Unexpected . . . Fleeting . . . Life

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Yesterday a friend of mine passed away suddenly from an unexpected illness. I met Ed at the University of Hawaii, Manoa. He starred in my MFA production of The Art of Dining. He was funny and charming and made the … Continue reading

Random Thoughts from a Random Mind

This has been a gray week. My mind has been in a muddle, where words, ideas, thoughts, frustrations, hopes, and fear all wander through the fog that seeps into my brain from the outside–from the weather–and makes me feel unable to accomplish anything. Today, however, the golden fall sunshine seems to have decided to make an appearance, and with it comes the urge to clear out the fog that is in my brain and find some sense and meaning.

The golden sunshine begins.

Of course, that’s not easy, so today I will be writing one of those posts that follow the whim of my words and thoughts. Stream of conscious rambling to clear the murkiness and lay down a path toward clarity. I understand if you don’t decided to follow along. I’m not sure I would. :) I’ll try my best to give meaning to my words.

The Randomness of Blogging: Some of you have noticed that I haven’t been blogging regularly for a while. Some have mentioned it when I comment. Some have e-mailed or said something on Facebook. Most haven’t reacted at all, which is no surprise. What has been surprising to me is that suddenly I have been getting new followers. (Welcome to all of you who have joined me recently.) Why is this surprising? Well, I haven’t been writing a lot. I have been commenting and I try to always respond to comments on my posts, but it’s not like I’ve been making any new statements or ranting about society or contributing to poetry or prose. Yet somehow I’m getting followers. Blogging is so random sometimes.

The Randomness of Writing: The last time I posted, I reported on the status of my book.  I have worked on it some more, but this week, mired in the muddle of my mind, I feel like I’ve hit another road block. I don’t have writer’s block, exactly, but I can’t seem to find the focus that I had last week. Does weather do that to you ever? How do you make your way through the murk?

The Randomness of Fall: I love fall. It has always been my favorite season. I love the smells, the colors, the quality of light. I would rather be outside on a warm fall day than on a hot summer day.  I love the flavors of fall; the cinnamon and apples, caramel and pumpkin spice.

Apple picking a couple of weeks ago.

But this fall seems particularly random, or off in some way. It feels like the leaves have turned too early. Some trees have already lost their leaves, while others still cling to the green of summer. The weather changes in the blink of an eye (I know, I know, I live in New England). From blazing hot days to shivering cold. From moments of sunshine to moments of gloom.  At least, however, those variations bring with them rainbows.

Driving home on a gloomy fall day.

This fall I feel disoriented and confused, but I have a theory why. It may, of course, have a little to do with global warming, but I’d rather blame it on the nauseating election season. The fumes and negativity, vicious attacks, ridiculousness, and everything else is leaking into the atmosphere and disturbing the beauty of my favorite season. I have decided to avoid it all now. I won’t discuss it. I won’t debate. I won’t listen to debates.  I won’t engage. Instead, I’m going to focus on the color, the light, the smells and the tastes of my favorite season and recognize when it’s time let go and focus on the joy.

Joy can be found in the smallest achievements.

The Randomness of Life: Yesterday I was listening to Studio 360. The show included an interview with Andrew McCarthy (of Pretty in Pink fame) who went on, after Hollywood to create a career as a travel writer. Listening to his interview, as well as an interview with Oskar Eustis, Artistic Director of the Public Theatre in New York, made me think about the reality and randomness of our paths in life.

Pretty in Pink

Pretty in Pink (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Very few people follow a straight path throughout their life, knowing from the beginning where they want to go and finding their way their without twists and turns. Life doesn’t function that way. A man who became well-known in 80′s movies, went on to discover his voice in the discomfort of travel. A boy who was a near runaway at 14 went on to become one of the most powerful voices in theatre in the country, after realizing that acting wasn’t his route. My own path, and even my destination, are still so very unclear, but it is the very randomness of that journey that makes each day one full of possibility, even in my confusion and my darker moments.

I now choose to define success in my own terms, even if that form is not recognizable in the eyes of others. I also choose to enjoy the randomness of the journey. It will be interesting to look back at the end and see where I have been.

So there you have it folks, random thoughts from a random mind.

What kind of randomness are you thinking about today?

Rainy Day Blues

Since it is raining today, and I am still suffering from SBD as well as feeling completely uninspired, I thought I would recycle and old post that many have probably never read.  Enjoy!

