Writing 101

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Writing 101, Day Thirteen: Serial Killer II – To Hoot it may Concern

Published June 28, 2014 by Liz Ault

Earlier in the course you wrote about losing something. Today write about finding something. For your twist, view day four’s post and today’s post as installments in a series.

Serial Killer Pt 1

US vs. THEM probably needs to be explained a little bit. It wasn’t a child vs. child thing at all. The US’s were probably the least aware of the differences. It was strictly a mom vs. a class of child. There were two classes: adopted or birth, and gender. Two adopted; three birth; three males and two females. Sometimes the favorites jockeyed for position, but the leader board had only slight changes through the years.

With the volatility of my home life, and the horrible bullying at school (being led by the nuns), I found a place where I was number one. The favorite. Loved. That absolutely wonderful place was my grandmother’s house. Beginning about the age of five, I spent almost every weekend with her.

She had a silly nickname. A name given to her by my uncle. We called her Hoot. My grandmother had 17 grandchildren in all. I was number 7. I was the one who got to spend this private and loving time with her for many, many years.

The first two years that I spent my weekends on Lincoln Blvd., my grandmother shared her home with her aunt – my great-great aunt. She too had a silly name – we called her Kuddy. She was blind.

I loved her home and all my time there. Unlike my own home, I never needed hiding places here. There was nothing to hide from. As an adult looking back on these times, I can’t help but think that Hoot knew how bad and unhealthy my home life was. She was my hero.

Hoot was a social worker. Sometimes she had to stop at work on Saturday, and I got to play office while she did her few things. We were never there long. She also had lunches with her “cronies” one Saturday a month. I was the only grandchild of any of these women that was in attendance. It was wonderfully precious. They talked to me like I was all grown and I always felt so very special.

Sunday morning was a ritual that started Saturday night. Vaseline on the patent leather shoes and purse. Then when we were ready, no matter what time, we drove to church (two blocks away) and went in the side door. This was still pre-Vatican II, so the Mass was in Latin and the priest had his back to us. Since he didn’t know when we arrived, we walked in quite tall and proud. No matter what part of the Mass the priest was when we walked in was also the place in the next one when we left.

I went to so many funerals with Hoot, I’m sure she knew most of the deceased, but I swear she just went for the sake of going!

Found. I was found by my mother’s mother.

Writing 101, Day Fourteen: To Whom It May Concern

Published June 21, 2014 by Liz Ault

Pick up the nearest book, turn to page 29. What jumps out at you? Start there, and try a twist: write in the form of a letter.

The book I opened – Sue Monk Kidd, The Dance of the Dissident Daughter (New York: HarperCollins, 1996), p 29.


 

Dear Liz,

Was sitting here thinking about you and your journey, and finally decided I needed to drop you a note. I’m at a point in my life where I have reached the other side of the half-way point. Perspective starts to change. I’ve watched you grow up. My “hindsight is 20/20” has kicked in. So Katie, bar the door, here I come.

I listened as you were told you were less than your classmates. As you were told that because of how you came into this world that you were less than your siblings. That because you were tall, that your eyes were green, or your feet were big, something must be wrong with your genes. I even listened as those people who were supposed to be your champions and protectors allowed teachers to ridicule you in front of your entire first grade class – which, of course, continued throughout your education.

How could you not be fucked up? How could you not have zero self-esteem? How could you not hear the times you were called stupid and not take that into a job interview? I failed you. And for that I am sorry.

You will come out on the other side of all of this. You will spend most of your adult life like you did your childhood, broken. But you will find a strength that you never even knew was inside you. Please learn to be kind to yourself. It may feel like you wasted too many years doubting yourself and your very existence, but your life was and continues to be important.

Oh, and you will end up making more money than you were told you would – and without finishing college!

We will talk soon about the years of abandonment. But for now, just know I am here and I believe in you. And when you feel alone or in doubt look over your shoulder or in a mirror. I’m here and always will be.

With the greatest and most joyful love,

Liz

Goodbye Yellow Brick Road – Writing 101, Day Twelve: (Virtual) Dark Clouds on the Horizon

Published June 20, 2014 by Liz Ault

Write a post with roots in a real-world conversation. For a twist, include foreshadowing.

