Saturday, August 25, 2007

At Last!

At last! Artful Blogging is mine! MJ (my boss) brought it back from Indy for me yesterday. I was so excited. I have been coveting this magazine since I first read about it, and no one—I mean NOT ONE STORE in Muncie had a copy of it anywhere that I could find. Things have been too busy for me to drive the 50 miles to get to Indianapolis to find one. Thank you MJ! It’s wonderful to have a boss who understands my obsessions. She rocks!

The magazine is so cram packed full of images and bloggers that it’s too rich to read all at once. I had to sip it. I read awhile, then quit to do other things while I mulled over who and what I had seen. I repeated that scenario until the very end when I skimmed through a huge chunk of pages in one gulp! I know I’ll be re-reading them.

I was so surprised to find how many bloggers I already read—AND—how many new ones I have to discover! Yay! It’s wonderful.

The pictures and colors are so vivid. I loved reading every entry.

One thing they emphasized was how blogging is a learning experience. They all had to learn by doing. And so do I. Just do it, Linda! Show up and do it. So here I am again.

Again and Artful Blogging begin with the letter A. So do absence and away. Words that fit into the Alphabet meme started by Bella Dia. I read about it on 37 Days and Becca’s Byline, and it sounds fun. Using the letters of the alphabet to pick a word, one at a time, in a series, to do an Encyclopedia of you. Patti was doing hers daily; Becca is doing hers weekly on Mondays to jumpstart her blogging. It’s really pretty cool.

I think I’m going to begin this too. Although I may choose to write on the same letter for a few days in a row, because I just keep coming up with words and A entries! I was going to use away or absence as my first theme. Instead I began with “At last! Artful Blogging.” I could add awesome to the description of Artful Blogging!

I’ve already written an entry about away and absence. I’ll use it for my next post. It’s long and serious, and I think people’s eyes would cross, and they would give up before they got to the end if I combined it with this post! So more later!

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Starting Over

At lunch today, I read an article in the February 2007 Yoga Journal by Phillip Moffitt, titled Starting Over. It really resonated with me. He writes about meditating and how we continually pull our focus back to our breath. We don’t follow the roving thoughts, we don’t rant about what we’re doing; we just start over. And he says that we need to apply this practice of starting over to all areas of our life where we are struggling.

In health and exercise, don’t fret, give up or get angry when we lose our focus. Just say, “I’ve lost my focus. I’ve fallen off the wagon AND I’m getting back on. I’ll do my Pilates, my flossing, my daily walk, or whatever discipline we have fallen away from. When I read this, I thought, This would work for me. I could use it to get back on track with the house. Instead of feeling overwhelmed when I look at the mess in the two back rooms, I can say “Okay, I’ve lost my focus here AND I’m going to pick up some things and put them away or throw them away.” “Okay, I feel overwhelmed and panicky and I’m going to put away at least one thing and make the room look a little bit better.” He says “You simply do what you care about as well as you can.” “…you attend as best you can to the immediate situation that is challenging you.”

He also says “…if you discover you are overeating in this moment, you simply stop eating…no drama; you just get right back on your path and start over.” I think that I’ve started doing this with the dirty dishes. I’ve been washing them more regularly. And when I start thinking “Oh, no, I don’t want to do this, blah, blah, blah,” I’ve been reminding myself of Cheri Huber’s words about “what if it isn’t about being good or bad, what if it’s just about the dishes?” and I go out and wash them. I do still have to stop the whiny thoughts that loop through my brain about “well, if you had washed them yesterday you wouldn’t have had this many—this dish would already have been clean, and this one and not that one.” And I’ve been just letting those rabid thoughts go.

So I’ve started doing this starting over practice in that area. Now I need to make it my daily practice for other things. He recommends choosing one or two areas to concentrate on until we can get it to be a habit. He also says to begin by noticing “what happens when you waste time feeling discouraged, escaping, or indulging your restless mind.” He says to “let meditation be your laboratory for training your mind to think and respond in this new way.” We just need to bring our attention back to our breath when our minds wander. Start over. Say “Yes, I just got lost, and now I’ll just start over.”

And a practical way to apply this new practice is right here on my blog. So, I got lost and busy and overwhelmed and I let my blog go AND now I’m just starting over. I’m posting an entry. I’m writing. I’m back on the blogging path. Thank you Phillip Moffitt!

Sunday, May 27, 2007


Simple things are best. After all the stress and worry over our little grandson who was born prematurely, having him come home on Friday to sleep, eat, fill his diaper, cry, and then do it all over again seems like such a simple thing and such a blessing. Watching him sleep in his mother’s arms makes me smile and want to cry, all at the same time.

Tonight my mom called and asked a favor. She wants me to stop at a fruit stand tomorrow and bring her two tomatoes. Real tomatoes, with real taste, not like the hard flavorless ones from a supermarket. Simple and so satisfying.

One of my daughters called tonight to report that she had seen a rainbow, full and complete with both ends showing. And her two growing daughters had shopped for groceries and made supper! Hamburgers, chips and a chili/cheese dip. Simple, yet also a milestone in their family life.

Yes, our big celebrations and elaborate productions are wonderful. But these simple moments are the ones that live in our hearts and make our days happy.

Written in response to the prompt at Sunday Scribblings.

Monday, May 21, 2007


Saturday, my husband and I went rummaging. I wasn’t really in the mood or excited about visiting all the garage sales that we’d marked in the paper. I even thought that going to the bookstore to sit and read sounded like a much more fun way to spend the day. But he was in the mood to roam and look at things, so away we went. And I am so glad that we did!

I found more bargains on Saturday than I have ever found when I was looking for them. My first find was an ergonomic keyboard for only $3.00—and it works perfectly! The owner had upgraded to a wireless keyboard and he didn’t like the split keyboard anyway. I use one at work and I love it. Once I started using it, my wrists quit hurting. My old keyboard at home then became more of a pain to use, especially if I was typing for a long session. Now I can type as long as I want and feel no pain. And I love the feel of the keys clicking on this new keyboard—I smile every time I use it! I know--I’m such a geek!

