Monday, March 5, 2018
Note to self: Next time you're on a podcast, take the bracelets off. Not bad for a first interview.
Are you remembering to stretch your brain and try new things? This experience was terrifying. It's a new medium for me. And, it's certainly not a perfect effort. Looking back, I'm glad I did it despite never finding where that darned courage was hiding.
Be brave. Do new things. Go tell somebody about it.
(link in comments)
Thursday, March 1, 2018
At times like this, I delete shit.
I take a lot of bubble baths. I work in my apartment instead of at the local coffee shop. I un-follow people on Facebook, cancel lunch appointments, and hole up with a good book, or four. I ignore texts. These things soothe me. They keep me sane. I want to understand the world and everyone in it. I want to understand why we are the way we are. It hurts my brain when I try. I sink to my chin, instead, in a nice hot tub filled with LUSH end-of-season bath bombs, a glass of chardonnay sitting on the floor at my side, and my Love Songs channel on Pandora. Love, love will keep us together.
I’ve thought a million times to delete this old blog, but I just can’t do it. It’s my heart. It might be retro, obsolete, but it’s mine.
When I’m working on words for you to read, I always feel I should be doing something else, something with earning potential, something real or professional. Like, a job. But I don’t want to. This blog is my sandy beach, my iced tea in the shade. It saves me from myself. It saves me from the world.
Since I was a little girl, I have been a sensitive sort. If others are hurting, I want to make the hurt stop. If I’m the one hurting, I crumple like you’ve never seen anyone crumple. If worldly things are out of sorts, I want to fit them back together. I want us all to circle up, put our arms around each other, sing songs, and smile. All we need is love, and all that jazz.
Could this ever happen? Is it too lofty a goal?
Humor me, would you? Go hug your spouse, your child, or your friend. Mumble some words of gratitude for having this person in your life. Send a mentor a note. Snail mail if you like or just message online. Throw out some flowery words thanking him or her for the contribution, the role played in making you the person you are. Tip your server thirty percent today. Round up. Call your parents. If that’s not possible, talk to them in your head. Thank them for bringing you into the world, for giving you life. Despite what you thought or think of them, without them, you would not exist. Send a note of encouragement to a teacher. Educators are quick to hear complaints. Lavish a little praise. Do these things for me today. I need this. I need it badly.
I need to believe.
I need to believe that no matter how divided we are, we’re still capable of a kind word, we would still lift the other when the other was down, we would lift the other even when the other was up.
I am four deactivate clicks away from falling off the social media grid. My go-to in times of conflict is to hide, to run escape the stress of the world. I’d like to feel brave enough, for once, to stand.
Look at me! Listen!
Turn to the person next to you right now, even if that person is your dog. Love that person in whatever way you can, in whatever way feels comfortable and best. Offer a helping hand, a word of encouragement or praise, a hug, or a pat on the back. Maybe World Peace is too lofty a goal, I don’t know, but Peace Where You Are can definitely be a thing.
Not around another human being right now? Get your shoes on and go buy a cup of coffee. Buy another for the person behind you in line. Then give that barista a twenty-dollar tip and watch the sunshine fall out of their insides. You did that. World Peace in your little corner.
Wednesday, February 14, 2018
Knock knock. Who's there? Me. Remember me? I'm hoping you've noticed my absence. No biggie if you haven't. I can talk to myself on the page as easily as I can talk to myself off the page.
I've been a little busy lately. I've been reworking my Amazon author page (link in the sidebar) and revising the (shit of a first draft) books I had posted there. After getting all that in order, the plan is to craft some new essay collections. Exciting! At this point, the manuscripts are available only to Kindle because, well, that's how I know to do it. Until someone volunteers as agent, publisher, or extremely patient tutor in showing me how to make my own books happen, this is what we have to work with. Also, there are still errors. But, hey, I've always been a believer in throwing myself out there and figuring things out as I go. It's worked this far. Why stop now?