ORIGINALLY POSTED ON NOVEMBER 10, 2011

Warning, it is completely possible that I have lost my mind. And now for your entertainment a ridiculous song that sings the blues. Join me by adding “Ba da da da”, at appropriate points in your head.

Well I woke up this mornin’
with a plan in my head
of going for a walk and gettin’ out of my bed.

I got those fat butt,
got those fat butt blues.

But the rain started falling, and  the sky turned all gray
making me want to snuggle up in bed all day.

I got those rainy,
got those rainy day blues.

But I gave myself a lecture, and got out of bed
turned on the computer and got words in my head.

I got those reading
too many blog reading blues.

I wrote some new words down, and I read some words too
I began to research, hoping ideas would come through.

I got those writing,
what to write about  blues.

Then I got an e-mail, that nearly put me to bed
it said that my content wasn’t  all from my head.

I got those plagiarism
got those plagiarism blues.

But what they don’t get now, what they don’t see
is that I intentionally quoted from a man I’d  like to meet

I got those dumb-ass,
dumb-ass reader  blues.

So now my poem, goes back to the vault
and I write this dribble, it’s nobody’s fault.

I got those silly
silly rainy day blues.

We will continue with regularly scheduled sane posts as soon as my head re-attaches. 

The Power of Timeless Words

I just read an amazing book.

It contains words, as books usually do, and offers clarity that can speak to people from any generation, especially women but I think the lessons apply to both sexes. It contains poetry, imagery, honesty, insight, and peace.

While I bought the Kindle version, I wish I owned a hard copy. I want to write notes in pencil in the margin, dog ear pages, and read it over and over again. I know, some of you are wincing at the thought of the desecration of the pristine pages, but I don’t see it as that. I would see it as revisiting an old friend for advice, learning from its wisdom, and giving it the sheen of a well-loved treasure.

What is this book? Perhaps some of you are thinking I stumbled my way into reading the Bible. No, despite my many attempts at reading that story, I have never really found comfort in its pages or lost myself to the beauty of its verse (except a few sections here and there). I have never found wisdom from its messages. I could never really find myself in those pages

You would think that this book, written at a time when the traditional place for women was in the home (1955) would have very little to say to me as I struggle to find my place in the world. But the opposite is true, as this book exemplifies how little some things have changed, and how much we still have to learn. I find myself in almost every chapter, as she explores the challenges of relationships and the lessons of life learned as a woman, a mother, a wife, and a member of a community.

What is this amazing book, you ask? How did I find it? Well, at the wonderful meeting I attended the other day, I learned that this book, written by a Smithie, had been given to high school juniors as a book award. Dean Walters read a passage from it, as she began to talk:

“Every person, especially every woman, should be alone sometime during the year, some part of each week, and each day. How revolutionary that sounds and impossible of attainment. [. . . ]

[. . .] The world today does not understand, in either man or woman, the need to be alone.

[. . .] What a commentary on our civilization, when being alone is considered suspect; when one has to apologize for it, make excuses, hide the fact that one practices it–like a secret vice!” ( 42-43)

This passage, which I’ve shortened here, trilled to the person who wrote just a few days ago “The Art of Being Alone, Still Learning”.  I knew I had to read this marvelous book.

Why does this book speak to me so clearly? Because her writing and the metaphor she uses seems timeless. Because even though she was writing from a time and a place very different from ours, everything she says seems applicable today. Here are a few more passages of Lindbergh’s that I highlighted as I read:

“What is the shape of my life?

The shape of my life today starts with a  family. I have a husband, five children and a home just beyond the suburbs of New York. I have also a craft, writing, and therefore work I want to pursue. The shape of my life is, of course, determined by many other things; my background and childhood, my mind and its education, my conscience and its pressures, my hear and its desires. I want to give and take from my children and husband, to share with friends and community, to carry out my obligations to man and to the world, as a woman, as an artist, as a citizen.

But I want first of all–in fact, as an end to these other desires–to be at peace with myself.”  (16-17)

“We must re-learn to be alone.
It is a difficult lesson to learn today–to leave one’s friends and family and deliberately practice the art of solitude for an hour or a day or a week.” (36)

Seashells.

