Diaries of The Breadman’s Daughter: Engage your Radical R Trifecta.

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Girl Warrior. Engage your Radical R trifecta – Rebel, Revolutionary, and Renegade. Especially during make-or-break times and crucial circumstances, the cliff-edge life-changing moments. This is when you will be well served to marshal your passionate determined ass-kicking spirit. The one that knows intuitively when to break the rules, break through the barriers, break the code, break the habit, and yes, at times, break the hearts.

Throw off the cloak of convention. Step out of the box of ordinary. Walk away from the pedestrian. Steer clear of the middle-of-the-road. Bury the garden-variety. Remove all things plain-vanilla, milk-toast and bland from your physical and spiritual diet.

And most importantly, don’t live a life that isn’t worth writing home about.

Live a stranger than fiction life Girl Warrior. One you have exclusively authored. A life that no one else but you could possibly conceive much less, write. Live a life that you are so jazzed about, that is so juicy and spicy and ridiculously overflowing with everything good and bad, ugly and pretty, heartbreaking and joyous, messy and meticulous, bitter and sweet, wonderful and scary, unpredictable and unknown, exhausting and exhilarating, breathtaking and beyond.

Living a rich ample life like this necessitates that you go out on a limb; you make big disruptive waves; you take risks; and do things differently. You don’t go with the flow. Or do the logical, the predictable, the rational or sensible.

And above all else Girl Warrior, you walk the high wire without a safety net. And learn to love it.

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 Photographs courtesy of Melissa Adams.

Diaries of The Breadman’s Daughter: Open Heart Surgery.

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The act of authentic writing is like performing open-heart surgery on yourself. Without anesthetic.

You slice open your chest, rip apart your flesh, hack into your bones and pull it all out. You have to be willing to be vulnerable. Fragile. Breakable. Frightened at times. Scared out of your wits.

Where did this come from? Where is it going?

But to write this way you also have to be courageous. Fierce. Raw. Genuine. Willing to take big emotional risks. Go to the dark and scary places of your soul. Tell the truth.

I not only write from the heart. I give you my heart.

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Diaries of The Breadman’s Daughter: Don’t be a Hater.

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I hate haters.  If that’s you, then please leave.  Now.  I mean it.  Get out of here.  Get off my cloud.  Off my blog.  Off my Facebook, twitter and tumblr.  Get lost.  You’re not wanted here.

That liberating mini-rant was inspired by a Facebook post by Cheryl Strayed, who wrote a book called WILD and a column in The Rumpus called Dear Sugar. Here’s the post in its entirety because Cheryl’s a much more effective and brilliant ranter than I.

“Sometimes I’m asked how I deal with the haters. I don’t deal with them. I pity them. I don’t expect everyone to love my books. In fact, I frankly expect the opposite. (In the history of books, there isn’t one everyone loves.) But I must say I marvel at the ugliness it takes to gather one’s forces in the direction of what one loathes rather than loves–to go out of one’s way to say to a writer: YOU SUCK. So I send out a little silent non-God-connected prayer to the jackass who felt the need to share his or her jack-assed-ness with me. And then, without comment, I zap them forever from this page.”

I understand how she feels.  I’ve been lucky. Most of the reviews of my novel and the comments left on my blog have been kind.  Perplexing at times.  But generally magnanimous and insightful. Then again they’re mostly from friends, family and nice strangers.  I haven’t sold millions of books, nor do I have thousands of Facebook fans and I don’t write a column, do public speaking or author readings, like Cheryl.  Essentially I’m an invisible writer so I’m safe.  So far.  But I fear the haters are out there.

I’ve been writing since I was a kid.  It started with diaries.  If you’re a girl from my generation then you know the kind I’m talking about.  Pocket-sized, with a leatherette cover, and a tiny gold lock and key to keep a young girl’s private thoughts secure and safe. The pages were ruled and had shiny gold leaf edges. I had to write very small and neatly because the spaces between the lines were narrow and the pages no bigger than a 5×7 photograph. The diary’s compact size, however, didn’t diminish the size of my ideas, thoughts and dreams. To this day, I keep a diary.  No longer under lock and key.  Simple utilitarian Hilroy notebooks filled with some of my best writing.

Then there’s this blog. One big mother of a diary.  Out there in cyber space for the world to read.  To love.  And to hate.

The last two years spent writing this very public diary have been an interesting ride. Big eye opener. A revelation on intent, perception and interpretation.  Here’s the thing.  I’ve been sitting at my computer every Saturday thinking I’m writing sweet straightforward stories about my life, past and present.  Nothing edgy, not at all controversial.  But every now and then I read a comment left on a post and I think, what the fuck?  What’s really going on here?  What did I say that offended you so?

