It’s a dark and rainy night, never mind that the almonds are in bloom and in the daytime it looks like spring. Tonight we have the blessed gift of rain, and that makes the time perfect for a pot of stew and a new blog post. It’s hard to believe that almost a month has gone by since I wrote here. I think I need the challenge of a daily blog post for a while to get over the sense that whatever I write has to be good, weighty, or written for a purpose. Or funny. Whatever it is that blocks me from sitting down here and just writing, I need to get over it.
Tonight I’m making a pot of whatever-is-in-the frig stew. It is garlic, onions, boneless pork ribs, Peruano beans, flame roasted canned tomatoes, chicken broth, spices, a date and half a bottle of Stella Artois beer that someone left in the fridge few months ago. It smells pretty good, but who knows what delight the alchemy of all that will create? We’ll eat it, I’m sure because we have no other choice except the chocolate chip cookies Alex found on Rachel Ray’s website and has decided to make right in the middle of dinner preparations. After I drink the other half of the beer (which I never ever usually do) I might not even care how any of it tastes.
Thinking about work, it’s funny how chaos can become routine. Today my classes were barely controlled chaos all day long, and while I am tired, I’m not at my wit’s end. I don’t even really care about it. The chaos. I mean, I’m sorry Jared cried, but he didn’t cry until after I moved him to a different seat, the one he wanted to sit in that was behind his friends. Once he moved and cried, he told me, “See, I told you I wanted to move because Tyson was hitting my head.” Except I moved him when he asked, and Tyson didn’t actively hit him that I could see, and they were right in the front row. I guess there was some desk bumping or something. Ni modo.
After they left I called Ivan’s mom because I was sick of his squirreling around and the nasty little attitude that has that he’s been sporting recently. I thought she and I could talk about it, cooperate in helping him out, and she was great. I bet he’s hearing about it about now. He’ll have something to say about that tomorrow, I can tell you. They don’t ever think I’ll actually call home, especially when I don’t even threaten to do so, other than to say that I’ll be glad to meet their moms. Now I hope we can help cool his jets a little.
Yesterday I had a visit from a former student, one who was a squirrely roller-on-the-floor in the seventh grade. He’s now a Junior in high school and is a very reasonable human being who picks up his little sister and takes her out for tacos. He gave me hope yesterday, on a day when I most needed it. A reminder of the fact that seventh and eighth grade are just swiftly passing stops on the road to adulthood. They come in so beautiful, still in the flush of childhood, and within a couple of years they start losing that to take on their adult look. Most manage to still look good through middle school, and it’s Freshman year when the dorkiness hits. Puberty strikes hard for some of them, and then just in time, they shape up get ready for the next awkward stage, the one after high school.
But enough of them. Sometimes I think I’m like one of those moms (I know this because I was one) whose whole life is their kids and they don’t even know what else to talk about cause the kids are all they do. When I, I do so many other interesting things. Like read books. And putter in my yard. And plan lessons. Watch a little TV. What else? Well, I’m working on that. I’m just a procrastinator. I’m going to do the rest of the stuff, the interesting things, a little later. Probably starting this weekend.
I hope you’re enjoying yourself, and having something delicious for dinner on this drippy night! Thanks for your perseverance in stopping by this infrequent writer’s spot. Really, thanks.
Happy New Year, again. I’m over the leggings and I think I’ve found my New Year’s Resolution, now that January is almost over. The beginning of the year was a little rough, but I think I’m past it now and ready for a resolution. Wait, it’s not a resolution, really. It’s more like a theme. I just decided that 2014 will be the year I read all those books that are languishing on my iPad and on my bookshelves. This is a huge decision, actually, because I have a lot of unread books. When I moved last year I got rid of several bags full of them, and only kept the ones I really loved and the ones I hadn’t read. There are a lot of them. A lot. This theme may extend into other future years. Let’s see, in the hall closet there are 68 books that I have yet to read. On my iPad another 32. Hm..that’s a clean 100 books. I’m not counting the ones in my office or garage. I guess the resolution part of this would have to be that I resolve not to buy one more book (except those my book club reads, of course) until I’ve read all of these gems that await me now. I don’t even need to take any paper books on my much planned for road trip. I have more than enough right on my iPad. Oh, and I guess I should stay away from the library until I’m done with this project.