Another bargain was an easy-to-assemble Christmas tree for $12.50. Our old tree was the kind that needs all the branches inserted separately and it still left big gaps between the branches. Of course, by the time I had loaded it with my humongous collection of 40 years worth of ornaments, it looked pretty good! But it was a bear to put together. Now I have one that will take me ten minutes, tops, to put up, and it is so full and pretty. My husband thought I was crazy for buying a Christmas tree in May. I pointed out that $12.50 spent in May beats $100 spent in December—and it also beats the dread and frustration that I felt putting the old one together.

I found several books. A Jody Picoult for ten cents. Three coffee table books—one on living in Provence, one about Indiana, and one about the wonders of the Ancient World—for only a quarter each! I had to have those.

And I found a sweet little saucer with colorful blue and orange birds flying around the rim. It reminds me of some that my Grandma had. The finish is crackled and worn. But at ten cents, how could I pass it up?

I am pleased with all my bargains. Not bad for less than twenty dollars, huh?

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Seven Things About Me

Denise tagged me several days (weeks?) back to list seven things about me that most people don’t know. I haven’t had or made the time to write in here, yet the idea has been on my mind. I’ve mulled over the question of whether or not these seven things are supposed to be things that no one knows or just seven things the blog world doesn’t know. If it’s just the blog world, almost anything could be written, because I haven’t been blogging very long and only a few people know that I’m here. So anything that I tell the world will be a surprise. To my friends and family around here, some of these things will cause some of them to say, “Been knowin’ that!”

1. I was the first and only female journeyman pressman at the local newspaper. I always thought that they hired me as a token woman who wouldn’t make it through the apprenticeship and then they could say that they tried to make the hiring equal but women just couldn’t handle the job! Instead, I dug in my heels and made it through the grueling four-year apprenticeship and then worked there for six more years. I knew that I was in for a hard time when my first job on my first night was to carry a full bucket of ink up a ladder and pour it into the ink fountain on top of the press. The male crew didn’t really want me there, yet by the time I left, I was one of the gang. It was like having 16 older brothers who looked out for me and told me how to live my life! I think they finally figured out that I wasn’t taking the job to prove anything—I was just a single mother trying to provide a living for my children and make a decent wage.

2. I’ve always been a bookworm. From the time I could read, Mom says that when she looked for me, she always found me with my nose stuck in a book. I always carry a book with me whenever I go someplace, just in case. My favorite cartoon, that my sister and fellow bookworm also loved, shows two people sitting on clouds in heaven, and one says to the other, “I knew I should have brought a book!”

3. I have been a lurker on blogs for years. I read them voraciously and follow the bloggers’ lives and feel like I know them well. Yet, I’ve been very shy about speaking to them directly and letting them know how much they mean to me.

4. One of my favorite blogs was Texere, written by Dawnelle. I loved reading everything that she ever wrote, and when she quit writing several years ago, I was so sad. I still miss her writing after all this time. I wish she’d come back!

5. When I was younger, my house was always messy in the visible parts, yet every cabinet, drawer and closet was meticulously arranged. This used to amaze my sister-in-law, whose house was always neat as a pin, yet her closets and drawers were filled with stuff haphazardly thrown in.

6. I took a tap dancing class as part of my college education. I loved it!

7. My friends at work call me Webster, because I love spelling and reading. Any time they have a grammar question, they come to me.

I’m not going to tag anyone else, since I’ve only conversed with two or three other bloggers. And I guess that fits in with my childhood personality of watching from the sidelines for a long time before I jump in to play the game!

Good news to report--my newest grandson is doing well! He was transferred to Riley Hospital for Children in Indianapolis because he was having intestinal problems. He is healing nicely and the doctor is pleased with his progress. He may get to come home in about a week. I finally got to see him this week, and of course he is adorable! I can't wait for him to be healthy and come home so I can hold him!

More later!

Sunday, May 6, 2007

A Simple Sunday

Today has been a sort of quiet day--yet also a good day. We found out that they've taken our new grandson off the breathing tube, and he is still doing well. I am so thankful for that. I described my car dilemma to a friend, and her daughter suggested that we check our transmission fluid. She had had the same problem and that was the solution for her. So my husband checked it and it was low--very low! He added transmission fluid, and we're hoping that the problem is solved. We haven't tested it on the highway yet, but it seemed to help even here in town.

Today was the first day that we took our 16 month old granddaughter, Maria, to church with us. We usually take her big sister, who is almost five. Today they both came along, and Maria had a blast! She loved seeing the other little kids and being in the nursery with them. She is normally shy and reluctant around strangers. Today she jumped right in and had a good time. I think this means we will now have two little passengers on Sunday! Since these two girls are big sisters to the new boy, I'm sure their Mom will appreciate the break!

Tonight I happened to see Beach Party with Frankie Avalon and Annette Funicello (1963). Talk about a blast from the past! I started watching just to see what it was like, what I'd remember, etc. Before I knew it, I had watched the whole thing. Parts of it are so corny! And it is funny in places that I'm sure they didn't mean to be funny! And Annette's hair--it was sprayed and teased and didn't even move when she was flying upside down! My husband came in and asked how I could stand to watch it. I just enjoyed seeing something that I used to love now that I've gained some maturity (or gotten older!). It definitely changes your perspective! It did bring back memories and it was fun. It made me think about how things have changed. I loved seeing Robert Cummings again. So I think it was worth my time to stroll down memory lane. I did draw the line at watching the next show which was Beach Blanket Bingo! A stroll is one thing; I didn't want to turn it into a long walk!

More later!

Saturday, May 5, 2007

No Go Disappointment!

I wasn’t able to make it to my nephew Shane’s wedding today, and that is a huge disappointment. I started off on the 100-mile trip. Before I had gone 40 miles, the car started acting up. I thought maybe the first incident was a fluke. Before I got to the next exit, it did it again. I called my husband and turned around to head home. By then, I had to get off the interstate because the car wouldn’t go over 40 miles an hour. I am so thankful that I was able to get home. Now the car is sitting and waiting until a mechanic can look at it. I came home, cried, and then “took to my bed” as all good Southern women do when life is too much. After a nap, I’m feeling much less devastated.

