Tag Archives: childhood
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Ready, Steady, Write #21

Pause

Breathe

Write about the Light

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Incentive

Incentive.

Let the word sit on your tongue. It’s a subtle word. It sizzles in the middle.

Incentive.

It beckons you forward. Encourages you to engage. Dangles a reward.

Or does it?

Writing is a tough one. Are you enamoured by the process? Do you feel compelled to let words tumble out of your brain and onto the page? Are you bold enough to let those words fly, or play with them, shifting their positions as if they were an enthralling jigsaw? Unless all of these conditions are in place, what incentive is there to write?

Money, fame, fans, accolades?  No guarantees, and if you are writing with these aspirations – may the force be with you.

You’ll need it.

I am incentivized by the potential of impact. I want my words to resonate. When I release these blog posts every week, the words have already resonated within me… and that IS satisfying. But if they then resonate with even ONE person beyond me – that is enormously satisfying.

I have heard from many readers, “I love to read your posts but I haven’t written… or I can’t write… or it’s not my thing… or I’m not very good or, or, or, or, or….

I’m bored with OR! I want to tempt words from you. I want to ignite action. I want you to feel the surge in your soul that can come with digging deeper. Unearthing creativity. Inventing worlds. Exploring expression. I want to incentivize you to WRITE – without fear or judgement.

So here goes…

When I first moved to LA two years ago I was introduced to a lovely woman called Jo Ann Thrailkill. Jo Ann is the founder of The Pablove Foundation– a non profit that raises funds for paediatric cancer research and offers a remarkable photography program, Pablove Shutterbugs, for children lving with cancer. Pablove grew with passion, dedication and care from the dark roots of grief. Jo Ann and her husband, Jeff, lost their son, Pablo, to a rare form of childhood cancer when he was only 6 years old.

Pause here. Let those words resonate.

In the short time since his death, despite the massive unrepairable rupture in their worlds, Jo Ann and Jeff miraculously didn’t lose their incentive. They found a way to keep going. They began to create something that would not only honour the precious life of their brave and beautiful son, but that would also positively impact other children suffering from cancer.

Pablove was born.

If I close my eyes I can picture Jo Ann and Jeff carving a heart into the trunk of a tree. I imagine the birth of Pablove as a pact between them. A statement.  A message. We are still here. Pablo’s older brother, Grady, was fifteen when Pablo died. We are still here. We will continue to make meaning…

Pablove inspires me. Jo Ann and Jeff inspire me. The children in the Shutterbugs photography program inspire me. I never met Pablo, but he inspires me. Hugely.

As part of my aim to inspire YOU and incentivize you to write, I am pledging my continued support to Pablove.

Below is a gorgeously graphic image taken by Diego, 13 years old, who participated in a 2011 Shutterbugs photography program.

I am going to leave this post up for 2 weeks and within that time, for every fictional story, original poem, or memory you share on the site in response to Diego’s photograph , I will donate $5 to Pablove. And if you want to match that donation – please do so here: pablove.org. Let me know if you donate, but remember, your words alone will ensure a contribution.

Do it now!  It doesn’t have to be literal – use the image as a springboard and jump. Remember my ethos – forget about getting it ‘right’ and get it ‘write’ instead!  Share part of you. Share this post with friends and family.  Share the Pablove!  Click on the ‘comments’ button to get started, and if you are reading this via email…  please visit the site directly to respond.

Join Jo Ann and Jeff. Carve your initials and your heart into that tree trunk. Let your words truly make a difference.

I’m here to make certain they will…

From Pablove
The Pablove Foundation is named after Pablo Thrailkill Castelaz, the son of Jo Ann Thrailkill and Jeff Castelaz and
the little brother of Grady Gallagher. Pablo was six years old when he lost his valiant yearlong battle with bilateral
Wilms Tumor, a rare form of childhood cancer. The mission of The Pablove Foundation is to fund pediatric cancer
research and advances in treatment, educate and empower cancer families, and improve the quality of life for
children living with cancer through hospital play, music and arts programs. Pablove Shutterbugs is the foundation’s program to teach
children living with cancer to express their creative voice through the art of photography.For more information on The Pablove

Foundation, please visit pablove.org and follow Pablove on Facebook at facebook.com/pablovefoundation and Twitter at @pablove.

