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Monday, December 31, 2012

On the Cusp



I know I’m supposed to be looking forward today, but I’m not one for lists or resolutions.  Instead, I let the “ideas” of what I want to achieve simmer inside.  Most years, I get there, but on my own, without announcements or outside pressure.  I read back to one of my first posts of 2012 recently and I realized, yes, this year I met my quiet goals.  So now, instead of focusing on 2013, I’d like to look back and express my gratitude to those who helped me do so.  

Thanks to Anne Gallagher and Bridget Chicoine, patient readers of a lousy early draft, both of whom offered astute comments to improve the story immeasurably.

Thank you to Rachel Harrie at Rach Writes and her campaigner challenge, which delivered a huge confidence booster.

Thank you to the editor of South Shore Living, who offered me a feature article on the Boston Harbor Islands (print edition!), and accepted my pitch for another, which will appear in the May 2013 issue.

Thank you to Suzanne (Palmieri) Hayes at The Lost Witch for a creative writing prompt at The Diary of a Lost Witch that made me remember how much I love pure writing.

Thank you to my local writers group, who continue to impart insight and confirmation.  They keep me optimistic.

Thank you to Alex Cavanaugh, who demonstrates every single week how important it is to give, and for IWSG, and the vast network of like-minded people out there, all who want to help.

Thank you to Carolina Valdez Miller and her partners at the Kindness Project who remind me to strive to be a better person.

Thank you to Mary Anne O’Hara, a college classmate and recently published novelist of an amazing book Cascade, who inspired me to try harder by saying she didn’t want her book to be “a drawer novel.”

Most of all, thank you to my family…my daughter who grows to be such an amazing young woman, and my wonderful husband, who continues to deliver patience and encouragement, and now, significant editorial support.  

Every year offers tremendous blessings.  Here is wishing you all you hope for in 2013.

Happy New Year!

Monday, December 17, 2012

A Prayer



I am here…trying to reconcile our beautiful Christmas tree, the joy of having our daughter home and the gift of this season, to the heartbreak occurring less than 150 miles away. 

We were oblivious Friday…driving up the highway with a CD of holiday carols playing in the car, Christmas shopping before picking up our daughter after her last exam…taking her out to lunch to celebrate the end of her semester.  We wouldn’t have heard at all that day, except we got stuck in a plug of congestion at a nasty stretch of highway and turned on the radio to catch a traffic report.

It happens like that…in an instant.  Life plummets to a place we never understood it could go.  We were three people driving in a car…one dozing in the back seat, two in the front urging the road toward home.  The radio delivered the news and we were irreparably changed.  Sitting in the dark, surrounded by yellow beams and trailing tail lights…we agonized that a similar horror could come closer to home than the short New England miles separating us and the most recent tragedy.  As parents, we breathe the weight of pain.  We comprehend that each moment with our loved ones is tenuous…that what we hold tight and dear can disappear in a second.  We imagine ourselves in the place of those in Connecticut.  And we grieve.

Oh God, please make these things stop.  Please bless the families.  Please envelop them with some kind of peace.  Help them make it through. And when you are done…please help the rest of us too.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

IWSG - In it for the Long Haul





This is my December post for Alex Cavanaugh’s IWSG.  To read more posts from other participants, click here.

This month, I typed the sentence above simply to get words on the page.  The insecure writer in me was feeling pretty darn tested about coming up with a topic.  Rather than stare at a blank screen, I decided to get a few words down.  Even one sentence is better than a vast field of white, right? 

In Making a Literary Life, author Carolyn See says of the practice of writing, “It’s a marriage, not a romance…”

She’s got it right.  In the almost four years since I’ve made writing a dedicated focus, I’ve learned above all, the craft takes commitment. When I first start writing regularly, I was infatuated with my words. They moved me and made me laugh and swell up inside.  I’m not kidding; I fairly twinkled with the delight of it.  I read everything I wrote again and again, spending hours at the computer tweaking what I’d written.  When I wasn’t writing, I yearned to be sitting at the desk, pounding out words.
 
