Thursday, July 29, 2010

Writing Exercises & Cheese Sauce

[Hey folks! By the time you are reading this I will be heading down to Morehead City, NC to meet up with the lovely Shannon and her family. Tomorrow will be art shows and gatherings and fun times. Saturday Sha and I will be embarking upon our very own roadtrip across the states to get her settled into her new home of Missoula!

In the meantime, here's a little something I wanted to share with you about exercises in writing. For this I set a timer for 30 minutes and just hashed out whatever came to mind. Here is the first/shitty rough draft. Hope you enjoy!]

I hate exercises. I hate practicing. I want to do things well, and on the first try. I’m not a perfectionist by any means. I’m a I-Don’t-Give-a-Damner. Which doesn’t work out so well when you also want to be an author and an artist.

When I look at a canvas, usually a painting comes to mind. It forms itself in my head and right in front of my eyes. It is like a sort of vision printed on a thin piece of guaze or vellum paper. The details aren’t all there, but the grand scheme has arrived and demands that I pay it penitence. So I do the best I can with the painting. From sketching it out on the rand to laying down the first coat of paint, to mixing the colors that I think I want to use. To starting all over again if I haven’t gotten it quite right yet.

There is a different sort of approach when it comes to writing. With writing it’s like eating broccoli. (Which I love, by the way. But oddly most people don’t.) You know that eating broccoli is good for you, and that you have to eat it. That doesn’t make the actual task of doing so any easier.

When we were little, my brother hated broccoli, like most children I imagine. The only thing my mother could do in order to get him to eat it at all was to smother it in a cheese sauce. Pretty soon my brother had devoured two helpings of the green stuff, and was licking the cheese off of his plate with gusto.

These exercises to me are like cheese sauce. If I am going to do any writing like a serious writer aught to do, then I’m going to just have to find a way to trick myself into actually sitting down and doing it.

It’s not even that I hate writing; I just hate being forced to sit down and do anything that is considered a learning exercise or something that should be turned into routine. (I loathe routine. It bores me.) But routine is good, it’s healthy for you, you have to have some sort of routine otherwise you end up like a chaotic bit of misanthropic, personified glob of toothpaste. And who the hell wants that? Not I, I suppose.

So, thirty minutes of continuous writing without trying to self-edit too much, and without going back to correct heinous grammar or spelling flubs. That’s what this is all about. It’s me putting the cheese sauce of discipline onto the broccoli of mundane-ness.

And you know what? So far, so good- I think I can actually handle it from here

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Better than Fiction

I guess you guys probably noticed a Dren shaped void in last weeks postings. Due to circumstances beyond my control I wasn’t able to write or post anything. Various computer catastrophes (which I am still experiencing) and visiting family members effectively shut down my creative processes and sucked up all of my time.

And you know what? I’m not sorry about it. I had a blast! All last week I was with my parents and my brother, who is home for the summer and that was the most fun I’ve had in a long time. My brother brought his Xbox with him and a variety of games including Fable II and Rock Band, which are my new favorites.

A good chunk of the week was spent playing the games and having everyone laugh at my horrible attempts to navigate the fantasy world in Fable. My character spent more time bumping into the townspeople as saving them. I actually shot a few of them by accident and I still feel terrible about it (and my family still teases me mercilessly). I also may have made my family slightly uncomfortable with my overwhelming glee at acquiring a steel war hammer, but then I ran into a wall and all was right with the world.

The rest of the time was spent around the table eating delicious suppers and talking. Yes, just plain old talking. Or rather, in our case, laughing so hard we all choked on our meals. That was something we hadn’t done in a long time (being together, not choking) and every minute was worth the empty Tuesday slot on Fantastic Spatula. Life gets in the way of art, and sometimes that’s ok.

I did miss writing about those poor people in Dren who seem to be in a balancing act between peaceful living and being torn apart by dark forces. I’ll return to them next week, but for now you’ll have to excuse me. I’ve got to practice my fake guitar so I don’t butcher any more Beatles songs.

Monday, July 26, 2010

You mustn't be afraid to dream a little bigger, Darling.

"You mustn't be afraid to dream a little bigger, Darling."

