Writing to Heal and to Feel Connected

When you’ve had experiences such as mine–emotional, physical, and sexual abuse during childhood–you can choose to ignore the pain or zap its power through the written word. Yes, it’s scary.

I write to share my experiences with others to create a sense of community. Because when I read the work of others who have had experiences similar to mine, I feel less alienated and less “freakish.” In the words of John Lennon: “It’s not just me.”

Today I learned that my best friend, a therapist, lent my poetry book Suede to a client, who was able to use my poetry as inspiration to write her own healing poems. That, my friends is what it’s all about. Let’s continue to form a community of writers, readers and healers. Let’s make each other feel more connected.

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When Life Hands You Lemons, Make Whiskey Sours-If You’re Not Allergic To Barley

gus_and_ginny

During summer people go crazy from the heat. My eighteen-year-old-moved out of my house with no job and no prospects because she wants to prove to me that she’s a grown up. The previous owners of my house lied about the broken chimney and now I have a rotted roof and mold growing in the attic. I had to pay $40 dollars to get my dogs out of jail after the dogcatcher found them, and another $50 to register them with the city so that if they escape again the dogcatcher “might” bring them back home and not the pound. Last week, a man and his two kids screamed when my giant Lab/Newfie ran over to them causing him to nip at one of the kids, leaving a freckle-sized mark on the boy’s calf. The father went ballistic. He refused to believe we had a current rabies tag, took all my information, and when the vet verified I was telling the truth he never even called to say it was cool. The good news–I’m a writer. And I will turn all of this into something hilarious.

Ladies and Gentlemen: The Scratching Stilloes

Dad and two kids
The Cobbler and His Kids

When my father passed away in 2012, one of my uncles brought over a DVD with home movies from the 50s spliced into one long film that we watched together. It was fantastic. I loved seeing my old man and his eight siblings when they were teens and younger, teaching my grandmother how to dance The Jerk, wearing their 50s’ style clothing, so full of life.

I need to mention that some of my family members are plagued by allergies–to animals, dairy, peanuts, fish, tree nuts, tomatoes,
wheat–you name it. I remember as a kid watching my grandmother sit at the kitchen table constantly scratching a patch of eczema on her wrist. I now know it comes from food allergies, because over the years I’ve developed my own; if I eat corn or barley, I get eczema on my wrist.

Watching the movie is poignant. My father, thin as a rail, sporting a pompadour and dress clothes, shoots craps in the hallway at his parents’ house with my uncle Louie, who sports an even swirlier pompadour. Every time my father, who’s about 17, throws the dice, he scratches his neck. Then his nose. Then his ear. His chin. He has asthma and allergies. Louie, as far as I know, has none.

My uncle Jimmy, who’s about six in these movies, has curly hair poking from beneath a cowboy hat. He is covered in eczema. He plays the banjo and sings as though nothing is wrong. He stops every few seconds to scratch his ear or his face or his neck. The show must go on!

My son Vincenzo is allergic to dairy and corn. His last name may not be Stilloe, but I think he can be part of our club. We’re both allergic to cats and are taking allergy shots, so maybe some day we can have a kitten. The good news is we are not allergic to dogs. And so we have Gus and Ginger, our adopted dogs. No word on their allergies.     VinnyandGussy

 

Live and Let Write

Recently, I was asked to respond to a blog post by a fellow blogger. A fellow writer posed the question “which courses should I take if I want to learn how to write?” I simply shared the courses I took when I was a student at Lewis-Clark State College in Lewiston, Idaho.

Not long after my post, a young man posted a response to my response that I found a bit disconcerting. He came back with something similar to don’t waste your hard earned money on a degree when you could get the same in late fees at the library. Obviously, this is not a direct quote.

Let’s forget first of all that there was a typo in the quote he did post. He meant to say “writer,” but he wrote “write,” so instantly he lost credibility with me.  It’s not that I haven’t made errors—big ones. But if you’re going to argue for or against a cause, double check your words.

Let’s also forget that he didn’t cite where he lifted the quote from. He took it from the movie Good Will Hunting, which I love. As a matter of fact, it happens to be one of my all time favorites. I’ve seen it numerous times, and I have shown it in the classes I teach.

Good-Will-Hunting-Script

Basically, the quote is from the scene where Will takes the graduate student aside and chides him for his “overpriced degree” when all he really needs is to read a slew of books from the library. And, if the young man who responded to my post would have gotten the point of Good Will Hunting, the story, that is, it was that Will needed other people. That his reading all of those books in isolation didn’t allow him to grow.

In summation, the blog poster was either trying to be a complete smart ass or was just plain ill-informed. I am hoping for the latter.

If you want to be a writer, take any path you wish.

The Cobbler’s Daughter-a Memoir in the Making

For more than a decade, I have been writing my childhood memoir, The Cobbler’s Daughter. Keep in mind, a memoir is a “slice of time” from an author’s life, i.e., this is my first twenty years. And since I hope to live to at least 100, I have four more books in the recesses of my brain. Ha!

But seriously, sometimes you hear a person say, “You’re 45? You’re too young to write a memoir.” Not really. It depends on how much has happened in your life—and how much time you have had to reflect. I know a writer who could have written one at age 30. And you should, Alisha.

Why do I think anyone cares about my life story? Because I have cared so deeply about the lives of others: Autobiography of a Face. This Boy’s Life. The Glass Castle. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. Hungry for the World. Mommie Dearest. To name a few.

Every one of these memoirs touched me in a profound way, and I will be channeling these authors as I write. I will also channel the hearts and minds of my beloved father and brother, who have gone before me, and who played such significant roles in my life before I turned twenty.

Moving My Blog to WordPress

Dad and two kids

Hello, friends:

For all of you who’ve stood by me since my blog Against All Odds, I am moving the Cobbler’s Daughter blog to WordPress. Stay tuned for more poetry, stories about the Leather Shoe Shop, my children, and whatever life hands me.

More to come!

Love you all.

Cindy

joevandal