So I wrote this about myself on my site. If you are a reader who doesn't know me for real, this is who I am:
Hello! And welcome to my page. I'm Tammie Ortlieb. Born in 1963, I hold a BA in psychology from the University of Illinois and an MS in Educational Psychology from Capella University. And there was that one time I decided to go back to school for my PhD but then changed my mind because it wasn't speaking to my heart, so I have doctoral study in the same field. I'm a book nerd, a research nerd, and a glass of almond milk half full kind of gal. When I'm being all suit and tie, I say I am on this earth to spread peace, love, and compassion, to encourage individuals to love others and to love themselves. I say I am a girl on a mission and have much to do in this world. But when I loosen that tie and kick off those business heels, I have to confess I really just want to make people smile, look at pretty things, and read until my brain explodes. Former professor, mom of four, and cofounder of VegOut Los Angeles, I live to write and write to live.
I also have another super exciting goal. Don't let me chicken out of this one. I want to start a YouTube channel! First, I need to overthink it. I need a theme. I need to know how to make a YouTube channel happen. I need to know about equipment. I need a name for the channel. I need to get brave. I need to figure out if I'm going to be funny or serious. I need to think about where I would film this. I need to talk to someone who knows how things like this work. I need to educate myself on how to make money with something like this. I might need to overthink it a little more after all that.
Or, maybe, I'll just throw myself out there.
So, keep your eyes peeled (but not like potatoes) for news of new happenings at Tammie's place. While you're waiting, check out my memoir, Outside the Lines: Essays on Poverty, Possibilities, and the Power of Love. If you purchased a copy when I first put it to print a few years ago, it should update on your device. If not, contact Amazon and tell them to get busy on that. If you never purchased it, take a little peek to see how you like it. It's an interesting story. With some errors along the way. Just confessing, that's kind of how it went in real life, too.
Thanks so much for following my blog and have a great rest of your day!
Sunday, November 19, 2017
This is the job of a writer. Take an experience and get it down. Notice. Pay attention. Intuit. Listen. Then choose. Choose the part of the story the reader would prefer to hear. Unlike Facebook, a writer doesn’t get fifteen selfie shots from which to select the cutest, the sexiest, the one that will get the most likes. A writer gets one take. From that, she pens in her own filters, hashtags, witty comments, clever remarks. The writer chooses with her thoughts and eyes how to see the life she is given.
An essay from that half minute interaction with those three men could go many directions. I could write on the asshole jerk and how he got that way. I could write on the guy who held the door and his sheepish smile and embarrassed blush. I could write on my own insecurities, body image, and the current culture women face of public examples of shaming versus ads promoting taking pride in our physical selves. I could write in many directions from this one comment that I wasn’t even supposed to hear.
But I chose to leave it as an introduction to something a bit deeper.
I recently advised a friend who is considering blogging. Be careful, I told her. Protect your heart. People will read your words. All people will read your words. Even those you don’t want to read will read. Sometimes, those people will be your biggest readers. Not because they want your inspiration but because they want the dirt. Also, I told her, be ready for the haters. There will be haters. No matter how personal your material, how sensitive your feelings, how many tears you shed as you put your words to page, there will be those who will say it didn’t happen like that, she’s making that up. There will be those who will guess at parts of your life from things you write and will whisper to those around them. She must be having an affair. But they will never bother to sit with you for coffee, to know you off the page, to hear the story as it happened in flesh. Be ready, I told her. It will happen.
A young writer I know shared this morning a reflection of her personal hell. She shared how she wants to be real in her writing, how she wants to write. But for now, she wants to live. She misses the page but bigger things call her from it, health things, life and death things. Feel the experience, I told her. Feel it and live it. Then grab the pen and get it down. This is what a reader wants. Hemingway said, “There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.” Hey, haters. We’re bleeding over here. Instead of throwing us a bandage, you’re handing us the knife.
