The Cleansing Power of Creativity… Yours

— photo by Gaelle Marcel

Maybe it’s the God-syndrome; the idea that having the power to create is what life is all about, what ‘godliness’ is all about… or at least closer to that vaunted status than ‘cleanliness,’ for God’s sake, which is what we’ve been told all these years!

The power to create comes in countless varieties, allowing humans of every predilection to choose their path to the heavens. But in a culture more readily fixated on watching, judging, commenting, hang-wringing, ranting and railing, it’s easy to get preoccupied by the passivity of being an observer, an analyst, while minimizing the activity of shifting the zeitgeist with the smallest touch of our energy and creativity. We huddle over Facebook or Twitter, availing ourselves of the latest “whatever,” feeling our outrage stoked, our righteousness riled; we share, and comment, and converge, and there is some value, some sense of being part of the roiling evolvement of our world by this engagement, and certainly there is.

But we have to question: is it sustaining value? Does it help us in our lives? Does it help others? Does it change outcomes? Does it positively impact those we know, we touch; the world around us?

I’m not convinced. It’s fun, surely (sometimes); it’s distracting and entertaining. We do come across funny animal videos (perhaps the BEST reason to be on social media!🙂 ). There are great, inspirational stories about great inspirational people; those have merit. Activism may be stirred, involvement encouraged, but how often does that get beyond observational to become actual?

I bet if studies were done (which they probably have been but I’m too lazy to go look), we’d discover that people spend a significant chunk of their “free time” on social media, immersed in arguing/commiserating about politics, crime, gossip, outrage and tragedy, less on creativity, inspiration, and upliftment, and certainly less on actively pursuing those higher-toned activities.

In some ways we can’t help it. It’s in our DNA. It’s driving past the car crash, looking at the dead body; gorging in the latest tragedy. We observe and remark and ponder, but odds are good all of that leaves us feeling more burdened than inspired to act.

So as thinking people, we have to be aware of that equation, cautious about our own indulgences, our own consumption, to adjust. I often take myself off media, social and otherwise, enforce a sabbatical of sorts, out of sheer need for a mental/emotional palate cleanse. I get deeply wearied (I’m not sure there’s a word strong enough to express how wearied) of the relentless, redundant, scab-picking coverage of this presidential election. I get battered by the glut of tragedy presented by the globalization of our news media. I fight not to become inured to the injustices, the prejudices, the caustic bigotries and vile behaviors that drench our online discourse, so I can continue to be a voice of reason and protest.

And I create. I shut it all off and create. And that’s when I discover the ‘godliness’ we each have the power to access.

As some of you know, I went to an Adele concert recently. It had been a long time since I’d been to a show as big, as overwhelming, and as I watched this warm, charming, supremely talented singer/songwriter work her magic on the thousands of people in the room with me, I thought to myself: ‘what must it feel like to have your path so firmly etched that you know your job, your gift, your contribution to the world is bringing joy, emotion, inspiration, reflection, MUSIC to this many people?’ I envied Adele’s singular purpose and her ability to carve a life where creativity was both her art and her occupation.

Then later that week I went down to San Diego to work on songs for an original musical in which I’m involved (The Geeze & Me), and despite having my computer along, I made a point of staying off social media, detaching for a minute from the noise and madness. As I worked with the show’s creator, Hedges Capers, banging out melodies and recording tracks, or discussed the script and characters with his wife and co-creator, Nancy Capers, I found myself wrapped in the excitement and exhilaration of creativity, pure and simple. It brightened my day and lifted my spirits, making my awareness of, and engagement in, the darker corners of life more manageable, less burdensome, more in balance.

Meanwhile, and during all the above, I’ve been knee-deep in accomplishing the first (very rough) draft of my third novel, a topical piece dramatic enough to be a departure from my first two. It’s been a bitch in that, and taken some stern focus and concentration, but the process of writing is the essence of what I’m talking about: there’s an immersion, a cloister-like cocoon that’s achieved, one in which I’m taken as an observer, a chronicler, into the world I’m creating, which is insanely surrealistic and magical. And while in my created world, following the activities of my imagined characters, the world in which I actually live hovers nearby, still in view, still accessible, but muted for that moment.

It’s within that mystical cocoon where the simple act of creating becomes the ritual: tapping the ‘godliness’ we each possess, where intention and imagination result in creation.

That ability is life-changing, empowering. It allows us to detach from self, from noise, from ego; from the distractions and chaos of culture, to, instead, create. A song. A book. A code. A building. A dress. A cake. A painting. An invention. A game. A restaurant. A water system. A business. A plan. A purpose. A curriculum. A change.

A better world.

Crayon photo by Gaelle Marcel @ Unsplash.

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‘before the second sleep’ Reviews HYSTERICAL LOVE


It’s been a while since a book blogger has taken the time to read this book of mine, my second novel and a book I loved writing, so it was a true pleasure to find this post today from Lisl Zlitni of before the second sleep book blog.

I always appreciate when someone not only enjoys my work, but discovers and appreciates the bigger themes and subtler tones, the nuances and humor, the characters and story twists, and puts her perspective into thoughtful words. I hope those of you who haven’t yet grab a copy, but mostly I want to thank writer, Lisl Zlitni, for giving my work her time and thoughtfulness. Following is her review:

Hysterical Love by Lorraine Devon Wilke
A B.R.A.G. Medallion Honoree

When I first picked up Lorraine Devon Wilke’s Hysterical Love, it was with anticipation, a muted sort of joy, not unlike that of a child anticipating a delicious treat or new toy. I had previously read and thoroughly enjoyed Devon Wilke’s debut novel After the Sucker Punch and was very ready to dive into this one.

Dan McDowell opens the novel, telling his readers he is “flummoxed” by relationships—not that this is so odd, but he was sure by now, at age 33, he’d be a bit past that phase. His bewildered recounting of what had just happened to him gave not only a promising opening to what looked to be a great yarn, but was also, well, so on target. It read, as I delivered the opening paragraphs aloud—reading aloud being a frequent habit—in a very male manner. It sounded like a man would say this, as opposed to the way a female author might write what she wants a male character to be expressing.

In this case, Dan is still a little confused as to how he ends up camped out in his neighbor’s spare bedroom, when just an hour or so before he and his longtime girlfriend had been setting a wedding date and Jane became Dan’s fiancée, at least for that hour. The long and the short is this: Jane muses aloud on the passage of time, she can’t believe it’s been three years of exclusivity, and…a split-second eye avert on Dan’s part and it’s all over. “I am the only person you’ve been with since we met, right?”

Something else about that male thing: Devon Wilke has got it down. Having read her before, I knew she was adept at writing a protagonist who is fast on her feet, articulate and can be sharp—the unifying trait being she wraps all points together and responds in full and succinctly. But that is a female character. How would the skills of her creator be utilized to mold a male type who didn’t merely change costumes for a different book?

The answers came as I continued to read—and laugh. As Dan relates his tale to us, his speech reveals who he is: “[S]omehow, despite amazingly good behavior on everyone’s parts, and often against the nature of all parties involved, someone in the room pulls the pin.” Like Tess’s, his remarks are witty, but closer to the nature of male metaphorical speech and the types of symbolism men tend to engage.

