Posts Tagged ‘writing’

National Blog Writing Month

Posted: 1 November 2009 in observations
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Somehow November crept up on me.  I suppose it’s only fair to say that October and September did too.  It’s been lovely, fall in a new house.  We’re been watching the leaves flash a most beautiful red and yellow.  Some folks say it has been a brighter fall than usual, but I can’t tell the difference from last year.  Our old neighborhood was heavy on the dogwoods – young ones that turned a sullen purply red.  This neighborhood has old oaks and cottonwoods (along with a few grown dogwoods) that have lit up the sky.  Late October is one of my favorite times of year.

This is National Blog Writing Month followed by Holidailies in December.  I’ve managed to write nearly every day in these two months for the last two years (Nov. 1 posts here and here) without much fanfare.  So consider this a statement of intent and an invitation to join me.  I’m not necessarily brilliant for 61 days, but I’m company at least!


H – Home

Posted: 15 October 2007 in A-Z, observations, writing
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Today is Blog Action Day.  Although I could say much about the environment, I risk starting a manic moment that will involve the throwing out of every household cleaner we own and, if you’ve seen our bathroom lately, you know that isn’t a good idea.  Between you and me, we’ll consider this Blog Action Day as “action on your blog, for once!” day and as a trade off, I give you this Lifehack post to take you in the right direction.

I’d like this H blog entry to be about H for Hippie, which I sort of am and which my parents certainly were and, boy do I have a lot to say about homemade baby food and diapers, no fast food and no tv, but instead, it’s about Home. 

For you, home is New Jersey, right?  Or that tiny little town of St. Pete’s in upper Minnesota where people hunt ducks and no one is ever angry.  Maybe you call home Berlin, after all, it’s pleasant there and there’s that perfectly preserved stone bench where you used to flee the corporate world and eat your lunch.  But it’s a place, I know.  Or a concept that you cherish.  Mom’s terrible tuna casserole or your sister’s late-eighties punk music.  Some of you are stubbornly thinking that home is “the place where I feel most comfortable” or some other platitude like that just to throw a wrench in the works.  That’s okay, I get what you’re saying.  Home is different for everyone.  But my point is, we have have one – even if it’s a theory you haven’t proved yet. 

I’ve always wanted one place.  I’d even settle for one complicated thought about home.  Instead, I have dozens.  I’m overwhelmed with homes.  I have a city (A particular bakery on Main Street in Evanston, Illinois has served me a particular kind of cookie since I was old enough to chew.  The arching trees, the green grass, the spring tulips, the old houses, the money, the education, the lake, the street names.  They are all part of my home.)  I have a smell or two (fog mostly, in a variety of places.)  A sensation (a humid desert and sharp, warm wind on a desolate mesa).  A set of rivers, some nice and some not (in Bad Tolz, Germany; Xai Xai, Mozambique; Sao Paulo, Brazil) that act like tremendous magnets pulling me to them.  I have feelings (loneliness, independence, love) and unexplained predilections (the deep south, the southwest, the Rift Valley, Kansas prairies) for no reason at all.  That is just a pinch.

So when you ask me where home is, I won’t have trouble lying to you.  I’ll tell you that I was born in Arizona or grew up in Illinois.  I’ll tell you that my family lives in the Southwest, mostly.  I’ll say Virginia.  You certainly don’t expect to hear “on the side of a lake, in a wooden house with big glass windows and a white, fluffy rug and no one around for miles.”  You’d expect me to know which lake, where I bought the rug, how much the house cost.  But they don’t exist.  They are just home.


Posted: 30 July 2007 in A-Z, writing
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I wrote last one year ago.  I didn’t go off to do anything exciting and I didn’t make a vaunted, dramatic announcement about this blog going on hiatus.  I didn’t because it wasn’t just this blog.  It was a mental, physical, practical, necessary hiatus.  I’m constantly plagued with self-doubt about the quality of what I write anywhere (I consider myself an expert greeting card writer, but the title came with painstaking years of practice); I turned out to be unstable than I thought and less stable than I needed to make a routine of anything; and, I simply ran out of things to say. 

