Hèctor Tobar Speaks   4 comments

Photo by Doug Knutson

An interview I conducted this week for  Hometown Pasadena.

Not surprisingly, as the son of Guatemalan parents, a L.A. native, a former Los Angeles Times bureau chief in Buenos Aires, and a weekly local columnist, Héctor Tobar’s fiction is infused with the desire to illuminate the complex layers, significance, and consequences of cultural and ethnic differences and conflict.

His latest novel, The Barbarian Nurseries, is an incredibly dense reveal of the city of Los Angeles. Within the details of the varied sections of this metropolis, he has created a story that focuses on Araceli, a Mexican maid, who after four yours of service is suddenly thrust into the additional role of nanny when the parents, Scott and Maureen Torres-Thompson, make the executive decision (independently of one another) to give themselves a “time-out” from their suddenly taxing lives. The ensuing adventure, and clash of class and culture, reveals the abundance of deep-seated issues at play, and a mistrust and misunderstanding that can relegate society to stagnancy.

HP: How did the title Barbarian Nurseries come about, and what were you hoping to convey by this title?

 HT: It’s a play on the two meanings of the word “nursery” as a place where plants are cultivated and as a place where children are cared for and raised.

Both of these jobs are performed in the U.S. by Latino immigrants to a large degree. Mostly people from Mexico. And in talk radio and right-wing commentary, Mexico especially is considered a place of barbarism, a place without civilization; people think of it as a place dominated by drug gangs and lacking in culture, a perverse and inaccurate vision of what the country is, to be sure.

HP: How did you start writing this story, was it with this particular theme in mind? Was it a discussion you wanted to start, continue, or contribute to?

HT: I started off more than a decade ago, and wrote a first draft of a novel that was a response to the growing anti-immigration movement in the U.S. and a response to this rhetoric that sees the newly arrived immigrant as the dangerous ‘other.’

The initial inspiration came from  the protagonist of Camus’ The Stranger and from the idea of the first image in my novel: a man trying to cut his own lawn without a Mexican to do it for him.

I didn’t really want to start a discussion, as much as I wanted to write an artistic and intellectual response to the moment in which I was living as a native Californian and the son of immigrants.

H-P: Right from the start, you set up the divide and distinction between employer and employee. Could you comment on that?

HT: A big part of the novel is how social class seeps into everyday actions in the home. This is deliberate, of course. It comes from having crossed the class divide myself, or, rather, from having seen my family cross that. We come from Guatemala, a country that’s synonymous these days with service work here in L.A. My father parked cars, worked in hotels. We ascended to the middle class. At one point, I lived abroad as a writer with servants in my home. So I’ve been lucky enough to see that class divide in my own life from both sides.

H-P: Even secondary characters get back stories, even if they’re mini ones, such as the young woman of whom Araceli asks directions in the fashion district. What was the aim in doing this?

HT: I’ve been privileged to be a journalist and writer in L.A. for a long time. I’ve been to many different kinds of neighborhoods, rich and poor and in between. So I figured I had the chance to share with the reader a real tableau of the social differences and gaps and the variety of experience in the metropolis.

H-P:  We have to say, we thought the most alarming part of the book started on page 241 and lasted a mere 38 lines.

HT: Yeah, I was a reporter for a major newspaper covering crime many years ago. I saw firsthand the way the media can assemble melodramas from complex, ambiguous human events. It’s become a big industry in the years since, but the basic manipulation of the truth is the same: take complicated lives and boil them down to issues of good and evil.

H-P: Was the ending of the book, the way the three main characters head off in new directions, just the way the story came to you, or was it a conscious decision?

HT: Maureen and Scott at the end are being set up for another fall. They’ve been humiliated, and forced to lower their expectations. As for Araceli, I wanted to leave her in an in-between state, her story leading to either Mexico or to the U.S., because to me that’s what it means to be an immigrant in the U.S. This country changes you, you can’t go back home and be the same, while at the same time living here can be a fraught experience, as Araceli has learned.

H-P: From the very beginning, we were drawn into the story by your wording and the images you create with your words.

HT: Thanks so much for the kind words. Yes, I’ve spent many long years working on my prose style, trying to develop something that’s evocative and accessible. I’ve had a lot of influences, from short story writers such as Nadine Gordimer and Sandra Cisneros, to novelists like Gunter Grass and Don DeLillo. I like to think of it as reaching for a kind of accessible transcendence, if that makes any sense.

