Saturday, February 28, 2009

Man in the Mirror

I'm an American Idol fan. Yes, I know, a lot of people think it's lame, but I love it. This past week one of the performers sang "Man in the Mirror" by Michael Jackson. Since I'm confessing things here, let me say that although I'm not a fan of Michael Jackson's personal life, I do love many of his songs. And I was intrigued by the lyrics of "Man in the Mirror."

My husband sings in a gospel band that does pop music much of the time, and I'm what the band calls a "busy body lady" who is always on the lookout for songs that I can suggest he sing. So I looked the words to the song up on the Internet. They're really beautiful and I'd like to share them with you to make up for my meanness of yesterday.

(Let me say here that I have edited out some of the doo wop, and it would be impossible to write it the way Jackson sings it....)

Gotta make a change
For once in my life
It's gonna feel real good
Gonna make a difference
Gonna make it right

As I turned up the collar on
A favorite winter coat
This wind is blowin' my mind
I see the kids in the street
With not enough to eat
Who am I to be blind
Pretending not to see their needs

A summer's disregard
A broken bottle top
And a one man's soul
They follow each other
On the wind ya' know
'Cause they got nowhere to go
That's why I want you to know

I'm starting with the man in the mirror
I'm asking him to change his ways
And no message could have been any clearer
If you wanna make the world a better place
Take a look at yourself and then make a change.

I've been a victim of
A selfish kinda love
It's time that I realize
There are some with no home
Not a nickel to loan
Could it be really pretending that they're not alone

A willow deeply scarred
Somebody's broken heart
And a washed out dream
They follow the pattern of the wind ya' see
'Cause they got no place to be
That's why I'm starting with me

I'm starting with the man in the mirror
I'm asking him to change his ways, yeah
No message could have been any clearer
If you wanna make the world a better place
Take a look at yourself and then make the change
You gotta get it right, while you got the time
'Cause when you close your heart
(You can't close your, your mind)
Then you close your mind

(That man, that man, that man)
(That man, that man, that man)
(With the man in the mirror, oh yeah)
(That man you know, that man you know)
(That man you know, that man you know)
I'm asking him to change his ways
No message could have been any clearer
If you wanna make the world a better place
Take a look at yourself then make that change

Oh no
Oh no, I'm gonna make a change
It's gonna feel real good
Just lift yourself
You know, you got to stop it yourself
Make that change
(I gotta make that change today, oh)
(Man in the mirror)
You got to, you got to not let yourself, brother oh
Yeah You know that
(Make that change)
(I gotta make that make me then make)
You got, you got to move
Sure mon, sure mon
You got to (Stand up, stand up, stand up)
Make that change Stand up and lift yourself, now
(Man in the mirror) Make that change
(Gonna make that change, sure mon)
(Man in the mirror)
Make that CHANGE

Friday, February 27, 2009

Giving and Receiving (and Thanking)

[The precious friend in this photo is not mentioned in this post, but I conveniently had this fabulous photo of her opening presents.]

I am not a stickler for receiving thank you notes, or writing them for that matter, although I do write many cards to people. I don't always send a note to say thanks if I've looked the person in the eye and told them how meaningful their gift was to me.

But in the case of wedding gifts, hosting a party for the honorees, and baby shower gifts, I get really irritated when I don't get a note from the person. This has happened to me a couple of times--expensive presents, very nice party, more expensive presents--not even a phone call or verbal thanks. Nothing.

Frankly, if I hadn't written thank you notes for my wedding presents thirty years ago, I would still feel guilty. And Miss Manners says I am not supposed to think about the thanks, but the joy I got from giving. Or something like that.

I've thought of sending something anonymously with a collage of thank you notes from the Paper Source catalog that says, "Forget something?" I've thought of asking the girls in person if they've been overwhelmed and running behind for the past two years. But my greatest inclination is to never give them another gift. Ever.

What I'd really like to do is post their names here, sort of a public humiliation. Instead, I'm going to publish this post and try to put it behind me. But first, let me say this: SHAME, SHAME.

