Tuesday, January 29, 2008


This is the alligator at the turtle pond on Bald Head Island. He has evidently had all the turtle he can stand, because the turtles swim all around him and he doesn't even seem to notice them. Once I saw a turtle swimming along on his back.

Bald Head Island

We are moving our boat this weekend to Oriental for a couple of months or so. For the past six years our home port has been Wrightsville Beach, and we've occupied the same front-row slip at Wrightsville Marina. But the slip has been sold and we are being asked to move so the new owner can use it. I'm excited about the prospect of being homeless boat people for a while. From Oriental, we will have easy access to Cape Lookout, which is one of the most beautiful places in North Carolina; Beaufort and Morehead City; and Okracoke. We've spent quality vacation time at all of these places. A couple who are our dearest friends have moved to Oriental, and I'm looking forward to spending time with them. I've found their new group of friends and acquaintances very interesting to be around.

But ultimately, I want to move the boat to Bald Head Island. We've spent many weekends there and I feel a pull to go back for an extended stay. Some of my finest photographs are taken there and I find new beauty every time I go. There's no cable at the part of the dock where we stay, and while we eat breakfast or dinner we listen to music or NPR or watch old Twilight Zone and Alfred Hitchcock shows, trying to identify the very young but familiar faces we see.

For those of you who have never been, there are no cars (well, mostly no cars - you can't build houses without a truck or two). We bought a couple of bikes - the old fashioned kind that you turn backwards to stop - and now that I've quit smoking I can make it from one part of the island to the other without feeling like I'm going to pass out. The restaurants aren't all that good, so we mostly forage around for something good to cook on the grill or in the toaster oven or on the two-burner stove. For shopping there is the grocery store, the hardware store, and a couple of women's boutiques - perfect! Oh yeah, and Turtle Central where you can buy any kind of turtle toy and T-shirt your heart desires, with all profit going to the Conservancy (for turtles!).

It took a while for the dockmaster to warm up to us, but now he loves for us to come and is very welcoming and accommodating. I think he'll be glad to have us as nesters at the marina.

It is so peaceful and beautiful there. With a few detours, I know we'll end up parking the Coatimundi on F Dock and spend our nights looking for Dick Van Dyke to peek around a dark corner in the Twilight Zone.

Sunday, January 27, 2008


Last week in my writing class, I read my story about a boy getting beaten by his father. It wasn't a full story - just what our teacher called an exercise in "creative wrong memory". Then today, for class, I read a story by Alice Munro entitled "Royal Beatings" where she took the same event - a beating - and crafted a beautiful short story from it. It reminded me of a couple of years ago when I wrote a story called "Reverse Lottery" about a man who was watching all of his friends die, anticipating his own death in the process. My writing friends told me that the writing was good, but that it wasn't really a story because it didn't have the elements of a story - beginning/middle/end with conflict. I wasn't enough of a writer to understand what that required of me. Then I read Philip Roth's Everyman, and I saw how an event could be artfully turned into a story. It was a revelatory moment for me, the last page of Everyman, just as the reading of Munro's story was today.

I haven't made much time for reading since I've been taking the writing class, but I can see that it's absolutely necessary to continue to expose myself to masterful writing in order to learn the craft of writing. Just as you can't read books about gymnastics and be a good gymnast no matter how athletic you are, you can't just read books about writing and be a good writer. It requires studying the literary gymnasts and going to the writing table gym in a disciplined fashion. I didn't realize it was going to take this much work, but I'm willing to do what it takes to build up my writing muscles.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Book Study?

My Thursday night girls may be grumbling a little tonight. The "little dictatress" (that's me) is insisting that we do a book study of Sarah Susanka's The Not So Big Life. Remember when I said it was nice to have a place to come to - my house - where nothing was expected except that you show up and have a good time? Well, sometimes we have to work too - on ourselves. Using the analogy of redoing a house, Susanka will lead us to a life renovation. Everyone could use a little sprucing up now and then, hmmm?