Take my post last year on Halloween for instance.  I thought it was just an amusing tale about how I hate that particular holiday and all the reasons why.  For anyone who has been to Northwestern Ontario at the end of October, you know what I mean.  Think of the early sixties, sad costumes cut from sheets, snow, slush, snowsuits, parkas, molasses kisses, snot streaking across your feverish face and you get the picture.  But some readers didn’t get it. Nor were they amused by my satirical tongue planted firmly in my facetious cheek.  For them, I had violated everything that was sacred about playing dress-up once a year. I was the Halloween version of Ebenezer Scrooge.  An angry fun-spoiler.

Even when I thought I was writing an deeply empathic story about the tragic death of a young boy riding his bike for charity, and how my heart broke for his mother, one person read something completely different. I had somehow insulted her.  She sent me a private message (thank God) to chastise me for not writing about her suffering. “What about me?” she essentially asked.  I was gobsmacked, and like Cheryl I zapped her from my Facebook page.

My all-time favorite head-shaker came when I read the comments to my post on “Regrets.”  Some people couldn’t handle that notion at all.  It made them squirm with discomfort. Complete strangers left their sage advice on how I shouldn’t regret anything in life. Little mini pep talks were posted to inspire me to rise from my funk of regret.  Nuggets of homespun wisdom on the virtues of living a life free of regret flooded my inbox. “You did the best with what you knew at the time,” brand of pop psychology was offered up like manna from heaven.  What I found most disconcerting about all this inspirational well-meaning advice was the judgmental and admonishing overtones.  But their comments also made me smile.  Like Yoda.  I know all that shit.  I know it and I still have regrets. I’m okay with that. So there.

The act of authentic writing is like performing open heart surgery on yourself.  Without anesthetic. You slice open your chest, rip apart your flesh, hack into your bones and pull it all out.  You have to be willing to be vulnerable.  Fragile.  Breakable.  Frightened at times. Scared out of your wits.  Where did this come from?  Where is it going?  But to write this way you also have to be courageous. Fierce.  Raw.  Genuine.  Willing to take big emotional risks.  Go to the dark and scary places of your soul. Tell the truth.

I not only write from the heart.  I give you my heart.

Don’t trash or break it.  Just because you can.  Like Cheryl said, what we write isn’t for everyone.  I don’t like every writer, story, blog, book, novel, essay, email.  How could I?  I respectfully put what I don’t like aside and seek other things to read.  This doesn’t mean that something I don’t fancy isn’t well-written or worthwhile either.  It just means it’s not my cup of tea.

One of the big reasons I pass on a lot great literature is because it’s beyond me.  It’s either written in a style I’m incapable of comprehending or I find laborious and tedious. Like reading the Bible from cover to cover as my husband did one year.  That was sheer madness to me but he found it engrossing and meaningful.  Often it’s a genre that doesn’t fascinate me.  My son loves Tolkien, for example.  I can’t get past the first page, although I do love the movies.  We both agree on Harry Potter.  I love Anne Tyler.  I don’t think he knows who she is.

Just so we’re clear here, I have many different opinions and contrary thoughts on writers and their words. And if asked, I’ll offer them. (Sometimes even without being asked.)  But a carefully considered and thoughtfully crafted perspective on any given piece is far different from a reckless and careless comment spit out like stale bubble gum.

How does saying, YOU SUCK advance humanity?  How does that make us better?  How is that comment meaningful to anyone? What does it have to do with anything?  Does it encourage dialogue and advance the conversation? Does it connect us with compassion and empathy? Of course not.  It serves no purpose.  So the only intelligent thing to do is to zap it like Cheryl does.

I’m not a super genius.  I’m not even all that smart, frankly. Perhaps wise on occasion.  I’m a work in progress for sure.  So is my writing.  I like to think it gets a bit better every day.  Just like me.

Who knows? Maybe I SUCK.  But let me be the first to say it.

Link to Cheryl’s website to learn more about her: http://www.cherylstrayed.com/

Diaries of the Breadman’s Daughter: The Awesome Power in a Sweet Ride.

There were other religious influences.  They say kids are like sponges.  I don’t particularly like that analogy, for a number of reasons.  But suffice to say Bob and Square Pants, and just leave it at that.  I do think kids possess naturally open and insatiably curious minds though.  More like bottomless toy boxes that always have room for more.  Or the magicians black hat.  Rabbits and endless chiffon scarves.  Doves and other wondrous things extracted with ease.

At least that was how my young mind worked. Still does.

