Explaining my Absence and Teaching

My first year of teaching, I remember talking with a veteran teacher.

He taught French, and had done so for about 12 years.

I was fresh out of my education program and in my third month of teaching Spanish.

He recalled how he LOVED art, but that he had given it up so that he could be a better teacher.

I didn’t say anything at the time, feeling rather incredulous that he could do such a thing, but though it wise to keep my opinions to myself. ‘You need a hobby’ was my first thought. My second thought was, ‘I can’t imagine my life without painting and being creative.’

And over the next six years, I constantly painted and indulged my creative fantasies. In 2009 I even got an art studio in downtown Marshall, NC. (Don’t get too excited there: Marshall is a town of, like, 700 people.)

Slowly, I pieced together art shows and exhibitions.

At one point I thought, “my teaching is interfering with my life.”

I started looking for ways to do anything BUT teach: more painting, more crafting, more drawing. And in 2011, I added writing to my repertoire of creative things to do and, by default, photography.

Eventually, I would leave the classroom so that I could pursue my creative dreams and fantasies. Money be damned. Reason be damned. I had a passion and a vision, dammit.

But…something happened.

Something that I never anticipated.

I guess you have to experience life – it’s ups, it’s downs – to learn to understand yourself and learn to understand what it is about YOU that makes it worthwhile to get up in the mornings.

a farm in Kansas

A black and white photo of a farm in Kansas. The focus is on the fence…and a very fitting, symbolic image that I snapped a few weeks ago….

When I was working for myself: blogging and writing and painting and – gasp – photographing, it was like I was flittering from one creative thing to the next. I wasn’t interacting with people, other than my online friends (who are VERY real and VERY awesome)…but my point is that I wasn’t interacting in my community and forging human relationships that involved conversations over stale beer and greasy french fries.

No, I was climbing the four walls of my house in a desperate attempt to define my life and come to terms with who I thought I was and who I wanted to be.

And, I had to jump off a cliff to find out, you know?

Many of you know this journey: me leaving the classroom and eventually finding my way back.

When I found my way back: part time, teaching Spanish again, it was like I was finally putting pieces to a 1,000-piece puzzle together. I was still missing a few of those elusive pieces, though. Like they had fallen under the table and rolled underneath the nearest couch.

Which brings me to why I haven’t written. Ironic, no? Puzzles…couches…why I’m not writing….

I’m coming to terms with the fact that I had to “try it all” to figure out I can’t do it all. I can’t write and photograph and paint and still be present to my life’s calling: to help people via teaching.

I had to learn that the hard way. I had to go through a labyrinth of doing this and that and having NO focus to finally, finally grabbing my magnifying glass and while looking through, using the light to focus.

It was like my heart KNEW the whole time what it wanted to do. With every blog post I wrote, with every painting I stroked, with every snap of my trusty camera, my heart was, as yet, incomplete.

But it had been burned so badly before. The one-size-fits all of working in a public school, for the state, for the country…a labor of love that grabbed my heart and squeezed until it could bleed no more….

That was before I found the ideal situation, you know? I’m not a “big, public school” kind of person. It came down to finding an atmosphere that was small, liberating, intimate…and giving me the ability to fly.

I still denied it, though. I was mad that I was back in the classroom. I wanted art and writing and insert-creative-endeavor-X here to work. TO REALLY WORK.

All the while, I enrolled in a Master’s program for Spanish. Yet, I was still scheduled for an art show a month later.

I talked to my husband about tutoring and volunteering in my local Latino community to help moms and dads navigate the school system, the medical system, the whatever system that didn’t speak any Spanish and I could translate and feel the joy in opening someone’s world to help them become contributing citizens who could know if they were ever being exploited for their work and lack of English…I kept idealizing these things and had yet to acknowledge that I needed to do them.

To be sure, this blog isn’t going anywhere. I will always need a creative outlet. It’s just that so much of my life is focused on the acknowledgement that, perhaps, a life of teaching chose me (and my heart knew it all along) and I’m trying to answer that call.

I’m doing a lot more tutoring now and still teaching while I finish my graduate work.

Eight years in the classroom and counting….

So, dear readers, if you don’t see me as much, it’s not because I don’t care about the amazing friendships I forged during my tenure as a full-time blogger, writer…creative.

It’s because I have little kids who deserve a teacher that is present to them. It’s because I have a need to be out in my community, interacting and spreading love and cultural understanding.

It’s because I’m over at my Spanish website updating from time to time.

And when I need my creative outlet? I’ll be here. Just not like I had been. I’ll check my friends’ blogs from time to time and though I might not always comment or even interact, I’m proud of all my friends who continue to write and inspire. And some people are TRULY called to write and inspire: they’d do the world a disservice by NOT doing that. So it is with my teaching and tutoring: I must acknowledge that I have to focus on what I’m doing and be present to it.

Perhaps there will come a day when I will spend more time on my Pictimilitude site here…but for the next little while, dear readers, I can’t be here quite as much.

I’m sending everyone *massive hugs* as Lizzi likes to say. White light. Love. Peace. Joy. Health. Happiness. And a true abundance.

And may you come across your own magnifying glass that allows you to focus all the energies, all your talents and tenacity to answering the call for who YOU are supposed to be for and in the world. Because it DOES take all kinds.

Wonderful Wednesday: Winter Images of Nature

old barn

Icy barn

 

icicle leaf

A frozen leaf with tiny, tiny icicles

 

curled up icicle crunchy leaf

Curled up frozen leaf

On a slightly wordy note: these images are from near my house. It had frosted and everything had a white sheen. I saw it as an opportunity to create with photos.

 

 

Ten Things of Thankful: Fabulous Blogs and Awards

The Sisterhood of the World Blogger Award

I’m sitting here on this Sunday morning sipping my tea and just carving out time to write this post. For a week, I’ve been wanting to do this but with it being the end of the semester, I had some papers to write and some holiday events to attend. Only one final presentation next week and I’m finished. Then, I only have three graduate courses left. I can see the light.

Speaking of light, do you ever think about how many people light up your life? I know many. But I’m going to highlight one for a moment: Sue Dreamwalker. If you haven’t been to her blog, you should really take a look. It’s like going to a spiritual revival, replete with wisdom and spiritual teachings and love. It’s my kind of blog and one that I hope to aspire to.

Last week she bestowed upon me a most lovely gift: The Sisterhood of the World Bloggers Award. Wouldn’t you know, I love the name. Because now I feel connected with amazing hearts all over the world. I also love how she likens the award to the Divine Feminine. Something I have thought much about in my adult life.

sisterh_thumb

I just feel the love! In a feminine-sisterhood kind of way.

And I’m going to bend the rules a little bit. As my “10 Things of Thankful” post, I want to highlight 10 blogs for which I’m thankful and pass this award on to them at the same time.

I love being snarky like that. Rule-bending without feeling guilty. *devious grin*

What To Do:

You’re supposed to highlight the blogger that gave the award, then answer 10 questions and then pass it on to ten other sisters and display the award on your post. So here goes.

The 10 Questions:

1. Your favorite color: I think that since I work at a school called Rainbow,  and I love all colors, I’m just going to say the Rainbow. All the colors. That combine on a prism to create white light. White light. Yes.

2. Your favorite animal …All the fuzzy-wuzzy ones: cats, dogs, bunnies, even opossums. I love all animals, but the less cuddly ones like snakes don’t always get my attention.

3. Your favorite non-alcoholic drink …. Tea. Hands down. I love collecting wild weeds from my yard to make tea: mint, red clover, even plantain. But I love to drink just about any kind of tea: herbal, black, white, oolong, green…yummy!

4. Facebook or Twitter ….. both. I think I have Facebook down pat and fully acknowledge it’s more of a time suck than anything else. I’m still learning Twitter.

