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Love, not Labelling

Friday night, I marched with a contingent from my Unitarian church in the Gay Pride parade in Louisville. This annual event is very special to me. It’s not only because it expresses my deepest values that we all have the right to be accepted and celebrated for who we are and whom we love. It’s also because it’s just such a “feel-good” occasion! There is something quite magical about folks of diverse ages, races, sexual orientations, and gender identities coming together to celebrate love in a hug-filled, colorful way. For a few hours, I feel as though I’ve stepped into a judgment-free zone. We are who we are—gay, straight, neither—and all have seats (well, make that floats) at the table. I couldn’t help but compare this experience to the one my husband and I had the week before when we attended an evening of cutting edge performances by artists who’d spent a year in a special mentoring program. The program’s theme was “Dis/Comfort Zones.” We’d come to support a former modern dance colleague, Theresa Bautista, who performed her brilliant solo, “I am a pretty girl.” Afterward, we wandered over to the art gallery where viewers were invited to add comments to white boards on what makes them comfortable and uncomfortable. My husband, probably the least sexist, traditional white male I know, not to mention being a strong supporter of gay rights, visibly drew back when he read some of the comments. One person wrote that what makes him/her/they uncomfortable is [...]

By |2019-06-19T10:57:32-04:00June 19th, 2019|Uncategorized|1 Comment

A Life-Changing Friendship

In what seems like a lifetime ago (well, several decades), I left my first husband, a really nice, well-to-do man. At the time, I had a young son and a job dancing with a small modern dance company that barely paid the bills. To say that my family members were appalled is an understatement. I was the one who’d managed to “marry well.” How could I ruin my life this way? And my little boy’s life? What kind of a person does something like this? Their judgements added plenty of fuel to the flames of my own guilt. Throughout one of the lowest times of my life, however, I had an amazing blessing—my dear friend and fellow dancer Connie. As we spent hours together each day commuting to the dance company we performed with, she listened, comforted, and never judged me. To this day, I think she saved my life. I’m incredibly grateful to her and feel such gratitude for our enduring friendship. Despite living in different cities during our post-dance company days, we’ve remained close and have supported one another through painful losses and celebrated together when we experienced terrific joy. (Our grandkids top that list!) We’ve cried together and laughed together. And as I grow older, I appreciate the blessing of our friendship more and more. The other day, I drove to Cincinnati to see Connie. Her beautiful debut picture book, From A to Z with Energy! recently came out. We lunched at our favorite bookstore, Joseph- Beth, [...]

By |2019-06-10T11:13:59-04:00June 10th, 2019|Friendship|1 Comment

Never Too Late

The genetic predisposition toward alcoholism and depression has threaded its way through generations of my family tree. While I have struggled with depression throughout my life, I was lucky to escape the disease of alcoholism. One of my sisters was not so lucky. But that’s not the end of the story—it’s only the beginning. This coming December, I’ll be traveling to California to celebrate a very special occasion, my sister’s 35 years of sobriety. She is one of my heroes, someone who literally hit rock bottom and turned her life around—in her forties no less. After 22 years as a raging alcoholic who endured everything that entails—troubled relationships, career derailments, financial struggles—she decided to do the scary thing. She changed her entire way of being and doing life. After many failed attempts to stop on her own, she surrendered and did her best to follow AA’s twelve steps. With strong support from the program, she’s not only maintained her sobriety but has built a successful professional career and this summer, will celebrate her twentieth year of marriage to a wonderful man. Recovery hasn’t been easy, but she’s done it. And I am in awe. Moreover, a second miracle recently occurred. After decades of struggling with this disease, one of her daughters, my beautiful niece, decided she’d had enough and joined AA. Her journey, like her mom’s, will be long and hard. But so far, so good. My sister reports that her daughter often tells her, “I can’t believe how much [...]

