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Joining 50 Asks : Call It Rejection Not Failure

My goal for the past some odd years is to get my writing published. I’ve had a few pieces published here and there on the inter-webs. And try as I might, have failed to have anything published in the physically written word world. Counting in my head, I’d say it was less than five rejections or failed attempts. Yet, you’d think I’d been told ‘No Way Jose’ by the entire Southern Hemisphere for the fear I feel at the mere thought of asking one more person.

slide from above on 50 asks : Call It Rejection Not Failure

Yet I keep dancing back to it. I am slightly jealous of the glee I see when someone I know gets published. I talk to all the right people asking all the right questions about getting published and then I sit with the information. Sit and wait to forget it. And now I’ve attended a writing workshop and a conference to pep up my skills, knowledge, and confidence. And there’s really nowhere to go but onward.

Hi, my name is Shalagh. I have fear of success. And I’m a freelance writer.

Down the slide on 50 asks : Call It Rejection Not Failure

While reading my friends stuff ,WHAM, again my friend inspires me saying she’s joining another Instagram friend and artist, Tammie Bennett, in a challenge called 50 Asks.

Here’s the thoughts that stuck in my head. You call it failure and it’s the end. The story is done. Whereas rejection is not the end, it’s a place you move from. But what if you didn’t focus on that word because it smarts. Instead, you call your queries and submissions Asks. And you aim to collect your asks from the world through your art or work. There’s nothing negative sounding there at all. And what if you ask for what you want from the Universe and add, “Or something better” to the end. Wow. Who knows what doors you’ll see opening.

This is also a huge continuation of a theme I’m working on. To not only ask but allow people to help me. This is also all about the concept of accountability.  I am entrusting people with this knowledge and have faith that they will root for me. And I’ve said it out loud so I gotta do it.

Martinak Park on 50 asks : Call It Rejection Not Failure

I am the underdog. And I so deserve to finally allow people to cheer me on and become the happy story I say I want. I will not DIE if I ask people to publish me. I may even make their day to give them something good to publish. How about that for reframing the story. OK so now I get to rewrite my goals and set some deadlines because it’s all conceptual until something gets written down.

——-Visit me on Instagram to see my daily pictures, friend me or like my page on Facebook. Or you can find me on Twitter or Pinterest too. Chat at me and I’ll chat atcha back. Thanks to you as always for your visit. ————-

A Reminder That I’m a Personal Essayist

I started this blog when I admitted I was a writer, even when I wasn’t actually even actively writing. I needed to give myself a legitimate platform to owe and publish writing practice on. The ‘Why’ of my blog was for my writing. I admit that I forget that sometimes.

In 2012, while attending the Bay To Ocean Writing Conference held on the Eastern Shore of Maryland, I happily discovered my writing style was personal essay. That revelation was provided by George Merrill, who taught a class session that day on the subject of personal essays. He made my conference experience memorable. And the validation gave me an extraordinary high.

The sky fro a Reminder that I'm a personal Essayist on Shalavee.com

A couple of years later and I recently have found myself in Doubtland. So today I attended another workshop by Mr. Merrill to bookend and remind me of what I love to do. His exuberance and genuine teaching ability are inspirational. He embodies the good story, that which connects us. The telling process is human validation.

An authentic personal essay is forged from honesty and an intimacy with yourself. The subjects may be ones you have to push yourself to reveal the truths laying under your mental rocks. The process involves an exploration and a fascination in questions we share universally. The self-revelation is inspired and our passionate exploration may lead to a place most would just avoid. As a personal essayist, I have to find my way to these uncomfortable places because that means I’m growing. Because, if you’re not growing, you’re dying. Soon enough.

Personal essayist is storytelling on Shalavee.com

Stories authenticate our existence. They heal us. They reconnect us. They are exactly what other people want to hear and share when we converse. And they are a reflection of a society at a given time. Historical and necessary, one person at a time. And all the information George, who aptly referred to himself as an elder, provided has given me another round of validation I guess I needed.

