Meet Me

Mama: That’s me! I’m Stephanie Ortiz (once I was called Mommy and now I’m just plain, old Mom). So why not get snazzy and be Mama? Since this isn’t any old meet and greet, I’ll cut straight to the soul talk. I’m also a writer. This blog got me out of fictional writing without a book to show for 30+ years of work into being a published writer, who enjoys the charms of nonfiction again. After all, I had been down this road before, I was a journalism major at UNC-Chapel Hill and for several years post graduation I wrote for a newspaper called New York Construction News.

But the true meaning of this blog didn’t take root until I wrote “In Light Of Kobe Bryant’s Muse.” Before that I thought I was writing again because I turned 50 and I dared to be in my first community theater musical (“Mamma Mia”) along with my daughters. I survived my midlife crisis and had fun doing so and I lived to tell. And in some ways I still am, but that post on Kobe awakened something I had carried with me and hadn’t opened since I was the age of my oldest daughter.

I opened it up, and inside, were all the newspaper clippings that Mom had saved. Though the papers were faded, they were still legible. They made the past come alive for me once more. The days of legends and incredible feats–the days when Dad was involved with NBA basketball.

Before that post, I couldn’t dare say my Dad was Bill Cunningham, a basketball legend. Suppose people found that out about me? I was so caught up with worries over the very thing that made me once feel so alive. So I buried it away. Maybe a part of me even felt guilty because I wasn’t going on the court playing the game myself, I felt like a fraud. Who was I anyway but a little kid walking in her Dad’s shoes that were just way too big to fill?

The post on Kobe Bryant made me realize that those memories were nothing to be ashamed of but something great and powerful and very much inside of me. I just needed to share them. Somehow, because of that post, these muses are now infused with my weekly show and tell short stories of what I’ve been carrying with me all these years.

Not everything that we carry is physically with us. With the coronavirus and social distancing we have learned that we don’t have to be physically together to still be socially connected. But I had known this a long time ago when one of my great writing teachers, Mary Carroll Moore, had us read the short story, “The Things They Carried” By Tim O’Brien. It was about everything that the soldiers carried in their backpacks. And it was poignant because each physical item held a story and meant something emotional to the soldier and inevitably to us as the readers.

Our memories can be physical, too, if we give them life.

I write these stories so I might discover what I’ve been carrying with me and what I need to know that week. There is always something that is relevant in current life that needs to be infused with a little back story, or vice versa, as the case maybe.

So if I can do my job and write a great muse, I know you will inherently be taking this journey with me. You’ll find the things you’ve been carrying and didn’t know were there alongside you, too.

Just so you’re not confused, this isn’t a blog about basketball or parenting or me. This is about the game of life. Whether you’re on a court or on a stage, or somewhere else all together, greatness is not of the thinking, it’s of the doing.

But now I’m 50, and if my life hadn’t been turned upside down, now the world has been. Every now and then we’ve got to stop collecting whatever it is we’re carrying around in our backpack (even if it’s just memories and emotions) and splay them on the sand to see them for what they are.

I thought I’d been collecting ugly, broken and irrelevant things, but every single one of them brings tears to my eyes now. I love them all.

We’re doing this together. We’re unearthing what’s within us one treasure at a time, dusting the sand off and letting the sun shine down on them to show them in their finest glory.

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