I wonder how many people sat in the theatre this weekend, heard those words and, like me, thought, That's exactly what I'm doing.  Of course, my dreaming doesn't come with foreboding theme music or big kablooies at the end. At least I hope it doesn't.

July has been a month of risks for me, and August seems to be more of the same.  And for the first time, I'm not making excuses and slinking away.  I'm stepping out in a very un-Kristi-like way.  Friday I journalled, "I’m learning to take chances, to stop playing it safe.  Yes, I’ll still look both ways before crossing the street and still care about my 401K, but I don’t have to live timidly."  

I'm going to dream bigger with my work and my blogging.  How are you going to dream bigger?  


Friday, July 23, 2010

Feature Friday: Maureen Price

[Good Morning, Fantastic Spatulans, and welcome to our first Feature Friday! Our first guest blogger is Maureen Price. I met Maureen in college so I have seen first hand what a talented and lovely individual she is. Not to mention an avid adventurer who's not afraid to move across the country to find it! I'm sure you'll have just as much admiration for her as well!]

Hi everyone! My name is Maureen and I'm a photographer, graphic designer, blogger, marathon trainee (2011!!), health nut, traveler, dog lover, and whimsical soul. I'm also a recent L.A. transplant. I took the trail out west after graduating from college in Raleigh, NC and now I'm just trying to figure out my life. When you deviate from the tried and true, dull and typical path in life, things tend to get interesting in good and bad ways. After getting laid off from my first California job (the company went down like a lead balloon) I decided to finally get myself in gear and launch my website AND my blog Notes on a Visual Life. It's been a fun journey so far and I've be blessed to have found a few real-life friends in that very virtual process. The day I began my blog I also began a 365 project. While many people embark on the 365 journey in the form of the self portrait, I decided it would be too easy for me and I didn't think anyone would be interested in looking at 365 unfortunate pictures of me over the course of a year. So, I opted to shoot bits and pieces of life around me. Mostly mundane, some striking and unusual. Let me tell you, it's a real challenge for a perfectionist like myself. It's never enough to just shoot a picture of whatever and call it a day. Sometimes I'll take dozens of shots on an average day and never use any of them for fear they aren't interesting enough. After about 30 days, I had exhausted the most obvious subjects in my apartment and had to start venturing further and further afar for new shots. I do tend to get behind in the actual sharing of my images (editing, sizing, hosting, posting, and tagging take time) but I always hope that, when I do find the time to process everything and post them on Flickr and then on my blog, people are excited to see what I've been seeing for the past few days or weeks. That being said, I thought I would share ten of my favorite shots from the 365 experiment! I hope you all enjoy them and maybe feel a bit inspired to take on the challenge yourselves!

Day 11--My beagle Chloe
Day 11

Day 22--Afternoon light
Day 22

Day 28--Opposite Directions in Griffith Park
Day 28

Day 31--Shell Interior
Day 31

Day 32--Light patterns at play
Day 32

Day 38--Standing tall
Day 38

Day 40--Valley of the Cactus Balls
Day 40

Day 46--The 6 Legged Octopus
Day 46

Day 50--Welcome Home
Day 50

Day 63--Malachite
Day 63

If you'd like to see some of my photography check out and if you're interested in my little blog, head on over to!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Last Night In Dalian

You know how I was telling you about the anecdotes I've been hearing from my friends and family and that I was trying to write short stories from them... well, here is one based on a story my dad told me last night. It's short and in complete and I know I'm posting on someone else's post day (sorry...) and that I "usually" post on the Wednesday edition of Fantastic Spatula... but I really wanted to share what I have and get feed back from you internet people. Don't be gentle. (p.s. photo credit)

Last Night In Dalian

It was my last night in Dalian, China. Tomorrow I would be making the 12-hour flight back to the states and to my family in North Carolina. My guide and buddy for the past three months, Robin, was taking me out for a last hoorah. We were going to the restaurant around the corner from the Dalian Language Institute where I had been staying. The restaurant didn’t have a name, just a red awning over a door of thick plastic strips. We were to meet a few of our friends there. Helena, a college graduate with freckles on her cheeks like my oldest daughter, Sue Lin and her husband Joe who was my business partner, Shin and Mei two young men from the Institute who were both into marine biology and loved girls, and Robin’s cousin whose name I could never remember, were all going to be there.