There is always something miraculous that happens on Thursday nights. One of the girls has a brother who is dealing with ALS. He has been the most awesome elementary school teacher in the world. But things are getting tough for him. Each week or so, we give a few bucks to a fund that we haven't named yet, and every time we get a little money in it, some need appears. Tonight we gave our friend the money to buy a CD player for her brother so he could listen to books on CD since he can't turn pages anymore. He has VERY PARTICULAR taste, so we went all the way, buying him a snazzy player that was expensive but half price at Brookstone.

There is just so much you can do to alleviate the sorrow and worry of others. This group is creative about finding what it is that will help and getting right to supplying it. If we don't know the right thing to do, we at least spend some time thinking and talking about the problem in an effort to gain understanding.

I am truly blessed to have these girls at my table.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

On Cloud Nine


Today was the beginning of doing homework for my writing class and to tell you the truth, I was nervous. I wasn't sure I could come up with anything to write about. I was afraid that even if I came up with something, I wouldn't be able to write anything good. One of my daily readings from Tut.com said this:

"Evolution of a Dream

Dream is implanted into brain.

Dreamer becomes thrilled.

Dreamer becomes terrified.

If no action is taken, terrifying thoughts grow into flesh-eating monsters. Dream is considered unrealistic.

If action is taken, terrifying thoughts are revealed to be paper tigers. Confidence soars, miracles unfold, and dreamer begins to saunter.

Either way, Mamie, nothing remains the same."

And that's how I felt through the process: I was anxious to write, I was scared to write, it seemed crazy to think I could write anything worth reading. But I wrote anyway. And I am feeling kind of excited about sharing it with my class.

Experience (i.e. last semester) has taught me that what I wrote today isn't perfect. I'm going to have to work really hard to get it right. But that's okay. I've got a little confidence, and I swaggered up to dinner.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Two posts today!

If you read my earlier post about prosperity, you'll know that I rejoiced to see this as the Unity Daily Word today....

"Daily Word — Thursday, January 17, 2008


Divine abundance overflows into every area of my life. Prosperity is mine.

My prosperity is not only about the level of my financial success or the quantity or quality of my material possessions. My experience of prosperity moves beyond the physical to the divine. God’s blessings are endless—abundantly evident and available to me at all times and in all circumstances.

God is my source and my substance, and I am divinely supported with all that I need to live a full and prosperous life. Clarity and direction, compassion and forgiveness, peace and serenity, creativity and energy—as well as my physical needs and material comforts —are mine in abundance. Each of these gifts, and so much more, are here for me now. Divine abundance overflows into every area of my life.

Prosperity is mine."


For many years, I led a Religion and Ethics discussion group at Quail Ridge Books. We explored faith through short stories, beginning with a book by my friend, Susan Ketchin, entitled The Christhaunted Landscape. Excellent book! In the past few months, the group has been exploring the ethics side with Clay Stalnaker as the facilitator. Clay is a brilliant Presbyterian minister who has caused me to pick my own brain for what a belief in God really is and how I have incorporated this into my faith story (or myth).

The other night I raised something that he said "disturbed him" and I would like to try to say it here. For so long religion has relied on making people feel bad to keep 'em coming back for more. At my church there are more recovering Catholics and Baptists than you can shake a stick at. And I wondered aloud why people would continue to go to churches where they are forced to feel bad, constantly referring to themselves as unworthy and sinful. I said that I want to go to church to feel good and that I don't want to constantly dwell on my shortcomings.

What Clay felt was disturbing, if I understood correctly, is that he thought I was using the word "good" to mean "comfortable" and he thought that church should make us feel uncomfortable in the sense of being challenged. And I will agree that I want to feel challenged, but I want to be comfortable and comforted by my faith. I want to go to church and feel elated and capable of facing the week's challenges and consoled that there is a God-light in me that enables me to send light into the dark places of my friends' and family members' lives. I want to use the strength I gain while meditating or learning from the minister's message to make positive changes in my life.