5. Your favorite pattern …..The labyrinth. Because of its symbolism and healing.

6. Do you prefer getting or giving presents? Giving of course. I always can do more giving.

7. Your favorite number …..2 and 7. Two because it’s better than one. Seven because it’s my lifepath number.

8. Your favorite day of the week …. Every day I get to enjoy the blessings of the earth.

9. Your favorite flower …. The daisy. It’s simple, bright and beautiful.

10. What is your passion? …. Writing, teaching, blogging, learning, drawing, photographing, cooking, hiking…oops, was I supposed to only say one?

And now, to blogs that have touched my life:

Considerings - Lizzi’s thoughts. An amazing read every time. Her words of wisdom touch your heart and tap into that emotion that so characterizes us as human.

Another Jennifer - Jennifer’s wise words. One that inspires me to give more, to be more philanthropic and spread the love.

Girlie on the Edge - A fellow Clark. I love her words, insights and thoughts. They so often echo my own.

Confessions of a Mommyaholic - Janine. A faithful commenter on my blog and always a friend.

Everything Susan - A warrior. A special person who looks at life right in the eyes and tells it like it is.

PenPaperPad - A poetic goddess. Her words can take even the most mundane subject and make it seem eloquent.

Semblance of Spanish America - Joan. Bridging culture and language. I must go to Chile one day soon.

Poetic Parfait - Poetic bliss. Christy’s poems are at once striking and powerful. I am always awed.

Writing a River - Yvonne. My friend across the pond who inspires me to write – more and better.

Adorable Chaos - Amy. She’s the kind of person that walks in the Light.

If you’re interested in joining this blog hop, check this out:

PS – I also continue to write for YeRoWriteO – I’m just not talking about it much. I’ll tell you why in an upcoming post.

Ten Things of Thankful – The Pets Edition

If you know me at all, you’ll know I’m a dog and cat lover.

This weekend, a friend of ours is out of town, so we’re dog sitting. I’ve had so many laughs and giggles that have come out of the fact that when you bring another pet into the home, it’s such a change in routine for the other critters and I just had to add some commentary to some of the images I’ve captured with our new house guest.

It’s also the weekly Ten Things of Thankful Blog Hop. If you haven’t joined in the fun, you don’t know what you’re missing. As for me, I decided to change it up a bit this week.

Ten Things of Thankful

 

This is supposed to be a post about gratitude, let’s just say that each photo and entry has made me giggle with glee, and I’m thankful ten times over.

vinny plott hound

Vinny

This is what Vinny looks like on a normal day. I work at the computer, he takes over the couch. He thinks he’s alpha dog. That might be true…alpha dog of the kitties in the house. Or something like that.

girl and boy dog

Auggie and Vinny

On Friday when we picked up Auggie, Vinny had no idea what was coming. You see, she’s a girl-dog and she’s older. She wasn’t taking any crap from Vinny the ten month old pup, either. In fact, she took over his couch. And he’s not getting it back til Tuesday. At first, Vinny didn’t know what to think…

two hound dogs

Vinny and Auggie

But then, he fell in love. Anything Auggie does, he does. If she walks, he walks. If she sits, he sits. If she lays down, he lays down. He kind of likes to sniff her a lot, too…But in the same way you don’t want to be harassed by a guy you barely know, Auggie will bark at him, “BACK OFF, DUDE!” And he does. He pretends like he’s asleep.

mixed breed doggie

Auggie

And Auggie enjoys her new status as Queenie of the House.

Pepe

Pepe

Pepe didn’t know about our new arrival. He comes bounding up the stairs precisely at mealtime.

Pepe the cat

Pepe

He came running so fast that when we opened the door, he ran inside before realizing there was a new dog in the house. And he was all like, “aww, no! What the hell is this?”

But then, he realized she was cool. Cool Auggie.

Ralphie

Ralphie

Pepe thought she was so cool he was like, “RALLLLPHHIEEE! Come on, dude. It’s all right. Don’t sit there all huddled up in the cold!”

grey tabby cat

Ralphie

But Ralphie looked back at Pepe and GLARED at him. “I TRIED to tell you there was a new dog in there!”

To which Pepe replied, “But did you hear the part about where she’s cool?”

To which Ralphie said, “Yeah, but I’m going to try to catch that squirrel,” and ran off.

In the end, everybody’s psyched at our temporary new addition. Most of all, Vinny.

 

hounds in the house

Dogs enjoying the couch

As for me? I think I need another couch. Or the floor. The floor is always good. You know, since I don’t have the heart to move these guys.

Thankfulness and Inspiration

Tomorrow is the official US holiday of Thanksgiving.

I’ve seen lots of gratitude around the blogosphere and even on Facebook. That’s cool.

My only wish is that this outpouring of conscious gratitude continues throughout the year. Of course, The Considerer could be a really great help with that with her weekend blog hop and all.

Two things (I originally wrote “things” as “thinks”- why don’t we call them thinks? Anyways…) that are on my mind: a Thanksgiving poem and Writing Inspiration.

Before I start, I just wanted to say that I’m thankful for snow. In the past seven years I have lived here in western North Carolina, it has never snowed the day before Thanksgiving. I hope all travelers remain safe, but…it’s our first real snow and I think it’s Mother Nature’s way of making us stay close to home and celebrate the real reason for tomorrow: Gratitude.

snow

I’m thankful for the snow. This photo is taken right from my doorstep this morning.

 

The Thanksgiving Poem

A few years ago…oh, who am I kidding? ‘Twas nearly ten years ago, I was working at a bookstore. I bought a book by Garrison Keillor called Good Poems. I loved it. I always would thumb through it looking for the perfect poem for special occasions. Alas, I could never find one that fit perfectly for Thanksgiving.

Lucky for me, I would be taking a Spanish poetry class right about the same time that simultaneously opened my eyes to poetry, in general. I had taken a regular poetry class earlier in my undergrad career and it left a bad taste in my mouth. Despite that, I discovered I loved it….

Since then, I had always wanted to pen a poem for Thanksgiving. I had always been too scared. But, I’m having Thanksgiving dinner with my in-laws on Thursday and perhaps this year I will have written a satisfactory poem to read at the dinner table.

There’s that part of my heart that just isn’t scared anymore. It just wants to let the words out.

So here’s my poem. As I type this – in this moment – I have no idea what I’m going to write. I figure stream-of-consciousness gets as close to raw emotion as we can get – and perfectly imperfect.

So here goes….

Wish me luck.

 

Gathered here, with loved ones and beating hearts

We pause to remember those who are here now and those who are watching over us.

The sweet scent of cranberry and the classic roasted turkey drizzles my eyes with glee,

A legacy belonging to the Six Nations,

A League of our Native Forefathers

Sitting at the table with Ones from Europe.

The experience of harmony, of song and bliss,

Freshly baked food and cheerful laughter,

Create waves of glee so that

We celebrate a hope of unity even centuries later.

With the foods that fill our bellies,

Til they swell round and plump,

Satiated with gravy and fruits of harvest,

We bow in reverence for our blessings.

In good times and in bad, 

We take a moment to pause,

And remember that life gives us happiness and struggle,

So that we can aspire to be the best humans and stewards

Charged with caring for the earth and for each other,

Lifting one another up in spirit and in solidarity

For now and all posterity.

My second thought? It’s about writing, but now I think I’ll leave that for later.

For now, I just want my thoughts to linger on being thankful.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Gratitude: The Literary Version (Not Literal)

Gosh, that Ten Things of Thankful Blog Hop is hop-hop-hoppin along.

Ten Things of Thankful

 

I’m going to save talking about pilgrims and corn and pumpkin and spice until the actual day of Thanksgiving over here.

What’d you expect? I’m a clark. I don’t generally follow rules very well.

But I pretend to.

You know, I was always that good student, the people pleaser.

As I get older, I’m finding that I buck the rules more and more. Even in – GASP! – grad school. I love school and all, love the research, but I’ll let you in on a little secret: I’m not aiming to be at the top of my class. I already did that a couple times before. This time I just want the piece of paper and it doesn’t matter the GPA attached to it.

See below for the reasons why.

On to the reason for this post: what I’m grateful for.

I’m supposed to list ten things. Yes, well…we’ll see how that goes.

