Wednesday, November 25, 2015

NO PLACE LIKE HOME (Giving Thanks)

It's the time of year when we gather with friends and family around turkey and pies. I’ll be doing that, too, and today will be a mad dash to get everything done before The Big Day. Sometimes, in the rush, I forget what I’m celebrating, and why. Yes, Thanksgiving is the quintessential family holiday, and despite the joy and frustration family members provide, we’re thankful for the opportunity to gather.

Thanksgiving is more than family, though; Thanksgiving is about the courage to go to new places, to dare to try something new. The people who settled America found enough bravery to sail across the unknown ocean to a land they’d never seen. And ever since then, people have flocked from every corner of the world to settle on this quirky piece of real estate.

I’m thankful to live in this great country where I am free to gather, for in some places this is illegal. I’m thankful that I have opportunities to choose my path, and that my children have the same opportunities because in some places your job is chosen for you from birth. I’m thankful for the men and women who care for my nation, who protect it from those who wish to take away my freedoms (enough said).

I’m thankful for my health care providers, and thankful to be able to pay for those services. I’m grateful for my education, my home, my poor accident-magnet Honda. I’m thankful I can shop at small local stores or chains or Wal-Mart or Amazon.

I am thankful for my children; until recently, in some countries I might not be able to raise more than one child and certainly not a girl.

I’m grateful I can write and read anything I wish, without fear.

In this era of terrorism and corruption and inflation and Mother Nature run amok, I’m thankful to be alive and experiencing the world, for it reminds me that even though I’m small and only human, I’m still capable of doing good.

What are you thankful for?


Sunday, October 11, 2015

Control Mind

Last week, on yet another murky day after a sunny teaser, I found myself absorbing everything I witnessed on my short walk to work: the woman obviously high and helpless propped up by a man who was not; the squalling of a toddler after his mother shook him hard; the empty booze nips rolling under brittle oak leaves; the pigeon picking at dried vomit.

I felt the gray. I felt the bleakness. And the air filled me with a hopelessness I found difficult to shake.

By afternoon, I was in quite the funk, further compounded by news that not one, but two, people I knew had died. One after battling chronic illness, the other by his own hand. I guess you could say he also battled a chronic illness.

I suppose intensity of feeling is a hallmark of being a writer, a painter, a creator. After more than a year of intense personal turmoil, I'd practiced a way to moderate those feelings: meditation. I practiced meditation so I could find peace and strength to stay in the moment, no matter how hellish the moment. I also practiced to be able to ride through those moments of intense anxiety and depression that my life was peppered with for so long. I like to save meditation saved me, because it helped me to stay mindful of instants I needed to be mindful rather than lose my shit.

But this day last week revealed to me how after six months of relative peace, I'd become complacent again. I went to meditation practice the next night, and the leader, a wonderful wise woman, asked: why do we meditate? After discussion, she summed it up neatly:

We practice meditation so the mind doesn't control us, we control our mind.

As a writer--as a person--I am learning the challenge of allowing feelings to wash over and through me, to let them permeate me, and then: to let them go.

Do you have a meditation practice? Do you wish you did? Let's talk.


Friday, September 04, 2015

Just for Fun: 7-7-7 Challenge

It's Friday, I'm feeling whimsical, so I'll play. James Stryker, a fellow writer warrior from #PitchWars, invited me to the 7-7-7 Challenge. The 7-7-7 (sure beats the 6-6-6 Challenge, heh?) provides the world a glimpse of one's novel, namely 7 lines from the 7th line on the 7th page. Here's mine from PURE, undergoing FINAL edits before it wings out into the world of agents and editors. Here, my MC Post-doc Benjamin Carandini shuffles through the detritus left in his mother's studio after she's died.

I shoved the cards to the side and surveyed the room. So many boxes, so many canvases. I’d spent most of last night going through boxes filled with half-used tubes of oils and brushes, the sable bristles hardened from lack of cleaning. So much crap. I should have started going through her studio years ago, when she first went into the nursing home, even when she told me not to. I considered junking it allthe reams of scrap books, the pages upon pages of paisley-patterned diaries, the loose pencilings of trees and hands and more trees. But like any decent scientist I hoarded data. I’d have to plow through all of Mother’s belongings to discover who she’d managed to fuck at least once to produce me.

