Been a While

My blog website tells me it has been a loooong time since I’ve written anything. Over the last few years, I’ve read a number of books by writers about how they write–rituals, practices, habits, etc. Each one starts or ends with “Put your behind in the chair and start writing.”

Simple, yes. Also challenging.

I could give you excuses like being busier than usual or some extra doctor appointments. But I still don’t have a paying job. And I don’t live with small children. Just that retired man, who doesn’t require much attention. I wish I could say I’d been going through closets and drawers and bookshelves purging my belongings so we can downsize. I’d be lying.

I did start jotting down random thoughts and ideas this week. Here’s what I’ve got.

1.I read an essay recently written by a dad whose daughter wanted to buy a “distressed” pair of jeans, the kind that come already ripped and faded. Like all of us who once thought we were rebels, he was appalled at the cost of the jeans and also shocked by how repelled he was by the raggediness.

The article made me remember when my older daughter bought a townhouse in Charlotte. She got to choose flooring and paint. She chose “distressed” dark wood flooring. (like this picture) Not what I would have picked, but she liked it. It was actually an upgrade from the basic flooring.

We walk around our house these days, the retired man I live with and I, and discuss what we need to do to get it ready to sell. I refuse to put thousands of dollars into the house and then leave. We do both agree that the upstairs hardwood floors need to be refinished. They looked “distressed” after 25 years of wear and tear.

Huh?

2.I drove 3 1/2 hours to the NC mountains a few months ago to visit my college roommate. She lives in a  “tiny house”  on the side of a mountain with a gigantic Newfoundland dog and 2 small dogs. Kitty and I talked–a lot–and we ate and we went on a skinny, scary mountain road with no guardrail and a very long way down on my side to see wild moose (we saw the fleeing backside of one) and then we watched Hillary Clinton in her white pantsuit accept the nomination to be the 1st woman president. It was great.

I stayed at a close-by hotel. (We are way past sharing space like a dorm room!) The morning I left, I used Yelp to find a locally owned diner for breakfast. When I got ready to leave, I asked the waitress for my check and she told me someone had already paid for me! I asked if she’d tell me who it was and she said she couldn’t. It felt weird to walk out without paying. But if the person was still there, he/she saw me smile like I hadn’t smiled in a good while. I smiled all the way downhill to home. Now I need to pay it forward.

3.I had my annual physical this week. I told my doctor that even with all my various medical challenges and surgeries and daily medications, I consider myself reasonably healthy for my age. On a 1-10 scale of healthiness, I’d say I’m 7-8. He just smiled.

The glass is half full.

It’s all about attitude.

4.I started thinking the other day about which of my daughters would have a harder time when I die. I have no idea what triggered that train of thought.  They will both suffer, I think, each in her own unique way. I pray they will be able to help each other.

I didn’t linger long in that place.

I did start thinking about my relationship with my mother and how I grieved when she died. For the first time I was grateful we hadn’t been real close. The loss and hurt were maybe less intense.

Another place I didn’t want to linger.

5.You know those recipe videos that pop up on Facebook with 2 hands dumping and mixing ingredients? I re-post the ones that look good to me (sorry, friends). That way they are on my timeline so I can find them later. I have NEVER gone to my timeline and printed out one of the recipes. I don’t know why not. They’re usually easy and often crockpot recipes. I have more energy early in the day so crockpot recipes work well for me.

I think I’ll search out and print some after I finish writing.

6.I used to pride myself on always being on time. When my girls were little, I had a friend who had a daughter about the same age who was equally prompt. Gail and I would often pull up at some event like a birthday party at the same time. We would laugh in a “aren’t we just the best” way.

I lost my ability to always be on time. I’m convinced I developed late-onset ADD with menopause that will never leave me.

Yesterday, I managed to get ready to go somewhere on time. My hair was all the way dry, my outfit worked, I wasn’t rushed. I felt good. The retired man I live with pulled into the garage after his Men’s Breakfast just as I went out to my car. He came around and gave me a hug.

“Robin,” he said softly and sweetly, “you shirt is inside out.”

