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Tuesday, March 30, 2010

A Snippet

Claire Thibodaux’s thighs burned as she trudged up the creaking wooden stairs to the attic, and she wondered how many times she’d climbed the flight in the last few days. This trip though, would be one of her last. As she looked around the attic landing, a stream of dust motes clouded the bright morning sun. The final cardboard boxes she’d packed over the previous week stood bunched in the middle of the floor beside an aging trunk. She couldn’t help thinking about Aunt Laura, and how all evidence of her 94 years of living had ended up squeezed into seven cardboard boxes and one dented blue steamer.

Over the course of the last several weeks, Aunt Laura’s possessions had disappeared. It started when her other grand-niece Patti and her slump-shouldered husband Fred, made the five-hour car ride from New York to attend the quiet funeral in the stone Episcopal Church Laura Robbins had attended for almost seven decades.

By 9:00 the next morning, Patti had arrived to pick through the antiques and china brick-a-brac in Aunt Laura’s parlor, lifting statues and vases to squint at labels, even squatting under the polished drop-leaf table in the breakfast nook to identify the furniture maker. She climbed the stairs and stared into the black and white tiled bathroom, and Claire sucked in her breath when, after pausing outside the door to Claire’s bedroom, her cousin stepped in to finger the white islet comforter covering the wool blankets on the twin four-poster inside. At first, Claire had been glad she had dusted her room that morning, but entertaining an imagine of sleeping on the hardwood floor wrapped in one of Aunt Laura's old quilts after Patty jerked the bed out from under her, she wondered if it would have been smarter to leave her night clothes lying around.

Squaring her shoulders, Claire retreated downstairs to the formica-countertopped kitchen, where she clicked on a gas burner and filled the copper kettle for tea. For the six years that Claire had lived with the older woman, Patty had never visited their aunt. Plunging a tea bag into a steaming cup of water, Claire muttered "I know Aunt Laura would want her things to go to family. It’s just that she was only buried yesterday. I wasn't expecting to strip the house today."

By 4:00, Patty had opened every cupboard in the kitchen, paced each of the three bedrooms, had climbed down the squeaking cellar stairs with Fred in tow, and proclaimed that the only thing that would match "suitably" with her decor would be the mahogany chest-on-chest highboy from the front parlor and Aunt Laura’s monogrammed flatware.

Claire closed her eyes briefly when Patty announced her plan to take the silver, but then shrugged. What would a 22-year-old soon-to-be homeless girl do with a load of sterling anyway?

When Patty left the dining room though, Claire lifted the lid of the cherry case housing the utensils. Gazing at the simple Boston Antique design and the monogram LRB, for Laura and Benjamin Robbins, she pictured sitting to dinner with her great aunt.

“Sitting to dinner” was Aunt Laura’s quaint phrase. For the six years that Claire had lived in the Morrison Avenue house, she and her aunt had used the sterling flatware. “What good is it buried in the drawer?” Aunt Laura would ask. Winking at Claire, she’d grin and announce: “I’m not going to be here much longer. We might as well make things special while I am.”

Each night, Claire had dutifully set two places at the cherry dining table with a salad fork on the outside left, next to the dinner fork bordering a gold rimmed bone china plate, and placed the knife and spoon on the right. With only the two of them eating, it took minutes for Claire to hand-wash the delicate china and polish the utensils after a meal; she took care to buff the silver once more with a grey flannel before placing it back in the cloth-lined chest.

On the day that Patty performed her inventory, after she announced her selections, Claire looked over her shoulder to the dining room door swinging closed behind her second cousin, and reached into the silverware box. Fingering a small purple felt bag, she reached inside for one of the petite demitasse spoons nestled with seven matching pieces. Aunt Laura had used them in diminutive cups during their tea parties, back when she used to babysit Claire, long ago when Mother was alive.

Removing one of the tarnished spoons, Claire shoved it into the front pocket of her blue jeans, and smoothing the tails of her cotton blouse over the front of her pants, returned the bag to its original position.

Monday, March 29, 2010

I Triple-Dog-Dare You

Here’s a new game and you are invited to play.

You know the word verification you have to type before publishing a comment on a blog post? You know; the words like "sneeratz" and "zmelda," and "frogrent" that float in a text box below your draft observation, demanding that you type matching letters prior to gaining admittance to the Kingdom of Securely Approved Remarks?

Like red-jacketed soldiers at the gates of Buckingham Palace, they refuse to smile, blink, twitch, or cough while you finagle a way to publish a thought, and always, these mysterious and cryptic code-words slow down every attempt to page through a reading list. Each delay, of course, draws on longer as a result of, say, the overflowing laundry basket taunting you--or perhaps the fact that you are well aware these precious minutes were earmarked to writing on a topic not related to blog posts.