My husband took the car out to see what was wrong. He came home and said those classic male words that I hate to hear. “Gee, honey, I couldn’t find anything wrong with it.” I thought, “Of course you can’t find anything wrong when you take it around the block at 20 miles an hour. Try driving on the interstate when the engine suddenly roars, the tachometer whips back and forth, and the pressing forward stops!” Beginning to coast when a huge semi is on your tale is no fun!

I really hate missing the wedding. This nephew is the one who has always seemed older than his years. He and his older brother lived right down the street from us when my daughters were small. My two daughters, then his brother, then him—they looked like little stair-steps, and any time people saw us out, they assumed that all four children were mine. And they seemed like my own sons, just as my girls were Shirley’s daughters. I remember one time when Shane was about four years old. He was telling me a long involved story about something, and my mind started to wander. He reached up, placed his two hands on my cheeks, looked straight in my eyes, and said “Aunt Linda, you’re not listening to me.” Needless to say, I paid attention to the rest of the story! Shane was always coming up with some deep philosophical comment that amazed us. We thought that he would grow up to be a preacher or a professor. He has grown up to work with a Christian camp youth ministry, and he does a fabulous job.

I pulled out old family photos this evening and looked through them, remembering what a sweet little boy he was and how much fun we had. He’s brought great joy to my life. I hope that he and his new wife have a blessed marriage. And I sure hope that someone made a video of his wedding!

Friday, May 4, 2007

Birth Day!

Our stubborn little grandson made his appearance today! He was born at 1:30 a.m. weighing 6 pounds and 10 ounces, and he is 19 ½ inches long. He is on a breathing tube for a few days, although the doctor is already starting to wean him off of it. So far, I’ve only seen pictures of him. The NICU has strict rules about how many people can visit, so we have to wait until he comes out. Mom is doing fine, although she is tired and sore and worried because he has to be away from her. I understand that anxiety. Mothers aren’t at peace until their babies are within their care. Even Grandmas feel the same way! I am so thankful that he is here, and I can’t wait to hold him, rock him, and love on him.

I’m off to a nephew’s wedding tomorrow. He waited until after 30 for the right woman to come along, and now he’s found her. And I find it hard to believe that he is that old already. I still remember seeing him when he was as new born as my newest grandson. Where does the time go?

Right now, the time is zipping along past my bedtime. And since tomorrow includes a Mother-Daughter breakfast, another visit to the hospital, a long drive and a wedding, I think I’d better hit the hay!

More later!

Thursday, May 3, 2007

Life Fills the Well

I've been absent from blogging for awhile, and I've been feeling guilty. Yet, after reading Becca's post today, I realized that I can drop the guilt. Just as she said, life has been busy. So she thinks of these activities that keep her away from blogging as a period of filling the well. Reading the books, listening to music, spending time with family, all serve to enrich our lives. After reading what she wrote, I felt like I could take a deep breath and relax. And guess what? After I let go of the guilt, I felt the desire to come back and connect with the blog world again!

A big part of what has been keeping me away from here has been my grandkids. Two of them are teenagers, and when their computer isn't working at home, they come to my house to do homework and use the internet. That means restricted time for me to get on and noodle around. I don't mind though. I love having them here, and I want them to do well in school. The latest project that my granddaughter (a junior) worked on boggled my mind. It was a multimedia presentation that involved a lot of research and creativity. Her topic included jazz, so I was able to share some of the poetry that William Matthews wrote and some of the CD's that his poetry had inspired me to check out of the library, Charles Mingus in particular.

Then on Saturday, I went to her house to take pictures before she went to the Junior Prom. She looked so beautiful! I look at her, and I'm amazed at her beauty and poise. She borrowed my camera to take with her, so I got to see the shots of her goofing around with her friends. I liked seeing that side of her too.

We also have a little grandson who has been trying to come into the world for the last several weeks. My youngest stepdaughter is in the hospital on bed rest waiting for him to be born. Her labor was progressing too well, even though he isn't due for another 3 weeks. Now that she is far enough along and the doctor said that she can go ahead and give birth, the labor has slowed down. My friend says that is just the stubborn little boy having his way! We went to the hospital again tonight, and again we came home. She still thinks he'll be born before morning. I think she's just tired of lying in that lonely room!

Now you know what has been filling my well lately. And with a family wedding coming up this weekend, a Mother-Daughter breakfast at church, and more trips to the hospital, I'm sure that I'll have more to share soon.

More later!

Friday, April 27, 2007


I wrote this in response to a prompt given at our journal group.

Fiction gives us the chance that life denies us. Paul Theroux

This quote reminds me of the story of how Sue Grafton began writing. She was angry with her ex-husband after her divorce. She said she felt like killing him; since that wasn’t allowed, she wrote a murder mystery with him in mind. And after it was done, she sold it and started her series of Alphabet Murders! I don’t know if it’s true, but I like that story.
I know that when I read a good story, I am transported into the life and locale of the book. The characters, the places and the events become real. I get to travel and live right along with the characters. I can jump through time and space, through gender, through circumstances.
I may never get to Prince Edward Island, or Tuscany or Ireland, yet I’ve already lived there. I’ve been orphaned, a governess, a writer, a Civil War survivor who will never go hungry again. I’ve lived in Chicago, in Iowa, and in the Deep South. I’ve solved mysteries with my gang of friends and with my two cats. And I’ve done all these things while sitting in a chair with my nose stuck in a book. So, yes, fiction does give us chances that life denies us. It can also create new choices and new chances. After we read about these people and places, we can choose to go and experience them in our real life. Or we can write about them and share with others.

Monday, April 9, 2007

Painting a Promise

In honor of National Poetry Month, here is one of my favorite poems written by one of my favorite poets, Luci Shaw. This one is found in her book, Polishing the Petoskey Stone.

