Tuesday, September 25, 2007

The Travelin' O's

We're off for a few days! (I'll be lost without you.)
Check me out on Monday.

The Devil You Know

York, England Signpost
Leonard Pitts of The Miami Herald wrote an article called Fifty years after Little Rock. It is the story of how the US Army had to escort nine American children to school, in order to protect them "from a mob of American adults screaming blood and murder at their attempt to attend an American school. Because the adults had pale skin and the children's skin was dark."

The article continued:

"From the vantage point of half a century, it seems an absurd drama. You shake your head at the fatuity of the adults in the old news footage, their mouths twisted, fists clenched, eyes alight, and you marvel that they were driven to such a fury, such a madness, by so innocuous an event. You wonder what in the world they could have been thinking....

"We always expect evil to look different, obvious. We are always anticipating the pointed ears and the pitchfork, the black stovepipe hat and the Snidely Whiplash mustache. The truth, however, is that evil is rather banal. You might pass it five times a day and never recognize it for what it is.

"The pale men and women who took to the streets of Little Rock, Ark., in 1957 would have been, in the overwhelming majority, Christian people. They paid their taxes. They helped the poor. They visited the sick. They held hands over hearts for the Pledge of Allegiance. They were decent folks, yet they had this evil belief that people with dark skin were of a savage, yet simultaneously childlike, lower order...

"If you had suggested to them that this was wrong, they would have looked at you askance, maybe even laughed, and wondered what was wrong with 'you.' Because they knew they were right, they knew it in their bones, knew it in their Bibles, knew it with certitude, knew it beyond all question...

"Five decades later there is...the self-deluding conceit of a generation that is pleased to think of itself as enlightened beyond history, pleased to look back on past events and tsk-tsk the behavior of the poor, benighted souls who lived through them."

In 1960 my parents put our house up for sale. An American couple, of Japanese descent, made an offer. Our very decent and religious neighborhood passed around a petition and presented it to my folks, with dozens of signatures protesting the sale of the house to this family of a different race. The same situation was happening all around our city at the time. The couple withdrew their offer and moved somewhere else. The familiar devil was making an appearance.

Prejudice because of race is old news, now. It's the devil we recognize. In his red suit and pointy ears, he's too obvious, and we're learning not to let him in, or at least we know to be quiet about it. However there are a lot of sneaky little devils running around without their pitchforks, wearing jeans and t-shirts, or suits and ties. They appear normal, and they advocate a more politically-correct kind of prejudice. Something on our level. As a result, our associations with people are much more polite, but just as judgmental. The certainty of "we're better than them" is still front and center on the evil agenda.

I don't have answers here. My conscience was pricked by the article and I recognized myself as part the generation who thinks we've learned the lessons that will prevent massive social revolt over prejudice in the future. I think it would do me some good to analyze my feelings towards people who are different than I am, forget the rumors and misconceptions, and find out for myself.

We all belong to groups: Ethnic, age, family, religion, gender, business, neighborhoods. Some are inherited, some are chosen, and some are both. Society comes to conclusions about those groups that aren't accurate, but we must brush off the criticism and move on with the praiseworthy.

In a very small way I have felt judged unfairly because of society's ignorance and prejudice against some of my own groups. It makes me want to stand on a mountain top and scream about how stupid people are and how unjustified it is. "I'm not an idiot!" I'd bellow idiotically. Then I realize that would only feed the perception. So I quietly go back to regular life and hope to set a decent example, and try to contribute something worthwhile.

Those sneaky little devils can get back together with the devil I know and go right back where they came from. I only hope I'm wise enough not to follow them! (I'm really prejudiced against prejudice.)

Monday, September 24, 2007

Once Upon a Time...

I had a story published today on the Elderstory Telling Blog. I love it when that happens!

Gold Rush

A Golden View, Park City

Autumn. The word itself gives me a rush. This week the canyon looked like a variegated carpet, woven to conceal the parched, brown hills. To make things even cooler, it has rained since Friday! We're just soaking it all in. I continually fall for fall.