By |2019-06-04T13:03:02-04:00June 4th, 2019|The Courage to Change|2 Comments

Mother-Daughter Turbulence in the Early Teen Years

A few weeks ago, I was welcoming students to an overnight for a middle school comprehensive sexuality class when a mother dashed in without her thirteen-year-old daughter. “Sarah won’t be here for a while,” she said. “I kicked her out of the car and told her to walk the rest of the way.” She went on to explain her daughter had been outrageously disrespectful and hateful on the drive over, and she’d finally had “enough.” Seemingly overnight, her sweet child had turned into this moody, sullen, hypercritical stranger. I admit I’ve never directly experienced this phenomenon. I didn’t acquire an on-site mother until age twelve when my dad remarried. I was so thrilled to have a mom that I had zero interest in mouthing off to her. Besides, I raised sons, not daughters. Sure, at thirteen, they kept their distance from me in public. Who wants to run into a kid from school at the grocery store and be seen with your mother? Best to walk several paces ahead or behind to stave off the potential embarrassment. And sure, we had plenty of disagreements. But since I was not a guy, I don’t think my sons had the same need to disparage my every thought and action along the way to carving out their own identities. If I’ve never personally experienced mother-daughter turbulence in the early teen years, however, I sure have been a frequent witness. I still remember one single parent friend lamenting the change in her newly adolescent [...]

By |2019-05-27T13:03:50-04:00May 27th, 2019|Family|0 Comments

Still Dancing

I was asked to write an "artist's statement" for my upcoming college reunion. I've always been uncomfortable with this whole "artist" thing-- I've spent my life doing creative work, but somehow, I never think of myself as an artist! But I was inspired by dancing with my grandson, so here's what I had to say: “Alexa, play Run-Around Sue,” my four-year-old grandson commands. He slides off the counter stool, eager to be done with lunch. “Dance party, Mee-Ma!” he cries. “I’ll start.” He launches into a series of twirls. He jumps, gyrates, and slides in and out of the floor. He freezes in a dramatic upside down shape with one leg thrust toward the ceiling. I clap my hands in delight. Time falls away. I’m not only watching my beloved grandson in ecstasy as he dances—I am also gazing at myself all those decades ago in my own childhood living room. Music was a constant presence in our house. I cannot remember a time when I could hear music without itching to move, to dance. Truthfully, I couldn’t not dance. And so, despite parental pressure to pursue anything other than a career in the arts, and despite my strong interest in sociology, I ultimately left my doctoral program and became a modern dancer, choreographer, and dance educator. Looking back, I feel incredibly blessed that I made that choice. To me, dance has always been a life-affirming, ecstatic experience—the marriage of physical, spiritual, musical, and emotional expressiveness. The choice to pursue [...]

By |2019-04-19T15:53:22-04:00April 19th, 2019|Dancing, Uncategorized|0 Comments

Celebrating One Year Book Anniversary!

It’s hard to believe that it was one year ago today that my YA novel, It Should Have Been You, was released by Page Street! What a journey this has been. I’ve done readings at Flying Out Loud and as part of a SWAN (“Support Women Artists Now”) celebration, signed books at Barnes and Noble, the MidSouth SCBWI conference, Seton Hill, and at the Kentucky Festival Book Fair where I was thrilled to be a panelist on “Fierce Females in YA Literature.” This spring, I’ll be a participating author at the SOKY Book Festival and Malice Domestic.          Absolutely the best part of this experience has been the love, encouragement, and support I’ve received from readers, family, friends, and fellow writers, especially Ellen Birkett Morris and Mary Lou Northern and the Derby Rotten Scoundrels, our local chapter of Sisters in Crime. Like so many authors, I’ve encountered my share of bumps on the writing road this past year as well, but I never forget how fortunate I am to be able to go to my public library and see my book on the shelf. Books have meant so much to me all my life, and it’s a thrill to have actually sent books I’ve written out into the world. I look forward to another year of writing, teaching, and savoring the work I get to do!    

By |2019-01-30T14:18:55-04:00January 30th, 2019|The Writing Life|0 Comments

Feeling Grateful

My son Ed with his new daughter My son Joel and grandson Cameron My students have been studying Clint Eastwood’s remarkable 2008 film, Gran Torino. We’ve been talking a lot about its themes. One is, of course, that “real” family is wherever you find it. The protagonist Walt is profoundly disappointed with his sons and families, and they don’t care much for him either. But, despite his long-standing prejudices, Walt becomes close to his young immigrant neighbors, Sue and Thao. They are worth dying for: they are his family of choice. The theme of creating our own intentional family has permeated my own work. We all need loving and caring connections in our lives, and when they’re missing on the home front, life is hard and painful. The reality is, too, that sometimes, there is plenty of love, but love isn’t enough when emotional, mental, or substance abuse problems interfere. Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about broken relationships in families. In the last few weeks, I’ve encountered several folks who’ve shared that their children barely speak to them. Some have been on the losing end of a child taking the other parent’s side in a bitter divorce. Others have children who blame them for a multitude of sins while they were growing up, and have held on to their list of grievances for decades. The pain of these parents is palpable. It has reminded me of just how lucky I am that this has not [...]

