For the writers…

I was cleaning out files (because as “Hoarders” tells me, 80% of filed documents are never touched again) and found these two poems.  They seemed relevant to our little group. ❤

I Write

by Naomi McEneely

Originally published in Yankee Magazine, January 2000


I write with renegade fat first-grade pencils

While the laundry waits.

Catching the words from my mind before they are

Folded away.

~

I write with remnants of red crayon

Rescued from the broom

As the dustpan beckons.

~

I write with pointless pencils

To keep sharp words

From cutting me inside.

~

I write on scraps

Recycled from third-grade

Homework to write words

Recycled in my mind.

~

I write to remember

Who I am and to

Record who I am becoming.

________________________________________________

For the young who want to

By Marge Piercy


Talent is what they say
you have after the novel
is published and favorably
reviewed. Beforehand what
you have is a tedious
delusion, a hobby like knitting.

Work is what you have done
after the play is produced
and the audience claps.
Before that friends keep asking
when you are planning to go
out and get a job.

Genius is what they know you
had after the third volume
of remarkable poems. Earlier
they accuse you of withdrawing,
ask why you don’t have a baby,
call you a bum.

The reason people want M.F.A.’s,
take workshops with fancy names
when all you can really
learn is a few techniques,
typing instructions and some-
body else’s mannerisms

is that every artist lacks
a license to hang on the wall
like your optician, your vet
proving you may be a clumsy sadist
whose fillings fall into the stew
but you’re certified a dentist.

The real writer is one
who really writes. Talent
is an invention like phlogiston
after the fact of fire.
Work is its own cure. You have to
like it better than being loved.

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Solvitur Ambulando

I started this post in July, 2009, and didn’t get any further than the title.  Wonder what I was going to say then.  Almost a year on, I’m sure the content will be different, but Solvitur Ambulando still seems as good a place as any to start.

At its most literal, my 6-month circulation issues are being solved by walking.  It’s a direct correlation — take a (long, brisk) walk before bed, and I won’t be lying awake at 1 in the morning with restless legs that don’t exactly HURT, but which compel me to move.  Don’t take that walk, or (as happened last night due to impending world-endage) cut it short, and in the wee hours, I’ll be doing silent bellydance shimmies at the foot of the bed while my pookie snoozes peacefully.

In less on-the-nose interpretations, this birth journey seems to only be solvable by walking.  So much of what’s to come seems subject to forces beyond my control, yet all the literature says, “make a plan!”.  I’ve been struggling to reconcile this, because what’s the point of specifying How I Want Things when something as simple as which way Fizzy’s head is pointing can throw the whole thing out the window?  In other arenas, I’ve always been perfectly comfortable with the idea that a plan is essentially a wishlist, and things will inevitably change.  For some reason, that is very uncomforting now.  Maybe it’s because I didn’t get much sleep last night and have been broody all day, but it really seems at times like the only things standing between this birth and complete disaster are prayer, chance, and luck, and the only way to know what will happen next is to walk the path with faith and positive thoughts.

My volunteer supervisor said to me yesterday that when she was in some public place, she’d noticed almost every woman there was expecting.  “It’s going to be a big class!”  It made me think of the WWII baby boom, and it got me thinking.

In the midst of war, recession, environmental disasters both current and looming, and rising cost of everything from diapers to college tuition, we are still choosing to reproduce.  It’s an essentially hopeful act, the conscious propagation of the species.  In these days, it almost seems like an act of faith — economic security be damned, unemployment average do what it will, terrorists target whatever, we WILL have a child because the world is bound to get better.  I think if we actually thought the world was going to be a barren hellscape in our lifetimes, if we were the last remnants of a species bent on destruction of all things good who would very soon scrabble for mere survival on a ruined planet, baking in the heat of an ozone-less sky, it wouldn’t occur to us to bring children into the world.

Solvitur ambulando seems to apply  to our environmental and healthcare footprint (why yes, walking WOULD solve some problems, wouldn’t it) as well as to the greater mission of saving the world for our descendants.  If we can walk in their shoes, maybe it will give us greater impetus to leave them grass to walk on.

This post itself seems to be less walking than wandering in circles.  I can only hope that, like the labyrinth, I’ll eventually reach the center.  For only in combination can one truly find solution.

