Category Archives: Writing

Dust

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The blanket of dust is thick.  It does not provide warmth and it does not make me feel cozy.  It does not deserve a cup of tea.

The blanket, coarsely constructed from particles of neglect, does shroud my most private self.  It drapes over the pile of dirty laundry in the corner of the room.

The blanket is drab and dulls the surface of what once reflected light.  It succeeds in smothering the fire.

Though this blanket of dust is gray and piled, it is not opaque.  Like a mesh screen, it reveals tiny geometric still-life frames of clarity beneath.

Because this drapery of dust is not a soldier to moving air.  The blanket rumples in the wind and stretches thin with each exhale.  Life disturbs its peace.

What is dust but a tangible collection of life’s debris?  It is what settles on the parts of us that we neglect, the parts that we set aside and hope to return to.  It is the wrapped blanket protecting the artwork during the move.

My fingertip glides to write in the dust.

***Participating in this “Slice of Life” writing challenge is forcing me to wipe the thick layer of dust from my blog (the post before this one was over 18 months ago!).  Given that I am currently staying home with my small children, my writer self and teacher self are both gathering heaps of dust from non-use.  Here’s hoping I can stick with this challenge and do some spring cleaning!

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Going to Work

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So I decided to go to work this morning. Due to a growing lack (there’s an oxymoron) of patience with my full-time day (and night) job, there was a collective vote that I take a half-day off.

So after I successfully micro-managed my husband for an hour or so this morning (listing my agenda and instructions for his few hours of taking care of our children), I finally got out of the door (much to his relief).

I drove in the cold February rain to a great little coffee shop that I have not been to since the first year we lived in Nashville. Rumor has it that it is country pop star Taylor Swift’s favorite haunt, though I admit that I likely wouldn’t recognize her if she was sitting at the table beside me. I ordered a vanilla latte from the hippie-hipster barista and found a corner bar table with a high-backed chair to sink into my retreat. I opened my bag with a copy of the book I am plodding through for one of my book clubs and Ben’s laptop. Hmmm- what to do. I have an entire half day off from my children. I better make it count. Oh…the pressure….

The perfectionist in me kicks in. I should power through 100 pages of this book. I should write the thousands of stories that have flitted in and out of my consciousness the past month. I should be PRODUCTIVE. I am at work.

Nestled in this corner, I allow myself a few moments of voyeurism, eavesdropping on the twenty-something women sitting beside me. One is clearly writing lesson plans, hunched over a familiar template with boxes for objectives and guided practice directives and with a large Ziploc bag full of leveled readers at her side. The other is restlessly musing about what kind of job she hopes to secure in the future. “I think I could be happy doing lots of different things,” she sighs. I am reminded of my 22-year old self spending a Sunday morning at Onion Creek coffee shop in Houston, Texas pouring my heart and caffeine-driven soul into the 7th graders I was charged to save from the plague of educational inequity. I center for a moment on that transformative time in my life and smile, but I soon become annoyed by the woman’s valley-girl lilt and happily discover that my headphones are buried in the bottom of my purse (smashed under a baby Mum-mum cracker wrapper and a snot-covered Kleenex).

I try to stream Pandora but find that the wireless signal I am borrowing is too weak to sustain the music. I open Ben’s iTunes application and am excited to find that he has downloaded the new albums that he bought for me for Christmas. Perfect. I hook up my ears to my new favorite anthems from “The Head and the Heart” and hunker down with my thoughts. Here I sit in front of the computer. What to do? What to create? I must be sure to use this time wisely. I stave off the pressure by letting my curious eyes explore again. To my right is a guy sitting at a table alone, reading The Catcher in the Rye. He doesn’t look up much. He is deeply enthralled in the coming-of-age vortex of Holden Caulfield. At the other nearby table is a family having breakfast. I admire their cute little boy, who probably falls in between Ev and Lou in age as he bangs his Hot Wheels on the table and his parents try to gently quiet him, so as not to disturb the Salinger reader. I take pause to remember what I am retreating from and feel content to be present here but also happily aware of what waits for me the other 6 and 1/2 days of the week ahead.

