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Thursday, March 31, 2016

In Bright Abundance.

Bright abundance--two of my favorite words put together. I came across the phrase in one of Ann Patchett's books. It's the kind of phrase I want to roll on the roof of my mouth, tasting every syllable.

I love the sound and meaning and color. Bright seems white and silver. Abundance seems gold and warm colors, like a chocolate cashmere scarf or a rosy pink satin purse with a gold clasp.

These words leapt at me from the book, but the phrase wasn't really something to write in my quotation notebook. Still, I had to save and ponder it further. The bright makes the abundance extra magical. It reminds me of Sara Crewe's initial birthday party or of the enchantment in the attic (A Little Princess). Everything has a glow or a glitter.

I have a bright abundance of journals, books, pens, and eye makeup. I don't think I take enough note of any of them. I like that Josh searches our shelves for his next book as if he's at a bookstore. I can search for my next journal as if I'm in a stationery shop.

I also have a bright abundance of love, and I walk right into it. I want to keep these words with me and hold them up my opera glasses, so I can see bright abundance everywhere.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Life Doesn't Get Any Slower Than This.

I've been telling myself this because, like most people, I think I can put things off until a better time, until more time magically appears. But I'm not working, and I hve a chunk or crumbs of time to myself most days, which is new. I have no homework. I should have very little stress.

This is the time in my life to do whatever I'm thinking about. The only slower time may come when Oliver grows up or maybe when he goes to school. That's a long way off. I'm making those story cards (my ideas on colored cardstock)...I need to make them into stories. Just an hour of working, writing, could get me some progress or wake up the writer in me so I can push past the time limits and keep writing.

Now is the time for colorful projects, for the ring so pretty I'm afraid to wear it, for strange books, for practicing to write magic realism. And maybe I'll find a little magic realism in my own dreams, thoughts, life.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Book Arrivals: Roald Dahl.

Recently, I had an Amazon gift card and points from a credit card.


I bought books.

My first book arrival was three Roald Dahl books: Charlie and the Chocolate Factor, Charlie and the Glass Elevator, and Matilda. I can't believe I've never read these. James and the Giant Peach (Wonderful!) is the only Dahl book I've read. I figured that if I could add these three, I'd be respectable. More importantly, I just need more magic in my life. I'm excited to begin.

And I'm excited to see what book will arrive at the door or in my mailbox next!

A Writer's Priorities.

*Writing, of any kind, always. It may be a novel or a scrap sheet of ideas, but a writer is always writing, putting words on paper or screens.

*Fellowship is important, especially with other writers. This may be in the form of a writers' group, diving deeply into a class on writing or literature with a writer-teacher, or reading the books of great writers--including great contemporary writers.

*Reading. This is a full-self experience, so trips to different kinds of libraries and bookstores will be necessary--maybe to expand a collection, get recommendations, or just soak up the atmosphere. The writer may feast on his or her genre but also snacks frequently on other genres.

*Revision. The writer makes time to put away the work for days or weeks and then approach it again as a near-stranger. Problems and mistakes will be much more visible from that perspective.

*Rituals. This keeps the work going and also keeps the joy in the work. The special pen, a certain scarf, the best little corner...building rituals isn't difficult, but it eases the mind into a writing mood.

Monday, March 28, 2016

Expanding Strengths.

First of all, what are those strengths?

  • Teaching in some way
  • Appreciating theatre
  • Intuiting what Oliver needs (sometimes)
  • Being a reader
  • Telling stories (so I've heard)
  • Connecting with music
  • Showing affection through gifts
  • Writing practice

I would have loved to teach Theatre Appreciation. Maybe something like that will happen someday...continuing education classes? I've sort of been teaching Bruce, or it started out that way. He's a great pupil. I'm also strengthening my love of theatre by going to so many shows that are new to me. I let them surprise me.

I think my sense about Oliver will get better as I stay home with him. My mom says no one will understand him the way I do. I need to feel important that way. But I have a lot to learn; I need to read more about autism and highly sensitive children.

