Thursday, October 31, 2013

A Halloween Long Ago

The most striking feature of my last Halloween in Hutchinson, Kansas, was that I did not go to see my grandparents--something we had previously done every year on this occasion. That particular night endings and new beginnings were vying for my attention.  I was 15 years old, so I didn't have a costume to show off.  Instead I accompanied a friend and her little sister as they trick-or-treated around what would soon be my "old" neighborhood.

The next morning a moving van was scheduled to arrive.  Professional movers would dismantle the only home I had known.  We would live out of suitcases in a new house in a new town until our possessions followed us to Michigan.

I didn't go to my grandparents house because I was too young to drive.  My parents were busy with their own goodbyes and to-do lists, and plus, we'd be saying goodbye to my grandparents on the way out of town.  I was busy with the festivities and with the bigness of what was ending.

The next afternoon my grandparents stopped by our house for a quick visit while my sister and I were at school and the movers made trips in and out of the house. Grandma then drove them home, and a few hours later my grandpa slumped over on the couch, and was gone. Dead.  Without a last Halloween visit from his granddaughters.

A friend of the family drove my mom to the high school to pick me up.  It was in the school parking lot that I got the news.  Our move was postponed for a few days, so that funeral arrangements could be made.  I had a few extra days with my friends, which was great.  But now I also had a few days to absorb the shock of leaving behind a beloved grandma who was losing her husband and a son and his family in the same week. The pain of THAT goodbye has remained with me ever since.

As Halloweens came and went in the years soon after our move, I grieved the visit I didn't make in 1990.  I had to work to keep the guilt of not seeing them at bay.  As time has passed and I have the benefit of perspective and maturity, I am convinced it worked out as it should have.  In some ways, not visiting them helped keep my memories of them intact.  My memories weren't tinged with a quality of "lastness" with my grandpa. They were happy and teeming with all of the wonder and happiness that came with being their granddaughter.  Together Grandpa and Grandma infused my first fifteen years with enough treats to last a lifetime.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Mid-week Prayer

God of Light and Love,

I am reminded this week just how quickly life can turn upside down, inside out.  I offer my prayer for those whose lives have been scrambled by heartache, accident, worry, or the crushing weight of the every day. Bring them comfort by whatever means they can accept it: a surgeon who stops to listen, a nurse's gentle touch, the smile of a stranger, a letter in a mailbox.

Guide me, I pray, to worry less about my own circumstances and concentrate more on the needs of others.  In that mindset, I know that my stresses and strains can be relieved.  Help me to remember that it's not my job to fix everything for everyone, but that where my gifts and talents intersect with their particular needs, I pray for the courage and energy to respond.

Thank you, God, for the many ways you have met me where I was: bereft at the bedside of my once-paralyzed dad, in the driver's seat at my wit's end with a non-verbal toddler, in deep conversation beloved friends. There are too many times to count, and for that abundance I am deeply grateful.

I pray for a good night's rest for a friend's injured parent, the stressed out, exhausted mamas in my circle, and for everyone in between.

With gratitude, I pray, Amen.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Month in Review - October's Favorite Things List

This has been a trying month.  There are no two ways around that, but I tend to agree with Abraham Lincoln who apparently said, "Most people are as happy as they choose to be."  In that spirit, here are the bright spots to my month--in no particular order:

  • Crossed off Rhode Island from the list of states I haven't yet visited when I attended a professional conference in Providence
  • Filled more than 40 pages in my journal
  • "Words are alive and literature becomes an escape, not from, but into living." - Cyril Connolly, The Unquiet Grave
  • PBS replays of Downton Abbey Seasons 2 and 3 for this D.A. newbie
  • Listening to the audio version of At Home At Mitford by Jan Karon on my daily commute
  • Martha Beck's insights
  • Beginning my Christmas shopping and making good progress
  • The way that organizing my home spaces clears my muddled mind
  • Attending the Peace Colliquy with my daughter and her love of the day camp for kids
  • Reconnecting with friends from college
  • The fact that I still think of our trip to England nearly daily
  • "Yoga teaches us to cure what need not be endured and endure what cannot be cured." B.K.S. Iyengar
  • Sunday afternoon naps
  • Raspberry muffins and my pumpkin dessert
  • Migraine-free days
  • the writings of Sarah Ban Breathnach and Anne Lamott
  • Brilliant blue skies of autumn
  • New clothes--on sale
  • The nearly daily funny sayings of my daughter
  • Music of Mat Kearney, Dawes, Sarah Bareilles, and Ingrid Michaelson
  • Jimmy Fallon
  • Less TV
  • Writing a letter of recommendation for a beloved friend
  • Knowing that paying attention can turn around any bad day
What 's on your list this month?  Are you keeping track?

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Rejection #1

In May, I submitted my essay, From Skinny Nanny to Well-Rounded Mama:A Journey to Acceptance, to Pregnancy and Newborn Magazine's Inaugural Reader Essay Contest.  I am excited to announce that I have my first REJECTION to celebrate!

Excerpt: "The once late-bloomer has emerged a confident, strong-willed woman content with who she is. I never thought I’d be as comfortable in my own body as I am now. I know who I am, what I want, and am satisfied with sailing through life in this slim vessel. The journey from awkward pre-teen to confident woman was expedited by the experience of pregnancy. For the first time in my life, my straight edges slowly began rounding, softening. At weeks seven or eight, my Gap size zero khaki work pants began tightening in my mid-section. This was a new sensation and one in which I reveled."

I am proud of this essay, and not being a contest winner does not diminish this.  I am motivated to keep delving into the themes and experiences in life.

One of the winner's essays can be found here and I encourage you to take a moment to read it.  Her essay is beautiful. 

Building a Writing Life - One Rejection at a Time

My writing life took a giant leap forward this summer when I enrolled in the Washington University Summer Writers Institute.  For two intensive weeks, I explored what my strengths and weaknesses are as a writer, and most importantly, I came to understand that for me, writing is the way I make sense of my life and the world around me.  Metabolizing the world through the written word is the point of my writing.  If/when I am published, that will be the cherry on the top.

My author's statement is "To feast on words, explore their power and serve up writings which inspire and encourage my readers and myself."

My amazing instructor Deanna Benjamin said this summer, "You are going to submit 300 pieces, and get one published."  Her comment sparked the theme of this blog: to celebrate every rejection as an opportunity to learn and hone my craft.  When work is accepted, the celebrations will be sweeter.

I'd love for you to join me on this writing (and reading) adventure.