Sunday, November 30, 2008

Unwillingness. by Patresa Hartman

It is 10:08 on Saturday night, and I must confess that I am having difficulty with gratitude. It isn't that I cannot identify things that are ridiculously blessed in my life -- so many. There are so many. My rational self can fill at least twelve grocery lists of them.

I am not in Mumbai.
I was not trampled at Walmart on Black Friday.
I was not shot at Toys R Us.
I am employed.
And so is my husband.
I am not a migrant worker from Mexico sent home empty-handed for the holidays because of this country's recession.
I am not an AIDS patient in Indonesia about to be microchipped like a kitten.

(These, of course, are recent news stories gleaned from the local paper.)

I am having a hard time pinpointing genuine, overwhelming gratitude at the moment, because I am tired. And I have a lot to do. And I have been eating poorly and sleeping poorly, and my body feels yucky.

I know there is a difference between clicking down a list of obligatory and sensible things for which to be grateful, and really and truly breathing in that gratitude and filling your entire soul cavity with it. I want to be grateful for the hard stuff. I want gratitude to be a lifestyle instead of a rational acknowledgement that things could always be worse. That's just too easy.

But right now my eyes are droopy and I am a little bit cranky. I am tired of my responsibilities and want to sleep for at least 3 weeks. Mine are such petty complaints, I can barely stand myself.

And so, I am going to be grateful for that.

I am going to be grateful for my pettiness, for my occasional bouts of self-loathing, for my oblivion and stubbornness and unwillingness. I am going to be grateful for my bad thought habits and my selfishness, my irritability and my laziness. I am going to be grateful for them, because they create light and shadow. I am going to be grateful for them, because they emphasize the fact that I have permission to be flawed. I am free to be every version of myself.

I am grateful for the liberty to be tired.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Gratitude Hand-Me-Downs by Angie Ledbetter

Thinking about gratefulness for the better part of a year now, I wonder how I can best share the benefits I've received with others; pay it forward; instill it in my own children?

Reading an article called Thanksgiving All Year Long recently, there were a few tips for teaching gratitude by the author Jeff Smith. (Seek and ye shall find?) I'm paraphrasing and adding to his ideas here:

  • At home and about, an attitude of gratitude can be infectious to others. Sometimes people just need to be introduced to a new way of thinking, so role modeling our happiness can help spread the joy.

  • Thankfulness for things small and grand doesn't just have to exist around the Thanksgiving table. Simple things are available to us every day -- a beautiful sunset, rain to replenish the earth, people who go out of their way to be optimists and good servers rather than doom-spreaders. We should notice them and voice our thanks whenever possible.

  • I'm always grateful when my teenagers do their chores or share a kindness with dear ol' Mom. But do I remember to thank them? Not always, but I will work on that. Who doesn't like to be shown gratitude for a job well done? If you've ever worked for a boss who doesn't care to encourage and appreciate his/her employees, you know what a bleak work existence that is; so let's be sure we don't undervalue our family members and close friends. Even if our words of gratitude seem to be falling on deaf ears, they are heard by hearts and minds on some level. Our efforts in that regard are never wasted.

  • Remind people of the gifts and talents they have, especially when they share them with others, such as good humor, consideration, compassion, encouragement, unselfishness and generosity.

  • Praying for others, helping where we can, volunteering in our communities for worthy causes and goals, and taking the time to care about how someone else is feeling or doing are ways to spread the love and power of gratitude.

When we fertilize the gratitude seed in any way we can think of, it's awesome to watch it bloom and flower. And for that, I am truly grateful.

Friday, November 28, 2008

An Hour Electricity(work) Free by Kat Magendie

The wind howls. Our chimes burst against each other in a symphony of sound. The birds work to fly from tree to feeder to tree to feeder. The red squirrels’ fur blow in swirls and tufts. The last few straggling leaves whip about in the air, straight up and then over and finally crash-land to earth. The rockers rock back and forth back and forth, and this time it isn’t the old mountain ghosts, but the force pushing against wood. Inside my little log house, I am warm and toasty. Then, a flicker, and there is the change. The sudden silence. The dimming of light on my laptop. The electricity has gone out.

In the kitchen, I hear, “Oh no! Not now!” as Roger is in the midst of preparing homemade granola bars for his spoiled wife. I say, “Oh oh,” because the heat strip in my study room where I work is electrical, and it’s a cold blustery day. I get up from my leather chair and go into the living room. Even though it’s been only moments since the electricity went out, I whine, “I’m colllddd.” I hurry to the fireplace and put on a “all-natural cheat log” (they make them out of coffee; "eco-friendly!" - Java Logs) and as it burns, I sit as close to the fire as I can—yes, I am over-dramatic when it comes to being cold; I hate being cold.

We call Progress Energy and the recording tells us it will be a few hours before the electricity returns. Me: Whine!

But then, I think, “Wait, this is such an opportunity to do nothing at all.” I grin. I then sit upon my couch, in my warm toasty clothes, small eco-friendly fire burning coffee, and play a game of solitaire. I listen to the wind howl outside. I watch the birds feed. It is a free feeling, this sudden chance away from work.

It’s only about an hour later before the electricity pops back on. Whir of refrigerator, bright of laptop. “Yayy!” from Roger as he resumes his task. But I feel a tiny flicker of disappointment.

I’d started this post to write about gratitude for electricity and the way Progress Energy is so wonderful in keeping us WNCers in warmth and light, but somewhere along the way, I found gratitude for that hour of release from any responsibility. To be able to say, “Oh, I can’t check my email. I can’t work on that project. I can’t…” Perhaps I should have “pretend outages” from time to time. Yes. Take time for yourself, my friends, for really, we do not need an “excuse” to stop and breathe. Namaste.

This cartoon touched me; I thought I’d share it, this day after Thanksgiving. I hope you all had a wonderful day:

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving by Barbara Quinn

It’s Thanksgiving!

Turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce. Sweet potatoes, pumpkin pie. Lots of other ethnic goodies to make the celebration your own.

I am grateful for this all inclusive holiday that everyone in the United States can celebrate. What a great idea to gather together and give thanks. We do have so much to be thankful for.

Sure there are family squabbles, and cooking disasters, and the same old family stories may get boring at times. But what a joy it is to be together, to share our happiness, and our struggles, to let each other know that we do care about one another. We can find ourselves in the act of communing with others. It’s a warm part of being human. Happiness is empty unless it is shared. That may sound like a platitude, but it is true so get out there and share it!

For those who don’t have a place to go on this holiday, or who are strapped for funds, I wish you a better future. Times are difficult for many. I am old enough to know that things do change and we do turn things around. I hope your situation changes soon. Thanks go out to all the workers and volunteers who take the time to provide meals on days like this to those less fortunate. Thanks go out to all who donate to food banks for they are more strapped than ever.