Journaling and blogging as a medium were not mentioned and yet are very much a part of my personal writing experience. Through journaling I developed my voice. Because there I speak to myself without being concerned with another audience. Once that voice cemented into my style, the blog then became a place to practice purposefully. The blog format was constructed, and has been abused, as a personal storytelling platform. Yet, this is what makes it compelling. Sometimes my thoughts are spit out and published in a rough form but among the typos and the tense problems, there’s often an image nugget and human truth you can take away and place on your soul shelf. Because I’m am living in real time on my terms, in my words, here and now.

Fiona chewing on the pencil eraser from A reminder that I'm a Personal Essayist on Shalavee.com

The writing of a personal essay is not an egotistical act. Because I do not write it to call attention to myself but to share an authentic thought with even just one other person without pandering and manipulation. So not an egotist, I even have a hard time asking for people to like my blog because I want people to discover me and like what I do on their terms. That detail needs some therapy though because having an audience does make me really happy. And the bigger the audience, the more I’d probably contribute. It benefits everyone.

Thank you George Merrill for you enthusiasm for your craft. I’m sending you a note and the dollar I shorted you for your book. Looking forward to reading your essays and the inspiration to keep writing until I am an elder too. Hopefully one who can inspire others half as well as you.

And thank you to my readers, to those of you who say you enjoy reading what I write, it means more than I could put proper words together to describe here now.

Ten Things I’d Love to Tell My Younger Self

A second time for this favorite. First was a year ago. This is an article I found on Divine Caroline, a writing site I joined and began publishing on in 2009. Originally published on a site called Vibrant Nation, a site for 50 plus women, I haven’t forgotten this piece. So I present it for enjoyment and posterity.

I’ve learned some valuable things about life, love, and being female over the past half century. Here is the advice I try to pass on to younger women in my life (family and friends) in the hope that it will save them some precious time:

1. You are at least ten times prettier than you think you are.

That holds true no matter how pretty you already think you are! Don’t believe me? Ask your mother/aunty/granny if she thought she was pretty when she was twenty. She’ll say no. Then find a photo of her at that age. See what I mean?

2. The only thing you should be faking is confidence.
If you don’t have it yet, pretend you do. In every new situation, pretend you’re not nervous, pretend you’re not afraid. After a few times doing this, the pretend part disappears.

3. Want to try something new, like painting, skiing, or running your own business? Go to the library and borrow ten different books on the subject.
Skim through them all, find the ones that have the most vital information and study them. Then see number 2.

4. No matter how old you get, remember what it was like to be a nine-year-old girl.

Remember the feeling of freedom. If you’ve already forgotten, do a cartwheel. You can so still do one. Savor that feeling. Wake up with it every day. You’ll stay young until the day you die.

5. In the same vein, cut or potted flowers are never a waste of money.

Because every time we glance at them, they remind us how much beauty there can be in the world.

6. Speaking of money, starting right this moment, whether you’re twenty or sixty, you can turn your finances around.
Don’t leave someone else completely in charge, whether it’s your husband, partner, parents, or banker. Become financially savvy. Financial independence gives you the freedom to walk away from many bad situations. How do you know you’re in bad situation? See number seven.

7. If your stomach hurts and you haven’t got a virus, you’re in a bad situation.
Before you know what it is, your stomach always does. Give yourself some time to ponder what it might be that’s making your stomach hurt. Chances are you already do know, you just don’t want to believe it, for some reason. You can ignore advice from your friends, even your own brain, but you can’t ignore your stomach, because the stomach never lies. Oh, and by the way—drowning your stomach in alcohol won’t make it stop telling you the truth, either.

8. When meeting someone new and he or she seems to be behaving like an ass**le, show compassion first.

If after you display your sincere compassion, they are still acting like an assh*le, walk away. If they follow you, call the police.

9. Wear sunscreen on your face, neck, and hands every day, winter and summer.

I don’t care how dark your skin is naturally. Wear it. You’ll remember me when you look in the mirror at age fifty. Always keep in mind that your body is directly connected to your spirit. Look after your body. Exercise, floss, and brush your teeth. Put nothing in your body that can permanently harm your spirit, including the wrong man.

10. And if you are in bed with a man and he’s the right man:
… meaning your stomach doesn’t hurt, he’s smiling at you, he knows your name, he’s not drunk, and neither are you—for god’s sake, enjoy yourself. He is not at all thinking about how fat your thighs look.

