August 28, 1960
My daughter is now my story.
She takes her first breath.
It's a Girl!
Hell, She's a BIGin. Born in the dog days of summer. Your mom says that it's no fun pushing a baby out on the hottest day of the year with no air conditionin.
She says you come up with a name. So I did.
I's thinkin we better name her before her first birthday.
No girl of mine is gonna be named Elizabeth Baker. That’s what your Mom wants.
We already have an Elizabeth Baker in town. Ned's wife. Ya know. Past the alley. Lives up behind the store. Been Mom’s housekeeper for forty years.
I think I'll name her Pamela.
August 28, 1966
Pamela Baxter Baker
We’ve now got two fine boys and a growin’ girl with a middle name.
The girl's the one who
Can't sit still. You'd think it would be the other way around.
Hell no. It's Pam.
She's headed off to grade 1 and always gotta be into something. Digging in the dirt, gittin pinworms; collecting tadpoles.
Bringing chickens home. Snakes.
Frogs. Toads. Running off to the neighbors. Ornery as the day is long.
Stinks to High Heavens
Stinks to High Heavens.
August 28, 1974
That girl's either on the phone or on the porch.
Got ants in her pants, that girl.
Running here, jumping over hill, over dale.
She's gotta march in the band, be a cheerleader, pretty soon she's gonna be on the a wrassling team.
I don't know how she sits still long enough to get her school work done. Quit yer fidgeting, Girl!
You applied for a work permit at 14?
Whada need money for? Hell, I’ll give you money.
Don't give ‘em your SS number. They'll look you up. They'll follow you. It's none of their God damn business that the government knows you even exist. And no 14 yr old needs to be paying any kinda taxes.
August 28, 1978
Will you look at this senior high school yearbook...
Pamela Baxter Baker ...my daughter, graduated with high honors.
Looks like she almost did as much as she talked about doing.... The list just goes on and on.
She's even got the state offering to pay her full tuition at the big university up the road.
Whaddya know? That’s my school. Hope she doesn’t follow in my footsteps.
In Heaven, there is no beer.
In Heaven, there is no beer.
August 28, 1984
She's getting married to one of those Notre Dame boys. An Irish Catlic whose eye talian. Hair and eyes as black as coal.
He called the store to ask her hand in marriage and I said, hell yes you can have her she's all yours. Whatever's good for her is good for me. She's always had good horse sense.
Got her self a good job down there in the nation’s Capital.
Match made in Heaven.
Match made in Heaven.
August 28, 1989
I'll be damned. That girl just made me
A papa. And they named him Baker, after me.
Oh my Heavens.
Oh my Heavens.
August 28, 1996
She's dragging all 4 kids up from Georgia and bringing the dogs, too.
Not a damn one of ‘em can sit still. Just like their mama.
Always running here and there. Up on the hill, out to the park. Digging up the yard looking for buried treasures. Off to the pool. Jumpin’ on the beds.
Wears me the hell out.
Heaven and Hell.
Heaven and Hell.
August 28, 2010
I'm done worn out.
Headed down to Ga to see our second grandson graduate.
Before you know it they'll all be off...and soon they’ll all be off naming their own babies.
I think I'll just sit here and rest a spell.
Stairway to Heaven.
Stairway to Heaven.
Kennis Dalton Baker, Sr.
October 29, 2010
I'm real tired. Dog tired. Is it time? Is it time, Nell?
Not yet. Not yet, Ken.
Here they come…all of them...
I’m in 7th Heaven.
I’m in 7Th Heaven.
Just like they did when I was raising them.
From Carolina, Worshington, The peach state, Virginia, CO...
Running through the door like they was kids again.
They are sittin’ all around me but that girl of mine keeps getting up and down. Talking away just like she was back in high school. On the rotary phone.
Their voices get lower and lower. And for the first time ever ... she quietly reflects.
my last breath.
The house is real quiet except for the cuckoo clock’s minute hand.
It’s 3:38 am
Two deer watch outside the window as I witness my family praying.
We've lost a fine man, she says.
I am rising above our family home now.
High above those West Virginia hills.
My father is now my story.
Last Wednesday morning, high on chocolate-raspberry coffee and too many sugary macaroons, I made my way to the first fall session of Tinderbox — 8 weekly workshops facilitated by Kimberly Brock. Of course I’d entered the wrong address into my GPS and ended up a few miles away, but, as per my usual M.O., I didn't panic or freak the hell out. I quickly entered the correct address and reached Broadwell Cottage on time. When I walked into the sun-dappled meeting room, a sense of serenity and acceptance washed over me. I was home, and these were my people.