The best way for me to expand my reading is first to find blocks--an hour or so--to make progress but also to use tiny bouquets of minutes.

I get lots of story-telling practice when I go on walks twice a week with Bruce. He even lets me retell stories he's already heard!

I listen to showtunes while I get ready. This makes getting ready easier, and it has definitely strengthened my connection to music. I listen in the car and while I'm doing dishes. It adds a layer of richness to tasks and thoughts.

Gifts are my love language. I wish I had money to set aside just for giving gifts to people whenever I feel like it. One of the best feelings is really getting a gift right. The whole room changes for a moment.

I write at least two pages a day in my journal, and I also write in response to prompts. These are my writing practice right now. I intend to add product-based writing (poems, stories, essays), but right now, practice-based feels most important.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Where I Need to Write.

I've discussed "writing on location" before, and I will again. Right now, I'm thinking about where I need to try on-location writing. 

  • I need to write by a window during a storm, in all the sound and gray light. 
  • I need to write by the little frog pond at the botanical gardens next to the emerald stretch of lawn where Josh likes to roll.
  • I need to write at the library--every branch--at tables or in armchairs after perusing books and selecting photo-rich volumes on cokking, travel, and dance. 
  • I need write at the Cameo movie theater.
  • I need to write at Fresh Market, exploring aisles and then sitting down on the floor, describing bottle shapes and all the colors in the candy bin. 
  • I need to write at an aquarium among pink-lit jellyfish.  
  • I need to write in my mother's beautiful craft room to take in all fabrics, glitters, dolls, and half-finished projects.

I need to write places not only to describe them but also so make the place and the writing more real in my memory. Of course, writing in bed or in the bath (if you can manage) is also a great idea.

Saturday, March 26, 2016

40 before 40.

I can't believe I'm old enough even to think about this, but let's go.
  1. Read 100 Years of Solitude.
  2. Read The Golden Notebook.
  3. Read the New Testament (if not the whole Bible)
  4. Read Dracula.
  5. Read Frankenstein.
  6. Finish the Harry Potter series.
  7. Write 100 short stories.
  8. Write a novel.
  9. Make a new poetry collection.
  10. Attempt to publish at least two books.
  11. Try a magnetic nose stud.
  12. Fill more journals than I buy.
  13. Reduce credit card debt by half or more.
  14. Reach and maintain a healthy weight.
  15. See a show on Broadway or at the West End.
  16. Visit the UK.
  17. Keep up with my library's new releases.
  18. Read all of Ann Patchett's books.
  19. Visit Ann Patchett's bookstore.
  20. Read all Oz books.
  21. Read all Wrinkle in Time books.
  22. Rent a just-right house.
  23. Attend touring shows each year.
  24. Take some kind of class.
  25. Try an unnatural hair color.
  26. Read half or more of Neil Gaiman's books.
  27. Stay at the Wilderness Lodge again.
  28. Win or place in a writing contest.
  29. Read 10 or more Pulitzer Prize-winning books.
  30. Read 5 or more books of poetry a year (50 total).
  31. Try a support group.
  32. Try Kindle publishing.
  33. See Sparkle Scribbles to 100,000 views.
  34. Read all Austen books.
  35. Read all Bronte books.
  36. Read all Jeffrey Eugenides books.
  37. Make daily use of my lovely secretary desk (from Mom and Shane) and denim chaise (for which I taught an extra summer class).
  38. Take Oliver to shows.
  39. Gain more control over anxiety, fear, and dread.
  40. Continue to sparkle, even if I'm "too old."
Some of these are difficult, but I have most of the decade ahead of me. So many of these are related to reading. It's too bad I read only 18 books in the first 6 months of my 30s! I'll make it up. I wonder if I'm asking too much of myself with all the product-based writing and attempted publishing. But I hope to get bolder. Let's see how far I can go.

Friday, March 25, 2016

Little Ways to Make Life Lovely.

