On Carolyn Porter and Marcel’s Letters

I am so happy to have crossed paths with Carolyn Porter a few years back. The journey that unfolds in Marcel’s Letters: A Font and the Search for One Man’s Fate, is an amazing tale. For more, see Brevity’s Blog, Of Fonts, and Fate, and Marcel’s Letters.

Marcels-Letters-MOCKUP

Flu 2018: How it Progressed

Embracing winter mind (see prior post) is all well and good until the smallest member of your household contracts the very bad, horrible, no good, really quite awful flu of 2018. Here’s how it progressed (to date):

  1. Sunday (2/4)–Flu came on suddenly with sore throat, chills, extreme fatigue, lack of appetite and low grade fever.
  2. Monday (2/5)–Fever climbed from 101 degrees to 104.2 later in the day. My child, who never naps, slept almost all day. No appetite whatsoever. Difficult to get fluids in him but I roused him periodically for sips of water. Still, I saw his lips getting dry. As the fever crested over the 104 point, I finally gave him Tylenol. This child has a mild clotting disorder (in addition to bilateral hearing loss and asthma), so Ibuprofen is not an option. In general, I let fevers run their course, but above 104 (and climbing), I was ready to move into action with a fever reducer. Tylenol brought the fever down to about 102 within two hours. With his sleeping schedule so off and feeling better on fever reducer, he was up for a few hours in the middle of the night. He urinated two times this day. Very dizzy. Needed help walking to bathroom.
  3. Tuesday (2/6)–Wakes feeling a little better. Fever hovers around 101 to 102 all day without fever reducer. At 8:10 am, while lying down, a nose bleed starts. Nose bleeds are difficult given his clotting disorder (not hemophilia). It took one hour to quell bleeding. Two times in the two hours thereafter, the clot was disrupted and we had more bleeding, but both were resolved in 20-30 minutes. This took us up to about 11 am. Slept most of afternoon. Woke up with fever down to 100 degrees. Yay. My husband came home from work early to spell me. Yay. And was here in time to witness and clean up the vomit of mostly blood and water. Child spends evening panicked about throwing up again. 3rd day with virtually no food.
  4. Wednesday (2/7)–Sleeps in as possibility of school is still out. Nose bleeds starts almost immediately upon waking. Bright red blood all over our light colored, eco-friendly wool carpet. My husband had only just pulled out of driveway. Called him back to deal with nosebleed while I scrubbed all of the blood spots on the carpet with mineral water (very very useful in getting out blood stains). Fever down to 99.0. Mostly a better day with some appetite returning. Cough begins late in day. Because my son has asthma, we started him using his nebulizer. Anxiety about potential of returning to school the following day (yes, this child also suffers from anxiety) and so he was very late falling to sleep. Peaceful sleep, however, once sleep comes.
  5. Thursday (2/8)–at least so far. Wakes up late. I let him sleep in (for him, this is 7:45 or 8). Wakes up with quite a cough. No fever. Use nebulizer. Almost normal appetite. No nose bleed. Yay! Epsom salt bath in warmest water he can tolerate to help start clearing toxins out and loosen lungs.

Meanwhile, I have the latest, greatest (I hope) version/revision of my memoir-in-progress due to a writing mentor tomorrow.  Yes, it could be rescheduled but it might get worked into her schedule much later and I have a pitch fest coming up in April. I want this done by then so need to stay on track. I’ve been working in tiny bursts this week. I’m trying to listen to Natalie Goldberg’s words, told to those of us who attended a Q & A session with her at The Loft Literary Center (Mpls) : Don’t let your writing be tossed aside.

Because it’s been such a tough week, its especially important to become intentional with my gratitude. I’m grateful for these things:

  1. My husband and I are remaining healthy (we think he had the flu in November and me in September);
  2. Although we’ve been on the brink of going to the ER a few times, we’ve managed to deal with this flu at home.
  3. I’ve been able to be home with my son this week.
  4. My husband wasn’t traveling for work this week.
  5. Our highly demanding kitten, Bilbo, has seemed to understand he needed to be extra good this week.
IMG_7607.jpg
Bilbo would not be tossed aside; on Monday, high fever day, Bilbo insisted on being right next to Josh, purring. I’ve read cat’s purrs are healing. I think Bilbo was trying to help my little guy out.

Because my memoir has exploded into a generational memoir over the last few months, I’ve been seeped in research. I’ve been very mindful this week that my Great Aunt Teresa died 100 years ago, of the 1918 flu epidemic. I’m also grateful for life, mine and my lovelies.

 

Embracing Winter Mind

First, listen to “The Snow Man” by Wallace Stevens to help you get into “a mind of winter.”

