Category: Culture

C’ville Indie Author Showcase Event ~ Thurs Jan 9

C'ville Indie Author Showcase Event ~ Thurs Jan 9

Telegraph is a local gallery and art boutique
110 4th St NE, Charlottesville, VA 22902

Title, Author, and Genre Information for event

1. Bowling For The Mob. Bob Perry with Stefan Bechtel. Sports Biography
2. Braver Than You Believe. Sue Mangum with Claire Cameron. Memoir
3. Warming! William Espinosa. Cli-Fi
4. Scary Mary. S.A. Hunter. YA Paranormal
5. Camila’s Lemonade Stand. Lizzy Duncan with Giles Jackson. Pre-K
6. Lotto’s Super-Awesome Unbelievable Park Adventure. Jan Ferrigan. Middle Grade
7. One Step Ahead of Your Future. Christine Ballard. Estate Planning How-To
8. Radical Doubt. Avery Chenoweth. Fiction

Learning to Be Myself at the Holidays

Even before I got divorced, I had trouble with holidays. Gifts – travel – lots of family visits in too little time – it could all be too much of a good thing. Or too much of a mixed bag (of mixed nuts…). And what’s more, those good things came tinged with a feeling of guilt, for feeling that way despite my blessings, or for being tired despite having plenty of time off.

Letting Go

Letting Go
photo by Claire Elizabeth Cameron
Halloween 2013, UVA Lawn

Then my world turned inside out and I was single again, the “kid” again at the holidays. Instead of a carefree kid waiting for Santa, I was the woman without a husband. Without children. Just myself. So I had to figure out how to “do” the holidays. That first year, I had to reinvent the simplest things, like how to find gifts when I was too sad to like anything in the stores. Or how to enjoy Thanksgiving when I was too distracted to really taste anything.

I finally decided to just be myself. Even though “myself” didn’t feel like much. So instead of traveling by airplane on the busiest day of the year, I drove four hours over a beautiful mountain to see family in Charleston, WV, on Thanksgiving. That weekend, I rested and walked when I needed to. For the first time at the holidays, I tried to just be present, and good to myself – whoever that was. It turned out to be OK. All the worrying I normally did, the fretting over details and whether others were enjoying themselves – turned out to be unnecessary. Being present and good to myself somehow translated into feeling more present and more good to the others around me.

This Thanksgiving, I’m going back to Charleston, WV. My circumstances have sweetened considerably and I have energy to share. But rather than worrying and fretting and planning, I’m going to try to live more in the moment. Oh, and be myself. It sure is easier than trying to be anyone else.

We are All Hummingbirds

The campground calls. After months of grant-writing, book-publishing, and some good old fashioned soul-searching, it’s high time for a break.

This past week, I was sitting on my front porch after another long day, complaining about some mundane issue at work. Never mind that the issues of late have included a pile of unwashed dishes in the sink, and whether we can get into the building (if that’s not the Universe saying ‘take a break’ I don’t know what is!).

All of a sudden, I was interrupted mid-sentence by the most wonderful thing: a hummingbird! I’d never been so close to one, with no panes of glass between us. It whirred up to one of our scraggly hanging planters, then whirred to the next. Though I couldn’t see its wings, I saw where they connected to its body, taut and strong and tryingtryingtrying to keep the whole enterprise aloft.

The hummingbird and I shared the same space for only a few seconds. But it was long enough to break my chatter and alight my attention to the beautiful world outside my mind. Even though a favorite quote is “There’s a noise in your head that pretends to be you and never stops talking” by Eckhart Tolle, I often forget it. This world, though, is full of natural reminders to come back and live in the present.

This weekend, I will indulge every opportunity to look outside myself and to listen for sounds beyond the noise in my head. Based on the many fully-reserved campgrounds in Shenandoah National Park, it seems there are a bunch of us with the same idea. We are all hummingbirds looking for quiet and calm.

Happy Labor Day to all.

International Widows Day 2013 ~ The Widow “Lifestyle”

Sunday, June 23, is International Widows’ Day. This day of recognition was initiated by the Loomba Foundation in 2011 because around the world, widows are subject to discrimination, marginalization, and even violence. International Widows’ Day was established and ratified by the UN to raise awareness of this issue and to encourage societies to respect, support and care for widows.

young widow in Zorba the Greek

I will never forget the shock I felt after watching Zorba the Greek (spoiler alert). I’d always heard good things about the classic film…but never once did I hear that it portrayed a town’s dramatic execution of a widow who wasn’t “behaving herself.”

