Thursday, July 31, 2008

Okay, maybe I do go overboard....

I submitted a memoir piece last night. Right after I pushed "submit" all my clocks were showing 11:11. If this piece doesn't go anywhere it missed its lucky chance!

Although I made sure that everything was grammatically correct and that I had fulfilled all the entry requirements, I submitted this writing without first checking out the winners of past contests. Janet Burroway was one of them. She put together the text that we used in our creative writing class last year and had some awesome credentials and publication in her repertoire. I, on the other hand, had absolutely nothing to put in the space for my credentials. I wondered if that would be an immediate strike against me--do they want prestigious writers on the winners' page? But you have to start somewhere, hmmm?

For the NC Wildlife photography competition, I also didn't check the previous winners until after I had emailed my entries. I still felt proud of my photographs after looking at them.

For you seasoned writers out there, this may seem old hat. But you remember. It takes some nerve to put your stuff in front of other people. At this point, I don't even mind a rejection letter because I'm feeling proud of the BOLD (yes, Peggy, and thank you!) moves that I made in the past few days.

I'm off to see Andrew Harvey tomorrow and Saturday. I'll be a peaceful activist when I get back!

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

A New Friend


Last night I went to dinner with two friends. One of them brought her ex mother-in-law. We sat next to each other and during the meal, I found out the following things about her:

1. She was born in 1927.
2. She had five children in seven years.
3. She grew up in eastern North Carolina.
4. She went to East Carolina Teachers College.
5. She is one of three children.
6. Her husband and her middle child, a son, never had a great relationship.

All of the above things are true about my mother too.

This woman lives about a block from me. I'm looking forward to getting to know her better. Since my mom died when she was fifty-five, this feels like an opportunity to get a glimpse of what she might have been like at eighty-one.

Monday, July 28, 2008

I'm back

This weekend, my husband and I went to Spring House Farm for a belated anniversary trip. The cabin was secluded, and there was no cable, internet, or cell phone service.

There was a hot tub, though, and a pond with a john boat for fishing.

Saturday morning it was raining, but we didn't care. Two expert massage therapists came and set up on the covered portion of the deck. We listened to the rain on the tin roof while they worked to make us more relaxed than we already were!

There were lots of critters to watch: hummingbirds galore and moths and dragonflies.



There were mosquitoes and chiggers too, but I knew where to go to get away from them.

I have said before that I often associate books I read with the places I read them. I read two excellent ones while here: Mr. Pip by Lloyd Jones and Cost by Roxanna Robinson.

Yes, I know the video is black, but I wanted you to hear what we heard at night.
video

I would highly recommend this place if you're looking to reconnect with someone or just be alone to read and write and meditate. I admit that by yesterday I was a little crazy, but we hopped in the car and went to Black Mountain for some shopping and pizza.

I also got to visit with my daughter in Asheville and with my dad and brother in Greensboro.

A perfect combination of quiet and visiting, talking, reading and listening to music.

Ahhh. Bring on the week.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Now more than ever


I find it disturbing that every time I turn on the radio or television a body has been found, a bank has been robbed, a criminal is being sought, a mother cries for the harm she's done to her children. I've turned off the news, and that has helped a bit on a personal level, but it hasn't changed the growing crime rate one iota.

One Percent is an organization that seeks to change the number of crimes in our area through engaging large groups of people in a regular prayer or meditation practice. I urge you to read about the group, and maybe make a commitment to their cause. (If the crime rate doesn't go down because of your practice, at least your blood pressure will.)

Now more than ever, we need to find peaceful ways of changing the world. Sacred activism, an idea put forth by Andrew Harvey is another path. I'm going to hear him on August 1 and 2, and we're trying to get him to the Triangle. I'll keep you posted on that.

What ways do you have of making peaceful change around you?