Anyway, if you are at all like me, each time you type a blend of those mixed up security enforcers--and God forbid you type them wrong because another sequence appears--then it's possible that you might spend an infinitesimal moment wondering how the code, or hyper-text or Boolian Search or the Basic Language or Cobalt--or whatever the technical initiator of these character combinations is called--creates the strings.

Each time I’m forced to verify what I see, I puzzle for a bit, then take a moment to construct a fantasy meaning behind the gibberish inscription in front of me before tapping the corresponding letters into the text box. It occurred to me recently that I may not be the only one who does this. I thought it would be fun to find out.

So here’s the game.

I’ve supplied a list of security “words” below that I’ve encountered lately.

Choose one and make up a definition OR, choose the new verification from the comment above you.

Type your definition into the comments; at the end, include the security word that appears prior to publishing your definition.

Keep it PG rated, but the funnier the better.

Be as creative as you know how, and I wouldn’t be opposed if you sent all your little bloggy friends over for a unique read and so they may add their own clever definitions.

I’ll start off with the first comment.

Here is the list:


Thursday, March 25, 2010

See Thyself

Jotting in my notebook before the weekly visit to the library, I looked up from the table in the tile-floored café I visit once a week, and noticed a dark-haired woman at a marble-topped table to the left of me scribbling away too. To keep her cloth-bound journal open, she curved her left arm, resting her palm on the top of the book; her shoulders tilted away from the yellow wall to her right. A bulging red-leather purse hung from a silver hook she had balanced on the edge of the table; a thick paperback book lay face down, abutting her coffee cup.

Perched at the same table I snag whenever it is available, her chair backed up to the two-piece, wooden hutch shelved with a patchwork of colorful real estate brochures. Facing out, toward the stained-glass loaves of French bread embedded in the picture window, she leaned over, forcing the spine open as her pen skipped across blue-lined pages. Once I realized she was there, I peered over my shoulder every few minutes, trying to gauge what she was writing. Each time I looked, her eyes remained down, focusing on a growing river of ink before her.

At the end, after glancing at my watch, I closed my own notebook, pushed my arms through the sleeves of my barn jacket and peeked over to her one more time. Her pen had stopped. She gazed toward the window with narrowed eyes, pursing her lips in concentration. Smiling, I imagined a cartoon balloon of crossed-off words floating above her head. I could almost feel the tiny synapse cannons in her brain firing multiple rounds, the thickening smoke of ideas forming and building, the volley that would travel across an empty valley and land, after I closed the wooden door behind me, on just the right phrase.

When I gave her a little grin, she flushed and ducked back down to her book.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Shower Magic

Back when I was a member of the out-of-the-house working world, my most technical problems often offered up their solutions while I was soaping up in the shower. Don’t try to picture it and don’t ask me why. Over the years though, it’s happened enough that I learned a long time ago that if a dilemma churned at me, to let it go. When I did, then either in a pre-dawn on-the-edge-of-waking moment, but more often under the stream of a scalding shower, the answer would eventually shoot out like the stinging spray from the shower head.

Today my scrub-down produced again--though not with an answer to a crucial worry, just the suggestion of an intriguing topic to write about. After my Eureka moment, I toweled off and stepped out of the steam-filled bathroom, desperate to run to the computer, but there was a Caesar Salad to make and an apple to pack for lunch, breakfast to serve, a litter box to empty, and a daughter to drive to school.

For the last two months, once drop-off is complete, I’ve gone directly, well, aside from a trip to the coffee pot, to the drop-leaf table in front of the window to write three Morning Pages. Today though, I took a detour. Since the goal of Morning Pages is to open the participant up to other opportunities, feeling the magnet pull of the words I wanted to get down, I ignored the red Artist’s Way notebook that has been my companion since January, and turned to the shiny, blue three-subject spiral notebook I purchased last week instead. Lifting up my trusty Paper Mate, I began to write. And I wrote. I wrote and wrote and wrote until the timer went off and it was time to climb into the Jeep and drive across town to serve lunch at the Senior Center.

Let me tell you, the kitchen floor needs to be washed, I’m serving sad leftovers for dinner, and there is a stack of laundry to be folded in my room. I'm trying extra hard not to think about the networking calls I didn't make, and the resume-writing brochure (my own) I need to finish. I can't care what I did or did not accomplish for the rest of the day because this morning I wrote.

And, I know just how to pick up where I left off when I sit at that table tomorrow.

