Tuesday, November 22, 2011

nature reveals her secrets

All labor, bodily or mental, needs time and effort. We must give ourselves up to it. Nature reveals her secrets and yields her treasures only to diligent and thoughtful labor.

-Andrew Murray, With Christ in the School of Prayer

Friday, November 4, 2011

a lot left

"You know, I have spent a lot of days ... feeling sad about the things that I've lost. But doing the marathon really shows me that I still have a lot left in me."
 Gweneviere Mann in this sweet StoryCorps story.

(For those of you not familiar with StoryCorps, the stories are in the form of recorded conversations. So don't just read about this story -- listen for yourself!)

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

to me, from me

I'm sure I'm not the only one who does it. You come across a website or article or bit of information that you just know will get lost inside that crowded, distracted brain of yours. In the old days we made copies, clipped from newspapers, or, I guess, just wrote it down somewhere. I like these options sometimes -- saving something in print, or seeing it in my own writing, can be more valuable and meaningful than a bookmarked link on my computer. Other times the easiest way for me to file these nuggets away for future reference is to email them to myself. This serves as a sort of virtual idea notebook for myself -- to feed ideas for my future, my writing and my thinking and creativity (and sometimes my stomach, as you'll see below...).

A requirement is a short but descriptive subject line so I can easily recall and recognize the information*. (Sometimes I add a fun note in the body to liven things up.) Here's a list of subject lines from recent emails I sent to myself. For fun, I included the links, too -- most are worthy of sharing with people beyond myself!

mind of the maker
mfa reading list 
end of men
unwanted
coaching article
alpha
Saturday run
aloo gobi
modern love

*Once I send them to myself, I also label them in my gmail. This helps me remember why I saved the link.

What about you? What kinds of information and ideas do you send to yourself? How does this help your creativity?

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

post-it quote: tightly tied as they are

My HipstaPrint 0
Following a calling is like walking a tightrope — exacting, courageous and exhilarating all at once. And then there’s the fear of falling, one misstep that sends you tumbling or the loss of balance that keeps you from moving forward. To onlookers it may look effortless, like a dance in the clouds. But in reality it requires more focus and demands more sacrifice than you ever thought possible when first signing up. And though others may cheer you on, you are essentially alone out there, just you and the wire. You learn to trust it and to trust yourself that way.

******

I’ve taken to the habit of reading various versions of the scripture I’m meditating on at the moment. I find that different combinations of words and word pictures help to open it up deeper and give me new visuals or ideas. When I read Colossians 1 in The Message, this verse popped out at me:

The lines of purpose in your lives never grow slack, tightly tied as they are to your future in heaven, kept taught by hope. (vs 5)

I closed my eyes and waited for the right image to come and show me what this looks like. I saw a tightrope walker skillfully walking forward, with utmost concentration, in the purpose that only God can speak into our lives. This purpose moves us heavenward toward what we were meant to be and what we are in the perfect, loving and imaginative eye of God. The rope is held in the perfect tension, allowing us to walk forward, allowing us to trust the next step.

What we fear most is that the lines of purpose will grow slack, or that they aren’t there at all. To many of us they seem invisible, and we keep toeing around to feel for the next step but are never quite sure if we’re to take it or if we’ll tumble down into the abyss.

I imagine an important part of tight-rope-walking is to use all the senses — to know where to keep your vision focused, to feel the way the breeze is moving and to hear the stillness and perhaps drown out the distracting noise. There’s also that sixth sense, that feel that we all have for the purpose we’re made to pursue, the one that helps us just know. We need to learn to use this or we’ll be frozen in fear on a fine wire over the rushing waters of Niagra Falls.

P.S. I watched Man On Wire a few months ago, maybe it’s time to view it again?
P.P.S. The first man to tight rope over Niagra Falls.

******
Post-it quotes is a series. Each post features a new quote that's made it's way to a post-it note on my computer at work, combining two of my loves -- wise words and post-it notes -- with my desire to stay focused and develop excellence at my work and craft.

Friday, October 28, 2011

gone

So much of revision, I've discovered, is about coming to terms with that word: gone. Letting things go. ... the professional writer mercilessly lops off limbs, rips out innards like party streamers, drains away gallons of blood, and then calls down the lightning to bring the body back to life.

-Benjamin Percy in Home Improvement

Love the violence of his imagining of revision. Reminds me to get dirty, get extreme in this process of writing and of life. Good things come that way.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

it's always where i'm not

I've been feeling particularly nostalgic (read: homesick) this fall. A few weeks ago I had two pumpkin chocolate chip loaves in the oven (one regular, one gluten-free), and if I'd taken a nap while they were baking, I might have woken up thinking it was Thanksgiving at my parents' house. I wanted a cool breeze and crunchy leaves, but instead I opened a window to get some air flowing in the house, stuffy from the 80+ degree weather outside.

