2015 NEW YEAR’S RESOLUTIONS (A BIT LATE)

January 26, 2015 in Adventures in Re-Discovering Myself

 Photo from 

Advanced Healthcare Physical Medicine

Normally I like Januarys. After the trifecta of the fall/winter holidays, Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas, I enjoy the relative calm of January. It’s a time of rebirth with New Year’s Resolutions and a chance to begin new habits or embark on life changes before spring blooms and we all emerge from our cocoons pale but happy, ready to enjoy the bliss of summer. But for various reasons, my last several Januarys have, well, sucked.

In January (and into February) 2013, I watched my dad die.

In January 2014, I had full mouth gum surgery, leaving me hungry and in pain and stitches for six weeks.

This January 2015, I exercised myself into an acute lumbosacral sprain (aka back injury). Here’s what you cannot do with this type of injury:

a)     Bend over.

b)    Lift things.

c)     Sit/drive without pain.

d)    Stand without pain.

e)     Take the “good” drugs because you still have to drive your kids to soccer/basketball/lacrosse practice.

Here’s what you can do:

a)     Lie down on an ice pack.

b)    Watch daytime TV.

c)     Skip vacuuming, cleaning, laundry, and picking anything up off the floor.

d)    Eat whenever you take your over-the-counter pain meds (which is often) so you don’t get an upset stomach.

e)     Spend lots of time at the doctor’s office and in physical therapy.

The good news is I am doing much better now and have been cleared to ease back into running tomorrow…hooray! I also have the three best sons a mother could ask for. They took over the laundry, helped me with the grocery shopping (I pointed at things and they loaded the items into the cart and the car), and put my socks on for me without rolling their eyes. They worried about me while they were at school (“What will you do if you drop your phone on the floor?”) and showed me how to pick up things with my toes. They literally saved me this month, and I could not be more proud of the men they are turning into or  more grateful for their help.

The bad news is that my house is a disaster area and everything I haven’t been able to get done this month is now looming over my head like a dark cloud, ready to unleash its fury of deadlines that I’ve postponed.

While in years past I have struggled to come up with New Year’s Resolutions that I think are meaningful enough to sustain me throughout the year, this year’s resolutions came easily, albeit late:

a)     Be happy. Always find the joy regardless of my circumstances; don’t wait for it to find me.

b)    Be healthy. In exercise and in eating (no more finding comfort in a bag of Hershey’s kisses, no matter how good they taste!).

c)     Be dedicated. Whatever I choose to do (achieve, persevere, heal), give it my all.

Wishing you all a Happy, Healthy, & Dedicated 2015 and A Fabulous February!

 

 

 

IT’S STILL CHRISTMAS AT MY HOUSE!

January 6, 2015 in Adventures in Re-Discovering Myself, Making Life A Little Easier

 Love this “tree” from UC Davis!

It is an odd thing to leave your home the day after Christmas. After a marvelous Christmas Day, I spent December 26 packing my suitcase with books, schedules, and writing samples I had critiqued in preparation for my red-eye flight to my Winter Residency, ten days off the coast of Mystic, CT. Time was limited: between packing, laundry, and chowing down on Christmas cookies, the only Christmas cleanup I could manage was taking down the tree.

My ten-day residency was suspended in time. We were holed up on a tiny island where our days revolved around workshops, seminars, readings, and meals. We had no TV, thus no contact with the outside world, and no protection from the biting wind coming in from the sea looking for skin to slice through. It was almost as if we were living in a snow globe, an isolated world with periodic snow flurries.

When we were released back into the real world, I flew home to a house glowing brightly with Christmas lights, a fireplace lined with stockings, and Santa and snowmen decorations covering every mantle and window sill. There are still Christmas cookies in the freezer (for better or worse), and our living room is dotted with presents that have yet to be put away and stray scraps of wrapping paper that did not quite make it into the trash bag. There is a Christmas card on the counter I have yet to mail and a pile of wrapped Christmas presents I need to box up and send. (Naomi, your gift is going to be late!)

On the plane ride home, I made detailed lists of all the things I needed to do, including taking down the Christmas decorations. But now that I’m here, I am not feeling a big rush to shut the door on Christmas 2014. My Christmas season was cut short, so being surrounded by the holidays for a little longer seems fitting, and not only because it cuts down significantly on my workload.