Mandatory Positivity

When you smile, the world smiles with you,
But frown, and you’re left alone.
No one likes a grumpy gus,
So leave that gloom at home.

I have been informed that I am too negative. I should be cheerier.

Quote for the day: “Obstacles are FUN!”

-.-

everything goes somewhere…

and apparently, i go everywhere.

what a difference a decade makes.  call me unplugged, but it had been a while since i’d googled myself.  last time was probably, oh five-six years ago, not too long after we moved out here.  at that time, the most i found of myself was a few articles from the sylva herald, and some cached carolinian reviews.  nothing too incriminating.  oh, i think my own online portfolio was active then too.

well, so tonight i was playing with the googles, trying to find some old high school friends (no luck), and in the process, looked for me.

in the top two returns, i found my name, phone, home address, (almost) current job, college, facebook profile pic and link, symposium website, and perhaps most disconcerting, linkedin profile.

the disconcerting part was that i have never signed up for linkedin, to my knowledge.  yet somehow, i am looking for contract work and “getting back in touch,” and i can’t view my own full profile because I DON’T HAVE A LINKEDIN ACCOUNT.  i know it’s just one of those things, but it feels very weird to have information about myself out there that i can’t immediately access.

at least there weren’t any videos out there under my name — paranoia may go back to sleep.  i did find an incredibly old picture from my college publishing class under my maiden name, and the picture that the herald ran with my profile in 2001, but all things considered, i guess a relatively uninvasive internet experience?

still, feeling pretty outed. O.o

Poetry in Positivity

I swam the swim leg of a triathlon once, a mile swim. I was large maybe 185. My husband took my picture as I came out of the water. I took it to work cause I was proud of my accomplishment.

My collegues said, You like this picture?
I told them that they were looking at the wrong part of the photo. Look past the blazing white thighs, morbidly obese in a speedo, look behind me. See all those younger THINNER MEN behind me.!

— MarathonSara, posted on http://www.weightwatchers.com/community/

Of Babies and Bathwater

No, I’m not preggers.  Stop typing right now.  Stop it.  Sit on your hands if you have to. ;-*

But it would not be overstating the case to say that my life’s path has taken a 90-degree turn from its projected path.  My job loss comes at an awkward time, about a year ahead of schedule, and it has combined with some other percolations to throw everything in my life into chaos.  I’m just trying to separate the baby from the bathwater.

Here’s the deal.

We were planning on starting family stuff next year, maybe start trying after the New Year.  I figured I’d work through that Symposium, but once the baby came, I’d do the mommy thing.  So if you figure that I’d only planned for my career through about October 2010 (and I do mean “planned” in the loosest, most status-quo sense of the word),  hunting for a new job in August 2009 seems kinda pointless.  I mean, sure it would be a paycheck — and let’s not knock the importance of that — but what’s the point of trying to find something in my field, something with a learning curve, when I’m just going to be jumping ship in less than a year anyway?  Seems like a waste of the employer’s time, if nothing else, and if I’m just after the paycheck, there are other, part-time, temporary things I could do.  Hell, I could devote some time to finding our upstairs under all that crap we haven’t unpacked since the move.  That’s a full-time job right there.

The HR lady said that this shouldn’t bother me, and I shouldn’t mention my future plans to the employer.  But I can’t help thinking that there are so many unemployed folks out there who would love to grab onto a job and keep it forever, not to mention that if it’s a government or university position I’m looking at, that position may not even continue be there if they don’t keep it filled.

So I’m really, seriously, having to consider — do I really want to get another “real” job?  Which is awkward in itself, since the first thing that every single person has said, upon hearing of my layoff, is “Well, what sort of thing are you looking for?”  There’s no allowance for the possibility that I wouldn’t be diving head-first into the Help Wanteds — it’s just a given, and I keep feeling that attitude in myself, as I reflexively search jobs and look at listings and google convention planner societies / meeting planner certifications / government planner requirements.    But all the while, in the back of my head, a small, slightly pathetic voice says, “But what if I don’t want to go back out there??”

