Sunday, November 29, 2020

Charlson Meadows and writing

[Labyrinth at CM]

I'm working on consistently writing by trying to make a habit of it.  Mentally I made a scheduled plan last Spring to create a new post every weekend  and I've carried through pretty well.  In the midst of Covid and school I'm happy with this amount. I have a million writing projects that stay incomplete that are separate from this blog space. I have several picture books I've started, several fiction pieces, a play, and a few nonfiction essays-mostly all not finished. My sister-in-law Steph invited me a few years ago to a writer's retreat at Charlson Meadows and I went on a whim. In my mind I'm a librarian and a bibliophile but writer generally does not flash into my mind. But I do write and I fell in love with the location of the retreat. It's not possible to be there in the beautiful surroundings inside and out and not feel productive or at best inspired. 

The last time I attended I actually wrote several pieces, took a bunch of hikes, and managed to get lost in the woods, literally. Thank you for the rescue Jason! I can say this year I've been published twice; one, letter to the editor about BLM and second, a poem I wrote after my first walk on Friday late afternoon on the grounds of Charlson Meadows. It's easy to be creative there if you give it some breathing space. It was also the most beautiful weather weekend we've had all fall. The last few days I've worked on an old piece, added to it, had my friend Angelle edit it and I just finished submitting it to Wow! Women on Writing.  We'll see, she says, with a shrug...

I feeling something emerging inside myself and maybe it took this lockdown of sorts to push forward. I found a batch of college writing of mine and my goal for the next few weeks is to read through and retype them and see if anything is worthwhile. The last two books I've read have also inspired me in different ways. Laurie Frankel's book This is how it always is, is smart, funny, and timely.  And Richard Power's The Overstory is such an intricate work of details and stories weaved together in a tangled mess like roots to the trees he keeps explaining. I can truly see why this book won the 2019 Pulitzer Prize for literature. I'm half way and even as I write this the book is calling out to me. 

One of the reasons the last retreat I went to worked so well was because they had a writer/poet in residence, Ronda Redmond, who conferenced with us, gave a reading of her poetry, and in general was there to chat with as the weekend progressed. I very much enjoyed meeting her and listening to her as we talked about writing. Her book, Said the old widow to the new,  is available on her website and is filled with excellent writing. During our conference together she suggested getting out my dusty old copy of The Artist's Way and I've been working on the daily practice set forth in the book. I guess in writing and thinking about this as with much in my life I'm learning to be intentional about what I'm doing. 

Wednesday, November 25, 2020

Gratitude for us

I've been feeling all kinds of thankfulness and not just because tomorrow is Thanksgiving.  I celebrate the coming together of family to dine together over a special meal that I've taken weeks if not months to plan and make. You hope it is one free of argument and that all the kids will like what you've created.  This year I'm making cauliflower tacos, potato vindaloo, a lentil dish, mashed potatoes with Jaime's  vegan gravy, cranberries with oranges, naan bread, and Vegan for Everybody vegan pumpkin cheesecake.  This is a mish-mash of Indian flavors and some old standby favorites and it probably will look nothing like most Americans more traditional turkey and stuffing. You do you. This is more us. We all have our own identities and the food we eat is part of that; a mish mash of flavors, personalities, likes, and dislikes, allergies, and food politics. 

I'm glad my son is vegan because he's in it for all the right reasons; he cares about animals and their rights.  He's empathetic and is doing his part for the environment. My husband is a meat eater but he takes care of that himself. I am a vegetarian and my daughter is allergic to tomatoes which is a fairly new discovery after her elimination diet this summer. That adds a kink into lentil dishes and soups but after some research I discovered this person's blog, Delishably, and she has the same allergy and shared ideas about substitutes that will work for my lentil dish. Bravo!

I'm grateful my family pushing me in new directions for I love to cook and cooking the same way or things all the time is not me. I live by the motto "Try new things...whatever they may be"

I'm grateful for a husband who works hard to make our house up-to-date with fresh paint and new looks.