Wishing you all an extra dose of the holiday spirit! (And maybe someday soon I’ll get to those New Year’s Resolutions.)

TOP 11 THINGS I’M THANKFUL FOR

November 27, 2014 in Adventures in Re-Discovering Myself

TBT

1. My kids, my kids, and my kids. Always.

2. Good health, both my own and my loved ones. I am so thankful my kids are in good health and that I can still keep up with them, even with my advancing age. For those of my loved ones battling health issues, I am thankful for every day they conquer the beast, whatever it may be.

3. Good friends and family: I am thankful for every time they make me laugh, support me, bail me out of a jam, listen to me vent, and let me do the same for them.

4. Laughter: Is there anything better than the feeling of a laugh bubbling up inside of you when you least expect it?

5. Good books and the authors who write them. I read all the time, and I don’t know what kind of person I would be if I didn’t. I am thankful for every good book that pulls me and won’t let me go, and I have been lucky to read three such books in a row. Stay tuned: those book reviews are coming!

6. Good TV: How To Get Away With Murder (Best New Show), Grey’s Anatomy, The Mindy Project, The Killing, any Law and Order/SVU episode ever, Chopped, and the delightful Holiday Baking Championship, featuring bakers who compete in challenges involving baking pies, cookies, or desserts with swirls, all in the name of the holiday season. (On Food Network, Sundays at 9:00pm.)

7. Good music: My taste in music runs the gamut, although my current favorite songs are along the lines of moody acoustic guitar indie songs and Sam Smith, namely Riptide by Vance Joy, Stolen Dance by Milky Chance, I’m Not The Only One by Sam Smith, and Love Interruption by Jack White. You’re welcome.

8. Fitness instructors that recognize the inherent dangers of the upcoming holiday season and up the intensity of our workouts accordingly.

9. Naps: They are a gift, especially during the hustle and bustle of the holiday season.

10. Dessert: Here are some good ones just perfect for Thanksgiving and beyond.

11. You: I am thankful that you have stopped by!

Wishing you and yours a Happy Thanksgiving!

A ROOM OF ONE’S OWN BY VIRGINIA WOOLF

October 14, 2014 in Adventures in Re-Discovering Myself, Book Reviews, On Writing

If you are a woman and a writer and you haven’t yet read A Room of One’s Own by Virginia Woolf, then you should. It is based on two papers Woolf read to the Arts Society at Newnham and Odtaa at Girton in 1928 discussing the topic of Women and Fiction. It is a large topic, and Woolf endearingly meanders around it and in it and through it until she proves her initial opinion: “…a woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction…”

In Woolf’s time, circumstances for women had evolved. They had the right to vote, a married woman was allowed to own her own property, and there were at least two colleges for women in England. Women were beginning to enjoy a bit of freedom. But it wasn’t always that way. Woolf takes us on a journey of the history of women by pulling various books off of her shelves and studying them. For example, Professor Trevelyan’s History of England said this:

Wife-beating was a recognized right of man, and was practiced without shame by high as well as low…Similarly, the daughter who refused to marry the gentleman of her parents’ choice was liable to be locked up, beaten and flung about the room, without any shock being inflicted on public opinion.

John Langdon Davies wrote this in his A Short History of Women:

when children cease to be altogether desirable, women cease to be altogether necessary.

It is interesting to note Woolf’s take on these comments. Why are men writing about women? Why aren’t women writing about women, or women writing about men? She traces the political and social history of women to answer these questions, and finds that despite the limitations placed on women, they still found a way to write. George Eliot and George Sand, both women, adopted male pen names. Jane Austen had no room of her own, so she had to write furtively in the common sitting room, hiding her manuscript under a piece of blotting-paper whenever visitors or servants came in.

Woolf also delves into the quality of women’s writing as compared to men. Women were limited in their scope. They didn’t travel or participate in wars or hold down jobs. What they knew was comprised primarily of interpersonal relationships as observed in their sitting rooms, which Jane Austen wrote about adeptly. But how can you compare Pride and Prejudice to Leo Tolstoy’s epic War and Peace?

