Archive for category The Writer’s Life
I was a BORN entrepreneur, and blessedly was a child of the 70s and 80s. I always had a business from the time I was four. My first venture? Selling my “art.” I got a Spirograph for Christmas and two types of paper, regular and legal. I’d spend hours crafting my original designs and then set out door-to-door (after cartoons and Sesame Street ended). Legal-size art was .15, regular was .5. Or you could buy all I’d made and I’d promise to go away for $1.
Once little brother came along, this increased my workforce. We washed cars, weeded gardens, trimmed hedges, picked up dog poop and at the end of the day, I’d split all we’d made 50/50. Our most profitable venture involved hoeing up crabgrass for $5 a bag. There is a LOT of crabgrass in SW Fort Worth. Was pitiless work in triple-digit heat, but everyone eagerly paid up.
I knew my market. Our neighborhood was working poor or elderly and we offered excellent work for a fair price. My mother and grandfather had taught us how to slay crabgrass properly by the time we were tall enough to hold a yard tool. Get those babies at the ROOTS. First rain will even the holes. Beautiful yard will soon ensue.
My little brother and I were also the precursor to the ATM. Mom and Dad knew we were always flush with cash. It wasn’t uncommon for us to have $50-$100 or more. Back then the banks were open three hours a day at the worst time, so if my parents needed quick cash? We were there…for a small service fee.
Family is family, but business is business.
What makes this extraordinary, is my little brother was legally blind. God help the kids who picked on him. They had ME to contend with (only I could call him a dork). I remember him being 5 and crying when he got his first glasses. He didn’t know trees had leaves.
I was a tough boss, though. You can feel the crabgrass. GET IT!
Everything is possible. Though Little Bro attended the Florida School for the Deaf and Blind in St. Augustine, Florida, blessedly, his vision drastically improved once he hit adulthood (so did optics/lenses). Now he’s the owner-CEO of his own successful company (and a devoted father, husband and involved in his City Council). In college, even though his vision was corrected, he volunteered countless hours translating books into braille and became fluent in ASL.
The Elementary Enigma
Okay, back to 1980 when I began grade school. I recall being baffled the day I entered the class and there were stacks of these cardboard boxes with a handle. We were all required to take at least one, sell all the contents then turn in all money to “support the school.” Problem was, no one in the educational system knew about a SWOT analysis.
Strengths—Cute kid selling candy.
Weakness—Over-saturation of cute kids concentrated in the same geographical area selling an unwanted/unnecessary product for an obviously inflated price. Our market was working poor. Yes, they’d pay $5 for some kid to hoe up crabgrass for two hours, but $3 for a candy bar that cost less than $1?
And then there was the repeated lecture about how they paid property taxes to support schools and shouldn’t have to buy candy, stale popcorn balls, yada yada yada.
Opportunities—Make teacher happy. Yeah, probably not. Sunburn? Mace? Potential abduction? Okay, I had nothing.
Threats—Other than the blatantly obvious over-saturated market, there were the roving packs of feral Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts and Brownies to contend with. Highly territorial and taught how to tie knots and set fires. And people waited all year for Girl Scout cookies. They were/are like the crack of the “kids selling stuff world.”
Customer: $20 for Thin Mints???? *twitches and scratches arms* *eyes VCR and tempted to rewire it* All I have is $19. PLEASE. I can get you the $1 on payday! You gotta help me out, Kid.
Girl Scout: Okay, this time. But the price is now $25 and I want Barbie clothes.
Girl Scout: I know where you live.
Customer: *nods and shambles off with cookies tucked under coat*
The worst part of it is I was no stranger to working my tail off, but I at least was able to tangibly enjoy the fruit of my labors…with CASH. None of this existential “support your school” crap, a school that I had determined by Age 5 was a front for fascism.
The Band Candy Bandit
As I grew older, new threats appeared, namely the little brother who’d once been such a loyal business partner. I was in the band and required to sell ridiculously priced Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups (again for some nebulous end). Apparently the siren’s song of Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups was stronger than sibling loyalty. He couldn’t see them, but his sense of smell was greatly enhanced O_o.