I'm grateful, especially right now, for our continued good health. It's hard to say this with so many falling ill with Covid, like cancer, it comes in so many different forms.  

I'm grateful for all my people that have kept me sane during this difficult time of lockdowns and crazy politics.  I appreciate the friendship everyday.

I'm grateful for a job I love that is more passion than drudge work. I love sharing the love of books with my students even though some of them do not care for my love of books and enthusiasm.  It's okay. I love them anyway. 

I finished an extraordinary book this morning, This is how it always is by Laurie Frankel, and I just marveled in her storytelling!  She's a person worth exploring more about and I plan to recommend this book to my book club. I was thankful that I had the morning to "laze" away reading so I could finish. I look forward to celebrating tomorrow's Native American Heritage Day because for me it is far better to spend the rest of November celebrating in prayerful meditation the ancestors of our land that came before us. 

 In gratitude to my readers! Thank you. 

Sunday, November 15, 2020

Travel Time

 If I were to be able to whisper in President-Elect Joe Biden's ear or lucky enough to have a working lunch with Vice-President-elect Kamala Harris I would ask  them to make some changes to the Affordable Care Act to make it more like Bernie's Health Care For All because while the ACA covers many people and has helped us go in the right direction I just don't think it's finished. We need to take it further. Why? Because we have a huge deductible as a middle class family and when we get hit with something our health savings accounts dwindle accordingly. America has such potential and I hope that we are only beginning our true journey toward that; instead of going backward. I listened to a podcast talking about this today as I journeyed home. And this is not to say that America isn't great already but anything great can always be better. Am I right? Why settle...

I generally flip flop between listening to music on my phone or listening to podcasts. The last few weeks have been filled with a variety of podcasts:  Up First from NPR gives me a quick 10 minutes of news every day. I don't watch news programs ever so this keeps me up on a few major events and we leave it at that. Anything more critical my husband will read me from the newspaper as a good husband should. I also listen to SLJ's The Yarn and Heavyweight plus I just discovered Teaching Hard History from Teaching Tolerance. I listened to one yesterday and had aenjoyed hearing correct spins on American history. I can't leave out Brene Brown's Unlocking Us which always makes me happy. 

I spent last night hanging out with Groovy Girl in Iowa City. I felt terribly guilty moving about Iowa because we are such a flaming hot Cheeto for Covid cases. But our plans had been made months ago before our cases surged, we needed some mother/daughter time, and we are both extremely pro-mask. So we picked up Thai food for lunch and ate in the hotel and then we made a quick grocery run so she would have snacks through the next two weeks before she comes home for Thanksgiving. We had a great time cuddling, reading together, watching a couple of things on Netflix (hello New Girl-you still make us so happy) and basically stayed in and away from other people. My hope is that her sophomore year may be filled with the joys of college as it's meant to be. I don't want to get used to this as a new norm.

The two cool bookstores in town are both open only for curbside pickup so we couldn't wander any exciting aisles for books, which we do totally understand and appreciate yet scratch our heads in confusion as people stream to sorority or fraternity house functions, and the bars-all open! The idea is to get over this not just live with it but I'm sure I'm preaching to the choir. Take care of yourselves, take care of your people, and be kind. 

Sunday, November 8, 2020

Long road toward feminism

I think I've always considered myself  a feminist even though I may not have dug deep into what that meant. It came up a few years ago when I took a class about gender norms and had the opportunity to think about what makes a feminist. The movement may have started with women's desire to vote and have their voices heard - and we still struggle with being heard and taken seriously. We still have a long road ahead of us so we need to keep marching.

