Wednesday, October 7, 2009

I Love Book Clubs (and how it relates to my memoir Petal Pusher)

(Guest Blog on Book Talk)

One of the coolest parts about having a book published is that your friends will usually, as an act of charity or obligation, ask their book clubs to read your book and then ask you to visit the book club when they meet to discuss your book. (First of all, I don’t know why they call them book clubs, why can’t we be up front about this, and call them wine clubs?) ANYWAY, I freaking love having book clubs read and discuss my book.

After visiting in person or cyber-visiting, around sixty book clubs since PETAL PUSHER’S release, I love the many ways that my book has been read and interpreted based on the readers’ own life experiences. A woman in my mother’s book club consolingly placed her hand on my mom’s forearm and said, “I don’t know what I’d do if I had a daughter like that.” Instead of crying, I choose to laugh at this remark since my mom has that unconditional love thing going when it comes to her children, and Lord knows, I was not a first daughter for the faint of heart mother!

Once I answer the questions that every book club so far has asked me:

Yes, my sister divorced the guy she married in the book.

My mother thinks that I exaggerate in the book; my siblings tend to see events the same way I did.

My dad loves me though there are parts of my book he does not love.

I changed the names of people I’m no longer in touch with unless they’re considered “public domain.”

My bandmates are okay with the book (there’s a lot I did not include). I sent them both galley proofs of the manuscript before it went to press (as I did with my parents, siblings, and husband), and there were no disputes or up roars – though it’s always important to remind memoir readers that I experienced the events in the book differently than did a lot of the characters.

Then, it’s my turn to ask the book club members what they thought the book was about:

An older woman told me she thought it was about women figuring out how to deal with their bodies.

Someone else thought it was about women and friendship and how “business” can really corrode those friendships.

Another said she thought it was about dealing with disease.

A lot of people think it’s about growing up or following a dream to fruition.

Some folks think it’s about loving music and falling in love.

I think it’s about my relationship with my father.

The cool thing is, there are no right and wrong answers. It’s all about absorption and interpretation, and I love how different we all are.

Friday, May 8, 2009


I love my yoga instructor. She's wise, energetic, funny, and real. I've been attending her classes for almost eleven years. The coolest thing about her is that she's still learning; she's the rare teacher who is always evolving, updating, and bursting with enthusiasm to share her latest discoveries.
I'm sort of a crappy yoga student in that I pick and chose which lessons to embrace. Sometimes I don't give it my all. Sometimes I resist. I'm easily distracted. Sometimes I go through the motions while trapped in my own thoughts. Speaking of easily distracted, the pre-schoolers across the street are playing Duck, Duck, Goose on the front lawn. Their high pitched excited voices are so sweet. Did you know that Minnesotans call this game Duck, Duck, Grey Duck? ANYWAY...
Last week I did something for which I'm not proud; I responded to a hateful, destructive blog comment. I'm constantly urging my son to resist the urge to take the bait cast out by haters, and yet I did just that. I tell him that the best way to get to someone with bad intentions is to ignore them because responding only fuels their dark flame. In responding, they know they've got you where they want you. I'm not sure why on that day I failed to act with dignity in the face of desperation, but sometimes I let down my guard. I don't brim over with self confidence and admittedly, my skin is not nearly as thick as it needs to be. It's hard not to be pissed off at someone who projects all sorts of bad intentions and bad vibes onto your attempts to be open and connected. I know that the blogosphere is made for open debate and disparaging points of view. I know that anonymity bolsters ones courage to lash out.
But I'm still disappointed in myself that I jumped off the high road. This desperate soul doesn't even know me, yet clearly she's invested a lot of time and energy into hating me. That makes me sad, makes me feel less safe, gives me a bad feeling in my stomach. But these types of people are not new to me; it comes with the territory in which I have chosen to live. Silence and disconnection can make me prostrate with depression, so on occasion, I take a big gulp and take the chance of sharing. I know that there are more good people than there are bad out there. But still, I didn't need to dignify those misguided comments that were meant to hurt me. Folks can hate my writing all they want; it would probably do them good to avoid it at all costs if it gives them a violent reaction or a borderline personality disorder. But to have a complete stranger speculate that my child was not conceived with love, them's fightin' words. I would say something about mama bear, Sarah Palin sort of ruined that image for a lot of us.
Recently, our yoga instructor's daily theme was "don't steal." Sure, we all know that it's wrong to steal, that it's one of the commandments, duh. She patiently smiled at our patronizing nods. She continued, "Yes, we all learned not to steal back when we helped ourselves to gum at the grocery store and our mothers marched us back in and made us return our loot to the cashier with an apology." We all chuckled and nodded back knowingly. She continued, "But how about this; don't steal other people's confidence." Eureka. Think of how much better everything and everyone would be if we all consciously tried to abide by that idea. Desperately flawed as I am, I'm going to try to work harder on that one.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

