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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hello Everybody,

I am going to share a few words about piecing a story or monologue together.

Every writer has to develop her own style with this. I can only share my own experience. Often, I will print out freewrites that I have done (or tear them out of notebooks) over a three-six month period.I will read them all and look for common themes and topics i.e.(going through divorce, Chloe's first year, experiences of shame, falling in love). Then I will lay them all out on my living room floor. I am a visual person and like to see them all in front of me. Then, I may notice that I have four or five major themes that I have written about. Most of the writing that I have done in the last ten years has been for performance (one woman autobiographical shows).I start to put it together like a puzzle. Sometimes, choosing to tell a story from start to finish and sometimes weaving in a few stories or experiences together then coming to a conclusion. Transitions are often simpler that we imagine. Sometimes it's a matter of a simply beginning a new paragraph. Sometimes you'll realize that a sentance or two will tie together two seemingly distant freewrites. After you have gotten together a loose structure, begin to go through it and see what fits and what needs to be let go of. This can be difficult as you may really like something that you've written but it doesn't have much to do with the rest of your piece. Set it aside and save it. Once I wrote a monologue about my cousin that I really liked. I couldn't wait to perform it. The problem was it had nothing to do with my show on my travels through India. So, I saved it. And I dragged it out with every show I wrote and looked at it again. I still really liked it but couldn't use it. Then I was writing a show about my pregnancy and daughter's birth, and voila, it fit seamlessly into the show and many people said that it was one of their favorite parts. So don't worry that you are losing material forever. The truth is sometimes you come back to it and sometimes you don't.

For those of you looking at putting a story or monologue together; just take it slowly and easily. If you really stop and look at what you've written the order and transitions will reveal themselves. Often, people are surprised at how much material they actually have and when the begin to look at it, realize that a story is already being told.

One last question to ask yourself is "what is the most essential thing I want to say in this story?" Then, if you are in doubt about whether something fits or not, you can go back to this question as a reference point.

Happy Holidays and let's all stay sane through them! I will not post again until January.

No new assignments either. Go back through the ones on the other weeks and see what you really wanted to write about and did not get a chance to do. Then post whatever inspires you. Please keep working on your birth monologues if you are doing one. Keep freewriting or begin to piece some of your previous freewrites together.

Love, Tanya

4,401 Posts
Thanks Tanya! I love the idea of going back and picking up the things I missed! THere's a bunch I wanted to do and didn't get to.

question HOw long is too long? I've been working on a piece that I'd like to try out, but it's loooong. So, I could post it to the web and link to it fromthe feed back thread if that's a better idea. What do you think?

4,401 Posts
Sisters' Day
I'm a bit nervous, but mostly excited as I drive to pick up my youngest sister. We are having a Sisters' Day, just the two of us. We'll have lunch at a Chinese buffet, Sue's favorite place to eat, stop by to visit our mother, do a bit of shopping. I called a few days ago to make the arrangements, but I'm not sure Sue is going to like all of our plans.

I get lost and have to call for directions, so they're waiting for me. I greet the receptionist and get further directions. Sue pops out of the break room, spots me.

"Jean! She's here! My sister Jean here!"

I try to get a hug hello, but she's off to gather her things, to say goodbye to her friends. I have heard she has a special friend, Ronny, whom she really likes, so I'm not surprised to be introduced to him.

"Jean, this is Ronny. Ronny my friend. Right Ronny?" Ronny agrees. We exchange greetings.

It takes a few minutes for Sue to be ready. She has to be sure she has everything. As soon as we're in the van, she turns to me.

"I hate workshop!"

"I know." How perfect, she's given me the opening I need. "That's why were going to look at a new one, remember?"

"I hungry, Jean. Chinese food?"

"Yes," I reply. "But first we'll go to the new workshop, ok? Me and you. Then we'll go to get Chinese food. We can get some for Mum, too and bring it to her. Okay? First, the new workshop."

"No, Jean. I hungry."

"Well, you have your lunch with you, why don't you have some of that?" I say, pointing to her lunchbox.

"No. Chinese food, please, Jean?"

I start the car, pull out into traffic.

"Sue, we need to see the new workshop first. It's called a Day Hab. They have lots of fun things to do there. You don't have to work. We're just going to check it out, ok?"

"Coffee, Jean?"

"Sure. I bet they have coffee at the Day Hab. We'll get some there."
"No. Chinese food."

I change the subject. I get lost.

"What are you doing, Jean Daley?" Sue asks with some exasperation, as I get off the highway, turn around and head back the way we came.

"I messed up. It's ok now"

Sue doesn't like getting lost. She's getting agitated. I give her a John Mayer CD to put in.

It's December in New England. About 45 degrees, and pouring rain. Slashing, sluicing, wind-blown, cat-and-dog type rain.

The Day Hab is hidden in an industrial park. We drive around for ten full minutes looking for the right building. I've mentioned that Sue doesn't like getting lost?

Finally, I spot it. Large windows, a man sitting just inside, watching the comings and goings.

"I wait in car."