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Hitting the wall

This morning, as I sit at my computer reading mail, a bird flies into the glass window. Stunned, he sits still on the deck, only his tiny mouth opening and closing. It can go two ways, of course, this slamming into a solid object: he will die from the injuries, or he will sit a moment gathering his strength, clearing his head, and fly off.

Last night, I was trying to prepare for my weekly session with my writing coach. I felt discouraged, and considered calling the other girl who meets with us to tell her to take the whole forty-five minutes and I'll see them next week (see note below). I couldn't seem to come up with any way to gracefully end the piece I've been working on.

This morning, I sit up in bed, and something comes to me. I hurry in, sleepy-eyed, ignore my husband sitting at the counter, and scribble it down. It sounds okay, and I feel more ready to take the writing in for discussion.

I am finding my writing rhythm. Nighttime is for revision, when my mind is on the rational, trained from working with numbers all day. Morning is for the inspirational, when I can draw from my dreams and rest.

And like the bird, I was a little stunned by hitting the writing wall last night. But during the night, I slept and gathered strength, and this morning was able to take tentative flight on getting the story right.

An added note: My writing friend had the same thought as I, to cancel coming. I'm glad we came. The reading and listening was good for us both.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Rah Rah Rah Sis Boom Bah


For the first time, I submitted photographs to a competition. I took a long time getting ready, but there was a great deal of satisfaction in hitting the "submit" button. Six times.

Thanks to those who helped me decide which ones to send in. The rest of you have the job of keeping your fingers crossed. There's money involved here. And pride. But whatever. I did it.

PS This photo is not one of the submissions, but rather symbolic of what I feel I accomplished tonight.

Avoidance Principle

Oh, I know how to avoid doing something.

I had several goals for this weekend:
1. Email photos of a condo we rent to interested people.
2. Get some photographs ready for an NC Wildlife competition.
3. Look over material for a possible study on spiritual gifts for church.
4. Finish revising a story and submit it to a literary competition.

Saturday morning I had six people coming to breakfast as part of an interview with a potential associate minister at my church. That consumed Friday night and Saturday until about noon. Since I knew most of Sunday would be taken up with church and the to-do list, I justified reading the very fine book, The House on Fortune Street, for most of the afternoon. Saturday night we met the minister and prospect at the Art Museum for a concert.

Sunday morning I went to the 9:00 service, had brunch with two friends, went back to church to count the collection. I finished around 1:30, headed home and changed into comfortable clothes, looked over the list of four things to do. Here is what I did:

1. Planned lunches and dinners for the next few days, shopped and cooked. This took a good two and a half, three hours.
2. Did five loads of laundry.
3. Called my dad, one sister, my brother, all three daughters, my sister-in-law, and my mother-in-law. Each conversation took ten to fifteen minutes except for two of the daughters who were not at home (or not answering).
4. Went from laptop to desktop trying to figure out which pictures to submit. Dug around in about ten drawers looking for a storage device to put them on so I could have them in one place.
5. Went online and read all my friends' blogs, my weekly horoscopes, Post Secret, and email. Gathered email addresses of people interested in the condo so I could send pictures.
6. Searched high and low for my husband's camera which had the condo photos on it. Finally found it underneath some clothes and papers I had made him move to the bedroom because people were coming over for brunch. Downloaded them to computer. The disk included photos of his recent fly fishing trip to Mexico, so I looked at the pictures to see if there were any of topless women on beaches. There weren't, but there were some fabulous photos of children and fish.
7. Thinking about his recent vacation, I remembered that my sister-in-law and I had talked about going to Westglow Spa for a few days. Spent a good thirty minutes looking on the Internet for a place to stay.
8. Searched high and low for the hard copy of the story I was revising. I finally found it in the car, where I had left it after meeting with my writing coach, thinking it would be out of the way for the, you guessed it, brunch.
9. Realized that all that surfing was using up my computer battery and went to the bedroom to get the power cord.
10. In my bedroom, I glanced at the clock and realized that it was ten o'clock. Saw the freshly made bed with The House on Fortune Street next to my pillow. Yawned. Went into the bathroom, took my contacts out, took a shower, got in bed. Read until I fell asleep with the book open on my stomach. Woke up this morning, list still on the kitchen table.