Women and women writers have come a long way since then. I am lucky to be living in a time where women are allowed to write out in the open without limitations, and yet, I still struggle. Although I have money and a room of my own in which to write, my problem is that I am never in that room.

I write at the kitchen table where I can be accessible to my kids during homework time. I write a sentence of my own, then answer a question of theirs. I write another sentence, and then correct a math sheet. I write another sentence, and then I break up an argument over something that isn’t even worth arguing about.

I write at the skate park. My kids scooter up and down ramps and bowls while I write a sentence in my notebook and then jump when I hear a sudden screech of metal slamming into concrete. I write a sentence and then cringe when I hear some of the language the older kids are using. I write a sentence and then run to the car to grab some bandages and a tube of Neosporin to fix up a skinned knee.

I’ve written in the car waiting for someone to be done with their soccer/football/lacrosse practice, on the couch during a Seahawks game, and outside on the patio because someone felt “lonely” and wanted me to watch them do tricks on the trampoline.

I am not complaining. As Virginia Woolf says:

When you reflect upon these immense privileges and length of time during which they have been enjoyed, and the fact that there must be at this moment some two thousand women capable of earning over five hundred a year in one way or another, you will agree that the excuse of lack of opportunity, training, encouragement, leisure, and money no longer holds good.

Perhaps in this day and age, a room of one’s own can be wherever it needs to be to get the writing done.

 

 

THE ART OF PARIS

August 26, 2014 in Adventures in Re-Discovering Myself, Reflections on Pop Culture

Disclaimer: As this is a blog about art, nudity will be discussed. (Not my own, of course.)

As an art lover and a volunteer art teacher at my son’s elementary school, I was thrilled to visit the most famous art museum in the world: the Musée du Louvre in Paris. I wanted to be inspired and to bring back new art to my students to inspire them too.

Visiting the Louvre requires stamina, perseverance, and the ability to (gently) push your way through the masses of people gathered around some of the more famous pieces of artwork.

Behold! Leonardo Da Vinci’s masterpiece is way, way, way over there!

The Mona Lisa is small considering the magnitude of it’s influence.

I apologize to everyone I stepped on, pushed, elbowed, or glared at on my way to the front of the line to see the Mona Lisa up close and personal.

The Louvre is huge: roughly 650,000 square feet, three wings, and three stories housing almost 35,000 pieces of art. If you think you can see everything in one day, think again. If you think you won’t get lost at least five times even with a map and an audio guide directing you, think again. Every room has two or three different exits leading into more rooms with more choices of which direction to take. It’s like a giant Choose Your Own Adventure book, and just like those adventures, I frequently found myself back in a room I had already been in several times.

There was some beautiful artwork on display. The marbled sculptures, like Venus de Milo and Michelangelo’s Slaves were stunning depictions of the beauty of the (naked) human body that I wouldn’t be able to share with my students. There were entire wings of religious paintings with some of the boldest use of color I have ever seen, and because we are a public school, I can’t show those either. Then there were the precious cherubs, some with wings flitting about in the sky and some taking a sip of milk from their mothers’ casually exposed breast, none of which I can share with my students. And then there was this painting, which had me at a loss: http://www.louvre.fr/en/oeuvre-notices/gabrielle-destrees-and-one-her-sisters (Warning: nude bodies ahead.)

If you want examples of a healthy body image for women, look no further than the Louvre and  Edouard Manet’s Le déjeuner sur l’herbe at the Musée d’Orsay. These women are gorgeous and feminine and strong and confidant and naked. In Manet’s painting, the woman is having lunch with two (clothed) gentlemen, while she is completely naked. Not only that, but she’s sitting with her knee pulled up to her chest, making her stomach fold over onto itself, which, by the way, is what the abdomen is designed to do. She’s not worried about the rolls on her stomach brought on by her sitting position. She’s naked and she’s eating because she is comfortable with herself and her body. That is my take home lesson from the art at the Louvre.

For my artistic sensibilities, the Musée d’Orsay was perfect. The works of Van Gogh, Monet, Manet, Renoir, Seurat, and my new favorite pointillism artist Paul Signac were not only breathtaking, but they were accessible to elementary school students.