Photo by Elena Dorfman

H-P: In reference to being a writer, how do you know when a manuscript is finished?

HT: When your editor pries it from you hands. I think we are perpetual tinkerers. The real question is: when does the writer stop working on his manuscript and show it to his agent/editor? That’s hard to answer. Personally, when I feel nauseous just looking at it, I know I’m done.

H-P: Do you have a particular connection with Pasadena? We know your children attend Sequoyah School, but is there anything else?

HT: One of the final sections of the novel takes place in the Arroyo Seco, in that hazy area near the border between South Pasadena and Pasadena. I use the Craftsman architecture, with its Midwestern influences, as a symbol of Maureen’s desire to return to the values of openness and simplicity of her youth. Also, there are a couple of Sequoyah parents and their kids who served as inspirations for characters.

Héctor Tobar, author of The Barbarian Nurseries
He will be reading at the L.A. Central Library
Thursday, January 26th, 7 p.m.
630 W. 5th Street, L.A., lapl.org/central

Actualizing Your Dream   8 comments

I am powering through the last edit of my manuscript before it heads off to the copyeditor, so time is even more sparse than usual (with which I’m sure all of you are quite familiar). Subsequently, this week I am sharing a post I wrote for Hometown Pasadena.

As writers, we must also be business women in order to market and promote our books—and as this may not come naturally to some of us (that would be me), I thought this conference looked intriguing. I like the concept and even the words in which they promote it—very real, down to earth, welcoming and inclusive.

Actualizing Your Dream

In the 1970’s, women burned bras, marched, and raised their voices, pushing their agenda for equality and led by the likes of Gloria SteinemBetty Friedan and Bella Abzug.

Economic and social constraints slowly and eventually loosened, and women (who, let’s be real, have always had to forge their own way) said, watch out world, here we come. The intervening forty years have seen women break through all sorts of glass ceilings, in all sorts of fields (bravo and cue the applause).

Yet, there is still work to be done.

To address this, Nada Jones of ltd365 will host her 2nd annual ltdLIVE:  A Conference for Entrepreneurial Women at the Pasadena Convention Center. Their mission, she says, is to “help women actualize their life’s passion through entrepreneurship and make the process inspirational, accessible and achievable.”

Lian Dolan, author of "Helen of Pasadena"

Lian Dolan, author of Helen of Pasadenaprior host of the award-winning talk show Satellite Sisters and current author of the blog and podcast The Chaos Chronicleswill be master of ceremonies.

Keynote speakers will be Kate Somerville of Skin Health Pyramid and Lee Rhodes of glassybaby (product pictured above). Miss Representation, a film by Jennifer Siebel Newsom which premiered in 2011 at the Sundance Film Festival and was broadcast on OWN (Oprah Winfrey Network), will be screened the evening before the conference with Newsom holding a Q&A afterwards. There will also be a meet-up with actress, producer and talk show host Ricki Lake.

Break-out sessions on February 1st and master class seminars on the 2nd will focus on the needs of women in every stage of business, from start-ups needing to know the tools required to begin their own business to existing enterprises that want to grow and expand. One discussion will consider what makes women approach business differently than men, and how they can use that to their advantage.

The Financial Literacy session on Wednesday morning is described as “everything you need to know about money—it’s not evil, just misunderstood,” and at the panel that follows you’ll “hear four women share the good, the bad and the ugly of how they do it.”

Finally, the ProFounder Swap & Meet event is where you can make contact with what Nada Jones believes is “your greatest existing resource—your community.”

ltdLIVE: a Conference for Entrepreneurial Woman
Wednesday and Thursday, February 1st & 2nd, 8 a.m.-6 p.m.
Tickets: $150-$225
For more info, visit ltd365LIVE.com.

© 2012 Kat Ward

Rose Parade “Occupy”ed   12 comments

A phone call. My third one in this new year 2012. The first one was an inquiry into the opening I have for a new member at my photo studio; the second was a solicitation. So, the first call, if it pans out, would end up putting money in my pocket, while the second call was trying to snatch dollars out of it. I was quite eager to find out what lay behind call #3.

“I’ve got two extra tickets to the Rose Parade. Do you and Bella want to go?”

