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I have been stupid productive this last couple of weeks. No – really. I’ve made a set of spring scarves and gotten them up on Etsy, I’ve redesigned the Doublebunny store, done a ton of art, written some press releases, finished fundraising* for Rabbit Heart Poetry Film Festival and issued a venue challenge for it, done some writing for a pet project with a good friend, led a collage workshop, put down the bones for a website for another pet project, and did I mention, I’ve made a ton of art? I’ve made a ton of art.
I blame it on Edward James Olmos. Well, the Admiral.
See, I got home from a fantastic retreat feeling energized, and reading Stephen Cope’s The Great Work of Your Life, which I had picked up while away. When I hit the part about focus, I sorta lost my shit for a week, and everything started to fall apart as I thought myself into a corner.
What Was I Thinking?
by Suzi Banks Baum
“Vulnerability is the birthplace of love, belonging, joy, courage, empathy
and creativity. It is the source of hope, empathy, accountability, and authenticity.
To put our art, our writing, our photographs, our ideas out into the world with no assurance of acceptance or appreciation-that’s also vulnerability.”
—Brené Brown Daring Greatly
Vulnerable is exactly how I felt when I invited 35 women to jump into the freezing cold waters of public opinion and share themselves and their perspectives on living lives pumped full with creativity in Anthology of Babes: 36 Women Give Motherhood a Voice. At that point I knew wanted to put my words and images out in to the world, but publishing a book? Being that public terrified me. So, I figured I’d rather have some co-conspirators.
Years before, I had started writing my own stories about how I spent my days as a mother, what caught my attention internally, and how I righted the boat of my serenity over and over again with small creative acts. I wrote never thinking anyone but a few close friends would read these stories. I was just writing. But in April 2009, I dared to title the writing Laundry Line Divine: A Wild Soul Book for Mothers. At a writing conference, I spoke to a literary agent about the work, wondering if there was interest in the world beyond my sphere for a book about how I raised myself as I raised my children. (Please note elevator pitch in the last sentence. “Can I describe my book in 10 words or less?”)
Standing before a literary agent is much like any other moment in life when you are Dorothy at the feet of the Wizard. “Is there anything in your bag for me?” “Could there be another human aside from my best friends who might be interested in my writing?” Standing there, knees clattering (and go ahead, tell me I was supposed to own my brilliance, stand for all mothers, flirt with the agent, shine shine shine), palms slick with sweat, lips dry, eyes blurring, I learned I was to go home and build my author platform. “Come back when you’ve built that,” said the agent.
Ok, so I’ve been awol for a couple weeks, right? Here’s the scoop (anti-scoop, maybe?) – I’m working on a project that I can’t talk about just yet (it will be revealed over the weekend, and then I can talk about it), and it’s just killing me. I’ve actually been picking away at this for about a month now (ok, almost two months), and it’s all I want to talk about, but I can’t, so instead I haven’t been talking about much of anything. Except the day-to-day business of being around here, natch, and that doesn’t feel really blogworthy. But then I realized that, indeed, things are happening. So let me tell you about things that are happening (that I can talk about)!
Let’s start with the part where I got adopted by a slam team. Nono, I didn’t make it onto a slam team.* The 2013 Worcester Slam Team asked me to be their coach, and I couldn’t be more honored to work with such an osm group of poets. Watching them come together with their writing has been really great. Also, I would love these people, even if they weren’t writing super poems – they’re just really great people, and I love being in their presence. I feel a little gifted, really – two of them are housemates, and three of them are the ladies with whom I meet to write on Monday nights. It’s been lovely to reconnect to the slam while not having to actually compete – totally fun!
And I’ve been working on a scarf thing. So I saw this really sweet scarf on Pinterest, right? All made up of tiny little crocheted hexagons – so dainty! So pretty! And I was hoping for instructions at the pin’s website, but alas, it’s a picture of something that a blogger had just purchased. And I don’t know how to make hexagons. So I started to dig around to learn how to make hexagons, but in the middle of researching** I had this (somewhat related) idea that I could make a scarf from different sized circles.
And, whoa – surprise! This has been the Most Relaxing Thing Evar. See, I have issues with relaxing, across the board. I always feel like I should be doing something.*** And having something to do with my hands while Screwing Off On Purpose (what most people call Relaxing), calms that business down like no other thing. Guilty pleasure admission: I love to watch teevee and do needlework. So I’m making this scarf, and all of yesterday was spent in front of Hulu, watching episodes of comfortable junk-food teevee like Merlin, and crocheting circles. I’m about half way to Scarf, and plan on showing it off like whoa when it’s all done.
Recently I read a book by Neal Stephenson that captured my attention wholly for a few weeks in some groovy adventure, right? So how come the big detail that keeps rattling around in my head is a comment that one of the narrators makes early on about midwesterners doing some recombinant cooking?* Now every time I start making dinner, I have this Thing hanging over my shoulder asking whether I’m actually cooking or just recombining. Not that there’s anything wrong with a casserole, mind you – I like a casserole every now and then, myself. But I want to consider myself to be cooking when I’m, er, cooking.