Paul Signac, Woman at the Well. Opus 238.

Pointillism, especially, is a must see in any museum. To step close enough to the painting to see the individual dots or swatches of color, and then to step back and watch them coalesce into a cohesive painting is magical. I sense a pointillism art project in my future.

I would like to go back to these museums in Paris. I didn’t see nearly enough, and what I did see, I wish I could see again. Perhaps someday…

 

 

 

 

PARIS: OOH LA LA!

August 22, 2014 in Adventures in Re-Discovering Myself

Being in Paris is like being in a completely different atmosphere. It’s cultured. The finer things in life are celebrated here: architecturally, artistically, gastronomically, and of course, romantically.

A simple walk down a narrow Parisian street will enchant you with the intricate wrought-iron designs lining every balcony and the stunning statues adorning every cathedral. You will pass by charming bistros with chairs and tables set up outside for a delicious breakfast of croissants and jam or a relaxing dinner with French wine and an artisan cheese platter with bread. Couples of all ages, sizes, and shapes will walk alongside you, their arms wrapped around each other as they stop periodically to kiss for no other reason than they are in love. In Paris, no one thinks twice about standing in line for an hour before gaining admission to an art museum. I could get used to Paris.

There is a lot to see and do in Paris, but one of my favorites was a wine tasting class at the OChateau Wine Tasting and Wine Bar. We gathered at an insanely long table in the basement of OChateau. Baskets of bread and multiple wine glasses were lined up at our places and my cheese platter was on the way. Our host and sommelier Olivier Magny was utterly charming with his French accent, his vast knowledge of French wines, and his accessibility. Wine appreciation can be snobby, but Olivier was down to earth. As he says in his book,  “Jargon always masks ignorance.” He approached our class that way, helping us to make sense of wine-making and wine-labeling, and learning that a wine making region may be a more instructive way to select a wine that simply naming a type of wine, like a cabernet. Plus, he was funny! He taught me to love champagne (Champagne Premier Cru Monmarthe Secret de Famille: best champagne ever), and he autographed his book for me, with the words “Happy Drinking!” What is not to love about that?

One of the most stunningly beautiful buildings I have ever visited was the Palais Garnier, Paris’s Opera House, also the home to the Phantom of the Opera’s Box #5. Charles Garnier, the architect, spared no expense, and his building is a masterpiece.

From the grand staircase (that’s all marble, people)…

…to the Marc Chagall painting on the ceiling…

…to the sheer opulence and beauty of the Grand Foyer…

Palais Garnier is breathtaking everywhere you look.

Notre Dame is a lovely cathedral, and home of the Hunchback of Notre Dame.

I stood in one of the slowest lines in Paris, beat only by the line for going to the top of the Eiffel Tower, to climb all 400 steps to the top before going inside to look at the splendor of this magnificent cathedral. They happened to be holding a service while I was there. Can you imagine living in Paris and going to Notre Dame for your church services? Like I said, Paris has a completely different atmosphere.

Stay tuned for The Art of Paris!

 

 

LONDON THEATER

August 18, 2014 in Adventures in Re-Discovering Myself, Reflections on Pop Culture

Honestly, I don’t know why I don’t go to the theater more often. I love everything about it: the spectacle, the drama, the humor, the music, the amazing effects that can be achieved through sliding doors in the floor and secret panels in the walls, and the majesty of a show being so well done that the audience members leap to their feet in a standing ovation at the end.

Except for my high tea and the large bag of M&Ms from London’s M&M World, I only ate peanut butter and jelly sandwiches I made in my hotel room, so I was able to splurge on three shows: all dramatic plays based on books or plays.

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime

Gielgud Theater, West End

Based on Mark Haddon’s novel of the same name (which I had read previously)

If you haven’t read this novel about a 15-year-old named Christopher with symptoms placing him on the autism spectrum, you should. It is an amazing experience getting inside the head of a person with autism. Not only is Christopher a mathematical genius, but the way he looks at the world, as if the rest of us are the ones with the problem, makes a lot of sense. We speak in riddles, saying things that mask what we are thinking and using confusing metaphors that literal-thinking Christopher cannot understand.

