Wednesday, June 24, 2015

why I write.

Today around the table we read Terry Tempest Williams' manifesto, "I write..." It's a lovely piece, made more lovely when 15 different voices read it aloud, one sentence at a time. We then asked people to describe themselves as a writer. Here's mine.

I write to quiet the voices in my head. I also write what those voices tell me. I write to make sense of my world.  I write so that things stop making so much sense. I write because I can’t ever recall not needing to write. I write because I love the sound of my fingers on the keyboard, almost like an angry dance. I write because I need a way for my girls to know what was going on in my head when they were young. I write because no one did that for me and I really could have used it. I write because it helps me process, predict, perceive. I write because it seems like a better use of time than television or movies. I write because it’s like music to me. I write in the hopes that I’ll create at least one amazing sentence. I write because I love words. I write because I’m having an ongoing love affair with language. I write because I like combining words. Word salad. I write because it calms me. I write because it centers me. I write because it is much like mental yoga. I write because I’m angry. I write because I’m lost. I write because I don’t know how to say these things out loud to you. I write because I need to be heard. I write because I’m afraid to be heard. I write because therapy is expensive. I write because good bourbon is expensive, too. I write because I want to connect with my past. I write because I want to disconnect with my past. I write to look ahead. I write because the pen and paper were my first friends. I write because I like to maintain good friendships. I write because it is who I am. I write because sometimes I don’t know what else to do.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

the worst metaphor you'll ever hear. today.

Yesterday, we asked the participants at the Summer Institute to do some writing about themselves as readers. I've just decided to challenge myself to publish more writing here. So, here you's my reading story. About peanut butter.

Ted’s lunch today caused me to consider peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. People have serious opinions on the pb&j, far beyond liking or disliking them. For example, my girls prefer my distribution of peanut butter – extra thick,  and spread all the way to the crust. But they also prefer my husband’s distribution of jelly – sloppy and globby, much more liberal than my taste allows me to recreate for them. I saw Ted’s pb&j and thought about how, much like sandwiches, we all have such differing opinions in our reading. I know, bear with me here. I’ve been a reader for as long as I can remember. Reading was an integral part of every single day growing up, whether we read together on laps, or alone in bedrooms under covers, stealing extra reading time with a flashlight in hand. Much like a good a good layer of peanut butter, reading for me has been something to get stuck in, to take all the way to the edges, and to devour slowly. I suppose, like jelly, reading can also be messy at times. When those purple globs escape the bread and land on your shirt, they can stain. A good book stays with you like the stains of grape jelly. Is there any other kind?
Like my opinion on peanut butter distribution, I find that I have strong opinions on what I read. Probably I’m also judging what you read, too, just so you know. I’m a fan of female writers. I’m not sure why this is, but until my recent discovery of Jonathan Tropper, my fiction reading has mostly been limited to female authors – with the exception of Wally Lamb and Stephen King. I prefer fiction to non. I dislike historical fiction, but could be swayed on this with the right book. I refuse self help books. I refuse certain trendy books. Take your 50 shades far away from me. I love a good, angsty young adult novel. Bring me back to being 16 and in love for the first time and I’m sold, hands down.
When I think about myself as a reader, I think about how some of my most favorite times have been spent reading: on the beach, in the early mornings before anyone else is awake, when I was pregnant with both girls, and struck with the worst insomnia I’ve ever experienced, and on those nights when anxiety leaves me sleepless. A good book can always take me to someplace different and help to clear my head.
When I consider myself as a reader, I now also consider how to share my love of reading with my girls, and with my students. I have to get out of my comfort zone a little when they come to me with books they want to read. I refrain from making too many comments, if I comment at all, for fear that I would crush their interest. That’s hard for me, as you might guess. I want my kids to enjoy reading as much as I do, and so far that hasn’t happened quite like I imagined it would. Maybe it’s just being a kid today. Maybe there’s too many other distractions. I’m not sure, but if all I can do is continue modeling my love of books for them, then that is what I will do.
Humor me with this metaphor for one more moment, if you will. I don’t often allow myself a good, gooey pb&j. Too many calories, too much sugar.  But it’s my favorite sandwich, the most comforting of foods, I think. Much like a good pb&j has provided that comfort to me during times of need, getting lost in a good book can do the same.

Monday, June 8, 2015

40 isn't old...if you're a tree

Today I asked Lucy to write an introduction to share with the class I’m co-facilitating this summer. Each year we ask the participants to introduce themselves. Each year I struggle with this first assignment, but this year it was particularly hard for me to even start.  It’s not like I’m not an open book.  I mean, sure, I have things that I keep to myself, but for the most part I’m an oversharer. Yep, that’s a word. Often I will run into people who will say, “your kids are so funny!” or, “I saw you went to X restaurant, how was it?”  I don’t often have a filter, and I’m happy to share my opinions on just about everything. Your Crocs are disgusting, by the way.
I think this introduction is overshadowed by my 40th birthday on Thursday. I have started considering myself in terms of that birthday. Who am I at 40? What have I done so far?  People who are older than me laugh and tell me it’s not a big deal at all. I would like to say that 40 isn’t a big deal…and in a lot of ways it isn’t. I do think I get smarter every year. I am so glad to not be in my 20s, but 40 just seems so big.  I remember my dad turning 40. I was just about Lucy’s age, and someone gave him a tshirt that read, “40 isn’t old…if you’re a tree.” I’ve been thinking about that shirt a lot lately. I think I’ve done pretty well for 40.  Sometimes I look around and think about how glad I am to be me. I’ve learned to really like myself over the years. But that took me most of my 40 years, and I’m still working on it every single day.
I get introspective around my birthdays, and this year is no exception. At 36, I wrote about not caring so much anymore about my weight. I wrote about traveling more and starting my masters degree. At 40, I’ve learned that I can carry that extra weight without worrying so much, but that I can also be strong and healthy, and that 4 herniated discs doesn’t mean I can’t also be fit…it just looks different that it did at 20.  In the last 4 years, I’ve traveled all over the country, and a lot of that traveling has been solo. In fact, the thing that’s probably changed more than anything over the last 4 years is that I appreciate those moments of alone time more than I ever thought I would. I also care less about what other people think of me. So much less.
What’s next? Maybe that’s the biggest thing about 40. I have always been working toward something bigger, and this year, despite the big birthday, I’m not sure what that next thing is. Maybe this is the year I’ll start writing more for publication and not just for myself. It’s weird to put that on paper, but I read stuff all the time that I think I should have written and I know I can do more. Maybe this is the year I take up yoga and get my spine in order. Perhaps this is the year I get a part time job at that shop I love so much simply because I can. Maybe I look into what it takes to be a sommelier. What? I like wine more than just drinking it…really. I feel like this is going to be an interesting year for me. I don’t know what it will be, but when I go to write my introduction next year, I know somehow it will be different.
Here’s Lucy’s, in case you want to know how my kid would introduce her mama:
“Kate is a 40 year old teacher. She teaches preschool at village church. Kate got her masters Degree in 2013. She is very smart and funny. Kate says no quite a bit, in fact its been a long time since she has said yes. Her least favorite word is moist. I see her writing a lot and she Sighs a lot while she writes even if she is writing something happy. Anyway, your going to really like her.” 
 I hope she's right.