The Tense Silence of Our Youth

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Instead of Hansel and Gretel, we have been Hannah and Gerta perhaps – two who find themselves lost in the great forest while the breadcrumbs meant to indicate a way home provide nourishment for ever watchful crows.

There have been times we both felt this way. Some of them have been simultaneous.

This state of being included some of our greatest obstacles, not only in writing but in day-to-day living. Hard to go forward when we’re looking back.

Struggles though these times have been keenly disheartening, but reminders from family and friends that everything is relative often sustains us.

Or turning around from running away to face the fear, the discomfort, the pain until it has nothing more to say, no more to deliver.

Like a string of pearls reversing into velvet black time, these difficulties have also formed a radiant calm and beauty, encouraging reflection.

Through all of this, we’ve managed to accomplish what once seemed impossible.

We’re still at it.

Sprint n’Splat

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How have you been?

As for us, here’s this month in collaboration:

These questions go through both of our minds, and we discuss them every time:

Does my sister condemn me?

Does she pass judgement or accuse me of slacking?

No, she never does. We’d like to get to the place where we can accept this as truth, rather than adding stress to our lives worrying what the other will think.

And to be honest, worrying over what each one of us thinks… of ourselves.

At its best, collaboration provides the way for us to keep up our dedication amid setbacks.

Having a partner oftentimes raises energy. Even when one is decidedly NOT up for anything, small tasks can be done by the other. We have to be okay with that.

We have the best intentions every day.

We had a good run for a couple of weeks at the beginning of June, revising our second draft, left, right, and center.

THEN, we tripped…. health-wise: our usual unwelcome, annoying, and intermittent experience turns around and bites us again.

No matter how many times we’ve been through the two steps forward/one step back thing, every time we have a good run, we forget that interruption could be lurking round the next bend… in this case, Chapter 28.

Patience, love, and compassion win the day in these situations, even if we can’t see it right away. What is most important after all?

As with location for putting up a successful business, communication is essential for collaboration.

How do you get through your rough patches? What are the tools you find most helpful when you doubt yourself?

We’d love to hear from you.

3… 2…1… Reentry

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We’ve been busy since we last saw you. We hope you’ve kept well and happy. You’ve been in our thoughts.

In the interim, we finished the first draft of our novel after a full year’s creative endeavor. We look forward to sharing snippets and scenes and in-betweens.

We’d like to pose questions and invitations for you to share your works as well.

We are now prepping for a month’s-long set of revision passes.

We find Janice Hardy’s suggestions invaluable as are James Scott Bell’s. The former suggested prepping the book by creating an editorial map with this format for each chapter. You could easily do it for each scene as well:

[SUMMARY

First line

Last line.

Revision Thoughts: ]

 

Here’s the link to Janice’s helpful resource: http://blog.janicehardy.com/2015/02/revison-prep-create-editorial-map.html

Next steps for us include an outline of the three acts and the main turning points within them.

~*~

We’ve missed this space and community. Bloggers everywhere have been in our thoughts. One good thing is we’ve been learning every day we’ve written.

Originally, we didn’t know how coauthoring would go with the two of us having different schedules, varying levels of pain, and the ever-burgeoning list of doctor appointments.

It wasn’t always easy, yet we persevered. We’re now looking for a way to celebrate our, ‘We did it!’ moment in time by reentering 2penthrupain. Please celebrate with us if you have a spare moment or two.

We know the blog is an essential part of what we’re trying to accomplish – touching base with other readers and writers.

We have a few new areas of interest coming up including finding a publisher. We were all set to go with a publishing company, but fortunately happened upon some unfortunate information. In the end because of our research, we decided not to sign their contract though it had been a slam dunk for the months leading up to the discoveries. Something kept us from actually signing the darn thing for quite a while.

Andrea took a month’s creative writing course with prompts. She’s been producing some wonderful stories on a near daily basis…. The rest were poems of equally inspiring innovation. She found the course both eye-opening and mind-stretching.

In our next post we will feature one of her short stories.

The course was offered through Creative Writing Now with Nancy Strauss.

She’s currently offering a free 3 Day Course on Endless Story Ideas. Here is the link.

http://www.creative-writing-now.com/free-online-writing-courses.html

We look forward to diving back in. Thank you for your continued support. We’d love to hear from you.