Mom and I woke to an 8-year-old passed out in a sugar coma, surrounded by brown and orange wrappers.
My poor single mother somehow scratched together the $100 to give to the school, though I felt they should have just locked little bro up and solved ALL our problems. He did the crime and could pay the time…and I’d no longer have to contend with him hiding my art supplies in the field behind out house just to tick me off.
Brave New Parenting
These days, sending your kids off to knock on strangers’ doors all alone isn’t nearly as acceptable. Thus, every storefront becomes a trap of “sad face” where you don’t dare make eye contact. I mumble something about food allergies and skirt past feeling like a jerk.
When Hubby was at a corporate job, every office worker had a kid selling something through their dealer (the poor parent who probably still suffers peanut cluster flashbacks). One year, we had so many Girl Scout cookies I banned Hubby from answering the door. He was helpless in the face of a cute kid. Between everything bought from family, the office and our front door? We were staring down the barrel of a second mortgage.
I will say that I love supporting kids. I buy what I can, even if I am deathly allergic. I remember being in that position and how hard it was. What I really love are the authentic small business owners. One day, I opened the door and three little girls stood there. They were selling magnets they’d made themselves.
I noticed the tiniest of the girls (she was elf-small) hid behind the others and I coaxed her out. She was missing an arm. Fumbling, she said they’d started their business to make money for extras their parents couldn’t afford. She couldn’t pull weeds or mow yards, but she could help make and sell magnets. She’d hidden because she didn’t want me to see her missing arm.
I bought their entire inventory.
And I’d have done that anyway. It had nothing to do with the one girl’s appearance. She’d done everything she could to support her sales team and NOT use her “disability” for sympathy sales.
I was so genuinely impressed with their hard work. They’d done their research. These were beautiful magnets that cost next to nothing. We all need pretty magnets. Magnets aren’t fattening and there is little competition. I wanted to support these future business owners the way my neighbors coughed up change for my silly Spirograph “art.”
Their grandmother was waiting in the car and I strolled out to praise her, and who was the CFO sitting in the back seat? Big brother. I donated an additional $30 as an angel investment. Big brother (11) ran the numbers and kept track of sales. My heart still flutters when I think of this story.
The Special Circumstances
I love kids. I’d adopt all of them if I could. It’s why I love that I’m called the W.A.N.A. Mama, because I can be den mother for countless writers. Also, we’re more than writers. We are people and many of us are parents. We have struggles and sickness and setbacks, but the cool news is we have each other.
And yes, I have something to sell. I almost never do this even for myself beyond a blip at the bottom about my book or upcoming classes. You’ve been warned, but I think this “sale” is a tad extraordinary.
Last Friday on Facebook, one of the WANAs was terribly discouraged. Her son has Down Syndrome and the school has tasked the kids/parents with selling ninja cookie cutters. His mom, Leona (a WANA) only asked if I could buy some cookie cutters. I was the one who offered to blog and talk to you guys.
I KNOW many of the writers in my community have special needs kids or grandkids and it is one of the toughest jobs in the world. We applaud you for your love and all your tireless work. This is the least I can do, beyond buying cookie cutters when I never bake :D .
Leona sent me this note after I offered to help:
Isaac is five years old with Down Syndrome. He’s recently moved to new school as we were able to get out of bad living situation. He’s doing beautifully. The new school provides many specialized services, like speech, resource rooms for extra tutoring, etc., and not just for the special ed kids.
It’s a good district. Unlike the old schools that acted as if I’d murdered their grandmother when asking for help or asking why something had happened this way or that, they are friendly, helpful, and happy to serve you and your children to getting a better education. All three of my kids have done so well in the new schools. They’re all happier, less depressed, and more focused, so I really appreciate your help in this.
The money is for the Gilbert Elementary PTA. They put on barbeques, and other family oriented things for the children and families to do things. They do a great job. The parents are relaxed and don’t look stressed, the teachers are helpful. I believe they play an integral part to keeping the community relations happily together with the schools goals.