I looked down the front. No tag. “No, it’s not,” I said, like he’d said it was backwards.

“Take it off, ” he said. (Our garage faces the backyard.)

He was right. So much for having my act together

And that, my friends, is humility.

I need help.

From God.

From the retired man I live with.

And from my friends.

(I was still on time!)

 

 

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Published in: on October 29, 2016 at 4:32 pm  Comments (3)  
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Poof! Gone.

I’ve never written about the day my sister died. Not in a journal, not in a workshop, not for this blog.

She jumped out of a small plane on June 10, 1972. Her parachute didn’t open. Neither did the reserve. She was almost 19. I was 20.

Her death played out in my mind over and over last week. I don’t know what triggered it. The retired man I live with said I moaned in my sleep a couple of nights. It was time to write and let go of something. What?

I decided to write it as the 1st chapter of a memoir. I opened a new blank Word document and started typing.

I never really learned to type and now my hands are damaged by my arthritis so I am a two-index-finger writer. The other fingers just sort of hang there. It works for me. Usually.

I typed 4 1/2 pages. I came back from going to the bathroom, sat down at the computer and looked at a blank page.

All my writing was gone. I felt sick, but didn’t panic. I figured one of my wandering fingers had hit something. Surely I could recapture it.

And I could have, had I saved any of it.

I DIDN’T SAVE. Any of it.

I write this blog on the WordPress website and it automatically saves every so often. I don’t have to remember to save. So I never thought to save while I dug deep into the narrative of my sister’s death.

I called my daughter who knows more computer than I do. I’d already done the things she suggested. I tried everything I could find in the Word Help menu.

It was gone. Poof. Out into the universe.

I sat and stared at the blank document.

And I laughed.

Last Saturday at my women’s AA meeting we discussed acceptance. AA’s Big Book includes this paragraph:

And acceptance is the answer to all my problems today. When I am disturbed, it is because I find some person, place, thing or situation — some fact of my life — unacceptable to me, and I can find no serenity until I accept that person, place, thing or situation as being exactly the way it is supposed to be at this moment.

“Nothing, absolutely nothing happens in God’s world by mistake. Until I could accept my alcoholism, I could not stay sober; unless I accept life completely on life’s terms, I cannot be happy. I need to concentrate not so much on what needs to be changed in the world as on what needs to be changed in me and in my attitudes.

What if writing the story of when my sister died was enough?

What if the process mattered more than the product?

What if letting go and acceptance mattered the most?

 

 

Published in: on August 23, 2016 at 10:28 am  Comments (13)  
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Innie (introvert) or Outie (extrovert)?

I watched my grandchildren playing outside the other day. We were midway through a 2-week stretch of 90-something-degree days, so their mother and I went to Toys R Us and bought 2 little plastic pools (one pink, one blue, of course) because sharing is to be avoided if possible, and a cute turtle sprinkler. We took them to my house and set them up in the backyard, the pools in the shade and the sprinkler in the middle of the yard.

Adaline is 5, an extrovert, and kind of a bossy older sister. Atticus is 3, an introvert, and a sweetie who loves his sister, but is slightly afraid of her, I think. They played together for a while, then Atticus wanted to play in his pool, alone. Adaline wanted him to play with her. This wasn’t going to end well.

She provoked him until he reacted. By that time, the pools were full of twigs and dirt that had stuck to their wet feet when they ran around the yard, so I suggested a bath and we went inside. Afterward, Atticus went in the living room and played with blocks and Adaline settled in on the den couch to talk with her mom and me.

I identify with Atticus. I’ve written before about being an introvert. I refill my spirit in solitude. I like to spend time with friends, one on one. Crowds overwhelm me. One of my daughters is an extrovert, as is her husband. Their spirits are refilled with others. They invite neighbors over for dinner and they have parties for no reason except to be with friends.

My problem, sometimes, is distinguishing between solitude (healthy) and isolation (not-so-healthy).

From a blog post by Carey Niewhof:

Solitude is good.  It recharges the soul.  It offers time for reflection, for prayer.  And even when you’re alone, if you’re experiencing solitude, you are still connected. Solitude connects you to God, to yourself, and prepares you to be connected to others.