How to paint a promise in January
for Lauren

Here in my winter breakfast room,
the colors of rainbows are
reduced to eight solid lozenges in a
white metal tray. A child’s brush
muddies them to gray in a
glass of water. Even the light breaks down
as it pushes through the rain-streaked
windows and polishes the wooden table
Green leaves always turn
brown. Summer died into the dark days
a long time ago; it is hard even to
remember what it was like, stalled
as I am in this narrow slot of time
and daylight.
Until I look down again
and see, puddling along the paper,
under a painted orange sun
primitive as the first spoked wheel,
the ribbon of color flowing out of
my grand-daughter’s memory—a new
rainbow, arc-ing wet over strokes of grass
green enough to be true.

Luci Shaw

Saturday, April 7, 2007

Okay, in my last entry I wrote about showing up every day, doing a little bit consistently, not binge and starve, feast or famine. Then yesterday, I read about an excellent teacher, writer and poet, Sebastian Matthews, in a post at 37 Days (a wonderful, thought provoking website). Sebastian Matthews is William Matthews’ son. William Matthews was a poet. After following the link to Sebastian’s site and reading some of his prose about his father that just blew me away, I read a few of his father’s poems. And the binge and feast was on. I immediately went to the library and checked out five of William Matthews’ books—I would also have checked out Sebastian’s but the library didn’t have anything of his. So, anyway, I checked out the five books of poetry, took them home and spent my evening reading one poem after another, calling my friend and reading poems aloud to her, then reading some more. And I was happy.

And I realize that I am not naturally a little by little, day-by-day type of person. I prefer to do things in fits and starts with great swoops of activity followed by long periods of doing nothing. I could blame it on my mother, I guess, although that would be the cowardly thing to do!

My mother hated doing inside work. Put her outside on a tractor or in the garden, and she was happy. Inside was a different story. Things would pile up around the house until she couldn’t stand it any more. Then she’d announce one morning, “It’s time to give this room a physic!” And she’d flinter in to it (that’s how she described it). She’d work like a woman possessed, scrubbing, tossing, dusting and arranging until the room was spotless and beautiful. Then the cycle would begin again.

Either by habit or by nature, I have adopted this as my modus operandi. But somewhere along the line, my episodes of giving a room a physic—which I never realized until I was an adult was another name for a laxative and probably meant the room was full of crap—have slowed down. My flint has lost its spark! This is especially evident in my study/office/studio—my all purpose hideaway that is filled to the brim with all the books, papers and magazines that I’ve binged on. They’re everywhere.

Today I’m trying to make some progress in clearing it up. I’ve sorted mail, shredded junk papers, piled books, and made some order. I’ve been thinking of the poems that I read last night. Thinking of life in general and wondering how to be happy with who I am while I’m still trying to improve. I’m listening to Charles Mingus clips on my computer as I type these words, thanks to reading about the love William Matthews had for jazz and for Mingus’ music. And, in my usual manner, now I want to go out and buy tons of jazz cds and fill my ears with those while I fill my heart with the poems.

And you see why I have trouble sticking with cleaning—right here in the middle of it, I had to stop and write down all these thoughts that have been swirling around my head! I had to make the connections, get these thoughts in order and then share them with the world. Now that I’ve done that, I guess it’s time to flinter in again!

Thursday, April 5, 2007

Show Up. Take Action. Read Poetry.

April is Poetry Month. I’ve been reading several other blogs, and they have entries listing their favorite poems, poets, original poetry, etc. Alice Friman is one of my favorite poets. I attended a poetry reading by her on March 29. She read from her new book The Book of the Rotten Daughter, poems that were written while she was dealing with the death of her father and mother. The poems are powerful, and they show how much grief and death are a part of life.

The following weekend, I attended a workshop given by Jennifer Bosveld of Pudding House Publishing House at the Writers’ Center of Indiana. The workshop was valuable and interesting even though it was not what I expected at all. I thought I was signing up for a workshop on writing and critiquing individual poems; instead the workshop was geared toward looking at poetry chapbook collections and possible publishing by Pudding House. Since I haven’t even written enough poems to fill a chapbook, let alone have that many published, I wasn’t sure that I was in the right place. I still learned a lot about writing poetry from Ms. Bosveld and about publishing, chapbooks, and life in general. One of the first things I learned was “Turn off your cell phone BEFORE the poetry reading starts!” I rarely get calls on my cell phone, so I forgot. Guess what? My phone rang right in the middle of a reading. That was embarrassing!

Another thing on my mind is “showing up.” I’ve been reading a lot of personal development websites and also Kate DiCamillo’s journal on her writing site. She has an article about the importance of showing up, every day. Almost all of the personal development people emphasize the habit of showing up. Last week, I decided (and even wrote in my journal) that I was going to show up. Show up on my blog, show up at exercising, show up to write every day, show up in all the areas where I want to improve. Even as I wrote that, I realized that that is a lot showing up! And now that I’ve tried to live the showing up for a week, I also realize that if I show up for everything, every day, including my full time job and the normal everyday house and food activities, then I am going to have to quit showing up for sleep! If I try to do all those things, I stay up late, get up early and then crash by the time the weekend gets here. And if I go to bed exhausted, then I don’t show up for my potential practices. (Of course, I DID manage to show up for Dancing with The Stars and American Idol—I couldn’t miss those! Especially Dancing with the Stars—watching that show satisfies my soul. Seeing all the contestants, both professional and celebrity, glide, stomp, shimmy and shake across the floor just makes me happy. I love dancing, love to do it myself and love to watch others dancing. So I couldn’t give that up!

Steve Pavlina wrote about being consistent and showing results. He wrote about “self-help junkies,” people who read self-help books, who are always looking for that next magic piece of knowledge that will change their lives, yet their lives never change. They never apply what they DO know. That struck home with me. I own and read tons of self-help books. I own and read tons of writing books. Books about diet, exercise, becoming wealthy. Yet I read them and the knowledge just stays inside my head. Or I try different strategies, and then let them go. So the message, “Show up! Take action!” comes to me through several messengers. I really think this is the lesson for me to learn right now. SHOW UP. TAKE ACTION.