Okay. I'm done.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Shameless Promotion

I guess I may as well admit to you that every now and then you will have to endure my shameless promotion of things my family is selling. First it was my middle daughter's books, then my youngest daughter's jewelry.

Remember my post a few days ago about watching old videos of my children? And how you just cannot capture it in a photo? My youngest sister did video interviews of her children from the time they could talk until they were eighteen. And she was so happy that she did this that she put together a product to help others do the same. It's called The Birthday Interview and it tells you all you need to know to capture every happy/crying/surly/disgusted/icing-smeared look on your children's faces for years! This is one of the finest baby presents you could give a friend or relative. It especially makes a great gift for a child's first birthday when they already have all the toys they need until they turn six or seven and don't even know it!

Please stimulate the economy (of my family) by visiting these sites. Great stuff. Really!

(Who needs Google ads? Wait...Google gives MONEY for advertising on the site...Hey family? We need to talk....)

Friday, February 20, 2009

Monday, February 16, 2009


Today I went to a luncheon for the Orange County (NC) Literacy Council. We were at Table 7, just to the side of the podium. The speakers were Lisa Alther, Dan Ariely, Robert Olen Butler, John Grisham, and Jonathon Miles.

We sat with Lisa (pronounced "Liza") Alther and got to talk with her personally. The rest of the authors we heard from the podium. Daniel Wallace, a fine author and very funny guy, was the emcee.

Dan Ariely spoke about cheating (an odd topic for the literacy council event) but I found his ten minutes about when and how people cheat very intriguing. Jonathan Miles had each of the other authors write a first line for a novel he had picked up at his host's house (he read the back jacket blurb) and then we had to guess which was the real first line. Those writers came up with some hilarious first lines! Robert Olen Butler talked about the new flash fiction phenom and read two of his from his new collection. The book imagines the thoughts of couples engaged in sexual encounters. John Grisham told the story of how he became fascinated with the story of a man who died after wrongly serving in prison for many years. He read about the man in the NY Times obits. His point was that often prison is where people learn to read, and that books make their life bearable while serving their time.

We sat at a table with three young women who work for Algonquin and I was able to do some investigation about my theory that publishing is being altered by the fact that young people are the first contact many writers have in a publishing house. I was told that they have some influence in what makes it through slush pile submissions but that they are given manuscripts to read and summarize to determine if they have an eye for what the publisher is looking for before they are hired.

A fascinating day at the Carolina Inn.

Sunday, February 15, 2009


Today, my husband's band played at church and I got some very good videos. One is of his band singing Stand By Me. I thought it would be cool to share their version with you.

Unfortunately, I was unable to upload it either to YouTube or to my blog. And so I will have to content myself with a still photo of the band. Small, very small, consolation.

On another note, I read a short short story of mine at an open mic at Quail Ridge Books today. I'm not sure what I was expecting, but it wasn't quite what I think I was expecting! Mostly poets. There were a few underhanded compliments such as, "I wish I hadn't had to follow Jack!" and beyond that mostly polite applause. I felt as though each person came to hear themselves read, not listen to others. I don't think I'll participate in an open mic again.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Not My Job

I hate to be told by someone at a store or utility company or bank, "It's not my job." This statement puts an end to any negotiation with that person regarding our business together, whether it is a complaint or request for additional service or a purchase. It is sorry customer service and if I had an employee that I knew had said that, I would fire him or her.

I am, though, finding new meaning on a personal level for the statement, "It's not my job." It has come to mean that I'm not in charge of the situation, that I'm not answerable for the outcome, that I don't have to assume responsibility where I have none.

Now I say it several times a week (probably should say it several times a day) and it is very freeing. There may be those who are delighted that I'm not sticking my nose in where it doesn't belong, and also those who wish I would continue to be in charge after I've decided to pass the torch.

It's not my job to worry about that.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Time's Up

I'm getting a little more free time in my life as I cycle off my three-year term on the church board. I hope it's not like digging a sand hole: the first wave that comes in it's all filled up again!

