pep talk to myself

I am in need of a major pep talk.  Like a Coach Taylor from Friday Night Lights pep talk.  Like a stop whining, get over yourself, let it go, keep your chin up, the world doesn’t owe you anything, look at the bright side, just do it pep talk.

Like a Dad pep talk.

The hubbie is fairly good at them, but he’s got a lot on his plate right now, so there’s no need for me to be all bummer, woe is me, on him. Plus, hubbies in general are known for throwing in that one innocent, idiotic comment that colors everything black and turns all the pep into poop.

Here’s my situ…Besides the funkety funk funk I’ve been feeling lately, I finally heard back from the representative of the first major celebrity I’ve gone after for my book project. I won’t name names, but let’s just say she’s uber famous and she writes a blog that rhymes with POOP. So the good news is, I finally heard back.  The bad news, and the reason for the needed pep talk, is that it was a THANK YOU BUT NO THANK YOU reply.

So, though I’m very happy with the progress of the book and VERY OPTIMISTIC about its future, I just hit my first hurdle, and it hurt.  And though I’m sure there will be more along my journey, I am just taking a moment, on the inside, and on this blog, to have a pity party.  A SHORT one.  No balloons, no booze, no bad karaoke. Just taking a moment to think why would I be stupid enough to think this mega-star would have anything to do with my book. And then, in turn, question what I’m even doing trying to get a book published when I have no experience whatsoever.

So to combat my negative inner monologue and kick those nasty pity-party-going thoughts to the curb, I will deliver my own pep talk, to myself.

Here goes…

Mare,

First of all, this doesn’t mean I/you won’t be able to get another notable person(s) to contribute.

Secondly, I/you don’t NEED celebrity contributors anyway. Though it would help to have a big name associated with the book, and it was our original idea to have notable contributors to show the universality of grief, it is not ESSENTIAL to the core purpose/message of the book.

Lastly, and most importantly, just because her “people” said no the first time around doesn’t mean I/you should give up hope on her and shouldn’t TRY AGAIN.

I remember seeing Maria Shriver on Oprah a few months ago (in fact I wrote about it here). She said it took five years of asking to finally get Bono and Gloria Steinem to speak at her woman’s conference.  She said, I tell people they might as well say yes to me the first time around because I’m going to keep asking until I get a yes. Granted, she’s Maria Shriver, a Kennedy married to the Terminating Governor of the glorious state of California, but, I’m Mary Burt-Godwin of Mama Mary Show fame, married to the one and only G-Money, and what?

Ok, Mama Mary Pity Party officially over. So now I will turn to the five things that have given me inspiration and hope today.

#1 – Lexi’s luscious laughter, even if she is keeping me up at all hours of the night.

#2 – This photo my hubbie took at Balboa Park a few weekends ago; Hope and glory in full color.dsc_0365.

#3 – This email from a dear friend’s sister in regards to the book project.

Mary, This is a wonderful project you are working on.  I look forward to reading the book when it is finished.  My father’s death was very difficult for me partly because I was not sure how to deal with the grief that I had.  It triggered so many feelings that I know I am still dealing with.  I think this project is such a great idea and I am sure it will be helpful to many women dealing with loss.  Thank you for doing this.

#4 – This photo of my dad, which arrived in the mail, randomly, from my Uncle Jim.  He found it as he was going through his things and sent a copy to my sisters and me.

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Pretty handsome fella.

AND

# 5 – This a card I found, given to me by my dad, at some point, years ago, when I needed a pep talk. As I’ve mentioned before, he was incredibly considerate when it came to sending cards, always with a caring, thoughtful handwritten message. I have many of them saved in a scrap book, and this one is my favorite.

The outside has a illustration of a cat (not the reason it’s my favorite) and says:

If you need a push, a pull, a tug, or just a hug…

And the inside, pre-printed message says:

I’m here for you.

My dad’s message:

It’s helpful for us to occasionally ponder Abraham Lincoln’s Road to the White House:

1831 Failed in business

1832 Defeated by Legisation

1833 Failed in business again

1836 Suffered a nervous breakdown,

1838 Defeated, defeated, failed, failed, defeated, etc.

1860: ELECTED PRESIDENT.