Nuff said.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010


Other than when I failed that nasty don’t-read-for-a-week assignment last month from The Artist’s Way—suffering through two days before contemplating reaching for a razor and exorcising the entire chapter—it's rare to find me without reading material.

Julia Cameron wrote The Artist’s Way to help blocked artists release their creativity. The idea behind this particular lesson, to jog those who use reading as an excuse not to “do,” to step out and experience real life, makes sense. Though, I can disappear into a good story as well as the next person, perhaps, when it comes down to it, I’m not stuck. Maybe that's why not reading didn’t work for me, well, unless you want to count that during that mid-week eternity, I managed to attack the over-flowing clutter that was our bathroom drawer and clean it up.

Aside from the reward of finding my hairbrush each morning, I look back on those two book-less, magazine-less, newspaper-less, even blog-less—although I cheated there—days, and picture myself like an unhooked fish, flopping around on a splintered dock—then pausing to pant exhausted, while staring cloudy-eyed at a distant river of words.

After the break though, after those 48 hours where I crabbed and snapped and the newspaper on the counter across the room baited me like a devil’s temptation, I realized, more than I ever have, that words are my art. Taking them away from me was like asking me to sit in a desert all day with an empty canteen. I need them to survive.

When I read a good sentence, I take a deep breath and mutter: “How did she do that?” Then I review the line again and again, to figure it out. I walk around looking at the trees, the ground, the window, the angle of the light, and chew on how to describe them in my mind. The same way someone might travel to a museum and gaze at the brush strokes of Rembrandt or Cezanne, I try understand the technique behind the language, and then practice using it to record the nuance of the moment; the “plet, plet” of the raindrops as they over-flow the aluminum gutter and hit the wet porch rail.

And, always, always, I get the warm rush of pleasure, a blast of hot air on air-conditioned skin, when I encounter words like this:

“Peter kept as still as a cornered deer; Rebecca sensed that even though she wasn’t looking at him. For the moment, she was looking at the scenery. Oh, didn’t a river rest your eyes! She sank into a peaceful trance, watching how the water seemed to gather itself as it traveled toward a sharp bend. It swelled up in loose, silky tangles and then it smoothed and flowed on, transparent at the edges but nearly opaque at the center, as yellow-green and sunlit as a bottle in a window. She drifted with it, dreaming. It could have been a hundred years ago. The line of dark trees on the opposite shore would have looked the same; she’d have heard the same soft, curly lapping close by, the same rushing sound farther off.
Well. Enough of this. She tore her gaze away and turned again to Peter. ‘I’ve got you now!’ she told him gaily.
He took another step backward and disappeared."
Back When We Were Grown Ups
by Anne Tyler

To those who commented on yesterday's post, thank you. There is so much to learn and understand, but one thing I know for sure is that there is a supportive community out there. As I said to someone today, the journey is a roller-coaster; sometimes I sit at the bottom for a while. Your wise words helped me gear up for the climb. I am grateful for your kindness.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Your Thoughts?

Are there writers that exude confidence? Do Anne Tyler and John Grisham, Stephen King and J.K. Rowling tap away at the keyboard thinking: “Yea, I have a fantastic gift; I’ll pen my thoughts and spring them on the world knowing the work is destined to be a best seller, because I am simply so gosh-darned good?" Really. Is there any author out there that thinks like this or do they all molder while lying prostrate on the concrete slab of clammy self-doubt?

Not that I presume to put myself in such venerated company, but I ask the question in hope that an answer or two will assist in bagging the current lack of assurance joy-riding through my circulatory system. Please indulge me while I try to explain, and golly-gee, any comments will be welcomed. Even if it’s not your thing. Commenting, I mean.

Over the weekend, I updated the Middle Passages’ side bar with a blog award, (more about that later.) In doing so, I perused blog entries from a year ago. It is worth mentioning that back then I was six weeks past a job elimination that left me spinning--as if I had just twirled a swing as high as I could before lifting my feet from the ground and pulling the chains out hard. Completing daily posts on Middle Passages helped to ease the vertigo.

As I looked back though, the stark reminder of the many months I dedicated to Middle Passages, in spite of a dearth of feedback, raised its sober little head. Each morning, I’d fire up my computer, anxious to see how my pithy, conversational style had lit up the world, to discover a fat goose-egg next to the word “comments” at the bottom of the most recent post.

I’m a pretty patient soul, and, least you wonder, not a total loser. My family emailed me behind the scenes, I got a few phone calls and a rare comment from a friend, but that said, I blogged in a vacuum for six months, five and sometimes six days a week—with no reaction even though I read other blogs and commented. It wasn’t until I joined two writers groups on LinkedIn that strangers began to communicate, and I wonder now whether I could have kept up the flow, if people hadn't begun to acknowledge what they read.

