. It’s about being grateful and eating, two things I love to do lol. Christmas is a close second but mostly because of the movies. I love Christmas movies.
  10. What place on earth brings you the most joy? The beach brings me the most joy because I think it represents life. Water can be calming, but it can also be dangerous. It can fade away. It can grow. It’s required to live.

My nominees (with no pressure to actually participate):

Life as Mrs A

Finkelstein & Sons

Whit C.

Academy of Gratitude

Afthead

Living those Dreams

Nerdy and I Know it

Simply Marquessa

Sandra’s Place

Work in Progress

My questions:

  1. Do you have children, and if so, how have you managed to balance motherhood and other life activities?
  2. Do you have any pets, and if so, how did your pet come to be a part of your life?
  3. Do you have any other passions than writing?
  4. How did you become a blogger?
  5. What genre do you prefer to read?
  6. In what genre do you generally write?
  7. Do you have a spouse or significant other, and if so, how does this person complement you?
  8. What is your writing process?
  9. Are you a morning or night person?
  10. Have you ever won any writing awards?