Mary, You have what it takes to achieve greatness, even if that amounts to nothing more than the realization that you have been a good person who has tried her best. Love Dad.

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So here I go. Trying my best.

Good talk.

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oh the wonderful things she can do

What are friends for, besides the obvious telling you about the large green chunk of food between your teeth, listening to you when you complain about the fact your significant other never takes out the trash, or dishing dirt on the latest celebrity gossip? Well in my world they serve the following purposes:

To notice my change in hair color and complement it with adjectives like hot and sexy.

To pick out a new accessory I’m wearing and ask where I got it, appreciate its stylish flare, and celebrate the fact it was only $14.99 at Target.

To compare notes on the previous night’s American Idol performances.

To sing the full libretto of Rent while imbibing “one last drink.”

To provide advice, counsel and insight on just about everything from a fashion ensemble to content for my latest project.

To help wipe snot from my toddler’s nose when my hands are full with the baby, a bottle, a binky, a snack, a diaper, a wipe, and a chai latte.

To lend me a book because she knows I will relish every word, just as she did.

I am blessed in life with many such friends for whom I am thankful for everyday.  But today I need to give props to one in particular…The ridiculously creative, talented, passionate and rock solid, Laura Lee.  She has been my dear friend for years, but recently she has been invaluable to me, for many reasons.

Her son Lucas was born 6 days after Lexi (though he looks like he’s Lily’s age) so we have been able to share the joys, fears, insecurities, frustrations and overwhelming happiness that accompanies the first year of a child’s life.

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Also, she too is a member of “the Club” and has been my sounding board, design guru and overall traveling companion along my book project journey.  Yesterday we met for lunch to catch up and to disucss design elements for the book.  With her she brought a book she just finished reading by Anne Lamott called Operating Instructions, which is a non-fiction work about the first year of her son’s life.  It is AMAZING! I’m already half-way through it and I highly recommend it for any mom who has recently (or not so recently) had a child.  Lamott is candid, crass, honest and raw. I have read several of her fictional works like Rosie, Hard Laughter, and Crooked Little Heart, but I have never read her non-fiction works for which she is most famous.

So I love this book and am wondering why I’m not using the kids’ nap right now to be reading instead of typing but I fee compelled to write this right now.

Not only do I resonate with Lamott’s writing’s about her experience as a mother, but I also connect to her on another level…Anne Lamott is a member of “The Club.”  She discusses her grief throughout the book and how it permeates various aspects of her life.  I am now on a mission to get Anne Lamott somehow involved with my book project.  I don’t know how I’m gonna do it, but I’m gonna do it.  Just watch me go…

But now back to my friend: Thank you LL Cool J, my dear friend who inspires me and encourages me. This poem, inspired by the delightful Dr. Seuss, is for you:

Oh the Wonderful Things She Can Do:

She can act, she can sing, she can do anything

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She can write, she can draw, she can paint on a wall.

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she can work, wife, and blog and be an awesome mom.

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Oh, the wonderful things she can do.  She can do it all and be an awesome friend too.
Check out her hilarously honest and sharply written blog – We Sit By Fire and her crazy good artistry at Lolly Lava Ink.

be mine

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Though Valentine’s Day is typically a holiday reserved for lovers, over the years, many of my most precious Valentine’s Day cards did not come from, as you might think, a significant other.  Rather, they came from the other man in my life, my dad.  For as long as I can remember, he sent hand-selected greeting cards to my sisters and me, each and every Valentine’s Day.  I always looked forward to finding the frosty or hot pink Hallmark envelope in my mailbox, addressed to Ms. Mary Burt, with his chicken scratch attorney writing, and the words  “Do not open til Feb 14th.”  Despite his intimidating and sometimes overbearing demeanor, he was also a very sensitive and thoughtful man, with a soft spot for the women in his life, of which there were plenty.  He had three daughters from a previous marriage, Marci (who has since passed away), Jenny, and Diana, a step daughter Laurie, a foster daughter Karin and me.  So in addition to showering my mom with a card, flowers, candy and a little bling, bling, he would also send a card to all his daughters to let us know he was thinking about us.  I think he also wanted to make sure we received something in case we were either a) single or b) dating a loser who didn’t think to buy a card.