My husband and I moved 100 miles away shortly after we married to a piece of land in the country. I drove nearly 3 hours in rush hour traffic to pick Sue up for this visit. My heart sinks.

"Ok," I say, to keep the peace. "Do you want to come in for a cup of coffee? I'm going in to say hello."

"No." Her tone says there is no room for discussion. "Coffee at Chinese food. I wait in car, Jean."

"Okay. I'll see you in a bit." The rain soaks through my shoes, my normally frizzy hair frizzes to the max.

The receptionist has her back to me. I wait for her to turn. When she does I notice a terrifying resemblance to the character Delores Claiborne from the Steven King film. I introduce myself, explain whom I am there to see. Delores points me in the right direction.

I introduce myself again, being careful to keep my van within my sight.
"Got any coffee?" I ask. Then, thinking that I sounded rude, I explain why. A woman grabs a jar of instant and hurries off.

The passenger side door on the van swings open. Sue gets out. I hurry out to meet her, show her which door to use.

"I need bathroom, Jean."

Sure, I say, come on in.

Sue wants to use the bathroom at the Chinese restaurant. Rain tickles my scalp and runs into my eyes, my socks are damp. After discussing the pros and cons of the using the bathroom here or waiting to use the one at the Chinese restaurant, Sue agrees to use the one here. As soon as she does, she starts repeating "Pads. Ka-ka. I wet my pants?" She points to her ankle. I'm trying to quickly change the subject; this is not the first impression I was hoping she'd make.

She brushes by our tour guide, refuses to be introduced. We point her to the bathroom. She comes out in a rush, sees us waiting, turns the other way and bolts through a door marked "Authorized Personnel Only". I follow, calling to her, trying to get her to stop. Finally, I convince her to come back with me. She shoots past our host and into an office.

Sarah calls, "Oh, you can't go in there. Someone is using that office."

Like Susan cares. I follow again. Cajole. Bribe. Offer her a dollar. Think what you want, but if a dollar is buying me a few minutes of peace, I'm paying. This is not a child I'm raising, but my 33-year-old sister. At the residence, they call these bribes 'reinforcers'. Sue doesn't bite. Sarah tells us that the next office is empty, available. Luckily, the man who is occupying this one doesn't seem to be bothered by our presence.
Sue decides to move to the next office. It's totally empty, even of furniture. We stand at the doorway, while Sue goes in and faces a wall, takes a moment to herself.

"I wait in car."

Susan leaves.

"Jean," says Delores Claiborne, "will Susan be coming here?"

I explain that we're not sure, yet.

"Jean," Delores says, "why is Susan outside?"

She's nervous, I explain.

"Jean," I am starting to hate the sound of own name, "where is Susan's workshop now?"

Susan returns with a soda that needs to be opened. She doesn't exactly return, but stands in the pouring rain, holding out the can in my general direction.

Back out into the deluge. My wool blazer is damp all the way through. Water trickles down the back of my neck. I convince Sue to come back inside. Sarah quickly proceeds with the tour, luring Sue along to where the others are having their daily dance. Music blares, people bop and sway.
Susan loves dancing! She begins to drift closer. Suddenly, she screams, "Tammy! Tammy! My friend! Jean, my friend Tammy!" She points to a very thin woman wearing a pink sweat suit and a Special Olympics medal.

Susan suddenly panics and runs back to the car.

But dancing! She comes back, hangs up her dripping windbreaker. Sue dances.

For the next ½ hour, we look around. Sue checks out all the bathrooms, long an obsession with her, even the men's. She opens every door, sees what's behind it. I always wonder if she's mapping out future escape routes.

Sue has spent a lot of time trying to escape. When she was younger, she would often disappear when no one was looking. My mother would only need to shut the bathroom door, and Sue would be gone. All of my brothers and sisters would split up and chase after her. But Sue never caught a rule that most of us understood at a young age. Knocking on a door and waiting to be invited in simply isn't on her radar screen. Whether she had ever met the residents or not, Sue felt welcome. So, in through the front door she'd go, uninvited. Since there were no guarantees that she'd come back out on her own, one of us would chase after her. I saw the inside of so many of our neighbors houses that way. Mostly in through the front door, out the back, through the yard, across the next yard, maybe in through their backdoor and out the front. And their shoes. If Sue wasn't coming back out, it was because she'd found someone's closet full of shoes and would be happily making herself at home, trying them on. She won medals at Special Olympics for her running speed and was always the fastest one in our house.

We check out a wall of photographs and Delores points out one of herself picking apples. The Day Hab uses dancing as exercise in disguise. Apple picking combines gross motor and fine motor. On Thursdays, they cook their own lunch, using more fine motor skills, living skills, nutrition class. There are frequent field trips, bingo games, arts and crafts, and time to socialize, or just relax. There is a nurse on duty at all times.
This time, when Sue goes to the car, I join her.

"Chinese food, Jean?"

"Chinese food."

"Jean?" I will be so glad to go home and hear the chorus of "Mum, Mum, Mum" after this.


"I ride in white van. I go workshop white van."

