Sunday, February 28, 2010

When the most perfect thing just flies out of your mouth...

"Excuse me," I said to the couples crowded by the restaurant door waiting to be seated and reached my hand toward the door handle of the unisex bathroom.
"That one's full," one woman called out helpfully. "You'll have to use that one." She pointed further down the hall.
"Thanks," I said and let myself in and locked the door behind me. Their conversation resumed. Apparently they were very hungry and more than anxious to be seated soon. I felt a little sheepish for eaves-dropping and tried to read the wallpaper of Cook's Magazine plastered to the walls. I felt a little guilty for lolly-gagging at the end of my meal, but no matter, my husband and I were about to leave. So I washed my hands quickly and eased the door open.
I didn't want to bang into anyone in the hall, so peeked cautiously through the crack I'd made and saw people shuffling out of the way and tapping others to make them aware of my re-emergence.
"How did you do that?" one man asked incredulously. "How did you lock the door? She locked the door," he explained to his friend.
All eyes turned to me.
"I, uh, pushed the button," I stammered.
"Where? What button? Where's the button?" he pulled the door open examining the levered handle.
"Right there, underneath," I gestured. The group pushed forward, craning.
"Sure enough!" the man declared bending down to see it and pushed it himself. "There it is! How did you know that? " He looked up at me. "How did you know it was there?"
"Because I'm a mom," I said sliding through the group back toward my table. "And moms know everything."
"Good answer," I heard a woman murmur. "Good answer."

Monday, February 22, 2010

Artist's Way - Week Two

Quotes from the text that struck me:
Often creativity is blocked by our falling in with other people's plans for us. We want to set aside time for our creative work, but we feel we should do something else instead. As blocked creatives, we focus not on our responsibilities to ourselves, but on our responsibility to others. We tend to think such behavior makes us good people. It doesn't. It makes us frustrated people. (p. 43)
Setting skepticism aside, even briefly, can make for very interesting explorations. In creative recovery, it is not necessary for that we change any of our beliefs. It is necessary that we examine them. (p. 51)
The reward for attention is always healing. (p. 53)

During this process I am to look for moments of serendipity or coincidence or re-occurrences/themes. Among these this week was the Prayer of St. Francis of Assisi:

Saturday, February 20, 2010

The Second Wave

Rejections are always hard and have been especially hard for me lately. My chapbook, comprised of what I think are my best poems that fit together, has been rejected over a half-dozen times.
A drop in the bucket, you can say in your detached way. And I know it's true, in some small part of my brain or gut, but that objective part is certainly not in my heart. The rejections are residing there currently. Even if I know simple, obvious things like the judges are subjective and it might not be their style, or it's not right fit with the press, or you have to persevere, it still stings every time. It's petty, I know: The winning poet probably is a better poet than I am. But not having made the honorable mentions once causes me to doubt each of my poems' individual qualities, the collection of them, and the order. Everything.
I keep revising and submitting, though. Right now it's out five other places. (...awaiting rejection, my pessimistic side adds.)
Today, though, I got a package in the mail from one of the presses I submitted to: It's the winning chapbook of a contest that rejected my manuscript. A new twist to rejection--here, read what we think is better than your poetry. I also realize--I've got another dozen of these chapbooks on their way in the next year.
I wonder if I'll be able to read them.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Ash Wednesday & Lent Begins