Valentine’s Day 2001 came only 12 days after my dad was diagnosed with terminal, inoperable cancer and given only a few months to live.  He was much too weak to go out and purchase cards, but I couldn’t bare the thought of not having at least one more card.  So, on February 10th, I headed to Rite Aid and picked out seven Valentine’s Day card; one for each of his ladies.  I thought it would be a nice surprise for all my sisters and my mom who were all certainly thinking the same thing; that we had seen the last of our special cards from Dad.

Later that night I brought the bag of cards into his den and laid them on his desk, next to the back scratcher and the mug of pencils that said “You take it, you return it.” He smiled. The moment was both magical and awkward; there was an elephant in the room…the unspoken reason behind my purchasing the cards. But nevertheless, he was touched and I think very glad to have the opportunity to wish his lovely ladies one last Valentine’s Day sentiment.

And although I had purchased the cards myself, I still felt that flutter of excitement to see mine arrive in the mailbox on February 14th.  I couldn’t wait to open it and read his message.  It was not the card itself that I looked forward to every year, it was the handwritten message inside that I couldn’t wait to read.  He always took the time to write a unique, personalized, heartfelt note inside.  I never once received a card from my father that did not have a handwritten note in addition to the pre-printed message.  He was “old-fashioned” that way.  And sentimental.

Until recently I had forgotten about that “last” card.  But the other day, as I was going through my old scrapbooks I came across the card.  My heart stopped.  I flashed back to the day I stood in the Rite Aid card aisle, trying to pick “just the right card” for each of my siblings and my mom.  I had hand selected each one with thought and care, just as he would have.  Now, I sat looking down at the card. I opened it slowly, deliberately.

TO MY VALENTINE:

“Dearest Mary – You have been so loving and thoughtful and helping and just plain wonderful during this period which I know has been hard on you.  I couldn’t have made it through so well without you – you are a wonder and a treasure.  You are such a wonderful person. I’m so proud to be your father.  I cherish you.

Love, Dad

I cherish this card.

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Happy Valentine’s Day, Dad! I heart you.


measure your life in love

The Tony Award winning musical Rent is more than just music, dancing, and a cool set. It is an inspirational story of love, friendship and redemption, of following dreams and dreaming of a better day. Whenever I see it, which is as often as possible and over ten times now, my heart beats up in my throat.  Tears flow from the first guitar strum of “One Song Glory” and don’t stop rollin’ until I am sitting in my car after the show.  The music, the lyrics, the characters and their struggles strike a cord in me that is profound and visceral.  And when I watch the actors on stage, feeling their joy spill out into the dark theatre, watching their souls soar as they sing, it fills a void in me.  It lifts me up.  It inspires me.  It makes me smile.

When I first saw it, over 11 years ago, I had been going through a proverbial Valley of Life.  I was mending a broken heart from the year prior (I roll my eyes now in retrospect — I wish I had just read “He’s Just Not That Into You” and been done with it!), I was overweight, drinking a lot, and wallowing in a sea of 2:00am carne asada burritos and beer goggles.  I was desperate for a change, for a light, for a kick in the pants.  Rent was all of those things, and more.

One night, way back in the summer of 1997, my dear friend and fellow thespian/theatre geek, Mike, invited me to a preview of the new hit, controversial musical Rent at the La Jolla Playouse.  I had heard of it from a friend who had seen it on Broadway, and I knew I just had to go.  We had 5th row seats.  We could see their sweat, tears and black nail polish.  I was mesmerized.  They had me at “Rent.”

The show rocked my world.  I was weeping (surprised?), laughing and bursting from the inside out.  I wanted to run up on the stage, hug the actors, ask them to be my best friends, do a little dance and feel the spotlight on my face.  I had not been on a stage for at least 4 years.  I did not realize how much I missed it until that night.