Please also take the time to click below and read a true example of Writing To Be You – a soulful letter written by Pablo’s father, Jeff, on Pablo’s birthday.

AN OPEN LETTER TO THE WORLD FROM A FATHER WITH A FRACTURED HEART

What’s stopping you? You donate words… I donate money… it’s sweet, easy and soulful. Please grab this gift of incentive and WRITE! You have until Monday 9th July!

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Singing in the Street

It was a rare occasion to be collected from school by my father. My sister and I had a half day. My dad picked us up and took us out to lunch. I might have been ten. I don’t remember the food we ate. I do remember he bought me a white bird that looked strangely real. It had glass eyes and wings made from silky soft feathers. I ran my fingers endlessly over those wings, imagining it had landed on my window sill to speak a special language, only to me.

My father held my hand as we walked through the West End of London and he sang out loud. My sister and I hit the back of his coat and begged him to stop. He took us later that day to see Flash Gordon in the Odeon cinema on the Edgware Road. Besides us, there were probably only fifteen people in the cinema. I was mesmerized by the adventure on the screen.  Neon lycra, laser guns and the Crash(!) Boom (!) Pow(!) of a boy’s world that had remained elusive to me being the youngest of three girls. My dad wasn’t so mesmerized. He fell asleep. Head lolling forward. Loud snores erupting in bursts. I tried to jostle his arm to wake him up. It didn’t happen. He just wasn’t that riveted by the Saviour of the Universe.

Parents are embarrassing. It’s not my opinion.  It’s a well documented fact.

My Dad was embarrassing but he was MY embarrassing… if he hadn’t sang in the street or snored in the cinema, I might not be recalling the tender details of that afternoon. If he had been dull or bland, twenty years after his death, it would be harder to conjure up the moments that make me smile on father’s day.

My mother was enormously embarrassing too. She collected us from school wearing an impossibly fluffy orange fur coat, flared jeans and owl round sunglasses. Today she might get splattered in red paint, but in 1978 she was the epitome of cool. She was the true manifestation of a yummy mummy, and totally immune to the glares of other more reserved mums, piling kids in the backs of station wagons, heading for Hampshire to their weekend retreats. My parent’s were city rebels. My mum drove a two door silver Mustang with black leather seats, and a perfect white stain on the vinyl roof, imprinted by my vanilla ice cream cone. I’d stand behind the driving seat and hold onto the smell in her hair. Estee Lauder Youth Dew. She made being a grown-up look so very fun and easy. But she was still embarrassing. She was a mother after all – it was part of her job description.

When I became a grown-up, I realized that life wasn’t nearly as breezy or fun as my mother had made it seem.

Perhaps that’s when I started singing in the street.

I might not have fur or glamour on my side, but I have found my own unique methods to ensure my children cringe. And on the days I don’t successfully humiliate them, my husband manages to pick up my slack. Somehow I am reassured by this cycle of life. Like the secret language I shared with my white bird… each family has their own code to interpret. And while back in the seventies I flinched  at my parent’s eccentricities, I grin fondly at the recollections now.

I wouldn’t want it any other way.

Take a moment and recall some of your own parents’ embarrassing highlights! For some of us this can tip from humour into shame… notice your feelings. See what emotions surface as you begin to write. When I wrote my piece, I felt very sentimental.  Has time smoothed away the creases or does the memory still make your toes curl?!

Be brave, feel free… share your words. Your stories are a gift to me and all the Write To Be You readers… thank you!

If you are subscribed via email please do not reply to the email (I won’t receive it) Click HERE to comment on the site, or click HERE to comment on FB, or email me by clicking HERE. Lot’s of options! I want to hear from you!

 

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Ready, Steady, Write # 18

Photograph by India Thain

Use your imagination…

Share a short short story

A one line caption

A personal reflection

Ready?