As Heard in the Emergency Room on Saturday Evening

Nondescript woman on the phone behind the front desk in the ER: "Hello, this is Shelley, I did not know that I was scheduled to work tonight, therefore I didn't come in but I'm here now. I didn't make it til the end of the shift that I didn't know I had and they told me to just go home. Please call me and let me know if I'm still employed." Slam. Stomp off and out the automatic doors in a huff. Quite a show for the huddled groups of sick, injured, or faking-it patrons. And oh so very professional.

When did the ER turn into Super America? I wonder to myself.

Middle-aged husband injured playing a child's game. I don't blame him a bit. Sometimes you've got to push back against time.
"You look familiar, have we met?" says the orderly wheeling he and his very swollen foot into a holding area.
"Nah," my husband says.
I peek behind the curtain to assess our surroundings.

A baby is crying inconsolably behind the curtain in the next cubicle. Screeching. Sobbing. My nipples tighten.
Can you spontaneously lactate after a decade of inactivity? Is anyone with that baby? He/she can't stop crying.
Somebody do something.

"Someone save the baby," sings a very heavy ER worker walking down the hallway with a white styrofoam cup in her hand.
She's walking away from the baby's cubicle.

We sit and wait. And wait. A physician that oddly resembles the guitarist from Soul Asylum steps in, looks at my spouse's swollen block of a foot, and says, "We'll need an x-ray."

The baby's still crying. A doctor or nurse or employee in hospital scrubs, is talking loudly and condescendingly to a short silent man with copper bronze hair who's standing in the hallway trying to read the eye chart. "Can you read any of these letters?" shouts the employee to the paying customer. Maybe the silent man is mute. He shakes his head, and gestures wildly towards his eyes shaking his head and pleading. "You're a diabetic," the examiner discovers glancing at a chart, "when did you last have insulin?"

The baby ramps up into blood curdling shrieks. All this time, I've not heard a comforting adult voice behind that curtain. I envision a baby alone strapped into its car seat bucket, I want to do something.

Twenty minutes pass, a pretty woman with royal blue hair extensions wheels my husband in to X-ray.

Moaning, groaning, pure sounds of agony emitting from a suffering young woman who's hunched over, no doubled over. Breathless gasps, tears, breathing, ouch, oh, ouch, ohhhhhhh. I think she o.d.ed though I have no reason to assume this except that she looks like the girl I went to middle school with who o.d.ed on speed in the girls bathroom during the seventh grade dance.
She disappears behind the cloth wall sanctioning the next waiting station. "Someone please help me," she whimpers.

"I'm from Triage," says a woman in street clothes to another woman in hospital garb, "she has a long family history of severe hypochondria." The baby is till wailing on the other side and I'm starting to become de-sensitized to his/her pleas.

Friday, April 3, 2009


I was so proud of myself yesterday for finally taking in the loads of clean, gently used clothes to consign at the neighborhood thrift shop.
I had two shopping bags full of cool boys' clothes that my son refused to wear because they didn't say RAMONES or GOPHERS or TWINS.
"Uh, we only take clothing on hangers," she snapped through her wad of Juicy Fruit.
I wasn't in the most charming of moods as it was the end of the day, and I had accomplished very little, and now this whole undertaking was going sour.
"Oh, sorry, I'll take them home and put them on hangers," I flatly responded Roseanne-style, hoping passive-aggressively that she would see the folly in her controlling statement. "The last time I was here, you gave me back all of the hangers." Their process makes no sense, it's just a ploy to stand superior over we, the lowly consigners.
She didn't take all of my stuff. Not by a long shot. In fact she didn't take some of the stuff that a MUCH BETTER consignment shop had already taken (but had since gone out of business) -- and this particular shop is, most definitely, the last stop in consigning before donating to Goodwill.
"So you don't have any interest in boys' dress shirts?" I wondered, blushing, while gathering my jilted items.
"We do if they're IRONED," she spat with icy malice, "No one wants to iron."
I resisted the energy it would take for a bitch-on-bitch show down.
No kidding no one wants to iron, but I most certainly don't want to iron something I was hoping to get rid of that was slightly ruffled from the car ride from my house to her crappy store. Is it worth the fifty-cents? Well, philosophically somehow, yes.
Ridiculed, I slunk out and placed my not-good-enough fashion finds in the back seat. The sense of rejection washing over me was inconsistent with the situation, and the way I was letting it blacken my mood was silly. Why, I wonder, is it such an awful feeling when your clothing gets rejected by a consignment shop? Probably because you experience buyer's remorse all over again, or maybe it's the realization that something you know damn well to be very cool is not seen as such by someone with bland taste. I know thrift shoppers, and believe you me lady, you passed off some treasures. Oh well, your loss. I'll just never get back that chunk of time I wasted trying to procure the stuff for re-sale, and I never should've bought more stuff than we possibly have time/occasion to wear to begin with, which boils down to my Shopping Problem glaring smugly back at me. Oh well, Goodwill's much cooler anyway. Right?

