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!