Getting personal with scars


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Thank you to Shawna over at The Honeyed Quill for posting this emergency writing prompt. The beauty of being in a group like #LinkYourLife is that we all share a sense of power through writing. When one member needs a hand, we rally.

Here’s Shawna’s call to action:

We have all been hurt. Write the hurt.

We’ve all had a moment of regret. Write the regret

We have all triumphed. Write the triumph

Ok, I’m in. But now, what to write.

I’ve had all those moments. And more. I’ve been betrayed, I’ve been hurt, I’ve been abused. None of us gets to the other side of life without scars. Right?

Scar tissue is defined as a tissue formed during the healing process. It replaces normal skin after damage. Replaces normal.

A scar does not cover an injury. It replaces what once was. Scars change normal into something different. It replaces. A scar is not a reminder of an injury. A scar is a permanent change to the part of the body that was injured.

What about emotional scars? The ones we can’t see. What is changed? What is replaced?

Regret has been a close companion of mine because I hate making mistakes. The more I try to live without mistakes, the more likely it is that I screw up. I used to believe I regretted more of my life than I enjoyed.

People like to say we learn from our mistakes. That’s a lie. We don’t learn from mistakes. We don’t change our behavior unless we replace the actions and emotions leading to the scar with something else.

There were several defining moments in my early childhood. They changed the trajectory of my life because instead of believing I was worthy of love for just being myself, I began to believe my value was directly related to what I could offer another human being.

Those wounds did not heal. They did not scar. Therefore, I spent most of my adult life trapped in a vicious cycle of trying to prove I was worthy of love.

I didn’t learn from my mistakes. I continued allowing others to define my worth.

Nothing changed until my life literally collapsed. It sounds dramatic. And it was. My daughters and I fled an abuser with the clothes on our back and the things we could fit in a moving van. I was lucky. I had the strength of my family and friends who helped me pack while the abuser was at work. We were four counties away before my phone started ringing.

I spent the next several months in hiding.

My greatest fear, that he would find us, came true. I got a call from the school my daughter attended. She was hysterical. He was there. I called the police.

I called the police again and again. He waited outside the school property. His truck would appear in my rearview. He showed up at the grocery store. I’d drive around the block, duck into an alley, hoping he wouldn’t find out where we lived.

The police were sorry. Despite the restraining order, there was nothing they could do if he was in a public place. We lived in fear.

About this time, I realized how deep my wounds were. My self-loathing festered. The fact that I couldn’t even keep my children safe finally forced me to see a counselor.

She talked about Hypervigilance, PTSD, Depression. Terms I’d heard, but had no idea applied to me.

The pain from debriding old wounds almost crippled me. The little being that holds our deepest truths felt exposed without cover. But with healing comes scars.

And scars change everything.

What were once open wounds in my soul are now scarred. Beautifully scarred into something that wasn’t there before. Love, strength, acceptance, peace.

The system failed me and my daughters, but we did not fail each other. My family and friends did not fail. I learned that despite mistakes and regrets, my life held more joy than sorrow, more happiness than pain.

My message for anyone fighting to cover emotional wounds, open them up. Let them heal from the inside. Let the world see how beautiful our scars can be. My scars carry power and I wouldn’t change them for all the normal skin in the world.



15 reasons writers reject rejection


TMR_1683 (2)Most writers are familiar with rejection. “Thank you for your submission…” blah blah blah. Why do we keep writing and submitting despite demoralizing auto-responses?

Let’s examine the top 15 reasons

  1. Writers are angst-ridden and use rejection as a form of self-flagellation
  2. Writers are too stubbornly isolated to realize no one cares about their ideas
  3. Writers suffer from Pollyanna Complex and know the next submission will be the one to make them famous
  4. Mom said she liked their writing
  5. Writers feel the need to share their limited and biased opinions
  6. The postman said he liked their writing
  7. No one can shift goals like a writer. “Today I will write 1000 words.” Five hours later, four of which were spent on twitter, “653 is close enough.”
  8. Writers want to feel the pain of rejection so they can savor the sweet honey of success
  9. All writers believe they will produce the next great American novel
  10. The great American novel is a myth
  11. The neighbor three doors down with a lazy eye said she liked their writing
  12. Thirty years ago their high school English teacher said they had potential
  13. She liked their writing
  14. Writers are steeped in unrealistic expectations and manage to wrap fragile egos in rhino hide
  15. There is no #15 because no one knows why a writer keeps writing

And yet, we keep writing. There is something inside screaming to be heard. We hope and believe that we can change the world with words.