Home is a finicky idea. It wants everything that's good and comforting and heartbreaking, all history and future, the fullness of desire all stuffed into one place that is everywhere and everyone all at once. Mine demands snow and palm trees, my nieces and nephews along with my new goddaughter, turkey tetrazzini and a Tawainese feast.

And it is always where I'm not. 

Placating the senses might just stave off the irrational booking of plane flights, so here's my plan:

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

mantras


I remember when I first started running in high school it was a simple endeavor. Old t-shirts, sans music, little consideration for distance or pace — it was just me and the long roads that ran along sprawling farms and over quiet creaks, sometimes weaving into small neighborhoods of humble houses. I did it for exercise and nothing else. I had some favorite routes, and sometimes made it a destination game, running to my church or my grandparents’ house, both about three miles from where I lived then. The frames that flash into my memory from those times are of bright sunny days, running alone in the beauty of southeastern Pennsylvania. While I didn’t consciously set those times aside to commune with nature, I treasured the quiet and made a point to pray during most of those runs. Not a striving prayer to get God’s attention (which I often find myself leaning towards these days) but simple conversation with God.

During my second year of college I embarked on a new running kick, and things had changed: I ran through different farmland and around my college town, I mapped out routes for hills and distance — and music was essential. I made a mix tape especially for running, a soundtrack that pumped me up and kept me motivated.

Now I have an ipod, running headphones, a pace tracker and athletic gear I’ve bought to make my runs more comfortable (and, let’s face it, me more stylish…). I have goals that I want to reach. And though I listen to music, I have mantras that I repeat to myself for when the running is hard. Lean into it is for tough hills, and strong legs, strong mind reminds me that I have no reason to stop. Stretch pushes me to do things I think are beyond me, even when it’s hard and painful.

Mantras speak to the fact that running is often not about physical endurance, but mental toughness. They also remind me how powerful words are, that they often help to determine our mood, our decisions, our creativity and our relationships.

I read that Meb Keflezighi, an Olympian who earned silver in the marathon at that 2004 summer Olympics and won the 2009 New York City Marathon, uses the Lord’s Prayer as his mantra. It reminded me of how running used to be time to be with God, and how easily those times get crowded out by other things as life has become more complex. It also struck me because it’s so God-centered, while most of my mantras are about me — finishing, staying strong, being great. And how I need a mantra in life because I have goals that I need to reach and many times more complexities to wade through and avoid to keep it simple and stay focused.

Do you have a mantra — in sport or in life? What is it, or would it be?       

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

recently

I have been away from the blog. Not on purpose, though. I'm trying to drum up some new ideas and some writing to go with it, and unfortunately my inner editor too often deems these things not worth sharing. Bloggers are prolific and there are so many great ones out there that when I get ready to put something here, I roll my own eyes in boredom and imagine my two readers doing the same. (Yes, I'm being just a bit facetious. But just a bit.)

To break up my stale rhythm and to share with you a few more personal, daily tidbits, here is a short list of what I've been seeing/reading/eating/desiring/doing recently...

Greek food is a favorite, and I've been making renditions of Greek salads for lunch. There was the traditional, the quinoa, and now the Mediterranean Crunch Salad, which is my favorite so far. Kale and thyme, who would have thought?

Just read this lovely little piece this morning about showing compassion through food. The explanation? As always, the six year old nails it, "Because when they eat it, it goes inside them and then they know you love them, right?"

Reading about South Africa. Intense.

Watching about Baltimore. Also intense, but McNulty provides some levity. Can't help but love that rascal.

This week I"m moving offices at work, and if I crane my neck I can see the Hollywood sign out my window. 

This article on coaching was interesting, I thought. I wholeheartedly agree!

I've added some new music to my running playlist (don't judge) and have been enjoying some longer runs. I might subconsciously be training for something big. Maybe. We'll see.


Thursday, September 29, 2011

they are the way they are

"Living Things"
by Anne Porter

Our poems
Are like the wart-hogs
In the zoo
It's hard to say
Why there should be such creatures

But once our life gets into them
As sometimes happens
Our poems
Turn into living things
And there's no arguing
With living things
They are
The way they are


Our poems
May be rough
Or delicate
Little
Or great

But always
They have inside them
A confluence of cries
And secret languages

And always
They are improvident
And free
They keep
A kind of Sabbath

Emphasis mine; published today on Writer's Alamanc




Thursday, September 8, 2011

wise advice

Whatever kind of artist you may consider yourself, I recommend welcoming this thing that inspires with a decent place to be. Put water, vitamins, leafy greens into your body. Apples. Oats. Get plenty of sleep. Some exercise. Keep the company of wise and more or less sober people. Don’t smoke. Don’t watch TV. Do trust yourself. Especially when you’re honest with yourself, forgive yourself. Listen to your heart. Consider what it means to be an elder, then find one or two, and listen to them. - Bonnie Nadzam

I love this advice that advocates for a sense of order and well-being our internal places -- in our organs and cells, in our minds and in our hearts.

