Monday, January 30, 2012

Friendship Betrayed

So, at my wise old age of 49, I have figured out a few things. One of them is that very few relationships last forever. My marriage has lasted close to 28 years, and we had six years before we were married. I hope it will last for the rest of my life, and I'm pretty sure it will, because my dear husband and I view it as more than just being "in love." We view it as a partnership, a friendship, and mutually happy way to live, a place we both get to be what we are meant to be, and the most important part of our lives. Also we view it as a two way street, in which we are both asked to sacrifice for the other at various times, and do so gladly, knowing it makes our partnership stronger.

But this isn't about marriage. However, friendships can be like marriages at times. Like marriage, friendship is a two-way street. What happens when only one of the friends is putting forth effort, support, caring, and consideration? That's really not friendship anymore.

If you're like me, you might have different groups of friends. I have writing friends, church friends, music friends, college friends, neighborhood friends, etc. I don't necessarily try to keep these groups separate, but sometimes they are just because they never intersect. Sometimes whole groups of friends fall away, either because you move away, you discontinue the activity or organization in which you saw those friends, or something else happens.

But what's on my mind today is the situation in which a friend becomes a non-friend simply by being a jerk. In one of my groups of friends, there is a person who has, through his/her own folly and self-centeredness, alienated everyone else in the group. (I'm going to call this friend "Pat" for the rest of the post, so I don't have to keep using his/her. I don't want to out this person on such a public forum, and Pat is a nice gender neutral name. Plus, remember that character on SNL?)

Pat is the kind of person with charisma and talent. People are drawn to Pat, and often will go to great lengths to support Pat and help Pat achieve goals. In our group of friends, most of us would have done almost anything to help Pat out. I mean anything. We were supremely loyal to Pat. We scheduled our lives so we could see Pat, go out with Pat, do whatever Pat asked.

In the last couple of years, Pat has had some particularly hard times. Nothing life threatening or so horrible it couldn't be overcome. We rallied around Pat. We comforted Pat. We held long sessions where Pat got to sob and fret and basically bare his/her soul. We believed that Pat had been basically innocent in the situation and all the bad things that came Pat's way. We have all worn ourselves out with loyalty and support for Pat.

But it has ceased to be a two way street, and I'm beginning to see that maybe it never really was. Pat does not care about our friendships. Pat seems to assume that whenever our group gathers together, it is so we can listen to Pat's endless accounts of how life has been cruel. Pat never asks how any of us are. Pat never offers to help one of us, but of course does not hesitate to ask for our help. Pat basically acts like a selfish two-year old.

And I am completely tired of it. I am tired of giving so much to a friendship that gives nothing back. I am tired of feeling like an urchin waiting for some crumb of acknowledgement to fall my way. Pat does not thank us for the things we do, for listening, for caring, for giving up our own time to help Pat. I am tired of this. If I want to sacrifice my life, my time, my energy for someone who does not respond in kind--well, I have children. (Just kidding, kids. I love you a ton.)

But really, am I supposed to continue being someone for Pat to turn to without ever having any of my needs met? No. I think most everyone else in our group of friends feels the same way.

What I feel worst about is this. I have realized in the last few months that Pat is not innocent in all the troubles that have come his/her way. Pat makes stupid decisions, because Pat has no backbone, no self-esteem, and a need for constant affirmation and approval. Pat appears to others to have it all together, but really, Pat is immature. Pat wants to portray to others that Pat has a perfect life, but Pat makes one stupid choice after another and doesn't see how the dots connect to create the trouble he/she has.

Some of us in this group would like to help Pat by providing advice, but we know that Pat won't listen. Pat doesn't like conflict, and would never take our advice. Instead, Pat would decide that we had turned our backs and were part of the problem rather than the solution.

So, sadly, I am going to have to acknowledge that Pat must be left to his/her own devices and make all the stupid decisions over and over until Pat figures out how to make better decisions. I feel like a parent letting my child grow up. And that is an icky feeling when this is a fellow adult who is supposed to be my friend, not my child. So Pat, even if you do read this, you are so clueless I am sure you won't recognize yourself in this post. (And if those of you reading this think this is about you, then it's probably not. That would mean you have some self awareness, which Pat does not.)