Today was perfect. We arrived home from church at noon, opened the windows to let a crisp cross-breeze flutter our blinds, and got comfy. Dee snuggled under the duvet and fell asleep, and I read the newspaper to the sound of rain, and a few rumbles of thunder. Later we ran between the drops and crunched through damp leaves to devour a pot roast dinner, followed by Marta's homemade chocolate souffle. Right now I'm listening to cars splash through puddles and looking out at street lights reflected in the mist, while watching an occasional glimmer of lightning.

Mother Nature can be very generous (when she's being good natured.) Did you know that a fully mature oak tree sheds about seven hundred thousand leaves every year? I'm pretty mature. I wonder how many little bits of color I've spread around this year. Seventy? Seven hundred? Think of all the trees she dots along the fall foliage trails, and all the oo's and ahh's she inspires. At least seven hundred thousand.

I'm no Mother Nature, but my little crop has spread some bits of color around since last September. In harvest terms, I've had a good yield. (I can't count to 700,000, but I'm good for seven.)
  1. Twin grand daughters were born healthy, full-term and beautiful.
  2. Summer camp in the woods featured extra wildlife from CO.
  3. The cross-country trekkers found a new home in MO.
  4. Kindergarten anxieties ended brilliantly for both mothers and daughters.
  5. Marriage has proven to be blissful for the newlyweds.
  6. A certain Law and Order team are closer to the final verdict.
  7. Biker-Dad's helmet saved the day.
It may have been just a trick of the autumn light, but today everything looked golden.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Insights From Off the Grid

I've been scampering around the blogosphere searching for meaning. I wanted to tour some new landscapes, and see what's going on outside my blog roll; you know, get out of my comfort zone, learn from the culture of the undiscovered blogs. In my explorations, I found five sites you might like, too.
  1. Susan Flemming
  2. Write Now is Good
  3. Tea Party Girl
  4. Pat Doyle
  5. Rocks In My Dryer
These sites have great curb appeal, but I didn't have time for much more than a whistle stop visit today. I'll be back to hang out and get the lay of the land. I'm a little picky about my on-line liaisons. I have some random standards.

I like blogs that don't have too much advertising, that have a decent font size that I can see comfortably, that don't suddenly blast music at me, and that have a friendly attitude. I don't like lots of little dancing characters jumping around, or unexpected blinking words. It's jarring! I like shorter paragraphs so I don't lose interest by seeing large blocks of words. Long paragraphs, with no capitals and no periods, give me the frantic feeling of having no end in sight. A light colored font makes for difficult reading, and even if I like the content, it's too much effort to relax with. I don't go back.

My hobby has to feel fun. The time has to fly by unnoticed. When it feels like work, I'm reminded of the real work I need to get back to. The same is true if I can't figure out how to navigate the site, find the bio or the archive, or leave comments. If I have to join somthing to comment, I feel uninvited and a little dumb. I'll skip on down the road where it's easier to join in.

Being sent to a U-Tube link is fun, though, because then I'm prepared for the action. I love to laugh out loud at something silly while sitting at my desk, and know the rest of you are laughing as you post or read it. I feel like I'm part of the in crowd. Most important: I want the writer to say something. I love photos, images and links, but I want to be inside someone's mind and connect. I want to see some personality, some authenticity and sincerity. I want to like the writer on some level.

What attracts you to, or annoys you about different blogs? Do you have some favorite places to suggest I go? I'm packing a lunch, and I'll just be sitting here until you send me some directions. Visiting new parts of the 'sphere is kind of like going on a vacation! (Well, not quite...)

(If you're a lurker, this is your chance to invite me over!)

Friday, September 21, 2007

Dressing My Inner Princess

Trinny Woodall and Susannah Constantine

Stacy and Clinton, Trinny and Susannah: they've all taught me what not to wear. I'm a sucker for fashion shows. I've purged my closet, donated my mistakes, cleaned and mended my keeper pile, and purchased everything they've told me I should wear. And still, I have nothing to wear! Why? I've realized it's mostly because I don't go the right places. I'm a princess without a ball.