As Dan continues his narrative, his own commentary within the script, his hindsight enables him to recognize what he’s done wrong, and trigger phrases that just don’t go down well with the opposite sex: “Technically,” “What’s the big deal?” and a hilarious transition phrase that cues us into the impending shit storm: “The temperature drop is like the girl’s room in The Exorcist.”

As it turns out, Dan had been with his previous girlfriend after he’d met (and slept with) Jane, his defense being that he and Jane hadn’t verbally or officially committed to an exclusive relationship. From Jane’s point of view, just having slept together constitutes the commitment, and she isn’t having any of his excuses.

At this point I was no longer the least bit curious about a female author writing from a first-person male protagonist perspective. It was Dan speaking.

Not long after, Dan’s sister Lucy and he have a series of conversations pertaining to their father, who has recently fallen ill, and the concept of whether Jane truly is Dan’s “soul mate.” Lucy reveals the existence of a short story their father had written before their parents’ marriage, about a woman he’d had an impassioned affair with, a revelation startling Dan enough to spark questions such as, “Do you suppose there’s a genetic component to being crappy with relationships?”

The sarcastic question is two-pronged. The father he knows is impatient, unsentimental and underwhelmed with just about everything, “all of which combine to make his previous self impossible to reconcile with who he is now.”


But Dan also, following Lucy’s train of thought within her ongoing advice to him, begins to contemplate the idea that this woman, “Barbara from Oakland,” might really have been the one his father was meant for. Could that explain the deterioration of his father’s previous creativity and passion, and poor relationship with the family he does have? Moreover, what might this bode for Dan and Jane? Was their disastrous argument meant to steer Dan to his true soul mate? In order to seek answers, Dan concludes he must find Barbara. In so doing, he befriends Fiona, a waitress and herbal pharmacist who soon becomes partner in his “vision quest.”

Through this Dan continues to have contact with his daily life, such as phone conversations with his sister who is, unsurprisingly, angry with his disappearing act. The heated conversations are slightly reminiscent of those between After the Sucker Punch’s Tess and her own sister, and though Dan answers back in self-defense, he carries a greater restraint; he holds back more often, perhaps having quickly absorbed a lesson learned from his unthought out answers during the engagement-ending skirmish with Jane. In his subsequent reflections he assesses himself in a straight forward, honest manner. His commentary is pithy and on-target, and he doesn’t discount what others say to or about him. In Dan McDowell, Devon Wilke has created a character eager to grow and learn, but one nevertheless subject to the shifting of mood or whim. He is well balanced, but as in need of growth as any of the rest of us.

Devon Wilke is also an astute observer of human behavior, and there were frequent bouts of laughter on my part or murmured “Mmm hmm” upon recognition of the comically familiar….

[Click HERE to read full review.]

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‘Legacy’ Is Not Just For the Famous; We Each Create Our Own Every Day


Whenever a celebrated figure dies — whether an artist, an entertainer, a famed activist or noble leader — we out here in the land of non-celebrity, and even some who share that vaunted status — speak much about the legacy of that person. We share their resume of beloved books, music, or films; we speak of their accomplishments in making the world a better place, their contributions to humanity, the simple pleasures they brought those who indulged in all they had to offer. We honor them by our attention to, and appreciation of, what they left behind. Their bequest. Their legacy.

Yet, oddly, we seem only to ascribe the concept of legacy to those who are famous. We speak rarely in those terms about the uncelebrated, the not-famous, the every-day folks unknown beyond their small circles. They are, or were, after all, just “regular people,” certainly not meritorious enough to bear the burden of legacy… right?

I don’t think so. In fact, I think the misassignation of “legacy” as a responsibility only of the famous and celebrated has done a grave disservice to our human race. It has deflected our understanding of, and excused our inattentiveness to, what’s expected of each and every one of us in our short time on earth: leaving it better than we found it.

But who expects that of me? I’m just a regular person. Nobody cares what I leave behind, or what I do or say. Nobody will remember me beyond my family. Nobody pays attention or cares about what I contribute to the human race! I’m not obligated to the world. I’m just trying to survive, and as long as I take care of my family, keep my kids from going off the rails, don’t kill anybody, maybe have a little fun, that’s good enough for me.

Those are statements actually said to me, and they do illustrate common trains of thought. Which is understandable. Not everyone wants to get all “grand” about how they live their lives. They don’t necessarily want to think that big, extend their view so globally, burden themselves with a higher consciousness that might demand more awareness of consequences and their lasting effect.

But if that paragraph is the totality of what you think, then you might have misunderstood the definition of legacy. The fact is, whether you’re thinking about it or not, value it or not, your legacy is being created, either consciously or unconsciously, with or without your curation. Why would you abdicate that responsibility? Don’t you want some involvement in how you’re remembered, what those you touch think of you or frame your life?

Frankly, I’ve come to believe that ignoring the task of legacy (or allowing it to formulate without conscious thought) has contributed greatly (or not so greatly, as it were) to the toxification, the dumbing down, the weakened striving for and inarguable lessening of what have long been considered desirable human traits: integrity, compassion, humanity, generosity, honor, and open-mindedness.

Instead, we live in a world where too many presume they’re invisible enough to not be held responsible for their actions. A world where the self-absorbed think nothing about the negativity they leave in their wake, the ugliness they inject into their sphere. People who care so little about “making the world a better place,” or “living an admirable life, even if for no one but oneself,” that they pillage and plunder with impunity:

They leave tweets of incomprehensible stupidity that sometimes have lasting and powerful effect. They engage in thoughtless, destructive email exchanges as if “no one’s watching” or hacking hadn’t become normalized in a world of zero privacy. They forget that screenshots can immortalize deleted threads, hateful speech, and knee-jerk reactions later regretted. They spend precious hours of life sharing hateful dialogue and trolling those who might not share their beliefs. They bully and attack with little concern for who they hurt or what negativity they foment. They steal art, denigrate kinder people, and make any online exchange a brutal gauntlet.

And they do all this with impunity, because they’re either hiding behind a screen name, they’re convinced they won’t be found out; they think they’re entitled or above reproach, or they simply don’t care. They don’t care if their persona, their name, their identity, the essence of who they are is attached to something heinous and hideous. They don’t care about legacy.

But they should.


Whatever you might believe about spiritual life, life beyond the physical realm, or the existence of energy and consciousness, the fact remains that what we create has impact. On us, our families, our friends, the communities where we live, the countries to which we pledge our allegiance; the global alliance we call the human race. It doesn’t matter if you’re famous, notorious, large, small, or in-between, you have impact. Visible, not visible, felt, not felt; ignored, denied, or dismissed… you have impact. That’s your legacy. Even if you’re someone who doesn’t give a hoot about what that impact is, the way you affect and influence your children, your personal circle, the world, anything and everything you touch IS your legacy. You should care about that.