Another fantastic writer, David St. Lawrence had some good advice on his blog, Ripples. He wrote about how to make a fresh start and get yourself out of “almost any hole you have put yourself into.” He says to “write down your most immediate and serious problem. Find one thing you can do about it today and do it.” Once you’ve done that, then pick your next step and do it. Then the next step. And do it. Eventually you will work your way out of the pit. This message gives me hope. It’s doable. If I show up.

Be sure to check out David’s blog. All of his articles are well written and thought provoking and enjoyable to read.

Back to poetry: one of the things Jennifer Bosveld had each participant to do was name our favorite poets. Among the wide variety of favorites, one name kept repeating: Mary Oliver. Billy Collins, William Carlos Williams, Wallace Stevens, Emily Dickinson, and William Stafford were mentioned more than once. I also like Luci Shaw—one of my dreams is to meet her some day and take a poetry workshop from her. I love Billy Collins; he’s funny and wonderful to listen to. I like Beth Ann Fennelly, Andrea Potos, and Greenish Lady’s poetry. Oh, and Linda Pastan and Nancy Willard. The longer I think about poetry, the more poets I remember. I know some one on some site that I came across during my web travels recommended reading a poem a day for the month of April, in honor of National Poetry Month. And by reading one poem a day, every day for thirty days, rather than bingeing and then starving throughout the month, we can practice being consistent. Show up. Take action.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Poetry Reading

Tonight I went with my friend Sherita to listen to Alice Friman read from her new book of poetry, The Book of the Rotten Daughter. She was appearing at the University as part of the Women's Week presentations. Alice used to teach classes and workshops here when she lived in Indianapolis. She now lives in Georgia, so I hadn't seen her for a few years. It was wonderful to see and hear her again.

Several of the poems in this book deal with the deaths of her father and mother and the time that she spent tending her mother in a nursing home. She said that some people may think that is gruesome, but "writing helps us grieve, helps us understand." She also said that she believes that writing poetry is "like writing with a laser beam." She did throw some more lighthearted poems into the mix, so we wouldn't all be too depressed.

Alice is a fantastic poet. I love her phrasing and choice of words. And I love hearing her read, with her New York accent--still strong after all these years of living in Indiana and now in Georgia.

Sherita and I and another friend are going to go to a poetry workshop this weekend in Indianapolis. I haven't written much poetry lately. Poems are mysterious to me; it seems like they either come almost full-blown or they don't come at all. I've tried several of the techniques that other poets recommend. Clustering helps create them. Word tickets, used like Susan Wooldridge teaches in Poemcrazy (a fantastic book!) help me sometimes. The Magnetic Poetry kits are fun to play with too. And maybe that is why poems come harder for me--I don't play with them enough; I take them too seriously. I'll let you know how the weekend goes. I'm sure I'll learn something new and hear some good poets read and have more to share.

Monday, March 26, 2007

I remember

This was written in response to a prompt from A Writer's Book of Days by Judy Reeves.

I remember how it was to drive in gravel, to ride in the back seat down the dusty road, the feel of the tires slipping when they would stray to one side or the other of the hard beaten path and they would catch in the loose gravel piled to the side. I remember the taste of the dry dust blowing in through the windows, choking my breath. Even when the windows were closed, the dust seeped in and filled my mouth and lungs.

I remember Grandma Hazel pulling her yellow crocheted scarf close across her mouth, saying “Oh, laws, Daddy, I can’t breathe!” Her scarf was a loose crochet with gaping holes between each stitch and we kids would laugh at her idea that it would stop any of the thick dust.

As we drove down the gravel roads, clouds of dust would follow in our wake, marking our passage as surely as the wake of a ship. When we were outside, we could tell if someone was coming down the road just by seeing that cloud approaching.

Our cars were always covered in a fine white dust unless it rained and turned them muddy. The rain would still the dust for a while. A wet gravel road gives off a sharp scent that I can taste.

I lived in a house on a gravel road until my tenth year. Even now, almost 50 years later, the road in front of that house is unpaved. The gravel is spread thick in the early spring and makes for a wavering ride with the sound of the tires crunching as they turn. Now when I come home from a visit to my past, my husband says “Where in the world have you been? How could you get the car so dusty?” He rushes to get the car to the carwash, to restore its black shine. And I remember how it was to drive in gravel.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Becoming Visible

I didn’t speak up much as a child. I was shy and spent most of my life trying to be invisible and fly under the radar. It wasn’t good to get noticed. When I spoke up, I usually got in some kind of trouble for what I said, so I learned to be quiet. I learned the lesson well—too well. Even now, I have a hard time saying a definite yes or no, answering a question directly, or saying exactly what I think about things.

So after spending a lifetime trying to be invisible, what on earth would possess me to start a blog? The successful blogs are the ones where people are extremely visible, where they let their personalities and their essences shine forth. And that is what I love about reading them.

So maybe I’ve just had enough of trying to be invisible. It doesn’t work very well. And when it does work, it isn’t satisfying. It isn’t like my childhood dreams of having the superpower of turning invisible at will—the dreams where I could press a certain vein in my arm, like the heroine of a book that I read. She turned invisible and solved mysteries.

I wonder if anyone else remembers that book or what the title was? The heroine was a classy dame (obviously written in the late 40’s or early 50’s); she was a sharp dresser and had long black curls (I think.) She had some kind of career and solved mysteries on the side. And her super power was pressing the vein in her wrist and disappearing. And one day she forgot and wore a wide metal bracelet on that arm and as she passed a department store window, all she saw in the reflection was her clothes walking along, including the cute little hat that curled around her head! I wondered why her clothes stayed visible that time and not on the times when she intentionally vanished!

No, being invisible in real life isn’t like that. It’s more like hiding behind a dull gray mask and wondering why no one sees the radiant colors of your self. Like saying “Hey, here I am—see the real me?”, yet never showing that self to the world. It’s a lifetime of looking through the glass that seems to be a one-way mirror to the world.

So maybe that is the reason I’ve started a blog. I’m tired of acting invisible. I’m ready to be seen and heard.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Trusting the Process

Today I’ve been reading in William Zinsser’s book Writing About Your Life. He writes about being true to yourself, and writing every day and trusting that as you write you will relax and find your natural voice. And the only way to do this is to write, every day, and start from where you are.

