Still Dreaming the Dream

Ryan (not quite 9 years old), delivering the speech.

Here in the united States, today is a big day. Inauguration Day of our new President and Vice-President. 

Today is historic for many reasons. I’d like to jump up and down (but I can’t), clapping and cheering to celebrate our nation’s first female, first African-American, and first South Asian-American Vice President.

But, here I pause. And bite my lip. And hold my breath. Because I am writing this post before Wednesday, not knowing what the day will bring. I am hoping for a peaceful day. Yet the events from two weeks ago have shown us that peace is not guaranteed.

All I can offer today are words of hope. 

I’d like to share an essay I wrote back in 2017. Though it was written four years ago, I think the words are just as relevant today. Click here to be re-directed to Mamalode to read my essay, “We Hear You Dr. King – We Still Dream Your Dream.”

All I Can Do is Take It Step By Step

I recently finished reading Claire Cook’s The Wildwater Walking Club: Step By Step. It was a fun, easy read. Exactly what I wanted. 

The book is meant to make readers feel good. To transport readers into another world, Noreen’s world, as she walks with Tess and Rosie and navigates life as a newly certified health coach. 

So, why then, were there times I felt sad? 

Why did this feel-good book leave me feeling a bit down at times?

It took me a while to figure it out. 

And then I realized – it’s the walking. (Which is a big part of the book.)

I no longer know the easy joy and pleasure that comes from going on a daily walk.

I do continue to walk each day in my neighborhood, but they’re not always joyful. Not always pleasurable. 

I walk. Certainly not at a quick pace. And not to count my steps. 

But to walk. To exercise. To spend time with my family outdoors. To observe our neighborhood.

But my walking is … I struggle for the right word. Difficult? (Sometimes.) Unpredictable? (Sometimes.) Pain-inducing? (Sometimes.) Exhausting. (Sometimes.)

I don’t always experience more pain after a walk, but sometimes I do.

Sometimes I experience random pain during a walk. A step off a curb that sends a jolt up and down my left leg.

A sudden gripping pain in my calf, that causes me to stop and wait and hope it will pass so I can continue walking. But then the walking has a bit of limping to it. 

If I walk while in pain, it’s still walking. 

And so I keep doing it. 

Because some days are better than others. 

And I walk, step by step, hoping for one of those better-pain days.

 

12 Things Distance-Learning Lacks

My classroom prior to the first day of school. Just waiting for “my kids.”

Soon, my son’s 3-week winter break will end, and he will return to school. Kind of. 

He will begin the second semester of seventh grade virtually.

Distance learning from home. 

Seated at a desk in his bedroom. Except when he’s up and exercising for his physical education class.

As hard as he’s trying, and as hard as his teachers are trying, there is just no substitute for in-person instruction. 

There is so much that goes on in a classroom that gets lost when a lesson is transmitted through a screen.

Click here to read my essay “12 Things Distance-Learning Lacks” that was published on BLUNTmoms.com.

There Is No Shame

I saw this on the sidewalk recently, before a doctor’s appointment. A thank you to the artist!

“I’ve been living with Undifferentiated Connective Tissue Disease for ten years now, and I’m still learning how to do it. I don’t know if there ever comes a time when you reach the finish line and achieve the “gold star” for figuring it all out. You just keep figuring it out, moment-by-moment, day-by-day, and wake up the next day, and do it all again.”

And so begins my recently published essay, “There Is No Shame in Life With Chronic Illness,” published at The Mighty. (Click here to read the article in its entirety.)

The conclusion of the essay goes like this:

“There is no shame in your body not working/functioning/behaving as it used to. Your body, your life, you – are still a marvel. Never forget that. 

There is no shame in who you are and how you feel.

There is no shame in needing to learn this lesson over and over again.”

It’s an important lesson as we look with longing and hope to the new year.

Wishing you all a peaceful, healthy 2021. 

Chicken Soup and Cozy Stories

Who else needs comfort and reassurance during these scary times?

In our family, comfort takes many forms. 

Mugs of hot chocolate topped with whipped cream.

Snuggly blankets. Fuzzy socks. Lit candles. Lots of hugs.

And favorite stories. 

This holiday season, perhaps more than any other, we need to hold on to that which makes us feel comforted and calmed. 

We need heart-warming, re-affirming stories. 

On that note, might I do a little self-promotion and recommend Chicken Soup for the Soul: It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas – 101 Tales of Holiday Love and Wonder, a collection of feel-good, holiday-themed, non-fiction stories

And, if you turn to page 140, you will read “A Timeless Gift” — written by me! It’s my story of our family calendar and its place in our holiday traditions. 

May your holidays be filled with good stories and good health.

 

Jewelry and Pain Are Not Mutually Exclusive

What is someone in pain “supposed” to look like?

Apparently, some people who know me find it hard to believe my pain can be pulling-my-hair, biting-my-finger-in-agony kind of pain when I’m still wearing all my jewelry. And it’s a lot – bracelets, nine rings, earrings, anklet. 

But guess what?