One of my favorite things to ponder as a child, and to this day for that matter, is God.  Such an infinite subject.  I wanted to know Him/Her. I wanted to know me.  Where I came from.  Where God came from. If God made me then who made God? I thought about that so much it made my head spin.  Still no answer. Will I ever know?

Little back story.  When I was six my oldest brother met the love of his life and the woman who would become my sister-in-law.  They were engaged for four years, which at the time seemed like an eternity to me.  Truthfully, I think it seemed like an eternity to J as well.  We both had our reasons.  I was very young and she was eager to be a blushing bride.

During those four years my brother, who once smoked unfiltered cigarettes and drove a mauve Harley Davidson, wore his black Italian hair slicked back like John Travolta in Grease and had a chipped front tooth, became a Catholic.  He did it for love. I can’t think of a better reason. My sister-in-law played an instrumental role the conversion, which was a good thing. The entire family agreed. It transformed my brother’s life, gave it purpose and made him happy, beyond his wildest imaginings.  That was my first introduction into the awesome power of God. I was a firsthand witness to a metamorphosis so rich and profound and eternal.  Undeniable.  Love taking action. All these years later, it still exists.

The Awesome Power of God Manifested in a Sweet Ride

Even though by then, The Old Man, Ma and I were attending the Lutheran Church every Sunday I still felt kind of bad.  Not quite good enough.  Compared to St. Michael and All Angels Anglican Church that the other two Musketeers attended and Corpus Cristi Catholic Church, right across the road for God’s sake, that my brother and sister-in-law were members, the Christ Lutheran Church seemed somehow second rate.  No one I knew went there.  What did they know that we didn’t? Why were the other churches up on Red River Road and ours was down on Walkover Street?  It seemed we couldn’t get anything right.

Furthermore, the Christ Lutheran Church was full of Finlanders with blonde hair, pale skin and weird accents.  The Old Man fit in nicely, being a Finlander, but my painfully shy olive-complected Italian/English mother and I were misfits.  Strangers in a strange land.  As Jim Morrison so aptly put it, “People are strange when you’re a stranger.”  That’s predominantly how I felt the entire time I attended Christ Lutheran Church.

I stopped attending when I turned 19, the year of my emancipation from organized religion.  I was very disorganized after that.

I didn’t know it at the time but I guess it was also the year I became an “Other.”

Diaries of the Breadman’s Daughter: Letters to God.

The thing about God is.  No one knows for sure. Really.

I read this article in The New York Times by Eric Weiner called Americans: Undecided About God.  Weiner so eloquently writes that the national conversation about God “has been co-opted by the True Believers, on the one hand, and Angry Atheists on the other.”  He asks,  “what about the rest of us?”   Weiner calls these folks the Nones.  Nones doesn’t do it for me.  I think of myself as an Other.  Don’t ask me why.  It’s just kind of the way I am. But regardless of the moniker – Nones or Others –   I agree with Weiner, we haven’t been a part of this conversation.  We’ve been this tight-lipped group who shied away from any discussion, even remotely religious, like sheep about to be sheared and left standing naked in the field.  Awkward.  Embarrassing.  Uncomfortable.  Skin-crawly. To say Weiner’s article resonated with me is an understatement.  It got me thinking.  Then it inspired me.  And then I felt like having a conversation about None Other than God.

Little back story.  For the past twenty years I’ve been writing these letters to God.  Some people, far more intellectual or spiritual, or hip to this pursuit than I, call this “Journaling.” I call it writing letters in spiral bound Hilroy notebooks.  Nothing terribly fancy.  But organized.  And to prove that these are letters, not emails or memos, or blogs to the Big Guy in the Sky, they all begin “Dear God” and end “Love, Me.”  In my world that constitutes the basics of Letter Writing 101.

I write one almost every day.  Except on the weekends.  I do other things.  Like grocery shopping.  Errand running.  Movie watching.  I relax and generally do everything I can to break the Monday to Friday routine. Basically I laze around and waste time.  Even God rested on the seventh day.

Box of Letters to God

After reading the New York Times article it occurred to me that after twenty years of writing almost daily to God, I must have something to say about the topic.  I’m an “Other.”  Typically when it comes to religion I keep my opinions to myself. Unless in the company of other “Others.”  Then I might say something provocative like “no one really knows for sure do they?”  Even that comment is plagued with doubt.  Ends in a question mark, implying uncertainty.  Not a definitive, confident period.

This blog is about all things God – big and little g.  It’s about wonder.  And awe.  And marvel.  About where we came from and where we’re ultimately going.  Not only in the big cosmic sense but in the small personal close to your heart way too.  All are welcome here – Others and everyone else.  Just open your heart.  And bring your head.