Because there can be no purpose in life more important than making one’s imprint of value. We may not be able to control whether we succeed, gain fame and fortune, or become the kind of person whose death inspires Facebook posts, but that can’t be the criteria. The criteria for any person’s legacy is simply this:

Make everything you say, do, write, create, share, influence, or affect be something your children, your mother, your father, your spouse, the people you care most about — YOU — would be unequivocally proud of. Do no harm. Control your anger, your hate, and the urge to damage or demean. Embrace the simplest of rules like “do unto others.” Stoke empathy at every turn by considering how your words and actions would feel to you … then act accordingly.

If nothing else, do think about if you were famous and people were talking about you after you died. What would they say? What would they celebrate? How would you be remembered?

Morbid? Maybe. But sometimes we have to jar ourselves into understanding more clearly the impact we do have. Little things add up, good and bad, and what you leave behind really ought to be something meaningful.

The thesaurus offers one synonym for “legacy” that I particularly like: GIFT. My mother taught me that one always leaves a gift when one is a guest somewhere. And given the brief, transient nature of life, I’d suggest we are all guests in every moment we live…. hence, gifts should be regularly left. Which confirms my thesis:

Your legacy is your gift. Think about the gifts you leave.

Man/dog photo by LDW
Dress photo by Vero Photoart @ Unsplash

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Yes, Dear Book, Let’s Go With $2.99 For a Bit!

Wiping Window_photo art by Brenda Perlin

Book marketing is like dieting: occasionally necessary but tends to make one cranky.

At least that’s what book marketing has been to me, especially after so many years of doing it, so much desire to do it well, and so much sensitivity about not eliciting eye-rolls from those weary of hearing about my precious tomes. I’m probably overly-sensitive about such things; I’d guess that’s based on my own weariness with book marketers on social media (relentless… have you seen Twitter??). One does have to be judicious, doesn’t one?

Truth be told, I don’t know how successful I’ve been in my own marketing efforts. Sales have been sporadic and unpredictable, titles struggle to stay afloat in the sheer ocean of available books, and promised reviews from both readers and editorial writers have too often not materialized. But I do get an inkling, from time-to-time, of my marketing success. When new readers write to tell me my book reflected their life, made them laugh, brought them to tears, or, as one fellow wrote about my first novel, After The Sucker Punch, “it’s going to help me in my lifelong quest to understand women.” That’s when you know your efforts have struck the right chords.

And since it’s been a while since I’ve attempted any book-related chord-striking, I thought I’d take a moment away from slogging through Draft 1 of my latest effort (a third novel set to launch… well, not sure when it’s set to launch), to gussy up my second, HYSTERICAL LOVE, for a little “Kindle Countdown” love:

HYSTERICAL LOVE will be on sale for the price of $2.99 (for the e-book) from 6:00 am PST Friday, July 22nd, until 11:00 pm PST, Sunday, July 24th.  

That’s three full days of sale… which is lovely, because the ebook typically sells for $6.99 (still a bargain when you consider the price of movie tickets or that non-fat latte!). So please stop by to take advantage of this brief but welcoming sale price to enjoy a book that’s received delightfully widespread kudos!

Let me share a bit about it:

HYSTERICAL LOVE tells the story of Dan McDowell, a thirty-three-year-old portrait photographer happily set to marry his beloved Jane, who finds his pending marriage tossed after a slip of the tongue about an “ex-girlfriend overlap” of years earlier. Out of the house for longer than expected, and unable to breach the gap with Jane, life is further upended when he reads a story written by his ailing father about a lost love of fifty years ago that appears to haunt him still.

Incapable of fixing his own romantic dilemma, Dan sets off on a wild ride beset with detours, twists, and semi-hilarious peril in search of this woman from his father’s past, convinced she holds the key to happiness for them all. Along the way he collides with an eclectic array of characters — particularly the preternaturally stunning Fiona — leading to unexpected truths and, ultimately, the story’s  startling conclusion.

Hysterical Love explores themes of family, commitment, balancing creativity, facing adulthood, and digging deep to understand the beating heart of true love.

HL_camera2_photo art by Brenda Perline

Want some reviews to further intrigue you?

Hysterical Love: Review by Barb Taub @ Writing & Coffee Book Blog:

“I never found a writer who was as good as DH Lawrence, but who could also get into a man’s head and tell that story. Until now…Wilke combines humor, terrific writing, and some none-too-gently acquired truths into a different kind of relationship story.” (Read more…)

Hysterical Love: review by Ali Levett @ A Woman’s Wisdom Book Blog:

“This is one of those books which exceeded all my expectations. I was expecting a romance with a couple of twists to the tale but what I got was something far deeper and more satisfying…If you want a book with many layers and to be thoroughly entertained by a cracking story then this one is for you.” (Read more…) 

Hysterical Love @ Kirkus Reviews:

“Wilke is a skilled writer, able to plausibly inhabit Dan’s young male perspective… A well-written, engaging, sometimes-frustrating tale of reaching adulthood a little late.” (Read more…)

Hysterical Love: Judge; 3rd Annual Writer’s Digest Self-Published eBook Awards:

“The author has an incredible skill for storytelling and her voice is without reproach. The novel is well designed, well-edited and of high production quality.”

Hysterical Love: reviewed by Charla White @ WordsAPlenty:

“Wilke is passionate about the development of her characters as they come to life with each word. The reader cannot help but connect to her characters. The plot is strong, fresh, balanced and delivered skillfully. It is a moving story and is a must read for anyone who has been, is, or thinks they may fall in love someday.

Don’t miss this book. It is a wonderful read. Wilke is a truly gifted writer and one to watch grow; she will continue to provide thought-provoking stories based on real issues. WordsAPlenty gives this book a highly deserved 5 star rating.” (Read more…)

Hysterical Love @ Literary Fiction Book Review:

“The narrative is effectively told through first person, with Daniel candidly confiding his fears and confusion to the reader. Devon Wilke manages to convey the male psyche with a good-natured humor that seems eminently believable. Hysterical Love is a deftly told tale about not only the search for love in the 21st century, but about seeking a greater understanding of the intricacies of the human heart, about love in all its various forms and disguises: puppy love, lost love, emerging love, enduring love, and of course, hysterical love.” (Read more…)

Hysterical Love: review by Tracy Slowiak @ Readers’ Favorite Book Reviews:

“Oh my, oh my! I just finished reading Hysterical Love, the newest novel by Lorraine Devon Wilke, and I must say, I simply adored it! Lorraine Devon Wilke’s writing style is witty, pointed and funny, even hilarious at times.” (Read more…)

[More HERE, if you’re interested.]

So, that’s the pitch. Now go get your copy and… enjoy the read!

Once again:

HYSTERICAL LOVE will be on sale for the lovely price of $2.99 (for the e-book) from 6:00 am PST Friday, July 22nd, until 11:00 pm PST, Sunday, July 24th.  

HL photo art by Brenda Perlin.

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Documentarian, Louise Amandes, Talks Cartoonists, Collaboration, And Getting Into San Diego Comic-Con

Louise Amandes

“I opened up the email and saw the first word — ‘Congratulations!‘ — I called Ron instantly, jumping up and down like a teenage girl. Ron was driving and had to pull over just so we could relish the moment. We both worked so hard on this film, for almost five years; it felt incredible to have it recognized with such a great honor!”

