notes

Archive for December, 2011|Monthly archive page

Huffing and puffing with purpose. Sort of like the Big Bad Wolf in the ‘Three Little Pigs’ … but probably more like Deepak Chopra.

In run reports, running on December 29, 2011 at 5:04 pm

Went out on this beautiful day to run at my favorite spot, a bridle trail in a nearby state park.

Would have done this regardless, because (thankfully) running is now part of life, and though I am tempted more and more lately to skip it, I know how unforgiving I will be if I ever let all this hard work fall by the wayside.

But today I needed to run. Without it, I was likely to melt down or implode.

I’ve been hauling around a top-heavy load of stress over run-of-the-mill life things (making a living, etc.), an unusual load of frustration about several relationships, and a load of sadness about a handful of situations I have no control over involving people I care deeply about.

So I got out on the trail in the sunny cold today, packing all of that unwieldy baggage, and tried my best to huff and puff out all of the toxic (useless) angst.

When I run stressed, I usually do what I imagine is a very Deepak Chopra-ish thing – narrating in my head each breath in and each breath out – i.e., ‘stress…OUT’ …’calm, IN.’  Confidence, IN; fear, OUT.  And so on.

I swore to myself at about mile 2.5 of 3.5 that I would park my frustration and stress at the gate, not haul it back home with me.

For most of that last mile, my brain was still churning with frustrations, anger, self-flagellation … thoughts of all the times lately when I have been a poster child for that saying, “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”

It’s embarrassing to realize how often I end up gnashing my teeth after a situation played out EXACTLY THE WAY IT DID LAST TIME. At 47, there’s really no excuse for not getting a clue the first time around – well, except for that dense thing we call human nature.

I saw the gate around the bend in the trail, and I was still replaying every single thought I’d been hauling around for the past month. I stepped up the Deepak huffing and puffing of baggage routine, and it worked – mostly. I walked past the gate and made a deal with myself to – as best as is humanly possible – stop wasting so much time and energy on negativity and try to quit that definition-of-insanity habit.

Onward and upward.

Underlined: Annie Dillard, Pam Houston, Amy Hempel, Anne Lamott

In lines worth underlining, reading on December 28, 2011 at 1:33 am

She ignored whatever did not interest her. With those blows she opened her days like a pinata. A hundred freedoms fell on her. She hitched free years to her lifespan like a kite tail. Everyone envied her the time she had, not noticing that they had equal time.

Annie Dillard, The Maytrees

 

***

… I thought about all the years I’d spent saying love and freedom were mutually exclusive and living my life as though they were exactly the same thing.

The wind carried the smell of the mountains, high and sweet. It was so still I could imagine a peace without boredom.

Pam Houston, ‘Selway,’ from Cowboys are My Weakness

 

***

I just can’t get over how much babies cry. I really had no idea what I was getting into. To tell you the truth, I thought it would be more like getting a cat.

Anne Lamott, Operating Instructions

 (the most real/reassuring book on motherhood I’ve ever encountered)

 

***
I had my own bed. I slept in  it alone, except for those times when we needed – not sex – but sex was how we got there.
Amy Hempel, ‘Nashville Gone to Ashes,’ The Collected Stories

needed in the new year: new verve

In reading, running, writing on December 26, 2011 at 12:19 am

The winding-down weeks of 2011 have left me wound-down. There was much advance festivity and celebrating of the season with my daughter, as this is her year to spend Christmas with her dad. With only one day’s worth of exception, our advance Christmas-ing was much more laidback – more quality – than it’s been in years, I’m sure because I was more relaxed about the holidays … less determined to do every single thing on the long list of holiday possibilities.

So no complaints. But now that the celebrating is done, I’m out of steam … out of running, writing and reading steam. I need to find ways to regain my momentum.

Probably best to start small: One page read, one description on paper and one mile run? In other words … Read. Write. Run.