And still I sit, struggling to dive in to the work I came to do. I romanticized the idea of packing a laptop up and “going to work” this Sunday morning, but here I perch pushing away the desire to “make it count” and create something to show for my time away from my children. I desire an intellectual charge, but also feel too restless to tune in. So my fingers hit Google and I explore a new writers’ group that I read about in Nashville. I discover that there is a memoir-writing workshop coming up in three weeks served up on the community education docket of a local college. It costs $80 and would take me away for a little more than half a Saturday. I’m tempted. Should I just pull out the credit card and enroll? But what if it ends up being a waste of time, a waste of funds, a waste of the guilt I will feel leaving my family on one of the few days we have to all four hang out together…?

And then I realize what I am really here doing this morning.  I am reclaiming aspects of my self that have faded into the background the past three years.  The teacher self, the writer self, the coffee-shop-sitting-musing self, the self that holds worth and importance independent of the mother-self.  Who knew that this kind of “work” would take deliberate planning and assigning of time, energy, and in some ways risk-taking?  These parts of me are not lost, but they do require deliberate cultivation in order to thrive.  Perhaps I’ve found my resolution for 2014.  Go to work.  Do the work. But let it be imperfect and spontaneous and ever-changing.  Let it be challenging and soothing and gratifying and unnerving and revitalizing all at once.

And let go of the guilt… even though I must admit I am even feeling guilty monopolizing this cafe table as people swirl around me carrying their steaming cappuccinos and looking for a spot to land.  My instinct is to serve, to sacrifice, to move aside so others can thrive.  “I am doing important work here,” I want to look up and say.  And I so I repeat that mantra to myself as I begin to believe it.

Midterm Benchmark Assessment

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Well if you have been following my blog blitz goal, you will see that alas, I am not on track to reaching my benchmark of 20 posts before 2014.  And of course I am stressing about this, because I don’t do failure well; however, I do self-imposed guilt and paralyzing perfectionism really well.

There are mainly two obstacles standing before me and my pen (or keyboard, I guess).  The first is that I struggle (yet again) to prioritize writing.  In the brief nap time and later evening windows that I have to myself, I tackle my to-do list with ferocity.  Dishes, make baby food, finish VHA directory, online Christmas shopping, holiday cards, do laundry, fold laundry, put away laundry, eat something…BLOG.  And I always feel like I must knock that last one to the bottom of the list.  I mean, how do I justify taking time to write about the life when I really must use the time to LIVE the life?

The second barricade stands stalwart in the form of perfectionism.  I set an ambitious goal of 20 posts, even though I knew that when it comes to writing–I am a quality over quantity type.  While I could probably make myself log on and hammer out a few quick thoughts each day, my perfectionist self cringes at this idea.  But what if these posts aren’t thoughtful, cohesive, structured, polished, crafted, deliberate?  Perhaps it’s the composition teacher in me.  I am continuously evaluating my work while (and often times BEFORE) I am writing.  I don’t know how to do word vomit.  As long as I have myself as a singular reader, I have a harsh critic scraping at my blurbs.

But I guess this is part of the challenge–I must either take a risk and try on a new writerly style or settle for meeting my goal halfway or not at all.  I suppose either way I am learning…and writing, so I settle here for now.

Blog Blitz to 2014

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When it comes to writing, I have a fear of commitment.  For years, I have been hanging out in the hypothetical, truly believing that “someday I will write” while letting the dream retreat on the heels of tired excuses.  It’s just not the right time in my life.  When will I do it?  I’m too busy.  I’m too exhausted.  But these easy utterances are not the real reason that I shoulder out this goal.  The truth is that I am daunted by the commitment.  Regular writing translates to regular time and energy devoted to myself, which is generally not something I prioritize these days.  I feel the same way about writing as I do about exercising.  I know that it is good for my health, but I am usually too tired to do it.  I know that it will rejuvenate me once I have done it, but getting started is a beast.  I know that eventually each individual “workout” will build upon others to create habit, routine, and flow…and that is real commitment.  And in the case of writing, the commitment is to self-expression and creation…and my perfectionist self desires that to be chiseled prose in final draft form, rather than off-the-cuff musings as my blog title ironically suggests.

I like to look back at my sporadic blog posts over the last six months (there are only a handful) and feel reassured that I have aimed for quality over quantity.  However, it is this perfectionist standard that inhibits me from committing to regular creative exercise.  So since I am a goody-good rule follower and always do my homework, I have succumbed to giving myself an assignment.  This will be an experiment to see if I can commit to writing and to see if being prolific can knock down the stalwart excuses that I have standing guard.