I'll tap 7 others via twitter--watch out! And please play!
Thanks, as always, for reading.

Monday, August 31, 2015


In  between the time of my last blog post and this one, I could've birthed a baby. A preemie, mind you, but a healthy one. So wassup with me? Where have I been?

Lot's is up, and I've been lots of places. Mostly, my attention's focused on family: my kids, my husband, the animals (one deaf cat, bunny, three mice, and two betta fish). My son is in private school in Utah, which is mighty far from Baltimore. He's doing well; it seems a good dose of maturity kicked in on his 16th birthday. Ditto with my daughter, three years younger. Dear husband will get his extra dose of maturity later this week, when he turns a year older.

This year, I've pushed envelopes: I've zip lined down mountains, surfed in a man-made wave machine, sewn two handbags, and even ridden a horse. I have hugged the huge pine that Georgia O'Keefe once rested under, her face to the sky. I've hiked into wind caves and swum in icy mountain lakes. On the emotional and spiritual sides, even more envelopes pushed. All have served to make me more whole and more grounded.

And I have learned to say no.

Travel? Mostly due to family and work--and my writing. For work, I've traveled locally, to Washington DC and the Chesapeake Bay. For family, I've visited Mom in North Carolina and Mom-in-Law in Massachusetts. As a family, we've traveled to Utah twice, and I'm heading out again for a third trip. I spent a long weekend in a hobbit cabin with my daughter and her friend in deep Creek, Maryland, where we wrote, swam, and ate. And I spent a week writing in Taos, one of my spiritual homes, with a dear friend.

But the best journeying I've done in my head and with my hand, helping my characters continue to fumble through their lives. I am writing again, and revising; I've suffered not from writer's block but more a paralysis of the soul. For I have written, but in my personal journal, stuff I'll never share (though it make permute into my stories and poems eventually) because it is too raw.

I'm back on facebook. Back on twitter. Find me. there or here. Tell me what's new with you. I have missed you.


Thursday, January 01, 2015

Sometimes Resolutions Mean Just Breathing

I can't say I am sad to see 2014 become part of my archives. It was, in a word, fraught. A year of tensions and uncertainties and a lot of tests.

But the past is just that--the past. The future looms ahead, a bright, shiny penny. In my dreams that penny symbolizes my hope, a hope that will likely dissolve into a mirage.

My tests have taught me a lot: I can't change the past; I can't predict the future; I can't fix anyone but myself. Incredibly freeing lessons.

I don't make resolutions. But for this new year, one that I can't imagine being any worse that the last one, I will endeavor to remember the lessons I learned. I will apply them in ways that keep me happy and healthy, and that keep my children safe and healthy.

I will breathe.

I will not wallow in regret.

I will not worry about what has yet to come.

I will remember I am strong, and kind.

I will remember that intuition is more honest than anything I read or think.

I will move forward.

I will do my best, knowing I can always do better.

I will forgive myself.

Thank you, dear friends, for being my pillars. Your cards and notes, prayers and emails, all make a difference. Think of me as a mirror, beaming all your love and joy and peace back at you.

Happy New Year, and peace...

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Giving Thanks

These past months it's been hard for me to find things to feel grateful for. Anxiety has thrummed through my body like a tom-tom drum on vivace. There have been days--many days--when instead of driving to the metro parking lot to go to work, the desire to keep driving has so overwhelmed me that I had to talk myself into taking the exit.

I wanted to run away from my life.

Because it is that bad at times.

But then I remember, this IS life. Good and bad. Calm and nerve-wracking. Beautiful and devastating. My friends console me with multiple cliches: "God won't give you more than you can handle"; "What doesn't kill you makes you stronger"; "You never know how strong you are until being strong is the only choice you have."

And they're right.

