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Renee Dubeau

A little bird with a big song.

Month

July 2016

Can’t You Write About Something Else?

“What do you want to do, write for MAD Magazine?” my dad asked.  Concern on his brow.  Disapproval in his tone.  “Why can’t you write about something else?”

I shrugged.  I thought it was funny.  My fifth grade teacher, however, refused to publish the political cartoon I had made poking fun at Vice President Quayle for misspelling potatoes (or tomatoes or whatever it was) in our school news paper.  She said it was disrespectful.

That was about the same time I wrote an essay for a contest at school.  We were supposed to write about our family.  I couldn’t wait for my parents to see my winning piece, hanging in the front hallway at school for the whole world to read.  “Although we’re not very close, we still love each other…”  was the only line either of them spoke aloud.  “Why would you write that?”

And so it began.  Censorship.  Criticism.  I didn’t know what I would do with my writing back then.  I just knew that I was good at it.  All of my teachers praised me. I could put together a research paper or book report easily.  And when I got to write about whatever I wanted to write about, that’s when I really shined.  I didn’t know where it would lead, I just knew that it felt good.

In High School, I kept my poetry stashed in a folder in my locker so my parents wouldn’t find it.  My English teacher frequently pulled me aside.  “Are things okay at home?  Should I be worried about you?  You’re not actually suicidal, right?”  I’m sure I scared her to death, but it was my catharsis, my therapy, my art.  The words flowed from me, even back then, and brought a healing to my soul that nothing else could.

Since then, I’ve scribbled in a hundred journals, and on secret sticky notes, and kept volumes of things typed in every electronic device I’ve ever owned.  At some point, about eight years ago, I decided to put myself out there with a silly little blog I called, Dysfunction Diaries.

I will never forget my first public post.  I was so excited to share hilarious stories about my crazy family- ala my ‘Mad Magazine’ roots.  “Renee, this might be the stupidest thing you’ve ever done.” someone commented on Facebook.  “Maybe,” I replied.  “Or, maybe I am on the verge of something genius.”  That is where it all began.  For every criticism, I received at least 10 compliments.  This is still true today.

The tough part about writing creative non-fiction, is that it makes people around me a little itchy sometimes- especially the ones who tend to take themselves too seriously.  Still, it’s the genre I’ve naturally gravitated to since I was a kid.  Truth has always been stranger than fiction in my world.  Although I do write some straight memoir work, mostly it is creative non-fiction- meaning that it’s based on a real story, but dramatized, embellished, exaggerated, and prettied up for comedic and/or dramatic effect.  (It’s art, people.)

I think my toughest critics fail to realize sometimes, that when I’m talking about my crazy family- I’m also talking about myself.  Clearly, I do not take myself at all seriously.  I truly believe that laughter can be the best medicine.  I also believe that there is a time to be humorous, and a time to be serious.  Whether I write humorously or seriously about my past, my family, my divorce, spiritual, political, or social issues- I am putting my heart and soul on the page for the world to read.  It takes a thick skin, and a certain amount of vulnerability to put myself out there for the world, but it is what I love.  I am thrilled to do it.

Whenever I share my stories, I am amazed at the responses.  It’s not just laughter, or the occasional criticism.  More often than not, the reaction I receive is “Oh my God. Me too.”  It’s amazing. By sharing little pieces of myself, and opening the dialogue with my story, people in turn open up and share pieces of themselves with me.  This is why I do what I do.  If my story can help, encourage, support, and/or inspire just one person, I am honored to share it.

So, to answer the question that has followed me from my elementary school days, “Why would you want to write about that?”.  There are so many answers.  Because, it’s true!  Because, it happened to me!  Because, it’s cathartic, healing, and therapeutic for me to write, and for others to read.  Because, I own my sh*t, I’m not afraid to share it, and I do not fear judgement for it.  Because, the story is like a parasite in my brain, and the only way to save myself from it is to put it on the page.  Because, it can be of benefit to others who share my struggles.  Anyone who has dealt with mental illness, abuse of any kind, married the wrong person, had their babies in their teens, grew up poor, has struggled with weight, substance abuse, loss… everyone can relate to something about my story.

Every experience in my life has brought me to this moment, and I have no choice but to take this leap of faith.  I trust and believe that I was given this story, and the talent to tell it, with a purpose.  My intention is never to hurt anyone with my work.  Quite the contrary.  There is no malice in my heart.  This is not to say that the story is always a pretty one.  Rather, it is an honest glimpse inside the heart and soul of me, with the sincerest hope that it will help and inspire everyone who takes time to read it.