I don't want to feel bad in church. I don't want to feel discomforted. And if this is disturbing to someone, then so be it. Maybe he'll think a bit about what I said, just as I think about what he says each month. And we'll both be a little surer about what our faith is made of.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Random thoughts

I DID IT! I actually got up at 5:30 (yes, that is in the AM), exercised for 35 minutes, meditated for 10 minutes, and wrote for 15 minutes, saw the sun rise. The writing time flew by and I stopped in the middle of a sentence, hoping as my new writer friend said last night that I will still have it going on tomorrow morning. I smiled all the way up the stairs to begin the rest of the day.

I am now older than my mom was when she died. It's all new territory.

One of my daughters who lives in New York moved home Monday. It was a harried day - the tractor trailer couldn't park on her street so they had to go to New Jersey, get a UHaul, come back, move her stuff down four flights of stairs, take the UHaul to New Jersey and repack. Her original flight was cancelled, but she was able to book a flight that actually left earlier, and got home safely. She is sick and glad to be home in her old bed spooning with the cat.

Tomorrow is my birthday. When I was in the first grade, I couldn't wait for it to be January 17 so I could have a class party and get lots of recognition. Unfortunately, it snowed. And there was no make-up day for birthdays. I've never forgotten it - I have gotten over it though! It's supposed to snow tonight. If it does it will be the first time it's snowed on my birthday since the first grade.

My writing class started up again last night. I was worried for all the new people that they might feel left out - we're an aggressive tight knit group. I think they might've. We were especially ourselves.

Carpe the diem.

Thursday, January 10, 2008


On the church board (and in other places) I have a bit of a reputation as a person who likes to think things up but doesn't like to see them through. Set things in motion and walk away. Get people talking about something and then move on mentally to the next thing.

Some people who hang around with me might not like this. They could possibly think I'm lazy or unmotivated or unable to follow through with things. But personally, I think that I'm a great kind of person to have around. I keep things lively.

We cannot all be thinker-uppers. Which is good because if you're a thinker-upper, you have to have carry-outers and ponder-longers to sort out the snags and glitches.

It takes alot of will power not to be a thinker-upper who is also a pusher-picker, always checking to see if things have been done the way I thought them up. And this is where I really gain self-control, something I'm short on - I have to hold back from being bossy and controlling and just let others execute the plans the way they see fit. Ideas are often very changed from my first thoughts, but usually they are better and finer than if I had done them myself.

Are you a thinker-upper or a follow-througher? It takes all of us to get things done.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Scrambled Brains

I'm feeling a little fried right now. Usually everything about my life is easy and predictable. But right now there are so many variables that I'm not functioning very well. Work for one is unpleasant: every day I feel like crying (or screaming) at the work load waiting for me when I walk in the door. There are unpacked boxes of office supplies sitting in the lobby. The payroll updates aren't out of the mailing envelope. Property tax forms, census forms (God - where the hell did they come from and for both companies too with dire warnings about not filling them out), contractor's license renewal forms, insurance forms for my daughter. I had to deal with about 4 f---ups of other people last week which cost a good three days to straighten out. In fact, I'm not sure they're all straightened out.

In the past two days I have filled the Sunday calendar with performers through September. I received a lengthy email from one of my fellow church board members asking for input on an important congregational meeting. I haven't had time to read the email.

We have to move the boat because the slip has been sold. This entails finding a place to move it - no wait deciding WHERE to move it - then cleaning out the dock box at the old slip and taking the good part of a day to the destination. Rental car to the boat, bum a ride back to Raleigh from destination-arrange all of that.

Our renter has moved out and a new one due in at the end of the month. This requires painting and new carpet, a few little fix-its, but I'm having to leave it to my husband to take care of that. It is not easy at all to leave things to him. I have had quite a few phone conversations with the new tenant who has tried my patience by trying to squeeze money out of me every way he can.

A lot of my frustration comes from having to wait on other people to decide, schedule, look over, check with other people, etc.

A wonderful thing that happened: I had lunch with my writing group today and it was really therapy time! We always fit a little gladness and a little sadness in just the needed doses for me. The right words at the right time for all of us, I'm hoping, but for me for sure. And presents for Christmas and my birthday.