This though, points to the crisis of faith pertaining to my writing skills, and I seek YOUR advice. Yes, that means you. One of the awards I cut and pasted into my side bar yesterday is called the “Prolific Blogger” award which came from Helen at “Straight from Hel,” for which I am grateful and honored. Thank you, Helen! Helen is a daily blogger with amazing writing tips and insight about the publishing world. If you haven't visited her please do. Given how regular she is at posting, I hold her dedication in high esteem.

Although not as diligent as Helen, I too am a prolific blogger. At the moment though, that word "prolific" tap dances with my doubt.

For the most part, thirteen-plus months later, you’ll still find me blogging four-five days a week. But family and friends who used to read me religiously now tell me that they haven’t for a while--that they’ve fallen behind and I get it. Five days a week is a lot. Yet, if my writing compelled them, wouldn’t they find a way? Not every day mind you, but perhaps a few?

My goal, in posting so often, is to improve my writing, but I’d be a liar if I didn’t admit that I crave an audience. Do I write too much? Or not well enough? Or, if I’m getting better, and I think I am, why doesn't it lead to more readers? Oh, and before you ask, I’d like to put one of those stat-counters on my blog, but I’m afraid I’ll insert the code in the wrong place and blow up Middle Passages, so have delayed several months on that puppy.

Adding to my uneasiness, several of the thoughtful readers that I developed by the year end, writers whose comments I value and treasure, are taking breaks, and focusing their writing time elsewhere now. I get that too. There is a balance to maintain relating to honing the craft or finishing works in process, and producing blog posts for the masses. I’m trying to write outside of Middle Passages too. But no one, so far, reads my other stuff. And unlike others who are a tad more, um, state-of-the-art in their practices, I am my own enemy, consciously deciding that for now, Twitter is not for me, and I’m not shouting my blog topics to my 23 friends on Facebook.

It feels right to grow organically, in a controlled process enhanced by the fertilizer of practice; taking time to focus on the craft of writing. Yet in a proverbial Catch 22, the resulting lack of readership communicates to me that I’m not writing anything worth reading. So that’s where I sat today, my ego shriveling like the Wicked Witch of the West after she gets sprayed with water, twitching and twisting in my chair this morning wondering whether I should even bother to write a blog post.

So here I am, evidence once again that synchronicity exists, and that you can never underestimate the value of a blog award--because while moping about what a lousy writer I must be, kicking the table leg in procrastination earlier today, I clicked to “Where Sky Meets Ground and found this waiting for me:

I'll pass on the award at a later date. For now, I'll say this: JP could not have had better timing. I read his post, in which he included me in a group whom, in his words, write “world class material” and sighed; in honor, in pleasure and with a deep whoosh of relief. Thank you JP for finding a way to smooth out some of the porcupine spurs of self-doubt stabbing me.

Do you need readers to feel like a writer, and how do you keep your spirits up when your self-confidence plummets? Comments please...Everyone? :)

Friday, March 19, 2010

Hand Made

My handwriting has returned. The chicken-scratch that has sufficed for over twenty years shows distinct signs of improvement, as a result of an unrelenting requirement from The Artist’s Way to write three Morning Pages longhand each day.

Since the fourth grade, I have alternated between straight, up-and-down printing and a flowing, right handed cursive--two styles of handwriting so radically different that I wonder what a graphologist would say. However, in my long career working as a recruitment manager, interviewing candidates face-to-face all day long and conducting hour-long telephone interviews as a regular part of business, my two writing techniques morphed into a messy shorthand scrawl, designed to catch relevant details while applicants spoke. Other than those barely-legible scribbles, I conducted written business via the computer.

Two months ago, I starting my Morning Pages and after the first few wrist-aching attempts, realized I was much more comfortable writing cursive. Now, my red Artist’s Way notebook is filled with Palmer-derived lettering. I use the same blue pen and each time I open the book I marvel at page after page of consistent, flowing script.

Before Morning Pages came into my life, all my writing occurred via the keyboard—Middle Passages, my two classes, timed writing, you name it; it all took place in front of the screen. Back space, delete, cut and paste, the ease of this writing-at-the-computer-addiction was so complete that the idea of attempting to capture anything of substance longhand flat out scared me--until a few days ago.

