Thursday, May 31, 2007

My Little Psychopath

That's what I've started calling my young friend Liz. I care about her, I'm very concerned about her, and I want to help her, but she is one very seriously messed up young woman.

I just finished talking with her for the third time this week. As is her usual pattern, she was crying when she called me, and she was driving. Tonight, she said she had had a "horrible day," and she just needed someone to talk to until she got home." Her litany of problems is far heavier than any 24 year old should have to bear. Serious psychologial problems (obsessive compulsive disorder, depression, destructive behaviors, i.e. cutting and attempted suicide), emotional estrangement from her mother, overwhelming stress on the job, financial difficulties, moving residences more than three times in one year...added to that, this week she has strep throat, intestinal flu, and got into a car accident.

All I have to say is, "Tell me what's going on..." and she's very happy to regale me with the litany of all the horrible things that have happened to her since the last time we talked. I know she's looking for a mother figure- someone to sympathize, croon comforting words, and, yes, offer to fly in and rescue her from all this distress. Liz did finally tell her mother the whole truth about her situation, but (at least according to Liz) her mother "has nothing to offer" in the way of help, either literally or emotionally.

I know Liz's mother - not terribly well, but we've met on several occasions. I would characterize Sara as a woman who has been soured on life. Her husband died suddenly and unexpectedly, leaving her with two young daughters to raise. She's had a hard time keeping a job, so the past 15 years have been a continuous struggle for her. Still...when Liz tells me things that her mother says and does which seem utterly insensitive to me, I struggle to keep from calling this woman on the phone and screaming at her to get out there and take care of her daughter. Yet I also realize that having Liz for a daughter must have been a daunting proposition - needy, disturbed, and at the same time, exceedingly bright - she would have been a challenge for the most well rounded of parents. After all, Sara, like every mother, is only human. Perhaps this child has just sucked her dry??

The one good thing about this situation is that every time I talk to this girl, every time I think about her life and how fragile it is, I'm reminded once again how lucky I am to have had loving, supportive relationships. From the foundation of caring and respect I was fortunate enough to receive from my parents, and in my relationship with my husband, I was able to provide my own child with the kind of support he needed to help him overcome some tough emotional times in his life and go on to become a healthy and stable adult.

Of course I wasn't a "perfect mother" by any stretch of the imagination, but hopfully I didn't leave my child feeling abandonded and completely bereft, like Liz apparently feels. But I know that even with the best of intentions, parents can go wrong. Every child is different, with unique needs and expectations. Sometimes we think we're doing the right thing, and it turns out to be completely wrong based on the needs of that individual child. And sometimes you don't know that until it's way too late.

I'm hoping it's not too late for Liz. As much as I care about what happens to her, I can't be the mother she's looking for. And I don't think she wants me to be. What she really wants is unconditional love and nurturing from her own mother. Right now, she's not getting it~I really hope someday soon she will.


Poetry Thursday-Rivers

Rouge River~Lola Valley Park, 2006

River Visit
I've come to think of you
As my own personal river,
Running as you do
Through this park
Where I've walked each day
For most of my life.
Your solitary sojurn
Mirrors my own,
Searching as you are
For the sea
Where you might spill yourself
With ease
Into something far greater
Than you could ever be.
Mostly I stand and stare
And let you do the talking,
Knowing as you must
More truth than
My few years
Could teach me.
Your sweet babble
Confiding secret dreams and sage advice
Reminds me I am not alone,
Running as I do
Searching as I am
Knowing so little about life
Yet continuing with joy
To flow.
A small section of the Rouge River runs through the park right across the street from my house. The Rouge is a 126 mile river which eventually empties into the Detroit River. It served as the highway and water source for the Woodland Indians back in the mid 1700's. In the 1800's, French traders used it as an entry point into Detroit.

Industrialization took it's toll on the Rouge. It's not a pretty river, in fact it's gritty and hardworking, like most of the people in this city. But I still like to stand along its banks and listen to it as it runs underneath the roadway. When my husband was a child, he ice skated along it's banks, and picked his way across it on a stone bridge on his way to school. My son delighted in standing beside it and throwing rocks into shimmering pools.
It may not be beautiful, but its mine.


Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Write on Wednesday-Filling the Well

Just a few weeks ago, I was bemoaning the fact that my writing seemed to be blocked, I couldn't come up with anything to say, and my creative juices were all dried up. There were some wonderfully comforting comments from readers. Deirdre advised me to "trust the silence to show me other things," and Mardougrll assured me that my writer's voice would "come back, if you just keep putting words to paper, words to paper." Bella said "I know that you will be back with words that flow like a soft stream, just give it time. It cannot be forced."

Guess what? They were right. For the past couple of weeks, I can't seem to get my fingers to move fast enough on the keys, or find enough time to write all the ideas that are in my head. I find myself scribbling away on my lunch hour, while sitting in line at the bank, on airplanes, and on the backs of napkins in coffee shops (where is that notebook, anyway?)

What's up with this rollercoaster ride of creativity? Why is it that sometimes the writer's well is full to overflowing, and other times the dipper comes up with nothing but sludge?

I think it's all a matter of balance. In that period of time when I was "blocked," my life outside of my writing was a mess. I was involved in a huge work project which had me sitting at my computer for long hours deciphering medical records, and I had a major vocal competition to accompany. In moderation, activities like these can be grist for the creative mill. However, these were all consuming events, leaving me no energy to process anything remotely creative.

In the past few weeks, my "real life" has returned to a pretty even keel, so I'm free to wander about, both physically and mentally. I've taken some long walks in the park, sat under my big red maple tree reading books and sipping iced tea, and last night I got my bicycle out and went for a long ride, loving the cool breeze whipping through my hair.

In Right to Write, Julia Cameron says that "if we lead chaotic lives, it is difficult to write smoothly and steadily. If, on the other hand, we lead lives that are too regular, too sterile, our voice as writers will also go flat, leaving us straining for effect in an attempt to manufacture interest."

In Bird by Bird, Anne Lamott says that those times when the words won't come aren't about being "blocked" or "stuck," they're about being "empty." My creative well sometimes gets sucked dry by an overload of obligation and reposibilities. Whatever the reason, our creative spirits occasionally need restocking, and each one of us must find our own ways of doing that, of refilling the well. For me, it involves time~to walk, to read, to notice the world around me and to revel in it, to spend time with the people I care about and really listen to them. And yes, it also means working and pursuing the activities I love ~but all in moderation.

How about you? How do you restock your creative well?


Tuesday, May 29, 2007

One Deep Breath-Common Ground

universal language
transcends words
into melodies of peace
In 1999, conductor Daniel Barenboim and Palestinian scholar Edward Said co-founded the Israeli-Arab Youth Orchestra (also known as the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra) as a cultural tool for bringing together Israelis and Arabs. Young musicians from both nations attended workshops in Spain, and then traveled the world giving concerts to promote cultural awarenss and harmony.

Barenboim once told a reporter that "Everyone should become active in the way that they are most suited - music is my way!" The orchestra now has it's home base in Seville, Spain, and continues to use music as the common ground to illustrate that Arabs and Israelis can work together peacefully.


Monday, May 28, 2007

Lest We Forget

price of war~
each white stone
a solemn reminder
in memory of those who have paid this price in the course of our nations's history
and in constant hope for peace in every corner of the world
photo: Arlington National Cemetary, July 2004

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Sunday Scribbling-Simple

'Tis the gift to be simple, 'tis the gift to be free,
'Tis the gift to come down where we ought to be...

Simple Gifts, Shaker Hymn, 1848

I've always loved this hymn tune. The Shaker's, one of the first religious groups to participate in a communal lifestyle, believed practicing a life of simplicity was the key to happiness on earth, as well as eternal happiness in Heaven.
But life is never simple, is it? I've been trying to make a decision about my life, one that would actually simplify it greatly. Yet I'm constantly torn between doing what I know is sensible and logical, and following the desire of my heart. Not simple at all.
My life in general often seems much too complex, and yet I admit that when I don't have a lot going on, I feel restless, unfulfilled. In the midst of running here, there, and everywhere, I find a great deal of satisfaction in crossing items off a long "to do" list.
As with everything in life, balance and moderation are the key. The Shaker's, well known for their innovations in lifestyle, farming, and carpentry, went to extremes in their social practices. Procreation was prohibited in this religion, so, not surprisingly, there are no Shaker's left!
The key to life, simple or complex, lies in the last two stanza's of the hymn...
And when we find ourselves in the place just right,
'Twill be in the valley of love and delight.