Hmmm. This opportunity wouldn’t be putting much-needed shekels into my pocket, but neither would it be siphoning them out.

“Absolutely!” I said.

The hour was early—a 5 a.m. alarm and I needed a shower; I needed coffee. The roads were congested; it was the busiest Sunday of auto and pedestrian traffic that I’ve ever seen. Did I say it was early? Like, still dark out?

Once we were dropped off and walking towards Pasadena’s Colorado Boulevard (the main route of the parade), I kept wondering where our seats would be—looking to my left, looking down at my ticket, looking right—until my friend stopped in front of a security checkpoint where tickets were acknowledged, bags rummaged and conformists flagged through. It was like being allowed to walk the red carpet—very exclusive.

We also flagged a little humping our holiday-heavy arses up the subsequent hill, but imagine our early morning, bleary-eyed reaction when we saw that our seats were right on the street—in the front row.

After inundating my friend with much kudos, I paused; I could hear money disappearing from my pocket. I now owed her a steak dinner in return for these rockin’ seats and her generous last-minute invitation (though, if I was the second or third call she’d made, can a $23 steak become a $6 burrito?).

Our two girls went up to their fourth row seats (backrests; thumbs up) while my friend and I set up camp right across from the main grandstand and the t.v. announcers. If you watch the replay of the parade on t.v. and see the big brown Norton Simon Museum in the background; if you use your remote to go frame-by-frame; and if you have a seriously expensive high definition television, you can periodically pick out my daughter’s pink jacket and my blinding white shirt with a black blob up where my eye should be which is my camera. There it is for all to see: My 15 Minutes of Fame (it actually adds up to a total of approximately 4.23 minutes, but who’s counting?).

So, with our feet on the street, the rising sun to our left and the swiftly moving parade to our right, I finally had my first Rose Parade experience. Well, no—all right—my first time was about six years ago when it rained during the parade for the first time in fifty years. We were up off a side street at the very end of the parade route behind masses of early arrivals. Though the floats were incredible, with our rain-soaked shoes, the raw and chilly air, and our distressed (okay, persistently whiny) friend’s child who only wanted to go home, the experience was not one for the books—so nah, I’m not counting that one.

This year’s event was held on a cloudless day, the temperature rising quickly from “pretty damn chilly” to “yes, we’re all getting burned only on the left side our of faces cuz our heads are looking right towards the oncoming floats”. But being so up close and personal was mesmerizing. The choice of Grand Marshall, J.R. Martinez, an Iraqi vet who suffered burns over 40% of his body and that disfigured his face, was inspiring, and I’m sure he rode the tide of our collective emotions for the entire 5 1/2 mile parade route. Two hours flew by. Amazingly, my camera battery held out despite the 712 images I shot; that evening, it took me a second or two to connect the dots when I realized how stiff and sore my shoulders and arms were.

As the official Rose Parade float came towards us and unknown persons announced “That’s all folks! Thanks for coming!” the stands began to quickly empty—about 10,000 people in need of a potty break.

But then, lo and behold, another parade came along. Yes, it was pushed to one side by the uniformed sherriffs and didn’t have fancy floats or a gazillion tubas, but the signage was compelling. “Occupy” had arrived. I thought, Now we’re talking!

Well, the second they could be seen by the grandstand occupants a rain of boos were hurled down upon them and I thought, the 99% is booing the 99%!

So, of course, I climbed up onto my seat and started clapping and hooting and hollering my support (much to my daughter’s chagrin). This parade was not to be dismissed. I forced my now rebellious burning muscles to raise my camera once again and began snapping shots. Sure, some of the marchers looked a tad on the fringe, maybe a meal or three short, a car away from calling a box a home, a week or so away from a hot shower, but as far as I can figure that doesn’t exclude them from being part of the 99%.

The vast majority of the marchers looked like people you see all day as you go around running errands, stopping in shops, asking for assistance, and exchanging pleasantries. They were White, Black, Latino, and Asian. They were Lacoste wearing conservative-types; overweight suburban mom-types; very thin suburban, tight yoga leggings, mother-types; groovy haircut, rockin’ leather jacket creative-types; neatly groomed, button-down shirt tucked in grandfather-types—America’s melting pot—all right there as you please.