Life is a rollercoaster, full of ups and downs. The last five years have seen a lot of downs, And like a rollercoaster, I feel I've been barely able to breathe between each plunge, to grieve, to mourn, to rail against the seeming unfairness of it all. But now, today, I'm still standing. I am still alive. My son and daughter and husband are alive. We love each other, and we know about that love, and we're learning how to strengthen it.

I've been able to weather life these past five years for lots of reasons. For these reasons I give thanks:
--My family, here and afar
--My friends, real and who live through my computer portal
--My mentors, especially those who have taught me to sit with my scary emotions
--My students, present and past
--My writing friends and colleagues
--My mental health community
--And, not least of all, the higher spirit who shines when I need the spirit most

It all comes down to people, and the relationships we share. Thank you for being a part of my life.

Happy Day of Giving Thanks.


Saturday, November 08, 2014

Thanks, Barry!

A tremendous thanks to extraordinary editor (and writer) Barry Basden for publishing two of my very short fictions at Camroc Press Review. I am honored.

These are my two publications for 2014--I've been 'noveling' the entire year, working on Pure and my Master's thesis, The Minister's Wife. But these two shorts are among my favorite written--ever. I hope you enjoy them!

Thank you again, Barry, for sharing my words.

Peace, Linda

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Preventing Suicide

 Today is World Suicide Prevention Day.

As someone with a family member who's actively considered suicide, I can say that preventing it is about as difficult as finding that proverbial needle in a haystack. Luck is more involved, I think. Luck that you find your loved one before it is too late, luck that your loved one was inexpert at handling guns or calculating dosages or carving into flesh.

But there are ways to address the underlying risks for suicide. Screening our children--and ourselves--for depression and other mood disorders is a start. Seeking treatment. Supporting increased research in finding better treatments.


I hope that got your attention.

Because here, in the state of Maryland, it is close to impossible to find outpatient adolescent psychiatrists and therapists 'in network'. If your child is hospitalized for depression, once 'stabilized', your child is discharged to outpatient care. If your child needs more intense treatment, there are few resources available, and those that are require you to relinquish your child to the Department of Social Services.

Private resources are located out-of-state, and are obscenely expensive. Insurance doesn't cover these expenses, nor does the public education system, which won't pay for out-of-state placement in educational programs that can help emotionally ill children. To obtain access to in-state private resources in Maryland, you almost always have to be dually-diagnosed with a learning disability (ADHD) and/or a spectrum disorder (Autism, Asperger's) in order to get the placement and resources needed.

So yeah, I am angry. And committed to yell and stomp my feet and make noise until we really do achieve parity in treating emotional illness. Depression IS a brain disease, just as is bipolar and schizophrenia and addiction. We wouldn't deny diabetics their insulin or cancer sufferers their chemo and radiation. So why deny our children the help they need?

Help me prevent suicide. Make some noise. Be vigilant for the signs and symptoms that signal depression in those you love. Love them by asking if they want to harm themselves, and if they say yes, get them help.

One Survivor's Story

Peace, Linda

Saturday, August 09, 2014


The thing about going away is every day you stumble upon surprises. Like the morning I walked out the back of my hotel in Taos after breakfast. I dragged my fingers through the sage, and lifted them to my nose. The ground was damp from the remnants of the prior night's thunderstorm, and I noticed how my feet sunk a bit in the sandy soil. And then, in the midst of my wandering, a grave. An infant, from the teething toy left on the cross. It made me wonder how this child died, who she or he was, did the mother still mourn. Such a mystery.

Although I’ve been back almost 3 weeks from New Mexico, it still feels like yesterday. That’s when you can tell a break does what it's supposed to do—recharge, rejuvenate, reinvigorate. Every morning, I write, something that had stopped for a few months. What I want to do is dig back into PURE, move around the scaffolding, force Phoebe and Kevin to emote more. I have more troubles to throw Ben’s way, and a few more for the others. I want to feel like God with this book… but first, I have to finish my thesis, a totally different project, one a bit different from my first two novels. THE MINISTER’S WIFE is about family and home, and what that all means after betrayal and lies. It plumbs deeper psychological dirt than PURE, and interests me because of that depth. So I work hard on TMW, due September 4, and while my thesis advisor reads and critiques, I'll spend my down time on PURE.