I appreciate you doing this as it will help Isaac garner some recognition, which though he won’t completely understand the whys of it, he will be happy with the positive attention. I’ve included a picture of him playing at the park before his back to school hair cut (BELOW)…
How can you help? Maybe buy some cookie cutters or share this blog or the information below with those in desperate need of ninja cookie cutters :D .
To support #TeamIssac go to the Cherrydale Farm site and enter the following information:
Student Name: Isaac Bushman
School: Gilbert Elementary PTA
Group code (It will automatically fill in, but just in case): FRGILYW
And then if you hit continue, you can shop and Isaac will get credit.
Thank you for being here and for your support even if it is a comment or a share. Love and potential are limitless.
I LOVE hearing from you!
Did your school force you to sell overpriced stuff? Did you dread the tins of popcorn? Do you have kids and groan when they come home with candy bars? Is your office crammed with desperate parents trying to offload candles, greeting cards and chocolate? Yeah, sorry to add more peer pressure (ok, not really). Are you a tad shocked you weren’t held captive by that creepy neighbor with the van, but knocked on his door anyway because you had to make your quota?
To prove it and show my love, everyone who leaves a comment I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly. I will pick a winner for a a critique of the first 20 pages of your novel, or your query letter, or your synopsis (5 pages or less).
All comments today are in a separate contest so less competition and a much greater chance of winning :D.
Suicide. It’s a topic that’s been on most of our minds as of late. I was BROKEN when I found out about Robin Williams. It’s like this bright shining star just snuffed out, leaving only a black hole of crushing emptiness behind. I feel terrible for taking him for granted, selfishly assuming he’d always be around.
I haven’t yet cried because I’m afraid I might not stop. My fondest childhood memories involve Mork & Mindy. Growing up, I’d watch Williams’ comedic acts over and over and over, studying his timing and how he could do what he did, because to me? It was MAGIC. In fact, I can honestly say he was my earliest mentor. I learned to laugh and make others laugh, and, since home and school were living nightmares, laughter was my lifeline.
I’m no expert aside from having suicide issues in the family. Also, years ago, I suffered horrific depression after being on the phone with my father when he unexpectedly died. No one realized he had cancer until after the autopsy, because he was always making everyone laugh, always smiling and making us smile…until he was gone.
While I won’t get into a discussion regarding suicide and depression, I’d like to address some reasons many were so sideswiped when Robin Williams took his life. Obviously I can only speak from my own perspective as a humor author and chronic class clown.
Humor is Birthed From Pain
Ever notice the high mortality rates among comedians? Self-destruction is common. One reason is that humor is an amazingly powerful defense mechanism. I switched high schools six times and was poor, thus the target of every group of Mean Girls (which come standard). In my freshman year I turned inward and fell into terrible depression. Then I learned how powerful humor could be. It could be a weapon.
The right turn of phrase could decimate an attacker.
Humor can also be body armor. Funny people use laughter to minimize pain so we can cope. Maybe we come from a background where we aren’t allowed to express hurt, pain, sorrow, disappointment, and so making jokes becomes a way of staying sane. Or maybe there is so much pain that humor is the only way to keep from overloading. This is common among police officers, soldiers, doctors, and any profession bombarded with tragedy.
Never Let Them See You Sweat
I’ve been guilty of this (being the comedian of the family). I love making others laugh and never lose my sense of humor. When I was admitted to give birth to The Spawn, the attending nurse crashed every single vein trying to get an IV in me (until I politely asked if my mom could do it—she is an RN). The nurses missed inserting my epidural (the needle that goes into the spine) seven times. Yet, to the end and through every contraction, I had everyone laughing, even though I was in agony.
When I was 22, I finally had to have four impacted wisdom teeth removed. I couldn’t afford an oral surgeon and so the dentist gave me the anesthesia and proceeded to chisel all four teeth out of my jaw. My roommate who brought me said all she could hear from the room was the staff laughing to the point of tears. Apparently through gauze and anesthesia I was still a riot.