Meningitis Mind Sentences

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Throughout my early life I wrote my pain on paper, and it seemed to help. I wasn’t conscious that I was dealing with it that way until an event in my early twenties.

One morning I woke up to get ready for work, and fell into my closet. Next I drove my little blue Fiat to work as if I was underwater, falling to the asphalt, eventually arriving bloodied and confused in the office.

I agreed to go to the hospital at the urging of my neurologist, who was concerned about these symptoms along with the intensity of my headaches and the fact that my naturopath had seen some unusual activity behind my eyes.

They took spinal fluid to rule out the most dangerous potential cause of these anomalies. My neurologist thought it unlikely but better to be safe.

It turned out to be true. I had spinal meningitis, and the next people I saw wore outfits akin to space suits. I stayed a month, and none of the doctors I saw could answer my simple questions: Will I live through this? Will I once again be able to complete sentences and think as well as I once did?

It’s difficult to describe the level of completely useless fear I felt when one after another answered, “We don’t know yet.”

At first, I was not allowed to sit up or stand. I had to do everything lying down. I would eat by rolling over onto my side carefully and using a straw. Though I was in the perfect posture for it, the one thing I couldn’t do was sleep. People entered hourly. There were lights, sounds, and people crying in the night. And there was pain and fear.

All the while I wrote in my mind. Affected cognitively, I couldn’t do much, but I constantly repeated the mantra I had been given by my meditation teacher. Over and over again, I would not only say it, but see it in my mind’s eye. I clung to those words like the lifeline they were. They kept me from drowning in my own fear.

Later, I continued, interspersing thoughts of purpose. “What did I want to do with my life when I was well again?” It took a long time for me to complete thoughts of any complexity, but I was gradually certain I would like to be a naturopath, one of those kind people who spent so much time to help me figure out what was wrong after a slew of doctors told me it was everything from an ear infection to my imagination. I will be a naturopath, I thought, and I asked my nurse for help sending away for information long before the eras of laptops, wifi, and cell phones. Snail mail was IT, baby.

While I waited to hear, I started to sit up again. I responded to cards with a line or two of text and a scribbled picture of the sun, heart, or a flower.

I wrote one line of feelings over and over until I thought of another line to repeat. They soothed my imaginings of the future.

I found out that I needed to do something else to fund the years of study it would take to become a naturopath. I thought I’d like to teach.

All this came together through thoughts that were pinned down to paper so they wouldn’t fly off into the stratosphere before completion. Slowly, I learned to complete sentences again. I applied to schools and wrote their essays with persistence. I struggled to stand and balance my body, and in a month’s time live outside of a hospital. I was a lucky girl who lived.

I did not become a naturopath, but I did become a teacher. I worked at it lovingly for a decade and a half.

Though I will always live with remnants meningitis left in my body, I know I would not be the person I am grateful to be today were it not for that experience and the time spent with myself, talking, whispering, and writing through the pain.

Lost and Found

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I find it very difficult waiting. Patience has never been one of my strong suits, since, forever.

I would like all our projects to be done…like…yesterday, please?

I know things take time, and time gives ideas room to percolate. All the best things require patience. I am doing my best in that regard.

Leslie came over to stay for a week so we could work together. We hadn’t been able to work on the book for a few days since we needed to get going on some funding ideas for our projects. The book is always a living entity in my head, though. It’s on my mind, but actual written words have been held up.

Finally! The last few days we got back to writing, and I feel motivated again. We were able to clean and tighten up chapters that we wrote before and also wrote new chapters. In the end we sent through Chapter 13 to the editor. We are waiting to hear back so we can continue to make corrections. Also, we are knee deep in Chapter 14.

Sharing the teaser (first four chapters) gets easier each time as our confidence grows.

We find it easier to write side by side. Going back and forth with the dialogue helps us find the exact words to use. We feed off the combined creative energies in the room. It took us 20 minutes to find the best two words for a description, and when we found them, it was definitely an “oh that’s so perfect” kind of feeling. We also felt that way about a section we weren’t sure how to describe until the idea presented itself. We worked on it together. So amazing when we really feel those parts.   Such emotional moments.

Some ideas come to me from my bathroom floor. The floor is swirly and looks like characters so I stare at it and see story lines. I take what I can get wherever I can get it.