I love being a part of the heartbeat of an organization and knowing what's going on in such an intimate way. But the idea of more time to work on learning the craft of writing and photography is exciting! I am gladly passing the torch.

By the way, if you're in the Raleigh area, my husband's gospel band is playing at the 9:00 and 11:00 services at my church this Sunday. It'll be more fun than you should be allowed to have in church!

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Who Am I?

For those of you who would like to know a little more about me, here is the autobiography I turned in for my writing class. (My teacher knows me, so I have to be creative, okay?)


Description of Bag: Turquoise plastic with expandable zippered section, two handles
Contents: 8 bowls, 8 plates, 8 spoons, one soup ladle, napkins, two plastic garbage bags
Use: To feed members of the church board before board meetings
Associated baggage: Being a board member for three years; need to buy every magazine I see with soups on the cover

Description of Bag: Large canvas bag with red trim
Contents: Small canvas bags, plastic bags, brown paper bags
Use: Grocery shopping, recycling at store
Associated baggage: Guilt surrounding use of plastic bags and their impact on the environment

Description of Bag: Black, triangular shaped, three pockets on sides
Contents of bag: Nikon D80 digital camera, extra disks for storage, electrical cord
Use: Photography
Associated baggage: Tendency to look at the world through a camera lens rather than look at the world

Description of Bag(s): Small canvas bag with Quail Ridge Books logo, green trim
Contents: Books and notebooks containing discussion questions
Use: Leading discussion groups at local book store or church or around my dining room table
Associated baggage: Anxiety over whether questions will generate
interesting discussions

Description of bag: Canvas bag with Meredith College logo on it
Contents: Three ring notebook with class handouts, spiral notebook for assignments and free-writing, pencils and pens, two short story anthologies
Use: Creative writing class
Associated baggage: Fear of facing the blank computer screen with a blank mind

Description of Bag: Whole Foods brown paper bag
Contents: Cereal, milk, Fuji apples, sandwiches, salads, water bottles, assorted reusable mailers, IPod
Use: Transporting items from home to work
Associated baggage: Dreary economic outlook with its implication that I may never be able to retire

Description of Bag: Canvas bag with Quail Ridge Books logo (2)
Contents: Personal bills, checkbook, folder for tax deductible receipts, worthless Krispy Kreme stock certificates given to my children by my father
Use: House accounting
Associated baggage: Memory of water being cut off for non-payment of bill
coupled with insatiable desire for “hot donuts now”

Description of bag: Fabric bag which can be folded and zipped compactly for portability and convenience
Contents: Sweat pants, sweatshirt, tennis shoes, lock and key
Use: Going to the gym after work
Associated baggage: Not going to the gym after work

Description of bag: Leather suitcase with several side pockets
Contents: Lavender sachet, summer clothes, boat shoes, bathing suit
Use: Spending a weekend on the boat
Associated baggage: Having to put on the bathing suit

Description of bag: Red leather with heavy duty metal studs on corners
Contents; Wallet, checkbook, small digital camera, phone, voice recorder, date book, electronic photo album, four pens, three pencils, tissues, makeup, sunglasses, keys (two sets), change, paper clips, rubber bands, credit cards and grocery store cards, mail, bank deposits, notepad, address book, Tums, aspirin, two Band-Aids, pepper spray, compact flashlight, umbrella
Use: Transportation of daily essentials
Associated baggage: Persistent pain in right shoulder

Monday, February 9, 2009

Anne Morrison Welsh

Tonight I am going to Quail Ridge Books to hear author Anne Morrison Welsh talk about her book, Held In the Light, the story of her husband's death and how she and her family dealt with the aftermath.

Norman Morrison set himself on fire on the steps of the Pentagon in protest of the Vietnam War. To some of us this may seem a futile gesture, but to the Vietnamese, who are accustomed to this type of protest statement, Morrison became a hero.