I am not sorry for the years I have tried to be Pat's friend. I say that because it hasn't been a real friendship has it? It has been a one-way street. I am not sorry, because the experience has brought me close to the rest of this group of friends, for which I am eternally grateful and blessed to have in my life. And I have learned some things about friendship that will help me be a better friend.

So Pat, while I am not saying good-bye, because I will see you regularly, I am saying I can't be your friend anymore, which is really not saying much, because you were never my friend. I hope you grow the capacity to be a real friend before you are too old or alienate too many people. If so, maybe we can revisit the issue. Until then, good luck.

Friday, January 20, 2012


Today is my daughter Emily's 19th birthday. So, as I've been doing for family members this past year, I'm profiling her for this special day.

If you didn't know Emily's birth story before, here it is, briefly: Since Melissa had arrived a week before her due date, I was all set for the same from this second baby. Her due date was Jan. 10. I expected her any time from Christmas on. But no, Emily has never been one to get anything done early, so she arrived in her own good time, ten days after her due date. We had gone to the mall to walk around, hoping some activity might encourage labor, and boy, did it. I was afraid I might have to give birth is the bedding department at Penneys. But we made it home and the midwife arrived just in time to tell me I could push. Three or four pushes, and out she came. Sadly, my grandmother died that same day, and I truly think their spirits passed somewhere along the way.

Emily lulled us into thinking she was going to be an easy going baby, because she was for the first few weeks. Then she started speaking her mind. Man that baby could scream a blue streak. Her Granny announced she was certain Emily had a future as an opera singer with the set of lungs she seemed to possess.

As she grew into a toddler, Emily could vie for the champion of tantrum throwers. I am not kidding, that kid could scream.

Emily was fast friends with our next door neighbor, Kathryn, who is a year younger, for much of their early childhood. When it was time for school, though, they found new friends, but they've always maintained those memories.

I'll never forget when Emily learned to read. It was some silly fairy book series that she loved. But soon, it was everything under the sun. Emily read literally all the time. Fantasy was her favorite. She loved Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, Guardians of Ga'houl, and the Dark Materials series. She also got into anime and graphic novels.

One of the turning points for Emily was skipping 8th grade. When she found herself in a new set of peers, she blossomed and was so much happier.

School has mostly been a breeze for this brilliant young lady. I don't think most people realize just how smart she is, because she doesn't talk about it much, nor does she talk about academic stuff much. In junior high when she had earth science, she fell in love with astronomy and ever since has seen her future in space.

Her quiet brilliance has manifested in many ways. Emily is a fabulous author of several novels, mostly dystopic fantasy. She plays a mean piano sonatina, and has written several very soulful and emotive piano pieces. Having Heidi Decoursey Clark as her piano teacher was one of the best things in her adolescent life, I think.

Emily's personality is characterized by her loyal friendships and caring demeanor. She has never tolerated unfairness in any form, whether it affected her or others. She loves animals. And when a neighbor spoke to me once about potentially cutting down a tree that was always one of her special places, she would not allow it.

Emily and I have been through a lot together, and she has always known that I am her advocate in all ways. I helped her navigate many a difficult time, and it has made me a more compassionate, considerate person as a result. Her presence in my life has given me great joy, many challenges, and always a deep love.

Watch out world, because the meek shall inherit the earth, but the Emily shall rule space. I fully expect her to be out there founding new colonies on the moon or on Mars someday.

She is a brilliant, beautiful, kind, caring, funny, thoughtful girl. And hearing her laugh just makes my day. (Thankfully, screams are a rarity now.)