Here in the United States, we don’t stone or starve widows. But attitudes are another thing. In our upcoming book, Braver Than You Believe, one of the most powerful scenes unfolds when the main character Samantha runs into an acquaintance. After asking how Sam, a recent widow, is doing, and hearing about how Sam goes out once per week to let off steam, the woman bizarrely tells her, “Some people are jealous of your lifestyle, you know. Doing whatever you want. You don’t have to answer to anyone.”

Sam is shocked and hurt, on top of wondering what type of lifestyle it is, exactly, that widows lead. Her friends – divorcees and widows alike – tell her to brush it off. But the scene lingered for me long after reading it. I too wondered what could be attractive about the lifestyle of a widow. Lonely. Possibly a single parent. Especially for younger widows – no peer group. Filled with grief, which I would argue, on the basis of no data, is the most draining emotion. Sounds great!

When a person is sick, we can empathize to some degree, because we have all been ill. When a person stubs her toe – again, we can probably recall a bodily pain and know what that feels like. But when a person loses her love, her partner, and her helpmate – it is so difficult to really know what that’s like, unless we have experienced the same extreme loss.

Having been divorced myself before age 30, I remember an instant “wall of alienation” that went up between me and my friends. Thankfully, 99% of my friends climbed over the wall and kept right on being friends with me. But at times it was tough to find common ground with even to my closest pals. They were re-doing their houses, when I was dividing up the household. They started having babies, when I was finalizing divorce papers. And no young married person wants to be reminded either that a) marriages end or b) spouses die. DEEEE-pressing!

In the years since I got divorced, I’ve encountered many people who have gone through “stuff.” (This is an appropriate place for a swear word, but I’ll refrain). This doesn’t necessarily mean they’ve gotten divorced or had their life partner die on them, but maybe they had a major health problem. Maybe they lost a parent. Maybe they’ve volunteered for the poor or sick.

Going through “stuff” is part of life. And it does help a person develop empathy, but it’s not enough. For me, I had to process and process and PROCESS the pain. I had to work through it, not shove it under the rug, which our society seems so good at telling us to do. All problems should be solved in 30 minutes of sitcom, right? Or else there’s something wrong with us…

Maybe more than any other group, people who have lost a spouse realize that some problems will never be solved. They can only be dealt with, accommodated, and accepted. Acceptance is difficult. Pretending the problem isn’t there or that other people got a better deal out of life may seem emotionally easier. But it’s not necessarily the healthiest approach, long-term.

Acceptance of the hardest truths takes work. But as the women in Braver Than You Believe learn after a year of sharing their sorrows, the work is worth it. The work of admitting their vulnerability, mistakes, and true feelings makes them stronger than they seem…smarter than they think…braver than they believe. Said Christopher Robin to Pooh!

Sue (the character Samantha’s) take~ read more at http://griefbusters.wordpress.comWhat I think happens is that people who are in a marriage or life that is unhappy or stagnant see everything through that lens. Maybe the woman felt jealous because all she could see was that a widow does not have a man dictating her life. If a person is feeling trapped in her marriage, the freedom of no husband may seem carefree. Yet the complete opposite is true for a new widow. I felt paralyzed with fear many nights, worrying how I would be able to raise 3 kids all by myself. Only then did I realize how much my husband had been my partner and teammate. So going out once a week – the target of the woman’s comment – gave me a few hours off from 24/7 grief and anxiety that would have sent me into a deep depression.

Guest Blogger Eve Pearce: Overcoming Addiction with the Written Word

Eve Pearce is a full-time writer and mother of two. When she was in her teens, addiction hit the family and left wreckage in its wake. She has since moved states, settling down in Oklahoma, which is a far cry from her Connecticut roots, where she writes about her experiences and passion for art and literature to help addiction’s victims and addicts themselves.

The therapeutic nature of writing should not be underestimated. Studies have shown that writing can help people overcome personal trauma, and even helped US students come to terms with the events of 9/11. Writing has also been linked with helping to ease the physical symptoms of such illnesses as asthma and rheumatoid arthritis, and is said to boost the immune system. With all that writing is capable of, the question remains; can it help those suffering from addiction? Whether it is addiction to drugs, alcohol, or gambling, addiction presents itself in a variety of ways. There is no ‘one size fits all’ approach to overcoming an addiction, but as with so many problems in life, writing can and does help.