For more Simple thoughts, look here


Thursday, May 24, 2007

Poetry Thursday

Habitual Conversation

In the habit of long years
I turn to him and say
More coffee?
Remember your medication
Wear a warm coat
I love you

In the habit of long years
He replies
Yes, please
I will
Love you, too

In the habit of long years
Familiar words
Set each day in motion
Quiet whispers
Like the gentle tick
Of ancient clocks
Mark life
With simple phrases
Of unstated devotion
In the habit of long years

There is a definite shorthand in the conversations between people in long standing relationships, a pattern of speaking and response that devlops over days and years of repetition. The other morning, it struck me that Jim and I repeat a certain dialogue on a daily basis. At first, I felt dismayed at the banality of this revelation. However, I then realized that beneath the trite question-response, there was an unspoken dialogue of caring and concern based on deep understanding of the other's needs, both practically and emotionally, an understanding that develops quite remarkably "in the habit of long years."

For more poetry, click here


Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Write on Wednesday-Branching Out

"Tell me a story!"

How often have you heard that from your children, your grandchildren, nieces and nephews, or even your students, if you happen to be an elementary school teacher. I think all children love stories, the more outlandish and unbelievable the better. Story telling has been around since the beginning of time. Those famous cave paintings - weren't they probably the first "graphic novel"? Stories provide us with entertainment, sure, but they also shed meaning into our lives, helping us answer some of those eternal questions about the whys and wherefores of our existence.

I've never outgrown my love of stories, and I always make time for reading them, no matter how crazy my schedule is. Fiction ~the marvelous stories of other people's lives, loves, and adventures~is my passion. A well crafted novel is better to me than the richest chocolate or the finest wine (although I'm certainly not averse to enjoying any combination of all three!)

Until very recently, I've never tried writing any fiction. I've always considered myself a non-fiction writer- I like having a set subject, based on fact, research, or opinion, that I can write about or perhaps shed a new light on.

Lately, though, I've been branching out into the realm of make believe in my writing, trying my hand at some short fiction based on prompts from Sunday Scribblings and other writing sites. I've purchased the Gotham Writers Workshop Practical Guide to Fiction Writing, and I'm working my way through articles and exercises on generating ideas and developing character and plot. I'm learning to observe people and events in different ways, looking for the extra edge or touch of whimsy in characters and events that could develop into a story. Sometimes even a fragment of conversation can set a story idea in motion.

It's a little nerve wracking, this business of making people and events up from thin air. But it's also exciting to try on new writing styles and formats, kind of like playing dress up as a kid. Sometimes, I get going on a roll with an idea, or a character pops into my head from out of nowhere, begging for a story. I start writing things down, and before I know it, I'm out of control, typing crazily almost as if possessed, with my poor unsuspecting character careening down some dark and unknown pathway.

That's one of great things about the practice of writing. With only word play and my imagination, I can create entire worlds, peopled with all sorts of interesting characters working their way through life. In the process of leading them on their journey, I inevitably learn something new about myself as well.

So, how about you? Are you branching out, in your writing life, or elsewhere?


Monday, May 21, 2007

One Deep Breath-Viewpoint

aloft among clouds
home remains
a distant dream

We fly a lot, commuting to Florida by air like some Michigander's do to their summer cottages "up north." I can't say I like flying...I endure it, because it gets me where I want to go quickly. Tonight's flight home was one of those particularly grueling ones. The plane was packed, the cooling system wasn't working too well, they made us board really early, and a child screamed incessantly for about 45 minutes at the beginning and end of the flight.

From my vantage point, I could see the plane's wing, skimming the tops of fluffy white clouds that floated endlessly across the horizon. On another night, I might have found more beauty in that sight. Tonight, I just wanted to be home, and it seemed terribly far away.

photo from here
more haiku here


Sunday, May 20, 2007

Sunday Scribblings-Masks

Yesterday afternoon, I found myself surrounded by people in masks. Heaved unceremoniously from the ambulance stretcher to the hard emergency room gurney, doctors and nurses with little white masks dangling from around their necks quickly went to work to revive me from anaphylactic shock, an allergic reaction initiated by the stinging bite of one, tiny little red ant.