Laughter has been there to help me contend with the fear and pain, but this coping mechanism has a dark side.
I know it’s my own fault others don’t necessarily take me seriously when I’m hurting. How could they? I’m cracking jokes and making everyone happy. I’m a giver. I don’t know if life is worth living if we aren’t laughing. And if we’re going to be in pain, why not bear it with a smile? People & circumstances can take away anything but our attitude, right?
The problem is that others see that smile and might not understand that we do need help and likely aren’t going to ask for it. Or us being “funny” might make it seem we’re not in as dire of a situation.
Just ask the people who tried to get me to an ER last week when I had my first violent reaction to peanuts.
Givers love to give. Comedians live to make others laugh. We love it so much we’re often blind to when we are empty and the darkness is there to pounce when we’re at our lowest. As a community, one of the things we can all do is learn to be better at actively listening. WANA was built on this principle—WE ARE NOT ALONE.
I’ve been doing this myself. Talk less, listen more. Joke less, hear more, be honest. Listen for subtext. If we ask someone, “How are you today?” at least stick around long enough for an answer. Ask the next question.
Lack of Boundaries and Rest
I find it interesting how the corporate world expects to be able to reach us 24/7. Meetings and “work” creep into our Saturdays and even Sundays. But how would our job feel if we showed up with our kids to work? What if we read a novel or took a nap?
Oh, what? No quid pro quo?
My husband gets business calls before we are even awake. 99% of the time, it’s over matters that could wait. We’re interrupted at dinner, on weekends, during church. When are we going to say NO? I now turn off my phone on weekends. I just…can’t.
Most of us—even the funny folks—are running around on fumes. This is when depression sets in even if it isn’t clinical. Humans were not designed to run fill tilt 24 hours a day. Those of us with a gift for making others laugh likely just don’t show symptoms as early or at all. A lot of us “don’t want to bother” anyone.
Also, a lot of us jokesters have set up expectations in others that we will always make them smile. When we can no longer do that—when we are too spent or hurting—we retreat. We don’t want to disappoint.
Situational Awareness—Take It To H.A.R.T.
Are we hurting, alone, resentful, or tense? In this go-go-go-go life, we should be mindful to stop. Take a break so we can check our condition. We wouldn’t drive a car and ignore red lights flashing. CHECK ENGINE. FUEL LOW. NEED AIR. Why do we do this to ourselves? And for the other funny folks out there, joking about the CHECK ENGINE light is no laughing matter.
This is why I’m so tremendously grateful for all you. I might hurt, but I’m never alone and you guys keep me company so a lot less tense.
The hurting? Yeah. Covered in hives and want to scrape off my skin with a carrot peeler (go to doctor in an hour). Resentful? Benadryl kinda making me resent everything, including sounds, light and those annoying air particles that insist touching me. PERSONAL SPACE! And bugs farting. How are the spiders and fruit flies so flatulent?
What are your thoughts?
Do you do tend to minimize by joking? Maybe laugh off things you shouldn’t? Do you retreat if you can’t be entertaining? Do you feel desensitized to pain because of coping so long with humor? Do you have friends of family who are like this? Maybe that you need to watch more carefully?
I miss Robin Williams. The world is a far darker place without him. I hope he’s somewhere he can see how much we all loved him and how devastated we are to be without him.
I am reticent to write this blog, namely because a lot of the content I’ve shared lately has involved a string of injuries. I am a 40 year old woman who practices Brazilian Jui-Jitsu and it’s a contact sport. Stuff happens. I’m also the mother of a 4 year-old. Trips and falls over the hidden Matchbox car or lurking Legos happen. If fact, I’m not particularly worried about burglars. If they can make it through my living room in one piece?
Feel free to have the ten-year-old television. You earned it.
But, despite this being embarrassing, I felt it was a vital topic to address. Recently, I blogged about empowering my little one to do things on his own. A big step? Making his OWN PBJ sandwich. Since I already know I have a zillion food allergies and intolerances, I’ve avoided eating peanuts, because I know that people with current allergies are far more likely to develop others.
