Dear Reader… I Promise to Always Share my Dorky Adventures

Traveling Marla

Dear Reader,

This blog is a thank you to a friend, for giving me a kick in the pants and a lesson in what matters—to you, and to me. This is for you, “M,” for your kind words and your constant belief that I bring something more than just meaningless babble.

Is it June already? How can the year be almost half over and I feel like I’m just starting? I’ve been thinking about that thought applied to life as well, lately. It’s strange to feel like I’m just waking up in what I want, need to be doing and realize my own life is most likely, if we take the statistics of family history and my own health history into account, past half over. Don’t get me wrong—this life has been well-lived. I have an amazing husband, the remnants of an incredibly strange, wonderful and loving family, and I’m pretty content with the way the tragedies of life have made me into the weird, caring ham I am.

What I mean about waking up when your life is half over is that this little international excursion I’ve just had has sparked a passion deeper than I even thought I had for not missing even one moment of the world around me. I’m paying attention more, trying to appreciate even more than I already did, and make my life earned as well as lived.

It’s noisy here in Madison. It’s a chilly, rainy day and Baxter is snuggled down in the back seat of the car while I type away in a coffee shop on Main Street. The house we’re renting is being shown to potential buyers – a hazard of finding a temporary location that allows dogs in the heart of this quaint Ohio River town. The radio in this coffee shop is on what Mom used to call “Old, Deaf Person (Thank God!) Volume.” Coffee machines behind me are swirling and grinding and whirring. Heavy trucks are rumbling through the intersection and the door won’t stop clanging open and closed.

I love America. There’s nothing wrong with commerce and social interaction and hell, I look forward to my morning peppermint mocha latte (no whip, thank you) with a passion that borders obsession. But being away from all of it, under that eastern sky—that hot, damp sky—left me with a little more than nostalgia.

Industry was a steady drone of bicycles and non-mufflerized motorbikes, chatter in a language it would take years to understand, and women shuffling in bare feet or slippers across dirt roads, bent over with balanced loads of fruit or soup pots, to spend a day of hard, hot labor hunched over, in service to others. It’s hard not to compare the noise, the ease of my life and my own industry of pen-to-paper, nose-to-book, watching, listening and hoping to say something worthwhile.

Daily work at the Hanoi marketplace

When we were undergrads at IUP in the early 90’s, my then fiancé (now husband 😉 ) made a promise to my creative writing professor. She believed in me so much that she got right in his face and made him promise, promise that if he ever had a job which could support both of us, that he make me quit working to become a full-time writer.

Twenty years later, Kurt offered, but it felt like a kind of hubris to take him up on it. It was shortly after Mom died, and Kurt had changed companies and would need to move around frequently for his job. How could I presume to change my life mid-career? Did I have a right to stop working at a “regular” job, just because I could? Granted, my position as a Logistics Manager always found me scrambling for creative outlets at work and at home. I spent evenings working on poems and stories and journaled constantly, but I hadn’t been submitting, hadn’t been testing myself in the market. There was no question writing was what I wanted to do, but it’s almost incredible now to realize that I just gave up that career, that salary, to go back to school for my MFA and approach this as a full-time J.O.B.

I’m still in the surreal, honeymoon phase of this new life. I worked hard at my classes and came away with a 3.77 GPA and a Master’s in Creative Nonfiction, with a certificate in Travel Writing. During the program at Chatham, I got to publish a chapbook by one of my literary heroes, Luis Alberto Urrea. I created a contest to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of Silent Spring and am getting to turn those winners and invited authors into an anthology. I’ve traveled out of the country twice on field seminars and now, post-graduation, I get up and at my notebook by 9am, put in a serious day’s work of writing, revising and collecting little life moments from the places we travel, hoping to earn and deserve finally doing what I love.

Chapbooks I had the opportunity to produce while at Chatham. “Sonoran Desert Sutras” is by Luis Alberto Urrea. There are only a few of these signed, numbered, limited editions left.

I’m sorry I’ve considered this blogging a less critical form of publication, of writing. I haven’t been updating it every day, even though I write daily. I get focused on polishing and looking for places to send pieces that “count” as being published. I’ve tapped into the belief that a blog isn’t serious, doesn’t count, is just “playtime.” But last week a friend took me to task about my inconsistency in blogging, a flaw I thought only really impacted me. But as she explained (almost rabidly, and thank you), This is how we connect.

This, you insisted, is how you see the raw me behind the words, and how the snippets I’m catching and sharing with you in my travels, does make a difference, does assure you that what I’m spending my time doing does matter, is what I’m meant to be doing. I’m not promising I won’t take a break on weekends, but from now on, I’ll give you a weekday update on what I’m working on, what I’m seeing, who I’m meeting and, as always, why no matter what gets published, the me behind the words will always, always be an awkward dork.

Watering PANTS, not plants, at the farm near Hoi An, VietNam.

Love, Marla

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