Isolation, on the other hand, is never replenishing.  It can feel like solitude in the sense that you are alone, but isolation doesn’t connect you to anyone.  Isolation does what the word suggests – it cuts you off, from God, from others, and sometimes even from yourself.

I’ve been isolating for the last month or so. My depression has flared up due to some ongoing medical issues. I’ve had no energy and no desire to do much of anything. I put away a basket of clean clothes yesterday that sat in my bedroom for days. And that was an accomplishment. I read a lot and I watch episodes of The Good Wife from the beginning on Hulu. I’m up to where Will got shot. Depression zaps my brain of creativity and imagination. I can’t write.

I’m trying this week to push through the inertia. I met with my doctor and talked about my anti-depressant. I have a therapy appointment next week. I did some volunteer work this week. And I’m having dinner with a friend this evening.

And I finally am writing again.  While I write, I don’t feel isolated. I am connected to all of you in some spiritual way that is healing. My hope is that by continuing to share my ups and downs, I can help someone else feel less alone and isolated.

Published in: on June 26, 2015 at 4:44 pm  Comments (12)  
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Enough Is Enough

When I started this blog, I set an intention: to leave pieces of myself for Adaline (and then Maggie and Atticus) to find when they got older and I wasn’t around anymore and they started to wonder who “Robin” was besides a sort-of cool grandmother. In the first post, on June 9, 2010, I explained the blog title, “Amma Ponders:”

The ammas, as they were called, help us to find ways to gently pay attention to God’s presence with us in all places and through all things. And they teach us to grow in the awareness that we are each unique, remarkable parts of a vast, vital, interconnected cosmos. The word means mother. It came to refer to those women who were spiritual mothers to many. Their insistence on practicing silence, solitude and stillness provides a kind of medicine for our over-heated, frenetic culture.”

“Amma Ponders” reflects my spirituality.  Depressed, my ability “to gently pay attention to God’s presence with us in all places and through all things” disappeared.  I had no energy for that.  I practiced isolation rather than solitude. And I wrote little.

My new antidepressant helps me today.  My joints and my soul love the few sunny, 50-60 degree days we had lately.  I am waking up and looking out beyond myself.

I’ll be 62 years old in a few weeks.  And, once again, I want to know what I will be when I grow up.  Several wise ammas and abbas (men) listened to my string of “I don’t know…” sentences the other day and led me to a knowledge that it is okay not to know.  One woman quoted Julian of Norwich, “Await.”  An ex-Marine-Episcopal-priest said, “I may not know where I am, but I know I’m not lost.”  Another woman spoke of “glimmers of grace.”  And a woman older than I “still has an ambition to give.”

I pondered their words for several days.  I sat down to write this morning.  I found myself re-reading that first blog post about why I picked “Amma” for my grandmother name.

For a lot of years, I answered “stay-at-home-mom” to the question, “What do you do?”  That was my calling.  And once I got sober, I got pretty good at it. But I was never sure “mother” was enough.

Amma “means mother. Their insistence on practicing silence, solitude and stillness provides a kind of medicine for our over-heated, frenetic culture.”

I am a grownup. I am a child of God.  I am Amma.  And that is enough.

Published in: on February 26, 2014 at 11:46 am  Comments (10)  
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How I Busted Out of Writer’s Block by Wasting a Bunch of Time

I sat down at my desk and opened up my laptop 52 minutes ago.  The plan was to bust out of writer’s block and just write something, anything.  I even had a place to start.

Then I remembered I said I’d send my daughter a link to a “real food” blog post about fixing kids’ school lunches.  I found it and sent it. I also followed a link in that post to another blog.  I hardly ever cook anymore, thanks to the retired man I live with, but I like to read recipes and food blogs, especially the ones that tell a story with the recipe (see Smitten Kitchen or 100 Days of Real Food).

Thinking of food reminded me that I’d been up for a couple of hours with no breakfast and my stomach was growling. I went downstairs to get a KIND bar which I buy because a little boy behind me in line at Earth Fare one day told me it was the only kind his mom let him have.  Must be good for you, right?

