Heaven’s way of ensuring that I would see the humor in most of life’s situations was to launch me into the world under unusual circumstances. My mother’s water broke with me at the Spike Jones concert at Fair Park in Dallas, Texas on October 25, 1949. I was born dry and breech two days later – tiny, two months early and with my chest caved in – an impatient, silent and brooding baby. Not even sure I wanted to stick around, I was the unanticipated by-product of my divorcing parents’ having wished each other “luck” at the Hotel Dallas just before their final farewell. On the fifth day of my life, a nurse came into my mother’s room and said, “Well, she finally cried today.” And I’ve not hushed since.
Mother remarried and our stepfather, the man we called “Daddy,” adopted my older brother and me. Then Mother gave birth to a set of twin boys and, a few years later, to our baby sister. Daddy’s family owned a cattle ranch close to Nocona, Texas, so we grew up riding horses and playing cowboy, even though we were city kids who lived in Dallas. Round-ups and rodeos were more real than fantasy in our childhood, and all of us know our way around a horse.
My career path has no straight line to it nor through it. Rather, it looks more like a spiral, if I’m feeling especially spiritual, or a Pachinko game if I’m not. I worked for Texas Instruments and for an import firm. I shipped medical supplies all over the world for a Johnson & Johnson company. Rock ‘n roll radio got into my blood in 1974 and I worked for five years at KZEW-FM in Dallas as Promotion Director. This was back in the days of decent rock ‘n roll, back before all the music started sounding like a wildebeest with its genitals caught in the trash compactor; when most of us could still sing along with the radio and know what we were saying. (Except for LOUIE, LOUIE, of course, but that’s always been true; the guys who recorded it don’t even know what the words were.)
In 1978, though, when I went to get Rolfed, I really only went to change my bad leg. I didn’t know it would change my life, which it did. I went back to school, was accepted and trained as a Rolfer and certified in 1980. I completed my Advanced Training in 1985 and have been doing this work since, well, since God and I were both brunettes. It has been the best path imaginable for my own personal and spiritual growth.
I helped my mother die in 1986, and my writing career actually began the next night when I sat down at my typewriter to write about the experience. It evolved into the first essay I ever wrote, and the first article I ever sold called SHARING THE LANTERN. Since then I have had numerous essays published in various books, magazines and newspapers across the country, including the Cune Press Anthology, AN EAR TO THE GROUND as well as Susan McElroy’s best-sellers, ANIMALS AS TEACHERS & HEALERS and ANIMALS AS GUIDES FOR THE SOUL.
My first novel, THE SECOND COMING OF CURLY RED, won First Prize for fiction at the Mendocino Coast Writer’s Conference in June, 1998, and then was a First Pick in BookSense 76. To promote it, I traveled to New York City, several cities in New England, to Dallas, Houston, Austin, Los Angeles, Palm Springs, Seattle, Vashon Island, Boulder, Denver, and Albuquerque doing readings and book signings. While on the road, I got word that THE SECOND COMING OF CURLY RED had been named as a finalist in the 2000 Oregon Book Awards.
In Oct., 2000, I was introduced by Gov. John Kitzhaber and got to read parts of my novel at a Democratic fund-raiser which also included Jean Auel, Ken Kesey, Chuck Palahniuk. In the spring and summer, Oregon Literary Arts sent those of us who were finalists in the Oregon Book Awards around the state on a mini-book tour, which meant I was able to go to many communities in the state, more than a few of them very conservative, and introduce my sometimes controversial book, and always to great reviews. Book clubs in two tiny eastern Oregon towns made THE SECOND COMING OF CURLY RED their Book-of-the-Month, and I drove back out to each place to participate in lively discussions and sign books. It is most gratifying to have made so many new friends, and to have opened so many eyes and hearts with this message of love and understanding.
Even though the original publisher, Firebrand Books, is now gone, and I have the rights to my novel back, THE SECOND COMING OF CURLY RED continues to do well, and has received wonderful reviews in Publisher’s Weekly, Midwest Book Review, The Burns Times-Herald, Wisconsin Bookwatch, The Wishing Well, The Dallas Voice, The Multnomah Village Post, and the M.S.R.R.T.Newsletter (whatever the heck that is – Minnesota Social Responsibility Round Table – a group of librarians who loved my book, so I’m happy about that.) In addition, I continue to be invited by book clubs and stores to come and read and talk.
An opportunity to present some of my essays at the Southern Writer’s Symposium in North Carolina came in Sept., 1999 where we all talked just as southern as we could the whole weekend. It was at this symposium that I was inspired to capture the memories of a childhood full of double-dog dares and impending doom. My most recent work is a touching, mostly funny, grab-your-spleen-and-fall-over-sideways collection of stories all scooped up in memoir form. It is a tale about growing up in Texas and all the ways Mother thought we would die, and a young girl’s attempts at bravery. Later, she (that would be me) realizes that living an authentic life is the most courageous thing she’ll ever do. This book is called DEAD IN A DITCH (since that’s where Mother was terrified we’d wind up.)
In addition to all of this, another novel is in the works called MORE THAN HORIZONTAL, about one woman’s search for joy, self-acceptance, and learning the profound spiritual difference between being “saved” and never having been lost. It is a story rich in lesbian history, and includes three songs I’ve written called BUNKIN’ WITH YOU IN THE AFTERLIFE, BRAVE ENOUGH TO BE PEACEFUL, and IF YER LOOKIN’ FOR A GIRLFRIEND, I’M YER MAN. In the novel, these three songs are sung by a lesbian minister, Minnie Rhodes and her Many Roads Ministry, Cowgirls for the Lord.
Public speaking has become a big part of my life in recent years, and I was the keynote speaker at the Northcoast Redwoods Writer’s Conference in Crescent City, California in Sept, 2003. In Feb., 2004, I spoke at the University of Oklahoma, Tulsa Campus, and in May, 2004, I spoke at Portland State University.
I am a Texan who never enjoyed sweating, so I moved from Dallas, Texas to Portland, Oregon in 1988. Both places continue to be good to me. I aim to make them both proud.