This is 39.

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Last week I went to a concert at a beautiful park in the middle of the city. The weather was perfect. Cool with just enough humidity that you couldn’t forget that it was June in Virginia. It also just happened to be my 39th birthday.

As I sat in my fold-up camping chair, eating a bowl full of quinoa/arugula/avocado and sipping my beer– I took in the crowd around me. Standing just behind the sound board in a more open space were two women with long wavy hair and pretty sundresses. They laughed and talked to some other people near them. They huddled close together over secrets and inside jokes. Later they took their shoes off and danced. They knew all the words. Continue reading

Spectacular. Messy. Lessons in Both.

Spectacular. Messy.Lessons in both.

A friend of mine posted this challenge on Facebook on New Years Eve: describe 2015 in three to five words. Five words? A whole year to summarize. I write 65,000 word novels and struggle to keep my weekly blog posts at around 300 words (this one is way over, folks). Despite the difficulty, I loved her idea of summarizing all those year-end thoughts in this really concise way. I chose these five words: Continue reading

Brown Paper Packages Tied Up with Strings

You know what it is a soon as you pick it up. You can feel the rigid spine under the cheerful holiday paper. It’s dense as you lift it from under the tree. And yet, even though you know without a doubt you’ve been given a book— what lies under that paper is still a complete and total surprise. Continue reading

Stack of Journals: Sketchbook (aka Art is Not my Creative Outlet)


That stack of journals I brought home from my parent’s house included a sketchbook from the Drawing I class that I took my freshman year of college.  Above are two fabulous examples of its contents.  So that you can truly  appreciate them, I will highlight two things: first, please notice the extremely sunken television screen in the first picture (showing Friends); second, please know that the rose in the second picture was not supposed to be an abstract (in my written reflection I lament how unrealistic it looks).

So drawing wasn’t really my thing.  Also not really my thing – jewelry making, stained glass, pottery and crocheting.  Oh, and also acting.  And especially singing.

I don’t say that these things weren’t my thing because I didn’t like them or even really because I was totally devoid of skill in them.  I enjoyed the art, craft and theatre classes I took in college and, in retrospect, was not terrible at any of these things (except the singing, the singing was/is really bad).  The thing is, I lacked the passion for them to push myself to be better than average.

When I talk about my college career, I often say that I have a degree in Psychology with a side of Art, a splash of English Literature and a pinch of Theatre.  I admit this proudly without an ounce of regret.  Sure if I had figured out then that I wanted to be a writer I could have focused on that; maybe majored in journalism or gone on to get a MFA in creative writing.  But here’s the thing, I’m not sure it would have worked.

Without that personal exploration in creativity that began in college and continued until I sat down to really focus on writing at age 29; I’m not sure I would be much of a writer.  I’m not saying you can’t be a writer when you are young.  You absolutely can.  I’ve read and been inspired by some amazing young writers.  I’m just not sure that I could have been a writer when I was younger and I am grateful for the life experience I  have to draw on now.

Just like I’m grateful for sketchbooks full of average drawings and a crate full of lumpy pottery. They are the artifacts of my creative journey.


Stack of Journals: Closure, or Lack Thereof

I still have some things stored in my old bedroom at my parent’s house.  You know, those things that there wasn’t room for in your college room or subsequent apartments, but that you just couldn’t possibly part with.  This past year I have begun working on going through these things.  Most of it is easy since, obviously, if I haven’t used it in the last *gulp* 13 years, I probably don’t need it.

But I’m stuck on the journals.  There are a lot of my words in there.  A lot of my time.  A lot of me.  So I have brought a stack of them home and am slowly skimming my way through them, hoping that perhaps I will have a more clear feeling about what exactly to do with them when I’m done.  In the interim, I thought perhaps I would share some of my younger pre-existence of blog thoughts here.

First up:  a journal I had to keep for a class during  my sophomore year in college.  It was an educational theatre class in which we practiced and performed a play about sexual assault and dating violence for other area colleges, high schools and community groups.  We also learned a great deal about the topic and conducted a question and answer session after each show.  The class was co-taught by a theatre professor and the campus wellness coordinator.

The journal entry I ran across was pages and pages of me trying to make sense of my sophomore year.  I  was reflecting on the fact that my character in the play had a line about life being great and how hard it was for me to say that in a believable manner, since I felt exactly the opposite.  As I wrapped up my ramblings I stated that I had been trying to write about my semester to get some closure, but that it really hadn’t seemed to help.  In the margins, the wellness coordinator commented that “life doesn’t have closure.”

At 19, I’m guessing this comment just made me feel more normal, like it was okay that I didn’t have it all figured out.  At 35, reading  it gave me chills.  Because it is true.  And  because learning to live in the moment and enjoy the unpredictable, often unfinished business of life has become really core to who I am as an adult.  That sophomore year of messy, undone, best laid plans was formative in this.  And every time someone said it was okay or that I was normal got me closer to where I am today.

Both the educational theatre class, and (especially) the wellness coordinator are probably largely what sparked my interest in working in higher education (though I’m stubborn and it took me a while to come around to it).  What an amazing reminder that old journal was of the important role we can play in the lives of others, just by taking the time to really listen.

While I’m no closer to figuring out what to do with the old journals, I am excited to see what other treasures lie within.  More to come . . .

“Family”

This past weekend I visited my hometown; my parents, grandparents and one of my oldest friends.  Oldest meaning length of friendship, obviously, not her age.  This is a friend I grew up with.  Caught toads with.  Attempted to dress kittens in doll clothes with.  Danced the Nutcracker in the living room with.  She’s one of several friends who are like family.

I learned early on that there are two kinds of family; the one we are born into and the one we choose.  I grew up calling two sets of my parent’s close friends aunt and uncle.  One of their daughters is still an extremely close friend today (Pictured above – circa late 70’s early 80’s.  She’s rockin’ the smile, me the shocked open mouth.)  Visiting with these “aunts,” “uncles” and “cousins” feels like coming home.  It’s easy and peaceful and comfortable.

I am grateful that I get along exceedingly well with my biological family, and my married into family.  This is something I try hard not to take for granted, because it is a luxury that so many people do not have.  I find myself hoping that anyone without this luxury has chosen for themselves a loving and supportive “family.” 

After all, it’s  things like celebrating  accomplishments and comforting broken hearts that really connect us.  And we can certainly share these things whether we share the same eye color, straight nose and tiny divit in our chin, or not.