A writer keeps writing despite rejections, despite inner critic whispers of inferiority, despite the pain of failure.

A writer doesn’t give up.

Is a picture really worth a thousand words?

Camera, Words

She took the last three steps to crest the peak, legs cramping with each footfall. Her own heavy breathing the only sound for miles. Blood raced beneath her skin, creating the sensation of a million invisible bees. She turned slowly, palms up, soaking in 360 degrees worth of healing power.

I could write that, or I could show you this.

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You might get the feeling of being at the top of a mountain with peaks in the distance. Or you might wonder where the steam is coming from. If I told you this picture was taken at Lassen Volcanic Park and the air smelled like sulfur. Those words would tell you more about the image than ten minutes of analyzing.

Is a picture really worth a thousand words? Yes and no. Words and pictures both evoke emotion. Writers direct the emotion of readers. Photographers capture emotion for observers. They are both powerful forms of communication.


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Sky view at Calaveras Big Trees State Park. Do you feel small? I did.


A good writer will lead the reader to feel what the main character feels. Horror readers should have moments of racing hearts and sweaty palms. Romance readers should put the book down with smiles and sighs.

Photography is more subjective. The image of a child playing will cause one person to smile nostalgically, but the next to shrug.


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The Wish


A gorgeous desert scene to one person will look like a wasteland to another.


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Great Basin desert at Smoke Creek


The ocean is soothing to me, but sets my mom’s nerves on edge. Photography evokes emotions through the filter of the person viewing it.


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Undulating crash of the waves at Pacifica, California


Whether you’re a writer, a painter or a photographer (or dabble in all three like me), the most important thing we can do is connect with other humans. Build a world that enriches humanity.


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Blood moon from the back yard



If you have that gift, please share it with the world. Only light can break darkness.

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And the $50 #LinkYourLife Winner Is . . .


Open Thought Vortex

Open Thought Vortex and The Honeyed Quill teamed up to celebrate the 1 year anniversary of #LinkYourLife by giving the birthday gift to one dedicated participant. A #LinkYourLife challenge ensued, and today we are finally announcing our winner!

Not sure what #LinkYourLife is? It began as a Friday-only hashtag on Twitter, a chance for tag users to take their connections beyond the page by sharing blog posts, bylines and bios that invite readers/viewers to get to know some aspect of the artists. Anyone can participate and everyone is welcome. 

OTV Editor, Shawna Ayoub Ainslie, pioneered the vision, but OTV Publisher Shareen Mansfield is the spine of the movement. Shareen is socially gifted, much like an octopus with eight waterproof cell phones, so she took Twitter by storm and has continued to host the growing pool of contributors every Friday since. Meanwhile, Shawna (whose gifts are of a quieter nature) moved over to…

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A Fable of Diversity


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When the world gets too heavy, when our belief structures crumble at our feet. We must move our feet to a better vantage point. A narrow mind never sees the whole picture.


There once lived a farmer on a fertile stretch of land. Each morning his eyes appreciated the diversity of his crops. He cupped steaming coffee in gnarled hands and planned his day. Fertilize the almonds, water the peaches and weed the corn. He gave each of his crops exactly what they needed. And they flourished.

Along came a professor. The farmer admired the learned man. “I always wanted to go to school to learn more about growing crops.”

“Your crops are doing well.” The professor’s beak sniffed. “But it is not appropriate to treat them all differently. They need to be treated exactly the same to thrive.”

The farmer scratched his chin. “Each crop has their own needs to produce the best yield. The strawberries don’t use the same fertilizer as the almonds, the tomatoes don’t need the same amount of water as the peaches.”

The professor’s face mottled purple-red. “That is discrimination! I will tell your neighbors you don’t love each crop equally. They will shun you for hating the peaches.”

“But I love the peaches.” The farmer cried. “I love all my crops.”

“Prove it by treating them all the same.”