There are 38 days until 2014, so I am aiming for 2o posts before the new year.  That translates to writing a little more than every other day…and it is amidst the holiday hustle, so I think it’s ambitious enough.  I don’t plan on linking all of the posts to Facebook and I anticipate that many of these writings will be short and (gasp) under-developed idea dumps so if you want to follow me on this journey, please add me to your blog feed or e-mail updates.  And yes- I am counting this post as #1.

Let the blog blitz begin!

Snippets & Quips- July 25th

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Snippets & Quips- July 25th

State of the Union:  Hot, hot, hot.  But we are gearing up for a trip to the Rocky Mountains where the lows will be in the mid-forties!  I am digging out the jackets and jeans and looking forward to crisp mountain air.  We will be camping in Rocky Mountain National Park with Ben’s parents and visiting our good friends Brian and Kelli in Denver.  I am very excited for our vacation minus the cross-country car trip with a BUSY toddler.

I am thankful… that we live closer to St. Louis AND that we live in a hip city that people want to visit!  July has brought us many visitors: Ben’s mom and her friend Jane from North Carolina followed by my good friend Lindsay.

I am learning….about Consigment Sales.  Whoa- they are a big deal here in Nashville.  Thanks to my friend, Jess–I was able to experience this explosion of bargain steals on all things kid and baby.  She brought me as her guest for the preview sale last night, so we got first dibs on the best finds.  I spent less than 50 bucks and walked out with an armload of goodies for Everett: an easel, books, a winter coat, rain jacket, leather hiking boots, and at least 10 other fall/winter outfits.  You should have seen this church gymnasium packed with every baby/toddler need (and want) imaginable.  There is no need to ever buy anything new for Everett again now that I know about these things. Pretty fun stuff… I just might be hooked. 🙂

The “new” easel… cost me five bucks!

I wonder… if Everett’s new big boy carseat will make our 18-hour excursion to Colorado any more tolerable.  After much research and debate, we finally purchased a convertible carseat, since his little infant seat was becoming a tight squeeze.  We checked out a half dozen new books from the library for him to “read” on the drive, I’ve got bags of snacks ready for emergencies, and I even borrowed a device that will clip Ben’s iPad on the back of the seat to play videos if we really need to call in all the troops–GASP!  I have not introduced Everett to the TV yet…but I just may need to cave for this trek.  We shall see.

Getting too big for his infant car seat… but he still loves to crawl in it when I bring it inside.

On my mind: What will it take for me to discipline myself enough to write regularly?  I can’t even make weekly blog updates happen!  I am so thankful that Ben is on my case constantly–sending me links for freelance essay requests, pushing me to read his little manual on writing that helped him crank out and publish research articles, and telling me to get my butt in gear and start drafting.  Ready…begin.

On my heart: Last week, we made a quick jaunt to St. Louis to attend my father-in-law’s retirement party.  He had worked at Boeing for 36 years and we are so happy that he is trading in his white collar for grandpa play clothes and taking a much needed break from the office grind.  His company gave him a lovely sendoff, the theme being Dave’s impressive ability to balance work and family life for all those years.  He is a true role model and I am so thankful to have such an amazing father figure in my life.  All of his kids and grandkids were able to be at the party…except for Baby Max–who was at Children’s Hospital with a benign case of viral Meningitis.  He is doing great now, but my heart was heavy for Annie and Joe as they spent long days and nights watching their fragile newborn be hooked up to IV’s.  Being a parent can make you feel so vulnerable sometimes.

Weekly Reader: Still reading “Cutting for Stone”– I am really liking it, but being only 150 pages in to a 667 page novel, I feel like I am still wading through the exposition.  Just starting to get a sense of characters and setting, though many details are still murky.  I’m hoping for more time to dig in during our vacation.  I bought a spelunking light that I can wear around my head for night-reading at the campsite.  Can I get any cooler?  🙂

What’s Cooking: I made Aunt Mary’s plum cake twice for a presentable breakfast for our visitors, Bobby Flay’s pork green chili (delicious!), and Ben whipped up a molten chocolate cake on a whim Sunday evening.  We used this delectable treat as a good excuse to finish off our port from the Mayo Winery–the last bottle standing from the stores we brought back from our honeymoon in Sonoma.  See pictures below– as always we are enjoying life bite by bite around here!

Aunt Mary’s Plum Coffee Cake

Ben’s molten chocolate cake…whipped up on a whim for no special occasion at all. Am I a lucky gal or what?

