I was trying ever so cleverly to NOT let my friend Mellie see how frustrated I was becoming. I must be a controlling cheffette or something because when she asked me to cook 5 lasagnas for her sons surprise birthday party, I happily accepted, but quickly became unhinged. I sent her with a very specific grocery list but I could feel the hairs on the back of my neck crinkle a little when she didn’t get the exact ingredients I would normally buy, they were…. ummmmm… all low fat.
Let me explain: when you eat something I cook for you, you best be dieting a good three days before….. I use butter. And olive oil and absolutely NOTHING fat free whatsoever. I’m not going to sacrifice my good cooking name for the sake of 30 calories.
Long story short: I said whole milk ricotta. She heard the words “whole milk” and then, well, she stopped there. What in the world did she actually think I would be doing with a carton of whole milk while making a lasagna?!
Then, I said fresh spinach. She heard “anything green.” FYI: This does not mean collards, Mellie.
So off to the store my son ran in search of spinach and whole milk ricotta.
He. Came. Back. With. Low. Fat. Ricotta. And. Kale.
Now when Mellie said we’re making lasagna, One would THINK they didn’t need to mention the staple, mozzarella cheese. But errrrrr ummmmmmm nada for the cheese. So off to the store my son ran….again. By the end of the night, my son had been to three different grocery stores, making 5 different trips.
The entire time I cooked, Mellie watched every move I made. I could tell she was excited but also extremely nervous to put on this surprise party. She hasn’t had much time with her child; he’s been in an alcohol recovery program for over a year now and this was the first time the leaders of the program would allow her to spend time with him. The surprise party was to take place on the beach and Mellie invited all his close friends from the alcohol rehab to join them. She borrowed my tiki torches, packed her Volvo to the brim with presents, 16 different kinds of sweets – fudge, cakes, brownies (all homemade) and five very fresh and very cheesy lasagnas.
When it came time for the party to begin, they were an hour late, she couldn’t seem to get him motivated. He seemed sluggish, forgetful; and nervous to be away from his safe haven. (The rehab center) Never one to be deterred, Mellie practically had to drag him by his ears to go on the beach. She said he drug his feet like tiny iron shards were implanted in his shoes. They came to the end of the path to start up the beach towards the tiki torches. Just a head, a crowd of about 40 men were all frolicking about and playing volleyball. Some were digging through coolers, others chattering amongst themselves, all waiting on the birthday boy. Mellie was so excited, she nearly skipped across the beach.
“Looks like somebody having some fun.” She called beside her. Then in back of her. To like….. the air. Her son was a good fifty feet behind her.
Mellie trotted back down the beach towards her son. “What’s wrong?” she asked him. “You said you wanted to go to the beach for your birthday. And here we are – at the beach. Now, lets go, I want to take a walk!” Mellie pleads as she reaches for his hand.
“No, momma.” He whispers. “I can’t.”
“What do you mean, you can’t?” She asks her son. Mellie is beginning to get nervous.
“Momma, if we keep walking straight ahead, we are going to have to walk through that crowd. I see people standing around with tiki torches which means they are having a party. I see coolers and that means beer. I’ve come so far, I can’t walk past those things without wanting them. They are all out partying on the beach and I am stuck in a rehab center. And deep down inside, I know I will never be able to go to a party like that again.”
And so it is right about now, that I feel like a total jackleg for getting frustrated over low fat ricotta cheese…
As he turned to head back to the path leading to their room, Mellie reached out for him. “Son, those tiki torches are for us so we can see. Those coolers are not filled with beer. They are filled with coca cola, sprite and water. There are a few Dr. Pepper because I know they are your favorite. I know all this because I packed them myself. And those people who are standing around are -”
He took a step closer. And then another. And then he finished her sentence. “Momma, those people are my friends.”
“Yes son, those are your friends and this is YOUR birthday party.” Mellie tells him.
And so they had his birthday party. On the beach. With tiki torches. And coolers filled high with drinks, tables set with lasagna and sweets galore. He felt comfortable staying away from the rehab center only one night instead of the entire weekend but that was ok for Mellie. She knew he would be taking away the best gifts with him ~ new memories and the realization: life can still be wonderful, even after you faced the terrible.
I guess that’s how life unfolds sometimes. Right when we think we are headed for heartache and don’t want to take that next step in life for fear we will be hurt, there is a treasure at the end of a rainbow. We all just need to make the effort, no matter how hard it may be…..
One step at a time….
Luckily, I didn’t faint when I gave my 5 minute speech at the She Speaks Conference this past weekend.
Think I’m kidding?
There was REAL concern…
Although this was like… the nicest writers conference I have ever been to, it was by far the most exhausting. I dern near withered and floated away from complete, adulterated FEAR from the very idea of standing in front of an audience of 500 – ok so really it was only about 8 ladies but still, it felt like 500 – and spill my innards. Ironically enough, my speak was on – you guessed it ….FEAR!! I racked my brain on what to write and changed my subject 4 different times. I even emailed the speaking coach and asked could I simply observe and come back next year for my speech. Her answer? No observing…
Finally, the moment of doom ascended upon me. I talked too fast. I forgot key points. I gulped on my own spit at least 3 times, (which I’m sure was very distracting not to mention quite gross)
But……………….. I did it!
Just off the top of my head this is what I learned at the She Speaks conference:
- You ( meaning me) are good to be out of town for 5 days. Don’t think you are being smart by packing 3 separate trips in 10 days. Come home. Rest and recharge. You almost ruined your very expensive writer’s conference experience due to the fact that you SUFFER from terrible homesickitis. It’s just who you are and you must never forget: you are no more than a coupon – One that expires in five days after start date.