The restaurant was a side-street, hole in the wall with hazy yellow light, a fish tank displaying the food you could eat, a lazy Susan in the middle of each table and cheep wooden chairs. And, like all the restaurants Robin had taken me to, the food was excellent. It wasn't like the boxed lo mein I’d get back home. Everything here was fresh (hence the fish tank) and seasoned with ginger, garlic, green onions and five-spice powder. Five-spice was a misleading name since each restaurant added or subtracted spices based on their region. The most common spices ground into making five-spice were fennel, anise, cloves, cinnamon and peppercorns.

But at this particular restaurant the soup was prized above all. Here, noodles were hand made, fresh for each bowl of steaming brothy soup slurped. The man who made the noodles would start with a ball of dough, put the middle of the dough on a post on the wall, grab the ends and pull. Then, folding the dough in half, he’d throw the middle on the post again and pull – doubling the amount of noodles and thinning out the strands each time. He worked fast and noodles grew in the blink of an eye. Also at this particular restaurant there was karaoke.

I’d sung karaoke before with Robin and Helena, but, even after one too many shots of hot sake, I’d never sung by myself. Many students and teachers I’d gotten to know while at the Language Institute made it a point to sing badly at least once a week with friends. Karaoke was a social event. And tonight was a Karaoke competition.

Along the Lines of Magic

Lucy's post about her art space got me thinking about my ideal art space. I just want a room ofmy own (thanks Miss Woolf). I am currently using this futon. As comfy as the old futon is and as nice as my parents are being toward someone who is painting on their furniture... the futon isn't the ideal space. But, It's not the worst. I think the worst art space I've had to take advantage of was my office. I've had to type stories at my desk during my free time because 1) my lap top was in one or another state of disrepair 2) there was not enough free time to drivehome, write at home and then drive back to the office. 3) I'm sure there are other good reasons why I had to use that space.

So, Lucy, my ideal art space. Is a room of my own. It doesn't have to be big just a place where I can write and read and do crafty things without being bothered. I also wouldn't
mind some fresh flowers around the place.

In other news, I've been gathering a lot of anecdotes from people lately. My father, a woman commissioner, friends I haven't talked to in a while have all been sharing stories that have revealed something to me about them I've not known before. Granted, most stories reveal such, but other stories you've heard over and over again and would rather not hear that same story about how your grandfather had to walk up hill in the snow to and from school everyday. Barefoot.

These anecdotes i've been hearing would make great short stories and I'll try to write some for all you spatulans. I'm working on one now called Kareoke. I guess you can imagine what that one would be about... or can you? That, I think, is one of the joys of great stories - they sometimes aren't what you expect. And we have some great story tellers here at fantastic spatula.

What are some great stories you've heard from someone you love and the ending (or whole story) wasn't what you expected?

Monday, July 19, 2010

Your Magic

A couple weeks ago I didn't have a chance to read many blogs, but I've made it up this past week, and I wanted to share with you some of the posts that brought me joy this summer. Some are whimsical, others question the nature of creativity and the artistic gift.  I hope you enjoy.

I love the serendipity of the Wide World of Blog.  In June, R. at the Creamy Middles and author Lena Roy posted the same quote (one I needed to read) from Emile Zola: 
The artist is nothing without the gift, but the gift is nothing without work.
Lena's follow-up post, "Anyone Can Cook, Er, Write...If They Want To," addresses what she believes is the artist's gift and the importance of craft, perseverance, and old-fashioned hard work.  It's great motivation during rewrites.

Leila over at Write Am I posted an adorable shot of her new editor.  This is one editor I wouldn't mind peering over my shoulder as I work.  She also shared the terrific news of finding a publisher for her novel!

Here at Fantastic Spatula we celebrated with Kemp over her Shameless Self Promotion.

We have graphic artists on staff here at Fantastic Spatula, and I know others of you have the same bug, so check out the interview with the artist behind the jacket for Maggie Stiefvater's Shiver and Linger. I'd love to see an interview with the artist for Lena's Edges, which The Hiding Spot named Cover of the Week on May 24.

