In my final installment of Authors Turning Pages Spotlights, I am THRILLED to introduce you to Todd Olson. Todd is our director/producer. If you’re local, he is also the director of Heart of La Crosse,… More
Hello! I’m Christy.
In a nutshell, I am a:
- Soon-to-be published author (March 29, 2018!)
- Grief survivor
I think you’ll love it here if you have ever tripped up the stairs, if you love to read, if you love true crime, if you have any kind of emotional baggage, if lots of people stress you out (or don’t), or if you have at least one child who is obsessed with Halloween. 🙂
At any rate, I’m glad you’re here.
Mom. Mom. Mom. Mom. Mom. Mom. Mom. Mom. Mom. Mom. Mom. Mom. Mom. Mom. Mom. Mom. Mom. Mom. Mom. Mom. Mom. Mom. Mom. Mom. Mom. Mom. Mom. Mom. MOM! MOM! MOM! MOM! MOM! MOM! MOM! MOM! MOM! MOM! MOM! MOM! MOM!
I love my children. They are awesome.
I love my job. There isn’t one better.
I love my husband. He could teach how-to-be-a-good-husband class.
I know I’ll “miss it someday.”
I know it “goes so fast.”
I know I’m so lucky because I have what so many others don’t.
I know lucky isn’t even really the word because I have SO MUCH.
Sometimes, I still need to plug my ears.
That is all.
Its probably too cliché
but nostalgia made me do it
I thought of home
distorted and unfocused, my memories are not quite there anymore
but the feelings remain-settled down deep
what is it about Autumn-the changing of the leaves or maybe not
that pulls me back “home”
can you call it home when
there’s nothing there anymore?
just a giant chasm where something used to be
a childhood friend died today
almost her entirely family gone, now
I left, but they stayed
had it been over 15 years since I’d even heard her name?
she wrote to me a few months ago
I think I’d like to write a book she said
about the pain
all the pain
but I don’t know if I’d be any good at it
I told her
Write it down
because before you know it, you’ll be gone
and now she is
and I’m drawn back home, wondering how I am here and she is there
and if she wrote down any of her pain
it’s such a cliché to love Autumn so much
to think of home as the seasons change
as those leaves of my childhood
fall, along with the few memories I have left
I want to tell you about my friend Susan:
I met her kind of accidentally. I wanted to be a writer. She is a local writer. So I friended her on Facebook and sent a message saying as much. She accepted.
Then, I was in a little show called Listen to Your Mother. She was in it, too, but the year before. We went to a little reunion for both casts and I got to meet her. Then we started really corresponding. I had/have so many questions for her.
She is just one of those people, you guys. The kind of person that you just automatically know she’s amazing and wise. She is hilarious and says what she means without ever actually being mean. You can tell she stands up for what she believes in and has passion for living.
She graduated college with a degree in journalism and worked at a newspaper during Watergate. Yep. I know. She’s so cool.
One day I asked her to coffee so I could hear about her career. Two major things happened during that meeting:
- We saw a woman walk past us with a t-shirt that said, “Be a Kind Human.”
- Susan told me that her cancer was back. Breast cancer. 3rd time around.
We both decided we REALLY wanted one of those shirts. So one of Susan’s friends, an artist, had her write “Be a Kind Human.” and she used her handwriting to design a shirt.
Here she is, in the front in red, wearing the shirt:
Sue has a thing-all the times when her cancer has come, she has traveled around and taken pictures with people wearing a pink nose. Why? Because she wants to tell cancer that it can’t take away her laughter. She wants EVERYONE to know that she is here, and laughing, and writing, and spreading kindness wherever she goes.
Here we are with our pink noses when she came to drop off school supplies for my classroom (Seriously. I know. She’s freaking incredible):
I am inviting you, today, to spread the love and buy this shirt. Wear it proudly, a shirt with Susan’s handwriting on it, reminding you that kindness is where it’s at, yo.
Remember that Susan T. Hessel, an incredible writer from La Crosse, Wisconsin, knows, even as she is battling cancer for the 3rd time, that kindness is what matters.
