Diaries of The Breadman’s Daughter: Look What They’ve Done to my Song, Ma.

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I don’t know what it feels like to be a woman. Crazy I know. But the truth is, I really only know what it feels like to be me. And to make matters even more ambiguous, I only know what it feels like to be me at this very moment. Like most people, I’ve been changing since the day I was born. Physically. Emotionally. Spiritually. Intellectually. In every conceivable way, I’ve changed. And so have my feelings and perceptions of myself. Ergo, the only “me” I really know is the one right here, right now, typing these words.

Lately I’ve been thinking about gender fluidity, a term I must admit I’d never heard of, until I read this bit online about Miley Cyrus, where she said that she was gender fluid. Although I’m not entirely clear on what this means, something about it resonated with me. I know, more crazy talk. Me? Miley? Worlds apart, right?

And then I watched one of her Backyard Sessions with Melanie Safka and thought maybe we aren’t all that different. Maybe no one is. Is it possible that human beings, from all different walks of life, have more in common than not? And that we all defy being defined, limited and restricted?

The pair was performing an old tune of Melanie’s, and one of my all-time favorites, called Look What They’ve Done to My Song, Ma. And in that moment, I was charmed. I had loved Melanie back in the day, and truthfully I thought she was dead. But there she was, as beautiful and quirky and amazing as ever. Watching her and Miley took me back to my bedroom floor at 204. I used to lie on my back, with my head right next to the record player, with my eyes closed, and belt out this song over and over and over. I couldn’t get enough of it.

It’s funny how things go round and round. Like that song. It came to mind a few years ago when I wrote this love song for Eric for our wedding. A very talented bluegrass musician was helping me refine and polish it. He was also attempting to teach me bluegrass guitar, which was undoubtedly frustrating for both of us. And let me stop here to say, I’m not a bluegrass musician, Eric is.

During that time, when the bluegrass musician and I were working on my song, we had very different opinions on how it should sound. To him, it was bluegrass all the way. But to me, it was a sweet little folk tune with a hint of an Irish lilt in its cadence. At one point in the song-making process we were camped in completely different worlds. But in the end, Fragile Moment landed happily in the most harmonious place within my beating heart. Not my vision going in, but exceeding all expectations when it was done.

But in the beginning, I’d come home from one of our sessions and think, ‘look what he’s done to my song, Ma.’

So there’s Melanie’s song and there’s Miley’s backyard. And then there’s me, and this gender fluidity, that makes sense on some level, despite not fully understanding. But I am intrigued. In fact, so much so, that I declared to my youngest daughter the other night, that I think I’m gender fluid.

“When did this happen?” she asked sardonically. Admittedly, a very reasonable question for her to pose, especially to me, a person who has been known to utter lots of utter nonsense but nothing of this ilk. If I could have read her mind, I’m pretty sure she was thinking, ‘what the fuck mother.’

“When I stopped having my period,” I blurted.

I don’t know what made me say that. But I do know, that around the same time, Ma died, and then The Old Man did too, and then I started to feel differently about everything. Including myself. The “me” I thought was me was being whipped and refashioned by this menopausal hurricane. I’d had the first real brush with my mortality and it scared the shit out of me. The worst thing was, much of the time, I felt irrelevant, insignificant and invisible. I loathed feeling irrelevant and insignificant. My feelings were hurt. I felt unloved by the universe. But I have to say there was something incredibly liberating about feeling invisible. I was flying effortlessly under the radar and for the very first time in my life I felt free to say and do whatever I wanted, as long as it wasn’t causing harm to others or myself.

Since my period stopped I’ve started. And like Miley, I’m just me.

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Backyard Sessions: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GX9A5vv-jOM

 

Diaries of The Breadman’s Daughter: Create the Soundtrack of Your Life.

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Girl Warrior. Create the soundtrack for your life. You’ve got the music in you. Let it out. Wherever. Whenever. Don’t be shy about this. Or embarrassed. Don’t listen to your inner judge. The one that says you’re tone deaf. Can’t carry a tune. Or have no talent. For it’s not about that. It’s about joy and wild abandon. Glee and harmony in hard places.

It’s one of the best things you can do for your body, mind and spirit. So get musical. From your bobbing head to your tapping toes. Put a song in your heart. Let it rest easy in your soul. And flow through your veins like Tupelo Honey.

