The Journey to Being a Published Author in "Chicken Soup for the Soul" Series
Author, Speaker, Advocate, and Entrepreneur
Thursday, October 21, 2021
Tuesday, August 31, 2021
What the Hell is Happening?
(End of August blog with a strong build-up need to express!)
How does one take it all in? Oh how I yearn to be a Pollyanna by nature. But that day will never come because I've always been keenly aware of what goes on around me, especially when mother nature, mother nature's wildlife, and the human race is crying out. My emotions, sensitivity, and intuition gets the best of me. What do I do -- What do we do?
There are severe fires all over the world, including right here in CA with the devastating, Caldor fire, Dixie Fire, McFarland Fire, and multiple others that rage on. Even Siberia has a big fire. Imagine that. The world is heating up and mother nature is screaming for help! I'm screaming along with her from a place of deep concern and compassion. And as an environmentalist for as long as I can remember, I can't help but feel exasperation over the decades of scientific facts not listened to and how greed seems to always be the winner. It's not just severe fires, but severe hurricanes and blizzards. Climate deniers are blind to the reality going on all around them and continue with their lives as if nothing is amiss.
Speaking of science, there's the ongoing pandemic worldwide. With too many episodes as it is, how many seasons will the pandemic run? While I may be one who has practiced a natural and organic, healthy lifestyle for decades, cured myself of cervical cancer in my 20's holistically, and has never even had a flu shot, there comes a time when logic must be used by listening to the medical experts. As if 2020 wasn't taxing enough, the multiple variants are wreaking havoc and guess what, the uptick in the variant spread is from the unvaccinated. Dammit, it's messing things up for the rest of us. Scream.
This is not to be a Debbie Downer, but c'mon, how does one wrestle all of this along with the personal scrambling in life? My hopeful and planned trip to Italy has escaped my grasp primarily because I'm immune compromised and have been advised by my Immunologist not to travel. I am dismayed. I was asked to facilitate again (an honor) for www.sendmeonvacation.org for breast cancer survivor 🎀retreats in Rome and Tuscany. I was meant to depart September 1st. It was that bright glimmer of hope ahead of me that acts as the golden carrot in the midst of isolation and other challenges. Tears. Scream.
No matter how spiritual we are or how much we meditate and focus on peace and well-intentioned progressive ideas and policies put forth, we can't control the difficulty, wish or pray it away. And the smart, logical progressive policies that are ignored or excused because an agenda of greed and fear-based conservatism blocks them as if on continued auto pilot. Scream.
Afghanistan: A thousands year old culture of deep religious beliefs and extreme militant Islamism by force of Taliban rising up in the 90's is going to bend to our ways or a democracy? Trump brought home 25,000 troops from Afghanistan and so proud of himself for doing so (he has no leg to stand on blaming Biden for bringing home troops and eruption) and Biden has wanted to end this war since Obama era with trillions of dollars spent and too many American lives lost. No matter when we would have pulled out, violent mayhem would commence. It's horrible and a disgrace.
Don't get me started on the Governor recall in CA and the right-wing agenda behind it. It's such severe stupidity and a big waste of time and money when CA needs both to address fires. Voted no and mailed it in. The line-up of those running is an embarrassment.
So, what do we do?
I'm an activist as much as I can be and get behind things (petitions/policies/progressive candidates) I believe in, and stand up for what I feel is right. But I also must find ways to find balance and hope. We all do!
We all need something to look forward to and for me, Italy was to be just that. Instead, the monies raised for sponsoring me as a facilitator will go toward the December 2021 retreat in the Dominican Republic. Whatever monies may be left, will go toward Italy next year where my soul resides. The gods willing.
Thursday, July 15, 2021
Sorry, No Longer Accepting Breadcrumbs
It took such a long time to realize that I deserve a lot more in life than breadcrumbs... an embarrassingly long time. It was in therapy not so long ago when I said, "I'm so tired of receiving breadcrumbs."
Although there were feelings of knowing I deserved better whether in family, career, love relationships, and friendships, the acceptance of breadcrumbs was natural and certainly coming from a subconscious place because why would anyone want this to be a factor in their lives? And why does it take so long to put two and two together? I think that depends on when it began.