I have this library thing I do. I wonder if other people do the same. I buy books by my favorite authors when they come out, and I put them in the book case. Then I go to the library and check out four or five novels. I come home and gobble up the library books first because they are due in three weeks. So the ones I’m looking forward to, by all those authors I love, sit languishing on the shelves while I read those other, borrowed ones. When I take the library books back I can’t just drop them off and go. No, I have to go check the new fiction rack, and then browse for just a couple of minutes in the shelves. Just long enough to check out another pile of books, and the cycle begins again. It’s kind of a sickness I think.
It’s funny. For most of my life I didn’t buy books. I got them all from the library. As a kid I went to the library about every two weeks and always checked out the six books that were the maximum allowed. As a teen I did the same until the library broke up with me over a few unpaid late fines. I don’t know what I read during that hiatus. I guess maybe I read some college books, or something my mom had at home. Maybe. Later I once again established a relationship with a library (a different one). When my kids were little and I stayed home with them I was a big fan of those long family saga novels. The ones that had hundreds of pages each. I’m a fast reader so those worked out well. I read while I nursed my babies. My firstborn would go find my book and hand it to me, then would plop down in our nursing spot. He knew how to get what he wanted!
About twenty years or so ago, I began to patronize the local used bookstore. I could buy books for a fraction of their original cost, and then trade them back in when I’d finished. Almost as cheap as library fines. That’s when my collection of books became immense. I like to read by authors, so when I find one I like, I read through all of his or her books. I pass some on and keep some until eventually I have no more room and I take them all (all but the ones I just have to keep, for rereading or loaning) back to the used bookstore. Then I carry a credit slip around for a while until get the urge to go in and see what’s new in there.
About six years ago my granddaughter became an avid reader, just like me. She tears through series after series of books, has favorite and not favorite authors. She dislikes books with deckle edge pages, preferring those that are smooth cut. Who even thinks about that?
The first Saturday of each month we go to the Teachers Book Connection and buy fresh new books. In the past couple of years she has moved from the kids section to young adult books, and now peruses more classic literature. She wants to devour it all. I love talking about books with her. She always has such interesting insights on what she reads, often coming up with ideas that wouldn’t have occurred to me. Recently I was telling her about a favorite poem of mine, “Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird.” I told her that for me that poem is a lesson in uncertainty. I don’t really feel like I understand it, yet in its murkiness is a beauty that I like. We were driving when we talked about this, and suddenly she was quiet, looking at her iPhone. In a couple of minutes she began to read that poem out loud to me, and then she told me what she thought it was about. I would not have thought of her ideas, yet they made so much sense. It’s funny, of all my children none is a reader like this. Maybe it’s a gene, a reader gene that skips a generation.
But I digress. I’m going to read those books and I will keep a fresh book list page on this blog, so you can follow along if you’d like. You might find a book you’d like in my list! And I’ll keep you posted as to how well I’m sticking to my resolution.
UPDATE: So far so good, although I was pulled in by the library last week. I have yet to read any of the four books I brought home. Maybe alternating book sources? We’ll see how that goes. My current booklist has its own page, that’s right up there in the header. Enjoy! Let me know if you’ve read anything really good lately!
It’s New Year’s Day, and I’m not ready to talk about resolutions, or make a list of things I ought to do to be better, have more, know myself or be happier. I”m still working on this year’s vision board. I’m not feeling spiritual either, and I don’t want to write about what 2013 brought and left me. Nope. Today I’m thinking about leggings. That’s right, leggings. Specifically on old ladies, but also generally, as in leggings on teenagers. I almost wrote ‘youngins’ there, but that sounds way more colloquial than I actually feel. So I wrote ‘teenagers’ when I really meant seventh and eighth graders. Not teens, exactly, but not kids either. Youngins.