I jumped down to walk into the crowd for a few more shots and walked right up on the last “floats” of the parade—riot police riding shotgun on their armored vehicle. Now, they received a HUGE round of applause from the crowd still in the bleachers. Once again, I’d like to point out that the 99% were responding to the 99%—simply another category within the 99%. Because the last I heard, cops (short for constable on patrol; not a slur) aren’t millionaires. I think it’s safe to say that more than a few officers have lost a home to foreclosure in the last five years, are worried about having to declare bankruptcy because of exorbitant health care costs despite having insurance, or saw their savings or pensions wiped out during the financial collapse.

Happily, the officers didn’t look interested in having any sort of a confrontation—their two vehicles simply slogged behind the pack in the background.

It was rather odd, though, to see one segment of the 99% booing another segment of the 99% which was being followed by yet another segment of the 99%.

The last segment was simply ignoring us all, clear in the knowledge that they had a mile to trek to get to their car and they were busy calculating the time it would take to stand in line at the nearest porta-potty versus kicking it into high gear, making it to the car, then sitting in a traffic jam of 1,000’s, all before they could relieve themselves in the comfort of their own commode.

My personal posse (a percentage of the 99% that’s such a speck I can’t even begin to calculate that in my non-mathematical mind) stood patiently by, letting me enjoy the moment—and for that I love them 100%.

* And my friend’s getting the dinner of her choice.

© Kat Ward 2012

Thank you, Hollywood; Hello, South Pasadena   11 comments

Hectic Hollywood

What a difference 24 minutes makes (and 15.46 miles). From procrastination to proliferation; from unfocused to driven; from stuck to inspired—thank you South Pasadena.

After eleven years of living in the Hollywood flats (south of Sunset Boulevard), I felt claustrophobic in the mishmash of my neighborhood. Initially, I loved being in the thick of it. Going through a divorce with an 8-month-old baby in my care, the apartment I found was affordable and in a building with great neighbors (mostly Latinas, every one of them generous and friendly). I like that I was raising my daughter in the “real” world of haves and have-nots, with all colors and cultures. She was also exposed to the world of the homeless who talk with themselves, shout out to the ethos, huddle in doorways, sleep in boxes, or stop to say “Hello” as we sat eating outside at Baja Fresh. She could see that they were different, some even scary, but also that they were people; people without homes, without comfy beds that had sheets, blankets and pillows, without their own bathroom, kitchen and a sofa for lounging (everything that she had).

Initially, this world spurred on my writing. Late at night as I looked out my window, the city lights reflecting off the low clouds creating a yellow-green hue to my world, I wrote diligently. But years and years of police sirens, ambulances, car horns, loud drunks and party-goers were wringing out my last nerve—my hand had to constantly hold the t.v. clicker so I could raise or lower the volume depending on how expressive the neighborhood was feeling. I began to feel bland and uncreative; too many hours spent like dead weight on the couch. Down to a cellular level, I was aching for something else.

Pasadena Garden by Diggers Garden Club

Artist Jennifer Frank introduced me to a woman who had raised her kids in South Pas. They had attended SPHS (after paying tuition for the Sequoyah School for eight years, I was doggedly looking for a free high school). I met her while walking in the Arroyo. That very afternoon, she called me up and told me of an apartment for rent right across the street from her house. I wheedled and charmed the landlords (had to; bad credit) and got just what I needed—a bigger apartment that doesn’t share a single wall—finally a quiet night’s sleep versus my neighbor washing his dishes at midnight, dumpster divers right outside my window, or tenacious helicopters with search lights. Best of all, a tub length shower versus an upright, coffin-sized stall shower and a 10 minute drive to my daughter’s school! I suddenly had an extra two hours on my hands five days a week. Divine.

With my time, I have edited my friend Lori Bertazzon’s self-help workbook Where Are You Stuck? (very little money, but an absolutely thrilling endeavor); have a local professional copyediting my novel Amy’s Own and have started this blog loosely based on my current novel Keeping Sane, and Other Aspirations.

The biggest ego-boost has been meeting (again through Jennifer Frank) and being hired by Colleen Bates of Prospect Park Media, a small publishing company in Pasadena. Colleen authored the outstanding guidebook Hometown Pasadena. She created a website of the same name and, after doing a few freebie posts, I was hired to write about local events, kid-focused fun, new shops, charity fundraisers and do monthly interviews. I get to go to businesses, use my photography skills and write up stories. I get to read books, be introduced to someone’s artwork or music, formulate questions and conduct interviews. I am having the time of my life.