Then ‘Repeat?’ (in the spirit of that timeless shampoo bottle command…)

Bookish holiday decor, Part 1

In miscellany, reading on December 12, 2011 at 3:28 pm

As mentioned in a post over on the kids’ book blog I write with my 10-year-old, I use my grandmother’s cake plate to show off books instead of cake, due to my lack of willpower when it comes to dessert.

Stealing an ingenious and colorful idea from a fall display at the Cameron Village branch of the Wake County Libraries – a slew of book covers in beautiful shades of orange – I changed up my platter for the holidays. Now a small tower of books with red (and a couple of other complementary colors) spines are part of our Christmas decorating, alongside two Auntie Claus picture books.

If you are a better engineer than I am, you may want to join the inventive souls who are building Christmas trees out of books this year ~ there’s now a slide show of the many trees created after word got out about this new take on bookish decorating.

On a musical note, this year I have vowed to finally carry on the tradition of an elderly-but-full-of-verve family friend who died a decade ago. Miriam ‘illustrated’ Christmas carol titles in her holiday decorating; for instance, hanging from the ceiling via fishing line in front of a bay window were several angels ~ i.e., ‘Angels We Have Heard On High.’ I only have a few days left, but I think I can do it.

Do you have unique and/or sentimental ways of trimming your house for the holidays? If so, please share in a comment below.

(See Part II ~ the story of our holiday picture book decor ~ over on the Lost in a Book blog that my 10-year-old daughter and I write about kids’ books.)

Postscript/update, December 2012: Don’t miss the 2nd Annual Books-on-Cakeplate Holiday Edition display in our 2012 post.

seen on the run: big, beautiful mule + big, beautiful sky.

In places, running on December 11, 2011 at 12:57 am

I finally hit ‘send.’ Hallelujah…

In writing on December 7, 2011 at 12:17 pm

I’ve been sitting on a query letter – well, let’s make that “countless versions of” a query letter – for my kids’ novel manuscript for close to a year.  I started trying to write the query even as I was still trying to finish up the last few chapters.

I have found it impossible – excruciating – to try to boil down the plot to something short and titillating and also shoehorn in a sense of the supporting cast of characters. Without them,  the book loses its appeal – for me, anyway. I’ve been an editor for so long that I’m usually hypercritical of my own work, but miraculously, I’m still enamored of the story and the people in it. But when I try to describe it, it sounds terribly dull.

So I wrote, deleted, wrote again and never could come up with something that both fit the formulas I see circulating on writers’ sites and also hit the high points of what I feel to be important about  my story. As a result, I’ve been sitting squarely on the fence for months, story on one side of it, and the world on the other.

Yesterday, I hemmed and hawed over yet another version of a query, and at long last, I pasted it into an email along with the first five pages of the manuscript. At 11:57 p.m., I hit the ‘send’ button and felt as if I had just won an Olympic medal or a Pulitzer Prize.

Not because I think I’m going to get a gushing call from the agent, begging me to send the rest of the story PRONTO.

I fully expect this first foray to generate my first rejection letter, but that didn’t matter in the least to me last night (or today) – I felt as if I should throw a party, just to celebrate getting off the fence. Shooting my story to the other side, out into the world.

These days, I always seem to be juggling a precarious succession of to-do’s, large and small, and it sometimes feels as I will never catch up. I’m a single parent of a gregarious, smart girl; I’m trying to make a living independently; and I’m trying to fit in a few extras that lie beyond those two big responsibilities … run, volunteer at my daughter’s school, write for myself, etc.  Often, I get a quarter, half or three-quarters of the way through a task or project only to be redirected to something else that’s more urgent.

So the idea of finishing is big for me these days. Finishing the manuscript for my book felt like an accomplishment as  important in its own way as if it already had won some big literary prize. And now finally taking the scary step of subjecting the story to the litmus test of publishing professionals’ review is another Big Life ‘finish’ I will always celebrate.

Honoring Viki

“I would not like to live without dancing, without unknown roads to explore, without the confidence that my actions were helpful to some.” Sam Keene

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E.R.Murray

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the intersection of graphic design + picture books

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Mother-daughter dynamic duo (covering the key 15- to 51-year-old demographic) waxes poetic about kids' books