For those who have loved ones away in service who cannot be with them at this holiday, please know that we are grateful for what you and they endure. Our service people have my sincerest thanks and gratitude for being willing to serve our country.

For those who have lost loved ones, please know that in time the pain will soften and will allow you to have joy again. We don’t forget our loved ones. We keep them in our hearts and find a place for the pain. They are still with us at the holidays and still can bring us joy in the good memories we have of the times spent with them.

For those who give their precious time to the Rose & Thorn ezine, and to the ladies of the yog, thank you. It's a privilege to journey with you.

From my house and heart to yours, Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

guts. by patresa hartman

On the eve of a giant culinary tradition my focus is on my guts. I am thankful for them on many different levels, and to express those levels requires me to give you far more information than you care to have. Please prepare.

First of all, I love mashed potatoes and gravy with a reckless, food-in-the-hair, abandon. I am also ridiculously glad for stuffing, extra sage and celery, please.

Second of all, I am grateful that I have the resources to enjoy such feasts. I have never been hungry. The table has never lacked food nor company, my family loving and stable. The more I learn about the world, the more I understand the privilege of this.

Third, and in an entirely different capacity, I am grateful for the dysfunction of my guts. I have a very glamorous condition called Ulcerative Colitis. You will not see any Lifetime movies on this subject, because it would entail too much emphasis on digestion, including colons. It is not a sexy disease. I have 8x10 glossies of the inside of my colon.

Ulcerative Colitis essentially entails ulcers in the digestive tract -- much like Crohn's. Most of the year they are tamed into submission, remission. But around Thanksgiving and Christmas they wake up on the wrong side of the bed and get very cranky. Stress is my primary trigger. Why am I thankful for this? Because I have learned that this dysfunction is a messenger.

Some believe each element of the body is closely linked to each element of the spirit. Louise L. Hay, for instance, posits that diseases of the guts typically indicate an inability to let go and relinquish control. True for me. I am not always good at identifying my intangible emotions, and I attempt to control my environment with a white knuckle grip. This is not healthy. Sometimes I don't even recognize that I'm doing it. My body has to tell me.

The holidays are prime time for my control issues to flare -- navigating family traditions, finances, time crunching, and travel, etc. One thing I am very good at is pretending everything is fine and there is no need to change my behavior. The reason I am thankful for my faulty guts is they are no longer allowing me to be complacent about unhealthy spiritual patterns. Around the same time every year, they wake me up in the middle of the night to say, "Pardon us, but you still have not learned how to live with acceptance."

I do not care for their methods, but I appreciate the intent. Perhaps this is the year I listen.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

The Skinny on Thanksgiving Week by Angie Ledbetter

We're having a pared down Thanksgiving this year in an effort to minimize the work and preps, and maximize the fun of spending more time relaxing together.

Have you ever thought how the scales of work and play often become terribly unbalanced? Me this Thursday, my family and friends will get a little more even-keeled with a streamlined celebration. Gone will be the week and a half spent in the grocery store and kitchen. Gone, too, will be the need for 10,000 plastic containers for all those leftovers.

Our menu is a downsized version of the traditional feast, and naturally we'll have enough leftovers for a good gumbo, but not the great galloping globs of all those items to pack up and bring home. Yay!

I'm excited for a different kind of Thanksgiving; one which I will be giving many thanks for a simplified family-oriented gathering around the table after our routine morning of packaging meals for shut-ins with others to give regular workers a break. Ah, doesn't that sound great? Since I'll have extra time this year, I may even bake a very small turkey with an aluminum foil bikini just for fun.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Year of Gratitude by Danielle Younge-Ullman

In preparation for yogging with you wonderfully inspiring women, I was thinking of the many small things I am grateful for these days—the occasional extra thirty minutes of sleep, chili-flavored dark chocolate, a zillion cutenesses from my almost three-year-old, the way my husband makes me laugh—I could make a long list. (I still might.)

But as I think about the many things I’m grateful for this year, what I keep coming back to is challenge. I’ve had a challenging year and I don’t mean that euphemistically.

This August I had my debut novel, Falling Under, published and it was a dream-come-true. What I discovered, though, is having my dream come true was much more stressful, much harder work, more intense and full of potential heartbreak than I ever imagined. Along the road to this dream-come-true, I found a whole new world of conflict and paradox, of highs and lows, of challenges.

This year I learned what it’s like to attempt a full-time writing career with young child, a dog who thinks he’s my child, a husband who works erratic hours, a house in constant renovation and only part-time hours in which to do what feels like three or four full-time jobs. I read books on publicity, worked on publicity, conducted interviews with myself, interviews with others, I blogged, learned to pitch, wrote articles, recorded radio interviews and podcasts. I planned (and paid for and attended) two launch parties, traveled to New York, San Francisco, Boca Raton, New York again, Wisconsin and Hamilton Ontario. (And Minnesota next week!) I taught pilates two nights a week and did hundreds of hours of proofreading for a guy in Korea for money to pay for childcare. I lost weight, gained it back, did laundry, dishes, stayed up nights when my daughter was sick and slept through my writing hours the next day, panicked, calmed down, tried to work on my new book, panicked again, met with publicists and journalists, begged for blurbs from fellow authors, ran around signing copies of Falling Under, obsessed about my Amazon ranking, somehow finished my new book and and and…

And here I am.

Here I am, capable of more than I imagined but also aware I have much less time to do things than I imagined. Here I am, proud of myself and yet expecting more from myself every day and therefore more easily disappointed. Here I am deeper and stronger, more aware of joy and despair walking hand-in-hand, of exhaustion and fulfillment arriving together on the doorstep more often than not.

Here I am, reminding myself to be grateful, profoundly and humbly grateful, for the challenges presented to me, chosen by me, over this past year. I am better for them.

Thank you for having me—yog on!

Danielle Younge-Ullman has completed two novels and three plays. Her one-act play, 7 Acts of Intercourse, debuted at Toronto’s SummerWorks Festival in 2005 and her debut novel, FALLING UNDER, is newly released, published by Plume/Penguin. Danielle lives in Toronto with her husband, daughter, and their dog. Whenever she is not feeding, chasing after and/or entertaining the little beings, she is at work on her next novel.
(Read a review of Falling Under at Roses & Thorns.)

Wild Turkey by Kat Magendie

That title is not what you think. It’s not about what you may be consuming on Thursday along with taters sweet or not, and if you are in my house and my momma’s house: old fashioned cornbread dressing. And it’s not about the bet you made back in the 70’s when you were nineteen years old and stupid as a stick and you bet your roommate five dollars, which in the 70’s is like, what, $20?, that you could drink an entire glass of “Turkey” straight and your roommate and her boyfriend had to help you to their car and to the house and to bed wherein said roommate had to check on you all night because she thought you were in a coma. Nope. Not either of those turkeys.