A child doesn't know better. Any child that loses their mother as a toddler (as I did) and has a father who doesn't have the tools to be a present parent freely giving unconditional love and support to his daughter but is capable of showing love through breadcrumbs that is all this child knows. And when a seedling of a child idolizes her dad, the only parent she has, basking in breadcrumbs of love is a ray of sunshine to her. The rest of the time she (I) was in a perpetual tap dance for those breadcrumbs of love, approval, and to be seen. The subconscious is a powerful thing.
The real trick is the decades long unraveling of that subconscious in order to get to a place of knowing that one soul (just a speck in the Universe) deserves the whole slice of bread... of life. More than half my life is behind me and the many twists, turns, and roadblocks preventing me from fully living because I was in full survival mode whether it was a cancer battle, keeping a roof over my head, and in a constant state of spinning plates, doesn't always grant the time to reflect and dig deep to break apart the breadcrumbs I've been gratefully accepting throughout my life.
It wasn't until I was deep into writing my book Caution: Mermaid Crossing, Voyages of a Motherless Daughter that certain incidents came to light. And much to my editor's credit who pushed me to dig deeper to expose all the truth, which was the the smart thing to do. It was exhausting but it led me to linking my essays and expose myself is vulnerable and even humiliating ways.
As one example: When my dad and stepmother bought a condo on Key Biscayne (where we lived on a temporary basis and would be moving there permanently), I was 15 and just started high school in the only neighborhood I knew and where my birth mother lived so briefly before she died. My first view of the 2-bedroom condo was in its raw form with concrete floors. My second view was when we moved in and where I moved into the guest room. I say guest room because my stepmother decorated it not as a room I could put my teenage stamp on, but the guest room she saw it to be--without me in it. I still had 2 1/2 years of high school and at the age when teenagers want to express themselves. It came with a sofa bed that I had to pull out every night to sleep on--to sleep on a thin mattress with springs in my back. There was nothing of me permitted in that room. When I got up, I had to push the damn thing back in to create a sofa again. Everything was just so. Everything pointed to the desire to get me out of the house. I was never my stepmother's cup of tea even though I was only five when she came into our lives. That guest room with the ugly big black urn holding bright yellow sunflowers told me every day that I was not a part of a home. But it was not a conscious awareness until decades later.
My dad should've put his foot down for his daughter but he didn't and I suspect he had long ago wanted to be free of parent responsibilities. At the time I thought nothing of it because I didn't know better so I accepted the breadcrumbs. My dad died young too at the age of 57. I never had a chance to discuss any of these things with him. I wish I had.
As I unravel my part in accepting breadcrumbs, I will no longer scoop them up with gratitude. I am grateful that the significance of being expected to be independent and a survivor beginning as a toddler has provided enormous strength and perseverance--it's probably kept me alive. But as I've recovered from long journeys of challenge, I'm open and ready to receive a softer life where I live the life I desire and deserve--where I receive whole slices of love and acceptance.
I love wholly and deeply and put my heart in all that I do. As flawed a human as I am, I know that I am someone to be trusted as a friend and lover/partner. And while there's probably been some twisted part of my subconscious that didn't believe I deserved success even though I've persevered and been tenacious my whole life whether it was getting into Hollywood jobs by smarts and the seat of my pants, or creating a business out of thin air, and putting my all into every reinvention, I am now in a place of well-deserved self-acknowledgement, success, and accomplishment.
Although I've loved stories since I was a teenager and been a story editor supporting other writers, I came to a place of letting go of my intimidation around writing (writing well) and have become an author/blogger/workshop leader as my new chapter and new beginning post-cancer and post-breadcrumb acceptance. It's never too late.
May you always receive the big slices of bread and bunches of real sunflowers in your life.
Keep on swimming through life,
Friday, May 21, 2021
For this month's blog, I'm sharing a published essay in HerStry Literary Journal from my book, Caution: Mermaid Crossing, Voyages of a Motherless Daughter titled, Your Bed.
This essay, which is more than 2/3 of the way into my book is a very raw, personal, and vulnerable piece now published for the world to see. Thank you for reading. Easy click to link below taking you to HerStry.