The list of Ten Must-Have Wardrobe Items assumes that I'm walking around NYC on a chilly, might-rain kind of day wearing my crisp white shirt, my black pencil skirt, a red cashmere v-neck sweater, suede high-heeled boots, and a tan trench coat. On my head sits a jaunty fedora, and my real alligator bag holds my chic workout clothes, a Burberry umbrella and a beaded camisole to change into for an evening out.

Here's what holds me back from this fabulous look. I'm having hot flashes under my itchy cashmere, which sweats off my Lancome foundation and smears the collar of my shriveled and damp shirt. The pencil skirt hikes up when I'm in the dentist's chair, the trench twists when I get back in the car at the gas station, and the suede boots look odd when I let the repairman in to fix the furnace. If it's raining my windshield wipers do the trick. The hat gets knocked off when I climb in my friend's Mini. The treadmill is downstairs, and I'd spill root beer on the cami. My lifestyle doesn't fit my style.

I own a classic LBD and a classy black suit. Which should I choose for the dance review at the middle school, where I could be feeding a baby a bottle? I'm only comfy in my casual jeans when I'm standing up; sitting in them for a road trip would cut off the circulation to my legs. And how can I kick off my boots and get them back on when I'm flying coach?

I want some advice on how to look polished for my pedicure, how to be jazzy at the piano recital, and how to appear groovy at the grocery store. These are the places I really go. It's fun to buy clothes for the wannabe life I imagine, but often I'm driving through the bank, the dry cleaners and the library book-return and I get home only to realize nobody even saw how dashing I was. Dee leaves while I'm still sporting a bed-head, and snoring into my pillow. Occasionally I'm back in my pj's by the time he gets home. Who cares if I'm a frump?

The problem is, I care! It's important to my self-esteem. When I look in the mirror I want to cheer myself up. So I'll keep looking for a fashion show that will meet my needs, and in the meantime take all the advice I can get from the real princesses in my life.

Princess Hannah

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Ahoy me buxom beauty!

I just found out it's International Pirate Language Day! Luckily I had just the right outfit for the occasion.

Bagley Family Reunions

Illustration by Christopher Canyon

"Sing The Teddy Bear Song!" we coaxed Dad and Uncle Mel. It was a late August night, and the moon was out. I was about nine, lazing on one of my grama's quilts with all my little cousins around me, looking up at the stars, while Aunt Ree strummed her ukulele, and the moths buzzed around the porch light. Family picnics always ended this way.

Grampa's fresh peaches had been cranked into ice-cream. In the cellar under the back porch, the freezer with the rock salt and ice were covered with newspapers and left to finish the process. The corn-on-the-cob dripped with butter, the cucumbers brined in vinegar, and the onions scented the air. Raspberries were eaten right off the bushes, and very sour, green apples begged for salt.

There was a big brick stove at the back of the yard where the hamburgers sizzled, waiting to be dressed with homegrown tomatoes. Watermelon rind pickles, and chili sauce were on the table along with an empty dish of olives. We kids scampered around the yard, with a black olive stuck on every finger. We almost fell into the goldfish pond, hid behind the hollyhock bushes, and rolled down the sloping lawn, while our moms hustled the food outside and in, and our dads re-hashed the ballgame. It wasn't West Virginia, but it was almost heaven.

The best part was after it started to get dark. Grama and Grampa harmonized as they sang Shine on Harvest Moon, and we all joined in on Are You From Dixie (for some reason I thought I was from Dixie when we sang that song!) Our sing-a-long was a crazy variety, including Little Grass Shack, Edelweiss, When the Saints Go Marching In, and Bill Groggan's Goat. The favorites, however, were totally ours. My dad and his brother used to combine lines from lots of songs and create medleys. The Teddy-Bear Song started out with "Honey won't you look into your baby's eyes..." rolled into "Sweet Adeline was singing down in Dixieland..." and somewhere in the middle ran into this ditty:

Well, I had a little teddy bear that had no tail,
Just a little patch of hair.
The sun came out and burnt the hair away,
And left the little teddy bare.

The song eventually ended with "Mister Mo-on, bright and shiny moon, please shine down on, talk about your shinin', please shine down on me."