I’m talking about wild mountain turkeys.

Yesterday while walking the mountain roads, Roger said, “Hey! Look! Turkey tracks!” There, in the last bits of remaining snow from Friday were the large bird tracks. I grinned, and then said, “Oh! our turkeys are here!” We’d not seen “our” wild turkeys in quite some time and had been worried. Before the developers (said as if I’ve just eaten a cup of bug guts with a side of raw liver over slugs) devastated Muse Trail One, we used to see signs of our wild turkeys. The first time we saw them, we were on Muse Trail Two and about thirty of them suddenly appeared and ran up Muse Trail Three and up and over the ridge. It was such a surprising site, we just stood with our mouths open. Then, for a long time, especially after Trail One was cut so badly, we didn’t see them or signs of them. Any time a critter disappears it is worrisome, for we don’t want to lose what we have here—none of it (and it makes us happy the development suddenly stopped-ha!).

We yapped about the turkey tracks all the way home. Then, later that morning, as we headed down the mountain to run errands, I shouted, “Turkeys! There are the Turkeys!” We stopped the car and stared. There they were; about ten of them, just milling around, eating, bobbing their heads. I laughed aloud. They were most unconcerned of us as we gawked. I thought it funny they’d show up days before Thanksgiving—as if they were hiding out among the very humans who would consume their cousins. But, what a site, what a wonderful happy site to see those wild turkeys again. Can you tell I’m grateful for my life here among the wild and the beauty and the unexpected? Lucky me. Lucky Turkeys. Lucky Day.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

What a Good Idea by Barbara Quinn

I’m grateful for ideas and the way my brain manages to come up with them. I’m over sixty pages into a new novel and this is the point where I need to trust that the creative part of my brain will get the job done. It does no good to tell my brain what I want it to do. I have to listen and wait for the right solution to turn up, for the right dilemma to appear in front of my main character, for the next adventure to crystallize.

Sometimes I wake in the middle of the night with a suddenly obvious solution. Ideas come when they want, not when I want them to. It can be in the shower, or while cooking dinner, while taking a walk, while sitting quietly waiting for night to fall. I’ve learned that I don’t have any control over these ideas. And more importantly, I’ve learned to trust that they will come along.

If ideas were animals, they would be cats. You can call to them all you want, but if they don’t want to be around you, they will disappear for days on end. And they will only appear when they are comfortable and ready to interact on their terms.

Some people get ideas from current events, or from the past. Others get them from interactions with people and new occurrences. This is the time of year when I am often asked at parties and gatherings, “But where do you get your ideas?” My favorite answer for that question is a borrowed one: “I think them up.” Those few words, “I think them up”, explain a lot of the process. It’s an indirect kind of thinking, this idea creation, a conjuring, not a put-on-your-thinking-cap type of approach. Sure I have to plug up plot holes, and make things logical. But for a large part of the process, I need to sit back and let the brain do its elusive processing.

Here’s to ideas. May they purr to life for you!

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Luscious Lips. by Patresa Hartman

My lips were vigorously exfoliated by a woman named Sue at the mall. I went to the Clinique counter for moisturizer and eye cream; but then I remembered how wrinkly and peely my lips have been. So I asked Sue, "Sue? Is there something I can do about my wrinkly, peely lips?"

She said yes, and sat me down in a tall chair.

In the middle of steady foot traffic, Sue squirted exfoliating cream onto a wet paper towel, told me to pucker, and then scrubbed the crap out of my lips while holding my head in place. An older man walked by and peered over his half-moon glasses.

"Sue?" I said.

"Uh huh?" she responded.

"This is a little weird."

She agreed and we had a good chuckle. Sue told me she had just scrubbed countless lips the night before during their big "lip event," and she'd grown sort of immune to the weirdness of it.

After my lips had been publically scrubbed, Sue smeared cream over them and then bright, shiny apricot gloss. My lips looked and felt spectacular. I wanted to lick them and kiss strangers.

I never feel completely comfortable or attractive in the vicinity of a make up counter. But at the same time, I like them. The ladies behind them have always been very kind to me, and I think it must be the result of spending your day trying to help people feel beautiful. I imagine they must see me as a meaty project.

But more than that, I admire how comfortable these women are with their femininity. Until recently, I have been somewhat embarrassed by my own femininity, preferring to accentuate the parts of myself I perceived as masculine and therefore: strong, smart, and courageous. I don't know where it comes from, this idea that feminine is weak, stupid, and helpless. But I think it's dumb.

I am no less intelligent, no more helpless, no more daring when I am wearing lip gloss. In fact, I think I am likely a better version of myself when I am balancing pride in my presentation with good sensibility. This is a fine lesson from Sue and her intimate knowledge of skin care.

Thank you, Sue. And thank you for my soft, luscious lips.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Hats Off by Angie Ledbetter

There really is no way to show proper appreciation for the personnel who fill the rolls of medical service provider companies. Most of these angels I've had the pleasure of meeting and dealing with on a regular basis are kindness itself. Yes, you meet a few grumps and sourpusses who shouldn't be in the profession, but on the whole, they are people who are doing a very hard (and lots of times thankless), depressing, and not-so-great-paying job with an angelic smile on their faces.

The home health nurses who've become more like extended family, the speech therapists, the aides who come to help with bathing and such, the physical therapists and others, I wish you knew how much your tender loving care and spunky attitudes have lessened the burden of one family. You approach your work and clients with passion and tenderness; going about your daily route like modern day Florence Nightingales. Your job is not a means to a paycheck; it is a vocation.

You, wonderful health service providers, make up for the snooty, cold, rushed, gruff, God complex-filled others who have negative bedside manners. And you are appreciated. I am grateful for your gifts every day. Even though you no longer wear the cap of healing pictured above, it is there like a halo above your head anyway.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Finding Power by Kat Magendie

I remember days when I felt I had no voice. When what I thought and what I did were separate entities, because they had to be. I could write a very long blog about the instances where I felt I had no power, but I will not bore you with the details. Most all of us at one time or another has felt powerless against some force that has pushed its will upon us. I also know there were times I felt powerless when I really was not. I either was too afraid, or too naïve, or so used to how things were rather than how they could be that I did not make a change; I did not find my Voice, or my Power.

The other day, I had a conversation with someone, and without giving away details or places or events, this person said, “I really want to say something, but I’m afraid of the consequences.” I looked at her: this woman who is smart, capable, beautiful, and I wanted to tell her, “You have more power than you think.” But, what if I convinced her to speak up and the consequences she was afraid of happened? What good would her power be to her then? Of course, if the situation she is in warrants such care, such fear of reprisal, wouldn’t she be better off out of the situation?