“When you love someone you do not love them all the time, in exactly the same way, from moment to moment. It is an impossibility. It is even a lie to pretend to.” (100) 

“A new consciousness of the dignity and rights of an individual, regardless of race, creed, class or sex. A new consciousness and questioning of  the materialistic values of the Western world. A new consciousness of our place in the universe, and a new awareness of the inter-relatedness of all life on our planet.” (128)

“For the enormous problems that face the world today, in both the private and public sphere, cannot be solved by women–or by men–alone. They can only be surmounted by men and women side by side.” (130)

 

I’ve said it before, words have power. The power of Lindbergh’s words lie in the fact that her word reach across time and difference to speak to the questions, concerns and challenges that we all face at different times in our lives. I would love to know that my words have that power, but for now all I can do is keep writing from the heart.

I finished a book today, and I am glad I did.

Happy Sigh Day

I started a different post yesterday, that I thought I’d finish today. But instead today has turned out to be a Sigh Day.

A Sigh Day? What’s a sigh day?

Perhaps a quote will help you understand:

“Halfway down the stairs, is a stair, where I sit. There isn’t any, other stair, quite like, it. I’m not at the bottom, I’m not at the top; So this is the stair, where, I always, stop. Halfway up the stairs, isn’t up, and isn’t down. It isn’t in the nursery, it isn’t in the town. And all sorts of funny thoughts, run round my head: It isn’t really anywhere! It’s somewhere else instead!”
― A.A. Milne

Not helping?

A sigh day is a day when  life is neither up nor down. For me it is a day where thoughts fly in, but I cannot catch them. Where beauty catches my eye briefly only to disappear. A sigh day is a day where I can’t quite grasp what I am looking for. Or, as Winnie the Pooh says,

“But it isn’t easy,’ said Pooh. ‘Because Poetry and Hums aren’t things which you get, they’re things which get you. And all you can do is to go where they can find you.”
― A.A. MilneThe House at Pooh Corner

Sometimes a sigh is a sad thing.

Sometimes a sigh is a glad thing.

And sometimes a sigh is just a sigh.

Today is a sigh day for me, and I really can’t explain it. So I guess I’ll just go with it and say it out loud

 

OCCUPY THANKSGIVING Meets the 100 Word Challenge for Grown Ups

This week  marks the 20th 100 Word Challenge over at Julia’s Place. I think I have missed a couple, but it has been a wonderful journey through incredible writing.

Be sure to check out other entries.

As usual, Julia has set us an interesting challenge. In her words:

Now for this week we are going topical again. The King James bible celebrated it’s 400th birthday last week. Although it is a religious text is has formed our language across the years. It has some surprising phrases that we use often in  everyday conversations.

The prompt this week is to use at least one of these for inspiration.

…the powers that be  /  the apple of his eye  /   the writing on the wall…

You do not have to include the phrase if you don’t want to but the piece must indicate which it was in it’s content. As usual you have 100 words and it must be suitable for a PG certificate.

I, of course, have to make things even more difficult for myself, because I decided today that all my posts this week should fit into the OCCUPY THANKSGIVING movement started over at Jamie’s fabulous blog. So here is a non-fiction post that is very personal and might be just a smidge shy of an R rating (sorry Julia). I am also including a picture, because it seems right.

Daddy and daughter bonding over a video game.

I remember the day I read the writing on the wall, the spot of blood that indicated something was wrong. I fought against the reality for as long as I could, but the painful truth was that I briefly carried a child not meant to live. Less than a year passed when the powers that be granted me a gift that helped make up for the pain of that loss. I sit and watch my husband interacting with Sarah, the apple of his eye, and realize that even with the occasional battle of wills, this was the child I was meant to have, and I am forever grateful.

 

OCCUPY THANKSGIVING: Thinking Thankfully

This weekend was a challenge.

Between teaching classes for students who, I believe, had already started Thanksgiving break in their minds (despite the fact that they still have 2 1/2 days of school this week); avoiding the course about self-publishing which has me completely intimidated and realizing I have a lot of work left to do, even when it comes to format; listening to my daughter scream, cry, and whine for over an hour as she decided to spend most of yesterday (and part of Saturday) in one of her spoiled-brat stages of existence–rare but still painful; trying to plan a fun Thanksgiving for a very complicated family: and the fact that I allowed myself to be sucked into computer games as I avoided the chaos, I feel like a completely useless waste of space.

That’s not a good feeling.