Babies and toddlers fell asleep as we crooned to that moon. As the oldest grandchild I prided myself on staying awake 'til the very last song. I even knew all the words.

This is one of the memories I love to visit. In my heaven, we get to check out the DVD of our life, and do some kind of virtual reality time-travel to relive our most cherished moments. You'll find me almost dreaming on grama's quilt, listening to my dad sing.

What's a moment from your life you would choose to relive if you could?

Monday, September 17, 2007

A Way With Words

What do you notice about this sentence?

"A rough-coated, dough-faced thoughtful ploughman strode through the streets of Scarborough; after falling into his slough he coughed and hiccoughed."

The English syllable ough can be pronounced nine different ways! (In case you were wondering, slough means swamp and is pronounced "slew." Plowman, and hiccuped are the alternative spellings, although the pronunciation is the same.)

Words are so great! We mix and match only 26 characters and come up with enough to fill all the libraries, and all the blogs. How we say something identifies not only our thoughts, but where we grew up, our education, even our age. You say aunt and I say ant, I say he's cool, you say he's hot, I say that's good, and you say that's bad....

The Gab Blog had a fun post on different vernacular around the country. What about slang that changes from generation to generation? Ten phrases that date someone for me are:
  1. Give me a "ring" (on the phone.)
  2. He's my "main squeeze."
  3. I was "tickled" that she'd visit.
  4. She's "foxy."
  5. "Daddio"
  6. "Wait up!"
  7. "Tablebacks" (meaning "save my place.")
  8. "Wash up." (pronounced "warsh up")
  9. "Beta bangs"
  10. "Tootle-loo!"
Do you have ten to add?

Sunday, September 16, 2007

I Don't Do Dishes....(sigh)

Illustration by Norman Rockwell
Do you ever wish you could blog about someone, but you can't because they might read your blog? Just tonight I was thinking of a great story I could tell (you would love it!) but it's got libel written all over it...it would be serious dishing. I've considered starting a new blog just for the gossip I can't report here, but I couldn't tell anyone about it, so what fun would that be? So, when you think my posts are humdrum, or even boring, just remember that I could be writing stuff that would knock your socks off. And it could even be about you!

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Control Issues

Illustration by Feodor Rojankovsky
I've retained a lot of my youthful characteristics. In fact, the two-year-old in me is alive and still kicking. I hate it when people tell me what to do! I just buck under pressure. Suggestions are good, and I will most often take well-presented advice. But I've never liked being patronized and I have never appreciated over-confident, presumptive folks sending the overt or subtle message that I couldn't make good decisions on my own. It is insulting, and it's wrong. God gave us worth. A person who tries to take that away is stealing the most valuable thing we have. Can't you just hear me screaming, "I do it myseff!!"

I watched Miss Potter last night (this is a spoiler, so if you haven't seen it, and are planning to, skip this paragraph.) I am bothered that her parents assumed they knew what was best for her, and that even as an adult she was intimidated into postponing a marriage to a man she loved, because they didn't approve. As it turned out, they might even have proclaimed they had protected her from disaster. They didn't. They couldn't have. What had happened to her wasn't planned out, or thought through; it wasn't expected or even desired. She had fallen in love. Her heart was already vulnerable, and what they saved her from was several months of happiness. She got the heartbreak anyway. Do parents have the right to make these kinds of choices for adult children?

In the movie, the father had been an artist in his youth. That was an unacceptable career path to his parents, so he studied the law. Why was it unacceptable? Who says? My inner toddler wants to scream at people who think they have all the answers for everyone else. An artist probably won't get rich, and maybe a lawyer will. Is that it? Is it so the parents aren't embarrassed that their son isn't in a profession? Although the movie took place 100 years ago, this is an attitude that is alive and well. People make judgments based on what is important to them, and then feel justified in imposing it on anyone else not so exceptionally informed. Perhaps the poor artist would have been happier than the rich lawyer. No matter. It was the artist's choice to make, not his parents. They had their chance.