Give the reader what the reader wants. No one cares that I made myself a bowl of oatmeal this morning. Even if I confess to adding coconut, almond butter, cacao, I am still just eating a meal. Anyone can do that. The reader doesn’t want this. No. The reader wants to hear how I have obsessed since last night, kept myself from sleep, over a friendship that used to light my days but hasn’t touched my doorstep in years. The reader wants to hear how I hang onto a thing I should release, a thing that, over two years, brought me the greatest joy and then, in the span of an hour, destroyed me. My feminist readers would say you are worth more than this. Do not give anyone your time that doesn’t treat you as you deserve. My friends who know would say this again? For God’s sake, let it go. But everyone would read. They would read.
We are all writers, aren’t we? Some of us just choose not to share. The asshole guy still walks through the door as you enter the bookstore. The tragedy happens that makes you consider the blog. Your life is jeopardized at a very young age. You ache inside for a relationship you should let go. Most folks call it life, post the perfect selfie, and move on. Writers, writers grab the pen, steel their nerves, prepare to bleed.
Saturday, October 7, 2017
What do you do? I’m a professor. This is how I used to answer this question. Now, I stumble over my words and explain how I’m working on a new idea with my daughter, mumble, mumble, something about a vegan start-up, trailing off in how I used to teach psychology at the college level (because my ego says do this to feel important). What is the matter with me? Why can’t I just say I do nothing, and it’s bringing me great joy? Since quitting my teaching job, for example, I’ve built lovely relationships with the other regulars at the coffee shop where I write. A diverse, and mostly elderly, population, this group has taught me the true meaning of positive aging, a concept I used to give lip service to in class. They show up every day with crossword puzzles in hand. No one is younger than eighty. A couple of them are pushing the century mark. They are former professors, elementary teachers, musicians, and writers. They know the other regulars and their areas of expertise and can often be seen wandering to different tables to ask about a six-letter word for candy ass? (piñata). I pop over before I leave to help them with a word or two. What do I do? I rock the New York Times puzzle of the day with a ninety-six-year-old author of history books, that’s what I do.
It must be nice, but somebody has to pay the bills. You would be surprised what bills you don’t need once you quit trying to measure up to others and begin to cultivate a life you enjoy. I used to spend lots of money on clothes because I wanted to look good in front of my students. I didn’t want them to see me in the same dress every day. I’m vain like that. I lived in a big house, had lots of cars in the driveway, and spent too much money on services to make my life and home look good. I paid someone to fertilize my lawn. And then, because it grew, I paid someone to cut it. I paid someone to clean my home because it was big, and I was busy. I shelled out co-pays for medical visits that were mostly due to stress. I threw out the big bucks for lessons, sports equipment, and pay-to-play gigs for my four children as they grew because this is what we do. It is not enough for the neighborhood boys to spend afternoons crafting makeshift go-carts out of bungee cords, skateboards, and appliance boxes found in the garage and racing them down the drive. To be competitive in this world and to build a proper college resume, your twelve-year-old must participate in travel sports and prepare for future scholarships by training with private coaches hired with a parent’s hard-earned cash. At least this is what we are told. Pay the bills? Maybe we should eliminate the need.
I’ve quite enjoyed doing nothing. I’ve spent afternoons sipping tea and chatting with friends. I’ve passed hours sitting on the dock, looking out at the lake. I’ve made phone calls, cooked dinners, stayed up all night talking, and, because no one was checking, slept in. I’ve been accused of not being productive. Tell me how it is not productive to heal my soul. Tell me how it is not productive to care for my health. I have stepped out of the artificially lit, temperature controlled university buildings into the sunshine and fresh air. I have walked the beach, climbed the mountain, and traveled to places I have never been. I have rested. I’ve taken time to breathe.
I may be ready. I may be ready for a smallish job. Something simple that does not control my life. I have learned to not care how others judge. I am smart and significant. I don’t need a title or confirmation to prove it. I am cleansed of the need to live a life that looks good to others but stifles the hell out of me.