That’s filmmaker, Louise Amandes, sharing the moment she found out Bezango, WA, her documentary feature made with producing/directing partner, Ron Austin, had been selected for exhibition by the prestigious San Diego Comic-Con. As any independent filmmaker knows, these are the moments, rare and wonderful, that can truly change the trajectory of one’s career, of one’s project; bringing it to an audience it might not have found otherwise; allowing it to be discovered in an artistic field of thousands of offerings. Simply put, it can be life-changing.

When I started blogging several years ago, one of my missions was to use the platform I had to shine whenever light I could on the artists, the projects, the smaller, more independent endeavors, that often get lost in the sea of art and craft available in our burgeoning marketplace. Bezango, WA, and Louise Amandes, seemed perfect candidates, so I sat down with her to get a bit more perspective on her and this unique project.

A feature-length documentary, Bezango, WA, focuses on an eclectic and vibrant community of Seattle-area cartoonists, sharing their wide gamut of artistic styles and sensibilities, along with glimpses into individual philosophies, creative processes, even the struggles inherent in making art while attempting to make a living.

An eclectic artist herself, Louise knows a little something about both the joy and struggle of the artist’s life. Throughout a long and colorful career, she’s worked as a screenwriter and songwriter, improv actor, drummer; talented graphic artist and web designer, along with her “day job” as a sought-after Seattle massage therapist (she was the on-set consultant for director/writer Lynn Shelton’s film, Touchy Feely, starring Rosemarie DeWitt and Ellen Page). With such a diverse background herself, it’s not hard to picture her finding affinity with artists in the cartooning community, many of whom she met, along with creative partner, Ron Austin, while studying animation and motion graphics.

My first question, Louise, is how did you and Ron come to work together, and how did you arrive at the idea of doing a documentary on “Seattle cartoonists”?

Ron and I made a few short films together early on, and when it came time to decide on our next film, he had the idea of focusing on the cartoonists and comic artists of the Seattle area, where we are both based. Ron has been part of the cartooning community here for many years; he’s dabbled in cartooning himself, and was involved in the cartoon group, Cartoonists Northwest, so he knew there was a rich assortment of stories to tell about this particular genre of artist.

But neither one of us had any idea how to actually tackle the subject, even whether to make a feature film or create a web series. We decided to start by interviewing a few cartoonists and see where it evolved from there. We originally had a select group we were talking to and thought about focusing the project largely on them, but as word got out about what we were doing, more and more people started recommending we interview this person or that person. We came to discover there was this vast community of extremely talented artists here, who support and inspire each other through all kinds of events and collaborations, and we quickly realized this community was the heart of the story.

One can really sense, while watching the film, how much you respect and admire both the creativity and the struggles these people experience in making art in a challenging market.

That’s true. As artists ourselves, particularly indie artists with our own set of challenges, Ron and I wanted to highlight these incredibly talented people who never stop doing their art despite the struggles of living in an area like Seattle, which has become a very expensive place to live, and working in a field that’s highly competitive and not always lucrative. Our goal with Bezango, WA was to honor that commitment to their work, and reflect just how real and “down home,” in a way, these artists are despite those struggles.


Independent films come with inherent challenges for any production team, particularly given the lower budgets and limited production personnel. While it’s not common for a creative team to both wear the hats of “producer” and “director,” the success of Bezango, WA makes clear that you and your partner figured it out!

Can you give us an idea of how you two divvied up the production and creative tasks during the years of putting the film together?

We both had our hands in every element of making the film. Ron was the chief financial contributor and I was in charge of production. In the beginning, Ron did a lot of the cinematography, while I set up the interviews and staged the shots, setting up the lighting and audio. At first I didn’t even know how to use the DSLR camera, but over time I got a handle on it, and we ended up filming with two cameras for each interview… giving us a much better selection of shots to choose from. As we moved into post-production, I did a larger percentage of the editing, as well as setting up the music for Brian Cobb to create, and working closely with Andrew Lloyd, our sound editor. Ron also had a hand in the editing, music, and sound, but the bulk of that was done by me to balance out his financial contribution.

Your respect and affinity for this particular community is evident in every frame of the film, from the stunning “beauty shots” of the Pacific Northwest, to the intimate and revealing conversations with individual artists. The vulnerability and openness of many, the shared stories and candid perspectives offered, give testament to their commensurate respect for the celebratory intent of the film, making it a mutual admiration event! Tell me, what are the reactions Bezango, WA is inspiring, and what do you most hope people get out of it?

The reviews, both personal and editorial, have largely been positive. People have let us know how much they enjoyed learning about this group of artists, learning about this industry that so many had no idea existed. Some feedback suggested we’d included too many artists in the original edit, so we took a look at that and have edited it down since the original screenings. But for those interested, the original, full-length version of the film will be the one screened at San Diego Comic-Con.

As for what I hope people get out of it: It was really important to Ron and me to use our medium to educate the world about these artists, their art, and their struggles. I hope, after viewing the film, that people have a better understanding of this community, and will support these great artists who work so hard to put out amazing work, especially those from the area we feature. One of the best comments I continue to hear from people is that they feel we’ve educated them about a community they had no idea existed, one they will now definitely support by buying more graphic novels and comic books.

I know you’ve done a number of screenings at various film festivals and regional events since the film’s completion, but getting selected for the San Diego Comic-Con is quite a prestigious honor, one, I hope, that vaults the film, and you as filmmakers, into the next stratosphere. Having seen and enjoyed your documentary immensely, I very much agree that it offers unique insight into a very specialized art form, one which I had little knowledge of up till now, while revealing the universal struggle that exists with artists of many mediums. It’s a both wonderful testament to, and a window into, the world of the talented group you feature. I encourage audiences and appreciators of art to grab a badge and get to the screening.

Speaking of which, how can readers see the film this coming week at Comic-Con?

People with Comic-Con badges can see the film on Friday, July 22nd, at 11:05 am PST-12:50 pm PST. It will be screened in Pacific Ballroom 23 on the , 1st floor of the Marriott Marquis right next to the Convention Center. There will be a Q &A after the film with Ron and I, which will also include Frank M. Young, David Lasky, and Pat Moriarity, who are featured artists in the film.

Thanks, Louise, for sharing a bit about your documentary. I have no doubt Comic-Con attendees will find it as inspiring as I did. I wish you and Ron all the best with its continued rollout, and look forward to seeing what’s next from you.

You’re welcome, and thanks for helping get the word out. Every independent artist knows — including me! — that our task is to find the balance in creating great work, getting it seen, heard, and appreciated, and, at the same time, assuring one’s survival and forward motion. Which makes me all the more honored to have our little film selected for this event. I’m looking forward to the feedback and excitement it will bring to our artists, our film, and to us as filmmakers. We’re happy to be included and hope to see lots of you there!

BEZANGO, WA: San Diego Comic-Con, Friday, July 22nd, 11:05 am PST-12:50 pm PST, in the Pacific Ballroom 23, 1st floor, Marriott Marquis.

Photograph of Louise by Deb Rosof; photo & trailer by permission of Louise Amandes

For more information check the Bezango, WA website, and enjoy the trailer below:


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The Power of Solidarity Trumps the Fickleness of Fanaticism

Senator Sanders endorses Hillary Clinton
So, Senator Bernie Sanders has officially endorsed Hillary Clinton.

