Impediments

When it comes to cliques, they aren’t all bad.

Today’s blog post isn’t going to be one of my usual ones. I need to take care of a little business, and this week’s prompt about cliques seems to be the perfect opportunity to do so.

First, I’ve been really lucky about finding work this summer. Unfortunately, none of the jobs are full-time, so that means I’m working several part-time jobs.  That also means that I am so busy I’m sort of expecting to meet myself coming or going on my own doorstep one of these days.

One of those jobs has involved painting with a group of really nice people who have been incredibly supportive of me as I learn which of my physical limitations to respect and which ones to ignore. I’ve been bending, stretching, reaching and yes, swearing, and I’m figuring out that I’m a lot tougher than I gave myself credit for.

There’s a woman on the painting crew who likes that say that different things are “impedin’ the progress” whenever we run into a problem. She says it with a grim little smile and a laugh, and then she dives back in to work around whatever it may be that’s impeding her progress.

I’m trying to learn from her wonderful attitude, and that’s what I need to talk about today.

I’m a writer. I am forty-nine years old, and I am finally writing and publishing the books that I have wanted to write since I was four years old. That’s forty-five years of dreaming, finally coming true.

Sort of.

Stay with me here. I’m going to make my point soon.

I started blogging because I needed to gain some discipline as a writer. Somewhere along the line, I also figured out that I have a pretty good sense of humor. I learned about marketing and terms like “engagement” and a lot of business-y stuff that I had never really thought about. I met a lot of wonderful bloggers and writers, and I found out that I really get a lot out of staying positive and surrounding myself with helpful and supportive people.

In short, I started having fun.

At the same time, I finished two books in my “Beach Haven” series and added a short novella as a sort of a prequel to the series. I figured out how to format, how to work with an editor and take suggestions without being offended, and I think I also became a better person through the steady contact with a nice little “clique” made up of just the right people.

I also met a couple of writers/bloggers who delight in tearing others down as well, but I’ve made the choice to ignore them. Life is too short to worry about the opinions of people who are focused on the fact that I am fat, middle-aged, and not exactly a beauty queen.  Stressing over that would just be impeding my progress, especially since none of those things have any bearing on whether or not I can write.

As Popeye would say, “I yam what I yam.”

In recent months, I’ve learned about different groups of writers who work hard to support and defend each other. In a way, they make up an exclusive clique that works very hard to exclude those who choose negativity and cruelty over support and camaraderie. So yes, even though the word “clique” can have a negative connotation, I am proud to be a part of this particular one.

I am a writer. I’m not the best or the most successful, but I’m writing.

The problem is that I’m not writing my next book.

I’m ghost-writing a few things for very poor pay. It’s not a lot of money, but it’s money. That’s right: I’m prostituting my writing skills to pay the rent. I’m not proud of it, but it is what it is.

I’m writing my blog, which is fun but doesn’t help me finish my book or pay my rent.

I’m doing little tasks at Amazon Mechanical Turk for pennies at a time. It doesn’t help much, but I need a lot more pennies.

I’m babysitting, cleaning houses, working, working, working. All the time. And I’m not making it. Not getting the book finished, not making the rent, not even making enough money to say I’m “squeaking by.”

And I am trying – really, really hard! – not to sink into a puddle of anger and self-pity because my neck injury forces me to work twice as hard to earn half as much. I don’t want to impede my progress by giving in to that anger. I want to stay part of the Positive Clique.

Which brings me to my point.

I’m going to have to cut back on blogging. I used to aim for three posts per week; I’m cutting back to a goal of once a week. I hate to give it up, but the very little time I have for writing needs to be devoted to jobs that are going to bring in money to support my writing. I don’t ever expect to get rich from my little romance novels, but I’m hoping to someday reach the point where I can only work one job while writing them. And to do that, well, I have to write them.

I’ve got to prioritize. I’ve got to stop impeding my own progress.

I’ve also swallowed my pride and added a “donate” button to my page. I’ve seen other bloggers do it, and I’ve always scoffed at them for begging for donations on a free blog. Well, I’m not scoffing any more. I’m right there, begging with the best of them.

