Write With Me! November’s Coming. Time for NaNoWriMo!

NanowrimoJoin me! National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) happens every year in November. I’ve done it several times and it’s actually fun. You don’t have to write fiction – you can write whatever you want. This year, I’d love you to join me. I’ve set up a discussion board on this site so we can have our own community. The only cost is your time. I’ll be here to answer questions, provide support and encouragement. And hopefully a few laughs.

Here’s what to do:

  1. Register on the NaNoWriMo site.
  2. Friend me there!
  3. Don’t panic about your profile, you have time to add to it.
  4. Introduce yourself on my discussion board.
  5. Start thinking about what you want to write.
  6. Tell the voice in your head that says you can’t do this to shut-up.

Good to know…

Don’t short-change yourself.
This isn’t a competition (but you can win!). It’s about the process, not the result. You seriously can’t do this wrong (but your first draft will be crappy – that’s what editing is for). Starting is the very hardest part. But just start. Don’t edit in your head, don’t get caught up in over thinking, don’t listen to your critical parent sending you negative messages.

The hardest part is just doing it.
My first one was really hard. I am so driven and it was tough to find time, to feel good about what I was doing and to slog through. But suddenly, after about five days, the momentum kicked in. I couldn’t type as fast as I could think. I started adding things to my outline (table of contents) so I wouldn’t forget.

This process can change you.
When I did write fiction, I was able to create characters that had a life of their own. It allowed me to be the bad guy and the good guy – heck, it let me be a guy! I’ve also been a teen, a woman who lived through the last 100 years being at all the right places at the right time. I’ve been able to integrate my travel memories and stories from my family. I also have gotten things out that are sometimes hard to say out loud. Writing can be a wonderful confidant. If you’re here because you’ve been through trauma, this is a very safe place to start.

NaNo (nickname) is great about keeping us motivated.
They tweet. Follow the hashtags to listen to how others are doing (#nanowrimo and #nanowrimo2018). They are on Facebook. There are groups on the site and folks from all over the world participate. They even have great merch! I have my “winning” shirts framed over my bed. Alas, it kind of backfires for me because every time my Marge (mom) sees them, she turns to me and says, “Why aren’t any of these published!?” Oh mom, I’ll get there.

Still don’t believe me? Here’s a great blog encouraging you to jump on-board and if you need more details, this one is terrific.

What are you waiting for! Join me. Join us.

So Now What? Kavanaugh, Trauma, Healing and Moving Forward

I have this fantasy of buying one of those sheds from Home Depot and having a friend sheet rock the thing, add some electricity and then make it the most girly place possible (that’s my taste, romantic, soft, flowery). There’d be a super big comfy chair, a laptop desk and it would smell like spring rain. And nobody will be able to find me. (The cover photo is where Roald Dahl wrote.)

Shortly after DeAngelo was arrested, a woman reached out to me who was sure he was her rapist. During the attack, her took her driver’s license. Her fear of him returning was so great, she left the state and lived quietly nearly 3,000 miles away – always looking over her shoulder, always wary of his return. She described herself as an introvert who rarely shared her experience with anyone.

This week, she sent me an email. The joy in her writing was evident. She was back in Orange County, she’d met with investigators there. She was even going to meet Orange County D.A. Investigator, Erika Hutchcraft (I’m jealous). I haven’t heard from her since, but what she said today made me cry! Because it was so beautiful. She thanked me and said,

“you listened and heard me, you stuck with me…”

I mean nothing, nothing could have gotten my attention more than these beautiful words.

The future of America sits on a precipice. The end goal is to divide us.

My goodness, I’m the last one to get all rose colored glasses and saccharine about things, but overall I’m an optimist. I love what John Legend said that about himself last night. If you watch the clip, he explains, “…I see a lot of opportunity for change [on the state and local level] even though I’m often frustrated by what’s happening nationally.” I have to say, this touched me. It stayed with me last night and today.

I have realized I have no control about what happens with the Supreme Court.