Unlike her, I do not fear reprisal, because of different levels of perceived power. If I speak up, and the consequences happen, I can shrug it off, go on my way, and be just as happy, if not happier. But for this woman, she cannot perceive her power in that way. She will see the outcome as disastrous. I recognize my power in situations much more now than I ever did in my early adulthood. One learns that there is always something else. There is always another. There is always the next thing. There are some situations that are just not worth the anxiety, or the discomfort, or the sad, or the anger, or the fear, or the stress. I want to pass my power on to this woman, to tell her to stand up for herself, to give her the eyes to see inward the power she possesses, but I cannot. She must find it for herself.

And I, well, I feel grateful that I have my voice, my power. That I can easily shrug and say, “Sorry you don’t see it my way. But, I’m standing firm.” And then, if I have to, I walk away, and in some instances, I walk away with a big fat grin.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

One Good Deed by Barbara Quinn

I've renewed my efforts to do at least one good deed a day. It can be as simple as slowing down and letting in a car that is trying to enter the line of traffic, or letting someone go ahead of me on line when they have one or two items. I hold the door for people behind me, help out harried moms with strollers who are trying to prop doors open to enter, or hit the open button on the elevator when someone is approaching so they don’t miss the ride. There are so many opportunities. Usually I get a thankful wave or nod, which makes me smile, but even when I don’t get a reaction, I still feel good about the doing of a little kindness. I like to think that the person who has benefited from my small kindness will perhaps be kind to someone else in that “pay it forward” type of way.

But when I am pressed for time, or exhausted from all of life’s pressing engagements, I have to work hard to remember to take the time to be nice, not merely perfunctorily civil and acting out of habit. I have to take in my surroundings, have to come out of myself and my own little demanding and worrisome world. I force myself to notice things. This moment of staying in the present instead of worrying about what I need to do next is when I tell the clerk at the supermarket I like her earrings(they sparkle in the light), the librarian that the color sweater she is wearing looks good on her (the blue matches her eyes). It’s wonderful to see the broad smiles that are the result of these little interactions. And what did it take? A few words, a meeting of gazes, an acknowledgment of the connection between myself and a stranger. Ah, there is harmony in the world and in the midst of the chaos it's good to find it.

When I went to the theater the other night, we were rushing to get to our seats on time. A female usher greeted us and handed over our Playbills. I sat down, barely aware of the usher till she leaned in and said, “What scent are you wearing?” The rushing and hurrying were gone. I stopped and looked at her, suddenly caught up in a pair of smiling eyes. I answered, “It’s called Casual.” She nodded and I smiled. “It’s good I assume?” She laughed. “Really nice.” And then she was gone, back to ushering the next couple down the aisle. The few spritzes of my favorite perfume, Casual by Paul Sebastian, put on many hours earlier had caused this pleasant exchange. It’s a light scent I’ve worn for years, and I’ve had many similar comments when wearing it. I had no idea I still smelled of it since that always happens with perfume. How grateful I was that she took the time to tell me she liked the scent. The tables were turned and I was the beneficiary of a kindness. I vowed to double my efforts to say a kind word here, do a good deed there. And I also made a mental note to stock up on my dwindling supply of Casual perfume!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Old Stuff. by Patresa Hartman

I am surrounded by old things -- antiques. Everything in my new writing room belonged to someone else first -- the bench in the corner was my great great Aunt's; the backless bench behind me sat in my grandmother's laundry room. The splintery wooden orange crates housing a lamp and books were uncovered in Mammaw & Pappaw's garage in Missouri; the kerosene lamp with the green shade, from their cabin in Minnesota. The piano, a 1960 Wurlitzer, I bought for $200 at a consignment shop in Parkersburg, Iowa; the owner and his two teenage sons dropped it in the snow twice while delivering it, and it held its tune.

A few months ago I found an old wall-hanging coat rack at an antique story in Des Moines' East Village -- Found Things. The owner, a gregarious woman with white hair and half moon reading glasses said they think it was part of the frame of an old school house doorway. The wood is thick and weathered. Someone nailed cast iron hooks across the top for coats. It's hanging on my wall now, my coat draped over a hook. I like it there. I wonder of its stories. Sometimes I think if I sit quietly enough it will whisper them to me.

I like old things. I like their stories. I want to know what energy of us they have absorbed -- our molecules seeping into the grains of their wooden planks. I want to know what songs were played on this piano before it came to live with me. Did children neglect to practice? Did pencils fall into the inner machinery and clank whenever someone played notes two octaves above middle C? There is a large, circular water damage spot on the top, and I want to know what plant leaked its nutrients and who got in trouble for it.

The orange crates -- who carried them first? Where have they been? How was the orange crop that year? I imagine tanned forearms and an occasional tattoo. I imagine these crates upside down on a dock, doubling as benches for men smoking cigarettes and laughing about...whatever men who carry orange crates laugh about.

Surrounding myself with old things piques my curiosity. As a writer, I want to squeeze wisdom from these tangible things. I want to know what they would have to say if they could. I am certain they are full.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Found in Translation by Angie Ledbetter

Ik ben vol van dankbaarheid
Sunt plin de recunostinta
Olen täynnä kiitollisuutta
Je suis plein de gratitude
Estoy lleno de gratitud
Ja sam pun zahvalnosti
Jeg er full av takknemlighet
Jag är full av tacksamhet
Jsem plný vdecnosti
Jestem pelen wdziecznosci
Estou cheio de gratidão

No matter in what language you say it, or by which act you promote it or with whom you share it, gratitude is a thing of beauty. The loveliness inherent in being grateful is reflected in its ability to return (often with dividends) to the giver/sender/expresser.

Today, in some large or small way, make yourself a reflection of these words: I am full of gratitude. Notice how much better your day is.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

The Silent Cove Returns by Kathryn Magendie

Last night the rain came. And as I woke throughout the night and listened, I heard it thrum against the roof. I smiled. For just days earlier, I yogged my plea to Father Sky, asking for rain. Of course, being the ungrateful person I can be, even in my gratitude I ask for more, for we do need more rain in Haywood County.

Yet, this morning as I walk my cove in Killian’s Knob, it is more as it has always been. The creek isn’t as sick and I hear its rush just a bit louder than it has been these past months. The birds and red squirrels are happy, too. And the bare and almost-bare branches of the trees are filled with thousands of rain drops shining from a sun who peeks in and out of the clouds. I say to Sun, “Not yet, for we need more rain.” And I say to the clouds, “Yes, you come. Come filled with rain and let it loose.”

I walk up a little ways and stand at a precipice, and there, I look out over the cove, the valley below, the ridges. My dog and I are still (and as we stand, I think sadly of my old girl and how she would stand nose to air, the wind brushing back her thick coat). The morning sounds are as they should be: Nature and no Man’s Sounds.

The wind pushes against the bones of the tree, and what few leaves are left from a brilliant-colored fall scatter across the sky and cove and to the ground. I walk across hundreds of leaves, some still retaining their color. At one part of the road walk, there is a large crowd of leaves that have landed stem side curled up, and it makes me laugh to see all those stems pointing up to the sky, grouped together like a gathering.