The farmer exhaled and slumped his shoulders. Maybe the professor is right. What does a farmer with no education know? “Yes sir, you must be right. I will treat them all the same starting today.”

The professor nodded. “You are making the honorable decision. I’ll be back in a month. And remember, your neighbors will be watching.”

Each morning for the next month the farmer held his coffee and watched the crops decline. He treated them all the same. And they suffered. The strawberries needed higher nitrogen, the peaches needed higher potassium, the tomatoes needed less water, the corn choked on the weeds. His crops cried out for help, but he knew if he added a fertilizer to one and not the other, his neighbors would consider him evil and tell the professor.

Each month the professor stopped by. Each month the farmer tried to convince him the plan didn’t work. “But my crops! They’re failing.”

“Then you’re not working hard enough.”

“They have different requirements. They can’t thrive like this.”

“In time they will understand that to be happy, they all must be treated the same.”

The farmer walked away with his head down. The crops were losing their diversity, and it was his fault. He couldn’t stand up to the learned man and his neighbors for fear they would burn his house down and call him a heretic.

Several years later every farm in the region looked exactly the same. They all grew one kind of fruit and all the plants were treated the same. The professor clapped in joy as families starved. “This is marvelous! Look at all these plants. Equal at last.”

Deep lines around the farmer’s mouth furrowed even deeper. “It’s because we lost everything but this one variety. We have no more farms. Just factories churning out worthless fruit to a market so full no one is getting paid. We will all lose our land.”

“But you have equality!”

“No. we have uniformity.” The farmer bowed his head. “I lost the most precious gift of all. Diversity.”


How going home can boost creativity

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Home is old blankets and new memories.

Spending the night at your parent’s house – in your old room creates several interesting realizations.

  1. You (plus your significant other and two-year-old, who suddenly possesses 12 legs spinning in every direction) no longer fit on a double bed. You realize how small the room, bed, and floor space of your teenage castle is.
  2. While you might find that bookshelf full of high school yearbooks, random pictures and angst-ridden notebooks nostalgic; your significant other certainly does not. You remember how tough the teenage years are and hope you can save your children from having to experience the trauma and heartbreak, knowing you cannot.
  3. Mom really is the best cook in the world. Your significant other agrees with mouthfuls of flakey biscuits and gravy. Your two-year-old suddenly has 12 hands and Mom laughs when he knocks over the orange juice, remembering a time you did the same.

Going home boosts creativity because childhood is a time of high emotion. The smell of home is bacon on the stove and dad’s hair product. Nostalgia has currency. It infuses your writing with real characters doing real things.

Remember how it feels to hang off the edge of your double bed with feet in your back. Think about how it smells to walk into Mom’s kitchen with flour on the counter and spiced gravy on the stove.

Put yourself in your significant other’s brain. What is he smelling, doing, thinking?  It’s not his home or memories. Is he smiling into a mouthful of biscuits, but silently wishing breakfast was a pile of fruit and toast like he had growing up? Does he wonder about that  high school prom picture with you standing next to Jonny Whatsisname?

Real life boosts creativity because it evokes emotion. Sometimes we can name the emotion, but sometimes the best thing to do is write, paint or camera it out.



Kindness Starts Inside


We wonder why there is so much hate in the world. Intolerance. Shame. Bullying.

We watch the news and weep. Horrified.

We look in the mirror, step on a scale, compare ourselves day by day, every second wishing we were different – better. More.

We wonder why the intolerance for others.

We cannot give to others what we first do not give ourselves. Love. Accept. Appreciate. Yourself.

Kindness starts inside.





A Modest Proposal For the Elimination of Racism and Sexism, and Abolishing Unemployment for Minorities.


I have come to the conclusion that the entire United States of America is racist and sexist.  One cannot open a news feed without hearing dire accounts of the bigoted country in which we live.  Therefore, I humbly propose a solution to this epidemic.   It saddens me that we have come to this crossroads. However, in the interest of humanity and the benefit of our country, I propose we kill all white people.  It may sound extreme at first, but hear me out.

White people have their own, subversive language.  I saw an account the other day – a viral video of minorities rejecting the phrase ‘well spoken’.  To be well spoken is to sound white and the only reason to sound white is because whites think they’re better than everyone else.  We cannot, in good conscience, allow people to be well spoken.  Only misinformed people would perpetuate the idea that people who attend college are somehow more educated than those who do not.