I am a writer. I’ve waited a lifetime to be able to say that, and I am honored to be part of the small, exclusive clique of writers who strive to be kind to each other. I’m proud to be part of the blogging community as well, and incredibly grateful to everyone who has helped along this journey to making me a better  person as I become a better writer.

As I wrap this up, I want to leave you all with a link to a truly uplifting and astonishing video I discovered last week. The speaker is an old childhood friend of mine who has always understood the value of kindness better than most. She is a good soul, a dear friend, and an all-around wonderful person.

This is a Finish The Sentence Friday post: “When it comes to cliques . . . ” hosted by Kristi from Finding Ninee, Jill from Ripped Jeans and Bifocalsand Michelle from Crumpets and Bollocks.  Please take a few minutes to check out what some of the other bloggers did with this sentence!

Carrots, Anyone?

It started in line at the grocery store.  And since I live in a very small town with only one grocery store, it quickly escalated into one of those uncomfortably memorable moments in life.

I was waiting for the cashier to finish ringing up a six-pack of Vernors when I heard it from behind me – that unmistakable sound that any mother can identify at any distance: Gag, splatter, and a pitiful little cough.

I didn’t need to turn around to confirm that my son had just defiled the checkout lane at Wagoner’s Grocery Store.  But as usual with me, there is so much more to the story than just the tale of a seven year-old vomiting in public.

You see, I had just interviewed for a job at that store a few days earlier.  My job at the school is about to end for the summer, and I am in a full-out state of panic because I can’t find employment anywhere.  The government says I am not disabled, but I am having one hell of a time finding anyone who will hire a forty-nine year old former hairdresser with a twenty-pound lifting restriction. Every job, even basic cashiering, requires a certain amount of lifting.

So I’m not disabled, but I’m not physically able to get a job. Go figure.

The manager at the grocery store was very honest with me. She liked me and thought I’d be a valuable addition to the team, but . . . what if a customer had a 25-lb bag of dog food or some other heavy item that had to be lifted back into their cart? I told her that I understand, and I really do understand; nobody can afford to hire an employee who can’t do every aspect of the job.  I assured her that I would still continue to shop at the store and there would be no hard feelings. After all, it’s a small town.

Remember that.

When the school called to tell me that my boy was feeling sick and needed to be picked up, I really didn’t think he was all that sick. He said his tummy felt bubbly, but there was no fever. He certainly didn’t look sick, but I’ve learned over the years that a bubbly tummy should never be ignored. I’ve also learned that the best treatment for a bubbly tummy is a few sips of room-temperature Vernors.

vernors

Okay, for all of you unfortunate souls who have never experienced the joy that is Vernors, let me explain. Vernors is the best ginger ale in the known universe. Don’t argue with me that you know of something better; Vernors is simply the best. It just is. Any Michigander will agree.  And any Michigander will also tell you that Vernors has medicinal uses during flu season. Whether it’s the carbonation or the ginger or just the firm belief that it really works, Vernors always seems to do the trick.

vernors2

But my boy is only seven; he was not old enough to leave at home or in the car while I ran into the store for his Vernors. I took him in with me, grabbed a six pack for him and a Diet Coke for me, and headed for the register.

Where the new cashier was being trained for the position I had so desperately wanted. She is the mother of one of my daughter’s friends, and I was so happy to see that she got the job. She has more kids than I do, and I know for a fact that she is one hell of a hard worker with a reputation for being a fantastic employee. I can’t think of anyone in the world who deserves the job more than she does.

In fact, I was in the process of opening my mouth to congratulate her when Young Faithful blew behind me.

I grabbed the child as he let fly with a second stream of partially-digested carrots. I started apologizing profusely and asking for a mop while simultaneously trying to swipe my debit card. And like any good mother, I was also desperately fighting the urge to join the Puke Party. I mean, let’s be honest here. When it comes to parenting, I am not one to gently rub the puker’s back while murmuring words of comfort. No, I am more of a “If you’re gonna hurl, hurl that way” kind of mommy.

