Friday, November 30, 2007

Afraid of the dark

I cheated. I posted yesterday's post this morning. We had a power outage for 5 hours last night that made it impossible to log on and post. I was running around all day yesterday. First was my 7 hour trip to New Hope and back. I got to share nachos with a friend of mine. We caught up about jobs and families as we sat in the empty Mexican restaurant. Later she accompanied me to the gallery and boosted my confidence by being there. I came home and was off again to my daughter's dance class. We got home from that, and I was making dinner when the power went out. The turkey BLT's were done, but the broccoli soup was still in its ice cube form. We ate our sandwiches by the light of 20 candles. Then, we went out to look at the stars, unobstructed by the lights from neighboring houses. After that, I tried to read, but I must have been allergic to one of the candles, because I had an allergy attack. Took medicine and went to bed. But alas, I don't know if was my active day or the allergy meds, but my mind was racing in that high-octane anxiety kind of way. Most of the anxiety was aimed the fact that I am going to have to paint under pressure. I have never done that before. It was like a boogeyman in the dark. Luckily for me, my daytime mind is not quite as anxious as my nighttime mind. I'm going to work out some ideas for paintings this week and start fresh on Monday. As my friend Marsha says, "Not fearful news--but exciting news."

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Gallery Piquel

I went to Gallery Piquel in New Hope. I showed my work to Tamara Cannon, the proprietor and she took 5 of my pieces to sell. I was thrilled. I had no idea that she was looking to take them immediately. I thought she might look at them and say, bring me 5 pieces in April. I am ecstatic, but part of me is terrified. The pieces she took were pieces I was considering putting in Red Raven Gallery in late January. Now I have to come up with replacement pieces in time to get giclee prints done and frames on some of the canvases. It isn't that I doubt my abilities, but I've done some clunkers lately. I need a painting I can feel good about. So, while November was dedicated to blogging and Thanksgiving, December is going to have to be about kicking some writing and art butt! Where does that put the holiday exactly? I am hoping to continue to blog in a regular fashion. I have gained some readers and friends through NaBloPoMo, and I'd like to continue the momentum.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

In the Company of Women

Yesterday, my friend who works in an professional setting that is dominated by men and in a household that is dominated by football, emailed to set up a women's night out. There have been times when I have needed such a gathering--desperately. These occurred when I was working full-time, the kids were small, and my husband was on the road one week out of the month. I would have given a kidney to have someone push me out the door and into a seat in the circle of women. In those days spinning classes were my only escape. But today my fellowship (it is an odd word when talking about women) with females is abundant and remarkable. In the last month alone, I have held journaling classes with a total of 50 women in attendance, I have attended 2 all-women yoga classes, I had a glass of wine on 3 occasions with my friend Patti, I had coffee twice with my friend Marsha, I attended a book club and discussion group--all women, walked on separate occasions with my mom and sister-in-law, and went Christmas shopping with my sister and mother-in-law. Tonight I am attending the third in series of films on feminist religious practices at church. Again, we will be an all-female crowd.
I am not excluding men (or the classical male experiences) in my life. I've watched college football and the Men in Black films. I've cheered my husband on in his marathon and ate Philly Cheese steaks with him afterwards. I did stop short of watching the Rocky film fest Mark recorded on TV. Couldn't do it. I may have watched the first one, but we only managed to record III-V.
My real point is to say that I have enjoyed so much camaraderie with my girlfriends lately, and it has enriched my life and made this time of year, when women get bogged down with holiday minutiae, so much more enjoyable. I want to thank my sisters for all the love. And if my friend needs me to balance out her life a little during this time, I will be there for her as well. I've got a lot of the girl power in my stores, ready to give.

**What I could use right now is a spinning class or two.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Artist's Resume

Today I signed a contract for a gallery for a February showing I am doing. I also had to supply them with an artist's statement and resume. I've had this assignment for about a month now. I have had the artist statement completed; I used it in my show at Moon Dancer winery. The thing that was tripping me up was the resume. I...uh...don't have much to say. Don't get me wrong, I have done a lot with myself in these last couple of years. But from a gallery perspective, I have done nada. The most I could write was about my BFA in Fine Arts, my work as a fabric designer, a few publications that have included my artwork, and my Moon Dancer show. I also included a line about my novel, but I think it was just to cover some of the white space on the sheet.
I don't belong to any associations. I have not participated in any group shows. I have not studied under other artists or taken any classes. I have conducted workshops on writing and creative journaling, and I have addressed groups about my artwork, but those seemed to say more about me and less about the work I was presenting.
It's no secret. The gallery director knows my background. It was just an odd feeling to understand that while I have a lot on my life resume, my art resume makes for pretty light reading.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Going to the Mall

The mall isn't exactly Italy, but it is my tradition to go shopping with my kids, my mother-in-law, my sister and her kids on the first day of hunting season. The kids see Santa, we get some shopping done, eat a fun lunch, and head to IKEA to buy wrapping paper and other sundries we don't need but are too cheap to dismiss. I only got two presents off the list of things I needed to buy. Because this is a year I must budget wisely, I think it is interesting to note the things I almost bought today, but didn't. (And if I had been working at a regular paying job, I probably would not have thought twice about buying.)

1. A new red blouse for family gatherings. I'll wear something I already own.
2. A spiral bound weekly calendar refill at Franklin Covey. It's what I want, but my mom already got me a lesser calendar than the one I had my eye on. I guess I'll try using that one and see if it works. This was probably the hardest thing for me to put back.
3. Plates at IKEA. I have these square salad plates, I love. I have them in white and in blue. I have a cabinet of all white dishes. The decision was whether to get rid of the blue and go strictly with the white.
4. Cutting boards at IKEA. I have enough cutting boards for me, but at our Thanksgiving prep party it would have been nice to have a few more.
5.Purple star lights--10 on a string. This is self-explanatory. Why I would want them and why I would put them back.
6. Bubble bath at Bath and Body Works. My favorite is Lavender Vanilla. They were out and had Vanilla Chamomile. I almost caved, but I am holding out for my true love.
7. Many dollars worth of decorative pillows at IKEA. I wanted them in the worst way, but I needed to keep the budget open for presents.
8. A Starbucks peppermint white chocolate mocha. I do not need the calories, so when my mother-in-law offered to pull off at the rest stop to get some, I kept mum.
9. New royal blue potholders and dish towels at Kitchen Kapers. I noticed at Thanksgiving that mine are getting a little worn.