In Zinsser’s book, he is writing about memoir, yet the same thing holds true for blog writing too. We have to start where we are, write about what is important to us and learn as we go. And we have to start where we are and journey to where we want to go. And therein lies the problem, for me.

I don’t want to start where I am and go through the awkward learning stages in order to be an excellent blogger—I just want to already be done with the learning and be brilliant! And that isn’t how it works.

I have a workbook by Cheri Huber called How You Do Anything Is How You Do Everything. And I think that the title is true, because I started working through the book and then put it aside when it got hard and uncomfortable.

Another thing that started me thinking about trusting the process is that I bought a digital camera yesterday because I want to be able to post pictures here. Now, I’ve used digital cameras before; we have one at work, I used one in another job that I had, and I’ve taken pictures using friend’s cameras. But yesterday I bought the camera that I wanted, the one that felt right to me, then brought it home and had to start learning all the features and controls that aren’t exactly like the others that I’ve used. And what happened? Right away, I had a bad case of buyer’s remorse because I didn’t get one that I was more familiar with. And I told myself that I’d never learn how to take good pictures anyway. Thank goodness, some common sense started kicking in, and I was able to back off of the self-flagellation. After all, I think that I’ll need to take more than just 12 pictures before I can feel comfortable with this camera! And I’ll need to write more than just a few blog entries before I can feel comfortable with blogging.

My youngest granddaughter is just learning to walk. In the last week, she has gone from standing to taking one step to now being brave enough to take three steps at a time before she falls. She doesn’t get discouraged because she’s only taking three steps. No, she looks up at us and beams with joy and pride that she’s taken any steps at all. And we praise her and help her and love her, and she tries again later when she’s ready. She trusts the process.

Zinsser says, “Write about things that are important to you” and “be true to yourself.” He also says “It’s a privilege to write for one other person. Do it with gratitude and with pleasure.” So my life lesson right now seems to be telling me: Enjoy this time of beginning. Play with words, play with the camera, play with learning. Have fun! And trust the process.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Following a Prompt

Tonight was our regular meeting of our Just Journaling group at Danner's, our local independent bookstore. We had a group of seven tonight with lots of spirited discussion as well as writing going on. Here is the entry that I wrote in response to this prompt: According to Brenda Ueland, "moodling" is "long, inefficient, happy idling, dawdling and puttering." What is your favorite way to moodle?

My favorite way to moodle is to mess around, or "rat around," as my husband calls it, looking through and handling all my stuff. For instance, I'll think of a specific book that I want to find, so I start roaming through the house scanning all the bookshelves. As I look for that specific book, I discover others that catch my interest, so I pick them up and carry them with me. By the time I find Book X, I have an armful of others as well. Then I sit down with all my finds piled around me and proceed to look through all of them, either in bits and pieces or all at once.

I also love to sort through boxes or drawers or closets and look at all my treasures that I've put away for some reason. And I end up with those piled around me too.

After reading what I've written, I guess that maybe my favorite way of moodling is to make nests around me! I love the cozy feel of being surrounded with stuff. So even though a big part of me craves open space and order and beauty, an even more elemental part of me craves being surrounded.

Even in bed, I like to bunch the covers around me, with a little pillow to hold, and a big pillow behind the one I lay my head on. When I don't make the bed, I can curl up quite nicely and snuggle in.

Moodling can also be websurfing, following a trail from one site through links or comments to another and another and another. I read until my head is full, then I like quiet time to mull over what I've read and come up with my own conclusions and discoveries.

After I read what I'd written, my friend River made the comment that I need to approach my blog writing in the same way that I do my websurfing--write down one thing and follow that thought and the next and the next until I see where I end up. Enjoy the moodling. Don't worry about the audience or the rules, just write for joy and to see what I'm thinking, to see what conclusions I come to. I like her advice.

More later!

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Down For The Count

No posting this weekend. On Friday, Blogger wouldn't cooperate and I felt too bad to wrestle with it. I made it through early Saturday, then went to bed at 5:00 p.m and stayed there until late Sunday evening. I am so thankful that I had a prescription for a Z-pak--yet I still felt miserable. The medication is finally working and I think I'll be back among the living tomorrow. I hope so! I had made it through most of the winter without any sinus trouble, then after we had two gorgeous days of spring weather, my head felt like it was swollen to the size of a pumpkin and my throat felt raw. Go figure!

One thing I've learned about blogging is how much longer it takes than I thought it would. Not because of the writing necessarily--although that takes some time and thought. No, it's because once I turn on the computer, I have to check the comments and see if anyone has added one, then I have to check on my friend's blogs and see if they've updated or gotten new comments and then I follow one of the leads in the comment section and discover a whole new area to explore and before I know it I'm thinking, "Wait, how did I get over here? And why haven't I posted my entry?" And that's the beauty of blogging, isn't it?

More later!

Thursday, March 15, 2007

The Mississinewa

This is a piece that I wrote in June, 2004. It started as a poem and grew and now I'm not sure what it is. I just know that I felt like I wanted to post it tonight.

The Mississinewa River used to come visit us once a year. The roiling brown water would crawl over the low banks, slide and slip down the small creek and flow across the fields.

We sat in our house on top of the knoll and watched.

The water crept closer on the west, rising up the lane, across the yard, into the garden, where it met itself creeping in from the east, on the other side of the house.

We could see the water advance, inch-by-inch, foot-by-foot, until all roads out were gone.

Dad would cuss, tell how those fools upriver had dredged the banks, caused the flood, ruined the flow.

My sister and I listened. We had no idea what dredged meant, we just wondered why those men were so mean, so stupid.

My baby brother wanted to go outside, meet our guest, play in the water, splash in the new pool that used to be our front yard.

Mom said, “No! The water’s dirty. You’ll get polio. You’ll drown.” Then she’d ask, “What are we gonna do, Red? What will we do?”

We had no phone. We had no way out. Our house was an island that grew smaller by the hour.