Note: As with all literary journals, there are ads. Please scroll through them and you can easily close out of poetry panel pop-up. HerStry is a wonderful journal supporting women writers and their personal stories. I'm honored to be a part of it.
Keep on swimming through life,
Monday, March 8, 2021
Reminiscing About Italy Has Been a Favorite Way of Distraction During Covid
In this last year, most of us have been especially isolated and unsociable. We've had to rely on masks, being content at home, and zoom for communication in just about every way. If you are like me, you are completely on your own without a partner or family in an already isolated time. The days stretch long but the weeks fly by and it's difficult to know what day it is when morning comes.
Isn't it remarkable that this has been our natural state for a year? We've survived and many have thrived discovering new creative paths. I've continued taking class through City College (Italian/Creative Writing) to keep my brain active, as well as having a way of being held accountable with daily homework and writing assignments. If not for nature, exercise, class, writing, and a handful of friends I'm in touch with, I think I'd be certifiable by now.
Admittedly, there are cycles of depression when the endlessness is overwhelming. I'd been isolated for years going through a complicated breast cancer journey and my 9th and final surgery January 2020 took the last bit of warrior out of me and recovery in isolation was several weeks. I've been left with occasional PTSD, procrastination of the slightest thing that would prove to be taxing or hurtful, and, at times, being extra sensitive. Then Coronavirus hit and we all became isolated at home. I've heard from quite a few people how extra tired they've been through all of this. I would include myself in this category. There were (are) days I find myself realizing it's only 6:30 when I'm ready for bed. I've gotten in bed not much past that viewing several animal videos to not only take a break from the distressing news of the pandemic, but a worse distressing news horror: Trump! At least we now have leadership and empathy where Covid-19 is concerned and a stable person at the helm in the White House.
One of the other ways I distract myself is to reminisce about my month long travel to Italy in the fall of 2019. Not only am I forever grateful for being sponsored to take the trip and share my workshop, "Living and Healing Through Color' and sharing a particularly image and color driven essay from my book at a retreat for breast cancer survivors in Tuscany, but to be back in Italy after a few decades and travel on my own for more than 3-weeks was pure heaven.
In my spring semester Creative Writing class, we have 4 genres we study and write for. The first one was poetry. While I'm intimidated by all the great poets who've blessed us with such incredible beauty, I enjoyed creating my own poems. The following poem is one I wrote in honor of my trip to Italia. The challenge was to pack in many sentiments in a poem of just three stanzas:
Returning to Italy
Tucked in the Tuscan hills my heart cheers,
The spiritual bells were ringing and singing,
Appeasing restless bones and a soul in fear.
The Italian flavors nourished many hungers.
From stone balustrades, emerald hills lingering
In proud ancient villages and lively squares.
Sipping espresso in café bars, my feet
On ancient cobble stone streets,
Gazing out on the teal-blue sea.
I trust you are well, thriving, engaged in life, and discovering wonderful creative pursuits.
Keep on swimming through life,
|Tellaro Fishing Village-Italia|
Thursday, February 4, 2021
For this month's blog, I'm posting an original poem (plus a bonus poem) from my City College Creative Writing Class. Amber Glow is inspired by current times and Pandemic isolation... a routine state of mind and emotions in the early morning hours:
In the orange radiance of early morning,
Heavy headed from dreams and distress,
I sit with green-black tea in hands, sighing.
Through my picture window of longing,
Staring, staring in palpable loneliness.
Massive trees are lit with the low sun moving,
Upward to a too blue sky as the sun is rising,
While hummingbirds dart for sweet sustenance,
And a faithful mockingbird is fervently singing.
I beseech nature to deliver days of raining,
Restore faith lost in a chaotic time of sadness--
To bring peace to a mind continually racing.
An intricately orchestrated soft morning,
Where the divinity of nature dances,
Unaware of human thoughts darkening.
On the last sip of tea in a day unfolding,
I dream of reprieve and renewed joyfulness,
Another heavy slumber to squelch aching--
To wake once again to amber dawn glowing.
our eyes fixed
my straps fall to the floor
hands know me from lifetimes before
Keep on swimming through life,
Valerie Anne Burns