Oh well, it's Monday. I have a whole week to get it all done now that I've done all my chores.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Waiting to be waited on


Today I was balancing the corporate checkbook and one of the figures included 666. Whoa, trouble. Sure enough, I couldn't get the account balanced to the statement.

I know, I know, who in the heck tries to balance the checkbook on Friday afternoon. What did I expect? So I added a few more numbers and the total included the numbers 777. That was a good sign, I thought. But I forgot that I was working with the bank from hell. Hell (666) is no match for a good accounting person (777).

To make a short story longer, I do not trust my bank. Ninety-nine percent of the time I'm having trouble getting things to add up, they have screwed up. This time it was a doozy.

(It was such a doozy that I just tried to write down what happened and got confused all over again! Think I'll skip that part and not contribute any more to a headache that came on shortly after I knew I was going to have to call what used to be called customer service and is now more formally called client relations.)

The client relationship banker (gawd) said as he hung up, "I'll get right back to you," although I know he was looking at that piece of paper with the numbers written on it going, "WTF??" He was probably smarter than I, and decided to immediately lock his door and go home for the weekend because I never heard from him.

On other customer relations issues, I was in Whole Foods today looking for a product that has been missing from the shelves for several weeks. I waited patiently for several minutes while one "associate" talked on the phone to her friend next to another associate who was working with her back to me on a computer. Finally, I walked away. Associate number three sees me and asks can she help. Yes, I said, I'm looking for the aromatherapy diffusers, wondering when they might be coming in. OK, let me check, she says. I walk around to another part of the store and come back to see associate number three standing beside the one on the phone and the one on the computer. Are you waiting to ask the girl on the phone? I asked. Yes, she said. I'll order online, thanks, I said, and as she smiled like that was a good idea (what are they THINKING???) I added coldly, Not from the Whole Foods website.

I was going to write about unconditional love tonight, but right now I'm just looking for some unconditional customer service.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Emotions and a long nap



I went to my writing coach's today and read a piece about my family entitled, "Dream Family". As I said in an earlier post, it has been a while since I worked with this particular writing. I have tried very hard the past few days to make it a piece that could be published, that I could share with my family that it had been published, and that I could feel had still remained true to my thoughts and observations.

Once Fred Chappell was asked after reading some poems from a body of work he called "Family Reunion" when it would be published. He said, "A whole lotta people gotta die before I can do that!" When the book came out I reminded him of his comment and gave him my condolences! It was funny, but I think anyone who writes with integrity about his or her family knows the fine line one walks between telling the truth and making it palatable to those involved.

I think I've been operating on adrenaline while dealing with the revisions, and I definitely felt that I was offering up my soft underbelly when I shared it with the coach. After it was over, I was exhausted. I went to a meeting where one of the people said, "Are you okay? You look tired." And suddenly I knew I needed to go home and take a nap.

Now I'm not a nap person. At all. (A digression: I have a theory that people who eat breakfast, nap; those who don't eat breakfast, don't. Further proving my theory is the fact that since I started eating breakfast, I feel sleepy after lunch. Feel free to weigh in on this.) My tendency is to go until I drop into bed. If I sleep in the afternoon, I want to stay in bed until the next morning. When I wake up from the short sleep, I'm disoriented, groggy, and very unproductive for the rest of the day. But today I slept for two long hours, and finally, at 5:30 rallied to attend a birthday celebration.