  • Color in a (now easy-to-find) adult coloring book.
  • Find a use for sparkly crayons.
  • Several times a day, hug those with whom you live.
  • Accidentally spill glitter.
  • Have appropriate snacks--mini lite Babybel cheeses, jerky bites, Lindt truffles with sea salt, baby carrots andd Caesar dressing. Emerald packs of almonds and walnuts. Be prepared for a variety of snacking needs. Include protein.
  • Send a book to someone directly through Amazon, so the recipient will have the fun of receiving a package.
  • Wear the prettiest and best clothes right now. Don't try to preserve them. 
  • Concentrate on how the water lifts you at the pool. Think about what else lifts you that way.
  • Use scents--candles, sprays, soaps, bubble bath. Let associations unfold.
  • Wear the body spray that makes you feel like a beautifully manic, wildly creative and quietly confident sixteen-year-old again. 
  • Get rid of something that isn't lovely or neccessary, whether that's an activity or an object.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Green Objects I Love.

  • Soft sea glass
  • Green antique bottles
  • Avocados and guacamole
  • The trees outside our windows, especially Oliver's
  • The perfect emerald-green short-sleeved cardigan that Mom and I each bought at Loft
  • My pot of Oz-green glitter in my nightstand drawer. Just in case
  • My mother's gorgeous silky button-down shirt that I admired for years. She loaned it to me for my public reading during my MFA graduation week. And suddenly, last year, she gave it to me!
  • Green apples showing Oliver's little bite marks
  • Elphaba from Wicked.
  • Heart-shaped leaves of wild violets
  • Mermaid tails
  • My light green, scalloped, beaded lampshades
  • My Uni-Ball Signo pen with green-black ink
  • My Gemstone Green and Forest ink bottles and cartridges from Levenger.
  • My green Mary Jane wedge heels, now departed...but I miss them often. 
  • Amy Brown's beautiful mermaid and sea dragon in Lazy Afternoon
  • And maybe someday...

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

How to Be Sweet to Myself.

Bruce tells me to be sweet to myself. Mama tells me to give myself some grace. I've had to keep thinking about what that can mean.
  • Don't expect every idea to work.
  • Allow some naps.
  • Take bubble baths most nights.
  • Use colors (pens, markers) that attract me right then.
  • Find fun spots to organize.
  • Read illustrated fairy tale books.
  • Make those books accessible.
  • Talk to Mom on most days.
  • Play with stickers (putting them in journals)
  • Continue to share with Bruce (stickers, illustrated books...).
  • Listen to favorite songs repeatedly.
  • Consider having friends on some level.
  • Celebrate all the reading and writing I do.
  • Read the books that call out first.
  • Keep reading--it's a necessity and a joy.
  • Don't save journals, pens, art supplies...Use them now. More joys will follow.
  • Take time to kiss.
  • Wear work clothes for fun. 
  • Watch a favorite movie alone.
  • Enjoy exploring makeup stores and getting colors an shimmers on my hands.
  • Let go of what is not relevant.
  • Listen to music while I clean.
  • Look at pretty things like cupcakes.
  • Tell the truth about how I am.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Small Creative Projects to Make the Day Brighter.

  • Use a rubber stamp and color it in your journal.
  • Change the color of the lines on a journal page.
  • Search trunk for a art supply to use.
  • Make a mini collage on tiny cardstock.
  • Flip through old idea books and guided journals. Respond again.
  • Play in desk drawers--find treasure.
  • Read A Little Princess again.
  • Find more Shoe books (Noel Streatfeild).
  • Explore the decoarative boxes above the kitchen cabinets.
  • Try Wal-Mart market.
  • Cook. It ends up being fun. 
  • Go for a walk with Oliver.
  • Read an old American Girl book.
  • Follow eye makeup palette instructions.
  • Use forgotten makeup.
  • Buy flowers.
  • Write down all your impossible blessings.
  • Play the soundtrack of a long-beloved movie. You may not have noticed the music.
  • Explore the shelves with double-stacked books.
  • Hunt library for young adult short story collections. 
  • Choose a shelf at home, at the bookstore, or at the library, and read something on it.
  • Do yoga! Use that pretty blue butterfly mat.
  • Read a favorite picture book to Oliver.