Julia Cameron recommends journaling in the morning

Artist and author Julia Cameron recommends journaling in the morning

Taking the First Step

Of course the first step to overcoming an addiction is admitting to having a problem. The next is to seek outside help, as this will give addicts a much higher chance of beating the addiction and staying on the wagon. While the love and support of family and friends can be a great help in the journey to recovery, for most people it takes the help of qualified professionals to truly get them on the right track. Drug abuse rehab is one of the most reliable options available for addicts who truly want to get better. New York rehab facilities are some of the best in America, with places that offer varying types of programs to help deal with all kinds of addiction. Therapeutic writing is often used as part of rehabilitation programs, depending on the facility. Regardless of whether it is part of the program, patients can and should use writing as part of their healing process, whatever stage they are at in their recovery.

Dear Diary…

Regular individual and group therapy sessions are commonplace in rehab. Individual sessions can help patients to identify the root cause of their addiction, and what changes need to be made in their lifestyle to keep them from temptation. Whereas group therapy can help patients in understanding that they are not alone in their struggle; that others experience the same highs and lows that they do. Some people thrive in this type of therapy, and have no issue with discussing their personal problems and experiences with strangers, while for some the process can be very tough.

Keeping a daily journal provides a fantastic addition to this form of speaking therapy, helping those who are shy about speaking to let out their bottled-up emotions. It is a human tendency to omit certain details when relating our experiences to others, depending on the image we want to present of ourselves. This happens subconsciously. A journal however, will only be read by its owner, and there is really no point in lying to oneself. Patients should empty their thoughts and feelings onto paper, without worrying about coherency and without censoring any of the less savory details. This process of ‘letting it out’ provides an immense sensation of relief. Reading back through the journal will also help patients to identify areas they need to work on during therapy.

Reaching Out

In order to have gotten to the point of admitting to having a problem and seeking help, most addicts will have reached the ‘rock bottom’ stage. Addiction grips its sufferers in a way that forces them to make bad decisions that they would not have made in their right mind, as getting the next ‘fix’ is all that matters. Family relationships and friendships are often greatly damaged as the result of addiction, and putting pen to paper can go a long way towards repairing this damage. It’s often hard to eloquently express ourselves through speech, and it is also too easy to avoid the most difficult of topics. Writing a letter to the loved ones that have been hurt because of addiction is the best way to truly express remorse. Not only will this process help to repair the broken bonds, it will help relieve the guilt that can often drive people back to the source of their suffering.

Award-winning author Jill Dawson

Sharing Your Story

Whitbread and Orangeprize-shortlisted novelist Jill Dawson began her writing career with a journal she started writing at age nine. As quoted in The Guardian, she says: “It has helped me personally and also made me a better writer.” Like Dawson, addiction sufferers may find that the process of journal writing unlocks a potential they never knew they possessed. Addiction is a common problem throughout society, and for many, reading or hearing about the struggles and success stories of fellow sufferers can be a great help. So for those who have faced addiction and come out the other side; there may be no greater way to give back.


Close to the Heart ~ Mother’s Day 2013

This afternoon my ever-laughing partner read me a list of “yo momma” jokes on Reddit. I won’t repeat any of them here. And I won’t go into how I try to keep my mind flexible by appreciating or at least accepting bad – sometimes offensive – jokes. (It may sound like a stretch of an explanation, but I try to stay in a place of no judgment or expectations. Sometimes it works…).

Instead, here’s what I decided about yo’ momma jokes. They arose because the best way to hurt a person is to attack something very close to their hearts. And mothers are at the top of the list of whats most dear and precious. Even if they live far away – like my mom, or have passed into the next place, like hers.

I decided to come up with some ” reverse yo momma” jokes. Like…

Yo’ momma’s so generous that she’d have bailed out Iceland if they let her.

Yo’ momma’s so loving that God asked her for a recommendation letter.

Yo’ momma’s so beautiful that the sunset blushes when it sees her.

I’m not a comedian, but I sure love my mother. Happy Mother’s Day to all the generous, loving, beautiful women who make the world turn.