Now, in the meantime, I’ve been having somewhat of an on-going epiphany.  Not quite sure where it started, or even when.  At some point along my journey toward wanna-be domestic goddesshood, I got better about recycling.  Then I felt bad about throwing away food, so I started a compost pile.  I badgered Mikey into taking our own bags to the grocery store.  And somehere along the way, I started picking up books with titles like The Art of Simple Food, and More with Less, and French Women Don’t Get Fat, and most recently, The Omnivore’s Dilemma.  That last one, at least, has a very specific origin.

It came to me via the Western Wake Farmers’ Market.  Scroll down to “My Story: How the Market Was Born” to see the OP — there’s no direct link, unfortunately.  But her story and mine were pretty similar.  I’d tried the Raleigh Farmers’ Market thing, but it’s so far away (and who wants to drive into Raleigh if they don’t have to?) and frankly, it was a little intimidating the last few times I went.  So I was all kinds of excited (as I’m sure you’ll remember) when we got our own market, and when I read that Omnivore’s Dilemma was the catalyst that helped create WWFM, I decided to see what this book was all about.

Welp, it pretty much finished the job that Fast Food Nation started back in college.  It’s not as graphic as FFN, which focused largely on how utterly disgusting feedlots and slaughterhouses are in our modern, high-production world, but it raises those questions, plus many more about how we feed ourselves, and more still about the truth of food in America.

[Omit long, gushing review about how awesome and eye-opening this book is.  Suffice to say, if you thought you had a balanced diet because the front of the box said so, you might be surprised to learn how much of  your daily intake comes from two sources: corn and soy.  It’s not just in the doritos and the edamame — it’s in everything from the animal feed that produced your chicken breast, to near-ubiquitous use in processed foods, and often at the expense of other ingredients.  And if that doesn’t seem very “omnivoreish” to you, well, you might want to read this book. ]

So I read Omnivore on our Scotland trip.  It’s organized into 4 sections, as the subtitle (“A Natural History of Four Meals”) suggests, and one of those focuses on sustainable, free-range farming.  The “Happy Cow” philosophy of farming, as I mentally refer to it.  It was striking to read about this relatively novel (yet ancient) way of farming that is just now being re-introduced in America in defiance of the post-WW2 industrialization boom, while whizzing by field after verdant field of sheep, cattle, and other livestock.  These animals had obviously never seen the inside of a feedlot, and they looked about as peaceful out there as you could imagine.  I’ve never had much of an ethical dilemma with being a carnivore, but the thought of animals not having to be miserable their entire lives, before ending up on my plate, was a pretty appealing one.  I mean, I knew feedlots were crowded and dirty, but I didn’t know HOW bad they were.  And not just beef — there are horror stories, routine and (shockingly) unremarked in their respective industries, for hog and chicken and dairy factories as well.

But I think the biggest revelation for me was the bombshell that “organic” doesn’t always equal “better.”  There are the carbon costs — is it better for the world to buy a pint of organic blueberries imported from New Zealand than the pint of conventional grown in Chatham County and purchased direct from the grower?  It was bad enough in the produce section, when Pollan investigated how large-scale organic growers try to compete (only semi-successfully) with their conventional counterparts, but in the meat/dairy/egg department, “organic” took on a whole new shadow.  In a nutshell, big operations that employ the same close-quarters arrangements for their livestock, but who are not allowed to use antibiotics to counter the illnesses resulting from that crowding, operate on the edge of a knife.  Pollan was not allowed to touch any of the animals when he visited these farms; he was given a hazmat suit so that he wouldn’t introduce germs into their precarious environment.  Did anything ever sound so unnatural, or unsustainable, as a calf that couldn’t be petted?

I’m now reading Michael Pollan’s other book, In Defense of Food, and eagerly awaiting the DVD release of his movie.   It covers some of the same ground, but where Omnivore focused on the food itself in its journey to our plate, Defense is more about our relationship with food, and the ways we understand it (or don’t).  Food, Inc (the movie) seems to deal with why you can get a full-blown cheeseburger for $1, but not a head of broccoli, a topic that is at the core of our national dietary dilemma.

