The wonder-filled life of a single older-ish mom.

Archive for the category “Writing”

Reflections on ‘An Open Apology to Dolly Parton’

img_9399When I was writing my last blog post, “An Open Apology to Dolly Parton,” I had glanced up at a print on my mantel that says, “I see you, I get you, I love you.”

I originally bought it several years ago as a message to Nina, but over time I’ve hoped it has spoken to anyone who enters our living room and needs a message of understanding and acceptance.

I also hope it’s a mentality that Nina and I strive to live by — to see, to accept, and to appreciate people for who they truly are, regardless of our differences.

It’s not always easy, and I certainly didn’t get it right with Dolly Parton for too long. When I posted the apology, I had no idea — much less intention — that the letter would go viral with more than 2.5 million viewers and over 1,350 comments posted on the blog.

When WordPress editor Ben Huberman asked to do a Q&A for WordPress Discover about the response, I said that based on the comments I’d read, the post seemed to either strike a chord of harmony or hit a sensitive nerve about regional, class, gender, or political divides. But a main thread through the comments reflects just how deeply Dolly Parton’s altruistic acts, not to mention her talents, have touched people.

For example, Chris Carrier wrote, “I’m a volunteer firefighter and was deployed to Pigeon Forge on the 29th to fight fires. Early Wednesday morning around 3 am we were sent to DreamMore resort to sleep. Dolly opened her resort for firefighters to rest, shower and sleep, at no cost to us.” On that note, Jennifer Berkley responded that her two brothers were among the firefighters who stayed at Dolly’s DreamMore resort, and they found a sign hanging on their door that read, “Do not disturb! One of our firefighter heroes is sleeping.”

Other local readers mentioned that Dolly established an incentive program that has drastically raised the graduation rate of Sevier County high school students, and that she pays their tuition at a nearby community college. An article by Travis M. Andrews in The Washington Post, Tennessee Fires Brought Dolly Parton A New Mission-And An Apology, beautifully laid out how Dolly’s upbringing inspired both her down-to-earth attitude and her dedication to helping others, especially folks in her native East Tennessee region.

But it was a comment from “Tranny T.” that I kept returning to, and that captured how Dolly’s kindness has reached people on such deeply personal levels while simultaneously acknowledging the universal human spirit.

Tranny wrote that she grew up as a “poor little feminine boy in a small town in West Virginia,” whose family of six did without many things such as running water and electricity. But her mother sang Dolly’s songs, and when Tranny saved enough money to buy “White Limozeen” she wore the cassette out from playing it so often.

After years of bullying, abuse, and a near suicide, Tranny moved to East Tennessee as a gay man at the age of 20. During a visit to Dollywood, Tranny encountered Dolly and burst out crying.

Dolly said, “Well good looking, why you crying?” Tranny told her how much she had inspired him as a child, and Dolly reassured the young man everything was going to be ok. Dolly then told him, “I see the sweetness of your heart in those gorgeous steel blue eyes and I bet there is a story to tell behind them!”

Several years later, after more experiences of hatred and brutality, Tranny once again came face to face with Dolly at a small concert in West Virginia. Tranny — now transitioned to the woman she felt she was always meant to be and not the gay young man Dolly first met — wrote that they looked at one another and then Dolly said, “I remember those beautiful eyes!”

Tranny was confused at first, but then smiled when she remembered what Dolly said years earlier. She wrote, “She then spoke and said, ‘Seems like all those past sorrows have finally faded away!’ I couldn’t believe it but it was like she knew what had happened to me as a child and how far I had come to where I am today … She didn’t miss a beat but with her loving and calm voice reassured me I was going to be ok again.”

Just as she had done when she was a young country girl who was drawn to the “painted lady” in Sevier County, Dolly once again saw the value and beauty in someone whom others had so easily judged and demeaned. And isn’t that what we all long for in the deepest core of ourselves — to be accepted, even celebrated, for who we truly are?