Pick up an instrument. Shake a tambourine. Beat a bongo drum. Stomp your feet. Snap your fingers. Clap your hands. Play the air guitar. Sing in the shower. Or while driving the truck. Join a choir. Or form a girls’ band. You don’t have to be a virtuoso musician. You don’t even have to be any good. In fact, you can be terrifically terrible. There are far worse things Girl Warrior.

Like dying with the music still locked inside you.

Rhonda Broadfoot Girl Warrior Feature Musician 2

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Diaries of The Breadman’s Daughter: It’s in the Blood.

IMG_3kk234lljI have bad blood. Not really bad, as in deadly. But not normal either. Just another one of those things that I came by honestly. This little doozy came compliments of Ma. She most likely inherited it from her father. Blame it on her Italian heritage.

Little back story. Since I was a kid every time I had my blood tested, it revealed that I had anemia. Ma was always giving me iron pills. Or worse, yet cod liver oil. I don’t have to tell you how disgusting that shit is.

I spent my entire childhood, and a better part of my young adulthood, believing this myth and popping iron tablets. It wasn’t until I was pregnant with my youngest child, that the truth was discovered. I did not have your regular garden-variety anemia. I was a carrier of this peculiar sounding blood disorder called Thalassemia Minor. Like Ma and my Italian Grandfather. Other than occasional fatigue, bruising easily, and being aerobically challenged, I’m fine.

Good thing The Old Man was Finnish because if he too was Italian, or from some other Mediterranean country or Asia, things could have gotten ugly. It takes two to tango with this blood disorder. With one parent a carrier, you may or may not end up a carrier as well. With two, the odds are 50-50 that you’ll have full-blown Thalassemia. And like it’s evil cousin Sickle Cell, things can be pretty dire, if not downright heartbreaking.

Young MomBut happily that isn’t my story. Nor was it Ma’s and my grandfather’s. My two older children have both been tested, and although they are both carriers as well, they are healthy. And most importantly, they know what they are potentially passing onto the next generation.

My youngest daughter has yet to be tested. At the beginning of summer, I wrote her this poetic letter with the thought in mind that the time has come. Now that she is moving into the stage in her life where she could easily fall in love. Big, hard, deep and forever. She needs to know, what’s in her blood, beyond the unconditional love of her parents.

Hey Beauty,

It’s time to get your blood checked to make sure you aren’t a Thalassemia carrier. Like your Italian grandmother, your mother, big brother and sister.

Even though there’s nothing to worry about right now because you only fall for Anglo-Saxon boys with blue eyes and blond hair.

But one day you may fall hard for a guy who is tall, dark and handsome, the front man for an Indie band, who plays acoustic guitar and writes lyrics worthy of a tattoo on your torso, drinks tequila, rides a 1952 Harley he inherited from his grandfather, eats organic peaches, and most importantly, is of Mediterranean descent.

When you fall, you fall hard.

Boo in B+WJust like your Italian grandmother, your mother, big brother and sister. And because you fall so hard, you might even dream of having a child one day with the guy who is tall, dark and handsome, the front man for an Indie band, who plays acoustic guitar and writes lyrics worthy of a tattoo on your torso, drinks tequila, rides a 1952 Harley he inherited from his grandfather, eats organic peaches, and most importantly, is of Mediterranean descent.

You can picture this child with his father’s dreamy soulful brown eyes, olive complexion and thick dark hair with soft curls around his ears.

And when this happens, you’ll want to know for certain whether or not you’re a Thalassemia carrier. Because if this beautiful guy, who is tall dark and handsome, the front man for an Indie band, who plays acoustic guitar and writes lyrics worthy of a tattoo on your torso, drinks tequila, rides a 1952 Harley he inherited from his grandfather, eats organic peaches, and most importantly, is of Mediterranean descent is also a Thalassemia carrier.  Then Beauty the odds are 50-50 that the child of your dreams will have full-blown Thalassemia.

And Beauty that isn’t something you’d wish on your worst enemy, never mind the child of your dreams.

http://www.thalassemia.ca/

 

Diaries of The Breadman’s Daughter: Depression.

Face of DepressionThis morning I woke up.  Thank God.  As I was making the bed I thought about my plans for the day. Making a cup of cinnamon coffee. Writing my blog. Banking with E.  Shoe shopping with M. The first two items on the list made me happy.  The third, not so much.  The fourth delighted me.