On the one hand, all this information has been a little depressing.  But it also seems like a challenge — how can I take more control of what’s going into my body and how I’m impacting the world around me?  It’s certainly given a whole other dimension to my shopping, and in the process, has led me down the least-expected of paths.  Now, in addition to evaluating price, quality, and quantity, I also find myself looking for point of origin and corn/soy/chemical content — just to see what ELSE I’m getting besides what’s listed on the pretty label.  In the cereal bar aisle last week, this led to some annoyance.  Once I factored in calorie content, fiber, “good stuff,” price, quantity and serving size, degree of chemical augmentation, and length of an ingredient list (measured in inches, for a product that claims to be nothing but oats, fruit, and nuts with a “chocolatey drizzle”), it became really hard to find anything I wanted to eat that wasn’t $4 a box!

Which is how I, who have never been the hippie-granola type, came to make my own granola bars this weekend.  It was easy, and they were good.  Mikey even suggested they replace the breakfast cookies we’ve historically gotten from Harris Teeter.  Which is high praise, seeing as how they have been his breakfast of choice since we discovered them.

This  “green” path seems like an extension of the awareness fostered by WW.  There, we learned first and foremost to prioritize our treats, retaining those we truly enjoy while learning to bypass the ones that were just mildly rewarding, or not good bargains for their nutritional value.  One of the pillars of WW is the consumption of whole foods, which itself serves to protect from some of the worst processed pitfalls, and this latest idea is just a shift away from the cheatersauce that can create sugar-free, fat-free, 10-calorie “chocolate” syrup and tell us it’s food.

However, there’s only so far down this path one can go before becoming that person that nobody wants to go out to eat with.  Adherence to principle is all very well, but catechizing the waiter on the origin of one’s steak borders on the overzealous, and it certainly doesn’t make for very good dinner conversation.  Plus, there are some things that I will readily admit are not food (Crystal Light, for example), but which I’m not willing to toss.  I’m looking at this more as another case of prioritization than a complete lifestyle overhaul — eating more healthy stuff means that the proportion of not-food in my diet will have less impact overall, just like every can I recycle is one less in a landfill, even if Morrisville has started putting restrictions on what they will and won’t take. >.<

So here I am, trying to re-sort my culinary life, put some order back in my five-year plan*, and decide whether to actually finish updating my resume.  And it’s only Monday.

*It had never occurred to me to attach the words “five-year plan” to my life — as far as I knew, that was something Stalin did in Russia — but swear to God, that’s one of the first questions that they asked me in the interview for the Morrisville Community Center job.  ;-P

Check me out.

No seriously, check me out.

You know what’s really gross?

The idea that anyone finds breast-feeding — or the associated state of a naked woman holding a baby — “pornographic.”

I mean, really.  The idea is absurd and insulting.  Ignore for the moment that somehow the breast has become completely divorced from its actual biological purpose, replaced in the Western collective mind as ZOMGBOOBIES–SEEEEEX.  Ignore further that apparently SOMEBODY, SOMEWHERE, gets their rocks off on a picture involving a newborn baby, and ignore that apparently THIS is ok, whereas the natural mammalian feeding method is not.

Are we really such depraved creatures that skin-on-skin contact of any sort can ONLY lead inevitably to a sexual encounter? Are we gonna call those naked-baby-in-the-tub pictures child porn, cus OMG I SEE HIS WEE-WEE??

It makes me wonder about the people who would label the interaction of mother and child as such…I’m thinking that they and their perverted focus on sex are much less safe for my kids than the image of a naked breast with a baby attached. (Follow that linky for a sampling of the pictures that Facebook has deemed “obscene” and removed.  And just for good measure, a lot of the accounts were banned too!)

Bah.

You know, nobody thought breast-feeding was weird in CAVEMAN times.  Don’t make me wish we were still living in holes in the ground, foraging for weeds, Facebook!

I gotta say it was a good day

today was pretty cool.  my half of the christmas presents are wrapped and under the tree, i lost half a pound when i thought i’d gained, i found out i’m down a pant size, and the car service located my new car (it’s being delivered tomorrow!!!!!!!!).

don’t have much to say other than that.  we’re leaving after we get the car to go to franklin-christmas, then back here for mom-christmas and new year’s.  i’m .4 lbs away from my next star sticker (45 lbs), so that’s incentive to stay away from the divinity and go easy on the cheesecake.  😀

happy holidays, everybody!  big hugs and best wishes for a peaceful, pleasant week!