It is funny what things you can find to spend money on and what things you really don't need. I am proud of myself for the purchases I didn't make.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Going to Italy

After church today, we attended a travel lecture by a woman who is a renowned storyteller and mime in our area. She has been having a love affair with Italy for the past 6 years. I have been having an unrequited love affair with Italy for the same period of time. Terri showed us slides of a sculpture workshop, the beaches, mountains, play houses, sculpture parks, kitchens, the people, the architecture, the house she almost bought, and the marble quarries. On this side of the ocean, I drink my chianti and make my spaghetti Bolognese. I grow basil and make pesto. I read books by Frances Mayes, Marlena De Blasi, and just recently Elizabeth Gilbert. I forgo Rachel on the Food Network and hone in on Giada and Mario.
Friends of ours, just returned from a tour of Florence and Venice. I drooled over their pictures. Another friend, Nan, went for a photographer's tour of Tuscany. The gallery who sponsored the trip is going to have a showing of the group's work in December.
So, I am appealing to La Befana, the Italian Christmas Witch for a little magic to get Jill (and her family) to Italy. Besides that, I just really like the idea of a Christmas Witch. Buon Natale!

Saturday, November 24, 2007

The next round of holidays

We did go out and shop yesterday. Mark wanted to get out of the house. And we did get the teensiest bit of holiday shopping done. Trying not to get stressed out by it. It isn't the shopping that gets to me so much as the worthlessness. We seem to get the same stuff for people year after year and it is hard to get excited by it all. Our kids have so many possessions that it is an effort to buy for them. They don't even know what to want, and in order to store it, they have to have a big purge every year right before they get new gear.
It sounds terrible, but I'd just like to cancel it some year and take a breather on a warm beach or a cabin in the woods with just Mark and the kids. I could do the world more good by peaceful meditation and journaling. Observe the natural world--the solstice. Breathe with the darkness. Watch the sunrise. Chant something. Beat drums. Welcome the light. Offer gratitude. Listen to my daughter play sax. Play games. Sit by a fire (or by the surf, depending on where we were). Maybe we'd perform some sort of community service before we left. Something as a family to give back to the larger world. It seems so simple--doesn't it? Why do we allow ourselves to get carried away by tradition and commercialism?
Today I am thankful for the traditions that do have meaning to me. The solstice service at church. Our tree. It is decorated with ornaments that commemorate memories--places we've been, stages of childhood, our pets. I do enjoy holiday music--all kinds and all traditions. And hearing from faraway friends. I especially like the photographs and long juicy letters that tell what every body's been doing over the course of their year. And I enjoy the fresh start that a new year affords us. A great time to ponder life's mysteries.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Foreign Films

Last night after everyone went home, our family watched two foreign films: Jean De Florette (selected as on of the New York Times 1,000 best films ever made) and Manon of the Spring. We took a break for Thanksgiving leftovers between films. I've always loved these movies. We first watched them over 12 years ago. In fact, we considered naming our daughter Manon, which is a little eerie because our daughter looks like the main character with her blond curly hair and blue eyes. They even prance alike. (We eventually named her Maren . Both Manon and Maren are derivatives of the name Mary.) I think this may have been the first foreign films my kids have seen. Maren asked if it counted toward her reading goals for school. Considering, she was reading for 4 hours, it should count for something. (Educators say to put close captioning on TV when your kids are watching for improved literacy. A good idea we never used--mainly because the kids don't watch much TV--but foreign films force the issue.)
It was a perfect way to end the holiday for me. My husband kept up with dishes. We must have done 6 loads in the dishwasher yesterday.
I don't go shopping on Black Friday. It's more of a recovery day for me. I am not a great shopper. I don't enjoy it as sport. Mark doesn't go hunting. So, for us, we just got to sleep in today, and that was priceless!

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Thanksgiving 2007

The day seemed to go off without a hitch. We hosted both side of our family--a total of 18 people. Only my brother Jed and his family were missing. I did not set off the smoke detector. Not sure whether it was due to my new roasting pan, the smaller size of the turkey or the fact that it was warm enough to keep window open. My two favorite recipes of the day were the following: Blobby Flay's Smoked Chile Scalloped Sweet Potatoes. Simple--only 4 ingredients. If you double this, don't double the sauce--just the potatoes. And use sweet potatoes--not yams. This was my other favorite new recipe of the day. Giada De Laurentiis's Rosemary Cheese Breadsticks. Nobody will know you cheated and used Pillsbury. Both are simple. Both go well with the classic dishes. The rest of the menu--for posterity:

Prep Party the night before: Hot spinach dip with Pumpernickel bread; beef stew; Autumn salad (lettuce, carrots, corn, sunflower seeds, dried cranberries, apple chips, in a pumpkin vinaigrette); spiced wafer cookies with pumpkin dip

Appetizers: Williamsburg peanuts, Assorted Olives, Brie with Jalapeno Jelly on crackers, Cranberry cocktails

Main menu: Roast Turkey with Italian Apple stuffing and Riesling gravy; Smashed potatoes; Scalloped sweet potatoes; Creamed corn; Green bean casserole with goat cheese, red peppers and sauteed onions; breadsticks; Pedronocelli Mother Clone Zinfandel

Dessert: Pumpkin Layer cake with spiced Cream cheese icing; Chocolate Hazelnut Cheesecake with Hazelnut brittle garnish

I guess it is obvious that I love food. And I am thankful for this day which allows me to play chef and invent different combinations. We also had a nice looking table. it was supposed to be an all white and cream table, but I changed it last minute to be white with red accents. On Monday, it snowed at our house. It was the first time that it ever snowed while we still had red leaves on the trees. Everyone in our neighborhood has a maple tree that turns red, so the red and white together were stunning. I threw some of the red leaves across my white table runner and used red napkins against our white dishes. It is very unusual for us to have red leaves this late in the season. Very festive!