By Patricia Volonakis Davis
Originally published on

Vibrant Nation

Then Divine Caroline

Woman Vs. Plant

The Sequel to My Brown Thumb, Woman Vs. Plant was published elsewhere first. And edited for this rebroad. My actual garden remains ignored while I’m tied to a baby.

When last we heard from our horticulturally challenged heroine, she had bravely begun a garden revamp and, although thwarted by an irreverent ground cover, she remained determined to eradicate this invasive, albeit attractive, plant. The grand scheme of this the most viewed garden, was in its early stages.

Now, a month and a half later, this possessed plant and I are engaged in a death match. I used to be sure hell would be painting miles and miles of woodwork. The extraction of this plant has become my new hell and this dirt, the portal there.

What began as a redesign of my garden has turned into the gauntlet of gardening. Why bother? Because when I set my mind to a task, my determination will complete it. And this time, it’s personal.

I must confess that I spent money on this particular patch of dirt some years ago. This may be payback from the landscaper. I annoyed her with my penny-pinching and my offers to be helpful. When I asked if we could keep this specific ‘pretty’ plant in the garden, the wide eyed look she gave me probably meant something.

Since that fateful expenditure, I have systematically taken out most of the other plants she put in. But when only one of my purple coneflowers, usually so robust and abundant, barely came up this summer, I realized something was amiss. Could it be this “multicolored heart shaped leaved spreading-like-a-weed ground cover with a pretty white flower that blooms in the springtime” was to blame? And that’s when I discovered the root system of this seemingly innocuous plant covered 60% of my 20 by 10 foot garden bed.

DSC00942I am fond of saying, “Drops in the bucket fill the bucket up”. I am all about the bucket. I envisioned the filling of this bucket would take some back aching labor. Once done, the rains would come and make all plants happy. Cue the springtime and ta-da, I’d have a whole new garden. But as I shoved my shovel under these plants, the root system astounded me.

I have spent at least twelve woman hours stooped over this bed. Several times just for an hour and still I dripped sweat. Having reached twelve inches below the surface, I might find the end of the spaghetti-like tendrils that tunneled down to the sand layer. Hairy Spaghetti that breaks easily. And just when I thought I was done, more and then more. Its quirky little habits include running under brick sidewalks and through another plant’s root ball.DSC00946

I called up my friend Miss Patty yesterday and I belly ached and moaned about all of this. She said, “Did you consider using Round-up?” She’s a woman who loves to garden and would love to help but she has these pesky twelve hour shifts she works. I said something dumb like, “Wow, I seem to be a woman of leasure”. And she says, not missing a beat, “Someone needs to be”.

I should be ashamed of myself for carrying on about my stinky garden. Surely Patty would give something up, I presume to know not what, to have the time to have my problems. But someone’s got to pay for her kids’ college education. Surely, I am not grateful enough for how well I am kept by my husband who appears happy when I am happy.  If I am happy complaining about my garden, so be it.DSC00947

Of course, the perfect gardening weather occurred the third week of October while I was involved in a fundraiser event. This was promptly followed by a virus that hostilely took over my household and still refuses to leave my nose. There was no gardening going on. Just longing agitated looks out the kitchen window.

Yesterday, with the chilly wind whistling over my bare ears, I was finally out there. I don’t know why I was surprised to discover still another pocket of the spaghetti roots under the plastic under the bricks (and Miss Codependence has to escort every single worm over to its own safe worm zone).DSC00943

Cue the maniacally rapid fire quacking from the ducks nearby; a “quack, quack, quack, quack, quack, quack, and quack”, that sounds just like the evil laugh of Batman’s archenemy the Penguin. It was a sign. I had missed the warm weather. I had missed a bunch of good rain. I had pulled out wheelbarrows of this stuff that my sister called “painter’s palette” (although no database will concur). Yet, surely, as the sun will rise tomorrow, the mystery ground cover from hell will pop its pretty little head out of this bed numerous times next spring.

For now, I just have to soldier on. With the second draft of my garden plot shoved in my back pocket, I began to transplant plants that are probably unhappy being ousted from their comfy beds. All of this in need of completion before the window of weather opportunity officially smashes down on my fingers.