P.S. Today (8/29) the shirts are 40% off
P.P.S. Proceeds go to an act of kindness fund
P.P.P.S. The shirts run small so buy a size up
Yesterday I deactivated my Facebook account.
It was time.
Problem 1: I spend WAY TOO MUCH time on Facebook. I’m not a good person when it comes to moderation. I’m either scrolling through so often that I’m annoyed there’s nothing new, or I leave my phone plugged in upstairs in my bedroom and don’t touch it.
Problem 2: My emotions got the best of me. I used my Facebook as a way to relate to others–to share my deepest feelings as a writer so that other people can know that they’re not alone when they’re feeling left out, or let down. I was chugging along, proud of myself, making sure that I was “vague” when I was talking about personal things. As it turns out, trying to speak vaguely is basically the same as being passive aggressive. I swear, I’m always so careful to say–I know these bad feelings I’m having, someone else is having these bad feelings about me. But, I lost my way. The grief from my mother-in-law’s death kind of sent me on a spiral where I wanted to yell, “See! See how nobody did this or this or this!” People let me down, and instead of talking to THEM, I spread out all my stupid feelings where anyone could see them.
Problem 3: I was reflecting on myself, but in the wrong ways. I know I am SO FLAWED, and I own that, but I was owning the wrong failures. I was using Facebook to get affirmation that I’m right in my feelings. I think we all need those affirmations, but social media is not the place.
Problem 4: I get jealous. Enough said.
Problem 5: I want to inspire people. I want to make people laugh. I want advice, and I want to see funny cat videos, and I want to know RIGHT away if the president ever gets impeached (LOL!). Instead, I was letting myself get too deep. Too serious. I was blaming other people and blaming them in a really passive aggressive way.
Problem 6: I’m overanalyzing Facebook. Say what? I was paying attention to who was not liking my posts, who wasn’t doing this, who had obviously hidden me, who was out with me (without me). I’ve been staying at home a lot this summer because my anxiety has skyrocketed since my mil died. So here I am, just wallowing, noticing all the stuff people are NOT doing for me. This is RIDICULOUS. I have incredible, selfless, giving people ALL up in my life, and I am ignoring that and dwelling on stupid things. UGH. I’ve been here before, but I’m WAY too old for this.
I’ve been playing victim.
I never meant to. I honestly just was a little desperate, reaching out for help (in all the wrong ways).
- Stay off Facebook (except for my Um, You Guys page) for a good, long, while.
- Reach for my journal when I’m hurting and write it out there, instead of in front of the Internet.
- Forgive. Forget. Move forward.
To my family and friends: I lost my way. I’m sorry. Genuinely, so sorry. My job as a “writer” propelled me forward too much and my “truth” was nothing short of vague booking and shameless ways to get people to figure out my pain and reach out. Which, of course, doesn’t work. There’s a time and place to vent, and this was certainly not it.
I’m back on track now. I won’t stop sharing-don’t worry-but I have disregarded other people’s feelings. I was stuck in pissing matches and not being humble OR kind. I swear to you, it never came from a place of malice. Only pain. Not an excuse, mind you–just trying to figure this all out.
P.S. I still have Facebook Messenger if you need to get ahold of me–or you can always email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I went skinny dipping.
Ok, don’t worry–it was 15 years ago, 40 pounds ago, and it was dark. 🙂 There were probably 20 of us, camp counselors in the middle-of-nowhere Minnesota, having one of those beautiful, fairy-tale summers. One where everything was so magical you actually thought getting into a LAKE in the DARK without a suit was a good idea. (I shudder…ugh. Blech).
I met my husband that summer. We started sending little notes to each other through the camp mail-system. There was a postal worker, and they’d sort the notes by cabin and drop them off at your table at dinner. One night, I got a note that said, “Meet me at the dock. 9:30.” This started a regular tradition. We would meet on the dock the nights when neither of us had to be with the campers, and we’d lie down next to each other and stare up at the vast galaxy of stars above us.