The book is full of beautiful poetry written by Vietnamese poets and Anne's own family. Her writing is lyrical and the book, though small, is a beautiful testament to Norman and to his family.

My favorite poem in the book is written by a North Vietnamese poet laureate, To Huu. It is entitled, "Emily, My Child" and is dedicated to Norman Morrison. Morrison took his daughter, then a toddler, with him to Washington the day of his death. No one knows what his intentions were with regard to her or how he actually saved her. I read the poem to my husband on the way back from the beach yesterday and was moved to tears.

I hope you will go to Quail Ridge Books and order a copy of Anne's book.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

The Sunday Jitters

I used to love my job and now I don't so much. Can't recount here all the reasons, but I do start getting antsy on Sundays, thinking about going back to work. So to distract me (and maybe you?) here are some more pix from the weekend.

The rookery at Bald Head Island is always full of birds. Not today. It was quiet and empty. The algae in the pond was the only life we saw.

We saw a lot of bones too, another unusual thing. My question? "What ate 'em?"

We stopped in Wilmington for lunch, where I popped off a few odd photos.

And when we drove up to our house? That same moon coming up through the trees.

Hope you did something to take advantage of this beautiful weekend.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

The Day in Pictures (with a little commentary)

Who says you can't have restaurant quality meals on a boat?

After the monster meal we worked around the boat for a while, then took the ferry into Southport. We went to the cemetery, to the museum, and to a few antique stores. I bought something for my dad which shall remain a surprise until his birthday.

When we got back to Bald Head, there was a pinkish tint to the sky and the almost-full moon was shining against the blue part.

Right before the sun set, as the wind was whipping up and bringing a chill to this much-appreciated warm day, this fishing boat sailed across the river.

And now, we're back at the boat, reading and computering. Nice.

Friday, February 6, 2009

A Nice Start

This has been a very productive morning. Up at 7:30 and rode my bike to the bathhouse. Because of the cold temperatures, the water is turned off at the dock so it was good to be able to wash my face and brush my teeth. The bike ride was chilly though.

When I got back to the boat, I wrote my story. As I said yesterday it had been forming in my head for a few days, so it was a breeze to write. I've done a little editing off and on through the morning.

At ten I went to get a golf cart, drove to the store and got some salad for dinner, a News and Observer and a New York Times. I stopped by the dockmaster's office to hug him - his wife died suddenly a month or so ago and I haven't seen him since it happened. He acted very stoic - "mourn and get on with it" - but his eyes were very sad.

I am always struck by how beautiful the harbor here is, and this morning the sun was bright and the sky was blue. I was glad I had thought to put my little Nikon in my bag.

My throat feels scratchy (just like it did the last time we were here) but the store didn't have any Airborne or Zycam so I am getting my husband to bring some from Wilmington. (For some reason I was just struck by the word "husband" - it seemed strange - do I never say that word?) I tried to get a short nap but Deva Premal came on the IPod, louder than the rest of the music that had been playing and interrupted the light sleep.

Half the day gone, but I'm happy to have accomplished so much.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

So Tired I'm Babbling

We got to the ferry landing late tonight and had the whole ferry to ourselves on the way over to the island.

Tomorrow is writing day; my short-short story is beginning to boil over in my head and it's time to put it in writing.

It's freezing cold tonight, but warming up as the weekend progresses - 70 degrees on Sunday will feel mighty fine.

I tell my dad it's not his age that's making him feel old, it's mine. I'm getting a good taste of that as my youngest girl turns 24 this weekend.

I need a disconnect from work and housework. Starting right now.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Nagging Idea

This is from a daily reading book called, A Cherokee Feast of Days, by Joyce Sequichie Hifler.

Have you ever had an idea that just keeps coming back to you? Maybe you don't quite know what do to with it. When you try to push it away, the idea keeps coming back. When that happens, it's time to pay attention! There a reason the idea keeps coming back to you--probably because Spirit keeps bringing it back to you.