 Jon at one of my favorite blogs to follow – the Chocolate Runners Blog – has taken to finding the dead blogs among us.  Part of me, I’m sure, simply didn’t want to be called out as a dead blog.  What else would you call it though, with the most recent entry dating from August 2006?  I find I have more to say now.  Perhaps not enough to make a practice again, but enough that if I don’t start saying things soon, my mind will be full to over-flowing.  You didn’t know you were a release valve, did you.  Soon enough I’ll be hissing onto the page again, whether motivated by Jon or by the pressure of an unexpected hiatus.


Posted: 10 November 2005 in writing

No. It isn’t nonsense. Well, not in the traditional sense. If you’ve searched the term and ended up here, you probably already know what I’ve gotten myself into. A 50,000 word novel in one month. It isn’t as easy as it seems, dear reader. If you think of it in bits and pieces, it doesn’t seem so bad. After all, most folks who like to write even a little can drop 1667 words in a day without even thinking twice. I myself plague my long-suffering wife with that many words in emails each day. But try doing it every day. Even on Friday nights and weekends. I think it might be more impossible than it sounds.

I attempted to participate in NaNoWriMo last year when I was working shift work. But I had to write the entire text longhand (no connectivity or data transfer means in the intel world, my friends) and I gave up after 20 cursive pages or so. I didn’t have the drive or the plot. This year I’m still short on plot but have considerably more motivation. After all, how are D. and I supposed to get rich if neither us writes a bestselling something? The responsibility weighs on me. It does.

You can read an exerpt on the site – code name meridith. Just remember what I said about plot.

F – The Foreign Service

Posted: 3 August 2005 in A-Z, work, writing
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The Foreign Service tries to pack as many brilliant people into its ranks as possible. Existing officers have a long, luminous history of building up incoming officers’ egos and raising them to a level on par with Winston Churchill, Abe Lincoln, Indira Gandhi and then squeezing and condensing that ego into a compact little package of confidence during a three month training period before shipping them off to packs of wolves in countries of cannibals, lung-eating pollution, vibrant fevers and diseases and, of late, IEDs. They are routinely told that they are the “cream of the crop”, the “elite”, and the “best that our country has to offer”. Leaving aside for a moment the argument that recruitment for the Foreign Service is so dismal that this group of creamy elites is only drawn from universities, families with existing Foreign Service or other government experience and impressionable interns and as such practically rules out entire groups of brilliant individuals that might more fully represent our country overseas, the new officers really are an elite bunch.

I didn’t go to the Georgetown school of foreign service. I wasn’t at a targeted university. No one in my family works in the government. I hadn’t ever been to DC. The aptitude test I took my junior year of college said I should first consider the lively art of Funeral Home Management and a distant second, think about being a Foreign Service Officer. So essentially, if I hadn’t changed my major six times during undergrad (finally landing on Anthropology in hopes of boosting my GPA), I never would have heard of or known how to get into the Foreign Service. I could rail on at length about the heavily male, heavily white tilt in the organization, but I do recognize that they are making an effort to change things.

Now I’m getting the opportunity to take on part of the training. In a mere seven shifts, I’ll leave the 24-hour a day work behind and slip thankfully back into 8-5 reliability. No more 3am nights spent listening to the rats in the ceiling panels. No more days spent anxiously checking CNN hoping that everything is still okay in the world. No more stress at being on the front line of response when an Embassy is attacked, an American missing, a terror threat reported. I’ll be guiding groups of new officers into the service, taking them through that first three month course, encouraging their excitement and tempering their perceptions with a touch of experience. I have no idea how they’ll take to me, but I hope they’ll take something from me. It’s the best assignment I’ve had since I joined almost a decade ago.

E – Eeeelizabeth

Posted: 24 June 2005 in A-Z, other folks, writing
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From the time my sister was old enough to talk, she ferociously fought back against the nicknames folks bestow on cute little tykes with long cumbersome names. The teachers shortened her to Lizzie, our neighbors chopped her off at Beth. Even her own family subjected her to names like Lu, Bit, and (in one ill-guided and fiercely defended moment, Eli). To all of us she responded politely and emphatically that her name was E-Lizabeth. Frankly, you could have been the President of the United States and she’d have corrected you if you went for a diminutive. She relaxed as she grew up, allowing her sorority sisters to call her Liz, consenting to a fatherly Lizard and a grandfatherly Strawberry (a reflection on her coppery locks) and accepting gracefully the parade of nicknames her sisters dumped on her. We cycled through hundreds, some lasting longer than others, and confusing the folks to whom she insisted she had to be Elizabeth.