After the show that night I learned of the tragic story surrounding the death of the show’s creator, Jonathan Larson.  He had been a struggling actor, writer, director, waiting tables in New York and he finally landed it big time.  His little-musical-that-could,was headed for Broadway.  After the final dress rehearsal, on the eve of his dreams coming true, he died of an aortic aneurism.  He did not live to see opening day, or any of the gazillion accolades the show went on to achieve over the past 12 years.  Poetic injustice.  Irony to the nth degree. A reminder to enjoy every moment and follow your dreams.  Proof that there is “No Day But Today.”

I went home that night and wrote in my journal for 4 hours straight, scribbling feverishly through my tears.  But the tears were joyful tears, full of hope and new beginnings. Within a week I had seen the show three more times and was enrolled in acting classes.  I had lost a few pounds and found my self-respect.  I had, without realizing it, stopped thinking about the j-e-r-k who had dumped me.   The void I had been feeling was in fact not caused by him. I had been missing myself.  Ding, dong. It was an epiphany. It was powerful.  It was awesome. 

So when I say I love Rent, I mean I LOVE Rent.  I really think it changed the course of my life.  It inspired me to act on my dreams.  To get out of my head and into my life.  To measure my life in love, not loss.  Though I have put the acting thing on hold for the time being, I know I will get back to that part of my life, that dream, when the time is right.  At the moment I am happier than I have ever been playing the role of mommy with my girls as my audience (isn’t it usually the other way around?).

I am writing this post tonight because the Rent Live Broadway Filming DVD came out last week and guess who had a date night last night with her hubby, La Crema Chardonnay, and her dvd player?  (whoa Readers, whoa…this is a family blog).  All of my emotions from 11.5 years ago came flooding back.  It inspired me yet again, this time to keep pushing ahead on my book project. And it re-ignited my idea to turn the book into a play, utilizing the amazing stories I am compiling as the basis for the characters. That way, I can get back to the stage, where my heart beats like wild and my soul sees forever. Stay tuned for that chapter.

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Tonight I am thankful for Jonathan Larson, his inspiration and his light.

A nearly perfect day

Today’s historic event has left me hopeful and invigorated, yet at the same time a little melancholy, as I wish my Dad was alive to have experienced it with me.  Although I am quite certain he would not have voted for President Obama, or been a big fan, I still wonder what he would have thought about this day.    I think he would have had something very profound to say about him, supportive and kind.  And he would have been proud of our country’s collective unity.  Pissed off about an inevitable tax increase, but nevertheless proud.

He was always the person I went to for information regarding politics or history.  He was incredibly knowledgeable.  Beyond, beyond.  Growing up, his diatribes on political issues and historical events bored me to tears.  Now, I shed tears because I desperately miss those diatribes I once disdained.  Oh, just to hear his booming voice make a smart ass remark about CHANGE…nothing would make me happier.

Today, watching the inauguration, with my girls and husband, I was filled with pride and joy.   I dressed the girls and myself in red, white and blue to commemorate this day (no, we do not wear matching outfits to theme parks).  My parents both taught me the importance of patriotism.  Today I felt it like never before.  My heart was a tight knot in my throat, butterflies did sommersaults in my tummy and the hairs on my arms stood on end as I prayed with the rest of the nation for our new illuminous leader.  I held Lily in my arms, with our hands over our hearts and sang the national anthem through my tears.  “Mommy’s happy tears, Lily.”  It was a day I will never forget.  It was nearly perfect.  I just missed my Dad.

Can I help ya, help ya, help ya?

In September of 1990, I pledged the illustrious Delta Delta Delta Sorority.  Yes, I am a sorority girl.  In some ways I probably fit the stereotype and in others I completely stray from it, but regardless, I was, and forever will be a Tri Delt.  And something very special happened during my 4 years of active status as a Tri Delt…Sometime in the fall of 1991, I was sitting in my room at the sorority house, with several friends, watching Saturday Night Live.  Suddenly, on the tv screen I saw a blond cast member with a neon scrunchie on top of her head and 3 triangles on her sweatshirt.  We all yelled, “Like, OH MY GAWD!”  and then she said  “Like, OH MY GAWD.”  It was an ENTIRE SNL skit about Tri Delts.  I don’t remember much of it (and I can’t find it on YouTube or the SNL site) but I do vividly remember the phrase “Delta Delta Delta, Can I help ya, help ya, help ya?” When the skit ended all the gals that happened to be home that night ran out into the foyer and we all laughed our sorority girl a**es off.  No pillow fighting ensued, sorry guys.

