scene from ‘in the margins’

I’ve been working on a story for nearly seven years. It started because I was in a creative writing workshop taught by Brady Udall, and the story I kept reworking was crap. “You obviously have talent, but this story is boring and cliche.”

Ouch.

So I made a deal with him the day before my final project was due. I would write a new story and take whatever grade he gave me from that one piece. He agreed, and I drove away crying and freaking out. It was one of those moments in time when you decide something rash, like, “If I get anything but an A, I will give this shit up forever.” I would take his criticism and stop trying to be a writer.

On my way to get my daughter, there was an interview on NPR about a playwright that was inspired by the notes in old scripts. Before I even got home, the story about an almost-13-year-old was formed. In the Margins would center around Dani and what could either be the worst summer ever or the one that changes her life. What could she learn from the widow of her infamous great-grandfather, William Keller? What would the scribbled notes in the margins of his books tell her about life?

Her friendship with Eliza – The Fourth Wife – was what Brady loved most. He gave me an A, and I’ve been slowly turning that short story into a novel that I hope will finally be finished this year. In the meantime, I’ve been adding excerpts to Tablo where the comments of strangers keep me moving forward.

Here’s a peek:

“Can I ask you something? It might come out wrong.” Eliza and I were sitting out on the porch swing watching the dogs chew on bones.

“What is it, kid? Spit it out. Hopefully, you’re figuring out that I don’t care a lot about being careful with words.”

“Well, it seems like…. You know how my parents are kind of young?”

“Yeah,” her eyes looked like they did when she was laughing.

“Why are they so scared all the time? Why are they so careful with their words? Why don’t they just say what they want like you do? I mean, they’re grownups, too.”

“Huh. Well, I think people my age have gone through wars and separation and, well, we changed the world. Your parents inherited a world that was already moving so fast and they didn’t have to do as much work. They are afraid of change. We created it. We remember when there wasn’t a car in every garage. We remember when little Jimmy down the street left for war and never came back. We decided not to fuck around with being careful because we couldn’t be – we were too busy having to be different daily. My mom wanted me to be a lady. Fuck that. I was a widow at 25. A widow with lots of money, too. Do you know how many men proposed? I picked Bill because he was famous and important – two things I wasn’t. I never wanted to be cautious. I knew then that life can be cut short, because I’d seen it, so I was going to live huge.

“The worst thing that will ever happen to your mom will be your dad leaving her. Do you understand how lucky that makes her? She’s famous, too, do you know that? For those books and pictures. Every day some kid gets one of her books. Every day she gets closer to being immortal. She could sell calendars and cards and magazines probably, if she was just a risk-taker, but she won’t be. You will, though. I can see it already. There’s more Bill in you than there ever was in any of his kids or grandkids. There’s something like lightning in you. I hope to see it when you’re fully charged.”

“I don’t feel like lightning. I mean, most of the time I feel kind of lost.”

“Do you think lightning knows where it’s going to hit? It heads for the highest peak, but that’s not necessarily where it hits. It can’t help but look for somewhere to land, and when it does… Well, nothing is ever the same. You might not have the nasty streak Bill did, but you definitely have the electricity. You want to know everything; you want to feel it all. That’s what you got from him that no one else in the family did. That courage. Feeling lost…well, that’s only because you’re willing to go off-course. You don’t need a map. You’re going to trust that your heart and gut will lead you to where you need to be.”

I stared at my shoe for a bit and let Eliza finish one cigarette and then start a new one.

“I think I get scared more than he did. I think I might be like my mom and dad, too.”

She took a few more drags and then dumped the butt into an old beer can.

“Here’s the thing, Dani. Your great-grandfather was an arrogant asshole. The worst fucker out there, really. But when he put his attention on you, all that would fall away. Beyond his selfishness, he was golden. It took years for me to get past the ass – and I tried a lot. I know it’s not right that he finally noticed me when I was ready to leave, but once he realized what he had, I was the luckiest woman alive. We had amazing years together, and I will never doubt that he loved me.