Sharing bits and pieces with a number of people and receiving positive results is exciting. It makes me want to finish it all the more. Today I read it to my family. Actually, the computer read it. I was too nervous.

My father, who I’ve been afraid to share it with the most, had his back to me. I could see a third of his face. As the last word of the last sentence was uttered, I watched his head nod. At the same time, the part of his face that was exposed had the look of approval. He liked it. “Hey Mikey, he liked it.” (just like the old ‘Life’ cereal commercial.)

Yay, what a hurdle that was for me. This whole time wondering if he would think it worthwhile. Today was definitely a turning point. When we started the book, I read little bits to my other sister, my mother, and some friends, but I just couldn’t get up the nerve to share it with Dad for fear he wouldn’t like it or be disappointed. It was really a good feeling. I felt like it gave me the green light to keep going.

There is a renewed energy in me. I am very happy today.

I look forward to the writing days ahead. They are what keep me going.   This book has been the best therapy through the storm that has been my life. There has always been a part of me missing. Even though I was a chef, a cool career, I was never fully satisfied. I am thankful I have such skills, but always felt aimless. Goalless. Writing gives me the hope I need to make it through another day. “I was lost but now I’m found.” I know that’s an old song about religion, but it applies here. I truly understand the meaning it has for me now.

I never knew before that this could be my possible life. To be truly happy living what I love. One of my other favorite quotes of late is, “I make a career out of living happily ever after.” That is one of my daily mantras. It keeps me going on a daily basis. Thank you to all those who write inspiring quotes. You are much needed in this world. I am grateful for you…..(Andrea)

I found this book helpful in the process of doing writing therapy maybe you will too…

 

Climbing the Hill of Hope

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9/21/2014

We’ve been making great strides with the book lately.   After stopping for a while to work on other projects that needed our attention, we are back in the full swing of things. This is when I feel my best and see my future a little brighter. It doesn’t mean that in ‘the here and now,’ I physically feel well, but it greatly helps my mental state. When I/we are working on the book and it’s flowing, I get a glimpse of everything I want to happen, who I want to become. I imagine myself completely well, physically and mentally. I visualize all of the traveling we will be doing to promote her and it gets me excited. I see the book cover so clearly and can feel it in my hands. I am in the moment, turning each and every brand new page.

When it must sit by the wayside, I have to admit, I’m in a lower place. I do my best to rally, but in order for me to fully bring myself back, I need to be working on our story.

The below was written during a break we had to take from the book. It makes sense I was feeling the way I felt below. I am hopeful for my future, I just have to keep the book alive in myself and on paper…

I expect a full recovery!

[7/24/2014]

I got up and went to Physical Therapy again. It was too strenuous the first day and I couldn’t get out of bed the day after, so he had to lessen the intensity. He asked me to remember how I felt later today since I forgot how I felt during the day of the first session.

Well I’ll remember how I felt all right. My back is making sure of that. It went out on me as I was getting on the table for an MRI. Oh what fun trying to keep my head from moving for the half hour MRI while my back is spasming all over the place. Yes I can definitely tell him how the rest of my day was. I don’t think I’ll forget this time.

I wasn’t even thinking of being claustrophobic in the machine until the tech said “we’ll be putting you in to about your waist” It was then that I started to panic. I knew I had to just get through it without freaking out. I started counting and breathing. Just kept my eyes shut and pretended I wasn’t in a coffin.

Then I went for a massage since I didn’t want to be miserable for the next few days of pain my back would have in store for me. It usually helps but this time the guy was giving me one of the worst chair massages I’ve had. It was so disconnected and not soothing at all. He actually answered the phone a few times while one hand was still working on me. It was more comical than annoying at that point. I tried not to get upset about it. That would definitely not help the ounce of relaxation I was trying to absorb. Not sure if it helped or not. Trying not to move around too much.

Feeling a bit disconnected myself today. I guess that’s why I got massagus interruptus guy. Makes sense. I just have to say “tomorrow will be a better day.”

