Archive for March, 2014


Marking the Miles, March

photo-3We’re gaining speed now; three months of 2014 are under our belt.

Where has the time gone? Well, let’s take a look:

March started with a little rule breaking and some insight from my sister’s cookbook. From there, things got a little nerdy with writerly thoughts on journals, a little nausea, Ash Wednesday, and some character needs. As promised, there was more poetry in March, with Tiny Ship, The Evening (done in two parts), Green, Thermostat, and Tugging. I launch into some disclosure with Thank You Construction Workers, and reminisce in family memories of On My Own at the Ripe Old Age of 2, and Lug Nuts First, Lug Nuts Last. In Characters of Old Buildings, the blog itself was just a picture with the sparsest of writing. And there was even some fun info on St. Patrick, which was the second most popular post in March, just behind The Evening (Part One).

I welcome the readers who joined me in March, and I know they’re drawn to the great comments made as much as to my writing, so thank you to all of you!

My own favorite pieces this month were Lug Nuts, Change to Spare, and I Say Writer. Lug Nuts was fun because I had no idea what I was going to say when I sat down at the keyboard, and then that memory popped into mind and I followed it through. With Change to Spare and I Say Writer, these were written during a turning point for me, when I made the decision to seek funding for a writing idea that’s swimming in my head. The idea has merit and what’s more, I believe in it. It’s time to fan the flame.

The pursuit of passion is both a noble and risky venture. I think April sounds like a good time for noble and risky, don’t you?

I’ll meet you here tomorrow.

-J

~
My first book, Upside Down Kingdom, is available on Amazon. I’ll sign it for you.

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399462_3012811298776_338098614_nToday, among a zillion other things, I moved a piano. Then I threw on a dress and went to a gallery to drink champagne and chat with artists. Physically, I’m tired. Mentally, I’m super-charged, but not in any way that makes sense. Emotionally, I want to smile and curl up under a blanket. It’s been a good day. Wonderfully, it’s not over yet.

Here’s a quote I heard earlier today that, in a way, gives the world sense (I tried to write  “makes the world ‘sensical’” but apparently that’s not a word according to Microsoft. Nonsensical, no problem, but sensical… We must change this, world.) Oh, here’s the quote:

“I’m lucky enough to have friends who are smarter than I am who help me out of a crisis. And they’re non-judgmental enough not to mind all the stupid things I do.”

–Chris

I’m so glad you said this, Chris. Incidentally, you teach me something every time I see you.

-J

~
My first book, Upside Down Kingdom, is available on Amazon. I’ll sign it for you.

Beginnings

photo-2For Saturday, here’s the beginning of a book. What book, I don’t know. It may get written; it may not. That’s not what’s important yet. Right now, the beginning is at hand, and it bears turning over in the mind:

At times, we become aware of the darkness in the world, and while it can draw us in, so does the light. And we have to choose.

The choice doesn’t happen once and for all. We choose daily, again and again, which side we’ll align ourselves to: hope, or the cynical warmth of the darkness…

~

My first book, Upside Down Kingdom, is available on Amazon. I’ll sign it for you.

Lug Nuts First, Lug Nuts Last

photoWhen I was 17, my dad taught me how to change a tire. “Lug nuts first, lug nuts last,” he said. He repeated it a couple times and had me repeat it with him. We went through all the steps, and periodically, he’d quiz me.

“What’s the rule again?”

“Lug nuts first, lug nuts last,” I’d say.

So far, the one and only time I actually changed a tire for real, I was 19 years old, living in South Carolina, about 800 miles away from my family. I was driving alone and was going to meet some friends, so I was wearing a dress. My tires were making an awful racket, so I stopped at a diner to check it out. Flat tire. I went inside to see if I could convince someone to come out with me while I changed the tire. One man volunteered.

“I can change it,” I assured him. “I just want someone to back me up.”

He was nice; he tried to be a gentleman and change the tire for me. I protested, but he insisted. Soon, though, I noticed him scratching his head over it, and at one point, I saw him doing something wrong.

“Let me help,” I said, and, dress and all, I got it done. One step at a time, like Dad showed me.

“Great job,” the man said, reaching to remove the jack.

“Not yet,” I told him. “I haven’t double checked the lug nuts. Lug nuts first, lug nuts last.”

Well-meaning as he was, this guy would have had me drive on that tire without making sure it was securely fastened to the car. Lucky for me, I remembered the mantra.

I’m now involved in a similar project: I know what to do, but it’s daunting. Really daunting. I’ll share details on the project with you soon. In the meantime, rather than give up, all I can do is work step by step.

So I’ll start at the beginning and make my way through each step, and before I finish, I’ll come back to the beginning again. I know the mantra. I won’t listen to anyone saying it’s okay to cut corners.

Lug nuts first. Lug nuts last. Here we go.