Last week, as I sipped coffee at a tiny table at the French Café while waiting for the library doors to open, an entry in The Artist’s Way inspired me to yank out the aforementioned red notebook. Grasping my pen, I opened to a blank page and began working on something I hadn't touched in several weeks. When the hands on the clocked hit 10:00, I climbed into the jeep for the short trip to the library, before realizing I’d forgotten the power cord and the laptop was dead. Rather than driving home, I opened the red notebook again. If you read Middle Passages regularly, you’ll remember that five pages later, I was pretty darn tickled with myself.

The pride from that minor accomplishment stuck with me, to the point that before my library visit this week, I stopped at Walgreen’s and bought a blue-spiral lined notebook. Pulling a chair up in front of my favorite polished cherry table situated in the sun underneath the palladium window, I grabbed my medium-point Paper Mate and went at it again. This time eight pages spewed out, which in longhand only comes to something like 1500 words, but felt like a marathon to me.

I’m not sure what is going on here, but cross your fingers, because so far, as long as the handwriting flows, it seems like words do too.

How do you write? On the computer or long-hand? Do you feel a difference?

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Contemplate This

"The grace to be a beginner is always the best prayer for an artist. The beginner's humility and openness lead to exploration. Exploration leads to accomplishment. All of it begins at the beginning, with the first small step." Julia Cameron, The Artist's Way.

"We learn by going/Where we have to go." Theodore Roethke

Tuesday, March 16, 2010


"I'm just beginning to see, now I'm on my way. It doesn't matter to me, chasing the clouds away..." (Moody Blues)

After dumping ten inches, the rain stopped. This morning the sun grabbed at the edges and muscled through a high gauze of remaining clouds. We are blotting the industrial rug in the finished basement with every towel we own, and in spite of the fact that it squishes when we walk on it, are optimistic that it will dry. We’ve had wet before, but not to this degree, so we are not sure what to anticipate. Cross your fingers that we avoid mold.

Today though, is not the day to address temperamental pumps, extension chords whose prongs break off in the outlet, or an absent minded cook who tosses cans into the recycling bin in the dim garage, and returns to the bubbling pot of bean soup failing to realize that she turned off the pump instead of the light. Let’s put all that behind us, shall we?

Right, I knew you’d agree. Instead, let’s talk about the inch-long daffodil fingers pushing out of the earth by the front lamp post, and the purple crocuses whose buds are swelling at the edge of the brick porch. Let’s climb on the granite ledges out back and bend down to view paper-thin folds of white as the snow drops emerge from crevises in the back rock.

What if we absorb the vision of the brown-water pond down the street that has tumbled over its banks and laps at the crumbling foundation of the old ice house abutting the winding road? We can gaze at the spiked branches and briars on the banks, puddled in a rippling swirl like black skirts brushing their invisible ankles. Oh, I know--for fun, let’s take a detour and drive through a foot of water to view the rushing river cresting through the unused fields and over the stone walls at the entrance to Weir River Farm.

Now, that’s what I’m talking about.

Monday, March 15, 2010

"Monday, Monday..."

I woke up this morning in the dark again. I woke up this morning to the rain again. There was no hot water in the shower. The basement is flooded and the cat got out.

Then, thanks to Melissa at Secret Notebooks-Wild Pages, I watched this: Stay Hungry, Stay Foolish: a Talk by Steve Jobs.

Viewing it put me back on the right track.

It's mop up time now.

How do you beat the Monday blues?

Friday, March 12, 2010

Including the Shadow and the Light

When I write about what I see, my goal is to include texture in what goes on around me. Take, for example, the grass out our front window. I could call it winter grass, dead grass, or instead, comment on the way short thatches of hay swirl out from the cement planter in the middle of the yard–or that the uneven suggestion of green emerging from below reminds me of a rough patch of whiskers on a man's unshaven face.

If an artist set up an easel beside me right now, she wouldn’t paint our yard a one-dimensional yellow; good paintings aren’t flat. She’d mix a blend of taupe and burnt umber on her pallet, feeding lighter colors to the place on the canvas where the descending hill fades to winter white. Adding brown pocks to represent the fringed pine cones scattered at the edge of the driveway, her finished painting would pulse with brush-strokes and nuance, depth and grain, shadows and the disparity of light.

An article in WritersDigest.com this week, “How to Enrich your Descriptions” reminded me of the importance of working for the strongest image. It is never right to take the things you see for granted. I know how the ocean looks; I drive by it almost every day. Waves are a common sight in my world.

How though, should I describe them to someone who has never left Kansas?

How do you challenge yourself to "see" the world around you?

