Wednesday, January 23, 2013

write: a doe bay writer's workshop

Two and a half years after leaving the San Juan Islands with our five-week-old baby boy, we are going back for our first visit. And it is thanks to my friend and fellow writer Jennifer Beck Furber who has invited me to be a part of this new and awesome writers workshop on Orcas Island.

Doe Bay resort is a truly special place on Orcas Island. And Orcas Island is where my midwife and doula live. It's where we went for our birth class and where I went for all of my pregnancy check-ups. That is to say, it holds a very special place for me. I have vivid memories of sitting on the bench at Doe Bay with Bob, staring out into the water while Malcolm kicked inside of me. Wondering what our future would hold... wondering if we would ever get to come back. 

Back in October, Bob went to Nasheville for a bachelor party weekend to see the Bears play. That was his first weekend away as a dad. 

Though we are all traveling to the islands together (Bob, Malcolm and me,) the time at the writer's workshop is my own. Bob and Malcolm will be staying with Jenn's husband Luke and their three girls (Malcolm will love them!) while I enjoy my first weekend away as a mom... to BE a writer and be with other writers.

Bob got BBQ, beer and the Bears, and I get hot springs, writing and storytelling. I couldn't be more thrilled.

If you're a writer and long for a weekend away from it all... truly away from it all... to have some intimate time with your work, then this might be the workshop for you.

The group is limited to 25 and tickets go on sale HERE on January 25th. 

More info about the weekend here.

To learn more about the other participating artists:

Matt Logelin, New York Times Bestselling author of Two Kisses for Maddie

Daniel Blue, Lead singer and songwriter of Seattle's Motopony

Jennifer Beck Furber, Author of Baby by the Sea

Jesse Michener, photographer

The view from Doe Bay Resort (SERIOUSLY!)

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

My new blog project is a grand experiment in failure

My last post generated a lot of interest. Getting all of that off my chest really made a huge difference for me. As I said in my post, 2013 would be about shunning perfection and embracing structure. Well, I'm posting to say that I have my structure.

It is a new blog experiment called

TODAY'S FAILURE: A failure a day keeps the lazy away

Or... Today's failure is tomorrow's success

I am calling it a grand experiment in embracing failure and I'm having a blast with it.

The basic idea is this... every day I attempt something with failure written all over it. This thing I attempt is intended to be something that will forward what I am already up to in life.

For example, I have been working on a new full-length play about a woman who becomes a magician's assistant. I've been thinking that it would behoove me to learn some magic myself and also perhaps even try my hand at performing. I haven't done this because the very thought terrifies me. And so was born a challenge for TODAY'S FAILURE:


I have learned the trick and today I will be performing it for 5 strangers.

I invite you to check out my new blog project and even join me. Why not?

Welcome to my grand experiment in embracing failure - TODAY'S FAILURE

P.S. As I am shunning perfection this year, the new blog is far from perfect. I have a lot more that I want to create. It's not nearly as pretty and polished as I would like. I haven't written an ABOUT page or the FAQ, yet. But, I'll get there. It's more important for me to jump into the project without waiting for it to be perfect first. So it's imperfect. Which is actually perfect, right?

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Why I will not be striving for perfection in 2013 or How to be flawed and happy

A not-so-perfect picture of me and my totally perfect son

I don't know about you, but I woke up this morning feeling like a butterfly with new wings, emerging from my cocoon refreshed, ready to take on a new year in all its glorious possibilities.



It was more like this...

I woke up this morning and delayed getting out from under the protection of my down comforter for as long as my bladder would allow.

The thought of starting 2013 was enough to cause major anxiety.

I was sensitive and irritable... a snapping turtle ready to chomp at anyone who got close.

I didn't feel like being positive and excited about a new year.

I didn't feel like even getting out of bed.

This didn't make sense to me.

I was not hungover.

I thoroughly enjoyed our New Year's Eve ice skating followed by a lovely meal and two kick ass margaritas with muddled pineapple and jalapeƱo. Yep. There was a kick.

Cuddled with Bobbie on the couch watching the ball drop while Malcolm slept soundly in the next room. Slept like a baby.

So why so crabby?


I should be a goddess of possibility floating through my day pinning perfect pictures of my perfect life to Pinterest.

I should really be an inspiring and blank space for creation

A powerful woman ready to take on this new year and make it her bitch.

I should at least be cheerful.


I have every (I so want to swear here) thing I need. Every. Thing. I want of nothing.



Just more.

Always more.

More of me. More time. More money.

More accomplishments.



It's just never enough.

Here's what I realized...

Today on the first day of the new year... I already felt behind. 

And I when I pinpointed that, it occurred to me that I feel this way most of the time.