“Ev”Capades:  Our cutie is still obsessed with the “trash.”  His favorite word has turned into actions–he picks up specks of dirt off the floor, digs bottles out of the recycling, and tries to throw things like the remote control and his sippy cup into the trash can.  I finally bought him his own little trash can that he keeps in his room–a good storage place for shreds of toilet paper, books, and the occasional toy or teddy bear.  Another obsession is Otis’ leash, bed, and food bowls.  He pretty much spends his time inside the house coveting these items and getting Otis riled up as a result.  Who needs a playroom?  Everett loves to read–melting my heart as he climbs into my lap with various books he’s pulled off his shelf–asking me to read.  The favorites right now are “Go, Dog, Go” and “Freight Train.”  Please Everett, be a cuddly reader forever.

Happy Highlights: Not only did my friend Lindsay’s visit give us a great chance to catch up, but it also gave me an excuse to be a Nashville tourist.  We did the Honkytonk bars on Broadway and saw a great show at the Bluebird Cafe.  And Everett and I have had lots of fun with our mom’s group–we visited a fire station and have been to many library story times.  Also- Ben won a grant from Vanderbilt for this really cool medical education project he has been dreaming up for a couples years now.  It involves using iPads to stream educational seminars for residents while they are on night shifts when they miss traditional instructional opportunities.  He is becoming really interested in a medical education emphasis… just can’t contain the teaching bug around here!  I am so proud of him.

First booster seat…. noshing at Urban Grub with Peggy and Jane.

At the Nashville Sounds (minor league baseball) game with Lindsay and Ben’s co-workers.

Little Fireman.

Driving the fire engine.

Looking Ahead: So excited to spend some time with Brian, Kelli, Ali, and Emma in Denver and to camp in the mountains with Ben, Everett, and my in-laws Dave and Peggy.  Summer is flying by, but it has been so good to us.

Waking up from nap HAPPY!

Smooshing cheeks with Mommy

My best buddy.

Writer’s Cascade

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I have been struggling to keep this blog.  It’s not from a lack of desire–I really want to commit to writing again and have found great joy in crafting the posts I have.  And it’s not even a case of writer’s block.  It’s actually quite the opposite– I am plagued by verbosity and thought scatter.  Too many ideas to share, too many genres.  My words spray out in countless directions like a firework starburst, each spark emanating from the same combustible source: my brain.  I want this single blog to fulfill many purposes at once:

1.  A reflective journal to harbor my spiritual, philosophical, and mental health

2.  A yearbook of pictures and stories for Everett

3.  A more personal “status update” to share with family and friends

4.  A forum to jumpstart my writing craft

And being the English teacher I am, I criticize this lack of cohesiveness and focus each time I sit down to write.  I visualize the red ink I have so often scrawled across high school students’ margins:  There must be a thesis statement.  Know your audience.  Persuade me.  Choose artful words.  Be concise.

This self-aware teacher voice in my head has stifled my ability to write.  Most of the entries I have written have revolved around a single “thesis” and have taken me at least an hour or more to construct–because I am not just candidly “musing” as my blog title so ironically suggests–I am layering an argument, deliberating over each word, unfolding a theme.  While I have really enjoyed this process, it is not sustainable.  Each time I think about writing, I sigh and click open a mindless site intend (Facebook, Pinterest, etc.), telling myself that I don’t have the time, wakefulness, or patience to write a “quality” post worth reading.

Needless to say, it’s time to let go and let flow.  I am telling my perfectionist/English teacher/aspiring writer/tired stay-at-home mom self to commit to just one goal on this blog: Just write.

So I set out these past couple weeks to find a way to conquer this writer’s cascade I face, a way to channel the outpour of thoughts, emotions, and purposes I want this blog to reflect.  But since this simple task of “Just Write” is much harder for me than it should be, I needed training wheels.  I needed structure, routine, commitment, accountability–all of those “Type A” markers that prevent me from writing in the first place.  But all of those support rails sounded stifling too.  So I found inspiration from my friend Mandy’s blog “Music City Mama.”

She keeps a “Daybook” once a week that is driven by a framework that provides cohesiveness to the variety and unexpectedness that pervades daily life.  I loved it.  And felt that it was just the kind of template I needed to give myself permission to record the scattered but beautiful mess that characterizes my days.  So with great thanks to Mandy, I am stealing her form and starting “Snippets & Quips,” a (what-I-hope-will-be )regular post blurting out my not-so-literary reflections and preserving both the marvelous and mundane that make my life so rich.