I stay up until two in the morning, sleep five hours and awaken with the alarm to get my girl ready for school and don’t miss a beat. One day when she was off on a Sequoyah School camping trip, I stayed up all night, not going to bed until 1 p.m. the next day—I was so amped with ideas, I couldn’t wait to put them all down on paper. I was walking on air. Well actually, I was walking on Oxley Street. My new street lined with California Craftsman bungalows and endless trees—where I can walk in the quiet (even at midnight), and let ideas germinate, words gush and adrenalin pump.

Thank you, Hollywood; you did me well, but I have to let you go.

Now, my spirit is excited, my mind humming, my writing hand aching, and my composition books are filling up. Hello, San Gabriel Valley.

*Thank you to Petrea Burchard and her blog Pasadena Daily Photo for inviting me to guest blog this piece; she’s a wonderful photographer with an intriguing eye. I recommend checking out her work.

Thank You, Mississippi, Ohio, Arizona & Maine!   8 comments

I was up until 1 a.m. on Tuesday night, not following the various vote counts like a socially, politically invested person should. Instead, I was writing posts, researching, reading sites, and taking a walk around the block; writing another scene for my new novel, typing it up, printing it out, and immediately marking it up with pen (I hate to waste paper, by god, but I love holding my work and reading it—I think I edit better that way, for whatever reason. Sorry, tree).

I woke up on Wednesday, the alarm invading my skull precisely at 6:30. Luckily, that morning my daughter was none too communicative, so I could remain in my muy cansada fog and hope that grinding the coffee beans would rattle me alert, ’cause the sound usually really pisses me off (for no rational reason). No. It didn’t wake me up. Yes. It did piss me off.

I barely managed to pack my girl’s lunch—fruit, veggies, sandwich, yogurt. Hmmm…no yogurt. Oh, yes, there’s one far in the back past some sticky stuff on the shelf that I really should clean someday. Greek yogurt with açai and blueberries. Expired three weeks ago. Hmmm…well, it is yogurt. Isn’t it naturally sour and kind of funky on a good day, anyway?

Bowl, spoon, Cap’n Crunch Berries. Glass of milk. All thumped onto the coffee table to await above-mentioned daughter. I keep saying that we need to find something different for breakfast. She says, Nah. Since she started her gluten-free diet because of stomach pains we couldn’t explain, she has hooked on to the Cap’n ’cause she says it’s gluten free. For some reason, “gluten-free” made me think “healthy.” Hmmm. Mom’s learning curve. Behind the curve. I did make gluten-free pancakes last weekend. They were tasty. Rather more crêpe than traditional American pancake, which made me feel that maybe I’d lose a few pounds, as long as I discounted the slab of butter melting in my pool of warm syrup. Yeah, my daughter licked her plate; she promises me that she doesn’t behave like that in public. I said, thank you. Better a Neanderthal at home than a Neanderthal in public. Plus, I was too tired. I licked my plate, too.

Back to Wednesday (see, I’m still tired and rambling). Finally, I have to throw on clothes, make a pass at my face (eye-crud, drool cake, etc.), brush my teeth, give three brush strokes to the hair (sides and back), grab the keys, remember my purse, switch out glasses for sunglasses and go take my daughter to school—officially stepping into the day. Sometimes, my daughter will start to open up, talk a smidgen, I figure out how to put a sentence together and within three minutes we’re laughing and having the a.m. sillies. I like that.

Many times, my morning fog takes a while to lift, which is okay since many mornings, my girl listens to her music with her headphones on and we’re quiet. Sometimes, the start of the engine sets off an assault of left-wing talk radio, which transports me to my happy place; her, not so much. She’ll snap off the button and race through the FM dial (which feels a bit like hearing the coffee grinder). If she stops on a country song or some techno beat, I gauge how far we are from school. If I only have 60-90 seconds to go, I’ll sweat it out. If I have 91 seconds or more, I quite clearly and succinctly say, “Uh-uh.” She may throw me a look, even pop the dial to turn it off, but she won’t fight me (and that’s all that matters in that time and space continuum).