Steady?

Go

 

Hold Me Now

Some mornings my daughter feels wobbly, and separating from me and the comforts of home is suddenly daunting. On those days, I promise to send her mind mail. The thought of an invisible envelope arriving in her head in the hours to come, full of Mummy love and swirly hugs and kisses, calms her considerably. In that moment I am reassuring her that I will keep her in my thoughts. Warmly. Securely. I might not be able to place my hand on her shoulder, or stroke her hair, but I can ‘hold’ her in a different way.

Being held in mind is a vital psychological component to all attachment relationships.


Genuinely holding someone in your mind spins delicate, transparent threads of intimacy across even the widest gaps, deepening confidence and trust.

Psychotherapists and others working in the healing professions have learnt to understand the potency of holding clients in mind between sessions. During the days that bridge our meetings, I make a point of remembering words written by my group, creating a special ‘holding’ space for them in my thoughts.

Energetically, we feel the difference. When I was a lovesick teenager waiting a whole summer for the boy I was besotted by to send a letter across an ocean, the disappointment ran achingly deep. Not only because I felt rejected, but more accurately because I felt completely forgotten. I knew he was not cradling me anywhere in his heart. It was as if I had evaporated.

Maintaining relationships can at times feel overwhelming… despite technology providing so many more opportunities to do so.  Ironically, finding ways to feel truly ‘connected’ to others can remain elusive.

Begin by hosting a quiet gathering in your mind. Be choiceful about who you invite in. Offer them something sweet (the best part is you can do all of this lying down on the sofa with your feet up and your eyes closed!) Put the Beach Boys on your i-pod dock, look around the room, make eye contact with all your guests and open your arms for hugs. Once you begin to send out the Good Vibrations, I believe you are more susceptible to accepting them back in return.

This exercise might lead to a phone call. A spontaneous text. An overdue email. Even a quick ‘like’ on Facebook of a post you appreciated but passed by. Who knows, it might even lead to writing a real letter with a real pen and real paper. But ultimately, what it will achieve is not so precise, not so easily pinned down.  It is an unspoken gesture. A feathery kiss blown to an unaware recipient. A silent murmur of friendship and love.

A powerful affirmation of emotional bonds.

Write for Ten Minutes using the title of this post as a prompt – Hold Me Now. Don’t edit, just let the words and feelings rise to the surface.
I am always here… holding this space… waiting to listen… willing to hear whatever you need to write.
Share in the comments…

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The Games We Played

Growing up in the 70’s & 8o’s we always had one cupboard stuffed with board games. Piled up boxes splitting at the corners and bulging at the seams because the components had been hurriedly shoved inside at the close of the previous encounter. There was no replicating that first fresh glimpse of a new board game… everything sitting pristinely in its own compartment… obediently claiming a space.

The plastic playing pieces separated from the dice next to the the cards immaculately ordered with satisfying straight edges next to the board folded perfectly at the crease sitting neatly on top of the marbles or the straws or the money arranged by amount and colour or the spinner with the arrow still firmly intact.

After that very first ‘opening’ inevitable packaging chaos ensued. It didn’t matter how hard you tried… things would never fit back into that box in quite the same way ever again.

But that was all part of the fun.

Little did I know that the many hours wiled away playing those games were prepping me for my uncertain future as an adult.

TWISTER – awkward entanglements.

MONOPLOY- property dilemmas (should we or shouldn’t we?) and the terrifying white envelopes containing those first bills (Really? I have NO money in the bank? Didn’t I just pass GO??)

CLUEDO (CLUE in the USA) – the toxicity of gossip and the constant speculation about the lives of others, “Do you really think Miss Scarlet did it in the kitchen with the led pipe? Just last week we were hanging out in the library with Professor Plum and she was going on and on about the candlestick. Who knew?!”

OPERATION – the confirmation of my lack of hand/eye co-ordination and my leaning towards psychotherapy. All I really wanted was to ask that poor, naked guy, “So tell me, how do you feel about this relentless bodily intrusion?”

