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Friday, January 27, 2017

A Baby is Little For A Reason

My Dear Baby,

You do not realize the influence you have over me, but because you’re little you control me on many levels.



Some things are small by design, like blueberries or carrot seeds.  Some things need to be little, like aspirin or tic tacs. 

Baby, you came into this world little, little with a purpose.  Little pulls at my heartstrings. Little grants me the opportunity to be your ultimate protector.  When I care for you, I learn just how strong I really am.  When I love you, I learn just how big love can become.



Once I saw this video of this tiny little hummingbirds.  It had been abandoned by its mother and so this guy was feeding it from an eye dropper. I watched this little hummingbird sucking from that dropper and I just cried my eyes out.  The hummingbird was so little and that was what made it powerful.  This young man was strong because he cared for a vulnerable living creature. To destroy this creature would have left this young man weak.


Click here to watch it full screen on youtube.

Little doesn’t mean helpless.  Little means miracle.  Little means teacher.

I watch you do something I’ve done a thousand times, but somehow, when you do it, it’s a miracle.

I fall asleep, and from what I know, nobody stares at me with tears swelling in their eyes.  nobody literally has to pull themselves away from staring at my face while I’m sleeping. 

I eat and no body claps.  Clapping is usually saved for really monumental accomplishments, like winning a race or singing on a stage.  Baby, you get not just cheering, but literal applause for opening and closing your mouth.  Power, I tell you, power for the little people.

I walk, not big deal, but when you walk I can literally feel the smile growing on my face.  In other situations, when I smile, I don’t actually feel the smile coming on, but when you blow kisses or say the word star, but it sounds like TAR, my smile flies on my face.  It’s magnetic.

Little is the new black. 


You are only little for a season.  I want you to grow big and strong, but today, you are little and I will cherish every beautiful little thing about you.

Click here to watch it full screen.




Thursday, January 19, 2017

What I Learned From Taking an Improv Class

I thought I had a little something to offer the world of comedy because at times I’ve been known to be the life of a party.  I’m pretty good at dinner humor.  Get me around roasted chicken and a dinner salad, BAM, I’ve got it.  Someone can say something and I have that perfect pun to punch back with.  I can get my mom laughing, my brother, my sister and we build off each other, pointing out hypocrisy, building off memories from our childhood, making fun of ourselves, somehow current events got mixed in and we have the perfect evening of laughter and fun.  Literally, laughing so hard I've choked on chicken.  We’re all geniuses!

But, from the very first day of comedy class, I learned I’m so not funny. 

(This is the type of statement that will get me a call from my mom and she’ll say something like, “Oh, Laura, you have so much to offer.”   Thank you Mom, I’m ok.  I can handle this one. I love you.)

On that first day of comedy class, I knew I was doomed.  Looking around, I realized I’d gotten myself into a strange sort of torture – where others are supposed to be entertained at my expense.  I had sky-high expectations and with that sort of pressure, I had nothing to say. This was going to force me out of my comfort zone, something I was not comfortable with.  But always up for a challenge, of course I was going to follow through.  I would do my improtu-un-self-conscious-un-filtered-raw-best.  Remember, I don’t drink so this would all have to be done while entirely sober.

 

After that first day of class, I knew I needed to loosen up.  

This is about as wild as I get, dancing
with my kids at Chuckie Cheese.  

No, I wasn’t going to be a comedic pro.  Yes, I had to start from the very beginning, like a kindergartener; I needed to learn the ABC’s.  This consisted of not taking myself too seriously, not worrying about what other people thought, forgetting I might look fat, wondering if I should have worn those other jeans, trusting my babysitter at home, not checking my phone a hundred times and becoming present.  Wow, it’d been a long time since I’d been there.

A normal warm-up in comedy class is a word exercise.  Silly, quick reactions to words without much thought, just reaction.  You learn to lean on your classmates, to help build them up, to say “Yes” to their ideas, to go with the flow, let the process move you forward and just go with it.  After that first class, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to come back. I can see why comedy class has a non-refundable clause in their agreement. 

But the truth was, I wanted to learn about humor.  I’d been researching it, trying to find TED talks, YouTube videos, understanding the psychology behind laughter, and so forth.  



Attending Tig Notaro's comedy show at the Scottsdale Center for the Arts.  
You should watch her clip here on meeting 80's singer Taylor Dane.  Hilarios!

As a writer, I wanted to incorporate more humor into my work.  I wanted it to be natural, like how I felt around Sunday dinner with my family, minus the choking part.  I wondered: Is humor something a person can learn or is it genetic, like curly hair?  After that first class I knew I hadn’t inherited the comedy gene in any way, shape or form.  What a bummer because I wanted to be funny in a big way. (Mom, you don't need to call.  I'm really ok.)