You may wonder why I’m thinking about leggings today. Here’s the deal: I’ve actually been thinking about them for while now. I have worn them once or twice, always under a dress, and felt pretty cool wearing them. Like fit and shapely. Which isn’t really the case. I always wonder what to wear them with, specifically what shoes, and do I have to buy boots to wear leggings? What about a top? I think a shortish dress is good with them but a longish sweater, not so much. Then there’s that age appropriateness thing. Are they a young woman or kid thing to wear, or could I manage to wear them in an age appropriate way?
At the middle school where I teach, the girls wear them as often as they wear jeans. This year the tribal printed ones are all the rage. They wear them with short little sweaters, as if they were jeans. And it doesn’t really look so good, even on a twelve-year-old. I also know an older woman who frequently wears them, occasionally with a short sweater like the kids do. Without going into detail, I’ll say that it does not work. No. Because of those leggings, I know just a little more about her anatomy than I ever imagined wanting to know. And I am older than she is. (I just learned last week that I’m in fact the oldest staff member at my school. Yeah. Awesome!) So, I keep not wearing them. And only touching on the thought of them occasionally.
But then, yesterday I was shopping for a couple of things at Raley’s and I came across two separate old ladies wearing leggings, and looking just fine in them. Based on their faces, I think they were probably older than I am, although sometimes I think that lots of people who I think are older than I am are in fact younger. Their age isn’t really the issue here. The leggings are. Or the fact that things have changed since I was a girl, and as hip and Baby Boomer as I think I am, my ideas and mores were formed when I was a girl and watched my grandma and great-grandma on my mom’s side be old ladies.
The kind of old ladies who wore only slips, baggy silky dresses and big boxy undies. Stockings rolled to just below their knees and sensible black shoes or house slippers, and a hanky stuffed up their sleeve or in the neck of their dress, tucked under their slip strap. And grey permed hair. They played canasta. All the time. My other role model, I mean grandma, my dad’s mom, was very stylish, and wouldn’t think of leaving the house without full makeup and her best clothes. She played Bridge. And once took off for Las Vegas with her girlfriends without telling any of us. But leggings wouldn’t have ever been part of her wardrobe, of this I’m certain, even if they had been invented then.
So, somewhere in the back of my mind, when I thought about aging, (which I really didn’t think would actually ever happen to me because everyone always told me how young I looked), I always expected to turn into my grandma. Probably not the stylish one. I’m not sure how I thought that would happen. Would I just wake up old one day? Was it a decision one made one day? I guess I thought that for some reason getting old would skip me, and on my good days I still think that. I never really thought about that bridge between older and old. I do think of it a lot more lately, like any time I’m brazen enough to take a ‘selfie’, when I imagine I can catch a spontaneously fun shot of myself and all I see is wrinkles.
But I digress. This has become about more than leggings, hasn’t it? My point is, I know that I’m not my grandmothers but sometimes, when I’m not looking, I forget that. And it limits my idea of who and what I can be and do. Because, even though I’m on the downhill run to Medicare, I still believe I can do and be whatever I want to. Obviously, there are some things that have passed for me, like going to medical school or winning American Idol. But there are lots of possibilities left, and anything that helps me rout out those buried limitations is a thing I want to notice. I’d rather decide my possibilities in a conscious way, not based on some old ideas that I don’t even know I believe.
As for the leggings, the jury is still out on that one. What about with clogs?
This is the fifth year I’ve spent time on this site with these off and on again blogs I write. I love it when the time of year comes around that WordPress makes it snow. It looks so sort of festive, but in a calm way. I think it makes it look like whatever I decide to write about is more interesting than usual just because it has snow falling on it.
My last post about going to Taos was misleading, apparently. I’m not going there until next summer. I’m just having a great time planning to go there. Even if I backed out, I’d have had a great time planning to go.
