What I’m Into: November 2013

I’m linking up again with the What I’m Into series at Leigh Kramer’s blog this month.  Can’t believe November has come and gone already!

Reading:

*The Truth About Style, Stacy London: I requested this book from the library thinking I needed some advice on what to add to my wardrobe after a big closet purge last month.  I was surprised how engaging a read this was.  Stacy’s trademark acerbic humor made it hilarious, and her willingness to be vulnerable about her own struggles, all the while helping several different women with their style challenges, made it relatable.  And of course, I got tons of pointers for working on my own style.  It’s given me a lot to think about beyond what to wear.

*I’m partway through Will Write for Food, by Dianne Jacobs, which covers all aspects of writing about food–cookbooks, blogs, memoir, and more. When I read Julia Child’s memoir, My Life in France, a few years ago, I noted the scientific obsession with which she repeated recipes and took notes of her results, and I realized that as much as I love to cook I do not have the temperament for recipe development.  I appreciate accurate recipes, but I am not willing to do that kind of research and experimentation myself.  So, probably no cookbooks in my future (unless, like Gwyneth Paltrow, I get someone to follow me around the kitchen measuring things while I cook).   However, I still find myself writing about food often.  This book is full of great information, much of it just having to do with good writing, period.  I found the writing prompts useful, and recommend this for anyone who is interested in the intersection of writing and food in any way, shape, or form.

*A Year of Writing Dangerously, Barbara Abercrombie: this book is a collection of motivational readings and quotes intended to get you writing.  I confess that I can almost never read one day’s reading at a time, and I read most of this book like a novel, which pretty much defeats its purpose.  But in my defense, it was a library book that had to be returned, and I especially like reading about various writers’ habits and rituals.

*Eat, Drink, and Be Merry: Poems About Food and Drink, edited by Peter Washington: I don’t read nearly enough poetry lately, so I took this pocket-sized book on our trip to the mountains this month.  It’s a very accessible and fun little collection.

*I’m almost finished with Jesus Feminist, by Sarah Bessey.  It is not an argument so much as a celebration of how Jesus treats women, what women bring to His Kingdom, and how we can better reflect His great love.  Her conversational tone is inviting, her lyrical style inspiring, and her words encourage me to ask how I can love others better.

*My lovely friend Emily has started a new spiritual blog, A Feast of Crumbs, and it has been one of my favorite things to read this month.

Children’s Books:

*William’s House, by Ginger Howard: this was a wonderful find about a man building a house for his family in 1637 New England just like the one he grew up in back in England.  With each season in New England, they discover a new need and make adjustments to their house, until, finally, their home is entirely different, suited to their new home in America.  I loved this book because not only was it a sweet story, it occasioned so many discussions about what life was like hundreds of years ago, who the the first European settlers were, differences in architecture and homebuilding, and the development of our country…  I even learned that horn was used in windows when glass wasn’t available.  Who knew?

*Jethro and Joel Were a Troll, by Bill Peet: I have fond memories of borrowing Bill Peet books from the library when I was little, though this one was new to me the first time we borrowed it.  E. grabs it whenever he sees it.  A two-headed troll with two very different personalities goes on Joel’s long-desired rampage, and in making restitution they discover a new talent for building.  It’s a perfect illustration of how everyone needs creative, constructive work that makes use of their talents and energy (and keeps them out of trouble–ahem).

*We also (re)discovered Where’s Waldo this month.  E. has been winding down for bed with the one we borrowed from the library, and even fallen asleep a couple times with it.  I never realized before, though, that almost all the scenes are just big chaotic fights…

*The Cat in the Hat Comes Back, Dr. Seuss: with how much we love the first book, this one of course has been a big hit the past couple weeks.

Listening:

*Audrey Assad’s Fortunate Fall: I’ve loved her music since her first album referenced a Gerard Manley Hopkins poem (!).  This worship project has been like a balm for me the past few weeks; the music embodies the peaceful waters of the 23rd Psalm woven throughout so many of the songs.   The album manages to bring together quite varied influences –hymn, contemporary worship, medieval sounding chords in at least one song, as well as Assad’s own singer-songwriter style; but all seem of a piece and fit well together musically.  Lyrically, she is amazing: lines like “strange and sweet collision of justice and mercy” create beautiful poetry and yet manage to be unforced and natural.  Just lovely.