MASTERMIND –  how to communicate with people who like to keep things hidden.

FRUSTRATION (TROUBLE in the USA) – the reminder that  life is just one great big pop-o-matic dome and you can waste forever wishing for a 6. Even so… your only choice is to keep on popping.

CONNECT FOUR – the satisfaction when things fall into place.

And finally KER PLUNK – my most beloved game. Ker Plunk taught me that sometimes you just have to take a risk. Pull that straw. Hold your breath.

And wait to hear the marbles…

What memories do you have of board games you played as a child? Write for ten minutes. Roll the dice and see what arrives… share in the comments!

 

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Breaking Up Is Hard To Do

Next week I’m leaving my computer.

It’s just a trial separation.  It’s something we’ve been considering for a while now. I’ve begun to notice we make each other edgy.  I’m aware of a disturbing co-dependancy. An unhealthy pull. As if the world would be trickier to navigate without my trusty device. My computer reluctantly agrees with me.  He’s been showing signs of stress recently – spinning aimlessly in a tiny circular rainbow for minutes on end.  Not listening to me. Refusing to cooperate.  I’ve been ‘forced to quit’ him one too many times over the last few weeks.

So we’re breaking up. Temporarily. What options do I have? I could go old skool and ask each of you reading for your snail mail and send you my posts in the post?  Maybe not. I wouldn’t get very much ‘reach’ that way. I’ve been reading a lot about ‘reach’ lately… how we bloggers should be aiming to impact as many people as possible in any one moment.

All I imagine when I hear the word ‘reach’ are the arms of a child, stretching up, looking to be held.

Attachment Theory tells us that we are hard wired to crave connection. My apple is hard wired for many things, except human emotion. When I whispered to my monitor yesterday evening, “It’s not you…it’s me,” I really meant it.  I need to detach from the lure of the screen. He, on the other, just kept humming.

Will my reader care? Will you look forward to my words upon my return? Hold me in mind? Isn’t that why we revisit our various accounts so often? Checking views and clicks and comments and followers.

We are searching for validation.  Needing to be needed.

The hunger to know ‘do I matter to you?’ lies at the core of all our attachment systems. The attachment relationship we establish with our mother, father and/or significant care givers when we are babies defines the way we relate for the rest of our lives. Even how writers relate to their ‘audience’.

So I’m going. Only for a week. I’ll be taking my notebook and a pen (keep this on the down low – I don’t want Mac getting jealous) I’m going to discover how days with my family might unfold without tapping and typing, scrolling and ‘liking’.  (I’ve also intervened in my teenage son’s unsuitable relationship. I never liked that laptop anyway…)

I’m trusting you’ll be here reading when I get back, unless of course I’ve inspired you to have the “I need some time on my own” conversation as well.

Either way.  I’ll keep writing when the holiday is over.  Keep striving to ‘reach’. Arms poised up and open, waiting for that glimpse of recognition, that melting feeling that comes with the promise of touch.

If you would like to read more about Attachment Theory, John Bowlby, alongside Mary Ainsworth, was one of the first psychotherapists to identify it. He wrote a seminal  trilogy of books beginning with ‘Attachment’ in 1969.

What comes to mind when you hear the word attachment? Write a poem beginning each line with the words “I am attached to…”

Do you too need a trial separation from your electronic lovers?! Share in the comments section… 

 

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And Then Again

I spoke to my sister in London yesterday who told me that spring is in in the air.  She works at a school, and she noticed that the children had finally emerged from their thick puffy coats and were running around the playground in t-shirts. Like seeds hiding beneath the frosty earth, they had found the courage to break out and unveil themselves.

I do not have the pleasure of dancing to the rhythm of seasons now that I live in Los Angeles. I mourn the cycles that punctuated my year. The buttery yellow swarms of daffodil heads. The sudden rush of vibrant green stems and fields of fresh grass. The papery autumns filled with a thousand shades of orange. The crinkle and crunch of fallen leaves enveloping my feet. Then the starkness of winter. The bite on my cheeks. The bareness of branches reminding me that mother nature so accurately mirrors human nature.  A familiar cycle of moods. Light to dark. Empty to full.  Birth to death. And then again. And then again.