Then, here’s some examples of how I’ve been embracing winter mind:

IMG_7590
Lighting candles against morning darkness.
IMG_7557
Making silly snowmen with my son.
IMG_7582
Rising early to photograph the blue, blood #moon.
IMG_7401
Walking on frozen lakes at dusk.
IMG_7603
Noticing how light and shadows play together. Photo by HFP
IMG_7589
Stopping to listen to hearty, old winter buskers. Photo by HFP
IMG_7390
Hanging out in winter sun with Bilbo. #catsknowbest Photo by HFP
IMG_7599
Wearing cozy flannel #RedandWhite polka dot pajama pants.
IMG_7524
Celebrating #winterblooms, however small.
Photo on 1-25-18 at 8.49 AM
Figuring out how to write while balancing a cat and computer on my lap.
IMG_1145
Reading a good book while enjoying a hot mug of tea. #amreading
IMG_7580
And, best of all, writing every day in January. #amwriting

Now I Can See

IMG_7411
I live across from a cemetery now; the neighbors are rather quiet.

The corners of the sky glow pink and red as the last of this New Year’s daylight slips away.

I’ve just come through one of the more difficult parenting months of my life. The months ahead do not look less difficult, but perhaps unknown light will emerge around the edges of the darkness. There is, in any situation, always room for hope.

Last night, I journaled about the low lights and highlights of 2017, a practice I learned from Sister Karol Jackowski. I was blessed to take both Spiritual Writing and Nature Writing from “Karol” during my MFA program. From Karol, I not only learned to write better, I learned to live better.

In accessing my low and highlights, I recognized (which I think is the point of this exercise) the kernels of grace that exist in each down turn, each dark path. Many of the seeds of my highlights were germinated in the low lights.

Whether fortune or foe, who is to say, goes a familiar Buddhist teaching.

“Barn burned down, now I can see the moon.”  Mizuta Masahide

Now I can see.

IMG_5184
And sometimes, the barn can be salvaged.

Ann Klotz on The Writing Life

Sometimes, you meet a person who just opens your heart and soul. This past October, I met writer Ann Klotz at a Kate Hopper retreat. Ann and I had known one another online for a while, but this was our first in-person meeting.

Everything Ann wrote at that October retreat was a heart song. Ann seems to possess an almost natural ability to spin words into gold. Not only a writer, Ann also is the Headmistress of Laurel School in Cleveland, Ohio.

Ann writes in her latest essay, “Writing is Everything,” about the struggles she has with finding writing time. I relate to everything in this essay at a deep soul level. Yet it seems that Ann, when she does write, has no trouble dropping right into the kind of soul writing I wrote about a few blog posts back, after I returned from the October Kate Retreat.

These days, whenever I see that Ann has published a new essay, I drop everything and read it, right away. I know it will move me, I know it will be important in a way that elevates the everydayness of life into a heart-gripping tale of my own life. Ann has an uncanny knack at tapping into the universal. If you too are trying for a writing life, I hope you too drop everything and read Ann’s latest essay up on Brevity today.

via Writing is Everything

Ten Year Night Playlist

My love, my latest CD mix for you is our origin story, told in 15 songs.

This thing called “we” is a space we first began to occupy on this night, ten years ago, at Lee’s Liquor Lounge. Multiple things converged in the perfect storm for this “we” to begin.

100_0352
One of the very first photos of the once brand-new “we.”

Track 1: Big Joke, The Rhinestone Diplomats

Our friend and coworker, Aaron, and his band–The Rhinestone Diplomats, had to be playing at Lee’s on that particular November night. Our friend and co-worker, Justin, had to pick you up at Rod and Amy’s house and bring you to LLL, where I was busy dancing up a storm.

Track 2: Sparks, The Who

I had to sit down next to you on a table and feel the atomic energy moving between your skin and mine. Yeah, there were sparks.

Track 3: Cortez the Killer, Neil Young

The band played a fantastic cover of Cortez the Killer (did I request this, I wonder?) and I danced my ass off; you watched me from a bar stool.

Track 4: Tiny Dancer, Elton John

I remember approaching the bar after Cortez concluded. We may have hugged. Hold me closer, tiny dancer.

Track 5: Shelter From the Storm, Bob Dylan

Justin was ready to leave. “Come in,” she said. “I’ll give you shelter from the storm,” or at least a ride home in my little white Honda Civic.

Later, while loading up the bands’ equipment, Aaron may have averted his eyes when he saw a little white Honda in the parking lot with steamed up windows.

Track 6: Let’s Get it On, Marvin Gaye*

We barely made it up the stairs to your apartment.

*Okay, I cheated here. I couldn’t find anything other than Marvin lip synching this song, so I linked to Jack Black singing “Let’s Get it On” in one of my all-time favorite movies, High Fidelity. But my compilation CD for you uses Marvin’s version.

Track 7: This is the Last Time, The National

Lee’s happened on a Friday. By Sunday, you invited me out to brunch to tell me, “We’re not supposed to date. That was the last time.”

Track 8: Most of the Time, Bob Dylan

You didn’t miss me, most of the time. But I . . .

Track 9: I Burn for You, Sting

I burned for you; But I burned quietly. When you asked me at work how I was doing, I’d say, “I’m fine.” You’d tell me, “I’m fine too.”