There was a lot to like in the stage production, but the real star was the set. Simple, muted squares and cubes, probably much like Christopher sees the world, dominated the set, but the way they were used to create a street lined with houses, a school, a home, a subway, and his room were so creative. Every time Christopher found himself speaking with his teacher Siobhan, he’d build a train set, complete with train tracks and accessories like trees and buildings for the tracks to pass by. Just before intermission, the lights dimmed and the buildings glowed as the lighted train finally began its journey. It was stunning, especially when we realized he wasn’t just laying down train tracks on the floor: he was building a functioning railroad.

At the end of the play, we were treated to a Q&A with the actors. I moved out of my nosebleed seat and into one of the front rows to listen as the actors discussed their roles, their performance choices, and how Graham Butler, who played Christopher, prepared to portray a person with autism so authentically. It was a great way to learn more about what goes on behind the scenes.

The Crucible

The Old Vic Theater

Based on Arthur Miller’s play of the same name (which I read immediately afterwards) 

The Old Vic is Kevin Spacey’s theater, and this production of The Crucible’s theater-in-the-round stars the brilliant Richard Armitage, who you may know better as Thorin Oakenshield from The Hobbit.

This play was long—3 ½ hours—and it was intense. The tone was set instantly with a smoky, incense-smelling mist taking over the stage and Tituba, one of the characters, creating percussion with the rhythm of her bare feet on the wooden floor. It was eerie and mystical and compelling, just like the rest of the play.

The Crucible is based on the Salem witch trials, where young girls in the village, perhaps out of revenge, perhaps out of frustration at the stifling restraints their religion placed on them, convinced the leaders that certain members of their community were in contact with the devil. Unfortunately, there is no way to prove or disprove this claim, and somehow the girls’ accusations were believed over those of the adult innocent, probably because the girls seemed to go into cold trances, have fits, or occasionally fly through the air. One of the most affecting scenes in the play, and there were many, was the one where the group of girls displayed a sort of mass hysteria supposedly puppeted by the devil.

The punishment for being a witch was hanging, unless the witch confessed to being with the devil, in which case he or she was allowed to live. This all leads to a dilemma for Armitage’s John Proctor. He has lied before and betrayed his wife, but he would like to be an honest man, a good man. So when he is accused of witchcraft, should he lie to save his life, or go to his grave telling the truth?

This was a fantastic production with strong acting all around, particularly Armitage and Samantha Colley’s Abigail. It also left an impression. I read the play before I left London, and I’m not going to lie: this kept me up at night. It was disturbing in all the right ways.

Let the Right One In

Apollo Theater, West End

Based on John Ajvide Lindqvist’s novel of the same name (which I will read soon)

Ultimately a tale about bullying, this Swedish novel is put on by a troupe of Scottish actors. Young Oskar, played by Martin Quinn, who nailed this role, is essentially friendless. His father has left, his mother has trouble with boundaries and alcohol, and at school he has captured the attention of a group of bullies because of his lack of skill in the athletic arena. In addition, there is a killer on the loose in the woods. Naturally, as a young boy, Oskar heads directly out into the woods and there he meets a friend.

But this friend is strange. Eli smells like his dead dog, for one thing. She talks oddly, with “old people” phrases and a grating timber that took awhile for me to get used to. She lives next door and is frequently overheard arguing with her father. But when it comes to dealing with bullies, there is no one better equipped than Eli. As we discover is a rather graphic way, Eli is a vampire. She never ages, and her “father” is actually her husband from years past. Eli develops feelings for Oskar, and vice versa, and Hakan is not pleased.

There is a lot of humor, which is good because there is also a lot of gore; vampires do like their blood. I loved every second of this play, even the ones that had me leaping out of my seat in shock. Scary? Yes. Bloody? Yes. Endearing? Surprisingly yes!

You don’t need to fly all the way to London to see this one: it’s also a movie. I recommend watching it in the bright light of day, though. Between The Crucible and this, I had several sleepless nights in London.