That was the romance.  Now, I’m in the marriage.  I sit down for an hour and a half almost every morning and try to get some kind of writing in.  On occasion, it’s as little as a concise, well written comment on someone’s blog.  Other times, I crank out 650 words on a personal essay, a chapter edit on my current project, or a blog post like this one for IWSG.  As with anything, the routine can feel stifling.  It’s hard to do something over and over and over, and I wouldn’t be human if on occasion, the repetitive nature, the sheer demand of it didn’t get to me.  Sometimes, I think about standing up and walking away. Sometimes I do.  But I don’t go very far.  The infatuation has been replaced by something more enduring. 

Twenty-eight years ago, I walked down the aisle to my husband, having no idea of the ways in which life would test us.  We were so joyful, so na├»ve in our happiness.  But like every couple who remains together for a long time, we’ve journeyed through challenges and tears.  But we wake up each morning together…knowing that the promise we made to each other lasts because we choose for it to...because life without each other would be so much less. And though now we sport crow’s-feet and grey hair and are so busy we can go for days before we really talk, I still look at him and think, I choose him and he chooses me.  That’s the single best decision affecting my life.

That’s how I feel about writing.  It’s not always a dozen roses and champagne.  Sometimes it’s taking out the garbage.  But regardless of the ups and downs, writing completes me in a way I can no longer live without. I’d only be failing myself if I quit.  So when a blank page intimidates me and I wonder, “What is this all for?”  I just start.  I choose to write. 

Monday, December 3, 2012

A Gift to Me



Every year around this time, I spend a morning at our Festival on the Common, a favorite holiday event I've written about previously,  here and here.  I don’t know why this unassuming gathering gets to me so much, but once I arrive, I wander about with a huge lump in my throat, thinking how glad I am to be a part of it one more time.   

It's the same now as it was before we starting bringing our daughter, and she's in college now. Three churches come together to kick off the season and trust me,  there is nothing high tech about it.  In fair weather, Santa sits on a sleigh on the common and kids hop on his lap for a photo opportunity.  Occasionally, like Saturday, he’s forced to commandeer a back room at one of the common churches when snow makes outdoor photographs impossible. 

This year, fat flakes dropped in a swirl that made me dizzy as I walked to my first stop, the Congregational Church, home of the silent auction, a raffle for a steak and shrimp dinner and a bake sale.  But as always, I was in it for the clam chowder, a hot, thick bowl of it that warmed me to the core.  Now that I work for the town, I know ever so many more folks, and as I sat at a plastic covered table in a church office blowing on my steaming broth, I received friendly waves and greetings. 
 
Once I scrapped the bottom of my bowl, it was time for my main event.  Fifteen or twenty years ago, a local minister was inspired to form a town band.  Folks who used to play came together in a kind of rag-tag group long on enthusiasm and short on practice.  I remember laughing the first time I saw them, at a Memorial Day Parade…not in a mean way…they laughed at themselves too.  Then, one of the town music teachers stepped in and began leading them.  Now they offer credible performances during local events around town and by far, their concert on festival day is my favorite.  Musicians range from recent high school graduates to folks approaching 80, and they gather to play inspirational pieces as well as traditional carols and popular holiday songs.  Donations from those in attendance go to the local food pantry. 

The church in which the concert is held was built in 1714 and resides as the centerpiece of our town common.  As always, I climbed to the balcony ringing the church on three sides, sat on a velvet-cushioned bench and leaned forward as the music rose up. Overlooking the players, I could see their joy as they performed, a happiness that transferred itself to me when half way through the concert the conductor launched into traditional carols, and we were all invited to sing.   

Afterwords I stepped down the steps humming, then crossed the street to the Unitarian Church Jumble sale.  Like every year, I  fingered gently used table linens, pottery and books but didn't buy a thing. 

The day had already given me everything I needed.