I’ve been very grateful that my allergies—gluten, dairy, soy—are fairly easy to monitor. I cook most of my own food. Also, these allergies might make me miserable for a few hours or days, but getting into gluten isn’t life-threatening.
The Deadly “Peanut”
I’ve heard the “urban legends” about how dangerous peanuts in particular can be. It did seem odd that schools and airplanes were banning them and that responsible restaurants began posting warnings. I respected that because, an allergy of that magnitude? Better safe than sorry. But it’s one thing for a concept to be in our head and quite another to experience it first hand.
For the past two weeks, I helped Spawn with his sandwiches. I never ate any of the peanut butter and would wash my hands. Then, about a week ago, I started getting these weird itchy bumps on my left ribs. I assumed a mosquito had tried to escape my cleavage and was pissed off after being smothered by the underwire in my bra.
What struck me as odd was that normal itch creams or lidocaine didn’t dent the itch. Another weird thing was that HUGE patches of skin lost all feeling.
Then a day might pass and no itchy bumps or numbness. But, each time the bumps came back, they were worse…and on the left side on my bottom ribs. The odds of catching a mosquito or lost fire ant on the same side stretched believability. Thus, I relegated this odd phenomena a heat rash or perhaps the washing machine hadn’t removed all the soap. I changed detergents and made sure to increase the rinse cycle.
Yesterday morning, I awoke and helped Spawn with his sandwich and Hubby called me for something. I skipped that vital step of scrubbing my hands and just did a half@$$ rinse. I took Spawn over to my friend Shannon’s house feeling fine. I kissed him goodbye to go to my bible study. On the way to church I began to wheeze, cough and sneeze.
Okay, I’m in Texas. Allergy Capitol of the WORLD. Pollen.
By the end of bible study I was really coughing and my side was in terrible pain. I went to the restroom to check my side in the mirror.
Then this (above) quickly became THIS (below).
My whole left side and part of my back were covered in massive angry hives and I couldn’t feel any of the skin around the hives. Most of my mid-section and back were completely numb. I scrubbed my hands thoroughly thinking maybe I’d left some of the peanut butter on my hands and that I’d be fine with some Benadryl.
As I was driving Shannon home, the wheezing increased, the hives spread and suddenly I was missing turns and completely disoriented and confused. My blood pressure bottomed out. I didn’t know where I was. Shannon guided me to pull over and drove me to her house where I took a megadose of Benadryl and a couple puffs of albuterol.
I was slurring my words and still very disoriented. They wanted to call an ambulance, but the Benadryl was kicking in and, though I still felt like crap, I was improving. Shannon called Hubby to come get me and take me to a hospital.
By the time he arrived, I could breathe again and the swelling had diminished, but I was loopy and talking like I’d had a stroke or a few shots of Jaegger. Since anaphylaxis is the main concern for this kind of reaction, I refused a hospital visit.
Good thinking. You took Benedryl and used an inhaler. You’re fine now. Here’s a prescription for an epi-pen and that will be $1000.
Since I was finally breathing and throat was no longer swollen, I asked Hubby to take me home (and I plan on following up with an allergist to get an epi-pen).
Here is The WEIRD Part
I staggered inside and sat at the table. Though moments earlier, I’d been feeling a lot better, I suddenly began to wheeze. The peanut butter sandwich left on the table three feet away from me was causing me to react. I took more Benadryl and went to the bedroom until Hubby could decontaminate the kitchen of all the peanut butter.
Today, I’m fine (aside from a SERIOUS Benadryl hangover and really, really itchy hives).
But what kicked off the first part of the reaction? Pecking a Mommy Kiss on her kiddo (who’d just eaten a PBJ). The second phase? Touching my skin that was itchy and blowing my nose with hands that still had some peanut butter on them. The last phase? Sitting only a couple feet from a sandwich.
Ok, I am NOW a believer and can attest that this is NOT urban legend.
Why the Hate?