 

 

QUEEN OF THE TUBE

August 13, 2014 in Adventures in Re-Discovering Myself

 

I have been a huge fan of the British culture for as long as I can remember. My favorite movies of all time are British, and most of them happen to star Hugh Grant (coincidence?). I have devoured Helen Fielding’s Bridget Jones’ Diary and the novels of Jane Austen and Sophie Kinsella. So for my first trip to London last week, I did not go as a tourist. Well, not entirely; I did spend a fair amount of time doing every touristy activity I could think of, but I did it like a true Londoner. I went everywhere on the tube.

If you’re not familiar with it, the tube is an extensive underground subway system akin to New York City’s subway, except that every station name is either utterly charming, or reminiscent of a 20-something single female London protagonist in a novel I’ve read. It is impossible to be depressed when you are riding the Jubilee or the Bakerloo line, or are about to step off the tube at Piccadilly Circus.

I stayed off the beaten path near Pimlico Station, which Edward St. Aubyn referenced in his novel Bad News, and where native Londoners live their lives out of the way of the tourists. My hotel was affiliated with a fitness center where I was fortunate enough to take a couple of classes. I learned that fitness in London is no joke. I could not lift my arms above my head for three days.

Changing of the Guard

A Buckingham Palace Coach

But who needs to lift their arms when surrounded by the sheer beauty and opulence of Buckingham Palace and Westminster Abbey? All I needed were two working eyes and my faithful audio guide to give me insight into the wonders I was seeing. The history and the wealth on display were almost overwhelming.

The Tower of London

My favorite site of all was the Tower of London, for it placed two dichotomous aspects of London history side by side and asked you to accept both. The Tower of London is a prison, and it’s a rather brutal one. As I walked through its rooms, I saw many intricate designs and messages carved into the walls by the prisoners, some so deep that it must have taken a long time to work on.

I walked through the torture chamber, where prisoners suspected of high treason against the king or queen were worked over, and near the grass by the chapel was a memorial where some “special” prisoners, like the young Lady Jane Grey, who reigned as queen for only 9 days, could be executed privately within the walls of the Tower of London, rather than being dragged out into the streets and having their heads chopped off in front of a crowded viewing gallery. The Tower of London was a gory place.

It was also the home of the kings and queens. They had their rooms on the top floors, above the prisoners and the torture chamber. To this day, the Yeomen of the Tower live on site, and although it is no longer a prison, I can’t imagine living adjacent to the Bloody Tower, where two young princes were mysteriously killed, possibly to end their claim on the throne. Then again, the Yeoman also live across the courtyard from where the crown jewels are housed, including the 105.6 metric carats Koh-I-Noor diamond set in Queen Elizabeth’s crown.

How do such violence and opulence co-exist? I don’t know, but England’s history is rife with examples like this, and I found it fascinating. In fact, this may be the first time in my life I have ever been interested in history, and I brought home two thick books on the history of the Tower and Anne Boleyn to prove it.

Stay tuned for my Amazing Race-like pilgrimage to Abbey Road!

 

 

WHAT DO YOU DO AT AN MFA RESIDENCY?

July 24, 2014 in Adventures in Re-Discovering Myself

When I left Seattle for my first residency in Fairfield University’s Low Residency MFA Program in Creative Writing, I had no idea what I was getting myself into. Nine full days on an isolated island off the coast of Mystic, CT, living in a dormitory-style hall, sharing a room with a complete stranger and a bathroom with an entire floor full of women, and having to eat whatever they place in front of me? Are you kidding?

Then the magic began, for I found myself in a community of writers. We come in all shapes and sizes: my cohort is composed of a group of young men who call themselves the “brohort,” a group of us mommy-aged women, and everything in between. We write poetry and screenplays; fairy tales and myths; creative non-fiction and memoir; and fiction in all its variations.

I know some of you are serious writers and want to know the nitty gritty of what this program entails, while others are only interested in a general overview, so I am going to give you both. If you’re a writer, read the sections headlined as such, and if you are a member of the general population, then skip ahead to those sections. Thank you for all of your support in my new adventure!