I was triggered, as were so many, by the rage demonstrated last week in the highest levels of our government. I truly had no opinion of Kavanaugh prior to his testimony – other than my political leanings, but I’m a grown-up, I know we are all different. Then he came to testify last Thursday. As he yelled and raged and obfuscated and lied (“it’s like quarters” – we aren’t idiots dude), my reaction to him came from the gut.

Clearly I am not alone.

I understand it’s hard for some guys to get this, but having a man rage at you is terrifying. God forbid it connects with any body memories, because that fight or flight instinct kicks in super fast. Heartbeat goes up, nerve endings start to twitch; I hear a roar in my head that is accompanied by this weird pressure. It’s kind of like having an earache and a headache and kind of not. The reaction is freaking out of our control and anyone with PTSD, male or female, understands. Anyone with trauma, understands.

But that’s not what this blog is about. 

This blog is about that beautiful sentence sent to me today. The gift I gave was unbelievable easy.

No matter what happens, we are still all neighbors*. Sure the guy down the street is an ass. But if his house burns down, I’m going to pitch in. Yes, the woman in the store seems rather racist, but if her kid runs toward the street, I’m going to grab for the kid. I’m convinced we can manage a lot of this crap locally. Individually. With our own actions.

And I want to share one example of what I mean.

When Black Lives Matter started, I took a look at my own behavior. Because I’m a compulsive talker in stores (again, this is why Katie won’t shop with me), I realized I had a pattern of who I would chat with: mostly white people. I didn’t know I was doing this, but once I was self-aware, I realized it was true.

That Christmas, I started talking to people not like me.

For example, someone of a different race, age, ethnic background; basically not a Rubenesque (see what I did there), short, white, mom who thinks she’s still cool. I started this two years ago and I’m still on board. Let me tell you what, it’s been awesome! My M.O. is to try and get people to smile or laugh and I’m proud to say, diversity pays! I am still stunned by how often I can get someone to smile or chat – even when they are incredibly different from me.

The point is don’t let them divide us. Reach out, listen, and hang in there. Observe your own patterns. See if there are adjustments you can make. I’d love to hear your stories. Anything positive. Now’s the time.

 

*I’m going to add a caveat because I’m not saying go adopt a white supremacist. I trust you understand my intent.

Here’s How Therapy Can Help (From a Non-Therapist)

OMG it took everything I had to get myself out the door to visit Bill and Kimberly Harticon and their family on Sunday. I was so depressed and so just dead inside and I didn’t want to be with people. I could barely move myself forward. But I knew I had to go. As it turns out sitting on the beach with their wonderful family was just the right medicine but I cannot emphasize enough how hard it was to get out that door.

The detox from court this week proved to be more thanI expected. There’s always a little ripple in my existence after spending time in Sacramento, but for some reason this time really triggered me. Maybe it’s because I wrote the lie-detector blogs. Maybe it’s because I took Katie with me. Or maybe spending time with more survivors ended up making things even more real for me – but I had one of the worst nightmares ever early Saturday morning. The kind that drops a shadow over you and lasts all day. In fact, so bad that when I walked back into my bedroom on Saturday night, I didn’t want to go to bed!

I slept like crap both Friday and Saturday nights and moved to the couch early Sunday morning because I could not shake off the crazy thoughts. With two kittens, the minute the sun comes up, they start moving and it was only their parkour insanity that distracted me enough for a few hours sleep on Sunday morning (if you watch that link, the guys from The Office absolutely replicate what is happening in my house with these kittens). I really wanted to go see Bill and Kimberly and the kids, but how in the world would I do it? Thankfully, I managed to get myself to New Brighton beach and spent a lovely afternoon with them and their family (amazing kids bytheway). It was the therapy I needed.

People ask: would I benefit from therapy and how?

As I have moved through this space called post-arrest, I’ve received a lot of questions about how or why someone might want to get therapy. Since I’m from the land of fruit and nuts (California), you know I’ve been to therapy. Let me see if I can answer this in a way that’s helpful and also provides a way for you to “shop” for the help you might need.