I have to say that the grocery store staff reacted admirably. They cleaned up the mess and told me they hoped my little boy felt better soon, and they have asked about him every time I have gone into the store since then. Everything about that store has just gained about 100 more points on my personal rating scale for a business. They are all such nice people, so professional and caring toward every customer, even the ones who decorate the floor with a slightly used lunch.

On the other hand, I am now the woman who let her sick child blow chunks all over the woman who got the job I wanted.

I have just officially forfeited all rights to ever again say anything to anyone about being a good sport.  About being gracious. About accepting defeat with honor and dignity.

And I may never eat another carrot.

This is a Finish The Sentence Friday post: “It started in line at the grocery store . . . ” hosted by Kristi from Finding Ninee, Nicki from Redboots, and Dawn M Skorczewski.  Please take a few minutes to check out what some of the other bloggers did with this sentence!

Knot Now

200px-Cherry-stem-tongue

One of my hidden talents is the ability to tie a knot in a cherry stem with my tongue.

Believe it or not, it has taken me a week to come up with that in my search for anything that I might be able to refer to as a “hidden talent”.  Of course, once I figured that one out I remembered a few others.

I can light a lighter with my toes.  Once upon a time, I could also light a cigarette with the toe-lighted lighter, but these days I strongly doubt that I could get my toes anywhere a cigarette in my mouth.  Meh, I don’t smoke anyway.

I can balance a stack of quarters on my raised elbow and then swing my arm around fast enough to catch them before they hit the floor.  My record is twenty-one quarters.

I can break into almost any house, as long as I have access to a butter knife, something to climb on, and enough time to think about it. . . but not enough time to really think about it.

It says an awful lot about where I am in my life right now that I struggled so hard to find my own hidden talents for this week’s prompt.  I’m dealing with so much in my life, and I know that it has taken a real toll on my self-esteem.  Which was always a bit wobbly to begin with.

I’ve never been out of work before now.   I don’t know what I’m good at.  I know I’m not dumb; I just don’t have any real ideas of what direction to go, career-wise.  I have limitations now that I’ve never had before, limitations that pretty much eliminate any kind of job I have ever held in the past.  Or, as I whined to two old and dear friends last night, “I have no marketable skills!”

Let me tell you something about these old friends:  they don’t take self-pity lightly.

I’ve known them since we were all eight years old.  At times, we’ve gone years without seeing each other.  At times, we haven’t really liked each other.  But there is no one on this earth who knows me better than they do, warts and all.

They pretty much slapped me down, scolded my ass for feeling sorry for myself, and proceeded to remind me of all of the things I am good at.  They reminded me of my worth as a human being, and they made sure to tell me that they love me.

They helped me remember that I need to love me too.

This morning, my husband and I drove to the county courthouse together to file the papers necessary to begin our divorce proceedings.  It was an emotional experience for both of us; neither one of us wants to get back together, but taking this step feels like failure.  It hurts.

It hurts to admit we couldn’t make it work.

It hurts to realize that it really, truly is over.

It hurts to look each other in the eye and say yes, I am sure I don’t want to be married to you anymore.

It hurts.

In the car, I asked him for help with this week’s writing prompt.  “You’ve lived with me for eighteen years,” I said.  “What would you say is a hidden talent that I have?”

“You can tie a cherry stem in a knot with your tongue,” he said.

My friends know that I can hand-quilt and embroider like a dream.  They have faith in my writing, and they have ideas of ways for me to make money with it.  They know I am a hard worker and that there is no job I can’t do if I set my mind to it.  They believe in me, and they are going to make me believe in myself whether I want to or not.

My friends demand the best that I have to offer, and they will accept nothing less.  They know that I have talents and skills that I haven’t even discovered yet.

My husband, the man I loved and lived with for nearly two decades, knows that I can tie a cherry stem into a knot with my tongue.

Somewhere between the county courthouse and home, I finally understood that my hidden talent has nothing to do with cherry stems or cigarette lighters or fine needlework.  It has everything to do with this man that I used to love; this man that I tried so hard to share my life with.  This man who never really knew me at all, any more than I really knew him.

My hidden talent is knowing when to walk away.