When our own children are young we have the responsibility to teach them right from wrong. During their childhood we have been charged with providing for them, and letting them receive education and experience that will help them discover who they want to be. We set a standard and an example, and because they are dependent on us, we can rightfully expect respect and obedience to our just demands. But children are individuals, and not clones. We should be anxious to allow them to develop self confidence.

As they get older, they have the capacity and duty to make choices for themselves. It's their birthright. If somebody asks for our opinion, as friends, siblings, parents, we can advise, with the proviso that nobody is obligated to accept that advice. Otherwise there is a tantrum, a rebellion, a resentment that ruins the relationship. We deserve the liberty to make our own mistakes, and it's inborn to want that opportunity.

This land also had it's childhood, with a heavy-handed parent keeping watch. When the country arrived at it's teenage period it got angry over such control. It wanted more say. As a newly mature nation, it rebelled against what it now saw as tyranny and domination. As our country reaches middle age, we sometimes forget the feeling of being invaded and compelled. Like parents stuck in their ways, we assume that we are looked up to, envied, and have the responsibility of demanding the little guy become like us.

So now I'm coming to my main point. This horrible war. Why does our government continue to think the American way is better than everyone else's way? We are patronizing and arrogant to assume that the rest of the world would be better off if they were just more like us. Their values may not be our values! We have no right to speculate that "it's for their own good," "they'll thank us someday," "we have a responsibility to save, protect, train, and guide them."

Rick Steves, a noted traveler and lecturer, points out in an insightful interview, that citizens of other countries do not want a US passport. They have different objectives, and other directions. He reminds us that travel teaches us to respect various cultures. An excellent article in the Boston Globe says, "The real role of American troops in Iraq is now to try to keep a lid on the terrible violence unleashed by our own invasion." (Clashing Catastrophes by Ellen Goodman, 2007/09/14, The Boston Globe.)

When we interfere in other's lives because we think we're more enlightened somehow, we let their inner two-year-old out. There will be some kicking and screaming, hitting and biting. Human beings want to be out of control, or at least out from under it. I recognize the feeling. There's a little of that frustration left inside me.

Illustration by Mary Engelbreit

Friday, September 14, 2007

Deep Thoughts from My Out-Laws

I think the mistake a lot of us make is thinking the state-appointed psychiatrist is our "friend."

It's easy to sit there and say you'd like to have more money. And I guess that's what I like about it. It's easy. Just sitting there, rocking back and forth, wanting more money.

If I had the time to sit down and write a thank-you note to everyone who sent me a nice, expensive present, what a wonderful world that would be.

To me, it's a good idea to always carry two sacks of something when you walk around. That way, if anybody says, "Hey, can you give me a hand?" you can say, "Sorry, got these sacks."

Dad always thought laughter was the best medicine, which I guess was why several of us died of tuberculosis.

As the light changed from red to green to yellow and back to red again, I sat there thinking about life. Was it nothing more than a bunch of honking and yelling? Sometimes it seemed that way.

I wish I would have a real tragic love affair and get so bummed out that I'd just quit my job and become a bum for a few years, because I was thinking about doing that anyway.

I hope life isn't a big joke, because I don't get it.

(Quotes are from Jack Handey. Photos are published without permission.)

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Out Takes

Movie Review:

I loved Miss Potter, starring Renee Zellweger. The story is true, the scenery is unbelievably beautiful, the music is tender, and Beatrix Potter did England a great service in preserving the countryside. She is a real story-book character.

See this movie with somebunny soon!

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Riding in Style

I could own this car right now. When I was 18 my boyfriend spotted a car just like this for sale: $1300. He wanted us to buy it together. Although he was on the brink of leaving the country for a couple of years, he had $300 for the down payment and thought I could drive it and make the payments while he was gone. It seemed like a great idea, but my parents thought otherwise. The car was sold to someone else. But just think about it: although I didn't end up with the boyfriend, I could have ended up with the car! Every time I see an antique auto it makes me pine for my first love--a yellow '53 MG with running boards.

These are the cars I've driven instead.
(These are example photos, of the same year and make, not necessarily color.)

My dad's white Valiant convertible, stick shift, which I drove into a brick wall.

My mom's light blue Fury. Could it have been worse?