I got some troubling news today. Luckily it’s not health related so I am very grateful. Sure I cried for a bit. Spoke to my sister and my mom. It helped. I could really go off the deep end about it but I am trying to use my new skills and tell myself “all is well” and I really do believe it. I just have to keep moving forward and not give up. Whatever happens, it will all be okay. It’s a huge improvement I must say. In the past, I would have probably cried all night, curled up in a ball, unable to move. Instead I decided to sit and write about it. Sure, it’s not the best thing I’ve written, it easily could be the worst thing I’ve written, but at least I’m writing.

As time goes on, I will get my sense of humor back. It comes and goes. I’ve been waiting over a year to feel like myself again. I certainly don’t want this to be the personality I’ve settled into, but I know it’s a huge transitional time for me. One step at a time. I know I’ll be back…..

[~Andrea]

There is a special focus on peace this weekend, Saturday night and all day Sunday.

May it extend into forever.

[~Leslie]

 

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Have Dahl’s Hopes

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(Andrea)   There is magic everywhere. We just have to be aware and open.   It’s a puzzle, but once you see the pattern you can find it if you want to. It’s also a game of hide and seek. Ask a question, spin yourself around, and then go find the answer.

Sometimes, it’s about admitting you’re afraid. Look at your fear and know that it will all be okay.

I took yesterday off since I worked all day [that] Saturday. I was very happy about being able to get some good organizational work done on the book. I was a little discouraged when I read on the Internet that some readers don’t like flashbacks, and that they are much more interested in the present. You may lose the reader if it’s not done correctly.

I have fretted about this since we need back story. Can the flashbacks hold the reader’s interest? Without them, I feel the story would fall short, so I am leaving them in. We may need to tweak and remove unnecessary parts, but I vote yes to the back story. (Leslie: “And I like it too.”)

After taking yesterday off, however, I haven’t been able to get back into the groove again today. I’ve been getting down on my work. Still, I know it’s a good story. Will others feel the same?

I watched a show that is in its final season. Though earlier seasons were enjoyable, this was not very good. They kept doing flashbacks for no reason other than filling space. It’s really boring. That was also where some of my fear’s been coming from today.

As I was sitting in doubt, my other sister sent me a “Words with friends” word. I looked at the word she sent, and it was, “Hope.” It was a much needed word on a day like this… a synchronicity of sorts, bringing the shift that I needed.

I shuffled my letters. Not the best ones. HHPADLS. What to do with that? I tried a few different combinations using ‘S’ at the end of hope. They all came back as ‘Not a word.’ I finally tried something different since I knew the word ‘Dal’ as lentils. I added an H for extra points to see if it would go. It did.

Now, sometimes I look up words when I don’t know what they mean. I wasn’t going to with this one but something nudged me.

Half way down the search results, I saw, ‘Roald Dahl.’ I’d never heard of him before but I did see a blurb that he was the writer of “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.”

Willy Wonka is a longtime favorite of mine as I am sure it is for many people. But the thing you see is that Willy Wonka has continued to come up since before I started writing the book and it keeps coming up. I see it all over the place. It’s even referenced in the book we’re writing.

Then I read some of his quotes. They spoke to me clearly. Of all the great ones, this one jumped out at me:

“Those who don’t believe in magic will never find it.”

Well, I believe.

The next word my sister sent was, “Have.”

I put them together and I ‘Have Dahl’s Hopes’

See the magic. Be the magic. That is my wish for everyone in this day and age.

 ~*~

(Leslie) This was written when August was brand new, and a lot’s flowed under the writing bridge since then. After writing the above, Andrea had seen Roald Dahl pretty much everywhere in the interim… so it only made sense to post this entry on what would have been his 98th birthday… today: the thirteenth of September.

Since this awareness of his existence has become evident, he whispers to us. We strive to approach that state where he lives, looking ever more closely, more carefully, for every tiny speck of magic. Then we can expand it on a daily basis, seeing ourselves stepping inside as we do.

EARLY EDITION (T-85 minutes, Birthday Edition)

How the ‘We’ Came to Be

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Words hold power.

Whatever their intent.

Once spoken out loud,

Can never return home again.

Words written can remain hidden for as long as we desire. We can keep them to ourselves as thoughts, but do not be fooled. They are still heard. We are led by them regardless. An intention is set, and consciously or not, they are still out there.

These thoughts set a change in motion:

“I do not want to hurt in this relationship anymore, so I have to let go. Doesn’t stop the hurt though.“

“I can’t take this job another day: I have to get out. “

Then things got complicated. However silent, the truth was out. I couldn’t take it back or unthink the thoughts.