“But he was scared a lot, too. He would sit at his typewriter silent for hours. I would wait outside the door, sitting in the hallway, wondering what to do to hear the keys as he typed. I learned the hard way to never interrupt, so I would sit and – believe me or don’t – but I would pray. I would beg God or St. Francis or whoever was listening to please bring him words, because I knew that he could sit there for days. I heard him gulp down tears. I heard him snoring. I heard him curse the heavens. And when I heard him typing, I could finally move.

“Fear is human,” she lit another cigarette and I watched as she inhaled with her eyes closed. As the smoke blew out, she opened them. She looked at me and smiled. “Bill tested his fear. He pushed it. He used to drive with the headlights off just to force that fear to the surface. He was crazy that way. He was constantly testing God. You’re smarter than that. You’re smarter than all of us, really. I knew that when you were three. Bill lifted you up when you were visiting and you looked at him, all stern, and said, ‘My mommy won’t let me fall.’ He had a great laugh over that.

“And your mom took you from Bill and said, ‘Not ever.’ You gave him such a look! He stared back with the same fierceness, and I saw at that moment that you were the one with the lightning.”

I was crying, not sure why, and she pointed her cigarette at me, “You are the product of greatness. No one in this world can drag you down. Never forget.”

All I could do was nod as she smoked. I would never forget

45.

Wow, 45 years on this planet. Incredible. I’m grateful for the time I’ve been allowed.

Facebook has this wonderful way of reminding you of what your recent years have brought with its “On This Day” memory feed. It brings me a lot of laughter and even a bit of sadness. It’s bittersweet to see past birthday wishes from friends who have moved on to whatever comes next for us. I am now older than some of them when I was born many years after they were…It’s a good reminder, though, to sit with gratitude for my extended time.

And I’m old enough now to sit with my memories without regret. I can think about the thousands of experiences I’ve had, the people that have come and gone, the dreams that never came true and the many that have. Hindsight and all that, right? I can fully appreciate it now.

Those old posts also remind me of goals I’ve had along the way. Where those unfinished plans once brought heightened anxiety, today I thought about the things that did get done, and I reflected on the obstacles that kept me from accomplishing the others. Instead of being upset that I still haven’t finished a novel, I cut myself some slack. I’ve written thousands of words through the years, after all. I’ve been published in magazines and newspapers. I have four novels fleshed-out and have been concentrating on one for the last few weeks. Tens of thousands of words. I know they’ll all get done.

I have time.

Besides, the kids are having their own pre-teen adventures, and they need their space, so I get a few extra minutes every day to write and create. The time they need from me is concentrated with the really good stuff, too, and I’m grateful they share what they do with me. One shares every detail; one tells me what he can. It’s not always easy. People never are. Luckily, I can read both of them without the words, even if some days it’s like picking apart a poem to get to the truth. They’re complex creatures, my kids. I love that most.

They’ve had their first heartaches (!). They have opinions separate from mine (we actually encourage it). They know how to do things that others can’t (Rhiannon’s starting her fourth year of piano and has written short songs! Sebastian creates board games to rival Parker Brothers!). They’re proud of those things. And they are becoming – every day – more solidly themselves. I know they’re both excited and scared about that. We’re closer and closer to adolescence…

Tony and I are at the point where we let them make decisions. We expect the truth from them, and – while we’re still guiding them – we’re evolving more and more into a support system instead of being the puppet masters. We have high expectations, but at the end of the day the most important thing is that they know they’re loved.

They are excellent huggers, too.

I love their friendship. They’ll talk, and I realize they have conversations we didn’t hear. They have inside jokes. They fight less and less, and we’re a talkative house, so arguments are inevitable. I know that they’ll always have each other, even once Tony and I are gone. I’m glad for that.

Rhiannon is my heart. She’s kind and smart and beautiful. She’s more than I ever expected. I look at her with awe that I ever had a life before she existed. It seems impossible that she’s so new to this world! I am truly privileged to be her mother. And she loves me more than I knew anyone ever could. Sometimes I cry thinking about how lucky I am.

Romance through the years? Ugh. I didn’t know what I was doing! I’m finally figuring it out. Tony is my best friend. God, can he infuriate me. He pushes, and I push back. Our past relationships have made it impossible for us to keep things bottled up, so everything bubbles over. All of that raw beauty. All of this intense beautiful love. I’ve never had a man love me like he does. He loves me, not some construct he created in his mind. He wants to know me. It’s such a gift.