My dad's redeeming purchase, a '66 yellow mustang (ours had a black vinyl top.)

Every 60's couple's first car, a VW Bug, in light blue.

Our first new car in 1972. The four kids just tumbled around in the hatchback without car seats in those days. What were we thinking?

A Jeep Cherokee in blue and white. Josh drove this car through our garage door at age two. Dee got accustomed to backing out quickly while we waited for the door to be replaced, and the day after it was re-installed, Dee backed the same car through it again.

The yellow VW Bus I hauled our seven little kids around in.

The brown and white Suburban I hauled our seven big kids around in.
(This was diesel and you could hear it coming a mile away.)
This was my luxury car. It was a gray Mercedes station wagon, also diesel, and very gutless. People flipped out over it, unless they were driving behind me up a hill. Then they flipped off.

A wonderful little all-wheel drive Subaru, in maroon, that could climb all our mountains in winter.

Somebody saw me and thought, "We ought to invent a mini-van."
My first one was a gray Dodge.

The kids call this "The Egg." I drive it today.
I thought I would want a little Oma Car to tool around in after all the kids grew up, but I love having the extra space. I can haul all the groceries, plus a couple of car seats for grand kids, and still have room for a passenger or two.
This car has been from Seattle to Boston, San Diego to Philly, up to Canada and down to Phoenix, and she just keeps chugging.

It would be fun to drive that beautiful yellow automobile around the block a few times, but I don't think it could have taken me where I needed to go.
For that I needed substance, not style.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Roommates: Like Oil and Vinegar

Julie and I were making dinner. It was the first week of freshman year, she was one of my new roommates, and co-chef. This was our cooking debut. The girls in our apartment had voted to rotate kitchen duties and we had already sampled our other roomies first attempts.

Earlier in the week, Sally and Clarice had made 7-Layer Dinner, some sort of horrible tomato-type casserole, that none of us ate, except Clarice. Clarice was tall and skinny, and a year older than the rest of us. She had a superiority complex, and obviously thought she was the coolest. We, obviously, thought she was a total dork. She had announced (several times already) that she had "thyroid" and could eat anything without gaining weight. She proved it by inhaling all seven layers of Sally's casserole in one sitting.

Cami and Sheryl had made barbecue ribs, which were very tasty, and Clarice polished those off as well. Julie and I were attempting meatloaf, with frozen peas, baked potatoes, and green salad on the side. Very ambitious.

Something was needed to enhance the lettuce, so we decided on an oil and vinegar dressing. Neither of us had ever made it before, and we didn't have a recipe, but it didn't seem hard. Since we had no oil, we melted some Crisco in a saucepan, mixed it with a little white vinegar and a dash of salt and pepper. We let the flavors "blend" in the fridge while we cooked everything else. When it was time to serve, the peas were still frozen, the potatoes were rock hard, the meat loaf was bleeding in the middle, and in the hub-bub, we forgot about the salad dressing.

Clarice came home late from class that night, and by then the disastrous dinner had been carried out to the trash bin. I walked into the kitchen where she was studying at the table. She was eating some white congealed mess of goopy stuff--the salad dressing! "Hey, this tapioca is pretty good," she said.

Names have been changed to protect me.

Sunday, September 9, 2007

"Grow Old Along With Me."

Marty's Engagement Picture August 1969

Grow old along with me,
The best is yet to be.
When our time has come
We will be as one.
God bless our love,
God bless our love.

Dee dressing for wedding day.

Grow old along with me.
Two branches of one tree
Face the setting sun
When the day is done.
God bless our love,
God bless our love.

Wedding Celebration

Sharing our lives together,
Man and wife together,
World without end,
World without end...

Dee and Marty, growing old together, 2007

Grow old along with me.
Whatever fate decrees
We will see it through,
For our love is true.
God bless our love,
God bless our love.

Dee and I started out young, and today celebrate 38 years of growing up, and growing old together!
We were married 9/9/69, never to part, through time and all eternity.
Time is slipping by, but by eternity standards, we've still got a lot of joy to anticipate together.
God has blessed our love.