Getting into emotions in our writing is hard. To do it well, you have to basically experience it yourself. For the past week I've gotten into the deepest emotions of every member of my birth family: my mom, dad, three sisters, and brother. Tonight, I feel tired of feeling. Tired from my nap. Ready for the comfort of my bed.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Optimism


In the news, they keep finding dead women; the bank and stock market crises are dashing hopes; my candidate is reneging on important issues. I have a breakfast scheduled with the board and a potential associate minister and the cleaning service cancels. My ex brother-in-law loses his job of 25 years in an industry that is dying and my brother and his family are facing several serious health issues.

In spite of it all, I feel optimistic this morning. I make our lunch: salad with fresh tomatoes and cucumbers and mozzarella cheese and it looks beautiful in the plastic container. The rain has made everything outside my windows lush and green. My dad is feeling better from a bad cold. Last night, I worked on an old memoir piece and realized how far my writing has come since I first wrote it, and I'm still high about that today. On my way to work I ride by a friend's house and see her young children standing in the driveway with an elderly neighbor, listening intently, even lovingly it looks to me, to what she is saying to them. I smile.

Today, I'll ride on the optimism, turn off the news, and keep looking around for the small things that add up to a good day.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Wedding Anniversary


I got married twenty-nine years ago today. Here are some facts about that day:

1. It was a combination of cheap and extravagant. My youngest sister played the piano (Fur Elise ad nauseum); two sisters wore dresses that they had worn for prom and the other one wore an old bridesmaid's dress of mine. Because my grandmother was a tee-totaller and I was chicken, we had two receptions. The first was directly after the wedding; the second was that night and was a massive blowout with a reggae band and open bar that set my dad back a pretty penny.

2. Much to my mother's chagrin, I refused to wear any kind of hairpiece. In fact, I was so frazzled that I took the curlers out of my hair and never combed it. Not even for the pictures.

3. We had been to the Bahamas the month before the wedding, so went back to work the Monday after it.

4. One of my sisters lost her contact in the punchbowl.

5. I think my sibs were all waiting for us to get married (we had lived together for seven years). The next two were married within six months.

6. My husband's family, from a small town where weddings are big social events, was a little embarrassed by the whole ordeal. There was no rehearsal dinner.

7. When we decided to get married, I insisted that we pick 7/7 or 7/14. My husband picked 7/14 because it was farther away. I love having Bastille Day as my anniversary, though.

Seven things about my wedding. A good number. Twenty-nine years of marriage. Another good number.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Back to Wrightsville Beach

We left around 1:00 from Oriental to go back to Wrightsville Beach for a while. We need to have some work done on the boat. I hated leaving. Oriental is like our towns of the fifties: dogs lie in the streets, bikes and people come first before cars, it's quiet and peaceful at night, everyone knows everyone. I'm really going to miss my dentist friend and her husband.

It was a beautiful day for the trip, and once we got out of the river and to the waterway, the water looked like the Caribbean.



We passed this osprey family.



A new twist on taking the dog on a ride.



Do these people realize that they are say "No 'no wake'"? We slowed down anyway.



We got to Wrightsville around 7:30. A long day, and the boat needed some cleaning. I slipped inside under the guise of "putting things in order"!!



There are some good things about being back. Friends and family we haven't seen in a while. Access to stores and restaurants. A two-hour drive. Floating docks. But it's busy and noisy here. A whole different atmosphere. I miss the quiet already.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Final answer


We have arrived at the end of negotiating with the choir director and he is not coming. I'm amazed that when my minister told me yesterday, I only felt tired of dealing with it. He has gone back and forth--he came within a hair's breadth of signing the contract, reneged then called a few hours later to say yes, underwent a "dark night of the soul" and gave us a letter of intent at the end of it. Finally he emailed the minister, saying in so many words he cannot do it because he believes in Christ and we don't.

I can understand how someone who takes the Bible literally might have a little trouble with our familiarity with Christ. We don't celebrate the sacraments, and although we are a Christian church we don't proselytize or turn away anyone who comes in our door looking for acceptance. We do read from the Bible, practice unconditional love as much as humanly possible, forgive, pray, meditate, and do outreach. We do not judge or expect punishment for our human frailties. We believe that within each of us is the good of God.

