Monday, February 22, 2010

My, How You've Grown

A good snapshot stops a moment from running away.
Eudora Welty

I've spent some time the last couple weeks gathering childhood photos of my future daughter-in-law and son. My friends are hosting a wedding shower for them and my job is to put together photos of their lives.

Once upon a time I put all photos into albums as soon as they came back from the store. Then somewhere around the third child, boxes became the holding place for those captured memories. Pulling out box after box, I cursed my neglect. But I found myself lingering over the photos of each son, my mind tracing the timeline of each photo as I recalled the exact moments the shutter clicked on the camera.

And, then, reminded of the purpose, choosing the photos of my oldest son. That boy who was just born a couple years ago, or so it seems.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Let's See if He Notices

The highlight of my childhood was making my brother laugh so hard that food came out his nose.
Garrison Keillor

This is not my backyard. I live below the snow line. It is my brother's backyard, however. A while back, he sent me this beautiful photo of a Wisconsin's winter day taken from his back porch.

I have three brothers. This particular one still has dial up. Says he's visited my blog, but let's see if he notices his own backyard. Perhaps my mom will give him a head's up. I'll let you know.

I've even added his dog.

Currently on the road with my youngest son. His turn to enjoy a road trip with mom. College visits. Went to AAA before we left to figure out all the site-seeing stops. He is very excited. My computer remains at home, but my book bag rides beside me. Will catch up in a few days. Take good care, everyone.

I love ya, Jord!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Book Reader, Book Reader - Where Art Thou?

Take rest; a field that has rested gives a bountiful crop.

In a normal year, I read 1-2 books a week. Always have several books going and placed strategically for an easy grab: beside my bed, my chair, the backseat of my car, my book bag, the kitchen table. Pictured here is my Books To Be Read shelf in my bedroom.

I lie. Those books are just at the back of the shelf. Here's what it really looks like.

Here are the books my friend at 128 Sticks of Butter gave me the other day.
Why these collections are exceedingly abundant right now is the blogpost at hand. I've had a most difficult struggle with reading the past few months. Certainly not due to lack of good material, but, instead, a focus affair. When I sit to read, I find myself repeating the same paragraph again and again. My midlife mind takes junkets to pending tasks and exercise needs, upcoming and current family events. My brain becomes the catalog for all those written lists buried in my House of Unfinished Projects.

The inability to settle on the pages and understand the cadence of a writer's chosen words is most frustrating. How I miss the solace found in a story, traveling to unknown worlds and living the lives of others. My absence of concentration keeps me from seeking those travels.

I do miss the satisfaction that arrives when the last page is turned on a truly good read and the anticipation of going to the shelf to choose a new adventure.

How will I remedy this? As often true, the words I write here have clued me in on what I'm missing. That perhaps the reason everything whirls about my head is because I'm not letting it find calm in other worlds. That vacation can bring health. That burying myself in the binding of a good book is a fine way to settle myself.

Today, during my off period at school, I opened Five Queen's Road by Sorayya Khan, a dear friend. Between the beauty of Sorayya's writing, the quiet of the classroom, and nothing there to remind me of tasks undone, I read. Most lovely. Set the pace for the remainder of the day. Tomorrow, I will reassure myself that this rest is only vital fodder for my future crops.

With this posted, the fallow field is ready. I'm reading a book until bed.

To order Sorayya's book, please find the address here. Her first book, Noor, may be ordered at

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

I Got Nothin'

I like nonsense, it wakes up the brain cells.
Theodore Geisel

I'm overdue for a post. I'm not even finished writing or visiting all those who left fascinating and most appreciated comments on my last post, but post I must and for my next entry? I got nothin'.

My oldest son, Jacob, walked in a few minutes ago. Caught me taking pictures of my lists which float around in the disorganized muck of my household. Explained to him I planned to use my 'Things to Do' as an excuse for not writing something better.

His reply?

"You can't force a blog post, Mom."

Hmmph. When did he get so smart?

However, now that I have the photos uploaded, I have an idea. Do my lists look like yours?

I'm thinking you are better organized. For if you focus on individual items on these pages like Find a real job or Write resume, you will also find:

Dental appointment
Kill cat for peeing on bathroom rug

Order announcements for Jordan's college graduation

in the midst of

Work out at YMCA
Finish novel
Write non-fiction book proposal

I ask you? What are the chances someone won't need another dental appointment before that novel is done? Or that this list will be around long enough for me to switch Jordan's name to Ian, who begins college in the fall? Or that the cat will even come home after I launched her ass out the back door? (Gag me. YMCA on there again?)

I must be honest. Several checklists hide in the dialogue of my journal, which is sort of a joke to myself. I don't go back and read my journal pages, therefore, whatever I tally there is lost forever. Also not included are the litany of duties I compose during my free hour while substitute teaching. When the last bell rings, I bunch those pages up and float them onto the floor to mingle among the daily handouts the students have left in a similar manner.

I also confess to little notes I leave myself regarding really important things that require immediate attention. Like these.

Notice the olive oil stain. Fresh, of course.

Somewhere I have a list of future blog posts. Not sure where that is right now.

As to that son of mine? Hahaha! I think I just forced a blog post after all!

Teach you to challenge me.