I know there’s karma at work; payback for all those poor little plants I failed to keep alive. I’m sorry New Guinea Impatiens. I’m sorry alyssums and cleomes. It’s a far better place you go to. As for this “plant”, I wouldn’t be surprised to see my composting hillside covered with it come next spring. Did I mention the hillside’s behind a church? Hallowed ground? Karma, I’m telling you.

My Brown Thumb

For years, I dreamed of a patch of dirt to lovingly cultivate my garden in. I exclaimed that was the reason I wanted to own a house. “Be careful what you wish for” doesn’t begin to sum up the torture I’ve endured for the sake of the dirt that accompanied the house I bought nine years ago. As I now dig in this soil, a parade of ghost plants taunts me and whispers “bad plant mommy.” My guilt piles up with the little plant bodies, tossed over the garden wall in a heap to decompose.our weeping cherry and the church

My brown thumb is well-earned. In springtime, like many, I have instant gratification needs to meet. I must plant every area in my garden so it looks great immediately. I would have had the same results digging a hole and burning the money I have spent on the plants I’ve killed with improper soil and light, insufficient water, and lack of compost or mulch. Those poor little pampered plants straight from the greenhouse, all hopped up on steroids, yanked from their pots yelling, “Hey … lady … not here. For the love of all things green, you’re not thinking of putting me here, are you?” They never have a choice, chance, or prayer. And being such an uber-caretaker, I’ve taken every little brown spindly plant death personally. I failed. I didn’t water it, feed it, sun it, mulch it, or talk to it enough. Bad, bad mommy.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Due to my now numerous years of Russian roulette gardening, I now also fear the Trojan horse plant. So innocuous in its little green plastic pot, it seems to say, “Take me home and I promise to be pretty and proper and make you proud of me.” That’s what they all say but this one fulfills its promised destiny and wages a coupe on the planting bed. But grab it by the stem and pull and the roots don’t come with it. Over the fall and spring, it has become the Hostile Takeover Plant. Artemisia, painter’s palette, and “obedient” plants all require garden discipline. Like the mint before them, I spare their lives but shame them in front of their peers and banish them to their own bed with a sunken wall or pot. Like kids, plants need boundaries.Tomatoe plants

I also suggest you avoid those people who make gardening look and sound easy. You know them. They have schedules for garden maintenance. They see gardens as multi-dimensional. The first dimension is soil and sun compatibility. The second is visual texture. And the third is the seasonal bloom times. I don’t have the patience to test the soil! Much less consider twelve months worth of possible color/texture combos. Hello, I’m impulse girl. So I watch as that beautiful foxglove dies a slow two-year death in front of my house. I know, shame on me for coveting a plant indigenous to gardens in England. Where it rains. All the time. Better to keep company with lesser gardeners than yourself. Ding dongs who take eight years to discover mulch doesn’t cost that much but should for how it actually does keep the weeds at bay.

About mid-July this past summer, when it was the hottest and about to be the driest, I got the jones to start transplanting but I resisted my compulsion to uproot and rearrange those doomed plants. I was a good parent. And now, with the weather breaking, you’d think I’d be relieved as I expect lowered water bills and more chair time. It’s time to pull the garden plan out and replant in anticipation of all the lovely rain and happier perennial plants. Except, I procrastinated making that plan. Last week, I was outside with graph paper to plot the ten beds correctly and my neighbor teased me. His wife is also a member of the “buy it ‘cause it’s pretty and plop it in the ground” club. I drew my plot but I still don’t get how to use it. Don’t tell him though.

Blurry beautiful flowersNo surprise that I am completely overwhelmed and yet I will be digging up and transplanting something, even if it’s wrong. How in the world do we ever know anything without a little try and see? Why do we expect to know everything immediately (all the time)? Why is it always so personal? So a couple dozen plants have died at my murderous hand. Oh well, these things take time. Wish me and my plants luck. Maybe fifteen years from now, you’ll see pictures of my garden published in one of those “Living” magazines. If bovines take to the air … Or if, free of charge, I have a crew of knowledgeable people work on my garden instead of me. A girl can dream, can’t she?

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