Then I had this thought.  My two daughters are my best friends.  Then I had this thought.  I wonder if they’d find that pathetic.  I know I’m not theirs.  Nor should I be at their ages.  Then I had this thought.  My mother was my best friend.  Then I had this thought.  When she died I not only lost my mother, I lost my best friend.  Then I had this thought.  That blows.

Then I started to cry.  Bawled my fucking brains out as I was making the bed. The whole nine yards. Messy tears and snot all over my face, the pillows, sheets and my new shabby chic comforter.  Which by the way, was incapable of providing neither the degree, nor the depth, of comfort required to stop this sorrowful eruption of muck and mournfulness.

Then I had this thought.  I’m sad.  Probably even depressed.

I come by this melancholy honestly.  Not that he talked about it.  Not ever.  But I think The Old Man was depressed, most of his adult life.  Maybe it was because he was Finnish.  Their suicide rates are high, especially in the winter, which is long, cold and dark.  Much like Northwestern Ontario, where he lived his entire life.  I got out when I was twenty-four.  It was too dreary for me.  On so many levels I can’t even begin to describe.

What caused his depression?  Who knows. I can only speculate.  One part environment.  One part DNA.  One party magical mystery tour. The Hammond Organ

The Old Man sought refuge and relief from his misery in alcohol, watching sports on TV, buying new shoes, eating anything laced with sugar, swearing at inanimate objects, going to church on Sundays, shoveling snow in the winter and digging in his garden in the summer, umpiring little league games, taking long Sunday drives, scratching our dog’s belly, and sleeping. The older he got the more he slept. He was often antisocial, spending long hours alone in the spare room, behind closed doors watching TV or reading the daily newspaper.  There was a Hammond Organ in that room that he tinkered with but never really learned to play.  (However, he was an accomplished spoon percussionist.)  The memory of that room, and his self-imposed exile and isolation, makes me sad.

People didn’t talk about their feelings back then.  Men especially, kept things under wraps. Stiff upper lips and pulled up boot straps. The Old Man stuffed his sadness inside a profusion of plaid flannel shirts, only to unleash it every three months like clockwork, after a long night at the neighborhood saloon. The Crest on Red River Road.  Instead of manifesting in tears, his hurt took a far darker, menacing form.  He’d come home seething with anger.  Uncontrollable rage.  He never hit anyone because he was like a small yapping dog.  All bark and no bite.  But he ranted relentlessly and bullied the shit out of Ma and her kids. He was an unholy terror. It was one hell of a time.

During those dark nights of the soul, I hated him.  Wished him dead.  Prayed to God to strike him down with a bolt of lightening.  A precise and explicit message from heaven.  But that didn’t happen.  Thankfully.  Because the truth is, The Old Man was a good man when he wasn’t drinking. He had a kind, tender and sensitive heart, and he loved his family fiercely.

And he was ill.

An alcoholic.  But the alcohol was merely self-medication.  The deeper illness was depression.  It makes me sad now to think that we didn’t know that.  I mean, we knew intimately the subject matter of his rum and coke induced rages.  The things that angered and tormented him.  But we never understood why. Our family knew very little about the pathology of alcoholism as a disease.  And even less about depression.  Back then depressed people were crazy.  Plain and simple.  It was far better to be a self-pitying miserable alcoholic.

Over the years, I’ve often wondered if while I was praying to God to strike him dead, if he was doing the same thing. He went to church every Sunday.  What were his prayers?  Did he pray for help?  Beg for healing?  Did he seek forgiveness?  Did he find comfort there? Did it any of it help?  I hope so.

So here I sit.  Years and miles away from Northwestern Ontario.  Daylight is breaking.  How do I deal with my sadness?  This depression?  The tears that stain my cheeks and cover my shabby chic comforter? I do this.  I write.  I run.  I do yoga. I take long walks along quiet country roads.  I take photographs.  I play with my dogs.  I love my family fiercely. I eat well. I take vitamins. I talk to my wise girlfriends about deep dark feelings.  I pour my heart out to my husband.  I listen to my children and look for clues on how to live a joyful life. I laugh my guts out.  I pray.  I meditate.  I write letters to God. I count my blessings. I get up, go to work and give it my very best shot.  I play my guitar and my clarinet. I read books. Listen to music. I dream. I hang out. I waste time. I watch TV. The Old Man Hipster

But I don’t drink alcohol. I don’t do drugs, except for the occasional ibuprofen. I do my best to stay away from sugar, especially white. I don’t give myself pep talks. They don’t work. I also don’t scold. Engage in self-pity, self-loathing or self-flagellation. I watch my inner dialogue. I try not to spend too much time alone in this room.  Although that’s challenging because one of the things I love to do most requires that I spend long stretches of time in isolation.