I got a lot done today too, but of course now I have to wait for Durham to do his part to do any more. Tomorrow I'm going to sit at the hospital while my sister-in-law has some surgery. I'm going to look over that email, and read a little while I'm there. That'll be good.

Thursday, January 3, 2008


I think my Thursday night girls passed the ultimate loyalty test tonight. God I love them!! But they might not love me so much right now....

It was our first meeting of the year and we were doing dooneys (this is not how you spell it - it's Indian - but I looked it up every way I could and had no luck). This is where we burn a small piece of paper representing things we don't want to take into the new year with us.

The paper we use is this magic paper that when you light it on fire, you can hold it until it burns out to a small piece of corner. So I told my girls, "Don't drop it whatever you do - you think it's going to burn you, but it won't. Really, don't drop it because although it won't burn you it will burn what it falls on."

I go first and the paper burns instantly, leaving a small corner between my thumb and pointer finger. Sandra goes next and burns the shit out of her finger. Chalk it up to a fluke. Penny goes next and burns the double shit out of her thumb and pointer finger. Hmmmm, everyone is looking around. But Trish and Patrice do it too!! Except they don't burn their fingers.

There's alot of talk about the kind of thing you'd do if someone told you to (along the lines of "jumping in the fire") and we laugh while Sandra holds a glass of ice water with her fingers and Penny rubs ginger/honey/soy sauce on hers.

They went through fire for me and came out laughing. That's friendship.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008


Last night I had a dream about my mom. In almost all the dreams I have of her, she is either emotionally distant or not emotionally accessible at all. One dream I was in this city (Paris?) and I saw her walking down the road in the rain and she wouldn't acknowledge me. Last night, someone was trying to get money we owed them and she had left without our knowing where she was. We were all worried about how to handle the money thing--we were very confused in fact because my dad always handled the finances and we weren't sure she was going to know what to do. Sometimes in a dream she's been away and comes back but she always seems very sad and depressed and alone.

I was thirty-one when she died so I was an adult and should have understood her on that level. But I really didn't. I like to think that she was a fun-loving, affectionate person who loved us all unconditionally. I know, though, that there are alot of questions I would like to ask her about her relationship with my dad, and her dad and mom, and how it felt when her sister died at 44 and her mom in her sixties of a brain tumor. I would like to tell her that I understand her addiction now, and don't see it as a weakness at all, but as something she was born with and couldn't help. I wish I could go back to the day that she relapsed and drank a bottle of wine, and instead of being disgusted, I would hug her and tell her it was okay, that tomorrow is another day and I was proud that she had been sober for five years and knew she could do it again.

These dreams are hard because all of the things I want to say add up to "I'm sorry" and without her attention I cannot say them. Even in my dreams.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

New Year

I don't usually make resolutions at the beginning of a year.  I undertook my two biggest overhauls the week before Thanksgiving, because jeez, if you can stand the stress of the holidays AND change--WHOA YOU'RE AWESOME!  But this year I do have some things I'd like to undertake:

A regular exercise program that I can do at home (I have all the tools....)

A regular writing discipline (I have all the tools....)

Taking more time for myself and learning to ignore chores that need to be done (I do not have all the tools....)

One of my sisters says that I am addicted to activity.  Okay so it wasn't enough that I was addicted to booze and cigs.  Come on, addicted to activity???  I just love to be around people, learning about new things, taking advantage of what other people know and share, being wih my friends, cooking for my friends, going to church, being at the beach on the boat, meetings.  Is this addicted to activity or constantly seeking stimulation?  Is the frenzy of activity in my life a way of avoiding being alone?  I like to be alone too so I don't think that's true.

Many times when asked to do something, I have to reply that I don't have a night.  And I work during the day.  So time is a valuable commodity to me, always in short supply.  But I feel that I am living my life until I die, and if that's addicted to activity, I don't think I'll give it up quite yet. 

Happy New Year.  It's the clean slate that needs drawing on.  I think I'll start today.