The Road Forward

Black is an odd color choice for a toilet. To be fair, going alone to a crowded bar on a Friday night and hiding in the corner bathroom stall is an odd choice too, but there I was.

It’s been a long and windy road that my dream has taken me. It’s taken me to Amarillo Texas.  It has taken me to a police station, a recording studio, and a lawyer. When I set out to follow my dream of being a writer I expected a lot of pajama-wearing laptop-staring afternoons.  Instead, I’m staring at a gurgling toilet in a bar because I’m afraid of what I have got myself into.

I wonder if this happens to other people who have crazy dreams.  One thing just leads to another.  The only path is forward -or quitting.  You usually learn this the hard way.

When I set out to record a trio of short stories, I supposed all I needed was a recording device.  I was wrong.  I was really, really, wrong. Soon I learned I needed to be in a professional studio. That may seem quite logical and glaringly obvious, but it wasn’t then. I was confronted with a true test.  Was I willing to invest in myself?  That’s a very hard question. I’m not a risk taker, I’m not adventurous. Self-doubt is my demon. He doesn’t just vacation in my brain he owns condos. He’s running for mayor. 

I had to decide if I thought what I wrote was worth it.

I did.

What I didn’t know then was that all kinds of things would pop up on this journey.  I learned that the best avenue to put it out in the world required it to be in print first. I had to hire an editor. I had to find a cover artist. I had to get a professional head shot. Good God, who would want a picture of me?  And I had to pay for the evidence that it happened! The list of requirements kept spreading like a rash, with little end in sight, constant irritation, and no relief.   

Writers have to be on social media.  I don’t like social media.  I like staying in and wearing slippers and writing stories about worlds that exist in my head.  Each challenge posed a new opportunity to quit. 

Do it or quit.

I did it.

That’s why I hid in the toilet at the bar.  I was afraid that I wasn’t a good enough story teller, that my story was not interesting, or funny, or worthy of their precious free time. 

I never imagined I’d join a group of storytellers.  I never imagined I’d have a blog where I create those stories to tell.  But I do.  And maybe if they like my story they might like to read my stuff.

I took a deep breath, told the mayor to take five, and reread my notes. I had to decide if what I wrote was worth it.


I Love Sharks

I love sharks. I love shark movies. I follow tagged sharks on Twitter. I think Shark Week is one of the greatest television feats in history. Great whites are my favorite, they are stealth killers, a “perfect engine- an eating machine” as Hooper says in Jaws.  Sharks are real life living monsters with all the authentic proportions of something the Ancient Greeks could have imagined, a mammoth jaw filled with jagged teeth and dead eyes as black as the devil’s heart.  They are living myth. Plus, they have the kind of size that makes dinosaurs so irresistible.   

And I CANNOT get enough of them, which is weird because most aspects of my life are riddled with anxieties.  You would think that someone who would drive miles out of her way to avoid a left turn at a busy intersection  would not take a fancy to the sleek nightmare fuel that is the Great White, but you would be wrong.

I love them.  They embody my fears like no other creature on the planet, the lurking, the incredible speed, and a badass theme song.  A shark could be ten yards away from a swimmer and that swimmer wouldn’t know it until his legs are the side of fries with the shark’s seal burger. That’s the kind of scenario I envision in each and every mundane encounter in my life.  Disaster is always seconds away!   

The difference with sharks and why I hold them dear to my heart is the fact that they are contained. In my landlocked Midwest state it’s so easy to avoid sharks.  Unlike cancer, and bullies who might convince my children to commit suicide, and gun violence, and the opioid epidemic, and the painful changes of globalization, and drunk drivers, and tooth decay, and ageing, and stock market crashes, and tick borne diseases-  I can exercise my control over this fear.  All I have to do is stay the hell out of the water!  It’s such a wondrous simplicity.  It is so easy to talk myself out of this fear.  In fact,  as I write this with my back to the window and my feet dangling off my chair, I am confident  that I will not be eaten by a Great White. My loved ones who are out of sight are still safely on land,  and they won’t be eaten by a Great White either.

The thought of the shark actually makes me happy.  I have fear and I have control.  What a wonderful, singular situation.

Happy Shark Week. Happy trails to you, Mary Lee, you beautiful, awe- inspiring, scary as hell monster. 


Technology, Litter Boxes, and Heroism


I’m like a black hole of technological skill.  To be honest, I’m not sure that’s even an accurate description.  People who understand black holes are not generally the kind of people who are befuddled by multiple hash tags, the concept of google docs, and the like button on Facebook.

Nonetheless, I have a dream of writing, scratch that, I have a compulsion to write.  The problem, the main antagonist to my life’s narrative is technology.  I wrestle with it daily. Social media gives me sudden onset diarrhea.  Facebook gives me high anxiety, and the internet exhausts me. Yet, these are all necessary to get my writing out in the world.  It’s so frustrating.  I find it akin to cat ownership.  I love kitty cats.  They balance statuesque majesty with adorable cuteness like a tight rope walker.  They are purring snugly little balls of soft fluff. Yet along with all their furry magic is a shit box in your home.  The writing is my cat, the technology is the shit box.  Unless the cat is dead, I need the box.  And I don’t want to author a dead cat.

I’m making peace with the stinky clumps of technology that are yoked to my writing adventure. Sometimes I even find humor and happiness in them. For example, when I check into my blog, inevitably I have spam. I’ve come to appreciate spam in all its absurd glory.

Here’s an example that delighted me beyond what the spammer could ever imagine.  “I am impressed, I must say.  Actually hardly ever do I encounter a blog that is both educative and entertaining, and let me inform you, you may have hit the nail on the head.  Your concept is excellent; the issue is one thing that not enough people are speaking intelligently about.” This was the comment on They’re Out There, an unhinged malediction of house dwelling arachnids.  I can’t help but wonder what part deserved the “educative” qualifier.  Could it be the part where I plead to my readers to be wary of a spider’s cognitive capabilities and even more so a spider’s undying devotion to complete evil?  Perhaps it was how to properly dispose of a dead spider given their ability to reanimate like a science fiction villain.

I also love the idea that not enough people are speaking intelligently about this issue. Could you imagine a world where the fear of spiders drove policy making decisions and curtailed daily events?  To be honest, my posts are hardly scholarly, unless one was looking to demonstrate the mental health void in our country.

Sometimes spammers appeal to my vanity. On the post The Pet Equation a spammer left a comment with a very serious call to action that “your authority on this subject deserves a wider audience and I can help” Yes, I agree I am an authority on how my mathematics education has led me to an equation about stink and pets. And I’m quite sure this post would find a comfortable place in scholarly discussion, perhaps right next to Newton. The fig, not the man.

So my journey with my nemesis, technology, has forced me to grow, compelled me to learn, proved that I can do some things that I never imagined I could – and made me realize I could be the hero of this narrative.  In fact, that sounds like the perfect fodder for a story.