My journey to Broadwell Cottage for the spring session wasn’t so bright and breezy. You see, driving scares the bejesus out of me. My overactive brain thinks I’ll lose control of my car, which will cause it to flip, and I’ll die from the resulting injuries. Morbid, I know.
Four years ago, after my family and I moved from Ireland to Atlanta, I got my first ever driver’s license at the age of 37. Over the following months, I gained some confidence on the roads, but not nearly enough to drive outside of a two-mile radius. For three years, there was no reason why I needed to venture outside of my safety circle. I was a stay-at-home mom who wrote when time allowed. I had my family, my friends, a Kroger, a Super Target, and three Starbucks nearby. All of my needs were met, weren’t they?
Nope. In May 2014, I took the route into self-publishing. A thrilling ride if ever there was one. By Christmas, I was burnt out. Self-doubt wrapped its spindly hands around my creative cup and filled it with loathing. Idiot. You think you’re a writer? Loser. You had to self-publish because no one else wanted you. Phony. You’re so ashamed of your writing; you hide behind a pen name.
Was I really all of those things? My writing friends, who, at the time, were mostly online, would say no. But my increasing uncertainty urged me to find real-life people who also fought in the self-doubt trenches. People who would understand what it’s like to have a brain wired to create and who might know how to conquer crippling fear. But here’s the thing, I run from new people and unknown environments like Wile E. Coyote’s snapping at my tail with metal teeth.
Curious about writing workshops and groups in my zip code, I asked my all-knowing friend Google to find some. A few clicks later, I found Kimberly’s blog. Her post What We Wish For touched me deeply. Here was a lady who spoke my language. The Tinderbox workshops sounded like the safe, creative space I needed. Hallelujah, right? Not so fast. A map search showed me the workshops would take place twenty minutes away from my house. It might as well have been in New York. No way no how could I drive there. I’d need an oxygen tank just to drive past Kroger—a whole 1.7 miles away.
But every few days, I’d browse through the Tinderbox website and then do a virtual drive of the route. I even had my husband drive us there so I could see how busy the roads were. But no matter how easy it seemed, I just couldn’t do it. After a particularly frustrating day where writing words was akin to wrestling adult alligators, I got a rush of the “screw its” and booked the workshop. No matter what it took, I was going.
The night before, I didn’t sleep.
The morning of, I didn’t eat.
I programmed the GPS and set out an hour earlier than needed. Do you think I got lost? Yup. Forty minutes into my drive, I pulled into a gas station in God-knows-where Atlanta. My hands shook so much that a kind trucker, who in my memory looks like Santa Claus, had to pump my gas. Tears filled my eyes, and I wanted to go home. But I stopped myself. If I didn’t make it to Broadwell Cottage, I would never get over my fear of driving, and I would forever hide behind my laptop screen afraid to reveal my true creative self to others.
Eventually, after several more wrong turns and many crumpled tear-filled tissues, I made it. I sat in my car relieved I was there, but terrified about walking through the doors. Again, self-doubt delighted in whispering all of the things I couldn’t do. There was no point going in because I wasn’t a writer. I was a wannabe. The voice of doom and gloom was right. Giving in, I turned the ignition. But then anger kicked my backside and pretty much kicked me out of the car.
I shuffled into the meeting room and sat by the door in case I needed a quick escape. I didn’t. On a beautiful Wednesday morning at the beginning of spring, I met five ladies who welcomed me with open arms and listened to my special kind of cray-cray without judgment. Over the following eight weeks, we cried, we created, we celebrated each other’s work, and we chatted like old friends. Self-doubt and the fear of driving will always be there, it’s who I am, but because I took a chance and went way out of my comfort zone, I reclaimed my creative joy.
My first drive to Tinderbox is very much like the creative journey many of us take. Moving towards your goals will be scary, at times petrifying, and several wrong turns may take you out of the way, but if you persevere, you’ll get there and what’s waiting at the other end will be worth every bump in the road.
As we move through these last cold days of winter and toward the warmth of Spring, I am always aware of another quality of the coming season - uncertainty. There's so much change involved in the month of March. The weather can swing to extremes, and I find that so do the feelings about coming out of a quiet kind of winter hibernation and back into a light-filled, expectancy. There's something fragile about this time of year. Something hopeful. Something vulnerable.