Holding onto hope after a loss can feel impossible. Improable. A blurry destination hovering in the far off distance. Grief is arresting.  Like a sudden winter it descends with a million bitter promises. I will strip you down.  Freeze your heart.  Darken your skies. Disect the sun.  There are no platitudes to brighten the bleakest periods of our lives.  But there will always be the arrival of spring. Even here in Los Angeles the jacaranda trees are preparing to burst out in eccentric purple blossom creating boulevards of bloom.

Loss is permanent, but grief, like the seasons changes temperature. It is hard to imagine this when the chill has just descended; difficult to trust that spring will come again and that somewhere in the world there will be children, peeling off their coats, ready to embrace a warmer day.

Writing about loss is both painful and healing. We often bury the most tender words for fear of unearthing more grief. Ironically, it is when grief is given air that its temperature can change. Share a story of loss… like all emotions, grief is a human connector… a universal experience that touches lives everywhere.
Write for ten minutes.  Don’t aim for anything but pure expression. You have permission to give up your desire to craft. Simply write. To Be You…

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Ready, Steady, Write # 7

Photograph by Kristin Fast 2012
LET YOUR WORDS LEAP
FROM HERE
TELL THIS STORY
TEN MINUTES
TEN LINES
PERMISSION TO FLY

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Finding Fortune

My father has been dead for many years, but if I were to glance up and find him sitting on my couch, legs propped on my coffee table, swearing at a Lakers game, I would not be shocked.

He might be physically absent from my world, but he still lives with me, like all the other members of my family.  He occupies a space within.  A space reserved just for him.  And from that space he looks at me with love.  Brings me a glass of water in the middle of the night.  Marvels at the humour and the height of the grandson he never met. Smiles at the wisdom of the granddaughter who keeps a photograph of him on her desk. And tells me, in that way he had of telling me, all the words he still wants me to hear.

His voice is clear. Deep. A Philly drawl sprinkled with twenty years in London. He says things like:
“Did you get a load of that kid?” (usually referring to a forty-five year old man)
“The sun is shining, it’s a beautiful day – what more could I want?” (this after he left London)
“Jesus Christ!” ( loudly under his breath, not worshipping, but condemning any unsuspecting fellow diner who dared sneeze too close to him in a restaurant).

And the one that stays with me the most, like the surprising slip of a fortune that you carry home from dinner in your pocket and tape optimistically to your mirror, “The worst thing that ever happened to me turned out to be the best…”

I loved those words.  I still do.

My father repeated those words when I was forced to wear an embarrassing patch over the left lens of my glasses.  When I didn’t get elected for middle school student body president (and he had designed all of the campaign posters). When the short waiter with the limited vocabulary stamped on my heart.  When I was rejected from my first choice university. He didn’t live long beyond my university years, but his words continue to resonate.

For him that tenant was tried and true. His greatest professional failure led him to escape across the Atlantic, where he reinvented himself, fell in love with my mother, and had the family he never imagined he would at the age of fifty – the best.

When a promising opportunity I felt certain would materialise, disintegrated painfully at the end of last year, my father’s words floated into my head.  There he was, comfortable on my couch, chin propped on his hand, reassuring me.  Life doesn’t always take you where you want it to.  Destinies have a way of swerving and revealing views you never imagined encountering.  Stay open.  Stay receptive.  “The worst thing that ever happened to me turned out to be the best, kid”.  I know those words inevitably won’t always ring true; life is infinitely complicated and often brutal. But I’m still listening. Still hopeful. I still want to believe for all of us that shadows can shape shift, letting in light where you least expect it.

Do my father’s words hold any meaning for you?

What is written on your crumpled fortune cooke slips?  Whose words stay with you when you really need to hear them, and how have they reverberated in your life?

Be brave and share your stories – they are the fragments that make you whole. Write down whatever arrives and welcome in the person who passed them on.

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