It’s not easy to find the right person.
This is freaking true. I think I saw as many as six people before I found the right person for me. As far as I was concerned, the right person had to be smart and have an outstanding bullshit detector. That’s because my denial was so strong, I didn’t even realize it was in my way for like two years. In fact I remember the shift on the day I quit fighting the process and finally let go. I’m not sure what the secret is to finding the right person, but if you feel like you could go back (even if you hated it) you’re probably on the right track.

The process is only as good as you want it to be.
Think about it. All a therapist knows is what you tell them. If you aren’t forthcoming (and even have in your mind what you want to change), it’s going to be rough going. For me, I wanted to get my shit together so I’d be a good parent. I really struggled to love myself and I knew if I couldn’t love me, it would be hard to love a kid in a healthy way. It can be the simplest statement: I’m tired of being afraid; I want people to take me seriously; I have unexplained rage; I don’t seem to exist; I do all the emotional work for my whole family. You get the idea. Figure out how to state your pain and state it. The work comes from being honest about why that pain exists. And it is work.

You don’t have to go it alone.
A lot of the benefits I gained from therapy were done in “group”. There were about seven of us and we’d agree to meet as a group – with our therapist – for about a year. The session was about to hours long and each person got a chance to talk every week. The upside of group therapy is that you don’t have to do all the work. I often benefited from someone else’s work just by watching and listening. I really liked group and I think it’s actually a little faster than individual therapy. Individual usually lasts about 50 minutes and in my experience, it takes a good 20 minutes to start getting productive. But it’s private and personal and better if you need to talk about something you simply can’t do in front of anyone else.

It should have homework.
Change won’t happen just because you want it to. Homework is critical. A good therapist will usually give you assignments that can help you observe your own behavior, try new behaviors or even stop yourself from doing bad behaviors (like exercises to slow down anxiety or putting a serving of food in a bowl if binge eating is your thing). It doesn’t have to be big or hard but it does help create change. If you aren’t getting homework, ask for some. At a minimum, Dr. Jen will tell you to journal.

You’ll need a refractory period after your session.
When I went to group, it was on a Thursday. Thankfully I would go home to Seinfeld, Fraiser and ER. I would not take phone calls. I had a Diet Coke and popcorn for dinner and I would just decompress. The last thing you’ll want is people yapping at you – or even worse – asking “how was therapy?”. I hate those people. It’s none-ya, as in none of your business! I strong recommend sharing insights after some contemplation. You discovered your insight when you were vulnerable. Others don’t know what it took for you to figure things out. Sharing without context or the space for conversation could undermine your progress. Pace yourself and tell nosy-Nellie’s to go away.

Therapy has gimmicks that work.
Some of the gimmicks used on me with good results: confrontation. This one is classic because it’s simply a “I call bullshit” moment. As you peel back the layers of the onion on this one, denial is typically called out and defenses can start being chipped away. Another is reframing. This was huge for me. When I thought I was so awful people said I killed my dad, it wasn’t until it was reframed for me that I let myself off the hook. My dad treated me so badly I would have had justification to be that angry (not kill him but be that mad at him). Reframing is powerful and you can use it to help your friends. All you have to do is put the problem in a different light. Suddenly it’s easier to understand and process. One more is compassion. This isn’t about someone having it for you, it’s about having it for yourself. Easing up on the negative self-talk and unrealistic expectations that are working like a trap to keep you from moving forward. There are many more techniques used during therapy, I’m sure the internets can tell you about them. The point is, a good therapist will use them and you will make progress as a result.

It takes time.
I took roughly seven years. I could have done it way faster but I fought it for at least two. Then, after my pivot, I kind of loved it. I ended up working on things I didn’t expect to and it helped me a lot at work as well. How long it takes is really up to you. My main point is, don’t let time be a deciding factor. If it’s about money, figure that out with the therapist. You can establish a progress plan and remove money as a worry.