Oh, yes, I spent lots of time thinking about Jesus yesterday and praying "Dear God!"
You see, we decided to give up some vices (as a family) for Lent this year. After a family discussion, we settled on no meat on Fridays--a nice traditional Lenten sacrifice. And truly, the way large-scale farms treat animals and the way they are processed so neatly for us consumers as to remove us from poor living conditions, death and butchering is a vice prominent in my life. I should give it up a little more often than Fridays in Lent. (We do get our beef from Pleasant Gap Farm, though: local, grass-fed, hormone & antibiotic free.)
The other vice my family and I over-indulge in is "screen-time," for lack of a better word. So, we picked our busiest day of the week and designated Wednesdays during Lent No Screen-Time Day. No TV, no computer, no Wii, no movies. The implications of this are huge: no blogging, email, facebook, Mario Cart,, Nick Jr., American Idol results, Big 10 basketball, nor Olympics. (We did TiVo Olympics & Idol though.) But Wednesdays are busy days so it shouldn't be too much sweat: school/preschool, piano lessons, kids church, dinner... so by the time all that is done, it's only about an hour and a half before the kids go to bed.
Unless, of course, it's a snow day. Which it was.
Oh, want to know what a snow day in the Appalachians looks like? Mind you, this picture is from today -- the 4th snow day this week. I guess I should rephrase: the 4th cancellation this week.
I have just a little bit of cabin fever going on, in my defense. I know there are plenty of steep, twisty, curvy roads with "black ice" that makes driving a bus treacherous, but for crying out loud, can we please get a day of school in this week? June 10 should be summer vacation.
But back to Wednesdays during Lent: all in all, it went very well. The kids never asked once to watch TV or play computer games... never tried to get me to "bend the rules" since it was a snow day. They expressed frustration or wishfulness, yes, but no temper tantrums. And I certainly considered vices, sacrifice, and Jesus a lot more than usual... which is part of the point of Lent after all.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Artist's Way Update

So I began. Yesterday I read the first few chapters -- up through Week 1--and made my promises to myself to see it through.
This morning, I got up 30 minutes early, before the kids (who had another snow day) and wrote my morning pages and worked through some of the exercises.
Phrases from the text that struck me...
Many real artists bear children too early or have too many, are too poor or too far removed culturally or monetarily from artistic opportunity to become the artists they really are. These artists, shadow artists through no fault of their own, hear the distant piping of the dream but are unable to make their way through the cultural maze to find it. (28)
Creativity is play, but for shadow artists, learning to allow themselves to play is hard work. (29)
Our chief needs as creative beings is support. (25)
To learn more about The Artist's Way, written by Julia Cameron, visit her website. It may seem hokey, and she'll be the first to admit it, but it's a 12-week time investment of about 10 hours a week to do the necessary work of self-examination, writing, and pattern changing.

Monday, February 15, 2010

That's It

Maybe it's cabin fever. Maybe it's starting a new year and having a birthday. Maybe it's stircrazies. But I've had it.
I'm doing The Artist's Way again and getting to the bottom of this. Getting to the bottom of this and doing something about it.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Pack Rat

I am a pack rat extraordinaire. Throw something away? Never. I might need it later, for some project. Of course, if you'd ask me what I was going to use it for at the time I decided it needed to be squirreled away, I probably wouldn't be able to tell you. However, I've used saved wine corks to plug our spurting water filter, ripped up jeans to mend another pair of ripped up jeans, the shiny insides of Puff's Plus boxes for Valentines, old onion bags to put wet lettuce in to "spin" the water from...
Other people even know this about me, so when my mother-in-law was going through her mother's odds and ends of fabrics she knew I'd want them and brought a big bag of vintage scraps for me. She even included some half-sewn quilt squares and pre-cut pieces that had been her grandmothers.
This Christmas, much to my self-satisfaction, I found the perfect use for them.
After a trip to Mountain Farms, I came away with a 1 gallon bag of lavender leaves and buds. You have no idea how much this is until you see it. And seeing it is nothing compared to opening the zippered bag and smelling it.
Then, I started combining the pie-shaped pieces and sewing them into little sachets. The kids helped me spoon lavender into them and then I stitched them up by hand and gave them away with presents.
Note the hand stitching on the beginnings of a hexagonal pieced quilt top. What a lot of work!
I also purchased a few yards of soft flannel from the local fabric store Needle Me This and sewed rectangles that the kids filled with a combination of rice and lavender. Once I closed the top, they could be put in the microwave for about a minute-and-a-half and -- wa-lah a portable heating pad. I used one like this constantly after the accident so decided to make about twenty as gifts.
The bonus of this adventure is that I learned Mountain Farms, aside from making about the best goat cheese around, has a labyrinth made from lavender plants. I can hardly wait for the summer to try it out!