I own everything that has happened to me.  It is my privilege, my joy, and my duty to share it.  It is my dharma- my purpose in life- to write, share, and speak my truth to all who can benefit from it. I couldn’t stop if I wanted to. (And, to be clear… I definitely don’t want to…)

 

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Why We Are No Longer Welcome At The Sherwin William’s Paint Store…

I inherited a French Bulldog last January.  While I am absolutely thrilled to have him, and love him to pieces just the way he is, I must say he is the least athletic dog I have ever seen.  Thankfully, what he lacks in athleticism, he makes up for in immortality, which is lucky for him because he is prone to accidents. One of these accidents, unfortunately, was my fault.

I woke early one morning this summer and decided to take Bo, the immortal French Bulldog, for a walk.  We live approximately four city blocks from my favorite Juice Bar.  I thought, surely, Bo could make the trip from our apartment to the Juice Bar and back safely.  It was early in the morning, it wasn’t even hot out, and it’s only four blocks away.

The trip there was a piece of cake.  We strolled leisurely along.  Bo stopped to smell every blade of grass and tinkle on every tree all the way there.  When we reached the Juice Bar, I tied Bo to a table on the porch and went inside to get a green smoothie for me, and an ice water for him.  We sat on the porch for a little while enjoying the beautiful day before beginning the journey back home.

It’s important to note that French Bulldogs are genetic anomalies.  They do not exist in nature, and for good reason.  Their cute, little, squishy faces make it impossible for them to breathe.  On a good day, Bo sounds like he could suffocate on his own jowls at any moment.  With physical exertion, like walking four blocks, he sounds like asthmatic Darth Vader with a smoker’s cough.

After about a half a block, Bo started huffing and puffing.  His little tongue flapping in the breeze as he slowed his pace gradually.  No problem, I thought.  We’ll take it slow.  There was plenty of shade, it wasn’t hot to begin with, and any healthy dog should be able to manage the easy trip.

As we neared the half way point, Bo stopped dead in his tracks.  He stood still as a stone on the side walk for a minute, then took a few clumsy little side steps into the grass.  He fell out in the grass, all spread out like a big, furry bullfrog.  Heaving for air, he stayed there in the shade.

After several minutes, Bo’s breathing was still labored.  Passersby stared at him with concern.  Certainly, it was the loud huff puff huff puff huff puff that caught their attention.  Some smiled a silent, “Bless your heart.” as they walked by.  I gently tugged on the leash to encourage Bo to stand up.

“B*tch, I’m dying!” he glared at me.

It was becoming apparent that Bo would not make the journey home.  I needed a plan.

Then, I realized that half a block away there was a Sherwin-Williams Paint Store.  It stood high on the hill at the end of the block.  Like a light house in the storm, I knew that if we could get to it, Bo would be safe.  They were sure to have air conditioning, a cold tile floor, and some cool water for him to drink.  I did the only thing I could do.  I scooped up all 30 pounds of panting bulldog and carried him up the hill.

I breathed a deep sigh of relief upon entering the paint store.  There was, in fact, a large empty area of tile for Bo to lay on.  He spread out in his bullfrog pose again, still breathing loudly.  I left him there, and went to the ladies’ room for some cold, wet paper towels.  When I returned, Bo was dragging himself around with his front legs to find another cold spot on the floor.  He had made a large pool of saliva all around himself, and continued to drool and pant loudly.  I bent down to squeeze the cold water from the towels onto his head.

“It can’t get any worse.” I thought, right before it got even worse.

Bo struggled to stand.  His stubby legs shaking under the weight of his stout little body.  The panting was interrupted by a new sound. His insides churning and pumping, churning and pumping, the horrible sound of “I’m fixing to puke.” A mountain of vomit erupted from my dog.  Bright yellow chunks of half chewed dog food in thick white foam spewed from him forcefully.  The vomit river flowed below him, growing larger and larger until I picked him up and ran out the door with him.

The little girl had come out from behind the register to walk a customer to his car.  She looked at us in disgusted, silent, horror.

I put Bo down in the grass while he collected himself. Come on, Bo.  Get it together.  Fear and guilt washed over me.  You can’t die like this, Bo.  Today’s not the day.

I took my pitiful dog back into the paint store.  Again, I left him on the cold tile floor and went to the rest room.  I returned with the trash can and an entire package of paper towel and began cleaning up the floor.

Bo gave me a side eye, “How’s your green smoothie, stupid?”

I sat down by my angry, disgusting, breathless dog.  As he lay dying on the floor, an old man approached us.  He bent over curiously to examine Bo, and with a raised brow asked, “What kind of dog is that?”