Fire ants, they call them here in Florida. And this isn't the first dangerous run in we've had with them. The victim the last time wasn't me, it was Magic, my then 2 year old shih-tzu. We were on our regular evening walk, when, as dogs will do, he stuck his nose into a mound of them. Suddenly, he started writhing around on the ground, rubbing his face on the cement. His face began swelling immediately, and then he started vomiting. We grabbed him up and raced him to the nearest emergecny vet where they dosed him with benadryl and cortisone.

I've been bitten a time or two since then, usually on my toes because when I'm in Florida I'm either barefooted or in sandals. These bites were itchy for a few days, but little more than a mosquito bite. Yesterday was a different story. Within seconds after feeling that sting on my toe, I was itching everywhere, and hives had broken out all over my legs, abdomen, and arms. Then I got nauseous, dizzy, and finally, just as the ambulance arrived, completely blacked out. And that's how I found myself surrounded by a sea of masked faces.

Apparently, there are at least 100 people a year who die from reactions to fire ant bites. I've been armed with an Epi-pen and advised to carry Benedryl at all times. Luckily, I'm fine, other than a little tired and headachy. Thanks to all those people with little white masks dangling from around their necks.

read my other Sunday Scribble here


Thursday, May 17, 2007

Poetry Thursday-Spill

It's been a long while since I posted any poetry, but I happened to meander over to Poetry Thursday the other day and the random prompt generator happened to give me a very appropriate word...

i didn't mean to do it
my elbow brushed against
that topheavy bottle of cream
over it went
spreading a silent pool of reproach
in french vanilla
across my countertop
a languid pool running
over the edge
dripping casually onto
my clean floor

so early in the morning
for this to happen
my eyes still gummy with sleep
i stand frozen in shock
incapable of moving

"you're always in such a hurry"
my husband says
"you're so clumsy"
is what he really thinks~
he turns his back
and pads away
while my eyes stare transfixed
on this fountain before me
until they too fill up


Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Write on Wednesday-Finding Your Voice

Writers often talk about "finding their voice," that unique way of expressing themselves that identifies them as an individual. Whether it's the way you construct a sentence, the point of view you favor, a persistent use of imagery, every writer is looking for that special something that makes their writing stand out.

In The Right to Write, Julia Cameron tells us to stop looking. "Your voice is already there," she says. "Don't focus on your "writer's voice" to the exclusion of having something to say. If you enter into what you want to express, you will intuitively arrive at ways to express it."

Apparently, the writer's voice is like the singer's voice. Before I started working with singers, I had the mistaken impression that you were either born with a singing voice or you weren't. How wrong I was! Everyone can be taught the craft of singing. Of course, some people are gifted with a more beautiful voice than others, but everyone has a singing voice inside them. By following a tried and true method of instruction, you can learn to make that singing voice work. Yet every voice will carry with it unique qualities that cannot (and should not!) be changed. Timbre, tone quality, and range, are all unique to each person's instrument.

So it is with each writer. Even in the writing I do for my day job, which is completely technical and quite formulaic, my boss tells me she can "immediately" discern which of the three writers in my department have written a particular piece. We each have our distinct way of putting words together that identifies us one from the other.

Yes, I can study the techniques and craft of writing, I can use Stunk and White's Elements of Style as my "bible," I can do writing exercises and revisions galore, and all of this will improve my ability to write. None of it will essentially change the writing voice that I was born with - it's as much a part of me as my hair color (although that's certainly changable!) Even though it's fun to experiment with diffent shades, the "true color" is still there underneath.

"Let the song do the singing," Cameron tells us. Writing is about passing along a message, something that moves us about a person, a place, a circumstance, a feeling. Those things that speak to our hearts are the stories we must concentrate on telling in our own unique voices.

So, how about you? Are you comfortable with your writer's voice?

Postscript: If you haven't read Right to Write, I highly recommend it. For me, it's the best of all Cameron's books, because it includes so many of her ideas in a very succinct format, with great writing exercises as well.