Jake and I stop directly behind our little log house and look down (and I wonder if Jake’s dog-brain thinks “that is my place, down there). I hear our chimes on the porch. I hear the wind through the trees. I hear the creek singing. I hear a bird calling to another bird and the answering call. I hear a squirrel chattering. I hear raindrops falling from the tree’s branches onto a hungry ground. I hear my breathing, soft. I hear Jake’s breathing, soft. All is as it should be in our cove. The sounds of Man have been muffled by nature: by the rains come to replenish the creek; by the wind through the trees; by the tourists going home; by the wishes of a woman who called out to Father Earth and Mother Sky and all the ancients who have come and gone, who like the woman does, love this cove, this area, love these mountains more than any Human could ever love a lover.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Theater and Saturn Returns by Barbara Quinn

Saturday night I went to see Saturn Returns, a new play by Noah Haidle. What a fascinating exploration of age and life. The play is set in a living room in Grand Rapids, Michigan and takes place in 2008, 1978, and 1948, moving back and forth seamlessly to explore how an elderly man arrived at his final days.

Luckily, the notes in the playbill explained: “The planet Saturn completes its orbit roughly every 29.5 years. When it returns to the same position it occupied at the time of a person’s birth, this is called a ‘Saturn Return’. In astrology Saturn is associated with three crucial turning points in a person’s life: first at 27-30 years of age, then around 58-60, and the third and usually final time around 86-88. “

And so we embarked on our journey of discovery about this 88 year old’s three “Saturn Returns”. There was no intermission and time flew. We saw the play in the Mitzi Newhouse theater, a small theater - it seats 299 - that’s part of Lincoln Center. The theater is set almost completely in the round and no matter where you sit you are practically next to the performers and the stage. It’s theater at its best for me.

This play was artful on so many levels: taut structure, witty dialog, emotional ups and downs. One actress played three women in the 88 year old man’s life: his wife when he was young, his daughter when he was in middle-age, and his nurse when he was elderly. Three men played the man at the different ages.

Afterwards, my husband and I were energized and we were still talking about the play the next day. We’d had a rough week and the play managed to wipe it all away and leave us in a much better frame of mind. Its universal themes of loss and love put things in perspective. The amazing pre-theater dinner we had at Josephina’s didn’t hurt either!

I’m grateful that I belong to the Lincoln Center Theater Club, and grateful that we can drive in to see excellent shows. And most of all, I’m grateful that there are young playwrights like Noah Haidle who are wise beyond their years, and who are showing the way and shedding light on the path.

Friday, November 14, 2008

reveling in revealing. by Patresa Hartman

This morning, in addition to being grateful for the miracle of the SNOOZE button (55 minutes worth), I am also grateful for all of the weird stuff in me. I don't mean biologically -- although I am grateful for organs and molecules and blood and strange little bubbling things -- but I mean the weird stuff that hangs out in my... brain? soul? Where are these things stored? My feet? The meat of my lower abdomen?

It is never more clear how odd my subconscious than in November when I participate in NaNoWriMo, the National Novel Writing Month challenge. Across the 30 days of November, writers all over the planet start with a blank page and then produce 50,000 words of a novel. That's a lot of wordage -- particularly for someone with historically poor follow-through (That's me.). There are three primary things that disturb me about the month of November:

1. I write very very poorly when pressed;
2. I develop crushes on my characters; and
3. I am in touch with alternate realities.

I don't fancy I am unique in this. I believe we are all tuned into some pretty unnerving behind the scenes activity. I am sure that living in a media blitz ingrains all kinds of characters and scenery in our hidden centers. Writing writing writing just uncovers them by scooping off the top protective layer. Writing becomes a lot like dreaming -- sorting through the images we have absorbed and aligning them into something that makes neurological sense.

There are many who begin NaNoWriMo with a researched outline, and I think that's smart. Beginning with focus streamlines the process, I would imagine. But I like to begin with an absolutely blank as blank as blank white screen. This year I began with two characters and two sites. Word One was Word One in its truest sense, and I have been surprised at every line since.

I do it this way, I think, because I am addicted t0 the spontaneous reveal -- the layer peeling, fly-by-the-seatedness of it. I feel like I am revealing my darkest truths and am fascinated by the capacity of words on a page to show me exactly who I am. Didn't I know all this time? I am obsessed with trying to figure out what I look like on the inside.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Fringe Benefits by Angie Ledbetter

I don't know what got me thinking about the idea of fringe. Maybe it's because in that all-important time of life -- high school -- I was never a certified member of any certain group. You know the ones I mean: the jocks, the artistic bohemians, the cool popular crowd, the super-brainy nerds...

Maybe it's because I'm involved with several groups at my kids' school, and realize that unlike most high schools, there is a place for everyone there, and that's part of the reason we chose that particular school for them. Besides the regular groups everyone squeezes and contorts themselves to fit into, there are lots of smaller organizations and sports where kids can belong. Whereas most people would see these as "fringe" groups, I see them as great little oasis of blessings for students who don't particularly want to just be another marble in an overcrowded jar.

Outside the Big 3 of sports (football, baseball and basketball), there are the "minors" like wrestling, volleyball, track and soccer. Then there are the even smaller groups most don't even think about, such as swimming, tennis, golf, bowling and fencing.

The same thing goes for the levels of popularity of extra curricular classes and fields of interest such as band, theater, service organizations, student government and literary clubs.

Getting to know some of the kids who populate these latter group rosters, I can tell you they are some of the most original thinkers. They are not afraid to be different. They don't see themselves as "lesser," and don't care if others do. They are, on the whole, achievers with a wide variety of interests and talents.

So, today I'm most grateful for these alternative activities to the Most Very Populars (MVP's), because they offer lots of benefits and a good bonding experience to exceptional, shy or well-rounded kids. I applaud these same groups in which adults find a place. And I only use the term fringe because they are the beautiful decoration around a broad swatch of fabric that might otherwise be bland. Fringers like me have always enjoyed hanging around the edges and having access to more than one group or type of people. Wouldn't the world be boring without them/us?

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Mathematical Equations of Perfection in Nature by Kat Magendie

“Nobody’s perfect,” I thought as I took my mountain walk one morning. “Is this a feeling of joy?” I wondered as I inhaled clean mountain air. Alongside the road I walked that morning many wildflowers and wild grown plants, some unique and rare and beautiful, grow seemingly random. A Daisy caught my eye, then another and another. I wondered, “Is there a perfect circle of yellow inside that flower?”

