Second Story Woman by Carole Calladine was worthwhile, but wouldn’t have been a commercial success even if published by a national publishing company. I have a great deal of respect for Carole for writing the personal account of having diabetes, sneaking food, not exercising, a body like a melon, and all the other things that happen to people when their weight increases.
Carole takes off for Vegas by herself and learns to look at life differently. She starts writing and taking pictures and gives into it. She starts bicycling and gives into it. She learns about life’s possibilities. She gives up her job that has lots of status for a quieter one. She embraces her life. “A new world opened up. Wings against a blue sky fluttered inside of me singing words of thanksgiving. The freezing robin clinging to the branch had thawed and been freed by the fires lit from within.”
And then she takes care of her weight because she sees life differently. “For my sixtieth birthday, Andy presented me with a new bike with good brakes and two saddlebags. I was excited as any six-year-old with a new set of wheels to ride. The saddlebags have been filled with camera, pens, and paper. The views from my studio, in my journal, from my friends, and from my bike seat would nourish me pulling me out of life’s tight places when I was a cantankerous, old bear. I’d continue to ride, play, and sing my hosannas. The Emerald Necklace beckoned.” Husband Andy wanted to lease part of it but she loved the upstairs’ view of the park. So she lives upstairs and he lives down. She's a second story woman.
Ideas . . . they're too numerous to follow. I'm working on my memoir, trying to sell my novel and always changing it, and yet, there are ideas--a book on my spirtiual journey, a collection of short stories on working in Cleveland, another wineries book, the stories of my ancestors. And yet, I had another one at dinner with other writers. My idea is to take a black girl who grew up in the black ghetto in the 1960s and have her have a white boyfriend and somehow she ends up being sterilized because of fear she’d make wrong choices, but she doesn’t find out until it’s 1980 and she’s 25 and married that she was sterilized. She’s struggled to be part of white society and it hasn’t been easy, and now she hates them and can’t believe she ever loved one. Her best friend is white, the boyfriend’s sister, and she remembers her girlfriend’s role in the event that led to her sterilization. The thing is, can I be black? My initial idea had been to take it from a white girl’s perspective and have all the same things happen, but would a white girl be sterilized? Maybe, in the KKK times. I think it would be hard for me to write as the black girl.
That column by Plain Dealer's Regina Brett was next to my computer for years, and it appeared in a compilation of Regina Brett's quotes in God Never Blinks.
Brett has important things to say about real things that happen to people, to everyone, and things that change people’s lives, like getting abused or raped—she says “your sexual identity is stolen. You don’t get to gradually come of age. When someone else’s sexuality is forced on you, it stunts your own growth. I spent my adult life trying to please a man by doing all the things I guessed he wanted, but I didn’t have a clue as to what made me feel good.” I can use that in my book, I think.
At the end of chapter 10, which made me cry because her Uncle Paul had a sad life and raised a child who was disabled and died young, she said “He’d be the first to say God never gives us more than we were designed to carry. Some of us were designed for more, some for less. No matter what, even if we are asked to carry a portion of sky, it is beyond bearable. It is gift.”
In the chapter “Make Peace with Your Past so it Doesn’t Screw up the Present,” Brett talks about how to get unstuck. First you have to know you’re stuck She said for her, if her “emotions don’t match what just happened, it’s about my childhood. I’ve learned to freeze the moment, just like you would pause a movie, and ask: Wait. Is this reaction about the present moment? Or is it about the past? I can’t change the past. But by changing my response to its leftovers, I can change the present.”
Then there are the sage thoughts in Lesson 29, “What Other People Think of You is none of Your Business,” when she wrote about what readers had to say about her, and her boss at the Beacon Journal asked her if she would be upset if someone called her a chair and she said she’s not a chair and he asked her if she knew whether she was a whore (which someone called her). She goes on to say “Perpetual quietness of the heart. That’s what I truly want underneath all those things I think I want. To be at rest when nobody praises me. That is true freedom.”
She says we should have a personal mission statement upon which you would truly base your life. She concludes that “I am simply a child of God, as valuable and treasured as every other child of God. Not the best, not the worst, and it doesn’t matter a whit what anyone thinks of me.”