“My parents are going through a horrible divorce,” I’d tell him.
“I keep falling in love with people who don’t love me back,” I’d say.
But mostly, we just stared up at the sky. The water would ripple around us. Some nights, we’d end up running away screaming when we saw a raccoon, or maybe a snake. Some nights we’d have to leave early to plunge a toilet or help a camper who was homesick.
The most glorious part of that time for me was that in the whole world, there was just the two us, in total awe of nature and everything around us. It wasn’t even necessary to talk. No one knew where we were. No one cared where we were. It was us, alone, surrounded by the stark beauty of something so simple as a lake and a sky.
I just finished reading a book-a thriller-that took place in a summer camp. There was a tragedy that happened to this woman at camp when she was 13, and 15 years later she was asked to return to camp to re-open it.
I got a grin thinking about returning to this camp. A bible camp that we had to un-bible (it was so weird, going around and covering up crosses with sheets!), with a little chapel that I loved so much and never wanted to leave. The main lodge where I had spent hours getting to know incredible people from all over the world. I loved it. My whole life would be completely different had I not gone there.
But I couldn’t go back now. Nothing would live up to the fairy tale of the several summers that I worked there. We could never recreate the same feeling of hope and belonging and just plain love (and a lot of smelly people and some drama, too, just in case I’m being too idyllic here).
Tonight, though? Tonight, I am going to go out after my kids go to bed and the dark of a Wisconsin summer night settles in, and I’m going to bring my husband and lie next to him on the giant trampoline that sits in our backyard. And I’m going to pretend like no one in the world knows where we are, and just lie there, without talking.
It’s time to start making some magic of my own, even though I’m old and crotchety and wrinkly and fat and tired all the time. I’m not letting myself even get a breath. I’m stressed even where there isn’t much to stress about. It’s time!
Don’t worry, though–no more skinny dipping for me!
On a whim, early this spring, I decided to apply to a writing workshop through the Chippewa Valley Writer’s Guild. It looked incredible: huge log cabin, dedicated time to write, a writer-in-residence who would lead us through workshop.
I gathered all my application materials … and then, I thought, Christy. You are doing it again. You’re “playing” writer. You should save money and be with your family.” But, you know what? Then I was all, Look here! I love this! It’s what I love, yo! I’m doing it!
And so, I applied. And I was accepted. And off I went to the middle of nowhere Wisconsin to a cabin called Cirenaica.
ANDDDDD THEN, you guys. I realized that I was in the exactly right place at the exactly right time. It was magical–as magical as summer camp. I swear. I looked around me and saw people just like me. People who love to write, who LIVE to write, but don’t make a LIVING writing. And there was this immediate comfort inside me. I met new people that I just adore and can’t wait to get to know better and add them to my list of people.
Oh, man. AND THEN.
I realized that the writer-in-residence who was there to teach us was pretty much the most incredible, knowledgeable, funny and wise writer (person?) I have ever met. I could have listened to him for hours and hours–and I did! We workshopped together, the 10 of us plus him, and we laughed and contemplated and said and thought brave things.
I spent half the time wishing I could transport myself back in time and go get my MFA in Tuscaloosa, Alabama so that he could be my professor. Or be a super-wise grown-up and be invited to dinner parties by him and his wife (He brought his wife along with him, she’s a poet, I wanted to be her best friend and have her in my book club). And then I just kept thinking if I couldn’t do that, maybe he could be like my cool uncle or wise-mentor-friend that you can call up when you’re totally lost.
His name is Michael Martone. You should definitely go buy his newest book, especially if you love essays or if you’re by chance from Fort Wayne, Indiana. But really, just go look at his picture and you’ll immediately know why I became an instant fan. You can tell the second you meet him how wise he is about the world, and in his eyes see that he’s been through some things, but lived to tell the tale. He brought me into the literary world, a dreamy place full of academics, but also full of drama and passion and maybe even pain and anger. These are the kinds of artists we need.
The world of art–writers and musicians, painters, sculptors, etc–is so necessary. And yet, we don’t value it enough. We steal music or listen to it on YouTube. We don’t buy books because they cost so much, yet we’ll pay $7 for a fancy coffee or ice cream.