zest

i was going to tell you how at 7:50 pm, i was immersed in the somewhat foolhardy procedure of chopping orange zest with tear-blurred vision and a 10-inch sudoku knife.  i was going to tell you about the cause of this occasion, and probably wander into some slightly pedantic musing about religion, humanity, and/or brotherly love.

this seems pretentious, so i won’t do it.

i’ll tell you instead about the cake…pie…thing for which i was chopping the zest.  it’s the grace note on a holiday that has gone eerily well.  i hosted my first thanksgiving yesterday, bringing to the table not only a turkey (6lb breast, because i was only serving four moderate eaters), two vegetable dishes and a hand-shredded apple slaw, but separate nutted and nut-free stuffings and cranberry salads.  not to mention the combination pumpkin pie-and-cheesecake that is one of my harvest staples, or the made-from-scratch gravy, or the delightfully oaty fresh market dinner rolls, or the mulled pomegranate-apple cider.

it was a process that involved two cooking days and a full-page shopping list.  at one point, i had to laugh, remembering how at childhood thanksgivings, all four stove eyes and the oven would be going full blast all day — as i looked at my kitchen, two crock pots and a rice cooker occupied the stove, with the stock pot of cider simmering quietly on a back burner.  my thanksgiving involves a lot of plugs, it seems.  as my mom said, good thing the power didn’t decide to go out, as it did two years ago because of a blown circuit in my grandmother’s bedroom.

but those sort of catastrophes seem to be the province of family thanksgivings, not mine.  i even earned the ultimate accolade…my grandfather said, “it’s been a great visit, and i’ve really enjoyed it.  you can’t ask for more than that.”

no, i can’t.  in a family that firmly embraces the “no news is good news” philosophy of compliments, this was tantamount to a papal blessing.

tomorrow, we’ll get up way too early and drive down to the extended family’s gathering.  i spent this afternoon making my contributory baked macaroni and cheese and — because i felt like it — the aforementioned dessert.  barring wrong turns, we’ll arrive maybe an hour before the meal, and soon after, we’ll make our excuses and get back on the road for the four-point-five hour return trip.  in between, we’ll make conversation if there is conversation to be made, but it will be of the politely inconsequental variety.  in a family as disparate as mine, it doesn’t do to get too personal — keep it polite, keep it generic, and for the love of all things holy, don’t mention anything contraversial unless you want to spend the next hour listening to all the reasons why only idiots and city folk would hold such a position.

yesterday was the first time in my life that “thanksgiving” wasn’t synonymous with dread and a loss of appetite.  we had moist turkey and wide-ranging conversation; we laughed and joked and talked about my mom’s fuquay house (grandpa approves unconditionally of it, incidentally); and at the end of the meal, i served pie and ice cream, while my guests drank coffee and cider and said what a good time they’d had.  it was like walking into a folger’s commercial, and i didn’t come down off the high until i fell into bed, exhausted, at 10 pm.

if thanksgiving could always be that way, what a glorious tradition it could become.  it’s enough to make me swear off the extended family thing for life.

so at 7:50 pm tonight, i was standing in the kitchen, working by the light of the red photographer’s lamp that makes me happy just by its very existence.  a casserole of cheesy-maccy-panko crumb goodness was cooling on the stove top next to me, and i was rediscovering the tao of food prep while behind me, anne lamott talked about jesus, and miracles, and humanity at thirty thousand feet.

i’ve been hearing about the crisis in india for what seems like all week, though i think it’s been only a few days, and while my heart is sick with pain for those injured, and anger towards the ignorantly vengeful zealots responsible, i haven’t cried.

but chopping my zest tonight, a miracle unfolding in my mind’s eye as she talked, the balance of humanity reasserted itself.  california, india, our own hometowns — they all have their stories of ugliness and anger, of closing oneself off from one’s fellow men, of hiding within fear that masks itself with hatred, of turning aside instead of putting out a helping hand.  but equally, though perhaps more subtly, these places also have their miracle moments. and the thought of those small — but so significant — gestures, brought tears to my eyes.  it’s so easy to write off the whole world as self-absorbed and stupid and proud to be both.  thank god there’s more to us than that.

i have all my fingers and a pie that is filling the house with the scent of almond and orange.

happy thanksgiving.

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