I feel behind. Behind others. Behind my own desires. Just behind.

The catch-up game is the game of my life. Every day. Playing catch up with the pictures in my head. With my ideal version of myself. With the life I think I should be living.




The life I think I should be living is much more fabulous and prolific than the one I actually live. The life I think I should be living is found somewhere between a perfectly edited Pinterest feed and a movie but not in reality. And it only serves to make me feel inferior and to create anxiety. I am its anxiety puppet.

As a result, nothing I do is enough to make me feel like I'm ahead. Or at least caught up.

Last year I finished a first draft of a new full-length play. Yeah! But, no. Because all I see are all the plays and screenplays I didn't write. And this ideal woman I'm chasing has already won a Tony and an Oscar, okay?

Last year I had two readings of two separate full-lengths at Chicago Dramatists.... but... they were readings. Not productions. Uh, you can't win a Tony with a reading.

Last year we moved from Chicago to L.A. (!)

We transitioned Malcolm to a new city to his big boy bed to no longer nursing to falling asleep without Mommy (you have no idea how big that one was) to starting pre-pre-school three times a week to just being a freaking awesome kid. But...

I didn't finish scrapbooking his baby book. Because I should at least be able to do that. And if I don't, what does that mean? Will Malcolm's childhood cease to exist? All those moments I failed to document. All those memories, gone. !!!! Verdict? I suck.

I didn't organize any of the millions of pictures I took over the course of the year into pretty picture books or even digital albums and now they will just languish in my Facebook Timeline, caption less.

I never even once took Malcolm to toddler yoga. (Because that's something I should be doing, right?)

We didn't go camping, either. (All good parents obviously take their kids camping.)

I lost 15 lbs. (Woo hoo!) But I gained it back. (Oh.)


I didn't write a new book. I didn't sell a million copies of the one book I do have published. I didn't exercise. I didn't get up early enough. I watched too much TV. I ate too much crap. I was a total disorganized mess of a human being.




Loo loo loo loo loo


Bob had enough of my using him as a punching bag this morning. It's so much easier focusing on his faults than my own. And isn't that a bonus of marriage?


It's mean. I was being mean. And simply setting up a smoke screen so that I didn't have to deal with my own poop. I lashed out at Bob so that I did not have to deal with my own disappointments and fears about the new year.

Here's the thing.

I am so ridiculously far from perfect. And this morning I couldn't stand how ridiculously far from perfect I actually am.

I have a lifetime of evidence for failed promises to myself. And I can't fool myself into believing that THIS YEAR WILL BE DIFFERENT, DAMN IT.

It won't.

No, don't try to convince me. I'm not having a pity party here. Just being honest.

It won't be different.

I will promise things and those things will fall by the way side as I struggle to just brush my teeth or shave my legs. Seriously folks, if I shave my legs, it's a good day.

I marvel at the people who do it all.

I am in complete awe of the women who have full-time careers and three kids and perfect skin and shaped arms and clean homes and beautiful blogs and amazing sex lives and make cookies from scratch and who are happy on no-carb diets and make time for themselves and go see live music and live theatre and donate their time and volunteer and build furniture and take long walks in the woods who commune with nature and write and/or read poetry and win prizes with long names and see all the Oscar nominated movies and have the quick wit and self-deprecating humor of Tiny Fey who are generous and wonderful mothers/daughters/sisters/friends/human beings who always write thank you notes and manage to shower every day and are always in a good mood and always say the right thing and have matching throw pillows and several thousand followers on Pinterest and don't shove their clothes into their closet but fold them perfectly and place them in an organized fashion in a drawer that glides with the greatest of ease and who would never wear socks with holes or let their roots show and who have lovely well-behaved children...

OKAY... clearly that person doesn't exist. And if she does... if YOU are that person...please for the love of god, don't tell me that's how I should be. Or it's easy. It's just easy being that awesome, right?

Here's what's easy...




Because I'm so clearly not that person.

And I don't need to be.

No, I don't. I really don't.

The last thing I want to do in 2013 is try, yet another year, to be that person.

If I did, I would fail.

Why would I want to do that to myself? Again?

Why not just acknowledge that it is a challenge for me to freakin shave my armpits, let alone my legs.

That I struggle to even write one blog post anymore?

That I am overwhelmed all the time. All the time!

Sometimes I really hate Pinterest. No, not just Pinterest. Facebook, Twitter, the whole freakin' internet. Because it makes it way too easy to compare myself to everyone else's amazing lives. But there I go looking for a scapegoat when really it's me. I'm the one that allows myself to get sucked into comparing when I know very well there is no cheese down that tunnel.

No one else does this, I know. I'm unique that way.