What do you do? I care, I love, I walk, I laugh, I write, I savor, I dream.
Friday, August 25, 2017
I think I found my big girl panties.
I have been dreaming for years of moving to California. Not the right time, too expensive, the rest of the family wants to stay in Kalamazoo. We feed ourselves excuses, don’t we, when things seem a bit too hard, when they seem scary or difficult or a little extreme. I decided a few weeks ago that if this were to happen it would be up to me to make it happen. I told myself, yes, let’s do this. The universe was like, “Finally, bitch. ‘Bout damn time.” Once I made the decision and declared it out loud, one thing after another happened in my favor. Let’s just say my house is being photographed today and going on the market super soon. I have found an apartment in an area of California in which I have always wanted to live, put the deposit down, and begun to sell my stuff. My plan is to drive out with only my dog, my cat, and whatever I can fit in the car. Dreams deserve fresh starts, don’t you think?
So many people tell me I’m brave. I don’t feel brave. I feel terrified. I feel excited and terrified. Maybe I look brave. I don’t know. Does brave look like doing a thing you’ve always wanted to do? Does it look like standing up to yourself, saying, “Man up, woman. You’re bigger than this. Quit hiding behind excuses and get busy living your life.” Does brave put its work boots on and do the work nobody else wants to do? Okay, then. Maybe I am a little brave.
Others tell me I am spontaneous, impulsive. Please. I am the queen of overthinking. I only make a thing look impulsive because once I decide to act, I act. What people don’t see is the years spent traveling with the family, exploring vineyards and mountains and beaches from Napa down the coast. What they don’t see is all the quiet evenings with my dogs at my feet, glass of wine at my side, and real estate sites pulled up on the screen. California dreaming. They don’t see the internal struggle between the desire to follow a call of my heart and the reality of having to maintain school schedules for four kids, meet job needs of myself and a spouse, and try to figure out what to do with a life’s collection of furniture, dishes, and ceramic crafted polar bears created by little hands.
They don’t see divorce. They don’t see me sitting room by room, looking around when no one is home, asking myself, “What would I be sad to never see again?” Crying. Remembering. Getting lost in the stories. They don’t see me taking only what I must, only what I have to have, not wanting to leave holes in the house because my two youngest have chosen to live with Dad. They don’t see me not wanting my kids to walk into empty rooms. They don’t see me packing up alone and moving out. Alone. “It was your decision,” people would say. “You could have stayed.” They don’t see the tears I cried when they told me this. If you have nothing nice to say, I would think, please go find something else to do. Your advice is not only not helpful, it is cruel. You don't have the full story. You have only what you see.
These people who call me brave and impulsive, they don’t see that I do now in my home what I did during the divorce. I sit. Room by room. Thoughtful and quiet. I look around and ask, “What would I be sad to never see again?” The cradle I slept in when I was a baby, the rocker I bought when I learned I was pregnant with my first. These will be shipped. The boxes of photos, the old school kind, half the memories grabbed in haste from the other house when I left. I don’t even know which half I have. I’ve lost a part of my children’s growing up years. This is sad enough but now I decide, take them all or leave some behind? The flower my son painted in third grade. The plaque my friend got me to keep me grounded when I went back for my PhD: “If you’re not barefoot, you’re overdressed.” There are more like this, but I can’t take much. These people who call me brave, impulsive, they should sit with me and watch the tears.
This is how we do life. We put one foot in front of the one that came before it. We do that over and over again until we die. Sometimes we get afraid, and we hunker down where we are. I think this is also where we die. I have been hunkering down in my life. If it is brave and impulsive, then, to get up and choose to live, if it is brave and impulsive to decide again to move my feet, if it is brave and impulsive to act on a thought that has been years in the making in my head, then, yes. I am impulsive. I am brave. Mostly, though, I am alive and choosing to live.