A few words on marriage from my 38 years of experience:
  1. Invite God into the marriage.
  2. When there are choices between the desires of the husband or the wife, choose what would support the marriage.
  3. The marriage becomes the unit that supports the individuals.
  4. When we put our marriage before ourselves, there is security and harmony in the home. The whole family feels safe because the foundation is sound.
  5. Love is an action verb. It's something we DO, not something we wait to have done to us. If we feel unloved, it indicates we are not loving. Being married to the one you love is totally fun, energizing, relaxing, comforting, exhilarating, peaceful and entertaining. I know!
"Spending our lives together,
Man and wife together,
World without end,
World without end.
Grow old along with me...
The best is yet to be."

This was one of the last songs recorded by John Lennon, just a few days before his death at his home in 1980. It was never finished, but released as it was. Just like him.

Saturday, September 8, 2007

Poor Me

Carl Spitzweg

Being a writer is not all it's cracked up to be. I know, I know, John Grisham is smart and rich. Daniele Steele is gorgeous and rich. Dan Brown is famous and rich. They're on Dave Letterman, and the Today Show. But the rich and famous ones are few and far between. The rest of us are like this guy. He is The Poor Poet.

When I first met Dee in Salzburg, we went to an art store to look at postcards. There were famous works of art, all filed alphabetically by artist, and Dee introduced me to Carl Spitzweg, the Norman Rockwell of Biedermeier. We have collected many of his prints over the years, but this is by far my favorite.

I don't know what it's like to be a carpenter, or a chemist, or a choreographer. But I know what it's like to be a writer. It's a way of being. You don't have to be good, or published, or paid. You're a writer because you write.

I've just finished a book called One Continuous Mistake, by Gail Sher. The subtitle is Four Noble Truths For Writers. Sher says as a writer, you don't write because you should, but "because if you don't write, you will feel something terribly important is missing from your life---and nothing, including prayer, meditation, exercise, money or love will make up for it." I identify with that.

She goes on, "I know a doctor who wishes he could teach literature. I know a lawyer who secretly writes children's stories. I don't know any writer, however, who hankers after an alternative profession. If you are a writer and you are writing, there may be problems but never doubts."

The Poor Poet can't help himself. He has to write. He obviously can't afford a decent roof over his head. (But doesn't he look cozy?) Because he's in a painting he's been validated. We all know he's a legitimate writer. It doesn't matter that nobody's read his stuff, or that he doesn't have an agent or a publisher. He's for real.

That's a problem for many writers. We wonder if we're for real, because others don't seem to take us seriously. If you say you're a plumber do people ask to see a toilet you've installed? If you say you're an accountant, do people want to see the returns you've filed? Why, then, if you say you're a writer, do people dismiss you because THEY have never read what you've written?

Recently I was quoted to myself. Not the cool way, like in Harry Met Sally. More like,
"My friend wrote this poem, and I thought you'd like it." It was a poem I wrote several years ago and passed out freely. Apparently this friend of my friend recieved a copy. I've written many poems because people have asked me to, for small publications, talks in church, graduation speeches, or other special occasions. I love to write, and am flattered to have any readers at all, so I would never dream of charging someone, even though I have spent days, and even weeks, working on a piece. Most of the time nobody even knew I was the one who wrote it. I didn't care. But to have somebody else take credit for it really bothered me. And how do you say, "Oh, I wrote that!" ten years later?

What does it matter? Dee always says, "You can get a lot accomplished if you don't worry about who gets the credit." If I had waited for somebody to validate my ability before I wrote anything, I wouldn't be a writer. And a writer writes. The only way to fail at being a writer is not to write. But it would be fun to be rich and famous, too.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

"Having been born..."

Once upon a time a mom and a dad looked down at their new baby girl with wonder. The baby was me.

It's my birthday today. Here's a list of things I got that very first day.
  1. Parents who loved each other, wanted me, and loved me.
  2. Grandparents who thought I was wonderful.
  3. A home, food and clothing.
  4. Citizenship in a free country.
  5. Knowledge that I am a child of God.
  6. A perfect body, that has ended up as a good body (not a "10," but it functions well.)
  7. Laughter and humor around me.
  8. Optimism.
  9. An ongoing education.
  10. Generosity on all sides.
These blessings have been renewed every year, and lots have been added along the way. I'm a lucky girl.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Happy Birthday Pete

Isn't this a kid to drool over?