But, no worries folks, this is not going to be a whining post or even a post asking for sympathy.

Instead I am going to listen to these words of wisdom from the fabulous and talented Christine in her guest post called “Something worth celebrating” over at The Idiot Speaketh (the complicated connections of this blogging world leads to many links)

” It probably comes pretty naturally to most of us to strive for excellence of some sort. But this pursuit of greatness shouldn’t prevent us from recognizing, and celebrating, those of us who are being the best we can be.
Many times we focus on what we lack in ability. I’d like to suggest we make the effort to keep our thoughts turned to what we can do.”

In other words, we should be thankful for and learn to appreciate what we already have, even as we strive to achieve our dreams and goals.

So, in honor of this wisdom and the fact that Thanksgiving is this week, I am determined to focus on the positive and think thankfully. Starting . . .  NOW!

A UNIVERSE OF THANKS

Sunshine reflecting sparkles on the wall
of a home filled with warmth, love and dreams.

Warm chai spiciness sits on my tongue
made by a partner, husband, friend,

Words waiting to be written or read
celebrating a lifetime of learning.

A family filled with laughter and fun
supporting each other in all ways.

Blogging buddies and lifetime friends
filling the gaps of loneliness.

Future adventures looming near
a journey to countries and people unknown.

Past adventures that I hold dear
filling my life with life.

I may not know who I am today
nor what I will become tomorrow
but the gifts of the journey along the way
mean a life filled with joy not sorrow.

Update: Tori’s comment below reminded me that she had written a wonderful thankfulness post the other day. So now I am adding the link to hers and will continue to add any posts that I feel will help us feel thankful:

Thankful Blogger Am Thankful by Tori Nelson

Inspiration: A Thanksgiving Memory

Update to the Update: In honor of this excellent idea to Occupy Thanksgiving by the always brilliant Jamie note the new title of this post

Riding on the Coattails of Fame

I heard a radio advertisement yesterday that the great  great (great?) grandson of Charles Dickens would be presenting a reading of A Christmas Carol somewhere, creating different voices of all the characters.

Charles Dickens, a former resident of Lant Street.

Image via Wikipedia

Interesting? Perhaps, but it got me thinking about how many people get opportunities to publish, to speak, to act, to . . . whatever,  simply because of their relationship to someone famous. They may not have a single talent in their own right, but a distant link to a distant relative gets their foot in the door like nothing else can.

I suppose the children of writers, artists, actors, great politicians (if there is such a thing), speakers, etc. have it in their blood,  but talent doesn’t necessarily get passed down from generation to generation. They may have access to incredible teaching, and opportunities to absorb the craft of whatever it is through observation and interaction, but that does not guarantee  the same skill and ability will resurface.

Still, in our world of aggrandizing movie stars and putting people on pedestals, talent seems less important than having a famous relative. There are almost too many examples of this, and whenever you walk into a book store you can easily find a book published by a name, not a famous writer but someone who is writing because he/she is famous or related to someone famous.

Perhaps if I could trace my lineage back to someone famous, I too would be able to ride the coattails of fame. Or, better yet, if I could prove I was, indeed the REINCARNATION of William Shakespeare or Charlotte Bronte, or anyone else with creative chops that I admire I could simply walk up to a publisher and say “here is my manuscript, you will publish it errors and all.”

Charlotte Bronte

Lisa Bronte Kramer

Sadly, my grandfather on one side was a butcher and on the other a salesman (insurance I think). I cannot simply use my name for fame.

Now I have not heard this descendant of Dickens perform, and he could be a perfectly talented storyteller. But here is an interesting observation from Louisa May Alcott quoted in the Cheever’s biography I have been quoting from so liberally lately:

. . . [S]he excited went to her Dickens read and came away bitterly disappointed in the man and his performance. “Youth and comeliness were gone, but the foppishness remained, and the red-faced man, with false teeth and the voice of a worn-out actor had his scanty grey hair curled.”

It just goes to show you that just because your name is on the book, doesn’t mean you are the best person to perform it. ;)

I would argue that most actors nowadays get their big break because of their connections with someone else. If you look at some of the new stars of stage and screen, you nearly always find “daughter of so and so” or “nephew of what’s his name.”

It is almost impossible to make it on talent alone.