I recently read an article on Zite about ten things you can do that will make you happier. These things were backed by science, so they must be true. Forgive me for not including the science here. Just take my word tht there was a scientific explanation for every one of them. One of those things was planning a trip. You don’t even have to actually go, just as long as you plan it you’ll feel happier. That’s definitely worth the price of admission. So I’m planning my trip and it makes me feel pretty good while I’m doing it. I do believe I will actually go because I’ve already invested my money in the whole thing, but it’s good to know that even if for some reason I didn’t go, I’ve already gotten some mileage out of the deal. And I have a great new Pinterest board entitled, “Road Trip.” Worth it!
Do you want to know what the other nine things are? I know you do, so here they are:
1. Exercise more. Seven minutes apparently is enough. I figure I should be able to top seven minutes. So far I haven’t though.
2. Sleep more. Oh yeah. Bring on Christmas vacation!
3. Live closer to work. I guess this is to cut commute time. That’s not going to happen. I guess I need to up the exercise quotient to make up for this one.
4. Spend time with friends and family. Well, yeah. That makes everything better, in my book.
5. Go outside. Just that, go outside? Cinch. I’ve been cleaning the pool pretty often since I read this, cause it’s been full of leaves. Now that all the leaves are down, I’ll go to the wildlife refuge and take pictures of migratory birds. I really love doing that, and they don’t seem to mind it too much as long as I don’t move too fast.
6. Smile. Some days this is harder that it seems. Maybe if I go outside more I’ll be less grouchy.
7. Help others. I do some of this, but I could always do more. Sometimes I figure just going to work counts for this one. But not always.
8. Meditate. Oh yes, this makes me feel so collected and calm. And focused. I don’t know why I forget to do this so often. The result is really and truly magical in my life. I guess it’s a little bit like eating vegetables. I love eating them, my body loves receiving them but they take a little more effort to prepare than oh, a piece of steak or a quesadilla so I skip them, despite my best intentions.
9. Practice gratitude. I try to express my gratitude often and honestly. However…see number 8.
Oh, and there’s one more. Get older. Apparently as you get older you just tend to get happier. I suppose you’re less worried about how things will turn out. Plus your kids are no longer teenagers, and if your grandkids are teens they have their own parents to worry about them. So yeah, I’ve got that last one pegged. The getting older part happens whether I want it to or not.
So there you go. How does this list resonate with you? What would you add to it?
You’re a person who likes to write, or at least you used to like to write, although you’ve kind of slacked off in the past while. Totally slacked off, actually. Last summer you went to a writing retreat at Mount Shasta with the Writing Project. At the last minute you were asked to help lead it and that was great. You got to be a sounding board and commenter for other writers, and in between you had time to revitalize your blog.
You really love to go away from home to write. A few years ago you spent a week at the Grand Canyon writing with a group of women. Sunrise at Mather Point, stuff like that. That was a dream. You drove there on your own personal road trip, listening to lots of Ricardo Arjona music. There was other music too, but you just mostly remember the Arjona songs whose words were so timely. After the retreat was over you went to New Mexico, to Albuquerque, to visit that friend of your mom’s, then cruised up to Taos for a couple of days. That was the summer of the tiny black mandalas. You made several of them a day. They were like little spirit messages from the inner you to the outer you.
You spent two days in Chimayo, and completely fell in love with it. You made plans to spend some time there again in the future. There was something about the whole road trip writing retreat thing that was so revitalizing. Music in the car, doing things that challenged you like going swimming in a bathing suit in the hotel pool, meeting new people and writing and drawing for hours every day. It was great, and you felt stronger, more yourself, after it was over.
But that was a long time ago. Life happens, and you’ve been a little sad and a little detached from that inner calm for a while. Not terrible, but sad enough to quit writing. Nothing seems worth saying, and when you reread your old journals you realize that you’ve already said what you were just going to say. In fact you’ve said the same things again and again for years. So you take pictures and draw and make mosaics and just avoid writing. You’ve been busy, too, ever since your new son came into your life a year or so ago. You don’t have much alone time any more. At least that’s what you tell yourself. When you’re not writing.
