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Renee Dubeau

A little bird with a big song.

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I Remember what I Wanted to be when I Grow up.

I believe it was in the third grade. My teacher passed out paper and crayons to the whole class and gave us one simple assignment. We were to draw a picture of what we wanted to be when we grew up. It was likely an exercise we did at the beginning of every new school year.

It’s such a huge decision at 8 years old. There were so many possibilities- some I didn’t even know existed yet. At the bottom of the paper was the phrase, “When I grow up, I want to be a ___________.” I didn’t have to carve it in stone, I just had to choose something to write on that line.

I agonized over the decision until finally, I drew a lady behind a desk in a suit. On the line below, I wrote “journalist”. Back then, I thought a journalist was the lady who read the news on the TV, or maybe wrote a column in the news paper like Dear Abby.

This decision is memorable today for two reasons. First, because almost all the girls in my class filled in their line with the word, “cheerleader,” and most of the boys said, “football player”.

There was one little boy who drew a dinosaur skeleton. He said he wanted to be a scientist. I liked that boy. His dinosaur took up two sheets of paper. I could tell he was different, like me.

In a room full of cheerleaders, I was the only girl who chose journalism. It was basically the story of my life. I wasn’t athletic or popular in high school. I was a band geek, a literature nerd, and a social activist. I loved to read, write and create. I was passionate about the environment and animal rights.

Life took many twists and turns for me. I chose the wrong career for a season, and the wrong marriage. In my years as a bored housewife, I started writing again. I started a silly blog to share stories about my family. I never guessed in those early days of Dysfunction Diaries that I would actually become an author.

I recently remembered that drawing from third grade. Somehow my soul knew even then what its purpose is.

I’ve intentionally avoided writing about politics in the past. For some reason, I didn’t feel qualified to speak on such topics. I didn’t want the drama that could come with expressing my unpopular ideas. But, I dipped my toe into that world just before the election. Then, Trump won, and it seemed all I could do it write about it.

This gift that even my 8 year old soul could see. This voice I have been given- I will use it for good. I will channel that feisty teenager who spent her evenings banging out letters to companies about their environmental practices on an old typewriter. Together, we will rise up in the name of every single person who needs a voice right now.

Finally, thirty years later, I remember what I wanted to be when I grow up. Truly, it was the only thing I ever could be.

 

 

 

Photo credit: Pixabay

 

 

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Going back to my Roots…

I’m spending the day clicking down memory lane. It’s time for me to gather my little stories and give them to the world in book form. I’m just amazed looking back on Dysfunction Diaries. I had no idea where it would take me when I started writing all those years ago.

Reading these stories, I can clearly see my growth. I can almost pinpoint the exact moment in time when I realized that I am a writer. This blog was more than just a silly hobby. It was the first step in my writing career. It gave me a voice at a time in my life when I didn’t know I had one.

Dysfunction Diaries helped me gain creative confidence. Through the feedback of so many wonderful people, I began to see the talent I have been given for storytelling.

Dysfunction Diaries helped me grow a thick skin. I’ve learned to accept criticism. I’ve learned to speak my truth and honor my story- even when people don’t like it.

Most of all, Dysfunction Diaries opened me up, helped me see myself, my family, my experiences in a new way. I realized that my story was more than just humorous. If told honestly- it’s actually kind of awesome and inspiring.

I’m excited to go back to my roots for a little while and compile these stories- and also write some new ones! I can’t wait to hold my first, published, paper book in my hands!

Namaste xo

Nee

Photo: Preus Museum

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…)

 

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

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