There’s More to SimplyD Than Meets The Eye
There’s More To Simply D Than Meets The Eye
Denise, BlogCatalog wants to introduce you and your writing to the BC family and to the world. I have read several of your stories, and it was love at first sight. I find your ideas and your style so in sympathy with mine that I know we’d have lots to talk about. Like I’m sure if I ever met Dolly Parton, we’d end up in the kitchen talking over coffee. Some things you just know.
However, since this is all in my mind, and your new friends at BlogCatalog and I would like to know the real life you, I have some questions which I hope will allow us all to know you better.
Me: I found while I was reading over your blog that I was nodding my head in agreement. You are a consistently positive thinker, and the way you live your life spills over into your writing. Is this a natural technique, or was it a conscious decision that shaped your style?
Denise: My life has been a complicated yet interesting one. Although I was a child of divorce, and we had a family history of alcoholism, I always felt loved. When they say that it takes a village to raise a child, I was that child and my family was the village. I grew up living with my Aunt, Uncle and Grandmother in a suburb of Detroit. My Grandmother passed away when I was nine and it affected our family deeply. Over the years, my Uncle became a hoarder, long before the word or diagnosis was in mainstream media. Growing up is hard enough, but add this to the mix of being an asthmatic bookworm and at times it leads to a lonely and humiliating existence.
As I grew older, I started to understand the demons my family faced, and how the choices they made affected everything else. I chose to see the love my family had for me rather than just the dysfunction. Even as a child, I knew they were trying their best. The belief that my life was a series of making choices and taking action, while maintaining a positive outlook, helped me get through a challenging childhood, a divorce, single parenthood, and building a life I love. What and how I write is an extension of who I am. What you read is the natural flow of my thoughts.
Me: In your profile, you describe yourself first as a mom, and you exemplify the lessons in love learned from your own mothers. How do you combine being a mom and writing your blog, I Am Simply D.
Denise: It’s funny, on my blog; I describe myself in the same way, except that I added “not necessarily in that order”. I am all the things I describe, but each day is different – the priorities of each role shift, as they need to. My sons are older now, in the Fall, one will be a senior in high school, and the other a senior in college. My biggest challenge with writing is that my personal rule is “people first”. When my husband or sons want to share something that is important to them, they come first. Otherwise, it feels as though I’m diminishing the importance of what they want to tell me, or worse – their importance to me. I’m perfectly comfortable writing at 2 A.M. if the mood strikes, then I have the best of both worlds.
Me: Denise, one of the things you wrote that I found most endearing was this sentence, which I loved. “There are also those people who – I’ll use the expression that makes my poor husband cringe … like to piss on your cornflakes.” Not only was it a good lead in to the advice you gave, but it was funny as well. Is this an original saying?
Denise: I wish could claim that as my own, but I’ve heard it for as long as I can remember in the form of the question, “Who pissed on your cornflakes?” when someone is in a bad mood. The saying has always felt far more visceral than, “Who rained on your parade?”. When I write, I like to leave my “filter” off – within reason.
Me: Living by the Golden Rule is obviously something about which you feel strongly. It is apparent in every line. Do you find it easy to stick to this principle?
Denise: Yes, The Golden Rule is very much a part of me. I consider myself to be empathetic and compassionate. The Golden Rule is asking us to be empathetic. When in doubt, we have to ask – would I want to be treated this way? If the answer is no, what possible reason could there be to treat someone else in that manner? It’s very easy for me to put myself in someone else’s shoes.
Me: You come across as confident and together, comfortable in your skin. Do you see that in yourself?
Denise: I’ll be forty-five this year so it’s taken me years to get there! With my family history I always felt different and at some points in my life “less than”. The life I’ve led has placed me in many interesting circumstances. It made my skin a little thicker at times. I consider myself a late bloomer. It’s an important message for me to share because I’ve encountered people that hold the belief that they aren’t smart enough or good enough, which makes it impossible for them to feel confident. Those same people have gone on to tell me stories about their life that demonstrates incredible strength. Where you are today doesn’t dictate what you are capable of becoming if you’re willing to do the work.
Me: I’m always quick to spot an animal lover whose pets are members of the family. Is this the reason you decided to create another blog, “Dog Rescue Success”? Tell us more about it, please.
Denise: I’m a huge animal lover. When I was five, I refused to give up my cats when I was diagnosed with allergies and asthma. I’ve always had pets of every imaginable kind, but dogs in particular have always had a special spot in my heart. If you ever want to see unconditional love, adopt a dog. Mine have always been rescues and the thing that saddens me is how many of them are “returned” by their owners. Often, it’s that the adopter didn’t know enough to make an educated choice of dog for their particular situation. Then, a dog that might have already been abused or neglected and shuffled from shelter to foster care to adopter, gets shifted yet again. I started the blog to share some of the experiences we’ve had with rescues, health issues, behavioral issues, and most importantly, things to consider BEFORE you adopt. In the long-term I’d like to bring awareness to the rescue groups that are doing good things. They need all the help they can get.
Me: Denise, in your profile, you said, “Sometimes we are our own biggest challenge….” Can you elaborate on this point?
