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Goodbye, Melinda…

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She was an artist.

Her work extended to jewelry, costumes, painting. She had a way of expressing her spirit, imbuing her work with it, that rendered her soul accessible.

That is the apex, the epitome of an artist’s goal. It takes courage and talent.

I met her in a jewelry store some years ago. Her husband is a jeweler. They found each other through the creation of her art. Her life was like that: following and defined by her ability to create.

A strange feeling I’ve learned to recognize had been haunting me since mid-December. But life and obligations and duties and necessities distract one from following up on these psychic blips that one never mentions…that one keeps secret because they invariably prove true and intensely private.

But today I gritted my teeth and followed the indefinable promptings.

I found her.

She died. Mid-December. Unexpectedly.

Of all the people I’ve encountered in my life, she was one of the two I can say I envied. In my lexicon there is a difference between jealousy and envy. Jealousy has a tinge of hostility. Envy is a tribute.

So this is my farewell and tribute to a gentle spirit and a beautiful soul.

Melinda Mary Rogers Cowdery…artist.

Thank you for sharing your art and your spirit.

melinda

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Just bitchin'

Shady Ladies

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I’ve run into something lately that bothers me no end. It chaps my hide…creams my corn…grinds my gears…gets on my last nerve.

It’s a delicate subject, in my opinion.

It’s shady ladies.

By that term I mean women whose prime survival tactic is subterfuge, manipulation, and dishonesty. Of course, females don’t have a monopoly on these stratagems. Everybody lies. Everybody cheats. No one, man or woman, is completely without a few smudges on their shields. But the ones I’ve encountered are people who are adept at the art. They’ve been doing it all their adult lives. They’re good at it. They will make no effort to change, because being shady has served them well, has brought them far.

It’s a sore subject for me because I was raised by an immigrant who drummed it into her children’s heads that they would only receive what they earned by working for it. And working hard. We were taught that no one owed us anything. There are no free handouts. And…here’s the kicker…that you should rely on no one to right your wrongs or pay your way.

A lot of this was because I was raised post-feminism. The bras were already burned. The angry speeches already made. So, for some reason I find it personally offensive to watch women choose the shady way when others are offered to them.

Perhaps some examples would help.

Example #1:    A woman whose hard luck story is first and foremost on her tongue. It is her identity and what she clings to because it has allowed her to cobble together an income of fraudulent claims for welfare, food stamps, and state subsidies. These are good and useful resources for those who need them. But not for someone who spends her days wandering malls and hanging out. Someone whose hard luck is years in the past. Asked what she’ll do if these funds are taken away, the reply is ‘Something always turns up.’ Ask more and you’ll discover it’s not something that turns up, but someone. This is a woman who brags she gets through life by surrounding herself with the ‘right’ people. They feel sorry for her. They don’t look too deep, and they give her money and gifts until she fades them out as they become suspicious of her story. Whereupon, she goes in search of new prey.

To me, that’s shady.

Example #2:    This lady runs her own ‘business.’ House cleaning. She spends her first few hours plying her employers’ ears with tales of her hardships. “I’m a single mother; you’ll have to give me some money for gas, I’m living that close to the edge.” In addition to her fee, she is handed, over the course of a month or so, several hundred dollars for various mishaps that befall this brave soul trying to buck the odds. She needs gas. Her car needs repairs. Her child is sick. Her absences and no-shows are attributed to her difficult circumstances. Until she slips and it’s revealed that she’s a single mom who’s been living with the father of her child for decades (there was no wedding, but it’s a marriage for all practical purposes). And her child is 30 years old. She claims him as a dependent even though he lives fifty miles away in his own home, and has a life separate from his parents.

Shady, shady lady.

I’ve met these people and talked to them in depth. I haven’t lost money to them or been taken in by them. They’re boastful about what they do.

As I said, everyone gets a little shady at some time. No one’s perfect. But to make it your lifestyle of choice? There are labels for such people: scam artists, con men (or women), grifters…

…shady, shady ladies…

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writing

Sell vs. Savor

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Writing is a gift.

Not necessarily for the literary efforts produced, but for the satisfaction of the process itself. I believe everyone who commits to it, knows that inner groan of pleasure when brain and keystroke join in a seamless act of creation. Which brings to mind one of the writer’s quandaries.

Do you write to sell, or to savor?

As you work your way up the rejection ladder, getting more and more substantive feedback, at some point a choice will begin to materialize on the edges of your awareness. It begins to shimmer its way into existence when the rejection asks you to submit more material; when it terms your writing ‘intriguing’ or ‘exceptional’ or ‘delightful.’ BUT…(there’s always a ‘but’)…your style doesn’t blend with the publication’s. Or maybe your subject matter needs tweaking before you’ll be awarded the brass ring of being published.

You’ve been diligent about researching to whom you submit. You’ve targeted publications that seem likely to want work like yours. But with the carrot dangling before you…so, so close…you take a longer, harder look at them…and at yourself. You’re willing to edit and rewrite and do it again and again, as long as the core of the work remains true.

Do you continue to please yourself, being faithful to what springs from your soul and hope to find a compatible outlet? Or do you pull that spark of what feels like your essence out, and write what you’re told as best you can, ignoring the deep, inner voice that whispers ‘This isn’t me…it’s not what I meant…’?

There are multiple arguments for both sides. There are varying perspectives from which to view each. There is no right answer.

What there is, is ego and that selfish side of the craft that drives you to write in the first place. If these things tip the scales for you, then you’ll resist compromise and say ‘I’m being true to myself.’

If the lure of being published has the greater weight, you’ll do whatever you have to to get something in print. The satisfaction of being published will silence any voice that queries ‘Did I sell out?’

Luckily, there is also the inevitability of change, of maturation and growth. And that’s the saving grace that can lead to a place where the pleasure of savoring the process and the rush of seeing yourself in print can meet, merge, and become magical. That essential internal spark is always changing. So is your work. So is the marketplace. The longer you persist, the better your chances of finding the niche you were meant to fill.

Write for someone else, or for yourself? Sell or savor?

Do both. Strive for that magical moment of overlap.

Just don’t ever stop.

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