Grateful in Seattle

The first person I have to thank is actually a woman at Goldberg’s in the Atlanta airport:

Atlanta airport

Atlanta airport

Thank you, gentle young person, for the turkey salad you made for me after I, hungry and trying to hide my panic, explained my many food restrictions and allergies. Though I’d brought a homemade lunch, I assumed ATL would have something I – with my gluten-free, dairy-free, corn-free, and other-common-food-free diet – could eat for dinner. But all the salads I found came pre-made with cheese AND croutons. I could have picked off the cheese, but no way was I going to risk a gluten reaction before getting on a 6-hour plane ride! And Delta, in all its budget-balancing wisdom, no longer offers meals except for money, and even if I did want to spend $10 on airplane food, it would undoubtedly be gluten-full and dairy-not-free.

I almost ordered the chili, but the clerks at Goldberg’s couldn’t tell me what was in it. They tried their comical best by spooning some out and peering into the small paper cup. “We can’t tell you what all is in here,” one woman said, “but we can see beans, meat, and tomatoes.” I wavered and almost ordered the chili before one of them said, “You better be safe than sorry. I can make you a salad.”

And she did. She took lettuce and cut it with her own hands, then asked if I wanted tomatoes – yes, sprouts – yes, cucumber – no thanks. She added turkey. I felt so grateful I thought I might cry. That this underpaid young person, who sells pre-packaged food all day to distracted people in a hurry, would take the time to help someone with a special diet – moved me. I almost laughed when her co-worker asked her, “Where did you learn to do that?” And she said, “Do what? Make salads? They do it downstairs all the time.”

My only complaint is when I tried to tip them, the person who rang me up (not the woman who made my salad, thanks to the specialized conveyer-belt-like food system of airport food service) said, “We’re not allowed to take tips.”


Not allowed to take tips? Because your minimum wage is spoiling you? C’mon, Goldberg’s. But then again, I’d seen a sign complimenting the staff for their efficiency: “Food service: 25%; Personnel: 16%” I couldn’t tell what it meant, but it was obviously meant to be good, and it was obviously to do with some kind of cost savings. If you ask me, in airports and way too many other places in our society, “good” is equated to fast and cheap when it comes to food. Even if it means unhealthy, sugary, and laden with additives and pesticide residue. Lucky for me, one young woman at Goldberg’s didn’t mind taking the time to make a salad by hand.

The salad was a good omen. In Seattle the food was magnificent. Even at The Edge Grill, formerly Fox Sports Grill, where I expected breaded cheesy products and mystery meat on sticks. Proving me happily wrong, the catered food looked delicious. However, most of it was marinated in a soy sauce, which contains gluten. So the server asked me, in a sincere tone, “Is there something we can make you?”

Then I dined at Thai Ginger, 4 stories up in the Pacific Palace on Pine Street. Mixed vegetables with fresh-as-fresh seafood. The Pike Place Market, where I had grilled prawns, coconut veggies, and a smoothie I didn’t have to order without sugar because it was made in front of my eyes, with soy milk. At each of these places, the servers knew exactly what gluten was, and whether it was in or not in what they were serving. Imagine that!

Pike Place Market

Pike Place Market

In that food paradise I have two favorites. First was Lola, a Tom Douglas restaurant that serves breakfast anytime (I’m already convinced). I got top treatment from the bartender, Guillermo, and enjoyed a mint licorice tea, maple sausages handmade in-house, smashed potatoes, and over-medium eggs. And a side of steamed asparagus. Nobody made me feel weird or looked at me funny when I explained that I don’t eat olive oil, just canola or sesame. They were just conscientious and accommodating.

Finally was Tsukushinbo, which my friend Bethany suggested. It’s a good thing she told me there was no sign, but excellent Japanese food, because the cozy space would have been easy to overlook. And when I told my friend Marina who lives in Seattle, “It’s on 515 Main St,” she said, “There’s a Main Street?” The taxi driver confirmed the out-of-the-way-ness of the place. When he picked us up, he said, “This is Main Street? I didn’t know there was a Main Street!”

We ordered a deluxe sashimi bowl including sea urchin. Marina had eaten sea urchin before, and when I asked her what it was like, she said, “Well it looks like poop. And it tastes…like nothing you’ve ever tried.” But, brave woman, she was willing to try it again, and good thing! Because it was a delicious, savory umami bite. I guess the other stuff she’d had wasn’t fresh.

See what I mean?

See what I mean?

The next morning (if 4am counts as morning and not the middle of the night), the same cabbie, who gave me a stylish card called “Andy Taxi Cab,” came to pick me up at the Mayflower Park Hotel. I left Seattle, thankful for all the kind servers and satisfying, allergen-free food.

And to think, it all started with one woman and a handmade salad.