Thursday, March 11, 2010

I Believe

Last week, I penciled a self-imposed deadline to work on a stalled writing project I have ignored for several weeks into my day planner. Flipping the page this morning, the note stared up at me. When possible, Thursday is library day, so I printed out my existing document, planning to settle in among the stacks to read, proof, and edit it before writing anything more.


Having stashed the printed pages inside my copy of The Artist’s Way, I stopped at the French Café in our town center for a cup of coffee before the library opened. Claiming a marble-topped table in a bright corner by the plate-glass window, I opened the book to the page marked with a torn piece of paper, and realized that these lessons continue to communicate to me proof of synchronicity. While fingering the draft of my neglected document protruding from inside the back cover, I read:

"Midway through a project, the perfectionist decides to read it all over, outline it, see where it’s going.

And where is it going? Nowhere, very fast.

The perfectionist is never satisfied. The perfectionist never says, “This is pretty good, I’ll keep going…

Perfectionism is not a quest for the best. It is a pursuit of the worst in ourselves, the part that tells us that nothing we do will ever be good enough—that we should try again.”

After finishing the chapter, I removed the piece I had shoved into the spine of the book and folded it in half. Searching my purse for my favorite blue ball-point, I opened my red spiral notebook and began to write.

Five--yes ma'm I said five--pages later, I got up and drove to the library.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010


The saying “before it’s too late” has new meaning to me now that I volunteer at a senior center. Even though it has been several months, my eyes still widen when I receive concerned comments like, “We wondered where you were,” from the seniors if I chop vegetables or wash dishes in the kitchen, instead of serving meals. Let me tell you, the seniors know who is present. They check on one another, make the phone call, report illness and stay in touch, because at 81, or 87 or 93, you better believe they understand the limitations mandated by time.

Serving lunches at the center one day a week, provides me with an ongoing, real-time reminder that nothing is forever, a concept that I ignored for long years. Before 2009, the days were crammed with the physical and mental execution of eight-hours of work, supplemented with a home to run and a never ending personal “to-do” list. Life chugged on, crowded with errands, worries and occasional failed attempts to keep track of it all. If the thought of the unopened box with the words “someday” scribbled in black Magic-Marker resting on a shelf at the back of my brain trickled up, I shoved it aside. “Someday,” after all, wouldn’t arrive for years. Then the job change occurred, offering me the motive and opportunity to stand on tiptoe, sneeze at the dust and yank that neglected container down.

By now you know that as soon as I opened the lid, it didn’t take long to understand that “someday” had transfigured into “now” as it pertains to writing. A few weeks later though, I dug into the box again and pulled out another “someday;” this one wound in delicate tissue, labeled: “Do something that matters.” The wrapping fell off that sucker the day I started volunteering with the seniors. Through that experience, I’ve learned one of my most important lessons to date.

I have a theory that the majority of us who are healthy, and say, under the age of 70, upon hearing the cliché, “Live each day as if it is your last,” for the most part brush aside the statement and scurry on. “Who me?” we are inclined to think? “I’m only 25, 30, 40, or 65.” Life, of course, would be miserable if we spent every day dreading invisible tumors or the possibility that the plane might crash. Human nature dictates that we cast off thoughts of illnesses or accidents. So, counting on more time, we allow those boxes of dreams to molder at the back of the closet.

The seniors though, well, they get it. Through them, I am starting to, too. Each week as I tread up the rubber coated ramp from the kitchen to survey the crowd, I cross my fingers that no regular chair is empty. More than once over the course of the last several months, tears have poured down a lined face during lunch, after a friend has disappeared for good. When you are that age, there is no such thing as “someday.” There is only “today,” and “maybe tomorrow,” which I was reminded of when a woman asked me to retrieve a piece of tinfoil from the kitchen last week. When I took too long she grinned and said: “You better hurry up. I’m 85 year’s old.”

Laughing, I hustled down to do her bidding, thinking that life is more engaging due to this exposure to the seniors. As a recovering master procrastinator, I now enforce time limits on myself, confronting “now” instead shoving things off on “someday.” Don't get me wrong. I am not scheduling a world tour, or planning to hike Mount Everest. The cruise to the Alaskan glaciers remains a trip for an optimistic future.

I do though, try to make the phone call or email that in the past I would have put aside. I say words I want people to hear, drive down a street that intrigues me, hike the trail because the sun is out, bring my daughter to sit by the ocean when the waves are high. Each day, I try to wrap myself around the idea that since there is no guarantee; it is prudent to act with some immediacy.

Like a frequent traveler rushing for a flight, I have stepped off the people-mover and am strolling down the linoleum floor, touching the intricate items for sale in the shops lining the wall. Fingering soft merchandise, I eyeball the forward-facing people whizzing by on the conveyor and recognize how much value there is to embracing the word "maybe."