Either way, her school eventually appears. “Goodbye” is thrown both ways, sometimes with spring in the delivery, sometimes as flat, heavy and dull as a cast iron pan. Sometimes I get an “I love you” from ten feet away and I smile that she’s not too self-conscious about letting everyone know it and hear it. Yeah, I may be sluggish, sloppy, groggy bear-mom this morning, but that pretty and bright girl right over there (see, that one there), she loves me, and let you all know it. Ha! Okay, getting loopy. I need more coffee.

Home. Coffee in hand. Warming hand. Yummy, strong and creamy. Click on main page. Whaaa…wait…huh?…whoa…you have got to be…Holy Crap City…really? Really, really? Oh, yes! Thank you, thank you, America, thank you! Adrenalin is spiking, caffeine is coursing, fingers now flying, eyes now consuming, body tilted forward in full engagement mode—bring it! Feed me! This is delicious!

And what was creating this reaction you ask?

Mississippi voted down the “personhood” amendment to their state constitution that would have declared that the millisecond a human egg became fertilized it was to be considered a real person and as such was guaranteed all the rights and protections afforded actual real persons (who actually have brains, heads, limbs, nervous systems, beating hearts, breathing apparatuses—and not just the potential to have them). The amendment would also have banned abortions even in cases of incest and rape. I believe in the right of a woman to have a choice, even though I’m not sure I personally could make the choice to have an abortion. But, I’ll be damned that if my girl gets raped and becomes pregnant as a result, that she’s going to be forced by law to carry it to term and give birth. No effing way. Ain’t happening.

Ohio restored collective bargaining rights for 350,000 of their public employees. Yes, I think we should let the men and women who chase criminals, race to save our lives, race into burning buildings, dedicate themselves to teaching our children—yeah, I think cops, medics, firemen and our school teachers deserve the clout they can achieve as a group to negotiate the best salaries, contracts and pensions they possibly can. When we live in a capitalist society that’s like Pavlov’s dog when it comes to profits, we need something in place to level the playing field. So, thank you, unions. Thank you, Ohio.

Arizona, for the first time in their history, recalled a state senator. Russell Pearce is the “lovely” gentleman who authored S.B. 1070 which was passed in 2010 (prompting a lawsuit from the federal government) and would have allowed the police to stop and ask for someone’s immigration papers even if there was no overt sign of a law being broken. The prerequisite used for this was “Goddammit, I wanna stop every brown person as far as the eye can see and see if we can kick their butts to the other side of our border cuz that will solve all of our problems.” Oh, no, sorry, that wasn’t it. The prerequisite was “reasonable suspicion.”

(Psst, my daughter’s pretty mocha-colored. Thankfully, we’ve seen the Grand Canyon as I’ve been adamant that Arizona will not get on my short list of holiday destinations anytime soon. Hopefully, this recall is a sign of sanity restored because, well, I kind of dig AZ.)

Maine restored same-day registration voting. Ah, good ol’ Maine. Hail, rain, sleet or snow, ya can’t stop them folks from casting their vote. Thank you for coming out.

Faith restored, my adrenalin-caffeine buzz leveling out, my quiet joy and satisfaction held the corners of my mouth in a pleasant place for hours and hours. It was a good day.

© 2011 article by Kat Ward

Keeping Sane, and Other Aspirations – a novel excerpt   2 comments

Drifting Away by Aimi-chuu

An excerpt from the novel I’m currently writing about Samantha Stosur, a 13-year-old American girl living in the 3rd Millennium.

Can she feel the desperation in my eyes? But the annoyance, hurt and anger shooting out of hers immediately absorbs and dismisses whatever’s coming out of mine. She has squashed me without thinking.

Who is this being? She’s talking (I know it’s my mother), but the words are muffled like she’s on the other side of extra thick glass, even when she’s holding me. The rock-hard coating around me prevents me from feeling her. I know her hair is shiny because I can see it, but I can’t feel it under my fingers. This is what an anxiety attack feels like.

My tongue feels so swollen in my mouth that I think I can’t talk; the evening continues in silence.

What do you do when your tummy’s flipping like when Uncle Ross tosses flapjacks three feet into the air and they smack back down into the frying pan, only to be flipped again and again even though they’re crying out, “I’m done. I’m done!”