Today, a dear friend posted a link to this blog, Rebelle Society: creatively maladjusted, on my Facebook feed. I was so moved by it, I wanted to share it here. I hope you'll enjoy the perspective of contributor, Deborah Quibell, MPH, PhD (candidate) Senior Pranic Healing Practitioner and Instructor PhD candidate in Depth/Jungian Psychology, and take these words along with you today to ponder and maybe inspire your personal transition.
You can click here, or on the image below, to be taken directly to the blog, "To All Beautiful Beings w
ith a Swollen Heart."
Take care, sweet, swollen hearts!
When Tinderbox Writers Workshop began last year, I posted this blog. We are almost three sessions into our second series and I thought I'd share it again, as a testimony and an intention and an expression of gratitude for all the good that can rise from the ashes of our lives.
And most of all, as an invitation.
There's a place for you in our circle.
WHAT WE WISH FOR
My life broke.That’s the best way I know to explain the past nine months. I’d been going ninety to nothing, publishing my first novel, loving my family hard, raising three kids, each in a different school, managing aging parents, aging pets, peanut allergies and a husband whose work kept him out of town for a good portion of every week. And I was managing. I was moving. I was shaking. I was paying attention. I was doing everything right. And then…I woke up one day and the people in my life started dropping like flies.
In truth, no one actually died, but every person who was significant went into their own personal crisis and I was the last (wo)man standing. I’d been a celebrated teacher, an award winning author, a beloved wife and mother and daughter – that didn’t stop the breaking. It was more than I could manage. And it was nothing I could mend. As the ones I loved struggled, I felt my foundations tremble. My hands were completely tied, my heart was broken, and I’d never been so alone. So here’s what I did: I went into my closet and shut the door.
The thing is, I love my closet. It is my nest. It is my metaphorical womb. It is my most favorite place. And because I have my closet, all my life I’ve been a person who persists. I’ve been a survivor. I’ve been the person who is grounded. I’ve been able to turn inward and find what I need because I lived a rich, creative, thoughtful, faith-filled life. I believe in miracles. I believe in magic. I like to act like I’m all rational and worldly, but truthfully I am a die-hard optimist in a pessimist’s clothing. But that day in January when I went into my closet and I shut my eyes and went to gather my strength and belief in good, good things, a terrible thing happened.
I was empty. Depleted. Exhausted. Where I’d always been able to come out of that closet refreshed, with a plan, ready to take on what came next, suddenly I couldn’t even bring myself to open the door. And I kept thinking the same things over and over. Mostly, I’d catch myself thinking one thing, an unfinished thought: I wish…I wish…I wish…
And when I turned to my work, the thing I thought would get me out of my mess – writing – I discovered every creative person’s nightmare. I was blocked to the bone.
What happened to me? Life broke. And the pieces created a great big dam.
For the past few months I’ve been floundering and questioning. I’ve been wandering around, blinking like a mole, picking up pieces and tucking them into my pockets. I’ve been doing a lot of sleeping because it’s hard to get out of bed. I’ve been eating lots of carbs and reading lots of books and taking care of my house and not answering the phone at all. I’ve been fighting cynicism. I’ve been afraid. Of so many things. Of having nothing special to offer the world. Of being ordinary. Of days passing and watching them go by without being inspired…or inspiring someone else.
Friends and family have watched me, uneasy. It’s scary for them, too, I think. They’ve never seen me…well…stop. I mean really, seriously STOP. But I did. And something new started to happen. I realized this: creativity – the source that has always been the soul-restoring energy available to me in that nest-closet of mine – is like any other thing on this earth that FLOWS. It needs a clear path.
If I wanted to continue to survive – and especially to come back from trauma - it was going to be up to me to learn how to take care of my creativity. And that started with taking care of myself. I started by taking care of myself in all the extravagant, thoughtful ways I wished to be cared for. (Which also gave me the renewed strength to care for those around me.) I worked in ways that felt good instead of exhausting, clearing a path for my creativity. (I learned to say no to a lot of things, too. I’ve never had a problem saying no. But I did have a problem saying yes to the wrong things.) And then I allowed myself to enjoy all the unexpected ways that recovering my creativity brought well-being and purpose and joy back into my life.