Tuesday, May 15, 2007

What a Difference A Week Makes

Last week at this time, I was going totally crazy. I felt dangerously stressed out, more so than I can ever remember.

Today, I came home from work early, did a little laundry, relaxed with a cup of Zen tea, and watched a marvelous thunderstorm from the safety of my big green living room chair. I read some wonderful haiku (on the subject of nurturing, no less!), wrote my post for tomorrow (Write on Wednesday is back!), and actually made dinner myself (pork tenderloin "Diane" with wild rice and steamed baby carrots -it smells yummy!)

So, what's the big difference?? I have nothing in my musical agenda this week. No concerts, no rehearsals, no performances scheduled (until May 25, that is).

It's clear where the source of my stress seems to lie.

Why is it, though, that the thing I love doing most in the world causes me so much angst???

It all comes down to another four letter word, the word that appears here on the Byline, and in my morning pages, over and over again.




Monday, May 14, 2007

One Deep Breath-Nurture

mother's kiss
soft on baby's cheek~
gentle blessing
more nurturing haiku


Saturday, May 12, 2007

Hearing From You

Each year on Mother's Day, one of the women in our church sponsors the alter flower displays with this dedication: "To all the mothers who won't hear from their children on this day." I don't know this woman well, so I don't understand the particular story behind her annual message. Is she a mother who is estranged from her child? Did her child go missing and was never recovered? And the fact that she refers to "children" also disturbs me. Does she have more than one child she "won't hear from"? I've asked some of my friends at church who have been members there longer than I, yet no one seems to know the history of this poignant message.

As a mother, I think it would be devastating to be ignorant of what's happening in your child's life. My son and I had a ritual that developed as soon as he started school~started having a life away from home, so to speak~a ritual he called "day telling." Sometimes it took place over dinner, but most often at bedtime. And yes, it was largely another delaying tactic in his never ending effort to avoid sleep. But I fell for it every time, because I loved hearing every miniscule detail of his day, of the time he spent apart from me.

Naturally, when children grow up and have lives and families of their own, we don't expect the same level of communication. But I'm still just as tickled to hear his voice on the phone as I was to hear him call out that it was "day telling time." Mothers need to "hear from their children," no matter what age or stage of life they're in.

Every Mother's Day, my heart goes out to this woman. When I see her in Coffee Hour, I want to hug her, to say how sorry I am that she doesn't hear from her child, for whatever reason.

I consider my own good fortune on this Mother's Day, my luck in having a son whom I "hear from" on a regular basis, and who still happily shares stories of his day, as well as a mother whom I speak with (if not spend time with!) nearly every day, sharing the good and not so good news of our daily lives.

And for all those mothers whose lines of communication with their children have been severed, may you "hear from them" very soon.


In an effort to enable more mothers to hear from their children in days to come, consider visting CODEPINK and joining the effort to celebrate Mother's Day in its original spirit - a day when American women unite for an end to war. In 1870, Julia Ward Howe called for action with her Mother's Day Proclamation:

We will not have great questions decided by irrelevant agencies,
Our husbands shall not come to us reeking of carnage, for caresses and applause.
Our sons shall not be taken from us to unlearn
All that we have been able to teach them of charity, mercy and patience.
We women of one country
Will be too tender of those of another country
To allow our sons to be trained to injure theirs.


Sunday Scribbling

You'll find my scribble for this week right's my "secret" blog (that's not a secret anymore!)