- Liz Curtis Higgs is the bomb. Study her. She is fabulous.
- You really can’t serve two masters. The grief you put into trying to decide whether or not to bring your self help memoir book proposal to the conference was wasted. You are happiest when you are writing and living in Bella Blue’s world. And that is ok. Even pitching your memoir to the girl sitting next to you at dinner took you back to a very insecure place that you are not ready to share. It’s ok to stick with your happy place.
- For the second time now, somebody has pointed out that while sharing your story, they laughed at your jokes and self-deprecation but when you slipped up and actually let them peek into your private world, that was the ‘meat’ that reached out and grabbed them – it was just a sentence here, an emotion there – THE REAL YOU IS WHAT THEY WANTED. Ugg.
- If asked to make a speech, make sure you talk with the decision maker to know their specific needs. Write it. Practice it. And then, put it down. There was absolutely no need to rework, revise and rewrite the crazy thing 5 times. You agonized over this thing for at least 2 weeks. FYI: Your family will appreciate it next time they are mercilessly trapped with you and your whimpering in a very small condo while in Hilton Head Island….
- When signing up for a writers conference take note to the advice: Rooms are chilly. Bring a sweater. Thinking that your very cute sleeveless Lily Pulitzer dress will miraculously grow inside heaters; thus keeping you warm….well…it ain’t gonna happen.
- Pay attention to your ‘used to.’ “I used to dance. I used to exercise……” Let His light burn, but pay attention so you won’t burn out!
- Whatever you do, don’t lie when telling your story.
- Show. Don’t tell. Example: His hands were trembling, the papers in his hand quivered. Instead of: He was scared as crap.
- Edit. Edit. Edit
- The highlight of the message is not about you – until you love your people and your story more than yourself, you are not ready. It’s ok to not be ready.
- Enjoy Jesus. Give the Lord your first moments of your day. It is a gift you are giving yourself.
MONUMENTAL: Luke 6:45 For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.
Lastly, I learned that when you rush home to see your sweet children with the utmost, highest hopes of a warm, delicious meal waiting on you; on a crisp clean dining room table in a cozy and very clean home… don’t be surprised and alarmed to find this instead…
It is truly disconcerting when one sees himself living the life of a lil purple dragon…In my case, his name is Spyro and he’s the character in a video game my son has owned for years. Spyro’s main goal in life is to chase talisman and orbs all while dodging green frogs, flying square shaped objects as well as some kind of winged pig looking thingy. His main goal is to conquer RIPTO – an orange fat blob with a strange looking horn on his head. Spyro has to either shoot it, charge it or dodge it. I’m either charging when I should be shooting and dodging when I should be charging. When one is 44, somehow it is not very fun to watch yourself dressed as a lil purple dragon running slap dab into ginormous boulders and sailing right off a very high cliff; thus missing your target completely and having to start all over again. Finally, right when you think you’re steady on your feet, you’re actually tumbling over the edge of the cliff; where your lil dragon nose heads straight into the bright blue sea.
To me, It’s exhausting.
To my children, it’s pure, unadulterated delight. They think it is knee slapping, gut wrenching delishisness to watch mommy blow fire from her purple nostrils, (when there’s nobody within a good ten feet to even be singeing) pummeling full force towards my desired enemy (usually something very big and very blue) only to zip right past him and alienating the wizard who is trying his best to give me his advice and dole out a few tricks to help me.
Truly. Mind numbing. And yet, the story of my life.
Need an example?
I was settling in with our new home, in our new life with a new set of rules. I’ve picked back up Bella Blue and I’m moving and grooving with my writing. Bella Blue makes me happy when I sink into her world and I gave myself the deadline of finishing book numero 3 September 1, 2015.
Then I charged right into a big blue thingamagiggy: She Speaks Writers Conference.
I was so excited to be going; it’s been awhile since I’ve been to a conference. “It will be life changing!” I told myself, “Do it, Sissie, head in that direction!” I gleefully exclaimed. “You might even be able to ‘book it up a notch and throw some fiery fabulousness on one of their agents and or publishers!” Me and my purple wings flapped mightily as we checked out the box that read ‘make publisher/agent appointment’
And then it came: the big ole bolder: the detailed list of all the agents and publishers that would be present and what they were looking for. Not one of them wanted anything to do with a children’s book…..
BUT … what the agents and publishers were looking for was something I did have: a self help or memoir. I’ve already written about 80 % of the thing. I even wrote a 22 page book proposal. So what did I do? I hurled Bella Blue slap over the edge of a cliff and in true Spyro fashion, I began dodging Bella Blue isms and charging after my self help memoir. In the last 6 weeks, I’ve probably spent about 300 hours perfecting my self help memoir, she was SO close to being ready.
But then, I finally slowed my lil purple dragon pace to a stop and really began to think about what exactly I was charging straight for. The book may be ready but AM I READY?! Did I really want to do this? An I actually ready to share my story?
Me thinks not right now…..
Instead of being discouraged and frustrated with myself for getting so completely off course, I’m going to take the rest of the time off until after my She Speaks Conference. It is the summer and my children miss me. I have been in total Spyro mode for the last 6 weeks and it’s time to quit flapping my dragon wings and just…well just..be…
Izzy wants to go kayaking. Jake is coming home for the rest of the summer. Our family beach trip is the next week. Sometimes, a lil purple dragon has rest her fiery nostrils and reassess her priorities.
And then…. come back and kick Ripto’s booty!