I see you
I get you
I love you

— Amy Rawe

*  Regarding the print pictured above, if anyone knows the name of the artist please let me know. I can’t make out the signature, and there is no identifying information on the back. I bought it from a man at the Artsclamation! show in Knoxville, held at Sacred Heart Cathedral School at least two years ago, possibly longer.


Helmet Heart … and other thoughts on Valentine’s Day

The other morning, as sleep slipped over the cusp of consciousness, the words “helmet heart” echoed in my head. I tried to grab bits of the dream, wondering what this meant but was left only with those two words and the memory of taking off my bike helmet in the days when I used to bike long distances.

The helmet would have invariably pressed my wavy hair to my head, and I’d run my fingers through the strands to give it some life. On the morning of the helmet heart dream, it occurred to me I’ve very likely been keeping my heart under tough guard the past few years, without fully realizing it. I wondered if it’s time to fluff up my heart a bit, to let it expand to its natural state, even though I have no idea what this means.

No doubt I’ve shielded my heart from romantic relationships since the divorce, but I also wonder how I’ve helmeted it in other ways that I haven’t seen—such as not posting writings because they’re not fully formed yet (like this one) … or not intentionally planning joyful play time as I might define that, not just how Nina would. I don’t know yet what it would look like to fluff up my heart, and that’s ok. Maybe just taking the helmet off will oxygenate the answers.

So, that’s what this quiet Valentine’s day has me pondering. Nina, meanwhile, has been asking all month what this day is supposed to be about anyway. At the age of eight, she is straddling those days between innocence and awareness on so many levels, including what it feels like to have a crush, but this year she is strong in her stance that Valentine’s Day is a downright creepy celebration. She’s asked repeatedly, “Who celebrates a holiday where a baby flies around in a diaper shooting people with a bow and arrow?!” I don’t have good answers for her, either, on that one. I only know that, like most holidays certainly including Thanksgiving, love and gratitude should be daily practices and not relegated to one day of recognition.

My only other wish regarding this day is that some things remain immune from modernization, and that I finally wake-up and break-up with Pinterest.

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Back in the Sandbox

With summer officially over, I face the fact that—just like last summer—I gave my writing the silent treatment. I posted no blogs, which is doom and gloom because the publishing industry experts all say that if you want get your book published you’ve got to have a lot of followers and you don’t get followers if you don’t put stuff out there for people to find. And follow.

So I default to flogging myself with brutal mental beatings, chastising my lack of commitment and creativity. Then, sufficiently battered, I switch to allowing excuses to whine their way in—”but I’ve had a lot of clients,” blahdee blahbitty blah.

But if I’m honest with myself, I’ll fess up that I’ve felt stuck, voiceless, and when I’ve tried to write the words feel stiff. I start thinking about the followers, and can’t imagine I have anything of value to add to the din of voices out there vying for cyber attention. So I hide and don’t write, and I forget that this doesn’t need to be such serious business. I forget that my intention when I began Rawe-Struck was to be raw, and full of wonder, and that if even just one person felt a “me too!” connection with what I put out there, that would be enough.

I forget how playing with words lights me up. And I stop playing when I become self-concious about who’s watching.

I think about what I would tell Nina if she strayed from a practice she loved doing. The answer comes simply and clearly, “Just begin again.” I would advise her not to waste anymore time paralyzing herself with self-woven restraints of guilt or worry about what other people think. I would tell her to jump in and rediscover the joy of why she wanted to do that thing in the first place. Just begin again.

I would tell her that sometimes we lose sight of our path, and spend day after day poking about in the weeds. And a lot of fast-talking should-experts live in those weeds. We scurry around in circles with them for awhile, and figure we’ll get back on path someday.

I might tell her about this time right now, when I forgot about why I loved writing, and that my “someday” became a season. And that I realized that was ok. I’ll tell her I had the courage to return and this time—because I thought of how I would talk to myself if I were talking to her—I said, “Welcome back!” instead of “It’s about time, loser.”

I’ll tell her I even said to myself, “You’re right on time, sweet-cheeks. Now get back in that sandbox of words and play!”

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