It is the dawn of a new day; a day in which those on the Left (or even sorta Left!)—Democrats, progressives, liberals, lefties, democratic socialists, humanists, greeners, even some libertarians—could, if they choose, come together to coalesce, compromise, and collaborate to bring progressive, compassionate, socially responsible ideas to fruition under the leadership of Secretary Clinton with great progressive fighters like Senators Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders by her side.

There is power in that solidarity, especially against the inane, idiotic, and utterly irresponsible demagoguery of the Orange Man on the right… OR even the hate-filled about-face denigrations and attacks on Sanders from some of his most rabid “former” supporters on the Left (the politically faint-of-heart may want to stay off social media for a bit!).

Those of us who care about such things as solidarity and forward motion—who care more about our fellow citizens than “election ego,” who see incremental progress (usually the only kind that happens in the real world) as worthy of our efforts and commitment; who reject the lies and misinformation of oppositional mudslinging, and who understand that no candidate is perfect, no candidate has all the answers, no candidate can get everything done they wish to get done, and that the best candidates come together to offer the best outcomes toward changing the world for the better—are applauding Senator Sanders’ endorsement.

Because we understand that, regardless of campaign rhetoric and its de rigueur focus on all that divides, post-campaign reconciliation comes with the putting down of arms (so to speak), the dismissal of previously bandied bad-mouthing, and the rejection of oppositional dialogue. It embraces the Venn Diagram of platforms and ideology, and accepts that the attention once put on differentiation is now put on common ground and the solidarity of shared priorities.

I was not a Sanders supporter, but I understood those who were, and shared many of their causes and concerns. I believed then, as I believe now, that Clinton and Sanders are far more aligned than that notorious campaign rhetoric suggested, and I found it extremely disheartening when the most rabid, the most vitriolic and aggressively fanatical of supporters on the Left, chose to make this an ugly, hate-filled war instead of just a “feisty campaign.”

I lost respect for many I knew who were “in the mud” in that ugly war, who insisted that “pointing out differences” meant spreading lies and misinformation, sharing debunked and salacious gossip and propaganda, promoting the worst they could scrape up of the oppositional candidate rather than focusing on celebrating and supporting their own. It got ugly, real ugly, and much has been written (some by me) about the unfortunate, unnecessary, and, in some cases, “friend-ending” nastiness of the haters and mud-slingers.

But now we can leave all that to the Right… right?

We on the Left can celebrate the fact that those of us who refused to grovel in that mud can now bone fidely unify around the Democratic ticket, can join hands to fight the true battle against the profoundly unqualified candidate on the right, and can gird ourselves for the ugliness and idiocy that will no doubt be a part of the general campaign up ahead. But at least we Dems are unified…

… though it seems we’ll still have to endure—at least until their venom peters out or their slinging arms weary—the ugliness of former Sanders supporters who have now turned on their heretofore hero. Sadly, it was expected, particularly after witnessing the mind-boggling attacks on Elizabeth Warren after she endorsed Clinton, but still… the fickleness of fanaticism is showing its hateful head in Tweets, Facebook comments, Reddit hysteria, and general online trolling attacks on Sanders (along with implications that he’s a pathetic, spineless puppet squirming under the thumb of the Clinton machine… yes, H.A. Goodman actually went there!). It remains disheartening. Predictable, shameful, counter-productive, and disheartening.

Which makes it all the more inspiring and energizing to see the loyalty, the support, the passion, the belief, and now the coalescence of those jumping in to support the Democratic ticket… which will only get more exciting when Clinton announces her VP choice. I’m choosing to ignore the haters, the naysayers, the foot-stomping “unrealists,” to, instead, focus on the positive forward motion currently in play. I suggest—I urge—everyone who understands the stakes, the incremental nature of progress, and the value and power of compromise, coalition, and collaboration, to do the same.

Because that’s where the power is: in solidarity and coalescence. And that’s how we’ll ensure that progressive, compassionate, big-tent, open-hearted governance continues in the White House.

Photo from Hillary Clinton’s Facebook page.

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It’s Writers And Editors Who Are Most Honored On July 4th…Really! (a Redux)

Given my knee-deepness in cranking out novel #3, my blog has, once again, been sadly neglected. So this “oldie but goodie” 4th of July post, a favorite of mine, stands in as a worthy re-share for the holiday. Enjoy and celebrate!

Flag Waver_by Lorraine Devon Wilke

Teacher: “Where was the Declaration of Independence signed?”

Student: “On the bottom.”
From Top Ten Fourth of July Jokes For Kids

As a writer, a grammarian of sorts, and certainly someone who edits and fine-tunes everything I write within an inch of its life, the 4th of July holds special meaning to me. Which may seem surprising. Why, you may ask, does this most iconic of American holidays, one celebrated with parades, picnics, flags and fireworks in honor of our country’s glorious state of independence, resonate with a writer and editor? Simple: the day is a celebration, of sorts, of our most noble profession.

Don’t believe me? If you do even the most cursory research on exactly why we’ve come to celebrate this exact date, what you’ll likely find is a myriad of hazily similar but often inaccurate facts, with at least one that’s indisputable: what actually happened on the fourth day of July in 1776:

It was the day the writers and editors of the document finally gave a thumbs-up to the final draft of the Declaration of Independence.

It wasn’t signed that day, it wasn’t declared as law that day; it was simply (or not so simply!) the day it passed muster with a fierce group of literary and legal minds who understood its importance and wanted to be certain every word, every pause, every piece of punctuation was exactly as intended. Historical website,, confirms that on July 4, 1776, the Continental Congress – after much editing, tweaking, and rewriting of previous drafts – finally approved what would be the ultimate, accepted verbiage of this momentous document. And while certainly those of us who traffic in our own versions of such literary activities find the accomplishment meritorious of a firework or two, it was not widely seen at the time as worthy of celebration. In fact, it was a frustrated John Adams who stepped up years later to pop the day into the cultural zeitgeist. Well, maybe not the day itself, but the celebration of the day. And maybe he didn’t exactly pop it, but he did have something to do with kicking it into gear.

That celebrating the 4th needed to be kicked into gear is not all that surprising once you’re aware that the signing of the Declaration of Independence, that auspicious and momentous occasion memorialized by countless fine art paintings and stentorian expressions of oratory, actually occurred on August 2nd of 1776. Almost a month later. So how, you ask, did “July 4, 1776” come to be the “day of American independence”?

Likely in honor of those writers and editors who fine-tuned the document into its final form. The date “July 4, 1776” was affixed to the original handwritten copy they completed that was then signed by our most celebrated of Founding Fathers on August 2,1776, the copy that now hangs in the National Archive in Washington, D.C. The date “July 4, 1776” was also printed on the Dunlap Broadsides, the “original printed copies of the Declaration that were circulated throughout the new nation.” For those two obvious reasons, July 4, 1776 became the official date attributed to our Declaration of Independence.

And, really, after all these years and all our “4th of July” celebrations, doesn’t “the 2nd of August” just sound feeble?