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Degree of Difficulty

My sister and I laugh when we think about putting together my sister-in-law's bridal shower. We were up half the night making crepewiches and putting ribbons on the coffee cups we gave as souvenirs for the French-themed party. At the time we said we were going for the "degree of difficulty" points as if we were Olympic divers, gymnasts, or ice skaters.

Here are the degree of difficulty tricks I am attempting for Thanksgiving:

1. An all-white table complete with a non-descript table runner that, despite its average nature, took me 3 hours to make last night.

2. Recovering 6 kitchen chairs. I've had the fabric for a year and am waiting until the day before Thanksgiving to execute.

3. Having a prep party where I pretend to have people help me make the food, but instead, I make an entire other meal and we play games.

4. Amidst preparations today, I have my parent/teacher conference with my daughter's teacher.

5. Yesterday, I made homemade hazelnut brittle to serve as a garnish on my chocolate hazelnut cheesecake.

6. I told my son he could have a friend stay overnight last night when I really needed his help with preparations this morning.

7. I invited my niece and nephew to spend the night tonight.

8. I still have grocery shopping to do and wine to buy. (In Pennsylvania--that's two separate stores.)

9. I decided to wash all my decorative pillows. Now I have to sew the inserts back into them.

10.Despite the fact that we are having a sweet potato gratin and I declared that to be the sole potato dish, I am caving to my husband's demand for mashed potatoes.

Why am I doing all this? It's not a holiday where I get a crown or presents. It is a holiday where all the men chow down and then excuse themselves to go watch football. It feels like I am having football referees judge my triple axle toe loop double camel combo.

Today I am thankful for 24 hours in each day. Hopefully I can use them to the fullest advantage.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

5 Post meme

This one is from Sognatrice. She is retaliating for yesterday. Still it is a worthwhile assignment. Could someone tell me what Meme stands for?

Post 5 links to 5 of your previously written posts. The posts have to relate to the 5 key words given below (family, friend, yourself, your love, anything you like).
Tag 5 other friends to do this meme. Try to tag at least 2 new acquaintances (if not, your current blog buddies will do) so that you get to know them each a little bit better.
Don’t forget to read the archived post and leave comments.I like this meme because it gives me a chance to point out posts that new readers may have missed.
FAMILY: in full of wonder This is one of my all-time favorite family posts. I had to dig for it in my old blog because my new blog is less about family life and more about my writing/art life. And this post is seasonal.
Power of Two This one is hard. I have so many friends with whom I do so many kickin' activities. It is hard to limit. My friends have seen me through childbirth, my marathon, publishing triumphs and woes...everything. I have been with my friends through their major life events, too. I am choosing this blog because it talks about women promoting one another. Two women appear in this blog. One is someone I met 10 years ago, a year after we moved into the development. The other is a friend I have known since I was in first grade. What's that girl scout song? Make new friends and keep the old. One is silver and the other gold.
Spiral Theory and Practice This post says a lot about me. At one time I used the name SpiralAmethyst to post on Message boards. This ties into the way I see myself.
A short untitled post from an anniversary years ago before I actually had a blogging service. Another anniversary post. While I tend to think that love happens best in the moments between celebrations, I think that seeing how we commemorate our anniversaries says a lot about who were are. We aren't about showy displays--nothing contrived. We don't have a tradition. Instead, we take year as it comes and honor where we are and who we are together in that moment.
City Mouse vs. Country Mouse This is a recent post, but I think it sums up how I view the pull the world has on me, and most often it is dichotomous. For every side of me there seems to be an opposite truth. It keeps me in the gray zone. I am always questioning--never black and white.
Now I'm supposed to tag 5 bloggers , but I am preparing for Thanksgiving, so I am asking for some of my readers to tag themselves and put your names in the comment section. I'll add a link to you in the post. Now, I must go see about a table runner and a turkey.
Today I am thankful for Advil. Mark and I are both taking Advil for different afflictions and it is making us nicer people. I forgot yesterday's thankful moment. So I am thankful for neighbors. We have a nice neighborhood where people are friendly and properties are well-groomed, often with seasonal displays. I can call on them for help, and they can call on me. We might not all be bosom buddies, but I bet I could count on most of the people in this 'hood if I really needed help.

Monday, November 19, 2007

7 Unusual Things About Me

I have been tagged By Leandra Ganko through NaBloPoMo, so here goes nothing.

1. I love the mid-20th century design aesthetic. Heywood Wakefield furniture, graphic printed fabric, Eva Zeisal servingware. I love Eames chairs, but I don't own any. I have the perfect space for two of them in my living room.

2. I recieved my online ordination. I haven't sent in for the certificate to perform weddings, but I could. I believe that the divine resides in each of us, so we should all be ordained.

3. I married my first boyfriend, so I've never experienced a break-up. I have no regrets about that. He was the one. We've been together for over 21 years. I don't ever wish for a more varied experience because I have novel-writing: I get to experience anything I want through my characters.

4. I don't have any tattoos because I could never commit to an image for the rest of my life. I can commit to a man, but not to a single piece of art.

5. I love going to art museums, but I can only usually hit one or two galleries before I am done.
Either I have a very short attention span or my brain gets too stimulated and I must leave before I explode. (Maybe that's what a short attention span is.)

6. My kids think I am crazy, but I have told them that I am the first person they ever met; therefore, I am the norm against which they measure all others. Everybody else may be crazy when compared to me.

7. I love cheese. My husband bought me gourmet cheese chocolates for Valentines' Day. They were actually very good. A cheesetasting party is the best party to have.

Link to the person that tagged you and post these guidelines on your blog.
Share 7 random or weird things about yourself.
Tag 7 random people at the end of your post and include links to their blogs.
Let each person know that they have been tagged by leaving a comment on their blog.