The house was still new to the family. We had only moved in a few weeks before. I discovered the air vent in my room was a direct pipeline to the kitchen. I would spend much time over the years, laying on my back with my head cocked just right, to hear everything. One of the first such conversations could have changed my life.

A very emotional conversation was taking place between my mom and her sister. I was thirteen and getting ready to start the eighth grade in the fall. The gist of the exchange was my aunt wanted to take me to California with her to live. It went from moving for good to moving for the eighth grade year to moving for a few months.

At one point it sounded like my mom was actually considering it. Then her inner voices took over. It always came down to what would the neighbors think? How would she explain it to others?

My aunt lost. I think I lost something very precious that day, too. A chance to be part of a family where there was unconditional love. A chance to have a father figure who was present. Five brothers. I would not have been the oldest anymore, I would have been nestled gently somewhere in the middle. A mother figure who was supportive.

But I’ll never know. Once again mom’s needs came before…

Twelve and 2323 – Writing 101: Day Eleven

Published June 16, 2014 by Liz Ault

Writing 101: Day Eleven; Size Matters. Tell us about the home you lived in when you were twelve. Twist: Vary sentence lengths.

I wrote this assignment early today. I posted it as done. It didn’t feel right. It jumped all over the place. I was trying to find my voice, find my long vs. short sentences, and mostly was trying to find my way out of a corner. That corner is fear. I have to let me out, or there is no point in continuing with a blog of any sort. What good is paralysis?

I was adopted and it framed everything in my life. I’m trying to unframe it. I’m trying to finally heal while I head to my 60th birthday. I’ve always tried to be what everyone else wanted me to be. Please everyone.  But not know myself.

So at 5 pm CDT I turned on the INSP channel. It was playing the first episode of the spinoff of “Little House on the Prairie” called “Little House: A New Beginning.” It opened with Charles Ingalls moving from Walnut Grove, Minnesota to Iowa to go where the work was. The rest of the family was already in Iowa. He was making the final trip from WG to IA, and asked the new owners if he could go in and see the sod house one last time.

The look in his eyes reflected what I felt when we moved from 2323 N. 53rd to 510 S. 118th. The memories were almost overpowering. I lived in that house from the age of just under 4 to 13. Too bad my first period waited until 118th, it would have been cool to have it a part of 2323. Another passage.

What was learned the most at 2323, was how to compartmentalize life. To find places to put the pain. Got so very good at that. The infamous closet held at least 30% of the pain. Then there was the lilac trees outside, they got about 30%. The basement held the darkest ones at 30%, the balance was spread throughout the house.

If I continue to blog, one of the things that I hope to have happen is cleansing. Putting words to the things I need to and just have a funeral (not the same a burying) for the rest.

Adoption is one of the subjects I want to explore with others to see how similar/dissimilar other adoptees experiences are. My time at 2323 had the “adopted” word all over it. That is my scarlet letter.

That great address also holds the birth of my youngest brother. I felt like I was a mom, and had a job to do. He was born 10 days after my 12th birthday, and why we moved from 2323 to 510 a year later. That final year in 2323 his crib was in my room. I was the one who got up in the middle of the night and did the diaper change and feeding. The nights he stayed fussy were the nights I finally put him in my bed, and we both slept like “babies.” And I still got up for school early in the morning. The 7th grade sucked more than all the rest of grade school did (and didn’t think that was even possible), so having my baby brother in my room and my life helped me hold on to a feeling of being needed.

Leaving that house worried me in a way. It felt like it was a living, breathing part of me. I still pray, that until I’m ready, that 2323 still holds my thoughts sacred and secret.

Cream of Tomato Soup – Writing 101, Day Ten

Published June 16, 2014 by Liz Ault

Writing 101, Day Ten: Happy (Insert special occasion here)! Today, be inspired by a favorite childhood meal. For the twist, focus on infusing the post with your unique voice — even if that makes you a little nervous.

When birthday’s come around in my family, it’s your birthday you chose the food. Most of my son’s life, he requested beef stroganoff. I realized that it was because it was my birthday food of choice, he was following in his mom’s footsteps. My daughter always mixed it up.