I immediately loved my classmates.  They were brave and smart and I could pick up on their cool quirks, something comedians must have.  There was a man in my class named Eric who had Down syndrome.  I don’t know if it was the mother or big sister in me, but I immediately bonded with him.  I felt this sort of need to protect and help him, explain things when he didn’t understand, validate him – and we became great friends.  Truth was, he really was funny.  At our final performance, he had the crowd roaring.   

I’m so glad I went back the second week of class because something interesting happened.  Time flew by.  I arrived at 6:00 and before I knew it, it was 8:00.  I’d genuinely been laughing the entire time, not just courtesy laughs like I’d offered the week before.  The word games were ridiculous and nothing I’d normally do, especially considering the time I had away from my kids was usually zero.  I didn’t feel the pressure like I normally did to make every minute count.  Laughing was productive enough.  I granted myself that permission.



My classmates treated me like a queen.  Normally, I was running a few minutes late and when I ran in the door at 6:10 for class, they would cheer, “Laura’s here,” as I ran up on stage.  



We would start a game and I don’t know when I’ve genuinely laughed more.  Our instructor was absolutely hilarious and I was sad he had to stick to instruction because just off the cuff, I was laughing at everything he had to say.  Taking a comedy class allowed me a 2-hour opportunity every week to just be goofy, no strings attached and to explore where my mind would take me.

I saw growth in my classmates and could see each of their gifts.  They arrived at humor in their own way – through wit, charm, naivety, power, confidence or insecurity.  Either way, it was really funny and I loved how we built off each other. If they were growing, I probably was too.

So, what about my writing?  Did it change?  I know I have so much more to learn, but I’ve seen how I need to lighten up; how I have to let loose, even though I’m still strung up pretty tight. I write about some serious topics, but I know many of my favorite points of literature are when the author provides that comic relief.  Fault In Our Stars is a book about teenagers dying from cancer, but man, it is a funny book.

My husband,kids, sister and friends came to my comedy show.  




My husband occasionally gets those brilliant moments of comedy genius from me, but not as often as he deserves (think drill sergeant with a mom bun).

On our most recent date night, and we did laugh!

He's a mental health provider, so his line of work doesn't provide bouts of laughter.  When he laughs, I feel like he's given me and him a gift.  I always point out when he's laughing, that's how notable it is to me. I started to wonder: Do my kids see me laugh?  Do they laugh much? I knew the answer before I asked the questions. Ouch.  That side of me that takes life too seriously, that feels the need to make every moment count, that is self-conscious makes it difficult to lighten up and laugh. Laughter is the best medicine and now that I know how to find it, I hope to bring more of it into my home.


I also recognized to do improv takes tremendous talent.  That’s why only certain people are famous for being funny.  They deserve the big bucks.  In the meantime, I’ll keep my day job of being a full-time mom and part-time writer, which doesn’t pay well, but has some of the same perks as stand-up comedy like late-night audiences (my baby was up again at 3:00am!) and uncensored monologue (if my 11-year old says that word again, I'm washing his mouth out with soap). (I call you later, Mom.)

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

My Dear Trash – the title of my blog offended somebody.

A young woman in a facebook group who I had sent a friend request to responded in a way I hadn’t expected. 
I told her I was writing a book called WHAT HAS YOUR SISTER DONE – Stories of Unplanned Pregnancy. “If you know anyone who has a story they’d like to submit, please have them send it to my email at mydeartrash@gmail.com,” I wrote.
“My dear trash, are you serious?” she responded.
Maybe she’d heard of my blog.  Was she a fan?
“Yep, that’s me,” I replied with confidence, not reading into her repulsive tone yet. 
“I will never send anyone to you, no way.”

For a moment, I didn’t understand.  Did she not know I’m advocating for the unborn, searching for those tender stories of unplanned pregnancy, trying to help others in similar circumstances.  And then I realized, My Dear Trash.  Oh my gosh.  Was I serious?  This was awful.

My Dear Trash – finding value where others may not see it.  That’s the core principle this blog was started on.  I wrote it up on my first blog post almost nine years ago.

My Dear Trash – a great title while writing about my latest thrift store finds, or how I dumpster dived and saved a vintage vanity from landfill death. 

My Dear Trash – because we as a society throw so much away, too much away when there’s still value in our trash and I’ve spent almost a decade proving it.  I’ve made a living off of other people’s trash.

My Dear Trash – written by someone who has felt like trash most of her life.  And why would she?  She has a beautiful family, seems to be together (most of the time anyway), oh, but my story had just started.  I’d been peeling away at it ever since I sold used name-brand clothing I found at thrift stores on eBay.  I’ve been trying to find value in my self the entire time, not those designer Rock n Republic Jeans, not that .99 cent used Eileen Fisher cashmere sweater I sold for $100, but me.

My Dear Trash – about so much more then thrift stores and vintage trends.

My Dear Trash – a blog about babies?  My baby?  What type of society would ever deem a baby as trash?  Sickening.  Babies thrown away?  Not in America.  No woman, no mother would consider such a thing, would they. 