If by chance I haven't found my blog list by February 14th - here's to y'all.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

The Art of My Essays - Part II The Fog Changes

Also, as I lay there thinking of my vision, I could see it all again and feel the meaning with a part of me like a strange power glowing in my body; but when the part of me that talks would try to make words for the meaning, it would be like fog and get away from me.
Black Elk

In her farewell editorial in the New York Times column Domestic Disturbances, Judith Warner wrote the following:

“’How can I know what I think until I read what I write?” the former Times columnist James Reston — quoted by (Anna) Quindlen in her final “Life in the 30s” column, in December 1988 — once wrote. Often, writing here, I didn’t know fully what I felt — about things going on in my own life — until I read what I’d written. And very often I didn’t understand what I’d written until I heard it coming back at me.

I read this editorial in December and kept it tucked in my mind (actually pasted into a document for a future post.) The reason? I completely understand using what I've written to understand myself. And the comments of others to further discern the meaning. What relief I felt to learn I'm not alone.

On January 12, I wrote Part One of this small series regarding the discovery of my own interest in writing personal essays. Through my efforts as the volunteer neighborhood newsletter editor, I found an escape from the days filled with wiping noses, changing diapers, and endlessly pushing the swing at the park. Not that I didn't enjoy that, but, I needed an outlet just to keep that bit of myself that still clung to the edge and wasn't sucked up into the life of the stay-at-home mom with a husband who worked 12 hours days. Thus arrived the opportunity to spew my life into paragraphs on Page Five -- and I discovered a voice by writing about those noses, diapers, and swings.

But, here was the deal. When I wrote those essays, I didn't know what I was doing. I could write essays on daily life to fill page 5 til the cows came home. I knew what it was like to yearn for solitude, to go to the the bathroom alone, just once. To have a need for something I accomplished to last longer than 24 hours. These things I had no trouble understanding.

But as my children grew, I yearned for more of a challenge. Had sort of a did that/what's next attitude -- beyond what I could easily produce and understand. I wanted to discover a part of me that was buried beneath the needs of everyone else and necessities of every day life. I not only wanted to discover it, I wanted to write about the progress and write it well.

Therefore, I had to figure out where I was going.

This is where I curse myself. Why can't I ever be satisfied? Instead of fulfilling myself with what I know, resting on a familiar ledge, some invisible force always plods me toward a further distance, to an unknown. To a place much more difficult to master. To another edge. Sometimes only a lateral move. Sometimes back down before I get to another rise.

In 1996, I came across Sarah Ban Breathnach's book Simple Abundance, Warner Books, 1995. Following along with her daily messages of utilizing comfort to seek out the self I'd lost in the mire of motherhood, my grasp on the side of that edge became stronger. Even pulled myself up a bit to see a world out there on the horizon. At the end of that year long search in that book, I had before me my first completed journal and a photo journal cataloging images of things I liked - not just a hodge podge of ideas in my head, but a clear vision of my passions, a pattern. Equipped with this knowledge, I set forth, with a sense of organization, onto a new, yet unfamiliar writing path.

Obviously that path also had many uncertain turns and detours. Even huge mountains appeared before me as I took unfamiliar roads -- writing groups, critiques, deeper searches into my soul.

As I took classes and studied not only the essay, but also the craft of writing, my first attempts retreated into the familiar. If not for the prodding of some fine teachers who challenged me to search deeper, to explore where I didn't want to go, did my essays change from the simpler days of yore.

Often I wonder what it is about me that just can't be satisfied. Why I seem to automatically wander in and out of the fog seeking adventures that require more of me. That I truly do love to rock and loll and float, and spend a great deal of time doing that. Given that scenario, it would seem I'd not end up in more challenging places, that I'd seek where I wouldn't struggle like tackling the novel or short stories. A non-fiction proposal. Essays on my place in this world.

Or to discover why it is some of those essays I begin with such ease end up in my incomplete file, sometimes for years, in an effort to focus in on what I've learned. Perhaps I have not mastered the art of deciphering my words. Perhaps a further look is required, like James Reston, Anna Quindlin and Judith Warner. To look further into the words before me on the page. To believe the words have come from me.

To not be afraid to find how far off the original map I've journeyed. To not fear that my organization may be off. That the next map may not be within my grasp.

To be continued...

Monday, February 1, 2010

Mud Soup - The Lake on a Gray Winter's Day

Into each life some rain must fall, some days must be dark and dreary.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Gray, dreary, and cold days have visited us lately. Bob and I stole 24 hours and drove out to the lake on Saturday. We found the brief respite, in spite of the same weather, most welcome.

Our buddy the osprey greeted us from his perch on the rope swing.

The Llano River had flooded with all the rain bringing lots of silt downstream. Chocolate milk. Glad it's winter as I wouldn't stick my toe in that mix. I'll wait for it to move on down and settle. No seeing the bottom for a few days.

The water so still the Man Wall gave off a perfect reflection.

With the wind chill in the 20's (yes, I know we are sissies) I didn't spend much time talking to my trees. They seemed a tad frozen anyway. Eyes glazed open. No napping in the hammock on this cold day.

Bob worked on a presentation for Monday.
I did nothing.

Six more weeks of winter. I'm ready for it to be over - the flowers to bloom. The grass to green. The water to clear and the sun to shine. Dreary days. I love them every now and then, but I'm ready to save money on the heating bill.


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