Thanks, Dad.

~

My first book, Upside Down Kingdom, is available on Amazon.

The Evening (Part Two)

photo-6

One night, I dreamed about the wall in this picture. In the dream, I was sitting in front of the wall, talking with friends that, in my waking life, I didn’t know. Three months after the dream, I traveled to Glastonbury, England for the first time. On a day trip to the Wells Cathedral (where they let me touch the ancient books in their library!), I eventually rejoined my tour group outside in the sunshine for some lunch. When I looked up, I saw the wall.

Even from afar, England awakens the senses.

Here’s the second part of “The Evening,” written from Glastonbury. (Click here for yesterday’s The Evening, Part One.)

The Evening 

The vegetation thinned
and I was able to see my companion was barefoot.
The bushes became smaller and we reached
the edge of the tree line.

I broke through the trees.
There was water suddenly beneath me,
and I ran a few steps in it
before stopping myself.
She
was gone.
The green of the forest behind me had given way
to a gray lakeside.

My feet were cold in the water,
and I saw that they were bare.

My legs were covered
in a white flowing gown.
I looked down at myself in this white gown and saw my hair
spilling down my chest—not my short blonde hair,
but long, red strands.

I saw the gray water before me,
And I slowly looked up to the opposite shore
Where there stood myself, in my old shorts and t-shirt,
with short, blonde hair.
Myself yards away on the opposite shore was watching me
where I stood.

I smiled a knowing smile to her,
All her questions
All the thoughts whirling in her head pulling her in opposite directions
But this was the evening, not the night,
This is a new distribution of elements, evening
She’ll get there
I closed my eyes,
and felt solid, whole
she’ll get here

~
My first book, Upside Down Kingdom, is available on Amazon.

The Evening (Part One)

photo-4England has a way of awakening the poet in us all. Here’s the first part of a piece I call “The Evening,” written in Glastonbury, home to King Arthur lore, the Tor, The Chalice Well, an Abbey House, and a curious trinket shop that calls to you from the center of town…

The Evening

She was running fast,
and I was alongside her,
running myself,
Through a forest—
lush and green
a few yards to her left.
We ran quickly,
this woman and I.
Darkness was settling in.
The evening.

I remembered saying goodnight to my companions
And going to my room
in the Abbey House
Jet lagged, and groggy
How I got out here, and where I was, I didn’t know
Together we ran, and all I knew
Was that she and the forest were ancient
And I, of the second millennium.

Had we run slower,
I would have lost glimpses of her
between the trees and bushes.
Had I looked past her,
I would have seen the forest stretching,
to the green horizon.
I could see her plainly,
Her long, white dress
And her hair the color of fire.
Tree after tree and
thick plants, bluish-colored bushes,
and the occasional blades of grass
all blending into one another as we ran.

Her gaze was steady,
Locked on the distance ahead.
She was solid, whole.
Not beat up by the world, but
Knowing it, understanding it
I didn’t watch my feet,
and I didn’t stumble,
as if I weren’t my normal self, either.

My heartbeat, pounding in my ears,
sounded like a drum,
and I realized it was the heartbeat of
all living creatures around me,
echoed by the trees.
I felt the drumbeat pulsing in me—
coming from the center of me.
My arms reached forward and back,
Timed with the drumbeats,
my legs were striving forward,
pulling me closer to the horizon,
and further,
from what lay behind.

~

Tomorrow, the second half of “The Evening.” Until then, my first book, Upside Down Kingdom, will keep you company. It’s on Amazon.

The Difficult One

Quite some time ago—it feels like a decade now—I was in the middle of applying for a job, convinced that I would work for someone else all day long and then write all evening. At my third interview for this admin job, a panel (yes, a panel) of people asked me where I saw myself in five years. They asked me my personal goals. I anticipated these questions; I answered. They nodded along as I talked about wanting to connect people, to move up into a liaison position with their company, and wanting to write a book–during my personal time, of course.

I wasn’t sure why they were nodding along. Even I didn’t believe myself at this point.

There was one last interviewer who would be along to interview me separately, as he was unable to attend the panel interview. I’d heard numerous times from the others that this guy was difficult–but I never heard resentment over that, so I assumed his difficult nature simply meant he had higher standards. I was also told he had a thick accent and could be hard to understand.

At the end of the panel interview, the Difficult One showed up to collect me. We went to his small, sun-filled office and sat down.

“I don’t have much to ask you, really,” he said in a slight Middle Eastern/South Asian accent, so slight that I had no problem understanding him. “It’s all right here on your resumé. But they want me to be a part of the interview process.” After a moment, he said, “I do have one question.” He set my papers aside, “What are your dreams?” he asked.