I’ve never been more convinced that I am in the exact right place that I’m supposed to be. That I am a mama and a teacher, but I am also a writer. Why? Because I SAY SO. Because I am addicted to the feeling of someone I’ve never met listening to me read my work and seeing tears well in their eyes, or getting an email from someone who says, “You just make me laugh so hard-every night I get home and I check for your posts.”
I’m not making any money doing this. Royalties off my book sales are small, and that’s it. I don’t get paid for anything else-but I continue to do the work because it’s not work for me. For me, it’s love (and, by the way, doesn’t really feel like work).
I so hope that you find the thing that brings you so much joy. If it’s not your day job, don’t worry–you’ve always got the night. 🙂 Don’t be afraid, yo. Go for it. Join that club. Take that class. Save your money for that trip.
P.S. I got to read a passage from Almost a Mother…RIGHT in front of him. For real. Insane.
I’m currently taking a break from packing for a 4-day writing retreat. I’ll be in a lodge/cabin in a remote area with strangers. Think I’ll write a Lifetime Movie script while I’m there since I’ll have the setting all around me.
I feel like I’m packing for grown-up summer camp. I’m worried about the bathroom. Will there be air freshener? Will my roommate snore? Will someone put my underwear in the freezer? Oops, some slumber party worries snuck in there.
My leg has 75 scratches on it. I was bleeding this morning. The cat just uses her claws to climb RIGHT UP MY LEG. Also, she can jump like 30 feet, I swear.
I’m mad at myself because I let my mother-in-law’s death totally derail me. Mentally, physically, emotionally. I’m having trouble sleeping again, I’m having nightmares again, dreaming about the twins again. It’s as though this trauma just kind of re-booted my trauma from before. The reason I’m angry is that I have the skills to deal with this. I have written and read and learned and I know how to do this. Instead, I’m way overcompensating by spoiling my kids, not cooking, buying random crap on Amazon (which I am slowly returning, but, still). I know there are worse things I could be doing, but I’m just still unhappy.
I’m hoping to use this retreat as a reset for myself. My goal is to unplug totally. It’s time for a phone detox, anyway, but I’m going to try really hard to only look at my phone a few times a day to make sure my family is safe, and really just focus on my writing and my emotions and getting my act together. I’m hopeful that some campfires and walks in the woods will help with this, too. Also, I could use a break from the news and politics (although this usually comes with a sense of guilt because it’s a privilege to be able to “take a break” from it).
Do you ever wonder about who invented things? My husband and I call these “popcorn wonders” because I make fun of him all the time because he wonders so much. It’s great that he wonders, and now, so do my kids. One day we were sitting, watching TV, NOT eating popcorn or watching popcorn and my hubs was all, “Who do you think was the first person to decide, hey, let’s throw this in a fire and see if it explodes.”
I laughed because I think no one ever really did that, it was probably an accident. A dude is done breaking his teeth on the corn and he threw it in the fire as he walked by and realized it made for delicious snacking.
By the way, I’m sure I’m totally wrong.
Anyway, I’m not totally sure why I felt the need to tell you all that, but there it is. Oh, wait, I was telling you that because recently I was at a water park where they have one of those surfing simulation things, and my daughter tried it and loved it. Then she said, “Seriously, who invented surfing? Someone said, Oh, there’s a giant wave coming, let’s get on a plank of board and get inside of it.” Bahaha. That’s my girl.
I’ll end with a shameless plea for your help. No, I won’t. That would be ridiculous. I’ve already asked you SO many times to read my book and review it, and maybe email the link to some friends or recommend it on Good Reads. It would be OBNOXIOUS to push you to do that again. And I know all my FRIENDS didn’t buy my book and then leave it lying on a shelf somewhere…
OK, enough. Love you guys! If you read this far, I’ll be seeing you again in a few days. In the meantime, leave me some comment love—what would you like me to write about for you? What’s going on in your mind that you want to talk about?