Thus began the breakdown of my foundation. It started with that story I told myself. The story that woke me up to the possibilities of a better life and a belief in myself. It’s important because it has made me who I am now.

But does it explain how the, “I have no idea what to do with my life anymore,” statement became a focused team effort?

I heard from so many, ”You should write.”

“Write? What? Who am ‘I’ to be writing?”

Being a chef for many years, everyone said, “Write a cookbook.”

I didn’t want to write a freaking cookbook. Hmmm, maybe I’ll write about how I used food to get my body and mind healthy again. The only problem was, I wasn’t healthy, and I couldn’t maintain my health through food anymore. I was so distraught, I reverted to my old habits.

I have a talent for looking fine on the outside, but the inside is another story.

~*~

For months my sister said, “We should write together.”

“Huh? Write what?” I thought it over.

I do express myself better through the written word. But once again, who am I to be writing anything?

Lost, I remained in solitude with my thoughts… and books and blogs. I read a lot, and the repeating message was, “Do what you love. What did you love to do as a child?”

The answer was, ‘I loved to write.”

I loved words. I loved to write poems, but after one poem was found when I was twelve, it was repeated so often with ‘intent to tease’ that it became my tormentor. I put down my pen… for good.

Or so I thought.

And then one day, my downstairs neighbor was screaming at his young daughter. It made me ill, and I was shaking. Screaming has an immediate reaction in my body. Even raised voices can do it. It came to me immediately, and I knew I was supposed to write and what the content would be. My purpose, which had escaped me for so long despite asking over and over to whoever was listening inside. I recognized it as the missing piece right away.

I needed a mentor now. A partner. My sister. I always knew if I was to write, we would do it together. She is knowledgeable in this area. I knew how lucky I was that it was all finally coming together. It was time to do this.

“What am I, crazy? Really, I’m going to write a book now after all these years?”

But the answer immediately came back loud and clear, “Yes. I am going to write a book with my sister.”

The wild adventure begins. How fortunate I am to be given this chance to do what I’ve always wanted to do, but had completely forgotten once life got in the way.     (~Andrea)

~*~*~

I looked at my sister and saw myself… struggling with identity issues now that an earthquake of health challenges and new questions had entered her mind. Unlikely, but true: I entered a similar phase of my life twelve years earlier. It took me a long time to move one step after another from where I was to where I am now.

I still experience chronic pain and wrestle with depression, but something is different now. Time has passed with lessons learned. Pain and suffering can be two separate things.

I saw Andrea suffer and said to myself, “I know this. Maybe I can be of help.” I started researching the kinds of things she might do from home. One of the opportunities I found didn’t suit her, but it wound up giving ME a road forward. I am now slowly moving through training myself – as a life coach and writing mentor. Continuing aspects of what I did when I was a teacher. It gave me great joy then and now with my first coaching clients.

If only I could find something to engage my sister. She was not ready to take suggestions at first, but I held a space for her in my own consciousness so that it would be there at the right moment, if she had need of it.

I knew she was a good writer, but honestly I didn’t know how good. I didn’t know how much the writing would take root in her mind, heart, and spirit. How the story would become alive for and within her, as it had for me in my novels.

That is the point when a writer starts dreaming about their characters and story, waking with ideas, watching a movie and seeing a structure, or noting narration or exposition they’d choose to avoid. It’s there, percolating under the surface all the time, tendrils reaching out for resonance and impact.

I spent time with her during her transition. By that I mean the time before she started writing our book, as well as day One and after. I cannot easily explain how much lighter her whole self became immediately upon grabbing a pen to find her purpose and principle character. It was a lightning mood transformation from the much denser self she carried during all those months prior to finding herself in writing.

It was like watching a parched sponge placed in a beautiful clay bowl of liquid, swelling and springing back to life as it absorbs that for which it’s always longed: Water.

Water in the desert.      (~Leslie)

~*~

So here we are, sharing our stories with you in case they help you in any way hold hope in your life. We want you to know, that however slowly or quickly, with each step forward, things can improve.

We say this in the lightest, most pressure-free manner possible as we are traveling the uphill and rocky road ourselves.

We welcome your comments.