I am not a mathematician, and indeed, mathematics puzzles me, frustrates me—always logical, always right, always perfect? I am such a rabid Right-Brainer. I imagine the right hemisphere of my brain is swollen and pulsing, the synapses firing off chaotically, but with their own kind of weird organization when necessary to be in polite society; however, I imagine my left hemisphere as a bit flat and aloof, sitting stoic at a desk while reading important stuff that it won’t share with the right brain (because the right brain can’t or won’t listen).

I wonder then, if a mathematician were to measure the golden inside of the Daisy, would it be a perfect circle? It looks to the eye to be. Is it? I need to know, for the eye gauge is not enough; is the soft sun inside of the Daisy a perfect circle? Who will measure for me and then let me know? And if it is not, would I enjoy the Daisy any less? Why of course not. I just have a need to know if there is some order to the Daisy that I never noticed before. I imagine mathematics both calms and excites the innards of the left brainers as my creative chaos both stills and energizes my right brain.

Are there other “Orders To The Universe” that mathematics can solve? Somewhere out there are people whose left brains pulse like my right brain and can figure all this out.

But this morning, I’ll just be grateful for the daisy, with the (perfect?) little happy circle in the middle. I’ll be thankful there are left-brainers who can figure out the mathematical equations of perfection in nature.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Save a Tree! Opt-out! by Barbara Quinn

I hate junk mail, especially the paper kind. It clogs my maibox with absurd offers and is a scourge on the environment. All that useless paper. What a waste of trees and waste of time to open and then shred or recycle. Do they really think I am going to switch insurance companies or take on yet another credit card? And so today I am grateful for being able to opt-out of junk mail. I’d already gotten on the do not call list and installed a spam filter, but credit offers and insurance offers clogged my mailbox. I learned I didn’t have to put up with them any more.

A few weeks ago I went to and registered for their free service. If you’d rather do this by phone you can call 1-888-5-OPTOUT. You can opt-out from receiving what they call “firm offers” for five years, or, oh joy!, permanently. If you elect the permanent opt-out option you print out and fill out a form and mail it in. I am here to tell you that it works! Within a few weeks, my mailbox started looking much emptier. You will no longer be included in firm offer lists provided by the consumer reporting companies. That’s one of the reasons why you get all this crap. Because the credit companies can send your name to the insurance and credit industries. (Another tool you can try is which allows you to opt-out of catalogs, magazines, credit cards and more for three years at a time. )

I don’t like the fact that they call this “firm offer” opting-out. What a confusing and meaningless term. And printing out and mailing is cumbersome. But, at least this option does exist and it's permanent.

Why not save some trees and sanity and opt-out!

And if you ever change your mind and want to get those offers again, there’s an option to opt-in, which to me is more mind-boggling than the term "firm offer” opt-out.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Origins. by Patresa Hartman

If I think too much about the origin of things -- literally things -- I lose my mind. Who was the first to decide a shoe was called a shoe and a lamp, a lamp, a dog, a dog? Who was the first to knit, the first to crochet, and the first to note the difference?

I don't know where anything comes from. I know that electricity started with a key on a kite, but I'm sure there was some inkling of it long before then. Who were the first two people to shock one another after skidding their feet across a hairy surface? And what was that like, to have no frame of reference to understand such a phenomenon? Was there fear? Panic? Giggling?

I wish I could remember the first time I saw rain or felt snow. I wish I could remember my very first sunset; I wish I'd had the wherewithal to record the shock and confusion, the suspicion that the earth was about to invert itself.

I want to know where the first note of music came from -- a drop in a pond? A tooth on a rock? It had to have been incidental. What did it sound like? And who heard music in that ding or clang? Who ventured to recreate it and recreate it again and at varying pitches? Who thought to put them together for chords and to pull strings across wood and hides across hollowed logs?

I want to know the origin of elastic and who invented the treadmill. I want to understand the first studies of muscle and the way it grows lean and powerful if you work it and feed it right. I want to know everything there is to know about the propogation of the very first tomatoes and who discovered what could be eaten and what could not and which things you could put together? Who stumbled upon casseroles and how? The miracle of cheese? Pizza? Cotton candy? The radish?

I want to know where balloons came from and why? That person, the one who stretched latex (Where did latex come from?) and then blew into it and tied it at the end... what in the world was she doing? Was she good friends with the main who screwed wheels to shoes and skated around?

What mindblowing phenomena are we stepping around daily, unaware? What civilization defining or simply convenience making inventions are at our fingertips, just waiting for our attention and curiosity? I am so grateful for the undiscovered and all of the beginnings yet to come, for the edges not yet reached and the nooks and crannies waiting to be illuminated.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Family Gratitude by Angie Ledbetter

There's nothing quite like a close family, whether they are the group of people you are born into, or those you've become welded to by choice through the years. When I think of the gratitude I have for these people, they include a number of good friends as well as those related by blood or marriage.

Today I give thanks to those who shore me up in one way or another. Without them, life would be just existing, not living.

I am thankful for the father figures. The men at the helm of the ships who confidently navigate us through storms and rough sees. Men who volunteer their time, talent and "treasure" (financial gifts) to teach us how to be better at whatever it is we do. Men who are equitable sharers and givers by every definition.

I am thankful for all the mothers who work for years and sometimes decades doing odious chores, who swab the decks and fix delicious, nutritious meals down in the galley, even when no one notices or remembers to say thank you. Mothers who desire nothing more than to see their own little ships get a healthy launch in life. Moms who forgo solitary pleasure cruises for the sake of those they care deeply about.

I am thankful for the cousins, friends and siblings who keep me afloat when I could just as easily crash onto the shore or capsizing far out at sea. They are the barges who never cease to tow me to safety. Together, they form a joyous flotilla in my life.

I am thankful for the long line of ancestors in my family shipping line for showing us the way. And for the little ones, who just by their antics, achievement of milestones and precious sayings add buoyancy to everyday living. They are the hope of the future, the ones who may sail the furthest.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Inside a Rose by Kat Magendie

I walked The Rose Walk along Lake Junaluska, even though most of the roses are not doing so well right now. We had a surprise snow a week before, and a few gentle frosts, and then back to springlike weather. I glanced at the roses here and there, noting their bowed heads and browned tips. Then, this one rose caught my eye. It was browned at the edge, yes, but not bowing its head in defeat, and I caught a glimpse of the inside of a petal—the petal was soft, dewy, and bright glowy red. I took my camera from my jacket pocket and snapped a photo. That rose was the perfect metaphor. For although as we age or go through tough times, we may become a little brown around our edges, a little worse for wear, our insides are full and ripe and dewy and beautifully soft and young.

I smiled as I walked away from the rose. Quickened my step. Felt as if I’d found out some secret that really isn’t a secret at all. I walked tall and straight and proud, head up, eyes forward.