Many weeks ago, when I found the man on the Internet, I was sure that there was a reason that we came together. At the time, I thought that we were going to hire him to be our music director and he was going to do great things musically and spiritually with our choir. I continued to stress to him through his doubts and wavering that there was something, something I couldn't explain, that had led him to us.

He moved me and many others with his beautiful, soul-ful music. He cried and laughed with us; he was a real presence at our services. But I am resigned finally that he did not come into our lives to be our music director. Rather, I think we came into his life to solidify his belief in Christ. The Christ of his childhood. The Baptist Christ that loves him and forgives him though he feels like a sinner. The Christ who was born of a Virgin and rose from the dead. It isn't my Christ, but I allow him his beliefs, and I hope he has left us a man with a strong faith, love of God, and his incredible music.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Take THAT, dear precious friend...!

I can spot passive-aggressive behavior a mile away. For that reason, I love visiting here and seeing this kind of behavior exposed. Warning: some of the language is as offensive as passive-aggression!

Monday, July 7, 2008

YeeHAH!

I'm very excited today, 7/7, to tell you that something I wrote is on Mystic Lit. Please visit!

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Now more than ever


I've become somewhat of an e-activist, seeking out websites of authors who are reading at independent books stores (about the only place they read anymore) who encourage their readers to order their books from Amazon. "Don't you see the irony in this?" I ask. At the same time, I've researched the advantages of buying locally and from independent retailers, and confirmed that we're all better off when we do.

Borders is closing stores left and right in an effort to stay on their feet. The local newspaper is laying off hundreds, and using fewer local contributors. Publishers are catering to the best-selling authors at the expense of lesser known, but quality writers. Now more than ever, we must support our independent bookstores, writers, grocery stores, farmers, garden stores, and hardware stores. They are the ones who care about the communiity, contribute to local agencies and donate for school fundraisers, put up posters for the arts events, host quality programs on food and gardening and literature and politics, raise up local issues. They keep the local newspaper alive by advertising their sales and events.

When I walk into a store like Quail Ridge Books, everyone knows my name. They know what I like to read. At Capital City Grocery, they point out the new local produce and tell me about the next free music event taking place in their parking lot. At Logan's, they have plants that are perfect for my yard, our climate, and they display containers of local produce. Briggs Hardware employees treat me with the same respect whether I'm having a key made or ordering hundreds of dollars worth of hardware for a client.

I feel very strongly that we must go back to a local economy as much as possible. Without our support, our neighbors--the grocers, the booksellers, the reporters, and so forth, cannot stay in business. When they thrive, the community thrives. And that makes us all winners.

What I think it is

I think the final fish in my collection is a hump-back whale.

A very little humor to start the week.

Friday, July 4, 2008

Fish Fun for the Fourth

Because I confessed to having many fish in my house, and marrying one, I have been asked to show some of them on my blog. I am posting these with a puzzling question that I hope my readers answer for me.

These are three beautiful handpainted wooden fish that I picked up traveling. The first one appears to be a catfish.


The second, an angelfish.



I cannot for the life of me figure out what this one represents. It is almost twice the size of the other two. Any ideas?



I will tell you my humorous idea when I've heard from a few of you. And by the way, some lucky reader is going to be visitor number 3333 - will it be you??

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Boing Boing


Boing boing...this is the sound of me hitting floor and ceiling since last night. We are still waiting final word from the music director (the primary source of the bouncing); I met with my writer friends; I'm working like a mad woman to get invoices out; I'm trying to reel my husband in (pun intended) from his fishing vacation so we can get said invoices out; still feeling raw from the weekend; two pieces of writing are demanding attention; the three day weekend is beckoning relaxingly; and there's a photo contest that I'm trying to get up the nerve to enter.

YEE HAH! I could use a vacation.