Anyway! That thought, and the sudden grody heat spike yesterday, and a fridge full of leftovers,** got me thinking about recombining. And here’s what I came up with: a few simple dishes, some of them salads, all of them tasty, all of them quick. I don’t have a lot of exact measures on stuff because this is a leftovers thing, but none of it is hard to suss out if you taste as you go. Also, this may or may not be considered cooking.
Chilled Spaghetti and Anchovies –
Leftover spaghetti, leftover anchovies that may have come with your pizza last week, a little bit of italian hard cheese (like parmesan or romano). Just chop the anchovies, mix them into the spaghetti, top with a smidge of cheese (not too much – the anchovies are already pretty salty). For fancier, add a few pine nuts.
Apples and Lime –
I mentioned this one last post, but it’s worth mentioning again. Red delicious apples, sliced into 12ths, with half a lime squeezed over for each full apple. Shake it all up to make sure the lime juice gets around, and chill for half an hour in the fridge.
Oh, November, how full you have been!
The biggest part of the month, of course, has been the annual gathering of the family at our place for Thanksgiving. As a blended family that isn’t terrifically religious, it was fairly easy to split up the holidays when Will Dearest and I got hitched – his family would get Christmas, and my family would get Thanksgiving. When my brother lived in FL, it made the most sense for our little household to get our bags packed and head down for a long weekend, and we’d all share a dinner together there. But then my brother moved up here, found the love of his life, and they had kids, and travel became a little less simple across the board. Now it’s much easier for our parents to fly up here and our auntie in NJ to drive up. Also there are perks to this arrangement – when my family comes into town, it means that Will’s family, who are all local, can join us too. It’s a mighty bit of something, a table for 18 (when all the kids are accounted for), and I’m pleased to make it.
The nicest thing about this year was that the cousins are all in the same age range, and all pretty much out of the parallel play dynamic. So there were four of them, and they were all able to really sort of meet each other this year. And by “meet,” I mean to say, run around the open-layout apartment, squealing at each other and giggling their little heads off. They had so much fun, I’m tempted to set up a play date for all four of them at our house again.
This beautiful sort of coming together is the highlight of autumn for me. I look forward to it, really, from August*, when I start the planning. I really like looking across the big tables that we set up in the living room/office, and looking at everyone together over the meal. I love that things have worked out so everyone is together, when we’re a little scattered and living our own separate stuff all the rest of the year.
So coming back together has been a big part of things this month. Can we talk poetry for a minute? Because it’s happened there for me, too.
When I cannot hold my shit together, which has been known to happen a time or two, I turn into an escapist like whoa. I read books that take place on other planets. I cook things I don’t generally cook. I buy new first person shooter videogames or binge on MI-5 episodes. I watch Serenity for the umpteenth time and then follow that business up with the whole Firefly series over the course of a week. I listen to the score from The Elder Scrolls IV Morrowind while I do anything that actually has to get done. I go through my file folder of torn-out articles about Iceland and get daffy over the fantasy that I will one day actually have a passport* and go there.
I totally collect pictures of places. And when I get stressed out, I flip through them. Hello, Pinterest. This is where I go at least twice a day during the working day – feel free to browse and sigh too. For example:
Good morning, rainy Wednesday! I overslept and so some projects are going to wait for me, but that’s fine for today; I’ll get into them in a bit. But I wanted to pop by and tell you about a neat thing.
Do you know about Suzi Banks Baum’s Laundry Line Divine? She’s been in the blogroll over on the left for a little while now, because I just adore reading her. The blog is split into a bunch of rad pages, the main one being her musings on creativity and daily living and motherhood, accompanied by her fantastic photographs and collage illustrations. It’s some of the most authentic and delicious stuff I read on a regular basis – the kind of work that makes one’s soul pleased to walk the earth, knowing there are kindred upon the same ground.
And Suzi does something else with her blog, as well – she brings together women who are blogging, printing them up in a collection called Out of the Mouths of Babes*. If you scroll down a little bit on her page and peek in the middle column, you’ll find links to pages that she’s collected of posts from these osm writers about everything from radio to food to inspiration, hung them all out in a line like laundry, and hence the name of her blog. It’s a very very cool thing.
And I am filled with gratitude this rainy Wednesday to announce that I have been honored with a spot in the line, a repost of a blog entry that I did after coming home from a retreat at Kripalu with Karen Arp-Sandel in the springtime. You can see it here. Better yet, grab some delicious context by starting here with the post from Suzi that jumps to mine at the end.