Wednesday, May 9, 2007


Whirlwinds, cyclones, hurricanes, dervishes...all perfect ways to describe my life these past few days, even weeks or months, really. From the time I get up in the morning, until I finally lay my head on the pillow each night, I feel as if I'm in a constant state of motion.
Yesterday, as I was driving (for the third time in one day!) toward the high school for (yet another!) rehearsal, I found myself teary eyed. Maybe it was the warm spring breeze and cloudless blue sky, or perhaps it was the song I happened across on the radio, a folk song called 45 Years From Now. Most likely it was because yesterday was my 31st wedding anniversary, and I was remembering what my life was like in those newlywed days. I had so much time back then...each day seemed to last an eternity, because I was home alone while Jim was working long hours, building his career. I worked too, but desultorily, part time music jobs, teaching piano lessons, taking some classes here and there. Mostly, I played house. Decorating, cooking, shopping, all the things that 21 year old girls with their first home like to do.
The pace of my life stepped up quite a bit when Brian was born. Still, the days seemed endlessly long, with so much time to fill, caring for and playing with an active, curious little boy. There always seemed to be time for walks in the park, or sledding on the hills, reading, watching movies, play dates and games.
Truthfully, sometimes during those years, time weighed heavily on my hands. For many years, Jim worked excruciatingly long hours - 60 or 70 in a week. And he traveled, too, for extended periods of time. I learned how to live almost alone, almost a single mother sometimes. In those days, the time between dinner and bedtime was horribly long, and I clearly remember feeling overburdened, restless, and resentful.
It's a cliche, I know, but I would love to go back to those days, to the time when my life revolved around nothing more than a child and a house, (and occasionally a man), when the due date on a stack of library books was the only deadline I needed to worry about, when the most pressing thing on my agenda was baking chocolate chip cookies or playing another round of Candyland.
Where did all that time go? The older I get, the faster it speeds by, and I'm constantly trying to cram all my responsibilities and committments into days that seem to be getting shorter and shorter. The proud young "homemaker" who cleaned house religiously every Monday and Thursday, tried out one new recipe from the Betty Crocker Cookbook each week, and was up to date on every episode of Dr. T. Berry Brazelton's What Every Baby Knows, has not dusted or vacuumed in weeks, relies on Papa Romano's and Chin's Chinese far too often, and hasn't even spoken to her son in almost two weeks. Whew.
So, how do I fix this mess I'm in? How do I dial back a life that is out of control and spiraling into disaster? Because this past week has left me feeling that disaster is lurking around the corner unless I find more time for myself and the things that are important to me.

I'm moving that question to the top of my list of things to figure out~as soon as I have the time.
PS...I wrote this poem last summer, and it's very appropriate to this post...
doesn't begin to describe
what happens to it
More like
disintegrate, evaporate, eviscerate
My lack of it
cuts me
like the sharpest of knives
in my drawer
The one I use for carrots
or steak
Little pieces of it
get swept into the dust bin
tossed away
before I know they're gone
I rummage through trash
hoping to find a morsel
I can still put to good use
I grab scraps -
ten minutes here
fifteen there
Could it be I've found
one hour
soggy and tattered
amidst the rubble?
Clutching this treasure
this time of my own,
I weep
Then throw wide the door


Friday, May 4, 2007

Brave New World

This afternoon I was at school, chatting with a couple of boys from choir while we waited for the girls to finish rehearsing a dance number. Suddenly, a petite blond comes dashing up, jabbering frantically.

"I'm supposed to take a make up math test RIGHT NOW, and I just got my PERIOD, and I'm like, just GUSHING all over my clothes, and I HAVE to go home, and I'm, like SO SCARED to tell Mr. Boone I can't take the test because he's ALREADY mad at me, and I don't know WHAT to say, and I REALLY NEED you to go with me to talk to him RIGHT NOW!!!!"

Now, I've known Kayla since she was in 6th grade, I know her mother and her grandmother, but she wasn't turning to me for help with her feminine problems. No, throughout her entire diatribe, she was staring right at Robert, her 17 year old male classmate. Robert gave me a rather sheepish look, shrugged his shoulders, and went out the door with his distraught charge.
Brian, the other boy witnessing this drama, looked puzzled. "What was that all about?" he asked innocently. "I couldn't understand a word she was saying."

I don't know about you, but when I was 17 and in high school, I would rather have died a thousand deaths than admit to a boy in my class that I was having my period, much less that I was "gushing all over my clothes" and had to go home and change. Obviously, times have changed. Even the fact that I'm writing "publicly" about a subject once considered completely taboo is proof that I myself have entered this "brave new world" where nothing is sacred. And the reaction of the boys involved today was interesting as well. Robert seemed relatively non-plussed about his role in this little drama. And when I attempted to explain Kayla's request to Brian (in as delicate a terms as I could manage), he finally nodded knowingly. "Well, Mrs. Rowan, it's okay that she asked Robert, because he'"

Admittedly, Kayla is a Drama Queen par excellence. This girl has some kind of crisis every single day ~ last week, she came running into the auditorium and literally fell to her knees in the middle of the aisle, sobbing hysterically because she had just found out her boyfriend's parents were getting divorced. She has no control of her emotions, no sense of appropriate response or behavior, and reacts all out of proportion to the event. Honestly, she can be a real pain in the butt.