Finally, I'm giddy for Sarah and Michelle of Slushbusters as they blog about their time at the Highlights Foundation Writers Workshop.

Thank you all.

What's put a smile on your face lately? 

Friday, July 16, 2010

Lessons From Baba Yaga VI

One of these days I will break down and actually get reliable internet. Until then, what my neighbors don't know won't hurt them. ;)

I had planned on only doing six installments of the Baba Yaga Saga, which would make this the last blip of the story. However! I am going to leave that up to you lovely lot to decide! Would you like to see more of our favorite old bitty? Or perhaps see more of Thaddeus? Leave your vote in the comment section, and we'll see what happens next week!

Now, onto the tale!

The Naming

Late Summer now. Every week I've been given new and different chores to do. I never would have guessed how vast Yaga's homestead was. She had her hut, the stables, the creek, fields upon fields of vegetables, and an expansive flower garden. All of which she had decided would be enough to occupy my daylight hours enough to keep me out of her hair.

I was thankful for the days when the rain came. Summer rains had always been my favorite. The raindrops would be plump and heavy, and thud against the earth making it smell of scorched kindling. An intoxicating smell to be sure.

During the afternoon showers I was allowed to sit on the porch and watch. Occasionally Yaga would send me out with cake of soap and I would have to bathe myself. She complained of how young children always smelled after a long, hot morning of vigorous exercise. Sometimes she made me bathe twice a day, and she always checked my behind my ears.

One particular evening during dinner Yaga put down her fork and sniffed the air. "Mmm." She mumbled, "the good summer rains are going to be gone soon. I'll wager we'll have about four more afternoon showers before the hard rains come. You won't be able to wash in those storms. Too hard on bare skin. And too much lightening. Shame. I'm going to have to suffer with your stink I suppose." She paused only to bring the piece of meat that dangled on her fork to her mouth. She chewed and contemplated the weather for a moment. I watched her from my place across the table.

"Yes, Child. What is it? Don't like your dinner? I could let you do without you know."
"No ma'am. The food is fine. I just had a question."
"Well, what is it?"
"Why don't you call me by my name?"
"You don't have one yet."
"I do so! My mother named me..."
"HUSH!" Her fork slamming against the table made me clamp my jaw.
"I know you have a name. I even know what it is. But it is a name given to you by mindless sheep who do not know how to Name. It is not your True Name."
"What is my true name if not the name given to me? How do you know what it is?"
"Your true name is what is branded on you from your birth. It is the name that the Heavens and the Gods will call you by when you leave this place. The Garden knows your name. It always knows the right name."
"What is it?" Wide eyed and wiggling now in my chair.
"I don't know." Yaga stared at her plate as if the slightly over cooked spinach would know the answer.
"I don't know. The Garden hasn't told me yet. It usually doesn't take this long, perhaps your arrival has confused it. You're a bit off schedule you know."

I didn't know. All this talk about a garden that named people was news to me. Nothing about Yaga or her home was in the realm of Normality. I shouldn't have been surprised by a conversational garden.

"Did the Garden name you?"
"Mm. I have always known my true name, but yes the Garden agreed."
"I don't think it fits."
"...What? What do you mean 'it doesn't fit'? That's my name! I've been called that for cent..." She backpeddled. "For quite some time now."
"It's not that it's completely wrong. I'm just not sure it fits you anymore. Like it's missing something."
"Pfft, and you know the answer do you? Shall I introduce you to the Garden? That way you can tell it that it was wrong!"
"No. It's just missing something..."

This time it was Yaga who clamped her mouth shut and whose eyes grew wild.

"What...did you call me?"
"That's what's missing! 'Baba'! 'Baba Yaga'!" I sat back in my chair proudly. My legs swinging happily under the table.
"Well...I'll be... The yet named child has named the Old Witch. Now that's a twist."

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Magic Rabbit

Sunday I went to a picnic with some rabbit friends. We drank tea and champagne in the ivy. There was a fresh salt-grass root salad, cattail and acorn crumb sweet cakes, and tomato sandwiches. Sunday I took pictures. Today, Wednesday, I'll write a story. If you would like to play along, here is your writing prompt...