 

1. I am thankful for poetry.

I’ve not flexed this muscle in my brain before. Ever since I went to see the Cuban poet José Kozer, I’ve been hooked.

Maybe I’m just coming into myself.

Here, I wrote you a poem:

 

The light catches her back

As she walks with her head held high.

Her clothes are shiny, taught and silver

Like a knightess, walking in the sky.

 

Her horse is her spirit,

Bucking all that is bad,

Her hair wraps the wind in its sheath,

Her life best-lived as a nomad.

 

Her battles are mental and physical,

As the forces of good unite

She bravely fights for the downtrodden-

She is a Warrior of Light.

 

Eh…a poem inspired by two things: I was talking about glitter over at Lizzi’s blog and Sue Dreamwalker called me a Warrior of Light. I admit, I didn’t put as much thought as I should have into this poem and it probably doesn’t make sense, but I was in a rhyming mood (I NEVER do that!) and I hope it doesn’t sound dense.

 

2. I’m grateful for blogging.

You know, I’m not doing this blogging thing for money.

Yeah, I have some stupid ads up for the errant clicker who might throw me a penny or two.

But it’s more because I’ve met some of the COOLEST people in the WORLD through blogging and writing. And now, I’m an addict and I lose sleep over it.

See, I have lesson plans and coursework always to do.

But, to interact in the blog world is something unto itself. They call it “cyber” or “virtual” but I call it making the world smaller and spreading inspiration and goodwill for a better tomorrow.

And if this blogging thing inspires a book or two or ten…I am a contented soul and glad then.

(Sorry…I’m finding out that starting a post with a poem makes me prone to writing everything else in some convoluted form of moronic freeverse.)

 

3. Enough food.

I know that’s a pretty basic one. But, I get some sort of sick high when I go to the grocery store, take advantage of the sales and save a lot of money all without coupon clipping. I’m just going to show you the receipt from yesterday. I found a coupon while I was at the store. Otherwise, the Thanksgiving sales are awesome!

 

grocery receipt

I saved $89 off my $132 grocery bill.

And really, I enjoyed a new crockpot soup recipe, some fabulous dessert and a wonderful movie last night. A perfect, PERFECT end to my Friday.

 

4. Having focus.

Anyone who’s followed this blog for awhile probably knows that focus isn’t one of my strongpoints.

Or maybe it is, but that I have way too many interests to focus on just one thing.

I’ve been working on that.

See, I’ve been having a dilemma. I love where I work, but I’m only part time there (though, as any teacher will tell you, teaching part time is really like working full time and getting paid part time – I’m at school every day except Friday!) and I’m otherwise taking graduate courses. When I finish grad school, though, I’ll be out in the “real world” (what the hell IS that anyways…I’m a in cyber-one here and it seems real….) and I’ll have debts to pay for the privilege of attending school.

Part time work a’int gonna cut it.

I’m having to figure out what it is that I really want to do. Yes, there’s the teaching element. And I love to write.

Through meditation and really digging deep to see what it is I love, I’m thinking that I need to explore two concepts to a much GREATER degree: writing seriously as a career (I thought I was doing that, but my standard of living doesn’t agree) and tutoring students individually.

I am a good teacher. Scratch that, I am a great teacher.

I’m not pulling the arrogant card here. If there’s anyone out there who thinks they’re good at what they do, you’ll know they’re really good when they tell you (and show you) that there’s always room for improvement and always room for learning.

This would be why I was at FIVE workshops last week.

You’re probably thinking, boy, she’s meandering a lot with this post.

You’d be right…or write…or rite.

FOCUS.

 

5. I’m thankful I’m halfway through this because I’m getting downright verbose.

6. Libraries.

They are the best invention, ever.

I realize a geek, dork, nerd – pick your favorite – is probably the only kind of person who’s willing to admit that, but…

As I said on my Facebook page: I have 14 checked out from my local library.

library books

These are just a sampling of the books I have checked out from the library.n 

I found out THIS morning that through the University where I’m attending school, I can check out books long term. They’ll even freaking MAIL THEM TO YOU if you’re a distance-ed student like me.

THAT’S GREAT!

Why? Because I’m doing a lot of research for my YeRo novel. And I wasn’t exactly thrilled at the possibility of having to buy a bunch of Amazon books.

Don’t get me wrong: Amazon is great. But…when you’re doing research, it’s nice to borrow the book and then return it later. For, you know, when you’re not doing research anymore.

 

7. Oreo Cookies.

They’re so bad for you. But they taste good.

Taste wins. Got milk?

cookies

I love me some Oreos.

 

8. My YeRoWriteO Novel.

Oh my god. I’m enjoying this. It’s like for at least an hour a day, I fly into an ancient world of serpents and jaguars, hieroglyphs and magic.

This is why I’m not trying to be the best grad student that ever graduated. Nobody will see my GPA. A lot of people might see my novel, though.

If you’re interested, sign up for the newsletter AND/OR join the Facebook Group.

 

9. Caramel ice cream with chocolate. And apple dump cake dessert.

apple dump cake recipe

Missolive’s Apple Dumpcake.
OMG. It’s so decadent, I feel like someone rolled me in caramel.

If anyone knows how to change my genetic code to get rid of my sweet tooth, I’ll give you 1,000,000 fake dollars.

 

10. Fall. Autumn. This time of year.

Because the colors are spectacular. And they make for fabulous picture-taking:

gold leaf

A crispy leaf to go with my autumn.

Yeah, I edited it with Be Funky. That’s another thing I’m thankful for. Is that #11? Oops.

 

 

A Poem: A Day in the Life

You may know I’m attempting to write a novel, YeRoWriteO style.

And it’s funny because during the course of a day, I must have 100,000 thoughts synapse through my mind – related to what I’m writing, my teaching, the Spanish-speaking world, tutoring, animals, whatever.

I thought it would be fun to string together another one of those stream-of-consciousness poems as a reflection.

Can I just say that I’m having a lot of fun with poetry right now? I never, ever really entertained it as an outlet for writing, but I’m just having so much fun playing with images.

cool autumn

Crispy autumn air

A Day in the Life

Mantras and Theta waves

First thing in the morning.

Then on to a world of serpents and jaguars.

I’m imbibed with a song of pure focus.

From there it’s “Hola, ¿Cómo estás? and

Frases completas, por favor.

 

I think about where I want to be

And what I want to become,

Trying my hardest to heed the words of the Lama:

Living in the present is

Hardest for some.

 

I try not to beat myself up too much,

But still, there’s that little voice ranting,

“Come on, squeeze one more thing in!”

And curses to society for its

Puritanical pushing, groveling -

My mind snaps as a ruler lands on my hand.

 

Forget about it, on to wholesome foods,

Hot orange spice tea and frijoles served up with

Tortillas, warmed over cast iron,

The crunchy autumn air covers me up:

Fleece, scarf and a wool knit hat, too.

 

At the end of the day, tired and spent,

I sleep next to my love.

A cat jumps up to warm my head,

I snuggle for warmth and dream big dreams,

My face, in the darkness, relaxes into a smile

A look of sweet content.

 

And this, my friends, is a day in my life.

 

I’m also linking up with Katherine’s Corner – Thursday Favorite Things Blog Hop

 

 

A Poem: Greed and Sticky Ticky Tacky

So…I’ve been doing a lot of thinking. I’m going to let the poem explain my thinking.

See, though, I go around the blogosphere and see some amazingly crafted poems with amazing meter and rhyme, I’ve never been that great at poetry. I promise it’s not a “put myself down” sort of thing. I just never really wanted much to do with it after a poetry professor said I was clueless.

Funny how sometimes we give others power over us like that, isn’t it?

This poem is about power. And what it can do if you abuse it.

The freeverse thing is what calls to me – no rhymes, meter, rhythm. It’s just what pours out in a stream-of-consciousness style. That, I kind of like.

And…I haven’t thought about this beforehand. In fact, I apologize ahead of time if it seems like one, big “venting” process…

barefoot we are the same

A photo I took last summer at the beach…and a powerful reminder that we are the same…

 

We Are the Same, You and I

You said you wanted to help people,

You with your marketing and fancy schmancy books and stuff.