Over the years I have found solace in motivational books and tapes, teachers, preachers, the wise and the enlightened. I’ve learned acceptance. Of what was.  And what is.

Will I ever be completely free from depression and sadness?  No. The truth is, I don’t want to be fully extricated. It’s part of who I am.  Like my hazel eyes and crooked smile.  It’s the fuel that fires some of my richest writing. The fountainhead of a few of my best ideas.  My literary wellspring. It’s what allows me to feel things deeply. Not just my suffering.  But yours.  And yours.  And yours. I shed tears for all living creatures. Even the dead rats I come across on the country road I walk.  I like that about me.

Depression reminds me of my humanness.  My weaknesses and strengths.  It dictates that, in order to stay healthy, I must stay connected.  It opens the eyes of my heart. And unleashes love, kindness, compassion, forgiveness, hope.  And above all.  Empathy.

I get it Dad.  I get your pain.

Diaries of the Breadman’s Daughter: The Old Man and the Musical Spoons.

The organ that played itself and the God forsaken spoons.

I love music.  I have my favorite genres.  Like Rock.  Or British Rock.  Or Indie Rock.  Or Alternate Rock.  But mostly I just like music that is done well, regardless of the flavor.  On the other hand, nothing can redeem music done badly.  Watching the outtakes of American Idol is case in point.  Enough said.

I’m not sure when my love affair with music began.  Maybe it’s in my DNA.  Maybe I was born with it.  Maybe it’s Maybelline.

Little back story.  The Old Man played the spoons.  His musical “performances” were at times idiosyncratic.  Often they were comical.  Sometimes just downright annoying.  But always surprising.  You never knew when he was going to pull out his instrument, aka eating utensil, and start slapping and pummeling his knee.  Stomping his foot.  Giving it the old Hee Haw.  The thing is, playing the spoons isn’t just about the spoons.  The knee, thigh and foot are equal and integral elements that compose this unorthodox and curious instrument.  Because in fact, the spoon is connected to the thigh bone and the thigh bone is connected to knee bone and the knee bone somehow gets involved with the foot stomping bone.  And music is born. Quirky.  Zany.  Spirited. Lively toe tapping foot stomping lunacy.  As a very young child I remember being delighted by his unorthodox talent, his gift for making music from two spoons lifted from Ma’s cutlery drawer.  The very ones that were mundanely used to transfer Snap Crackle and Pop from my morning bowl of cereal to my eager mouth.  I applauded his unpredictable and spontaneous “performances.”  When I grew older, and my musical tastes became more sophisticated, more particular, these spoon “performances” just seemed silly.  But that didn’t deter The Old Man.  He continued throughout his lifetime to pull out his instrument whenever it struck his musical fancy.  Although at the time I didn’t see this as a redeeming attribute, I now admire his abandon.  His throw caution to the wind attitude.  His oblivious nature.

Possibly, at the heart of The Old Man’s spoon playing was a desire to play a far more conventional instrument.  The drums.  In fact, he actually confessed this to me once.  But then he also said he wanted to be a professional Umpire, so who knows the breadth of his daydreams and depths of his disappointments. Certainly not me. But he was one of those people who liked to tap on things, if this is any indication of his percussive propensity.  Pencils on desk tops.  Nails into boards.  Boots on the doorstep.  Spoons on the side of coffee cups.  But this is as far as it got. There were no drum kits in the basement.  There weren’t even sticks.

But The Old Man and his musical influences may well have been the genesis for my musical avocation.  Or perhaps it began with the cardboard piano I practiced on the year I took lessons.  Maybe it was all Ma’s record playing on the Hi-Fi with its snazzy wooden cabinet.  Or the guitar that sat in the corner behind the chair.  Perhaps it was the Hammond Organ that practically played itself.  Who can say for sure. I only know that it came.  And it hit me pretty hard.  But not quite hard enough to make it a career.  A vocation.  Just enough for an avocation.  A little hobby.  Musical backdrop to my life.