I think one of the most important issues of today is about choice. Women deserve to have the right to choose what happens with their own bodies. Planned Parenthood, which the name implies, provides access to health care and contraceptives. When I was in college we were given good positive information about choices. I remember there was often a large bowl of single wrapped condoms that women could grab with out causing a stir. That bowl didn't promote sex or promiscuity; that was already happening! It offered the chance to be safe.  I remember friends in college feeling ecstatic they could go to PP and get health care far from their family doctor who may or may not have judgments on decisions 18-20 year old makes. The religious right made that bowl of condoms go away.

I also had sex education class in high school which helped to dispel anxieties and teach accurate information. It was gross to sit through it, yes, but we understood you couldn't get pregnant just by touching. Looking back at this I was raised at a time when sex wasn't controlled by church and government. It was a smart practice that has fallen away because of religious groups and these groups have worked hard to make sure we don't have good, inexpensive access to basic health care which many women buy into even though it works against them. I wish they could understand how it keeps all women down and beholden to men -white men specifically - who've worked hard to keep us from thinking for ourselves.  

I'm not an advocate for abortion, no one is, but we cannot live in a world where back alleys and scam doctors are a women's only choice.  There will always be accidental pregnancies, health problems, cases of rape or incest and even women who have had enough. Should we help young women understand the ins and outs of their bodies in a more open approach? Absolutely! Abortion shouldn't be used as contraception but also then don't make it so hard for women to get contraception.

This post was inspired by an ad I read about voting your faith. I clicked on it because it was an ad at at the top of a teacher website which annoyed the hell out of me.  When I clicked I got this checklist for why one should vote for Christian values.  I say if you are voting for your values you must think beyond abortion-it's a string they are pulling you along by-and stand up and actually ask yourself deep down how would Jesus want people to be treated? People who might not be like you still deserve to live free of cages, free of humiliation, free of bullying, free to live their own lives.  That's what a feminist is to me: one who understands the only way the world can truly be in balance is if women are completely equal to men. 

Here it is, 2020, and we just elected our very first woman to the second highest office in the land. It's exciting and I'm celebrating, yet there is the feeling of what took us so long? Really asking, "what the hell took us so long?" We need more women in politics and, as Brene Brown would say, they need to have strong backs, soft fronts, and a wild heart.  

**I've been editing this post for a few weeks now, coming back to it, rethinking what I want to say and I'm ecstatic to be able to add that last paragraph about VP-Elect Kamala Harris!  It gives me great joy. I think of my daughter, and all the daughters and the young men, who will see a woman as a leader, equal, in a partnership with the president. It gives me hope that in the not too distant future we will look upon a woman as president, capable of leading, with her heart. And there will be much rejoicing throughout the land...

Tuesday, November 3, 2020


(Inside Out from Disney is a perfect example of how I feel right now)

I've spent my night doing quiet activities. I took my two dogs out for a lovely walk just before the sun went completely down and was happy I didn't have to wear a coat.  I made myself a simple dinner of avocado toast with fresh eggs on top. I made myself a very small Clementine margarita and watched two quick episodes of Shitt's Creek while I ate because I needed some laughter in my day. 

I talked on the phone with my brother about all that is happening right now. I did some laundry and I had a Google Meet with Verda and Angelle. I've tried not looking at election results but I've peeked and it really only takes a glance to understand that our country is in real deep shit. While it isn't a landslide and it is really too close to call I am literally shocked at how RED the map is and that some of the old characters like Lindsey Graham and Mitch McConnell have survived this. I'm crushed. It's chilling to think this through. We're raised a nation of people who are non-thinkers, of hateful followers.

Tomorrow morning I'm going to get up and I'm going to walk to school in the beautiful late Fall weather and I'm going to have a day. I'm going to try to shut out the few (but loud) young children who will be elated because they've been chanting Trump for weeks.  I'm so very worried for this exact follow mentality. And the superior attitude. I was already tired of the trucks with flags, and the bumper stickers plastered all over cars and trucks. I don't know what the next four years are going to look like no matter who actually wins tonight.  How did we get here? Never before have we had such division unless you want to discuss the Civil War era.  And more importantly how are we going to fix this?