But still, no attendant celebrations occurred until many years after 1776, the country and its citizens far too distracted by the demands of burgeoning democracy to party down at the time. It seems, much like today, that partisan divides between the various political factions were fierce and unrelenting, and much of the rancor had to do with the Declaration itself. Some, the Democratic-Republicans (can you imagine a party actually combining those two disparate political assignations?), supported Thomas Jefferson and the Declaration; the Federalists on the other side thought it was a bunch of pro-French/anti-British hooey. The only things missing from this colonial melee were cable news and blowharding talk show hosts!

And with that political rumble as a backdrop, as well as the War of 1812 to contend with, who had time to think about fireworks? At least the pretty kind that blew up in the sky? But despite these many distractions, the date was an important marker for the aforementioned – and very outspoken – John Adams. In 1817, this Founding Father and well-known letter-writer is said to have written a missive expressing his frustration that, by ignoring the  momentousness of its historical milestones, America seemed “uninterested in its past.” The complaint apparently struck a chord:

As post-1812 War politics shifted, the “anti-Declaration” Federalists spun into disarray and by the 1820s and 1830s, the political parties that evolved from this seismic shift came to agree on at least one thing: that all Americans were “inheritors” of what Jefferson and his party had wrought: the glorious Declaration of Independence. National pride spiked, copies went flying around the nation as evidence of America’s greatness (all dated, as noted earlier, with “July 4, 1776”), and attitudes about the date and the importance of its celebration changed. Particularly when, in what can only be seen as a confluence of epic and cosmic perfection, both men so instrumental in establishing this profound document – John Adams and Thomas Jefferson – died within hours of each other on July 4th, 1826, forever anointing the date as one of monumental significance to the United States of America.

So between his signing of the Declaration, his grumbling letter of 1817, and his eerily well-timed denouement (giving Jefferson a nod for the same!), John Adams more than played his part in helping define this day as worthy of celebration. It took Congress almost 100 years after the initial signing to codify the date into American culture, but it was declared in 1870 that the “4th of July” was, indeed, and would always be, a national holiday.

Which in every community in America translates to warm, neighborly activities, the excitement of children waving sparklers against a star-lit sky, wonderful food shared with friends and family, fireworks to “ooh” and “ahh” over, and, of most importance, the sense of enduring community and national pride based on ideals – and a very well-written and edited document – of stellar and unassailable grandeur.

John Adams would be smiling. Certainly writers and editors across the land are!

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Dear Book Promotion Site: Nope, No Reason At All To Ask Me My Age


I was on a book promotional site recently, cheerfully filling out the required information, when I got to a section that stopped me cold: they wanted to know my birthday. Not just the day and month, but even the year. And this was not something you had the option to keep private, as Facebook and other social media sites allow; they were going to post this information, big, bold and all “happy birthday to you,” as a requisite feature of your page.

My first thought was: What, are we in third grade? Do we get cupcakes? Are we sent coupons? My second thought was (and I realize that “first thought” was more than one): Really? In this day and age of rampant ageism and privacy invasion you’re going to require writers to share their birthdays on a public page?

It was an odd request all around, given that age has no relevance to the mission statement of the site, but, for whatever reasons (demographic research? marketing focus? nosy?), it was required and so I opted out. Beyond the reality that there are so many other similar sites of which to avail oneself, the more salient issue is that when even job applications are legally prohibited from asking age in the effort to preempt age discrimination, why would a book site make that clumsy request a requirement?

That I’m compelled to discuss this is actually kind of sad. Because, in a perfect world, we, particularly we women, would proudly state our age without a thought beyond its being an indication of our wisdom, our knowledge, our accrued years of experience. We would “come out,” so to speak, as vibrant, vital examples of whatever age we are, successfully debunking archaic, antiquated models of the same. In a perfect world, we would judge people – again, particularly women – based not on their youthfulness, weight, beauty, body shape, number of selfies, sexual allure, or the size of their upper or lower halves, but by the value of their work, their creativity, their contribution to society, their general excellence as members of the human race. In a perfect world we wouldn’t give one good f**k how old someone is.

We don’t live in a perfect world.

In the world in which we do live, people lose jobs, are refused opportunities, are downsized, or led firmly out the door of many a business simply because they’ve “aged out,” regardless of skill set or ability to do the job well. Professionals in any number of fields are dismissed or ignored, find they’re getting fewer auditions, even fewer jobs; perceived as “dated” simply because they’ve lived beyond the “desirable demographic,” rather than because their talent has diminished (in fact, talent typically deepens with age). Resumes are tossed because the human resources department can ascertain age-range from someone’s work experience and, well, too old is just not good for the company’s brand image.

Incorrect and clichéd presumptions are made about what learning skills a more mature person can handle and develop, the most prevalent being that those older than “fill in the blank” won’t/can’t keep up with changing technology. And women in positions of power are regularly denigrated, insulted, and attacked simply for moving out of their youthful, sexually attractive prime and into their more mature, matron years.

In a perfect world, this sort of age intolerance, discrimination, and bigotry would be unthinkable. Elders would be revered, as they once were, viewed as powerful sages to whom younger generations would look for guidance, wisdom, experience, and perspective. But in our very imperfect world, in our age-obsessed, terrified, fixated, panicked, confused world, ageism is so knee-jerk as to be the norm.

Which is ridiculous, particularly for those of ages considered “too old” who are there out climbing mountains, traveling the world, inventing innovative products, competing in marathons, negotiating peace treaties, writing bestsellers, and breaking barriers of every kind in every field. Humans live much longer than they used to; the smart people widen their perspective of “perceived value” to include those of any age offering skills, smarts, savvy, wisdom, and creativity of value to the culture, age be damned!

Until then… well, that brings us back to that book promotion site and my birthday.

It’s not vanity, it’s not shame; it’s about perception that can impact one’s ability to move forward unencumbered by stereotypes and limitations. Ideally, given what everyone in this day and age knows about the pervasiveness of age discrimination, the question shouldn’t be asked. It’s irrelevant. Or should be. And if it is relevant to whomever is asking, one can only question why. But regardless of who’s asking or their reason, you don’t have to give it to them.

Or if you have to, or choose to, pick a number that fits your soul, not the years of your body. Then again, if you are so moved to make a political stand for cultural disobedience, tell them your damn age and let the chips fall where they may. If you lose jobs, opportunities, or shots at career advancement because that number is used against you, write a bestseller about it…. and then run – without a damn walker – all the way to the bank!

But whatever the choice, how about we all just avail ourselves of work and art we like, vote for people we trust; hire those who seem best fit for the job, and judge anything we come upon based solely on merit, not the age of the person who created, invented, shared, or inspired it?

Because, really, “Don’t judge a book by its cover” seems apt not only for the book, but for the person who wrote it.

Photo by Anna Vander Stel @ Unsplash

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We’ve Reached That Point: This Election Is Like Fighting With Your Boyfriend

Or girlfriend. Or that customer service rep at the insurance company, your cable provider, or any one of those monolithic corporations that cyclically make your head explode.