“Yes, You Can Wear Jewelry and Be in Pain at the Same Time.”

That is the title of my recently published essay. Click here to be re-directed to The Mighty to read it in its entirety.

 

Breaking Down Walls, 5 Minutes at a Time

Back in March (doesn’t that feel like so long ago?), I was set to begin a class offered through the UCLA Extension Writers’ Program. When everything shut down, my class switched from in-person to virtual. 

At the same time, we were figuring out how to best help our son with distance-learning because Los Angeles Unified schools had shut down as well. So I dropped my writing course before it began. 

Since March, I have been writing. Sometimes more than others. 

And since March, I’ve been published. Again, sometimes more than others. (You can check my Published Work page for a complete listing.)

But lately I have felt like something was missing. 

And I realized what it was – being around other writers.

Most writing classes begin with a general introduction of who you are and why you’re there, what your goal is, what you hope to accomplish by being in that particular class. My introduction doesn’t vary a whole lot. I have a pretty consistent writing practice and know how to meet deadlines. (In case you didn’t know, I’m a regular contributor at MomsLA.com.) 

I enroll in writing classes for the people. The energy that comes from surrounding yourself with other writers. Writers who are readers. Writers who read my work, and offer honest feedback, who push me with questions to go deeper and explore further. They let me know what works and what doesn’t work. 

Often, there’s a mix of workshopping and writing in class; short exercises that sometimes develop into longer pieces.

In-person classes aren’t an option right now. And while virtual classes are being offered through UCLA Extension, I haven’t enrolled in any.

But I continue to write.

As an added stimulus, I have begun re-reading Kicking in the Wall: A Year of Writing Exercises, Prompts, and Quotes to Help You Break Through Your Blocks and Reach Your Writing Goals written by Barbara Abercrombie (my favorite instructor in the UCLA Extension Writers’ Program).

If you’re a writer (and as Barbara says, “Writing is a verb. A writer is one who writes”), I recommend this book. It’s gotten me writing – not an assignment for MomsLA or to answer a submissions call I learned about on duotrope.com, but writing not knowing exactly what it may lead to.

May it help you kick in your own wall.

 

Temporary Reality, Permanent Fears

Post-surgery. September 2020

What scares you?

Some fear natural disasters like earthquakes or tornados.

Others fear creatures such as snakes or rats. 

Many fear illness and suffering of any kind.

I’m scared of many things. 

Though I have lived in southern California my entire life, I’m terrified of earthquakes.

I’m scared of harm coming to those I love, and being unable to protect them.

And I’m scared of my autoimmune disease and the very real possibility of my body deteriorating.

Back in September, I had a muscle biopsy on my left leg.

And in the weeks after the surgery, some of my worst fears came true.

You can read the full story, “When My Permanent Fears Became My Temporary Reality,” by clicking here and being re-directed to The Mighty.

What Do You Find Meaningful?

What is one object you’ll always keep?

One object you’ll pack up and move with you, no matter where you’re moving.

One object that is meaningful enough to hold on to, forever.

One object that brings you “joy, magic, and meaning”?

It’s not an easy question to answer.

But it certainly made for an interesting book. 

Bill Shapiro and Naomi Wax have compiled that book. They asked people, from all walks of life, who live all across the country, that question. I recently completed reading that book – What We Keep: 150 People Share the One Object that Brings Them Joy, Magic, and Meaning. I found myself intrigued by these individuals, the glimpses into their lives, the objects they chose.

And, of course, it got me wondering, what would I pick?

There is my wedding photo album. My son’s baby book.

There is a childhood doll packed away in a box on a shelf in my closet. She had two names – Lovey and Jill. (I don’t remember why she had two names.)

There is a ceramic mask I painted and decorated when I was in junior high or high school and had a collection of ceramic masks hanging on my half of the walls in the bedroom I shared with my sister.

But I think the object I would pick would be my signed picture of Sally Ride.

When I was in the fourth grade, and until I was in high school, my career goal was to become an astronaut.

I wrote to Sally Ride. Though I don’t remember what I wrote. 

And she answered me with an 8×10 photo, her NASA photo, signed to me: “To Wendy, Good Luck! Sally Ride.”

Now, that picture is framed and hanging in my writing room. She is there, smiling down on me, encouraging me, believing in me. (Some would call it an “office;” I prefer “writing room.”)

Readers, I’d love to know. What object brings you “joy, magic, and meaning”? Feel free to share in the comments section.

 

It’s Not All in the Family

 

Three Generations – my mom, my son, and I. 2015

“It still isn’t easy for me to describe myself as a disabled woman. For a long time I didn’t think a disabled woman sat on the ground pulling out weeds. Or played handball with her son. Or helped her elderly neighbor carry in groceries. But I do all those things. Because being a disabled woman doesn’t look the same for every woman. And it doesn’t look the same for me each day.” 

That paragraph is taken from “It’s Not All in the Family,” a personal essay I wrote that was published in the fall issue of Breath and Shadow. You can read the essay by clicking here.