"Oh, really?"

"I go Ronny, Mary Ann. White van."

"That's nice."

"I go now?" she pleads.

"No. Tomorrow. Tomorrow you'll go in the white van and back to your workshop." I steal a quick glance. She's rigid, so tense she looks as if she'll snap in half.

"I ride Ronny and Mary Ann? I ride white van?"

"Yup. Tomorrow."


"Yup. Someday, would you like to go back to the Day Hab?"

"I ride white van. I ride Ronny and Mary Ann."

"Yes. Tomorrow. But Sue, some other day, next week," which is the distant future to Sue, "would you like to go to the Day Hab again to visit Tammy? You could dance."

"Yeah. Tammy? I dance Tammy?"

"Yeah! That'll be fun, huh?"


"Yeah, Sue?" I know. In my heart, I already know.

"I ride white van? I ride…"

Many times over the course of the day, this conversation, this pleading for routine, is repeated. Many, many times. I explain that there would be another van, different friends to ride with, but she needs specifics, names, the color of the van, the name of the driver. I promise to find out for her.

As soon as we arrive at the Chinese restaurant, without waiting to be seated, Susan grabs a plate. She heads straight for the crayfish (or are they crawfish?) and begins piling them on her plate. We've done this before. She thinks they're tiny lobsters.

Did you ever see Splash, the movie with Darryl Hannah as a mermaid who's temporarily human? Tom Hanks takes her to dinner at a fancy restaurant.

They order lobsters.

Apparently, mermaids eat their lobsters, shell and all.

That's how Sue eats the crawfish. It's painful to watch. I try to redirect her, show her something else before she fills her plate with them. Her body language warns a storm is brewing, but she moves on, placing a giant spoonful of anything that interests her in the middle of her plate, one on top of the other.

I grab a bowl and scoop out one ladleful of Hot and Sour Soup. When I turn back, maybe 10 seconds later, Sue's plate is heaped; food threatens to slide off and her plate is precariously tipped. I reach out a hand to steady her plate.

"Jeeeean!" she warns.

She adds a few more spoonfuls of eggplant and tofu to the heap. I wonder if she's ever had tofu before. She tells me it's fish. The plate now weighs more than her somewhat weaker left arm can support. I insist on taking her plate, snatching it just as it starts to slip from her grasp. She's angry, but hungry enough to follow me back to our table.

Her coffee, which she has asked for no less than 50 times in the last 2 hours, is at her place. She pushes it aside. I cajole her into coming to the ladies room with me, something I would have preferred to do before we fixed our plates.

Back at the table, I know to eat quickly. I suck back the soup, eat my dumplings, forget to see if I can taste the crab in the Crab Rangoon. Still, Sue clears the mountain of food in front of her well before I'm done. I'd like more food. I remind her of her coffee. She takes two sips, sighs, and pronounces herself done.

She pushes her plate to the edge of the table and looks around.

"What do you want, Sue?"

"No." Her eyes are seeking out something; I'd prefer some warning of what's coming.

She's spots the waitress.

"Chinese girl!" she calls loudly and with authority, pointing to her plate. "Chinese girl! Here." I wish I could crawl under the table.
I flash back to a dinner in a Chinese restaurant with Sue and our parents and siblings years ago. Sue was 8 or 9, maybe even older. She decided that she wanted to be under the table. My parents wanted her to sit at the table. An argument ensued. People turned to see what the commotion was. Sue began to scream and throw a fit. My father, having had a few too many, began throwing his own fit. A memorable meal. I apologize to the waitress, and she smiles understandingly.

I lean across to Sue and say, "Don't say that. It's not nice. She's a waitress. If you need something, you call her 'waitress'. And you say please."

"Oh." she says, as if we haven't had this particular conversation a dozen times before. She shrugs. "Sorry."

With more speed and less thought than I'd have liked, I fill a takeout container for my mother, who lives 5 minutes away.

My mother's building is having its annual holiday sale. Any of the three buildings 900 elderly residents who wish to sell their crafts or some kick-knacks set up a table along with outside crafters. Parking is at a premium and it's still raining hard. We have to park a good distance away and run. There's a river of excess rainwater running through the parking lot. I try to point it out to Sue, but she thinks I'm pestering her and refuses to listen. The water covers her right foot to the mid-calf. She's too surprised to stop and her left foot joins her right.

"I wet my pants, Jean."

"No, you got your pants wet, but you didn't wet them. Its okay, come on."

There are hundreds of tables set up.

Susan bolts straight ahead to the reception desk. On top of it is a mug. Susan tells the woman she wants the mug, the very first thing she's laid eyes on. She proffers her dollar and tries to take the mug.

The woman is not giving up so easily. She wants, she says, two dollars for the mug. It's musical.

I whip out a dollar, a bargain to get Sue to come with me. Or it would have been if it had worked.

Susan takes the mug and heads to the table selling baked goods and coffee. She wants. She strikes up conversations with people who check their hearing aids, wondering why their having trouble-making sense of what she's talking about.