My musical education goes something like this.  I took one year of piano lessons while in grade school.  But we didn’t own a piano and cardboard could only take you so far.  Too quiet.  In grade five I tried out for the choir.  I didn’t make the cut.  My voice was too quiet. In grade seven our class was given recorders. They were light and plastic.  And at times as unpleasant sounding as spoons.  In high school I finally got to study music for real.  In today’s vernacular I would have been considered a “band geek.”  That word didn’t exist back then. Thankfully.  We were spared that humiliating, yet somehow fashionably trendy, moniker.  Perplexing paradox.

I was assigned a clarinet.  I wanted to play flute.  Oh well.  I grew to love the clarinet despite the challenges with reeds and spit.  And I loved playing in an orchestra.  Not that we did gigs or concerts or anything even remotely cool.  But we did play in class every day, at our weekly all-school assemblies, and we travelled to Wawa and Duluth to perform at other high schools.  We also learned to play and march.  This is no small feat.  Especially for someone like me, who is challenged to walk and chew gum at the same time.

My musical education continued into University.  Technically afterwards.  A few years after I got my Degrees, in fields unrelated to music, I went back.  I studied first year flute and theory.  My teacher was the principal flutist for the symphony and she was a virtuoso.  At least to me.  She did what I wanted to do.  She possessed the courage and ability that I lacked.  That also made her divine.  And the truth was, teaching me put the virtue in her virtuosity.  She taught me well. I went from being undisciplined and lazy to a dedicated student who applied herself. I learned how to dig in. Knuckle down. Dive in.  At least for one year.

The year of the flute was pretty much the end of my “formal” education in music.  But there was one more instrument.  The guitar.  I’ve owned a few over the years.   I’ve also had my share of teachers. I’ve learned a chord or two from each of them. Now I have a collection that I can play, for the most part with ease.  With the exception of the dreaded B chord.  It appears that I lack the genetic B-code, which provides other guitarists the manual dexterity to contort and stretch their fingers with strength and confidence.  I have learned, however, that there are many many great songs that do not contain B chords.  I play those.

I love this instrument.  Everything about it. The way it looks.  How it feels next to my body.  I heard Randy Bachman once say (and I’m paraphrasing here) that it’s such a great instrument because you can wrap your arms around it.  I like that about it too. You can hug it.  No matter how badly I play, it still embraces me.

About twenty years ago I was given the guitar I now play, by the two men I love the most in the world.  My son and my husband.  I love this guitar almost as much as I love them.  My Daion.  Over the past twenty years I have played it a lot.  But there have been periods, quiet patches, where I just left it leaning in the corner untouched.  Someone once advised me to never leave a guitar in its case.  To always keep it out in the open where it can be around people – preferably its owner.  According to this folklore, this musical mythology, the guitar absorbs the vibes and energy of the people around it.  And as a result it plays better.  Some would say this is crazy talk. Cuckoo. Cockamamie.  Perhaps.  But we’re also talking about an instrument that likes to be held and hugged.

A lot of the time I play badly.  But that doesn’t deter me. I guess I learned that from The Old Man and his God forsaken spoon music.  For the most part I play alone in my room, except for the half hour a week spent with my teacher.  Lately we’ve been working on my original tunes.  About a year ago I got this notion that maybe I could write a song. I’ve written a thing or two in my life but never music.  Random melodies would meander through my mind.  Vaguely familiar yet unknown. Like foreigners who show up on your doorstep claiming to be your long lost cousin Vilho from Finland.  They weren’t on my playlist.  Nor my iPod.  They were just tucked away inside my head waiting to be released.  Now one by one they are coming out.  Like high school clarinet players marching to their own funky beat.

In my room, behind closed doors, I throw caution to the wind.  I play my Daion and I sing.  With utter abandon.  Oblivious of the judgement of those within hearing range.  I’m silly.  Embarrassing even.  I am my father’s daughter.  I’m The Old Lady with her God forsaken guitar.

Diaries of the Breadman’s Daughter: Every Girl Needs A Room Where She Can Dream

The Dreamer.

I have a room of my own.  Virginia Woolf would applaud this I’m sure. I’ve been blessed much of my adult life to have had such a space, a little sanctuary to call my own.  In this room, I get to be me.  Or at least the me, I imagine myself to be.  I’m a self-proclaimed dreamer.

