Saturday, July 14, 2012

Antioch Writers' Workshop 2012

Last week was the Antioch Writers’ Workshop in Yellow Springs. This event, to me, is mecca. I have wanted to do this for years but something always got in the way. (Usually my own self – lack of confidence, lack of funds, etc.) But it’s different now. Now I am a student at Antioch University Midwest. In order to graduate I MUST do the workshop. Wow. What a concept: A writing student being required to participate in one of the greatest workshops in the writing sphere. Daunting? Yes. Exhilarating? Again, yes.

The festivities kicked off on Saturday. As I walked into the reception I was scared to death. The first person I saw that I actually knew was Rebecca Morean, the President of the Workshop’s Board of Directors, who was also one of my instructors. She noted the abject terror in my eyes and immediately made me feel more comfortable. Then I ran into Sharon Short, the Director of the Workshop, who also happens to be one of my instructors. (It was actually her encouragement in class that pushed me to do the workshop this year.) A few minutes later I ran into a fellow writers group member, then another classmate and more instructors. Slowly, I relaxed. As I did so, I realized something. The energy in the room was palpable. The longer I stayed and mingled with the people around me, the more I realized that I was where I belonged. (Of course that feeling was made stronger due to the encouraging words of Gilah Pomerantz Anderson, my wonderful Poetry instructor from last quarter.)

John Grogan (of the Marley and Me fame) was the keynote speaker. He was low-key, approachable, and funny. I took his master class the following morning and listened to him give advice about writing and life in general. His teaching/lecturing style is casual and full of interesting tidbits. As he talked, I looked around the auditorium at my fellow attendees, writers who were also here to improve their craft. There was a very broad spectrum of people – from young teenagers to people who were easily in their 70s (or beyond). We were here to learn, we were here to grow. To be honest, it takes a certain amount of courage to sign up for something like this. Courage that I didn’t possess for a long time. But then I realized: I’m here now. And that’s what matters.

All week long I took classes, learned about the craft of writing, and made new friends. And I loved every minute of it. I loved the direct teaching style of Hallie Ephron. I loved the humor of Jerry Dennis. I loved the wanderings of Jeff Gundy’s travels through poetry. I loved my afternoon seminars with Carrie Bebris. I loved being able to have lunch with Hallie Ephron and C. Kelly Robinson. I loved my one on one time with Linda Gerber. I loved the inspiration and excitement I felt every day. 

But what I think I loved most of all is the absolute sense of community – the encouragement, the understanding, and the acceptance that we were all writers and we were in this together. That is the beauty and the magic of the Antioch Writers’ Workshop.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

A Shout Out to Renee

Lately Maya’s liver enzymes have been elevated for unknown reasons, which means we head down to Dayton Children’s Medical Center about once a week for lab draws. The results are analyzed and sent to Cincinnati Children’s for review. I have never been shy about extolling the virtues of Cincinnati Children’s Hospital, but I haven’t been a huge fan of Dayton Children’s until recently. That could stem from the fact that they are not a transplant center and we have, quite honestly, received sub-par care there in the past. However, that isn’t what I want to focus on currently. For the most part, the phlebotomists that we have encountered during the last few years have been awesome. (Still not a fan of some of the nurses and doctors, but again, I’m trying to focus on the positive.) It seems to me that the hospital has undergone a metamorphosis of sorts lately. The personnel in general have been more friendly and informative – and that is very apparent at the check in at the lab when we go to register for labs.

One day last week we were registering and the woman who was getting us checked in was awesome. She is a kindergarten teacher and also works at the hospital part time. That intrigued Maya, who is going to be in kindergarten this fall. She is also convinced that she is going to have multiple careers all at the same time: she wants to be a doctor, nurse, blood taker (phlebotomist), and book writer (author) concurrently. The woman behind the counter was proof positive to Maya that people can work as many jobs as they want to. Anyway the woman, Renee, noted that Maya’s birthday was just around the corner. She asked what Maya wanted. Maya rattled off a plethora of wishes including more Barbies (God help me), DS games, and a Zebra Pillow Pet (that was a new one to me).  We made conversation for a few more minutes and then waited for the tech to call us back. I didn’t give the conversation a second thought. (Maya’s birthday list was already ingrained into my head for the most part, as she has been telling me what she wants EVERYDAY for weeks.)

Fast forward to a week later, when we had to go back for MORE labs. Renee checked us in again and she remembered Maya. After she checked us in, we sat in the waiting area and waited for the tech to call us back. A few moments later, Maya’s name was called. As we walked back to the dreaded room for the blood draw, Renee walked up to us with a smile….and a Zebra Pillow Pet in her arms, which she gave to Maya. Maya was so incredibly excited and happy. So was I. Renee’s gift brought me to tears, but in a good way. My daughter was so excited that she barely made a sound when they took her blood. Her new Pillow Pet (she named it Zeebree), has not left her side.

As the parent of a child who was saved from a certain death due to a rare liver disease, I know how lucky I am. Maya is aware of it as well. The doctors and nurses involved in her care are truly lifesavers. But we are also lucky to have people like Renee in the world, a woman who had one conversation with my beautiful, brave, and bubbly daughter and wanted to help bring a little bit more joy into her world. I look back on the struggles my daughter has endured because of her health and her transplant and I am amazed in the ways that she has touched others around her. Maya rarely meets a stranger, and Renee is one of many people we have met along the way who have made our journey such an incredible experience. So thank you, Dayton Children’s Medical Center, for hiring Renee, a woman who is an awesome asset to your hospital. And thank you Renee, for lighting up my daughter’s face with a smile so bright. Once again I am reminded of how blessed we are.