Thinking about why my choice was stroganoff took me down a path I hadn’t traveled in some time. I was out of high school before I was given the opportunity to pick my dinner. And that dinner was always beef stroganoff, it was truly a favorite of mine.

Then I thought about food and special occasions and how they might be intertwined. Food often is associated with comfort for so many of us. My mind went down a path of food and comfort and stopped immediately on cream of tomato soup. It had to be Campbell’s condensed. It had to be made with milk – never water (water could not make cream).

Comfort went hand in hand with affection and was seldom something I received, with one exception – illness. When I look back at my little girl self, there is so much sadness and seclusion. So why would feeling my worst physically make me almost smile? There was the soft touch of my mother’s hand checking my cheeks and forehead for fever and the warm canned soup.

Guess that’s why it was the “go-to” food when my kids were sick.

A Part in the Park – Writing 101: Day Nine

Published June 13, 2014 by Liz Ault

Writing 101, Day Nine: Changing Moccasins — Point of View. A man and a woman walk through the park together, holding hands. They pass an old woman sitting on a bench. The old woman is knitting a small, red sweater. The man begins to cry. Twist: Write the scene from three different points of few.

Young Man

I can’t remember my lines. Finally getting my first break and I forget my friggin’ lines? Holding her hand? Check. Walking on path? Check. Lines? Un-check. This so sucks. OMG are those tears on my cheeks? They are. How am I supposed to get out of this one? The more I try to remember my lines the faster the stream runs down my face! And now she’s smashing my fingers.

Young Woman

So hard to believe they selected this dork to be my co-star. He can’t even walk down a path correctly. I just looked at him to give him the stink eye, and he’s crying! Geez, wish I’d stayed in bed this morning. I am so going to squish his fingers.

Old Lady

How did I get in the middle of this? I’m getting $50 to be an extra. An extra what? What’s with the sweater and knitting needles?

Sweater

Here is my big break! They are going to be so blown away by my talent. I’m the first dancing sweater in dramatic comedy. Or is it a romantic comedy? Who cares. Slowly the sweater picks up the knitting needles and uses them as extensions of the armholes. Looking much like a de-feathered, headless chicken, and kicking those stubby legs he goes into a song and dance, “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious….”

Clapboard sounds and CUT!!

An Hour in a Lobby – Writing 101, Day Eight

Published June 11, 2014 by Liz Ault

Writing 101, Day 8: Death to Adverbs. Go to public location and make a  detailed report of what you see. Twist: Write the post without adverbs.

I was at a local hospital with my ex for a preliminary MRI. That’s when I saw this assignment on my cell phone. To go public?? Perfect, was already in one. Starting roaming outside and watching. An older man who looked like a previous pastor was the acting valet for today. He was very busy indeed.

Went back inside and sat in the x-ray waiting room. The technician came in to the crowded room and called for Charles. Three men stood up. It was funny. People forget that many baby boomers were given this name in honor of the Prince of England!

Moved to the lobby. Seemed folks were on a mission. Almost no talking or interacting going on. Quite a few wheelchairs, and even more walkers. In 10 minutes there were at least 6 pregnant women who looked close to delivery – maybe a La Maze class? Maybe a clearance sale for obstetricians?

Walked in to the gift shop. There was an entire counter devoted to angels with little signs/saying underneath them or on a sash across their chest. “When you see sun peaking through the clouds that’s your loved one looking out for you.” (That was a wide sash!) The little birdie that lands by you…I couldn’t keep reading these. Who comes in to a hospital and buys one of these to take to a patient? “Hi, Mom, saw this in the gift shop and thought of you.” “You, what? I’m not dying.” I looked up and my ex had come back from the MRI. I was glad to get away from these morbid angels.

As I thought about this hour in a lobby, it hit me that we continue not to communicate with each other.  Maybe it’s fear. Maybe it’s aging. Maybe it’s cell phones. I left this experience feeling sad.