Little back story.  Growing up I shared a bedroom with my older sister.  Not only did we share a room but much of the time we shared the same bed.  A double, which slept two rather comfortably.  Sometimes we were strange bedfellows but mostly we were amiable, considering our 8-year age difference.  The room we shared was downstairs next to our parents.  My two older brothers occupied one of the two upstairs bedrooms. The other room was our “spare” which was cold in winter but a fun place to play, and hang out with Ma while she sewed. By the time my sister moved to the West Coast and my two older brothers were both married, I had moved upstairs to their old room.  I finally had a room of my own. It was divine.

There were four things I especially liked about this room.  The slanted ceilings, the small attic door next to the closet, the brick chimney next to the door, and the wooden vent on the floor that you could peer down and see into the living room. There was something enthralling about these four details that captured my imagination.  I loved to poke around in the attic which was dark and musty and contained the usual things like Christmas ornaments, dance costumes, childhood artwork, old toys and a broken lamp or two.  But what was most beguiling was the possibility that buried deep within all this family memorabilia and junk was some mis-placed and forgotten treasure.  The vent was both scary and practical.  Scary because there was the possibility (although slim) of falling through it and practical because I could drop little notes down to Ma while she was sitting on the couch watching Ed Sullivan. I don’t recall what these messages to Ma said but most likely they were requests for food or drink.

Ma always made our home look lovely.  She didn’t have much to work with financially but what she lacked in cash, she made up for in imagination.  She just had a knack for this sort of thing and like most women of her time took care of “the decorating.”  I use this term loosely because no one spoke that way back then, at least not regular folks like Ma and The Old Man.  Decorating meant Ma made things for the house – curtains, table cloths, pillows.  She sewed and embroidered.  The furniture and appliances were bought on time at Sears or Eaton’s.  We weren’t poor but we were also a few miles from the middle of middle class.  Everyone in our neighborhood was, so it didn’t really matter.  At least not to me.

When it came to my room, Ma graciously handed over the decorating torch and without any strings attached either.  I was given free rein to do whatever my heart desired.  So I did.  I plastered the walls with rock posters and my kitschy-coo personal art.  The Old Man painted the chimney white which became the perfect blank canvas for my poetry, lyrics from folk musicians like Dylan and Leonard Cohen, pithy quotes by the pop psychologists of the day.  “If you love something set it free.  If it comes back, it yours.  If it doesn’t, it never was.”  I somehow found this to have deep meaning back then.  It just baffles me now.  Somehow we came into possession of an over-stuffed antique maroon velvet tub chair that had worn arms and smelled bad.  We put this in the corner for me to curl up in and read.  I had a desk that overlooked our driveway and stared directly into our neighbors upstairs window.  Thankfully they kept their curtains closed allowing us both the privacy we needed and me with the added blessing of natural light. I also had a record player, and by then a fairly decent collection of LPs which I played continuously.  Everything from The Beatles and the Rolling Stones to Dylan and Joan Baez.  From Rock to Folk, Motown to Blue Eyed Soul. This music comprised the soundtrack of my life.  It was the fire beneath my dreams and it fueled my creative passion.

It was in this little room at the top of a wartime house in the middle of small blue collar town where my dreaming wanderlust began.  I read books and dreamed of becoming a novelist.  I played rock music and dreamed of becoming a musician.  I made my own clothes and dreamed of becoming a fashion designer.  I scribbled poems on brick chimneys and dreamed of becoming a poet. I danced in my pajamas and dreamed of becoming a ballerina.  I doodled on albums and dreamed of becoming an artist. I gazed out at the stars and dreamed of flying.  I cuddled a dog named Sugar Miettinen and dreamed of becoming a mother. I had a typewriter and dreamed of using words to transform lives. I looked down at the street below and dreamed of a life outside of this room and wondered how I would get there.

And here I am.  Thousands of miles and many years away.  In this room, I write novels and blogs.  Play my guitar and write songs.  I sing to myself and dance like a wild woman. I gaze out the window at a sweet little pond and a garden full of Garry Oak trees, and I am in awe.  Full of wide-eye wonder and gratitude. I’m eternally grateful to Ma and The Old Man for giving me that first room and for allowing me a place to plant the very seeds that my dreams were made of.

Here in this room, I am becoming the woman of my dreams.