What would you do now, if tomorrow was only a “maybe?”

Monday, March 8, 2010

A Mishmash

First: an update. For those who read and voted on my essay in the "Why I Write Contest" on Editor Unleashed, thank you! Nope, I didn’t win. But I did make it into the top 50 submissions that will be included in a Why I Write anthology on Smashword.com. I read quite a few well written, thoughtful essays among the top 50, so I’m honored to be among that group. If you haven’t read it and are interested, you will find my essay “Scotch Anyone?” here.

However, if reading it is old news to you, here’s something I report with gritted teeth: our girl has now finished all her required driving hours and is legal to take a license test. One phone call will make the appointment. I keep telling her that it’s up to her to remind me to contact the registry, and she regularly forgets to ask. If you are familiar with the essay, you likely understand my own thoughts on the matter. What though, do you suppose is going on down deep with her?

Second, I am eons late in reporting that I received this award

from Sarah at If You Give a Girl A Pen. I’m supposed to bestow this prize on twelve other deserving blogs, but rather than enter what seems like a March Madness of blog award giveaways (though I delayed so long, this dates back to February), I’m simply going to say thank you to Sarah and to all the terrific writers at If you Give a Girl a Pen.

Finally, I can’t finish today without remarking how wonderful it feels to wake up on a sunny Monday, following a spring-like weekend that arrived on the tail of nine days of clouds, snow and rain. Over the week, the ice on the pond down the street that has played host to fisherman, skaters and a coyote or two since before the holidays, dissolved into a widening black-water gap in the middle of the frozen desert. Churning waves gnawed ice from the edges of the circle each day. When the sun came out for good late Friday, the surface glinted and agitated like a front-load washer, tossed around in a quick chop stirred up by the wind remaining from the storm that chewed at us over the week.

In truth, we are not even close to consistent spells of good weather here. But as I sat at the brush-fire my husband kindled in the clearing out in the woods yesterday, there was a moment when I couldn’t tell if my face burned from the flames or the sun. While a soft breeze funnelled on top of the huge pines, an ambitious bug landed on my sweater. It's early yet, but this reprieve, before the grey and damp of March returns, takes a burden off. We no longer have to slog through the bitter sludge of cold and wind that cloaks us in the word “interminable.” We’ve had a break. We’ll get another. Yup, hope springs eternal.

I’m thankful that hope for spring arises eternal too.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Delay Tactics

I charged myself with reviewing twelve chapters of subject matter before taking my final exam for my on-line writing course today. It is the first and most important thing scribbled in my agenda book, but instead, after delivering our daughter to school, I:

• drank coffee and ate a cookie while writing three “Morning Pages”
• read a bit in The Artist’s Way
• reviewed and responded to email
• checked on comments to Middle Passages (I’m not enjoying the new security I installed earlier in the week)
• responded to posts on several blogs
• deleted and organized about 300 emails from my inbox
• checked Editor Unleashed to see if the “Why I Write” contest results are public yet (no)
• scheduled a work appointment for this afternoon

Finally, I printed out the open-book final exam to study, which is where I am now. But upon cracking the first chapter to review, I remembered that the dry information in the first couple of lessons failed to pertain to anything I had hoped to learn.

Somehow, it seems like a better idea to write a blog post.

To be fair, in the middle of the course I learned valuable tools relating to writing copy for the web that, all by itself, was worth the price of admission—that information has already been put to good use. The rest of the class though, while containing helpful nuggets, on the whole seemed fairly remedial.

That said, we had two weeks to finish each lesson and to complete a chapter quiz, which we could take as many times as we needed during the allotted period. (I know; cushy, right?) The same time frame holds true for this exam though, and the clock is ticking, but it's a one shot deal so when I think about taking it, I get the jitters--regardless of the fact that it is open-book.

I’m having flashbacks to college and the one time that I bar-hopped with my friends the night before, instead of studying for a final exam. Funny that I have no recollection of how that turned out.

At least this time, my procrastination won't be followed by a headache.

Thursday, March 4, 2010


A blog post, or a batch of Aunt Joan’s oatmeal chocolate chip cookies before I go to a meeting tonight?

And the winner is…

Posted by Picasa


Well, to tell the truth, I'm only a little sorry.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Then and Again

Our house turns fifty-four-years-old this year—built by grandparents of my husband’s sister-in-law, it’s supported by a steel beam extending the entire length. They designed our brick and shingle ranch as a rock-solid retirement home—then retired elsewhere. Go figure. Anyway, her grandparents lived here long enough to instill history into the home; many of the stories from that period are familiar to us as a result of our connection.