But you created an empire.

And it perpetuates the sin of greed.

You call it giving.

And yet, you pretend that money

Isn’t only an idea.

Did you ever talk to the Chief?

He said that only when the last tree is cut,

You’ll realize money doesn’t grow on trees.

You’ll realize that you’ve looked out for #1

And barefoot #100

Only has pity on you.

You with your big house and fancy car.

The way you pull your pants up and put your shoes on

Is the same as me, you see.

We are the same,

You with your patent leather shoes,

And me with my dollar store flip flops.

What’s not the same

Is that inner layer

Flowing through you.

It’s tar. The color of sticky ticky tacky.

Have you ever met Tiny Tim?

Tar wasn’t in his vocabulary.

No, that inner layer was golden.

It flowed, collected like glitter

Swelling with

Goodwill and hope.

Tar is attractive:

Little bugs land in it

And die.

The golden layer is different.

Like bees to honey,

Bugs land and thrive.

Don’t you think it’s time to change

Before your whole world

Becomes dark?

Where not even light can escape the ticky tacky.

And then…

And then,

The Difference between you and me

Is great indeed.

 

Ten Things of Thankful: Thoughts on Integrity

It’s another weekend and I have much to be thankful for.

This post is part of the Ten Things of Thankful blog hop. Yippee!

Ten Things of Thankful

 

This should be an interesting post only because I’ve had some recent experiences that have made me hot under the collar. Or in my case, my scarf:

wearing a knit scarf

Yeah, I wear scarves a lot in the winter months…

 

1. I’m thankful for unscrupulous people. Why? Because they teach me ALL ABOUT who I NEVER want to be. I say that because I encountered someone like that recently. This person tried to get me to spend money to take business classes. And guess what? They’re Multi-Level Marketing classes. The kind that purportedly say, “oh, you’re going to help people by getting them out of financial trouble.” Nuh-uh. It’s called “preying upon the ignorant.” Once I realized what was going on, let me tell you how I walked out of that cussing and not displaying very lady-like tendencies.

2. I’m thankful for REAL school. It’s not easy balancing school-school, work-school (teaching) family life, and my hobbies, but I can say that I’m trying to better myself. I have ALWAYS believed in education. I always will. It sets you free. It might not always work in the way you think it will. But education – whether in school or unschooled - is really priceless.

We Are All Part of an Intricately Woven Web of a Planet…

3. I’m so thankful I have a good heart. Now, I’m not saying that to brag. But, it frankly pisses me off that there are people who think they are better than you, or anyone else. They’re NOT. They’re NOT. And for the last time, THEY’RE NOT! The people who stand to get screwed over the most in this world are the poor and others who are marginalized. I don’t always have the time or resources to be the champion of the poor, but I can tell you that the plight of peoples’ suffering is never far from my heart and mind.

And while we’re in this line of thought, can we just take a moment and send up good thoughts or prayers for the people in the Philippines? Can we keep those who are less fortunate in our thoughts and hearts because a life in poverty is so hard? So hard.

Did you hear about the homeless girl at Aquinas College in Michigan who raised money via Change.org to keep the dorms open during Winter Break? I had never even thought about something like that until I saw her petition. She got enough signatures, too. She will have a place to stay for Christmas break 2013.

4. Related to #3 above, I’m thankful I learned a powerful lesson the day my mother let a homeless dude from Mexico stay with my family. She’d found him where she attended church; he’d been there for days. But, I learned that people, when they’re at their best, can help elevate others to be better than they ever thought they could be. My mom did just that. She took that man and helped him go from homeless to a legal citizen of the US, able to bring his family and get them all situated, too. The human spirit is more than material things, the number in your bank account and status in society.

It’s about taking care of each other, our friends, families and even strangers. It’s about taking care of the planet and not cutting down every tree for profit. 

5. I’m thankful to all the people still reading this. I realize I’m on a bit of a soapbox. I don’t mean to be. But when I see people getting taken advantage of, I just get pissed off.

6. I’m thankful for an extremely supportive, open-minded, gentle, intelligent, and level-headed husband. Can I begin to tell you how supportive he is? I hereby grant him the award of Husband of the Year. The man never sits. On a day off, he’s chopping wood, over at his mom’s mowing the lawn, helping a friend, working on his own side business, working on our house, and otherwise doing something good for humanity. I found a golden human heart when I met my husby. I cherish him every day. He is a model of integrity.

 

Vinny the dog

My little Vinny dog. Okay, he’s not so little, but his sensitivity to emotions makes me want to give him lots of hugs.

7. My sweet, sensitive Vinny. I’ve talked about him before, but this dog has really captured my heart. I can’t believe how different his personality is from Hash Brown.

labyrinth

My little labyrinth: a sign of a person on a journey, searching for truth; it’s also a symbol of the feminine.

He’s quirky. He doesn’t come when called – and I’ve worked and worked with him on this – but he is so sensitive that if I’m ever upset about something, he gets upset, too. He hides his head under the bed, or otherwise mopes around with his tail between his legs. He won’t cheer up until I call him over (he does come when I call him then) and give him a hug. He gets this look on his face like I’ve given him 20 Milk Bones.

8. The truth. There’s a saying:

Ye shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free.

9. Labyrinths. I need to walk one. Have you ever done that? I haven’t, actually. But, their symbolism just captures my soul. Seriously.

10. Writing. In the form of this blog. YeRoWriteO. Articles. Books. Good stuff. Oh my.

What I’ve Become

I’m not sure what this post is about. Only that I felt like writing a blog post because I like to write.

You’ll have to forgive me if this post is completely random, goes off on some tangential plane so steep that a geometry whiz could make a formula out of it, or if it reads like some mishmash of a poem better suited for the deep insides of a paper journal, never to be seen by human eyes other than my own.

Too late.

I mean, I still want to write about things on this blog other than “writing,” of course, but I gotta tell ya, ever since starting this whole YeRoWriteO thing, I feel like I have some focus.

As much focus as I can possibly have…for a clark. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, for the love of god, please go see the Wakefield Doctrine and study up. For the record, you’re probably a clark if you stick around over there and dig through the archives, desperately waiting for the text to reveal  your personality type. Just sayin’.

Anyways, back to focus.

You see, I still wonder what I want to be when I grow up.

But what if “when I grow up” is really a convergence of a million tiny little things that add up to what I do right now?

Let’s see. I teach Spanish. I learned the language in full when I was in my late teens/early 20s. I still feel like I speak it like an idiot compared to a native speaker and that bugs me. And I’m almost finished with a master’s degree in it. That’s all good and well, but I can’t ever see myself going back to teaching full time. I just…can’t. So, in the end, I’m not sure how this degree is going to tie in with my other fetishes.

I am an artist. I like to paint, draw, do crafts. The result is often this explosion of color, as if I emerged from only a black and white version of my world in a past life.

azaleas

I’m especially addicted to photographing nature.

I dabble in photography, too. Snapping a photo, for me, is similar to painting on canvas, only it’s done digitally, without a brush. It’s still an artistic endeavor, though. I just paint with a lens. Does that make sense?

But I was thinking the other day about a specific date: November 29, 2011.

It was the day I signed up for HubPages.

Because I thought that maybe writing an article or two sounded nice.

I had no idea it would change everything: that I’d inadvertently charted a course for myself that changed the space-time continuum that is my life.

After writing over 100 articles there, I branched out to blogging (and a whole host of unsuccessful blogs. Pfft. What the hell defines success anyways?). This after years of journaling.

And then…NaNoWriMo came up and I thought I might write a book.

And I shelved it, like some dogged piece of meat that is better left to rot. Maybe not, but I liked my use of “simile” there in the preceding sentence.

But it leads to me YeRoWriteO. A novel in a year.

I have no idea what I’m getting into. But for now, I want to write more than anything. 

I look forward to my early morning date with my computer and these crazy characters that are burgeoning forth, hacking their way not only into my novel, but into the deep, dark recesses of my mind.