Happy Birthday my little capriquarius.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Looking Back, Leaping Forward

A Look Back at 2011

2011 was a good year for me in many ways. Here are some of the highlights:

  • SCBWI RA retreat. Even though it was a cruise to the Bahamas, it was fun. I’m not big on the whole cruise scene, but the people we were with made it all wonderful. I enjoyed getting to know my colleagues better, learning their individual personalities, and feeling more connected to this group. Sea kayaking also topped the list.
  • Our own SCBWI conference in Boise. It was a fantastic conference with agent Jen Rofe, publisher Lori Benton, and author Carol Lynch Williams.
  • Attending Writing and Illustrating for Young Readers in Utah. AKA, the Carol conference. I took Ann Cannon’s boot camp class, and it was fantastic. We had an intense week of reading, writing, and revising. I respect my fellow class members and all were amazing writers. I learned so much, and I’m still revising that manuscript.
  • Camp Sawtooth. Senior high camp. Love these kids. Love the mountains. Love the food. (How many camps can you say that about?) This is a frenetic week of intense stuff, but always incredible. Teenagers are some of the most awesome people.
  • SCBWI LA conference. The 40th anniversary of SCBWI, an organization that has made many a children’s author/illustrator’s career. My favorite part: the round-table intensives. Again, learned a ton, and am still revising.
  • SCBWI Utah/southern Idaho novel revision retreat with Emma Dryden. I had so much fun meeting Emma and hanging out with her for a day before the retreat. She is one amazing lady. And she knows SO much. Wow. The retreat participants were also amazing writers and human beings. And the Stonefly Lodge: stunning.
  • Charleston, SC. I knew nothing about Charleston when I arrived. By the time I left, I had learned so much really interesting stuff. I never knew rice was one of the first crops grown on plantations. Fell in love with shrimp and grits. Love it. Will return.
  • My recorder pal, Pam Piper-Ruth, and I dedicated our year to learning to play the alto recorder, which is in a different key and has different fingerings than the soprano/tenor recorders. We have almost learned all the notes, and we are able to play altos with the larger group. That is affirming.
  • I decided to take bagpipe lessons. Hopefully, I will learn how to play well enough to get real bagpipes at some point.
  • I served meals to the needy in our community. This is a very gratifying thing to do. Not because it makes me feel important or superior. Quite the opposite. I know that it could very well be me standing in that line. These folks are fellow human beings, and their dignity is important.
  • Saw my old friend Jennifer Cochern for the first time in several years. Need to see more of her.

In short, this year involved a lot of travel to interesting places, lots of writing classes with very, very talented folks, and lots of learning for myself.

Probably the only thing that wasn’t great about this year for me was that my weight loss journey stalled in a big way. I’m still doing Weight Watchers, and I refuse to give up. But I didn’t lose any weight this year. (Well, I lost weight: the same five pounds over and over again.) Still, I am wearing clothes two sizes smaller than when I began this path, so I’m still hanging in there. I have Melissa to thank for being my cheerleader in this.

Looking Ahead to 2012

This has potential to be a big exciting year for me. I have hopes for some amazing things to happen.

  • I applied for the SCBWI Nevada mentorship program. I am anxious to find out if I got in. If so, it will be another intense year of perfecting my craft and learning from the best. If not, I will still be intensively perfecting my craft in some other fashion. Maybe a return to WIFYR.
  • I will turn 50 this year, and I’m planning a trip to my birthplace to celebrate. That would be Yosemite National Park. Yes, I was born IN the park. There was a hospital there at the time when my dad worked at the park. He was a National Park Service ranger, which is why we lived in so many interesting places. I am very excited to go, because I have absolutely no memory of the place, as I was two years old when we moved away.
  • If things line up, I will be dean of Camp Sawtooth Senior High Camp this year, and that makes me very excited. I go to sleep at night thinking about how much fun we will have. I have Gregory Taylor to thank for talking me into this adventure three years ago.
  • I am recommitting myself to myself. Specifically to getting back on the weight loss horse and continuing this journey. I want to be healthy, more fit, and disease free. And I will not give up. This is a landmark year for me, and I want to be as fit as possible when I hit Yosemite in September.
  • I’m looking forward to seeing what other things pan out. My freelance business is going well, my writing is going well, and I would like to start submitting to some agents again.
  • Maybe, just maybe (wink, wink, nudge, nudge) that oil money will start rolling in, and we’ll have enough money to fund all three kids’ college educations, fix up our rattletrap house, and give lots of it to very good causes. If you haven’t heard our oil money story, feel free to ask.

In short, I hope this year has as many rewarding writing experiences as last year, more weight loss that stays lost, and more opportunities to help others.