I’m telling this story tonight because a few weeks ago I posted an announcement about my book project on the new Tri Delt messaging website.  For several weeks I didn’t have many hits so I pretty much forgot about it.  However, I just checked it a few minutes ago, after maybe 2 weeks of not checking, and holy scrunchies, I had (80) women who had tagged the announcement as being interested.   Awesome!  I just emailed them all and hopefully a handful of them are sincerely interested in contributing.

And speaking of the book project…editing is going really well, but slower than I would like.  It’s just so hard to find chunks of the day that I can work on it.  I added a second deadline of January 21st for women who couldn’t make the first one, and good thing I did, so all of the Tri Delts who are interested can now submit something as well.

Today was also important because Baltimore beat Tennessee which could potentially be a good thing for us Charger fans.  I’ve got to now go and get mentally ready for the game against Pittsburg tomorrow.  Go Chargers!

And just remember, if you can’t get a date, Tri Delt.

bury me in my sneakers

Today is a very special day.

1)  My book club is reconvening tonight for a little holiday soiree after a short hiatus.

I call it “my book club” only because I was the one to ultimately jump start it a little less than 8 years ago, by picking a book, sending out invitations and calling it a book club.  The impetus for doing so was sitting in a doctors office at Mercy Hospital, seeing a CT scanned image of the grapefruit size tumor in my dad’s abdomen and hearing the words “inoperable and terminal” followed by  “2-4 months”…2 months to the day from my scheduled wedding date.  Doesn’t that sound like a good reason to read some books and drinks some (a lot) of wine?  Well, it made perfect sense to me, for several reasons.  Mainly because my dad LOVED to read and he passed that love on to me.  Also, I thought he would be proud of me for hosting something so intellectual as a book club (in his hay day he would have been proud of how much we used to drink and smoke too) and I wanted him to know about it BEFORE he died.  And last but not least, I wanted to have something to look forward to, to take my mind off my dad’s imminent and ultimate death.  A good book and a good night with friends…a great remedy for self-pity.  So, here we are, almost 8 years later…still drinking wine and talking trash under the guise of “book club.”  And although we meet infrequently and rarely talk about or even read the book, I still love it and look forward to it with a certain endearment.

2) The deadline for my book project submissions is today.

WOW is pretty much all I can say in response to the beautiful, poignant, powerful pieces I have been receiving over the past few weeks.  Kleenex is my friend, let me tell you, as I read the stories, poems and letters women are sending me. I have been moved beyond words.

I do have to admit to a few moments of self-doubt.  A few women that have found me via various literary/blogging websites have asked me if I have an agent or publisher yet.  Truthfully, I am as green as Sarah Palin (that’s not funny anymore now that the election is over, is it?) in the literary world.  No, I don’t have an agent and/or a publisher.  And yes, I know it is extremely hard to land an agent and/or a publisher.  But despite the struggle I will inevitably go through to get this thing published, I am certain, now more than ever, that there is a place in this world for a book like this.  And what struck me last night as I read one submission that particularly hit home with me and made my stomach have that nervous achy feeling, is that this book is for any woman that has lost her dad, regardless of how much time has passed or what the circumstance may have been.  Of course some stories will resonate more than others depending on your own story.  But these stories are proving my hypothesis that grief is universal and although it gets better, it is infinite and everlasting.  Reading the stories of other women is so strangely comforting to me.  I know it will be for other women too.

One quote that sums it all up for me came from a former co-worker (whom I have never met because she works in the Chicago office).  Margie McCartney writes…

If someone told me I had a week to live, I would be sad to leave everyone on this earth but I would be so excited to be with my dad that I would have them bury me with my sneakers so I could run into his arms again.dick664

3) Today would have been my Dad’s 77th birthday.

Happy Birthday Dad!