However, she's also a bit scary. Young people who have trouble controlling their emotions are prone to drastic actions that can be dangerous to body and mind. At least Kayla doesn't keep her feelings bottled up inside until they erupt into self destructive behaviors ~ like my friend Liz (who incidentally is still in very grave danger as I write...but that's another story entirely). I can't help but wonder if this brave new world where anything goes is more than a little overwhelming to teenagers. It seems they're almost expected to have some sort of angst in their lives in order to "fit in" with all the celebrity "crisis du jour." Last year, Kayla had a bout with anorexia. Robert (and Michael and Dan) are dealing with sexual identity issues. Katie is bi-polar, Rose just celebrated one year of sobriety, and Jessica's boyfriend is in jail for child molestation. And these are just the kids I know from sixth hour choir.

The world is certainly different. I know I'm showing my age with statements like that. I don't know how "brave" the world itself is, but I think you have to be very brave to grow up in it.


Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Write on Wednesday - Writing Even When I'm Not

You may have noticed that things have been a bit quiet here at the Byline. In fact, last Wednesday, I mentioned the "b" word that strikes fear in the heart of every writer. In thinking about writing and living over the past week, I don't believe I'm "blocked" as much as I am "busy," that life with all its mundane burdens has simply dulled the creative senses. And I'm really tired - physically and mentally. So I'm not stressing about the lack of wordplay in my mind, but I am trying to rejuvenate my body and spirit, so they will be habitable abodes for the muse once more.

Even though I'm not actually writing a lot, I'm trying to do things that nurture writing, that keep the seeds watered, even if they're still lying dormant in the fallow ground of my mind. Things like these...

  • Reading books and poetry, because great words written by others always inspire me...
  • Doing morning pages religiously, because I love them, and I nearly always learn something surprising about myself and my life...
  • Sleeping! that's right, I've been going to bed early rather than staying up until all hours blogging. I've had a couple of fascinating "sleep epiphanies," when I find myself partially awake with a beautifully crafted sentence or line of poetry in my head. Sadly, I haven't yet been able to rouse myself enough to write them down, but it's been an exciting gift to have them arrive in my brain, unbidden...
  • Listening to music~not the music I'm playing for school, but real music. It's surprising how rarely I listen to music, which is unfortunate - listening to good music is just as important to a musician as reading good books is to a writer. So I took my book CD out of the car and replaced it with a rather eclectic collection of music CD's...The Dixie Chicks, Josh Groban, Vladimir Horowitz, The Eagles, and Simon and Garfunkle. Something for every mood...
  • Being still~there is so little time to be quiet, to be alone with no demands for my attention. I've been longing for some "moodling" time, to take a long walk or bike ride, perhaps go to a local park and explore a hiking trail, or try out the new coffee shop that just opened nearby...

Nurturing myself, inside and out, giving myself positive sensory input, allowing myself time to absorb life and its experiences are all ways of feeding my creative soul.

How about you? What are some of the ways you "write", even when you're not??


Tuesday, May 1, 2007

One Deep Breath-The Sea

A couple of weeks ago, in the midst of an absolutely crazy busy week, I flew to Florida for two days. It seemed ridiculous to me at the time~I was exhausted from dealing with work, preparing for the competition I was accompanying, and handling issues with my mother in law. But, Jim was there for the week, and he encouraged me to take the 48 hours I managed to eke out of my schedule and come down for a brief respite.

In that tiny period of time, really just one full day, I managed to do the things I love most about spending time in Florida (aside from being with my family, which is of course, always the best part of being there). Eating at the outdoor cafes, riding our bikes, and of course, walking along the beach.

waves lick my toes
eternal rhythms
echo in my heart
taste of sea salt
lingers on my lips~
ocean's kiss
sea walk calms my spirit
sends me home
rested and renewed

take a deep breath and plunge into more sea haiku here