Perhaps the fact that I’m using a lot of the research I naturally know from my anthropology and Spanish backgrounds as a huge segway into this new novel. That is perhaps where I’ll finally say, “this is it. Now it has all come together.”

I was telling some friends that I’m researching the Aztec pantheon as part of this novel. I already know a lot – heck, I sold a painting of Quetzalcoatl a few years ago – and I’ve always been a little obsessed with the Aztecs, Incas and Mayas. Even as early as 7th grade when my teacher had us do research projects and of course I spent over 24 hours reproducing my artistic interpretation of a geometrically designed pancho in the style of the Incas, in addition to writing the paper. Or the fact that I had to pick a Central American country to research – El Salvador – in 5th grade because I already knew I loved the idea of studying a Spanish-speaking culture in the Americas.

But, what have I become? I’m not sure on that one.

I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to answer that question. I only know I came to this writing game kind of late and it feels like a spiritual awakening. 

What are you? Have you found your calling?

 

 

Cuban Poet José Kozer

For my recent Sociolinguistics class, I was “required” to go see the poet José Kozer as part of my graduate course.

I didn’t really know what to expect, other than having an interest in possibly hearing some Spanish poetry.

Right up until I got there, though, I admit I wasn’t quite that excited: a 2.5 hour long class, and I had a four-hour round-trip commute. I had a little bit of an attitude.

Chill out, Cyndi Lou Who.

Meeting José Kozer

The guy was awesome!

Jose Kozer

Jose Kozer lecturing and reading poetry at Appalachian State University

He would get up early to write – over 9,000 poems – and made it a point to write at the same time every single day.

He read a poem he’d written that morning: Espaldas - about sitting on the bed, his back to his wife and knowing.

He never knew what he was going to write, though. It just “happened.”

He was sort of funny to those asking questions, especially if the person wasn’t direct:  ”Give it up…you’re digging yourself deeper,” he said to one guy.

He talked about immigrating from Cuba to New York. When most people were going to Miami back in the late 50s and early 60s, he knew that would be the ‘death’ of him. So, he listened to his instincts and went to New York. He never looked back and built a brilliant teaching and writing career.

He made the argument that we’re all in exile. It’s not a bad thing. We’re not the same from when we grew up, even if we live in the same place we grew up.

 I walked out of there rather inspired. I secretly enjoy Spanish poetry more than I like English poetry – and though English is my native language, I find that there are some words in Spanish that just encompass a feeling or a meaning so much better than words in English. They don’t call Spanish a romance language for nothing.

Jose Kozer

Kozer talks to students after the lecture

But, it’s moments like this that validate my own habits and dreams:

  • writing early in the morning
  • not defining himself as a poet, but as a teacher, user of words, anything but a poet (yeah, for a long time I didn’t identify myself as a writer, and it’s still weird to say)
  • I’m in exhile: I’ve transplanted myself from the southwestern US to the South.
  • I listen to my instincts.
  • There was one difference: he was of the age where you get to say what you want and not care how other people take it. Like when he told the guy he was digging a hole. I don’t quite have that capability, yet. :)
Un caso llamado FK

The book from which Kozer read.

The point is, it’s really good to get out to meet and hear other writers. You get a feel for their “process” and you connect with like-minded people. Though I’m not calling myself a poet, yet.

I’m more of a…novelist? Check out YeRoWriteO.

YeRoWriteO Update

plain white notecards

I use notecards like I take cups of tea: I’m often at the store buying new packs of both. These cards are notes from my current YeRoWriteO project. I’m doing a lot more research than writing, but once I have all the information I need, I’ll be armed and ready to crank out lots more words.

You people.

You people inspire me.

You people have gone and done the unexpected.

I had no idea I was going to get anyone to sign up for YeRoWriteO, let alone a bunch of you.

My cockamamie idea; a moment of “I wonder.”

The result is that I am going to tweak things – especially as I learn to manage YeRoWriteO and create a supportive atmosphere for fellow writers. Because this is a great problem to have. 

Will You Give Me Some Feedback?

I’m considering that instead of people telling me they want to do it in the form of comments, I create a newsletter and people can subscribe to it if they want do to the YeRoWriteO Challenge. That way, the people who really want to do it can get updates, writing tips, support group information, and ideas for staying on with the challenge.

What do you think?

Another idea I’m considering is creating a YeRoWriteO group on either Facebook or G+.

Would you like a supportive forum where you can ask questions? Which platform? Facebook or G+? Or both?

I’ll even admit that at the time of this writing, I’m slightly behind. I had a class last night in the college town of Boone, NC. It’s two hours from where I live. So, after a day of teaching, I drove to class, went to the lecture, and then got back home around 10:30 pm. Needless to say, it was tough to wake up this morning – and I didn’t do my writing before I had to dash off to school to do a Day of the Dead Celebration and a full day of meetings. (But as I update this post, I really did catch up from everything. And I still managed to get in my one hour every day. It was not so easy.)

Come hell or high water, I will get it done. Even if it means I go to bed at 1 am. Though I really hope that doesn’t happen: I do my best writing in the morning, actually.

But that’s it, isn’t it? That’s part of the deep commitment of YeRoWriteO – writing or otherwise working on that novel no matter what happens. I’m thinking of it like showering. I must have a daily shower. I must have time to write. 

I suspect that for many of you, the challenges will be equally difficult: perhaps you have a full time job. Perhaps you have family commitments. Perhaps you’re a little nuts like I am and you’re a student, working, and juggling family obligations.

But, I promise you, at the end of this challenge, making a commitment to a daily writing regimen will pay off in dividends: you’ll have a book that’s ready to go to a publisher! That’s huge!

I was inspired last evening by the Cuban poet José Kozer. As part of my graduate class, we attended a poetry reading and Q&A with him. I’ll write about him more in an upcoming post, but he reminded me of Jack London.

Jack London committed to writing every single day. He made it an absolute requirement to write 1,000 to 1,500 words per day.

Now, YeRoWriteO doesn’t have that requirement – just that you spend one hour writing, researching, or otherwise advancing your work.

However, with that one commitment, London wrote book after book.

Just for fun, check out this link about the habits of writers. Some are “slow” and others are fast – did you see the Greek dude who wrote 3,500 books!??? – but all wrote. Every. Single. Day.

On those harder days, I might just be that “slower” writer and get 300 words in. That’s still 90,000 words after 300 days! That’s good because I want to challenge myself at different points of this journey to write thousands in a day.

So let me know what you’d prefer: subscribing to a newsletter, and using Facebook, G+, etc. Pretty please? With a figurative cherry and a literary French vanilla ice cream scoop?

Your collective wishes are at my command.

And now, I must go write.

YeRoWriteO

YeRoWriteO

NaNoWriMo

November is National Novel Writing Month. But, if you are participating, or if you have done it in the past, you might have concluded that it’s too much, too fast.

As least, I admit that.

Last year when I participated, I finished with 57,000 words. Not edited. A skeleton of a story. And I was not happy about the idea of editing such a mess of words. It felt like they were all tangled in a literary fish wire and it was going to take a strong pair of scissors to cut out the knots. There might have been some usable pieces, but it was better just to start over, you know?

But that’s the thing. It killed me not being able to edit and think. My brain processes things on a very holistic level: I live the story. I feel the story. It percolates through my subconscious mind. If I can’t digest and munch on my writing, it’s no good. Raw, undigested material is rarely good.

I should have learned when I wrote my anthropology thesis for my undergrad degree. 120 pages in three weeks.

Brutal.

And my professor dinged the hell out of me for shoddy writing.

It was the best I could do.

That last week, I was hallucinating from doing around three all-nighters. It was a culmination of a year’s worth of work, tape recordings, human review boards, interviews, transcriptions, and book after book of research. And I had a month to put it all together.  That was a rocky road if there ever was one. And there was no chocolate involved.

YeRoWriteO Is Born

See, I need to get a rackin’ frackin’ book published. Between my anthropology thesis, my memoir and my NaNoWriMo novel from last year, that makes not one or two, but three bodies of work that are just sitting there. 