Is that what Mrs. Doweel feels, her tummy squirmy as she’s walking her fingers along each nub of her rosary beads? Or, does her direct line to Jesus (Hay-soos) bring her inner calm? Where’s my Haysoos when I need one? Uncle Ross ain’t playing that role. Melo may look the part, but he has too many voices in his head already to be able to make room to hear mine. Maybe Nancy could be the female version, be my La Haysoosita. But when she’s stoned, it’s like she’s trekking in some land and I don’t have the proper I.D.

I’m just afraid. I feel like I’m shivering from the inside out. No one can see anything, but I know I’m shaking uncontrollably. Rattling inside, like Mom’s car engine that started to knock around, faster and faster, getting louder and more ominous—until it stopped. Dead. Right in the middle of the highway that stretches from the Guadalupe Mountains to Santa Fe. One of the goddamnedest strips of road you ever saw; no structure of any kind in sight from horizon to horizon—and that includes straining to see any teensy-weensy sign of human life or dwelling while slowly, slowly turning in a complete circle. All this with the sun setting and darkness slamming down like a final curtain. Frosting on the cake: Mom was off her meds and had no scotch. I’m feeling that kind of scared.

This body is a shell I hardly know I’m inhabiting. Sometimes, if I reach really hard, stretch out my leg as far as it will go, my big toe can briefly touch Mother Earth, and momentarily I remember what it feels like to feel grounded, solid within myself, my body a vessel to fuel my brain and feed my mind, intellect, thoughts, emotions and decisions. But when life cracks wide open, what’s left to decide?

My big toe breaks from the earth and I am untethered. Why should I care what I do with this body? It’s now not even a shell, but a dry, brittle husk—and I’m no longer the tenant.


© 2011 Excerpt from Keeping Sane, and Other Aspirations by Kat Ward

My W.A.Y.S. Journey – Day 2   2 comments

Blogging on my day-to-day experience doing the Where Are You Stuck? workbook by Lori Bertazzon.

(The first part when writing about the word-of-the-day is to just free write; purely an emotional response.)

Michel Keck at michelkeck.com

Day 2 word: Resistance

I’ve always thought of resistance as a good thing. The oppressed resist their oppressors—the American Revolution, Arab Spring, Libya. Blacks and women resist racism and sexism. We have to resist to achieve equality because the world will not just offer it up, especially when “they” consider you outside the norm, a member of the “other.”

And then, there’s resistance to change. Trust and believe in my talents and abilities? Resist! I resist truly believing in myself, which then handcuffs and paralyzes me.

When resistance is a societal reaction, great! When the resistance is within me, to me, FOR me, then I need to address it and change.

Lori says resistance is information. Okaaaay…I’ll take a look at that. Harrumph.

(The questions posed next in the workbook ask us to respond objectively, to be our own observer.)

Did you find any beliefs contrary to what you thought you believed or contrary to what you want? Resisting myself, resisting my belief and trust in my talent is definitely contrary to what I want.

Where did that old belief come from? Society as a whole taking the macro view; my family when looking through the micro-lens. My family was supportive of my art, but I received the strong, silent message that creating art was not a career of. Art is admirable, but it’s not a career. So, when I feel drawn and compelled to create, I feel like a failure from the very start—like I have to drown my joy, dreams and desires just as I’m about to jump gleefully and giddily into the world’s greatest waterhole.

As a teenager, I had rebelled via my depression for so long, but didn’t really get a lot of pleasure from my art. I then put it away for years. Then, when I reconnected to writing and it truly was the time to rebel (not through depression, but through creating art), instead I towed the line.

Are you willing to let your old belief go? Yes! …but, that’s a bit scary; not sure I can.

Claude Monet's "Water Lilies: the Clouds"

How could you positively flip that old belief? What belief would you like to have? I resist the conventional definition of what having a “responsible” career means. I believe that my talent of writing is a gift and an asset to myself and society as a whole since it is unique to me, and no one else has my particular “voice.” I believe that focusing on my writing and helping other people’s quality art works emerge into the public forum and receive attention and recognition is a worthwhile and necessary goal.

Is there anything keeping you from believing it (i.e. fear, block, resistance, negative thought, low vibrating energy)? Hell, yeah! Scared to death of failing. Big talk about following dreams, yet I’m almost half a century old, got 5 cents in my pocket and nothing I’ve created so far has ever been thoroughly realized. Fear, blocks, resistance, the whole lot—they’re hanging on tight!

Take a deep breath. Now, let all that go. Read you new belief.

End of day 2…

© 2011 Article by Kat Ward