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20 Years: Write Your Life as a Woman

Please join me for writing on my 50th birthday at the first of many celebrations of the 
20 year anniversary of Write Your Life as a Woman classes!

Write Your Life as a Woman
Sunday, January 29th, 2-4pm

*come a little early for a walk, and stay a little later to chat

The Writing Barn 

10202 Wommack Road, Austin, TX 78748

Class fee: $50 Click here to register.

Visit the Write Your Life as a Woman page for more info.

Dean’s List of Rambling Notes for Writer Friends

(From my Write Your Life as a Woman email newsletter.
Click here to sign up.)
“We write to make sense of our lives, and when our lives refuse to make sense, 
we write to befriend the chaos.” – Nina Wise in “a big new free happy unusual life”
Dean’s List of rambling notes for my writing friends …
1. My inbox, phone calls and live conversations these days are full of folks expressing concern about all aspects of life as we process the dramatic political changes in America. I invite you to go to the page with pen in hand …  for a conversation with yourself because it’s more important than ever that women speak up with strong voices.

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Clues, Advice and Thanks

 

This year as I celebrate 20 years of teaching Write Your Life as a Woman, I’m sharing some older articles and columns inspired by the class. “Clues, Advice and Thanks” originally appeared in skirt magazine in 1997, the first year I led a memoir writing class, which led me to create Write Your Life as a Woman. 

Clues, Advice and Thanks
by T. Dean Adams (Lofton)

“So,” Betty looks around the cafeteria to confirm no one is listening, “How do you like working with the old people?” I nod and smile politely. It is my first day, and I am thankful my mouth is full of food and I cannot answer. “It’s a wonderful time of life,” she continues, “except for the overwhelming sense of finality.” She will not drop her direct gaze into my eyes and I am speechless. Finally, I say, “Tell me what it feels like.” And she did, and then she wrote about it, too.

Betty was one of my first students in a class I led called “Collecting Your Memories” for three weeks at an Elderhostel program in Charleston, South Carolina. Each week a different group of students came in from all over the country, and the ages ranged from the late 50’s to mid-80’s. The purpose of the class was to write about life stories and memories. The focus as not so much on “the price of bread in 1948” as it was on taking a reflective look at their lives. When I was asked to lead the class I hesitated because I had never taught in a formal setting. But I was stumbling into my 30’s praying for clues of what to do with my life, while I was doing the same things I’d been doing for years. When you pray for clues, you don’t second-guess them. Continue reading

For World Suicide Prevention Day – “Sweet Melissa”

Many years ago in my skirt magazine column I wrote about losing my friend Melissa, who committed suicide. skirt was then a tiny magazine in Charleston, SC, and I had fled the south, a burned out activist, for a liberal reprieve in Boulder, Colorado. After the piece was published in Charleston, people wrote and called to comfort me. Strangers picked up the phone and dialed 411 and asked for me by name. (Yes, it was that long ago. I did not even have an email address.) People left messages and sent cards and letters to me telling me of their losses, their struggles, and of finding some comfort in simply connecting and acknowledging the pain. I’ve lost other friends since then to suicide and wrangled my own depression and anxiety.  It’s easy to forget, when you’re in pain, that help is just a phone call or even a click away by reaching out to friends or family. Also, the Suicide Prevention Lifeline offers help by 1-800-273-TALK (8255)or online at www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org.

Sweet Melissa

T. Dean Adams (Dean Lofton)
skirt 1994

My friend Melissa ended her life on New Year’s Eve. I cannot believe it, don’t want to believe it. I don’t have words for this feeling of loss. We met in 1988 while we were in school at the University of South Carolina. I remember the exact day she walked into my living room and into my life. The kind of friendship that immediately feels like, “Hey where have you been? Now I feel a little more complete.”

We haven’t lived in the same city in years, but our friendship never faded. We never went more than a month or so without speaking, and I never felt distant from her even though we were often thousands of miles apart. When I moved to Los Angeles in 1992, my mother rode cross-country with me and took the train back to South Carolina. The train stopped overnight in New Orleans on New Year’s Eve, and every hotel room in the city was booked. Melissa was at Tulane getting her MBA. She picked up my mom, who she’d never met before, at the train station by holding up a sign reading “Dean’s mom” and took her in for the night.

I could call Melissa anytime about anything. Phone calls always started with simply, “hey.” No need to say who was calling, no need for formalities. When I lived alone for the first time, she bought me a set of pots and pans and said, “You’re 25-years-old, learn to cook.” She would tell me bluntly when I was overreacting, when I was being slack. She was a great cook and had a great sense of style. She was brilliant and beautiful. We could sit on my couch for hours and talk about everything and nothing. To me, she was a given in life.