Thousands upon thousands of words. Mocking me on hidden pieces of paper or otherwise imprinted on metal computer chips. They mock me, saying, “Can you even publish? Or will we forever remain the black marks on white, destined for your eyes only?”

More recently, school and teaching take up enough time that finding extra time to do a bit of writing is difficult.

But time trudges on.

I can’t wait to write.

The time is now. 

That idea reinforced by my virtual big brother, of sorts. Señor Bill.

I always think of my incredibly lovely mother-in-law, too, when it comes to stuff like this.

Before she retired, she was a successful pharmacist and raised four children.

She always said that when she retired, she was going to knit blankets, sew, and crochet all day. It was her dream – she loves this hobby.

As soon as she retired, she got macular degeneration, effectively rendering her legally blind. Not too long after, she lost her hearing and is now legally deaf.

Her arthritic fingers won’t allow her to use her hands to do tiny detailed tasks, either. You can imagine how it breaks my heart when she wants to give me fabric and yarn from her collection that she amassed over the years. How many retirees do we know who have similar stories? 

The lesson? Start now. No matter what you have going on.

So I am.

I’m on Day 3 (I only actually thought of the idea on November 1st…which is why I’m not on day 4).

I figured if I needed an impetus to get going, but not the intensity of NaNo, then maybe others felt the same.

So, here’s what I came up with:

YeRoWriteO Guidelines:

  • Go to my YeRoWriteO page to sign up (just leave your name and the date you started.)
  • Write for an hour a day – or more.
  • Don’t worry about a daily word limit: you’re allowed to edit, think, advance the story, research and otherwise write 500 words or 10,000. It’s totally up to you.
  • Aim for an overall goal of 80,000 words – or something like that – or not. That’s around a typical novel length. You have a year to do it.
  • Find a buddy. This person is also someone who’s doing YeRoWriteO. Make a commitment to check in with each other once weekly. You can find a buddy from the people who have signed up on my YeRo page.
  • If you become really good buddies, that person might even serve to be an editor for ya, and vice-versa.
  • Tell people about it, or not. When I tell people, I find I end up not following through. My blog friends can know, because chances are they might be doing a writing project or blog project anyways. My husband knows (mostly so he know’s why the dishes might sit in the sink a little longer than we’d both like).
  • But don’t tell people the specifics of what you’re doing. I might share a line from my writings on my FB page, but I’m not saying what I’m doing, what it’s for, what it is, or any background. People will know I’m trying to write something, maybe, but time will tell if they really do get to find out.
  • Stay tuned for tips and tricks I learn along the way – no matter what I’m doing, I love to read up and study on it. $10 for anyone who can guess as to how many websites I’ve explored regarding writing. (Don’t answer that. I have no idea.) 
  • Grab the button if you so choose – to proudly display on your blog/website.

Here’s my personal message to you:

In this day and age, we’re all short of time. Don’t shortchange yourself.

If you want to write a novel, write one. Little by little. Put one word after another.

It’s no different than putting one foot in front of the other: before you know it, you’ve walked 10,000 steps in one day.

I don’t have much time right now, either: I’m a wife, in grad school, teaching almost full time. But I’m going for it, because if dreams were easy, everyone would have them conquered by now, anyways.

I will be here supporting you in spirit. 

 

 

Fall, Books, and Gratitude

I’m joining in this week for the Ten Things of Thankful blog hop that Lizzi and others host. You should check it out.

Ten Things of Thankful

 

I’m bursting with gratitude.

You’ll have to forgive me. The photos in this post aren’t from my beloved DSLR camera, but from my iPhone. I’m picky about the caliber of my photos, but sometimes you just have what you can grab at that particular moment in time.

Read on…if you’re a writer, I have a cool proposal for something very neat and interesting as the last part of this post….

And for these I am thankful:

1. Fall. Leaves. Colors of leaves that span the spectrum of all things “autumn:” gilded bronze, avocado green, harvest gold, burnt sienna, orange rust, acorn brown, butternut yellow….I could go on. You know what’s funny? Matching those colors up against the backdrop of my funky house.

western north carolina

My house, our small shed and our mountain…see the god’s eye on the shed?

2. Going on walks. Up the mountain behind my house. With my dog and two cats. Let the short little video speak for itself.

3. The gift of literacy. Apart from my drab sociolinguistical analysis class in Spanish (doesn’t it sound great?), and my class about educational methodologies in foreign languages, I’ve been making time to read. I stumbled across a book that was published awhile ago called Rich Dad, Poor Dad and I’m hooked on Kiyosaki’s philosophy. If I’ve learned anything, it’s that I might be a tad bit overeducated. Though, I don’t feel bad: learning is never a bad thing.

4. Blog buddies. You know who you are. The people who actually still stop by here even though my poor website has grown a few cobwebs in the interim since I’ve been able to post regularly.

5. Autumn scents. You know, I wonder if I might have been a dog in a past life or something. I’m so tuned into scents and smells and they bring back strong memories. Cinnamon candles. Pumpkin and spice. Vanilla porter. Cranberries. Apple cider. Orange spice tea. Succotash. Egg Nog. Caramel apples.

6. Fuzzy fleece hats and PJ’s. Because I’m cold from October to May.

7. My electric hot water kettle. Boiling water for tea in less than 60 seconds. I almost never use a microwave now. (Oh and excuse me…I need to go make some tea before I finish this blog post.)

8. NaNoWriMo. No, I’m not doing it this year, and I blogged about my experiences with it last year, but I have NaNo envy. I mean, there’s a total “goodwill and goodluck” to all who are doing it, but a slight envy for those who are not drowning in graduate papers who have a bit of time to do it. So…it prompted a change. (See below.)

9. The shower. The warm, very hot, steamy shower that warms me up when nothing else can during the winter months. And for some reason, it serves as a reservoir for creative ideas. I don’t know what it is, but crazy ideas come to me in the shower more often than when I’m doing anything else. Yes, I know I shouldn’t be taking long showers, but it’s about one of the only vices I have: I don’t drink coffee, I’m trying not to bite my nails….

10. Which leads me to this idea that came to me in the shower: 

YeRoWriteO

Will you join me in YeRoWriteO?

 

I am embarking about a literary journey called YeRoWriteO. Here are my self-imposed rules:

  • one hour of writing – offline – toward creating a book for 365 days
  • during that one hour, I can also use that time to research, think, edit, whatever – so a word limit isn’t of paramount importance, more that I devote an hour a day to writing and/or furthering my idea
  • have something that’s ready to be sent to a publisher at the end of the 365 days
  • the idea is to try to have 80,000 words written – which this idea isn’t so nutty: I wrote 57,650 last year in November for NaNo. Either that or it must be sick that I’m not really daunted by 80,000 words.

If you’re a writer, would you like to participate with me? 

This year, I am doing things differently. I told everyone that I was writing a book for NaNoWriMo. And then I ended up really not liking it. I hated that I didn’t have time to edit…not even think. It was just a mad rush to get words down. The idea of having to go back and edit a mish-mash of 57,650 words did daunt me.

So, this time, as much as I’d like to, I’m not sharing much. Just that I’m writing. That I’m trying. 

That’s all we can do, right?

So are you with me? Or are you with me?

In a World Without Music

The idea for this post came from a comment I started over at Considerer’s blog. My comment was in response to a world without music:

In a world without music, my soul would bleed. It would gush until I stopped the flow by finding another way to find rhythm: through dance, and listening to my heart beat. Then I would drum and hum and force sound back into the songs of nature….

She dared me to turn this into a post. And, I can’t back down from a triple dog dare. 

That and I’m really missing writing – for myself – lately. I’m so saturated in the world of academia, y papeles académicos del mundo hispanohablante y presentaciones de sociolinguistica. Yeah. That.

So now…before writing this poem – it’s going to be verbatim, from scratch, just from the heart, I’m going to center myself. Because my hearts wants the stage. And my brain wants a rest.