Something disturbed me when I was researching about this allergy. There is a terrible animosity toward those with peanut allergies. Numerous blogs dripping with venom and ranting about how their kid shouldn’t be deprived of a PBJ at school because one sissy@$$ kid has an allergy. People have found it funny to spread peanut butter inside the door handles of places that post warnings about peanuts. Flick peanuts at kids they know are allergic.
Sadly, THIS seems to be a very common sentiment:
And what bothers me is that most of these allergies have been created due to gross irresponsibility of the food and medical community. For YEARS, doctors overprescribed antibiotics in situations where they weren’t required, thus creating a generation of people with penicillin allergies or antibiotic resistance. Doctors not poor genes created superbugs requiring Godzillacillin.
The food industry is not held to a strict standard of truth in labeling. Gluten hides under a lot of names. Europe refuses to buy American wheat. I have family members who live in Europe and eat bread all the time. They can’t eat our bread or pasta without getting ill.
There are good reasons for this explosion of food allergies.
First, I believe GMO is not as “safe” as scientists claim. And maybe I’m a jerk, but these “super smart scientists” were the same folks who claimed that hydrogenated oils were so much healthier than butter, olive oil, or coconut oil (even though ROACHES wouldn’t touch it).
Oh wow, trans fats? Oops, our bad.
Also, even if I am wrong about the GMO thing, in our modern society we eat out far more often and rely more on packaged and processed foods than ever in history. I’m old enough that I had a mom at home who cooked our meals. Eating out was a treat.
Yes, I ate PBJs, but the only time I ingested peanuts was when I was eating peanuts. Now that cookies are bought off a shelf instead of homemade? And more and more foods are all processed in the same place, on the same equipment? The general population is regularly being exposed to all the MAJOR allergens at a far higher rate. This means over time these allergens build in our systems and suddenly BOOM, we have an allergy.
In 1950, you got “gluten” in your bread. People knew they were eating wheat. People didn’t have to check the spices, soups, salad dressings, and lunch meats. In 1950, ham on your sandwich was HAM.
The Message from the Mess
Just know that when people get uptight about a food allergy, they aren’t meaning to be high-maintenance. It is a real hassle to have allergies. And to some of us is IS a matter of life or death.
I’ve been poisoned at conferences, stranded at airports for 15-20 hours with nothing to eat (I now bring supplies). I’m the “pain in the @$$” to the waiter (though I am kind and tip extra). People resent you because you can’t go to the restaurants they would prefer, or you when don’t order anything to eat, you’re then judged and treated with hostility.
I hate having allergies. Sometimes, it would be nice to just eat where I want and what I want to and not read every label like I am researching for a dissertation.
I’m very happy that discovering my peanut allergy happened as it did. I could have been on my way home with Spawn in the car when it hit full-force. Or at home alone with a 4 year old. OY! I might not be here to write this today.
But, I’m still here. I have a newfound respect for those with the serious allergies and just want to let people know just how dangerous this allergy is. This allergy really scares me because it’s beyond my control and relies on others respecting how deadly this allergy can be.
It isn’t a joke or us wanting attention…though Hubby did do the dishes and clean the house :D. If you have allergies, I totally feel for you. But maybe this trend will make the food industries start being more responsible and the same peanut allergies they created can be eliminated (FYI—peanut allergies have risen almost 20% since 1997).
I also found this COOL site for those with allergies. It also has a section for parents. Since little ones don’t have the same vocabulary as an adult, they have a list of common things a small child might try to tell an adult when they are having a reaction.
What are your thoughts?
Yes, I am a delicate flower. Sigh. Do you struggle with allergies? Do you find people are flippant or even rude in regards to your allergies? Have you ever had a scary experience with an allergy? Are you a parent of kids with food allergies? What are your experiences? Suggestions? Tips?
I LOVE hearing from you!
To prove it and show my love, for the month of AUGUST, everyone who leaves a comment I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly. I will pick a winner once a month and it will be a critique of the first 20 pages of your novel, or your query letter, or your synopsis (5 pages or less).