He’s a great man. He works hard. He loves his son and wants to raise him to be a good man. He’s stepped up for my daughter and wants to raise her to trust that people keep promises. He loves her as his own. He is like a fierce warrior who would die protecting us.

It’s amazing.

So, yeah, 45.

There are some leftover goals to tackle, along with, you know, being a mom and wife, running a business, being a community leader, being on a theater board, and still being available to deal with my parents and brother. It’s busy.

And I love it. I’m grateful to be here.

 

the power of words

When they fill a page, words can tell a story. They can instruct. They can change moods and minds. They are magic on the page. On the page, however, words can also be well thought out. They can be carefully placed. It is the gift of writing.

Said aloud, though, words can escape when your true intention was to keep them locked. It is the curse of speech. It makes me wish I had been born quieter. And less emotional. That wasn’t for me, though. No beautiful fairy waved her wand and gave me the ability to be silent every time it is necessary. In 43 years, I have worked on this, but I am just a student of this practice and often fuck it up. Think of a muddy glass of water. When it’s swirling and unclear, that is me at my worst. Once I get a chance to sit for a bit, the dirt settles and things are clearer. Being still is good for me. Being still with a pen and paper is even better for me. It seems that the dirt settles faster.

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So, the power of words. They can undo. They can fasten. Silence can be good, if it’s followed by carefully thought out discourse. Silence followed by silence…

Well, there is a lot of power in having no words, too.

(Originally posted May 7, 2015, on gigihuntley.blogspot.com)

anniversaries

bangsarebetterthanbotox.com’s Facebook page is four today!

The blog itself is much older and was once called Yogi Girl. I started it in 2004, while pregnant with Pooka. I deleted it rashly after someone left a scary comment. A few days later, I tried to recall it and someone had already taken the URL. All those words lost.

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Back then I had a lot more readers and I sometimes mourn that relationship. Strange, huh? It was different than other social media; it had to be grown organically. Your computer didn’t willingly hand over your contact list and start making matches for you. When I shut it down for those few days, I missed them. They were international and living lives very different than my own. I was learning far more from them than they were from me. Every comment was treasured.

Here we are, though, at the end of 2015, and social media reigns supreme. We catch up with friends, get our news, and show off our moments with a touch a screen. It’s fantastic!

To celebrate, I’m giving away Joico shampoo and conditioner. Contact me and I’ll add you to the list of potential winners.

Good luck!

where did the time go? (or 15 reasons to ignore your blog)

I’ve been busy:

1. Goofing off with Pooka.
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2. Getting to know Soups…
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3. …while missing Cleo terribly.
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4. Back to school and all its expenses, er, new experiences
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5. Listening to great music
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6. Getting the BENCH going
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7. Meeting with artists and craftsmen
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8. And talking friends into making things (Thank you, Lisa!)
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9. Making stuff myself
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10. Doing some hair and finding an organic haircare line that lives up to the hype
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Neuma is fabulous!

11. Hanging with these goofballs…
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12.Spending time with friends…
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13. …and this handsome guy
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14. Drinking too much caffeine
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15. And celebrating love…
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…in all its forms!

after a bad week…

I’m determined not to start this blog on a sour note, but it hasn’t been the best week. Because of my newly found determination to commit to writing (mostly) about the positive (the “better” part of this site), I am going to publish what helped me through That Which Cannot Be Discussed (yet).

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First off, cats.

Cleo (nearest the window) is a very old tortoise-shell calico cat that has seen Pooka and me through some rough times. She is a constant in my daughter’s life and is even her designated companion animal. She’s loud, bossy and often gets her way.

Soups – a.k.a. Monster – is Pooka’s transitional companion animal since Cleo is getting older and a bit cranky. He is the goofiest baby ever! He loves to hug your neck, kiss your face and then claw the f*$% out of you.

They’re pretty close to perfect.

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Then we have these goofballs.

They are quirky and weird and too-smart-for-their-own-good and pretty much best friends. They will torment each other, but are fiercely loyal. There have been moments this week when Boy has said, “Hey! I’m the only one allowed to be mean to Rhiannon!”