I am tagging Sharon Naylor, Michelle Abeyta, JulieAnn Henneman , Sognatrice, Lilymania, Diahn Ott and Tracey Brewer Medley.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Marathon Man

Mark did well today at the Philadelphia marathon. He had two goals: under 3:45 and under 4 hours. Why two goals? To make the race realistic for him. No matter. A raw day, but blessedly free of the freezing rain that came later. His official time was 3:42:31. Afterwards, tired but resilient, he hobbled back to the car. I am glad it wasn't a piece of cake for him. After all that training it needed to be tough to justify the effort. (And more selfishly, I had such a tough time with the same feat in 2003, that I needed this to be ugly for him as well.) He felt the pain at mile 24 when his back seized up in the cold. Up until that point he had been running at a pace of 3:40. The last 2.2 miles were brutal for him. We (our kids, Mark's brother and wife--my running partner, their kids, and I) cheered him from different vantage points and found him shivering beneath his Mylar blanket at the finish. After a detour of Philly cheese steaks, we went home and napped. I usually can't nap for more than 20 minutes, but I was out for two hours. Did I experience sympathy fatigue? Today I was grateful for the nap, my warm bed, the people who supported Mark (nod to the the East Pete Woods, Jeff Steed and Doug Yoder), and that Mark safely finished his race.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

No time to blog

Does it count as blogging if I log on and say I have no time to blog? I am making a main course for a dinner party at our house, cleaning, recovering a chair, hanging pictures, and watching a football game.

I did forget my gratitude yesterday, so I have to think up two today. I also gave up on my complaint bracelet until after Thanksgiving. I simply cannot monitor myself in the midst of preparations for my favorite holiday.

So today I am thankful for my kids and their help in cleaning and shopping and preparing for the holiday. They are such good kids. They are helpful and don't complain (much).

Yesterday I was thankful that my husband had the day off, and we spent it together.

Friday, November 16, 2007

To run again

Today, Mark and I went to Philadelphia to pick up his marathon race packet. We had a nice autumn foliage-lined drive past the boathouses and up to the art museum. The next time Mark sees that road will be on the last leg of his marathon--which means he won't really be seeing it at all. I know. I ran the Chicago marathon 4 years ago. I have no memory of the last 6 miles of my race.
In the spirit of that event, Mark and I had lunch at Maggianos, which is where I ate (in Chicago) before my marathon. It is a weird mix of deja vu and sadness. 2007 is the first year since 1998 that I have not completed at least one road race. Nothing. Not even a 5K. From marathon to nothing in 4 short years. I hope that 2006 wasn't the end for me. I hope that I still have more running in my future. Walking around the expo was powerful inspiration. I especially liked the running shirts with sayings. "This seemed like a good idea 3 months ago." "This is my race speed." And "Run like a girl."

I also have Mark as an inspiration. He hasn't run regularly since college. Of the two of us, I was the steady runner. (Plodding, but steady). But this year, due to a weight-loss competition at work, Mark lost 45 pounds. Only after that did he start a running regimen. He didn't start out training for a marathon. He did a pretty good 5-mile race and decided to go for a half-marathon. After that event, he figured, he was already half-way there, so he decided to try for the full marathon. It's been an interesting 3 months. He's asked me about different things about the marathon. Some things, I remember, and some things, I gratefully have retained NO memory. I need to ask T, my running partner, what she remembers. She is planning to stand beside me and cheer for Mark. I will be glad to have her there. I can't speak for her, but this gig as a spectator has revitalized my will to run. I hope my body cooperates.

Thursday, November 15, 2007


Yesterday, I was coming home from Lancaster after a not-so-great experience. I stopped at the mailbox before driving into my garage. Inside, among all the catalogs, was a package from my friend Nan. She had told me she was sending it to me so I knew what to expect: one of those ubiquitous rubber bracelets with a saying stamped into it. I saw Nan wearing it at Woman to Woman and asked her about it. She told me it was a complaint bracelet. Every time she complains, or gossips, or criticizes, she needs to move the bracelet to the other wrist. It makes you aware of negative thinking. The goal is not to move the bracelet for 21 days. It could take months to accomplish.

Great idea, right? For some other time perhaps. I am PMSing, just having driven home 25 miles from a workshop that didn't happen and therefore for which I got no money--even though I'd already invested about 10 hours planning. My consolation peppermint white chocolate mocha didn't happen either. Starbucks had run out of white chocolate syrup. So I don't put the bracelet on my wrist just yet. I am not ready to get the complaints out of the way: I've got bitching to do, and children to raise.

So I put the package beside my computer until this morning when I decide to check out the website A Complaint Free World. I am willing to research the complaint-free life--if only to say that I am contemplating being a better person. I trolled the site and ordered some free bracelets. (If I have to quit whining, then my friends are going to have to do it, too!) I also listened to a speech (I think it was actually a sermon) by Will Bowen. He told a story about a man who was at work eating lunch. The man looked in his lunch box and said, "Meatloaf sandwich? I hate meatloaf." The next day, the same thing happened. The third day, the man opened his lunchbox and said, "Meatloaf? Not again." Finally his co-worker, a little sick of these lunchtime tirades said to the man, "Why don't you ask your wife to pack you something else?" The man turned to him and said, "I pack my own lunch!"

Something in that story hit home. I create my experience. If I want to complain, then the world is going to provide things for me to complain about. So right at the hour of this post, I will put this bracelet on my wrist. I'll let you know how long it stays there. (I should make it through the morning--I have nobody home with me! As long as the dog doesn't piddle on the carpet, I should be home-free.) And it isn't about other people telling you must move your bracelet (they have to move theirs if they point it out to you), but every time you express grief, pain or discontent, the bracelet must move. At least I'll be more aware of my thought and speech patterns as I head into Thanksgiving week. This should be fun--as we are hosting the event.

Click on the above link to get your own free bracelet. Good luck and let me know how it goes!

My gratitude for the day is for all my friends who listen to me whine. I know it is reciprocal, but it is good to know that we are there for each other through all of our meatloaf sandwhiches.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

City Mouse vs.Country Mouse

I got to talk to many people over the last few days. The likes of which I don't encounter on a daily basis. I talked to several poets, a children's playwright, yoga teachers, a collage artist, painters, jewelers, literature buffs. The energy from these connections made me a little giddy. People who understand me! They get it. I don't even need to explain myself.

I spoke with one woman, a native of Philadelphia who now lives in Lancaster City, at length and told her that I lived in Reinholds. I must have sighed when I said it. She said it sounded as though I didn't want to live there. I shrugged. She said didn't know exactly where Reinholds was but that it sounded very small and very Republican. I had to laugh. She was right on all counts.