Deep breath.

Breathe in. Breathe out.

Deep breath.

Autumn No Music

In a World Without Music

In a world without music, my soul would bleed.

Torrents of red, searing – sound, vibration…energy. Gone.

I am limp. Sapped. Devoid of consciousness.

Where are her tones?

No chimes.

No chants.

I have lost my drum. I have lost myself. I have lost my soul.

I must stop the gushing. Mother, help me.

I lay there, not moving. Only my eyes follow the movements of the sky.

And then…

A leaf.

Falling. Swaying, twirling. The wind guides it gently toward my chest.

My heart…I feel a beat.

A rhythm.

Muuum-buuum. Muuum-buuum. Muuum-buuum.

Muuum-buuum. Muuum-buuum. Muuum-buuum.

My hands at my side – they’re awakening. My fingers – they’re tapping.

Tap, tap.

Still, the silence envelops me. But I feel the rhythm.

Muuum-buuum. Muuum-buuum. Muuum-buuum.

Muuum-buuum. Muuum-buuum. Muuum-buuum.

Newly warm blood pulses, pushing through my arms. My legs.

Energy.

The leaves are falling, in tune with my beat.

The Earth, her rhythm – she dances around me.

My body rises. Every tap, tone…sound.

My muscles…and subconscious move in time, days…months…years…ages…epochs…eons.

Muuum-buuum. Muuum-buuum. Muuum-buuum.

Muuum-buuum. Muuum-buuum. Muuum-buuum.

The drumming taps my soul. Pulsing. No longer gushing. I hear the binaural beats of the Pleistocene.

My blood echoes Her sounds.

________________________________________

As an aside:

I need to be writing. You know, I always thought of myself as a painter or some kind of artist, but my soul is bursting with the desire to write. I’m not doing NaNoWriMo this year, but I AM going to try to change a few things:

Maybe spend a little time journaling each day…and maybe spend some time working on yet another book idea I have. Like I have so much time…but where there’s a will there’s a way, right?

Sharpie Art “Stained Glass” Door

Last post was a month ago? Sheez! Oh well…the life of a grad student. I am having fun learning and learning isn’t a bad thing…though I really miss writing (for myself, as opposed to academic papers).

I have been working on this Sharpie Art door for months. I started it this summer and finished it a couple weeks ago, but I hadn’t had a chance to mount it back into the storm door. This morning, my husby made the time and I got the final shots.

The design is abstract. I didn’t “plan” a design – I just started drawing. I knew, at the very least, though, I wanted something that resembled a sun. We’re talking about a window letting sunlight through: I wanted a sun. But, after that, I just drew and drew…and drew. I had no idea of the outcome.

I worked with what I had: oil sharpies in standard colors: blue, yellow, red, black and white. It was the first time I’d tried color since doing Real Housewife’s Window earlier this year.

I took a few photos of the before and after. Really, I just started with a piece of safety glass from our storm door. And then I drew and drew…and drew.

Feel free to pin this. :)

sharpie window and glass

It’s my storm door done with oil-based Sharpies from start to finish.

Let’s Take a Moment…For the Earth

trees lining the road

The leaves are starting to change

Last weekend, it was International Day of Peace, the Equinox and even the moon was full – the Harvest Moon.

As summer winds down – something I’m always a little sad about – I am reminded of the cycles of nature.

Where I live, there are four distinct seasons. And yes, I’ll admit, I tolerate winter so that I can relish in the other three.

But last weekend sort of set the tone for the week. It got me thinking about cycles, about the planet, about the idea of peace in our lives, about abundance.

I thought about how I’m truly thankful for having lived another year and for seizing some opportunities that, I hope, will propel me forward and get things done that I really want to get done.

In thinking about cycles, I think about Mother Earth and her willingness to give us all food, air, water, wind, fire, shelter, and beauty.

How often do we forget or not think about those things?

The ancient rhythms that are indelibly part of our DNA call us to reflect and take a moment.

I wanted to share a poem that grew out of these thoughts this week.

Mother Earth

Mother Earth, keep me grounded in your terra so soft.

Father Sky, allow me to soar with wings aloft.

Brother Wind, embrace me in the sound of your breeze,

Sister Fire, whose warmth and light caress me from mountains to seas,

Understand my profound respect and gratitude.

There are those who see your gifts as undervalued

But by example and in united spirit

We’ll bring peace, heal the planet and find a way to edit

The wrongdoings we’ve done to each other 

And embrace each other as sister and brother.

We’ll find a way to make peace

So that we make progress and move forward without cease.

 

I felt compelled to go around my yard – again – and snap some photos that really remind me of all of these things and more. I am reminded of the fall season and the planet making another trip around the sun, as she has done for billions of years.

wild asters

Among the wild asters was a wolf spider….

It’s interesting how in the fall, you see more spiders and such. I was walking around my yard and garden and saw this HUGE wolf spider living among the wild asters. I don’t cut down the wild weeds – I work with them. And…you get to see interesting things from time to time.

(And don’t, for one second, think I would be okay with this little guy getting ANYWHERE near me. I respect them, yes. I won’t kill them. But, I cannot be held responsible for my actions if tiny arachnids or insects crawl on me.)

acorn squash

Acorn squash from the garden

I didn’t have a whole lot of time for a big vegetable garden this year. However, we have a HUGE compost pile…and defiantly, these acorn squash plants insisted on growing there. We didn’t have the heart to kill them, so we let them grow to see how big they’d get.

Apparently, they turned into mutant plants. I don’t think we’ve EVER had such a successful harvest of acorn squash that we didn’t plant. 

In fact, we have no idea – other than last year’s variety of squash – what sorts of genes are in these squash fruits. So we’re calling them “Calhoun Variety.”

Wouldn’t you know, I halved one, took out the seeds and stuffed them with violet syrup, trail mix (dried cranberries, raisins, dried apricots, papaya, cashews and dried banana) with a pat of butter and baked them. I was in heaven.

I also took the seeds, dried them for 24 hours and baked them in the oven the next day. They say to add oil, but the seeds weren’t very dry, so I didn’t. I just added a bit of garlic salt and cracked peppercorns. Somebody should sell those things! ;)

squash seed

Acorn squash seeds fresh from the acorn squash!

These days, when we walk around the yard, we’re dodging walnuts. Yes, our black walnut tree sits right outside the front door and it’s ripe with fruits. They fall a LOOONNNGGGG way. Woe is to the person who’s standing underneath the tree when they’re falling. But, the nuts have a distinct, yet amazing taste. I, for one, love them. Though cracking the shells? It takes about an hour to crack five of them. The shells are hard as marbles and it’s easy to break tools while opening them.

It certainly requires a certain measure of patience. No wonder they’re like $9.00/lb. at the store.

black walnut tree

Our black walnut tree. See all the nuts that are all going to fall in the next week to two weeks?

Equinox – Ten Things of Thankful

I went out around my yard/forest the other day and snapped some photos.

Some were of flowering weeds, others were of water droplets that just looked brilliant. The day was rainy, but somehow it felt like the last day of summer.

Perhaps it was the chill in the air, perhaps it was the proximity to the Equinox, or to Peace Day or to the Harvest Moon.

Either way, I was feeling grateful.

To be sure, I make it a point to spend a few minutes each day reflecting on everything for which I am grateful.

But, this photo journey captures everything for which I was smiling that afternoon: the waning flowers of the summer, my dog and cats who love to take walks with me, the fact that my camera and I are good friends and allows me to snap images that satisfy my creative needs, for quiet times, for the rain, for the harvest, for lots of things.

There are ten images. Each one is unique but features something that I am thankful for.

purple weed flowers

Wild purple asters

 

wild purple flower

A flower in the allium family?

 

flowering tree and berries

Dogwood berries

 

black and white azalea leaves

Azalea leaves with water droplets

 

wild yellow flower

A kind of marshmallow flower?

 

pink rose

Pink Knock Out Rose with water droplets

 

 

yellow flower

Black-eyed Susan with a spider friend

 

silverleaf

Jewelweed, otherwise known as silverleaf. Can’t you imagine why?