Monday, March 21, 2016

What I Want to Create.

I want to create collages--mixed media that can reveal some truth, general or personal. I want to focus on color, find out what a color reveals. An unfamiliar color like red, which I rarely use or wear.

I want to create stories with quirky characters and well-chosen details to reveal them. My best friend does this perfectly in regular conversation, so I try to pay attention to it. I want to create story collections, some of them intertwining. I was to create more girls and women for my character Val to love and admire in myriad ways.

I want to create a novel, but I have no vision for that yet. I can't even imagine. Maybe I'll find my old novel and strip it for parts. Other stories can bloom from those twigs. I may even have scenes I can still use.

I want to create a good, unique home with great love of books, theatre, and movies. I want to create that setting for Oliver's growing up. I want to create a supportive and open-minded environment.

I also want to recreate myself. So much has happened; I think I have to look at myself a different way and build something new. Kindness. Dedicated creativity. Fierce protection and use of my talents. Discovery of how those talents may have morphed. Pursuit of a healthy mind. An abundance of affection.

Saturday, March 19, 2016


"Judge each the seeds you plant."

                                     --Clear as Mud

I like this. Don't judge the day what bloomed but by the investments I've made that may lead to future blooms.

For me, the most obvious example is sending out literary submissions. Fifty submissions may only yield one acceptance, but without those seeds, nothing happens.

Seeds I Can Plant:
  • Send letters. A letter may come back!
  • Send submissions.
  • Start reading a new book--it may create sweet anticipation, new ideas, or better stamina.
  • Stretch to become more flexible.
  • Exercise to see how fit I may become soon.
  • Read to Oliver. See what he remembers.
  • Go to shows for inspiration, new conversations, and new treasured show tunes. 
  • Clean in the evening for a smoother tomorrow.
  • Watch movies or shows with Josh and with Bruce to create memories and conversations--invest in the bonds.
  • Record and re-read gem-like quotations.

Friday, March 18, 2016

I Give Myself Permission To...

  • Take the time for neat penmanship...or not.
  • Drink soda if it helps my mood.
  • Be ambivalent but still try.
  • Work on my blogs...or not.
  • Miss my friend...even if I just saw him.
  • Let my writing be quirky or magical.
  • Reveal too much of who I am.
  • Love certain songs absurdly.
  • Take time to pay off debt.
  • Wear shorts and not check the mirror.
  • Complain about my situation.
  • Read beyond my goals.
  • Read slowly--a few poems, a couple of chapters...
  • Re-watch Disney movies.
  • Use color as I wish.
  • Go to the library regularly, even if I don't read everything I check out.
  • Play with makeup, even the dark colors.
  • Protect my theatre season tickets despite the expense because they are important to my future mental health.
  • Wear my favorite work clothes without occasion...or work.
  • Use all my art supplies. Quit saving them!
  • Be more open...whatever that means in the moment.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Thoughts of Ships.

"A ship in port is safe, but that is not what ships are for."
Grace Hopper

I think I can apply this most to my writing. Poems and stories are safe in my files, but they, or some of them, ought to be out. More than that, I'm thinking of the tiny story seeds and the memoir bits in my mind an on my paper--but only journal pages. I should bring them out and see what color they turn as they contact air. My journal is my own, but even then, I use some material for blog entries, and I should probably do more than that. Or more of it. Write letters, maybe. Submit work. Words should spend some time in the world. Life is not likely to get easier.

I've also been working on letting my kind thoughts about people come out in words. I guess it never occurred to me that people would want, need, or even accept those words. But I just pretend that people do and will, and that's usually what happens! I could store those words up in bottles with my loving feelings, but the words don't belong to me. They belong to the people near me.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Finding an Oasis.