Oh. Excuse me.

And Pooka will come up to us after a tense moment and say, “Sebastian and I both thought that up, so I guess I should be in trouble, too.”

Good girl.

Don’t get me wrong; one will just as easily throw the other under the bus if wronged. That’s just human nature with siblings, right? They might be step-siblings, but they are closer than most blood relatives. Just now Boy was yelling down the hallway, “Rhiannon! Come on! What are you doing? I thought we were going to start playing now!” Her response? “Geez, Bastian! I needed to pee!”

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Pooka.

She makes everything better. She is honest and loving and kind and smart and beautiful, and my world was grey and fuzzy before she appeared. Life before her doesn’t count except for the stories I can share to make it all better for her.guy

The Husband Guy.

I think I make him most frustrated when I don’t let him help me. He’s that man you wish for – the one who knows how strong you are but wants to open all doors, wipe away all tears and fix everything all the while reassuring you that he understands you don’t need him to do all that. He is exactly what I need for the rest of this life and all the lives I might have after.

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Wishes.

We all need them. Dreams. Goals. Plans. When the shit keeps hitting the fan, sometimes it’s the hope that something even greater is out there that makes it easier to clean up said shit.

So, here I go, towel and bleach in hand, knowing that everything will be okay.

like a virgin

10930025_10204347213932977_4001023787430924732_nI’m really not new to blogging — I’ve done it for years for different purposes and even have a small content marketing business in which I ghostwrite for people who want to keep their online presence fresh — but this particular blog has been stewing in my brain and heart for years now.

What do I mean when I say bangs are better than BOTOX®? Well, I definitely don’t mean that BOTOX® is a bad product. Many of my friends use it for a variety of reasons from frown lines to perspiration and get great results. My meaning is this: Sometimes the simpler route can save you money and time which, to me, is usually better. That means I have bangs instead of paying for injections.

Am I swearing off BOTOX® forever? I’m not saying that either, although I have a bone callous on my forehead that makes me look like the spawn of Hellboy and Liz Sherman, the result of bumping my head so severely that I nearly passed out. I’d have to get that filed down first.

But I digress…11412385_10205386216067381_2575817923073800697_n

I’m a stylist and owner of Illuminate Salon in downtown Boise, Idaho, so telling people I’m against what makes them feel better about their looks would be counterproductive. I do help people grow out their grey hair when they’re ready, but mostly I do a lot of highlights, a ton of haircuts, and hours of talking.

I love my clients! These people are my best friends and most have been with me anywhere from 13 – 18 years. I’ve done hair for 20 years. Even when I was a production trainer at a local semiconductor company, I did hair. Even when I was marketing director of a busy real estate group, I did hair. My hands were in hair three days after giving birth!

Featured imageI thought I’d only have my hands in it for a couple of years while I finished college. Turns out, I really love being self-employed. It makes it easier to be a full-time mom and that is my greatest love. I have a ten-year-old daughter, Rhiannon (or “Pooka” as my Facebook friends know her), who is beautiful and gifted and sensitive and amazing. She has curly hair that hangs past her waist. You’ll read about her a lot. Sebastian (or “Boy”), my ten-year-old stepson, has flaming red hair, the most amazing blue eyes, a brain that is always coding, and is most comfortable jumping on a trampoline or pretending to be the host of Total Drama. They and Tony (“The Husband Guy”) are the great loves of my life. Well, besides my cats. More on them later.

Self-employment means I get to schedule around my family and writing (I’m working on a novel or three.) and I can’t imagine inserting myself back into corporate life. I loved it before I was a mom. Now I love sharing a mother-daughter journal with Rhiannon and figuring out ways to sneak fiber into Sebastian’s diet. I love camping trips and watching them become more independent with each one. I love that they are good friends even though they are very different people. I’m glad they have each other. Sometimes I feel that Tony and I were meant to fall in love so that they could have each other.11156271_10204985203602320_8528947458230423514_n

I’ll write about family, friendship, business, writing, geeky stuff and cats, among many other things. I’ll share a few dutch oven recipes The Husband Guy has perfected. I’ll post some art. I’ll get Pinterest crazy. I might even give away some favorite hair care products. If you stick with me, a lot could happen.