 

black puppy dog

Vinny…with water droplets on his nose from sitting under the tree. He’s looking up at a squirrel.

 

ralphie the cat

My gray tabby Ralphie sitting in our wet boat…pretending he’s going on a ride.t,

This is part of the Ten Things of Thankful Blog hop.

Ten Things of Thankful

 

25 Things I’ve Learned

I’m a lifelong learner. I don’t claim to be that wise; I think I’d need about 997  years on the planet to become a true sage.

But, I’ve definitely done some living. I have experienced moments of utter bliss, events of tremendous loss, true love, profound emptiness. Indeed, haven’t we all?

In the past year, I’ve done a lot of writing and reflecting. I thought it might be good to make a list:

Some of those things I’ve learned -

 

  1. Life is short and you never know when it’s your time. Don’t put things off that you want to do. Write a book when the kids are grown? Do it now: little by little. Jump out of an airplane? Mark a date on your calendar and just do it.
  2. People will always gossip, and those who gossip to you surely gossip of you. It’s really none of your business what they say: go right on doing your thing because people will talk regardless.

    take time to relax

    Photo and caption by C. Calhoun

  3. Take time for silence. Meditate. It will give you clarity.
  4. Your possessions can and will possess you. Especially in our materialistic society. Learn to let them go.
  5. Learn to be happy with what you have. There are people with far less.
  6. Face your fears. When you do, you’ll be stronger and you’ll be able to live a fuller life.
  7. Everyone lives in their own reality. There’s nothing you can do about that. So make your own reality the best you possibly can.
  8. If you don’t have enough money to survive, make some changes. Get a side job, mow some lawns, whatever. Reduce your overhead expenses, get a smaller house. It’s not worth it to be stressed out over not making ends meet.
  9. Watch less TV. No one ever said they wished they watched more television. You’ll have a lot more time and you’ll feel better about yourself instead of being bombarded with shows and commercials to buy stuff you don’t need.
  10. Treat the planet with care. In turn,she’ll take care of, you, too.
  11. Be kind to others. It’s cliche, I know. But the things you do reflect back on yourself. If you are unkind, so, too, will you feel the effects of your unkindness.
  12. Remember that we all have our own journey and struggles. Just because someone “has it all together” doesn’t mean that they really “have it all together.”
  13. Take time to do things you love. You’ll love yourself more for it. It’ll also be a great reprieve from life’s daily routines.
  14. Once a year, go somewhere you haven’t gone before. It’ll give you great perspective and insights about yourself.
  15. Do your best in whatever you do. Your best will look different when you’re tired or when you’re well-rested. But if we ask ourselves to just do the best we can, then we don’t have to feel guilty that we didn’t try harder.
  16. Get outside for a little while each day. Listen to the birds, the wind, even passing cars. Just take a few moments to listen and get some fresh air.
  17. Have a conversation with a loved one with NO interruptions. Turn off the TV, the radio, cell phones – all distractions. Each person gets to talk for ten minutes without interruption and then the other person can speak.
  18. Related to the one above: be a good listener. Stop what you’re doing, put everything down, and be present.
  19. If you’re worried, it’s because you’re thinking about the future too much. If you’re depressed, you’re thinking about the past too much. If you are at peace, you’re living in the present – in the moment.

    Worry

    Photo and caption by C. Calhoun

  20. All the money in the world won’t buy an ounce of happiness. You have to be happy with yourself and your life before you can be happy with money. (Though having enough to live on is important – see above.)
  21. Never stop learning. Learn about other people, cultures, customs, religions, perspectives. It’s not a threat to your well-being; it’s a way to learn about yourself.
  22. Reach out to other people. Even if it’s out of your comfort zone. Call a friend you haven’t talked to in a long time. Give a flower to an acquaintance. It feels good. You’ll make someone else happy, too.
  23. Don’t forget to give. Maybe you can’t always give monetarily, but maybe you can give something you made, your time, your love, or even your thoughts. Take time to think of others.
  24. You know your own truth. It lies deep inside you. You already have the answers you need, if you just know how to look within and listen.
  25. Find balance in your life. You already know what’s out of balance. Brainstorm on ways to fix it.

Finding My Dream Job(s)

Future of Education

Some photos I took (or edited) of the school where I work. I took these photos and used them for a Green Ribbon Schools project. My school won, along with 41 others in the country.

Do you think that things in life happen for a reason?

If ever I didn’t believe in that principle, I do now.

I remember when I started this blog last year. Last October, in fact.

I lamented leaving my free Blogger website in favor of a paid WordPress website.

I’m still not sure if I like WordPress better than Blogger, but I am glad I made that move.

I’m glad I spent the year writing, photographing and doing art. I also spent some time developing my spirituality.

Who knew that it would become so integral to my teaching?

Things Happen For a Reason…

This last week, the school where I work (Rainbow Community School) approached me to start blogging regularly for them. On their WordPress site.

And for school events? I’m supposed to photograph and put the photos on the school’s blog.

I teach Spanish to some amazing kids at an amazing school that has as its mission to teach spirituality and sustainability to children – to effectively develop the whole child.

Never – in my wildest dreams – did I think that by jumping off a cliff last year would lead me back into classroom teaching, and invariably blogging for the school where I work. I have found my dream job.

One Thing Led to Another

I can’t help but think about that. I mean I left public school teaching last year, thinking I’d be some sort of Language Coordinator for the nearby community college. (No, I never wanted to leave teaching completely.) But, due to budgeting constraints, the community college lost funding for the position. I decided to try writing full-time and tackle things like the Pictorialization Project.

It was fun.

Until it was lonely.

And it takes a long while to really make a go at it.

But, I found my new teaching job in January.

It was part time.

Then, at the end of the last school year, the director encouraged me to finish my master’s.

I don’t back down from challenges very easily.

Since I was working part time, I figured, well, why not go back to school?

I never wanted to leave writing, art or photography all-together, either.

And now, somehow…it’s all coming together for me: finish my master’s, blog, teach, do art/photography….

I keep pinching myself.

Is this for real? Or am I dreaming?

What Makes It My Dream Job?

Let me tell you. It’s not about the money. At least where I live, you make less working at a private school than you would at public school.

But, the fact that I can “center myself” before every class and teach kids who are eager to learn is simply incredible.

Public schools are good, good places. I taught in them for 6 years. They’re just not for me.

But I have so many reasons to be content:

  • I don’t have to test kids for hours and hours on end five times per year. Yet, I know they learn – quite well.
  • I have a say in how I conduct my classes.
  • I feel valued and appreciated as a professional. Because I have expertise in my field, I can call the shots about what or even how I teach.
  • I am part of an amazing spiritual community that places a high value on the perspectives from peoples of all cultures. We openly talk about Ramadan, Hanukkah, Christmas, May Day, the Solstice, Earth Day, Peace Day and whatever other day people care to talk about.
  • We use Dynamic Governance in all of our meetings as a staff or as a school.
  • We start our staff meetings with a centering process by lighting a candle and by ringing a Tibetan bowl, then checking in with staff members.
  • All the skills I have can be applied to my teaching: I’ve already given the school one of my paintings, I became their blogger, and my love for the environment allows me to pursue projects and grants related to that. Because I spend so much time typing, I’m fast – and now I’m secretary of our staff meetings.
  • I work with like-minded people.
  • Politics and back-stabbing are taboo. Support and charisma are the order of the day.
  • If I’m not teaching, I’m not required to be on campus. I can work from home, a coffee shop, the park, wherever. I can’t even begin to tell you how much that helps me, my creativity and effectively helps me be a better teacher. 

Can you imagine what this nation, other nations, or even the world would be like if schools everywhere made it this enjoyable to teach? Can you even begin to understand the happiness and contentment I feel from my students each and every day?

My only wish is that all children could experience the love and progressive thinking that this school offers. It’s a good thing I blog for them: I could write their commercial. But really, I am blown away by the students and teachers alike. I can’t believe I found this place!

 

 

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