One of the great things about my generation of women is that “Older Women” are no longer considered headed out to pasture—look at the female actors who are over forty and still tearing up the screen (oh, not as much as we’d like, for youth is still revered), and women who defy their age and circumstance by doing the things they’ve always dreamed of doing but were unable to because of lack of confidence. Our confidence levels rise with our age, and with experiences. It’s an incredible time in our lives. I think back to when I was younger and how I cringed at the idea of getting older, and now I see the beautiful part of it, the freeing part, the I feel damn strong and damn proud part.

There are, however, times when I fear time is moving too fast and I may not have as many years in front of me as I had behind me, but that only makes me work harder towards the things I want to accomplish before I leave. And, there are fewer things holding me back now than there were then: including my own self.

If, like that rose’s inside petal, all we women (no matter our age or circumstance) could turn inside out, we’d all look the same—beautiful and complex, pulsing with life. That’s my gratitude thought for today.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Out With The Old by Barbara Quinn

I spent a pleasant afternoon heading down to the Bronx for a tour of the old Yankee Stadium. The Stadium had its last official game in Sept. 2008, but they’ve continued offering tours of the grand old place. Luckily, they opened up some new tour dates and I was able to score four tickets. So off I went with my husband, son, and son’s brother-in-law to see the place before they begin dismantling it and selling off whatever they can.

The tour took us into the Press Box where we were able to sit and see the game the way the press does, from right above home plate. Then we wandered around in Monument Park visiting the plaques of the honored players and greats who have spent time at the stadium. We walked on the warning track out into the outfield, something they never allow fans to do. What a different perspective you get from center field. That ball really does get hit far! And the wall that you see the players crash into may be padded now, but it’s ridiculously hard. (Yeah, we all tried it out.) After that we went into the players dugout where we sat on the bench. Finally, we landed in the clubhouse, the inner sanctum of the sport, the place you always see them shaking and exploding champagne, the place the players store their things. Each player has an area which is more of a big cubbie than a locker. Former Captain Thurman Munson’s area remains hauntingly empty ever since he died in a tragic plane crash in 1979.

Tattered Yankee Stadium definitely has seen better days and I’m sure the new stadium which we walked by, and which is almost complete, will be terrific, shiny and new. But there’s something sad about leaving behind all the history that’s been made at the old stadium, not just in baseball. Jou Louis slugged it out with Max Schmeling there, Ali also fought at the stadium. It’s seen three popes, Billy Graham and countless concerts.

I’m glad that they are going to keep the old field for use by local kids. But, oh, it was hard to take that last look at the stadium and know that I’ll never see it again. I remind myself that life is change. I’m ready to embrace the new stadium this spring. The golden letters are already emblazoned on the front of the new structure. I’m not sure if it will ever have the same feel as the old House That Ruth Built, but I’ll be there cheering and remembering, and also watching them make new history, and that too is something for which I am grateful.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Powerful People. by Patresa Hartman

Election night was a full evening. I taught in the writing lab where I worked with another "lost boy" from Sudan, T. One of my coworkers brought in an old voting machine used for the 1936 election during which Franklin D. Roosevelt defeated Alf Landon for a second term as President. The drab green voting stand included pegs and levers enabling you to vote a straight party ticket using one large switch, or vote individually across parties using smaller gadgets. T fiddled with the pegs and asked me who I thought would win our presidential race that night.

I told him I thought Obama would win.

He nodded excitedly. I learned from T that he had earned his American citizenship and had already voted. He said he did not understand why so many people live here for such a long time and never vote. "In my country, no one gets to vote."

T, whose written English is surprisingly good, also told me that he had never been to school before he came to the U.S. He came here as a teenager, an unaccompanied minor like J, another "lost boy" I work with on Tuesday nights. "Imagine," he said, "never preschool or kindergarten or anything and then right away you go to high school."

Of course, I couldn't imagine. So many privileges we have here. This is a good country.

I left T and the writing lab past dark, drove home where my husband and I went together to our polling place. The parking lot was full; the voting booths were full; but the lines were passed. After our ballots were cast, we stopped for the exit poll from the media.

Two young black men with tattoos, one with a silver grill and pants sagging, stood in fretful discussion with one of the polling volunteers. The man with the grill left the woman and approached my husband. "My brother doesn't have a photo ID and they won't let him vote unless somebody says they know him and that he lives in this precinct. Would you just tell her you know him?"

Behind him, the volunteer said, "It has to be someone you actually know." The man left with his brother. We finished our exit polls and went back to the car, finding the two men on cell phones in the parking lot, clearly trying to find someone to come over and attest to identy and residence. I went home nervous that they wouldn't be allowed to vote. My husband reasoned it was their own fault; they weren't prepared. I said, "but it's such a confusing process. I don't understand it, either. I just happen to exist in a circle of people who do know what's going on and give me directions." The process, it seemed to me, was really designed for people who had access to particular resources. I wasn't sure if that was fair or not.

This morning in my reading labs, one of my students, a kind and outgoing young man -- a firefighter in a neighboring town -- immigrated from Mexico as a child. He is a citizen. He said that when he voted, they thought he was "an illegal." The police pulled him aside and questioned him for five minutes before he was finally allowed to vote. Another of my Latino students said the same thing happened to him on the south side of town. We chuckled half-heartedly that you would think they'd been trying to buy crack instead of cast a vote.

I also awoke to learn that Proposition 8 was likely passed in California, and my friend, K, who lives in San Francisco and married his partner of ten years, T, several weeks ago, may now feel invalidated and unsupported, his right to marry, taken just as quickly as it was granted.

Somewhere in the middle of my elation that things are turning up, that there is giant undeniable evidence of hope and progress, lingers the question: We are a powerful people; when will we learn to use our power more lovingly?

My gratitude today is a confused gratitude. I am so grateful for the opportunity to vote, to participate. I am so grateful to live in this country. I am so proud of the unity we exhibited yesterday, of how excited people are. I am so thankful that President-elect Obama has dared to take on the incredibly heavy weight of this country and its precarious state. I can't imagine the pressure and burden that comes with knowing millions of people believe you alone will deliver them.

But I am somber, too. I don't want us to stop here. I am eager for us to continue our evolution. I want us to be better. Don't you?

*I know this post is way beyond the 350 word count. I feel so full, I don't know how to prune.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Hands, by Angie Ledbetter

I did an experiment today to be consciously aware of all the things I enjoy or produce due to having two working hands. This came about because I was thinking about people who do not have this benefit -- my elderly neighbor friend who suffers with arthritis, a good friend who just had surgery for carpal tunnel, and my cousin who lost an arm in Vietnam.

Because my hands function as they are supposed to, I am able to communicate by computer, which is a big part of my social life, as well as my work as a writer. I am able to cook for my family and others without even thinking about it. I can reach for things in a cabinet without pain or struggle, and do all the things my family needs doing. I can vote without assistance, and drive wherever I want to, and wave, and enjoy the use of expressive hand motions when talking, and scratch an itch.