I'm finishing up my writing class today. The completion of it feels like cresting a mountain and finding a chasm to cross -- a tremendous accomplishment met by a great unknown. That might sound dramatic -- it was only a class. But it was an incredibly empowering experience for me. It provided needed discipline and insightful instruction, and most importantly, it forced me to be honest with myself about my desires. I'm so very grateful for what I've learned and what I've written and for the people who so generously provided feedback and no small amount of cheer-leading.

But what next? That's the big amorphous question. For now, I'm going to start with what Ms. Nadzam suggests above as well as working hard to develop a regular habit and taking the advice of Sandra Cisneros (via my writing instructor) who says to say Yes to everything. And hopefully posting more here.

Cheers.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

big red messes

I was eating dinner with a family from church when their youngest, about 3 years old at the time, bravely took control of the ketchup bottle. But he missed his plate and squirted a big puddle of it on the table instead. His face reflected his alarm and disappointment, and after getting his mother’s attention he insisted, “Mom, you should have helped me.” It’s moments like these when I try hard to observe parents’ responses, hoping to gather some wisdom for when it's my turn. His mother calmly assured him they would clean up the ketchup. She helped him wipe up the mess and squeeze some out on his plate. In a few minutes, the boy was happily enjoying his French fries.

I think of this scene often because it heartbreaking to see this young boy struggle to do something himself, then fail. Just as heartbreaking is his obvious trust for his mother and his misplaced frustration. His insistence that she should have been helping him, even though he didn’t ask for help, points to his knowledge that his mother is a master that he can learn things from — things like squeezing ketchup in neat dollups on your dinner plate. She’s also the one who can keep him safe and clean, away from what’s messy.

I also think of this scene when I make mistakes and need to ask God for mercy. My response is often the same as this boy’s — God should have helped me. I’m his daughter, his beloved! Why did he let me make this mistake? I’d feel much safer if things had gone smoothly, if he’d seen the big puddle of red mess I was about to make, taken the bottle away, and done it himself.

And even when I do ask for help, sometimes I still make the mistake I'm hoping to avoid...

The mother’s response is so insightful, too — the point isn’t to avoid the big red mess, but to learn to squeeze it yourself and to not be afraid and also to enjoy the ketchup.

So we clean it up, give it another squeeze, and treasure that my mother-God is close enough to hear me when I call. And some French fries always help, too.

Monday, August 15, 2011

faking it and faith

Fake it till you make it.

This phrase has been sitting with me like a steak that takes too long to digest. That is, I may be having a hard time really getting it.

But let me share a few things that have been helping.

I recently started following (read: stalking) Aarti Sequeira, who won The Next Food Network Star. Bright and engaging, Aarti's story of “making it big” is filled with both hard work and synchronicity. She went from journalist to cooking school student to home-video star to cable network star. That home-video part is what has intrigued me. She decided she wanted to have a cooking show, and she created one in her own home, using her own supplies, filmed by her husband, and self-distributed on her blog. In that sense, she’s the perfect example of one who faked it until she made it. And she made it big.

I see two aspects to this idea. First there’s hard work and hustle and practice. That’s the practical part of faking it. And that's what I was really intending to write about, taking a cue from Aarti.

But then I found this scripture:

We call Abraham "father" not because he got God's attention by living like a saint, but because God made something out of Abraham when he was a nobody. Isn't that what we've always read in Scripture, God saying to Abraham, "I set you up as father of many peoples"? Abraham was first named "father" and then became a father because he dared to trust God to do what only God could do: raise the dead to life, with a word make something out of nothing. When everything was hopeless, Abraham believed anyway, deciding to live not on the basis of what he saw he couldn't do but on what God said he would do. And so he was made father of a multitude of peoples. God himself said to him, "You're going to have a big family, Abraham!" – Romans 4:17-18, The Message

So there’s also faith, the acting as if the reality already was, even if you can’t see it or touch it, or if others don’t validate it as real. As a person who’s trying to fear and follow the God who created the universe, and as one who has dreams and desires and impasses and obstacles, I realize that this idea has huge implications for me.

I love that phrase: “with a word make something out of nothing.” I think a lot about the things that don’t yet exist and how I can make them happen. There are some action steps for me to take, really important ones, and yet there’s also this: that God speaks life where there’s death, makes something out of nothing. I’m trying to be articulate here, but I don’t know if I can express how exciting that is to me. It gives new dignity to faking it — because it becomes about practicing with faith that God is at work, calling this new thing into existence.

What do you think? How are you faking it with faith? I want to hear!

I wanted this post to be well-thought out, but it’s turned into a semi-stream-of-consciousness mess. (I am just back from vacation and feeling slow and clumsy with words today.) Thanks in advance for your graciousness.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

if i can write just one

“If I can write just one decent short story, I’ll be satisfied.” –Donald Ray Pollack

If you have an opportunity, listen to this interview with author Donald Ray Pollack. It’s a hopeful yet grounded story of self-discovery, self-discipline and reinvention.

And on a personal note, I love the borrowed advice he shares for aspiring writers: type out short stories to learn their rhythms and textures.