I remember the last year we lived there. My uncle Maurice rescued us with his small green rowboat. He came late in the afternoon and rowed us out to safety, two at a time.

We kids thought it was high adventure. We had tales to tell; we could boast at school, relive the drama, be brave when it was over.

Dad lost all the crops. We moved the next year, couldn’t afford to lose again. We moved far from the river to dry flat land.

Next year I read the paper. Mississinewa came to visit the farm again. She must have been distressed to find us gone. She came even closer to the house, looking for us. This time a helicopter came to save the family, to trump our story, to cheat us of glory.

I felt angry and sad and lonesome.

I think of these visits when I cross the Mississinewa now. My sister always said it was her river. She’d played in it and listened to its murmur and welcomed it to our home.

She’s gone now, dead these last three years. She can’t come to visit any more either.

I’m far from the river, far from home.

The river still flows through wide shallow banks and speaks when I pass over.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

A Good Day

Today has been a good day. It’s my husband’s birthday—Happy Birthday, Jim! Part of my gift to him was to take him to breakfast in Indianapolis at LePeep. We both love that place, and going there is a treat. I had my usual omelet made with smoky ham and white cheddar cheese—yum! And a gooey bun to start the meal—these are English muffins, broiled with brown sugar and cinnamon, lots of it, then spread with cream cheese and hot apples—double yum! Their peasant potatoes are so satisfying. Oh, now I want to go back tomorrow! Too bad that I have to go back to work.

After that we went to Lowe’s—it was HIS birthday, after all! Then, to make me happy, we stopped at Office Depot so I could buy more Foray pens—of course I needed them, never mind the hundreds of other pens that I have strewn through the house! And I even found a set of liquid porous point pens from Foray in eight assorted colors! Lucky me! After that, to make us both happy, we went to Barnes and Noble and spent several hours browsing. All in all, a good day.

My favorite way to browse a bookstore is to pick up all the books that catch my eye that I’d like to have, then sit and read through them and pick out the ones that I have to have. Or that I can afford. Usually, I narrow my choices down to two and then agonize over which one I should take home with me. And, yes, I have been known to buy one and spend the trip home thinking, “Oh, I should have bought the other one!” In the good old days, when I had more disposable income, I would come home with piles of books each time. I miss those days!

Today, I ended up buying Kaleidoscope: ideas + projects to SPARK YOUR CREATIVITY by Suzanne Simanaitis. I first read about this book on her website,, and it sounded good. When I saw it today, I knew that I had to have it. It is chock full of creativity, collage, projects, and art, all in bright colors, with letters and articles from the creators and instructions on how to do what they have done. Suzanne says she is “passionately curious,” and she demonstrates that well. I know that this will help my journaling, and my collage, and I am going to try several of the other projects that she included in the book. The list of contributors lets us know more about them and where to find them on the web. I think reading this book will lead to creative discoveries that will amaze me in the future. I can’t wait!

Another book that I saw and will buy in the future is Liar’s Diary, by Patry Francis, who blogs at I love reading her blog, and I am going to love her book. I was pulled in from the first page, and I want to see how the story ends. This will be a book that I order from Danner’s, after payday!

Right now, I have American Idol to watch and Kaleidoscope to look through, so—more later!

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Fantastic Book!

I'm late getting to my computer tonight, and I'm posting on the fly--all because of Gayle Brandeis' new book, Self Storage. I borrowed it from the library at lunch today, started reading it after work, and I could not put it down! I read it straight through--and it is so wonderful that I think it is something that I need to own so I can read it again, slower, digesting each piece of wonder that she has managed to pack into this book. Please, get yourself a copy of it and read.

Brandeis has woven her story around the lines in Walt Whitman's poem, Song of Myself. I don't know how she did it, but she did it in a masterful, seamless way. The words of Whitman and the events in the story fit as though they could be no other way. Her characters are vivid, and real and they fill my heart. She takes us into a life that is both familiar and unfamiliar at the same time, through Flan, the main character. Flan makes money by buying things from auctions at self-storage units. When she buys a box that is empty except for the word "yes" on a piece of paper, her whole life changes as she moves toward that yes. And she takes us along for the journey. Again, buy this book and read it. And reading this will help you do what Whitman says: "You must habit yourself to the dazzle of the light and of every moment of your life." Flan does.

More later!

Monday, March 12, 2007

Just Journaling

My friend Sherita and I co-lead a “Just Journaling” group that meets at Danner’s, our local independent bookstore, twice a month. We’ve been doing this for around five years or more. We meet on the first Monday and the third Wednesday, which always confuses people. We started meeting on such an odd schedule because several of our attendees were either students or faculty at the University; by alternating the meeting days, everyone could attend at least once a month. When we first started the group, for several weeks Sherita and I were the only people who showed up. Finally, after a few weeks, Carolyn and Claudia showed up. Carolyn is still a faithful member and a wonderful friend.

Sherita and I have been friends since around 1983, and we have been journaling together or apart most of that time. We both went to a Kentucky Women Writers’ Conference early in our friendship so that we could meet Natalie Goldberg, author of Writing Down the Bones. We took her journal workshop and we’ve never looked back.

We lead our workshop according to Natalie’s guidelines. Keep the hand moving. Don’t worry about spelling, punctuation or grammar. We start with a few minutes of writing on “I am thinking of…” just to get our brains drained of the daily junk that fill them. Then we offer prompts; sometimes people pick and choose what they want to write on and other times we all write on the same subject. We write for 10 or 15 minutes, and then we read aloud what we have written. And yes, a lot of times we talk much more than we write! At one point we were all talking loudly, laughing and discussing our tendency to act as though we had ADD. A woman came running across the bookstore, asking breathlessly, “Oh, is this an ADD support group? May I join?” We laughed and told her that we may have ADD, but we are a journal group—and yes, she was welcome to join. She didn’t take us up on the offer.

One of the benefits that has come from the group is the bond of friendship. Some people have come and gone, and some have come and stayed, and we really have become a support group. As Carolyn says, this is the one place where we all fit in. These people have become my tribe, my family, my friends.