May your day find a little sugar spilled on it today =)
I know that no one lasts forever, and that death is a fact of life. But it’s still no fun to hear about the passing of an artist who demanded one’s deepest respect. This morning’s news brought word of the passing of Ray Bradbury, and I am seriously bummed.*
When I was growing up, there was The Bookshelf in my father’s office.** The Bookshelf reached almost the ceiling, and when I was really little and still monkey-limbed, climbable.*** And on The Bookshelf was all kinds of business – everything from my mother’s college textbooks, to a big set of books on how to take and develop photographs, to a full set of World Book Encyclopedias (you remember when encyclopedias were on paper and bound in fancy covers and took up a bunch of space, right?) And nestled into the shelves was my father’s science fiction collection – Heinlein, Asimov, Robert E Howard, Anne McCaffrey, Ursula K LeGuinn, Ray Bradbury, and a bunch of others. I made it my task to gobble up as many of those books as I possibly could, while avoiding the Conan the Barbarian paperbacks, because they seemed a little sketchy to me.† I like think that I got a right good education from that Bookshelf.
My favorite, from an early age, was Bradbury. Dark They Were, and Golden-Eyed, originally published as The Naming of Names in the book The Martian Chronicles, literally changed my life. From the moment I finished that story, my perspective was different – I wanted now to find mystery in ordinary things, and sought it out at every chance. I also made it my business to read as much Ray Bradbury as I could possibly get my paws on.
(crossposted to Worcester Poets Asylum)
Sad news this morning from the New York Times (obit below the fold). Beloved poet and children’s author, Maurice Sendak has passed away.
Maurice Sendak has always held a very special place for me. One of my earliest memories from childhood is reading Chicken Soup With Rice in kindergarten – I distinctly remember the librarian at the Ethel McKnight School in East Windsor, NJ, holding the oversized book open for us to all see the pictures as we crowded in to hear her tell the story. I remember being read to when I was small enough to still fit on a lap, and the bright pages of Where The Wild Things Are taking up more space than the room possibly could hold.
And when my own son was born, we read every Sendak book we could find together. We started reading together before he was even old enough to understand that books were more than just delightful on the gums. When he was a couple years old, Where The Wild Things Are*, In The Night Kitchen and Outside Over There became our very favorites.
Just this weekend, I picked up a copy of Bumble-Ardy for my nieces, barely daring to wonder to myself if this would be his last book. In an NPR interview last year, he just sounded so sad – he cried through the interview with Terri Gross (Fresh Air, September 20, 2011), lamenting the passing of his partner of fifty years, Eugene Glynn, as well as other friends whom he had outlived. He said, “I cry a lot because I miss people. They die and I can’t stop them. They leave me and I love them more,” and I started crying too, there in the car, on I-190, weeping and driving, and hearing how he sounded so lonesome.
Oh, Maurice – thank you for your words, for your pictures, for these beautiful pieces of childhood and parenthood that you gave us. I’ll miss you. The wild rumpus will forever be changed by your passing.
You may or may not be asking where the heck this blog went*. So what up, Apple Moskowitz, where have you been? We’ve seen nothing but a kiwi video since freaking Hanukkah, Ms. Maam. For reals, what the hey?
Well! It’s been a bit of a Thing around here at Chez Moskowitz, what with all the holiday stuff.** If you’ve been following along, you know that the family comes in from far flung parts of the States for Thanksgiving, and then things really don’t slow down until about now. I really like now – there’s way less stress, and I can discover cool stuff like if you add a can of mushrooms, a little paprika and a the juice of half a lime to some leftover buttered rice and then warm it in a skillet, it’s a pretty osm side dish for dinner. It’s the little things, friends. It’s the little things.
Also, I’ve taken over handling the Poets Asylum blog – whee! Go check it out – mostly it’s stuff that relates to the Sunday night reading here in Worcester, MA, but there’s also some fun stuff about
poultry poetry events out and around the region, info on deadlines and opportunities for poets, breaking poetry news,*** and the occasional cartoon. Good Tiems.
Also I’ve been doing yoga with Dearest Will. Ikr? As my brother said when I told him, “Wow… I guess the floor did feel a little bit colder…” But in seriousness, it’s been really lovely to have a partner for yoga, and to get bendy and bondy at the same time. Speaking of bendy, did you know that Yoga Journal just started another 21 Day Challenge? I kinda loved it last year – they put up different little videos every day so you can try things out.
This year they have two levels of videos – stuff for newbies and then an intermediate level set. This? Is absolutely wonderful on a number of levels. First and foremost, because due to some chronic pain issues (mean old sciatica. Mean old S/I joint), in spite of daily practice, I’m sort of always at the beginner level. Also, Will is just beginning, and hopping in at the deep end really sucks. This year they also have a tracking thing, where you can tick off what you’ve done, and see it laid out for you. I love me some ticky boxes, I do.
Speaking of ticky boxes… Other stuff I adore right now includes 750words.com. It’s a website where you sign up and write every day, and it counts you off to 750 words (see what they did there?) It’s totally private, which means that you can write any little thing at all without fear of broadcast (or accidental broadcast). Also, and this is my favorite bit, you earn badges for your writing – there’s a badge for starting (it’s an egg), there’s a badge for writing 30 days in a row, there’s a badge for writing without distractions (a hamster on a wheel – adorbz), a badge for your typing speed, a badge for participating in their monthly challenge to write every day… You get the picture. Totally fun.