In desperation, I mention that Mum has a dollar for her. We move to the elevator.

Immediately following saying hello to our mother, Susan retreats to the bathroom.

"Pads, Jean?" she yells from the bathroom. "C'mere, Jean, pleeeassse? Ka-ka. My pants. Jean? C'mere, Jean Daley."

I do not want to go. I really, really do not want to open the door. But I know I have to.

I do.

About 6 inches.

"What, Sue?"

"Jean," she says, handing me her jeans, "These gross. I need clean ones."
I cringe. I peek. Clean. I sigh. Sue points to an old stain. I try to explain the difference between a stain and something being dirty. She's points out that they're wet from the puddle she stepped in. I try explaining that we don't have other pants with us. Finally, I leave to wait her out.

Now my mother is growing nervous.

"Can you tell her to come out of there? Rose will be here soon and she'll need to get in there to clean." Rose is my mothers' homemaker. My mother fell this summer and broke her back. I'm wondering if she broke her good sense, too. It's not like she doesn't know how this goes.

"Yeah, Ma." I say with less respect than one should bestow on their 81 year-old mother. "I'll tell her. That'll work."

Before my mother can take it further, Susan emerges.

"I wet my pants," she announces to my mother.

"No, you didn't. You stepped in a puddle. You're pants got wet. You didn't wet your pants," I tell her.

Sue nods.

My mother remembers a bag my aunt dropped off for me that morning. It's full of warm, white socks. I convince Sue to don dry socks, and she ties her shoes when she's through. She amazes me.

We stay only a short time. Once Sue knows the agenda, she likes to keep moving.

On the elevator, I step out of the way to let someone by and we get separated. Sue is now manning the elevator buttons. I try to coach her from behind 2 or 3 women wielding canes. At one stop an attractively dressed woman in a red coat and hat moves a bit slower than Sue feels is absolutely necessary.

"Hurry up! Get on! You walkin' slow. Hurry, lady, now!"

"Susan!" I exclaim. "That's not nice." Then to the woman, "I'm sorry."
The woman gives Sue a summing-up look and then throws me a slow smile.

Off the elevator, Sue runs again to see what else she can buy. I bribe her with promises of nail polish. She throws a penny in the fountain, and we leave. She barely misses stepping in the run-off again.

Wal-mart is close by. The first thing Sue sees are disposable cameras. She asks me to buy her one. I counter with nail polish and 2 DVD's to go with the DVD player she's getting for Christmas. I win.

Unfortunately, the DVD's are near the cell phones. Susan squeals with delight when she sees them.

"Oh, please, Jean Daley? I need a tone phone!"

I explain that I don't own a 'tone' phone. She persists. We pick out nail polish and remover. I tell her I need dog food.

"I hate dogs," she says.

She's at my elbow as I grab 3 cans, turn and head back to the main aisle. I turn. Sue's gone.

I hurry to the aisle to the right, no sign of her. I run to the left, nothing. I run back to the right, four aisles, six. Still no sign of her. I grab a sales woman.

"Please, I need help. You know that Code Adam thing you do? I need you to do it. I've lost my sister. She's this tall." I hold my hand chest high. I try to remember what's she's wearing and draw a blank.

The sales woman gives me a look. I know she's thinking I can't have a sister that young. She doesn't move.

"She's severely retarded."

The woman hurries away and I stop three more saleswomen and try to enlist their help. Unable to give a description, I go with, "This tall. She's severely retarded. You'll know." To me, at that moment in time, that pretty much covers it.

I finally find her at the end of the store, in the toy department, holding a Barbie cell phone. Two of the salespeople are still working as we walk back.
"You didn't give me a description. I didn't know what she looked like," one says. I can see her point, but the description I did give warranted some attention as far as I'm concerned.

Sue wants a soda and I need veggies for a salad. We stop at the grocery store. It takes much longer to convince Sue that we are going to the produce section than it does for me to grab a cucumber and a bag of salad.

"Go home, Jean?" Sue's tired, nervous. I look at the time. Her house is about 20 minutes away, but the staff won't there for another 45 minutes. Sue doesn't carry a key.

Sue always carries a purse. She can cram more stuff into a small purse than anyone I have ever met. No matter what the occasion, you can count on Sue having a movie in there. I pull into a parking lot and put the movie in the VCR in back. Sue watches the video while I drive and stall for time.
I have disrupted her routine today, wrinkled her day so that she's had a hard time finding the anchors, the touchstones that keep her sane, solid, safe.

When she was younger, we could spend a day or even two together and I was the touchstone. Just being with me was enough to let her know she was safe. But then, too many things changed. Our father died. Sue became violent and angry. My mother had to sell the house. Sue moved to an adult residence after some bouncing around looking for a good fit. She lost her balance, in a sense. And now her routine gives it back. Without it, she's adrift, lost. I am not enough.

Thankfully, one of the staff is a bit early and at the house when we get there. Sue jumps out of the car, runs up the steps. She's home, I've been dismissed. I start carrying in her things, the DVD player, her purchases, lunchbox, etc. Once my arms are full, Sue runs back out. She needs to gather up her purse, her soda. It's pouring rain and she's in no hurry. I try to wait patiently, but it's hard, and I can't leave her outside alone.