I thought one of the links I crossed paths with deserved to be on Facebook.  Oops. Now I was on Facebook.  I kept scrolling and not looking at the little bitty clock at the top of the computer screen or the clock that sits on my desk next to the computer.

Oh, and did I mention that my phone vibrates when I get an email, which I can easily hear as it sits on the bare wood table that I use for my desk? Could you ignore that?

My KIND bar called out for a cup of tea.  I got up to pour some water into my mini-Mr Coffee so I could make a cup of my favorite tea.

I generously added links for you to a bunch of the things I talked about in this post.  Just click on the red, underlined words and you, too, can go off on a trek through the internet.

Please tell me in the comments which links catapulted you into a hole of lost time.

Enjoy!

Published in: on January 7, 2014 at 5:25 pm  Comments (4)  
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Angry Conversations with God:

A Snarky But Authentic Spiritual Memoir

Got your attention, huh?  Susan E. Isaacs wrote the book with that title. I had to explore her story so I got it from the library.

Summer reading lists appear everywhere this time of year. Oprah’s magazine, the newspaper, Parade (that slick section of the Sunday paper that hides in with the ads and comics), blogs I read online. The NPR website must have a list–I haven’t looked.

I don’t buy books much anymore. Partly because the retired man I live with and I have a fixed income these days instead of a refillable well of money.  Partly because I have so many books already that some live in a big Rubbermaid bin in the corner of my office behind the open door. They call to be released from their box every time I notice the blue bin in the corner.  Not so good feng shui for creativity.

I’ve rediscovered the library.  When a book on a list looks interesting, I add it to the Books list on the Notes app on my phone.  (Just writing that cracks me up.) Or I go to my computer and add it to my Wishlist on the Greensboro Public Library website.  Isn’t the internet great? I never remember what the books are about later so I just randomly pick one when I request a specific book be sent to the branch closest to me.  At least I don’t waste money on so-so books.

These days I allow myself not to finish a book that doesn’t interest or entertain me.  I couldn’t do that when I was younger.  (Why?) Now I figure I don’t have the time to waste.  I feel bad for the writer, even though I’m the only one who knows I didn’t finish.  Some books I slam shut astonished that some publisher gave the author a contract.

I’m almost halfway through Angry Conversations With God.  Susan E. Isaacs takes God to couples counseling with an ex-pastor therapist.  The book includes dialogue with God, Jesus, herself and the ex-pastor therapist.  The book is witty, a tad irreverent and funny.  It’s also thought-provoking. And as goofy as it sounds.

Isaacs is an actress/comedian, and participates in improv performances. She has plenty of reasons to be mad at God. She works on her relationship with God through role play.  I can’t decide if it’s just too cute.  I keep reading so I think it has something for me to ponder.

How is my relationship with God?

“What do you do for fun?” every counselor, therapist, minister, friend asks.  The question nags at me every time someone asks.

What do God and I do for fun?

I need to ponder that some more.

What do you and God do for fun?

(to be continued…)

Published in: on May 30, 2013 at 1:11 pm  Comments (7)  
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Writer’s Block Is Real

Here’s how I got it:

1.  Joined a Writer’s Group of the Triad Memoir Group with real, published writers.

2.  Went to a 2-day writing retreat with some really good writers.  We wrote and then read out loud to the group of 15 writers.  Did I mention how well they wrote?

3.  Got a stomach virus that kept my family away on Mother’s Day.

4.  Got pneumonia right after the stomach virus.

(I may never see my grandchildren again!)

I’ve read the cure for writer’s block is to just write.

One of my early blog posts was titled “I’m Workin’ On It”–please click here to check it out.

I’m workin’ on it–writer’s block and good health.

My Friends, Anne Lamott and Bonnie Raitt

When I first heard that Anne Lamott (my favorite author) wrote a new book about being a grandmother (Some Assembly Required), I got excited like a five-year-old on sugar on December 23.