WORKSHOPS

WRITER: The workshop is the meat of this program. Small groups are assigned to a workshop leader, who is also a published author and teacher. Before the residency, we received each other’s writing samples and critiqued them on our own. We then meet in the workshop to discuss the craft of writing as it pertained (or did not pertain) to our own writing. While I did learn a lot when they critiqued my own writing sample, I learned even more when we examined the work of my fellow group members. We covered broad areas such as structure, voice, and imagery, as well as lessons at the microscopic level, like sentence structure, word choice, and how despised adverbs have become. It was the most valuable part of the entire program.

GENERAL POPULATION: You sit in a room with a group of people who tell you your writing sucks. It was the most anxiety-ridden part of the entire program.

SEMINARS

WRITER: Every afternoon we attend a seminar. Some are led by the faculty and cover topics such as how to write a memoir, fairy tales, and the structure of a novel. Others are put on by small publishing houses and literary agencies, so we can learn about that side of the business as well, namely that because literary agents are so discerning and the number of publishing houses are dwindling, our chances of getting published are slim to none.

GP: Every afternoon we sit in a room that is freezing cold and try to stay awake because the anxiety of the morning workshop and too much wine the night before has caught up with us.

READINGS

WRITER: Every evening we gather in the little chapel on the island for readings. Published authors read excerpts from their novels, short stories, essays, or poems. I am a visual learner, so listening to these readings is a challenge for me.

GP: Every evening we gather in the little chapel on the island to sit on the hardest pews imaginable (people bring pillows—no joke) and I try to pay attention to the reading, but my mind drifts away so easily and suddenly everyone in the chapel is laughing and I have to wrench myself away from thinking about what happened at the end of Season 1 of The Killing.

EVENING

WRITER: After dinner, when we are not listening to ghost stories or attending a clam bake, we break off into our self-defined social groups. Us moms have commandeered the gazebo where we discuss serious literary topics, motherhood, and surviving difficult situations in our lives.

GP: After dinner, we sit outside, drink wine, gossip, and place dibs on which of the cute young kids in the program we’re going to adopt.

 

 

 

BECOMING A CHILD AGAIN

July 17, 2014 in Adventures in Re-Discovering Myself

From the moment we are born, we are taught. We learn how to walk by holding our parents’ hands, we learn the correct pronunciation of words by being corrected over and over again (“It’s not ‘bluebabies’, it’s ‘blue-ber-ries. Now you try.”), and we learn the appropriate way to behave after suffering from the consequences (“You just lost your iPhone, buddy.”).

If you read a transcript of what I say to my kids on any given day, about 80% of it consists of a correction, an instruction, or a simple “no.” If you listen to their teachers and coaches, it’s roughly the same. Children are constantly being told they are doing something wrong. But I have discovered something amazing about kids: they are unfazed by this fact of life. They accept the correction or instruction, try to weave it into their inner workings, and move on. They do not take it personally because it is simply a part of their everyday life. They have never known anything different.

Adults are not like this. Perhaps we’ve decided that once we’ve achieved adulthood, or a degree, or a good job, there is nothing left for us to learn. Those who try to offer us corrections or instructions are no longer considered helpful mentors. Instead, we call them show-offs, control freaks, or micromanagers to try and make ourselves feel better because unlike our kids, we have taken the remark very personally. Then when we still don’t feel better, we go home and suffer a bout of incompetency, or in the words of Cher in Clueless, we descend into a shame spiral.

But whoever said that just because we have become adults, we no longer have anything to learn? In the words of the fabulous Eartha Kitt: “I am learning all the time. The tombstone will be my diploma.”

I am still learning too. I am flying across the country to my first residency in my quest to become a writer, and it will involve many corrections of my writing. In other words, I am fully prepared to be ripped a new one. There are many ways to deal with this, but I am going to try to meet it as a child: take the correction, try to weave it into my writing style, and move on. After all, I am not a writer, yet. I’m learning to be one, and the more corrections I get, the better I will be: no shame spirals allowed.

This won’t be easy. But I notice that when I correct my eight-year-old son’s writing, he doesn’t get angry (well, sometimes he does), he simply says “Oh, yeah. I forgot to capitalize that.” He knows I still love him and he knows I don’t think he’s stupid. So maybe when my instructor or fellow classmates offer their suggestions, I can be as graceful in accepting them as my son is.

If not, I hear there is wine available.