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Things That Make Me Need Extra Deodorant

WVTF2.png The steep switch-backed descent from Bent Mountain into Roanoke is enough to make a person queasy. I could hear the watch on my wrist ticking as I drove down it on my way to the WVTF Public Radio station to record my latest essay. Resisting the urge to distract myself, I did not turn on the radio (even though I knew The Diane Rheems Show was on, one my favorites that doesn’t pick up in my house). I wanted to stay calm and focused.

But I wasn’t.

When I first started recording my essays last year, I could almost convince myself that it was just me and Beverly, the WVTF Morning Edition Host, who were listening as I read. Now that I was about to record my 5th essay, I knew better. All the calls and emails I received from people who had heard me on the radio, and the friends who stopped me in the street to say ‘good job’ were fresh in my mind.

But my nervous condition started long before the ride down the mountain.

After I wrote an essay for my father’s 80th birthday in tribute to his service as a WWII vet, which aired on WVTF last Memorial Day, my mother said to me, “I hope you’ll write one for me when I turn 80.” I started to sweat right then and there.

My father, who died this past November, 4 months after he read the essay I wrote for him, was a colorful and funny character, easy to write about. Not only would my mother be harder to write about, but I’ve never been good writing on cue or dealing with performance pressure.

Last summer my mother turned 80 and I didn’t have an essay written, but I promised her I’d have one by the following Mother’s Day. After my initial resistance, I began to see writing something for her as a challenging opportunity to honor her life. During a month long visit with her and the rest of my family that same summer, I spent a week alone, camping with my laptop, and was determined to write the piece.

And I did. I had the whole thing flushed out, first in scribbled notes and then on my computer, and I was actually excited about how it was coming along. “Ma, I’m almost done with your essay!” I later told her.

Not long after that, I fried the USB drive that had the Mother’s Day Essay on it. I was devastated to lose the progress I had made and, even though I still had scribbled notes, I seemed unable to face the piece again. As the months flew by and I got no work done on it, I realized that losing what I had written about my mother paralleled some of my early childhood issues. I was separated from her and all my family members on two occasions (for a month each time) before the age of 1.

It was a struggle to regain the momentum that I had lost, but I eventually did. And now I was about to read a tribute to my mother on the radio and was hoping my voice wouldn’t quiver.

“Oh No! It’s 7 minutes long!” Beverly announced after the recording was made. Seven minutes was twice as long as the station's recommended time for a morning essay. Not only did we have to perform emergency surgery on the piece, Beverly discovered a grammatical error which we set about to correct. (Whew! Nice save, Beverly.)

After the reading, on the drive home it was hot, and so I cranked up the car’s air conditioning. I decided to stop at The Tanglewood Mall, where I sat for awhile on a bench watching all the people who didn’t have to read an essay on the radio that morning. Then, I went into TJ Max to try on a few bathing suits. That was a mistake. Looking at myself in a bathing suit for the first time since last summer only gave me something new to sweat about.

Post Note: My Mother’s Day essay was will be aired this Friday on WVTF at 6:50 and 8:50 am. I’ll post the text over the weekend for Mother’s Day.


Congratulations on your perseverance! However much the sweat, I'm sure every drop is treasured.

I really admire your ability to share your work like you do. I couldn't do it in a million years. Once at a poetry slam I read a poem I'd written and even though I knew everyone in the room, I thought I would pass out from sheer terror.

I used to be that way, Terrilynn. I called it public speaking phobia and I would be outside my body with fear, but it's so irrational. It's pretty common though, isn't it? I still deal with it, but I have made sooo much progress and I almost feel that I've been given what I do to do in order to heal this.

I can't wait to read it. What a great way to honor your mom.

On another note, I always find it interesting that Mother's day is based on a women's hope for peace. Now it is a money making dream for stores. Again we have lost the meaning of what was orginally intended.

Can't wait to read it; I loved what you wrote about your Dad.

now thanx to the wonders of wireless i'm in the next room from where you sit at your computer...no doubt fleshing out a future piece of writing that you'll share.

now i hear you scrolling your mouse button..so you must be flitting about the blogsphere. where minds intercourse, inspire and indulge intellectually. you are through and through a writer and i'm so happy you have found this medium for low-stress publishing and interfacing with others of your kin.

i rekon it is both the breeding ground for and gives balance to the sweat inducing ways you also share your wordsmithing.

pop over for a visit later...

At least it was too long.... that is a good thing.
I remember a young fellow who managed to cram a 15 minute talk into five and without cutting or editing. He just didn't breath and sounded more like an auctioneer than a speaker. It was quite funny. We did get out of the meeting a lot sooner than expected.

Writing about my parents would be really hard; much easier to write about the grandparents. I find I need some distance from the subject, either in time or space!

I understand about the bathing suits. I had the ame experience a month ago. It isn't a pretty sight!

Do you know how to put sound clips on your blog? (I don't know how to do anything but type and import photos on mine).
Look forward to reading it. Will you put up the seven minute version?
And thanks for the reminder. Mothers Day. Sunday. Mothers Day. Sunday...repeat.

A real life radio essayist. That is very cool. I always wondered how NPR and places got the people to do the little end of the segment pieces. Start a podcast and you can make them as long as you want.

Yes, I'll post the 7 minute version. I'm not tech-no-logic-ly savvy, but I can bet my husband will eventually set me up. (Notice him in the other room happy with his latest wireless set-up so we can both be online at the same time anywhere in the house--see above comment). He's always encouraging me to do movies and sound, but I haven't been that interested. This keeps me busy enough! I will link to the essay at WVTF and you an hear me read it there. Our regional NPR is a good outreach, so many still don't do blogs.

I just checked and it's up now! I'm shaking in my boots! The link is on the front page.

Ooooh! I can't wait to read this. As a veteran of live theater I would say to you....

Remember, this is a recording. You get a chance for do-overs! Not so on stage. Rejoice in that fact and don't sweat it.

I think that would be so hard...I am afraid I would get emotional and start crying.

I am looking forward to the tribute!

(Oh and I didn't sweat when I tried suits on....I just wanted to vomit period!)

Colleen! I'm shaking with you - of course it's not about what you wrote, although indeed, I'd shake too if I taken on such a job (that's what you get for being a better writer than me).

I'm shaking because I understand the depth of your task...emotionally speaking.

For those who don't know; I'm Colleen's sister and our dear dear mother is such a complex character in her simple way. A contradiction? Well maybe, but it illistrates the job Colleen was presented with.

I haven't listened yet because it wouldn't come up for me at the radio station. I'll try again tomorrow morning...meanwhile I'll be wondering what you said and wondering if you told your readers and listeners that our mother spent the best part of her life "organizing" this and that. I think it was the only way she was able to get through her task of raising nine children. I think she would have liked to relax and take it easy, but our dad had that role.

Oh my! I'm so excited to hear and read your essay (the longer version too).

Can't listen to it...therefore I can't wait to read it!

I understand how difficult is it to write on cue, especially when the topic is your Mother. Lots of pressure there. And then to have to read it on the air. Way to go girl!

What an interesting theme to cluster thoughts around yet you carry if with energy. Must have been quite a frustration to lose the writing then halve the new version. I hope your mom will be well-moved by it.

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