I bought the book, but waited a few days to read it.  It was dark chocolate with toffee bits waiting in the chair in my room.  I prolonged the anticipation.  I wanted to slowly and lovingly savor and devour it.

As I read, I underlined the good parts with a turquoise-ink pen.  (I think Anne would like that.)  There’s a lot of turquoise underlining in my book.

I know Anne and I are good friends because we think each other’s thoughts and then put them in words for others to read.

Bonnie Raitt has a new CD (Slipstream) out, her first in 7 years.  She is my other imaginary friend.

In my imagination we are buddies chatting at a sidewalk cafe on top of a hill near San Francisco with a view of the water.  Wine and coffee are not good for any of us anymore, so we drink tea.  We do eat, each of us, a decadent pastry.

All three of us–Anne and Bonnie and me–with our crazy hair, are having the best time laughing and telling stories.

Want to come with me?

link to Bonnie Raitt:  www.bonnieraitt.com

link to Anne Lamott:  CNN interview

Published in: on April 16, 2012 at 6:10 pm  Comments (14)  
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Write To Soul (a workshop/retreat)

Nobody knew everybody.  Some didn’t know anybody.  One is 20.  One is soon to be 40.  A couple are almost 50.  Two will soon be 60.  There were two more: one who admits to being in her mid-70’s and her friend who never did share her age but looks cool even in velcro sneakers.  (They had great hats!)

We are complex, vibrant, funny, spiritual women.

We are writers.

And we came together for a weekend in the mountains.  We wrote about a time we felt free and alive and then used some of those words to create a poem.  We made a timeline of the “teachers” in our lives and then wrote about one we left out.  Sometimes we just wrote randomly whatever came to mind and sometimes we answered a question like “What mountain do you need to come down from?”

We shared our writing and learned how our words touched the others.  We were gentle and supportive and we listened.  Some words painted pictures, some phrases sang a song and some stories made us laugh.  We wrote about our pasts (how do you not?), our nows, our dreams and our fears.

We worked hard, we ate well, and we became friends.

We savored a weekend of writing in the mountains.

Published in: on November 29, 2011 at 5:23 pm  Comments (8)  
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“Always do your best,” they said.

I read this chapter-title in a book this morning:

Perfectionism–>Procrastination–>Paralysis

I ate lunch downtown with a friend today. When I got home, I moved my laptop to my office to write.  I spent the next hour checking email, catching up on the other blogs I read, and trying to figure out if I’ve already written about procrastination.  I don’t think so.

I have lists of things I want to do. Where and how to start is the easy part. At least 7 “How To Organize” books sit in random bookcases in my house.  I’ve read them all.  I even have one called Making Room for God, Clearing Out the Clutter.  It lives in the pile of books beside my bed, I think.

I know about purging and sorting and donating and “when did you last wear/use this?”.  I pulled clothes off hangers and out of drawers.    Should I take them to Goodwill, Salvation Army, the Disabled Vietnam Vets’ thrift store or the halfway house for moms with addictions?  What’s the best thing to do?  They’re still on the floor of a closet in my bedroom.

Perfectionism–>Procrastination–>Paralysis

I explored The Container Store in Raleigh for the 1st time in April.  Oh. My. Goodness.  I drooled over the elfa (“Everything Can Be Organized”) Storage System.  It can be custom-designed for closets, pantries, drawers, and offices.  I bought a few (cheap, not elfa) boxes and containers for my office shelves and drawers.  What’s the best way to use them?  Some (not all) are still in the bag behind the closet door.

Perfectionism–>Procrastination–>Paralysis

My husband has very little patience with people who put things off.  That’s not his way.  One way he deals with stress is to reorganize the garage.  He used to do the same thing to his office.  He retired 2 years ago.

Now it’s my kitchen.  I organized my kitchen 20 years ago.  Cooking tools always lived in the same place and I didn’t have to think much to cook.  Now, like a stupid cartoon, we fight over where my casseroles and pot lids are and whether I ever actually use loaf pans (“I might”, I say.)  Random items completely vanish.  I am not in control.

I’m really afraid he will go to my office next.