Track10: Those Three Days, Lucinda Williams

So, knowing you were spending Christmas alone and my kids were with their dad, I invited you to coffee. Instead of meeting you at the coffee shop as you suggested, I recommended one near my house. “We’ll walk over together,” I said. We never found our way to the coffee shop and we shared our infamous “three days.”

But then, once again, you said “This is the last time.”

Track 11: Sideways, Citizen Cope

I said, “Fine. I’m fine” as you dated the girl you met at a New Year’s party. I made you the first in a long line of mixed CDs with a mixed purpose. You made me one in return. “Sideways” was on your playlist for me. I would wait patiently for you to realize what I already knew.

Track 12: Come Pick Me Up, Ryan Adams

When spring came, I grew less patient. When you were done with the girl from the New Year’s party and the woman from Dallas, I began suggesting outings. I took you to a Jackie Greene concert for your birthday. You kissed me in the parking lot, but would not invite me in at the end of the evening. I saw you hiding in the bushes, making sure I could get my car off the icy, steep hill outside your place.

I took care of your cat while you did a solo trip to Paris. After feeding your cat, I would stand in your closet and take in the smell of your perfectly spaced work shirts.

A few months later, I asked for your help picking out a new digital camera. We’re just single friends helping one another out, I told you. You picked me up in your beater Jeep with the top taken off to let the warm late spring air in. While driving to Best Buy, I told you it was like riding in a boat. That made you smile.

Track 13: Everything I do, Whiskeytown

Then I dated the young Buddhist poet. I got sick. You checked on me five times in one day when I was sick; you checked in on me when I was in the emergency room. The Buddhist Poet couldn’t drive. When I was getting better, he biked over the High Bridge with a tincture of yarrow that he grew in his garden. Not long after, I broke up with him because he wasn’t you. Your actions spoke louder than your words. Your actions told me you loved me.

Track 14: Let it Be, The Beattles

We went out for drinks with my best friend, Shari, when she visited from Montana in August. She told you, “Admit it. You love her.” And you did. You admitted it. You decided to give us a chance, in spite of work rules to the contrary.

We let it be and life let us be together, eventually.

Track 15: Ten Year Night, Lucy Kaplansky

Through the years, we’ve both put this song on many of our compilation CDs. And now, tonight, it really is our Ten Year Night. The night the “we” that is “us” all began, one decade ago. So happy to round a decade with you, my man.

Photo 5
About one year after Lee’s Liquor Lounge.

 

 

I’ve Been Holding Back

I’m always holding back. I hold back my writing, because maybe I’ll use it somewhere else someday. Maybe there will be a better time or place to put my words out into the world.

I hold back feelings of hope in a futile attempt to tamp down the potential for disappointment.

I hold back feeling joy, in an effort to stave off feeling sadness.

I hold back love. I’m not sure why I hold back love. I sense it has something to do with trying to keep chaos at bay. For me, love and chaos were once intimately linked. At the very least, I know I hold back love when my world is at its most chaotic. For example, whenever my youngest son’s health issues creep into the forefront of our lives, as they have this fall, I fold deeper into myself. My capacity to show love to those in my life declines. My life becomes singularly focused on trying to control the uncontrollable: my son’s health.

IMG_6987
Early morning ramble at the retreat.

I attended Kate Hopper’s Motherhood and Words writing retreat in northern Wisconsin two weeks ago. It was my fourth time attending this retreat and I always come away with new insight and new words. I’m still shaping some of the essays I started at that retreat and I’m mulling over the direction I received from Kate, other attendees, and my inner guidance: Overhaul your entire manuscript. Begin again. Rewrite it a fourth time. This time, actually retype the whole thing. I’m kind of resisting the direction right now. I know this because I started applying for editorial jobs. Wouldn’t it be better to be an editor again, rather than a writer, I ask myself. I ignore the writing contract that I made with myself last May, when I graduated with my MFA, when I agreed to let my “writing self” have a year before my “get-shit-done self” stepped in and told writing self to get a real job.

Even in my resistance, I’m still thinking about the rewrite and how it will be done, how the manuscript will be shaped so differently this time around. I’m reading about five other memoirs right now (not unusual–I live my life juggling numerous books). Reading to observe structure, more than to absorb content. That said, I’m sucking the marrow out of Claire Dederer’s Poser: my life in twenty-three yoga poses. I’ve come late to the Poser party, but am so glad I came.

Another bit of wisdom I brought back with me from Wisconsin is an idea that another writer shared. This writer shares a first name with me, so it’s only natural that her wisdom would resonate deep within. She told us she was trying to move from “ego writing” to “soul writing.” She described the difference. Ego writing resists going deep and, instead, slips safely along the surface. Soul writing, in contrast, dares to reveal the shadow side, dares to become all it can be. In other words, soul writing doesn’t hold back.

It feels scary to me, but I am going to watch for the places where I am holding back. In those places, once observed, I will ask myself if I can give a little more. I will take small steps until it no longer seems so scary to give myself to my writing, my loves, my life.

IMG_6997
The fog always lifts, eventually.

Like birds do, I want to enter each day with a feeling of abundance and generosity. I’m tired of living small; I’m tired of holding back.