Goodbye Dan – Writing 101: Day Seven

Published June 10, 2014 by Liz Ault

Writing 101, Day Seven: Give and Take. Focus today’s post on the contrast between two things. The twist? Write the post in the form of a dialogue.

My brother’s best friend for years was named Dan. Dan and my brother went through the tail end of grade school, and high school together. Dan was a year younger than I.

I had my driver’s license, the boys didn’t, so I drove them to the HS dance. I had no desire to go in to the gym.

“Liz, I can’t handle walking up that long walk to the gym.”

“What’s up?”

“I don’t feel right. Something is just messed up. I’m so confused.”

“Dan, I don’t care either way if we go up there or not.”

We ended up making out, talking and hugging for several hours. Jim never knew.

That all happened about 2 years before their HS graduation.

Mom called me, “Liz, Dan has aids.”

Excuse me?? I had just had my first child, and had first heard of aids while I was pregnant. 1984.

My brother could not accept what happened to Dan – he thought that meant he might be “gay.” I couldn’t stop thinking about the long talks, hugging, kissing back in 1972 with Dan.

Dan was one of the early ones. He died while still in his twenties.

Life and death? One religion vs. another? Nope, tragic loss of a great young man. I dream of what he could have been. Life is precious.

Liz, meet Liz – Writing 101: Day Six

Published June 10, 2014 by Liz Ault

Writing 101 – Day 6: A Character-Building Experience. Today, you’ll write about the most interesting person you’ve met in 2014. In your twist, develop and shape your portrait further in a character study.

January 18, 2014, 12:15 p.m. It was a reflection she knew so very well, yet was seeing for the first time. The fine lines like webs stretched gently from the corner of the eyes toward the temple. The loosening of the skin on the neck seemed to happen over night. The feelings were very mixed. By the calendar, it was 60 days. Sixty long, agonizing, nauseating, and freeing days. In a few short months she would begin her final year of the decade. The final stretch to 60.

The 60 days was the freedom from an addiction of over 40 years. The highly addictive action of smoking cigarettes. Don’t let anyone tell you it is a “habit.” Biting fingernails is a habit. Cracking knuckles is a habit. Cigarettes are a crippling addiction.

The lines and loosening of skin is part of a process called aging. But that day it came in to clearer focus. So did the inability to easily climb stairs, pick up a toothpick dropped on the floor, or getting in to and out of a car, chair – heck so many things. Fibromyalgia mixed with osteo-arthritis made so very much difficult to do.

It was at that moment the woman in the reflection met the woman opposite the mirror. It was the day that everything changed. The Liz of yesterday met the Liz of today.

In the few months since they met, I joined a gym and hired a trainer. I became a gentler, kinder friend to myself. I continued not to smoke – and it will be 7 months soon. I greeted my 59th birthday with a smile and greater mobility than I have known in many years. And mostly, I am no longer a prisoner in my own home.

I like this Liz!

The Letters, Pt1 – Writing 101, day five

Published June 6, 2014 by Liz Ault

Assignment: “You stumble upon a random letter on the path. You read it. It affects you deeply, and you wish it could be returned to the person to which it’s addressed. Write a story about this encounter.” Twist: Approach this post in as few words as possible.

The Letters, Part 1

The workers have left the house. On the counter is a small stack of letters that were found in the wall. Some have been opened, others were still sealed. A single rubber band binds the letters together. The top most letter is postmarked June 6, 1944 from County Down, Ireland. These letters were 70 years old!

Suddenly she felt like an intruder in her own home. There was a sense of awe that these were found, and how well preserved they were. They were all to the same person, Miss Hattie Dugan, at her address. Her mind whirled. Gently she placed the stack in a clear bag.

A sense of urgency took over. She became obsessed, single minded and needed to get these into the hands of the addressee or a family member. The first stop was the local library to try to find this family in the 1944 city directory. It took multiple libraries before a 1944 directory was found. The 1940 U.S. Federal Census was next. When at last the page was found, she had head to toe goose bumps. There was Hattie Dugan, a student, aged 13. I felt like I could reach out and touch her.

The possibilities were endless in her fertile mind. The journey to find what might have happened to Hattie took longer than she had wanted, but her life would take a whole new turn. Stay tuned.