I put away Sues' things, try to set up the new electronics. Sue is mostly telling the staff about her day, sharing her candy with her roommates. I ask for a hug goodbye, but I have to follow her around to get one, to let her know I'm leaving.

Back in the car, I'm exhausted, facing a long ride home in a damp turtleneck and sweater, my shoes soggy.

The car is too quiet as I pull out into rush hour traffic.

How can silence be so jarring? How can I miss someone so soon and still feel such a wave of relief at being alone?

So, I said it was looonnnng. If anyone has made it this far, I could use a few bits of info. I'll post my questions in the feedback thread.

Premium Member
4,834 Posts
2004 has been about making peace. Making peace with being a family--and separating family from relatives. Making peace with removing relatives who don't respect us because we now respect ourselves--individually and as a group. Making peace with the fact that our son is not perfect and has special needs, but is perfectly wonderful. Making peace with God and coming back to the knowledge that this was HIS plan--not ours--and it has turned out as HE wanted it, no matter what we wanted. Making peace with our reality and finally taking ownership of our lives... making plans to make it happen the way we want it instead of allowing life to happen TO us. Moving forward on our plans. Making peace with who we are, and who we married, and the years we lost to not being one. Making peace with decisions we made that we thought were considerate of the long-term, but now realize that we really didn't consider the long-term at all. Making peace with who we've become--separately and together--and accepting it. Making peace with the dreams we will never achieve and learning to love the alternative.

2004 saw the birth of our son, and with that, the completion of two years of growing together--making our family a priority to the exclusion of all that threatened it. 2004 saw a baby being brought into a foundation that was almost stable, but cemented in his arrival. 2004 became the turning point in our lives... the letting go of the past--TRULY and finally letting go--and building the future. 2004 saw the passing of our first born and my codependent... I still cry for him. 2004 was about making peace, and letting go. 2004 was the end of the end and the beginning of a beginning.

4,401 Posts

We sit close, waiting. My husband, my cest friend and I. We don't talk, just sit and wait. My friend offers to go and get us drinks, or something to eat, but no one is interested.

I watch the other families waiting. Every so often a doctor comes in. If it's good news, the doctor sits and talks to the family. If it's bad news, they go into a room to my right. I pray our doctor sits and talks.

The wait is interminable. I am trying to remain calm, upbeat. After all, this may be nothing. I am no drama queen and this is no time for hysterics.

Our doctor comes with another doctor. I grab my dh's hand. They are not smiling. THey ask us to come to the little room. MY heart sinks, and my dh and I walk toward the room. We sit and wait for the doctors to settle. I look around and realize my friend isn't with us. I'd ask for them to get her, but I just want to know. NOW. In the time it would take for them to call her in, her to walk this far, I could know. I need to know.

One doctor keeps smiling this sad smile at us, a smile that is somehow worse than tears. They have removed a tumor, they say. It is cancer.

In that moment I have died. A piece of me will forever remain destroyed. I bury my face in my dh's shoulder and say "Oh God ."

My friend. Now I panic because we know and she is still waiting, still in Limbo. I ask them to get her, to tell her, to spare me having to.

Dee knows the second she sees us, there's nothing to say, but to go on, to explain that the type of cancer is still unknown, that they are more tests in store, more work to do, more pain to endure.

I have always known I was a person who could take much, could carry on under difficult circumstances. I am strong. Physically. And I was capable, able. I endured a horrible marriage, abuse and cheating, and it strengthened me until I was strong enoug to leave, not only to leave, but to then take the time to analyze the problem and to avoid ever repeating it, something not often accomplished. I joined the National Guard at 19, intending to train with the Women's Army Corp, only to find out on my arrival at Fort Jackson, that we were to be the first group of women to be trained with the men. And I survived.

So if they had told me to climb a mountain, or to move a mountain, or to part the seas, or to make gold from straw, I would have been willing to try, I would have gone willingly.

Instead tehy insisted that cancer, a cancer as yet unknown, was eating and corroding its' flithy, nasty way into bone, young, strong bone.

The skull of my son.

My 15 year old baby. My only boy. Not him my heart cried. Why couldn't it be someone else? Not my son. Not my son! For a brief and sickening moment, I thought, I have four daughters! Why not one of them. And then my over-loaded brain nearly burst with pain that I had thought such an awful and miserable thought. I would be no less sick if it were one of them, I would wish it had been anyone else, anyone else.

My baby. My son. Irrationally, I remember thinking, "But no, I already had this fight, I already fought for this son. I fought the great state of Massachusetts for this boy as a single parent, when he was my foster son. We have already earned our mother/son status. We do not need to be tested."

But we will be. My son will be. My strength will be. My families strength will be.