Beyond the years that those original owners resided here though, a void in what we know about the past of our home exists. We are aware that it changed owners several times, was rented out and turned over often, because periodically, someone who grew up in town will mention to my husband or me: “I used to play in your house when so and so lived there.” The playmate’s name is always different. Recently, I learned that a wedding took place by our living room fireplace—which seems appropriate, given the gift we received in honor of our 25th anniversary last fall, that we placed there because it fit.

The lack of contiguous insight into our home came to mind as I looked out the window to an empty rocking chair swaying on our front porch today. In my imagination, it wasn’t the cold wind moving the seat, but someone from the past, rocking back and forth for a moment and taking stock, smiling at warm memories while contemplating the changes that have occurred under our regime.

There is a saying “if walls could talk,” and looking out to that chair as it shifted in the wind, this morning I wished they could. When you are immersed in the present, it is hard to remember that unless it's brand new, the life of a home doesn’t begin when you move in. That empty chair on the porch made me wonder who sat there before us. How fun it would be to view a movie of all our house has witnessed over the years—a documentary perhaps, beginning in the mid 1950’s when the street was a quiet country road and the three homes across the way didn’t exist.

In my mind, I see grainy films flickering from an old projector, dancing on the screen that used to pull down from the compartment remaining in one of our family room beams. Before the film breaks, (because that’s what always happened) I’d recognize how much more than my own self-centered history has occurred inside these walls, who else loved and lived and grieved and grew in this place, prior to that long ago April when we unpacked our mismatched pile of cardboard boxes.

And while someone scrambles for the tape to splice the film, I’d daydream about a woman somewhere in this world, who from time to time closes her eyes and remembers back to her wedding day. She sees herself fitted in antique lace, standing in kitten-heeled shoes on the polished pine floors of our living room. Positioned sideways to the carved mantel, she grins at the small crowd of friends circled around, and then stares into the eyes of her young man, while the preacher says a blessing.

What do you know about the history of where you live?

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

She Who Hesitates...

At 7:10 this morning, I pushed my hands through the sleeves of my coat for the trip to school to drop off our daughter, and realized the sun was not only over-the-horizon up, but for the first time in over a week, it was also squint-as-you-look-at-it out. To tell you the truth, I can’t remember the last time we had a sunny day, nor do I have a recollection of how long it’s been since the sun managed to heave itself over horizon before school drop-off time.

Racing by the dining room, I caught a glimpse of a Paperwhite Narcissus bulb that I have been attempting to force, blooming away in its square glass dish, amid the one puddle of butter-yellow light sneaking through the branches of our front holly bush. Stopping in my tracks, I thought about grabbing the camera, but took one look at my harried daughter’s face as she plunked her lunch into her bookbag, and muttered, “Well, maybe it will still look like that when I return.” Of course it didn’t, though when I got home, I took this don’t-worry-spring-IS-on-the-way shot anyway. Point of fact however, as the weather goes around here, we aren’t even close.

A girl can dream though.

Oh, and for anyone with a touch of the blarney, JP over at Where Sky meets Ground is holding a blogfest in honor of St. Patrick’s Day. Click on his link to learn more.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Every Day is an Anniversary

A year ago I wrote: “There is so much life outside of the corporate world. You just have to trust yourself to find it.”

Here is the nice part being on my way to “finding it.” Today was a real, live “work from 7:30-3:55 day” albeit, in my baggy blue jeans, wearing my fake Uggs (Fuggs for those of you who don’t have a teenaged daughter), parked at the laptop by the living room window with a view to the deluge of first-of-March slop flowing out of our gutter. I put the project aside for an hour to drive to see client (gee, I like that word) and turned around revisions from her project in a matter of hours. That meant I was available for a last minute visit from a contractor pitching a small tile project in our bathroom (1956 yellow and gray, what more can I say?) A few years ago, a 5’x8’ bathroom wouldn’t merit a return call. Now it gets three.

My work-flow remains inconsistent and therefore comforting when it arrives, but a year ago I woke up hyperventilating each morning, spending huge portions of the day blogging as a way to clarify the next steps in my life. And, now, well, blink. Here I am--experiencing March 2010 as a vast improvement over March 2009--though regardless of the difficulty in wading through the shock of an unexpected job elimination, I’ll take either of those months over what I was doing in 2008.

And if that isn’t enough about which to feel positive on wet, snow-rain mix of a Monday, I just Googled, and there are only 19 days until the vernal equinox. Yippee. We are getting on toward spring.