New York to Lori: You’re a Writer.

I spent my Thanksgiving weekend writing an article about Kari Bales, but this time it wasn’t for my blog; it was for the New York Times. As in, The New York Times.

Lori Volkman

Surprisingly, the best part of the whole experience wasn’t the moment I got the “it’s live” email from the editor and clicked as fast as my fingers could carry me to see the byline with my name staring back at me, the internationally recognized newspaper’s logo resting gently above it. The moment that still has me gobsmacked happened in my basement at my makeshift game-cabinet-turned-writing desk on a cold Sunday morning. I sat hunched forward, leaning into my screen, excising each word with bleeding precision. My legs were losing circulation and I was hungry and my eyes burned. I was still in my hideous bathrobe and I was stinky and I was freezing, sipping cold coffee. And I loved it. It was in that moment that I realized: I’m a writer.

I almost cried. It was as if I knew I would never again be a lawyer, a wife, a mother, a military spouse, a daughter, a friend, a blogger or even a woman. It was the moment I realized that, despite my best efforts to be something else, I have always been a writer first. I’ve always narrated life in my head, always embellished events as pieces of a continuing story rather than simply allowing them to occur in moments, always struggled to assign meaning and connection to the most trivial. Everything foreshadows something, leading to a climactic discovery that leaves me better off than wherever the story began, or tragically arcs into the next chapter of my life, looking for resolution. I’m a writer.

I was interviewed recently by freelance journalist Laura Goode for a piece in New York Magazine about beauty pageants. I spun my tale of woe about the terrible price of being perceived the dumb blonde and how I fought back with myself, winning a state debate tournament in high school, going to law school, becoming a prosecutor, steeling myself as the independent military spouse during my husband’s year-long deployment. The material wasn’t used in her story, but it gave me a moment to tell myself the truth: what I always loved about those things in which I excelled was the writing. Heck, I even won the essay contest in the pageant. I wasn’t overcoming the presumed stupidity of pageantism all those years; I was fighting the notion that I was a writer. Why? More


I Totally Know.

Yes, I know. I know, I know, I know. My “friend” told me just yesterday that I’m most likely going to blogger hell for ignoring all of you and failing to post for upwards of a month. Can’t a girl take a vacation?

Ha ha ha. Because I’m just working full time and organizing camp schedules and writing a book and trying to get an agent and volunteering as communications director for a military spouse organization and carting cars full of saddles to horse shows and  … did I mention Husband is gone for all of this?

Fine. I know, I know, I know. I KNOW.

Search Term Madness

March Madness 2012KW, this is for you baby … I know you love these.

As most of you know thanks to the wonders of my blog host, WordPress, I can see the search terms that people use to get to this site. Now for people who write for SEO content, or want to drive traffic to their site, this is useful and informative gibberish that causes them to do magical things with the words they use for future posts. But for me, it’s just straight up entertainment. And it’s a good reminder that you should never use the words “panty” and “bling” in the same sentence.

Whoopsie that’s going to get 50 hits from the folks over at lit-her-hotica dot com for sure.

Anyway, last year around this time I wrote a post entitled “How To Pick Your Bracket Like a Girl.” I wrote it mostly because I am one, and it’s a problem for so many people just like me each year, and because I’ve developed a system. So it was like a public service announcement in a way.  And it got a ton of hits, including a link from a guy who writes for Sports Illustrated and ESPN sometimes, so I was thinking it was pretty popular despite the infantile and sarcastic title which, apparently, is a search term men use to answer this question. I had no idea it would see so much attention again this year.

I learned differently as I looked at my statistics for last night, Super Sunday. It was search after search of variations on the big question: How do I win my office pool? And as I read along I found … well I really don’t want to ruin it for you, so I’m just going to show you what I found last night. Because sometimes, a picture really is worth a thousand words.

Read slowly. Savor the moment …

seo can be funny

At midnight last night this was hysterically funny. In fact, I laughed so hard husband was just staring at me like I had an incurable disease (which I did, which was the giggles). But one of these things is NOT like the others. So thanks for looking guinea pig fashion lovers of the world, and thanks for making my night! Hope you found what you were looking for.

Happy Monday, everyone else. Hope this gave you a laugh with your morning coffee.