I confessed to her that I just didn't feel I fit in with the village. (Yes, Reinholds is actually called the village of Reinholds.) I long to be where the culture is. Give me art galleries, quaint coffee shops, a theater (plays), some restaurants with interesting foreign cuisine and live music, a wine store with some variety, a nearby yoga studio. I want a good library and an independently owned bookstore. I want to attend university lectures and concerts. I want to participate in some of the adult education at our church. (Now at a 35 min drive, it isn't always easy to plan.) I want to talk to artists and poets on a regular basis, not just when I come out of hiding.

And I want all this stuff for my kids, too, along with easy access to the things they want to participate in. Right now we travel for my son's fencing lessons, my daughter's dance and theater. Nothing is in our own school district. While we have said that we wanted to wait until they are out of school--no need to uproot them, to decide on a new place to live, I can't help but think that we are doing them a disservice by living here. No wonder suburban kids try drugs. There's nothing else to do!

This vision of living in a place of culture conflicts with another of my dreams: to live in the middle of nowhere--the woods perhaps, in a simple house that we build from a kit with our own modifications. Somewhere I can commune with the natural world. A loft area where the kids can sleep. A great room with furniture that can be moved out of the way to accommodate workshops or big bashes or screenings of independent films or even hosting an art show. A great working kitchen--not a fancy schmancy one that is bought for status--but a workhorse. A separate garage with a studio above it. A deck with a nice view. A little roofed outbuilding for meditation. Clean lines, black framed windows, opened spaces, white walls, enough technology to make my husband happy, renewable energy. I guess in this scenario, I envision culture coming to us in the form of guests and teachers and students and Netflix.

So how do I morph these two visions: one cosmopolitan and one pastoral? I don't know. Maybe I should found an arts neighborhood in the middle of some forest near a metropolis. Yeah! that's it!

My gratitude for today is for Netflix. I can finally see the movies I want to see! We used to have to travel to Philadelphia to see independent or foreign films. And that went by the wayside when the kids were young. We tried to get movies from Blockbuster, but they seemed to specialize movies. So I am happy I can get some culture delivered to my door here in the Village of Reinholds!

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Reading Like a Writer; A lecture by Francine Prose

Last night I went to the Francine Prose lecture put on by the Lancaster Literary Guild. Francine talked about her book Reading Like a Writer. Some things I got from her lecture.

1. Good writers can be created from good readers.
2. Reading the classics is a must for writers. Well-written books that have survived centuries are around for a reason. And it is good to know the traditon that has brought us to this point.
3. Today's writers don't often read classics. They read the latest novel by whomever has scored a six-figure advance in the hopes that by dissecting the book, they too can acheive a six-figure advance.
4. MFA programs don't support reading. They are programs based on the supposition that critiquing other writers and having them critique you will make you stronger writer.
5. Francine thinks that writing non-ficition is easier. She has lots of unfinished novels sitting around. (I shouldn't be so hard on myself.)
6. Considering your audience can be a tricky thing.
7. Novel writing doesn't get easier with each novel, even though it should.
8. Copying out long passages of great literature can help make you a better writer because you get a real feel for the words and phrasing you might not otherwise get by reading. (As someone who has read lots and lots of books aloud to my kids, I think that reading passages out loud also helps. Maybe not in the same way, but I am willing to try both methods.)

Did this lecture comfort me as a writer? In some ways, I suppose. I have struggled for years with the concept of the group critique. It is the reason I am not in a writing group. I don't want too much input. Maybe that's because I have not found anybody with whom I feel has a similar sensibility. I do feel as though reading is the key to better writing. I would like to read more classics in the new year. I have been toying with this idea anyway because of the list Roger gave me. I don't really want an MFA, but at the same time, I think I would like being in an academic setting again, possibly as a professor. How would I become a professor without an advanced degree. HMM? But I do; I learn so much when I teach because I always put so much research into my lessons.

So, on the one hand, I felt alive after the lecture. On the other hand, I felt a bit sunk. I got some books signed by her. I did not tell her I was an author. Why not? I am not embarrassed by my book. I'm proud. I guess I just didn't see the reason to put that out there--especially since I'm not sure where I am going from here.

Forgotten Thanks

For yesterday--I am thankful for a great long walk and talk. I needed that! I slept so well last night. It must have been the walk combined with the lecture that gave me the mind/body balance that led to a good night's sleep. The first in weeks.

And that is what I am thankful for today!

Monday, November 12, 2007

Woman to Woman

Yesterday's Woman to Woman event was outstanding. I gave two journaling workshops, and took 4 other workshops, including illuminating the journey (making a spirit candle), Kundalini yoga, Yoga for Emotional Flow, and a workshop on reinterpreting your home decorating.
Can I just say how much I needed this day? The three months following the release of my book have been stressful, in more ways than I can go into on an online blog. And not just book-related. While I don't want to go into all that happened, I will tell you the end result. In an effort to cope with the situations at hand, I negated my own feelings. Because honestly--it just wasn't practical to add them to the mix. Now that the weather is clearing, it is obvious that these repressed feelings need a venue. I was stuck in more ways than one: my art and writing was suffering as well. Through my own journaling classes and the yoga instruction, I think I uncorked myself. Don't imagine me sobbing; it was more of a big popping exhalation.
What I realized is that I really need to connect to spirit; my own and that of the world around me. All kinds of women were at this workshops. All ages, races, ethnicities, sexual orientations. It was a sight to behold. Baby boomers trying belly dancing. Mothers making collages--with nary a child in view. Standing room only in some classrooms as women were clamoring to do something selfishly positive for themselves. I could feel the battle cry! More More! It was palpable.
So I am going to try to continue the spirit of the day. Allow myself to connect to my higher power, my peers, and my emotions. I plan to walk with friends (my first walking date is this morning). I will do more yoga. I wish it was in a studio with others, but I will be content with my home studio for now. I will start up my holiday handwritten journal (I always journal around this time of year to relieve stress). I am going to be making some more collages. AND I am going to be spending less time on the computer. With NaBloPoMo and online Christmas shopping, I got caught up in the swirl of things. And while it was fun, I think it sucked some of the spirit right out of me to be clicking from link to link in an aimless quest for what?