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Summer Fiction

Hello, internet! Isn't it lovely to have some rain again? If it had held out any longer, I was going to do a rain dance!

That got me thinking. Isn't it interesting the little things that get passed down from generation to generation; things that once had great significance but now are only silly superstitions or folklore. They are nothing more than midly interesting stories told when there isn't really anything else to talk about. I find that rather sad, especially since I love plant lore.

I find it fascinating that certain plants, trees, and flowers were considered good or dangerous. For instance, cradles were never to be made from Elder wood because the spirit of that tree would pinch the baby. Bluebells were shied away from since hearing them ring would mean your death was near at hand.

It seems ludicrous now, but at one time these things were practically law. So, here is my little homage to a long forgotten practice.

Post No. 11: Superstitions

Monday, July 12, 2010

July Commemoration

“He said it began the summer Dill came to us, when Dill first gave us the idea of making Boo Radley come out.”

I intended this post for last week, but it works out better today since yesterday was the 50th anniversary of To Kill a Mockingbird’s release.

Why the fanfare over this book’s birthday?  Why do the characters and their story garner praise during evening news segments yet gain a spot on the list of 2009’s most challenged (banned) books?

Perhaps you know.  Do you remember the first time you read the book?  How did you feel as you sat in Scout’s position in the hot courtroom balcony, feeling the wood of that front row bench cut into your sweating legs as they polled the jury?

When you celebrated July 4th did you remember Scout’s lesson in Miss Gates’s class? 

“Hitler is the [German] government,” said Miss Gates, and seizing an opportunity to make education dynamic, she went to the blackboard.  She printed DEMOCRACY in large letters.  “Democracy,” she said.  “Does anybody have a definition?”
            “Us,” somebody said.
            I raised my hand, remembering an old campaign slogan Atticus had once told me about. 
            “What do you think it means, Jean Louise?”
            “’Equal rights for all, special privileges for none,’” I quoted.
            “Very good, Jean Louise, very good,” Miss Gates smiled.  In front of DEMOCRACY, she printed WE ARE A.  “Now class, say it all together, ‘We are a democracy.’”
            We said it.  Then Miss Gates said, “That’s the difference between America and Germany.  We are a democracy and Germany is a dictatorship.  Dictator-ship,” she said.  “Over here we don’t believe in persecuting anybody.  Persecution comes from people who are prejudiced….”

And did you question like Scout?
“Jem, how can you hate Hitler so bad an’ then turn around and be ugly about folks right at home--”

Saying no to injustice didn’t begin in the summer, but that’s when it was declared.  And the movement didn’t end with declaration.  To me, July 4th isn’t about patriotic hymns and a Miss Gates rendition of history.  To me it is a call to the artist -- to everyone -- to look at our nation and write, paint, sing, or speak.  And we join Jefferson and Jem saying, “It ain’t right…It ain’t right.”  

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Saturday Evening Post

I hope everyone had a good Saturday! I wanted to share with you some of what I had been up to all day. I've been cleaning my office! I moved into my new apartment way back in April, but had neglected setting up a proper working station. Whether it was lack of motivation, organizational skills, or just pure laziness I always had a distraction to keep me from setting up my writing nook.

Thankfully, today was the day I finally got off my duff and did a proper set up! Last weekend my sister and my dad came with drill in hand to hang a hook from the ceiling for me. (You'll see why in a minute.) After that was done, fixing the rest of the room up was a breeze.

And yes, I do have pictorial proof. Behold!:



Thanks to Adam & Kristi for the photos in the frame. They are pictures from their trip to Dog Pond, where my favorite author, Madeleine L'engle would muse. :)

Office Window

Paint Supplies.

Work in progress

This painting is my current work in progress. She's turning out lovely, isn't she?

And here's why I needed the ceiling hook:

Cuz I'm a gypsy. :P

Gypsy curtains! :D

Everybody loves gypsy curtains! :D

How does your Creative Space look? Do you think it reflects your personality? (I certainly think mine does!)