I'm dividing you into two teams. One team gets a baggie containing all the jigsaw pieces for a puzzle. The other team receives an equal number of pieces for a different puzzle in the box it came in.

Go! Which team can put their puzzle together quicker? Obviously the team who has the picture of what they're creating has the advantage, and probably wins, but not always.

Now the teams exchange puzzles. The team who had to piece it together last time without the whole overview has developed experience in working together. Their unity, coupled with the new perspective of the box cover, gives them the victory every time.

This is an activity I've used when teaching teenagers. The point is that it's easier to put our life together if we have a vision of what we want it to look like. If we're grabbing random pieces of the puzzle and trying to force them to fit, it won't go as smoothly, and we won't recognize when it's finally coming together. If a group (such as a family, or a couple,) has learned to work as a team, the picture becomes clearer as they all contribute. I think it is a true concept, but it's too simplistic for adults in the depths of life.

I read an article that gave Awerty.com credit for this piece of wisdom:

"Our time on Earth is an irreplaceable gift, one to be treasured and relished every moment; life is a fragile gift that is delivered to us in pieces, and it only achieves meaning as we cherish and blend the pieces--even the seemingly insignificant pieces--into a full, universal whole."

This made me think. Much of the time we can't see the whole picture. We didn't come with a box. And we're all so busy piecing our individual lives together, we often find ourselves working without the team. Nobody sees our particular dilemma. The piece we're trying to fit into our life at the moment might not seem to be part of the same puzzle!

I know it's key to recognize who is delivering us the pieces, and trust Him that they aren't random. Sometimes just setting them aside while we work another section will give us ideas about how they'll fit in. Arbitrarily deciding we don't need a particularly tricky piece might leave us with a hole in a critical spot. As more pieces are delivered and we gain better perspective on how it could look when we're finished, we might discover that this piece is the centerpiece of the whole design.

Just trying to piece it all together.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Inside the Closet

Labor Day has always been about clothes for me. It was the day before the 1st day of school, and I had to plan my outfit! I remember the night before I started 4th grade, laying my new red plaid dress with the black velvet ribbon trim, my white socks, and black maryjanes on my striped bedroom carpet. As you can see, I've always been stylish.

By 7th grade I was making lists of what I'd wear every day of the first week. In high school I had index cards that I dated so I wouldn't inadvertently wear the same thing too soon. I wasn't the fashion queen or anything. I just loved mixing, matching and organizing. I can still remember events by the clothes I wore. (Day after braces came off: navy skirt, navy and white striped ruffled blouse, white fishnets, red sling back flats. Day Kennedy was shot: red and gray plaid pleated skirt, white poorboy sweater, black "suzy-long-legs," black T-strap shoes.)

September brings out the dress-up in me. I sometimes even start early, it's so fun. Although it's hotter than blazes, I can't wait to rearrange my closet and get out the sweaters and turtlenecks.

This is what I've been doing this week:

Reading through all my fashion books, learning to dress the body I have, rather than pining for the body I want.

Hanging all my skirts and pants and trying different combinations of tops and jackets, then listing them on index cards, which I file under Daytime, Dressy, Out to Lunch, etc.
(I'm sure some of you are thinking I'm definitely out to lunch!)

I have a bulletin board in my closet where I post suggestions to myself, laundering tips that came with clothing items, and sometimes magazine pictures to inspire me.

I went through all my necklaces and edited them. I also added and subtracted links to make them the right length. I hang them inside what I call my jewelry cupboard.

I use little divided craft box inserts to separate my earrings, and other stuff. My pin collection is hanging on the wall, so I won't forget what I have.

So, I have all my clothes hung by category and color, all my shoes shined and waterproofed, my scarves organized by length and my lists indexed and filed. My shelves are dusted and the hooks are hung. I can finally come out of the closet. Now I just need somewhere to go!