Sound like I’ve gone all Oprah? Well. Not really. Half the time I’m still guessing. I don’t live in Chicago or know everything. I know very little, actually. And I like it that way. I like that I’m learning from so many women who are also on this path. So when I started looking around at the women in my life, the girls I see at the grocery store or the school meetings, ladies who sit beside me at church or on airplanes, or book clubs, I started to notice so many of them are whispering things to me.
I’m lost. I’m burnt out. I don’t even have time. I don’t even remember myself. And…I wish. LOTS of I wish.
Tinderbox Writers Workshop came out of I WISH.
I’m calling it a writers workshop, but really it’s a creativity workshop. I believe stories are the surest path to our source - our hearts. Stories teach us how to speak our truth. Stories change everything. Stories teach us about our wishes. Stories are the home of every creative effort, no matter the form.
I’m a believer that if you want something in life, you should create it. And then you should share it. I wished I could create the life I wanted each day. I wished I could create a space for women who are blocked, who are stuck, who are silenced or depleted or just searching for a safe place to discover or recover or express their gifts. I wished for a space for women to share and explore and CREATE and celebrate their stories and voices. I wished to nurture my own soul and the souls of sisters and daughters. I wished for a sanctuary where women can learn to live fully, joyously, passionately – lives lived from our creative core.
I hope you’ll join me.
Discover your story. Recover your voice. What do you wish?
Author Rona Simmons has done something that has set the bar impossibly high for me. She wrote a blog and told the world about the little stuff I try to do as I come to the page every day. And whether she knows it or not, she’s encouraged me with this piece. Rona poked me with a stick and whispered to keep at it. And I hope what she’s written will be an encouragement to a TON of other, better, more prolific or struggling or beginning writers out there. Those who pray for their publishing contracts to come through or those who go without recognition. Those who blog and those who journal. Those who want to see their words in print and those who write in secret to heal a broken heart. For all of us, for the million things we do to help along a friend or a sister or a mama who is trying to find the way to tell her stories.
What Rona says loud and clear in this blog (not just in her post about me but all the women she writes about), is this:
What you’re doing, it matters.
(If you want to read her post, click here for the link.)
****AND, I'd like to bring some attention to a post she ran a few weeks before this one, featuring the lovely and brilliant Soniah Kamal! Click here to read that piece - A Suitable Woman.****
Meeting Rona has been one of the gifts of my writing this year. I hope you’ll all rush out and pick up a couple of copies of her books. Drop by her website and see what she’s up to. She’s inspiring!
To make it easy, here are her links:
book trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wQBxj_gdb7w
During one of our last sessions this fall, I asked Rosita Czekala to write about the feeling of being creatively blocked. During our sessions, she often expresses her thoughts in such lyrical ways that I wasn't surprised when she shared this poem with us after our freewriting time. I wonder how many of us can relate??
When I asked if I could post her poem to the blog, she offered a second poem, as well. Enjoy!
Like oceans apart....
You opened and ripped my heart,
took it from my chest and
nailed it to the past.
Where there it lies
vulnerable and slain,
waiting for life-waiting for flight.
She stood outside alone-against the bookstore wall, sapphire dress spun tightly 'round her.
The red plastic rose I bought her,
a present for Mother's Day,
clung to her dress,
pinned between her breasts, holding her back from the world.
Worried, she thought, would she come back for me?
As I turned back, the wind blew softly through her snow-white hair.
Slowly, she raised her hand, as she struggled against arthritic pains to calm the wind.
Pressing her hand delicately against her head, she smiled to strangers, nodding as they passed her, yearning for the world to see her.
Worried she thought, would she come back for me?
I reached my car, slid in and stared at her from across the parking lot- lamenting her life, the woman that raised me, my mother.
Alone - with no one left but me.
Worried, she thought, would she come back for me?
Rosita Czekala is an artist who works in clay and in words. You can learn more about her by visiting her website http://rositaczekala.com/
Today I'm sharing a blog post that originally appeared on author and writing teacher extraordinaire, Jordan E. Rosenfeld's blog, which I follow and highly recommend! (Her sight is PACKED with great information for writers and she's written some wonderful books on writing which I frequently reference. Her complete bio and links to her books are posted below. Check them out!)
I'm posting the complete guest blog with permission from the author, my friend, Tomi L. Wiley. Happy reading! Leave a comment! And keep warm, ya'll!
tinderbox society blog
Life lived from your Creative Core.