Now, if ever, is the time for hysterics. I am beside myself. I cry openly, try to ask questions, but what is there to ask? Will he live, is the only question, and if we don't have a diagnosis, I doubt they have an answer. My dh and Dee are there, with me, I remember holding their hands, but whether they cried or not, I have no idea. I was in an open sea, alone, adrift, drowning. I couldn't breathe.

The doctors, used to such pain maybe, able to breathe, said we would go now, as my son came out of anesthesia, and they would tell him. THey would tell him, as he cam e back from teh most terriffying experience of his life, that he had a possibly fatal disease.

At this, my mama instinct returned. Already I was burning to be with him again, to see him for myself, to be sure he wasn't frightened or in pain. Yet there was so much to discuss, to deal with first. I wanted to see him NOW and deal with this horror later, but they thought he, my baby, as their patient, should be told.

I sucked in air. I gripped my lifelines, the hands I held, harder. I pulled myself up, swallowed. Breathed. We would tell him, I said. I would tell him. But not now. First he would have time to regain consciousness, get his bearings. The doctors disagreed. I felt my dh and my friend watching me, to see what I would decide. I inssited. We would not overwhelm MY son. I would have this bit of control. I would tell him.

Once the news was shared, we were turned out into a hallway, pointed toward a door, told he was there. My dh looked at me and said that there was no way my son would not know what was wrong once he saw my face. I said, it would be fine. Dee scutinized and agreed with dh, said he would know the second he saw me.

I went to the ladies, washed my face, breathed. I looked at myself in the mirror and knew that on any other day my son would see what they saw, but that on this day, he would be too far gone to ever see the panic and pain I was feeling.

Together we went to my boy. I sat with im while he regained consciousnes. I kept telling them he neded more pain meds and wondered how the other children managed without soemone to ask for more for them. One of the oldest in the room, my son had no idea how to ask for more medicine, he tried to suffer like a man. My baby.

The anesthesia made him sick. He threw up over and over. His head ached. His skull now contained an egg-sized patch to protect his brain where they'd removed the tumor.


Time. Enough good cheer for one night! BTW, for those who are curious, my son is fine now, 22 and healthy.

403 Posts
Last night I realized there is a reason Boris came into my life. He is not a small man. I had heard of him long before I met him, as we celebrated Michaela's test at Stuart's. They were talking about dojo members no one had seen in a long time and someone said, "Hey, what about Boris?"

Boris, oh yeah... everyone half breathed, half voiced. Murmurs went around the table. Big guy, Russian.

"Remember the first time he showed up?" Michaela's blue eyes were wide and dancing. "I thought he was going to KILL me!" She slapped her hand on the table and agreement circled the room. "Hello, my name is Boris," she droned in a thick Russian accent painted over her subtle German one, "and I will break you."

Everyone at the table broke into knowing laughter, except for me, who sat there just feeling grateful that he seemed to have left, that at least I didn't have to worry about being thrown on the floor by him.

A month ago I was on the mat stretching before class when a wide blue-eyed gentleman in a black hakama bowed and entered the room. I recognized him by reputation, heard his "hello" before it dripped from his lips. I told myself not to be nervous; I'll just see how his first few partners fare. I was not eager to work with him, but I was curious. He wouldn't be there if he actually hurt people, so there was nothing to be afraid of. The laughing exaggeration of a few weeks ago was just that-exaggeration.

After first demonstration, partners paired up rather more quickly than usual and somehow the honor of welcoming Boris back to the dojo was bestowed upon me. We bowed, and I tried not to let my nervousness show. He held out his wrist for me to grab, an image that, when brought to mind even now, can send stress hormones surging through my veins.

Having only trained for a few months, I was still a bit slow and wobbly, my wiry frame easily being tossed aside by his centered graceful bulk. We were a bowling ball and a wire coat hanger dancing. He was laughing at me, laughing at my tenkan, rolling his eyes. I felt my blood rising to a slow simmer as I awkwardly muscled him around my small center, praying for his cooperation.

There he was, holding his hand out in front of him, trying to tell this stupid girl something she was just not getting, half laughing, half exasperated, looking up and out the dark windows shaking his head and searching for something. Patience? I was not understanding what he was trying to tell me, this piece of wisdom from the martial arts master, but so I desperately wanted to and obviously needed to. Something unraveled, and he relaxed and insulted me by simply going through the moves with no real intention and I was just there, lost, knowing that what I was doing was hopelessly wrong.

Then we switched and he swung me around like a cat.

By the time we were done with that exercise I was about as happy as a cat that's been swung around.

But that was not all. I also paired with him for ikkyo, basic arm pin. Thank you, Boris, for showing me how nicely you can pin me to the floor. I stepped up my energy, breathed.

Usually, I am gentle with my partners, much more than I need to be, having been taught from a very young age that I was put here on earth to nurture people, not to hurt them. And so it feels wrong sometimes to try to punch people in the face or to knock them over backward with a clip to the chin, but I do it, compromising by using poor aim, or not pushing from my center as I should.