Now you have the opportunity for another road trip writing retreat, in Taos, no less. It involves writing and yoga and pastries and dancing and collage. You wonder how those things even go together, and you wonder if you’re too grouchy for all that. But you are actually deeply excited about it, and know that you’ll step up when it’s time.
You’ve known about this particular retreat for a long time, but somehow it was never the right time to go. It was either a little too expensive, or you just had to think it over until it was too late and all the spots were filled. This year you decide, in kind of the spur of the moment, that this is the year that you will go to it. So you do it. You sign up and pay in full and put it on the calendar.
The more you think about it, the more you think it sounds like just what you need, except maybe for the yoga and dancing part. And actually the yoga part sounds okay except you recently hit your highest weight of your life, and you’re not exactly feeling flexible. Which makes it all the more surprising that you signed up for the whole thing if it involves the yoga and dancing. You’re good with the pastries, though, which is probably the reason for the weight.
So you begin to plan your trip, even though it’s nearly nine months away. You think you’ll spend a night in Chimayo the night before you’re due to arrive in Taos, because it’s the holiest place you can ever remember being. And you are all out of the Holy Chiles and, well, yeah. You need some more.
Then you go to Pinterest and make a new board, “Road Trip,” because you have to do something. In your journal you make a list of all the lists you have to make to get ready for this trip. You color it in, kind of Sketchnotey, and then relax about it all.
You are sure you will like the person who is throwing this party, and you still have eight months before it happens to pull it together. Maybe taking some walks will help you get less grouchy. And a little more flexible. Or not, that doesn’t really matter. You think and think about it, and suddenly, in a moment of clarity, you realize that going to this retreat with yoga and dancing and pastries is about challenging yourself as much as it’s about the writing. It’s about reminding yourself that you can do hard things and that after you do them you are happier. Truly. And it’s been a long time since you’ve done that. So you reserve a room in Chimayo and begin to map your trip. It’s on!
It’s November 1, Day of the Dead, and the day thousands of people begin the annual one month frenzy of novel writing. Each year I sign up, and only once have I actually completed the 50,000 words required to be a “winner.” It’s funny, I love to write and am pretty prolific at it when I have something to say. Yet when November first arrives, any idea of a story that I thought I had just seems to dry up. I create characters who are interesting and have good backstories. My settings are appealing and vivid, but the story seems to evade me every time.
This morning I got a Pep Talk in the mail from James Patterson, who wrote about having made an outline prior to taking on the novel-in-a-month project. He said it’s okay if you haven’t made one, although it’s better if you have one. He said “on the count of three, tell me the story that unfolds in your novel. All the way to the last chapter. Now write that down. There’s your outline. Easy, right?” And that little bit of encouragement is what has taken me down. I have no story. Just the stuff that surrounds a story.
This year my idea is based on Wallace Stevens’ poem, “Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird.” I love that poem mostly because it’s kind of a list poem, which seems orderly to me, and because I don’t get it. Even after reading it a hundred times and teaching it to my high school class a few years ago, when the kids wrote their own “Thirteen Ways of Looking at___” poems, I still don’t get it. And I love it for that reason. I could read literary analysis of it, and see what someone else thinks it’s about, but I’d rather not. My granddaughter who is wizardly smart had a quick and to-the-point analysis of it after reading it once. And her idea makes complete sense. But I am not sure, and I am okay with not quite getting it.