Six years younger meant I was out of the house before she hit high school. Although close as children, she became a short, stocky admirer that I didn’t have enough time for as I juggled boyfriends, girlfriends and the VVM on short trips home. She was always just out of my line of sight, quiet, and I got the sense that she spent each visit waiting for me to leave so that life could return to normal. We didn’t have much to say to each other until I moved overseas and she was in high school. We were always much closer than I was with my other sister and leaving her each time to grow older, more graceful and more beautiful always made me cry harder than I expected at goodbyes.

She moved to DC two years ago to attend graduate school. She freely morphed from little sister to friend and back again, embracing D. and bringing her into the family, sponging for dinners and movies, calling for job advice and doing liberal amounts of cat sitting/plant watering and caretaking (of the house, D and myself). She went practically everywhere with us, more than once prompting D. to groan at another lost afternoon in bed. She’ll be the first to tell you she’s good times and she is. She races from dry wit to children’s knock knock jokes indiscriminately and nearly always has a side-splitting insight on the oddity of the day.

Then, in a fit of insanity, she applied and got into law school in Arizona. So she left, packing her apartment and sending boxes to our parents. She’s always considered Tucson home and when the U of A accepted her, there was no chance she’s be staying in the Capital with us. I don’t think it sank in until we dropped her off at the airport. I handled her departure so badly I’m not entirely sure how I ever left home to begin with. Filled with older sister genes as I am, I wish I could make her stay here, or at least within driving distance. At this rate though, it looks like D. and I are going to be buying a lot of plane tickets if I ever want to see my far-side of the Rockies family.

I miss Elizabeth.

D – Dharma

Posted: 28 May 2005 in A-Z, writing
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I was raised Presbyterian. While not Scientologists or Charismatics, it has its fair share of dogma. I fought the VVM regularly every Sunday morning until I was 15 as she tried to force me into an Easter dress/Christmas velvet/Sunday best in order to sit on a hard pew and listen to a stodgy, white, straight man tell me all about God (when I turned 15 I developed a crush on a boy in Sunday School and changed my fightin’ ways). The worst years were the ones when there was no Sunday School and I had to sit through the whole sermon, thinking about my father at home mowing the lawn and everything I could be doing while I was supposed to be admitting sin and pleading forgiveness.

About the time of the crush, I got shipped off to confirmation classes weekly, a chat time with the pastor in which I was supposed to search my soul for god’s light and subsequently become a member of the church. You could describe my devotion to religion as ambivalent at best, but the reverend did nothing to help me along the path of righteousness, providing half and canned answers to my questions about sin and acceptance under the cape of Christianity. I got confirmed, but mainly because I didn’t care enough not to. Eventually, the VVM let up on demanding I go pray every Sunday.

In college, I went to mass with my Catholic friends, mostly because I liked the singing, but also because the Catholics on campus were more laid back than the Presbyterians. I flirted briefly with the idea of converting, oddly enough because I appreciated the Catholic way of confession (accounting for actual sins committed) rather than the Presbyterian way (admitting a huge range of general sins in a group recitation each Sunday, committed or not). But the rigors of converting were too daunting and I resigned myself to being a religious floater.

But, the idea of Buddhism brought me instant peace. The fact that I could practice privately, as much as I wanted, in a quiet way was appealing to me. I explored and studied it, casually as opposed to fanatically, and tried to bend my life into its principles. On a day to day basis, I consider whether I should give in and find a local center where I can practice with others. I cope with the recognition that my wife doesn’t think my tilt to Buddhism is anything other than a convenient excuse for my laissez-faire approach to religion. I accept my family’s gentle ribbing (at least they didn’t disown me). I know though, with certainty, I am more Buddhist than I am anything else.

My wife has a cozy, personal relationship with God. She appears comfortable within religion and is able to reconcile the teachings of the Catholic church with her own life and emotions, carrying on conversations that guide and comfort her. I often wish I felt comfortable in a religion with a cadre of holy beings, ones that I could pick to pray to, light candles to, wear emblems for. But nothing compares to the peace of meditating and the lightness of acceptance and release that I reach my way.