Now, I began to play, to enjoy this opportunity. I couldn't hurt this guy if I tried, and he certainly wasn't afraid of hurting me. I shoved his arm to his ear, bent him around me and pinned him. Ooh, did that feel good. I did it again, less perfectly. On my third attempt he turned on me and knocked me to the floor. I tried to clear my mind of all curse words and hopped back up gracefully.

I gathered myself together, focused, got another pin. Then, his turn. It was not nearly as bad as I expected. I went spiraling down, and he didn't even bother to finish. I relaxed and exhaled. Again I grabbed him, spiral down. Again. That one was intense, twist of an arm, bump of a hip. Again, SLAM! I'd always wanted to fly, but somehow I always pictured it happening much higher in the air with a more controlled landing, preferably on the feet.

As we lined up for bowing out, I felt grateful for the gentle beginning he gave me, and for the tips I learned from him, but still felt steam rising from my forehead. After class, he asked me how long I'd been training and when I told him he smiled and said, "You are doing very well." I put those words in my pocket and thanked him.

Since then, I've begun to understand that his frustration comes not from my inability to do aikido as well as he requires, but more likely from his inability to communicate in English as well as he would like to. I have also learned that he is a massage therapist and that he also has extensive training in both karate and kung fu. This guy could probably turn a body inside out.

Last night, he laughed at me again, and he laughed at Neil's goof. He just laughs at people. I hate when someone laughs at other people's inabilities and mistakes, especially mine; I end up feeling tiny and embarrassed. I felt my temper rise, and at every opportunity I looked for non-Boris partners. But the class was small and I had to work with him repeatedly. He took advantage of my every mistake, not letting me get away with a thing, threw me crashingly spinningly hard. Asked me after if I was handling it okay. He pushed me, literally and figuratively. Aside from Sensei, I have never learned so much from one person.

Yes, Boris, punch me again, punch me again, and as I shoved his face down toward the mat and heard the loud SLAP, I felt a rush of gratitude, for his willingness to help me learn, for his refusal to treat me "like a girl", and for what I can learn from him: to stop caring so much when people laugh at me, or really, for what they think of me at all. It will be a long process, but here is my chance. He is a gift. Thank you very much.

1,445 Posts
Hi everyone,

I'm new here and have a writing question - but first I'll provide a short intro:

After a fairly long hiatus, I think I'm ready to get serious about writing again. My daughter is now 15 months and even though we're ultra attached, she allows me bits of free time here and there where I can get some writing accomplished. My writing history has been largely online (technical writer at dot coms) but I'm now focusing on freelance magazine writing with long term hopes of one day writing a novel.

My question is this ~
After submitting a query letter for an article idea and then getting the go ahead from the editor, is it acceptible to use some or all of what was written in the query for the final draft???

Thanks for help - and I look forward to being a part of this bunch!

403 Posts
It's a quarter to six when the alarm goes off and I immediately know what day it is because I've only let myself half-sleep all night in anticipation. I only hit the snooze button once, then slide out of bed, eager to start the day and be on time, feeling glad to dismiss the fear that the alarm wouldn't go off, or that I would turn it off and go back to sleep.

In the closet I have my clothes sitting out, all four layers. Bathing suit, thermals, workout clothes, pullover. I refuse to let my body feel cold as I peel off my warm pajamas to put on my bathing suit. I won't give an inch, yet.

My husband is rubbing his face in disbelief and bewilderment, and he joins me as I go downstairs for a cup of green tea and a banana. I am not hungry, or thirsty, but I know I'd better have something in me so I don't start shaking.

I fleetingly wonder if, like a plant, with a higher sugar content I will be more protected against the cold.

Anyway, I just eat the banana, drink the tea, and hope I don't need a bathroom when we get there. As I sip my tea I stare at the bag I packed the day before and the borrowed bokken (wooden sword) in its ancient-looking weapons bag. I hope I know what I'm doing.

I signed up to do the New Year's morning tradition-a thousand sword cuts and, after that, misogi (which is a ritual involving jumping into a body of water as both a reconnection with nature and a setting of intentions for the new year) about a month ago. Since then, having been unable to attend weapons class, I have practiced sword cuts and cold water cleansing on my own but a week ago I learned that the sword cuts were to be more complicated maneuvers than the basic one I'd been practicing. There was a four-direction, and eight-direction, a walking version and several others as well. I have now practiced them daily for the past week and desperately hope I won't end up turning left as everybody else turns right, dropping my (Sensei's actually) bokken or looking glaringly like I don't know what I'm doing and therefore should have just stayed at home. Everyone else who is going has done it before and regularly went to weapons class. Everyone else has been practicing for years. Why am I so set on doing this?

Why is it so important to me?

Why does my family have at least one day per summer when we don't use any electricity except for letting the fridge run so as not to ruin the foods?

Why do we go camping? Why do I garden organically?

It's that connection to the earth. That bowing down to mother nature in all her harsh and unfeeling glory. It's saying, I'm here, small, part of this big wholeness and I want to know where I really fit in, not where my culture has so neatly and comfortably makes me fit in. I want to make this ritual my own, to feel that shock of the cold water connecting me to this body, this place, this group of people, my sempai, my friends, my brothers.