I have been uplifted and amazed at the quality of writing that has come from our group. Just by responding to random prompts, these people have written entries that have touched my heart. We laugh, we cry, we share our most vulnerable selves. The attendance changes at every meeting; we have new journalers joining in and others leaving for one reason or another. We have a core group, those of us who need the solace of writing, who can’t imagine our lives without each other now. And it all came from just journaling.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

A Quiet Day

Today has been a quiet day. When Jim came home from work, he was feeling tired and running a fever so he went directly to bed, sprawling across diagonally from one corner to the next. Church would have to do without him today. I still felt tired, so I crawled into the bed in the guestroom and fell back to sleep. I woke sometime after noon and picked up a paperback lying next to the bed, titled “The Trouble With Angels” by Debbie Macomber. A friend had told me that it was a good read. It wasn’t bad; I lay in bed and read most of it, then got up, fixed some dessert, and finished the book. Then I went back for another nap! In spite of the beautiful sun shining outside and the temperature actually getting up in the high 50’s, I covered up and slept some more.

Finally I roused myself enough to get up and take the dog for a short walk. I didn’t want to waste this warm weather entirely! Sammo was excited about getting out and about; he pranced and sniffed his way around the neighborhood. I guess I did the human version of prancing and sniffing—I checked out all the signs that spring is on its way—the tulips and daffodils poking their heads up out of the ground, the fat robin sitting under a tree, the neighbors leaving their garage doors open while they puttered around outside. We returned home, and I fixed some dessert for Jim this time. He seems to be feeling better. Then I came to the computer to browse through my favorite sites. And write my Sunday entry.

And I realize that this quiet Sunday is exactly what I must have needed. Lazing through the day, soaking up the warm sunshine—I am content. Contentment is a feeling that eludes me when I’m always rushing from work to home to a meeting to a chore to an obligation. And when I took a day to rest, a day to listen to my tired body, contentment found me and curled up beside me, and said, “Isn’t this nice?”

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Now What?

Okay, I’ve jumped the hurdle of actually posting something on my blog. I’ve started. I’m finally coming down from the adrenalin high of having done it. I’ve gone through the doubtful reactions from my family: “What if you post something personal and someone sees it? This could be dangerous Mom.” “What would you have to say on the web?” My friends have been supportive. I’m still tweaking the way the site looks, and I still need to post my lists of favorites and any links that I want to show people. And here I am—wondering what to post next. How much to tell. Will anyone understand what I’m doing here?

One of the things that I have loved about the web is the connectivity. All the entries that I read about people connecting through comments and through off-site, real-time connections reminds me of the Round Robin letter groups that my sister, Judy, used to belong to. She started writing to various pen pals in the 60’s. At one point, they formed a Round Robin circle and sent an ongoing letter from one person to the next. They also exchanged little gifts and had get-togethers to meet each other. She always let me read the letters. I loved reading the ones from Bev. They were typewritten with a script font, tightly single-spaced on small sheets of stationery that she had decorated with stickers. Every inch was covered with words or pictures, and most of the letters were 12 pages or longer. I liked hearing what Trudy, or Velva or Dolly were up to in their daily lives. Judy loved receiving and sending those letters.

Gradually the group disbanded. Some of the people just lost interest. Trudy and Bev both died young. Dolly still corresponded with Judy until my sister died three years ago. Now Dolly and my Mom still write to each other. And even though we’ve only met a few times in real life, Dolly is as close as any member of my family, just through the power of the letters. And that’s how I see the blogging community. A giant Round Robin of potential friends, some short-lived acquaintances, some longer, and some will become as close as my family. People can come in and out, rejoin if they want to, meet together frequently and share what they have in their lives.

Denise said that she sees blogging as a way of gratitude. I see that too. Also, a way of practicing my craft of writing. A way of sharing. A way of teaching. Blogging can be all those things. After I posted my first entry last night, I spent several hours just roaming from site to site, visiting my favorites and discovering new ones. I am overwhelmed at the talent and love that is offered on the web. I love that people freely give from the heart. And I can’t wait to find my new friends!
More later!

Friday, March 9, 2007

Jumping In

I confess. I have been lurking on blogs for several years now. I avidly read them every day. And almost every day, I think, “I want to do that. I want to start a blog.” Then I pushed the thought aside and went on. Then I read about all the connections that people find and form, all the fun groups that they belong to, all the wonderful vast and varied knowledge that everyone shares, and I wanted to join the fun.

I had all kinds of excuses though. I couldn’t decide on the focus of my blog. My goodness, with all the writing, poetry, house, craft, art, scrapbooking, cozy, photography blogs to choose from, all the various and sundry interests that fill my mind, how could I be expected to choose a focus? And the title? Oh, picking a title was good for months of agonizing, choosing, debating, and driving myself and my friends crazy! Finally my friends said, “Just do it! Quit torturing yourself and us and just go for it!”

Every day this week I have decided that I was ready. I came to the Blogger site. I clicked on the buttons. I’d back out. The next day, I went a little further and backed out. And finally, even I have had enough of my fear and indecision—so here I am. I want to join the party. I want to play with words, to find new friends, to join the ones who I’ve been reading for so long.

I’ve already corresponded with some of them. Colleen at LooseLeaf Notes has been a favorite read forever, and we have written and emailed each other. I love Fran at Sacred Ordinary. Loretta at Pomegranates and Paper is a favorite read, and she turned me on to the house blogs, like Daisy Cottage and Cherry Hill Cottage. And the writing on Left Handed Trees is so beautiful it makes my heart ache sometimes. The Bean Counter left a gap in my blog life when she took a respite from writing. And a new blogger I discovered, Denise at Vivid Just Like You, writes so beautifully that she takes my breath away. The word pictures that she paints are so vivid and clear—reading her is a joy!

Anyway, I’ve decided to turn away from my fears and jump in the blogging pool. My blog will be what it will be. I’ll either write every day or I won’t. If I decide that another name would be better, I’ll change it. If my words sound flat and boring, I’ll just keep writing until they sound better. Whatever happens, I’m joining the party!

More later!