Friday, July 9, 2010

Lessons From Baba Yaga V

[I've found Baba Yaga! She's been hiding undercover as the Rejectionist's land lady all along! Why I oughtta...]

Seven Violets
Summer dredged on. Days of gathering water, tending to horses, gardening, and sorting were weighing me down. I had yet to figure out what it was that made Yaga so anxious. The further into Summer, the more crabby she became. I tried my best to stay out of her way and just do as she asked me without question. Sometimes I'd wonder what drew me to her hut in the first place.
Every day I worked myself to the bone. As a reward, Yaga always had a grand dinner ready after I washed up. I'd stuff myself and beg to go to bed. But it was mandatory that we spend at least an hour together. I took this as a sign that she was trying to get to know me better. This stranger that had just wandered off and shown up at her door.
Our night hour together was always enjoyable. She reminded me of the Elders in my village. She'd tell stories, play her flute, try to teach me how to knit, (to no avail). My favorite though was the first time I learned how to play "Seven Violets". A card game, which Yaga had learned from her Elders.
"Seven Violets" was simple as far as card games go. Each player was dealt a hand of seven cards. Each card had numbers in the upper right and lower left corners, and each number had a different picture in the middle. All the cards started out looking exactly the same. Hand painted. Red ink on heavy white paper. 

The purpose of the game was to be the first player to have seven violet colored cards. If two players each had a hand of seven violets, then the player with the higher numbered card would win the round. After the cards had been dealt, each player would lay down a card face up. The ink would either remain the same, or turn to purple, with the illustration in the center turning into a violet flower. If no one had won by the time all the cards had been laid out, seven more cards would be dealt to continue the process.
At first I had thought the game to be rigged as the old woman kept winning. She giggled at my accusations. "I just listen to the cards better than you do. They tell me which to lay down first and which to save until later." I'm still not convinced she wasn't cheating...

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Shameless Self Promotion

(I am in an artshow... July 30. The day before I go)

Music For the Road Warrior

As I’ve been getting ready for the road trip of my life I’ve been planning what music I’m going play through each state... and during specific times of the day. Don’t worry I’ve also been thinking an awful lot about where I’m going to live and what I’m going to do for work when I get there. However, while there are still four weeks between my hometown and Missoula, Montana, I’m mostly thinking of road-trip soundtracks.

There is nothing like a good mix of music for long drives, or even short ones. I drive a lot for my current job. As a reporter for the local newspaper I cover seven towns in the western part of my county. These towns are all at least 30 minutes away from my house. I rack up gas mileage and have perfected the road trip CD for the work-a-day traveler.

Some of my favorites are 1979 and Zero by Smashing Pumpkins, E18 by Detektivbyran, Miseria Cantara by AFI, anything by The Mummies and Dick Dale, Third Eye Blind’s self titled album, Surfin’ by Ernest Ranglin, Incubus, Tegan and Sara, Blackalicious, LTJ Bukem, The Rocky Road to Dublin by The Dubliners (Thank you Clara Maxwell)… you get the idea. Road warrior music is vast and varied.

Road music also depends on the mood of the driver, the time of day and the weather.

Talking Heads (thanks Cramey) and Drum and Bass (thanks Dilcon) are perfect to listen to on a sunny drive. The Mars Volta is perfect for speeding (thanks Rya). Andrea Bocelli is perfect for rain drives (thanks Mot) so is And The Devil Makes Three (thanks Sharp). Sarah McLachlan is perfect for when I’m feeling nostalgic (thanks Erika for third grade and sleepovers and introducing me to this music sigh sigh sigh), so is Damien Rice and Songs: Ohia. One More Time by Daft Punk is perfect when you are driving to work at 5:30 a.m. and you are not fully awake.

There are also certain people whose mixed CDs I prize over most anything. I love listening to everything they choose. I also really enjoy getting into new music. I love being introduced to songs and bands I've never heard before by people who are especially enthusiastic about the music.

What songs, bands or singers do you listen to on road trips or while driving to work? Why do you like these specific songs?

If you would like to make a playlist of music for my (and Lucy's) road trip to Montana leave a list of songs and artists in the comments. Tell us why you chose these songs. New music is greatly appreciated. Don’t hold back. I promise I’ll like anything if you're really fired up about it.