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

In the back of my brain

The recent discussions about Goshen College's decision to play the National Anthem reminded me of an old GC Bulletin cover that upset some people. But I was especially pleased to re-read Keith Graber-Miller's article that went with it. I'd recommend re-reading it. It comforts me to know that Keith is still teaching in the theology department. He was one of my favorite professors.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Now I am 36

It's closer to 40 than it is 30. That can make me gulp if I dwell on it, but it's all silliness, I know.
Things that happened my birthday weekend:
#1 - It was quiet and peaceful. That, in large part, was because my in-laws kept the kids and we headed off for a weekend in a Gatlinburg cabin with a sauna and hot tub. There is great value in totally relaxing.
#2 - I learned a new word: Loyly - the steam produced by pouring water over hot rocks in a sauna.
#3 - I read an entire 400+ page book: Archangel by Sharon Shinn. More of that sci-fi & theology mix that I'm really enjoying right now. It's so much fun for me to see the age-old theological questions brought up in a completely different context so that different answers are possible. For example: If god is omnipotent, why does god allow children to be enslaved? In this book the answer is: god doesn't, just give it time and the right people to do the work. The joy of inventing different parameters! But I like how it pushes one to reflect back on current, real-life issues: give it time and the right people to do the work.
Of course, conversely, I think god in this instance is a being on a space-ship who communicates to the oracles through a computer interface and likes music... but it does cause one to reflect about it all anyway.
As an aside: Can someone figure out a job for me in which I get paid to read? I'm really good at it.
#4 - I'm not sure this was the best part, but it was the perfect way to end the weekend away: Dear friends of ours had their baby on my birthday & I got to hold him.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

What's on my mind...

First, a WHINE: yet another snow day.
Braggin' on a Friend: frequent commenter alias Kimik (A.C. Leming on the list) has placed as a finalist, in the top 21 in the Writer's Digest Poetry Aside chapbook contest... we keep checking for the winner announcement to be posted today at
Accomplishment: finished up a website for Gary Gavenus who is running for Superior Court Judge. See here.
Progress on Goals: I stayed up until about 2am this morning finishing The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell. If you're like me and like sci-fi mixed with theology, this is a fascinating read. Not general-theoretical theology like Dune, but Judeo-Christian/Catholic theology and a planet on Alpha-Centauri. This is no walk-in-the-park Happy-Christian read, though. Brace yourself (no pun intended). Throw in violence, aliens, healthy marriages, celibacy, human suffering, devout believers, questioning believers, and a healthy dose of atheists. Good mix.
And speaking of goals, local writer Alan Gratz has a great post today about setting goals as a writer/creative person. I can relate... except for the fact that I haven't completed anything or gotten multiple books published like he has... It's a good read. Go!
Another post on the GC-Anthem issue: Here's another good post my brother directed me to on the issue.
I have also emailed my piece to the board at Bethany Christian Schools which has had several discussions about this same matter because of a complaint lodged a few years ago with the IHSAA. As it stands now, because of the complaint, Bethany is not able to host sectional or regional events on behalf of the IHSAA. (Or at least for volleyball and basketball. I guess the state couldn't let Bethany's great soccer fields go as BCS is still asked to host soccer sectionals on occasion...)
Interestingly enough, playing the anthem for a IHSAA event hosted at Bethany wouldn't bother me. Bethany might not even be one of the schools playing in a particular game, and might not be considered the "home" team (by jersey color, etc.). To me this seems entirely different. Additionally there are other regulations a Tournament Host School is required to comply with during sectional games that aren't in place in regular-season games: number of line judges, number of refs, distance of bench to court, and various other peculiarities. Of course, if BCS chose to decline to play the anthem and forgo their ability to host sectionals/regionals I would proudly support them. (If Mennonites are really permitted to be proud.)
Punxsutawney Phil: I have no kind words for that poor groundhog today.