And that, my friends, is one of the biggest problems with our society. The rich get richer, not because they are more deserving than others or work harder, but because they are related to the original founder of that fortune. People get to write books and have them published traditionally, not because they ar the best wordsmiths on earth, but because they were born to someone famous. Performers get their opportunities to perform because Daddy brought them onstage. A woman whose claim to fame is only a big booty and a lifelong friendship with the daughter of someone rich and famous can keep herself plastered in the news with fake marriages, reality television, as well as “running” her own business (I wonder who really runs it). A man, the son of a former president, maintains a presidency by manipulating a system and leaves chaos in his wake which he then blames on the upstart who dared to step into the presidency without any family connections.

I wish we were in  a world where truly talented individuals could make their marks rather than a world dominated by people riding on the fame of their more talented ancestors. Don’t you?

500 Posts, Now What?

I haven’t really been paying attention to how many posts I’ve written until my brother posted his 200th post yesterday. When I glanced at the number I saw 499, and thought, wow I should celebrate 500. This is by no means to diminish Steve’s accomplishment, as I have been at this longer, but it is a nice round number worthy of acknowledging.

Like Steve, I don’t really have any momentous words for this occasion. Actually, a short time ago I said to Nathan, “I have nothing to write about today.” I’m not blocked, I just don’t have any ideas fighting for attention. I don’t have anything I particularly feel like ranting about this morning (as I have basically chosen to ignore all the ills of society for the time being). I don’t have a specific soapbox to climb on. I don’t even have anything silly to reflect on. It is simply a Friday.

But it is the Friday of my 500th post.

In a way, it is truly significant, as I attempt to embark on this Simultaneous Stories project which I believe comes from the desire to understand the role blogging plays in our society and in my life in particular.

I just pointed out the title of this post to Nathan. “Wow! Congratulations,” he said.

My response, “I don’t know if that is something to be proud about.”

“It is,” he answered.

You’ve gotta love a husband who is supportive.

I guess I question the importance of this because, as I wrote about a few days ago, I’m no longer sure why I write. That post sparked some interesting discussion and led me to other posts on the topic, including this one at Tossing It Out called “Is Most of Our Writing Done in Vain?” My response to Lee’s post moved we one step closer to understanding my own purpose as a writer. This is what I said,

Reading this made me realize something about why I write. Yes, I have the dream of achieving fame and glory through writing and always have, but that is not why I write. I write to share my story with a small audience. Right now, I write for a future audience, my daughter and descendants unknown. I know very little about my parents, despite them still being alive and together. If my words now give my daughter a better understanding of who I was, then I will be happy. I can’t share everything with her yet, but as she grows I have begun to share some posts and other writing already. She knows more about me than I ever did about my Mom. So, I may write for joy, or to be heard, or to understand, or to remember . . . but I also write to share.”

Now I look back on these 500 posts to see what stories I have really shared. What can my daughter learn about me from this blogging adventure? What legacy do I leave with my words? Here are some of the things I hope she has learned about me (including links to posts that share these aspects of me) I tried to link to older posts that you may have missed:

I could continue this list forever, but now it is time to post this momentous post to the universe and say, it has been a fascinating journey. Should I continue for 500 more?

Rainy Day Blues

 

Warning, it is completely possible that I have lost my mind. And now for your entertainment a ridiculous song that sings the blues. Join me by adding “Ba da da da”, at appropriate points in your head.

Well I woke up this mornin’
with a plan in my head
of going for a walk and gettin’ out of my bed.

I got those fat butt,
got those fat butt blues.

But the rain started falling, and  the sky turned all gray
making me want to snuggle up in bed all day.

I got those rainy,
got those rainy day blues.

But I gave myself a lecture, and got out of bed
turned on the computer and got words in my head.

I got those reading
too many blog reading blues.

I wrote some new words down, and I read some words too
I began to research, hoping ideas would come through.

I got those writing,
what to write about  blues.

Then I got an e-mail, that nearly put me to bed
it said that my content wasn’t  all from my head.

I got those plagiarism
got those plagiarism blues.

But what they don’t get now, what they don’t see
is that I intentionally quoted from a man I’d  like to meet

I got those dumb-ass,
dumb-ass reader  blues.

So now my poem, goes back to the vault
and I write this dribble, it’s nobody’s fault.

I got those silly
silly rainy day blues.

We will continue with regularly scheduled sane posts as soon as my head re-attaches.