Try talking with it. You may be amazed at what you'll learn. Take a notebook and simply ask the idea, "Why do you keep coming back to me?" and then wait for an answer. Write that answer down and ask another question. Before long, you have a regular conversation going with the idea. Some call this intuition, some simply an urge, and some believe the idea speaks from their own subconscious. Wherever it comes from, pay attention--because this idea may be leading you to new and better things.

Slowly I perceived that a voice was trying to tell me something. It was a bird cry, but I tell you, I began to understand some of it. - John (Fire) Lame Deer, Lakota

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Expanding Vision

This post from DailyOm has some very good suggestions, and I can see that I have some work to do!

Expanding Their Vision: Nine Ways To Help Others Awaken to Consciousness

1. Living by your values allows you to become a positive source of inspiration for others. Don’t hide – express yourself and embrace life without reservation. By simply being yourself, you can help the people in your life see how one person can make a difference by being a living example of consciousness.

2. When you communicate your views, do so casually and in a nondogmatic manner. Allow the people you speak with to ask questions. Offer only as much information as they are ready to hear.

3. Igniting the spark of consciousness can be as easy as giving someone a gift. A favorite book, a medicine bag, or a beautiful gemstone can pique your loved ones’ curiosity and prompt them to begin an exploration of the soul.

4. Teaching a friend, relative, or colleague to meditate or chant can put them on the path to consciousness while simultaneously reducing their stress levels.

5. Others may want to know more about living consciously but are unsure of how to begin. Starting a discussion group – even a virtual one – can help you reach out to individuals that are eager to learn.

6. By recognizing and acknowledging the inherent value in everyone you encounter, you can teach them how to value others. Sometimes, the easiest way to encourage people – even challenging ones - to respect others is to respect them first.

7. Invite people from your personal and professional lives to join you in attending a ceremony or ritual. The experience may touch them in a profound way or introduce them to a new spiritual path.

8. Casually point out the interconnectedness of all living beings using concrete, everyday examples. Many people are unaware of how their actions affect the world and are intrigued when they learn of the power they hold.

9. Introduce your loved ones to conscious living in a lighthearted and enjoyable way. Serve delicious organic recipes at gatherings, volunteer as a group, and show them how wonderful it can feel to be truly aware and connected to the universe.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Groundhog Day

Groundhog Day predicts another 6 weeks of winter for America:

Chippy says "OKAY!"

Sunday, February 1, 2009


My dad had a movie camera from the time I was around six years old. We have tons of old movies of us as children. We groaned every time he turned that glaring row of lights on, but I am so happy to have the recorded memories.

Yesterday I picked up eleven DVDs of my children when they were younger. Preschool, dance recitals, church musicals, elementary school events, backyard plays. Neighborhood parties, family birthdays, Christmas.

One of the most amazing things about these videos is that I DON'T REMEMBER HALF OF THE EVENTS! And I can't say it's because I was filming because in a good many of them there is a 120-pound woman who vaguely resembles me serving cupcakes. In fact in one of them I'm wearing a bathing suit that only fits my right thigh today.

Another thing that astounded me is that I was able to study my children through watching them on the videos in a way I didn't have the luxury of doing in real time. I saw them clamoring for attention, shying away from crowds, nervously awaiting their time on the dance floor, being polite, and interacting with their friends. I saw them working together and teasing each other good-naturedly.

We try to tell young parents to take time to be with their children. We try to impress upon them that the time flies and soon enough their kids are gone off to college and to the rest of their lives. But, buddies, that ain't going to happen. There's way too much going on. It's all a person can do to get through the day sometimes.

So take good movies. Not pictures--they're static and they don't show the transformative power of a smile on a three-year old's face, or the lip-biting of a young ballerina, or the glance at the camera from a little girl who spies her mother in the audience.

And don't just film the children in your life. Film your parents and your siblings and your aunts and uncles. There were faces and voices in those videos that haven't been a part of my life for a while, and it was extraordinary to be "with" them.

I laughed a lot yesterday, and I cried a little too. But I'm so thankful that I have these movies so I can remember.