“He’s a French Bulldog.”

“Huh.  It’s too hot for him.” he said, turning on his heel to return to his shopping.

Thank you, sir.  You are a marvel among men.  Tell me, where did you get your detective training?  Your intuition surpasses all others…

“How are we going to get you home, Bo?” I whispered.

Bo used his front legs to spin himself around and turn his back to me.  I contemplated just leaving him there, the grumpy little sh*t.

The old man reappeared when his shopping was finished.  “Do you live close by?”

“Yes, sir.  Two blocks that way,” I pointed.

“Do you need a ride?”

“Are you sure you want this dog in your car?” I asked.  I don’t know that I would have put him in my car at that point.

“It’s my work truck, I don’t mind.”

I disobeyed mother’s number one rule, and accepted a ride home from a stranger.

“I hope he feels better.” said the bewildered little girl behind the counter as we walked out the door.

Please don’t be a serial killer,  I thought as I gave the old man directions and lead him right to my front door.  I thanked him sincerely, and admitted that he may have saved Bo’s life that day.

I put Bo in a cool bath and apologized profusely for nearly killing him for a trip to the Juice Bar to get a green smoothie.  He barely spoke to me the rest of the day, but eventually, he forgave me.

I learned a couple of things that day.  One, GMOs are bad- this applies to all genetically modified organisms- vegetables, flowers, dogs… Nature knows how to make things correctly, and humans can really only jack that up.  Two, there is no green smoothie delicious enough for me to risk the bulldog’s life.  In the future, he will just have to wait at home while I walk down there all by myself.  Three, there are kind strangers everywhere.  They show up just  in time to save the day when you need them.  And finally, just because stores have tile floors and air conditioning, doesn’t mean they want us to bring our dying pets in there for shelter.  The young girl working behind the counter was clearly traumatized by the dramatic scene, and for that I sincerely apologize.  I am certain that my money is no longer good there, and that we are definitely no longer welcome at the Sherwin-Williams Paint Store.

The End of an Era

The time has come for me to retire my first blog, Dysfunction Diaries.  It’s a bittersweet decision for me. I started that site about eight years ago. It was vulgar, irreverent, and usually hilarious. It’s where my writing career began- poking fun at my family and all the ridiculous things they do.

Dysfunction Diaries gave me a space in which to find my voice. It helped me begin to see myself as a writer. The feedback and encouragement I received while creating Dysfunction Diaries ultimately gave me the confidence to start writing my book, to join writing groups, take classes and workshops, and eventually to reach out to Elephant Journal with my work.

As I’ve grown as a person and an artist, my writing style has changed significantly. I’m much more interested in sharing my story now in a way that can help others. I’ve got a crazy story, and I know that the desire to tell it has led me to my purpose on this earth. I am truly grateful for every experience that has brought me to this moment, and it is always my sincere hope to uplift and inspire others with my words.

As I move into this next chapter of my life, I will not forget where I came from. I plan to honor Dysfunction Diaries by self publishing a collection of short stories from the site on Amazon later this year. It seems appropriate to allow Larry and the gang to live on even after the site has been put to rest.

If you’re a new reader, or you’ve been with me since Dysfunction Diaries began- thank you.  I appreciate you supporting me, as I make my dream of becoming a published author come true. I am the luckiest girl to always be surrounded with love and support. I couldn’t do this alone, and even if I could, I just wouldn’t want to.

Namaste

xo Nee

The Woman Behind the Words

Renee Dubeau is a passionate raconteur from Nashville, Tennessee. She is a lover of all creatures, a dreamer, rebel, and unapologetic supporter of underdogs everywhere. She is an avid reader, an outspoken feminist, and devoted mother of two little humans and a French Bulldog.

 Renee began blogging years ago to document all the crazy things that happened in her hometown in rural Michigan. As she has grown as a woman and a writer, her work has shifted from mostly humor to more serious spiritual and social issues.

 Renee’s insatiable fascination for the human condition keeps her inspired and searching for new ways to explain why we do what we do. In addition to writing, she enjoys yoga, dance, art of all kinds, gardening, cooking, and playing outside. Her favorite color is turquois and her favorite food is cheese. Every cheese.

 Renee’s main goal is to inspire people, and help them see their own perfection, worth and potential. She enjoys talking about all things taboo, challenging stigmas and defying social conventions.  Renee believes in love, magic, hippie dust, miracles and the immeasurable fortitude of the human spirit.

 You can connect with Renee on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, ReneeDubeau.com, and Elephant Journal where she is a Featured Author. She is always ready for a friendly debate, and welcomes your comments and questions.

 

 

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