*One of my college poetry professors, Jack Ridl, gave an inspiring TEDx talk!  It was a joy and an encouragement to listen to “Perfectly Imperfect.”

In the Kitchen:

*Well-Fed 2, Melissa Joulwan: I got this cookbook with the intention of cleaning up our eating before the holidays. Everything looks amazing, all made with real food.  So far, I’ve only tried a meatball recipe, which was delicious.  The book also inspired me to look into getting a spiralizer.  I have a weakness for kitchen gadgets, so I was wary of adding what is essentially a one-trick pony to my already-too-big collection.  But my vegetable-eschewing preschooler has eaten zucchini noodles several times since getting one, so it has been worth every penny.

Doings:

*I turned 32 this month.  31 went out with a bang, as I got sick with a nasty stomach bug the night before my birthday.  Come the morning of my birthday, I was just grateful I didn’t have to go to the E.R. (Thank you, Emetrol!)  E. and my sister were sick, too, so my valiant husband nursed us all on his day off.  Then, a week later, he and the baby got sick in time for Thanksgiving.  So we spent the last third of the month sick or recovering.  Hopefully we are done with illness for a long time.

*We got a snowstorm, and snow that stayed for an entire day, which is rare here.  E. exclaimed, “I’ve been waiting all year for snow!”  Me, too, Bud.  Me, too.

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Release

A poem is never finished, only abandoned.
Paul Valery, French critic & poet (1871 – 1945)

I prefer to think of it as releasing, as opposed to abandoning. And just as with parenting, writing is a series of releases, with the understanding that we’re never completely finished. Where writing is concerned, I love revision–re-seeing–and, being a detail-oriented person, I could fine-tune forever. (This is one of my challenges with blogging–just getting something out there, even–especially–when it isn’t as polished as I would like.)  And I hope that with my parenting, as with any aspect of my life, I will always be fine-tuning myself, adjusting for the better.

Release

Poems, like children, will expose
you, lay you bare
in intimate vulnerability,
and for a few moments
that comprise an eternity
you won’t care
who sees.
Held inside,
gestating for weeks of days
till the body can’t hold them
anymore, and they come
barreling out so perfect-turned
you can’t believe
you had anything at all
to do with it.
You must tend
with intention, but if you try
to control them too much
they rebel or fall
flat. They’ll frustrate, even scare
you sometimes, mirror
and shine you just a little
too vividly for your own
comfort. You can hold them
in your heart, repeat
and turn their names, their words,
over in your mouth,
savoring the growth
and discovery.
But once they are out
there, in the world,
they live their own lives,
a future, you hope, beyond
your own.

Writer as Paleontologist

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Sometimes I am frustrated with this season of life, when it’s so difficult to carve out time for writing.  I miss being able to spend whole mornings, entire days, working on a poem or essay.  Losing myself in tinkering with a single line, meditating on the merits of this word over that word.

The high of head-down, charging-forward, steady, focused, creative work.

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Life with little ones feels a series of continuous interruptions: broken sleep, spilt-milk meltdowns, fractured conversations, abandoned shopping carts.

In this season of constant interruption, I’m trying to accept that there is little time for the deep digging, extended times of creativity (and as long as I’m still experiencing sleep deprivation, setting my alarm for 5 a.m. to have time to myself is just not going to happen). I want to embrace this time of unexpected discovery.

I’m marking the places I trip

over, the places something rare

and fascinating juts out of the sands

of my life, taking note and aching

for a chance to come back

later and dig.  Then

I will carefully mine

the sediment for more

bones, steady chipping,

brushing,

seeking,

hoping for a frame

to emerge.

Tedious work, sometimes, but once pieced together, it gives me the chance to do the fun, creative part of fleshing it out, really playing what if with the shape, the contours, colors, and textures.

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For now, I’m working on learning to excavate in smaller increments, on viewing a few moments of digging as worthwhile, on enjoying even five minutes of focusing on a line, a word, an image, on abandoning complete for work-in-progress (and isn’t that what we all are, anyway?)  On noticing.

But mostly, I’m working on trust– trust that this daily collecting of shards and bones will one day come together into something that, if not perfectly whole, will be beautiful.

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*Songwriter Sara Groves was the first person I heard liken her writing process to an archaeological dig.