When white people came to this country they took, in greed and hostility, what rightfully belonged to other peoples.  This is not something that was ever done before white people came to America.  The native people lived in harmony with each other and their environment.  There was never a time when tribes warred and took prisoners from other native peoples.  Never, in the history of humanity, did other races and cultures invade a territory and subject the peoples living within. White people must repay the debt owed by their forefathers.

Once all the white people have been eliminated from The United States of America, we should turn our attention to the brutal reality of sexism.  The only way to achieve a resolution is to eliminate women as well.  “Oh wait!” I hear you say. “If we kill the women how will we procreate?”  Everyone knows a woman is only useful because of her ability to produce offspring.  There is a scientific solution to this already. The artificial uterus allowing a man to carry a child.  “What about eggs?”  No problem.  Science has developed that as well.

The reality is, women have unfortunately outlasted their usefulness to society.  The only solution to sexism is to have a single sex society.  Since men are the true thinkers and producers, it will have to be the women who sacrifice themselves for the sake of the country.

These solutions sound extreme.  We are living in extreme times and cannot allow the rampant racism and sexism tearing apart our country to continue.  I offer this solution with a heavy heart. For the good of the country, it is the only way forward.  All of America’s problems would be solved with these two solutions.

Without white people or women to compete for jobs, there would be plenty of work for all minorities.  Especially the nasty work of disposing of the millions of bodies.  Everyone knows minorities excel at doing the work white people refuse to do.  We would need to open the border, only for minority men though, to increase the workforce.  American economy would soar and we would eliminate the national debt.

I’m sure as other countries see the benefit of a society comprised entirely of male minorities, they will follow suit.

It is with heavy heart that I bid you farewell, as I am both a woman, and by all outward appearances, white.


The Stray


His soulful gaze caught mine, then shifted back toward the overflowing bin. Stamped pewter tags rattle on his collar, evidence he’d once had a home.

Are you lost?

A dirty neck and patchwork coat are all I see as he rummages through the trash.

“Want this?” I offer my untouched half sandwich, gentle as a supplicate.

He backs away from my hand, eyes wide and distrustful.

“It’s ok, I won’t hurt you.” I say.

Hunger battles with suspicion. War rages on his face. Hunger wins. He takes the food.

“’Preciate it.” The soldier says.

As he walks away, he tucks his dog-tags back under a greasy collar.


Failure is our Friend


Yesterday I lost my mind when the dog snatched a stuffed lion out of the play area. I chased him around the kitchen island and noticed the orange juice container had been left out. Is it too late for a mimosa I wondered as I pried the slimy stuffed toy out of his jowls. (PS – is there a mimosa cut-off time?)

Between my novel, a few articles I’m doing for money (hopefully), and regular family life, I haven’t made time to paint. I can feel it in every short-tempered thing I do.

Tomorrow I will paint.

I got up early, made coffee, crept out to the thorny rose bush in my yard and cut two blooms.  The rush of starting a new project, more potent than caffeine.

About an hour later euphoria turned to despair as I realized my painting looked nothing like the candy-striped works of art in the mason jar.

I failed at capturing the beauty of the rose.

It’s hard to accept failure. It makes you wonder if you’re wasting time – and red paint – to create something with the general dimensions and aesthetic appeal of The Blob.

But, I succeeded at practicing my craft. I respected my desire to create and I learned how not to paint a rose. It wasn’t a waste.

Within each of us, there is failure and success.

Some projects seem to flow with inspired ease, and others are like shopping at WinCo on the first of the month. You find yourself muttering, “Seriously?” the entire time.

I love the movie GI Jane. “Pain is your friend…it lets you know you’re not dead yet.”

Failure is our friend, it lets us know we are still alive. It tells us to practice more, work harder and finish the job. To fail is to learn. If we stretch our skills and try something new, we’re not living in fear of NBGE (not being good enough).

Failure is an option, quitting is not. Respect your creativity. Is there something you need to share with the world?

Share it.

You never know who you might inspire.

PS – 3pm is indeed a proper time for a mimosa.