Denise: We have a tendency to get in our own way. We over-think things to the point that we don’t do anything at all. We get caught in analysis paralysis, OR we choose to create a negative scenario in our head about a situation. Most of the time, that negative scenario never happens. It’s just as easy to focus on a positive outcome, we just have to train ourselves to do it consciously; otherwise we create unnecessary stress for ourselves. I’ve always loved to read about neuroscience and the scientific approach to how our thought process actually changes the physical properties of our brain, and the chemicals that are created and released when we have negative or stress-inducing thoughts. The more we understand about ourselves, especially how the brain works, the easier it becomes to make changes.
Me: In today’s world, people make things too complicated. Do you find that staying positive and living a life full of expectancy is a healthy mindset for people to follow? What are some pointers to help our readers achieve this lifestyle? How do you do it? What’s your personal formula?
Denise: The personal formula I follow is first to get clear on what I want to achieve. I’ll use the half-marathon I’m training for as an example. The goal is to finish of course, but to get really clear, you have to go further – decide what time you want to finish. Once you establish that time, then you have to have a training plan. Over time you have to build your endurance, speed and strength in accordance with your goal. You also need to become familiar with the course – is it flat, hilly, in high altitude? Knowing this will help you put together the best training plan to support your goal. In other words, you have to be clear on where you’re going, when you want to get there, and have a realistic plan to support it. All while maintaining a positive outlook! That formula can apply to any goal. I also commit it to paper. Once I write it down, I can pretty much consider it done. It’s my litmus test for how badly I want it.
Me: You were surrounded by beautiful women and their influence, as you were growing up. What gifts did they impart for living a full life? You seem wise beyond your years at times. Will you share some secrets with us?
Denise: My grandmother was a tremendous influence for strength and independence. She always reminded me to live my life so that I would not be dependent on others for my happiness and wellbeing. It started as early as my learning to read. My grandmother didn’t speak English, yet she taught me to read in both English and Spanish by helping me sound out words. She knew that reading would open new worlds for me. In life, she taught me that I am responsible for my own happiness.
My Aunt Sarah, who raised me, taught me that living a full life isn’t just about you, and fulfilling your own needs; that helping others gives you its own sense of fulfillment and balance. She battled depression for years after my grandmother died but I always saw the spark of happiness return when she was helping others.
Growing up I was also very influenced by my uncles and dad. The ratio of men to women on both sides of my family is very high. I grew up being around and loving cars, all things mechanical, electronics, power tools, photography and do-it-yourself projects. When I was a little girl, my uncle used to tell me that someday I would have my own house and my own car, and that I should understand how things work, and how to fix them if I needed to. Later in life, it made me very comfortable working in what some call a “man’s world.” A male friend refers to me as Gadget Girl, and another gave me an honorary “man-card”.
Me: It’s always interesting to find out how someone becomes a writer. Is it a lifelong dream, only now achieved? Or did you know your gift from the beginning?
Denise: Writing, reading, and music served as an escape when I was a little girl. I’ve always loved writing and used to write short stories for fun. When I wrote, I was able to forget everything else. One of my prized possessions is a young author’s award that I received in 1975 when I was nine years old.
Me: Did you attend University or take journalism classes, or are you self-taught?
Denise: The classes that I’ve taken related to writing have been creative writing classes, business writing, and one of my recent favorites, a course on writing your memoir. The best advice I’ve received was to write from the heart. I came from a family of great storytellers. They each had their own style, but what stuck with me is how they had the ability to make me feel a certain way as I was listening. They triggered an emotion, and as I write my book, I hope I can create that for the reader in a way that serves them.
Me: I know authors influence their readers. Name five writers whose works impacted your writing style. Whose did you most enjoy?
Denise: I love so many authors from so many genres. That’s a tough one. I grew up in a suburb of Detroit and loved the melting pot environment. The flip-side of that environment is that not everyone was tolerant of our differences. The first author and book that touched me deeply was Maya Angelou, author of “I know Why the Caged Bird Sings.” I read it around the time my grandmother died. I could relate to so much of it, and her style made me feel as if I knew her, and I felt even more connected. Her writing is very honest and raw.
James Michener for the way he brings characters together, and for the amazing level of detail in his fiction.
Peter Shankman. As I continue to write and grow personally, I find myself trying to analyze why certain writers appeal to me. I make no secret of the fact that I love Peter Shankman, because he embodies everything I like in a writer, as well as his approach to life. If I were granted one wish as I write my book, it would be to pick his brain. He has such a brilliant creative mind, he’s a little snarky at the perfect time and he’s raw, honest and genuine. He engages his reader in every sense of the word. His zest for life carries through to all he does. Unbeknownst to him, he’s my virtual mentor. I’m trying to learn how better to serve and engage others through my writing.
Scott Stratton. More honest and raw, mixed with a good sense of humor.
Seth Godin. I would love to incorporate the ability of Seth, and of Peter Shankman, to deliver a powerful message with depth and brevity.
Me: Is there a particular book that you would have been most proud of writing, if you could claim authorship of only one?
Denise: “A Tree Grows in Brooklyn” by Betty Smith. You can probably see a pattern by now. I love a story that gives hope and demonstrates the ability to overcome and thrive, regardless of circumstance.
Me: What one piece of advice would you give an aspiring blogger/writer?
Denise: Don’t give up. I firmly believe that we all have a story to tell or a message to share that will positively impact others. Read things that inspire you. Subscribe to magazines or trade publications about writing. Surround yourself with supportive people.
“It is the writer who might catch the imagination of young people, and plant a seed that will flower and come to fruition.” – Isaac Asimov