But, no one esle is you. No one else is me.

Accomplishments don't make the person. And they don't equal happiness.

The "Why Bother" trap

Here's another thing I discovered today. I regularly fall into the "Why Bother" trap.

It's like if I can't be the person on the cover of YOGA Magazine then why bother even going to one class? I don't even try. Like if I can't commit to being an expert at something, why bother.

That's the stupidest thing I've ever acknowledged about myself. Well, maybe not. But it's pretty crazy. And all it does is prevent me from taking action. I let "Why Bother" rule me way too much. And it's true... it does seem that it's going to be impossible to accomplish everything I am out to accomplish.

It's why I haven't been blogging. I see other people's more amazing more popular blogs and think, well... mine will never be like that. And I don't have the time right now to write the internet's most profound, moving and life-changing blog post ever, so what's the point?

HA! Fool!

I'm starting to think that perhaps my 2013 could be about BEING OKAY WITH ORDINARY.

Does that sound like a sell-out?

I don't mean it to.

It's like this... AIM for extraordinary. And don't beat yourself up if you miss.

Ordinary is okay.

Writing one new play a year is really okay, Steph.

Being a dedicated stay-at-home mom and writer with A MESSY HOUSE is okay.

Yes, yes, yes... I would prefer it to be clean. Hell, yes. So I'm either going to have to pony up the cash for a regular cleaning lady or I'm going to have to be okay with a messy house. Because pretending that the new year is magically going to make me suddenly capable of being able to parent well, partner well, write well and often, eat well AND have a clean house is just more lying to myself. Or magical thinking. It's not reality. And it won't work.

Being profoundly related to my limitations and setting up structure around that to support what I'm up to... that's what will work.

Just maybe it is okay to be who I am and NOT strive for perfection.

I'm not saying that I don't have things I'm out to accomplish. I'm just saying that I'm so tired of trying to live up to an ideal I will never achieve. I'm tired of the failure cycle. I'm tired of chasing accomplishments in service of happiness. I'm tired of comparing myself to what looks like perfection and then diving head first into a shame spiral.

And that's why instead of having 2013 be about MORE and BETTER and PERFECT, I am declaring the theme of my 2013 to be


And I am in love with that.


It totally inspires me.


I've been living without any routine and it hasn't been working for me. So I'm putting structures in place that will help me fulfill my commitments.

Here are a couple of examples:

1. Every morning I will be getting up at 5 AM to write until Malcolm wakes up.
2. Every Thursday evening I will be seeing a play and Bob will have bonding time with Malcolm.
3. Every Sunday morning we will go for a hike as a family.

Just those three things will greatly transform my life. If I stick to them.

What will have me stick to them this year as opposed to years past?

I don't know. But I think I know what won't work... declaring failure at the first slip-up.


This means reading poetry, yes. Writing poetry, perhaps. Yes. But it's more than that. Much bigger.

It means inviting poetry into my life.
Being in nature. Communing.
Allowing my brain to be filled with beauty.
To sit in silence. To reflect on the world around.
To stare at my son's face... his cheeks alone for minutes, hours.
To allow room for wonder.
Sentiments never before expressed.
Brain actually thinking on its own as opposed to repeating things said or thought or overheard. Creation. In conversation.

Poetry. In my life. In my marriage. My partnership. With Bob. A man I've been with for twelve years. Or more? Long enough to lose track.
Long enough that it seems impossible to create newness.
And this is where poetry.
Listening in a new way. Listening with the ears of someone who hasn't heard any of it before.
Who is learning to hear and cherishing every sound.
Love's long unexplored corners. Corners of ourselves created or discovered.
Being reborn in each other's arms. Tingling skin. Warmth of breath on neck. Fingers touching and sending sparks. Sparks, imagine. After twelve years.

This means being willing to shock the hell out of myself.
Being willing to not know every fucking thing already.
Gazing without fear into fear.
And allowing it to exist, but not interfere.
Having the courage to be flawed. And having more courage to allow others to see my flaws.
Being flawed. Sharing my flaws courageously.

That's freedom. That's how to be free. And happy.

Happiness is not achieved by being an accomplishment junkie or having perfection envy.

It is achieved by going for it and being okay with failure. But really fucking going for it. And being willing to look like a goddamn mess in the process.

That's what I think, at least, on the evening of this first day of the New Year after two glasses of red wine.

What do you think? I'd love to hear.

Thanks for your thoughts, dear readers.

And happy happy new year.

Happy Imperfect YOU!

Here's to joy and freedom in the new year... whether or not you have time to shave your legs (or face) or even shower.


P.S. If you're willing, please share your favorite poems or poetry in the comments... or ways you invite poetry into your life. Thanks!



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