(this is sxip shirey. he's good to listen to on a drive.)

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Summer Fiction

I have to tell you, guys, that I really had a hard time coming up with something to post. You see, on Friday we had to say goodbye to our little dog, Rita. My parents rescued her from the pound and while she wasn't great at keeping the deer out of the garden, she was a great pet. It's been tough getting over loosing her. Needless to say, I've not felt very creative.

But every situation has the potential to spark an idea. So, before turning you over to the story, let me say that if you want a pet, think about getting one from a shelter. You never know how rescuing an animal will change your life.

Post No. 10: Choices

Yes, We Can Can

I had a post in mind all weekend.  I really did.  Scout's honor.  But then we had today off and a kitchen full of produce from my family's farm, and I wanted to try my hand at canning.

My grandmother canned food when I was a young girl.  Rows of snaps, butter beans, preserves, and pickles filled her spare bedroom.  In many ways, she was the most self-sufficient person I've known.  And I've always wanted to emulate that quality.

But I don't think I ever will.  My grandmother lived in a different culture, one that dictated her role as keeper of the house who raised and stored the family's food with little help.  My dad, sister, and brother raised the 25 pounds of tomatoes that went into the tomato sauce.  My mom was on the other end of the helpline and walked me through the process.  My husband and I worked together to core and slice and puree and drain and simmer and can.  Self-sufficiency is great, but it isn't dictated for me like it was for her.  I didn't realize that until today.

So I look at the few cans of tomato sauce cooling and I see a bit of magic a family made.  No one did it alone.  Yet, I can still say I satisfied my longing, experienced a rite of passage, and made a conscious effort to maintain my heritage, and it happened much sooner than I expected.  That is what happens when we don't go it alone.


Sunday, July 4, 2010

Doing Dreams

I’ll admit I didn’t want to post anything about Independence Day. I didn’t think I could write anything that would have any sticking power as all you fantastic spatulans run off to cookouts and Fourth of July fire works (or as the more thoughtful of you spatulans run off to meditate on justice for all or spend time honoring the men and women fighting for freedom). I wanted to write about doing dreams.

But, the more I wrote, the more I realized doing dreams was a freeing of ones self. Doing dreams is sloughing off your own doubts and can’t-do’s and "being brave on the rocks" (as Sabrina Ward Harrison would say). I realized doing dreams is like a personal independence day. So, happy Fourth of July!

What is "doing dreams"? It's not a sex dream. Get your mind out of the gutter. Doing dreams is accomplishing something you have always wanted to since... whenever. It’s kicking your butt into gear and allowing yourself to soar. Even if the end result is not entirely how you had pictured, it’s realizing, accepting, and then doing another dream. But you have to do before you know.

Doing dreams is saying, “Of course I can run a 5K (3.106 miles). I’ll start training today.” My neighbor said that. After training herself for six weeks, on Thursday she ran three miles straight and is close to reaching her dream of running the Twin Bridges race in Beaufort, N.C. (Runners start in one town, cross over two one-mile-long bridges, and end in another town). She is the mother of two and when I asked her to tell me about her running for an article I was writing on healthy lifestyles she said, “I’m hardly the picture of health.” That just goes to show that you can do dreams even if you think you can’t.

Doing dreams is setting out to finishing a problem, story, painting, or mixed music tape for your friend. Then it's sitting back with post-doing glow on your face and saying, “Hey, I did that. I dreamed. I accomplished.” Veni, vidi, vici.

Doing dreams is not selfish. I believe many people (even us fantastic spatulans) don’t do enough dreams. It’s scary. Maybe we will fail or worse – maybe we will succeed. Doing dreams is frightening, crazy, and glorious.

I know. I’ve been struggling with my own dreams for a long time. Finally, I am doing them. I am moving to Missoula, Montana. One of my dreams has always been to drive there.

It was a tough dream to actually start doing. There were many pros and cons. I’d have to quit my job at the newspaper, which I love. I’d have to get out from under the wings of my editor, whom I love. I’d have to leave my family, my friends, and start something new. I’d have to leave a rut I’d dug for myself. I’d have to be brave, I'd have to be all of me - and that was scary as hell.