P.S. If you don’t already know why I have such a swill of love and disdain for the little pig rodents that inhabit a cage in my house, here’s how it all started: The Good, The Bad, and the Guinea. And here’s the guinea pig care package: Surprise! And here’s my favorite guinea pig post of all time: Guinea in the Manger.

I can do this.

Sometimes I’m not sure I can do this Lens of Hope thing.

As some of you know, I’ve been rediscovering my passion for writing ever since my husband left for a one year + deployment with the military. What started as a diary for my children has exploded into a blog that gets visitors in the hundreds each day, even when I don’t write anything new. I am humbled and amazed by that. “Professional” bloggers would scoff at those numbers, but I don’t. Because I don’t have a publicist or a paid google advert or any fancy blog-driving software. I don’t use SEO or newsworthy links or have paid clickable advertisements. I’m just here, writing sometimes. And you come, and you read. In fact, today we passed 14,000 hits to the blog in just four short months. Thank you.

And many of you also know that I was asked to help out with the formation of Lens of Hope, a nonprofit that provides free photography to cancer patients and their families. So here I am, and I am not a photographer. Niccole is the photographer. Niccole came up with the idea. It’s my job to be the paper-pusher, the talker, the organizer, and the writer. It’s my job to make it real, to bring Pinocchio to life. And I’ve realized something. I really am going to write these stories for these families.

Writing someone else’s story requires you to get inside their head. Being true to someone else’s emotions requires you to spend a moment living it with them. And that scares me a little. So before I started interviewing families that have been photographed for Lens of Hope, I started reading other stories to see how these people were being honored and remembered and celebrated.

Sadly, there is no shortage of cancer on the internet. It can be found in blogs, in books, in magazines, and in newspaper articles. And these stories make me weep. Even the good ones, the ones that end with the word “remission” or, better yet, “cured.”  These stories have me sitting at my screen covering my face with my hands, sobbing.

And I haven’t even met with my first family, yet.

Am I really cut out for this? Will I be able to keep up with the pace? Will I be able to tolerate it, emotionally? I’ve become hardened to lots of things working in the prosecutor’s office – things that horrified me once have become dull, commonplace, or at least an observed reality. Will this happen to me again, now?

But then, I think of them. I think of my own mother and her radiation treatment this summer. I think of the hotel room where we stayed during treatment, where she shuffled from bed to chair to medicine table to bed for weeks and weeks. I think of her scar and her crooked smile where a nerve was nicked.  I think of how she couldn’t eat, not at all. I think of the looks on people’s faces when they greeted her and purposely didn’t ask how she was doing. I think of how she couldn’t stand the sunshine. I think of how, when it was over, she could barely tolerate the drive home. And I think of how many others were there waiting for treatment. In just one hospital, in one city, in one month. And I think of how many others there are. And how many others there have been.

If they can do all of that, and be so brave, surely I can do this much.

As I write this post I am preparing to speak at a weekend retreat for moms of children with cancer. I have no business being there. I am intruding. I don’t understand what they are going through. I feel I can barely empathize. How can I? It seems all I have to offer is someone else’s camera lens.

But I have Hope. Please God, let me be brave enough to share it, and brave enough to tell their stories. And let me keep enough of my heart intact to be able to keep doing it. Over and over.

Alright. I can do this. I want to do this.

I Have Sinned

I know, you’re mad. I started out writing every day, and now I’m slacking big time and I’ve dashed your expectations. But guys, listen, I’m in Phase Whatever (I lost count) and I’m kicking butt and taking names around here. I’m so busy some days I completely forget that I even have a blog.

That’s a lie.

I’m just working a lot and I don’t have anyone to take care of my children (or me), and I thought the Cycles of Deployment thing sounded more glamorous and aloof than “I need a wife.”

The good news is, I’ve decided to quit my job, sell all my belongings, homeschool my children, and move to some out of the way place like … a remote Middle Eastern Country (totally random choice) … where I will be creating YouTube videos of The Preschooler dispensing advice to other children about how to make their parents insane. I think it will go viral. I’m thinking I’ll do this for … I dunno … for like maybe eight months or so (totally random choice). Plus, I won’t be able to leave the house in my shorts unless they are full body ankle-hugging shorts, so it will definitely give me more time to blog. It’s a win-win situation. Doesn’t that sound good?

I wonder if they have a Starbucks.

Alright, fine. Monday I shall blog. Phhhht.

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