You know that point in a fight:

You’ve exhausted all worthy material but you keep going just for the sake of “principle.” Every known argument has been made, debated or deflected to no avail, but you can’t keep yourself from hitting even lower below the belt. Any reasonableness or respectfulness of earlier has devolved into epic flinging of invectives and epithets, some you didn’t even know you knew. The mantra of “wait… just LISTEN!!” comes with increased decibels of volume and venom to the point that neighbors call, dogs bark; walls are up, minds are closed, stress chemicals flow, rational thought exits, and no one can possibly win because it’s a zero sum game. But still… you keep throwing that mud until someone finally collapses under the weight.

Welcome to Election 2016, the Democrats.

(I’m ignoring the Republicans until we settle this mess.)

We’re there, folks. We Democrats are at that point. It’s ugly and wounding and has absolutely no value, but still people are out there trying to draw blood any way they can. They’re posting propaganda, screaming “fuck yous” at opposition rallies, ripping up kids’ posters, sharing unsubstantiated slander and gossip, and acting like the very worst the worst has to offer… and couching it all in the nobility of “fighting for my candidate.”

Witnessing this insanity as a sane bystander — one hoping to stay politically involved without being sucked into the maelstrom — is as soul-killing as that awful road trip your sophomore year when the couple in the front seat screamed at each other from Redding to Lake Tahoe and later demanded that you take sides if you were “a true friend!”

That kind of soul-killing.

We Democrats probably reached the zero sum game months ago. Or at least after the New York primary. When the idea of trashing the winning candidate to aggrandize the other just made the entire ticket seems as nuts as the Republicans. Beyond the math, beyond arguing the math; beyond delusion and fanaticism and revolutions and glass ceilings and wishful thinking and slogans and hashtags and conspiracies and finger-pointing and idiotic celebrities and Westboro-style harassers and sexism and ageism and all of it, the jig is up. Whatever you think the ending is going to be isn’t the point. You can have hope, you can have faith, you can keep fighting the good fight, but fighting the bad fight gets us nowhere.

And we are fighting the bad fight. And it is getting us nowhere.

Let’s be honest: we’re deep enough into this thing that odds are good everyone’s taken their positions. They know where they stand, who they’re supporting and why, so preaching from here on out is only to the choir. As long as folks are happy with that harmony, keep on a’preachin’! But anyone who thinks there’s anything to be gained from the incessant posting of the most incendiary, salacious stuff they can find on the other candidate in hopes of — what? convincing someone to jump on their bandwagon? — has missed the trajectory of this narrative.

Even if — in the most random of circumstances — there really is anyone left who doesn’t feel informed enough to make a choice, that person has to know they aren’t going to get an unbiased, objective education from the posts of oppositional supporters. Let’s start with that truism.

So, given that, may I suggest to ALL who continue to post ridiculous things like videos screeching, “If you would still vote for Hillary Clinton after watching this 4-min video…,” or anonymous blog posts by someone who’s talked to someone who knows a doctor who says Sanders has Alzheimer’s, or scurrilous and slanderous propaganda from sites run by known Hillary-haters, or unsubstantiated dirt on Jane Sanders, or slimy posts about Chelsea Clinton’s mothering, or…STOP. JUST STOP.

It’s over. The fight is over. It no longer has any merit whatsoever and continuing it will only toxify any good thing that still exists between you and the other side and what’s the point of that? There’s still Trump out there.

If, despite the math, Sanders supporters want to continue to promote positive information about their guy as a way to keep the team going, great. If Clinton supporters want to shout their enthusiasm from the rooftops, they should be able to do that without enduring a gauntlet of verbal abuse. But beyond in-house, in-candidate, to-the-choir pumping up, there is no where else to go with this fight.

We’re at that point. It’s obvious, everyone knows, let’s not get the neighbors on their phones again.

When you hit the wall-of-no-return with your customer service rep, that call is terminated (either by you or them), services may be cancelled, grievances may be filed. When you reach that point with a significant other, one of you has to have the wherewithal to shut the f**k up, leave the room/house/apartment, walk off the adrenaline, and detach until both parties can manage rational conversation, sincere apologies, and a willingness to let go of past rancor (that’s a big one!).

And at that point in a party primary, everyone on oppositional sides has to put down the swords, eschew further debasement, and attempt to reframe the debate. There has to be a willingness to reconsider whatever indoctrination has been amassed or allowed to flow freely, to change the filter to look at the bigger picture, to see past preconceived ideas, and find a way back to party unity.

That’s what grown-ups do. That’s what this party needs to do. Now. Not later. Now. Whatever happens at the convention is another moment. This moment is the one where we acknowledge the zero sum game we’ve been fighting and step off this battlefield, to rejuvenate and rehabilitate to take on the bigger battle ahead.

Are Democrats and those in their camp willing and able to do that? I don’t know. I hope so. We’ll have our answer when the intra-party, click-bait, poop-throwing mud-fest on social media finally stops. That can’t happen soon enough… I swear I hear the phone ringing.

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The Mother Of My Reinvention… our continuing journey

– my mother... Chicago, 1953
– my mother… Chicago, 1953

Tucked in her lift chair, chilled and uneasy, she waits for tea and dry toast to calm her daily quarrel with queasiness and hunger. With a raised eyebrow and sardonic grin, she remarks, “It ain’t easy gettin’ old.” I commiserate, but she dismisses my empathy; tells me I’m too young to understand. I don’t bother to correct her.

She’s tired, though she’s been in bed since breakfast. It’s a long day by two o’clock, and not necessarily a good one. Though there are good ones: days when she plays Bingo, sings along with glee, or gets to video Mass in the community room. She still relishes her three squares and always brightens at the sight of chocolate. She’s now in a wheelchair full-time but loves a roll around the park. She’s almost eighty-seven, a widow for seventeen years, and a diagnosed Alzheimer’s patient for six-and-a-half.

She is my mother.

Pensive Mom

I left home—and her—a long time ago. I left hard and fast, no quibbling or weepy boomeranging. My mother refers to this as, “when you ran away,” which isn’t far from the truth. It had been a challenging childhood.

I am a third child, the third girl in a family of eleven children. My two older sisters and I, by virtue of gender and birth order, became “little mommies” for smaller, younger siblings while we were still smaller, younger siblings ourselves. And though being in charge of an infant at six-years-old is, perhaps, too steep a learning curve, the responsibility did promote skills found useful later in life. I not only learned to change diapers, feed babies, and wrangle toddlers, I became adept at making meals, doing laundry, and running interference for a mercurial and confounding mother. And that was before I got to high school.

– her high school years
– her in high school

By the time I did get to high school I was bone-weary of family, and desperate to fly. Somewhere. Anywhere. Graduation couldn’t come quick enough and my departure for college was so swift high school friends claim I never even said good-bye. I don’t remember; I was moving too fast. I came home the summer after freshman year, but by the next I was gone for good. My first apartment was a hideous ninety-dollar-a-month single with lousy furniture and a stuttering landlady, but it may as well have been heaven.VirginiaAmandes_8_ w:Phil_early marrieds

It wasn’t just the weight of trading too much childhood for “little mommy-hood.” It wasn’t just the burden of my parents’ religion with its restrictive view of human interaction (anything related to boys and sex). It wasn’t even that one-on-one time in a big family was too spare to be satisfying. It was that I couldn’t find an honest way to consistently and compassionately tolerate my mother.