It’s totally worth it. 
I am a believer. The process works. The benefits include reducing depression, anxiety, self-doubt, learning about boundaries (where you begin and end), and learning coping strategies that can last a lifetime. I’m happy to answer questions if you leave a comment. I know getting help can seem scary and expensive, but the investment is worth it. And you’ll find once you’re feeling like you’ve got things figured out, you’ll make a much better friend and supporter for others because you’ll be able to practice what you’ve learned.

As for me. The sunshine helped. Telling Bill and Kim I was struggling helped a lot. I didn’t even have to go into specifics. Being reassured they had zero expectations of me helped me feel safe. Spending time with the kids made me feel relaxed. Knowing I could manage to push through when I wanted to quit, helped me get a good night’s sleep and today has been 100% better.

It’s True, I Love Stealing Other People’s Children

It was so easy.

All I had to do to lure them away was send them a text. And then they were mine!

Much to Katie’s chagrin – she really can’t complain, she’s off storming the South Pacific with People to People – I swiped her friends and took them to a food fest at the Second Harvest Food Bank in Watsonville.

My glorious partners in crime, Emelia and Eva, are Katie’s friends and they are wonderful, fun and appreciative. They accompanied me to the event to learn more about the food bank and the local service organizations and foods we have in Santa Cruz County.

Free Food at the Food Bank!

We got there to find a great spread – lunch! I wish I could remember which group made the food. It was tasty. Enchiladas, salad and if you look, that’s a tri-tip sandwich on Eva’s plate.

It was sunny and warm and it was fun to feast with the girls and dish about my daughter! Well not exclusively, but there was a little gossip about her flirting with some boys in New Zealand. I hadn’t heard that story. It was so good to get the “deets” (that’s slang for details if you aren’t hip – it’s probably actually old-school slang at this point).

After lunch Bly, pictured on the right, gave us a personal tour of the food bank. We started in the offices learning about their marketing efforts like The Waiters Race organized by Soif Wine Bar owner Patrice Boyle to celebrate the French holiday Bastille Day and raise money for the Watsonville-based charity Second Harvest Food Bank.

We rounded the corner and found the sign (right) that noted half the people served by the food bank are children. That one hit home for all three of us. We also saw this huge whiteboard that lists where food is being delivered and when. It’s a two week window of outreach that extends all over Santa Cruz County. Very impressive and real.

The warehouse was next and thanks to a great Capital Campaign, the bank has racks now to stack the food that’s donated from many places. It’s rather amazing to see stacks and stacks of donated food. One of the girls said it felt like a “Costco for good.” Couldn’t agree more. We passed by strawberries donated by Driscoll’s and Happy Boy Farms tomatoes and more.

We ended looking at the inside of a box of food that’s delivered to families based on the donations given in those food bins that show up at the holidays all over Santa Cruz County. In the photo on the left that says Food Drive, you see what a family might get. I saw two cans of anchovies and it took me a minute to force down my gag reflex. They are so gross to me.

Then I realized, if I was hungry, that would be food and I would be grateful. I am grateful that I am not that hungry and don’t have to rely on Sardines. Very, very grateful.

We walked outside to find Sam Farr talking with the gathering about his support of the Food Bank. When I snapped the photo, he was surrounded by Plantronics Interns who always seems to be on hand to help out at these events (wow).

Before we left, we visited the various booths set up around the event featuring local growers and plenty of great produce. I buried myself in raspberries – like gold at the store and I could have as many as I wanted! – and the girls tasted tomatoes, apples, strawberries and more.

They gave us bags and we were invited to take home produce. We all left with lots of fresh goodies from organic carrots and radishes to home grown plums, apples and berries.

The girls expressed interest in volunteering sometime soon; maybe to sort food. I was glad to have the chance to share such a good time with them. They were terrific company and made me miss my daughter just a little bit less.

Stealing kids is totally worthwhile – as long as their parents agree! I just hope Katie won’t kill me when she gets home!