Of all the questions! I looked over his shoulder to the window and the sunshine, and thought about writing a book. I willed myself to keep it together. I spoke, cobbling something as an answer, hoping my veneer would hold up. Whatever I said, I tried to align it with working this job, though I did add more writing to the list this time. At least I believed it more than whatever I’d said before.

The Difficult One then delved into a story about his life. He’d told this story before; he could tell it succinctly. He told me of his childhood in Pakistan, of being old enough for college and deciding to work alongside his classroom studies so that he had practical experience. The entire time, his coworkers would say how organized the businesses were in the United States, how they had better equipment, better systems, better facilities, in fact, the best of everything. He dreamed of moving to the United States and being the head of supply and demand at a top company. He came to the U.S., and worked at one company, then another. He kept working his way up. Then he applied for a job at the best company he’d researched. At the interview, he’d quoted the six figure purchases he’d done annually. They took that into account, and said that here at his dream job, he’d do seven figure purchases, and do them all the time. His eyes widened. The possibilities! Though the job was his dream, it was a step backward. He took it anyway, and he worked for eight years to get to the same level he’d been at with his job at the lesser company. And now here he is, 20 years later from the kid who dreamed of working for the best, and he lives his dream.

I smiled. We chatted about his story. And I asked, “What now? Do you have a new dream to chase down?”

He said, “Bigger purchases. We do contracts into the millions. I think we can get into the billions.”

I liked this guy. The Difficult One knew what he wanted in life and he went for it. And his goal wasn’t to be rich or famous. He wanted to run the show in purchasing. He wanted to lead. He wanted to be the best.

bookWhy was I applying for this job again? Oh, yes, because they would give me money so I could give it to bill companies. They said they’d call me by that Friday. They didn’t.

It seems to have made a very big difference for me.

~
My first book, Upside Down Kingdom, is available on Amazon… with more to come.

Tugging

photo-3Twice yesterday I felt you tug at me
I felt you pull away from me,
once
in the afternoon,
and once in the evening
It felt as if you pulled away, as if the
chords connecting us had been broken,
and you were drifting away while I stood
solid on the ground

I want to feel bad about it,
I want to miss you, to tell
you not to go,
I want to get myself worked up
so I can grieve
and hope to find peace afterwards

But, strangely,
I don’t do these things
The breaking
of the chords seems so natural—
a natural progression of things—
not something I should feel bad about,
just something to acknowledge

Perhaps it’s not you
who is tugging at me
Perhaps it’s me doing the tugging,
snapping the chords so you can float freely
and I can stand solid and firm

Perhaps this is why,
when I stood in the woods,
feeling our separation and the
strings dangling at my sides,
connecting me to no one,

I felt perfectly fine

~
Upside Down Kingdom, is available on Amazon.

The Order of Things

photo-2
A little thought exercise for your Sunday:

Suffering produces endurance
Endurance produces character
Character produces hope
and Hope does not disappoint

Hmmm, Hope does not disappoint? Really? Then why would we ever lose hope?
What about when we get our hopes dashed? Crushed?
Why would we need the word hopeless?
What about when hopes are fallen?
When hope is false? Is it deceitful? (I always want to spell deceitful with a p, like receipt. Too bad there’s not a receiptful.)

Or—
Does hope keep us going?
Is hope a good breakfast? (Francis Bacon)
Do we cling to it?
Is hope that thing covered in feathers? (Emily Dickinson)
Is it tenacious?
Is it written on the brow of every man? (Victor Hugo)
Does hope spring eternal?

Let’s start again, and this time, you can’t just jump to the last line. You need all four lines:

Suffering produces endurance
Endurance produces character
Character produces hope
And that’s the Hope that does not disappoint

I get it now.

~
My first book, Upside Down Kingdom, is available on Amazon. I’ll sign it for you.

I Say Writer

A friend recently told me that when he first started working in a restaurant, years ago, that his life was completely changed one night by something the business owner said.

The business was fairly new, and this particular night was a dud: They hadn’t had a customer in over an hour. The wait staff asked if they could shut down early. The owner let some of the staff go home, but refused to close the restaurant.

When the shift ended, the remaining staff finished putting things away, clocked out, and headed for the door. My friend lingered to finish some bar paperwork. But he and the owner wound up talking late into the night.

The owner told him, “I don’t want to lose money. We were down to a skeleton crew tonight, but if people had come in, we were ready.” My friend agreed with him. And then the owner said, “The hours of operation are listed right on the door. If I don’t believe in this business enough to stay open, especially during those hours, then no one else will, either.”

They were words that my friend took to heart. And though it took a little time, it became a thriving business.

I was told this story about six weeks ago. And not a day has gone by since that I don’t think: “If I don’t believe in myself as a Writer, then no one else will, either.” And I make decisions accordingly.

I say writer. But you can fill the blank however you want. And make decisions accordingly.

~
My first book, Upside Down Kingdom, is available on Amazon. I’ll sign it for you.

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