I'll let you know how it goes. I am hoping the process leads me through the fear and back to my art and writing.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Being flexible

Yesterday I spent time doing things that were not on my to-do list (except for grocery shopping, but I forgot a portion of the things I wanted to get.) I made an unexpected purchase of ground meat (combo of beef, pork, and veal) which I customarily use to make meatballs. So I decided to make some meatballs to freeze. I also went with my husband to pick up an extra bed at my brother-in-law's house. It is part of his and my husband's childhood bunk beds. We have the other half. This necessitated a trip to the hardware store to get...well...hardware, for the beds. Because we do not live in close proximity to shopping, we decided to go out and hit some stores--while we were out and about. My husband got some running clothes (that will be a Christmas gift) and I got fabric remnants to make a thanksgiving table-runner. After all that, I needed a nap (more because I haven't been sleeping well than because of the rigors of shopping, but it was unplanned, at any rate.) Then it was off to watch college football with our friends. (This was planned, but it was supposed to be relaxing because I had accomplished all that I wanted to get done, namely prepare for my workshops and cover my kitchen chairs.)

So here I am in the early, early AM on Sunday morning, putting the finishing touches on my workshop presentations. I always get a little nervous before I begin. Too many variables to be secure in the process, some of which is out of my control. I will let you know how it goes. Today, also, we are welcoming my son's friend, who, due to a changed circumstance, is going to be spending the week with us. It probably won't be the last time, either. Hence, the additional bunk. I am grateful for all the people who have offered to help, and who are helping us to make his stay a smooth one, both for him and our family. That is my gratitude for today.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

No Mo' NaNoWriMo

I am throwing in the towel of NaNoWriMo. The main reason is that the whole thing is paralyzing me with fear. I overcommited and didn't plan very well. NaNoWriMo is an excellent idea and I am sure I will pursue it in the future, but I will have an outline, completed character studies and...I don't know... a clue?

I think I need to regroup. What I would love is a writer's retreat with other writers. Perhaps I could get beyond this stumbling I have been doing. In a way, I do have the makings of a retreat--just not in the traditional format. I am conducting two journaling workshops this week and that always makes the creative juices flow. I think it is the community aspect that helps me. And on Monday, I am going to hear Francine Prose speak. She wrote many books, but among them, Reading Like A Writer, which I own and have read. Ms. Prose isn't limited to one kind of book. She has written novels, articles, children's books, nonfiction, and humor. My kind of gal. (I believe the term is multiple personality.)

And in between teaching and going to a lecture, I hope to get back to writing something just for love of writing. Maybe that is the real key.

I am committed to and will continue with my walking and blogging commitments, including the gratitude. Today I am thankful for the Lancaster Literary Guild who promotes reading, writing, and brings wonderful programs to the area.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Today's Gratitude

I am thankful for my art patrons. They have made today's holiday shopping possible.

Morning Journaling Practice

Hold out for shameless promotion. I am teaching two Morning Journaling workshops at Woman to Woman event this Sunday at the Lancaster YWCA. Many women giving many workshops and offering services such as massage and Reiki. Proceeds benefit domestic violence shelters and violence prevention programs. All for the low admission price of $12. It's a great deal. Food concession and a woman-crafted market is also available. The theme this year is AWAKENINGS.

I am looking forward to teaching my workshops. They will be a little different from my usual creative journaling workshops. For the most part, I espouse a carefree approach to journaling. It doesn't need to be daily. It doesn't and shouldn't just be about the writing. Add paint. Add magazine pictures. Color mandalas. Write Haiku. Get dirty.

But the Morning Journaling workshop is about ritual and commitment. I am not a ritualistic, meditative journaler--except in the time between Thanksgiving and New Years. And then, my journaling surges. It is almost a survival instinct I have. I like Thanksgiving and look forward to it, but Christmas, to me, is filled with such pressure--especially (in my experience) for the women of the household. I admit that I take on this responsibility and tend not to ask for help. I have a ridiculous Holiday Card list, and I feel the need to be creative--not just send out signed boxed cards. I hate to go shopping. Money always seems tight. I also have a problem with darkness. It is hard on me--and my family. I am miserable grouch until I sit in the serenity that is our church's Winter Solstice service.

So, I was glad to research morning journaling at this time of year when I can use it most. My morning walk is out--too dark in the country. Not enough sidewalks. So I write and prepare myself for the new year. In the past I have most often prescribed to the Julia Cameron morning pages form for my writing, but I have been looking into other options including setting intentions, creating your day, as well as poetry and work with color. I am extremely excited to give this workshop because in teaching, I always have a fuller experience of the subject, and I love interacting with other women. (My solitary daily life doesn't allow for enough of that.)

If you are in the area, please come out for the event. I promise that you will leave the YWCA with a lighter step than when you entered. You'll meet the most magnificent women, it is for a good cause, and you can enter the holiday season with new strategies.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Novel love oven lone

Writing a novel can be a real love/hate thing. The word novel has the word love in it and the word oven (as in stick your head in one). Yesterday, I was not feeling the love. Here's the deal. I have written two novels beyond SUMMERS AT BLUE LAKE. After working on them for three years and making many revisions, my agent isn't crazy to push either one. She really wants the next novel I sell to be "THE ONE" that makes my career take off. So no pressure, right? So I am working on my NaMoWriMo novel (A middle grade book for grades 4-6). And it seems to be going two steps forward, one step back. I am writing, writing, writing, and deleting. I question the character and the flow. I question the point of view. What if I spend all this time writing this thing and it still isn't the novel my agent has in mind for me? My confidence is shot. Add to that, the pressure of not succumbing to all the female stereotypes I read about in Packaging Girlhood. So yesterday I was feeling quite blue about the whole thing in spite of the fact that I really did get some writing done that day. I was about ready to start writing my resume and "get a real job." (That is an indication of how low I was feeling.)

But two things broke through to me while I was in this funk. One was a story in a magazine that I happened to be reading in the waiting room of my son's orthodontist. The story, by Robert Fulghum (the guy who wrote All I Really Needed to Know I Learned in Kindergarten), was so funny that I was shaking with repressed laughter. I was in danger of starting to snort. Please read Asbestos Gelos at your own risk.