A good friend of mine sent me this message while I was struggling with this rather big decision:

One of the things that I often see hold people back is that they are not prepared for success and often fear it. Especially in the profession of creative arts. Yet, if “purpose” is realized, it undergirds every river rift that life gives us, gives satisfaction and peace in the process and allows us to go along for the ride.

(P.S. "Undergirds." Good word. Look it up)

Wise words. They helped me remember that I am a "doing dreamer." My last day at work is July 30. There are many more steps before I accomplish this dream, but right now I am not thinking-about-getting-ready-to-commence doing dreams. I am actually doing. And it is so luscious.

I’m not suggesting you quit your job or move 2,600 miles away. I am suggesting that you do some doing dreaming. Whatever it is, whatever the end result, I hope you remember you are a doing dreamer – and go celebrate a little personal independence day.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Callings & Rememberings

Ah, summer. The time when chaos is only soothed by lemonade popsicles and long talks in the evening on the porch. In the small town where I still reside even after having been raised here, (a sign of my own insanity),  there is really not much else to do.

Summer in a small town brings about all sorts of carefree, rebellious, and good natured behaviors. There's swimming and fishing- often in the same pond. Rides thru the back country roads with the windows down and the music blaring. There are backyard barbecues, sprinklers and sparklers ad nauseam, and more cantaloupe than you could ever actually want. Not to mention an entire festival dedicated to the fruit. (And no. I'm not kidding on that one.)

Summer also means a heated kind of madness. Somewhere between the fireworks and the fireflies people just go plum-freakin-insane.

...And I'm related to most of them.
(Just kidding you guys. Sort of. ..I love you.)

Actually, the kind of madness I'm talking about is the mounted frustration that finally gets unleashed after months of harsh winters and even harsher attitudes. Cabin fever has ceased and everyone's off their rocker. It mostly starts out as a visible, nagging fizzle right behind the eyeballs and mounts into something like a bunch of pop-its all going off at once.

For me this means questioning everything. Constantly. Mostly about myself. I get the case of the "Why Do I Even Bother?"s. The whiny, "I'm No Good At This & No one Listens to Me Anyway"s. Or worse, the Soul-to-the-Cheese-Grater Funk. Every Summer it happens. The Mopes & Funk come to visit, make themselves a pot of tea and tell me how No-Good I am. Eventually I kick them out, eat my weight in chocolate ice cream and finally re-tell myself that, YES, I am enough as is and that is that.

What helps me sluff off the slumps the best has actually been a piece of my own writing. Arrogant and snooty as it may sound, whenever I read this I am reminded of where I was when I wrote it. I was in the Summer Slumps, way down deep in the middle of them. From probably what was one of the worst periods of my life to date, I sat down with myself and had a good long chat. In the span of fifteen minutes I wrote something that I needed for myself, and that I needed to express the most to everyone else.

What spilled out then was a poem. Unpolished, messy, imperfect to the core. But it was true, it was honest, it was real. And every time I read it I feel a little bit more whole again. I present it to you here tonight in hopes that it might do the same for you.


I want to create art that heals. 
Art that you can see, and know, and feel. 
Something from that deep hollow inside of you
I want to give healing knowledge that soothes the gashes,
That smoothes as a balm
Onto all the aching places. 
That hollow, sunken in part between your heart and your gut? 
That's where I want to dwell. 
I want to help you in your healing. 
I want to give you what you crave, 
I want to fill that hollow place
With all that you've needed
and longed for.
I want that bellowing from the hollow to stir you
into believing.
Into taking action for yourself.
I want you to know that the darkness you are going thru
Is only temporary.
But while you are down there, learn from it.
Soak in all that deep, earthy darkness.
But always hold on for the day that the light comes in.
Do not be afraid of your own vulnerability: Wallow in it.
Appreciate it in others when they are willing to show you their 
sin, sorrow, and their own hollow places.
When you do, when you've gone thru that darkness and learned from it,
then you can brush the hair from your eyes,
walk barefoot into the good light,
and grin into the wind.