Monday, March 23, 2009

Confessions of a Facebook Slut

I'll forever refer to the winter of 2009 as "my lost winter". I gave it alway on facebook. I have no logical explanation. It's really not my style. I guess I can be obsessive about things. I do so enjoy avoiding the unfinished work on my desktop. "Are you on facebook?" "Oh, you've just gotta sign up for facebook!" "You can really do a lot of networking and marketing on facebook." After having every person who needed to take the time to let me know they hated me publicly share their disdain on myspace, I was gun shy. "But you control who gets to see your page," they assured me. "None of the scary people can get on without your permission." I think I gave in to techno peer pressure around Thanksgiving, and signed on -- though I had to have someone else figure it out for me.
And then, there all of you were...long lost step siblings, high school friends, college crushes, drinking buddies, old boyfriends, writers, musicians, executives, all of my ladies. As many of you know, it's quite a rush unearthing someone long lost and even more fun to have day-long rambling joke-offs with your funnier friends. To become reacquainted with charming people you've met but don't really know -- how oddly satisfying even though it doesn't mean anything. It is sort of like being slutty, no, it's totally slutty. Then there's all those people you don't really know but admire. Trying to friend those folks can take weeks. Once you start collecting notches of infamy on your laptop bed post, you consider irony. I spent entire days thinking of friending people no one in my crowd had thought of friending like say Ernest Borgnine ("Love you as Mermaidman") or the greatly under-appreciated Alicia Silverstone. It's like being a groupie, pop. culture obsessed weirdo, and social commentator all in one. Or so I told myself as the days, weeks, and months peeled away while the snow fell and the sub-zero winds blew. I wanted to be the first amongst my friends to "get" Pat Benatar. I learned which friends' friends lists to cherry pick in order to make my friend population grow.
Then my son's math grades started to fall, my husband gave himself a startling haircut, my cat threw up on a daily basis, my novel was ditched. I had to pull myself together, so I gave up facebook for Lent...not like a big "I joined the "I gave up facebook for Lent" Catholic statement group, more like, I like to utilize the opportunity Lent provides to shed something that's bad for me. I lasted maybe two weeks, making every excuse in the book ("Oh, I need to see if I have any messages from the colleges I'm speaking at, the friends with sick kids, that hip rock icon who relishes turning down my friend requests.....) Then!
Facebook took care of the problem for me by changing their format and layout and sucking the life and enjoyment out of their product. Thanks facebook.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Things Not to Say to Women Over 40

Approximately once every four calendar months (though I guess it's happened twice so far this winter -- I'd better watch it), I go out with the girls, drink beer, stand in front whooping it up while watching a band, and sneak a smoke or two. I did it a couple of Saturdays ago to see one of my favorite cover bands. In between sets I stepped out into the tundra to smoke that forbidden cigarette.
I get overly excited on these occasions because I love to go out and whoop it up, so much so that I have to keep a tight reign on myself because I have lots of Responsibilities. ANYWAY, I was out having said forbidden fruit, the coveted American Spirit, when a sweet young thang addressed me directly with a smile, "Are you pregnant?"
Wa-Waaah. "No," I hissed, "I'm over forty."
Maybe because I was wearing a top gathered under my hard-working false advertising brassiere that billowed slightly every time the doors opened and closed. Maybe it's because I have a terrible habit of standing with my knees hyperextended backwards thus exaggerating my front side. Maybe it's because I've always had a --- gasp! -- tummy. But still.
Of course she felt like crap and started apologizing like crazy which made me feel bad for two reasons; one because I looked like a geriatric pregnant woman that was publicly smoking, and two because my pointed response was so, so, honest. But ladies, please, never, ever comment on another woman's mid-section (especially when she works out more than she cares to and avoids carbs more than she cares to). It's just a bad idea all around.