Down time. Right. School starts in a couple of weeks. School for my kiddos, and school for the kiddos I teach. But I'm committed to re-enter both my books, and will find the time.

I miss my Taos friends. We talk by email, but I wish I could see them again, talk about books and writing under the sky of stars. There's something about the vast lonesomeness of the mountains that inspires conversation that matters. We intend to keep pushing each other through the next set of revisions, and I welcome their kind but exacting eyes on my words. 

Mostly, I miss the intensity of Taos. Everything there feels magnified--the blue of the sky, the lightning that rips apart the summer night, the sage that grows to the horizon. The moments feel separable, unto themselves, not the blur that is Baltimore time, the dizzy rush from work to home to sleep. Taos time is like the pause one makes after the inhale and just before the exhale. 

And that is my inspiration in the morning. The space in between breaths. Peace...

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Taos Time

I've been away, in Taos, New Mexico. In this small town tucked almost two miles above sea-level, nothing happens with any regularity or schedule. No internet? No phone service? Oh well. I spent the week learning how to go with the flow, an easy feat since I was surrounded by mountains and writers.

I spent a week at a writing conference working with BK Loren who, if you've never read, you should. An award-winning author, she's a woman who wields words that way RC Gorman wielded a brush. In THEFT, a novel about stealing on multiple levels, BK immerses the reader in both character and setting. She writes with transparency, something all writers should strive for. Emotion drives her stories and essays; an undercurrent which makes every page believable and satisfying. A generous teacher--a mentor--I'll miss the intensity of our classes.

My classmates and I--six of us--work-shopped our entire novels. Months before the conference, we read each other's books. Nothing develops intimacy between people faster than reading each other's stories. By the time we met, it felt as though we all knew each other. I am blessed to have developed friendships that will extend beyond the novel.

Taos is beautiful county. The sky doesn't stop, even when interrupted by the blue-green of mountains. Back in Baltimore, I close my eyes and see the clouds rolling in from the west, enveloping the mountain ridges, the sun streaking their underbellies in red.

More later--on BK, writing, the process, the experiences. But I just wanted to say I was back.


Sunday, June 15, 2014


Once again, it has been awhile. And once again, it's all life's fault. Or should I say, life has diverted my attention. The Troubles, I call this time. Which is still ongoing, but what the hell.

April was rather horrible, and May even worse. I am afraid to say anything about June so far because I do not want to jinx the last half.

So let's focus on the positive.

The morning feels like a New England summer morning--crisp air, the smell of grass and songbird fills my yard.

I have an urge to write again. I have not really written in over two months.

Most people in the world are very kind. This is one thing that I have discovered during The Troubles. I had forgotten this fact.

Remembering I cannot fix other people or situations is most freeing.

Every moment, every feeling, will pass. So accept it and move to the next moment and feeling.

I have a great job and work with some amazing colleagues. This is my 'for life' job, so how can I complain?

I have a great husband and children, who try their best. What more can I ask for?

I have a circle of friends who gently ask how I am doing, who provide small kindnesses which mean more than extravagant ones.

So, what's up with you? Peace...

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

They Say It's My Birthday

But I don't really feel my age--a good thing, I suppose. It is funny how as I get older, each birthday feels less important and more special all at once. When people ask me, "What do you want for your birthday?" the answer becomes less and less about me and more about others: keep my children safe and healthy; let them find happiness; provide my loved ones purpose; give us sunshine and warmth this weekend.

There's not much I need that can be bought in stores.

Though I really, really, really would like an agent.

But if you don't have an agent to give me, could you please take time to read and review my novel excerpt? PURE has made the Top 100 in the General Fiction category of the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award contest. It would make me feel even younger than I feel today! ==> PURE--ABNA Entry

Now, off to blow out those candles. Peace...