It's something I've never really taken time to think about, as well as being one of the many blessings I just assume will always be part of my life. But after a day of focusing on my hands and what they are able to do, I don't think I'll ever take their abilities for granted again.

Let us lend our hands to those in need, and remember to appreciate the gifts our two good hands allow us to have and share.

"Gratefulness is the key to a happy life that we hold in our hands, because if we are not grateful, then no matter how much we have we will not be happy -- because we will always want to have something else or something more." ~ David Steindl-Rast

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

From the Selfish One by Kathryn Magendie

Dear Father Sky,

Though I know today is Election Day and I should be thinking about our country, I feel my selfish ways prick against my skin. I have entered the huddle of my cove and cried. I have placed my feet upon the ground from which your children from the sky have walked (for, after all, all things originated from Sky). I have touched the dry Mother Earth; I have bent to the curling leaves, I have cupped water from the creek as I watched it struggle. I have stood in this cove and heard the sounds of men; and Father Sky, I know it is wrong to let my selfishness rise up out of me as a hungry beast, but I do not like the sounds the men are making below. Tearing sounds. Sounds of trees falling. Sounds of big machines ripping up earth. Even the sounds of traffic have cupped in the cove and hummed here, trapped from the changes in season and the poor creek's song low low. Father Sky, I am asking for rain for this area. I am not asking for a leader to be chosen in the way of my thinking, for what will be will be and I am here in my cove on my little mountain and the outward earth seems far away today, yet very very close when I hear the roar and the crash below. Yes, I am selfish today.

Father Sky, perhaps you do not hear my appreciation, for the days have been lovely and the colors wild and bright. I give thanks every morning when I rise, every day when I walk outside to the new day, every afternoon as I sigh into the treetops, every evening as I eat my supper, every night as I lie down in my bed and let out an old dog sigh—perhaps I have not been thankful enough? Perhaps my selfishness keeps you from hearing me, for after all, many must call out to you for many things, especially on a day as today in the America Land? But Father Sky, we need the rain. The ground thirsts, the critters’ movements changed, the creek—oh my creek!—does not sing joyous but is instead sick and low. Father Sky, send rain to our mountains, to our valleys, to the hollows and hills. The leader will be chosen and the Earth will spin. The people here will find the rhythm to the new. But, I, I want the cove like the old ways. Perhaps there are reasons for the lacking rain as things turn as they will for Mother Earth. But I am selfish.

In the case you do not know the thankfulness I feel from being here because of my selfish ways: Here. Right here and now, I raise up my voice and I raise up my hands and I call out to you, Father Sky, in happy thanks for the beauty I walk upon. But, please, send Rain to these droughted regions. Send the snow this winter to melt and fill the creek. As you will, I will receive. As you can’t, I will accept. As you know best, it will be. Thank you, Father Sky.

Monday, November 3, 2008

In Praise of Lights by Barbara Quinn

Light! More Light! were the dying words of Goethe.

I’ve been thinking a lot about light lately. I’ve always been drawn to homes that have a lot of windows to allow the sun into the rooms. I find I have trouble breathing in dark Victorians with tiny windows. I don’t have screens on many of my windows because I prefer to have an unobstructed view and to allow more of that lovely light inside. Give me a sunny day and I’m instantly ready to take on the world.

The room where I write at the shore is bright on sunny days, so bright that in the summer I have to draw the curtains to temper the too strong late afternoon sun. But now, in fall, the light has changed. The sun sets in a different spot relative to where I sit, and the presence of that orb is most welcome, regardless of the time of day. The shadows in the room also change depending on the season. The rectangles that edge the light elongate differently, slant more to the left on the rich wood floor. Out on my balcony, sometimes it’s still warm enough to sit and watch the ocean which now is darker blue. The light does that, changes the color of the ocean from day to day, from season to season: pale blue-green, and green in summer, medium to navy blue in winter. There’s a starry night effect some days, the light twinkling off the darkness of the ocean mesmerizing me and lulling me to a calm place.

The evanescent time of day when light fades to dark, when it’s neither day, nor night, is always a wonder. Blink and that crepuscular moment is gone. But, oh, catch it for a second or two, and hover there, caught in the beauty of life.

It’s fascinating the way the sun does make a difference in our feelings and moods. Who wants to run around when it’s rainy and dreary? I’d rather snuggle under the covers with a good book. But a sunny day. Now that’s instant energy.

All this dwelling on light has made me realize that some people are like bright sunshine, filling you with warmth. They’re wonderful to have around. And like the light, we take them for granted, expecting them to always be there, recognizing their importance only when they are gone leaving us bereft and struggling in the dark. I intend to embrace and acknowledge the lights in my life while I can.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

word count. by Patresa Hartman

Today I am grateful for the word count tool in Microsoft Word. NaNoWriMo started today, and I began a thirty day obsession with words.

NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) is a ridiculous charge to spill 50,000 words of a novel in 30 days. I don't know where these 50,000 words come from, but every November, thousands of people find pages and pages of sentences lurking in their fingertips.

I successfully met 50,000 words for the first time last year. It's a valuable process, this word purging. The extent of my imperfection was stunning for at least the first 20,000. The nasty critic who lives in my brain was absolutely aghast at the crap I slung. Cliche's were rampant, descriptions flimsy and incomplete, sentences crooked and loosely constructed. But somewhere around word number 20,001, things shifted. My writing did not improve, but my attitude did.

I forgave myself the crummy composition and just wrote. As soon as I let go, plot aligned and characters directed themselves. I had no idea where the story came from, but it made me trust the process more. It made me believe that writing is a lot more like channeling than it is like creating. It made me understand the value of staying open.

I'm sure it is about more than just writing.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

A Different Sort of Halloween by Angie Ledbetter

{Photo by Angie Ledbetter}
Last night was All Hallow's Eve, and I celebrated in a nontraditional, but wonderful way. My sister-in-law, a good friend and I cooked and served supper at a men's shelter where I'm on a rotating shift to help out.

What I like best about volunteering there is the kindness and genuine appreciation the men exude. I think most people must just drop the food off when it is their turn, but the best part to me is leisurely sharing the meal and conversation after everyone is served.

I'm really glad I didn't have to do the trick-or-treat thing this year. My kids are at an age where they are off at teenage parties and such, so no worries about putting together costumes, buying candy to hand out to kids (many of whom are way too old to be begging for treats), or any of that other commercial stuff. Instead, I enjoyed a nice quiet evening of interesting talk and a feeling of warmth that will last long after pumpkins have gone to mush. Tomorrow I will put aside time to remember ancestors and loved ones, and all they contributed to my family and others.

Another thing I'm grateful for today is the availability of good quotes like this:

"Have Infinite Gratitude for all things past, Infinite Service for all things present, Infinite Responsibility for all things future." ~ Huston Smith

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