She was a paradox. One minute clever and creative, the next enraged and irrational. She was impossible to predict and easy to trigger. She loved music, did a mean jitterbug, and had a wildly romantic relationship with the handsome Greek/American who was my father. She could make any day a holiday, taught us that fun was our birthright, and, oh, she loved with a passion. All this provided the good that pushed against the other. Her dark side. The turbulent state that came with frenzied tears, cold silences, or rages that scattered us like terrified animals.

She tried; I believe she sincerely tried, but she was undeniably overwhelmed by a family too large to manage, a husband often too detached to meet her emotional needs, and a psyche too fragile to offer the flexibility and endurance required by the job.

So when I left, I stayed away and kept her away. She and my father didn’t meet my husband until years after we eloped and I’d already given birth to a son. They were that distant and I was that intractable.

But life is surprising. You grow older and live longer. You stumble on expectations not met, cringe at the sharp pangs of disappointment and heartache, and you learn some things. You learn that not all dreams come true, not all promises are kept. Life humbles and sometimes softens you. You accrue compassion for things you might not have previously understood, and that expands your view.

MDD_front porch_sm
– grandparenting with my son

It wasn’t until years after I became a parent that I saw my mother beyond the filter of a child’s eye. When I attached to my own child, and learned the frustrations, passions, and struggles of parenting, I gained perspective on what she’d experienced, many times over, in her own role as a mother. When my marriage met challenges or I felt distanced by a sometimes distant husband, I realized her anguish at the hands of her own husband’s penchant for the same. Simply put, I began to see the human behind the mother. And I had empathy.

She is a third child herself; a brother and sister preceded her. Her mother died shortly after her birth, and her father abandoned all three to be raised by her mother’s extended Irish family, who loved, took good care, and kept kegs flowing in the dining room. She claims it was a happy life—I’m sure much of it was—but when my father died many years after that childhood, she wailed that she’d been “abandoned” by all the men in her life, asking through tears how a father could leave his children without a look back. I had no answer for her. But it seems, regardless of her rosy, revisionist narrative, she’d suffered for it all.

She suffered for growing up without the intimacy and guidance of a mother’s love, or the constancy of a father’s. She suffered for the raging alcoholism in her family. She suffered for being an orphan whose need for love could hardly be filled. And now I, as an adult, mother, wife, and family survivor myself, was beginning to understand her story. It made me ache for her. It made my heart open.

Countless people I know are caring, or have cared, for aging parents. It’s a rite of passage and a task like no other, requiring a depth of dedication I’d rarely felt for my mother and wasn’t sure I could conjure into being if required. But ten years after my father died, my aging, rudderless mother was in need.

Mom & me in buggyHer short-term memory was slipping away and she was often sick and in pain. Incapable of caring for herself responsibly, the family was running out of options. We needed a new plan and all eyes were on me. “Look away!” a voice hollered inside my head. “You don’t have to take it on. You left a lifetime ago for good reason; it’s not your job!” That voice was loud, but its mantra rang hollow. Because I knew, as clearly as I knew when it was time to leave home, that it was my turn. It was my job.

So I leapt, all-in. No turning back, no quibbling, no lack of conviction. Mother was coming to town. With the collaboration of my brilliant and indispensable brother, and our network of family and friends, I was going to manage the care and feeding of the woman I’d fled so many years ago. And so the Tour began.

But let’s be clear: I am not a saint. Far from it. Some days I suck at the job. Some days I hate it. I wake up and feel my teeth grinding, resentful that I have to debate faceless doctors who know little about her beyond her prescription protocol, or rifle through reams of redundant paperwork to get thorny insurance issues worked out. I don’t want to drive over to her facility to have the same conversations with the same people, listen to her ask “what’s new and exciting?” a hundred times, or play that infernal card game again. I sometimes feel real anger that I’m obligated to schedule my life around “care meetings” set at inconvenient times, or “run right out” to pick up items she’s lost or broken. I cringe when I see the name of the facility on my caller ID, wondering if she’s been taken to the hospital again, is being ornery with the night staff, or… God forbid… that call. And, yes, I sometimes feel, once again, like a “little mommy,” only this time the child I’m caring for is my mother. The irony is inescapable.

Mom @ the house

But there is another side to this: an awareness of some sprouting evolution, hers and mine. In her case, the dementia creeping into her personality has done a curious thing. It’s stripped away her anger and narcissism. It’s pared her down to the purest, most basic essence of who she is. A human being who can be grateful Mom & __ photo stripand appreciative, smile even through pain, or tell me how happy she is to see me walk through a door. A woman who can genuinely thank a son for a song played at the piano after lunch, or a daughter-in-law for a thoughtful gift. Who can find delight with grandsons who make her laugh or interview her for class projects. A person who can listen to and make note of someone in front of her… even if she can’t remember who they are or what they said moments later.

This is different woman. A different mother. And this different mother is allowing me to be a different daughter.

I look through photographs of her from time-to-time to remind myself that she was once as vibrant and appealing as any young girl finding her way in the world. She had sexy legs, a smashing sense of style, and an infectious grin. She was flirtatious and sought after, ultimately loved by a man who found her beautiful and exciting. She could laugh raucously (see left🙂 ! ) and make others laugh as loud. I study those photographs and say to myself: “She was young once, just as you were. And you will become old, just as she is. We’re all in this together.”

And so my mother and I continue our Mutual Reinvention Tour. I have found patience; she’s become humble. I’m learning empathy, while gratitude is her new skill. The more of life she forgets, the more I’m there to remind her. We’re both evolving, transforming; that can’t be denied.

VirginiaAmandes_9_w:Phil Amandes_'70sShe looked at me recently and whispered, “I’m scared.” When I asked why, she said, “Because I’ve made so many mistakes in my life, especially with you kids.” She was concerned that, at the Gates of Heaven, she would be harshly judged, but mostly she wanted me to know she loved us all and was sorry for those mistakes.

I felt a tug. I’d been angry at her for so much of my life… the candor and vulnerability of the moment struck me. I took her hand and said, “Don’t worry, Mom; they say if you’re truly sorry, you’ve already been forgiven.”

And as I said it, I realized that, like St. Peter at the Gates and God in the Heavens, I, her third daughter, her runaway, her lost child, had forgiven her as well. And in the swirling eddy of emotions that accompanied that revelation, sweet and simple love could be found.

Precious and timely, as the Tour continues.

Mom & me_sm

Happy Mother’s Day to all who nurture, love, and exude tenderness and compassion for those in their care… that would be almost everyone I know.❤

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The original version of this piece was published in 2011 at The Huffington Post, but as my mother’s life evolves, and hoping to keep this the most current reflection of our continuing journey, I update it from time-to-time. One of the more recent installments was submitted to The Maine Review in 2015, where it placed second in their 2016 Rocky Coast Writing Contest. This weekend I’m posting the latest here again… in honor of Mother’s Day, in honor of mothers in general, and, very specifically, in honor of the mother in my own life… who helps me realize, year after year,  the sweetness of this closing chapter we’re writing together.

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