But back to NaNoWriMo. My “30 Ways of Looking at November” sounds like a memoir or a list of completely disjointed stories, with no big idea or storyline holding them together. I think a novel ought to be at least marginally gettable. I sat down this morning at a (very crowded) cafe thinking I’d get started and I balked. Why did that Thirty Days thing sound like a good idea? Maybe I should throw it in before I start. The towel that is. (That’s an idiom. Throw in the towel.) At first I liked the idea of crowd writing, but it has never really panned out for me. Like it or not, writing is something we must do alone, in our time. And I’m pretty sure this isn’t my time. Pretty sure, but not completely…
Maybe rather than even starting NaNoWriMo, I should create my own Maker Month. Chico Lynn Maker Month. ChiLyMaMo. I can crochet a cap for my new baby granddaughter, finish a scarf for her daddy, sew some stuff like a quilt, make a bag or two, take and print and frame some photos, (begin to) quilt the quilt I started thirteen years ago for the high schooler who analyzes poetry with such aplomb. Maybe I’ll bake something or make some Kahlua or something in the kitchen. I think I’ll draw the line at making fruitcake, but other than that, there is no end to the things I can create this month (well, of course there is, but that’s a figure of speech), and no anxiety about it either (well, almost none). Either way crafting is required – when we write we craft with words, choosing the right ones, and eliminating the extras. When we make things we craft with materials like fabric and tile, a camera or yarn, and we are challenged to roll with the mistakes as the project takes on its own life. This maker month thing is a win-win, I’d say. Plus the name sounds so cool. ChiLyMaMo. It just rolls off the tongue. And I don’t have to scrape my brain for a story to write. Hm…
Anyone want to join me in this month of making things? We could change the title to include you too if it grows beyond just me. I’d love that, changing the name because you are part of the deal. Just say so and we’ll be off and making. Otherwise I’ll go it alone and just tell you about it.
Did I just talk myself out of NaNoWriMo? Maybe…
Dear Young Man,
I will not say all the titles I’d like to call you here because they would detract from what I have to say to you, and hope to say to you one day in court. What were you thinking last night when you pulled me over in front of my house, and claimed to be an undercover cop? You don’t know me. Why was I your chosen one?
You raced up behind me, lights in my car window, and when I pulled over to let you pass you stopped at an angle in front of me, trapping me where I was. While lights and sirens wailed from inside your car, and your buddy shone his LCD light in my car windows, you ran up and told me I’d been speeding. When I asked who you were, you told me you were an undercover cop. When I told you that you were not an undercover cop you ran back to your car and sped away. Leaving me shaken and wondering what had just happened.
What was your plan? What if I hadn’t called your bluff? What would you have done then? I can’t imagine what you were thinking.
I went in my house trembling, locked everything up and called the police. I guess you didn’t bank on my memorizing your license number and the make and model of your car. I’m glad the police took me seriously, even if it was all a joke to you. Within two hours you had been apprehended and your parents were there to pick you up. When I learned you were a high school student, I was somewhat abashed. I thought you were in your twenties, already an adult. You won’t look much different when you are, I’m sure.
I had a choice about what to do with you. Send you to jail or have you cited and the citation sent to the DA for action. I have raised my own teenagers, and I get that you sometimes do dumb things without thinking of the possible repercussions. And I chose not to send you to jail for the night. I do believe that my actions have consequences, however, and so should yours. It is not enough to just send you home with your parents and whatever little bit of groundation you might get. Will you be kicked off the swim team at the high school? Somehow I doubt it. So you were cited, and we will apparently get to meet in court one day. That is a day I actually look forward to. I’d like to look you in the eye again.
I know you thought you were just having fun with your lights and siren iPhone app and your friend’s iPhone flashlight. It’s so nice that you have those devices to terrorize people with. I don’t know you. You don’t know me, nor did you know who you were pulling over. What if I had been an off-duty police officer who was on an outing with his family? Do you think you’d have been safe? You would have been shown the front end of a firearm, without a doubt. Just because I drive a Prius and live in a quiet neighborhood that is no reason to assume you are safe to terrorize me. Yes, you frightened me, but you too could have been in danger. I suppose you didn’t think about that. At eighteen, it’s time to start thinking about the consequences of your actions.
I hope today is one filled with remorse. I look forward to meeting you again, in person, without a car window between us.