The other item that gave me pause was a video of Paul Potts that my husband emailed to me. This one made me tear up. Perhaps everyone has seen this already, but I am sheltered at my writing desk, so I apologize if this is old news, but I did find it to be inspirational to me in my blue mood.

My gratitiude for today is for the way art touches my life in its many forms. Better than any drug.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Shadow Fairies

Once upon a time, I wrote a story (for my daughter) about girls who had such a negative self-images that they faded into shadows and floated into trees where their negative mantras became their shadow names. Names such as Bad at math, Clumsy Clod, and Fat. One day the shadow girls banded together when they saw a little girl on the verge of becoming a shadow. They went into her bedroom and sang affirmations to her while she slept. This continued every night with different girls, who were saved from becoming shadows by the constant hum of praises. The Shadow girls didn't notice what was happening, but in the process of helping others, they had started to sprout wings until they had become full-fledged fairies. The Shadow Fairies then saw each other for the glorious creatures they were, so they gave each other names of power and delight. Names like Rubysong, Isis, and Gloria.

I've been reading Packaging Girlhood (Last day--it goes back to the library today). The chapter I just read talked about the often degrading screen names that girls pick for themselves online. The align themselves with sex and with their gender (HottGurl69), instead of picking power names (HoopStar16) the way boys often do. It got me to thinking about the online identity I created. My original website was titled Divine Mother, Mortal Me. This was to imply that motherhood had been put up on a pedestal, and I could not possibly achieve the expected level of motherhood perfection. It was a site for moms who were frustrated creative people: painters, writers, and the like. So there was a little of the Divine Creator vs. the Daily Grind aspect.

Later I changed the name of my site and my online posting name to Mortal Mom. I had fallen into two traps here--the labeling myself by my limitations, as girls so often do was the first trap. The reason I did it (and the second trap) was to be liked by other moms--so others could relate me. I was using the same ploy as princess movies: the main character must be introduced as being clumsy or have spinach on her teeth so that girls can identify with her as a self-conscious entity before her rise to princess. My blog was filled with the foibles of a harried mom. I did write some positive press about myself, too, but I was always careful to balance it with some crack-up so I could not be accused of immodesty.

Now, I think about the women who are web sisters to me: French Toast Girl and Abeyta Creative. A celebration of their persons is implied in the names of their sites. On SARK's message board, where I met my web sisters, I used to go by SpiralAmethyst. That's a little better, showcasing things I like, and the spiritual path I am walking. But who could I be if I really allowed myself to be named for and identified with my strengths?

I can't even think of any ideas for screen names off the top of my head. I'd mention how pathetic that fact is, but I am trying not to put myself down.

Gratitude for the day--my online friends who encourage me to let my light shine.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Walking to the polls

Today I walked to my polling place. Round-trip the walk was a little over 3 miles. Originally, I was just doing it to get exercise. Perfect distance, warmish fall day. Why not? But as I was walking I had such a profound feeling of gratitude. I started to think about the people all over the world who have no choice, but gladly walk well over 3 miles to their polling places so that they can have some say in the way they are governed. Then I thought about the effort of those suffragettes who made voting possible for me as a woman. I chose to put effort into my voting process today. In doing so, it made me appreciate how easy it has been for me to drive to a convenient location, stand in a short line, and be counted. And that is my gratitude for today. The only way that the voting process could be any better for me is if I voted at the same location as my grandpa. He lives near the MnM factory, and they have free candy upon exiting at his polling place. (In case you were wondering: in that election, I voted for the Mars candy people to add the purple MnM's to the colors in the regular bag.)

Monday, November 5, 2007

Walking my plot

I am a walker. I used to be a runner. (I still have aspirations of running, but every time I tired to do this in October, my lungs burned, and a day later I had a bad cold. ) This month in addition to writing a novel, committing to blog everyday, and committing to gratitude, I have set a walking goal of 60 miles. That might not seem like much--2 miles a day. I was averaging 3.5 miles a day over the summer, but I was doing it at 6 AM. Now, my early morning window has closed due to darkness. This goal will force me to get out and do the walk mid-day. But I have made this goal for another reason--walking and running really helps me with my plot. I can work out story lines in my head. Okay, so I'm not really conscious of the still changing leaves and the verdant grasses of an unusually warm autumn, but I am not noticing the body aches, either. It is a walking meditation on how to proceed with my book or how to solve problems I am having in my writing. Though it seems like I am not doing anything work-related, it is probably my most productive time of the day. Sometimes, I have to remind myself of that fact as I tear myself away from the computer and put on my sneakers.

Today's gratitude is for my daily walk and its restorative properties for mind, body, and writing career.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Creating Girl Characters

In my previous post, I wrote that I was having trouble with my ten-year-old girl character. I want to make her feisty, but I am starting her off as kind of a blob. I want girls to identify with her, but it is kind of hard. They would have to trust me for the first half of the book. I have a ten-year-old daughter in my household. If she makes it through the first half of any book, it is amazing.

I've been reading the book Packaging Girlhood. I just finished the chapter on the princess movies/books and what stereotypes they use. Their examination of the movies showed that the main characters often have traits that show off weaknesses such as clumsiness and awkwardness so that girls out there can relate to their self-consciousness. Is that the number one attribute that girls relate to? And yet, I was falling into that trap. My character was nondescript and lonely. I've decided to rewrite my character as a smart girl who the system just forgot. Maybe she does blend into the background a little, but that's because teachers don't call on girls as much as they call on boys in the class. Also, teachers don't need to concentrate on the smart kids. They are the ones who are doing well, so they don't need the encouragement. So I am going to give this girl a mind from the beginning. What if she's lonely because she is in a reading level beyond her peers?

The other point that Packaging Girlhood pointed out is another plot point in my book. I am going to give the girl someone to help her along, but the woman is in a grandmother role. Apparently, wise grandmother-types are the rage, at the expense of mother bonding. A few years ago, I boycotted the Disney princesses, not because they were silly stereotypes with unattainable cartoon-drawn bodies, but because I was sick of reading stories aloud to my daughter in which the protagonist had no mother. None of them have mothers. I would love to create a good mother/daughter story. I'm just not sure how to do it. One of the reasons that the orphan archetype does so well in youth literature is that it is a device that it gives the reader a tangible story to illustrate the process of separating from her parents and forging her own identity. Must a daughter disassociate from a mother to do this? A grandmother figure provides guidance, but is removed from the mother by a generation.