By |2019-01-18T11:45:23-04:00January 18th, 2019|Family, Gratitude|0 Comments

One Month Later

It was a little over a month ago that our younger son Joel married Priscilla Hernandez, the love of his life, at Cliffview, a rustic retreat near Red River Gorge. It took him a mere fourteen years to convince his bride to marry him, and I’ve never seen anyone more thrilled than our son! We are incredibly happy for him, and to officially be a part of Priscilla’s family. Our extended families spent the weekend at Cliffview, and it was wonderful to spend time together. Priscilla’s mom Betty and other relatives prepared the most amazing authentic Mexican food. My waist line will never be the same, but it was definitely worth it! Meantime, I have some fun book events coming up. This coming Saturday, November 10, from 2-4 PM, I’ll be signing books at the Hurstbourne Barnes and Noble in Louisville along with other mystery writers in Derby Rotten Scoundrels, our local Sisters in Crime chapter. Then next Thursday, November 15, I’ll be attending Indiana University Southeast’s opening reception for an Authors and Artists exhibit that includes my YA novel, It Should Have Been You. And on Saturday, November 17, I’m thrilled to be a part of the annual Kentucky Book Fair from 9 am to 4 pm at the Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington.  At 10 AM in the Spalding Room, I’ll be a panelist along with YA writers Mindee Arnett, Geanna Culbertson, and Kristina McBride on “Fierce Females in YA Literature,” a topic near and dear to my [...]

By |2018-11-08T13:51:28-04:00November 8th, 2018|Family, Uncategorized|0 Comments

Aspiration Versus Reality in America

            At the end of Seton Hill’s annual writers’ conference for alums in June, I attended the MFA graduation ceremony, during which we all stood, hands on our hearts, and sang our national anthem. After singing the closing words, “Land of the Free and Home of the Brave,” I turned to a fellow writer friend and mumbled, “If only that were true.”             It’s not that we don’t have plenty of brave, honorable citizens around. And despite savage attacks on the free press and those who dare to speak up about injustice, we are fortunate to still have a free press and the right to speak up and protest. Yet, when we have the highest incarceration rate in the world that disproportionately affects low income minorities, recurring instances of police brutality, and the forced separation and detention of brown parents and children seeking asylum at our borders—can we really claim to be the “land of the free”? Whatever happened to those beautiful words by Emma Lazarus that grace our Statue of Liberty: “Give me your tired, your poor. Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free”?             Millions of Americans aspire to have our country genuinely live up to its ideals of freedom of speech, democracy, inclusiveness, and equality of opportunity. But isn’t it time to admit that in many ways, those ideals remain aspirational?                        Colin Kaepernick Kneeling             Just ask Colin Kaepernick. For daring to take a [...]

By |2018-09-09T13:04:23-04:00September 9th, 2018|Politics|0 Comments

Re-Creating That Small Town Feel

The long-running joke in our family is that if my dear husband didn’t have an errand to run, he’d invent one.  And since his retirement, the number of weekly errands has at least quadrupled. I’m convinced he’d lose his mind if he were ever sentenced to house arrest. I used to think that his constant run-outs were a way to refuel his batteries. After all, we’re both introverts who need our alone time. But now I’ve started to think that these errands are my husband’s way of socializing and re-creating the kind of neighborly interactions I associate with small town living.  Clearly, he’s talking to folks on his run-outs, and the conversations include me. This explains why Julie, the avid reader who works at the nursery, one of my gardening husband’s favorite hangouts, came to my book signing. And why the man at the liquor store, while advising me on what beer my husband might like for Father’s Day, announced he really enjoyed my vocals in the last CD of our music. And why yesterday, the friendly teller at the bank wanted to know how my book signing event the night before had gone. My husband playing at a friend's party I admit it. Thanks to my loquacious spouse, it’s been kind of nice to feel that folks know who I am and seem happy to see me. My college students who’ve grown up in small towns tell me that it can be stifling because “everyone knows your [...]

By |2018-09-02T12:19:30-04:00September 2nd, 2018|Family|0 Comments