It is a dark wet drive to the dojo, the green traffic lights forming pools of viridian wet on the wet black streets. Don't shiver, I tell myself, and stop being so nervous. You made it through childbirth for crying out loud-twice. None of these guys has done that! You'll do fine, and you know you won't back down because there are eight of them and one of me and they are all men and one of them is Boris and if I fail to do this I will never want to get foot in the dojo again, and unfortunately I would have to since my kids train there and I love that place and the thing is I just don't want to embarrass myself or hear anyone thinking I couldn't do it because I'm a woman or because I'm new or any other becauses.

I want to be able to do this. For me.

We gather at the dojo and discuss the midnight training session of the night before, and the party after as evidenced by the mostly empty sake bottle on the kitchen table.

And then, only a short time later, here we are at the park. The sky is light, and the Douglas firs stretch all the way from the wet grass to the Oregon gray. And it's not snowing, thank goodness.

The sword cuts go even better than I hoped. Perhaps I am not raising it as high as I should every time and maybe my cuts aren't as straight as if I had more experience, but they are sincere and from my heart as I cut through my attachment to this last year. My reason for doing the sword cuts, my visualization, is likely to be very different than most people's reasons. For me, 2004 was a great year, full of opening, forgiving, growing. My goal is to cut through my attachment to this past success, to past achievement and happiness. Start fresh again, live in the present.

My angle is off during one of the eight-direction cuts, nobody else notices but I do. I don't step properly as we start out across the grassy field for the walking cuts. But I see Tom slip up once also and I restrain myself from running over him and hugging him for showing me a little imperfection. Oh, it is good to be human. Nobody is going to come and ask me to stop embarrassing the group. My outrageous fears of being banished to the car evaporate instantly.

I watch my chosen tree, a straight one, and continue to cut. A hundred more. A hundred more. I strip down layers of clothing. I am covered with dew and sweat. A hundred more and it is over. Wait, where did the time go? Was it that easy? Why did it go so quickly?

Silence rippled by murmuring and nervous laughter surrounds us as we make our way back to the cars and the water. The trunk is open, towels come out, we strip to our suits. Three groups? I was thinking we would all go at once. Oh, yes, yes, yes, I want to be part of the first group, thank you. Josh and Jamie, the curious and everlearning homeschoolers who have come to watch and learn and cheer us on are touching the cold water and shaking their heads as they look at their mother with wide disbelieving eyes. She shushes them.

Sensei jumps but Joe and I walk in. He because he doesn't want to swim in his shoes, me because I won't jump. I just won't. I need more control than that. What if I pass out when I hit the cold and have to be dragged ashore? My feet are cramping, my legs burn, but it is nothing as I propel myself forward and then the top of my head has a hole in it which someone has filled with a bucket of ice.

We are standing, issuing loud sounds from the depths of our souls into the chilly air around us, directing our energy across the face of the planet. We face east, we face all the directions, we face east again. I listen as they project the Japanese phrase that I have learned not with my tongue but only with my skin's surface, up into the trees around us.

I see myself, later in the year and what I see surprises me. I don't know how I'll get there, but I know I will. I have set myself on the track to it and now it is inevitable.

My legs are numb, my heart sings.

My mind is blank as I walk out of the water, wrap in towels and watch the others. I feel refreshed, recharged, reborn. I dress into my warm dry things behind the car and feel my toes screaming at me, as if I've just used them to pack snowballs for an hour. I sit next to Boris on the way to breakfast and watch the Oregon morning yawning outside the car window. I am sure he's done this many many times, in colder weather, in ice water, but I don't care. I smile and watch the trees go by and listen to the conversation in the front seat and feel I am among family. I am famished.


I am open to feedback on this, if anyone is willling. I wrote it in the present tense, which is hard for me, and wonder if it is confusing or if I slipped back into the past at any point without realizing it. Well, there is one paragraph that does deal with the past, but all others should be part of the present, the story. Does the present tense even work for this?

Also....Tanya, where are you? We miss you and need assignments!

190 Posts
After two live births of two baby boys in two hospitals i've learned quite a bit.
I've learned that i don't like the institution. I've learned that the people who do support it will scoff at you and make you feel stupid and naive when you try to discuss homebirths or doing something differently. i've learned that you have to seek out like minded people, unearth them, hunt them down for support.

When I find these people, I am inspired, envious, and allow myself to feel inadequate because of the tremendous fortitude they possess in order to do the work that it takes to have a homebirth or a midwife in this day and age. I have searched and searched for the reasons that I could not go completely "unmedical" for both of my births and for the life of me I can not wholly blame it on the institution. It was my choice, but it was not the choice that i would have made in an ideal world with an ideal environment. Is birth another area that I have fallen short in? Is this just another place that I can overanalyse and beat myself up about? I know that last statement probably holds some truth. But there are other truths as well. The truth is that women's birth rights have been taken away. I want to do something to help us reclaim them. I will most likely not have any more children...but for the other mothers that surely will, I want to fight for them to birth how they want and where they want...
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