I won't get a chance to write more of my novel today. I am going to a bridal shower which is 2 1/2 hours away. But you can bet, I'll be reading Packaging Girlhood in the car and taking some notes to better formulate my character to create her in the way I want to see girls portrayed.

For my comment crew--What are some of the great girl characters in literature?
I'm thinking Harriet the Spy, Laura Ingalls, Lyra (from His Dark Materials), Margaret (Are you there God, It's Me Margaret). They are some of my favorites and today my gratitude moment is for them, the fabulous girl characters who were such a real part of my growing-up years that I count them as friends.
Who are your favs?

Saturday, November 3, 2007

NaNoWriMo Blues

I am thankful for coffee. Is that a lame gratitude statement? It is because I just picked something in front of me. Get the gratitude over with, so I can grumble. How pathetic is that?

I have been sitting at my computer for 3 hours on this Saturday morning. I am ready to bang my head against the wall. In three more hours, we are having company. It is a casual football-watching party that I must nonetheless prepare for by doing dishes, shopping for snacks, and supervise cleaning of common areas. I am not a football fan, so I never take games into consideration when I make out my to-do list. This far into the college football season, you would think that I would not be surprised that there is a game, and our TV is the only one around to get the game. I guess I got a reprieve last week, when Mark actually attended the game instead of watching it at home.

The real heart of the matter is not the football game. I am just using that as a scapegoat. The truth is that I am having a tough time with my novel for NaNoWriMo. Why can't I just write a straight-forward book? My strengths as a writer are my style and my sense of humor. But for some reason, I feel that there is a disconnect. Somehow, my writing keeps its distance from the reader. I want a reader to be wrapped up in the story. Here's my current dilemma. I am writing a book about a ten-year old girl for ten-year old girls. But my narrator is in the tradition of the fairy-godmother meets Willy Wonka meets Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler. The narrator is funny, all-knowing, wacky grandmother type, but my ten-year old girl is a blob. How do I connect with my readers when the character they are supposed to identify with is a blob? That's part of the story. She is unremarkable at first, but then she finds her talents and her voice and comes screaming into the world in technicolor. I guess I need to give hints of the girl-to-be and hope that readers can relate.

It's is driving me crazy. I have only the vaguest sense of the plot and where it is going. So the writing is not going well and it is only day 3 of NaNoWriMo. My gut tells me to push through this hard part. Keep writing and I can repair the damage later. I guess the worst thing that can happen is that I write a whole book that needs to be rewritten, but one that can be used as a guide when I do rewrite. The problem with this is that after a writing session, I don't feel a sense of accomplishment--I feel angry at the world for not connecting with me. Come to think of it, maybe I could use a break where I watch people smash into each other while I sit back and wear my molars down on crunchy snacks.

Friday, November 2, 2007

I forgot my gratitude for the day!

I have to remember to include my gratitude moment this month since I have also signed up to be grateful in this month-long blogging project. Today I am grateful for my husband. Yes, his technology makes my life a bit messy sometimes, but he always fixes more problems than he creates. He is great with the kids. If I need something, he finds a way to make it happen. He even tries to keep ahead of my needs. Little things, but they let me know he is thinking of me--and that's a big thing. Yesterday he bought me some power bars because they were on sale, and he gave me a $10 bill as I was on the way out the door to dance. (I have a little indulgence on Thursday nights. While my daughter is at her 90 min dance lesson, I go with another mother to the restaurant across the street. We hash out our past week and give each other support over a glass of wine. As far as therapy goes--it's a bargain.)
This morning I was very early for a hair appointment, and I shared waiting room time with two widows. They were both telling stories of their husbands and how much they missed them. Mark and I have a date planned for this weekend. It's a silly date--I'm sure I'll blog about it later, but I am happy we are making time for one another, and I am thankful to have had him in my life all these years.

Technology vs. Simplicity

My husband is a tech guy. He has our house wired. He makes things out of spare computer parts and these things do tricks like announce telephone callers. I would not say I am a technophobe; I'm not. I just don't like technology when there is a simpler solution. For a couple of years, on my husband's urging, I switched from a paper organizer to a PDA. We both had the same model. I was supposed to be able to beam my schedule to him. We were going to have a household synching station with a screen that displayed a common schedule. That never happened. Instead--once a month, I'd print out my calendar and give it to Mark. He would ignore the printout and ask me things like, "Don't we have something going on this week?" Now, we have a magnet wipe-off calendar that is divided by weeks. We have 8 weeks worth of family agenda, color-coded by person, on the fridge. It's the best family tip I have. Low-tech.

Still, there are things I use technology for. I do all my writing on computer. I depend on email to keep in touch. Don't try to take my digital camera away from me. But this week technology seemed against me. Computer problems. ATM card had a malfunction. Phone calls didn't go through. The sensor I have been wearing on my shoe to track my walking miles just went dead for no reason. It's been a pain.

Hubby just showed me a new camera card that automatically loads your pictures to a website over your wireless network. It sounds great, but the more I hear about the advance of technology, the more I long for simpler things: the feel of a book in my hand, a rocking chair, a hand knit scarf, warm soup in a handcrafted bowl, and a snoring dog by my side.

Mark and I have given some thought to building another house. It's probably 10 years away, but we ahve fun dreaming. I think it'll be something like Star Trek meets Little House on the Prairie.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

November is here!

With all that I have planned for November, I sit here today and wonder what I will be saying to myself on December 1st? Will I have accomplished all I set out to do, or will it be a disappointment like October, riddled with colds and odd deviations to the schedule? Right now I sit next to November like it is a present waiting to be opened. I am idealistic. A palm reader at a Halloween party told me as much. She also said that my idealism can easily turn to cynicism with the world. And yet I turn my cynicism around and embrace each new month. Today I am going to write like crazy, get my walk in, and await the great mysteries. As I have promised to blog (NaBloPoMo) every day, this is a journey I will take with others. As I have also promised to be grateful each day, I think I'll have a better chance of keep the cynic at bay.

So here is my first bit of gratitude: I am thankful for new beginnings and for opportunity.