My Dear Trash – sexual abuse, that nasty statistic that 1 out of 3 girls in this country experiences that lead me to feeling worthless even when my life was filled with tremendous bounty.  The reality of a pregnancy scare after I was sexually abused, how food addiction and negative body image has been a cover up for shame and hurt, how abortion is not just about women ending their unplanned pregnancy, but about dysfunctional abusive men who continue taking advantage of women.  Do these men find value in women or do they see them as trash?  It had been a lie I’d taken responsibility for way too long. 

My Dear Trash - I was a young girl when I first saw the image of an aborted baby in a book my mom was reading.  Why was that baby thrown away?  I was raised by an activist mom who coined the term “prebirth studies.” She collected stories from women all around the world who had seen their unborn children in dreams or visions.  Ultimately, her research dared her to ask the question “What happens to the soul of an aborted baby?”  Through more research and pivotal stories of abortion, survival, overcoming and second-chances, my mom was able to start a controversial discussion that still continues:  Are our children alive before they are born? 
My mom's book can be found here.

My Dear Trash – With all I knew about abortion, what would I decide when facing my own unplanned pregnancy?

So what do I say, to the girl who’s offended by the name of my blog?  I sent her a link to my most recent post, how my son, this most loved and adored baby who came into my life almost two years ago, is my perfect expression, how his life has given my immeasurable purpose, how his influence has transformed my children outward and I watch in awe as they love and nurture him. 
My beautiful family at Christmas time this year.

I learned in the most meaningful way that children just like my baby deserve a chance at life and that abortion is one of the cruelest, most dysfunctional options a society can ever offer a women. 
  The link to the blog post My Baby is My Perfect Expression is here.
My Dear Trash – because much we throw away has tremendous value, especially if we are throwing away our babies. 

So very thankful was I when this girl responded within moments of my message.  “I understand,” she said.  “You are most loved by God for all you are doing.  Thank you.”

I’m glad she questioned the name of my blog, as it’s given me time to consider the many meanings it has offered to me.  Never could I have discovered a more deserving, meaningful, richly deep and purposeful name.  It was given to me in a dream and I write about this experience and other experiences in my memoir Starving Girl.

My book can be found here.

In other news, December 2016 was my last month at Merchant Square and Antique Plaza.  My workshop is cleaned out. No more vintage furniture.  I’ve given away paint, my collection of old scrap wood and a part of my heart had to close too.  My mirrors, those I’m still holding onto (not sure why) and my giant box of vintage drawer handles and knobs, that’s going to take some time to sort through and part with.  I’ve bonded with many aspects of furniture restoration, seeing something so old, junky, thrown out, forgotten –  but if I spend some time, with a gentle touch, an artistic eye, I’ve had the privilege of bringing these pieces back to life.  Why stop now?  Two shops, a steady cash flow, more opportunities just over the horizon, but the truth is, I’ve out grown the task all together.  I’m a writer now and painting furniture is not going to get me to my dreams.


Thursday, January 12, 2017

What Has Your Sister Done? Stories of Unplanned Pregnancy


I’m working on a book called What Has Your Sister Done? Stories of Unplanned Pregnancy

What Has Your Sister Done? is a collection of stories about girls who faced an unplanned pregnancy and what they decided to do about it.  Some may have kept the baby while others may have placed their baby up for adoption or terminated their pregnancy through abortion.  Because many aspects of unplanned pregnancy aren’t talked about, I’m hoping these stories will open the door and help someone in the same situation, after all, our stories are more powerful than we realize. 

If you want to help, here’s what you can do: 
Write your story.  This can be done the same way you would write a journal or diary entry.  Write about how you felt and how your story progressed.  Share whatever you feel.  There is no judgment here.  Remember, your story just may be what someone else needs to read. 

Stories can be submitted anonymously or you can request names be changed.  You can email stories to mydeartrash@gmail.com or message me on facebook.  I need your story by January 31, 2017. Please message me if you need more time or would like help writing your story.  I can conduct an interview over the phone that takes about an hour.  It has been such a tender experience to hear these heartfelt stories.  By submitting your story, I reserve the right to have your story in What Has Your Sister Done?

Also, if you know someone who has had an unplanned pregnancy, please pass this information on to them.  Feel free to contact me is you have any questions. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.




More thoughts on writing your story?

Start with prayer or meditation.  Allow your mind to open up to your memory.
Outline your experience from beginning to end to give yourself a point of reference if necessary.
Write down the key people who shaped the story?  What were your pivotal experiences with them?
Ask yourself?  What is it I want to share?  Some parts of your story may be too private?  If so, give yourself permission to submit your story anonymously.  Does this help you feel like you can be more honest?  See what you feel comfortable with.
What is it you’ve learned?  What would you change?  Did you see God’s hand in your situation or not? 



Let me know if you have any other questions.