Now I cry and scream, “How?’ And “Why?” And nobody answers because nobody knows the answers. And I want to gather everyone I know into one room and keep them safe and close by. But I can’t. So I call or write everyone I know and tell them I love them and why, and that I’m sorry for any/everything and I forgive them for any/everything. Marcy quotes Marianne Williamson, “We’re just here to tend to human hearts.” “Including our own,” Michael reminds me. Nikki says, “Be careful and take good care of yourself.” Mom says, “Find one joy in every day.” Robbie says, “Write, just write.” Lisa, Angie and Phillis cry with me on the phone. Here in Colorado, Christi says, “Tell me everything about your friend.” Stephen says, “Get in the car, you can’t just sit home and cry.” Maura hugs me. My boss Ed says, “Call me at home if you need to talk.” And I want to write down everything I know to be true, to be fact. I want words. I want life to be neatly typed and double-spaced, and I want it to make sense. But this doesn’t.

I know most of what made Melissa sad. I cannot tell you the details because I respect her privacy. There are so many sad things in life and we do not honor our sadness. We try to cheer up, pop anti-depressants, buy stuff – hell, even move to other cities – to be happier. And maybe we should learn to face the sadness. We should know that it passes, and we will not shatter and break. And we have to be better – to our friends and families and to ourselves.

Here in Boulder it is sunny and 70 degrees in mid-January. Snow sits in piles, but we are blessed with a surprise touch of spring. Still I want the comfort of facts. Spring always follows winter, and dawn always follows night. I will always miss Melissa, and I have no words – but paper could not hold the pain of losing her anyway.

Out and About – The Austin American-Statesman

(I was reminded of this article today by the Facebook memories editors, and since the original link is no longer active I’m sharing it here. At the time of the interview we’d only been in Austin two years. Fun timing as I’ve just started working with the Austin Independent Business Alliance again to help with membership and partnership development. Now seven years older and 107 pounds lighter! Wow, do I look different! Love my new home town! ) 

Dean Lofton at Matt’s El Rancho

By Michael Barnes | Thursday, May 28, 2009, 04:53 PM

If you are at all connected digitally — e-mail, Facebook, Twitter, etc. — you know Dean Lofton.

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During her short tenure in Austin, Lofton has extended her web of friends and contacts far and wide. Some of her social connecting promotes her husband, busy jazz trumpeter Jeff Lofton, or other musicians lucky enough to gain her ear.

She linked up with me at Matt’s El Rancho, however, to discuss IBuyAustin.com, the nonprofit that spreads the word about local businesses and business districts. She knew in advance I didn’t need conversion.

After all, I live two blocks from South Congress Avenue. There’s only one national chain there: American Apparel, and I can’t fit into their skinny clothes.

Lofton’s from South Carolina. She’s spent time in California and Colorado, too, but she seems more closely suited to Austin, which she calls “peachy.” (Her only linguistic concession to the Deep South.)

She had met — or rather re-met — Jeff after many years and other other relationships because they had played in the same school horn section at one time. Now, Dean is helping to raise Jeff’s child; all three are thriving in Austin.

It’s largely thanks to Jeff’s professionalism and Dean’s grassroots marketing skills that jazz has bumped up its Austin profile in the last year. Catch him at the Driskill Hotel, Elephant Room and elsewhere soon.

Missing Raoul

(**I’m sharing some older posts, essays and articles while I’m sorting and editing some of my work to be included in a book I’m working on about my writing workshops. This blog post is from January 2010, when I was remembering New Year’s Eve 1999.)

Missing Raoul

On a damn near perfect New Year’s Eve – with my handsome, talented husband playing music I love, surrounded by good friends and new acquaintances, great food and drink in a swank bar/lounge with perfect lighting, in a creative, progressive city – I still couldn’t shake the low grade funk that tends to invade this night for me. Champagne and New Year’s Eve always conjure thoughts of two friends, Melissa and Raoul, who’ve left this life. I still miss them, and I haven’t quite forgiven them for leaving.

I especially missed Raoul this year because it was a rowdy night he would have loved – the whole city partying and fun people joining and leaving our party. It’s been years since he died in a car wreck. And, even though I knew him in another city, I miss him in the odd way that leads me to forget for a buzzed moment he’s gone, and I expect him to burst in to join the party.

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Crocheting and Crying

Crocheting and Crying
by T. Dean Adams (Lofton)
This article originally appeared in skirt! magazine in 1998.

For the past year I have had the urge to crochet. Though I rarely have maternal urges, the desire to crochet feels similar. My great-aunt Myrt learned to crochet when she retired from fifty years of working at a textile mill. She taught my mother, who has crocheted for as long as I can remember.

In most memories of my mother, she is crocheting; her fingers move a needle in and around yarn in a steady comforting rhythm while she talks. Her fingertips count stitches and she seldom even looks down at what she’s doing. Yarn and a needle are always with her like a pocket book. She can make pretty much anything you can think of: scarves, hats, afghans, little Christmas wreaths and Easter bunnies to wear as pins, frilly collars, shawls and bedroom shoes.

My mother crocheted while she waited for me after dance classes, while she sat through football games to watch me perform with the band at half-time. When I moved to Los Angeles she rode with me and crocheted her way across all the oddly-shaped states slammed up against each other, making delicate cross-shaped Bible markers.

She was crocheting during our last big fight. The one we still gingerly step around. The one that made me feel I’d left the tribe for good and the person I’ve become would never be let back in.

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