The finding isn't always easy. Certain Block books are that for me--Dangerous Angels and Necklace of Kisses for sure. That's why I re-read them. They stuffed with rich details that soothe and excite me, making it seem okay to see the world that way and reminding me that some of the dark is as nurturing as the light. They move me to explore again. Some of her other books probably qualify too, such as Ruby an others I haven't read in so long. My mind fills with strange spills of velvet, fairy lights, and warm vegetable rice. Many of her more recent books dip heavily into the dark and are more risk than rest.

Places where I feel comfortable an not on high alert: my demin chaise under a big window, the TGI Friday's near Durham Performing Arts Center, my mom's gray sectional, and my bed under at least four blankets.

My quotation notebooks are stuffed with magic bath bombs of words and images, and reading a random page is a little fireworks show--the wonder of a book or a person distilled to just a handful of words.

I guess we have to do our own seeking and even creating an oasis. But of course, sometimes a gift comes--a person, book, event, or memory that makes you flow and flower.

Monday, March 14, 2016

Adventures I Shouldn't Miss.

  • Going to Italy
  • Raising a child--it helps me examine my own beliefs, needs, and values
  • Napping in some gorgeous outdoor place
  • Seeing Starlight Express 
  • Seeing Sunset Boulevard again
  • Seeing more new-to-me shows
  • Maintaining an amazing adult friendship
  • Checking off all my goals for the day at least once
  • Walking the Cape Fear River trail
  • Swimming in more bodies of water
  • Reading the Bible
  • Reading 100 Years of Solitude
  • Taking an online class with Francesca Lia Block
  • Writing a novel
  • Writing a memoir
  • Making a short story collection
  • Trying to publish some type of book
  • Being 30!
  • Owning more dolls
  • Going to Paris again
  • Seeing a show at the Opera House!
  • Being on stage again
  • Reading 100 books in a year again

Friday, March 4, 2016

Six Books.

I've been thinking about influential and inspiring books. I doubted that I could name more than two or three that have been impactful enough to change my life. Six books quickly came to mind. These are in no particular order.

The 5 Love Languages by Gary Chapman
Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg
The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand
Rose and the Beast by Francesca Lia Block
The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens
Proverbs (in the Bible)

The 5 Love Languages is a book I think everyone should read. Special versions for parents, teens, and single people customize the experience. I learned about how I show and receive love. I was able to recognize how I was different from people I loved, but I could still use their love languages and help them use mine. Past confusion and hurt in relationships started to make some sense. I think I'm both more loving and more fulfilled thanks to this book.

Writing Down the Bones taught me that writing is a practice, like meditation or other fortifying rituals. I learned to love the notebook as a safe growing place for me as a writer and as a person.

The Fountainhead is a book I have mixed feelings about. I remember reading it on a pontoon boat with my parents and brother. I was 16 and had low self-esteem. I didn't think I deserved to be happy; I didn't think I could pursue the love and life I needed. Howard Roark was ruthless in his pursuits. If I had had more confidence at the time, reading this may have turned me too far toward Roark. But starting as low as I did, this pulled me up to ground level, and I began treating myself differently.

Rose and the Beast grabbed my attention with its gorgeous cover art and with a title that suggested fairy tale retellings. I loved the latter, so I bought the book without investigation. And so I found my favorite author. But the book was full of situations and topics that scared me and that I didn't hear anyone address. Because of this book, I was better able to engage with people who were different from me or who had lived lives vastly different from mine. The book also showed me a different way to write. The fairy tales I wanted were there, reshaped, and the prose seemed to drip with strange gems. Block indulged in language, and I was captivated.

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens came to me some how, and Mom has mentioned how much I embraced it (obsessively, as I tend to do). The book taught me about how to stay healthy (not just in body) and take care of myself. I recently bought the original adult version at a used bookstore, and I'm interested to see how it will affect me as an adult.

Proverbs (in the Bible) was a mini obsession for a while. I remember reading and then writing down verses in a journal that had an angel's wing on it. I was at my great-grandmother's counter, waiting for my older cousin Melinda to get home from school. Proverbs was so soothing (not all of it), and I loved the quiet, wisdom-seeking lifestyle it often described.

 It's amazing what some paper and glue can do. What books have changed your life?